A South Asian influenced feast

South Asian style salmon

Sometimes you start off with the kernal of an idea that just grows until it’s way beyond your control, taking on a life of it’s own, just like Jack’s magic beans. This started off when I glanced at What’s for Lunch Honey’s Channa Palak recipe a few days ago . I mentally filed it away as something I wanted to try out. That mind running along a South Asian spice track, and then, heading back to the same blog I found a Spicy bream recipe and thought I could adapt that to some wild salmon. I figured the strong almost gamey flavour of the fish would stand up to spices well.

And everything just sprouted uncontrollably from there. I needed rice to go with it, but rather than soothe and mollify, I wanted it to complement and almost compete with the salmon. So I matched the paprika-laced oily fish flavours with sweet and scented saffron and raisins. They made a glorious juxtaposition and both were backed up by the simpler, more rustic chickpea and spinach.

The rice and the chickpeas
Rice and chickpeas with spinach

To this I added some elderly and distinctly bendy carrots that were transformed by heat and some judicious spicing into a sweet and nutty roast side dish. A fresh fennel and pomelo salad lent the whole meal a much needed fresh and crispy edge to cut the all rich sweet spicy and smoky flavours.  Finally, just to round things off, and because I love thick yoghurt in all its forms, I whipped up a fresh and zingy lemon and herb yogurt sauce and poppadoms.

What started off as an idea for a simple spiced snack turned into a seven dish not-quite-feast. Certainly, when you take into account there were only two of us eating, it was of feast like quantities. So a big thanks to Meeta K at What’s for Lunch Honey for planting the seed. 

The feast
The feast

And the whole thing only took a couple of hours, give or take 15 minutes which was fab. I’ve tried to lay it out below in the order I prepared it all. 

Spicy roast carrots
5 old carrots cut into long wedges
2 tblsp oil
1 tsp grd cumin
1 tsp garam masala

Heat the oven to 180oC. While it’s warming up, cut the carrots into long wedges. Don’t worry about some of them being a bit thin, they will caramelise beautifully. Toss the wedges in olive oil and sprinkle over the spices. Toss them some more until they are totally covered, spread them out in a roasting dish and stick them in the oven for about 45 minutes.

They can sit in the oven once it is turned off for a while, they’re just as good warm rather than hot. You could squeeze over some fresh lemon juice to spritz it up a little. Another alternative would be to use whole cumin seeds rather than ground cumin to add more nutiness to the finished result.

Lemon, herb and garlic yoghurt sauce
This dip goes well with almost anything, especially spiced meat and fish. It’s smooth creaminess is beautifully offset by the fresh herbaceous flavours of the coriander, the sharp mint and the tart lemon juice. Somehow, and I don’t really understand how, the oil really brings everything together while the garlic infuses the whole with an underlying pungency.

250g yoghurt
Juice of half a lemon
A handful of coriander leaves
A handful of mint leaves
A glug of olive oil
1 clove of garlic

This is dead easy. Chuck the yoghurt into a bowl and whisk/beat it until it’s smooth. Squeeze in the lemon juice, crush the garlic over the top and glug in the olive oil and whisk/beat some more until it’s smooth again. Shred the leaves and stiff them in and leave for at least 20 mins in the fridge so the flavours mingle. 

Saffron & raisin basmati rice
I use a rice cooker for making rice because it removes all the issues I used to have with adding the right amount of water, loose fitting lids etc. For this dish, I put one cup of white basmati rice, a handful of raisins and a large pinch of saffron threads into the bowl of the cooker. Add about one and quarter cups of water (the extra quarter is to allow for the raisins soaking up some of it) and turn the thing on. It’s ready after 30 minutes. And it stays warm for longer. Magic. 

If you’re using a pan and aren’t too sure about the measurements and volumes, get a large pot of water boiling, chuck in the rice, saffron and raisins and boil vigorously for 10 minutes exactly. Drain the rice using a sieve, put the sieve of rice back in the pan and cover as best you can with the pan lid and leave it to steam for a few minutes before fluffing up with a fork.

Spicy chickpeas and spinach
Inspiration from here: http://whatsforlunchhoney.blogspot.com/2010/01/bollywood-cooking-chickpeas-with.html. 

