saffron

Feast, Pray, Love…#1 Persian Pleasures in Kensington

Yudhika's Feast Pray Love in Kensington at Zaman on High Street, Kensington

Yudhika’s Feast Pray Love in Kensington at Zaman on High Street, Kensington

Feast, Pray, Love are three words that best describe what my life is all about…I celebrate through feasting and when I pray, it isn’t with a long list of things I need or want, it’s to be thankful…taking time to count every one of my blessings which makes me love life more everyday. Love…the most beautiful gift of all, what would life be without those we love and treasure!

Whether I am working, doing a show, or just being with my family…I feast, I pray and I love fiercely! The idea of putting together the ‘FPL’ section to my blog has been on my mind for ages, like coffee…my ideas keep percolating! Through my journey, highs and lows….I am learning to be kind to myself and forgiving too.

I love to travel, see new places and experience different cultures…on the 15th May this year, just a stroke past midnight, I was tapped lightly on my shoulder by an air hostess on SAA, waking me up to my birthday and a bottle of Taittinger Rose…it was a toast to new beginnings and what better way to kick off a new year with an adventure in London…with an exciting new project on the cards, the city was my oyster. I threw back my champagne and fell into the most delicious sleep.

The Iranian/Persian influenced stores on Kensington's High Street with Yudhika Sujanani

The Iranian/Persian influenced stores on Kensington’s High Street with Yudhika Sujanani

I had a bit of free time and took a walk down Kensington’s High Street which led me to a little pocket of Iranian supermarkets, green grocers and restaurants. I love Iranian food and Jozi seems to have lost Apadana, the only place I knew that made a good Fesenjun…which is chicken cooked in pomegranate molasses and walnuts. There is also an Apadana restaurant in Kensington. I popped into Zaman, the Iranian Supermarket…the store is crammed with everything from fresh and dried fruit, Persian sweets like cashew nut baklava, macaroons and something that looks like Indian jalebi to Iranian caviar…and spices. The Iranian community are pedantic about the quality of dried fruit, nuts and the saffron is fabulous.

Pomegranates...a persian must have ingredient

Pomegranates…a persian must have ingredient

Brightly coloured, juicy pomegranate rubies...the perfect walkabout snack on High Street #yudhikayumyum

Brightly coloured, juicy pomegranate rubies…the perfect walkabout snack on High Street #yudhikayumyum

Persian peaches....at Zaman on High Street, Kensington

Persian peaches….at Zaman on High Street, Kensington

Iranian Caviar...sights and sounds on High Street, Kensington with Yudhika Sujanani

Iranian Caviar…sights and sounds on High Street, Kensington with Yudhika Sujanani

The Iranian stores seem to be more like old-fashioned family run businesses. The fresh fruit display outside the store is inviting, colourful and very old school….bright pomegranate rubies are sold in little cups which make the perfect walkabout snack. There are also persian peaches, glossy deep coloured cherries, fresh herbs and veggies. For a Persian experience outside Iran, I recommend taking a stroll through this part of Kensington, it’s not only a feast for food explorers but for the eyes too!

The end of a High Street adventure...Yudhika Sujanani - May 2015

The end of a High Street adventure…Yudhika Sujanani – May 2015

I have been working on recipes for the Post Newspaper’s with Ramadan in mind and it’s the perfect opportunity to splash out with my saffron…here is my version of a Persian dish called Koresht-e-Mast which is chicken cooked with yoghurt and saffron. How can I best describe this dish…it’s almost a curry and also described as a Persian stew…a stew??? This is way too exotic and fragrant to be compared to stew…cumin, coriander, red chilli, teamed with fresh orange juice and finished with yoghurt. The dish is lightly spiced, aromatic and creamy. I used the Spar branded double thick yoghurt for this recipe as I find this one doesn’t split or curdle.

