Monday, March 19, 2018

Chicken Bhuna: Moghul Cuisine of North West India

This robust Chicken Bhuna recipe by chef Peter Joseph of Tamarind, one of only nine Michelin-starred Indian restaurants in the world, is incredibly simple to make. "I love spices and I love using different combinations to produce fantastic flavours all within an authentically Indian cooking style. Over the years my cooking knowledge has grown and I have been able to explore new ideas and areas of India that have influenced my dishes. I lean towards more traditional Indian flavours influenced by the northwest, and find the history of Mughal cuisine, biryanis, curries and kebabs fabulous". The origins of the bhuna curry can be traced back to the Bengal area of northeast India and western Bangladesh, and refer to the traditional cooking technique where spices are fried in very hot oil, until they have formed a lovely thick paste. Meat or vegetables are then added to these fried spices and cooked in the curry to bring out its distinguished, deep flavours. Characterized by a thick, deliciously intense sauce with a well spiced and lively heat, Bhunas are perfect for warming the cockles on a chilly winter evening — ideal served with fluffy basmati rice and warm naan.

Chef Peter Joseph of Tamarind in Mayfair

Chicken Bhuna

Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of chef Peter Joseph, Tamarind Mayfair

6 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless, diced into 1 inch chunks

4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 green chilli, deseeded and chopped
2 tbsp of ginger, chopped
2 onions, diced
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
5 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp of coriander, chopped
3 tbsp of vegetable oil
1 pinch of salt

Heat the oil in a large deep frying pan or wok, and add the garlic, green chillies and ginger. Mix them for a minute in the hot oil then add the chopped onions. Stir and leave to cook over a medium heat for about 20-25 minutes. Once the onions have turned a golden brown colour, add the turmeric, chilli, cumin, coriander and garam masala powders. Stir and cook for about a minute, then add the chopped tomatoes with 1/2 cup of water and a good pinch of salt. Stir together, cover the pan and allow it to come to a boil. Stir occasionally until the masala becomes lovely and thick, about 15-20 minutes. Add the chicken to the pan and coat the pieces in the masala so it’s all nicely covered. Cook over medium low, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and combined with the thick masala sauce, adding a little more water if necessary. Stir in the lemon juice to add a little zing and garnish with coriander to serve. A dollop of plain yogurt on top is the perfect crown for this 'saucy' curry.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Traditional Irish Shepherds Pie: Classic Comfort Food

An Irish comfort food classic, Shepherds Pie is traditionally made from leftover lamb or mutton topped with mashed potato. Perfectly suited for using up leftovers from a Sunday Roast Leg of Lamb, the meat is simply chopped and simmered in a flavourful sauce so that it stays tender before being baked with a pillowy crown of mashed potato until it's golden brown and bubbling up along the edges. Served with a tumble of peas dotted with a knob of butter, this is the perfect meal to warm you up on a cold blustery winter evening or to celebrate the Feast of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

Traditional Irish Shepherds Pie
Serves 4-6

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp black pepper
1 lb ground lamb
1 large onion, finely diced
4 large carrots, finely diced
1 cup frozen peas
4 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp butter
1 glass red wine
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup chicken stock
6 cups warm mashed potatoes
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp chopped parsley for garnish

Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Sauté the carrots in the olive oil until starting to become tender, then add the onions and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add the ground lamb and season with black pepper and thyme. Cook until browned then drain the fat. Add the butter and peas. Sprinkle with flour and stir through, then add the tomato paste, wine and Worcestershire sauce. Allow this to reduce slightly then add the chicken stock, and let reduce until it creates a thick meaty gravy. Season to taste and remove from heat. 

Grease a 9x13-inch oven proof casserole dish with butter then add the lamb mixture. Spoon the mashed potatoes over top. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until the potato is golden brown and the edges are bubbling. Serve immediately with a garnish of fresh parsley. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Classic French Lemon Madeleines

Soft and moist with a sublime buttery flavour and light, fluffy texture, these little French cakes are universally loved. With a rich history dating back to the Duke of Lorraine and made famous by Proust in his novel 'A La Recherche du Temps Perdu', this classic recipe for Madeleines couldn't be more delicious, or easier to make. Suggestions by chefs Dorie Greenspan and Daniel Boulud provide added insight, for not only do they rest and chill the batter before piping it into the molds, but they chill it in the tin too, before sliding it onto a hot baking sheet. Served straight from the oven, these buttery little sponge cakes have wonderfully crisp edges and are so moist and tender, that they are best enjoyed right away with a light dusting of powdered sugar. After all, who can resist the exquisite pleasures of these “squat plump little cakes which look as though they had been molded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell.” Certainly not Proust.

