Monday, 15 November 2010

Shana parathas and jeera aloo (cumin potatoes)

I love Indian breads in all their forms- makhani roti, batura, luchi, poori, naan, parathas, yum, yum, yum. I also love the potato in all its forms- baked, chipped, mash, roasted and boiled, being some of my favourites. And so despite the risk of carb-overdose, the combination of parathas and potatoes is one of my favourites.

It is however a bit of a pain to come home and start making parathas after a hard day at the office. In fact kudos to the Indian housewife because it is quite difficult to do well even if you haven't been sweating over a powerpoint presentation all day. Luckily I discovered Shana frozen parathas a few years ago. And therefore instead of lots of dough forming, oiling, and clever folding and rolling, I usually open a packet of these and cook them for a few minutes on a tava or non-stick frying pan. And to go with my flaky flatbread I like a generous helping of some jeera aloo (potatoes cooked with cumin) and a little red onion and cucumber salad.

Recipe (enough for 2)

About ten or twelve small potatoes such as Charlottes, choppped into smallish pieces
1 tbsp flavourless oil such as sunflower
1.5 tsp ground cumin
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground chilli, or one whole chopped green chilli
Salt and pepper for seasoning

Heat the oil in a karahi, wok or deep frying pan. When it's quite hot but not smoking, add in the potato, and cook on a medium heat. After a few minutes put in the cumin and chilli, mix well and reduce the heat a bit. The potatoes will take around 10 to 15 minutes to cook through, and become golden brown with a sort of cumin crust. When they're almost done add the crushed garlic, season well, and leave on a low heat until the potatoes are fully cooked.
While the potatoes are cooking, chop some red onion and cucumber for the salad, and heat the frozen parathas. Scoff while everything is still piping hot, and add extra chillis or pickle if required. NB Serving on a stainless steel thali for authenticity is not essential.

Shana paratha (original)
I rate them 8/10
Cost: Around £1.80 for a packet of 5

Monday, 1 November 2010

Pumpkin pie

I have vague memories of eating pumpkin pie once as a kid. I know I liked it although I can't really remember anything else about the taste or texture. But I can't think where I would have sampled this American speciality. It's certainly not something my parents would have made, and they didn't have any American friends that I can recall. I did however watch an awful lot of Happy Days, Mork and Mindy, and The Wonder Years, so there's a chance that I am suffering from false food memory syndrome.
But anyway, the idea of pumpkin pie appeals to me. It's got pumpkin in, which I am a fan of, and it's a bit different from our regular Brit deserts. I'd been thinking of trying to make it for a while, but was further prompted by this Guardian article and the rumour that Waitrose stocked a popular American brand of canned pumpkin.
On finding that this rumour was correct, I basically followed the instructions on the side of the Libby's tin. But I did taste along the way to make sure it wasn't getting too sweet, and the spice levels were appropriate.

Recipe (enough for 6-8 people)

2 large beaten eggs
1 tin of Libby's pumpkin puree (425g)
175g sugar (I used golden caster)
0.5 tsp salt (I forgot to add this so it doesn't appear to be essential)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
0.5 tsp ground ginger
0.5 tsp ground cloves
0.5 pint evaporated milk

For the pastry pie lining I used one block of Jus-Rol sweet shortcrust pastry that was rolled out thinly to cover a 25cm diameter shallow baking dish (I lightly oiled the sides and put a piece of baking parchment in the base). This was baked blind for 20minutes at gas mark 6 (though I actually thought it could have done with an extra 10min as the base of the finished pie was a little underdone in my view). As the pie case was cooling a bit, I combined all of the filling ingredients until they had the consistency of thick pouring cream. Once the filling was in, the pie went in the oven at gas mark 4 for around an hour, or until a knife poked in the centre came out clean. It was then left to cool until we were ready to eat it with a big dollop of thick double cream.

So what was the final taste conclusion? Was I transported back to the halcyon days of childhood? Well, sort of. The pie smelt lovely, as anything with cinnamon in it usually does. And it tasted quite nice too. But to be honest it wasn't that exciting. The predominant flavour was cinnamon, and I couldn't really taste much of the pumpkin. I've since heard pumpkin pie described as a variation on a custard tart, and I think that's quite accurate. It had the same sort of texture, and the same bland background with a big hit of spice. Unfortunately I'm not a big fan of the custard tart. The male companion person is though, and he was delighted to scoff several slices of this with great enthusiasm. And to be fair I did have a number of slices myself, just with a bit less enthusiasm.