Earl Grey is Not Just For Drinking – My Take on Kashmiri Pilaff, Mums Masala King Prawn Curry And Kachumber

File 29-07-2015 11 32 40Its been a while since the last posting mostly due to some health challenges which are being sorted, as a result of having to put work on pause, much time has been spent looking at cookery books, watching cooking on T.V. digging for some inspiration to get into the kitchen, and generally ‘chilling’ out (Doctors orders!). My last post was a review of ‘Steenbergs’ Nasi Goreng mix, which had been sent to me as part of a tasting panel and very good it was too. Since then I have also had the opportunity to try their Organic Lemon Oil, in a home made Chilli, you can see the rest of the ingredients below. Apologies for the picture quality in this post btw, its proof that my beloved Nokia Lumia 1020 takes better pictures than an iPhone 6 in kitchen conditions, (unless I am doing something wrong that is)! 
File 29-07-2015 12 37 11The Chilli was the usual mix of Mince Beef, Tomatoes and a trusty can of those well known Beans but the magic was in the mix of spices above. Five (yes 5) different types of Chilli, both whole (thanks to the South Devon Chilli Farm), dried, care of Steenbergs and The Spicery (who also do Piment d’Espelette, a very special French Basque Pepper) which is quite challenging to get hold of. I might post the recipe one day but its really easy and very tasty so maybe have a go yourself using the ingredients above and just add slowly and keep tasting. The three whole chillies were Ancho Mulato, Chipotle Morita and Pasilla, soaked in hot water for about 20 minutes, I removed the seeds and chopped them up before adding to the Chilli.

File 29-07-2015 11 33 37Anyhow, back to the Curry and Pilaff, this is where the idea came to try another of the tasting panel samples from Steenbergs, the Fairtrade Organic Earl Grey Tea. I decided to steep the Golden Raisins (Part of the Rice Pilaff), in the Tea, about 1/2 an hour did it becoming soft, juicy and fragrant. The following ingredients will be needed for the Kashmiri Pilaff and was inspired by a similar recipe in Anjum Anands ‘New Indian’ cookbook.

  • 2 Pouches Ready Cooked Rice (I used Basmati, this recipe is really quick!)
  • 1/4 Tsp Cumin Seeds
  • 5-7 c.m. Length of Cinnamon Bark
  • 4 Cloves
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 Handful Ready Fried Onions (Or 1 Onion, chopped and fried until Brown and Crispy)
  • 15-20 Grams Almond Flakes
  • 15-20 Grams Pistachio Nuts, Lightly Crushed in a Pestle & Mortar
  • 10 – 15 Grams Golden Raisins
  • 1 Large Cup of Earl Grey Tea (Steenbergs Organic is very good and Drinks well too)
  • 4 Green Cardamon Pods
  • 1 Pinch Afghan Saffron (Steenbergs do this and it supports and excellent cause, click Saffron to find out more)
  • 2 Tbls Hot Milk (The Saffron Steeps in this for 10 minutes to extract flavour and colour)

File 29-07-2015 11 35 09The whole meal takes no more than 30 minutes to prepare, including the ‘Kachumber’ salad side dish. The spices need frying to release their flavours so pop all the spices into a pan with a small amount of Ghee and cook over a medium heat until you can smell the aromas filling the kitchen, about 5 minutes. Next add the handful of crispy fried onion and cook gently for another couple of minutes just to warm through.

File 29-07-2015 11 34 52In a separate pan you can prepare the Prawn Curry, which is really easy and takes no time at all thanks to Mum’s Masala. The sauce base needs cooking for 5 minutes before adding the Prawns (or other protein), and then cooking for a further 5 minutes, then adding some water as per the instruction on the bottle and continuing until the protein is cooked, it’s as easy as that. I did my usual trick of adding some extra Kashmiri Chilli as I like my food slightly more spicy.

