Sunday, 24 January 2016

Potato Gregg's Last Stand: Tandoori style potato curry

All good things come to an end and so do potatoes bearing vague resemblance to celebrity greengrocers, so it's time to make him useful. Well, I couldn't let him just putrefy into a mouldy, slimy mess, could I? It would do him a disservice to make something boring with him so I decided to make this great curry. It's what he would have wanted.

 Alas, poor Potato Gregg.
I knew him, Horatio

Really, the potato is taken for granted, especially in the UK. Chips (and I did mention the British obsession with the fucking chip previously), mash and the horrendously bland, plain boiled old potatoes were the accompaniment to much of the nutrition in my formative years. I mean chips are OK and mash is great if made right (it rarely was back then), but the plain boiled potatoes were just so fucking bland. Serving them up like that is just such a waste of a really versatile vegetable. Let me count the ways. There are crisps which come close to the very zenith of the art of potato cookery, but nobody I know makes their own crisps. You can have them baked, sauteed, roasted, or get exotic and go for something like hasselback, duchess, dauphinoise and, let's face it, you know if it's got a French name it's going to have a good 50% extra on the price in a lot of restaurants. Alternatively, incorporate your spuds in a stew or casserole for them to braise and they not only absorb the flavour of what they're cooking in, but actually enhance it.

There is a lot of bad press about potatoes as being full of carbohydrate and therefore amongst certain healthy/faddy diet circles (yes, adherents to the Paleolithic diet, I'm looking at you as I mentioned previously, you gullible twats) they rank up there with the jism of Satan himself as a food to avoid. However, it's a little known fact that potatoes, before the global transport network and advances in cultivation made pretty much every vegetable available all year round, were one of the major sources of vitamin C in gloomy Northern Europe in the winter months. Indeed, there is actually more vitamin C in a packet of salt and vinegar crisps than in a fresh apple. Well, I say there is, but I've not checked that fact so it might be bollocks.

Thing is, potatoes are just so fucking versatile and one of the best ways to use them is in curries where they can be a main ingredient in their own right.

½ tsp ground tumeric
½ tsp onion seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp tandoori spice
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp salt
pinch chilli flakes
1 small onion, sliced
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
400g peeled potatoes in 2cm cubes
300ml water
100g fresh tomatoes, peeled
2 tbsp vegetable oil 

Heat the oil in a heavy pan and fry the spices for a minute. Throw in the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is transparent, stirring frequently.

Add the potatoes and keep stirring for 10 minutes to par-cook them and give them a nice coating of spice mix. Add the tomatoes, stir and cook for another couple of minutes before adding the water.

Bring the pan to the boil, cover and leave to cook for twenty to thirty minutes, when the potato should be tender.

This is plenty for three or four people as an accompaniment to another curry, or is substantial enough to be served on its own with rice and/or bread. Like most curries, any leftovers taste better as lunch the next day

Served up with a chicken curry, pilau rice and naan bread

So, goodbye then, Potato Gregg. There may be other guest appearances in the future.

This is yet another vegetarian/vegan dish. It's great on its own but it makes a great part of a thali along with some of my other vegie curries and accompaniments like baingan tamatar and butternut squash curry.

I made this with old potatoes in this instance, but making it with new potatoes also works really well.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Broccoli and cashew pilaf

"Know who I love? That James Bond. Movie heroes don't come tougher than him. Everything he did was thanks to broccoli and, me being a greengrocer, I know all about broccoli Yum, yum, yum! Apples and fackin' pears"

Actually, Potato Gregg, I think you're getting confused about Albert "Cubby" Broccoli. He wasn't actually a vegetable. He was the film producer responsible for the James Bond franchise.

Broccoli is actually quite a tasty vegetable considering it's often touted as a "superfood", which is usually a synonym for "unevidenced bollocks propagated by people who's grasp of science is obtained from Frankenstein films or somewhere really unbelievable, like the Daily Mail". In the case of broccoli, however, there is actually some evidence to suggest that it does ,as a cruciferous vegetable, have a high content of some compounds research suggests may be beneficial in preventing cancer, plus various antioxidants and is a source of various minerals and vitamins, so eating it is a good thing.

