Chicken Biryani

028aBiryani, the storied Indian dish of fragrant layered rice, spices, and (usually) meat, if made well, is one of my favorite things. A good biryani is richly aromatic; indeed, a magnificently flowery aroma is an essential part of the dish. Biryanis are made throughout India, and preparation differs depending on the region. Some biryanis are made with coconut, some with ghee, yogurt, or buttermilk; spices may include cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, fennel, or mace, among many others. The intoxicating aroma usually comes from saffron, sometimes with a touch of rosewater or kewra (pandan syrup). The word biryani is said to be of Persian origin, a corruption of the word beriyan, which in Farsi means to fry before cooking, or birinj, which means rice. Biryanis are thought to have been brought to India by the Mughals in the 16th century, although some culinary historians believe the dish pre-dated the empire. Regardless of origin, the dish has proliferated—in Hyderabad alone, there are said to be over forty distinct versions.

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Beef Tagine with Apples, Sesame, and Raisins

DSC_0540.aJPGI love summer food; love the shift from stovetop to grill and outdoor eating, the fresh vegetables, and the salads, berries, and summer fruit. But with the advent of warm weather, I have to set aside BRAISING, which is my favorite way to prepare meat. Braising, in which (usually) meat is (usually) first browned and then cooked slow and low in liquid, is the best way to cook cheap cuts of meat (unless you plan to barbecue them – more about barbecue and a fabulous weekend competing with friends at the British Barbecue Society’s Grassroots Shake and Sauce – and winning the prize for Best Newcomers! – in another post). But in hot weather, the thought of turning your kitchen into a sauna courtesy of a six-hour braise is only slightly less appealing than the thought of eating the stew that results. Moroccans, however, have mastered the hot-weather braise. I’m speaking, of course, of the tagine. Continue reading

Awadh-Style Curried Asian Eggplant

DSC_0322aThe versatile aubergine is so gloriously exotic that it should occupy some mystical plateau, like chocolate. The Mayans weren’t mixing eggplants into their sacred ceremonial brews, but they should have been. The idea is not so farfetched, either – the eggplant apparently contains more nicotine than any other plant except tobacco (although you would have to consume 20 pounds of eggplant to ingest the same amount of nicotine in a cigarette). And of course the eggplant is a member of the nightshade family (along with potatoes, tomatoes, and capsicums). For this Awadh curry I used Asian eggplants, which have thinner skin and more delicate flesh than Italian eggplants. Unlike Italian eggplants, Asian eggplants do not have to be peeled: the skin is tender and not bitter. Fully cooked, Asian eggplants have a consistency like hot custard. Hot, savory, delicious umami custard. Continue reading

Lamb, Mint, and Almond Meatballs with Saffron-Almond Sauce

Life in the new flat is not all wine and roses. Since my move in early October, I’ve been contending with the Never-Ending Kitchen Remodel. You know, that delightful pastiche featuring those charming rascals, the Slapdash Contractors, with supporting roles played by the Goddamn Shitty Appliances. The first time I attempted to use the oven I turned on the timer rather than the heat, and couldn’t figure out how to turn it off. It ticked loudly tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick until I worked out how to get the heat on and blew all the fuses in the kitchen. Sarf-East cockney contractor Del-boy came round an hour or two later and put the oven on its own fuse. Once the oven was reconnected the timer started ticking again tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick. Del-boy scratched his head, muttered something about not being boffered, and skulked off. Saturday I brought home beef bones to roast for stock, at which point I learned the oven doesn’t actually work, as in doesn’t get hot. I stomped around crankily and may have whined a bit about wanting to roast things. Lovely Flatmate called the truculent nameless Polish contractor, who looked in the oven and said, “I can’t fix. You need specialist.”

So, still no oven. The timer works though. There it is now, tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick. Continue reading

Grilled Peach Chutney

This summer I was deputized to take charge of my family’s Fourth of July dinner. As I am an obsessive and a planner, I decided what I would make weeks in advance: pork shoulder marinated in my homemade jerk sauce, then cooked in my dad’s smoker for eight or ten hours until it was meltingly tender. This is the kind of food project that appeals to me: slow cooking, with just enough wonky food science to cue in the never-distant internal third-person narrator. Also, in London, I don’t have a barbecue, so I have become increasingly fixated on the direct application of fire and smoke to food. Continue reading

Salad Days

June has been a busy month over at Susan Eats London, or perhaps it’s just that I have been busy. I have been doing lots of running around (a whirlwind trip to New York in the middle of the month, and then I’m going back again at the end of the week), and I’ve had a month of wonderful eating – generally thanks to the benevolent interventions of others. There was the gut-busting Indian luncheon prepared by the phenomenally talented Asma Khan, to which I scored an invitation after serendipitously meeting friend Nayan at the Marylebone Summer Fayre. There was the oh-so-British celebration of English asparagus courtesy of Friends Jess and Will, featuring asparagus three ways (although I ended up making the asparagus risotto and the roasted asparagus). And then there was beef. Correction: there is beef. A lot of beef. Continue reading

