Monday, 28 July 2008

Go Anywhere Tandoori

Three magic ingredients: A hot, still July day at the Cotswold Water Park with family, my favourite toy, and tandoori chicken kebabs.

My favourite toy is of course my ‘Go-Anywhere Weber’. A delightful invention designed to be portable, functional, and to outlive whoever is lucky enough to have one. I could rant on for ages about the design details, but that will have to be another time.

The traditional barbeque of fatty, mealy sausages served with bread and ketchup barely skims the surface of what it is possible to create over a bed of white hot charcoal.

I only had an hour to prepare for this before we left the house, racing against the clock as usual as we had to pick up Kitty’s friend Ruby at a pre-arranged location en route. I marinated some diced chicken breast and capsicum in some Pataks tandoori paste mixed with a dash of natural yogurt, pre-soaked a bunch of bamboo skewers in water (wrapped in foil and wet kitchen paper to keep them moist), chopped up some tomatoes, lettuce, lemons and coriander leaves, and bundled the lot into a cool box with a bit of extra yogurt in a pot. I also packed some good quality chipolata pork sausages that would take about the same amount of time to cook as the chicken.

Normally I’d have gone the unleavened bread route, but without the luxury of time, I took two packs of pitta breads for the kebabs and a few soft rolls for the chipolatas.

The great thing about the Go Anywhere Weber is that you can pack the charcoal inside it, (I put it in a carrier bag), with fire lighters or tinder to make the journey from the car to your picnic spot all the easier. I always use good quality lumpwood charcoal. It burns without smoking, gets super hot in about 30 minutes, and burns for up to an hour or so. Pyro Junior (Luca) then gets to play with it after I have finished all the cooking.

After the fire was lit, I had plenty of time to sit comfortably and mindlessly skewer the marinated chicken and capsicum pieces while I waited for the fire to mature. The chipolatas and kebabs took about 10 minutes to cook and then I warmed the pitta breads over the coals.

Sunday 27 July 2008

Tandoori Chicken on FoodistaTandoori Chicken

Friday, 25 July 2008

Unleavened Bread

Another heart warming pleasure. Soft, warm, yeast-free bread cooked on a hot dry skillet. Great camping food, or just as good in the kitchen. The batch in the photos was cooked one cool spring evening when we were staying in a Mongolian yurt at Larkhill Tipis in Wales.

This is my Mediterraneanised version of the traditional Indian chapatti. Look up any chapatti recipe (or use mine below), and replace the wholemeal flour with plain white flour, and the ghee with olive oil. A pinch of salt and that's it. You might want to add a few simple Mediterranean herbs, but I prefer it as it comes.

Mix the dough an hour before you need it and work it until it is soft and elastic (5-10 minutes), then wrap it in cling film or foil to let the moisture equalize.

When the fire (or hob!) is ready, divide the dough into golfball sized portions and roll them out as thinly as possible dusting with a little flour as you go.

On a hot dry skillet (I use a paella pan), cook the breads for as long as it takes for them to puff up a bit on each side. Depending on how hot the skillet is this could by anything up to about half a minute. As they come off the heat, wrap them in a tea towel to keep them warm and to stop them from drying out before serving.

The paella pan in the photos is sitting on hot embers and a few small rocks to keep an air gap between the embers and the pan.

Perfect with any Indian or Middle Eastern meal, rewarding to make, and even better to eat.

Dough mix (makes 6 small rotis):

1 cup plain flour

1/3 cup warm water

1 tablespoon of olive oil

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Googgie Eggs

Not much to do with fire, but plenty to do with food. A musing on a simple meal dredged from my archive.

Boiled Eggs.

The pleasure that comes from preparing perfect boiled eggs and watching children devour them in blissful silence is hard to beat.

There is at least one day in the week that our youngest have eggs for supper to prevent them from being exposed to excessive amounts of chilli or to make sure that they get fed between getting home from school and an early evening activity. Given the choice, Luca (6) will always take the egg option and Kitty (10) will be torn between eggs now and some other more exotic offering that she might have to wait for.

The great thing is that it takes no more than ten minutes from scratch to serve ‘perfect’ boiled eggs. Luca’s anticipation is priceless. He climbs onto the work top to watch the toast browning on his hands and knees, chooses his favourite china egg cup (always the blue mini), and watches the stove timer (upside down) as if his life depended on it. He is of course ‘starving’ by this point.

I am stressed. I go through such a ritual to make sure that the eggs are ‘perfect’ simply because the disappointment of serving over or under cooked eggs is soul destroying. There is nothing worse than cutting the top off a just cooked egg and seeing just a bit of gluey, gelatinous egg white hanging off the knife, or at the other extreme, discovering a powdery yolk.

The kids’ anticipation makes it so worthwhile. They so badly want ‘perfect’ eggs to dip their soldiers into that I have made it into a science.

Rule No. 1: Make sure that the eggs are at room temperature. If they have come straight from the fridge I place them in a bowl of tepid water for a few minutes.

Rule No. 2: Boil the kettle so you don’t have to watch the pot boil and make sure the pot of boiling water is the right size for the number of eggs you are cooking. Too small and they will be undercooked, too large and they will be overcooked. What exactly is the right size is difficult to judge, but at best, the boiling water should not drown the eggs. It should cover them by a small margin.

Rule No. 3: Follow the five minute method. That is, lower the eggs into the boiling water, simmer for exactly 5 minutes, then remove them from the pot. During this time put on the toast and have the butter, plates and egg cups ready for when the timer goes off.

The reward is in the serving. I use a serrated knife to remove the tops and what a joy it is to see that the white has just set all the way through. Only then can you be half certain that the yolk is going to be hot and creamy.

Then I watch the kids as they dunk their first soldier and wait for the ultimate endorsement: “It’s ok Dad, the eggs are ‘perfect’ ”.

Nov 2007

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Play With Matches

This is it. My debut to the world of blogging. I've registered the domain and as a precursor to the website this is where the ideas get dumped. Look forward to loads of photos, recipes and fire tips to bring out the pyro in you.
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