It's the bête noire of many children who generally hate it. Sweary Jr actually quite likes it, probably because it makes him break wind and there is nothing Sweary Jr (or Sweary Sr for that matter) thinks is more funny than farting.

"Bodily functions don't get any funnier than farting"

Oh, for fuck's sake, Potato Gregg, this is getting tedious. Please get another catch phrase or you're going to be featuring as an ingredient in my next recipe.

Anyway, despite its virtuous qualities, it's quite difficult to incorporate broccoli into recipes. It's good on its own as part of a Sunday roast, but in other things? OK, there's broccoli and Stilton soup and from Chinese takeaways you get it with beef and oyster sauce but not much else. Then there's this, a recipe that I've been making for a long time which makes great use of broccoli, pairing it with cashews plus a little spice to make a satisfying rice dish. It's a great accompaniment to anything from the Mediterranean area, be it South  European, Asian or North African. It's also good for anyone wanting a wheat-free alternative to cous cous.

1 mug of decent quality rice (works out at about 200g)
½ a vegetable stock cube
75g cashew nuts
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
1 cinnamon stick (about 10cm long)
Black pepper
150g broccoli, broken up into bite-size florets

Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking: 15-20 minutes

Put the rice in a heavy pan and wash it in a couple of changes of water. Drain well and return to the pan and add 1½ times the volume of water as rice. Crumble in the half stock cube and stir well before heating to boiling, turning down the heat as low as possible and covering for 15-20 minutes. When it's ready, the liquid should be fully absorbed leaving nice, fluffy rice.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a deep frying pan or wok and throw in the cashews and brown them by stirring or tossing regularly for 5 minutes or so, then remove with a slotted spoon.

Add the onion, garlic and spices to the hot oil and sauté until the onions are transparent, about 10 minutes. Add the broccoli and stir fry for another 10 minutes or so until tender. If the mix gets dry add a splash of water.

Throw in the fried cashews and the cooked rice. Mix well and serve.

This recipe makes easily enough for a couple of adults and goes well with something like my recipe for pork afelia or perhaps stuffat tal fenek

This is the second pilaf I've done in the blog after my tomato pilaf a few months back.

The word pilaf is derived from the Turkish word "pilav" which is in turn derived (by way of Persian) from the Hindi pulao or pilau.

I know I twat on about this every time I do a rice dish, but do use good rice like Thai jasmine or Basmati, and not that American long grain shit they sell on the same shelf in the supermarket. The rice is the main part of this recipe, so bland, tasteless polystyrene-textured grains just make it not worth the bother. It is the difference between a pilaf like this being something you'd be proud to serve your parents and something you'd serve your parents once you discover they're leaving the house to a local donkey sanctuary.

I don't put any salt in this recipe since stock cubes contain an awful lot.

This could be the last we see of Potato Gregg for a time as I think there is a risk of this blog turning into a ventriloquist act which, though it may be unique in terms of cooking (if you don't count Fanny Craddock and Johnnie), there's probably a good reason for that. On the other hand, I would have paid good money to see the late Keith Harris and Orville do a cookery show where Orville's nappy comes into its own when Keith mentions he's going to be making an orange sauce.

Keith Harris and Orville
I wish I could fry...

Monday, 4 January 2016

Stuffat Tal-Fenek, Maltese rabbit stew

See, only a very vague resemblance
First of all, I've decided that all this cooking malarkey is a difficult job to do on my own so I could do with a hand. Please allow me to introduce  my new assistant, Potato Gregg. He's a potato who happens to bear a fleeting resemblance to Cockney reformed football hooligan-cum-modern day greengrocer Gregg Wallace. Potato Gregg will be assisting in my preparation and chipping in to this blog with snippets of wisdom and culinary tips.

"Mr Potato Head doesn't get tougher than this! Cor blimey! Apples 'n' fackin' pears!"

