Prashad Vegetable Handi

After the culinary delights in recent weeks of The Old Vicarge (Sheffield) & the ‘original’ Loch Fyne (…well you can guess where) it was back to the day job and my Veggie Indian exploration. My first three attempts, were by my reckoning a decent attempt but there were mistakes. Firstly, I failed to properly prep in advance……well I am a man. And secondly, I failed to read the Prashad recipe properly……like I said….I am a man. I decided on this latest attempt, to throw my manliness to the wind and do the job properly – just as Kaushy had gone to the trouble to explain

Some chill out music on (Karima Francis – The Remedy….in case you’re interested) and I prepped my ingredients ala Saturday Morning Kitchen (or Blue Peter if you’re of a certain age) see below…..A fairly therapeutic exercise, although i’m not sure it should take the 1 1/2 hours it actually took!!

Onto the cooking. A handi, I am reliably informed is a round, deep, thick-bottomed cooking pot, so why the wonderful wife said use a wok, I have yet to work out. The great thing about this particular dish is that after the prep, it all goes into the single handi (or wok….in my case) and there’s no multi tasking involved…phew. I caramelised onions after I had browned cumin seeds in oil. After this, I stirred in blended tomatoes, potato, carrot, some water (well 300ml to be precise) and left to simmer for 7-8 mins (why are these recipes so vague). I then added the now familiar masala paste (which I just adore – green chillies, garlic, root ginger & salt), turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin and fresh coriander. I stirred in red & green peppers, cauliflower and a bit more water (well 100ml exactly) and allowed some more simmering time……or as I have interpreted it….beer timeThe final element is to stir in the peas and after the cooking is complete stir in (Prashad) garam masala and leave to rest for 15 mins to allow the flavours to develop. Having tasted the curry both during cooking and after resting, I can report they really do…who’d have thought. The final result, by following the recipe and having everything properly prepped, was without doubt my biggest success to date and not by coincidence the tastiest curry I have made and eaten.

In recent weeks we have been enjoying these recipes with a nice bottle of the red stuff but the flavours are just too dominant to get the best from the wine, so this was washed down with my favourite Anchor Steam ale (San Francisco indy beer), which was altogether more complimentaryNext up…Ratalu (garlicky curried purple yam – whatever that is)….can’t wait…

The Old Vicarage – Sheffield

Back in the day, when business was good, this was a restaurant we would visit on the return leg from the Cheltenham Festival. Back then, the patron Chef Tessa Bramley was, already the holder of a Michelin Star. The Old Vicarage still holds that coveted honour, an honour which she has maintained every year since 1998!!

The wonderful wife, bagged a couple of Travelzoo vouchers earlier in the year for a 5 course tasting menu at this top end restaurant. With the clock ticking down on the ‘use by date’ and the school holidays upon us, she booked us in for Tuesday lunchtime. We arrived early, not far from Leeds it took less than an hour to reach, and had to ring the bell to get in. A nice young chap, explained that they weren’t yet open but led us anyway into the lounge where we were given menus and asked for aperitif orders

Being on a special fixed price menu (£85 for two – normally £150 but for 6 courses) we perused the wine menu, whilst enjoying our pre-dinner drinks, intending to push the boat out a little on the wine. As you would expect, of a restaurant of this quality, the list is extensive ranging from the £30ish a bottle to the ‘infinity and beyond’ a bottle. A little overwhelmed by the lengthy list, we asked Tessa if she could recommend something a little different to our ‘normal’ Spanish Tempranillo, whilst not launching a ship. We plumped for the Quoin Rock (Syrah) 2006 from South Africa at £47. It was an absolute delight and reminds me not to get too set in my drinking ways

The menu being a specific tasting one, was meant to be just that, however, due to my dietary avoidances (dairy, eggs, red meat) some tweaks and complete alternatives were happily accommodated. The opening course was Butternut Squash Veloute’ Smoked Salmon and Pine Nuts. The wonderful wife declared this a taste delight. I had a Smoked Salmon variant which I equally enjoyed