File 29-07-2015 11 33 53I mentioned ‘Kachumber Salad’ was to be included with this particular meal, a very simple dish mine was a Jack Hawkins Tomato thinly sliced, 1/4 of a Cucumber, de-seeded and thinly sliced, 1 small Red Onion thinly sliced, 3/4 Teaspoon Cumin Seeds, dry roasted in a frying pan, a glug of Rice Wine Vinegar, about 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of Kashmiri Chilli powder, 1/4 teasppon of Chilli Flakes and some chopped Coriander leaves, that’t it.

File 29-07-2015 11 35 26The kitchen should now be smelling very aromatic indeed, the spices nicely cooked, the Onion adding a sweetness and crispy texture to the Pilaff, the next stage is too add the Rice. For speed I chose a couple of packets of pre-cooked Basmati Rice which are easily available and take no time at all to prepare, in this case all we need to do is squeeze each pouch to separate the grains and tip the Rice into the pan, mixing thoroughly with the spices and Ghee.

File 29-07-2015 11 36 03Almost done now, the rest of the ingredients can be added, the Saffron Milk, Nuts and Earl Grey Tea steeped Golden Raisins (remember to drain the Raisins 1st, you don’t want to add the Tea into the Rice!!).

File 29-07-2015 12 20 00So it seems the Saffron is quite significant, which I found out whilst doing my usual research for this post. This saffron comes from a women’s association in Afghanistan which is promoting growing  saffron as a viable alternative to opium growing. Now that’s really cool, but there is another twist in this story which only became clear when I looked at a map of the region. Kashmir is the north western region of South Asia and borders Afghanistan so geographically related, not something I had realised when I started this tasty dish.

1024px-Kashmir_region_2004So there you have it, once you have added the rest of the ingredients you only need a couple more minutes and everything is good to go. Again apologies for the pictures, I will be going back to the trusty Nokia in future as the results are some much better,

File 29-07-2015 11 36 25The Kasmiri Pilaff was delicious, had good texture and the Earl Grey steeped Raisins were amazing adding a slightly fruity shot of flavour with a citrus note. The Curry was as good as before and the Kachumber salad provided some contrast and a cooling element. In fact the mixing of hot and cold temperatures and sweet and spicy food works extremely well, as I have found out before with an Ottolenghi inspired dish that I did last year.

So thanks to Anjum (and Rick Stein for the Kachumber), have a go, it’s delish.

Until next time……………………………………………L8ers…………………………………………………..










So the Saffron is quite significant, which I found out whilst doing my usual research for this post. This saffron comes from a women’s association in Afghanistan which is promoting growing  saffron as a viable alternative to opium growing. Now that’s cool, but there is another twist in this story which only became clear when I looked at a map of the region.Kashmir is the north western region of South Asia and borders Afghanistan

Pistachio Cardamom & Polenta Cake – Cooking for Coeliac’s (Gluten Intolerance)

2014 has arrived and there is much excitement in my world. Last year I drove miles, thousands of them and it meant having to stay away more often than I preferred, which reduced both family and kitchen time. This year I am looking after a another team based in the south, so less travelling and some more excuses to adventure with food (and spend time with the family!).


I met the southern team last week, and decided to treat them to some home made baking, BUT one of them is a Coeliac which is an intolerance to Gluten. The only known treatment for this is a Gluten-free diet which is a bit of a challenge, if you check the packets of many ingredients the number that claim Gluten free is not massive especially if baking cakes and desserts!

I did some research and found a suitable replacement for flour was Polenta, which is Maize (Corn) ground into a meal (course Flour). Its not the same as conventional Flour so baking with Polenta requires some thinking. You have to be careful with other ingredients too, Baking Powder which is used as as raising agent can contain Gluten so check your packets 1st before embarking on this particular cake.

I made this in between customer meetings and conference calls so apologies as there are not too many photographs in this particular post (2 to be precise)!

I decided to bake a Pistachio and Cardamom Polenta Cake with a hint of Rose Water & Lime Butter Frosting, Middle Eastern inspired and something which was an ongoing development during the cooking process, here’s the final version, which was AMAZING, your will need the following ingredients!

