Curry Goat

Peckham is now so trendy it’s no longer cool. I haven’t even lived there for four years, yet just the other day I got a letter from the clothing brand Anthropologie addressing me as M. Peckham. Even they still think I own the place. I will always love the area, (I’m just down the road in Camberwell now), but the edges are softened, the archways fluffed. I can smell beard oil. Nigerian restaurants such as Delta Tavern have been replaced by hip spots like Pedler, all pineapple prints and jam jar glasses. I will miss their gelatinous cow foot stew and cans of warm Stella.

What I’d hate to see is the closure of those little West African restaurants on Choumert Road, the ones where you can catch a breath-snatching fug of scotch bonnet peppers three hours before they open for lunch. I once tried to approach one of these restaurants for an article and they basically told me to Do One, which was funny and made me love them more. I adored what Peckham used to be, however much I was guilty of romanticising it.

Curry Goat

A lot of people used to ask me (and still do) where they should go for Caribbean food in Peckham and I would reply that I’m sorry, but it’s not really a thing. The Nigerian population is much larger than the Caribbean, or Tasty Jerk in Thornton Heath. People ask me mainly about jerk chicken, but not so much curry goat.

Mutton is a fine substitute, just as long as you ask for some bony pieces which are important for the flavour and also that general ‘I’m eating curry goat’ feeling. I use peppers with the onions at the beginning which cook down to a sweet base, and then I finish the dish with a quick pickled sauce of lime juice, sugar, more chilli and spring onion. I think this really lifts it. Rice and peas are brilliant but I often just go with plain basmati rice, a fluffy, bland cushion for the sauce to soak into.

Curry Goat

Serves 4-6

1 kg goat meat (or mutton), diced into large chunks (get the butcher to do it)
2 tablespoons mild curry powder
350ml veg stock
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small green pepper, finely chopped
1 small red pepper, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed or grated
1 x 3 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
8 allspice berries
Small sprig thyme
4 spring onions, green parts sliced
4 tablespoons vegetable or groundnut oil
1 scotch bonnet chilli, pierced

For the pickle

1 scotch bonnet chilli
1 spring onion
Juice 2 limes
2 level tablespoons sugar
Large pinch of salt

In a bowl, combine the meat and curry powder. Add the thyme, stripping the leaves off and then lobbing the stalks in too. Mix thoroughly and leave to marinate for at least two hours, preferably three or four.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan (with a lid). Cook the onions and peppers over a low heat for a few minutes, stirring, then add the goat mixture. Stir, turn the heat down very low, put the lid on and leave for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. The meat will make its own juice inside the pan.

Add the ginger, garlic, stock, allspice, scotch bonnet and spring onions. Simmer on very low heat for two hours with the lid on. Remove the lid and simmer for a further hour to reduce to sauce. Season to taste and serve with plain rice (or your choice of rice) and the pickle.

To make the pickle, just combine everything and leave it for an hour or so while the curry is cooking.

Healthy Prawn Curry

There’s only so much brisket, spaghetti, ribs and wings a woman can eat before she gets fat. I know it’s getting cold and all but I’m not so cool with the idea of an extra layer of blubber on top of the existing layers that I’ve spent the last few years nurturing to maturity. It’s impossible to stay thin in the food game, unless you’ve got great genes or you can find the time and energy to exercise 7 days a week.

When I start having a panic, I turn to trusty old recipes like this, which I’ve been cooking since I was a teenager. It’s adapted from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe (in her classic ‘Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery’ – donated by my mum) and it’s grown with me over the years as I’ve tinkered with the ingredients; every so often I turn to the tattered old notebook, to a familiar page covered in splodges, scribbles and crispy old bits of coriander that fall out like confetti.

I love the recipe because the flavours remain very fresh and distinct and it’s quite cardamom heavy; Madhur uses 6 pods and I chuck in one of the big black smoky variety too because I’m well rock’ n roll like that. I don’t even remove the cardamom pods at the end in fact, as I love the burst of flavour when you bite into one; all softened and bloated with sauce.

