A GLOBALISED GUIDE TO THE BEST IN FOOD: COOKING IT, EATING IT AND ENJOYING IT!

Friday, February 8, 2013

RIP

And now, the time is come.

Just a procedural note, really, as The Fat Expat has been a dead blog for some considerable time now. The ongoing tide of comment spam has meant we've had to disable comments and there are no updates on hand.

This is an archive of some interesting and handy recipes, so for now it's not being deleted, so do feel free to browse around and find something you might like.

Cheers

The Fat Expats

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Sir and I are huge fans of Indian cuisine. I mean massive. We have toured entire cities in search of the ultimate curry (a dish which, as it turns out, originated in ancient Iraq).
We are also big fans of The Meridien Village in Dubai so it was always a disappointment to us that they didn’t have an Indian restaurant. I ‘asked the universe’ and the universe took about 6 years to answer. The result of my wishing and hoping (and not of course the result of commercial demand) is MAHEC. It is spelt in CAPITALS because MAHEC is actually an acronym for Modern Authentic Hindustani Evolved Cuisine which is more of a mouthful than a spoonful of vindaloo.
They claim to be a ‘fusion’ Indian restaurant. ‘Fusion’ is a word that repeats on me like this morning’s smoked mackerel. Historically Indian cuisine is of course a fusion of Middle Eastern, Turkish and Persian flavours but that is not what they are getting at here. They are trying to meld together east and west in a marriage that would have traditional Indian parents wailing in despair.
The d├ęcor is not what I was expecting at all. It sidesteps the usual reds, browns, golds and brocade in favour of simplicity and clean lines. So that covers the ‘Modern’. The staff are attentive and welcoming with plenty of bowing and scraping going on.
We are offered the wine list, which is exhaustive. The waiter points helpfully to their wine display cabinets which line two walls and have a little library-style slidey ladder to reach the top shelves – which I presume is where they keep their AED 41,500 1990 Chateau Margaux Premiere Cru. We resist the temptation to order this and settle instead for the more traditional accompaniment of Kingfisher Beer.
Moments later our chilled beers arrive together with a rather unexpected surprise. The waiter presents us with an elegant morsel each which he declares is the ‘amuse bouche’. This I do find rather amusing. It turns out to be a delectable, if regrettably small, chickpea pakora with a tiny dollop of mint sauce.
We are handed our menus and I have to admit that some of the familiar names throw up unexpected twists. The crispy soft shell crabs are served with green apple and the tandoori lamb sheesh kebab has rosemary in it. We decide to skip starters. Looking at the main courses perplexes us some more. I order the intriguing ‘creamy porcini with lamb masala’ which also promises an enoki salad. Sir, being less adventurous than me, orders the more traditional sounding ‘chicken tikka masala’. We also order the dal makhani – a firm favourite – and some saffron rice, raita and tandoori naan.
So far we have not been that daring with our choices, but I am interested to see how the porcini stands up to a round in the pan with lamb masala. I am not disappointed. Imagine if a Bollywood actor, all sultry and brooding, had a scandalous affair with a busty Italian supermodel and their resulting love-child was exotic and stunning. No one thinks the affair would work, but somehow it does. The flavours do things to each other in my mouth that flavours in love do. The earthy mushrooms temper the spice in the masala. The enoki is superfluous in my opinion.
The CTM is a slight disappointment as the heat is overpowering, leaving the other flavours struggling to emerge. The dal makhani is ‘Authentic’. It is creamy and unctuous and so that covers that. The usual suspects of rice, raita and naan do not disappoint. We move onto desserts. Here again the pairings are sinful.
The ‘chocolebi’ for example is a cardamom chocolate mousse with praline jalebis. Might this be the ‘Evolved’ section? We both decide on the ‘methi samosa’ a carrot halwa filled pastry with a sidekick of fig and ginger ice-cream. It was delicious. I particularly enjoyed the ice-cream. My only criticism would be that although crisp and not greasy I found the samosa pastry too heavy for the delicate gazar halwa.
The service was spot-on for the whole evening and the staff were attentive and anticipating. The atmosphere was unfussy and easy. The average cost for a starter is 40 to 50 dirhams with mains coming in at around the 100 mark, which I found a bit steep. Deserts are reasonable at around 30-40 dirhams.
I will be going back; if only to see if the wailing parents will win and the ‘Hindustani’ ingredients will find more traditional partners.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mashed Potatoes



Probably one of the most abused preparations in the history of modern food, mashed potatoes have been around a long time, and only recently has anyone given some thought to proper preparation. That is, to serve potatoes that are not gluey, stodgy or too lumpy. (some people like lumps, or "texture") With properly cooked potatoes, though, the lumps are not necessary for texture.

