Autumn Classes

Two new courses coming up this Autumn

Saturday 14th October – Middle Eastern Feast
Join me to talk about, cook and eat dishes such as a Broad Bean stew with pomegranate, steamed rice cooked with crispy potatoes, a mildly spiced, fragrant muhammara dip. To finish we’ll be making a middle eastern inspired raspberry samosa served with rosewater infused cream.

Saturday 11th November – Flavours Of India
Together we’ll be making and eating Indian dishes such as a spinach and paneer curry, potatoes fried with garlic and sesame, a simple tarka dal and deep fried vegetable pakoras. For dessert we’ll make mango fool, served with some home made cardamom shortbread.

Classes run from my kitchen in Chalfont St Peter, just 20 minutes from London, starting at 10am and finishing up with lunch. We aim to finish around 1pm.

£45 per person. Price includes all ingredients, recipe cards and aprons. You also get to take home any leftovers.
For more details or to reserve your place contact me at foodfrom4@gmail.com or at facebook.com/foodfrom4

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Cookery School

I’ve been looking into ways to turn the Food From 4 idea into a business. Having toyed with branded items for sale and hosted dinner parties, I decided to have a go at a cookery school. I put the word out on various social media sites and soon had four willing volunteers to participate in a trial.

Having decided on a menu and the format, I then needed to sort out all the other logistical challenges. I opted for Indian inspired dishes – paneer skewers, vegetable samosas, aubergine and tomatoes cooked in whole spices, pilau rice and a cucumber raita. The plan was to spend 2½ hours preparing and cooking, then the final half hour we can eat lunch.

Do I have enough space for everyone to cook comfortably? Do I have enough equipment? What do I serve to drink with the food? How do I design the recipe cards? Does everyone need an apron?

I cleaned up my old two burner camping gaz, bought aprons online. Got dishes i use for photographing out of the loft. Hey presto, I had created a training kitchen.

I left the cooking to the students, lending a hand only when needed. There is nothing quite as frustrating as joining a cookery course only to spend hours watching the instructor cook. The only real way to learn is to do it yourself.

The morning was a success. Our dishes turned out well and we all enjoyed cooking, talking about ingredients, food, techniques. Keep an eye on this blog, my facebook page and instagram for details of the next one.

Here are a few photos of the day

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Aubergine and Sweet Potato Katsu Curry

Autumn brings colder, dark nights. By the time I get home from work it’s already dark. I’m often tempted to turn up the central heating, but perhaps a cheaper and more satisfying option is to make a thick, spicy, sweet/sour Japanese katsu sauce to keep warm.

Not only does this sauce work well with crispy, breaded vegetables, but if you have any left over it’s great poured over hot chips or mashed potato. It also freezes well.

For the sauce
A splash of sunflower or other flavourless oil
1 onion – chopped
1 large carrot – finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic – chopped
1 tablespoon sugar – preferably brown, but white will work fine too
500ml vegetable stock
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 heaped teaspoons paprika powder
1 taspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon madras curry powder

Heat the oil in a large saucepan then add the onion and fry gently till translucent. Add the carrot and garlic and fry for a further 10 minutes. Add the flour, paprika and curry powder and stir, coating the vegetables and cooking off the flour a little. Now slowly add the stock, stirring all the time so as not to form lumps. Add the soy and sugar and bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes or so until the carrots are tender and the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat and blend with a stick blender, food processor or by pressing through a sieve.

For the vegetables
2-3 tablespoons sunflower oil
250g breadcrumbs – panko if you can get them
1 egg
1 small aubergine
1 sweet potato

Peel the sweet potato. Slice the potato and aubergine into 1cm thick rounds. Place the egg in a shallow bowl and beat. Place the breadcrumbs in another shallow bowl.

Take a slice of either and dip in the egg, then in the crumbs to coat. Sometimes it is worth repeating to make sure the slice is well coated.

When all the slices are coated in breadcrumbs, heat the oil in a frying pan then gently fry for around 10-12 minutes, turning once. The sweet potato and aubergine needs to be soft and the crumbs, brown and crispy.

Serve the fried sweet potato and aubergine with the sauce, boiled rice and a green salad.

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Roasted, Spiced Vegetables with Paneer

Roasted vegetables have always been a a standby in our house. Sunny, Mediterranean vegetables drenched in good olive oil and roasted, sometimes with chick peas, sometimes with cubes of squeaky halloumi and occasionally when feeling decadent, with both.

Sometimes however we need a change. I fancied something spicy, something curryish. Not hard to make, but takes a little care and attention. So why not roast a curry. Just chop everything, add the spices and pop in the oven while I can get on with other things.

The result was amazing. From now on I am going to roast all my curries. Well they do say people get lazier as they get older….

This makes enough for 4-6 people depending on how much bread you have. Also works really well the next day for lunch when all the flavours have deepened overnight. The paneer is optional. Leave it out for a vegan version.

1 onion – diced
2 cloves garlic – sliced
2-3 small potatoes – peeled and diced
1 red or green pepper – diced
1 courgette – diced
1x400g tin chick peas
3 ripe tomatoes – diced
250g paneer – diced
1 large whole chili – cut a slit in the side
1 teaspoon each of whole cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, fennel seeds, black onion seeds
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon amchoor (if you can’t get amchoor use a splash of lemon juice)
sunflower oil
mustard oil
fresh coriander leaves – roughly chopped

Put the oven on to 200C

Take a large baking tray and put the vegetables, chick peas and spices in. Add a splash of each of the oils then gently mix with your hands to get everything coated in the oil and spices.

