Prawn, coconut & tamarind curry

Posted in: DF, S, SF, WF

A healthy, tangy and creamy curry to help you on your way to summer body. That’s right, curry needn’t be laden with ghee and consumed only in the early hours. In fact, the spices and coconut oil in this recipe are even good for your gut. I’ve used prawns for a potentially wider appeal, but I also make this with any white, sustainable fish as a less extravagant mid week supper.

Prawn,-coconut-&-tamarind-curry
Feeds 4

INGREDIENTS

2″ piece ginger
2 red chillies
4 cloves garlic
6 tsp coriander seed, toasted and ground
1 tin tomatoes or 6 ripe tomatoes

1 tbsp coconut oil
2 onions
3 tsp tamarind paste
1 dsp Agave syrup
1 x 400ml can coconut milk or coconut powder if you can get it.
1 tsp sea salt
500g raw, shelled, uncooked tiger prawns or white sustainable fish, deboned.
1 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped

METHOD

In a blender, blitz ginger, garlic, chillies, tomatoes and coriander seeds to make rough paste. Depending on how many I’m cooking for, I often leave half aside at this point to make a fresh curry another day. If you’re going the whole hog, however, use the lot.

Heat coconut oil in heavy based pan, chop onions and fry on medium to low heat until they’re translucent.

Add your tomato paste to the onions and cook for 5 mins, stirring intermittently. Follow with tamarind, Agave, coconut milk or powder and sea salt. Cook on a medium heat for 10 mins.

Check for seasoning, put the prawns or fish into the pan, stir and cook gently for 3 – 4 mins, or until meat is cooked through.

Serve with brown rice, roti or wholemeal paratha and chopped coriander. I also like this on it’s own for supper, effectively as a chunky soup… when carb baby needs curbing.

Coconut-powder

Tip: Tinned coconut milk can vary widely in flavour from the real thing, often altering the curry considerably. Even if fresh coconuts were readily available in the UK, however, I’m not about to start tackling them. So, I was very pleased to come across coconut powder in the world food isle, which somehow tastes far more authentic. You just add to the curry, diluting with water to your taste. Frozen roti and paratha are pretty easy to come by in most supermarkets too.

Tip: Don’t throw away coriander stalks. Instead, keep in the freezer to add a clean, freshness to other curries. See Spring lamb with apricots & chilli for example.

 

Gather sustainably

Posted in: Uncategorized

Unpacking the spoils from a recent trip to the parental homestead I was struck by just how much produce comes out of Mum Garcia-Macintyre’s Highland garden and kitchen: Everything from Wild Boar bacon and sausages to Jerusalem artichokes and marmalade. In fact, the farm to table philosophy is commonplace in Scotland and quite frankly, when frosty November delivers so much, why would you want a summer strawberry?

Netherton-Farm,-Clare-Garcia

Netherton-Farm-November-View

Piglet-trough. Netherton Farm

Netherton Farm 3 day old piglets

Not for bacon, Whitney pig and not yet for bacon, weaners. AKA Suckling Pig. In spite of some of my favourite London restaurants serving the latter, anything this small is surely too young. As the name suggests, said piglets are still feeding from their mum’s. And quite frankly, the difference in size between mother and and off-spring says it all. Spot the 3 day old bambino. #FarTooCute.

Black Isle Brewery, Scotland + Netherton Community Garden produce

Apple & Bramble Crumble. Wholesome Seduction.

Curry night. Black Isle beef, beetroot and beer. Apple, (frozen) bramble & almond crumble. Recipe coming soon.

Golden Ball Turnip, Netherton Farm produce. Scotland.

Netherton Farm Wild boar bacon & sausages + free range eggs.

Coriander seed & chillis, Netherton Community Garden.

Netherton Farm (Mum’s) is also host to the local Community Garden, churning out Golden Ball turnips (as tasty as David Beckham), coriander seed, chillis and all the veg for Sunday’s roast. Breakfast courtesy of the hens, Whitney’s Wild Boar cross Tamworth off-spring (when grown!) and mum’s Spiced tomato relish.

Elderberry juice, Netherton Farm & Wholesome Seduction

Foraged elderberries for juice. Mum boils (poisonous otherwise apparently) and strains this “wonder berry” to have on hand for smoothies, veg juices, crumbles and just about anything she can get away with. Any wonder I’m now blogging wholesomely seductive tips?

Netherton-sunset

Golspie smoked salmon on Oliver's Bakery rye.