Yudhika's version of Persian style Koresht-e-Mast

Yudhika’s version of Persian style Koresht-e-Mast

Persian style Chicken – Koresht-e Mast

Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients

2,5ml saffron strands
50ml boiled water
1,6kg chicken thighs and drumsticks
45ml sunflower oil
1 bay leaf
2 onions, finely sliced
2,5ml salt
3 celery sticks, thinly sliced
10ml crushed ginger
10ml crushed garlic
10ml red chilli powder
10ml ground cumin
10ml ground coriander
2,5ml ground cardamom
500ml boiled water
2 stock cubes
Juice of 1 orange
6 sprigs fresh thyme
200ml Spar Double Thick Greek yoghurt
1 egg
30ml cold water
20ml Magic Masala, if you have…this is from my Curry Me Home range of spice

Sunflower oil, to brown chicken
Black pepper, to season
Fresh thyme to garnish

Here’s how:

Heat the saffron strands in a dry pan or microwave for a few seconds.
Crush the saffron using your fingertips and place in a little bowl.
Pour the boiled water over the saffron and leave aside to infuse.
Heat the sunflower oil in a 30cm AMC Gourmet Roaster.
Add the bay leaf and fry until fragrant.
Add the sliced onions with the salt and saute until pale golden in colour.
Stir the celery sticks into the fried onion and saute until they soften.
Add the crushed ginger and garlic.
Place the chicken into the fried onion and stir well to coat.
Sprinkle the red chilli, ground cumin, coriander and cardamom over the chicken pieces.
Stir well to coat, pour in the boiled water and crumble the stock cubes into the pot.
Pour in the orange juice, add the fresh sprigs of thyme and saffron liquid.
Lower the heat and simmer until the chicken is tender.
Remove the chicken from the pan.
Heat an AMC 28cm Chef’s Pan and grease with non stick spray.
Place the cooked chicken in the pan with the skin side down, turning them often to ensure they brown evenly.
Remove from the pan once they are golden brown.

Whisk the yoghurt with egg and water.
Important step: Remove the pan from the heat and gradually add the yoghurt mixture while whisking the sauce continuously – this prevents the sauce from splitting.
Add the Magic Masala – if you have some!
Simmer on low until the sauce thickens and then return the brown chicken to the pot.
Once the chicken heats through, season with black pepper and garnish with fresh thyme.
Serve with steamed basmati or pilau rice.

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Fong Kong Breyani with Fish and Prawn

Fish and Prawn Breyani

Fish and Prawn Breyani

I don’t eat enough fish…sad but true! So this is me making an attempt…

This is my latest quick and easy breyani recipe – it’s also become known as the FONG KONG Breyani!!! The old-fashioned way was to steam the raw fish with the rice…sometimes it’s perfect and sometimes the fish turns into mush….this FONG KONG style ensures that it will be perfect…aromatic, appetizing and beautifully presented.

Most of my favourite fish choices are either on the red or orange list. Check the SASSI website for more details…you will be surprised to find some of our old favourites like Englishman, Red Roman and Mussel Cracker on the list! So buy fish on the ‘Green List’! I have opted to use fresh hake….it is seriously good, reasonably priced and always available! To ‘tart up’ the hake, I ‘shoshen’ sauteed prawns over just before serving.

Nothing beats a good pot for making breyani…a FONG KONG pot just won’t do. That would be asking for trouble. For me, I haul out a rather large AMC pot, to cook up a super large batch…we sometimes have neighbors to feed!

Here is the recipe:

Fish and Prawn Breyani

1kg linefish steaks
15ml red chilli powder
Salt to season
1kg prawn tails
Sunflower oil to fry fish and prawns
4 potatoes, sliced into rounds and fried
65ml sunflower oil
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
5ml cumin seeds
1 onion, finely chopped
7ml coarse salt
20ml crushed garlic
30ml red chilli powder
400g chopped tomatoes
10ml ground cumin
10ml ground coriander
2ml turmeric
125ml fresh cream
250ml cooked lentils
900ml cooked basmati rice, cooled
100g butter, melted
250ml boiling water
Fresh coriander, to garnish

Here’s how:

