Blog - Curry Twist

Masala Omelette In Canterbury, UK

Canterbury is synonymous with the history of Christianity in Britain. It was here that the first missionaries from Rome established a church in the sixth century and it has been a place of worship since then. The present cathedral is a magnificent building that was built by the Normans in 1070, only a few years after their invasion of England.

The throng of pilgrims visiting the cathedral stimulated the growth of a lively town around it. Inns, taverns, shops and other establishments to feed, house and entertain the visitors sprouted up over the years. Much of the mediaeval plan of the town is still preserved, giving you an idea  of what it must have looked like centuries ago.

Of course, there is no shortage of travellers going to Canterbury in modern times either. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Britain and every year receives millions of visitors, some brought by religious devotion and others simply by their love of English history and culture.

The first place where visitors to Canterbury go is, of course, the cathedral. Under the soaring arches of this church you can feel the presence of ancient kings and queens who prayed in front of its altar, and were crowned, wed and buried within its walls.

The most famous name associated with the cathedral is perhaps that of Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury in the twelfth century, first a close friend and then a bitter opponent of King Henry II. When the king cried out in frustration "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest!",  four of his knights murdered Thomas Becket as he prayed in a chapel, which became a famous pilgrimage site. There is now a monument to his martyrdom in the cathedral and a candle is kept burning at the place that he fell.

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A visit to Canterbury should always include enough time to see the lovely town as well. On your way to the cathedral, you will see the River Stour cutting a swath through town, affording many a picturesque spot from which to take that perfect photograph.

The Old Weaver's House, built on the banks of the River Stour is a historic building dating back to the 14th century. Flemish and Huguenot weavers fleeing persecution, settled here to practice their trade, creating a flourishing textile market in Canterbury.

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Canterbury also has a memorial to its most famous chronicler, Chaucer. Pack along a copy of the "Canterbury Tales", for there is no better time to read its rollicking stories, ranging from the sublime to the frankly bawdy, than a trip to the town that inspired the original book.

Narrow cobbled streets flanked by half timbered medieval buildings converge upon a small 800 year old market square called the Buttermarket. Formerly known as the Bullstake, this is where bulls were tied to a stake overnight, to be harassed by dogs in the belief that this would make their meat tender. Thankfully, this barbaric practice ended a few centuries ago and the stake has now been replaced with a war memorial.

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The Old Buttermarket pub in the square is a great place to stop by for a bite to eat. Their delicious food comes with a side of history!

A pub has stood on this site for over five hundred years, connected to the cathedral by underground tunnels that were often frequented by escaping monks.

One of our favourite pub breakfasts while traveling in England, was this delicious masala omelette, served British-Indian style with a dollop of tomato ketchup. It brought back memories of home!

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A fluffy omelette with the freshness of herbs and veggies, carrying just a hint of spicy curry, is a great way to start or end your day. Sprinkle some crumbled feta cheese over top while the omelette is cooking, add a few pieces of warm naan and you have the makings of a perfect meal!
If you're looking for something more classic (and less spicy!), check out my French style omelette here.

Masala Omelette

3 eggs

2 tbsp milk or water

1 tbsp each, finely chopped: onions, tomatoes, fresh coriander leaves

1/4 of a hot green chili, thinly sliced (optional)

Salt to taste

1/4 tsp curry powder (optional)

1 tbsp butter

Beat eggs with milk or water in medium mixing bowl until lighter in colour, about 2 min.

Add in all the remaining ingredients except for the butter. Mix well.

Warm 1 tbsp butter in a large non stick frying pan over medium heat. Pour egg mixture into pan. Tip pan in a circular motion to distribute egg and vegetables evenly in the pan. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook until eggs are set, about 3-4 min.

Uncover, fold omelette in half and transfer to a plate. Serve right away.

Serves one-two

Chicken Kababs In Fez

My first taste of Moroccan cuisine made me immediately nostalgic for my mother’s kitchen in India. It felt as though I had travelled a long way for food that turned out to be hauntingly familiar. We were in Fez, exploring the maze of narrow alleyways that make up the ancient city, stopping now and then to gaze in wonder at the many exciting and exotic shops that line them. We were trying to find a restaurant that had been highly recommended to us as it specialised in traditional cuisine.