Catch of the day. I even managed to bag some Golspie smoked salmon, netted in the traditional manner (definitely qualifies as Slow Food) from the Cromarty Firth in front of the house. Not part of mum’s ‘garden estate’ I hasten to add. This dense, smoky delicacy bares no relation to the slippery, insipid stuff from the supermarket. Served simply on Oliver’s Bakery rye with lemon and black pepper.

For more recipes and posts like this, type Netherton Farm into the Search box. See also Foraging for Scottish brambles & other things.

 

Travel pick: Fort Cochin, Kerala

Posted in: Featured, Travel

Typically a two day stopover on the way to the Backwaters, Munnar’s tea estates or Kerala’s beaches, most people I chat to in Old Harbour Hotel’s (granite) pool site Fort Cochin (and the hotel) as the best part of their holiday, wishing they’d factored in longer. Like me, many return to do just that.

Fort Cochin is what I term chic, cultural India. Easy and safe enough even, for the most All-inclusive inclined, delicate tummed or toddler minding among us. Kochi’s people take great pride in their town’s 600 years trading history. Home to ancient Chinese fishing nets, a 16th century synagogue, mosques and a crumbling mix of Dutch, Portuguese and British colonial architecture. Fort Cochin is a cultural melting pot of art cafés, prawn curries, boutique hotels, antiques, pashminas and Zen kindness. And that’s just the town.

Thanks to India’s famous railways and super cheap taxis, zipping to other parts of tropical Kerala are just a few rupees away. Because pictures speak a thousand words, I’ll take you on a visual tour with bullet points.

WHERE TO STAY

Old Harbour Hotel

Highlights:

Understated luxury, Dutch colonial architecture adorned with Indian art and antiques, impeccable service and a pool that breaks hearts to leave.

It’s worth noting service in India can at times be challenging. The propensity to employ an army to fix a light bulb, along with an apparent inability to say no, tends not always to be entirely conducive to speed. Not to mention personal space or uninterrupted dinner party chat.

Old Harbour Hotel owner, Edgar Pinto has made it his mission not to be tarred with the same brush. Well, maybe not the giant workforce bit. Vineetha and Jude are on hand to manage said army, anticipating and attending to their guests every whim.

It has been intimated that the aforementioned may be the reason ‘Madam’ (read: yours truly) considers Old Harbour Hotel her Indian home and appears incapable of breaking away.

Our soda and lime mixers came hand delivered to the hotel’s bijou house (a great option for families and only a few minutes walk away), complete with a week’s supply of cut lime and bottle opener. Making the two minute trek to the local bar (where a very large G&T is approx. £1.20) was just too strenuous.

Leaving no stone unturned, even the restaurant is one of the best in Fort Cochin. Serving Keralan specialities alongside the odd western dish sampled on Edgar’s travels and returned to his chefs. Thanks to a Madrid city break, you can follow tandoor kingfish (from the Chinese fishing nets in front of the hotel) with poolside Chilli spiced chocolate & churros.

All this and there’s free WIFI and morning roof-top yoga, plus a mini spa for Ayurvedic massage. With art cafes and shopping on your doorstep. Given many a supermodel and Bollywood diva (so demanding they make Naomi Campbell look like Gandhi) keep coming back for more, it’s not just Little Miss Fussy who’s hooked.

HOW

A member of Small Luxury Hotels, there are countless sites to check reviews, pictures and to book securely. See also TripAdvisor and Old Harbour Hotel.

I’ll blog my tips for around the town next week. On the off chance you find the strength to drag yourself away from the pool. Did I mention it’s granite?

For all Holy Cow posts, click on Popular Tags on the right or on the Reviews page.

 

Travel pick: Fort Cochin, part 2

Posted in: Travel

Part 2 of post, Travel Pick: Fort Cochin, Kerala, here are some ways to pass your time in and around one of my favourite holiday picks in the world, when not lolling by the pool.

WHAT TO DO

Fish markets & Chinese fishing nets

Highlight: Fort Cochin’s fish market where ancient Chinese fishing nets are still in use. Go around 7.30am to witness fishy bartering in full swing.

How: The town is built around the nets and market so you’d be hard pushed to get lost. Head for the sea.

Jew Town:

Highlight: Antiques, pashminas, once tried, forever essential oils; jewellery, spice markets and a toe dip into real life India.

How: A 15 minute rickshaw fairground ride from the town centre or Chinese fishing nets.

WHERE TO EAT

The Teapot

Highlight: A banana pancake and masala chai must do for every Fort Kochi visitor.

How: A two minute walk Fort Cochin’s tiny tourist town centre.

Shantilal

Highlight: Demolished food. Because Gujarati’s are the master sweet-makers. And samosa chefs, it would seem.

