Best friends, cookbooks and curry

Best friends who know too many secrets about you are worth holding on to. If they share a history with you going back to school days, consider yourself very lucky indeed. Especially if they also believe that you can never own too many recipe books. My best pal, Ria, does a grand job each year of fuelling my obsession with  cookbooks and Christmas or Birthday (and sometimes both…I’m not complaining) a new book will find its way to me and I’ll enjoy months and then years of experimenting with new recipes.

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We talk most days on the phone, which Big Man finds both incredible and hilarious (“what on earth were you talking about for the last half an hour?”…”oh, nothing much, this and that”). Our conversations invariably end with “so, what’s for dinner tonight?” and we’ll happily chat for a further 10 minutes about what we’re cooking, planning to cook, wishing we had the energy to cook, or what we took out of the freezer put by from when we were more organised with our cooking a couple of weeks back.

Lately, I’ve been cooking up a good few curries from my birthday present cookbook. Curries from all over the place and this chicken curry from Pakistan really was fantastic. Definitely dinner party quality, but also simple enough for a family meal. The description of the recipe explains that it was a Special curry because in the fifties and sixties,  if you were invited to dinner and served this, you would know the hosts had spared no expense in your honour because chickens were hard to obtain and expensive.  Luckily for most of us, this is no longer the case, but if your purse runs to it, buy the best you can.

Desi Murgh Curry – Special Chicken Curry (serves 4)

  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 large onions, finely sliced
  • 2 tsp each of garlic and ginger paste
  • 4 tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped (or use tinned, as I did)
  • 50g plain Greek style yogurt
  • 1 ½ tsp hot chilli powder (or more or less, to taste)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 3 large cardamom pods (the recipe calls for black ones but I used green)
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 chicken approx 1.2kg, skinned and jointed (I used 8 skinned chicken thighs, bone in)
  • Chopped coriander to garnish

Heat the oil and fry the onions until golden brown, take your time doing this, it’s worth it. Remove the onions and when they have cooled slightly, grind them to a paste. I did this using my stick blender with a splash of water added to the mix.

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Add the ginger and garlic pastes to the oil and fry gently for a few minutes then add the tomatoes and next the yogurt. Cook for about 5 minutes then add the onion paste, the spices the bay leaf and a little salt.  Continue to cook gently until the oil separates out.

Put the chicken pieces into the pan, spoon the sauce over and add about 500ml of water. Cover the pan and cook slowly for about 50 minutes until the meat is cooked through and tender. You may need to add a splash more water so keep an eye on it.

Remove the lid, check for seasoning (adjust the salt if necessary) and continue to cook for a few more minutes without the lid until the oil separates out again.  Garnish with coriander, and serve. Don’t forget to call your best friend to tell her how good it was and you’re sorry there’s not a portion waiting for her in your freezer as you ate the lot…oops!

Mung Bean Dhal (9)

If a veggie curry is more your thing, hop over to take a look at my Mung Bean Curry.

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Rendang Style Beef and time to catch up with myself…

It’s been quiet on the blog for a while. Spain was hectic and by the time we got back to England just over four weeks ago we made a conscious decision to take things a little more slowly for a while. Old favourites were made in the kitchen, lots of comforting chickpea stews and delicious bowls of Spanish style lentils.

There was time for me to relax a little finishing off my summer quilt. It will have to wait to be used until next year as it’s enormous but thin. Not warm enough for the cold winter weather that has moved in here on the English South Coast.

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Totally hand made, Every. Single. Stitch. And I loved making it!

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Then I moved on to making my first proper socks for Big Man to keep cosy in. Thanks to Evie at Pendle Stitches for sending me this great pattern.

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I know the heel looks a bit odd, but it is a proper one, I promise! It’s just a dodgy photo.

And now, as we are one day away from December (some of my pals on the other side of the world are already into December!), I am allowing myself to tentatively think about Christmas menus. But we also have another very important celebration on 27th December. Best pal Ria’s birthday, and I have the honour of cooking a meal for a group of us. Nothing remotely Christmassy, so we’ve chosen a curry menu. A mix of different curries, some old favourites like Monkfish and Prawn curry. And a new one. A Rendang Style Beef Curry.

