Dinner à deux: Coconut spiced mussels with toasted herby naan

Mussels are the perfect supper for two. Prepare any more than a kilo and you may well lose the will to live, but enough for you and your loved one is just enough graft to make you feel smugly satisfied whilst still leaving you plenty of time to snuggle on the sofa in post-dinner bliss. Sweet shellfish pairs brilliantly with creamy Indian curry flavours and tangy lime plus of course shellfish, chilli and garlic have all been reputed as aphrodisiacs at some point in the past (probably by those horny old Romans), so what more excuse do you need to whip up this simple supper for your Valentine?

Coconut spiced mussels with toasted herby naanCoconut spiced mussels with toasted herby naan
Serves 2

1kg mussels
2 tbsp olive oil
3 shallots
2 tbsp Balti curry paste
400ml coconut milk
juice of 1 lime
2 garlic cloves
1 green chilli
A small handful of coriander
1 naan bread

1. Rinse the mussels in cold water, removing any beards and barnacles, and discard any open ones that don’t close when given a sharp tap (this means they’re already dead). Leave in a sinkful of clean cold water until needed. Preheat the oven or grill to high.

2. Peel and finely slice the shallots. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large deep saucepan. Add the shallots and fry for 2-3 minutes or until golden at the edges, stirring occasionally. Stir in the curry paste and cook for a further minute.

3. Pour the coconut milk into the pan, increase the heat to high, and bring to a rapid simmer. Drain the mussels in a colander and tip into the pan. Stir the mussels to coat them in the cooking liquid then cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook over a medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until all the mussels have opened (discard any that haven’t).

4. Meanwhile crush the garlic and finely chop the green chilli (if you prefer it milder, de-seed the chilli first) and half the coriander. Mix with 1 tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Spread onto the naan bread and grill or bake for 2-3 mins, then cut into wedges.

5. Stir the lime juice into the mussels, then ladle everything into deep bowls. Scatter with the remaining coriander leaves (discard the stalks) and serve with the hot naan wedges on the side.

6. To eat, pick the mussels one by one from the shells, scooping up the delicious sauce as you go and mop everything up with the spicy naans.

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DIY Garam Masala (& a giveaway)

Garam Masala

I really don’t understand why people still buy ground spices, seriously, they almost all taste of nothing! You would too if you’d sat in a clear glass jar in a brightly lit supermarket for months on end, then kept in a hot humid kitchen for years after that first opening, just waiting for someone to feel that particular culinary vibe once more.

Making your own garam masala may at first thought seem a faff on top of an imposition if you’re already making a complex curry, but it really is worth it. You can keep the whole spices for infinitely longer than their ground equivalents, and it takes mere moments to whizz up in an electric grinder (which isn’t expensive & may well change your culinary life).

Garam Masala
Makes: enough for a few curries. Easily doubled if you get through lots of this regularly.

1 dried bay leaf
3cm piece of cinnamon stick
3 black cardamom pods
2 cloves
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp black peppercorns
Pinch of mace

Blitz the spices in an electric spice grinder. Simple as that. No spice grinder? If you want to make this by hand in a sturdy pestle & mortar, no problemo, but do grind just one spice at a time or you’ll be setting yourself up for a Herculean task.

Sieve the ground spices & discard the residual bits (which will mostly be cardamom husk & some prickly bits of cinnamon). Store the spice in a drawer or cupboard away from direct sunlight – a beautiful presentation spice rack will kill it quicker than you can say ‘crappy wedding gift’.

Warning! Cinnamon can tax even powerful grinders if you’re not careful, so do break it up a bit before blitzing, and use a pulsing action with the blender rather than a long drawn-out processor-burning blitz.

Speaking of cinnamon…I have one lovely pack of the finest Mexican cinnamon from Capsicana Chilli Co to give away, simply leave me a comment telling me how you like to use cinnamon or garam masala….*

And for an additional bonus entry please do tweet about the competition or post, mentioning me @FoodieEmma and linking to this post.

Mexican cinnamon

*Ts&Cs: deadline for entries is 20th April 2013. Open to UK residents only. Capsicana Chilli Co are not affiliated with this competition, prize is being offered & provided directly by Souperior.

