Cook-Along Friday

Baked salmon with a curry & naan crust, lentil biryani #cookalongfriday

Made a fortuitous discovery last night.  Thought the large slab of salmon in the fridge was smoked, it turned out to be fresh and ready for cooking.  That means we’re getting baked salmon with a curry and naan bread crust tonight, with a biryani of some kind to go with it.  That’s the up side.  The down side is that this is going to be almost entirely made up as I go along.  So here goes…

Taking inspiration from Jamie Oliver’s crusted cod recipe (30 Minute Meals p142), for the salmon we’ll need:-

  • 2 garlic and coriander naan bread
  • 1 onion
  • 5 cardamon pods
  • 1 tsp garlic and ginger paste
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander and garam masala

The eagle-eyed might notice a surprising similarity to the curry paste from last week’s recipe.  Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

  • 1 side of salmon (or half a side, depending on what happens to be in the fridge).

I suspect this would work with cod, ling, tusk, basically any firm fish.  Don’t know about monkfish, give it a shot and see how you get on.  How bad can it be?

  1. Put the grill on to medium-high heat.
  2. Put the salmon under the grill for 5 minutes whilst you…
  3. Put the onion, cardamon, garlic & ginger paste, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, cumin, coriander and garam masala into a blender and blitz to a paste.
  4. Crumb one or both of the naans depending on how much fish you’ve got to cover.
  5. Take the salmon out from under the grill, smear the paste all over the top covering fairly evenly.
  6. Cover the paste with the naan crumbs.
  7. Return the salmon to the oven on the middle shelf, turn up the heat, cook until the crust is golden and crisp (or for about 10 minutes).

Now this is where the timing gets interesting because the biryani is going to take a lot longer to do than the salmon.

  • 100g lentils
  • 225g Basmati rice
  • 2 large onions
  • 1tbsp garlic and ginger paste
  • 25g butter1tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 5 green cardamon pods
  • 1 bay leafsalt and pepper
  • 900ml water
  • 1tsp garam masala
  1. Soak the lentils, wash the rice.
  2. Finely chop the onions
  3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and fry the onions for a couple of minutes
  4. Add the garlic & ginger paste, cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, cardamon pods and bay leaf, fry for another 10 minutes or so on a low heat
  5. Drain the rice and lentils, add them to the pan and stir well, coating everything with the buttery oniony mixture.
  6. Add salt and pepper, then the water and bring to the boil.
  7. Stir once, lid on, heat down to lowest setting, leave it alone for 20 minutes.
  8. Start work on the salmon!
  9. Once the 20 minutes are up, remove the pan from the heat and the lid from the pan.  It can sit like this for another 10 minutes happily finishing everything off.

So this is more than a little experimental.  It’s taking elements of a few recipes and putting them together in a way that should (hopefully) work.  And if it doesn’t, well you could always scrape the crust off the salmon and buy in some bagels or chips to serve it with!  But hey, it’s Friday.  Live a little.  It’s the weekend tomorrow and the weather’s set to be good.

I’m not around next Friday, I’m down to Yorkshire to collect a table, amongst other things.  I’ll get my better half to let me know what she’s cooking and we’ll get that posted up here for your delectation and delight.

After the event.  Well, that went alright.  If I do this again, I’ll cook the onion for the salmon crust for 5-10 minutes, sweat it down and start it caramelising.  Either that or substitute for tomato.

The biryani worked very well as an accompaniment, though.  Delicious.

Cook-Along Friday

Fast Meat Curry (turkey/pork/chicken) 30mins end to end. #cookalongfriday

I’m a father of 5, so cooking has to be something that can either be safely ignored for a while without worrying about something burning, something that can involve 1 or more of the smalls, or something that takes hardly any time and can be done while the kids are distracted by the big, rectangular, babysitter in the lounge.  Today’s recipe is one of the latter.  It’s the fastest damn curry I know how to make, and the trick’s in the preparation.

This curry works well with any lean meat – your turkey, chicken or pork are the ones I’ve tried and they’re all lovely.

So, here goes.  The shopping list.  Check your cupboards first, there’s probably a lot on here that you’ve already got

Step 0 – The Shopping List

Curry Paste:

  • A dozen cardamon pods
  • 6cm ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 onion
  • 1tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander and garam masala

The rest:

  • 3tbs oil
  • 1kg meat (pork fillet/turkey breast, thigh or leg/chicken leg/thigh/breast, etc.)
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 125ml chicken stock
  • 125ml coconut milk

Step 1 – 10 minutes work whilst the kids are distracted.

Get the seeds from the cardamon pods, roughly chop the ginger, peel the garlic and onion.  Roughly chop the onion (I normally hack it into quarters).  Then get all the ingredients for the curry paste, whack them in the food processor/blender (oh, yes – “Dad?  Why is a word processor called a word processor?”  “Well, son, you know what a food processor does to food?”) and blitz it until it’s fairly smooth.  Put it into a pot, stick that pot in the fridge, go and play with the kids some more.  If you’re really keen, multiply up the recipe and freeze it in suitable portions for use later, though it’s almost faster to make from scratch than it is to defrost.

Step 2 – Later that day…

Finely slice the meat – 5mm (1/4″) strips so it cooks quickly and evenly.  Chop the tomatoes.Get a nice, wide-bottomed pan on the gas, add 3/4 of the oil and fry off your meat in batches.  You’re not trying to cook it completely here, just seal it and start off the job.  Once it’s browned, set it to one side.  Once you’ve cooked off the meat, put in the rest of the oil and the curry paste and fry for about 5 minutes on a medium-high heat.  It should smell superb.

