Wednesday 30 September 2015

Mamma's Homemade Chicken Karahi

Although I've been brought up on Indian food I rarely make it. For starters it's not N's favourite but also I never thought I could make it as well as my mum so I never bothered. But every few weeks or so I get a random urge to cook something fragrant and full of spice. Or sometimes I am nudged into it as the case was last week! I had just defrosted a couple of chicken breast fillets with a view to making a casserole or a risotto but that very same morning my mum-in-law dropped round some yummy daal (lentils) that she had made. My two choices were to waste the chicken or cook something that went with daal. I normally make tandoori chicken but I had defrosted breast pieces and was worried it  would taste dry if it was oven cooked. A dish with gravy would be better. I happened to drop my dilemma into conversation with my mum and she gave me the inspiration I needed. The recipe below is hers, although if you ever asked her she would say she never cooks to recipes she just does what works! When I was growing up my mum used to tell me cooking was easy. I never believed her but I think she was right. Anyone can cook....but it helps to have a good teacher. Thank you mum! 

Chicken Karahi 
(Serves 2 | total prep and cooking time 30-40 mins plus marinating time) 

- 2 chicken breasts (or equivalent thighs) cut into 1-inch pieces
- marinade (2 tbs yoghurt, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, pinch garam masala, 1/2 tsp tumeric, pinch salt)
- 1 small onion - very finely chopped
- 3-4 cloves of garlic - finely chopped
- 1-2 inch piece of ginger - finely chopped 
- teaspoon finely chopped chilli (optional) 
- cumin seeds (approx 1 heaped teaspoon) 
- coriander powder (1 teaspoon)
- cumin powder (1 teaspoon) 
- tumeric (1/2 teaspoon) 
- 3 tomatoes - chopped 
- 1 tablespoon tomato purée
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander 
- salt to taste 
- water 

- mix the marinade in a large bowl and stir in the chicken pieces. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours but overnight is better
- heat a large frying pan and place the chicken and all the marinade in it. Fry it until the marinade dries out and the chicken starts to colour. Set aside 
- heat some oil in a saucepan or sauté pan and add the cumin seeds. Fry until they start to colour
- fry the onions, garlic, ginger and chilli (to make sure they are finely chopped and made into a paste consistency you can do this in a food processor)
- add the dry spices
- add the tomatoes and tomato purée and stir well 
- add the chicken and stir well 
- add coriander, salt and pour in a little bit if water
- cover and cook for 20-30 mins until the chicken is cooked. Add more water if it dries out 

Monday 21 September 2015

Autumnal Lamb Ragu with Papardelle Pasta

I can't believe summer has gone. Did we have one this year, I'm not sure I remember. Or at least I definitely didn't make the most of it. I remember a few baking hot days when I was heavily pregnant. They were torture. And I remember some hot days when I was cooped up indoors to nervous to go out in the heat with a newborn. They were frustrating. But the weather seems to have become dreary ever so sudden. One minute I had painted toenails and strappy sandals and now I have a chest infection and a hooded anorak. Oh hang on, painted toenails, that must have been 3 years ago before I had children! But the hacking cough is definitely not an exaggeration, we all have it thanks to some nursery germs CM brought home! 

The thing that made me realise it was autumn was when I noticed spiky green balls all over my driveway. Yes you've got it in one, it's conker time! CM has been having a whale of a time jumping on conkers. I have to plan an extra 20 minutes every time I need to go anywhere because the minute I open the front door she runs out shouting 'flatten it, flatten it!', something I guess I must have said when I introduced her to the art of conker collecting. Just like she runs around flapping her arms and saying 'kill it, kill it!' every time she sees a spider or an insect! Another phrase she must have learnt from me! 

Collecting conkers is one of the most vivid memories from my childhood. My journey home from school included walking through a very long avenue if horse chestnut trees. Every day in conker season I used to rummage around finding the biggest, shiniest conkers and putting them in my pockets for safe keeping whilst my childminder stood patiently watching and waiting. She never once tried to hurry me or tell me I had enough even though it was approaching tea time and my coat pockets were starting to scrape the ground. It's one of those special memories you hope will stay with you forever. 

But autumn also allows me to eat my favourite meals. Tasty, hearty comfort foods. My cooking is not particularly seasonal but I do follow a few patterns. Apart from the odd spring lamb casserole I rarely cook red meat in summer. But I do love lamb. We try not to eat red meat too often for health reasons but I think as long as it is lean meat once a week is fine. This recipe is delicious. A slight twist on a classic bolognese with thick ribbons of pasta and a sauce laced with the last of the summer rosemary and mint from our garden. 

And while it is simmering it gives me a chance to take CM out for some more conker collecting. I only wish I was patient as my childminder when CM asks for the millionth time
CM: "What's dat mummy?"
Me: "It's a conker darling"
CM: "Why?"
Me: "Because it has fallen from a horse chestnut tree"
CM: "Why?" 
Me: "Because it's autumn"
CM: "Why?"
Me: "Because. It. Just. Is!"

Lamb Ragu with Papardelle Pasta 
(Serves 2-3 | total prep and cooking time minimum 1 hour) 

- 1 onion - diced
- 3 cloves of garlic - finely chopped 
- 1 carrot - diced
- 2 sticks of celery - finely sliced 
- 8-10 mushrooms - sliced 
- 400g lamb mince
- 1 lamb stock cube dissolved in 200 ml of water 
- tablespoon chopped mint
- 1 sprig of rosemary - chopped 
- 120-150g dried Papardelle pasta 
- olive oil

- cook pasta according to packet instructions 
- brown the mince in a frying pan, draining off the excess fat 
- heat the olive oil in another large frying pan or sauté pan 
- fry the onions for a few mins until softened
- add the garlic, carrots and celery and stir for a few minutes 
- add the mushrooms and stir for a few minutes
- add the browned mince and mix well 
- add the herbs and stock and stir 
- simmer for a minimum of 40 minutes, but the longer the better. Keep adding water if it starts to dry out
- add the drained pasta 

Thursday 17 September 2015

Chocolate cake with a difference

Yesterday I made a special chocolate cake. And no before you ask it wasn't an Amsterdam-style special chocolate cake!