I say Rendang Style and not Beef Rendang as I don’t think the method of cooking it is entirely authentic. I’ve also been told that if the curry is saucy, it’s not a Rendang. So, a curry cooked differently, with plenty of sauce –  but well worth the time it takes to prepare and the longish list of ingredients. I had a trial run with it and (she says humbly) it was amazing! Fantastic flavours, meat that melted in your mouth, second and third helpings and clean plates all round.  I’ll post some of the other recipes in the coming week. Lemon and Cashew nut rice, potato and spinach curry and Keralan parathas to follow soon.

Beef Rendang

Ingredients (Recipe from Sainsbury’s Oct 2015 Magazine) Serves 6

  • 1 piece of brisket or silverside about 1.7kg cut into bite sized cubes
  • 1 tbsp vegetable or coconut oil
  • 8 green cardamom pods, crushed
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, ground coriander, hot chili powder
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 1 400ml tin of coconut milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of palm sugar or soft brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 2 tablespoons of Thai fish sauce
  • 8-10 kaffir lime leaves
  • 4 stalks of lemongrass, lightly “bashed”
  • juice of 2 limes
  • Chopped coriander, toasted dessicated coconut and red chili slivers to garnish (optional)

 

For the Spice Paste

  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeld
  • 20g root ginger peeled and finely chopped
  • 20g galangal peeled and finely chopped (or use paste)
  • up to 6 birds eye chilis, stalks removed (I used a couple of my super hot, Bexhill grown chilis)
  • 3 tablespoons lemongrass paste
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

Make the paste by blending all the ingredients in a food processor with about 50ml water to make it smooth. Add to the beef and marinate overnight in the fridge.

I used a slow cooker but this can also be done in the oven which you will need to preheat to 160C, (fan 140c) or gas 3. Otherwise preheat your slow cooker.

Heat the coconut or vegetable oil in a large pan or your casserole dish if it can go on the stove top. Add the cardamom, star anise, bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, cloves and ground spices and stir fry until fragrant.

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Add the beef and marinade, fry for a few minutes but you don’t need to brown. Then add the crumbled stock cube, coconut milk, tamarind paste, Thai fish sauce, lime leaves and lemongrass and bring to the boil.

Cover and transfer to the preheated oven for about 3 hours – I cooked mine in the slow cooker on low for about 8 hours.  Return to the hob and simmer, uncovered until the sauce has thickened and reduced. When you are ready to serve, stir in the lime juice and garnish.

I made mine ahead and found that when it has chilled there was a layer of oil from the cooking which solidified and was easy to remove. Of course, you don’t need to do this!

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We drank this with a delicious sauvignon blanc, but I think an ice cold beer would be great too.

Split Mung Bean Curry

I do enjoy curries made with pulses, they’re so good for you, economical and wonderfully tasty. I had bought a packet of split mung beans in a local shop and wanted to try them out. I came across a recipe online which inspired my own version, but of course, didn’t keep track of the original source. Apologies to the owner of the original recipe, I’d be happy to credit you.

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The quantity I made filled 4 plastic tubs, so I shared the curry love with my mum and my best pal. Feel free to scoff it all yourself or make less! This gives a gentle tasting curry, you may want to increase the quantities of the spices (I think I will next time) for a little more punch!

Ingredients to serve 4-6

  • 400g yellow split mung beans (yellow moong dal), well rinsed
  • Water, to cover the beans
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Approx 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 2 small red onions, finely chopped
  • 1 level teaspoon chilli powder or to taste
  • 1 level teaspoon of coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tomato, peeled and finely chopped
  • 200g frozen spinach (or 400g fresh, finely chopped)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Some finely chopped coriander

In a deep pot, combine about 4 cups of water, the turmeric, and 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil. Bring to the boil, then add the mung beans. Add more water if necessary, you want about 5cm of water above the beans.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until the lentils are very soft. If the water starts to dry up, add another ½ cup of water. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium-sized frying, heat the rest of the vegetable oil and add the red onions. Sauté for 7 to 8 minutes or until the onions are browned.

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Add the ginger, garlic, cumin, chilli powder, frozen spinach and tomatoes. Continue cooking gently until the tomatoes are soft. If using fresh spinach, add once the tomatoes have softened. Mix in the cooked beans.

Add the salt (it needs a fair amount, keep tasting) and coriander and mix well. Delicious served hot, but makes a fantastic dip served cold as it thickens as it cools.

If you enjoy curries like this, take a look at my Split Pea and Squash Curry or my Green Lentil Curry.

