Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Curry Secret

The Curry Secret by Kris Dhillon was first published in 1989 and set out to provide a method for home cooks to produce Indian Restaurant style food from the comfort of their own homes.  In its introduction, Kris explains how restaurant cooking has a distinct flavour often very different to that with a more home-cooked taste.  Now this in itself may be a little disappointing but I totally understand the notion in trying to re-create your favourite dish.

In her book, Kris reveals the "tricks of the trade" and secret recipes that are claimed to be the techniques often used by restaurants.  I am not about to reveal all these secrets but I will elude to the main points and tell you why I love this book so much.

"Kris Dhillon writes with the authority of an accomplished Indian restaurateur, with many years' experience and thousands of satisfied customers.   Most chefs guard closely the secret of their basic curry sauce, but here Kris Dhillon reveals all, and offers you the opportunity to reproduce chicken, lamb, fish and vegetable curries with that elusive taste."

The book provides a recipe for a curry sauce which is to become the main ingredient for most of the dishes listed (in varying amounts).  The curry sauce takes a few hours to prepare but the quantities shown make enough for about 12 main courses - and I have found it to be greater still.  This sauce can be frozen or chilled and re-used so when you come to make the final dish the process is quick and simple.

The curry sauce cannot really be used on its own as it has very few spices but instead creates the consistency and background flavour needed with the use of tomatoes, garlic, ginger and onions.  Another reason I love this book is that the spices used are mainly dried spices that are cheap to buy and can sit in your cupboard for a long time if you are an occasional cook.  Of the dishes I have tried the main spices needed are as follows:

Garam Masala
Chilli Powder
Fenugreek Leaves
Bay Leaves
Salt & Pepper

There are a few other ingredients used within the book but you will be able to tackle most of the dishes with these simple store cupboard ingredients.

Some of the dishes we have tried with success are:

Chicken Tikka Massala

Chana Aloo (Chickpeas and Potatoes)

A simple Pilau Rice (with cloves and cinnamon)

Saag Meat (Gosht) - lamb and spinach

A mix of some of the above

We have also enjoyed the Tarka Dal (needs Ghee but easily available these days) and Chicken Dhansak which uses some of the pre-prepared Tarka Dal (lentils), pre-cooked chicken, various spices as above and the incredible curry sauce.

I bought this book for Fran for Christmas but as you can tell, I think I have had the most use out of it so far.  Although, Fran has also enjoyed the tasting (she tells me).  This is a great book to use for dinner parties as you can easily make several very different tasting dishes and have much of it pre-prepared so you can spend more time with your guests.  there are even quick recipes for deserts at the back of the book like Indian Ice Cream and Yogurt flavoured with Garlic and Cumin. 

Why not get the book yourself and discover the secrets - you will love the dishes and will go back to it time and time again I am sure.

Friday, 6 May 2011

The Lamb Inn, Chinley

For those of you who regularly read our little blog, then apologies that we haven't wrote in a while.  We have very busy of late trying to buy a new house for one thing and not really felt like doing much cooking.  We, have on the other hand, eaten out quite a few times and been very impressed by some that we will be writing about over the next week or two.

As well as revisiting some of our favourite haunts we have also tried some new places, mainly out in the country due to the nice weather and our need to be up a hill somewhere.  We enjoy walking in the Peak District and often drive over from Tameside (where we live) over to Edale and the surrounding villages to get our fix.  On the road to Edale (Hayfield Road) just past Hayfield you drop into Chinley.  Many times we notice the sign that says "you have just passed the Lamb Inn" and eventually we thought why not try the place out.

The Lamb Inn is set in magnificent scenery which already ticks a box in the Country Pub checklist for us and having read a few great reviews we were very excited about seeing what they had to offer.  So last week after I had come off a night shift and was struggling to sleep in the heat I thought - pub lunch is what we need and headed off to the Lamb Inn.

The pub itself is set back slightly from the main road but a stroll to the end of the car park reveals this view.

If you wanted to incorporate a visit to this pub in a walk it may help to know that we also passed it on a walk from Hayfield that takes in Chinley Churn which the picture above almost shows. 

The pub was wonderfully friendly, we received quick service and although a busy place, there were many little cubby holes making the place feel personal and private.  We got a table for two and browsed the fairly extensive menu.

For starters Fran chose the Cream of mushroom soup and I had Chicken Liver and Brandy Pate.  I had hoped for potted crab but I believe several people before me had the same idea as they had ran out.  Not to worry though as the pate was fine.  A little under-seasoned for my own personal taste but was very fresh never the less.  The onion marmalade was fantastically homemade which was refreshing as, although I quite like pre-bought jars (which you would normally get with a pate dish) this had an extra special feel to it.  Fran assures me the soup was delicious.  There was not too much in the way of gluten-free options as we could tell, but to be fair we didn't enquire specifically so who knows what the chef could have produced?

Chicken Liver and Brandy Pate

Cream of Mushroom Soup
For main course Fran ordered the Lamb Henry.  Fran is a big sauce fan and the minted gravy she tells me was fantastic.  Lovely creamy mash and crisp fresh seasonal vegetables.  The vegetables were a bit of a feature throughout the meal as they were so well cooked and the sugar snap peas beautifully crisp.  For my main course I ordered the Ham Hock with Rich Shallot and Tarragon Sauce.

Lamb Henry

Ham Hock with Rich Shallot and Tarragon Sauce

I have to say that the Ham Hock was the best tasting piece of ham I have ever tasted.  The meat just fell away from the bone (see aside) and the sauce was rich and beautifully seasoned.  Again the crisp vegetables were a perfect accompaniment.  I cannot really praise this dish enough, it was fantastic and well worth visiting the Lamb Inn just to try it.  I called the pub to find out which butcher supplies them and was told it was Andrew Armstrong of Bakewell. 

I believe all their food is sourced locally and they make special mention on the menu as to their suppliers.  Unfortunately I did not make a note of the others.

Our opinion of the Lamb Inn is that it is far superior to a standard pub for food.  This is a wonderfully homely pub far away from the hustle and bustle.  The interior is historic and charming with small cubby holes to create a very personal atmosphere.  The service was great and I wouldn't hesitate recommending it to anyone.  It is set in the most glorious of surroundings in the Peak District and the food is fantastic and also locally sourced.  The meal came to around £35 (no drinks) which, although not cheap, is certainly worth the money.