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.

#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.

Indian #Thali and Sweets at #Maya Indian Sweets, #Sydney

Indian vegetarian Thali at Maya Indian Sweets on Cleveland St, Surry Hills has been a favourite comfort food spot for our family for years. As well as the famous Indian Sweets on offer, Maya offers dhosas and Thalis.

A few weeks ago on an unseasonably chilly day, when the “kids” were visiting us from Canberra, we went for Sunday lunch.

Thali means “chain” and refer to the chain of small dishes served on a tray with rice, bread, pickle and papadums. The restaurant is primarily an Indian take-away sweet shop but eating in is cheap and cheerful.

They also have traditional Indian street food snacks such as samosas, aloo boonda, chaat and vhada as starters.

At Maya Sweets you can choose from a number of Thali versions including either a South Indian or Punjabi version…the first comes with Rasam (South Indian tamarinds and pepper water soup) and Poori bread and the second with a bean dhal and naan bread.

Both are just as satisfying the variety of vegetable curries and dhals that are on offer depends on the season. They are consistently good and very filling.

This visit we also shared the Vhada which are fluffy Urad Dhal fritters served with coconut chutney and a tangy sambar on the side which were delicious.

Finishing the meal with an Indian sweet is always tempting and there is a very wide range to choose from….but we managed to resist.

Consistently good food. Doesn’t open until midday so brunch is sadly not an option. There a number of other more formal Maya restaurants including a vegetarian restaurant next door and a non-veg across the road. So make sure you fo to the right one if you are looking for the street food and Thalis.

Maya Indian Sweets

468-472 Cleveland St

Chicken and Zuchinni #Curry

Last night I chopped up 2 zuchinnis and put them into the chicken curry towards the end of the cooking process.

The resulting flavours were delicious as the zuchinni absorbed the delicious chicken stock flavours from the curry.

Just add the zuchinni for the last 5 minutes of cooking in this classic and chicken curry recipe ….

https://freespiritfood.net/2017/09/17/south-african-indian-boneless-chicken-curry/

South African Indian Chicken and Zuchinni Curry

Tomato Curry Sauce ..with hard boiled eggs

Simple but very satisfying! Having tomato curry sauce (or tomato chutney as it is sometimes referred to) in the freezer means you can quickly whip up all sorts of easy meals using the sauce as a base. Just add boiled eggs or meatballs or a tin of beans and hey presto! Dinner is served.

Here’s the recipe for the sauce.

Tomato Curry Sauce

Ingredients:
2 large onions finely diced
5 large fresh ripe tomatoes diced

400g can of diced tomatoes
1 handful of curry leaves
1.5 teaspoon cummin seeds
2 sticks of cinnamon (preferabley cinnamon bark available in Indian grocers but quills are fine if not)
5 cloves of garlic and equal amount of fresh ginger peeled
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1.5 teaspoons cummin powder
1 teaspoon salt (or to your taste)

1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups chicken stock (or water)
Coriander to garnish
Vegetable oil

Method:
Heat vegetable oil in medium size heavy based pan which has a lid
Add cummin seeds, curry leaves and cinnamon sticks and heat gently until fragrant
Add onions and cook gently until transparent
Add ginger and garlic and heat through
Add all powdered spices: chilli powder, turmeric, cummin powder, salt and sugar and mix through for 2 minutes.

Add fresh and canned tomatoes, cooking for 2-3 minutes, stirring to avoid tomato mixture burning.

Add 1 cup chicken stock/water and bring to a boil, then lower heat and then simmer for 20-25 minutes, adding more chicken stock/water as required to make sure the tomatoes break down but don’t stick to the bottom.

Halve quantity to serve 2 people or use whole quantity for 4 people. Freezes well.

Add hard boiled eggs, canned beans, tuna or meatballs and serve with rice or rotis to make a meal. Here’s the link to the meatball recipe With the same base in lesser quantity https://freespiritfood.net/2017/04/17/durban-indian-meatballs-in-tomato-curry-sauce/

Indian Green Pork Curry with beans

This curry is inspired by Lamb and Spinach – another “green” curry that is a family favourite.

The mint and coriander meld with the pork and other spices to create a deliciously fragrant curry. I add green beans for additional “greenness” and serve sprinkled with shards of fresh ginger for added zing, with basmati rice and sweet mango chutney.

Prep time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 1 hr 10 minutes
Ingredients:

500g pork shoulder diced (with or without bones)
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion diced
5 cloves garlic and equal amount ginger
2 fresh red chillies
Handful of curry leaves
2 sticks cinnamon (preferably bark)
3 cardamom pods
3 dried red chillies
1 teaspoon panch phoran (Indian Five Spice Mix)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cummin powder
1 bunch coriander
1 bunch mint
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 cups water or chicken stock
Extra ginger cut into fine strips and coriander leaves for garnish

Method:
1. Place pork in a bowl and pour over vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt, set aside while you prepare other ingredients.

2. Crush ginger, garlic and fresh red chillies with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a mortar and pestle.

2. Chop coriander and mint together – I use a Mezzaluna – then add the ginger, garlic and chilli paste and continue to chop together to meld herbs with the paste.

3. Heat vegetable oil in heavy bottom casserole pot, add cinnamon sticks, curry leaves, panch porum, dried red chillies and cardamom and heat until fragrant taking care not to burn the spices.

4. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent.

5. Add cummin, turmeric to onion mixture and stir through cooking out spices for a minute.

6. Add pork, coriander and mint paste to the onion mixture and cook until pork is “sealed” stirring to avoid pork mixture sticking to bottom of the pot.

7. Add enough water or stock to cover pork and bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer and cover the pot with a lid. Cook slowly for an hour, until the pork is tender, adding more water from time to time if the mixture starts to stick.

8. Add green beans and cook for 10 minutes.

9. Check consistency to reduce liquid if required. Taste to see if extra salt required.

9. Garnish with shard of ginger and additional fresh coriander. Serve with basmati rice and sweet mango chutney and Indian pickles.