Green Lentil Curry

We all know (and some of us love) dhal made with little red lentils. It’s fast and simple to cook and immensely gorgeous. This curry takes longer to prepare as the green (or you can use brown) lentils need about 45 minutes to an hour of cooking to become tender and delicious. It’s worth the wait though, I promise.

The recipe comes from Anjum Anand’s book Anjum’s New Indian and is perfect as a vegetarian main course or as a side dish in a larger meal. Economical to make and if you make curries regularly you’ll have most of the ingredients to hand. Delicious eaten with naan bread and/or plain boiled rice – I added a dollop of creamy yogurt and a sprinkle of chopped fresh coriander.

Green Lentil Curry (9)

Ingredients (to serve 4-6 as a side dish)

  • 250g green lentils
  • A paste made from about 6g of peeled fresh ginger and about 4 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ small onion, peeled and chopped
  • Salt
  • 1 rounded tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 3 small tomatoes puréed or grated or finely chopped
  • Finely chopped fresh coriander leaves and stalks

Rinse the lentils and simmer in plenty of water until soft (about an hour).

Heat the oil and add the cumin seeds until they give off their scent then add the onion and cook until golden brown. Pour in the garlic and ginger paste and cook until this turns golden then add the salt and powdered spices and cook for 10 seconds.

Pour in the tomatoes and simmer until the moisture has cooked off and the oil has separated from the mix to form the masala. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Add the masala to the lentils and simmer for about 10 minutes. Check the seasoning again, sprinkle with coriander and enjoy.

Monkfish and Prawn Curry

Monkfish is an “oh so ugly but oh so good” fish. If you’ve ever seen it at the fishmonger before it’s been prepared it’s the one with the enormous gargoyle mouth and scary teeth and a body that looks a bit out of proportion with the head. It can also be an expensive fish, but like other luxuries such as fillet steak, you don’t need much.

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My lovely Bexhill fishmonger had some beautiful monkfish recently and I bought a tail. From this I made two separate meals for two people, so I really managed to make the most of it!

First up is a curry recipe I came across which I think is now going to be my “go to” curry recipe. It was so easy, it didn’t have a huge long list of ingredients and the flavour was amazing. If, like me, you’re a curry fan (and if you’re not, perhaps I can convert you – this one is about balancing delicate flavours rather than smacking you around the chops with burning hot chilli), do give this a try!

INGREDIENTS

  • About 250g monkfish cut into bite size pieces and about 10 raw, peeled langoustines or large prawns
  • The juice of two limes
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Tablespoon turmeric
  • 3 Tablespoons ghee or clarified butter (or use a light vegetable oil)
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic smashed into a fine paste
  • 2 inch piece of ginger smashed into a fine paste
  • 1 chilli pepper finely chopped
  • 1 chilli pepper halved
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin powder
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander powder
  • 12 cherry tomatoes – halved
  • 1 small bunch fresh coriander – finely chopped
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Place the cubed monkfish and peeled prawns into a bowl with the lime juice, salt and turmeric. Allow to marinade for about 30 minutes.

In a large pan or wok, melt the fat or heat the oil. Add the chopped onions and fry until translucent and lightly browned. Now add the garlic and ginger pastes along with the chopped chilli pepper and fry for a couple of minutes.

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Pour in the coconut milk and bring to a bubble then add the cumin and coriander powder and stir to combine then add the halved chilli. Finally, add the marinated monkfish, prawns and the tomatoes. Stir it all into the mixture. Allow the monkfish to cook gently in the sauce for about 5 minutes. Taste and season if necessary and sprinkle over the chopped coriander to serve. Perfect with plain boiled rice and/or naan bread.

Beef Massaman Curry

When I was in England last time I was able to stock up on some ingredients which are harder for me to find in Spain.  I took them back to make sure I was able to cook up a curry when the urge struck. It tends to strike quite often but sometimes I just can’t do anything about satisfying it if I don’t have the ingredients to hand.  This means that curry pastes are the best way for me to sort out the curry craving as the spices often linger unloved in the cupboard. Yes, I admit it.

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The Caribbean Food store in Bexhill is run by a jolly character who sells a range of curry pastes (and I really should have taken note of the brand name) which contain no artificial nasties – perfect for someone who loves to cook but feels a little guilty that she is not blending her own spice mixes. I was not familiar with Massaman Curry – a Thai curry which gives a gentle heat, sweet, sour, spicy and is utterly delicious.