Makes about 20

1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus 1 tbsp for buttering the mold
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
icing sugar for dusting

Melt the butter and allow to cool. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until creamy. Then add the vanilla, lemon zest and pinch of salt. Mix the flour and baking powder together in a small bowl, and gradually add it to the batter, beating just until blended. Gradually add the cooled melted butter in a steady stream, blending well, then cover and refrigerate until required. 

Liberally brush the ridges of a small Madeleine pan with melted butter. Dust with flour tapping of any excess. Fill the molds not quite to the top, only about to 2/3, then refrigerate again or cook straight away for 10-15 minutes, or until they are puffed up and golden. Remove from the oven, tap out from the pan, dust with icing sugar and serve immediately while still deliciously warm. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Heston Blumenthal's Sunday Roast Leg of Lamb


A recipe with the classic flavours of Provence — lamb, rosemary and anchovies, might seem an odd combination, but they really work well together, insists Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal. "The savouriness of the anchovies brings out the best in the meat, without tasting fishy." As a young boy, he recalls stumbling into a restaurant in Provence, and before him a chef is browning a leg of lamb in a sizzling pan, filling the air with the aroma of delicious meaty juices. He was mesmerized. It was an iconic moment in the chef's extraordinary culinary career. Famous for his experiments with molecular cuisine, he is the proprietor of The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, one of five restaurants in Great Britain to have three Michelin stars, and was voted #1 in 'The World’s 50 Best Restaurants'. His recipe for Roast Leg of Lamb involves tucking the anchovies into the skin of the browned lamb, along with garlic and a sprig of rosemary. During roasting, the wee little fish simply melt away, leaving a delicate salty tang. Blumenthal uses tinned anchovies in his roast lamb recipe, but they can also be purchased fresh from a fishmonger, packed in salt. The best anchovies come from south-west France and north-west Spain, however, whichever anchovies are used, this wonderfully aromatic and wildly delicious leg of lamb will be a triumph.

Heston's Roast Leg of Lamb

Serves 8
Recipe courtesy of chef Heston Blumenthal

5 lb leg of lamb

Sea salt
3 tbsp vegetable oil
12 anchovies in extra virgin olive oil, drained and sliced in half lengthways
6 garlic cloves, peeled and halved 
8 sprigs fresh rosemary

For the sauce:

1/2 cup dry white wine
3 1/4 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard

Season the lamb with salt. Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan over a high heat. When the oil is smoking hot, sear the lamb until golden brown on all sides, then remove from the pan and place on a chopping board. 
Using a sharp knife, cut slits in the surface of the lamb at regular intervals. Use a small spoon to enlarge the holes and stuff them with the anchovies, garlic and half the rosemary.

Place the remaining sprigs of rosemary in the bottom of a roasting tin and place the lamb on top. Pour 2/3 cup water into the bottom of the pan and cook 25 minutes per pound plus 25 minutes for medium, or to your liking. When cooked, remove the lamb from the oven, wrap it in foil and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.

While the meat is resting, make the sauce. Place the roasting tin over a medium-high heat, allow the lamb juices to come to a boil then reduce by half. Add the wine and use a spatula to scrape all the delicious bits from the bottom of the pan. Allow the liquid to reduce by half. Add the chicken stock and, again, reduce by half. Pour off the excess fat then strain the liquid through a fine sieve into a bowl. Stir in the wholegrain mustard then pour into a warm jug to serve with the lamb.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Dorie Greenspan's Apple Cake with Chantilly Cream

A deceptively simple and delicious Apple Cake from Dorie Greenspan's cookbook, "Around My French Table", is full of entertaining stories, memories, and insider tips that she gathered over years of living in France. Inspired by a recipe by her friend Marie-Hélène Brunet-Lhotse, Greenspan watched her in her kitchen, in the hopes of nabbing a recipe by observation, but found it impossible. "Like so many really good cooks, Marie-Hélène starts off with a set of ingredients, but, once she starts mixing, stirring, boiling, baking, or sautéing, she makes so many mid-cooking adjustments that you just have to throw up your hands and content yourself with being the lucky recipient". 

And so it was with this apple cake, which is more apple than cake, rather plain but very appealing in its simplicity: the chunks of apple make a bumpy, golden top, and so satisfying that we all went back for seconds. Despite knowing that it was futile, Greenspan asked for the recipe, and, of course, Marie-Hélène didn't really know. "It's got two eggs, sugar, flour, and melted butter - oh, and rum," she said. "I mix the eggs and sugar together and then I add some flour, some butter, some flour, and some butter." When asked how much flour and butter, Greenspan got a genuinely apologetic shrug, and when asked what kind of apples she used, the answer was, divers, or different kinds. Thank goodness Dorie was so tenacious, for she succeeded in transcribing Marie-Hélène's fabulous recipe for us all to share for evermore.

