Crab and Fennel Curry

I know what you’re thinking; Fennel and crab aren’t the most traditional curry ingredients and you’re unlikely to get this down you’re local Lal Akash on Leatherhead High Street. But using fish and seafood in curries is very common in Southern India, crab curries being a particular speciality of Chettinad in Tamil Nadu.

As with most of my recipes, Ive pinched, borrowed and simplified. This is originally a Jamie Oliver (surprise, surprise) recipe, but the recipe didn’t contain any vegetables other than chillies, garlic, ginger and sliced onion. For this reason I decided to add some sliced fennel, as i thought the sweetness and slight anise flavour of the fennel would compliment both the spices and the crab. It worked perfectly, resulting in a delicious curry.
Its also ridiculously easy to make, with there being no complicated pastes to make before hand, simply finely sliced veg and whole spices. Perfect for throwing together on a Friday night after work if you’re not going out. The crab meat gives it the indulgence of a weekend dinner, but the preparation is that of a weeknight supper. Perfect!

For 4 you’ll need:
15g butter
1 tbsp oil
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 heaped tsp black mustard seeds or Mustard Seeds
8 green cardamom pods, crushed and outer husk discarded
2 tsp cumin seeds
thumb sized piece of ginger, cut into matchsticks
3 garlic clove, finely sliced
1 white onion, finely sliced
2/3 fresh red chilli, finely sliced
2 heaped tsp turmeric
3 med-small bulbs fennel, finely sliced
100g brown meat
1 x 400g tin of coconut milk
250g white crab meat
Small bunch of coriander
Juice 1-2 lemons
300g Basmati Rice

Firsts things first, get your rice on My method of cooking rice is simple, and it takes 20 minutes for perfect rice every time. Put your weighed rice into a saucepan, with double the amount of water. So 300g of rice and 600g of water. Bring this to the boil as rapidly as possible and boil for 1 minute. Now move to the smallest hob and turn it down to very low, place a tight-fitting lid on the rice and simmer for 9 minutes. After 9 minutes, turn off the hob and leave to steam for 10 minutes. Don’t remove the lid to check! You’ll have perfect rice at the end.

For the curry: heat your oil and butter in a frying pan on a medium heat and add all of the spices to fry for several minutes. When the mustard seeds begin to pop and crackle add your sliced onion, garlic, chilli and fennel and a pinch of salt.
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Sweat these vegetables for 5 minutes or so, before adding the turmeric, brown crabmeat, coconut milk and a 1/2 a tin of water. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add your white crabmeat and simmer for a further 2 minutes.
Add the coriander, reserving some to sprinkle on top, lemon juice and season. You may have to add a splash more water just to get it to the consistency of your liking.

Plate up!

Chicken and Leek pie with Braised Lettuce and Five-Spice Roast Carrots.

The days are short and the weathers cold. Thats pie weather for me. This originally was a chicken and mushroom pie, but due to my sisters aversion to ‘shrooms, we had to change the recipe for her. The original recipe for the pie and lettuce are from Jamie’s 30 minute meals, so its quick and delicious. I do feel it is important however, to make the chicken and leek filling ahead of time. Jamie would have you bang puff pastry straight on top of hot pie mix, which would make the pastry soggy before its even had a chance to get golden and crisp. So I make the filling a few hours ahead of time so that it can cool down. Even if you can just give it half an hour that will make your pie better. For this dish you’ll need an oven-proof baking dish.
Its not strictly seasonal I know, what with leeks, lettuce and peas being spring vegetables. Leeks are one of the first vegetables to push up through the thawing winter soil.
So this recipe sort of goes against everything I believe in, but its also just bloody delicious, so my heart says no but my stomach says yes. Bit like every time I have a MacDonalds. Oh the shame.

To feed 4 you’ll need:
The Pie
4 chicken breasts, cut into 1cm strips
4 leeks, sliced
1 bunch of spring onions, finely sliced (Set aside 3 for the braised lettuce)
1 tbsp Oil
20g Unsalted Butter
1 tbsp plain flour
2 tsp English mustard
1 tbsp creme fraiche
300ml chicken stock
a few prigs of thyme
1/2 a nutmeg
250g puff pastry
1 egg

Braised Lettuce
20g Unsalted Butter
1 tbsp Oil
1 heaped tsp plain flour
2 little gem lettuce, shredded
400g frozen peas
3 spring onions, finely sliced
200ml Chicken Stock
juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon

Carrots
500g Chantenay Carrots
1 tbsp Chinese Five Spice
1 tbsp Runny Honey

Start of by frying your portioned and seasoned chicken pieces in olive oil over a medium-high heat in a casserole dish or large saucepan. You want to get a little bit of colour on these, as this is going to add depth of flavour to your sauce. Once your chicken is nice and browned, remove it to a plate using a slotted spoon.
Now add the butter and get it foaming. Add your sliced spring onions and leeks and a pinch of salt and leave to sweat for 5 minutes.
Now add the flour and stir well before adding the mustard, creme fraiche, chicken stock and chicken back to the pan, along with its resting juices from the plate. Thats all good flavour. Finely grate in the nutmeg and also add a few sprigs of thyme. Turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes.
Season.
At this point you need to get the seasoning and consistency of your pie filling right, as once the pastry goes on, its final! If you like a bit more sauce, thin it out a little bit, and make sure the seasoning is on point.
Put to one side and leave to cool.

