March 1, 2012

Jimmy's Butter Chicken

There was a time, when ancient gods roamed the Earth, that I would get completely caught up in MasterChef. I think my end to MasterChef obsession came when Marion was eliminated with her satay sauce. These days I do follow, but I am not so invested in who I want to win and who cooked the best dish. I am however, very interested in the recipes that are published because of this series, and the learning and ideas that they generate for me.

A colleague of mine was also an avid MasterChef watcher. He came to work with a massive amount of excitement and said that he had cooked Jimmy's butter chicken and it had shifted the ground. I would NEVER eat take away butter chicken EVER AGAIN!!!

This was big.

Jimmy Seervai was a contestant on MasterChef (2010), and his focus on Indian food and spices was intent. Watching him I think he found it difficult to move out of the Indian food zone, because he had already truly found his passion. He cooks Indian...and he cooks it very well.

So Jimmy's butter chicken became a "must try" recipe for me.

Butter Chicken
(From Masterchef Australia - Jimmy Seervai

Serves 6

Tandoori Chicken
600g chicken thigh fillets, cut in three
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon Kashmiri chilli powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup thick Greek yoghurt
1 teaspoon garlic paste, minced on microplane
1 teaspoon ginger paste, minced on microplane
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
1 tablespoon sunflower oil

Butter sauce
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 large brown onion, chopped
1 teaspoon ginger paste
½ green chilli, finely chopped
3 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2g blade mace
2 tablespoons cashew paste
600g vine ripened tomatoes, chopped
50ml tomato puree
1 cup chicken stock
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
50g unsalted butter
50g unsalted butter
Green chillies, fresh coriander and cream for garnishing

For tandoori chicken, add all ingredients for marinade except oil to a bowl and mix well. Coat chicken with marinade and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven grill, and place chicken on the grill rack, with a tray underneath to collect the drippings. Grill for 8-10 minutes, brush with oil, turn chicken over and grill for another 4-5 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Keep aside.

For butter sauce, heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add onion and cook until translucent. Add ginger paste, green chillies, cardamom, mace and cashew paste and fry for a further 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes, tomato puree, stock and salt and simmer, stirring, occasionally for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Once cool, blend to a puree to make a smooth sauce. Strain through a sieve. Return sauce to pan and cook over low heat. Add the honey, followed by the tandoori chicken and drippings. Stir and simmer for 3-4 minutes.

Sprinkle over garam masala, Kashmiri chilli powder and dried fenugreek leaves. Add the butter and stir until it melts. Finally stir in cream and take off heat. Garnish with green chillies, fresh coriander and cream. Serve with rice or naan bread.

Here is the direct link to the Butter Chicken recipe from the MasterChef Australia website.

It looks complex, but really it is not as difficult as it looks. And the results are a revelation. Take away Indian food has really done the cuisine a dis-service which you don't realise until you start cooking "real" Indian food.

Cooking the tandoori chicken...
Marinating Tandoori Chicken

Grilling Chicken

Tandoori Chicken

Making the butter sauce...
Making the Butter Sauce

Blended Butter Sauce

The finished dish...
Finished Butter Chicken

Served with Naan bread and Pappadums...
Butter Chicken with Naan bread and Pappadums

This recipe makes an absolutely delicious dinner. Be prepared to spend some time on it, but it really is worth the effort.

February 20, 2012

And pretty maids all in a row: Garden UPDATE

The apple cucumbers are growing so big now that they will soon need to be supported to stand up. I am VERY excited by their progress. They are growing so quickly and look so strong and's wonderful :)

So on the weekend I bought a trellis of sorts to help support the cucumbers when they get taller and start to lean.

This is at week 3:

Garden update week 3

The whole pot is looking great. I ended up losing another fancy I'm 3 from 6 at this stage. But the remaining lettuce are looking really strong and I'm confident that we are past all of the losses for now.

I also had a fantastic gardening idea on the weekend.

When we were packing up my Gran's house I saved seeds from a chilli bush that my great-grandmother planted when she was a young woman. The plant was still growing when we left the house for the last time. The new owners have since removed it, and knowing that I couldn't transplant it, I saved the seeds. It was really important to me that I save the plant somehow, and the seeds were the only way.

So, on the weekend, I bought another Tuscan pot...and I will be planting some of my saved chilli seeds. I can't wait to see how they go...

Progress shots will of course be posted.

February 18, 2012

Maggie's Macaroni and Cheese

Some time ago I read a book called "Recipes My Mother Cooked: 100 Home-Cooked Recipes From The Nation's Favourite Foodies" by Philippa Sandall, and was delighted to find that Maggie Beer had contributed to the selection of recipes. Amongst some other wonderful offerings, Maggie had contributed her recipe for Macaroni Cheese. She explained in the book that this was her modified version of her mother's more modest recipe.

Later, while watching The Cook and The Chef, I watched Maggie cook this recipe and was absolutely sold on the fact that I must try cooking this meal for myself. It looked delicious.

So I visited The Cook and The Chef website and downloaded the recipe. The original recipe says that it serves 12-16 people, and Maggie did say that she cooks this recipe when she has a lot of mouths to feed. Because we don't have quite as many to feed here, I scaled this recipe down to feed 4-6 people. I have marked these quantity adjustments in bold on the recipe below.

