It’s been a great weekend for all kinds of snacks. We spent a lot of time with my mum – at her place on Saturday, and ours on Sunday when she popped round for a trip to Columbia Road flower market.
Over the weekend she treated us with two kinds of Indian treat. Kachori, a round pastry filled with a spicy pea mix:
And aloo paratha – a flatbread stuff with spicy potatoes. It’s the first time she’s ever made it, and it was delicious… as well as being a great snack, I reckon it’d make a fantastic Indian breakfast.
As for me, I made a bowl of sweet & spicy popcorn to eat while we watched an episode of the addictive drama series Breaking Bad this evening – it’s using a Nigella recipe, and although it’s from her Christmas book, it’s definitely suitable for any time of year. The popcorn is flavoured with paprika, cumin, cinnamon, salt and sugar, so there’s a whole mix of interesting (and complimentary) flavours.
And during the week i baked cookies using my usual foolproof recipe as a base. The recipe is for white chocolate and cranberry cookies, but as I had neither of these I substituted them for crystallised ginger and flaked almonds (no choc I’m afraid!), and I also threw in a couple of handfuls of oats too, for texture.
Eating out: Roti Chai, London (again!)
I took Karl out for a birthday dinner this evening and, although it didn’t quite go as planned, it all turned out quite well in the end.
We’d hoped to go to MEATMarket for burgers and cocktails. It’s the second restaurant by the guys behind MEATLiquor, and I expected it to be in much the same vein - a dimly lot diner with cool artwork, great food (including onion rings big enough to wear as bangles) and fab cocktails. I clearly hadn’t done my research.
MEATMarket is more of a “get in and out in half an hour” kind of place. It overlooks the jubilee market in covent garden and has very little seating. It’s for those dining on the go and offers takeaway options too. It’s definitely not a place for a birthday treat, no matter how great the burgers, and there was barely a cocktail to be seen. Onion rings didn’t even feature. I was gutted.
We hopped on the bus to MEATLiquor instead, only to find the queues (which it is renowned for) snaking down the road. Now as I said, the burgers are great. But this isn’t a pop-up, it’s here to stay and open every day, for lunch and dinner. Inside, seats are plentiful. I really don’t understand why people are still queueing up for the place, especially with so many other great options nearby.
Too hungry to wait, we resorted to Plan C and strolled down to Roti Chai instead, for some Indian streetfood. Third time lucky! I’ve been once before and was impressed with the food and, thankfully, Karl loved it too. We ordered chicken lollipop (spicy, breadcrumbed chicken drumsticks), chilli paneer, raita, chickpea curry, lamb and potato curry, rotis and a dish of onions, chillies and lemon to have on the side. It was a proper little feast worthy of a birthday celebration.
We washed it all down with a couple of cocktails, including this lychee martini which came in a teapot.
And for dessert we had kulfi - little Indian ice creams. I went for pistachio and Karl had mango.
And we both went home happy and full.
PS: I’ve learned my lesson. Never choose a ‘no bookings’ restaurant for a birthday dinner, no matter how cool it thinks it is.
Bean curry with spinach & paneer
It’s been a few weeks since I last cooked a Gujarati dinner so this evening I went for spinach & paneer, one of our favourites.
We had it with a quick & easy bean curry and some hot chapattis.
Sorry there isn’t more to say – get’s a bit tricky when I’ve made these dinners so many times before!
Jamie’s jerk chicken
We’ve done surprisingly little cooking despite having a four day weekend, but by far the best thing we’ve made is this jerk chicken from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals. Struggling to find the exact recipe online, and too lazy to type it out here, but one of my favourite bloggers has included her version here, and you can watch the episode where he cooks it here.
It’s quite different to jerk chicken I’ve had before, a little sweeter and much less intense or spicy than an authentic one, but still very delicious. The rice was surprisingly good too – I’ve never cooked rice in stock before and, as long as you’re v careful with the salt it’s got a very more-ish, savoury flavour. If your stock is already quite salty, I’d suggest not adding extra salt at all.
Other foods from the weekend include:
Hangover-busting lentils with spiced broccoli, following a night out for a friend’s birthday.
Spicy paneer and onions, part of a home-cooked lunch at my mums.
Proper old-school trifle at my aunt’s, I could’ve eaten the lot!
I’m super excited about… dinner at Mike+Ollie’s at the end of the month. It’s a supperclub type affair, by two guys who run a fantastic market stall in Deptford. They host a dinner once every couple of months in their home, and the food from their last dinner looked incredible.
Spinach & paneer with lentils
Sorry about the poor quality photo, I was just too eager to get stuck into this meal to faff around with my iPhone for too long. Spinach & paneer is probably Karl’s favourite vegetarian Indian dish, with good reason. If you haven’t had paneer before, it’s similar to halloumi but without the saltiness – it’s rubbery and dense when cold, but beautifully soft when hot, with quite a subtle ‘dairy’ flavour. Surprisingly, it’s not actually something I grew up eating, and my mum and I only started cooking with it over the past 7/8 years.
It’s particularly good cooked with spinach because it offers a nice balance to the deep, green flavour of the leaves and intense spices. It’s very easy to make.
Dinner at mum’s
Some much needed family time and a delicious mum-cooked dinner this evening. Baby aubergines stuffed with onions and spices and cooked with potatoes. Plus spicy paneer, freshly cooked chapattis and pickle.
Spinach & Paneer and Mung Daal
We have Indian food once a week and spinach & paneer is a bit of a favourite. I have made my own paneer before and it was delicious, but the blocks you buy from the cheese section of the supermarket or from Asian grocery stores are perfectly good too. This recipe makes better spinach & paneer (saag paneer, whatever) than you’ll ever find in a restaurant. As an aside, saag doesn’t necessarily mean ‘spinach’ – it can be another green too, and in India is more likely to be something like mustard greens.
Spinach & Paneer
1 bag/bunch washed spinach leaves (wash it carefully if you’ve bought it from a greengrocer, to get rid of any mud or grit)
1 block paneer, cut into cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp green masala (or 2 green chillies, 1 garlic clove and a small blob of ginger, all finely chopped)
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp dhana jeeru (or 1/4 each of coriander and cumin powder)
1/2 tsp salt
1 bunch fresh methi (fenugreek leaves) – optional
In a big frying pan or saucepan, fry the onions in some oil. The pan you choose needs to be big enough to hold all the greens.
Meanwhile, pick the methi leaves off their stalks and shred them, along with the spinach. You can do this as finely or roughly as you like. My mum doesn’t even both at all - it’s all going to wilt down anyway.
Once the onions are just starting to brown, add the green masala, dried spices and salt.
Stir the mixture and fry for about 30 seconds, and then pile your shredded spinach and methi leaves (if using) on top.
Don’t worry about stirring anything yet, it’ll just make a mess, just turn down the heat a little and put a lid on. This will allow the greens to steam and wilt down.
After a few minutes it should all have reduced in size by about half, which will make stirring a lot easier. Give it a mix and pop the lid back on.
Let the whole thing cook for another 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it starts to release too much liquid, just keep the lid off.
The spinach is ready once most of the liquid has cooked off, and the leaves are a deep dark green. It looks delicious when the leaves are bright and fresh, but the flavour won’t be nearly as intense.
Add your paneer and mix everything together, leaving it all to cook until the paneer has heated through completely and softened nicely.
We also had mung daal (recipe will be shared another time), and the last of the tuwar ringan sakh from the other day. All eaten with rice and homemade chapattis.