Thursday, 21 April 2011

An Indian Meal Cooked Over an Open Fire

Inspired by unusually hot April weather and a family request for a curry meal, I decided that I needed to be outside in that glorious early evening sunshine and cook the whole meal on the barbeque. That's everything, rice, vegetables, bread and the main dish itself.

I'd spent a fair amount of time driving to and from meetings in the afternoon so I had plenty of time to mentally plan how I would do this. It would all be done over charcoal making the most of the gradually decreasing cooking temperature over 45 minutes or so.

I decided on a menu:

- Grilled tiger prawn tandoori kebabs
- Chicken tikka with red peppers and spring onions
- Broccoli with ginger, garlic and spring onion cooked in foil
- Steamed basmati rice
- Wholemeal chapatis
- Cucumber raita

(see below for all recipes)

This meal took a leisurely two hours from start to finish. First I prepared all of the raw ingredients and marinades before lighting the charcoal briquettes in the chimney starter. All of the ingredients and utensils came into the garden with me and the rest was done sitting by the brazier in the early evening sun.

There was a fair amount to prepare so I started by making the chapati dough and wrapping it in foil to be rolled out later. Then the chicken breast pieces were left to marinate in the tikka curry paste and the defrosted tiger prawns in the tandoori marinade. I then prepared all of the onions, red peppers, garlic, and grated ginger for each of the recipes.

The meal was to be served at 6pm, so I needed to ignite the charcoal in the chimney starter just before 5, allowing 20 minutes for the coals to come to temperature. Once the coals were ready I heaped them in the centre of the brazier to create a hot spot in the middle and less hot areas around the edges.

RECIPES (all recipes to serve 4, generously):

GRILLED TIGER PRAWN TANDOORI KEBABS

- 20 defrosted tiger prawns
- 1 tbsp tandoori masala spice mix (I used Natco brand)
- 1 tbsp natural yoghurt
- 2 spring onions cut into 3cm lengths and split down the centre
- Fresh coriander leaves for garnish
- 1 lime cut into 4 wedges

Put the prawns, spice mix and yoghurt in a bowl for 20 minutes or so. Thread the prawns onto metal skewers (or thoroughly soaked bamboo skewers) with a slice of spring onion between the prawns. Grill over the coals about 10 minutes before serving. The coals will be gentler by then. Garnish with the coriander leaves and serve with lime wedges. Makes a great starter.

CHICKEN TIKKA WITH RED PEPPERS & SPRING ONIONS

- 3 large chicken breasts cut into cubes
- 1/2 jar of tikka masala paste (Pataks in this case)
- 2-3 spring onions
- 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
- 1 red pepper chopped
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 large handful of fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
- Olive oil

Start by mixing the chicken, tikka masala paste, spring onions and half of the coriander leaves in a bowl to marinate for 1/2 hour or so. Once the coals are ready and at their hottest, fry the chicken marinade mix in a large (metal handled!)  frying pan in the centre of the fire in a bit of oil. Stir constantly for 5 minutes or so until the chicken pieces are mostly cooked. Remove the cooked chicken from the pan and put it back in the bowl and cover with foil.

Add a bit more oil and fry the onions and red peppers until the onions are just soft. You may need to add a bit of liquid (water or beer) to loosen any spices stuck to the pan. Then add the tin of tomatoes, give it a good stir and let the sauce cook down for 10-15 minutes. About 10 minutes before serving, return the chicken pieces to the pan, stir will and bring back to a simmer. Move the pan to the edge to keep it warm.

Serve the chicken tikka masala with a generous garnish of fresh coriander.

BROCCOLI WITH GINGER, GARLIC & SPRING ONION COOKED IN FOIL

- 1 medium sized head of broccoli cut into pieces
- 2cm cube of fresh ginger, grated (I keep ginger in the freezer, easier to grate and always fresh)
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 2-3 spring onions, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup of water or chicken stock

Find a flat bottomed cereal or pasta bowl and line it with two layers of foil, leaving plenty overhanging the edges. Place the spring onions on the bottom, add the broccoli pieces, and then the garlic and grated ginger on top and add the water or stock. Make a lid (a bit like a pie!) with another piece of foil and tightly seal the edges to make a flat bottomed parcel.

Place the parcel around the edge of the coals turning them every few minutes to make sure it cooks evenly and the bottom doesn't burn. Allow at least 20-30 minutes, slow and gentle is best and it takes a while to start off. If you listen carefully you should just hear a gentle simmer going on inside and a small amount of steam escaping.

STEAMED BASMATI RICE

-1 cup of washed basmati rice
- 2 cups of water
- 2 bay leaves

Put the washed rice, water and bay leaves in a small saucepan with a lid. Put the sauce pan around the edge of the fire without the lid, giving it a shake every now and then until it starts to simmer. Keep checking it and once the water gets to the level of the rice put the lid on and keep it to the edge, turning the pot every now and then. From this point the rice needs only 5 minutes of gentle heat, and then a further five just kept warm with the lid still on. You could remove it from the heat and wrap it in a tea towel.

I would start the rice about 30 minutes before serving. It takes a bit to get going, and will stay hot in the covered pan until needed.

WHOLEMEAL CHAPATIS

One of my all time favourite unleavened breads. Great for camping and can be made with white flour for a softer Mediterranean version. See one of my very first posts: Unleavened Bread

- 200g wholemeal flour (strong or plain)
- 90ml warm water
- 1 tbsp olive oil

Mix the ingredients in a bowl with a knife and knead for a few minutes until fully blended. Wrap the ball of dough in cling film or foil at least an hour before it is required.

It will only take about 5-7 minutes to cook so when ready, divide the dough into 4 and roll each piece out on a floured board to about 20cm in diameter. The coals should be fairly gently by now, so grill the breads a minute or so on each side until puffy and just browned. As they become ready, wrap them in a tea towel to keep them warm and prevent them from drying out. If the fire is really hot when you are cooking them, cook them on a dry skillet instead.

CUCUMBER RAITA

- 1/2 peeled cucumber, chopped
- 2-3 tbsp natural yoghurt
- 1/4 tspn garam masala
- pinch of salt

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and serve.

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