How: Tell the rickshaw driver to drop you at Shantilal opposite the Guajarati school. My friend Vineetha takes me and I’m yet to spot another westerner or tourist. It’s completely safe, don’t worry!

Kashi Art Café

Highlight: Another uber stylish hot spot serving dishes with a western twist by the Old Harbour Hotel team. Breakfast is a must. My favourites: Try the seafood roti wrap and coconut iced coffee. Kerala means Land of Coconuts, after all.

How: A two minute walk from the town centre or fishing nets. Just about everything is a two minute walk. Ideal for an unwind holiday in my opinion.

The Seagull

Highlight 1 : A down to earth café on the water. Read: respite from often stifling humidity.

Highlight 2: THE BEST Fish Moile and paratha (pancake like bread).

Highlight 3: Gin & Tonic. Raj sized measures (big).

Highlight 4: The Seagull is where just about every well-heeled local eats and gets the thumbs up from my fussy Indian family so not to be missed.

How: Less than a five minute rickshaw ride from Fort Cochin’s town centre.

Old Harbour Hotel

Highlight: Breakfast and lunch chef, Rahim’s cooking. Thanks to him I’ve consumed almost every Indian breakfast ever concocted and now know how to make my favourite dish, Green mango curry.

How: Stroll in, kaftan clad from your room. Or dine by the pool in your bikini. That would be my advice. Take it or leave it.

KERALA & AROUND

The Backwaters

Highlight: It would be a sin to visit Kerala without spending time on The Backwaters. One or two nights on a houseboat with skipper, cook + an/other on hand to guide and feed you through sleepy waterside villages could well be the most relaxing and fascinating experience of your life.

The houseboat tick box has become a bit of a factory procession tourist trail. Somehow it still manages to be worth the effort. I guess it’s not hard to see why when you look at the pictures.

How: The boats leave from Alleppey, about 1 ½ hrs away from Fort Cochin by taxi (£15 fare approx.). Book your trip in Fort Cochin with the countless travel agents, or through your hotel. Expect to pay a premium if doing the latter.

Munnar

Highlight: Tea plantations, cool air, home cooked meals, 1950’s flower gardens and butlers.

How: You can do a day tour, leaving very early from Fort Cochin or spend a night. Unless you’re going hiking, you probably won’t need much more than a day. The town isn’t up to much and once you’ve seen one tea factory, you’ve probably seen them all.

Cherai & Madurai

Highlight: Both have beaches and some very stylish boutique hotels popping up, so my sources tell me. I’m incapable of leaving Old Harbour Hotel, remember?

How: Two – four nights should be good unwind time, depending on the length of your stay. The hotel would be the decider for me.

Goa

Parts of Goa are described by The Lonely Planet as India’s answer to Blackpool. I went under duress. Ten minutes inland by scooter, however, and you’ll find an entirely different (non-beer drinking for breakfast) crowd. Exceptional restaurants and yoga; Portuguese colonial architecture; and a multi-cultural night market to inspire London’s finest street traders.

It’s worth noting that Goa was a Portuguese protectorate until 1961 and as such, its cuisine and customs are quite different to the rest of India. Think tangy tamarind and Indian shoulders on display.

How: Domestic flights are excellent and frequent between Cochin and Goa. Book planes and trains through Cleartrip a wonderfully efficient service. You can even cancel and get a refund. Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth) bless India.

Mumbai

Highlight: Stay in Colaba for Raj style hotel luxury with Victoriana. You’ll be spoilt for choice with galleries, street life and Bombay cafes on your doorstep. Try the Mumbai branch of Trishna, London’s Indian fish restaurant with style. You’ll find the original somewhat different in terms of design – old style London tube upholstery features – but the food is outstanding. The Colaba night market is well worth a visit; a drive thru diner for rich Mumbaikers.

How: Most flights stop over in Bollywood capital Bombay or the Middle East. If taking the former, it’s worth spending one or two nights on the way there or back.

This post is part 2 of Travel Pick: Fort Cochin, Kerala Click on the link for more India tips.

Travel pick: Holy cow

Posted in: Travel, Uncategorized

This month is a significant one for me; five years ago I popped my India cherry. And my holidays have never been the same since. Each year I try to break away from my spiritual addiction and fail. Since April 2008 I’ve back-packed (kind of), boutique hotel’d and eaten my way from sand and dust suffocated Rajasthan to tropical India’s most southern, sticky, coconut fringed tip.

