Benares on a budget #michelin #indianfood #london

I had read about Benares’ reputation for the best Indian food in London, laying claim to having been the first Indian restaurant in London to receive a Michelin star and it has retained this star in 2019.

Having looked at the a la carte and tasting menu prices which are whopping by Australian dollar prices, we decided the lunchtime thali menu at £33 would be a great way to taste a range of their dishes and fit into our schedule nicely.

So after visiting the special Leonardo Da Vinci Life In Drawings exhibition, commemorating 500 years since his death, at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace we sauntered through Green Park, across Picadilly to Berkeley Square were Benares occupies a prominent position between the Rolls Royce and Bentley showrooms.

Our meal started with a traditional serving of papadums and chutneys and yoghurt. The papads had obviously been made at the restaurant were a tasty, crispy nibble to begin with.

The thali came with naan and turmeric spiced rice, a crunchy quinoa salad, a fabulous piece of lightly spiced sea bass, a delicious lamb Rohan Josh, a smokey Chicken tikka Masala, very interesting spinach and baby corn curry, dhal and yoghurt. It was all more than enough for one very hungry person and certainly too much for me.

The Thali was followed by a serving of Indian steamed yoghurt pudding with rhubarb and jelly and a sprinkling of nuts, followed by a special birthday platter of petit fours.

A great way to sample the renowned Indian food from Benares on a budget.

Chilli Fagara #Hongkong #Hotspot

Chilli Fagar has probably seen better days in terms of past years when it was getting Michelin star ratings, now “only” Bib Gourmand recommendation but if you are looking for very good Szechuan cooking in Hong Kong then this is definitely a good value option.

The menu offers a range of spiciness ranging from tangy to numbing, so order with care.

The couple next to us were eating a noodle soup with fish, swimming in red chillies and a devilish looking broth.

We opted for our version of safety, ordering the dumplings in what is described as a “challenging” chilli sauce, prawns with dried chilli, the sweet and salty carmelised beef with peppers, and the sizzling eggplant.

All the dishes were delicious – spicy but not so hot to dull the individual flavours of the fresh ingredients.

The dumplings were set off by the chilli paste sauce….not too hot but with a bit of a kick. The prawns were huge and juicy, with a Szechuan salt and pepper flavour imbued by some of the heat of the decorative dried chillies they are surrounded by. The eggplant was deliciously sizzling with strands of a woody mushroom/fungus and finely cut bamboo shoots for crunch. The beef was sweet and salty and brought a nice touch of calm. We were very happy with our choices and enjoyed the crisp Italian Pinot Grigia with the meal.

If you are in the mood for a spicy, authentic Szechuan meal and don’t mind a bit of authentic old school service and a slightly fraying restaurant environment, then go here for the food, if not the rest!

Chilli Fegara, 7 Old Bailey Rd, Central, Hong Kong

#Canellini beans with garlic, chilli and olives with pan fried #salmon.

A yummy and quick side to go with easy pan fried salmon. Served in a bed of fresh baby spinach. Healthy, nutritious, using mainly items you probably have in your pantry.

Prep time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
2 boneless salmon fillets with skin on
1 can of canellini or white beans
1 ripe tomato chopped into large chunks
1 small onion diced
2 red chillies chopped
3 cloves of garlic pounded into a paste with a good pinch of salt
6 green olives roughly chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 lemon juiced
3 large handfuls of baby spinach leaves
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in pan over medium heat, add crushed garlic to flavour oil, then add onions, and allow to simmer gently, add tomato chunks, olives and chillies, allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Add canellini beans, half a cup white wine and simmer until wine is reduced and a thickish sauce. Turn off heat, cover and set aside.

Smother the salmon in the other 2 tablespoons of oil.

Heat a seperate non-stick pan, then place salmon fillets face down and cook on medium high heat until sealed an browned on flesh side, then add knob of butter and then over to cook skin side down for 5 minutes or so until skin is crispy and salmon is cooked to your liking.

Plate a bed of spinach leaves on plate.

Return beans to heat, add lemon juice and reheat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place 3-4 tablespoons of the bean mixture on top of the spinach, put salmon on the side and serve.

#Quick Fish Curry with #Tamarind

This recipe is for my friend Jennifer who especially asked for a fish curry recipe using Tamarind and no fenugreek. The use of tamarind in fish and seafood curries is traditional in South Indian curries and adds a beautiful tangy flavour.

Tamarind has all sorts of health benefits and is rich in many nutrients. This is a good link for more info https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/tamarind#section4

I keep a block of pressed tamarind handy in the fridge but sometimes use concentrate. If using pressed tamarind then slice off a thick bit and steep in boiling water and using gloves rub the skin and pulp off the seeds, the resulting mixture looks brown and murky but adds delicious flavour to the curry.

Some curries use a lot more tamarind for a dark, rich sauce but this one is quick and lighter.

Prep time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
2 thick boneless fillets of monkfish or similar meaty white fish, cut into medium size pieces (about 500g)
1 large onion diced
2 large ripe tomatoes diced
3 cloves garlic and equal fresh ginger pound to a paste
Handful of fresh curry leaves (optional)
1/2 stick of cinnamon bark (optional)
1 teaspoon cummin seeds
2-3 fresh chillies tops sliced off, left whole (optional)
Thick “slice” of tamarind or 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 to 1 teaspoon chilli powder depending on your taste
1/2 teaspoon fennel powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Coriander to garnish

Method

Steep tamarind in 1/2 cup boiling water whilst preparing other ingredients, or mix tamarind concentrate with 1/2 cup of boiling water and set aside.