In spite of being so well known, it was proving very hard to find, as we kept getting lost in the labyrinth of narrow, dark lanes that seemed to lead to nowhere. We finally made our way back to the Riad (hotel) where we were staying and the restaurant sent a guide to fetch us. We were led to a beautifully restored 700-year-old palace and seated in the colourfully tiled courtyard dotted with potted plants, fountains and elegant screens. Soft music played in the background accompanied by the gentle sound of water trickling down the fountain. The food, when it arrived transported me straight back to India as it consisted of chicken kababs on a skewer, sautéed lentils with caramelised onions and samosa like pastry puffs. The aromas, the flavours, and the ingredients were very similar to those used in Indian cooking – ground coriander, toasted cumin, cayenne pepper, ginger, fresh coriander and mint.

The flavours of Moroccan food, and their resemblance to Indian cooking, are a reflection of the great spice trade that has flourished for over a thousand years between the two countries. Merchants carried spices in camel caravans across the vast expanse of the Sahara desert to the far corners of the great Arab empire that stretched across the Middle East and North Africa. Pepper and cardamom from Kerala, cinnamon from Sri Lanka, nutmeg and mace from Indonesia, all found their way into the hands of Moroccan cooks, who used these spices to create the magnificent cuisine we enjoy today.

Kababs are as popular in Morocco as they are in India. Walk through any market place and the aroma of grilling will lead you to small stalls where marinated meats of all kinds are skewered and grilled over open charcoal fires. There are chicken skewers, ground beef skewers, lamb shish kababs and even grilled camel meat! These chicken skewers are my favourite and combine the best of Moroccan and Indian flavours. 

MOROCCAN CHICKEN KABABS

If you don’t have all the herbs available, use whatever is at hand. A food processor makes life incredibly easy when it comes to mincing the herbs and garlic. Throw everything in together and make the marinade in the food processor to save time.

The kababs are even more flavourful when left to marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Serve them over a bed of fresh mint or rice pilaf as is traditional in Morocco. Leftovers make a delicious lunch when wrapped in soft flour tortillas.

Marinade:

2 tbsp each: olive oil, lemon juice, white wine vinegar

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp finely chopped onions

1 tbsp each: finely chopped fresh coriander, mint and parsley

1 tsp each: ground coriander, ground cumin, honey

½ tsp paprika

1/4 tsp each: cayenne pepper, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, saffron strands

Salt to taste

1 1/4 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed into 1 inch pieces

Combine all marinade ingredients together in large mixing bowl and mix well. Add chicken, toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or longer.

Preheat barbecue grill to medium. Lift chicken pieces out of marinade and thread onto skewers, about 4 pieces to each skewer.

Place on grill and cook covered for about 8-10 minutes per side or until cooked through, turning them over once.

If you wish to cook the chicken in the oven, preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a baking tray with parchment. Use a grilling rack if you have one or place chicken directly on the parchment. Bake about 8-10 minutes per side until cooked through. Place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes to char lightly.

Transfer skewers to a platter and serve.

Serves four

Adapted from Desi masalas get Moroccan makeover, Desi Life magazine, July 10/ 2008 


Mussels In Nice

We had our first enchanting glimpse of Nice en route from the train station to our hotel. Our taxi driver, who obviously took enormous pride in his city, asked us if he could take a slightly longer route, then proceeded to point out all the highlights along the way. He ended the tour by urging us to visit the famous flower market. Just the name conjured up visions of a real life market straight out of a scene from My Fair Lady!

A kaleidoscope of colours greeted us at the market. Vendors had travelled from all around the countryside to set up stalls; some bursting with blossoms of every kind, others filled with piles of fresh produce. There were even tanks of fresh seafood, ropes of cured sausages tied together, and mountains of various kinds of olives. The heady smells of newly baked breads and pastries were competing with that of fresh coffee brewing nearby. I couldn’t help lingering by a long table laden with spices from every corner of the world. This was my kind of heaven!

Sampling our way around the market, buying up everything in sight, we returned to our hotel to deposit our shopping. But, I still hadn’t had my fill of the market and wanted to stroll through it one more time. This time we were in for another pleasant surprise, for tables and chairs had replaced some of the stalls and there were people enjoying lunch in the sunshine, right in the middle of the flower market! Those tanks of fresh seafood we had seen earlier were being transformed into delicious lunch fare!

