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November 2008

October 2008

Indian Food Made Easy- Anjum Anand

Anjum Anand Yesterday I caught the new Desi Goddess of Food TV.   Barely Indian but quite worthy of being a Raja Ravi Verma poster goddess.She seems like one of those global people who are quite at home almost anywhere but are categorised as 'Indian' in the UK and 'English' in India. Lucky for Anjum Anand. It gets her a TV show on cooking Indian food.

Most people in India wouldn't recognise the food she cooks as anything particularly from this part of the world though it seems quite edible and, possibly, much tastier than the average British meal.
Shades of Nigella Lawson but less self concious, her screen presence is pleasant, not preachy or clever in the way several other Indian cook show hosts are. And the format of the show is a bit different. For one thing, many scenes are shot it outside the studio and the Iranian friend as the foil is a nice touch.

Sadly the food is not quite Indian.The samosas, sold at a fair, were made in a different way. It may have been delicious but could not have had the flaky feel of a Punjabi samosa nor the crispness of a Bohri kheema samosa.The naan produced on the show looked tough, heavy and some of it even sounded brittle. The raan ...well I think Madhur Jaffrey had a better recipe though I liked the explanation about the reasons British lamb tastes very different to mutton in India and that the only approximation could be had from a halal butcher. I remember, when living in London years ago, trying hard to make British lamb taste like  Indian mutton -with little luck.Ugh. 

Nevertheless the leg of lamb Anjum prepared was covered in a layer of fat. Nobody here would ever begin with anything like that. Mutton is about the leanest meat available in India. The goats here walk for miles to get a belly full of grass. They have no chance to put on weight in the form of fat .The butcher then proceeds to remove every bit of extra fat and gristle visible before itis deemed ready to cook.

What makes the show interesting is that it becomes apparent that recipes change with time and place, according to availability of ingredients and memory. Ten years on Anjum Anand's recipes might be considered "authentic" British Indian cooking and she might have brought more than a touch of spice to the island's platter.

(Anjum’s new series on Indian Food starts on the 10th of November on BBC2 in the UK at 8.30pm and runs for 6 weeks. Photo courtesy

Holiday in France- Pas De Calais - Les Brebis d'Esgranges

The nice thing about driving around in the rural areas of France is to explore the little byways to find out where they lead to. Very often we have been rewarded with a look at the operations of local producers of artisanal foods and a taste of something fresh and new.
 Recently we were in the North of France, near Crequy, and as we wound our way about the incredibly lush, green countryside of Les Pays des 7 Vallees in our rented, but spiffy, new , blue Renault we came across a very friendly family making delicious sheeps cheese and yogurt. 

La Tomme D'esgranges
Les Brebis  d'Esgranges,which is what they call it, comes in two varieties. A young soft cheese and an aged one which is the popular Tomme D'esgranges. It was first made by Christophe and Sylviane Henguelle in 1991. It was a little unusual, at that time, to rear sheep in the north of France as the area is considered too rainy and cold. But Sylvaine had a dream of having a sheep farm and  persisted.  They began rearing sheep on their farm, despite all conventional wisdom, bringing the sheep into the fold during the rain and cold. The sheep began to thrive and the Henguelles started the cheese business as well.

 Sheep on the farm 2
Christophe took us for a quick tour through the farm, their main cheese making unit and their shop where you can taste their products and buy what you need. The shop also works as a little presenatation room with charts and tools to explain the processes of cheese making to young children.
Children and lamb

They get several groups of school children in the summer. The farm ,with sheep and lambs gambolling about, is an ideal place to visit for families with children holidaying in the area. 

Cutting cheese

They were selling their products during the recent ( 11 & 12 October ) Cheese festival in Meulan  where several other producers of cheese collected .The festival is an annual event and a great way of testing several varieties of cheese.  Les Brebis d'Esgranges is now well known in the region, where it has a dedicated clientele, and is also sold across the country. Chez S. et C. Henguelle La Ferme du Bois d' Esgranges 62310 Crequy , France Tel and  fax: 03 21 81 13 14

Another great place to discover in Pas De Calais

Mustard and Green Tomato Pickle

Green Tomatoes Mustard seed is cultivated all over the world today and the plant flourishes in most temperate climates. There are several varieties and one of them is the typical Indian mustard seed which is brown in colour and originated from the Northern Himalayas. It is scientifically known as Brassica Juncea and has a flavour all its own.When ground into a powder, it does not have the brilliant yellow colour of prepared mustard, as produced in the US.The ubiquitous American mustard, which spills out and slops over most fast food , hot dogs and hamburgers, sandwiches and fries, achieves its unreal colour through the addition to powdered yellow mustard of Allepey turmeric, a haldi harvested in Kerala! Mustard grows extensively in Bihar and Bengal which is why it is used so frequently in the cuisines of those states. In Maharashtra as well , one of the most commonly used spices is rai.
And yet I associate mustard most with Punjab, where fields of yellow mustard flowers stretch to reach the horizon and cooking Makki di Roti ( Flat Corn bread) and Sarson da Sag, a vegetable made from slow cooking mustard greens, are the only way to celebrate the end of winter. The following recipe for a mild pickle uses a yellow mustard but our more pungent brown mustard will do nicely too. Here mustard acts both to perk up the pickle and as a preservative, to retard bacterial growth.


2 kg green tomatoes, chopped
4 large onions, sliced
2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1 kg cane sugar
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp cloves
40 gms salt ( sea salt if possible)
1 litre malt vinegar

Put all the ingredients together in a heavy pan. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and let the mixture simmer for about 2 hours stirring occasionally. When it has become a pulp and the liquid has reduced turn off the heat and take off the fire.Pour into sterilised glass bottles immediately.

How to sterilise jam jars:Take a heavy bottomed saucepan, (the bottom of a 5 litre pressure cooker will do) , and place 4 -5 bottles in it. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Let it boil for 15 minutes.Pop the lids in for the last 5 minutes. Remove from the hot water and stand upright on a tea towel. Fill with the hot pickle upto a 1/4 inch from the top. Cover with butterpaper and screw lids on tight. Refrigeration will help preserve the taste of the mustard . 

Another green tomato recipe.