Friday, August 24, 2007

Mistress of spices

So far, it's been a foodie week (when is it ever not):

On Monday, I cooked chicken jalfraizee, Bengali style, with leftover chicken from Sunday's roast. I stir-fried two medium onions with 2 inches of chopped ginger, 4 chopped garlic cloves, a heaped teaspoon of turmeric, a heaped teaspoon of whole cumin seeds and half a teaspoon of red chilli powder in a couple of tablespoons of pungent mustard oil. I then stirred in 3 handfuls of green pepper strips and 4 chopped tomatoes along with a teaspoon each of ground coriander, ground cumin and ground garam masala. I added the leftover chicken and let all the juices absorb into the meat, then added enough water to make a gravy. I salted to taste and added a little sugar then turned the heat down, covered the pan, and let it all simmer until the Basmati rice was cooked. I served with fresh chopped coriander leaves and the juice of half a lemon squeezed through.

We ate it watching the bland and boring Indian chick flick The Mistress Of Spices on a DVD I'd luckily only paid £5 for. I had hoped to see some dishes being cooked. Still, it was lovely seeing all those piles of colourful spices.

On Tuesday night, I cooked marrow with Bengali spices. In the heady mustard oil, I fried 1.5 inches of chopped ginger with an onion and 1.5 teaspoons of panch phoron - a Bengali five spice mixture of whole cumin, whole fennel, whole fenugreek, whole nigella and whole black mustard seeds, which my mother, fortunately, gives me ready-mixed jars of. I stirred in 1.5 teaspoons of ground coriander, a teaspoon of ground cumin, a teaspoon of tumeric and half a teaspoon of chilli powder. I broke 4 small, dried red chillis into this mixture and fried gently for a few minutes. I added a medium sized marrow, diced, and fried a little more, stirring well so the mixture didn't stick, and until the marrow cubes turned yellow with the turmeric. Then I added enough water to make a gravy, brought to the boil, added half a teaspoon each of sugar and salt, then turned down the heat and simmered - lid on - for around 20 minutes or so while the Basmati rice cooked and the marrows had turned translucent.

Yesterday a group of us at work went out to eat fiery Korean food at Koba on Rathbone Street to celebrate a colleague's 10 years in London (any excuse to celebrate with food and drink!). I ate my favourite dolsot bibimbap - a stew of vegetables, beef and chilli paste on a bed of rice and a raw egg broken on top, served sizzling hot in an earthenware bowl as well as miso soup with seaweed and soft squares of tofu, and kimchi or pickled cabbage. Last night, M cooked a simple shrimp dumpling soup - shrimp dumplings and broccoli florets in a clear chicken broth with red chilli flakes.

And tonight, we popped over to Covent Garden's Night Market to pick up some food goodies for a picnic dinner at home. It's open only in August so this was our last chance to visit. It was packed but we managed to beat our way through the crowds to buy organic rocket, medjool dates, passionfruit, chorizo, date and walnut bread, ciabatta, Hampshire camembert and Caerphilly cheese. Much more expensive even than Whole Foods Market, but it was fun. We even had an oyster each from an oyster stall and the fresh zingyness energised us immediately.

M's heating up the bread and chorizo now and opening up a bottle of Rioja. I've managed to persuade him to watch another chick flick with me - Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore in Because I Said So. The strapline is "Mothers, daughters, marriage and mayhem" so I'm not so sure he'll manage to endure more than a little bit of the movie. But I'm in that chick-flick-settle-into-the-sofa-and-veg-out kind of mood tonight. [Update: He enjoyed the movie, and so did I. The shots of LA and the interiors were brilliant - I want to go to LA - and it was actually very funny.]

Have a good night - the Bank Holiday weekend is nearly here!

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