A methi in my madness?

Some occurrences are just weird, and this rambling perhaps will highlight that, or may highlight that I’m seeing something in nothing…

My father died some years ago, at least nine years. You may think it’s odd that I don’t know down to the minute the time of his demise, but we were estranged, I hadn’t had contact with him for many years before I found out he’d died.

A kind friend of his gave me a few personal effects, cookery books and the like, for which I was very grateful as the few good memories I have of my father are food related, he was a fantastic cook, of many ethnic styles. Amongst the personal effects was an old exercise book in which he had written many recipes; there was even a recipe written in my probably twelve years old handwriting that he must have dictated as he tested and cooked a dish.

The Exercise Book
The Exercise Book

So… In the years since I’ve had the book I’ve read it from cover to cover, and looked at each piece of paper he tore from magazines and stowed amongst the pages. One of my hobbies is reading cookery books (then not following the recipe), and as such I’ve read my father’s book many times. In fact, I look at it so often I keep it on top of a pile of books on the coffee table shelf.

The pile of books!
The pile of books!

So here’s the weird bit… two Sundays ago I was building a new TV unit in a bid to stop the kitten from strangling herself amongst the wires that the old open TV unit did nothing to hide, but on my own it was difficult to keep the unit straight, so I had the brainwave to prop some of the unit on books. I was kneeling by the coffee table so I was able to grab from my pile of mahoosive cookery books to create a level. The exercise book, being the smallest was not needed so I pulled it from the top of the pile and placed it on the table top. I then used the three cookery books on the pile to bolster the unit whilst I put in the locking cams.

I happily worked away for some time building the unit, then just happened to glance at the last book that would usually be the bottom of the pile, and noticed a lone piece of paper on top of said book with my father’s handwriting on. I reached for the paper and scanned it, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up…

The lone piece of paper!
The lone piece of paper!

You see, my favourite Indian curry is ‘Methi’, which is a rich dark sauce made with fenugreek leaves. It’s difficult to get in a takeaway; it’s not that usual in Indian restaurants, so of late I’ve been trying to recreate it myself from a solitary recipe I found online, again recipes are few and far between.

My father's recipe, previously unseen!
My father’s recipe, previously unseen!

I can honestly say I have never seen that recipe of my dad’s before, and my love of Methi based curry was nothing to do with my dad, so I didn’t realise he had ever made it, and in all of the times I pored over that book I didn’t see that slip of paper, I would go as far as to say it wasn’t there, and it wasn’t sitting on that book either. It’s like it was put there so I would notice!

 

 

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A methi in my madness?

My mad weekly kitchen diary

Just a weekly bit of fun whereby I can natter about any culinary ‘inventions’ successes and disasters in the kitchen, whilst trying to get the best out of leftovers.

This one’s very late, Prince died.

Larger image below
Larger image below

Sunday

… C bought a slab of belly pork from his butcher friend. I’ve only done this once before and I followed the method of Chelsea Winter –A winner of Masterchef New Zealand– that I happened upon when I was first confronted with the slab of meat. I must say, the method is GENIUS! No more oven temperature up and down like a yoyo, no more worrying that the crackling won’t ‘crackle’, and no more ‘hard’, as opposed to crunchy, crispy crackling.

We had a 1.5kg slab of meat, the skin scored –too far down in some places– by our butcher friend so I rubbed it with olive oil and seasoned heavily with salt and pepper, before popping it on a rack and in the oven at 130 degrees. I left the joint alone for four hours to do its thing. After four hours I increased the temp to 150 degrees and roasted for another 30 minutes. Then it’s ready to come out. But the crackling isn’t crackled, it’s soft and flabby. That’s where Chelsea’s genius comes in… I put the grill on medium-high, put the joint under the heat and watched it puff and crackle. I watched it carefully so it didn’t burn, and the whole process took about 10 minutes. The end result was succulent rendered belly pork with crunchy crackling. Perfect!

