Indian food is arguably one of my favourite cuisines, but many of its dishes are cooked in rich, creamy sauces and accompanied with stodgy carbs in the form of rice and breads. Although utterly delicious and a real comfort food, these dishes can leave you with little room for anything else other than a snooze. Like Lucille Blueth so eloquently put it, “You want your belt to buckle, not your chair.”
NB. Although this blog focuses on healthy eating, I am a passionate wine connoisseur (complete lush probably describes me more accurately) and I have no plans to give it up anytime soon. So to counter balance the alcohol intake, I eat healthy foods that counter balance these frequent assaults on my organs and intake as many liver saving remedies as possible, which I will share these with you in the next blog. I want to show you how healthy eating doesn’t have to be a ridiculous celeb driven fad where you eat cabbage soup until you go blind, but healthy eating that allows room for other indulgences. Not that you have to drink, mind, but you certainly won’t be advised not too under my watch…
For our first year wedding anniversary, I was more interested in fitting into an unforgiving little number and going out for cocktails, than spending my time cooking. So I wanted to create a simple but stylish looking dish that would leave ample room in both the budget and my stomach for cocktails and champagne.
I decided to make Tandoori king prawn and haloumi skewers with a side of brown rice and homemade pappadums and chutneys. I usually forgo rice as I find it hard to digest and would normally accompany this type of dish with Quinoa. However, it is our anniversary and my other half prefers rice, so I let it slide for the sake of dodging an argument and wasting time that could be better spent on cocktails. I also had to forgo the skewers as late into the cooking I realised I didn’t have any, but it’s easy enough just to make things up as you go along as you will see.
Tandoori dishes are perfect if you want a lighter, more delicate dish, but at the same time a dish that still packs a spicy Indian punch. I served the supper on a China Tea Set to show how simple foods can be made elegant and it also played homage to India, as one of the principal tea producers in the world.
To make it you will need the following:
For the pappadoms
200g chickpea flour or Gram flour and can be found at major supermarkets
1 tbsp of crushed coriander seeds. I also like to use a few caraway seeds for extra flavour
¼ tsp of ground cumin
Mix together the flour, coriander, cumin and caraway seeds in a bowl. Add the water and stir to form a stiff dough.
Prepare a clean surface on which to roll out the dough. From the dough take a walnut sized piece of the dough and roll out to make a thin circle, smaller than the frying pan.
Once you have rolled out all the circles, heat a frying pan until hot and fill with 3 to 4cm of olive oil. Then turn down the heat slightly to a medium to hot setting.
Cook each pappadom until golden brown. Mine curled up and bubbled within about 30 seconds, though keep an eye on them as a few of mine burnt their bottoms slightly. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper or kitchen towel.
These can be served cold so can be prepared ahead of time.
To serve with the pappadoms:
150 grams of sundried tomatoes in olive oil. Just drain them and pat dry any excess oil with kitchen paper. Save the oil from the jar in case you need more later to bind the chutney.
2 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp of chilli flakes. If you like it with a real kick add more, or less if you just want a hint of heat
1 clove of garlic
A pinch of salt and pepper to season
The juice of a lime
1 tbsp of Kashmiri chilli powder
Mix together in a food processor until blended then put in a bowl (in my case a teacup) and it is ready to serve.
Tomato, onion, cucumber and mint
1 small onion
Half a cucumber
Finely dice a tomato, half a cucumber, half an onion and add some roughly chopped mint. All set.
200 grams of fat free natural yogurt
Half a small cucumber
A small handful of mint leaves
The juice of half a lime
Into a bowl add the fat free yogurt. Dice the cucumber and mint and add to the yogurt. Stir in the juice of half a lime. Done.
For the rice
Brown rice (measure the quantity you will need from the below)
Spring onions and corriander to garnish
I am no expert when it comes to cooking rice, but Delia Smith recommends always measuring rice by volume and not by weight: use a measuring jug and measure (5 fl oz/150 ml for two people, 10 fl oz/275 ml for four and so on). The quantity of liquid you will need is roughly double the volume of rice; so 5 fl oz (150 ml) of rice needs 10 fl oz (275 ml) of hot water. So depending on how much rice you require, those measurements will help.
I like to add a vegetable stock cube to the water to give it a deeper favour, stir until dissolved and add in the brown rice. Cook for approximately 30 mins depending on how you like your rice, though 30 mins should see brown rice fairly soft.
Drain the rice, add a little splash of olive oil and seasoning if required.
Decorate with spring onions and coriander.
For the main event: Tandoori king prawn with haloumi.
Cooking time approx. 15 mins. Prep time roughly 15 mins. Serves 2
8 fresh king prawns
125 grams of low fat hallomi
2 heaped tbsp. of East End Tandoori spice
200 grams fat free yogurt
Spring onions and coriander to decorate
Roughly chop the onion into fairly large pieces.
In a large mixing bowl, add the yogurt and the tandoori spice mix. Mix well until it is a rich, red colour. Add in the prawns, onions and haloumi, ensuring the fish and cheese is well coated and leave to marinade for at least 20 mins.
When you are ready to make this, you can either put the prawns, haloumi and onion on skewers and grill or BBQ them, or like me and sans skewer just spread them out on foil and pop them under the grill on a fairly high heat.
The prawns will need less cooking time to avoid going dry, so I would grill the haloumi and one side first, then when that is golden, turn them over to brown the other sides and at this point add the prawns. The prawns will only need about 2-6 minutes on each side, depending on size.
Then scatter a few chopped spring onions and fresh coriander on top to garnish.
To complete the meal…
As it was our anniversary, we laughed in the face of the budget and headed down to our local wine store. I am a huge fan of French wine, particularly anything from the Loire valley, but am also a sucker for Chablis. We choose a budget breaking Moreau A.C Chablis 2011, which was well worth its $65 price tag and really, given import taxes, a steal at the price. There are plenty of good Chablis’ to be found for less, just not in the Lesser Antilles.
The castaway from Desert Island Discs for this particular meal is Val Mcdermid. It seemed fitting to choose a crime writer as ITV get ready to air the final story of the greatest crime investor of them all, Poirot. Without question, Poirot is to me the greatest detective of all, and I have watched (allbeit it repeats of the earlier shows) David Suchet breathe life into the famous Belgian detective, for over 25 years. In a recent interview with The Daily Telegraph, when asked on the final day’s filming whether he felt sad, he replied with monumental pride: “I don’t think you can ask anybody who’s reached the summit of Everest whether they’re sad.” I choose to dedicate Leonard Cohen’s “Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye”, to David Suchet and Agatha Christie, in thanks for the greatest detective of all.