2 x handfuls of fresh organic spinach leaves
8 x baby new organic potatoes halved
1 x onion peeled
2 x cloves garlic peeled
1 x tbs fresh ginger peeled
2 x medium tomatoes chopped
1 x lemongrass (pounded and chopped)
125 mls of cold water
0.5 x teaspoon sea salt
3 x tbs peanut or groundnut oil
1 x tbs fish sauce
1 x tsp mild curry powder
0.5 x tsp garam masala
0.5 x tsp cayenne pepper
0.5 x tsp paprika (ideally not smoked)
Place the potato halves in a bowl and sprinkle with the curry powder and garam masala and a tsp of oil, mix well.
Put the onions, garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper and paprika into a blender with a few tbs of water until completely smooth.
Heat the rest of the oil in a large pan on a medium heat. When hot pour in the blended paste and fry for about 5 minutes.
Add the potatoes and fry for a further 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, fish sauce and lemongrass and cook for another 2 minutes.
Add the water and bring to the boil.
Cover and reduce the heat to low and cook gently for about half an hour or until the potatoes are cooked through.
Add the spinach leaves and mix in well.
Cook for about 5 minutes uncovered ( or less if you like more crunch ).
Inspired by Madhur Jaffrey’s See-Pyan recipe
800g lamb shoulder, diced (yes it’s fatty but so tasty!)
500ml stock (veg/chicken)
250g green beans
2 x cloves garlic chopped finely
5 x small shallots (2 large ones) chopped finely
1.5 x tbs fresh ginger grated
1.5 x tbs fresh galangal grated (or use ginger)
2 x tbs of lemon grass (blended to a pulp with some water )
1 x tbs ground turmeric
1 x tbs brown sugar
1 x tbs tamarind paste
1 x tbs fish sauce
1 x tbs soy sauce
1 x chilli (or more if you like it hot) finely chopped
1 x half fresh lime per person for garnish
Ground nut oil
First make the paste
Blend the ginger, galangal, lemongrass to a paste ( add a little water if needed).
Heat some ground nut oil and seal the lamb cubes in a large (deep) pan then add the paste and continue to cook on a low heat for about five minutes.
Add the stock, soya sauce, brown sugar and turmeric, stir well and simmer very gently for about an hour (uncovered)
In the mean time, mix the garlic, shallots, tamarind paste and fish sauce in a bowl. Add this mixture to the pot after the first hour and cook for a further 30 min or until the lamb is nice and tender. Add the green beans about 10 minutes before your serve (or less, depending on your taste).
Serve with rice and a sprinkle of chilli and a wedge of fresh lime.
(Next – Spinach curry – Myanmar)
Our second stop on this food adventure is Myanmar or for the more old-fashioned, Burma.
A country known for its politics, rather than its cuisine, which we didn’t know very much about. It is bordered by several ‘food giants’ like India, Thailand and China but we discover that a whole new very interesting cuisine.
From what we have read in recipes and been told it is those three countries that have an influence on Burmese cuisine. It might be easiest to describe this style of food as a fusion of another three cuisines however, having tasted and cooked a wide array of Burmese dishes, our impression of Burmese food has really changed. It really feels like a unique style to us now, although we are all likely to have ‘met’ the spices used in other national dishes.
During a Myanmar meal, all the dishes are usually served simultaneously rather than course by course. Tables are usually small enough to ensure that all the food is within everyone’s reach and water or tea are usually drunk during a meal rather than alcohol.
At the Myanmar restaurant that was recommended to us, the menu was so diverse it was very hard to choose what we wanted to eat. Most items felt familiar but each had a twist or ingredient which we did not expect.
Our meal consisted of 1) a portion of mixed fritters. We had eaten fritters before but only as a dessert in Chinese restaurants.
These fritters were savory and combined coated bean sprouts and shrimps, spinach leaves and long marrows. What a pleasant but subtle start to a meal. We found the consistency very comforting and the accompanying spicy tamarind soya sauce, which left a little tingle on the tongue added more flavour and intrigue to the dish.
Alongside the fritters pictured above 2) a fresh raw papaya salad was served with crunchy onions and zesty lime. A very moreish dish. Our first thought, of course, was that the salad would be the same as a Thai papaya salad but nothing other than the papaya and lime was the same.
