Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Cradle of life

So, they say many of us originated in or around Ethiopia, unless you clearly believe that god created you just as beautiful as you are somewhere in the Mid West.

So they've had plenty of time to create some interesting food. Injera aside, which seems to be a polarising force amongst people, if you like spicy food, you should love a Wat or too. 

There are a few issues with sourcing ingredients so be prepared for a hunt, or if you are lucky enough to live in Brixton a visit to the nice lady in the Reliance arcade who can sell you most of what you need.

Here's a great recipe to get started

Doro Wat 
Roughly 1 kilo of chicken - thighs and drumsticks or cut up a whole chicken

1 lemon or lime
3 large red onions (chopped - I use a food processor on pulse)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup Niter Kibbeh (you'll need to make this)
1 cup berbere
1 tsp mitmita (or more, optional)
1 tsp mekelesha

1 tsp Koraima Ethiopian cardamom
1/2 tsp ajwain,
1 tsp ground ginger
1 egg per person eating hard boiled and cooled
water, as needed
salt, to taste

Make Niter Kibeh

Chop onions and add to a dry pan. I used a big Le Creuset casserole

Cook the onions on a low heat for at least 30 minutes or more. (NO OIL) They should break down considerably. A splash of water will stop them sticking if your pan is too hot, but just go easy and all will be well.

Skin the chicken pieces . Squeeze the lemon/lime juice over the chicken and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. 

When the onions are ready, add the Niter Kibbeh, the berbere, garlic, and the spices except for the mekelesha. 

Cook the spices gently for 30 minutes over low heat. Taste for heat. To increase spiciness, add up to an additional half cup of berbere, or add some more mitmita.

Add the chicken and 200 - 400 ml of water. Just enough to almost cover the meat. 

Bring to a simmer and cook until the chicken is done, and the sauce has thickened 30-45 minutes. 

Taste for seasoning 

Add the eggs. Sprinkle with mekelesha, stir, and serve on top of injera - or more realistically rice

Monday, February 3, 2014

Meat Free Monday

If you can avoid any complicated cooking on a Monday you should. Sadly, due to an unforeseen infestation of gannets on Saturday night there's was to be no left over curry. Which led to a look for something new and that would use up things around the fridge. 

The lovely Brixton Roti lady was also missing this weekend so in homage to her, a Guyanese curry modestly adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's curry bible which I'm on a mission to cook through eventually.

Kala Chana in Brine

Two cans of chickpeas (Kala Chana if possible, and dried and cooked if you have the time) 
1 large onion - roughly chopped 
6 garlic cloves
1/2 -1 Scotch bonnet - depending on heat level you like. 
3-4 Tablespoons of oil
1 heaped Tablespoon of hot curry powder (I'm currently keeping Bolsts which is easy to get or make your own)
1 heaped Teaspoon of dry roasted and ground cumin  
4 medium potatoes peeled and 2cm cubed
Teaspoon of Salt + more to taste at the end
Green Cabbage / Spring Greens - lots - maybe a whole cabbage. just keep putting it in until you have enough. - cut the core out of the leaves and then cut the leaves into inch wide strips and then crossways to give roughly 1 inch square pieces.
Coconut Milk - Optional


1 Put the onion, garlic, Scotch bonnet and 4 Tablespoons of water in a blender and process until smooth. 

2 Heat the oil over a medium high heat. Put in the onion paste and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.

3 Reduce the heat to medium low, then cover and continue cooking the paste. for another 2-3 minutes. Stir it frequently just to prevent sticking, and keep it covered between stirs.

4 Add the curry powder and the cumin, stir.
5 Add the chickpeas, potatoes, 1 Teaspoon of salt, and a pint of water or weak vegetable stock.   Bring to a boil then reduce heat and cover. Cook gently, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are done to your tastes, 20 - 25 minutes.
6 Add in the cabbage and half to one can of coconut milk if you have it - if not just 200ml of hot water. Bring back to a simmer, cover and cook for an additional 10 - 15 minutes, or until the cabbage is just softened. Do not over cook the cabbage.
7 Taste and add more salt and / or chillies if you need to.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Greek lunch in Cyprus. Aubergines with olive oil, garlic, parsley and feta


A quick break in Cyprus to see my mum and get some last sun before a the British winter sets in the damp for a few months at least.