French Apple Cake
Serves 8
Adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 cups mixed apples, such as Fuji, Golden Delicious, or Gala
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp dark rum
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
3/4 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

Crème Chantilly:
1 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F and adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven.  Using some of the melted butter, brush the inside of a 6 or 8-inch springform pan and place it on a baking sheet.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl and set aside. Peel and core the apples, then dice them into 1-inch pieces.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk or electric mixer until they are foamy. Add the sugar, rum, vanilla, cardamom, and lemon zest and whisk to blend.  Add in half the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth batter. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it's coated with batter. Scrape the mix into the pan and smooth out the top with the spatula.

Place the cake on a baking sheet and position it on the center rack of the preheated oven. Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake from the pan and carefully remove the sides of the cake pan, making sure no apples are stuck to it. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake onto a serving dish.

Using a whisk or mixer, whip each of the crème chantilly ingredients together until firm peaks are formed. Spoon the cream into a pretty bowl and serve along with the cake.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Diwan at The Aga Khan: Middle Eastern Cuisine

North America’s first museum dedicated to Islamic art and culture, The Aga Khan Museum offers visitors a window into worlds unknown or unfamiliar: the artistic, intellectual, and scientific contributions of Muslim civilizations to world heritage across the centuries. Created as a pillar for global pluralism, the Museum’s permanent collection of more than 1,000 artefacts includes masterpieces that reflect a broad range of artistic styles and materials, including portraits, textiles, miniatures, manuscripts, ceramics, tiles, medical texts, books and musical instruments that represent more than ten centuries of human history from a geographic area stretching from Spain, Sicily, Africa, the Balkans, Central Asia, China, India, and Southeast Asia. Special exhibitions are held throughout the year, such as 'The World of the Fatimids' which bears witness to a remarkable dynasty that built one of the world’s oldest universities, compiled one of its greatest libraries, and fostered a flowering of the arts and sciences. At its height in the 10th and 11th centuries, the Fatimids established one of the greatest civilizations in the world, influencing knowledge and culture throughout the Mediterranean, Europe, and the Near East. 

Taking advantage of our museum membership, we were able to enjoy a sneak preview of the exhibition before lunch at Diwan, which means 'spiritual room', the museum's elegant and refined signature restaurant, handsomely decorated with original panels from an 18th-century Damascus Mosque bought at auction in London by the Aga Khan. Few museums offer as beautiful a dining space as the one at the Aga Khan Museum, a culinary destination in its own right. Executive Chef Mark McEwan and Chef de Cuisine John Kovac's menu highlights the great cuisines of Turkey, Iran, North Africa, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, and includes dishes such as Mercimek Corbasi, a Turkish-inspired red lentil soup with dried mint, Sweet Onion Bhaji with tamarind chutney and Ali Nazik, a smoky eggplant purée with spiced lamb, yogurt and served with flatbread, a specialty of the Gaziantep province of Turkey. Entrées are equally enticing, including Grilled Octopus with Chickpea Salad, Moroccan olives, stewed sweet peppers and Aleppo aioli, and Chicken Biryani with Basmati rice and cashews served with warm naan. In the summer months, the restaurant opens its doors to a sunlit patio with fabulous views of the Aga Khan Park.

Diwan, which means 'spiritual room', is the Aga Khan Museum's signature restaurant

Original ceiling panel and lantern from an 18th-century Damascus Mosque evokes the luxury of a private 19th-century Syrian home, and was purchased at auction in London by the Aga Khan

Diwan's winter lunch menu

A glass of bubbly on a snowy afternoon

Mercimek Corbasi, a Turkish-inspired red lentil soup with dried mint

Sweet Onion Bhaji with tamarind chutney

Diana offers a short wine list including this lovely Argentinian Rosé

Grilled Octopus with Chickpea and Arugula Salad with Moroccan olives, stewed sweet peppers and served with an Aleppo aioli

Chicken Biryani with Basmati rice and cashews served with warm naan

A warm and comforting café au lait, the perfect balm on a cold snowy afternoon

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Honey Streusel and Figs
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of chef Mark McEwan

3 leaves gelatine
2 cups 35% cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean

Honey Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup cold butter
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp honey
3/4 cup flour

Port wine and fig sauce:
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup red port
1/2 sprig rosemary
1/2 vanilla bean
2 fresh figs, quartered

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 vanilla bean
3 fresh figs, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup sugar

Fold a 12-inch sheet plastic wrap in half. Place a ring mould at its centre, lift the plastic wrap up around the edge, and secure it tautly in place with an elastic band to create a ramekin. Repeat with the remaining ring moulds. Arrange the ring moulds on a small baking sheet.

