Category Archives: Cookbook Challenge

Elvis Has Left the Kitchen – Part 2

Currying Favour

Now I’ve not been great at keeping up with this challenge of cooking something from my myriad of cookbooks every week. It’s been more of a once a fortnight thing but I’m trying my best.

Last week we decided to have a curry for dinner. I very rarely follow recipes for curry. I love it when I do, but on the whole I tend to fling lots of things I like in a pan and hope for the best. So far this method has worked, apart from once when I couldn’t eat the curry in question. I thought it was disgusting. Everyone else loved it. Maybe I was coming down with something… That aside, this curry was of the pan fling variety so I don’t really have a recipe to share.

Anyway, for me, the best bits of an Indian meal are the accompaniments. A naan bread the size of a duvet, spicy onions and bhajias are the stuff of dreams for me so I decided to have a bash at making my own this time. A delve into the book cupboard and I eventually found this…

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India’s 500 Best Recipes‘. (Shezad Husain, Rafi Fernandez, Mridula Baljekar & Manisha Kanani. Published by Hermes House). I’ve read this book like a novel but I’ve never cooked from it before so as well as, hopefully, providing me with some tasty treats for dinner, it would also be a great candidate for the Cookbook Challenge. There’s some really great recipes in here for starters, main courses, rice, bread, relishes, desserts and drinks. I really should cook from it more.

I was already doing some spicy onions and a mint raita to go with the ‘pan fling’ chicken curry and basmati rice and decided to try the naan bread and onion bhajias from the book. The bread had natural yogurt and a bit of vegetable oil in the mix and I found it made the dough feel quite tight and a bit more difficult to knead than standard bread dough. However, after about 10 minutes it was smooth and pliable like standard bread dough. As it’s a flatbread the dough only needed to be proved once. Flattening the dough out into the required shape wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped. Bobert had decided to get involved at this stage and between us we came up with a weird, flapping about, quasi pizza base making type manoeuvre that seemed to work. The oven was turned up to max and the grill was also on hot for finishing off. The breads are literally baked in the oven for minutes and then put under a hot grill to blister. We were like expectant parents standing at the oven gazing nervously through the door! Once they came out the grill I brushed the tops of the bread with melted butter with crushed garlic and chopped coriander in it. It smelled so good! If you have ghee, or can be bothered to go to the trouble of making clarified butter, that should probably be used instead. The shape of the bread wasn’t quite right but I was just glad it wasn’t the awful doughy consistency of supermarket naan. It also heated up really well the following day in a low oven.

Now, as with all bread, I’m really, really fussy about naan. I’d rather go hungry than eat the stuff you get in the supermarket and I was worried that my efforts were going to taste the same due to my lack of experience and a proper tandoor to cook it in. However, I’m delighted to say that for a first effort these were pretty good and were light inside with little crispy bits on the outside. I won’t be getting a job at my local curry house anytime soon but I could eat these and that was saying something!

The onion bhajias were essentially sliced onions mixed into a spicy batter and deep fried. I’m a bit nervy about deep frying, (I don’t have a deep fat fryer so everything gets done in a wok), but needs must. The recipe called for gram flour which I didn’t have so I used plain flour which worked just as well. After a couple of duffers which were too big, (they just got halved and bunged back in the wok), these turned out to be a success. Bobert had initially said he thought they should be spicier but once he was eating them with the curry and a very hot lime pickle he decided that, actually, they probably didn’t need anymore spice!

It would definitely have been easier to nip along to the local take-away and buy naan, etc., (which is what we normally do when we have a curry), but it was actually really nice knowing that every part of the meal, (apart from the lime pickle), was homemade and I was really chuffed with myself. I sent a picture of the meal to Nisha Katona, a food writer who describes herself as a curry evangelist, and I got the following response, “I can’t tell you how proud I am to have this photo grace my inbox. It looks amazing! Thanks so much for sending it.” Sorry, but I really had to share that comment. When someone who knows what they’re talking about complements you it’s a fabulous thing!

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I’m not saying I’ll make our breads and accompaniments every time we have a curry, but it’s definitely worth the effort now and again. If you’ve never made naan before give it a try. Because it only gets proved once and spends so little time in the oven it doesn’t involve the time commitment you’d expect. Now to decide what to cook next out this book…

Naan…a brief history.

The Naan originates from India but is today eaten in most types of South Asian restaurants and homes around the globe. It has transformed from a basic form of bread to experimental creations by chefs and food enthusiasts with different fillings and flavours.

The first recorded history of naan can be found in the notes of the Indo-Persian poet Amir Kushrau in 1300 AD. Naan was originally cooked at the Imperial Court in Delhi as naan-e-tunuk (light bread) and naan-e-tanuri(cooked in a tandoor oven). During the Mughal era in India from around 1526, naan accompanied by keema or kebab was a popular breakfast food of the royals.