I can barely remember what I served with the pork as it was such a bright star. I had homemade Bramley apple sauce in the freezer so I defrosted and reheated that. I did mashed potato and broccoli I think, and gravy, but what does it matter… there was perfect pork!

Monday

… take away… terrible, and not my favourite. Chips, and steak and kidney pie…

Tuesday

… We had leftover belly pork with the rest of the apple sauce, roasted potatoes, gravy, and other veg. Can’t remember… because… pork.

Wednesday

… WedJ was visiting, and I wanted to serve an extra portion of whatever we had and send it over to my father-in-law who was getting back from Zambia that evening, but I also wanted something low maintenance. Another criterion was that I wanted to use up some green lentils. The recipe I found seemed to cover all my bases, but I followed it very loosely. I just got good pork sausages, I didn’t use butter and I didn’t have any fresh herbs. I cooked the sausages differently too.

So… I fried off bacon until crisp then removed it and sautéed a mirepoix of onions, carrots, and celery until soft adding the bacon when the onion was ready. I then added the rinsed lentils, water, a stock cube and dried herbs and simmered until the lentils were tender. I stirred in red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard and took it off the heat.

Meanwhile… I wasn’t keen on the method for cooking the sausages so I fried off the sausages in a separate pan until they were a deep golden brown then chucked in red wine and dried rosemary, reducing the wine until it was thick and syrupy and coated the sausages.

At dinner time I reheated both parts of the meal, decanted the beans and served the sausages on top. It was delicious but I forgot to get a pic. You know, busy… guest…

Thursday

… My frugal side kicked in and it had started on Sunday. Our butcher friend left a small rack of ribs underneath the pork belly that could be detached with a single cut and we debated whether to leave it on or take it off. In the end we removed it. Now… back to Thursday. I decided to make the very small rack of ribs into a teeny starter of barbecue flavour spare ribs. I boiled the separated ribs for a while then coated them in a barbecue sauce recipe that I found online before shoving them in the oven. I don’t think I ‘did it right’ but the ribs were lovely and I’ve favourited that sauce recipe.

The main course was a steak sandwich. C bought very thin steak so the end dish wasn’t going to be as I’d envisioned unfortunately and in a fit of pique I forgot the pic (<< Ha! Pique/pic). I marinated the steak in red wine and dried rosemary and thyme, then fried them on the griddle pan. I served the steak in tiger baguette, with salad. They tasted great, they just didn’t look that great.

Friday

… I made a Chinese curry using a paste that needs to be used up. I hard fry onion that’s cut into wedges and separated until I get a bit of char, not long because I don’t want them to go soft. When charred I removed them from the pan for later. I then tried to make up the curry sauce not quite as per instructions because to me the sauce had a grainy mouth feel previously. This time I cooked out the paste for some time then made up the sauce with water. I wanted the chicken to be ‘velvet chicken’ so I diced the chicken and tossed it in seasoned cornflour, again leaving it for later. Lastly I got petits pois out of the freezer to defrost.

When dinner time came I heated oil, fried the velvet chicken, added the sauce and cooked it out for a while. I then added the peas and lastly the onions, just to warm through.

I served the curry with basmati rice and it was pretty good, the velvet chicken is so soft and succulent I can’t even describe it.

Saturday

… I actually craved pizza, you know the one from the supermarket that we add seafood to. I marinated mussel meat, large prawns, and prawns in lemon juice, garlic, oregano, and olive oil. At dinner time I strew them over the thin four cheese pizzas then added a little diced tomato flesh and a few anchovy fillets before throwing them in the oven. That was it. Yum!

Belly pork with crunchy crackling, chinese velvet chicken curry, 'add to' seafood pizza
Belly pork with crunchy crackling, chinese velvet chicken curry, ‘add to’ seafood pizza

 

My mad weekly kitchen diary

My mad weekly kitchen diary

Just a weekly bit of fun whereby I can natter about any culinary ‘inventions’, successes and disasters in the kitchen, whilst trying to get the best out of leftovers.