Cheese Macaroni
(From The Cook and The Chef - Maggie Beer

Serves 12-16

400g large macaroni 115g
1.2kg pumpkin, peeled and cut into small chunks 350g
15g fresh rosemary, roughly chopped 4g
1/4 cup verjuice 1 1/2 Tbs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (evoo) 35ml
250g Persian fetta 70g
300g grated cheddar 85g
10g sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 3g

Cheese Sauce
160g unsalted butter 45g
160g plain flour 45g
2 litres milk 570ml
1 tablespoon grated nutmeg 1 tsp
300g grated Parmesan 85g
2 teaspoon salt 1/2 tsp
Freshly ground black pepper

Line a roasting tray with baking paper, add the pumpkin, chopped rosemary, sea salt and black pepper, drizzle with a little evoo and verjuice. Roast at 200C for 30 minutes until the pumpkin starts to colour and is tender.

Cheese Sauce
In a medium sized saucepan, melt butter over medium heat until nut brown. Add the flour, mixing well to combine. Remove from the heat and pour the milk in slowly, using a whisk to avoid lumps. Place back on the heat and continue to stir until the sauce starts to thicken, cooking for a few more minutes. When the sauce coats the back of a spoon, add the nutmeg and stir in the grated parmesan, stirring continuously until the cheese has melted. Taste the sauce and add a little salt if necessary - be careful to only add salt after you've added the cheese as often the cheese is all the salt you'll need. Directly cover the top of the sauce with plastic wrap and set aside until needed.

Cook the macaroni in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente (15-20 minutes), drain and place in a large mixing bowl.

Add the cheese sauce to the macaroni and mix through well, then add the pumpkin and toss through gently. Break up the Persian fetta and add this to the macaroni too. Pour the macaroni mixture into an oven proof dish, top with the grated cheddar and bake at 200C (given that every oven is different it could take between 10 and 20 minutes).

Here is the direct link to the Cheese Macaroni recipe from The Cook and The Chef website.

All I can say is...give it a go!!! Pictures just don't do it justice...

Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese is comfort food at its best...and you just can't beat a good Mac N Cheese. It is a meal that I simply adore.

A Mac N Cheese serving

This recipe is pure heaven. It is rich and gooey with a flavour that just works. I was sceptical on the addition of Persian fetta...but really it is just wonderful. The roast pumpkin is also a fantastic touch.

My photography in this post really doesn't do it justice. I did mean to take step-by-step photos, but I got so caught up in cooking the dish I simply forgot.

It's a joy to cook...and to eat!!!

February 15, 2012

The ultimate food hero - Maggie Beer

I first noticed Maggie Beer when some of her cooking products started appearing on the shelves years ago. First it was preserved lemons that drew everyone's attention...or at least that I knew of. Everyone was raving about this woman who made (and sold) these magnificent preserved lemons that just lifted a dish into magnificence.

I started reading about Maggie and following her adventures and as my interest in cooking grew, so did my admiration for Maggie. So much so, that I was awarded the Tuscan Cookbook that she co-authored with Stephanie Alexander as a prize for Home Economics when I was in grade 10.

This knowledge simmered for a while, and my next encounter with Maggie happened when she started to appear on The Cook and The Chef with Simon Bryant on the ABC. On this show in particular, Maggie came across as the loveliest person. Honestly happy with a genuine love and respect of food. I absolutely ADORED that show when it was on air, and I am now collecting the DVDs.

My next mission was to meet her.

Back in 2010, Maggie came to Brisbane to do dinner and a conduct class with a group of foodies and I managed to secure a ticket. I had missed the opportunity back in 2009, so I made sure I was on the list for this event. So on the 10th of July at 6.10pm I got to sit and watch and listen and learn and savour...and I LOVED every minute of it!!! What a thrill.

Maggie and me

After that event, I can safely say that I am a HUGE fan. HUGE!!! My grandmother said to me once, wouldn't you love to have Maggie Beer as a grandmother? At first I thought the comment was a bit odd, considering that my Gran was my grandmother...but on reflection, I get it.

What I love about Maggie Beer is that she has an energy and a warmth about her that is truly unique. I would just absolutely LOVE to have her over for dinner. She is so kind and very genuine in her approach to people and to food. Australia was right to award her the Senior Australian of the Year last year (2011) for her contribution to food and to the community as a whole.

Of all of my food heroes, Maggie is at the top of the list for me. I aspire to cook like her and to have an approach with people and to life like hers. Just wonderful.

I have had the absolute pleasure of seeing her again at the State Library last year for lunch and a question time. Unfortunately the event was cut short. So I am hoping that I will get another opportunity to meet Maggie and chat to her and just listen to what she has to say.

In my humble opinion, it is time well spent.

Oh and yes...I got her to sign my book :)

Tuscan cookbook

February 12, 2012

With silver bells, and cockle shells: Garden UPDATE

Have a look at how much my cute little garden has grown!!! The apple cucumbers have just exploded off the blocks and are growing at such a pace. The rocket is doing really well too. Should have a nice little crop that I can build up further.

The only scratching has been the fancy lettuce. It hasn't done so well in the full summer heat that we've been experiencing. Of the 6 seedling plants I've lost 2 and a third one is struggling...

Overall...not looking too bad...

Garden update week 2