 

Taking a line from the locals who all seemed to be eating mussels, I decided to do the same. I ordered Moules à la Provençal, for which Nice is justly famous. Just one bite convinced me right away that this was by far the best version of the dish I had ever tasted! Must be something about the fresh mussels and the sun-ripened tomatoes that went in the making of the sauce. And perhaps a secret Nicoise recipe!

My recipe has fresh mussels and a tomato sauce too. But instead of trying to make that authentic Nicoise sauce, I’ve decided to stick with what I know best – a tomato butter cream sauce or as it is better known – butter chicken sauce! The mussels have replaced the chicken and added their own special flavour to the sauce. Try it, you’ll almost feel like you’re sitting in the middle of the flower market!

Butter Mussels Masala - Steamed mussels in a tomato cream sauce

For even better flavour, substitute white wine for the water. Serve with toasted naan wedges to scoop up the delicious sauce. Or serve the whole thing over a platter of basmati rice.

2 tbsp oil

½ tsp cumin seeds

2 cloves garlic, chopped

½ inch piece ginger, chopped

½ cup diced onions

1 can (796 ml, 28 fl oz) premium plum tomatoes packed in puree

Salt to taste

½ tsp sugar

1 tsp each: ground coriander, ground cumin, garam masala, dried fenugreek leaves

¼ tsp each: cayenne pepper, saffron strands

½ cup 35% whipping cream

2 lb fresh mussels

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

Warm oil in deep skillet over medium high heat. Add cumin seeds, sauté for 30 secs. Add garlic, ginger and onions, sauté for 5 mins until lightly browned. Add tomatoes, salt, sugar and all the spices. Cover and cook on medium low heat for 10 minutes until sauce is slightly thickened. Cool slightly for 5 mins, then puree with hand blender until sauce is smooth. Transfer sauce back into skillet and mix in the cream.

Meanwhile, rinse mussels in cold water and discard any opened ones. Place in a large saucepan and pour 1 cup cold water over them. Cover saucepan and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to medium and steam mussels for 5 minutes. Uncover saucepan, discard any unopened mussels. Lift remaining mussels out of the cooking liquid and reserve them, discarding the liquid.

Bring sauce back to a simmer, add cooked mussels and mix well to coat them with the sauce. Cook for 5 minutes until mussels are heated through. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle fresh coriander over top.

Serves four

Tapas In Madrid

On our visit to Spain, the first thing my husband and I did was to locate a good Tapas place near our hotel in Madrid. We were directed to a well-known local hang out, famous for its authentic non-touristy fare. We sat in the out door patio which was packed with people nibbling on various interesting looking tapas. Never having had tapas before, we weren’t quite sure what to order, especially as the English menu was a bit sketchy on details. Nearly everyone at the tables around us had plates of delicious looking croquettes in front of them so we decided to try some too. We pointed, smiled and gestured our way through the ordering in our broken Spanish and ended up with a platter of assorted croquettes or croquetas as they were called. They were like no other croquette I have ever had. Crisp and crunchy on the outside but gooey and soft on the inside, they were simply addictive! Each croqueta seemed to be different – a taste adventure waiting to be savored. Some were filled with Iberian ham, some with shrimp, and even some with mussels. They were all delicious, but my absolute favorites were the cod ones and we ate them at every opportunity during our stay in Spain.

The croquettes in my recipe are chock full of fresh cod and a hint of spice. They carry a taste of pakoras in their flavor and combine the best of both worlds!

Cod Pakora Croqueta

The secret to achieving that signature crisp crunchy shell is to double dip the croqueta in breadcrumbs. Roll them around in the breadcrumbs first then dip them lightly in beaten egg and finally one more quick roll around in the breadcrumbs. This really crisps them up.

1 lb fresh cod fillets

4 tbsp vegetable oil, divided

2 tbsp butter

4 tbsp all purpose flour

1 ½ cups milk

Salt to taste

½ tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp curry powder

¼ cup chopped fresh coriander leaves

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tsp minced or grated ginger

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup bread crumbs

oil for frying croquettes

Bring 3 cups of water to boil in large saucepan set over high heat. Add cod and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat to medium and cook cod for 4 - 5 mins or until fish is flaky and falling apart. Drain, pat dry with paper towels and transfer to a bowl. Flake fish lightly with a fork and reserve.

