A Meal Fit for a Maharajah

Tonight’s blog is a re-blog from last year. You see, we’re doing a curry night tonight and I wanted to tell you how I make my ‘one sauce, several curries’ gravy!

So, what’s in store for us tonight then? Remember, I’ll make my basic sauce and from that make a chicken, lamb or fish curry. Plus a couple of veg curries. I may add extra garlic, ginger, chilli, turmeric, tinned tomatoes or purée and extra garam masala or cumin, changing the intensity and the look of the different dishes.

Do not make the mistake of mixing your veg into one curry! Be focussed! Let’s up the game shall we? I’m planning on making a mutter (pea) curry, dahl (lentil) and a Bombay aloo to accompany a salmon curry with basmati rice today. Now starts my re-blog on how I make my basic sauce.

Okay, I love my hob. That was all I had to work with from my time spent in Mumbai, India. And that is where I perfected my ability to cook a damn good curry. I have spoken about cooking various curries throughout my writing of this diary and today I am just going to reiterate on making my gravy.

As ever you need to start with a good, tasty gravy (curry sauce). Blitz onions until pulp and fry in a little oil. Add your spices and cook out. My favourite combo is garlic, ginger, chilli, cumin, coriander leaf, garam masala or Madras mix, turmeric and salt. Add tomato purée, cook out further, then add water or a little stock (Knorr cubes are fine). You want a slightly thickened consistency and this I regulate purely with the volume of onion and tomato purée to the water or stock! Cook for 30 – 40 minutes on a low heat or until the rawness of the spices have morphed into that sweetness and harmony of fragrant spice that is all a good curry should be!

Now come your options! I usually cook at least a litre of sauce and freeze some but yesterday I used the whole lot and made a feast. Pre-soaked yellow lentils were simmered with some of the sauce plus the addition of extra turmeric, chilli and garlic, cooked on the hob for maybe 2 hours. The longer you cook, the more sumptuous the lentils become. I always use a potato masher towards the end of cooking!

Bombay potatoes are just way too simple! I tried a few recipes from the internet way back but settled on just steaming cubes of potatoes, cooling and placing in a freezer bag and covering with some of my curry sauce. Tie the bag, give it a squish and put it in the fridge.

I actually put all of my curries in a freezer bag once cooled and lay them alongside each other in the fridge until service. It makes cooking multiple curries a real doddle to serve up. Just heat one after the other in a microwave before serving up! There’s usually a bit of squishing of the bags to regulate heat and some re-microwaving to get everything to the same temperature – but that’s half the fun of ‘curry night’.

I also microwave the dry poppadoms for 20 seconds, turn, then a further 20 seconds. Perfection and so much healthier than shallow frying. But if you much prefer the taste of the fried, just use a pastry brush and lightly brush the dry poppadom with cooking oil on either side before microwaving.

Britain’s favourite dish ‘Tikka Masala’ simple! Just add ground almonds and a little double cream to the basic sauce! Bliss. My favourite ever would be ‘King Prawn Tikka Masala’. The bigger, the better. Just marinade the prawns for an hour with the basic combination of lemon juice, garlic, ginger, chilli, tandoori spice mix, salt and pepper! I use a freezer bag for my marinade.

Okay, the other dish’s were tandoori boned and skinned chicken thighs and mutter (pea curry). The thighs were 3 hours marinated in the same marinade just mentioned. No red food colouring like your local Indian takeaway might use! The chicken was cooked in an oven dish covered in foil for 20 minutes, then dry heat for a further 15. Moist and tender was the result. The last main dish of mutter had a variation to it last night as I added green beans to the peas – cooked with some of Dadda’s curry sauce, a tin of tomatoes and a little extra salt – divine ‘Amrit’ (manna) indeed.

My rice was of course cooked in the microwave – see earlier entry for 100% perfect basmati rice and our nibbles on the side were homemade onion bhaji’s and pakoras. I’m pretty sure I have covered those in an earlier diary entry, but if not, do let me know – they’re so simple to make and so tasty. The children love them!

A meal fit for a Maharajah!

Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner

Okay, it is late in the day here in ‘The Shires’. So, no rundown of the days antics, rather a nostalgic look at Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner! The final picture is tonight’s rare roast rib of beef with Jersey Royal Potatoes and garlic butter green beans! Yummy…

Sausage bacon and stuffing terrine with braised Savoy cabbage and garlic and herb tomato sauce.

Dadda’s Thai red curry, yellow curry.

Another slice of JJ’s penne puttanesca lasagna!

Roast pork, new potatoes, broccoli, cracklings and Dadda’s apple jelly.

Pulled pork, JP and Caesar Bliss.

My homemade pork and turkey meatballs! Legendary family food!

Tonight’s Delight!

Thank you for sharing your time with me today! Be well…

Not Feeling Particularly Hungry

The later I leave writing a post, especially at the weekend, the more happens and the more I generally forget.

