If you’ve lamented the loss of the much loved and all time best Indian restaurant in London known as Vama, you’ll be pleased to know that chef Andy Varma and his brother Arjun have come up with another culinary creation. Nestled in the heart of London’s Notting Hill is Chakra.
Saffron is the dried stigma of Crocus sativus, an autumn-flowering plant. More than 75,000 crocus blossoms are needed to produce a pound of saffron. It is very expensive but, fortunately, a little goes a long way. It adds a rich golden colour to rice dishes. Saffron is sold as the whole stigmas, wiry strands or threads in a deep vibrant, orange or red colour. It should have a strong, penetrating, clinging aroma, and an aromatic, warm rich flavour.
Saffron supplies the characteristic flavour and colour in Indian dessert sauces and milk puddings. Steep the stigmas in water for a few minutes before using them to extract as much as possible of their flavour.
Store wrapped in Cellophane in an airtight container away from sunlight for 2 months. Buy small quantities as it loses its flavour quicklyAdd a comment
Curry leaves lend a lingering aroma to the dish, and are discarded before serving. They come from the curry plant, a shrub native to India and Sri Lanka. They are slender, dark green and similar to a small, narrow bay leaf.
The leaves smell fresh and pleasant, remotely reminiscent of tangerines, and add an aromatic curry flavour to any dish. They are the trademark of southern Indian cooking, used to flavour meat, fish, vegetables, lentils, rice and bread. They are also used in preparing Madras curry powders.
If you cannot get hold of fresh curry leaves, try the dried variety. You can buy either from Asian shops.Add a comment
Native to India, the peppercorn is the king of spices. Black peppercorns are the fermented green berries of a perennial vine plant, piper nigrum, sun-dried to turn them black and hard. Green, white and pink peppercorns are from the same plant as the black variety, picked at varying stages of ripeness. Black peppercorns should be large, even in size and a deep rich brown. They smell earthy, warm and pungent. Their flavour is released on grinding and enhanced by heat. However, once ground, the volatile oils soon evaporate so add pepper towards the end of cooking.
Good-quality black peppercorns will keep for many years in a cool dark place in an airtight container.Add a comment
A herb in the parsley family, similar to anise. The leaves come from the young plant, Coriandrum sativum, and look similar to flat-leaf parsley, but are thinner and lighter green. They are sold in bunches in Asian shops, and smell fruity and vibrant. They have a distinct, strong flavour, of ginger and citrus. You can use the stems as well as the leaves in Indian dishes, but make sure you wash them thoroughly first to get rid of any grit. They feature in curries chutneys, soups, sandwich spreads and relishes.Add a comment