Archive for the 'Food' category

Naan, Paratha, Roti, Chapati

What’s the difference between all these Indian breads then? I’m forever looking this up. Turns out that it’s difficult to build a consensus, so a quick search for the same query a month later might return a different answer.

So I wanted to make my own guide here, with pictures to follow as I take them. Definitely open to constructive comments and guidance on this piece!

Rotis and chapatis are commonly (but not always) considered to be the same, with geographical region being more important than any actual difference. That said, I gather oil is more likely to be involved in southern India. I’ve done my best to produce a definition here regardless.


Roti feels like the most basic, so a good place to start. It is unleavened bread, which means it does not contain any raising agents. It should be made from wholemeal flower, and is always made from wheat flower. A disc of this dough is rolled flat, and cooked in a dry pan.


Similar to roti. Wholemeal flour seems to be more of a requirement here. There’s a tendency to cook in a pan that is lightly greased, whereas a roti is always dry. Chapati should be flattened by hand, and is sometimes folded once or twice to give it two or four layers.


A paratha is made from a number of layers of flower, and is well oiled with ghee, giving it substantially more flavour than roti and chapati.


Naan is leavened bread, so it is made from dough that contains yeast, and probably some dairy such as milk or yogurt. Naan should be cooked in a tandoor. This makes it notably thicker and perhaps fluffier than the other breads listed here. Naan is usually served brushed with butter or ghee.

Vegetarian Lasagne

Recently I’ve been cutting back on my meat consumption for welfare reasons – mine and the animals concerned. I’ve managed to put together some vegetarian and pescetarian alternatives that in some cases have genuinely been preferable to meat based dishes. Annoyingly I haven’t documented them. This evening I made a vegetarian lasagne which I would say is on par with the usual beef and pork version, so I’m documenting the recipe for future use.

I started with some fruit and veg: celery, carrots, red and green peppers, onions, garlic, mushrooms and tomatoes.

Lasagne - veg raw

I peeled and trimmed the green pepper, garlic, onion, celery and carrots and popped that lot along with the tomatoes into the blender.

Lasagne - veg in blender

Mash that up, chop the mushrooms and pop into a big pot with a load of olive oil.

Lasagne - veg in pot

Then the Quorn. Yes, Quorn. Some Quorn stuff is pretty vile in my opinion, but the “meat free mince” is actually pretty good. I find I need to add more oil than when cooking with meat, and I do cheat by adding a little beef stock from Oxo cubes, but of course you could replace that with vegetable stock if you’re more strict about that sort of thing.

Lasagne - Quorn

Fry all that in the pot too. Add the red pepper, chopped. Then add the beef (or vegetable) stock, and finally the passata. I’ve used 600g of mince, 2 stock cubes and a kilogram of passata.

Lasagna - stock and passata

Add some Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, sugar, salt, pepper and tabasco until it tastes really very interesting.

Lasagne - grunt

That’ll be the (meat free) ragù sorted. Leave it simmering on the hob.

Lasagne - ragu

Next, blanch the lasagne sheets. You probably want enough for three layers.

Lasagne - blanch

Now to make the cheese sauce. For this you’ll need butter, milk, nutmeg, plain white flour and grated mature cheddar. Start by melting the butter with the milk and nutmeg on the hob, then very slowly adding the flour while whisking continually. Once it starts to thicken, start adding the grated cheese until you get a nice thick consistency.

Lasagne - cheese sauce

Once you’ve got that, add the ragù, layer with lasagne sheets, white sauce, and repeat.

Lasagne - layers

On the top layer of white sauce, sprinkle some grated cheese. I used cheddar and mozzarella.

Lasagne - ready to cook

Bake that for about 40 mins on mark 5.

Lasagne - cooked

I served it up with garlic bread, salad and wine. Tasty!

Lasagne - served!


Notes about a fantastic chilli-con-carne

I just made a fantastic chilli-con-carne. So often I just bung food together and sometimes it turns out well, other times not so well. Then I forget what made it work. Not this time!


This recipe makes enough chilli to feed about eight people sensibly, or stuff six people. I made enough rice for three people initially and froze the rest of the chilli.


I used a medium sized wok, a big casserole pot, and a medium pan for the rice. A decent blender is a must unless you want to spend an awful long time chopping.


