27 February 2011


The Samosa - A Brief History

Many believe the Samosa originated from Central Asia before the 10th century and made it’s way to India via the ancient trade routes. 
The Indian Samosa is the most famous from a family of filled pastries or dumplings which were popular from North Africa to West China. 
Ancient Arab cookery books refer to the Samosa as Sanbusak and this pronunciation is still used in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.
Today, the ease of travel and the cosmopolitan nature of our cities has made the Samosa a popular snack in many parts of the world.
I recently had a one on one cooking lesson and was asked if we could do a recipe for home made Samosas. Although I had never made them before, I am a lover of all Asian cooking and thought it would be great to give them a try. I did a little research as I wanted to make them authentic and recreate the beautiful crisp pastry that I always associate with samosas. 
We made a dry curry with potatoes and peas together with some of my favourite Asian spices and used this for our filling. I had a few tries at the pastry before being totally happy with the final results. I originally wanted to use wholemeal flour but I found that it was more difficult to work with and as I wanted the pastry to be really thin then I switched to using strong white flour.

Cumin, coriander, fennel and mustard seed, garam masala, turmeric, curry leaves, turmeric powder and tomato puree.

Recipe for the filling.

1 large potato, small diced.
1 small onion, small diced.
1/2 cup of frozen peas.
2 cloves garlic, crushed.
1 inch fresh ginger, grated.
1 red chilli, finely sliced.
300 ml water,
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, mustard seeds,
1 teaspoon garam masala, turmeric,
10 curry leaves,
1 teaspoon tomato puree,
Juice of half a lemon.
Salt and pepper to taste.

1) Toast the whole seeds (except the mustard) in a dry pan until they release their aromas.
2) Add some oil and fry the garlic, ginger and chilli for a few minutes before adding the onion.
3) Add the potatoes to the mix and cover with the water. Leave to simmer for about twenty minutes.
4) The potatoes should soften as the water is absorbed and evaporated but add more water if necessary.
5) Add the peas, turmeric, garam masala and tomato puree. Cook for a further 5 minutes.
6) In a seperate pan, heat a little oil and fry the curry leaves and mustard seeds for about a minute until       
     bubbling and popping. Add to the curry with the juice from the lemon.
7) Set aside and allow to cool.

Curried potato and pea filling.

This pastry recipe will make enough pastry for 24 samosas.

225gm. plain flour
2 tsp. salt
2tblspb. vegetable oil
70 ml warm water./10 ml wine vinegar.

1)Mix the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well into the centre and add the oil and enough water and vinegar to make a firm dough. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth and roll into a ball. Cover in clingfilm and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2)Divide the pastry into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and roll out into a circle of 15 cm. Divide this circle into two equal pieces.
3)Place a small amount of mixture into the centre of each semi-circle and lightly brush some water around the edges. Fold the pastry around the mix to form the triangle shape, crimping the edges together.

4)Deep fry the samosas in hot oil, (190 degrees Celsius) for 3 to 5 minutes until browned and crisp. The filling is already cooked so you just need to allow time for the pastry to crispen up and heat the filling through. They can be eaten hot or cold.

We served the samosas with a carrot, chilli, cinnamon and tomato salsa.

1 large carrot, grated and washed.
1 red chilli, finely sliced,
1/2 inch fresh ginger, grated,
2 teaspoons dried cinnamon,
1 teaspoon toasted coriander seeds,
3 tablespoons tomato ketchup.

Simply mix all ingredients together to make your dip.

Samosas with carrot, chilli and cinnamon dip.

ChefGary's tips:

When rolling out the pastry, the thinner you can get it, the crispier your pastry will be.

If you don't have an electric fryer, make sure your oil is hot enough by dipping a corner of the samosa in first. It should immediately start to bubble if the oil is at optimum cooking temperature.

Try using any leftover curry as a filling for your samosas.


26 February 2011


I have entered the Wessex Culinaire cooking event this March. I am competing in the Vegan live cooking event and will have 20 minutes to present two plates of a well balanced dish. It will be judged on presentation, flavour, texture and technical difficulty. I have decided on my dish using seasonal British vegetables as the main ingredients and have taken influence from various Asian cooking cultures to add a modern twist and utilise the great flavours from the Asian spices.
I had a trial run today and was really happy with the result so I took a few pictures and wanted to share it on my blog.

Curried red lentils and spinach,
Coconut milk, chilli, ginger, ground spices and fresh coriander.
Served with;
Sesame and garlic bread,
Cauliflower tempura, sticky sweet chilli dipping sauce.