In my opinion, the following are essential for good mashed potatoes.
1.) Choice of potatoes: You want floury potatoes, not waxy. Waxy potatoes are more suited to potato salad. Some cooks like to combine the two types - not me.
2.) Cut the potatoes into 1 cm slices, peeled or unpeeled, your choice. I find that unpeeled taste better. Just cut off any blemishes.
3.) Put the potatoes into heavily salted water. (20 g/l)
4.) Bring the temperature up to between 80⁰ and 85⁰ C. Hold at that for 20 minutes. You need a thermometer and have to stay nearby for this, (unless you have a sous vide heater / circulator) but it is worth it.
5.) Bring to a rolling boil, turn down the heat and simmer until the potatoes are just cooked, and drain.
6.) Put through a ricer or use a potato masher after first removing the peels if you wish. Add butter (a certain famous French cook uses the same amount of butter as potatoes by weight. That is possibly too much for everyday potatoes, but should be tried at least once.) Depending on the amount of butter you used, you may want to add a little milk or cream until the spuds are the consistency you want.

The idea behind the steady temperature of max 85⁰ C for 20 minutes is to keep the cell walls as intact as possible. When the cell walls burst the released starch absorbs water and that is what causes the gummy texture so often found. Whatever you do, never put the potatoes in a food processor or other mechanical device. Just mash them by hand until you have the texture and consistency required. Adjust the seasoning, I prefer a grating of nutmeg, black pepper and salt. Try this method, you will get the best results ever.

I did not mention any of the potato varieties, but think probably the most used is your basic russet potato. There are thousands.
Thanks to potato man for the image.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Carrot and Coriander Soup



I found these bad boys down at the organic shop during a trip to (the packed and awful)  Dubai Mall yesterday and they just screamed carrot and coriander soup. Well, carrots don't scream and if they did it would probably be something along the lines of 'don't eat me' but you know what I mean. The flavour is out of this world and the consequent soup is made brilliant by the sheer 'pow' of organic ingredients.

So please don't try and make this with those little orange sticky things that Spinneys et al sell. Make this with unpeeled, organic carrots and oranges. You'll never look back.

Ingredients

  • 800g organic carrots
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 medium (200g or so) potato, chopped
  • 2 oranges, grated zest and juice
  • 1.2 litres good, light stock
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • A pinch of sugar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds

Wash the carrots with a stiff vegetable brush and chop 'em. Throw the chopped carrot in a pan along with the chopped onion, potato and olive oil. Sweat these over a medium heat for 10 minutes or so, giving the occasional stir. Add the pinch of sugar. Meanwhile toast the coriander seeds in a frying pan, you want them starting to brown and giving off that rich, slightly burned orangey coriander seed smell. Add the stock to the vegetables, remembering to congratulate yourself on using a light home-made vegetable stock or a mixture of 1/2 chicken stock and 1/2 water rather than being a lazy bum and spoiling everything by using that gross mixture of salt, msg and celery flavoids that commercial stock cubes are packed with.

Cook the vegetables for a further 10-15 minutes until they have softened, adding salt to taste at the end of cooking. Pitch in the orange juice, coriander seeds and the orange zest and stir these in, cooking for a further couple of minutes before removing from the heat and whizzing comprehensively using whatever whizzy solution you prefer.

Serve with crusty french bread, laced with cream or perhaps even a chopped coriander-leaf laced drizzle of olive oil. This soup is also stunning served cold with, may I suggest, a cheeky little quenelle of sour cream floating in it.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chicken and leek with a bit of this and a dash of that


This recipe originated in my kitchen circa the middle of last week.

It's obvious that chicken and leeks go together like soccer mums and SUVs so it didn't require much imagination to throw these two together with a few other likely suspects and come out with a very fine dish indeed.

* Contains pork, alcohol, butter and cream!


