It was the perfect storm. New exciting chefs on shiny new programs at the same time as I was able to spend vast amounts of time watching the telly. These days however I spend less time watching the box and when I do, the food programs all too often fail to make me want to cook anything. The recent trend of cooking competitions with celebrity spin-offs do little but annoy me and certainly never get my culinary imagination fired up.
There has been one gem for me recently. Amongst the Masterchef's and Come Dine with Me's shone Rick Stein's India. I'm a big fan of Stein's. I've liked, with few exceptions, everything that he has done. I know that some people find his delivery to be condescending and vaguely annoying, like a broken toenail or Morrissey, but I like him. More to the point I have really liked this latest series. I make curries quite regularly but I've got into a rut, using the same spice mixes and sauces so discovering new combinations and methods has been inspiring.
I bought the cookbook which accompanies the series a couple of weeks ago. I was going to wait until Christmas, but impatience got the better of me. The fist thing I turned to was Saag Paneer. I'm happy to tell you that Rick agrees with me on how this is cooked. I then started to look for a recipe for tonight's meal.
My first choice was Chicken Vindail. It comes from Chennai and is a quick cooked chicken curry similar to vindaloo in that the sauce is finished with vinegar. Because the vindail was essentially chicken and sauce, I decided to cook a side dish too. I flicked through the Vegetable chapter of the book and chose Poriyal, a dish of peas, carrots and beans finished with coconut.
The poriyal was so fresh and fast to cook that it may well become my standby side dish. I replaced the peas that the recipe called for with some home grown broad beans just to make it even fresher. The vindail was, without a shadow of a doubt one of the best curries I have ever cooked. It was possibly one of the best I have ever eaten, at home or in a restaurant.
The meal devoured, I went back to the book and started tagging recipes for future use. Normally a good cook book will get three of four tags but Stein's Curry now has eighteen tagged recipes for future cooking, not including the two from tonight that we'll definitely cook again. I can't remember the last time I was this inspired by a TV program or cookery book. I feel a lot of curries* in the near future.
*curry being the adopted generic term used to cover all Indian cookery. The closest translation for curry means gravy which neither of these dishes had.