Winter 2015

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SPICE up your life

Hello folks

Chris the snake charmerI was born in faraway Switzerland more than a few faraway years ago. But while I love food of various European origins, my culinary heart truly lies closer to home. I love food from the Asian countries to our north – Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian and Indian ... especially Indian!

She Who Must be Obeyed and her humble spouse (that’s me!) visited India not so long ago. In fact, just three editions ago when
I wrote about some great chicken recipes,

I included some from the Indian sub-continent.

Those Indian-flavoured recipes were well-received. So in this edition I’m going to
give you some more easy-to-make recipes from India. This time I’m featuring ones that feature seafood. Plus I’ll throw in a few not so fishy ones.

What goes into Indian recipes can be left to your imagination. There are no rules ... except for rules number one and two.

Rule number one: when cooking curries, do not use pre- made curry powder. If you do you could end up with a factory taste, nothing like real Indian food with its sublime fragrances.

Rule number two: when buying spices, buy in small quantities. You want them as fresh as possible for pulverising into an aromatic paste. Your nose knows how good the result can be.

You can use a small electric-powered grinder, such as one used for grinding coffee, but I find a mortar and pestle (some say pestle and mortar) are best – especially when crushing garlic,
a cinnamon stick, coriander leaves, chillies, peppercorns and fresh ginger. The most efficient and durable mortar and pestle combinations are made of granite, usually green. They are so efficient and tough, they’ll last a lifetime or two.

Roasting seeds in a dry pan before pulverising will increase their aromas as well as making them easier to crush.

Salt is an important additive to the seasoning process – I prefer sea salt. But as any GP will tell you, watch your salt intake.

Heat is added to Indian food by the addition of one or several of the following – peppercorns of several hues (black, of course, plus white, green and even pink), chilli, cayenne and mustard.

A word of caution: heat in Indian food, especially curries, is very subjective. Some like it hot, others can’t handle the heat. So be especially careful when adding chilli and cayenne.

Incidentally cayenne is in reality a chilli powder and related to paprika. But your taste buds will tell you there’s a world of difference between cayenne and paprika!

Indian food can be accompanied by rice, lentils or flat bread. A bowl of yoghurt, perhaps with the addition of thinly sliced cucumber, can combat excessive heat. Coconut cream added to the meal just before serving gives a succulent flavour and texture. Crushed nuts and a fruit-based chutney will also be welcome additions.

Happy eating ... but watch the heat!

A MAJOR disappointment . . .or hopefully just a minor setback

Dear Brighton

So I’m currently on the plane about to fly back home from Tokyo and I realise I’m a few days late to submit this piece for the winter edition. To be truthful I could have written it on the plane flying to Tokyo ... but the message would have been completely different.

Since I wrote last things have been going well. After surgery last August some people had said I might never be able to compete again. Despite those negative predictions, I have been patient, kept the faith and slowly built back to a position where I have been able to race and even win my fifth national title. The bonus after that was I had earned a lane in one

or maybe two (if I ran well enough to get a second race) meets here in Japan. So my theme in this article was going to be hang tough and work your backside off and good things will come to you.

Well that was the idea anyway. The reality is that life doesn’t always dish up what you think you deserve. I have trained as hard in the past six months as I did as a young pup, have done it with no financial support, sacrificed a lot and did it without anyone high in the sport believing I could be an achiever once again.

Despite this, my indicators were that this just could and perhaps even should be the time I stepped back into relevance.

But the reality is that on the day of

the 400m hurdles it was windy. My opponents took off like thieves in the night.

I hit one hurdle after 150m which made me lose momentum, then basically stood on another at about 300m, nearly falling on my face. I looked up and knew that the race was gone.

There was a split-second decision: listen to the voice in my head and stop – with 100m to go I was now well in last place – or finish and post an embarrassing time.

I finished the race. I don’t consider that to be overly meaningful but I am proud of what it has been like since.

I didn’t get that second run and therefore today I am leaving the other athletes in  awesome Tokyo with my tail between my legs. I moped around the night after the race, but it came down to the key decision one has to continually make.

I could either let it defeat me and admit that perhaps I just don’t have what it takes or I could draw a line in the sand, learn from the mistakes and keep moving forward.

I have discovered again and again that the plight of a dreamer can often amount to nothing, but I also know that every bad day along the way
will only make the final victory all
the sweeter.

On another positive, my early departure means this is the first year I will be home for my girlfriend’s birthday.

I am still sad that the trip ended unlike expectations, but it’s important to find a positive in every situation.

My girlfriend’s on the RIGHT TRACK

Fun runSpeaking about the girlfriend, Emily has a tale to tell at the moment too. She isn’t an athlete and therefore doesn’t have opportunities to aim for that I do, but she too has come up with a health/sport goal. She has decided she wants to enter in a fun run and see if she can test herself and run the whole way.