Thor is presently explaining to me that if a werewolf licks you, you turn into one and then you go off and lick someone and they too will turn into one, just like you!

The three little ones are at present playing in the living room with their duvets, making gingerbread houses and beds for Gracie, our Dalmatian. Gracie obliges as she does. A strong bond exists between Aaliyah and Gracie. Thor is now explaining to me that he is doing a barbecue.

I love this! The innocence of play and their debate within their storylines, negotiating their roll and compromising on their props and various mystical items brought forth from their imaginations!

Amritsar and Tara are with John at our neighbours, playing in their garden, socially distanced of course. A first time for play with the neighbours children in three months!

A little earlier Caleb took it upon himself to open the front door and walk over to the neighbours garden gate. I was in the loo when I heard the dogs bounding around outside. I immediately sprung into action, noticing Caleb’s folly on the hunt for daddy and the girls. I curtailed the dogs rampages and got Caleb back indoors. He knew he had done wrong to open the front door. He has promised to not do it again! It’s not always easy having eyes in the back of your head. Thankfully we do not live on a main road.

Best get going, roast beef tonight. That was close, I just saved the potatoes from their slightly more than ‘par’boil. A little over cooked, but a good roasting now should bring them back from the abyss. The beef looks amazing. Just the Yorkshire puds to sort out now and cooked carrots to glaze.

I’m not actually feeling that hungry now! That’s always the case after preparing a big meal, isn’t it? And a rib roast to boot.

Aaliyah now screaming like a possessed crazie as daddy has just come back in saying everyone can join the girls in the neighbours garden. Zzzzooooom! Caleb’s gone, Aaliyah too. Thor putting shoes on, now gone! Just me and the dogs! No, they’re gone now for a play on the tarmac outside.

Oh, Ed our neighbour has just waved a couple of courgette plants at me, smiling at the doorway. I think he grew them from seed! Oh, thanks Ed! Dogs back in now. So, just me and the dogs and that dinner I’m not hungry for to finish preparing and serve up once our not so famous five have tired out…

… more of our family goings on tomorrow, here in ‘The Shires’ of England.

Dadda Gets Jammin’

What couldn’t be more seasonal at the moment than apricots? As golden as those sunny days that we had throughout April and May, with the reddish hue of sundown. The weather, a little greyer now that meteorological summer has arrived, so today I thought that we needed something to brighten us all up!

Golden Apricot Jam

Ingredients:

1.5kg Apricots

100ml Lemon Juice

1.5kg Sugar

Method:

Halve and de-seed your apricots, then quarter and place in a large saucepan.

Add your lemon juice and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

Your pulp is now ready for you to get Jammin’!

Add your sugar and stir in. Bring back to the boil. This may take several minutes.

You may have noted that I do not use apple pulp in this recipe! The truth is that apricots contain tons of pectin, the stuff that makes jam gel. You simply don’t need any booster.

Boil for 10 minutes. Once again, stirring occasionally. The stirring motion will help dissipate some of the bubbles. You could add a little butter also to help, but I don’t think it is necessary. If you keep the froth at bay, I just do the skimming at the end of the cooking. You do not want micro bubbles in your jam jars, do you? If you want a smoother jam, use a potato masher (very carefully) at this point to break up those larger pieces.

This jam does not need a lot of cooking. All that pectin makes this jam gel quickly. You will notice the drips from your spoon look thick and gelatinous. Perfect!

Sterilise your jars, ladle and jam funnel in your dishwasher. And carefully fill to the obligatory 8mm below the lid. Seal tightly and return jars to a large saucepan or steamer. Cover completely with hot water (if boiling) and boil for 20 minutes. Cool and dry off. I noted that 3kg (ish) of ingredients yielded 2.3kg of jam.

As a child and into my adulthood I did not like apricot jam at all. But then again, that was the shop brought stuff, so I’m not so surprised! However, these jars of homemade amber sunshine really could turn the humble apricots harshest critic into a lover. It certainly did with me! Amazing on heavily buttered, freshly baked bread.

Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner

I haven’t done one of these in a short while, so here is a selection of some of our evening meals from this last week. Sunday tonight, so a family roast chicken meal with the children. Roast meals used to be so trying. Every week I would tell myself that this meal would be the last one! All that work repaid with screams, ‘I’m not eating that’ and peas being tossed around! But perseverance paid off. The children voted a roast dinner their favourite family meal ever yesterday, replacing last years favourite of broccoli (red) pesto pasta!

Filet of Lamb Steak, mashed potatoes, asparagus and mushrooms.

Chicken (thigh) curry with basmati rice.

Easy Mock Roasty. Roast pork leg, deep fried potatoes, peas and cracklings.

Boiled gammon joint, mash and broccoli.