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The recipe comes from the BBC Good Food site with just a few little tweaks, but I have given details here too. I omitted the peanuts because I didn’t have any, but I expect they add a delicious crunch to the finished dish.

Ingredients to serve 4

  • 85g unsalted peanuts
  • 400ml can coconut cream
  • 4 tbsp massaman curry paste
  • 600g stewing beef steak, cut into bite sized chunks
  • 450g waxy potatoes, cut into 2½ cm chunks
  • 1 onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp palm or soft light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced, and chopped fresh coriander to serve

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6, then roast the peanuts on a baking tray for 5 mins until golden brown. When cool enough to handle, roughly chop. Reduce oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.

Heat 2 tbsp coconut cream in a large casserole dish with a lid. Add the curry paste and fry for 1 min, then stir in the beef and fry until well coated and sealed. Stir in the rest of the coconut with half a can of water, the potatoes, onion, lime leaves, cinnamon, tamarind, sugar, fish sauce and most of the peanuts. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 2 hours in the oven until the beef is tender.

Sprinkle with sliced chilli and the remaining peanuts, then serve straight from the dish with rice.

If you are a curry fan too, how about this one? Or this vegetarian curry? Or nip on over to Soup Guru’s great blog and check out this gorgeous Indian Minced Beef Curry….

Okra and Green Pigeon Pea Curry

Okra is not a vegetable I have ever seen in Spain and I´m determined to track down some seeds so that I can try to grow it next summer. Greg over at Rufus´ Food & Spirits Guide has great success with his crop, and some amazing okra recipes.

Our little temporary home town of Bexhill on Sea boasts a Caribbean food store and I often pop in for a chat with the friendly owner and a look around for new products. Recently he had fresh okra in store, so I snapped up a bag. In addition I spotted a tin of Green Pigeon Peas, something very new to me, so they went into the basket as well. Two final purchases of a small jar of Thai yellow curry paste (yes, I know I should have made it, but it was all natural ingredients with no additives, so I didn´t feel too guilty) and a can of coconut milk.

I planned on making a vegetable curry from a mix of fresh and store cupboard ingredients, and I have to say I was thrilled with the results. A great “cheat´s” curry for when you don´t have time to make your own paste or spice mix.

Ingredients (to serve four people with rice or noodles)

  • About two heaped tablespoons of your favourite curry paste
  • About 200g of okra, washed and sliced
  • One can of green pigeon peas
  • One medium onion, halved and cut into medium slices
  • One courgette, cut into medium slices
  • About 10 medium mushrooms cut into slices (not too thin)
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed and cooked for about 5 minutes in boiling water then drained
  • A can of coconut milk
  • Fresh natural yogurt and fresh coriander to serve
  • Oil for frying

Start by gently frying the onions in a little oil until they start to soften then add the okra and courgette. Cover the pan and cook for a few minutes then add the mushrooms, potatoes and pigeon peas. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes then add the paste and fry off for a minute or two. Finally add the coconut milk and simmer until the potatoes are completely tender. If the mixture looks like it is getting too dry, add a splash of water. Just before serving stir in a couple of tablespoons of natural yogurt and some chopped coriander. Delicious with rice or noodles and the perfect dish to warm you up from the inside out.

Tarka Dhal

Keeping with the recent Indian theme, a final recipe (for the moment at least) from the very reliable Anjum Anand. A delicious side dish or vegetarian main dish as part of a curry meal. I have eaten versions of this dish which have been thin like a soup, thick like a paté and others which are between the two (like this one). All are equally tasty and delicious with roti or any other Indian flatbread.

Ingredients

  •  250g/9oz chana dal (yellow dried split peas), rinsed until the water runs clear
  • 1 litre/1¾ pints water
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1-2 whole green chillies, pricked with a knife
  • 2cm/¾in piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • 3 crushed garlic cloves
  • 3 small crushed tomatoes
  • ¾ tsp ground turmeric
  • ¾ tsp garam masala
  • 1½ tsp ground coriander
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • handful chopped fresh coriander leaves (optional)

 

Place the lentils and 900ml/1¾ pints of the water into a pan, stir well and bring to the boil. Skim off any froth that forms on the surface of the water with a spoon. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer, stirring regularly, for 35-40 minutes, or until the lentils are just tender, adding more water as necessary.

When the lentils have cooked through, remove the pan from the heat and use a stick blenbder or potato masher to break down the lentils slightly (optional). Set the mixture aside to thicken and cool.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and fry for 20-30 seconds, or until fragrant.