  • 500 grams fat 15% beef mince
  • 3 rashers unsmoked bacon
  • Some chorizo (chouriço)
  • 2 large onions, peeled
  • Half a bulb of garlic, peeled
  • Mushrooms
  • 3 carrots, peeled
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 3 bell peppers (capsicum), chopped
  • 2 green chillies whole (chop them or add more if you like it hot)
  • Loads of jalapeño peppers
  • Sunflower or oil olive
  • Spices: nutmeg, cumin, all-spice, garlic pepper
  • 2 cans chopped tomatoes
  • Cheddar, grated
  • Soured cream / crème fraîche
  • Ketchup
  • Sweet chilli sauce
  • Beef stock cube
  • Brown Basmati rice – a pint glass full does about 5 people
  • Leafy salad
  • Baby plum tomatoes


  • Wash the rice. Leave to soak in cold water in the rice pan.
  • Bung the oil and spices into the wok. Warm on a low heat.
  • Bung the onions, garlic, carrots, celery and a few mushrooms into the blender. Blend!
  • Turn up the heat and dump the contents of the blender into the wok.

Things should now look something like this:

chilli phase 1

Now transfer that to the casserole pot, and get some oil warm ready to seal the meat. Chop some mushroom, the bacon and chorizo, and get meaty!

chilli - phase 2

Once that’s done, transfer the mince and chopped meat and mushroom to the casserole pot. If necessary refresh the oil in the wok, and then soften the bell peppers, some more chopped mushroom and the chillies in there.

chilli - phase 3

After 5 or so minutes of that, transfer the contents of the wok to the casserole pot, and wash up the wok. Add the beef stock, the kidney beans, then the chopped tomatoes to the casserole pot. Add the jalapeño peppers. I might even put a whole jar (drained) in.

At this point add as much ketchup and sweet chilli sauce as you need. The bacon and chorizo have probably made it salty enough already. The ketchup will add thickness, salt and sweetness. The sweet chilli sauce will of course add sweetness and a little spicy tang.

Once you are done here you can hold the dish in this condition for as long as you like. When you are ready to proceed, cook the rice and serve with the cheese, salad and crème fraîche. And wine, of course!

chilli - final

Steak stones

hot stones in cupboardFuelled by recent bloggery and yesterday evening’s delicious steaks, I want to tell you all about my steak stones. I was first introduced to the concept of cooking my own steak at the dining table by a visit to the Pistenklause on my first trip to the Nürburgring.

Essentially you get served chips, sauces and general sides as usual, and your steak arrives raw on a sodding hot stone. That way you get to cut it up and cook it on the stone, exactly as you like it. Not only does this add an extra slice of fun to mealtime, from the restaurant’s point of view it also means customers can’t complain their steak has been cooked incorrectly!

hot stone baseNow I like steak. Indeed I like having people over for dinner. Yet I fear I’ll cook their steaks incorrectly. So I’ve managed to acquire a set of six hot stones so we can play this fun game at home!

My stones came from Black rock home grill via eBay. Bizarrely that site doesn’t carry the stones I bought at the moment, but an eBay search for ‘hot stone steak’ does. Be warned: they weren’t cheap at over £200 for six, but they do indeed do the job.

hot stoneOperationally I do struggle to get the stones hot enough. While my (non fan assisted) gas oven will do it on full power if the stones are left on the top shelf for at least an hour, I face a couple of issues.

First, I can only fit four stones on the top shelf. So if there are more than four of us eating, some stones aren’t as hot as others. Second, steak should in my view always be accompanied by chips, and the cooking dynamics of my oven seem to change dramatically when there’s a pile of granite on the top shelf.

Exotic meats on hot stones All this said, once I’ve got organised enough to cook a big pile of oven chips and produce some stinking hot stones, this set really does provide a top-notch home dining experience. To add further to the experience, I ordered a bunch of exotic meats from Kezie Foods. That was a fun and tasty evening!

Summer curry 2010

Here’s my latest curry recipe – this time a saucy chicken dish with loads of fresh veg. The portions here should comfortably be enough for four hungry people – can probably stretch to six mere mortals.

To start, get a big pan, fill two-thirds with water, and add a splash of vegetable oil. Then, scoop a pint of basmati rice from your sack, and plonk that in the water. Cover and leave; soak time is valuable – if at all possible do this a few hours before you start to cook.

Next cover the bottom of a big pot with oil, and dump a load of Madras paste in there – it’s sticky stuff and I put six heaped tablespoon full in. Stir it all up and leave on the lowest heat setting you’ve got.