The better part of it is that she has suggested the idea to a few friends and they decided to go along for the journey too. These are normal girls, some not built like those photoshopped super-models in the magazines, and all with little history in running long distance, but they’re having a go.

They’ve made it social and it’s equally about getting together and sharing something positive as a group. So with a training plan found in a girls’ magazine picked up at work the adventure has begun.

There are two long runs a week (about 5km at whatever pace they feel like) and a boxing session thrown in for something different and I think they are having a few laughs. I never thought fun run was an accurate term, but perhaps it can be fun after all.

I’ll let you know how they go. As for me, it’s back to the grind. I had a good session today before the flight home, so with Olympic qualification now open, fingers crossed the change of luck is just around the corner.

Speak soon. Tristan

ALL praise to the invaders

I’m reliably informed that Indian cuisine is around 5000 years old. I don’t think my informant – I call him Jack – is that old, but I have no reason to doubt what he says.

Jack’s overview of world history shows that India was not immune to foreign influence, especially when it came to food.

The Mughal (aka Mogul or Mongol) dynasty ruled northern India for more than two decades, beginning in the early 16th century. They created the beautiful Taj Mahal and introduced their distinctive Muslim style of cuisine called Mughlai, which today India claims as its own.

Mughlai cuisine featured dried fruit, nuts, spices and rich meat sauces. Soon the invaders’ cuisine became popular with the invaded. The invaders were Muslims and did not eat pork, the invaded Hindus did not eat beef, so both forms of meat were taboo. Instead for protein they ate chickens, sheep and goats. Tandoori cooking became a feature. The curries of today that are butter-based are in the Mughlai style. Today some of India’s famed dishes have Muslim names – such as kebabs, kofta, tikka and biryani.

India was also invaded by Europeans, mainly by the Portuguese and British. Although the European colonisers have gone, some of their influence lingers on ... but I doubt that includes the Brits’ bangers and mash with mushy peas.

In reverse Indian cuisine now prevails in Britain and elsewhere, including Australia.

India’s western seaboard is where you’ll see cuisine featuring seafood ... and so do most of these recipes.

Okay, folks, to make an especially spicy dish try this garam masala recipe:

 

GARAM masala

1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cardamom seeds
4 teaspoons whole cloves
7 cm stick of cinnamon
1 whole nutmeg

 

Roast all the spices, apart the nutmeg, in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for about 2 minutes until aromatic, then cool. Grate the nutmeg and add it to a mortar and pestle (or electric grinder) along with the roasted spices. Break up the cinnamon stick and grind all the spices to a powder.

 

You can keep garam masala in an airtight container out of the sunlight for about one month. Use in recipes as required.

 

FISH curry

60 ml vegetable oil
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 large onion chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
1 tablespoon fresh or dried curry leaves
2 teaspoons chilli powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons turmeric
400 g chopped tomatoes
100 ml tamarind liquid
2 green chillies sliced lengthwise
into 6 pieces, seeds removed
1 teaspoon salt
700 g firm white fish cut into
5 cm chunks

 

Heat the oil and when hot add the mustard seeds and fry for 30 seconds. Then stir in the onion and garlic and fry gently until soft and golden.

 

Add curry leaves, chilli powder, coriander and turmeric and fry for 2 minutes, then stir in tomatoes, tamarind liquid, green chillies and salt. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the mixture has reduced. Add the fish, cook for another 5 minutes or until just cooked through. Serve with rice.

 

SPICED rice

315 g basmati rice
1 teaspoon oil
2 cloves
3 cm cinnamon stick
1 green cardamom pod crushed
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
350 ml water

 

Wash the rice, then soak for 30 minutes. Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the spices for about 30 seconds. Drain the rice and add it with the salt to the fried spices and stir a little. Add the water and bring back to the boil. Then on a very low heat with the lid on cook for about 10-12 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Cool the rice on a tray and reheat in a low oven when needed.

 

PRAWN and coconut

This recipe can also be made with scallops or fish.

2 tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil
1⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 cloves
3 green cardamoms slightly bruised with a rolling pin
2 medium onions sliced
3 cloves garlic sliced
25 g grated ginger
2 green chillies slit lengthwise, seeds removed
1 teaspoon salt
small handful of curry leaves
small pinch of turmeric
400 ml coconut milk
1 1⁄2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
500 g raw (green) prawns
2 tomatoes thinly sliced

 

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the pepper, cardamom and cloves and fry for one minute until fragrant. Add the onions, fry for 5 minutes, then stir in the garlic, ginger, chillies, salt and curry leaves and fry for 1 minute.

 

Add turmeric, coconut milk and vinegar and simmer for 4-5 minutes.