Next up for my dining  partner was Roast Fillets of Lemon Sole on Mash with Onion Puree, Sauteed Squid with Chilli, Lime & Ginger Cumin Spumanti. OMG…. was the overall response. Squid is not the typical ingredient my wife would ever select but the little sauteed ringlets on top were packed with flavour and simply delicious and gave an additional mark to the 10/10 score for the fish. My Baked Nectarines on a Herb Polenta Cake alternative, with Oven Dried Tomatoes & Gruyere Crisp just as special…OMG

Main course we were both able to experience. Sage Roast Wild Guinea Fowl with Pot-Roasted Thigh, Fondant Potato & Creamed Summer Cabbage & Sauteed Wild Mushrooms. The pot roasted thigh was particularly flavoursome with notes of fennel and black pepper. I don’t have enough superlatives in my repertoire to say anything more. When cooking is this good you just find yourself saying OMG, OMG….. 

As this was a tasting menu the portion sizes are not too large to be over-facing but not too small either to make you think you are being short changed. Normally, we rarely have space left for dessert but as the portions were just right…ask Goldilocks, 2 dessert courses were eagerly anticipated

First up was a Raspberry Creme Brulee with a Pistachio and Almond Biscotti. More of the same….was the resounding verdict. My Fresh Fruit Berries beautiful and I satisfied myself with the lack of wow on it being the healthy option and the fact its almost impossible to get dessert variety without eggs and cream….

Course 5 – Baked Chocolate Pudding with Chocolate Fudge Sauce & English Vanilla Custard was both visually stunning & equally mouth watering – I was told. My selection of Sorbets a treat for somebody mostly starved of anything other than fresh fruit

Throughout the afternoon we were the only diners in the restaurant, although we were informed that a party of 9 had failed to turn up. Strangely, it did not feel like there was a lack of atmosphere, but, that we had arranged a private dining facility. The young maitre d & waiter were both professional, friendly & efficient, whilst Tessa was seemingly always in the background, offering titbits of advice and knowledge to the young bucks

If you have never been, let me assure you, this is one dining experience you must experience. I did think that the food might have become a tad conservative since our last visit. It kind of fits the profile – out of town restaurant – country house…well vicarage – high prices but the food is creative, modern & bright – perfectly judged…..

Chole – Chickpea Curry

My first two dishes from the Prashad Cookbook were relatively simple affairs even for the novice cook that I admit to being. Wanting to push the boat out a little after my modest success, I was eager to cook Chole – a cinnamon spice chickpea curry that I had on my very first visit to their fab little restaurant in Bradford (& shortly Drighlington). This, of course, is the dish that propelled them into the homes of millions after Gordon Ramsay picked this one out as his personal favourite

The cookbook advises that the spice preparations make all the difference to the flavours of the finished dish. Having now made the dish I can report it also gives me an altogether different appreciation of eating it too. Coriander seeds, cinnamon, red chillies, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves & cumin seeds are all tossed in a pan & fried to create a garam masala for the upper flavour. Unfortunately, on my first attempt, I set the heat too high causing it to burn, having to re-prep & do it all again….not the best start on a tired Friday evening

Cumin seeds cooked with onion form a base note and these are fried separately (Note – 2 pans!) with tomatoes followed by ginger, salt, red chilli powder, turmeric and sugar. I thought this was a simple dish of essentially 3 tins of chickpeas & some other spicy stuff but it is a very sophisticated and complex dish, with layers of flavours

The chickpeas are boiled in a large pan (that’s 3!) & I think this is where my dish went slightly wrong. I added additional warm water (as instructed) to my boiled chickpeas that had been left in their cooking water when adding the garam masala and cumin/onion mix. Ultimately it left the dish overly wet despite the additional cooking time employed

The consistency of the dish failed to live up their restaurant standard but the taste sensation was most definitely on the money. A point worth mentioning here, is this is a super cheap meal to make. With tins of chickpeas 50p a pop or less, it is fantastic food for a low outlay. We also had half left over which we took ‘en-flask’ to our annual salmon jumping expedition the following day. I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it was 2nd time round, sitting by Stainforth Falls on a cold Saturday afternoon, with the chilli heat ‘warming me cockles’

Wattana & Flower

Translation – Pea & Cauliflower Curry.