Now it’s time to prepare the bird. Chop into typical curry-house chunks and stir into the paste and oil. Should look something like this:

Next, peel and prepare three medium sized onions, the best part of a bulb of garlic, and a decent sized knob of ginger. Thouroughly blend this lot up with some coconut milk and add it to the chicken. Add some ground coriander, cumin and garam masala and get the hob straight up to full heat. Get frying – while that’s happening add some chopped cauliflower.

Don’t let it fry for too long – we don’t want dry chicken. While that’s going on (don’t forget to stir!), blend 8 fresh tomatoes and 4 fresh chillis. As soon as the chicken looks cooked, add the new blend.

Let it bubble away – add some chopped peppers too. Turn down to a nice low heat. You can hold at this point for quite a while if you need to, only continue when you’re about 15 minutes away from wanting to dish up.

Fire up the rice! As I’ve mentioned before, if a scum builds up scoop it off with a spoon. Rice should be gently twirling in the water – not boiling too furiously (too hot), nor stuck at the bottom (too cold).  Rice needs constant attention to get it right. As soon as the grains aren’t hard in the middle, it is ready.

That should be that! Happy eating…

Curry of the moment

I’ve been asked to document a curry recipe. The thing is, my curries are a bit like snowflakes: each is unique. So I’ve decided to document my curry of the ‘moment’ – I may well revise this to be month/week/day as appropriate later. This then is a recipe for a chicken and vegetable madras or jalfrezi, depending on your view. If it were up to me I’d cook it with prawns, but Diane doesn’t like them so I’ve made it with chicken. Again, normally if forced away from prawns I’d have chicken on the bone, but chose to chop chicken breast to make this recipe more obviously interchangeable with prawns.

So here’s a recipe for a curry for two – fairly hot. It is designed to be relatively healthy – I’m not aiming for the greasy thick curry house sauce tonight.

To start, chop some garlic. I chose three cloves; if you’re a pasty-often-unwell sort I’d advise eating more. If you’ve got a date, probably use less.

chop garlic

Then, peel and chop an onion.

chop onions

Gently fry this lot up in vegetable/sunflower oil on a low temperature – cooking without colour at this stage.

gentle fry

Get two large spoonfuls of Patak’s madras paste in the mix. Make absolutely sure you buy paste not pre-mixed sauce – the paste is excellent; the sauce atrocious.

madras paste

Chop 4 small cup mushrooms.

mush-room mush-room (badger etc)

Add mushrooms and chopped cauliflower to the mix.

with cauliflower

Now turn the heat right up to fry that veg. In the meantime, chop the chicken (or open the prawns!). Then once the pan is nice and hot, add the meat.

with cauliflower

While you’re getting the meat cooked, get a nice big pan of water heating for the rice. Important to have plenty of water to prevent the rice sticking together. Sprinkle some salt in the curry dish, dump an extremely unhealthy portion of salt into the rice water. Also, add a splash of vegetable oil to the rice water. Only use Basmati rice; it’s expensive and absolutely worth it. No other rice will do! Half a pint of rice is about right for two people:

rice, cans etc

Once the water is boiling, add the rice. Once the meat is cooked, add the can of chopped tomatoes. Don’t let the chicken cook too much if it’s not on the bone – it’ll go all dry and chammy. Stir all this in.

Next, if like me you like it hot, add some chilis. I’ve chosen to top and tail them, and then slice them along their length. This gets all the seeds into the mix, but allows girls to easily remove the greenery.


Next, open the coconut milk and empty almost half the can into the now empty chopped tomato can. Swill that around to mix it all up. Then, slowly (important to prevent separation), add this to the sauce. If you like it hot, add less; if not, add more.

with cocunut oil

Keep an eye on the rice during all this. If a scum builds up as in the picture below, scoop it off with a spoon. Rice should be gently twirling in the water – not boiling too furiously (too hot), nor stuck at the bottom (too cold).  Rice needs constant attention to get it right.


Repeatedly check the rice – as soon as the grains aren’t hard in the middle, it is ready. Sieve the rice, then roughly chop coriander.


Sprinkle this on the curry.

curry finished

Then serve and enjoy with a nice bottle of red. Chin chin!


Finally, avoid burning yourself on a pan while adjusting the gas – the injury rather slows down the eating, and then the “writing up”.

burnt - ouch!