Many of you reading this right now, will have no doubt tasted a Burdock’s Fish & Chips. The crispy batter, vinegar drenched fried spuds and lovely moist fish – a timelessly tasty essential. A smaller proportion of you will have at some point attempted to recreate that culinary delight and more than likely, failed miserably. You may not have realized that to get your pommes frites to the same level you get from a chippie you need to soak them in water, then fry them once, let them cool off and then fry them again later. You may not have realized that the oil the fish is fried in also has lard or beef dripping in it thus giving everything an extra big fuck off on the flavour department.
Of course it doesn’t end there. Making your own pizzas can be grand if you’ve just bought the bases but if you make your own dough, fuhgedaboutit. If you don’t have a bread mixer you will have to bust your chops kneading the dough for at least half an hour and your first few attempts will always disappoint. The dough is bound to be either too thick or too thin or you will fuck up the cooking of it and be left with a half arsed calzone. The challenge of attempting a take away is never easy. It is with those sentiments in mind that I received a call from The Tom Dunne Show on Newstalk 106 when they asked me could I attempt an Indian Take Away. In typical idiotic form, I agreed to it.
As I always say cooking is simply just using the mistakes of others, so if you want to make something like a Chicken Tikka Masala, learn from the following errors I’ve made:
- Don’t use any type of oil when frying up your sauce. The ideal product to use is a clarified butter called, ghee. Of course even saying the word in a food store will bring you endless child like pleasure but it has other uses. The strong dairy taste off it is one of the defining tastes of a tikka masala. If you can’t get any ghee (insert immature giggle here), just use some good butter.
- If you want to try to emulate that great tandoori flavour you will need to barbecue or at least grill your chicken. Don’t fry it. That tastes lame.
- When I was checking out recipes, most sites seemed to overlook having to add some kind of sweetness yet they all featured turmeric. The great thing about this spice is the rich colour but for me it always sucks any sugars out of a dish. You need to counteract that with ideally coconut powder or a bit of golden sugar. But coconut powder was revealed to me by a few different sources and it’s wicked.
- Should you wish to recreate that seriously red, gloopiness that you get in more dodgy massalas then don’t try to do it naturally with tomato paste, it’ll only end up tasting like a bad ragu. If you really want that mad glow in the dark orangey red, just use food dye.
MY ATTEMPT AT A CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
INGREDIENTS FOR MARINADE:
6 cubed chicken fillets
250 ml of plain yoghurt
2 teaspoons of chili powder
2 tablespoons of grated garlic
2 tablespoons of grated ginger
1 teaspoon of garam masala
1/4 teaspoon of turmeric
the juice of 1 lime and half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon of liquid smoke – I got this in the states and it’s deadly. Buy it online here. It helps to give the tandoori buzz.
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Combine the whole lot up and lash it onto the cubed chicken. Let it marinade overnight.
- INGREDIENTS FOR SAUCE:
1.5 tablespoons of ghee (get this in any good Asian store, if you can’t get it then just use 2 tablespoons of butter)
2 tomatoes, blanched and then skinned, deseeded and finely chopped
1 finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon of grated ginger
1 teaspoon of grated garlic
1/2 teaspoon of garam masala
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
1.5 teaspoons of coconut powder (get this in any good Asian store)
500 ml of cream
1 tablespoon of fresh chopped coriander
Skewer your chicken and barbecue or grill it until golden and slightly charred.
Heat up your ghee (insert more immature giggles here) and fry up the onions until soft but not caramelized. Add in the tomatoes and paste and gently fry it up for a minute or so. Then add in the garlic, ginger and spices and stir for another 5 minutes on a low heat. If it gets too dry and starts to stick, lob in a tablespoon of water. Stir in the coconut powder and then about half of the cream. If you like the consistency of your sauce to be smooth, then blitz it with a soup blender. Once you’re done, throw in the rest of the cream and stir until it’s nice and hot but don’t let it boil. Drop in the chicken, heat that through and serve it up. Garnish with some freshly chopped coriander. Serve with some rice and a decent smooth beer.
I didn’t have the time this week to attempt the onion bhaji, but I’ll be giving it a lash this weekend and sticking it up on this post on Monday. Stay tuned to Tom’s show when I’ll be chatting to himself about the whole exercise. If you genuinely follow these instructions you will be grand, I made a good few fuck ups to get it down but I’m happy with the final outcome.
Having never made on onion bhajii before, I had to throw out the net and ask for tips on this one. The wonderful Aoife McElwain whose food blog contains some amazing and very well executed recipes was a big help. This is her original recipe here and half of what I did came from it. And the chef and caterer Aine Maguire asked a Bangladeshi restaurateur friend of hers for some inside tips. That info turned out to be great. So basically Aoife & Aine sorted this one out for me as it’s a mish mash of both their efforts. Many thanks!
Any of the ingredients that you don’t recognize can be purchased at The Asian Food Store on Drury Street
1 large Spanish Onion
125 g of gram flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
3 tablespoons of dried fenugreek leaves
1 tablespoon of ajwain seeds
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of salt
175 ml of cold water
Vegetable or Sunflower Oil for frying – deep fry if you can. Otherwise pan fry with about half an inch in the pan.
Sieve the flour and baking soda into a mixing bowl. Grind the ajawain seeds in a pestle and mortar for about a minute just to activate their flavours, which incidentally are amazing. Never used them before, a real revelation. Combine the cumin, salt, fenugreek leaves and ajwain seeds into the bowl and mix. Then you add in the water and beat it all into a batter.
You then need to get a mandolin to thinly slice the onion. When that’s all done, squeeze out the moisture from the onion by placing them onto paper towels. You then drop the onion into the bowl and mix it all up with the batter.
If you don’t have a mandolin to slice the onion, sort it out and buy one. They’re brilliant but take care when using. They can be quite lethal as both myself and my Uncle Jimmy can tell you – he ended up in A&E after a nasty cut.
Start making the bhajis into the size you want. If you can, use a deep fat fryer as it’s a lot easier and more consistent. With a deep fat fryer, turn it up to 180 and fry til golden. If you’re pan frying, heat it up on a medium level with about half an inch of vegetable or sunflower oil. As always with frying roadtest the heat with whatever you’re cooking – drop a bit of battered onion into the oil to see how you’re doing. Not too hot or cold.
A couple of completed onion bhajis garnished with more fenugreek leaves and lemon.
Serve this as a starter with a squeeze of lemon and some mango chutney on the side. Winesnobs would have you drinking some full bodied red. The only full bodied red you should be enjoying with an Indian is the Ginger you’ve got in the sack with you afterwards, or during if you like mixing your pleasures. I love Indian meals with a stiff gin beforehand and some cold beers or ales with them. Try some O’Hara’s Pale Ale with your next Indian, real smooth.