Put in the stock, tomatoes, coconut milk, reduce the heat and simmer with a lid on for about 15 minutes.  If any oil floats up, skim it off.  That assumes you’re paying attention throughout the 15 minutes and haven’t just stuck the oven timer on in the hope that you’ll hear the beep over the kids.  Always worth getting a timer you can carry around and put somewhere that’s both nearby and out of the kids’ reach.Finally, remove the lid, add the meat you first thought of and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the meat is cooked.  Season to taste.  Serve.  Or switch off the heat, put the lid back on and leave it until you need to heat it back up.

Most of the naan/paratha/etc. breads work really well with this.  If you’re going for stuffed parathas, go for a vegetable filling as you don’t want the different meats fighting.  Poppadoms also work well and you can have a lot of fun showing kids how they cook either in the fryer or the microwave.  We tried prawn crackers in the microwave once.  Not an experiment I’ll be repeating!

And there you go.  There’s no heat in this recipe so it’s good for the whole family.  It’s extremely tasty, takes half an hour or so from end to end and that includes time to play and keep the kids amused.  Or time to check Twitter, Facebook and the new releases on Esdevium Games.  Up to you.

Enjoy this one, let me know how you got on and I’ll see you in seven for another cook-along Friday.

Cook-Along Friday

Pakoras – snack, meal all by themselves, lunchbox fodder.

It’s Friday again and, as I like to remind people from time to time, I don’t work Fridays.  However, it’s also the school holidays up here so I’ve got the full complement of 5 kids to look after.  When I told that to one of my colleagues yesterday he said he knew where he’d rather be and patted his desk.

Now.  My old schoolmate Mac asked what my recipe for pakoras was.  So here goes.

Pakoras are a great way of making leftover vegetables from other recipes go a long way.  You don’t need a lot of anything (apart from gram flour) and by changing the vegetables involved you can really change the flavour and texture of the finished product.  Chillies are, of course, optional.  If you’re going to miss them out, finely slice some chunks of bell pepper instead to keep some of the crunch and flavour whilst taking away the heat.


  • 2 onions.  Quarter the onions and then slice finely creating little arcs of onion.
  • 1 large potato.  Peel and cut into big chips and then slice them finely.  You want bits about the size of the last joint on your little finger.  If you don’t have a little finger, the ring finger will do.
  • 1 sweet potato.  Treat just like the large potato.  If you don’t have sweet potatoes, add another spud instead.
  • 1/2 aubergine.  Again, chop as the spuds.
  • 1 courgette.  Cut in half lengthways and then slice finely.
  • 1 bag of curly kale.  I’ve tried spinach and it’s just as good but the texture the curly kale brings to the dish is super.
  • Handful of chopped coriander.  About half of the big pack you get in Tescos.
  • Generous handful of dried fenugreek leaves.
  • 2 tbs coriander seeds, coarsely ground
  • 2 tbs cumin seeds, likewise.
  • 2 tsp salt.
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (when I’m cooking for the kids I substitute paprika here)
  • Chillies – to taste.
  • Red peppers if required.
  • A big bag of gram flour (at least 1kg)
  • Oil for deep frying.

Right.  When I do this, I’m cooking for both adults and kids, so I’ve got 2 big mixing bowls.  Half of each ingredient goes into each bowl right down to the chillies.  The chillies go into the adult bowl, the red peppers go into the kids bowl.  Not only does that give you the option to have full heat mix for the grownups, it also gives you a quick visual check to make sure you’re not about to feed fire to your youngest!  If you can see the red peppers, it’s kid-safe.  If you can’t, then don’t risk it!  Or try it first.

Mix everything together then start adding the gram flour.  You want to make sure everything’s coated sufficiently to bind it all together but not have so much it’s a big, stodgy, floury mess.  When you reckon you’ve got enough, add some water and mix again.  In essence you’re making a batter around the vegetables.  If it’s too sticky, add some more water.  If it’s too liquid, add some more flour.  You want a mixture you can pick up on a spoon and that will slide off again into the hot oil.

While you’re mixing, get the deep fat fryer going.  Take out the basket, it just gets in the way, and set the temperature up to 190C.

Once the fryer’s up to heat, take a tablespoon of the mixture, slide it into the oil.  Repeat until you’ve got half a dozen frying away in your pan.  Give it a couple of minutes (do some washing up in the meantime, this recipe always seems to generate a lot of mess) then turn them over.  Another couple of minutes and take one out.  Carefully (remember, the oil is going to be hot and so are the fresh pakoras) break it open and check it’s cooked right through.  If it is, great!  Take the lot out and put them on some kitchen paper in a basket to drain off the oil.  If it isn’t, pop it back in and give it another minute then check again (with a different one).  The finished article should be crispy, taste delicious and a nice, golden, brown.  Now’s your chance to add more salt, more chilli, change the mix a little before you fry off the rest.

Once you’ve got them all cooked, you can eat them there and then (I’ve usually not got a shortage of quality control officers to check that my work is up to spec) or put them into an air-tight box and save them for a few days.  Re-heating them is best done under the grill rather than in the microwave.  I put them into the kids lunch boxes for school and I’ve not had one returned yet.

Now you’ll need dips.  Lots and lots of dips.  Sambals of assorted types work well, chutneys, mint & yoghurt, sweet chilli sauce, the red lentil dhall from the week before last…  Your only limit is your imagination here.

So go!  Experiment!  See what it’s like with diced sprout (or not), mushrooms, plantain!  Raid the veg cupboard and see what you’ve got left!  The only really essential bits are the onion and the kale (or spinach).

And now I’m hungry.  I’ve got shopping to do.  It’s always a bad idea to shop hungry.