In 1926, overlooking the hustle and bustle of Regent Street, Veeraswamy, Britain’s oldest Indian restaurant, first served naan on its menu.

Founded in 1984, Honeytop Speciality Foods became the first company in Europe to supply authentic naan bread on a commercial scale to major retailers and restaurants. They introduced the first 13 week shelf-life flatbread.

The word Naan is derived from the Persian word ‘non’ which refers to bread, and initially appeared in English Literature dating back to 1780 in a travelogue of William Tooke.

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Elvis Has Left the Kitchen – Part 1

Mississippi Barbecue Pork and Killer Onion Rings

This was to be the first attempt in my Cookbook Challenge where I aim to cook a dish from one of my many, many cookbooks every week.

I’m very much drawn to kitsch and unusual cookbooks, as well as the more mainstream ones, and the first book I chose certainly put the kitsch in kitchen! ‘Are You Hungry Tonight? Elvis’ Favourite Recipes’. (Compiled by Brenda Arlene Butler. Published by Gramercey Books), was bought purely for the name, but whilst I know there’s things I’ll never cook, (including Elvis and Pricilla’s 6-tier wedding cake that uses 28lbs of sugar in the sponge alone), there are actually some pretty decent recipes in here.

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I really wanted to make the famous fried peanut butter and ‘nanner sandwich, but as I was making this meal for a weekend treat I thought I’d better stretch myself a bit more.

The dish I ended up choosing was Mississippi Barbecue Pork. Elvis was apparently a meat and potatoes kind of guy who liked all his meat well done. Whenever he was dining, the chefs would be told to “burn the meat” to make sure Mr Presley got it just the way he liked.

I’m obsessed with pulled pork and looking at the ingredients and cooking time of this dish it looked fairly similar so I suspected I was on to a winner. However, I have to confess the thing that initially drew me to this recipe was its main ingredient. Pork butt. I’d never heard of this cut before and assumed it came from the rear of the animal but a quick call to Andrew Gordon (www.andrewgordonbutchery.com) was soon to put me right. Pork butt is, in fact, the upper part of the shoulder from the front leg. It’s sometimes known as Boston butt. The name originates from the time of the American Revolutionary War when some pork cuts, deemed less highly valued than loin or ham, were packed into cases or barrels known as ‘butts’ for storage or shipping. Now you know. Perhaps you already did. So anyway, the butt was ordered and I was good to go.

The rest of the ingredients were really store cupboard staples. A straightforward sauce was made which the pork would cook slowly in. This included tomato sauce, (I used a thick passata), brown sugar, cider vinegar, chilli and celery seeds. Really just a bog-standard BBQ mix.

The recipe said the pork, covered in the sauce, should be cooked in a Dutch oven on a simmer for 2 hours. I don’t own a Dutch oven. I had no idea what one was but a quick squizz on Google showed it essentially to be a big, black pot. It looked like the sort of thing the Beverly Hillbillies would cook beans in. I used my run-of-the-mill big soup pot. The smell when the pork was cooking was really good so I was hopeful that it would taste as good too.

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The book suggested, “planning a party like Elvis and his boys would have done in the good ol’ days and frying up some breaded onions.” Well who am I to argue with the King? My take on these breaded onions, (which looked like breaded whole shallots in the picture), were onion rings coated in an egg batter and then dipped in panko, the Japanese breadcrumbs, and then fried. If you’ve never used panko before I strongly recommend it. The crunch you get is amazing!

I also made a radish salad and homemade coleslaw as both things featured in the photo of the finished dish and I was trying to remain as faithful to the book as possible.

After 2 hours of slow cooking and regular basting the pork was ready. I left it to rest for about 15 minutes and then sliced it. To be honest I would have preferred to pull it but the book said to slice.

We sat down to enjoy this with cold beers but should really have been drinking Pepsi, believed to be Elvis’ favourite tipple. The pork was really tasty although it didn’t have as strong a BBQ flavour as I would have expected. There was loads of meat on the joint so I was already thinking about sandwich possibilities with the leftovers, (is there anything better than a sandwich made with leftovers? I think not.) I served the sauce the pork had been cooking in, in a jug on the side. The book didn’t state to do this but what a waste of sauce if you didn’t use it! The coleslaw was really good too but to be honest the stars of the show were the onion rings. They were amongst the best I’ve ever tasted. I don’t think I’ll be buying ready-made again.

All in all this was a really tasty meal but I think if I was making this again I would up the chilli content, add a couple more ingredients to the sauce and cook it really slowly in a low oven rather than on the hob and I would definitely pull the pork rather than slicing it.

I’d like to think the big man himself would have been pleased with the end result. All shook up, if you will.

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