The final result is wonderfully fragrant, it’s fast and simple to make and you feel virtuous yet satisfied. Tick, tick and tick.

Fast and Healthy Prawn Curry

(adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery; serves 4)

1 large white onion
5 cloves garlic
1 inch cube ginger
2 red chillies
1 cinnamon stick
6 regular cardamom pods
1 large black cardamom pod
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
5 tablespoons natural yoghurt
1 tin chopped tomatoes
A pinch of sugar
450g large prawns (raw or cooked is up to you)
Vegetable or groundnut oil

Fresh coriander
1/4 teaspoon garam masala

Put the onion, garlic, ginger and chillies in a blender with 3 tablespoons of water and blend to a paste. Put the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry pan on a low heat and heat them, moving them around, until they start to smell fragrant. Tip them into a pestle and mortar or spice grinder and grind to a paste (you can use ready ground if you like but the results will not be as delicious).

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and add the cinnamon stick, bay leaves and cardamom pods. Stir for about 30 seconds and add the paste from the blender. Cook, stirring often for about 5 minutes, until the liquid has cooked off. Add the cumin and coriander and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or so. Add the chopped tomatoes. Stir and keep cooking until you have a reddish-brown paste. This takes a while – around 10-15 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and add the yoghurt, 1 tablespoon at a time until it is all incorporated. Add the turmeric, cayenne and sugar along with half a pint of water. Bring to the boil then simmer vigorously until thickened. Taste, then season with salt and pepper. Add the prawns – if you are using raw prawns, cook until they have turned completely pink. If using pre-cooked prawns, add them for a few minutes only, just to warm through.

Stir in the garam masala then serve, sprinkled with fresh coriander.

Kofta Curry

I ended up making this curry because I woke myself up the other night shouting “MEATBALLS!” I am just as fixated on food during slumber, it seems. As a child, I’d often wake up clawing at the air above my head, trying to grab whatever cake/sandwich/biscuit/ice cream treat had been accompanying me in my sleep. That’s a cruel moment when you wake up and realise Dream Dessert only existed in your greedy imagination, I can tell you.

Anyway, this is a very nice little lamb meatball, or kofta curry. I based the spicing on a Madhur Jaffrey Curry Bible recipe but added more meatballs, swapped in some fresh green chillies, omitted a few things I couldn’t care less for and garnished with crispy onions. To make the meatballs really light, I took the apparently inauthentic approach of adding bread soaked in water; this is a trick I use with all meatballs you see, because it makes them LIGHTER THAN AIR, put simply. You can happily shovel away a dozen without feeling like you’ve eaten a bag of protein pebbles for your dinner.

If you make this, do try to get hold of the fat, wrinkled, black cardamom pods; they add an unmatchable smoky undertone to the curry. We ate this wrapped in parathas with a Gujarati carrot salad, raita and a fresh mango chutney.

Lamb Kofta Curry

450g minced lamb
3 small slices crappy, ready-sliced white bread, crusts removed
1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 green chilli, finely chopped
A small handful coriander leaves, chopped

For the sauce

1 onion, finely chopped
A thumb of ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 green chillies, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon tomato puree
2 teaspoons ground coriander
Pinch turmeric
1 pint veg stock
1 cinammon stick
2 black cardamom pods
2 green cardamom pods
5 black peppercorns

Put the slices of bread into a small bowl and cover with a couple of tablespoons of water until soaked through. Squeeze out the moisture using your hands until you have a little wet ball of bread. In a large bowl, mix all the meatball ingredients together (including the bread), using your hands. Season with salt and pepper.

Wet your hands and fashion your meatballs; the size is up to you but I like mine fairly small and I got 38 from this mixture. Refrigerate the meatballs for an hour, or as long as you can. The longer they rest, the better they will taste.

Put the garlic, chillies, ginger and 3 tablespoons water in a blender and blend to a paste.