Rub the red chilli and salt over the fish steaks and leave to marinate in the refrigerator.
Heat the sunflower oil, add the cinnamon stick and bay leaf.
When the spices are fragrant, add the cumin seeds.
Once the seeds splutter, add the onion and salt.
Saute until the onion is light golden brown.
Stir in the crushed garlic, stir for a few seconds, then add the red chilli powder.
Add the chopped tomatoes followed by ground cumin, coriander and turmeric.
Simmer until the tomatoes soften.
Add the fresh cream, layer the potatoes and halt the lentils over the tomatoes.
Next add the cold basmati rice and the remaining lentils.
Drizzle in the melted butter and pour the boiling water over the rice.
Steam on low until the rice heats through.
Heat the sunflower oil and fry the fish until golden brown.
Place the fish steaks over the rice and cover.
Lastly heat 30ml sunflower oil and saute the prawn tails for a minute just before serving.
Season the prawns with salt and scatter them over the rice.
Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and leave to infuse for a minute.
Garnish with fresh coriander and serve immediately.

Sugar ‘n Spice: Yudhika’s Saffron Coconut Cake

Saffron Coconut Cake from Sugar 'n Spice with Yudhika Sujanani

Saffron Coconut Cake from Sugar ‘n Spice with Yudhika Sujanani

I simply love to bake and this is a recipe from my collection! Layers of light saffron tinted sponge cake, sandwiched with thick buttery coconut frosting and topped with toasted coconut shavings…this cake is exotic and the perfect dessert after a feast!

Like most of the recipes in my little black book, I owe this one to a fortunate kitchen miscalculation. I intended on making a plain vanilla sponge and much to my horror, I ran out of full cream milk. Rob insists on buying low-fat milk…I am more the ‘love fat’ kind of shopper! I guess that what happens when you leave the shopping to the HB! Note to cake fans….Low fat milk just won’t do…full cream works best!

I thought that coconut milk would be a good substitute and then add a little saffron to spice things up. A rather fortunate mishap, I would say….the make do cake turned into a real winner. It was moist with the gentle fragrance of coconut and the frosting takes this cake to a whole new level of luxuriousness!

This recipe is from Season Two of Sugar ‘n Spice which we shot during my kid’s school holidays…we had to get creative with trying to find things to keep them busy!

My beautiful daughter, Tanvi - the lovely Ochre Assistant for the day!

My beautiful daughter, Tanvi – the lovely Ochre Assistant for the day!

Saffron coconut cake

Ingredients
Few strands of saffron
400ml coconut milk
360g cake flour
300g sugar
22,5ml baking powder
125g soft Spar butter
3 large eggs
5ml vanilla essence

Here’s how:
Heat the strands of saffron in a dry pan for a few seconds.
Pour in 100ml of the coconut milk and bring to the boil.
Leave the strands to infuse with the coconut milk for a few minutes and then leave to cool completely.
Sift the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl Add the sugar, baking powder and salt.
Add the butter and beat on low with a paddle attachment until the mixture has a sandy consistency.
Pour in the coconut milk, saffron infusion, eggs and vanilla essence.
Beat well and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure the ingredients are well combined.
Divide the mixture between 3 x 20cm greased and lined cake tins.
Bake at 170 degrees celsius for 20 – 22 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when the cake is tested.
Turn the cakes out on a wire rack and leave to cool.

Coconut Frosting

250g soft Spar butter
500g Spar icing sugar
75ml coconut milk
Drop of vanilla essence
Toasted coconut shavings, to garnish

Place the butter in a mixing bowl and beat well.
Once the butter is light in colour, gradually add the icing sugar.
Continue beating until the icing is fluffy.
Gradually pour in the coconut milk and vanilla essence.
Continue beating until the icing is very pale in colour.
To assemble:
Sandwich the cakes together with the icing.
Ice the sides and top of the cake using a palette knife.
Place the cake in the refrigerator for a few minutes to firm up.
Garnish the cake with toasted coconut shavings.

Yudhika’s tips:

If you are not a lover of coconut…simply use the 400ml full cream milk in the cake batter and then fresh cream instead of coconut milk in the frosting.