I’m a big Rick Stein fan. I’ve loved all his TV programmes and cooked loads of dishes from his recipe books (many of them over and over again).
I joined his Far Eastern Odyssey with great enthusiasm, revelling in the food of Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bali and Bangladesh (how’s that for an exotic collection).
I loved the series on Spain so much it nearly had me in tears (of happiness)! My Spanish genes are still in me somewhere! I even (sadly some would say) wrote to Rick to tell him how much I loved it…he replied, well his PA did on his behalf anyway.
And then another series: Rick Stein’s India, in search of “the perfect curry”. Rick brought the food of this vast country into my living room! After each episode of this series I wanted to go to India/go to an Indian restaurant/get an Indian takeaway/cook one of his recipes – well, all of the above, really.
Rick’s enthusiasm for food and the history and traditions of the place he’s visiting never falters which make his programmes truly inspiring to me.
So far I’ve tried five Indian recipes and they’ve all been delicious and surprisingly different. The nature of Indian food means that you should expect to take a bit of time over the dish you are cooking. It’s a therapeutic time in the kitchen, my husband and I have taken to cooking the dishes together, and well worth the effort when you taste the results.
I’ve loved my own personal Rick Stein Odyssey, even though I haven’t followed in his footsteps travelling the globe (sadly). I have certainly brought a lot of exotic flavours into my kitchen which friends and family have had the joy of savouring.
Where next Rick? I’m waiting…
To get your juices going here are two recipes from Rick Stein’s India. Enjoy.
Prawn fritters from the Allen Kitchen, Kolkata
Rick says: I couldn’t work out why these prawns were so delicious, there seemed to be nothing to them, just a simple batter, a bit of lemon, some onion rings and a bottle of mustard sauce. But the very enthusiastic blogger from Calcutta called Kaniska was keen to point out that this tiny hole in the wall was one of the most popular foodie spots in the city. They may have put a secret ingredient in the batter, but I expect the success lies in using chickpea flour and frying the battered prawns in pure ghee. I consumed a few plates of them while having a thoroughly enjoyable conversation about the infinite possibilities of street food in that city. Later I woke up in the middle of the night in my hotel with my head spinning, thinking the pace of life was so frenetic that I was surely locked into a madhouse, albeit with some of the tastiest food I’ve ever found. This makes a quite soft batter, not a thick, crisp batter like you’d get with fish and chips.
12 extra large unpeeled raw prawns
For the batter
60g plain flour
60g chickpea flour
Quarter of a tsp of salt
1 free-range egg
70g ghee, for frying
To prepare the prawns, pull off the head and peel away the shell, leaving the tail intact. Use a small, sharp knife to run down the back of the prawns and pull out the black intestinal tracts, if visible. Then use the knife to cut almost all the way through the prawns and butterfly them open. Flatten them out a little with the palm of your hand. Pat dry with kitchen towel.
For the batter, mix the flours and salt together, whisk in the egg and enough of the water to give a smooth batter the consistency of single cream. Heat the ghee in a heavy-based saucepan or karahi over a medium heat. Once hot, dip 2 or 3 prawns in the batter and carefully lower into the ghee. Fry for 2-3 minutes, turning once, until crisp and golden and cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper. Repeat with remaining prawns. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over.
Rocky’s chicken korma
Rick says: One of the questions I constantly asked myself in India was whether I could get food like this back in the UK. More often than not, the answer was probably no, and with this korma, the answer was emphatically no. Lucknow, with its history of Nawab rulers, is famous for the finesse of its dishes , and Rocky Mohan’s korma carries on that tradition. I had the most fabulous day cooking with him and his wife Rekha, a very successful marriage I would say. I asked her how long they’d been married – fifty, no, maybe a hundred years, she said! The black cardamom added at the end of cooking is an essential flavour in this particular dish.
1 x 1.5kg chicken, jointed into 8 pieces of 1.5kg chicken pieces, skinned.
For the coconut paste
125g fresh or frozen coconut flesh, chopped or grated
50g blanche almonds, roughly chopped
5 tsp white poppy seeds
For the masala
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
50g ghee or vegetable oil
6 green cardamom pods, lightly bruised with a rolling pin
3cm piece of cinnamon stick
One half to three quarters tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
125ml thick Greek-style yogurt mixed with 125ml water
3 black cardamom pods, sees only, finely ground
2 tbsp raisins, soaked in 4 tbsp boiling water for about 10 minutes, drained
For the coconut paste, blend the coconut, almonds and poppy seeds together in a mini food processor to a paste, adding enough hot water to give a silken texture.
For the masala blend the onions in a mini food processor to a paste, adding a splash of water if needed. Heat the ghee in a sturdy, deep-sided pan over a medium heat, add the cloves, green cardamom and cinnamon stick and fry for 30 seconds. Stir in the onion paste and salt and fry for 10 minutes until any liquid has evaporated and the onions are softened and translucent, but not coloured. Stir in the chilli powder, then ad the chicken pieces to the pan and fry for 10 minutes to brown slightly. Add the water and the coconut paste, bring to a simmer and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Take the pan off the heat, stir in the yogurt mixture, then return to a gentle heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered for 30 minutes, adding a little water if it starts to stick, until the chicken is cooked through and the masala thick and rich. Stir in the ground black cardamom, scatter with the raisins and serve.
Recipes extracted from Rick Stein’s India (BBC Books, £25).