As a regular diner of meat, fish and dairy, I have challenged myself to create a vegan dish for the Wessex Culinaire live cooking competition. I created this dish to show off the versatility of British vegetables that will be enhanced by modern cooking techniques and the use of Asian spices and flavours that have long been a part of modern British cooking. As well as bringing unique flavours to my cooking, I have researched some of the health benefits that my chosen ingredients bring to my dish.

Chilli; Contains capsaicin which can aid pain relief, prevent stomach ulcers and is good for the heart.
Cinnamon; Can help lower blood sugar levels and reduce bacterial growth.
Turmeric; Contains curcumin which is a natural anti-inflammatory.
Coriander; Contains protein, fat and minerals to help aid digestion.
Garlic; Can destroy cancer cells, good for blood circulation.
Ginger; Helps stimulate blood flow.
Lentils; Good source of dietary fibre and a source of protein in vegan diets.
Coconut milk; Contains vitamins, potassium, calcium, and chloride. Although a source of saturated fat, the main one being lauric acid, this is made up of short and medium chain fatty acids which are broken down quickly to be used for energy instead of turning to fat.
Spinach; A super food rich in calcium, folic acid, vitamins C and K, Iron and fibre.
Cauliflower; Contains vitamin C and manganese, natural anti-inflammatory.

Garam masala recipe;
4 tbsp coriander seeds       1 tbsp mustard seeds     2 tbsp cumin seeds         1 tbsp black peppercorns
2 tbsp fennel seeds            1 tbsp fenugreek seeds   2 inch piece cinnamon     1 tsp black cardamom seeds
1 tsp cloves                        1 tsp crushed bay leaves

Toast all the seeds over a moderate heat for a few minutes until the aromas are released from the seeds. Do not over toast as they will burn and become bitter. Grind to a fine powder when cooled slightly.

Cauliflower tempura, sticky sweet chilli dipping sauce.
1/2 small cauliflower, cut into small florets.
Tempura batter 
(50 grams self raising flour, 50 grams corn flour, 1 tspn garam masala, 1 tspn turmeric, 
25ml cold fizzy water)
Sweet chilli sauce
(1/2 red pepper & 1 red chilli, finely diced, 1 inch grated ginger,
 2 tblspn white vinegar & 2 tblspn brown sugar)

  1. Mix the ingredients for the sweet chilli sauce and boil together for a few minutes until thickened.
  2. Coat the cauliflower florets in the batter and deep fry for about 3 minutes.
  3. Serve warm with the sweet chilli dip.

Curried red lentils and spinach,
Coconut milk, chilli, ginger, ground spices and fresh coriander.

1 teaspoon cumin seeds.
1 teaspoon coriander seeds.
1 teaspoon fennel seeds.
1 teaspoon mustard seeds.
1 small onion, finely diced.
2 cloves garlic, crushed.
1 inch fresh grated ginger.
1 x red chilli, finely sliced.
1 teaspoon turmeric powder.
1 large tomato, roughly chopped.
10 curry leaves.
100 grams pre-soaked red lentils.
300 ml coconut milk.
1 teaspoon garam masala.
50 grams fresh baby spinach.
25 grams fresh coriander.
Juice of half a lemon,
Walnut oil for cooking, salt and pepper to taste.

1) Toast the whole seeds in a pan to release the aromas.
2) Add a splash of oil and sauté the ginger and garlic,
3) Add the onion, chilli, curry leaves and turmeric. Sauté for a few more minutes.
4) Add the tomato. Cook for a few minutes until the tomato begins to break down.
5) Add the lentils and a little water. Cook for about five minutes.
6) Add the coconut milk and reduce by half until the sauce has thickened.
7) Add the garam masala, spinach and coriander.
8) Stir together to cook the spinach. 
9) Add the lemon juice and adjust the seasoning.

Sesame and garlic bread,

200 grams self raising flour.
50 ml soya yoghurt.
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced.
1 cm fresh ginger, grated.
1 teaspoon sesame seeds.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Method:   (Pre heat an oven proof pan at 220 Celsius)
  1. Mix the flour and yoghurt together to form a soft dough.
  2. Mix in half of the other ingredients, reserving the other half to garnish.
  3. Knead the dough for a few minutes and leave covered until ready to roll out.
  4. Divide into 4 balls and flatten them out with your hands into tear shapes.
  5. Brush one side with oil and divide the remaining ingredients over the breads.
  6. Place the breads into a preheated pan and put in the oven.
  7. They will take about 5 to 6 minutes

20 February 2011


My latest dinner party was for some good friends of ours whom I am doing the wedding catering for this June. I tailored the menu to include some of their favourite dishes, the occasion tonight being Andy's brother's birthday. I took all the ingredients with me to their house along with all my cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery. It was great to meet Andy's parents, his brother and his partner. The atmosphere was nice and relaxed and I was able to set up in the kitchen quite quickly. 