Filet steak, dauphinois potatoes and mangtout

Lobster bisque, peppered trout filet and prawns with mashed potato and samfire.

A tasty menu this week and enjoyed very much! Bon appetite everyone!

Chips’n’Choices

Every now and then the children enjoy Chips’n’Choices in our house. Really, it is the best way to empty your fridge of all of the weeks leftovers. There’s usually 4, maybe 5 different choices for the children to choose from.

Anyhow, tonight’s choices were pasty, penne bolognese, fish pie and vegetable stir fry. Thor of course went for pasty, his favourite meal ever!

While munching through his dinner, he suddenly started screaming, having mistook one of his fingers for a chip!

My, we did all laugh.

Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner

Tonight sees another instalment of Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner! Bon Appetite.

Sea Bass with brown shrimp, sugar snap peas and a wine and cream sauce,

Roast Lamb, potatoes, green beans and cauliflower.

Lobster Bisque, Red Shrimp, boiled potatoes and fine green beans.

A Salmon Curry with rice.

Nut loaf, bubble and squeak, with tomato sauce.

Prawn Tom Yum with fine Noodles.

Dadda Get’s Jammin’ Summer Berry Daiquiri Jelly

Dadda’s Jam. Well, what can I say! Did you know that I was secretly writing a book? Maybe you read that diary entry when I explained that, or maybe you did not! It all started last autumn when I completed my second book, ‘Thirteen Moons More’. I thought to myself, well what next? Oh, I had better just explain that ‘Thirteen Moons More’ is a follow on from my original book called ‘Eighteen Moons’, the story of how my amazing family came to be. It is the non fiction account (timeline) of our struggles to become a family, fighting both bureaucracy and prejudice in both Britain and India, then onto Thailand and Nepal.

‘Thirteen Moons More’ is an edit from my first 11 months of keeping my diary. Essentially a time leading up to our youngest three fledging the nest and starting school. Within that time 13 moons passed. This is the story of just who we are today! ‘My Big Crazy Family Life’ in a nutshell… Oh! That also happens to be our Instagram name!

www.instagram.com/mybigcrazyfamilylife

So, what was Dadda going to do next! Of course I continued my blog, but within its posts I began to get Jammin’ on a regular basis. So to all intents and purposes, Dadda Get’s Jammin’ was born. A recipe book on jam making and preserves unlike any other! When is a recipe book not quite a recipe book? You will find out a little later on.

Not only are my recipes on thoroughly modern jam making going to be present, but also my thoughts, a little wit and a good slice of my family’s day to day, crazy goings on.

Last October saw my first official jam recipe appear on my blog, ‘Ginger and Spiced Pumpkin’. And since then, every now and then, I have sneaked in the occasional Dadda Get’s Jammin’ slot. So, hopefully before the next ‘Spiced Pumpkin’ season is upon us, I will have enough material to edit and sculpt into my third publication! And you don’t have to think too hard regards the name.

Dadda Get’s Jammin’ of course.

Today’s mouthwatering treat is inspired by a recent post, Summer Berry Daiquiri. But this time rather than add the well set summer Berry jelly to the daiquiri, I’m making the jelly into the daiquiri. Another inspired combo is born.

Ingredients:

1Kg Summer Berries

200g Apple Pulp

1Kg Sugar

150ml lime Juice

2 large shots of dark rum

Method:

Sterilise your jam jars, ladle and jam funnel in your dishwasher.

Amass you’re summer berries or, as I did, open my 1Kg bag of frozen mixed berries. The bag contained raspberries, blackberries, black currants, red currents and blueberries.

In a large saucepan add your lime juice, apple pulp and your berries. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Cook for 5 minutes.

As this is a jelly, you will need to pass the fruit through a sieve at this point. Discard the pith and add the juice/pulp back to your pan. Add your sugar and boil for a further 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t leave the room! Stir occasionally. Your jelly will start to show signs of a set when the liquid starts to fall in clumps, not drips. The mixture will become more velvet like in its appearance. I think that I have told you this before!

Not too much apple pulp in this recipe as black currents and red currents have tons of naturally occurring pectin. You may remember that I do not use shop purchased pectin in any of ‘Dadda’s Jam’.

Splash or splosh in the booze and stir.

Carefully ladle your jam into your jars and close the lids tightly. Re-sterilise in a large saucepan, covering the lids with boiling water or place in a steamer for around 20 minutes. Then leave to cool.

When jam tastes this good, enjoy it on warm, buttered baguette as soon as humanly possible!

Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner

Is it that time? Has a week flown by already. Not that this is s Tuesday thing! So, how was daddy and dadda’s dinner(s) over this past week? Sadly no Indian cuisine, so that’s definitely gonna have to change over the next few days!

Now, John is your classic Irishman. He loves his meat and two veg. And looking through this weeks images. He’s clearly getting what he wants. Even the Thai Massaman curry is laden with spuds. Lol

Lamb Shanks, boiled potatoes, mangetout and a red wine jus.