Submerge the gelatine in a bowl of ice-cold water. Place the cream and the sugar in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream, and then add the pod. Gently bring to a simmer, stirring so the sugar dissolves. Discard the pod. Pour the mixture into a stainless steel bowl. Remove the gelatine leaves from the water, squeeze gently, and add them to the cream mixture. Whisk until dissolved. Place the bowl over a second, large bowl of ice. Whisk gently until the cream mixture cools and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Divide the mixture among the 4 ring moulds or ramekins, cover with plastic wrap, and chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 325ºF. For the streusel, cut the butter into cubes and let it sit on the counter for 10 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with a paddle. Add the sugar and honey; mix on low speed. Once smooth, add the flour, mixing just until it attains a crumbly texture (do not mix further to form a dough). Scatter the crumble on a baking sheet, passing it through your fingers to break up any clumps. Bake, stirring now and then with a spatula, until golden and crisp, about 15 minutes.

For the sauce, combine the honey, port, and rosemary in a saucepan. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the pan and add the pod. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the figs. Reduce the liquid by half. Strain through a sieve, pushing with a wooden spoon to force through the figs’ seeds. Set aside at room temperature.

To finish, heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add the vanilla bean. Dredge the cut side of the fig halves in the sugar, and then place them in the pan, once again cut side down. Cook until caramelized on that side, about 4 minutes. Remove from the pan, reserving the vanilla oil. Meanwhile, invert the moulds of panna cotta carefully onto 4 chilled plates. Remove the plastic wrap, pass the blade of a knife around the edge of the moulds, and then lift them away. Scatter a band of streusel across the top of the panna cotta. Halve the figs again, and place 3 segments on each plate. Drizzle lightly with the vanilla oil, follow with a spoonful of the port-fig sauce, and serve.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Pan-Seared Halibut with Peas & Fingerling Potatoes

With its delicate sweet flavour and firm texture, pan-seared fresh halibut with minted spring peas and golden fingerling potatoes makes a lovely light and delicious dinner. Overcooking can dry it out, so pan-searing in an oil and butter mixture keeps it moist and flaky, and creates a perfect crispy skin. High in protein yet low in calories, this luscious firm fleshed flaky fish is sensational served with spring peas with fresh chopped mint and butter, fingerling potatoes and a simple low fat homemade tartar sauce, for an elegant and healthy dish that celebrates the coming of spring.

Pan-Seared Halibut with Minted Peas & Fingerling Potatoes
Serves 2

1 lb Halibut, cut in 2 pieces
2 cups frozen or fresh spring peas
1 -2 tbsp chopped fresh mint, plus 2 sprigs for garnish
6 fingerling potatoes
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 tbsp butter, divided
1 lemon, sliced for garnish
Maldon salt and fresh white or black pepper

Set a medium pot of water to boil for the potatoes. Pat the halibut dry with a paper towel and sprinkle with a pinch of Maldon salt. When the water starts to boil, pop in the potatoes and cook for for 20-25 minutes. While they are boiling, add the oil and a tablespoon of butter to a nonstick frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, place the halibut skin side down and cook until the skin is crisp, about 5-6 minutes, then turn over and continue cooking until just cooked through, about 13-15 minutes, depending on the thickness. 

Meanwhile, place a small pot of water over high heat and when boiling, pour in the peas and cook until soft. When the potatoes are cooked through, drain and place back into the pot on low with a tablespoon of butter and season with salt and pepper. Allow to brown slightly while checking on the fish and peas. When the fish is ready, remove from the heat and set aside. Once the peas are cooked through, remove from the heat, drain and season with a tablespoon of butter and the chopped mint; remove the potatoes from the heat. 

To serve, arrange the halibut on 2 warm dinner plates with the fingerling potatoes and peas. Garnish with sliced lemon and finish with a sprig of mint on each piece of halibut, with a flurry of extra chopped mint over the whole dish.

Low-Fat Tartar Sauce
Makes 1 1/4 cup

1/2 cup low fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup Greek yogurt 
1 tbsp Dijon mustard 
1 tbsp chopped capers
2 tbsp chopped gherkins
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped shallot 
1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice 
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley 
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Add the mayonnaise, yogurt, Dijon mustard, capers, gherkins, garlic, shallot, lemon juice, parsley, and salt and pepper to a small bowl. Stir well to combine, then taste and adjust for seasoning. Cover and chill until ready to serve.