Saw this on TV at the weekend and combined with some leftover masala chops and some local cheese bread it was a great lunch and beautifully simple.

grilled_aubergines_with_Feta - BBC image

Aubergines with olive oil, garlic, parsley and feta (Simon Hopkinson)

Serves 4 with the dressing below

  • Aubergines – as many as you think you can eat – probably a couple of the thin asian ones depending on size per person
  • Garlic, 2-3 cloves, finely chopped
  • Parley leaves, a large handful, finely chopped and then chopped together with the garlic
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 5-6 tbsp
  • Salt and pepper go easy on the salt
  • Feta cheese,made with sheep and goat's milk rather than cow's – as much as looks generous without being overwhelming
  • lemon juice, to taste

Heat the grill on high. Run a knife around the neck of the aubergines, one centimetre away from the stalk, just cutting through the skin. Now make four very shallow cuts (just through the skin – think scoring crackling) down, right to the bulbous end.

Grill them, turning them every 5 minutes. This part should take about 20 minutes. You want them soft and yielding but not too collapsed.

Whilst they are grilling, mix together the parsley, garlic, olive oil and a small amount of salt and leave to mingle. the dressing should be quite wet but still thick with the parsley.

When the aubergines are ready, transfer to your serving plate. (ideally a big one that can hold the aubergines in one layer) and allow to cool for a few minutes. With the help of a knife, peel off the skin in 4 sheets and discard. Without cutting through the stalk end, split the aubergines in two – they’ll look a bit ugly at this stage.

Grind on some black pepper and spoon the dressing over the aubergines. Crumble the feta over the top and squeeze some lemon juice. Add a bit more oil if you think it needs it

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Chana Dal from The Sunday Times

This is warming, gentle and very good.

However, if it serves four people on it’s own I'd be surprised, so up or double the quantities. Makes sense to double as then you can use a whole tin of coconut milk.

You might also need more chilli if you like that sort of thing.

Left overs would be great for lunch as part of roti filling.

Serves 4-6
Preparation time 20 minutes
Cooking time 35 minutes

1 tbsp coconut or other oil – maybe some ghee….
2 onions, peeled and chopped
6 cloves of garlic, grated
2 red chilli, finely chopped
5cm piece of ginger, grated
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp cumin
100g red lentils
400ml chicken or vegetable stock
200ml coconut milk
400g can of chickpeas

Rice and fresh coriander, to serve

Heat the oil in a pan. Fry the onions slowly for about 15 minutes until they have really softened and started to go golden brown. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger and fry for a further 2 minutes. Add the spices and toast them for 1 minute. Throw in the lentils and stir to coat them in the spicy onions. Cover with the stock and coconut milk. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Add the chickpeas and cook for a final 10 minutes until everything is cooked through and wonderfully aromatic.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mejadra–very moorish…

Strangely I come across this recipe almost three years to tge day that it appeared in the Observer. I imagine most of west london has already moved on, but more fool them as it’s a particularly suitable dish for this time of year when you start to think about needing something warming to fight of the first wave of colds sweeping the city.

So – better late than never….

Bittersweet fried onions cooked with sweet spices and topped with yoghurt make a meal to remember

Mejadra recipePhotograph: Colin Campbell for the Guardian

Yotam Ottolenghi  -  Serves four

250ml sunflower oil
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
250g green or brown lentils
2 tsp cumin seeds
1½ tbsp coriander seeds
200g basmati rice
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp ground turmeric
1½ tsp ground allspice
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
Salt and black pepper
350ml water

Heat the sunflower oil in a medium-size heavy-based saucepan. When very hot, carefully add a third of the sliced onion. Fry for five to seven minutes, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon, until the onion takes on a nice, golden-brown colour and turns crispy. Use the spoon to transfer the onion to a colander and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with two more batches of onion.

I did this in a wok, which in hindsight was a little dangerous even on a stand, but did mean i used a little less oil. Don’t be tempted to shallow fry the onions as it takes forever and they won’t be as crisp

Meanwhile, put the lentils in a small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil and cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the lentils have softened but still have a little bite. Drain into a colander.

Wipe clean the saucepan in which you fried the onion and drop in the cumin and coriander seeds. Place over a medium heat and toast the seeds for a minute or two, until they release those distinctive aromas. Add the rice, olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, half a teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper. Stir to coat the rice with oil, then add the cooked lentils and water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on very low heat for 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat, lift off the lid and cover the pan with a clean tea towel. Seal tightly with the lid and set aside for 10 minutes. Finally, tip the rice and lentils into a large mixing bowl. Add half the fried onion and stir gently with a fork. Pile up in a shallow serving bowl and top with the rest of the onion.