Ingredients

  • 6 skinned chicken breasts cut into bite-sized morsels
  • 1 large leek sliced into rings
  • 1/2 a medium red onion diced
  • 2 modest cloves of garlic
  • 6 button mushrooms
  • 2 tsp minced coriander
  • 2 heaped tsp grainy mustard
  • 1/2 a pack of smoked lardons
  • 1 (or slightly more) large glass of good white wine.
  • 1/2 a square pack of puck cream
  • salt and pepper to season

A few notes on ingredients. I like to slice my mushrooms very thinly as I prefer the taste to the texture, you might like them just quartered! I chop fresh coriander, then steep it in olive oil in storage boxes and keep it in the freezer - very convenient. I used a Californian Riesling - it's important to keep testing this during the cooking process...

Heat a little olive oil in a large wok-like pan and then throw in a knob of butter. Add the red onion then the leeks and soften. Add the chicken and season. Fry the chicken until it starts to brown then add lardons and reduce the heat.

Add the garlic just after this so that it doesn't burn and turn bitter. Add mushrooms, the corriander and mustard and mix around a bit, then the wine to heat through. Add the cream last thing and do a final stir-through and seasoning.

I served it with wholewheat spag which was lovely but I think it would be better with penne or twisty pasta as the bite sizes would match better.

Enjoy with the remains of the wine!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Curry Isn't Indian

Balu's Indian CuisineImage by DerekSteen via FlickrThat's going to cause a fuss, isn't it? As Gulf News points out today, curry isn't actually Indian - although GN seems to think some people think it's British, which is patent claptrap.

But the fact of the matter is that 'curry', as we know and recognise it, isn’t actually Indian. In fact, the earliest curry recipe in the world comes from Iraq. Sumerian tablets dating back to 1700BC make the first mention of a meat cooked in a spiced sauce and served with bread. The Romans, too, used spiced sauces – and actually liked to cook meat in two sauces – a cooking sauce and a serving sauce. They also used a disgusting mess of fermented Mackerel guts called liquamen, which we'd possibly recognise through a remote cousin, nam pla or fish sauce.

And then we have the fact that curry has travelled so far East and West. Alongside the marvellous explosion of tastes, textures and experiences to be had from the richly varied cuisines of India, we can trace the movement of curry from Southern India and Sri Lanka across to Asia, with Malay, Indonesian and Thai curries sharing a tendency towards coconut bases and mixing fish sauces and pastes as a flavouring. Japan has its curries, too.

The word ‘curry’ itself is widely acknowledged to have originated in Tamil, where the word ‘kari’ means a sauce or vegetable in sauce. While there are similar words in most Indian dialects, including ‘karahi’ and ‘kadhai’, a round bottomed, double-handled pan, the idea of cooking meat in rich, spiced sauces filtered through to Europe from the Middle East – and possibly into India from the Caucasus. The Romans brought back spices from their Middle Eastern adventures, including the spice they called ‘laser’ and which we know better as asafoetida or, in Hindi, ‘heeng’. Did it move East or West? We may never truly know...

The great movements of people, cultural influences and wealth that took place across Europe and the Middle East through the establishment of Muslim caliphate in Spain, the Crusades and the collapse of the Byzantine Eastern Empire also changes in the way people saw food. By the fourteenth century, the French and British were cooking with many of the ingredients that we associate with curries today. The use of ginger, galangal, nutmeg, cloves, coriander, cardamom and aniseed, as well as pepper, can be dated back to the dark ages. All of these ingredients were discovered in the Middle East, on their way from the rich spice groves of southern India and Indonesia. The popularity of these spices, and the race to acquire monopolies in the highly lucrative trade in them, shaped much colonial history – and saw the Dutch, Portugese, Spanish and British battling for control of the land and seas alike.

We can find early Medieval references in British recipes to ‘cury’, a sixteenth century Dutch reference to ‘Carriel’ and a seventeenth century Portugese spice powder called ‘caril’. Throughout our history, throughout the world, we’ve been enjoying curry – meat and spices cooked together with a sauce.

The curry world map
The cuisines of the Indian subcontinent are, as you’d expect from a country with such a huge area and diversity of regions, incredibly varied. From the vegetarian dishes of the mountainous regions of North Eastern India, Nepal and Baltistan and the Northwestern India areas bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan, we find richer dishes as we move to richer lands, with Mughlai and Kashmiri cuisines, the vegetarianism of Gujarati cuisine gives way to the richer Muslim influences of Delhi and Hyderabad. Mughlai cuisine, in particular, is important in that it shows the clear influence of centuries of Muslim domination in central India, the melding of the rich, fruit-based cookery of Persia with the spices and sauces of India. The resulting cuisine is seldom less than stunning, if at times – as befits the food of kings, rich beyond belief!