Freshly baked tomato, basil and cheddar loaf,
Fresh herb butter.

x x x 

Crispy shredded beef salad, 
Julienne of spring onion, red pepper and carrot, sticky sweet chilli sauce.

x x x 

Pan roasted duck breast, 
Truffle scented mash, glazed chantenay carrots, saute green beans, rich redcurrant gravy.

x x x 

Trio of desserts,
White chocolate chip and fresh minted cheese cake,
Lemon brulee,
Honeycomb and vanilla ice cream with ginger tuille biscuit.

Freshly baked tomato, basil and cheddar loaf,

Crispy shredded beef salad, 
Julienne of spring onion, red pepper and carrot, sweet chilli sauce.

Pan roasted duck breast, 
Truffle scented mash, glazed chantenay carrots, saute green beans, rich redcurrant gravy.

Pan roasted duck breast, 
Truffle scented mash, glazed chantenay carrots, saute green beans, rich redcurrant gravy.

Trio of desserts,
White chocolate chip and fresh minted cheese cake,
Lemon brulee,
Honeycomb and vanilla ice cream with ginger tuille biscuit.

The evening went really well and I had plenty of great compliments from all of the guests so I went home at the end of the evening very pleased with my work.


15 February 2011


A Banquet of some delicious Asian favourites.

Tuna sashimi,
Tuna maki,
King prawn nigiri,
King prawn, spring onion and chilli tempura fritters, sweet chilli dip,
Fried noodles, chilli, garlic, ginger and coriander,
Pickled cucumber and carrot salad.

I had great fun preparing everything from fresh and especially enjoyed washing it all down with a few pints of Kirin beer,. 

ChefGary's private Dinner Parties

12 February 2011


I recently had another cooking session with Owen Hedicker, who is very keen to learn new techniques in the kitchen. After Owen had unfortunately been turned down by Jamie Oliver due to his ever increasing T.V appearances, I was very happy to take on the opportunity to create some exciting dishes with him. Until I get a call up myself to do T.V cooking programmes I am very happy to continue our sessions on a regular basis. I do these classes to help individuals who benefit from more personal tutoring as it can help with learning recipes, as well as teaching basic skills in the kitchen. I have been tailoring our classes on Asian dishes as Owen has great interest in learning about different spices and is gaining a great palette for the strong flavours from the fresh spices that we have been using.

We cooked up a great red lentil and spinach curry, homemade garlic and coriander naan breads, and tempura cauliflower florets with lime and chilli dressing. I have included the ingredients and recipes below.

Lentil curry, mini garlic naans, tempura cauliflower florets.

Red lentil and spinach curry.

1 onion, small diced.
2 cloves garlic, crushed.
1 inch fresh ginger, shredded,
1 red chilli, fine diced,
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped.
150 grams red lentils, soaked,
12 curry leaves,
1/2 tin coconut milk,
1 heaped teaspoon coriander seeds,
1 level teaspoon cumin seeds, 
1 level teaspoon fennel seeds,
1 level teaspoon mustard seeds.
1 heaped teaspoon garam masala,
1 level teaspoon turmeric,

1/2 bunch fresh coriander, chopped,
100 grams baby spinach leaves,
Juice of one lime.
Oil for cooking, salt and pepper.

1) Heat a pan over the stove, before adding the whole spices. Toast for a few minutes on a low heat to release the flavours. 
2) Add a little oil, adding the curry leaves, onion, garlic, chilli, tomato and onion.
3) Cook for a further few minutes, before adding the lentils and turmeric, salt and pepper.
4) Cover with water and boil until the lentils are soft and most of the water has been absorbed.
5) Add the coconut milk and garam masala.
6) Simmer until the coconut milk thickens and coats the lentils.
7) Add the spinach, coriander and lime juice.
8) Fold the spinach in until it wilts into the sauce.
9) Adjust the seasoning if needed.

ChefGary's tip:  You can use different spices according to taste. Try adding a cinnamon stick at stage four and remove before serving. For a hotter curry, add an extra chilli.

Garlic and coriander naan breads

250 grams self raising flour,
100 ml to 130ml warm milk,
1 garlic clove, crushed,
1 inch fresh ginger, finely sliced,
2 tablespoons chopped coriander,
Salt and pepper to taste.

1) Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
2) Add the milk gradually, forming a dough as you go.
3) Knead for about five minutes until the dough becomes elastic and soft.
4) Rest for ten minutes, leaving covered to avoid drying out.
5) Heat an oven proof pan on the stove, preheating the oven to at least 220 Celsius.
6) Roll out the dough into 4 or 5 tear shapes with your hands, brushing one side with oil.
7) Place the naan oil side down into the dry pan and put into the oven for abut six minutes.
8) The bread will be cooked when firm to the touch. If unsure, cut it in half and it should be dry all the way through and not appear dough like.

ChefGary's tip:
To add extra flavour to the naan, brush with garlic and coriander oil before placing back in the oven for a few minutes. Try also chopped chilli, onion seeds or sesame seeds.

Tempura cauliflower florets, lime and chilli dipping sauce.

Tempura batter,
50grams self raising flour, 50 grams cornflour, 1 teaspoon garam masala, 1/2 teaspoon turmric, 100ml cold fizzy water.
Dipping sauce,
100ml rice vinegar, 1 tblespn sugar, 1/2 finely diced onion, 1/2 finely diced red chilli,
 juice of half a lime.
1/2 head cauliflower.
500ml oil for deep frying.

1) Pre heat the oil to about 180 degrees.
2) Coat the cauliflower in the flour before setting aside.
3) Mix all the ingredients for the batter. Don't worry about any lumps.
4) Dip the cauliflower into the batter before carefully placing in the oil.
5) It should float to the top and start to bubble. and will take 3-4 minutes to cook.
6) Set aside on a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
7) Serve with the dipping sauce.

Lime and chilli dipping sauce
1) Bring the vinegar to the boil, mixing the sugar in until dissolved.
2) Take off the heat and add the onion, chilli and the juice from the lime.
3) Allow to cool before serving.

ChefGary's tip: This recipe also works great as a spicy sweet and sour salad dressing.

Recipe for garam masala
4 tbsps coriander seeds
2 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsps fennel seeds
1 tbsps fenugreek seeds
1 tbsps mustard seeds
2 inch piece cinnamon
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tsp black cardamom (3-4 large pods approx)
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp crushed bay leaves

Toast all the seeds over a moderate heat for a few minutes until the aromas are released from the seeds. Do not over toast as they will burn and become bitter. Grind to a fine powder when cooled slightly.

READY, STEADY, COOK! Curry night

Last night, our friends hosted a dinner party with a difference. For a while we had been contemplating on having an evening together where they would buy the ingredients and I would come round and cook for everyone. We planned that I wouldn't find out what the ingredients would be until I arrived. I often help out in the kitchen, even when I am not hosting and as I love to share my skills in the kitchen, I have been really looking forwards to it.
We arrived at about 7:45p.m and waiting for me were two shopping bags filled with goodies.
When I looked inside, I had the following;

Chicken breasts,                                        
King prawns,
Pak choi,
Coconut milk,
New potatoes,
Garlic, chillies, ginger, coriander,
Soy sauce.

I was really chuffed with the bag as I was fully expecting to be given some really random ingredients that I would perhaps struggle to bring together for dinner. I had brought a few spices with me from my cupboard at home just incase I needed them. Two of us were non meat eaters and one has an allergy to prawns, so I decided that it would be great to make a few different curries. The potatoes were a bit of an odd ball so I decided to roast them in the oven with some garlic, lemon and paprika. We could snack on them while we were waiting or could just put them in the middle of the table.

I then began the curry dishes by marinating some of the chicken with garlic, chilli, ginger, garam masala and yoghurt. I put this into the oven to roast.
I then started on a Thai style curry sauce by frying some onion, garlic, chilli, ginger and cumin seeds, before adding coconut milk and bringing to the boil.
In another pan, I saute the remaining chicken (that I diced) with chilli, garlic and ginger. I spiced this quite heavily and added turmeric, tomatoes and yoghurt. I left this to simmer while I prepared the vegetables for a stir fry.
I finished the Thai curry sauce with fresh coriander and lemon juice, before dividing it in two. Half was for the prawns and the other was for the chicken pieces that were roasting in the oven.
I left the stir fry until last and used the remaining garlic, chilli, onion, peppers and pak choi. I finished this with soy sauce.

Final menu.

Thai king prawn curry,
coconut milk, ginger and fresh coriander.

Thai chicken curry, 
coconut milk, ginger and fresh coriander.

Spicy chicken curry,
cumin, red chilli, tomato and yoghurt.

Stir fried pak choi and mixed peppers with soy and garlic.

Roasted new potatoes, garlic, lemon and paprika.

To follow,
Angela's very special chocolate and vanilla cheesecake, 
Cheese board.

Roast new potatoes, garlic, lemon and paprika

Banquet table

Thai king prawn curry

Stir fry pak choi and peppers, garlic and soy sauce

My plate of food
The dinner guests.