Larger image below
Larger image below

Sunday

… I did an online shop (which often yields bizarre results)  during the week and lamb had been on offer. I’d specified a 2kg joint and had many exciting plans to use the leftovers. When the shopping arrived the joint was not even a kilo so by the time you take out the bone there wasn’t going to be any creative leftover thinking! Anyway, forget about the leftovers; we have to get through Sunday dinner first. I just seasoned the lamb and stuck it in the oven to roast, for less than an hour. I also had the chance to buy ingredients for my favourite sides, sweet potato and zucchini. They both have to be prepared a certain way for them to go with the lamb in my opinion so I followed my own rules. I par boiled discs of sliced sweet potato and then layered them into a baking dish with a spritz of olive oil, seasoning, and dried rosemary (I prefer dried in this dish). With the zucchini I cut them into about twelve if they are normal sized, then just toss them in olive oil, seasoning, and one clove of crushed garlic per zucchini. Both dishes just go into the oven with about forty five minutes to go. New potatoes were on offer so I just steamed them. I served the lamb with gravy made from the juices and mint sauce from a jar made up with a little extra fresh mint and red wine vinegar.

Monday

… I threw (literally) together rice stick noodles, bean sprouts, large prawns, spring onions, green chilli, oyster sauce and soy sauce. It took about fifteen minutes and was delicious!

Tuesday

… I had barely any lamb leftover so I brought out an old favourite… Lentil and (essence of) lamb curry. I made a stock with the bone and used that as liquid in the curry for extra flavour. I had neither the time nor inclination to make the curry from scratch so I popped black mustard seeds, added onion and chilli and fried, then added my favourite medium curry powder and fried that off for five minutes before adding lentils, tinned tomatoes and the liquid. Towards the end I added the rest of the chopped lamb, cooking for just a while longer. I served the curry with basmati rice.

Wednesday

… WedJ wasn’t visiting so I had leftover lentil and essence of lamb curry, and C had leftover Chinese. An easy cooking day for me!

Thursday

… I’d bought really good chicken burgers on a whim so I cooked those, added lettuce, onion and mayo to a toasted bun and we had oven fries, both the curly and straight variety. I can’t remember the last time I had a chicken burger but I won’t leave it so long next time.

Friday

… It was curry again. I’d previously decided I was going to make a dish from two Indian cookery books I’d acquired so with the online shop I’d bought pork for ‘Amma’s pork curry with green chillies and tamarind’ from ‘Rick Stein’s India’. I hadn’t planned on the essence of lamb curry earlier in the week so we were in danger of curry overload!

Anyway… My first problem was buying a shoulder joint instead of steaks or something, I had to chop up the joint and it wasn’t easy! The next was misremembering a stage in the method. One of the most important things is cooking the onions, or as was in this case, the paste that had been created from onions, chillies, 20 cloves of garlic, and ginger. I had toasted a load of spices and ground them in my new mahoosive pestle and mortar, and then browned the pork in batches. At this point I added the paste and spices and fried them off for only 1 minute, when it should have been at least five. I don’t know what happens to me when I follow a recipe; I seem to lose my instincts. I KNOW that that stage is important and would only be perfectly carried out when the oil starts to split from the paste, but I not only blindly followed the recipe, I blindly followed it incorrectly by adding the water when the paste wasn’t sufficiently cooked. I was SO ANNOYED with myself for making such a fundamental error. Anyway, it was done so from that point I discarded the recipe and cooked the curry for absolutely ages instead of the suggested 30 minutes. Okay I know it was probably very different to the original but it ended up being very edible! Next time though I’ll check the stages, before I move on. I served the curry with basmati rice.

Saturday

… We had leftover Amma’s curry with a vegetable samosa each to change things up a bit!

Roast lamb, rice noodle & prawn stirfry, lentil & essence of lamb curry, chicken burger, Amma's pork and tamarind curry (almost)
Roast lamb, rice noodle & prawn stirfry, lentil & essence of lamb curry, chicken burger, Amma’s pork and tamarind curry (almost)
My mad weekly kitchen diary