Warm 2 tbsp oil and the butter in a non-stick frying pan set over medium heat. Add flour and stir gently for about a minute. Add milk and stir continuously until mixture is smooth. Cook for 7 - 8 mins or until mixture is very thick, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add salt, pepper, curry powder, fresh coriander and reserved cod.

Warm remaining 2 tbsp oil in deep non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic, onions and ginger, sauté for 5 minutes until onions are slightly softened. Add to cod mixture in frying pan.  Transfer mixture to a deep mixing bowl and mix everything well with your hands. Using dampened hands, shape into small cylindrical croquettes, about 2 inches long and an inch thick. You should have about 14-16 croquettes.

Place beaten egg and breadcrumbs in two shallow bowls. Roll croquettes in breadcrumbs, then dip in egg and then roll lightly in breadcrumbs again. Repeat similarly with remaining croquettes.

Heat 1 inch of oil in a frying pan set over medium heat. Fry croquettes in batches until they are golden brown on all sides, about 4 mins. Drain on paper towels and serve with chutney.

Makes 14-16 croquetas

Rijstafel in Amsterdam

My husband and I visited Amsterdam recently. While I am sure there are many excellent reasons to go there, for me there was just one - the chance to eat an authentic Rijstafel! 

A Rijstafel or rice table, consists of Southeast Asian cuisine presented in a style invented by Dutch settlers in colonial Indonesia. A monument to excess – the Rijstafel’s guiding principle seems to be, why be satisfied with one dish when you can have a dozen, or even better, two dozen? Modern Indonesia has little time for such extravagance, so the easiest place to find Rijstafel today is in Holland.  

After much research, we decided on restaurant Tempo Doeloe, reputed to be the best place to eat. We ordered the set menu of 25 dishes, probably too much food for the two of us but we had come a long way to eat this!

Our Rijstafel started with Sateh Babi - skewers of succulent grilled pork with a sweet, spicy peanut dipping sauce, followed by Soto Ajam - spicy chicken soup. Kroepoek (shrimp crackers) added crunch to the meal while Gado Gado (vegetables in peanut sauce) tasted slightly sweet, nutty and crunchy. The Dutch influence was very much evident in dishes like rissoles or pancakes with beef and Perkedels, meat and potato croquettes. Other dishes that will live on in my memories are Ajam Roedjak  (chicken cooked with coconut milk and chillies), Rendang Padang (beef cooked with fiery hot chilli peppers and coconut milk), Semur Daging (beef in a tomato soy sauce), Babi Ketjap (pork in soy sauce). When the spices in these dishes became overwhelming we sprinkled Serundeng - sweetened shredded coconut - over the rice to mellow their heat. Our menu also included Orek Arek (shredded cabbage with garlic and herbs), Oerapan (fresh vegetables cooked with shredded coconut), and Sambel Goreng Boontjes (fresh green beans cooked with coconut and spices). In addition, there were a variety of different Sambals to further liven up the food, as if it needed it! 

Our host in the restaurant advised us how to eat the feast before us - start by placing a small portion of rice on our plates, then add the various dishes that surrounded it. I preferred to sample each dish individually with the rice so as not to get all the flavors mixed up. We started with the mildest, a sweet and sour cucumber carrot salad, working our way through the various degrees of spiciness in the dishes until we reached the last bowl, the one we had been repeatedly warned about - beef Rendang.

This was supposed to be the hottest of them all - one that few diners could finish, but we were ready. Being Indians and accustomed from a young age to eating hot and spicy food, we laughed at all this concern. "Bring it on", we said to our waiter who was standing by with a large bottle of water. One minuscule taste of the curry and we quickly changed our minds. This was by far the hottest thing we had ever tasted. Tongues tingling, mouths on fire, smoke coming out of our ears, we gratefully reached out for the shredded sweetened coconut Serundeng and that large bottle of water.  As we staggered out of the restaurant after that gargantuan meal, we had only one regret - that we had not finished the beef Rendang

Oh well, there is always next time.