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|Subject: Magic in the making by Madhur Jaffrey Tue Mar 22, 2011 7:10 pm|| |
- Clockwise from top right: Spicy prawn stir-fry (Bhuni jhinga), Salmon in a Bengali mustard sauce and Pan-grilled courgettes.
- Image Credit: Supplied
It has been five years since I ventured into the kitchen. But with a long day job in the emirates and the consequent increase of the waistline, I had to find ways to eat healthy from my own kitchen. This was probably the best reason to have picked up Madhur Jaffrey's books after seeing her entertaining cooking demonstration recently at the Literary Festival.
Jaffrey's cookbooks are amazingly uplifting for people like me, caught up in a big city and its timelessness. She is undoubtedly the queen of simplified Indian cooking.
I got her latest Easy Curry and her all-time hit Curry Bible — to my delight, both signed by the author.
The author is very Indian, though settled in the US, and amusingly contemporary in all ways that one can define cooking. She defies the traditional laborious dos and shares quick and simple ways to get around things while managing to preserve as much goodness and taste. Did you know that you could simply grate a tomato to get the healthiest puree? This is better than the canned alternative, I learnt at her demo. She mentions such quick tips in all recipes — in both the books. As for ingredients, she uses broccoli, olive oil, cayenne pepper and such ingredients that are not strictly Indian.
She is a champion of quirky tales from across the world in her Curry Bible, that has the "curry trail" jotted from her travels around the globe. The book is a keepsake. Easy Curry is much evolved and, just as the name suggests, has only easy curries. This is my favourite, as I am reassured that nothing will go wrong — because I remember Jaffrey's words from the demo session: "You don't have to follow any rules. Just let your palate decide."
I tried Kadai Broccoli [under ten-minutes cooking] — and it was fantastic. Can you believe broccoli in traditional Indian dishes? Jaffrey's enthusiasm is contagious and her tips are what you would probably not get from your busy and faraway family members.
Indian women are presumed to be born cooks in many parts of the world, but there is little truth in that — unless it is Jaffrey's cook books she is referring to. Jaffrey writes for the contemporary cook — man or woman — who relishes home-made food — mostly Indian.
Now, try three of Jaffrey’s 'Curry Easy' recipes
Salmon in a Bengali mustard sauce
Eat this with plain rice and make the sauce as hot as you like. In Bengal the mustard seeds are ground at home but to make matters simpler I have used store-bought mustard powder. Halibut may be used instead of salmon. This traditional dish is best served with Plain Basmati Rice and My Everyday Moong Dal plus a green vegetable.
- 340g salmon fillet, skinless
- Turmeric, ground Cayenne pepper
- 1 tbs mustard powder
- 2 tbs mustard oil or Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp mustard seeds, brown
- 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 green chillies (bird’s eye are best), partially slit
Cut the fish into pieces about 2.5x5cm/1x2 inches and rub them evenly with a quarter teaspoon of salt, a quarter teaspoon of ground turmeric and a quarter teaspoon cayenne pepper. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to eight hours.
Put the mustard powder in a small bowl with cayenne pepper, turmeric and a quarter teaspoon of salt. Add a tablespoon of water and mix to a paste. Add another seven tablespoons of water and mix. Set aside.
Put the oil in a medium frying pan and set over a medium–high heat. When hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop, a matter of seconds, add the cumin and fennel seeds.
Stir once and quickly pour in the mustard paste. Add the chillies, stir and bring to a gentle simmer.
Place the fish pieces in the sauce in a single layer. Simmer gently for about five minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through, turning the fish over once and spooning the sauce over it all the time.
Spicy prawn stir-fry (Bhuni jhinga)
Here is a quick way to stir-fry prawns so they are encrusted with spices. They are hot, sour and delicious. The dish may be served as a first course, as a light lunch with a salad or as part of a larger Indian meal.
- 450g medium-sized prawns, peeled and deveined or 340g medium-sized headless prawns, peeled and deveined
- 1/4 tsp turmeric, ground
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 1 tsp coriander, ground
- 1/2 tsp cumin, ground
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tbs olive, rapeseed or peanut oil
- 1/4 tsp mustard seeds, brown or yellow
- 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 clove garlic, large, peeled and chopped
- 1-1/2 tsp lemon juice
Wash the prawns well. Leave in a sieve for a while, then pat dry and put in a bowl. Add the turmeric, cayenne pepper, coriander, cumin and salt. Mix well.
Put the oil in a frying pan and set over a medium–high heat. When hot, put in the mustard and cumin seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, a matter of seconds, add the garlic and stir once or twice. Quickly add the prawns and stir once or twice. Turn the heat down immediately to medium–low and let the prawns cook gently, stirring as they do so, until they are just cooked through, for two or three minutes.
Add the lemon juice and toss to mix. Serve immediately.
I have not measured out the spices in this recipe as all you do is sprinkle them over the top. A little more or a little less makes hardly any difference. Serve these courgettes with curries or grilled or roasted meats.
- 4 courgettes (about 450g in total)
- 4 tbs olive or rapeseed oil
- Lemon juice
- Black pepper, freshly ground
- Cumin seeds, roasted and ground (see below)
- Cayenne pepper
For the roasted ground cumin seeds
Put a few tablespoons of seeds in a small cast-iron frying pan over a mediumhigh heat. Stir and roast until the seeds are just a shade darker and give off a strong roasted aroma. Remove from the pan and allow to cool a bit, then grind in a clean coffee-grinder or crush in a mortar. Save what you do not use in a tightly lidded jar. It can be stored for months.
Cut the courgettes in half lengthways. Pour the oil into a large frying pan and set over a medium-high heat. When hot, put in the courgettes, skin side down, in a single layer. (Do in batches if necessary.) When the skin is a reddish brown, turn the pieces over. Brown the cut side in the same way. Arrange in a single layer on a platter, cut side up. Squeeze some lemon juice over the top, then sprinkle with salt, lots of black pepper, some cumin and cayenne pepper. Serve immediately.