Beef Massaman with basmati rice.

Rack of Lamb with garlic green beans, creamy mashed potato and a red current gravy.

Lightly smoked Salmon with potatoes and sugarsnap peas.

Gammon Steak potatoes and stringless beans.

Filet Steak, garlic beans, mushrooms and triple cooked chips.

Irish Sausage, mash and peas. Lucky John! But I have to add, I enjoyed this weeks menu also. And what’s on the menu tonight? Roast leg of pork! More meat and two veg (maybe three). Hahahahaha…

Dadda’s Cocktails! The Summer Berry Daiquiri

And guess what? The only thing you need is one of Dadda’s Jams! And there are so many to choose from!

Now here’s the deal! To your blender, add a good slug of dark rum. Add a similar volume of lime (or lemon) juice and maybe 10 ice cubes. Finally complete with 2 large dessert spoons of Dadda’s jam. In this case, summer berry. Blitz until a sorbet like consistency is achieved.

Put your feet up and relax.

Jellof Rice of West Africa

Today’s morning lessons sent to us from the children’s school were initially embraced with loud screams from the little ones and downward looks and silence with the girls.

This isn’t going to be easy I mutter to myself. Right! Divide and conquer I think. The first class I gave to Aaliyah, Thor and Caleb.

We firstly look for the number ’11’ around the kitchen. A game to see how many times we can spot 2 straight lines sat next to one and other. The screams soon settled into a hive of excited wonderment. Okay, I then mistakenly start them on the girls (year 2) ‘geography’ lesson and we look at foods from around the world. A lot of countries were covered, many foods were thought of, quite a few from their experience of Dadda having actually created them for their dinner in the past.

We ended up in SubSaharan Africa. Now this memory takes me back to the time that John and I met. As well as designing for a clothing company just north of Soho in London (Noho), I also worked late afternoon in a hostel for young homeless people. I was their evening dinner chef. I had to pretty much forget everything that I had learned at catering college and research the wonders of international cuisine. This was partly due to the hostels embrace of multicultural London.

I did in fact re-educate my knowledge of Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, pretty much all cultural foods! Yes, including the Caribbean and some west African wonders.

I befriended one of the hostels staff members Dora. Herself from Ghana and a very keen cook. We spent many hours cooking, just as West Africans would have done. Traditionally meals would be cooked in a pot above a fire, later on a gas hob. I learnt spicy meatballs (with corned beef), served with hot tomato sauce, groundnut stew with chicken. Sardine omelet and a west Africa staple, Jellof rice.

I loved Dora’s surname! I believe it is a popular name in Ghana, Dora Owusa Ansah. That is such a great sounding name. It is a poetry of sounds to the ear. She was a lovely woman.

After not having cooked these dishes in years, today’s ‘geography’ lesson took me right back. The children and I talked about this great dish and I promised to make it for lunch.

The dish is flexible as different family’s all have their own recipes. So this is my take on this amazingly tasty dish of Africa. I have updated the simple one pot cooking option to make it my own. I am going to use a frying pan to cook the spice out with the meat and onions, but I will be using the microwave to cook the dish to perfection.

Ingredients:

Meat (your choice)

Onions

A Tin of Tomatoes

Basmati Rice

Salt

Spices (feel free to experiment)

I remember Dora just chose what was available. I thought about the flavours I remembered and came up with:

Dried coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, chilli (dried or fresh), paprika, celery salt and a little season-all.

You want your meat tender, so you could cook it in advance. Stewed beef for instance. Chicken is ideal. Just cook it in a frying pan with your spices first. Oh! And I finely chopped some cooked garlic mushrooms, just because they were there! My meat choice today was bacon lardons from the fridge. This is a main course meal on its own. But this is your party so play around… Frozen peas!

Cook your meat with the spice. Add your chopped onion and continue to cook until tender. Add your tinned tomatoes and cook a further 10 minutes.

Place in a large microwaveable bowl with your rice and about double the volume of boiling water. Season well. Place a lid on your bowl or use a plate to cover. Microwave on full power for 10 minutes then carefully stir the contents. Cook for a further 10 minutes and recheck the contents. At this point most of that flavoursome cooking liquid should be absorbed by the rice. If not, cook a further 5 minutes.

Very carefully remove the bowl and empty the contents into a baking tray with plenty of room. I do this in one fail swoop. Baking tray on top and flip over. Your rice should come out with ease and look like a solid block. Break this up with a fork and pull clumps out to the side of the tray, allowing the rice to become more flaked and separate. A lot of steam, so be careful. Once you are happy there are few clumps, serve.

My crew went wild for the extremely invigorating taste and moorish texture of this most famous West African comfort food ‘Jellof Rice’. Not a single grain of rice remained on any of their plates.