Heat a couple of tablespoons groundnut or other frying oil in a heavy-based pan. When hot, put in the onions. Fry them for about 5 minutes until they are starting to colour. Add the paste from the blender and fry briefly. Add the tomatoes and fry until they are starting to break down a bit and thicken the mixture. Add the tomato purée and cook out briefly. Add the coriander, turmeric and salt. Stir for 30 seconds then add the stock and bring to the boil.

Add the whole spices to the sauce, reduce the heat and gently add the meatballs. Cover and let simmer very gently for 40 minutes, turning the meatballs around every now and then.

Garnish with crispy onions (if you wish) and fresh coriander (essential).

Nargisi Kofta Curry

I can’t remember where I first heard about this curry but I knew immediately I must have it because the koftas are basically like lamby scotch eggs simmered in a curry sauce, which also has yoghurt in it.

The eggs are hard-boiled, wrapped with a mixture of minced lamb, puréed onion and garlic, fried and then simmered in a masala sauce.  The slightly sour, spiced yoghurt mixture is a perfect contrast against the rich protein bombs that are the koftas – boy, are they filling. We could only manage 1 each with all the other dishes and I wondered if quail’s eggs might be good instead of hen’s; a bit more bite size if a little more fiddly.

An amazing curry though; who doesn’t want egg wrapped in meat in spicy sauce? You don’t? Please leave.

Nargisi Kofta Curry

(a recipe was kindly sent to me by Maunika, but I couldn’t resist playing around with it).

For the koftas

4 eggs
250g minced lamb
1 medium onion, blended to a paste
1 fat clove garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper

Flour, for dusting the koftas prior to frying

For the masala

2 medium onions, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 green chilli, finely chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
3 medium tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
8 tablespoons natural yoghurt
Fresh coriander, to serve

Groundnut oil, for frying

Hard boil the eggs by putting them in a small saucepan, cover them with water, bring to the boil and then let bubble for about 6 minutes. Remove them from the water, put them in a bowl, cover them with cold water and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, mix the rest of the kofta ingredients together (not the flour) very well in a bowl. It is easiest to use your hands for mixing the meat. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, remove their shells. Divide the meat mixture into four then wrap each egg in the meat. An easy way of doing this is to spread the meat out in an oval shape on a piece of clingfilm, place the egg in the middle, then draw the clingfilm up around the sides of the egg. Make sure all the meat is sealed so there are no gaps where the egg is showing then roll each one in a little flour.

Heat a 1cm depth of groundnut oil in a heavy based pan then fry your koftas, turning them gently, until golden on all sides. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.

To make the sauce, soften the onions in a 3 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan until soft, about five minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for another couple of minutes, stirring. Add the tomato paste and spices, then mix well and fry until the oil starts to separate from the masala. Add 250ml water and allow to cook for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the yoghurt a tablespoon at a time. Add the koftas back to the pan, return to a low heat and cook gently for a few minutes, carefully turning the koftas over in the sauce to ensure they are heated through. Scatter with fresh chopped coriander and serve.

Beef Rendang

I actually made this a couple of weeks ago, when the weather had just started to really turn. What better way to stoke the internal fire than with a big bowl of rich rendang in the belly.

The recipe comes from William Leigh (which you can find on Dos Hermanos) and I will come out right now and say it: this is the best rendang I have ever made. So perfectly balanced; fragrant and rich. There is something very satisfying and heart warming about putting a load of ingredients in just one pot and a few hours later plating up a thing of great beauty, the smell of which has been intensifying with every teasing minute.

Aside from whizzing up the paste, that is essentially all you do until you get to the end stage when things get a little hairy. The final step of the recipe involves the splitting of the coconut milk and I’ll admit to feeling slightly alarmed when I returned to the pot to find this unholy mess.

