Sunday, 17 February 2013

Floyd's India

Keith Floyd. Oh Keith Floyd. How we all love you, and miss you.

With his eccentric presenting style Keith touched the hearts of the nation and I don't know anyone who doesn't smile as they are asked to remember their favourite Floyd episode. Sadly he was known for his boozing as much as his cooking and his generally unhealthy lifestyle soon caught up with him and he died at the age of 65. Of course, he lives on in kitchens up and down the country and his old television series is on practically every week thanks to Saturday Kitchen. So, Keith may be gone, but he is not, and will not be, forgotten!

I can't remember how we got hold of Floyd's India; I seem to think my mum bought it for us, but I'm really not sure. I do remember being quite daunted by the recipes at the time. See in 2001, when this book was published, I'd just graduated, I'd just moved in with Gav and we were young, naive and SKINT. Back then I didn't really know what cardamom pods were never mind about forking out a couple of quid for a small jar of them.

With this in mind then, it's hardly surprising that it was actually a few years before I tried cooking from the book. But once I got going I found quite a few decent recipes; the mango and chilli chutney and Floyd's imperial biryani are two of my all time favourites. This book also taught me some of the basics of Indian cooking; the preparation of a masala and the fact that a curry sauce is called a gravy.

Lately Floyd's India has been ignored and it was good to be able to put it to good use again this week. The book starts with 'Letters from India' which is a collection of Keith's memories of his travels from Kerala to The Punjab. Of course I haven't actually read these chapters but I do aim to actually read my cookbooks as well as cook from them!

Onto the recipes and I kicked off the week with green pea curry. Essentially made up of peas, tomatoes, onion, chillies, ginger, garlic and garam masala it was exceptionally quick, easy, healthy and cheap; more so as I'd made the garam masala for another recipe some time ago. The ginger and garlic gave a good flavour to this simple vegetable curry whilst the chilli gave a much needed kick. However, I found it way too light for an main evening dish and would recommend serving this as a side or a light lunch only.

Fish in banana leaf (or kitchen foil) was a top dish. Trout was marinaded in a turmeric and lime coating before being pan fried and then covered in a delicious tomato gravy and wrapped in foil to be baked in the oven. The end result was pretty stunning. The fish was perfectly moist and the gravy was incredibly tasty with a decent kick that left my lips tingling nicely. I served the fish with some purple sprouting broccoli but given the amount of tomato gravy a vegetable side dish was not needed and I won't bother next time. I'd also use fillets next time as, although I enjoy whole fish, I find eating them whilst doused in a thick sauce quite annoying.

On Valentine's Day Gav decided that he wanted to cook. Hot and dry chicken curry looked relatively straight forward, but Gav managed to drag out the cooking process to such an extent that we ate at 9.30 pm! Ho hum. It was worth it. The gravy was thick and dark brown, despite the number of tomatoes in there. Far from looking unappetising, it looked like a traditional Indian curry which instantly pleased us both (also the chicken had been cooked on the bone which is always another bonus for us). With a masala of cumin, fennel, mustard seeds, ginger and garlic purée  turmeric, chilli powder and coriander the dish really packed a punch. Hot, but not overly so, this curry was about spicing and flavours and by 'eck, there was a lot of them. This one will be repeated!

Last, but not least was the marinated and baked rabbit. A whole rabbit was marinated in a garlic and ginger purée with garam masala, lime juice and chilli powder. Although Keith tells us that the marinade should be a smooth paste, mine was more of a liquid thanks to the lime juice and I wouldn't add anywhere near as much next time. I might also use some yoghurt next time. The rabbit is then stuffed with cashew nuts and sultanas, wrapped in foil and baked for an hour. It was good in so far as the rabbit was well cooked, but sadly it lacked any real flavour from the marinade. Maybe next time I'll use Keith's marinade for his tandoori chicken.

Revisiting this book has been an absolute joy. There's lots of interesting recipes in here and they range from quick and easy tea time meals to full on dinners fit for a banquet. If you fancy giving it a go, it's still available on Amazon.

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