Pop in the oven for 25 minutes, turn occasionally. Add the paneer if using and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.

Take out of the oven, throw a handful of chopped coriander leaves over and serve with chutney, pickle, raita and breads. Leave the chili in the tray but you don’t have to eat it. It’s just there to add a little warmth to the dish.

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Cucamelons

The wonderful farmers at Riverford sent me a sample of cucamelons. These odd little grape sized fruits grow on a vine and have lovely, if somewhat tough, watermelon-like skins.

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I tried one raw. Hmm. Not great A bit like a cucumber only blander. Most articles I googled suggest the cucamelon has a sour hint, a little like lime. I couldn’t taste that. They seemed to taste of very little and those tough skins are quite unappealing. So, what is the best thing to do with bland food….make a curry. Or to be more precise, make an accompaniment to a curry.

I opted for a spiced salad/chutney.

6-8 cucamelons – chopped into small chunks
1 tablespoon red onion – finely chopped
1 red chili – very finely chopped
3-4 cardamon pods – take out the seeds and crush
a pinch of cumin seeds – crushed
juice of half a lime
salt to taste
pinch sugar
2-3 tablespoons fresh coriander – choppped
small glug oil

Place everything in a bowl. Mix and leave for half an hour or more for the flavours to develop. If you leave it overnight the cucamelon skins do soften a little. Serve with popadums

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or with a spinach, chick pea and paneer curry with bread

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Verdict. I still love Riverford, but cucamelons I can happily live without. Have you tried them? What did you think?

Gobi Paneer

Cauliflower seems to be the perfect ingredient for making curry. I added paneer here to make it a little more interesting. Serve with Bhatura or other Indian bread, natural yogurt and spicey mango chutney.

2-3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 head of cauliflower – chopped into rough chunks
1-2 tablespoons root ginger – finely chopped
200g or so of paneer – cubed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder (more if you like it a bit hotter)
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon gorund coriander
½ teaspoon salt
bunch (about 50-90g) of fresh coriander (chopped)

Take a large frying pan that has a lid.

Heat the oil then add the cauliflower and fry until it starts to brown. Add the ginger and spices and fry 2-3 minutes longer. Now add the paneer and salt and give it a good stir. I like my cauliflower crunchy in most things, but in this it needs to be soft I think so take about 50-100ml water. Add to the pan and cover with the lid. Cook this way for 5 minutes. Remobve the lid, stir in the fresh coriander and serve hot.

Curries

OK, so not the prettiest photos in the world. I served it up then realised I should take a few snaps. These dishes were delicious. On the plate you can just about make out pilau rice with peas and cashews, paneer in a creamy tomato sauceand spinach with potato. The recipes below should feed about 6 people

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Pilau Rice with Peas and Cashews
3-4 cups basmati rice
½ stick of cinnamon
1 bay leaf
3 cardamom pods
salt to taste
2 cups of peas
50g cashews
sunflower oil – about 2 tablespoons

Wash the rice in several changes of water, then leave to soak.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the cashews until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon. Return the pan with the oil to the heat and add the cardamom, bay and cinnamon. Fry for a few seconds, then drain the rice and add to the pan. Stir so the rice is coated in the oil, then add enough water to sit about 1cm above the top of the rice. Add the peas and some salt then bring to the boil. Once the rice starts being absorbed and peaks begin to form, place a lid over the pan and switch off the heat. Leave for about 20 minutes. Just before serving, fluff the rice up and mix in the cashews.

Paneer in a Creamy Tomato Sauce
200g paneer – cubed
1 onion – chopped
1cm piece of ginger – finely chopped
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
4-5 tomatoes – skinned and finely chopped
4 black peppercorns and 3 cardamom pods (husks removed) – crushed in pestle and mortar
150ml single cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garam masala
cayenne pepper – the amount depends on how hot you like it
sunflower oil
smallish handful of coriander – chopped

Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a pan. Add the onion and fry until the edges start to brown then add the garlic, ginger, garam masala and crushed spices. Stir briefly, then add the tomatoes and salt and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes or so. Remove from heat and stir in the cream and paneer. Warm through before serving, topped with chopped coriander.

Spinach with Potatoes
8 or so smallish waxy salad potatoes (I used one from the allotment – nicola or charlotte – I forgot to label them)
250g spinach
3 cloves garlic – finely chopped
1 onion – finely chopped
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon salt

Scrub the potatoes then boil for 10 minutes or so until almost done. Drain, remove skins, cut into 1cm dice and leave to cool.

Wash the spinach and place in a pan with the water still clinging to the leaves. Cover and heat until wilted. Squeeze out as much water as you can and chop.

Heat the oil then add the mustard seeds. When the seeds sizzle add the onion and garlic and fry until the edges begin to brown. Now add the chopped spinach and stir for 5-10 minutes until nicely cooked. Now add the potatoes, salt and garam masala. Heat for a further 5-10 minutes until the potatoes are tender.