 

Then add the prawns and simmer for another 4 minutes. Scatter the tomatoes over the top, turn off the heat, cover the pan and set aside for 3-4 minutes.

 

Serve with rice.

 

DRY curry of cabbage

250 g cabbage cut into 5 cm pieces2 carrots thinly sliced
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 tablespoons fresh or dried curry leaves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 dried chillies broken into small pieces
30 g fresh ginger, grated finely
1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric
2 fresh green chillies sliced and seeded
100 g fresh coconut grated
1⁄2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
salt to taste

 

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan, when hot add the mustard seeds, followed by the curry leaves, cumin seeds and dried chillies. Stir for about 30 seconds, then add the grated ginger, turmeric, salt and black pepper and fry for another 30 seconds.

 

Stir in the cabbage and carrots, cover the saucepan and cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until tender, adding a splash of water if they start to stick to the pan.

 

Stir in green chillies and coconut, heat through and serve with rice and flat bread or papadams.

 

PRAWN CURRY with green chillies

400 g peeled raw prawns
1 small onion chopped
8 cloves garlic chopped
30 g fresh ginger chopped
30 g ghee or oil
1 tablespoon chilli powder
3 bay leaves
200 g natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cloves
1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric
1 medium tomato sliced
2 green chillies sliced, with or without seeds as preferred
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon sugar
500 ml water

 

Blend the onion, garlic and ginger together in a food processer to a rough paste. Heat the ghee or oil over a medium heat, add the onion, garlic and ginger paste and then the chilli powder and fry for about 10 minutes until soft and golden.

 

Add a splash of water, scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, then add the bay leaves and mix in the yoghurt. Stir in all the spices followed by the tomato, chillies, salt and sugar. Pour in the water, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes to reduce by about half. Add the prawns and simmer for another 5 minutes until cooked.
Serve with boiled rice.

 

 

PRAWN fritters

12 large unpeeled raw (green) prawns. Pull off the heads and peel away the shells, leaving the tails intact. Use a small sharp knife to run down the back of the prawns to remove the intestinal tract. Cut halfway through the prawns to butterfly them.

 

60 g plain flour
60 g chickpea flour
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 free range egg
150-225 ml water
70 g ghee or vegetable oil

 

Mix the flours and salt together, whisk in the egg and enough of the water to give a smooth batter (the consistency of pouring cream).
Heat the ghee/oil over medium heat. Once hot, dip 2 or 3 prawns in the batter and carefully lower in to the ghee/oil.
Fry for 2-3 Min. until crisp and golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper. Repeat with remaining prawns. Serve with lemon wedges and chutney of your choice.

 

 

LAMB koftas with spiced yoghurt

300 g minced lamb
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon garam masala
1⁄4 teaspoon kashmiri chilli
2 cloves garlic chopped
small handful of mint leaves
small handful of coriander
1 teaspoon salt
oil for frying

 

Put all the Ingredients apart from the oil in a blender and blend to a smooth paste. Take a teaspoon of the kofta mixture and using wet hands form into a small ball and repeat. Heat the oil over a medium high heat and fry the koftas in batches for 7-10 minutes until browned.

 

Spiced Yoghurt

400 g natural greek yoghurt
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon plus extra for sprinkling
pinch of kashmiri chilli powder plus extra for sprinkling

 

Mix the yoghurt with the cinnamon and chilli, add a dash of water if needed to get a runny consistency. Serve the koftas on flat bread and drizzle the yoghurt over them. Sprinkle with cinnamon and chilli.

DELICIOUS desserts

Uncle Chris cash and carryCHOCOLATE pots

200g good quality dark chocolate
6 eggs, separated
50 ml Grand Marnier

 

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set resting in a pan of gently simmering water. Do not overheat!
Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and set aside. Beat the egg yolks, blend them into the melted chocolate and stir in the Grand Marnier. Carefully fold in the Egg whites. Pour into six little pots and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

 

LIME panna cotta

600 ml cream
150 ml milk
8 mint leaves
4-5 sheets leaf gelatine
60 g castor sugar
finely grated zest of 3 limes
1 1⁄2 teaspoon tequila
lime segments to decorate

 

Pour the cream and milk into a small saucepan, add mint leaves, bring to the simmer. Let bubble for about 5 minutes to reduce by about a third. Meanwhile soak the gelatine in a bowl of cold water.
Strain the boiling cream and milk mixture into a bowl and stir in the sugar, lime zest and tequila. Take the gelatine leaves, gently squeeze out excess water, then add to the hot cream and milk mixture and stir until dissolved.

 

Pour the mixture into 6 dariole moulds or cups and allow to cool, then refrigerate the panna cotta for 3-4 hours until set.
To turn out, gently tease the side of each panna cotta away from the mould, then invert on to plates and shake to release. Arrange a few lime segments on each plate and serve.