Cake Ingredients

  1. 8 cardamom pods, seeds only
  2. 150g pistachios, shelled
  3. 100g ground almonds
  4. 1 tsp rose water
  5. 175g polenta
  6. 1¼ tsp baking powder
  7. 300g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  8. 325g caster sugar
  9. 4 medium eggs, lightly beaten
  10. 1 unwaxed lime, grated zest, plus ½ lime juice
  11. ½ tsp vanilla EXTRACT

Soaking Syrup

  1. 120g Castor Sugar (Mine has Vanilla Pods in it to infuse)
  2. 1tsp Rose Water
  3. 80ml Lemon Juice
  4. 30ml Lime Juice
  5. 1tbsp Pomegranate Molasses (This is critical as it provides a unique Middle Eastern Flavour)

The basis of the recipe were a couple of cakes I found on the Internet which had Semolina as the base and quite a lot of Rose Water, but could not be used as Semolina contains Gluten, hence the Polenta replacement.

I was a bit nervous about introducing too much Rose Water into the cake, as I think its definitely an acquired taste. I decided to add some further adaptions and significantly reduced the Rose Water component, but introduced some more Middle Eastern flavour in the form of Pomegranate Molasses. I also increased the Cardamon and added Lime reducing the quantity of Lemon, which I prefer……….. YUMMMMMM…!

Lime Butter Frosting

  1. 250g Unsalted Butter
  2. 256g Icing Sugar
  3. 2 Limes Zested
  4. ½ Lime Juice

The Cake Process

  1. Grease a round, 23cm, loose-bottomed cake tin and line with baking parchment.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas 3 (If using a FAN oven, drop the temperature a bit).
  3. Extract the Cardamom seeds from their pods and grind to a powder in a pestle & Mortar.
  4. Put Pistachios in a food processor and grind for a few seconds, you don’t want a powder but pieces around 2-3mm so there is still texture.
  5. Add the ground Almonds, Cardamom, Polenta, Baking Powder and 2/3rds of the Pistachios and mix briefly. The remaining Pistachios are sprinkled on the Lime Butter Frosting to finish.
  6. Beat the Butter and Sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the Egg in small amounts, incorporating it well. (A Kenwood is good for this with the beater).
  7. Fold in the mixed dry ingredients, then the Lime Zest and Juice, Rose Water and Vanilla extract.
  8. Put it into the lined tin, level and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour until a skewer comes out oily but dry. (Mine took slightly longer, about 1 hr 10 mins)

The trusty Kenwood Chef was used to beat the Sugar/Butter, and also used to mix in the eggs. You might find the mixtures splits during this process, adding a small amount of Polenta will bring it all together.


Put all the ingredients for the Syrup in a small saucepan; bring to the boil to dissolve the sugar, then remove from the heat.Remove the cake from the oven; while it is still hot, spoon the Syrup over the cake, I used about 4 Tbsp, judge with the eye.

Allow the cake to cool, then take out of the tin. Coat the top of the cake with the frosting, sprinkle with the remaining Pistachios and gentle press in to fix.

I had one challenge whilst trying to find the Polenta in the shops, a large chain had some Corn Meal, but looking on the side of the Packet, there was the label ‘May Contain Traces of Gluten’. This brand was very cheap and obviously processed in a factory grinding flour and other Gluten laden products. Another higher end shop had Polenta, but it was Organic and very expensive. Eventually I gambled and went for Polenta Express, Gluten Free but apparently the dry grains had been pre-cooked in some way, it still looked and felt like flour/meal and worked a treat.

The cake is quite (well very actually) moist and sticky,  great on its own (as my new friends found out), but also goes really well with a serving of Crème Fraiche or Double Cream.

Feedback from my new team was VERY encouraging, a couple of them have vowed to make it themselves, they loved it so much. Its definitely an ADULT cake, the Pomegranate Molasses used in the Syrup really adds an amazing flavour dimension, the Rose Water is very subtle, and tends to stimulate the nose rather than the taste buds which is what I was hoping for. The Lime Butter Frosting adds another texture and all the flavours work together really well.

Pomegranate Molasses and Rose Water is readily available, I use Steenbergs and Ottolenghi’s to source mine along with the Cardamom.

So there we go, if you know someone with a Gluten Intolerance, and Dairy is not an issue, have a go at this, you will be pleased you did.