My very first ever blog a couple of weeks ago was accompanied with some technical glitches – I didn’t actually finish it before posting!! Being new to the ‘blogging world’ I think this is understandable. The same applied to my very first ever attempt to cook vegetarian Indian from the wonderful Prashad cook book that I recently acquired and have committed to working my way through (along the lines of the Julie & Julia film) to allow my wife a break from the demands of feeding a family of 5 with differing dietary demands on a daily basis. The sheer number of ingredients was mind-blowing to an essentially complete novice of a cook and not measuring all my spices out in advance meant adding them to the pan in quick succession (it seemed that way to me) became a challenge on it’s own! That said I was pretty chuffed with the end result and proud of my modest achievement

So last night was my second attempt at cooking for the hard working wife. Kids all out, music on and a nice glass of Rose to hand. Slightly better prepared this time round too – new blender for the masala paste (green chillies, root ginger & a pinch of salt) and most of the other 12 ingredients ready measured and placed by the hob – can’t believe that didn’t occur to me last time? This is a curry that apparently appeared on the very first menu at Prashad and is essentially a pea and cauliflower curry, as it’s name ‘say’s on the tin’. The thing about these menus and what elevates them from the mundane and boring veggie dish is they are laced with textures – spice and a little sweetness. This dish, for example has cumin seeds; brown mustard seeds; asafetida (or devils dung – don’t you just love the sound of it?); turmeric; coriander; salt and sugar(???) to accompany the pea, cauliflower, tomato and masala base. This time round I was able to add them to the pan more or less as Kaushy Patel had clearly explained, other than the peas, which I added somewhat prematurely and meant they were a little too soft on completion. That said the complexity  of the flavours meant that I don’t think it spoiled the finished dish too much…….

My thoughts….another success and just great flavours. Wonderful!!!

Tim & Kaushy

A couple of weekends back, the wife and I, ventured down one lazy Sunday morning to the rather grandly titled ‘World Curry Festival’ in Bradford. Before taking in any culinary delights, we plumped to re-watch Julie & Julia (Amy Adams & Meryl Streep) on the big screen of the Pictureville Cinema of the National Media Museum. ‘Moseying’ down to the festival after this full of inspirational cooking/blogging fare we were somewhat disappointed to find a sparsely attended festival with little more than a baker’s dozen or so curry stalls.

I made a bee-line straight to the Prashad stall next to the unbelievably busy Zouk affair, where the Gordon Ramsey favourite (2010 finalists) and a recent favourite of ours were offering Chaat (Streetfood) and a new book by its owner Kaushy Patel aptly titled Prashad (Indian Vegetarian Cooking). The Chaat was to die for, even allowing for the dairy omission of my portion (dietary necessity not insufficient ingredients). After sampling some of the offerings elsewhere we retired to the bar for a glass or two of the red stuff. Not able to get the Chaat out of my memory taste buds, I dodged the ‘cats and dogs’ stuff now in full flow, to sample another portion. Flicking through the book whilst I waited the short while for my non-diary variant I had a Julie & Julia epiphany of my own…..Maybe I should learn to cook. I love food, I really do and maybe the wonderful wife would like the occasional day off that doesn’t cost us a king’s ransom. Obviously not able to try to do something she can already do, really well….I would teach myself to cook……. Vegetarian Indian, working my way through this exciting and intriguing book….what could be simpler???

So last Thursday I began a mini J&J adventure of my own. Vagareli Makai (Speedy Spicy Sweetcorn) I plumped for. Speedy being the draw for me. Of course it was nothing of the sort. For a start it has 15 ingredients…that’s 15 for mere street food! One of the ingredients Asafetida (Devils Dung) I had never heard of and took some locating…for a 1/4 teaspoons worth in the dish! Prep, being a complete novice, took forever and it did strike me that a dish of essentially tinned sweetcorn and red-skinned peanuts had been made overly & unnecessarily complicated. Of course I was completely wrong. It is the quarter of this and the quarter of that, that makes and transforms the dish from the ordinary to the extraordinary…as you all will probably already know.

The masala was made from fresh green chillies, garlic and root ginger blended into a fine paste with a pinch of salt. Sweetcorn (the main ingredient) and devils dung were added to popped brown mustard seeds. Masala added to the mix and turmeric, then peanuts, salt, coriander and sesame seeds all pretty quickly (5 mins) and before I knew it, hey presto……