 

HOT CHOCOLATE fondant (makes two)

50 g unsalted butter
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
50 g good bitter chocolate
1 egg
1 egg yolk
60 g castor sugar
50 g plain flour

 

Heat oven to 160c. Butter two large ramekins, about 7.5 cm and dust liberally with cocoa. Slowly melt the chocolate over simmering bowl of hot water. Take off the heat and stir until cool. Whisk the whole egg and egg yolk and sugar until pale and thick, then incorporate the chocolate mixture. Sift the flour and gently fold in, using a large metal spoon. Divide between the two ramekins and bake for 12 minutes. Turn the fondants out on to warm plates and serve immediately.

Showing good SCENTS

Rose HipsRoses are red, violets are blue

A garden without scent is a despicable brew.

Yes, blind Freddy could tell you I’m no great shakes as a poet. But the message, I reckon, is perfumed solid gold.

A garden without scented plants is like a person without a soul.

Ignore the fabulously perfumed plants at our disposal and you’re denying yourself and your family one of life’s greatest sensual experiences.

Nearly all the great gardens smell a treat.

And the good part about growing perfumed plants is that you only need grow a handful to satisfy your olfactory senses. Maybe an old world rose seemingly dripping perfume as it clambers up over an arch, perhaps a humble daphne bush that reminds of a French perfumery.

When it comes to choosing scented plants for your garden, let your nose lead you. Get sniffing.

For a couple of decades not too long ago, plant breeders in their furious pursuit of bigger and more colourful plants lost sight of the importance of perfume.

Thankfully, they’re now back on the sweet smelling

track, with new releases such as Daphne ‘Perfumed Princess’ (it’s got the heavenly scent of the normal daphne, Daphne odora, but blooms for a lot longer) and the fittingly named The Princess Lavender that boasts the soothing fragrance for which lavenders are renowned, plus an intense pink colour.

But don’t just seek out the new. Some of the oldies still come up smelling roses.

Speaking of roses, they rank close to the top of my list of best perfumed plants. And winter is the best time to buy a few bare rooted roses for planting.

There are just so many fabulously perfumed roses. A few that get my nose twitching include the bush rose Sharifa Asma with its haunting grapes and mulberry fragrance, the sherbet-like citrus Nahema (French company Guerlain based a scent on its bewitching summery smell) and the sweet and spicy Double Delight in all its cream and carmine splendour.

Though the one that rings my bells is the pink French climber Madame Gregoire Staechelin with its sweetpea bouquet. Sadly, this queen of roses blooms just once a year, in spring.

A decade or so back when I met David Austin, Britain’s guru of rose breeders (yes, I love to name drop), I bemoaned the fact that breeders hadn’t produced a repeat-flowering version of this beauty. His response was that they had tried and tried without success. Breed it and a million pound bonanza will be yours, he assured.

DaphneAdorable daphnes: No garden should be without at least one. They’re perfumed plant royalty. One of the best is still the old reliable Daphne odora. Give it a morning sun spot that retains a little moisture and, once established, it will create sensual delight each winter.

Languorous lavenders: For relaxed style and purity of perfume you can’t beat them, especially English lavender.

Grow them as a hedge or in pots, but always ensure the drainage is good.

Jubilant jasmines: Whether you opt for the starry white blooms of the evergreen and climbing Chinese star jasmine (Trachelospermum Jasminoides), which incidentally is not a true jasmine, or the tubular white flowered winter jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum), expect a perfumed punch. Treat both to a moist, humus-rich soil and you won’t be disappointed.

Boronia bounty: They might be villainously hard to grow but get one established, especially the brown bloomed Boronia megastigma, and you will experience perfume nirvana. It’s another that likes a moist morning-sun spot. And when you get one growing, keep sniffing deep; sadly, boronias are generally short lived.

Scent-sational citrus: The humble lemon isn’t worthy just for its fruit. Grow it and its relatives (a couple of kaffir limes in pots look good) near a window or door and you’ll be blown away by its fresh scent.

Luscious lilacs: These scented sensations with their perfumed panicles and in a range of many colours just love Tasmania’s cool. It can pay to select grafted varieties and don’t be afraid to pick bunches of blooms for a sweet aroma indoors.

Magnificent magnolias: In a variety of sizes from bush to large tree, and evergreen and deciduous, magnolias are not to be ignored in the perfume stakes. A good one for pre-winter blooms in smaller gardens is the gently fragrant star magnolia (Magnolia stellata).

Heavenly honeysuckles (Lonicera species): Not all honeysuckles pack a perfumed punch so seek out ones that do. A sure winner is Lonicera fragrantissima, a cream bloomed climber whose perfume has been described as a cross between lilac and jasmine.