Mumbai, India

I’ve stepped bare foot and cashmere wrapped onto the world’s most demonstrative declaration of love, the Taj Mahal; and breakfasted on Masala dosa with my benevolent, cattle class neighbour on India’s celebrated railway.

Indian train timetable

I’ve been served tea by our fawning butler, immersed in Munnar’s tea plantations and 1950’s rose gardens; and eaten Coorgi pork with Arabica coffee estate owners (and my hands).

Munnar tea plantations

Munnar's tea pickers

Coorg. Coffee drying.

Rehydrated on road side tender coconut surrounded by monkeys and wild elephants and contracted dysentery in Old Delhi. Served me right; even Hippy Mum was more discerning.

street food: Old Delhi & Coorg

Old Delhi

Cleaned (the dorm!) toilets, eaten off the floor, chanted and yoga’d away the controlled with military precision hours in an Ashram.

Ashram

I’ve ridden on elephants and fed them turmeric rice (gut goodness). I’m slightly partial to elephants. Apparently the females are the calm ones which I’m sure we’ll all agree is unusual.

Indian elephants

Gawped in wonder at Udaipur’s breath taking lake palaces, street murals and washing Ghats.

Udaipur Lake palace & washing ghats

Hobbled, dysentery fevered, around the blue city of Jodhpur, its Red Fort, Ganesha’s and innumerable scabby and bony Holy cows.

Jodhpur & Ganesha

And `shed a tear for the wives who threw themselves onto their Maharaja husband’s funeral pyre.

Funeral pyre wives

I’ve recuperated in the sand city of Jaisalmer and nearly thrown up again at the site of the refuse collecting pigs capacity to inhale ANYTHING.

I’ve papped the entire local population of 15th century Hampi (again with the cows), escaping the sweaty, lack of AC on the night train for Bangalore’s slick hotels, roof top bars and Victorian parks. Once more photographing the entire, camera spellbound population; laughing and being touched by the unaffected warmth of almost every one of them. Minus the cows.

Holy cow

Hampi children

I’ve bought yoga gear in Mysore, stretched it in Goa and scootered my way from Bollywood star hangout, to Goan sausage stall, to samosa beach hut.

Goa beach

Goa samosa breakfast

Yet no-where has drawn me back quite like Kerala and Fort Cochin, which somehow manages to tick every chic, cultural holiday box. So strong is the bond, in fact that I may have returned upwards of 14 times. Annihilating my never go back in favour of seeing the world decree. Find out why soon. To be continued…

Green Curry!

Posted in: S

No, we’re not talking Thai food. We’re talking environmentally friendly spices. In particular, coriander seeds, cumin and turmeric. These three curry house favourites are topping the list of greenhouse gas reducers.

Research carried out at Newcastle University shows that feeding them to sheep reduces the levels of methane released significantly. Coriander seeds were the winner (reducing methane production by 40%), with turmeric a close second (30% drop) and cumin coming in third (22%).

“What? How?” We hear you cry. It’s all thanks to the anti-bacterial properties of these three spices. They kill off the bad bacteria in the gut while letting the good bacteria (you know, the ones those TV ads promise – but, in our opinion, fail – to love) live. Less naughty bacteria = less gas.

It’s great news for the environment. Great news for our noses. And the perfect excuse to whip up an aloo gobi! Sometimes following the flock is no bad thing. Baaa.

Find out more: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/press.release/item/spice-leaves-sheep-smelling-sweeter

Labneh (a kind of yoghurt cheese)

Posted in: LF, S, SF, V, WF

This Middle Eastern strained yoghurt calls for a little patience; loading the piece of muslin first time can be a faff. But that’s pretty much the extent of this recipe, and once you’ve tried it on curries, salads or even toasted rye bread you’ll see exactly why I always have some in the fridge. And why it’s good enough for Mr Ottolenghi and Baker & Spice.

MakingLabnehWholesomeSeduction

Ingredients

250g natural full fat bio yoghurt
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp za’atar – optional. You can also swap for black pepper or dried chillies (½ tsp max).

Method

Mix all ingredients together and transfer to bowl lined with muslin. Tie the muslin into a sack and suspend over the bowl (I use a chopstick as a bracket).

The idea is to strain all the excess liquids from the yoghurt, so it’s best to keep the sack from touching the bottom of the bowl if possible. Alternatively, you can strain more recently.

Leave in the fridge for 24 hrs (or longer, depending on how thick you want the labneh to be). Drain the bowl daily.

Store in a jar in the fridge and keep as per the use by date on the yoghurt.

Tip: Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix of thyme, sesame, sumac, cumin, coriander, fennel and salt.