Heat oil in heavy based pot over medium heat

Add cummin seeds, cinnamon bark, curry leaves and green chillies if using until spluttering stops.

Add onions and cook slowly over medium heat until transparent, stirring from time to time to prevent caramelisation.

(if using block tamarind ….While onions are cooking, rub tamarind to seperate and remove any seeds from mixture, strain and set aside tamarind juice. You can use the pulp as well but make sure it has no seeds left in it.)

Add ginger and garlic, mix through into onions until just heated.

Add turmeric, chilli powder and fennel powder and mix through onions, taking care not to burn spices

Immediately add tomatoes, salt and mix well, cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking to the bottom

Add the tamarind water mixture and bring to a bubble.

Add fish and another half cup of water to bring sauce up to sides of fish.

Cook for 5-8 minutes on a slow simmer until sauce is reduced and fish is cooked to your liking, turn fish during cooking so both sides are coated in sauce.

Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with rice.

This curry is delicious with Indian Spicy Mint and Coriander Chutney on the side.

#Loobia #Polow with Indian #meatballs

Loobia or Lubia Polo is a very popular Persian comfort dish.

It is a rice dish traditionally layered with green beans, spiced ground meat, tomatoes, herbs, and infused with saffron.

I discovered recipes for the traditional version when looking for something interesting to do with the Indian meatballs I had in the freezer and the big bag of green beans in the fridge!

A bit like an Iranian version of an Indian Pilaf or Briyani it seemed to me.

So I embarked on developing my version with the Indian Meatballs I had but these could more authentically replaced with lamb or beef mince. Have to say my version works really well but you have to make the meatballs first so is an extra step.

I made this a few months ago and tweeted a pic of the finished version and it has attracted more than 20,000 impressions! My most ever…so I thought I had to share the recipe! Hopefully you’ll like it too!?

Like Briyani it takes quite a few steps but worth it!

Prep time with meatballs: 1 hour including making and cooking meatballs, 25 minutes if using mince.

Cooking time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

    200g green beans cut into thirds
    2 tomatoes chopped
    2 onions – I finely diced, 1 halved then thinly sliced
    3 cloves garlic and 2 red chillies ground to a paste
    1 cinnamon stick
    Handful of curry leaves (optional
    1/2 teaspoon cummin seeds
    2 dried chillies (optional)
    1 teaspoon cummin powder
    1/2 teaspoon turmeric
    1.5 cups rice
    1 tspoon Saffron threads soaked in warm water
    Salt
    2 tablespoons Vegetable oil
    Plain yoghurt
    Coriander to garnish

Method

1. If using meatballs, Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees Celsius, use recipe to make the meatballs (but don’t make the chutney in that recipe! Just the meatballs) and cook meatballs for only 10 minutes or just until they are browned and sealed on the outside as they will cook fully in step blow.

2. While meatballs are cooking prepare other ingredients. Pound garlic and chillies, slice and chop onions and keep separated, chop tomatoes.

3. Par boil rice in salted water with saffron until half cooked. Drain and set aside.

4. In a heavy based casserole dish or pan, heat vegetable oil then add cinammon stick, diced onions, cummin seeds, dried chilli and curry leaves if using , cook slowly until onions go transparent.

5. Add garlic, chilli paste and cummin and turmeric to onion mixture and mix through over medium heat.

(6. If using mince, add mince to onions now and sauté until mince breaks up and Browns.)

7. Add tomatoes and green beans. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup of water. Simmer until tomatoes start to break down about 3-4 minutes. Add another 1/2 cup water if needed.

8. If using meatballs, add them now.

9. Simmer mixture for 10 minutes to allow meatballs to absorb flavours and sauce to thicken. If using mince, then simmer for an extra 5 minutes.

10. While mixture is simmering fry thinly sliced onions in butter or oil until golden brown and slightly caramelised.

11. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

12. In a ovenproof dish, preferably a deep dish with a lid, smear bottom and sides with some oil then add a layer of rice, then sprinkle with some onions, then add a layer of the meat and beat mixture, repeat until mixture and rice is finished. Reserve some onions for the top.

13. Pour 1/2 cup of water evenly across the dish. Cover dish with foil not touching onions, and place lid on top to seal.

14. Place in oven to cook rice and allow flavours to permeate through rice for about 20 minutes. Check to see that rice is cooked but still fluffy.

15. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with yoghurt, pickles and salad.

This version doesn’t give you the burnt crispy bottom that is traditional of Loobia Polow but this could be achieved by finishing the dish off by cooking in a pot on the stove for last step instead of in oven.

Pan-fried #Spicy #salmon fillets with #butter

I love these salmon steaks, marinated in Indian spices then pan fried in butter. A little bit naughty but a lot of nice!

Served here with a beetroot salad, Red lentil dhal https://freespiritfood.net/2015/08/16/red-lentil-tarka-dhal-with-turmeric-and-ginger/.

Prep time: 30 minutes Cooking time: 15 minutes
Ingredients:

2 boneless salmon fillets, skin on
1 teaspoon ginger and garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon cummin powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter

Method:

1. Marinate salmon fillets with garlic, spices, salt and oil for 25-30 minutes or longer.

2. Heat non-stick pan until hot, reduce heat to medium and place salmon fillets face down in pan and fry for 4 minutes or so,until sealed and browned. Add butter to pan.

3. Flip fillets and fry skin side down until skin is crispy about 4-5 Minutes.

4. Serve immediately with butter sauce drizzled over fillets and garnished with coriander.