A right royal feast – Coronation Chicken 3 ways

Coronation Chicken 3 ways As an ardent Republican I must confess myself a little tired of all the Royal Wedding chitchat which is currently enveloping not just the country, but apparently the whole world. Nonetheless, as a newlywed myself I can’t be totally curmudgeonly about it all, and have come up with this twist on a British classic in honour of the special day.

Coronation Chicken was first invented as a dish to commemorate the ascendency of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne in 1953, and although bad versions have put off whole generations from eating it, I think this recipe can convert anyone. It’s super-simple and much healthier than the original – using yoghurt as the base of the sauce rather than the traditional mayonnaise – and because it uses baked chicken thighs it’s much moister and tastier than versions made with breast.

This dish is fantastic as a main course for two people, if you serve the chicken in the piece and accompany it with a rice salad (the classic accompaniment) and some green leaves. Alternatively, shred or dice the meat and use to top bruschetta or fill mini croustades* – no street party should be without it!

Coronation Chicken

4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
2½-3 tbsp korma curry paste (I like Patak’s)
half a lemon
100g natural yoghurt
1 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp mango chutney
Tabasco, a few drops

To serve:
Croustade cases
OR
Small thick slices of quality toast (e.g. Sourdough)
OR
Rice salad and mixed leaves

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 8/230˚C.

Mix 1 heaped tablespoon of the korma paste with a generous squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Spread the mixture all over the chicken and place skin-side up in a snug-fitting roasting dish.  Sprinkle with a little extra salt and a generous grinding of black pepper, then bake for 25-30 minutes until the skin is lightly charred and the meat is cooked through.

Meanwhile, make the sauce by mixing together the yoghurt, mayonnaise, mango chutney and remaining korma paste. Add a squeeze of lemon, pinch of salt and shake of Tabasco (to taste).

To serve, either serve the chicken in the piece with some rice salad and fresh green leaves; or shred and pile on top of the toasts with a generous drizzle of sauce; or cut into chunks, toss with the sauce to coat and pile into croustade cases. Whichever you choose, serve extra sauce on the side and mango chutney for those who wish it.

*You can buy gorgeous little croustades like the ones I used from major supermarkets, ‘Rahms’ is the brand to look for!

Coronation Chicken

A fantastic leftover turkey curry recipe

Every Christmas my father carefully and conscientiously buys a turkey at least five times as big as needed for our small family gatherings, and this year was no exception – to feed just four people he purchased a bird weighing in at a massive seven kilos! I’m sure my dad is at the far end of the scale, but nearly all of us face the bother of leftovers at this time of year, and it can be quite overwhelming sometimes. There really are only so many turkey sandwiches one can choke down with genuine pleasure, after all. So for those of you who, like me, are still chowing down on leftovers, here is the perfect recipe.

I’ve always avoided turkey curry, as it seemed an obviously sneaky way of disguising bland, overcooked meat, but this one is really rather special. Adapted from Anjum Anand’s recipe published recently in Sainsbury’s Magazine, it’s quick to make, and therefore light and fragrant, and seriously tasty. Serve it with plain boiled rice and/or naan breads. Alternatively you can make this a one-pot meal by adding cooked new potatoes and a handful of green beans with the turkey at step 3.

Incidentally, this dish is so good that it’s worth making even if you don’t have leftovers hanging around. Turkey is a very economical and lean meat available all year round, and most supermarkets sell turkey breasts or leg portions, which you can roast briefly (skin-on to retain moisture), then cut up and use in this.

Leftover Turkey Curry
Serves 6

1½ tsp mustard seeds
2 white onions, finely sliced
20 curry leaves
8 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tsp root ginger, finely grated
4 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground turmeric
600g cooked turkey meat, cut into large chunks or strips
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tin coconut milk

For the garam:
3½ tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1-inch piece cinnamon stick
1 tsp cardamom pods
6 cloves
2 tbsp coriander seeds

1. Fry the mustard seeds in oil, add the onions and curry leaves. Fry gently until softened, then add the garlic and ginger and fry for a couple more minutes.

2. Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and discard the husks. Use a spice grinder or pestle & mortar to grind all the garam spices to a fine powder, add the turmeric, ground coriander, chopped tomatoes and 1 tsp. salt and blitz to a rough puree with a hand blender or mini processor. Add to the fried onions, and simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes.

3. Add the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Allow to reduce until thickened, reduce the heat, add the turkey and cherry tomatoes and simmer until the turkey is hot through.