Chicken and Leek filling

Once your pie filling is cool (or you’re so hungry you cant wait any longer) take your pastry out of the fridge and onto a lightly floured surface and turn your oven to 220ÂșC.
You’ll either need to roll out your pastry until its 3-5mm thick or simply unroll the pre-rolled sheet. Cut to a similar size of your baking dish, and score lightly with the back of your knife. Dont use the blade as you’re likely to cut all the way through. I like to make a nice diamond pattern.
Put onto your pie filling, I like to tuck the pastry down the sides of my pie mix, as opposed to having a tight, flat lid. Make a small inch sized cut in the top of your pie so that steam can escape. Glaze with a little beaten egg and place in the fridge for 10 minutes to ensure your pastry is cold when going into the oven, which will ensure the best rise, colour and texture.

Now place your carrots in a bowl and season liberally with salt and pepper, a drizzle of oil and the Chinese five spice. Toss and coat well, and place in a roasting tray and bang it in the oven. They’ll take about 30 mins, and 2 mins before taking them out, drizzle with the honey and give them a few extra minutes before serving them up.

Now whack your pie in the oven, it’ll need around 15-20 minutes to get a lovely golden and crispy top. It may need turning half way through cooking to ensure that it has an even colour.

Now get cracking with your lettuce! Heat the butter and oil in a saucepan over a medium heat before adding your finely sliced spring onions and a pinch of salt. Sweat for 2-3 minutes before tossing in the flour. Stir really well. Add your shredded lettuce, frozen peas and stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Just before serving season with lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Done!

I like to get everything on the table and let everyone dig in. Make sure everyone gets an equal sized piece of pastry though, as in my house that’ll cause a fight! Enjoy.

Italian Cannelini Bean Stew

Beef Cheek and Ox tail stew

Some of the most satisfying meals are those which use leftovers. There is something hugely satisfying in creating something delicious that others might simply bin. Waste not, want not in my house!

I was given a container of ox-tail and beef cheek ragu from a chef at work, as she’s made a huge lasagne with it and had a bit left. The meat was tender and falling apart and coated in a little of the stock that it was cooked in. This recipe could easily be made with leftover roast chicken, beef or lamb. All would be delicious.
I didnt know instantly how I was going to use it, but I knew it had to be filling, warming and to be eaten with big pieces of torn off bread.
In the end I settled on a veg-packed stew with some cannelini beans thrown in as a delicious bulker. Im definitely going to make this again, with or without the added leftover beef, it still would have been delicious. The meat just notched it up from a 9 to a 10!

To feed 4 you’ll need:
1 Carrot, diced
1 Med white Onion, sliced
3 Sticks celery, sliced
2 Medium White Turnips, diced
25g Butter
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Small bunch of thyme
1 tbsp tomato puree
6 stems of cavolo nero, centre removed and cut into long thin pieces
A glass of white wine
300ml Chicken Stock
200g left over meat (Optional)
1 x 400g tin of cannelini beans, drained
Parmesan
Bread

Gremolata:
Zest 1 lemon
A small clove of garlic, grated
Bunch of parsley, finely chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Start by prepping all of your veg ready to sweat, whilst your butter and oil melt, fizz and foam together over a medium heat. Once prepped throw in your carrot, onion, celery and turnip, a nice generous pinch of salt, the thyme, stripped off its woody stalk and place a lid on the whole lot. You’re looking to sweat these veg, so you don’t want any colour at all.
Adding a pinch of salt is really important here. It firstly starts the seasoning of your dish early, so that you’re now building into a delicious dinner. The salt also helps to draw the moisture out of the veg, so that it sweats and doesnt colour.

After 5-10 minutes of nice slow sweating, crank the heat up to full and add the tomato puree. Stir it constantly for 2 minutes before adding the glass of white wine. You want to rattle this for a good few minutes until it reduces by more than half. You need to burn off the alcohol and deepen the wines flavour, otherwise it will rain sharp and so will your stew!

Now add the rest of your stew ingredients: cavolo nero, chicken stock, cannelini beans and if you’ve got it, leftover meat. You may need to add a little water or hold back a little of the stock here, depending on how you like your stew. I like mine with a touch more ‘thin’ than most, so I add a touch of extra water at the end.

Leave this to blip away for 20 minutes or so until all the flavours have softened, deepened and amalgamated, whilst you crack on with your gremolata.
This really couldn’t be easier. Zest 1 lemon. Grate a small clove of garlic on a microplane, and finely chop a nice bunch of parsley. Place in a bowl and drizzle in oil until you have a ‘pesto-like’ consistency. There’s really no right or wrong consistency here. Taste, season, and set aside.

By now everything your stew should be soft and delicious. Serve up in nice big bowls, grated with parmesan, dotted with gremolata and a nice hunk of bread on the side.

Perfect.