Chicken, Peanut, and Yam Stew

I have blogged before about my volunteer work with the Food Chain, and about the fact that I, a Polish Jew, am responsible for coming up with tasty recipes suitable for our service users who request “African” and “Afro-Caribbean” meals. The latter are somewhat easier; while the Afro-Caribbean population is incredibly diverse, at least the Caribbean is a relatively small geographical area. The produce in the markets in Trinidad and Domenica tends to be similar, even if their roti recipes are different. But “African”? Africa is a CONTINENT. It’s taken me a long time to gain a passing familiarity with Moroccan food, and that’s one country, in North Africa, out of 53 (if you include the island nations). So time and again I find myself seeking guidance from that indefatigable source, the internet. Everything’s true on the internet, right?

This lovely chicken dish, which I’ve now cooked to rave reviews at the Food Chain (twice) and at home (once) is a somewhat-adapted “Ghanaian” stew. I feel compelled to offer a disclaimer: I have not been to Ghana. I don’t think I’ve been to a Ghanaian restaurant. I have no idea whether I’ve gotten my proportions all wrong in cooking to my Eurocentric palate. But this stew, in which chicken cooks slowly with peanuts and tomatoes and ginger and spicy peppers until the chicken falls off the bone and the sauce becomes a rich thick fatty paste, is DELICIOUS, and it’s what I’m eating for dinner. Thank you internet! Continue reading

Duck Tagine with Quince and Apricots

A very dear friend once said to me, after I’d served her a pigeon salad with orange and figs, “Susan, you pair meat with fruit more than anyone I know.” This is one of my favourite observations anyone has ever made about my cooking, and it is true that I love to pair meat with fruit.  That same friend is imminently expecting her first child, and I have been happily making and freezing meals for her and her partner in anticipation of their first couple of weeks at home with the baby. (I was born for this kind of task.) A few weeks ago, at Borough Market, which ordinarily is one of the most expensive food markets in London, I picked up three quinces for a pound. Earlier this week, I pounced on some Gressingham duck legs, which had been discounted at Waitrose. Gressingham duck is a cross between a wild mallard and a pekin duck, which means that it is a little bit less fatty than most duck you find in supermarkets, and its meat has a more gamey flavour. I use it whenever I can find it. Yesterday I emailed my friend, “I’m cooking you meat with fruit!”

This recipe is adapted from a lamb tagine I found in my favourite Moroccan cookbook, the marvellous Food of Morocco by Tess Mallos. Duck legs are browned in butter and then slowly stewed with saffron, coriander, ginger, onion, and cinnamon, and finished with meaty, tangy quince and sweet dried apricots. Crushed red pepper adds just a hint of heat. I’d never cooked with quince before, although membrillo, the thick plum-coloured quince paste sold in Spain by the slab and served with salty cheeses, is one of my guilty pleasures. (You can find a recipe for membrillo here.) The fruit is very hard and has a dry tang to it (i.e., is not to be eaten raw), but when cooked becomes soft and tender, almost like cooked pear, and takes on a dusky pinky-orange hue. It’s perfect with meat. Continue reading

Moroccan Stewed Pumpkin with Chickpeas and Preserved Lemon

I have been feeling Blog Guilt lately (as a nice Jewish girl, I am good at guilt, especially over pointless things) because I haven’t posted any vegetarian recipes for a while. But, vegetarians, this recipe is a delicious vegetarian gem. It is one of those recipes that you feed to ignoramus meat eaters and say “take that!” and they say, “I didn’t realize vegetarian cooking could be so tasty!” and you smile smugly and maybe you tell them it is vegan just to really mess with their heads. This recipe came about as a happy kitchen accident, which is my favourite kind. There was The Pumpkin which I bought on impulse because it was an exciting blue-gray colour, and then there was the sack of onions that I bought with the vague idea of making onion jam. And the rest, as they say, was delicious. Continue reading

Curried Neck of Lamb with African Yams and Okra

This blog post tests the theory that contemporary food blogging is 95% about food photography and 5% about the food. I am very much aware that Susan eats London has been suffering lately from a paucity of posts, especially recipe posts. The reason for this is that for the past two and a half weeks, I have been without my beautiful Nikon SLR camera. I left it in a McMenamin’s in Olympia, Washington, where I had lunch immediately before going to the airport to return to London. (It was found and is being mailed to me. In my defense, I was under a fair amount of stress at the time.) But I have been cooking lovely food and testing delicious recipes, many of which I hope to blog once my dang camera finally gets here. This recipe, however, I photographed using my recently-acquired hand-me-down iPhone 3G. I will be the first to admit that the photos are not stellar. But this recipe is in true blogger-on-a-budget spirit. It’s made using the most inexpensive ingredients, it’s got great flavours, and it is something you could proudly serve at a dinner party. Continue reading