Indeed he doesn't, Potato Gregg. Let's get on with the recipe, shall we?

Despite them being a widespread pest because they breed, well, like rabbits, we don't do much with rabbit in this country. No, because we're a nation of "animal lovers" and the little bunnies are just so cute. I mean, so are lambs, calves and piglets but they don't usually live in your garden (well, unless you're a farmer or small-holder) or indeed your living room (well, unless you get off on that sort of thing) before you eat them. And let's not forget the place of the rabbit in our culture: Peter Rabbit, Bugs Bunny, Brer Rabbit, Watership Down. Then again there's also Frank from Donnie Darko.

"Rabbits don't come any scarier than that Frank. I had nightmares about him. Myxomatosis is too good for that bastard"

Actually, Potato Gregg, I beg to differ. You forget the Rabbit of Caerbannog from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (see clip below) which was far scarier. That rabbit actually brutally murdered people while Frank was merely ominous and looked a bit iffy. Besides, he was clearly a man in a rabbit suit, looking more like Harvey after he left his head too close to the radiator overnight.

Sharp pointy teeth...

All this preamble aside, the point is that rabbit is a fantastic meat: lean, tasty and cheap. It takes a bit of cooking to ensure it's not to tough. It tastes a lot like chicken although this is the description that applies to pretty much any meat when trying to tell other people what it's like. You do wonder what the first person to eat chicken said it tasted like when telling other people how great this new bird that they'd just barbecued was.

Preparation: 30 minutes plus marination (overnight if possible)
Cooking: 3-plus hours on the hob (you could put it in the oven for the same time at 160°C or even do this in a slow cooker)

1 gutted rabbit, cut into 6 or 8 portions
400 ml red wine
4 or 5 bay leaves
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 carrot, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
1 tin of tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
3-400g potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks

Mix the wine, garlic, bay leaves and black pepper in a dish. Mix well and add the rabbit. Cover, stick it in the fridge and marinate for a good few hours, ideally overnight or as long as possible otherwise.


Heat the oil in a heavy pan and brown the rabbit pieces on all sides, reserving the marinade.

Remove the rabbit with a slotted spoon and put on a plate

Throw the onion and celery into the pan and saute until the onion is cooked. Add the carrot, tomatoes, tomato puree and the reserved marinade.

Heat to a simmer for about10 minutes or so to break down the tomatoes a little

Put in the potatoes and mix well then return the rabbit pieces to the pot

Cover and turn down the heat to a gentle simmer for 3 hours or more.

Ready to serve

Serve with bread to mop up the rich sauce. The meat should be falling off the bone

This recipe is the national dish of Malta. I've never been to this archipelago in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea (not yet, anyway, but it's on my list). I find it surprising that the national dish isn't some sort of seafood, given that it's a collection of small islands where you are never more than a few miles from the sea. Mind you, as a former British colony, maybe, along with the red post boxes, there's an element of British influence in the non-use of easily-obtained fish, as is the case with Brits (and as mentioned, nay ranted on, in a previous blog entry)

I'd expect the rabbit would be prepared by your butcher, but in principle you could make this with something you caught yourself or even roadkill if you're that way inclined. The rabbit I used was cleaned and portioned, but did have its various other organs like liver, kidneys, etc which I kept to enrich the sauce. It was bloody cheap as well at £4 to make a meal sufficient for 4 or more people. Parochial reference again, but I bought it at my favourite butcher, Allums of Wakefield.

If you are bothered about eating something so cute there are two things to think about making them less cute. 1: they are coprophagic and 2: they are, for all intents and purposes, just long-eared, grass-fed rats. Actually, these points may not make actually rabbits more appetising to eat, but at least you can look at them as less cuddly

This dish is called stuffat tal fenek and I've not made one double entendre out of that first word. I'm clearly losing my touch.
Like most stews, the recipe needs to cook long and slow, or else the rabbit would be stringy and chewy.

"Meat don't get any tougher than that!"

Oh, do give it a fucking rest with the catchphrase, Potato Gregg, you tuber-faced twat.