Add the onion, chillies and ginger and fry for 4-5 minutes, or until golden-brown. Add the garlic and tomatoes to the pan and stir well to combine.

Add the ground spices and 100ml/3½fl oz of water to the pan and stir well to combine. Season, to taste, with salt and simmer over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until the oil from the sauce has risen to the surface of the sauce.

Add the cooked lentils to the sauce and stir well, adding more water as necessary to loosen the mixture. Bring the mixture to the boil and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the chopped coriander (if using) just before serving.

This recipe can also be found on the BBC website here.

Roti – Indian Flatbread

When we recently made our Cortijo Curry, we also made a little batch of roti, to accompany the meal.

Roti is an unleavened, flat bread (which does puff up when cooked) and is also known, I believe as chapati (I am prepared to be corrected if they are different, but all my recipes seem to indicate they are pretty much the same thing).

Super simple and quick to make, they´re also great to use as an alternative to tortilla wraps or if you just fancy a change.

Ingredients (to make 6)

  • 200g chapati flour (or finely ground wholemeal flour)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • Water

Add the salt to the flour then mix in the oil. Gradually add drops of water (you won´t need much) until the mixture comes together then knead for about 10 minutes. Leave to rest for 30 minutes if possible.

Divide into 6 portions and roll each one into a ball, then roll the ball flat using a rolling pin.

Heat a non stick frying pan until very hot and place a roti in the pan. Press down on it (I used a spatula) as it cooks. When the underside is speckled brown, flip it over and repeat. As you press on it, it will start to puff up. You can also do this by holding it over a flame once it is cooked. We did try this as well, but found that they puffed up nicely in the frying pan.

Wrap in a tea towel to keep warm and serve immediately – they will lose some of their puffiness as they cool down, but taste delicious!

If you enjoy curries, do check out this lovely recipe from Frugal Feeding as well.

Cortijo Curry – North Indian Goat (or Lamb) Curry and a Simple Raita

Without further ado, here´s the recipe for the beautiful curry we made recently when Best Buddy came to stay recently.

We adapted the recipe (just a little) from one in Anjum Anand´s book Indian Food Made Easy. She uses lamb, we used goat. We served it with roti, plain boiled basmati rice, tarka dhal, and poppadums. In the excitement I forgot to make a cooling raita to accompany it. As it turned out, the dish was not hot at all (I would add more chili next time, but that is just personal taste). However, this did allow all the beautiful and individual spice flavours to shine through.

Leftovers were to be for me, me, me. Unfortunately Big Man got in on the act and decided that it was really rather a fabulous tasting dish, so they ended up being for us, us us. This time without poppadums or roti, but with raita. Recipes for the tarka dhal, spinach and roti to follow soon.

Ingredients (the recipe says it serves 6-8 but we thought it was for 4, even with all the accompanying dishes we made)

  • 25g fresh ginger, peeled
  • 10 large cloves of garlic, peeled (to weigh about 30g)
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 each black and green cardamom pods (we used all green)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 800g lamb cubes with bone in (I used goat with boneless meat from the leg and ribs, chopped into small pieces)
  • 1-2 whole green chilies (the recipe says optional – we used 1 but I would use 2 or 3 next time)
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala (we used a garam masala spice mix made for me which we then ground)
  • Salt, to taste (we found it needed quite a lot)
  • 4 medium tomatoes, puréed (we used conserva)
  • 500ml water
  • Chopped coriander to stir in when dish is cooked

Make a paste of the ginger and garlic, adding a little water to help blend.

Heat the oil in a large non stick pan or pot. Add the whole cardamom pods and bay and stir into the warm oil before adding the onion. Fry until the onion starts to brown, then add the lamb and stir until the meat is sealed. Now add the ginger and garlic paste, the spices and a little salt (you can adjust the salt at the end of cooking). Cook for a few minutes until the pan is dry.

Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil then simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add the water, bring back to a boil then simmer (covered) for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally.  We removed the lid for the last 5 minutes as there was a lot of liquid. When cooked, taste and adjust seasoning and stir in the coriander.

To make a simple raita mix together about 2 tablespoons of finely chopped mint, a finely chopped (small) red or white onion, a finely chopped piece of peeled cucumber (about 10cm long), 2 tbs lemon juice, a good pinch of salt and half a cup of creamy natural yogurt.