Sunday, 17 April 2011

Recipe: Indian Methi (Fenugreek) Chicken

I first smelt this herb in dried leaf form years ago, whilst at University. It isn't until now that I have had a proper go at cooking with it. If you like dishes such as Balti and Jalfrezi (i.e. medium hot tomato curries with a touch of yogurt) then you’ll really like this. All served up with an India Pale Ale named after the Bengal Lancer’s of the 19th century.

It is important you use thigh meat here as we are not searing the meat. Using breast meat will make the meat rubbery, less full flavoured and less authentic.


1 Tbsp Sunflower Oil & 1 Tbsp Mustard Oil (Or just 2tbsp Sunflower/Veg Oil)
1/3 tsp Methi (Fenugreek) Seeds
½ tsp Cumin Seeds
1 Medium Onion, finely chopped
2 Large Garlic Cloves, grated
1 inch piece Ginger, grated
3 small hot green chillies, chopped
½ tsp Turmeric
2 Vine ripened sweet red tomatoes, chopped fairly fine
2 Tbsp Ground Coriander
½ tsp Red Chilli Powder
2 Tbsp Fat Free yogurt, whisked with 2Tbsp Water
450g Chicken Thigh meat, bone and skin removed cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tsp Rice vinegar (or other vinegar)
½ tsp sugar
1 ½ Tbsp Dried Methi Leaves, ground nearly to a powder
½ tsp Garam Masala (preferably homemade)
Salt to taste

Fire it up...

Heat a thick bottomed casserole pot or non-stick frying pan to a high heat, then add the oil(s). Add the Methi seeds and Cumin Seeds as you turn the heat down to medium. Allow the seeds to splutter for about 30 seconds. Add the chopped onion and fry for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add a little bit of salt at this stage to season as you go and get flavour all through the dish. Add the garlic, ginger and green chillies. Fry for a further 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the turmeric and turn the heat down to medium-low. Stir for 30 seconds.

Now let’s make the sauce happen...

Add the chopped tomatoes, ground coriander and red chilli powder. Stir this all together, adding the yogurt slaked with water. Bring this to the boil, then turn the heat down to very low, put the lid on it and simmer gently for 5 minutes to bring the sauce together. Whilst this is happening, just mix the chicken with the little bit of vinegar, a pinch of salt, the sugar and the methi leaves.

Add the chicken and it’s mixture to the pan. Stir this all together and cover with the lid again. Simmer for about 5-7 minutes until the chicken is almost fully cooked.

Finish it off...

Remove the lid and cook for a further 5 minutes to thicken the sauce and finish cooking the chicken. Add the Garam Masala and check the seasoning. Add more salt if necessary. Put the lid back on with the heat off to allow all the flavours to infuse whilst you prepare the rice on the plates.

Spoon the curry onto the plate with Basmati rice and garnish with freshly chopped coriander. Blow the top off your favourite beer or lager and enjoy.

N.B I left the skin on the thigh meat for more flavour but it adds more fat/oils to your dish. Remove the fat if preferred.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Gourmet Crisps: An Article

I have been thinking about writing this article for a while. However, it is not until today that I have felt compelled to do so; the crisp packaging that pushed me over the edge? The Hairy Biker’s ‘Keralan King Prawn with Coconut’ crisps.

When I was growing up, you had salted, salt & vinegar, cheese & onion and beef. This was about 15 years ago. Now, I am not someone who doesn’t like when things change or evolve, in fact I love it. I love when things get re-invented or gain a new lease of life.  However, the price of crisps has gone up and so has the expectation. Do they live up to that expectation? Of course not. Mind you, can we blame them for not being able to make the humble potato taste like a Sunday roast, or a Thai green chicken curry? What’s next? Heston’s 12 course - Michelin starred tasting menu, dehydrated, powdered and then shaken in a bag with fried potatoes being sold for £20 a bag? I think we may have an idea that could get to market there!

Back to the Hairy Biker’s.

How can anything in this bag possibly be Keralan? Okay, so it’s possible that they sourced the powdered Crustacean’s from Kerala, which begs the question, ‘Why did you waste some of the greatest produce this world has to offer on a bag of crisps!? Also, who are we to prove or disprove that the prawns were ‘king prawns’ and why would we care, seeing as they’ve been obliterated into a crisp seasoning!? Picture in your head now, a beautiful steaming dish of spiced Keralan prawns with a splash of coconut cream and half a fresh coconut on the side, sat on the beach looking out at the Indian Ocean. Now imagine yourself eating a bag of crisps. These two things are poles apart! Stop making heaven seem attainable on a Waitrose supermarket shelf!

Then you have the more commercial, saturated end of the market, such as Walker’s Thai Sensations and Pringles Gourmet Beef Burger. Gourmet? Crisps? Unthinkable!

It all reminds me of an over the top cafe, me and a friend once joked about opening. The business plan was, ‘see how much you can rip people off by selling them everyday food at inflated prices, just by tinkering with the description.’ So, here’s an example.

Jacket Potato & Beans gets sold at £12.50 by telling yummy mummies the following;

The finest British baking spud, sourced locally and crisp roasted with Lebanese Olive Oil, piped with mature cheddar, locally churned butter and Britain’s favourite...haricot beans baked with a sweet and salty tomato sauce.

Funny I know, but is it that far removed from what Waitrose and the Hairy Biker’s are selling us in order to keep their profits gigantic?

What it all boils down to is this; Don’t just buy any old crap at inflated prices, because someone has romanticised it as much as humanly possible. After all, we’re famous for our abundance of potatoes, how much can you possibly get away with charging for them?

Hairy Biker’s Crisps are now available at Waitrose for £1.79 per 150g. Flavours available are (try not to laugh);

Keralan King Prawn with Coconut
Chicken Tom Yum
Prosciutto Ham & Blue Cheese
Lemon & Olive Tagine

NB. I actually quite like these two. They remind me of my nan, only my nan never got rich off crisps.