Serve with plain yoghurt or some tzatziki. Some fiery chili sauce on the other side is also very good for a hot  / cold / soothing contrast.

Add grilled fish / meats and salad for more of a complete dinner.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Saag Paneer–better than Khan’s..


Saag Paneer probably appears on 95% of all our takeaway curry orders but I’d never made it from scratch – too much spinach and cream for me to be bothered with.

Frozen spinach and yoghurt completely transform the prospect and paneet keeps in the fridge for ages so you can pretty much always have the ingredients for this. I made a cauliflower curry on the side too – not so successful. Still – better than Khan’s is good enough to make it again.

Recipe courtesy Aarti Sequeira – Foodnetwork

Prep Time:
10 min 
Cooking Time:
45 min
4 servings


  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne or Kashmiri chilli powder
  • Sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 tablespoons veg oil or ghee, or mix of both
  • a block of paneer – around 200-300g, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 500g frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped – if you can get Indian pink onions they are beautiful although often pricey – well, for onions anyway.
  • 1 thumb of ginger, peeled and finely chopped (about 1-2 tablespoon)
  • 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2-3 Indian green chillies, finely chopped or other chillies to whatever heat strength you like it.
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 heaped teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup plain yoghurt, stirred until smooth


In a large bowl, whisk together the turmeric, cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons oil. Gently, drop in the cubes of paneer and gently toss, taking care not to break the cubes if you're using the homemade kind. Let the cubes marinate while you get the rest of your ingredients together and prepped.

Thaw the spinach in the microwave in a microwave-safe dish, and then chop a bit more if it’s too chunky for you. 

Place a large frying pan (non-stick if it is undamaged or a good well seasoned cast iron one preferably)  over medium heat, and add the paneer as the pan warms. In a couple of minutes give the pan a toss; each piece of paneer should be browned on one side. Fry another minute or so, and then remove the paneer from the pan onto a plate.

Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil to the pan. Add the onions, ginger, garlic and chili.

Gently fry the onion mix until it’s a rich golden colour - which should take about 15 minutes, although inevitably it takes longer. Don't skip this step - this is the foundation of the dish! If you feel like the mixture is drying out and burning, add a couple of tablespoons of water.

Add the garam masala, coriander and cumin. If you haven't already, sprinkle a little water to keep the spices from burning. Cook, stirring often, until the raw scent of the spices cook out, and it all smells like it knows each other a bit, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the spinach and stir well, incorporating the spiced onion mixture into the spinach. Add a little salt and 1/2 a glass of water, stir, and cook about 5 minutes with the lid off.

Turn the heat off. Add the yogurt, a little at a time to keep it from curdling. Once the yogurt is well mixed into the spinach, add the paneer. Turn the heat back on, cover and cook until everything is warmed through, about 5 minutes.

Eat with bread or rice. In general also think most of this kind of food should come with some sort of salad, from a kachumber, to a simple green or tomato, it often needs just a sharp lemon juice and salt dressing to offset the richness of the spices. Try it and see what you think.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bean Curry–adapted very slightly from Madhur Jaffreys Ultimate Curry Bible.

Get yourself some fresh curry leaves. Really nothing like them. Although they did lead to a week of Curry.

No great harm in that. 

Probably takes about 20-30 mins all in.


  • 1 can of beans – drained and rinsed (Black Eye were good, Kidney if you must)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 whole, dried, hot red chillies
  • 1 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • A generous pinch of ground Asafetida
  • 15 fresh curry leaves, if available
  • 3 medium tomatoes, grated on the coarsest part of the grater  (or just chopped up a bit if you think life’s too short)
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 fresh, hot green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tsp peeled fresh ginger grated to a pulp
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1½ tsp salt


  1. pour the oil into a medium pan and set over a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the red chillies, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and asafoetida. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the curry leaves and tomatoes. Stir once, then add the turmeric, coriander, cumin, green chillies, garlic, ginger, sugar and salt. Stir and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
  2. Pour the beans into the pan with the spiced tomato mixture. Bring to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, on a very low heat, for 10-15 minutes.