I adapted the recipe to taste and necessity. I love the deep pungent and spicy notes asafoetida gives to a dish, particularly one with pulses. If I were to do it again I would probably add some nutmeg and more chilli too. But the mustard seeds do give it a gentle rustic taste. It’s a perfect soothing supper for one, or great side for three or more. I also didn’t put any salt in and added lime instead to give a little sharp fruitiness and help bring it together with the rest of the lemon and lime laced meal.

1 tin chickpeas 
250g baby spinach leaves, washed  
.5 tsp black mustard seeds  
1 pinch of ground asafoetida
A small onions
1 tsp tomato paste 
1 tomato
1 green chilli finely chopped
Half a fresh lime

Chop the onion and tomoto finely so that the pieces are about the same size as the chickpeas. Heat a glug of oil (light olive or ground nut is best) in the pan over a high heat and drop in the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop (about a minute or so) drop in the onion and stir and fry for five or six minutes until the pieces start to brown at the edges.

Chuck in a pinch of asafoetida, stir it in, then add the chopped tomato, tomato paste/ketchup, and green chilli and stir and fry for a couple of minutes. Add a cup or so of water, bring to the boil, turn down the heat and add the spinach a handful at a time. Wait for each handful to wilt before adding the next and stirring it in. 

Simmer for another 10 minutes or so until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the lime juice and season with a bit of pepper.  
Fennel and pomelo salad
I’ve never eaten a pomelo before so I decided to give it a go here instead of my usual orange. It was a revelation, not as juicy and slightly gentler and sweeter than oranges, it made a perfect partner to the thinly sliced aniseed flavoured fennel.

No ingredient list necessary here. Take fresh fennel and slice finely. Peel the pomelo/orange by topping and tailing it then standing it on its end and slicing away the skin and pith. Then carefully slice in from top to bottom removing the flash from the skin in wedges, Mix and add some back pepper and lemon juice if you want a bit more citrus zing.

Spiced salmon
Inspiration from here: http://whatsforlunchhoney.blogspot.com/2008/07/spicy-black-sesame-sea-bream-with-corn.html.

This gives you a deep ruby red and earthy spicy tasting fish dish. I love spicy salmon and this made a perfect colourful centrepiece to the meal. 

3 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 clove crushed garlic
Chilli flakes blk pepper
1 tblsp roasted black sesame seeds
2 fillets of wild salmon

Mix the spices and garlic together to make your spice rub and then smear it all over the salmon. Set aside for 30-60 minutes while you make the rest of your meal. Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan (I use non-stick for fish because otherwise the skin grafts itself to the bottom of my pan and getting it off by and is a bugger to get off). When the oil is smoking add the salmon skin side down and fry for 3-5 minutes, depending on how well done you like your salmon. Flip it and fry the other side for 2-4 minutes. Serve with a wedge of fresh lime and some coriander leaves on the side. 

3 Responses to “A South Asian influenced feast”

  1. shayma

    fantastic! i love the menu, everything looks so delicious, and what is beautiful is that you havent used a heavy hand with the spices, just used a few to let the tastes really comes through. the only thing i am not a fan of is ‘heeng’ (asafoetida) we dont use it in pakistani cooking, but i know a lot of people love it. that is just my humble opinion. how do you feel about it? btw your photos came out so beautiful- do you use a dSLR? mine is a point and shoot, so i can never photograph my food at night :( a great meal, congrats (e complimenti!) x shayma

  2. The Grubworm

    Thanks Shayma!

    I only use asafoetida in certain dishes because it does have an incredibly pungent taste. I still remember the first time i bought it, dipped my finger in the pot and tried it neat. That was memorable for all the wrong reasons. But in things, so long as i use a little tiny bit, i find it gives a pleasant earthy taste, not unlike the effect fermented shrimp paste has in some Thai dishes.

    Glad you like photos – i have a lovely little Sony Cybershot point-and-press. I try never to use a flash and sit the camera on something when I take the shot. Sometimes i use a timer to avoid camera shake. Then I also use PhotoShop to balance the light and crop the image if it needs adjusting. I try not to do this too much, but i will adjust if i need to.

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