Moving south, we see Goan curries clearly showing the massive influence of Portugese colonisation, a mixture of influences that resulted in the famed ‘Vindaloo’ curry, based on a Portugese method of cooking with vinegar. It’s perhaps worth noting that ‘Vindalho’ curries in India are much milder than the fearsome concoction sold in British curry-houses.

Moving south to Kerala and Tamil Nadu, there is more use of coconut, mustard seeds and curry leaves to create curries that often can seem almost Thai in their nature. This influence stretches into Sri Lankan cuisine and across into Malay curries, which reflect a similar use of ingredients such as galangal, lemon grass and ginger in a base of coconut milk. From Thailand’s highly fragrant curries, now dominated by the mixture of the sea (thanks mainly to the ubiquitous nam pla, or fish sauce), kaffir lime, lemongrass and coconuts we can move across to Indonesian classics such as ‘rendang’ a dish of beef cooked in a reduced coconut sauce mix. While Chinese curries are based on the Malay/Singaporean flavours, the Japanese were actually introduced to curry, now a popular national dish, by the British!

We have, in Thailand, the deliciousness of the 'massaman' curry, closer to the dark richness of Indian curries than the light heat of other Thai curries - and for a reason, too - 'massaman' is from 'Mussulman' or Muslim, this curry is packed with culinary influences brought to the East out of India.

It doesn’t stop there, though. Curry has its adherents in South Africa, where immigrant populations of workers from India, principally Goa, brought their cuisine – resulting in unique mixtures such as ‘bunny chow’, a loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with steaming hot, spicy curry. And, of course, curry is a part of Khaleeji cookery, too, where the use of a ‘masala’, or spice mixture, finds the Khaleeji ‘Baharat’. The addition of ingredients such as ‘loomi’, dried lemons, to these milder masalas yields a taste that is uniquely of the Gulf – but that is, nevertheless, still ‘curry’ and therefore, strangely enough, would have been recognised in Medieval France and England!

Here. A Fat Expat Curry Flurry!

CHICKEN

Chicken Korma

Chicken Tikka

Chicken Dhansak

Chicken Kadhai

The 'British National Dish' Chicken Tikka Masala (Recipe One) and (Recipe Two)

Rajasthani Kebabs

Birmingham's own - Chicken Balti and Balti Paste

Thai Red Chicken Curry


MEAT

Lamb Matsaman Curry

Beef Madras

Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang Brochettes

Kakori Ke Kebab

VEGETABLES

Chaat

Katcha Channa

Vadouvan

Cucumber Curry Salad

Red Mung Dal

Tarka Dal

Pineapple Raita

Dry Potato Curry

Vegetable Biriani

Mung Dal With Green Chilies


CURIOS

A Collection of curries from Sri Lanka

A Chuckle of Chutnies with a Pile of Poppadums


And last, but by no means least, a British Army Mess Curry! :)

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Chicken Korma

This is arguably the classic dish of Mughlai cuisine; mild, rich and bursting with luxurious flavours – it’s the perfect curry to serve people who ‘don’t like curry’ or who are scared of the heat, because the yoghurt and almond take all the bite out of the spices and turn them into a pleasure rather than a pain.

Ingredients
  • 500g chicken breast, cut in 3 cm pieces
  • 4 tablespoons yoghurt, beaten
  • 2 medium sized onions, sliced finely lengthwise
  • 3cm piece ginger, finely grated
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 green cardamoms
  • 2 cloves
  • 4 peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • Pinch powdered nutmeg
  • 3 tbsp ghee
  • Pinch of saffron
  • Salt to taste
Melt the ghee in a pot and fry the onions till golden brown (Do not overfry, otherwise they would give the korma a bitter taste). Take them out and grind them. In the same pot put the cardamoms, cloves, peppercorns, bayleaf with the chicken pieces and fry all of them together till the ghee begins to appear on the surface and the chicken pieces start to look white. Now add the ground ginger and garlic and again fry for 3-4 minutes. Reduce the heat and add the beaten yoghurt. Keep it well stirred. After 5 minutes add the chilli powder, coriander powder, ground onions and salt. Add one and a half cups of water and let it cook till the meat becomes tender. When the gravy thickens add the garam masala powder and saffron and keep stirring till the ghee appears on the surface. Remove from the heat and serve with piping hot rotis or parathas.