I've never been a big baker, I dabble in the odd biscuit or muffin but that's about the extent of it. But cake are big at the moment. Having young children means you spend a lot of weekends shuffling from one birthday party to the next. At the last two parties the cakes were both homemade and spectacular. One was a delightful chocolate cake with a Frozen theme (I've still not seen that so someone please tell me what the fuss is all about!) and the other was a light jam filled sponge in the shape of Frireman Sam's fire engine! They were both amazing and I can only imagine how long they took to make. But rather than being inspired by the Great British Bake Off I was inspired by watching Eat Well for Less with Greg of the John and Greg franchise and some bloke named Chris whom I've never heard of. They followed a family from Birmingham on their weekly shop in order to try and change their eating habits to both save them some money and make them healthier. Now please tell me that it was exaggerated for TV because otherwise I have serious concerns about any family that buys over 40 bags of crisps on a weekly shop. Where would you store them for a start! So one of the recipes they showed them how to make was a chocolate and beetroot cake made without eggs or butter. The crisp-addict family seemed to like it so I thought I'd give it a go. I had no particular reason to make an eggless cake as I eat eggs like they are going out if fashion but curiosity got the better of me and I wondered what a cake bound with yoghurt would taste like. 

So here it is. My magical chocolate cake. I got the recipe from the BBC Good Food website but as usual made some Accidental Cook changes. I reduced the sugar from 175g to 125g and I made only half the suggested amount of icing. It tasted good. The texture was a bit denser and more muffin-like than a regular cake but unless someone told you you wouldn't have know that it was devoid of fun things like butter and eggs. To be honest I would probably stick to traditional chocolate cake in the future but it's a great way to hide some vegetables for fussy eater children! As for my baking skills, I was planning to make CM a cake for her next birthday but I'm not sure her or her friends would want a beetroot and rapeseed oil cake and given my art skills the only thing I could disguise it as would be a peppa pig muddy puddle. I wonder if either of my show-stopper-cake-baking friends take orders instead...

Chocolate and Beetroot Eggless Cake


125g sugar instead of 175g
Half the quantity of icing 

Thursday 10 September 2015

Prawn, Courgette and Chilli Spaghetti

What would you say is your least favourite vegetable? Mine has got to be cauliflower. I'm a very unfussy eater so it's quite unusual for me to really dislike something but cauliflower has to be the one thing I try to avoid at all costs. N has slightly more things on his vegetable black list. Taking the number one slot is definitely courgettes. I can understand his dislike. If a courgette is not cooked properly it can taste pretty bad. I have distinct childhood memories of boiled, mushy, bland courgette. The problem is after a while you get bored of the same vegetables on your shopping list, so over the years the humble courgette has become one of my staples. The challenge is hiding it in food so N will eat it! Up till now I've only ever used it in stir fries and casseroles but I've finally found a winning recipe! It's taken 6 years but I think N has finally accepted that he does like this summer squash relative of the cucumber. Perhaps if I refer to it as a zucchini from now on he will find it even more appealing!! 

Prawn, courgette and chilli spaghetti
(Serves 2 | Total prep and cooking time: 20-30 mins)


4 cloves of garlic - finely chopped 
1 red chilli - deseeded and finely chopped
250g cooked jumbo king prawns 
1 courgette - thinly sliced using a mandolin or a potato peeler 
Juice of half a lemon
Tablespoon chopped parsley 
Olive oil for frying 
120-150g spaghetti 


- Cook the spaghetti according to instructions on packet 
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or sauté pan 
- Fry the garlic and chilli
- Add the courgettes and prawns and pan fry for a couple of mins 
- Add the lemon juice and parsley and stir well
- Drain the spaghetti and add to the pan 
- Mix well and cook for a couple of minutes 

Thursday 3 September 2015

I'm Back!

Ok so I lied. Not intentionally of course, but at the end of my last post I did promise to continue to update my blog regularly and all I can say is that I clearly haven't. I think posting every day throughout November scarred me. Not only did I not want to write about food for a while I didn't even want to eat it, cook it or think about it! Poor N, he has been surviving on bread and water since the end of last year. Well clearly not, but I have to say my cooking hasn't been all that adventurous. 

Now of course I have a whole host of excuses to explain my prolonged absence but i won't bore you with them all. But, it has been 9 months since my last post which is a really long time. In fact it's long enough to have a baby. And that's precisely what I did. May I welcome the newest addition to accidental cook family...Seagull (SG). That refers to both the sound he makes and the little 'presents' he leaves for me to clear up! He joins my toddler CM (cheeky monkey) in a house full of chaos and culinary experimentation. 

So back to business. Adventures of an Accidental Cook is back. And this time it's bigger, bolder and brighter (well the blog background is anyway)! And this time I've also learnt my lesson. I'm not going to do anything crazy like post every day but I will promise to post more than once every 9 months! In fact I will post every week. By the end of every Thursday there will be a new post. I'm not promising they will be long and detailed with elaborate recipes but they will be food related and they will be regular. 

So see you next Thursday!