The Burmese version we tried crunched with raw red cabbage and red onion (rather than spring onion) with a hint of mint and lime.
Our host was very helpful and friendly. He was obviously very proud of his national cuisine and chatted away about food with an infectious passion, which only made it harder to decide.
He explained that whilst seafood was very tasty, it was more of a specialty in restaurants, which cooked dishes from coastal areas. We selected a staple rice dish (basmati but fried with shrimps and soy sauce) and two meat dishes more commonly seen in the big inland cities (unless it’s Buddhist lent). Interestingly as well as rice, noodles and soups were also described to be very traditional.
The dishes that followed (Lamb and Chicken) were very intensely coloured, like Indian curries can be, however, they smelt fresh and zesty with a distinct hint of lemongrass and fresh herbs.
3) Country Lamb:
5) Chicken in tomato sauce:
An eye-opening and wondrous experience all round.
We can’t wait to get cooking !
1 x fresh lime
1 x hard boiled egg per person (peeled)
Preheat oven to 160 C
Cover each piece of chicken with the melted butter, blended onion and the berbere spice blend. Bake in a dish (covered) for 1 hour 20 minutes. Bake uncovered for a further 15 minutes.
Serve with fresh lime pieces and hard boiled eggs.
This blend of spices captures the complex flavors of many Ethiopian dishes and can be used to flavour stews and roasts (meat and veg).
This recipe is easy to make and the spice blend can be stored for many months. The resulting flavour is earthy, spicy and very comforting…
You will need:
1 x tsp of black peppercorns
0.5 x tsp whole allspice
2 x tsp coriander seeds
1.5 x tsp fenugreek seeds
6 x cardamom pods (white)
4 x cloves
2 x tsp garlic granules
2 x tsp dried chili flakes
2 x tsp sea salt
2 x tsp sweet paprika
0.5 x tsp nutmeg
0.5 x tsp ground cinnamon
0.5 x tsp ground ginger
Mix the first 6 spices and toast them in a small pan on a low heat for about 5 minutes. Keep them moving to toast evenly.
Transfer the toasted spices to a blender together with all the remaining ingredients and grind them to a fine dust.
Ensure the mixture has cooled down completely before storing it .
Our London based journey around the world of food starts off in Ethiopia. What a great start. Armed with very little knowledge and experience of this cusine, we headed to North London to a small restaurant that an Ethiopian friend of ours recommended.
Ethiopian food is perfect for sharing with close friends and a typical meal, we were told, only ends when the tablecloth too has been eaten?! We were also told that during a traditional ritual called Gursha (act of friendship) diners may feed each other as a symbol of friendship or loyalty.
The picture we’ve posted Injera should give you an idea of what our friend meant by this. This tablecloth, or rather, a very large spongy type of flatbread, arrived at our table followed by a number of meat and veggie dishes containing very thick stews. The contents of each dish is proudly poured out onto the Injera and piled high infront of us to form an appetizing picture of colourful mounds of spicy and spicier aromatic food just waiting to be eaten. Which we certainly did, tablecloth and all.
Spices + other Words
Sena Fitch Mustard seed
Seneg Kariya Green Jalapeno
Awaze Super Hot Paste
Mitmita Chili + Cardamom blend
Berbere Seasoning – Spices and Garlic – sun dried – dark red colour
Wots Thick Spicy Stew
Kifto Beef Mince – rare or raw
Important to be aware that, with no cutlery in sight, each mouthful may need some planning and strategy. Rest assured that we very quickly got the hang of this. The process turned into a ritual which felt quite relaxing and gave our meal a dimension of intimacy that we enjoyed very much (despite the decision not to feed each other). An exciting and satisfying experience from start to finish.
Did you know?
There is no such thing as dessert in Ethiopian cuisine. Traditionally Lab (cross between yoghurt and cottage cheese) is served after a meal and of course ….
……coffee, but not just any coffee (black and very sweet).
Coffee is part of Ethiopian culture in a big way. An invitation to an Ethiopian coffee ceremony is apparently a sign of respect “you are my friend” to which I would add “and hope you are not in a hurry” because done traditionally, this is known to take a few hours.
We might not recommend first timers like us to suggest this cuisine for a business meal or a first time encounter with the in-laws..unless of course they are full of the adventurous spirit or just spirits 🙂
Restaurant details available on request, of course.