Don’t panic though – this is normal. As the liquid cooks out of the milk the oil is left behind and the beef then fries in it, resulting in that all important flaky texture. You need to keep a careful eye on it at this stage, as once it begins to dry up, you are done. I would also recommend using a solid, heavy based pan (or a wok) and be prepared to give it a good soaking afterwards. One final bit of advice: the method section of the recipe on Dos Hermanos does not tell you when to use the can of water so I added it to the pot with the coconut milk as I couldn’t see any other logical time to do it.

I was rewarded for my patience with a deep, sweet, tongue titillating rendang;  fragrant with lime leaves, galangal and lemongrass, with a tropical note of coconut and a good heat from the 10 Thai chillies I added. William acknowledges that his final seasoning of fish sauce and lime juice is a break from tradition but I agree that it lifts the whole dish and gives a very welcome burst of freshness. The meat flaked apart at the merest prod with an eager fork. I urge you to try this recipe.

I served it with a  raita (tomato, cucumber, coriander, lemon juice and seasoned yoghurt) and an onion salad, which I serve with pretty much all curries. Just plunge finely sliced onions into a bowl of icy water and leave for an hour or so until they turn crisp then season and add dried mint; I keep a pot of dried mint for no other reason. We scooped up each greedy gob-full with warm chapattis then sat back and rubbed our bellies in an appropriately satisfied manner. If I could, I would have purred like a cat. I made the rendang again the very next day.

Beef Rendang (from Dos Hermanos)

FOR THE PASTE:
6-10 Thai Chillis depending on how hot you like it
1 inch ginger
1 inch galangal
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp brown sugar

1kg stewing beef ( cut in 2in cubes)

2 tins coconut milk
1 tins worth of water
Stalk lemongrass
Lime leaves
1 bay leaf
2tbs fish sauce
Juice of a lime

Whizz the paste ingredients with a little water to a smooth paste. Add to a large pan or wok with the lime leaves, bashed lemongrass stalk, bay leaf and coconut milk.

Add the beef to this and let it bubble slowly for an hour and a half. Turn the heat up and cook until all the coconut milk has almost gone. This will take a while, maybe 45 mins to 1 hour, and it will look strange while it’s doing it. Eventually it will start to colour and the oil will come out of the coconut milk completely.

The beef will fry in this oil and turn quite dark brown and rather flaky – then you’re done. Turn off the heat and stir though the fish sauce and lime juice.

Tinda Masala

The tinda masala is one of my favourite dishes at Tayyabs; certainly my favourite vegetarian dish and a no-brainer when it comes to ordering. The very first time I went there, I noticed it clinging on at the bottom of the menu and decided to try it as a sympathy order. When I put the first mouthful in my greedy gob however, there was no doubt that the dish was laughing in the face of my pity. I’ve only ever been served one disappointing tinda which, sadly, arrived after I’d been talking my mate’s ear off about it in the pub beforehand. It was watery, bland, lukewarm and all the worse for me bigging it up so much. Generally though those juicy little gourds are cooked on a fierce heat with a punchy, slightly sour sauce, the main ingredients of which Tayyabs insist are just garlic, ginger and chilli; I can’t blame them for not wanting to reveal their secrets.

I’ve seen fresh tinda around recently, but they always seem to look very tired. I cannot tell you the frustration this caused me until eventually, the canned ones stepped in to offer succour.  As soon as I opened that tin, I got a familiar waft of briny tinda – Tayyabs must use the canned version too.

I used this recipe from Mamta’s kitchen, although I omitted the potato and used mustard seeds where she suggests a choice between mustard and cumin. Overall I was pleased with the result: a perfect starting point for some experimentation, although I did think the tomato dominated and will reduce that considerably or just add some fresh at the end like Tayyabs do. A crispy onion garnish would also be most welcome. The tinda don’t really have much flavour of their own but are special for being so incredibly thirsty, soaking up the spiced juices which then burst into the mouth at the slightest pressure. Next time, I will tweak the spices and cook it faster at a higher heat, to avoid breaking up the tinda so much. Of course, I’ll need to make a trip to Tayyabs first for research purposes, just to make sure I get that spicing right. What a hardship.