Celebrating the food ablaze with flavour

    It’s National Curry Week, so in search of inspiring recipes who better to ask than local restaurateur Habib Siddiq from Cinnamon Square? He tells Eileen Leahy his secrets when it comes to preparing, cooking and enjoying the perfect curry

    Whether it’s hot and fiery or creamy and aromatic, a bowl of curry holds a very special place in the hearts of most Brits. Deemed the nation’s favourite dish, it’s not surprising it has its own special week dedicated to celebrating the many flavoursome culinary guises it comes in.
    Locally, we’re spoilt with an array of impressive curry houses, one of which is the much acclaimed Cinnamon Square in Hildenborough, which is run by Habib Siddiq.
    What would he say is the most popular dish on his menu? “Chicken Tikka Masala. It is the nation’s favourite,” he says. And it would seem that it’s also the case with many of Habib’s customers, too.
    “Although it looks like a very simple dish,” he explains, “in my restaurant we use the most number of spices to create its flavours.”
    Jalfrezi is another popular dish according to Habib. “With its nice blend of fresh herbs and spices it has that appealing throat-warming heat thanks to our our homemade bags of chilli.
    Then there’s our King Prawn Nawabi. Served with three large king prawns attached to the tail, it is stir-fried and added to a medium hot sauce, which is cooked with garlic, tomato and fresh herbs and spices.”
    It all sounds deliciously tempting, but what would Habib’s advice be if we wanted to prepare and enjoy a good quality curry dish at home?
    “I would say to always use fresh, raw herbs and spices,” he advises. “Try and buy the ground spices and make your own mix curry powder.
    “Grinding a variety of fresh herbs and adding that to the powder will give it a distinct and appealing aroma. I always recommend going medium hot and fragrant, which can easily be achieved via fresh herbs. If you can’t do your own mix, then a mixed curry powder that can be bought off the shelf is the next alternative. I would say to go for the high-end branded ones.”
    And to drink? “Well, lager is always a great accompaniment, but more and more people are enjoying wine with their curry dishes, and at Cinnamon Square we now have a wide selection that have been sourced especially to perfectly blend and complement our curries.”

    For more information on Cinnamon Square and its menu see www.thecinnamonsquare.co.uk

     

    Now try this deliciously aromatic recipe for yourself at home…

     

    TUVAAR/TOOR DHAL

    Toor Dhal is celebration of the humble lentil – a staple in Indian cuisine
    as they are so accessible, cheap and versatile. This dish is the ultimate comfort food and it goes well with rice, or on its own as a soup.
    To boost the healthiness of the dish, include vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes and aubergines/eggplants. Take the dimension of the dhal to another level by introducing flavours such as palm sugar/jaggery for sweetness and fresh lime for a citrusy finish.

     

    TUVAAR/TOOR DHAL

    Serves 6
    100g/1/2 cup tuvaar/ toor lentils, soaked overnight
    ½ carrot, grated
    2 tomatoes, cut into quarters
    1 small aubergine/eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-cm/3⁄8-inch chunks
    10 peanuts

    1 tablespoon grated fresh
    root ginger
    1 teaspoon Holy Trinity Paste
    ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
    2 teaspoons salt
    ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
    ½ teaspoon ground cumin
    1 teaspoon ground coriander

    SEASONED OIL
    5 tablespoons vegetable oil
    ½ cassia bark or cinnamon stick
    5 cloves
    1 teaspoon mustard seeds
    1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
    1 teaspoon cumin seeds
    6 cashew nut halves
    2 green chillies/chiles, slit
    ½ teaspoon asafoetida
    10 fresh curry leaves

    TO SERVE
    1 tablespoon palm sugar/jaggery
    1 tablespoon freshly
    chopped coriander/ cilantro
    freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
    Naan bread or cooked rice

    Method
    For the dhal, drain the soaked lentils and rinse well, then transfer them to a pressure cooker with all the other ingredients for the dhal and 750 ml/3 cups of water. Place the lid on and cook under pressure for 3 whistles – around 15 minutes, depending on your pressure cooker guidelines. (If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can boil them in a pan, but this can take up to 4 hours for the same result).
    Once the dhal base is cooked, blitz everything together using a stick blender. The base will thicken considerably, so add some water to achieve your desired consistency. Set aside while you prepare the seasoned oil.
    Heat the oil in a small, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat, add the cassia bark and cloves and fry to release the natural aromatic oils and fragrances. Add the mustard and fenugreek seeds and fry until they begin to sizzle. Add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle and pop, too. Add the cashew nut halves and allow to brown slightly in the hot oil. Add the green chillies/chiles and toss in the oil. Stir in the asafoetida and curry leaves, give everything a really good mix and pour over the dhal base.
    Mix the dhal well to bring all of the ingredients together.
    Finish by adding in the palm sugar/jaggery, coriander/cilantro and lime juice. Serve immediately with either fresh naan bread or rice.