McCormick are celebrating their 125th year in the food industry with a special anniversary Flavour Forecast. Each year their Flavour Forecast brings together the emerging trends in food and flavours for the coming year. Schwartz, part of the McCormick group, sent us a selection of the herbs and spices from this year's predictions and I used their 2014 forecast as inspiration for tonight's dinner - Lara had great fun helping me; she is always happy to help me in the kitchen when there is curry on the menu!
I chose to explore the "Modern Masala" flavour trend which allows Indian food to break free of its traditional confines; I also used one of the year's Top 5 flavours (as highlighted by Schwartz) - a homemade Kashmiri masala. My dish was very much an experimental one (I felt like Heston as I 'invented' the components in the kitchen with Lara) but I tried to capture a good mix of textures and flavours based on traditional Indian combinations but with a slightly modern twist. This is my recipe for Kashmiri blackened Sea-Bass on a fragrant yellow dahl served with beetroot and carrot bhajis and a minted pea puree.
Total cooking time 3 hours (approximately)
For the puree
100g frozen peas
150ml chicken stock
1 inch fresh root ginger (peeled and chopped finely)
1/2 small onion (finely diced)
1 heaped tsp dried mint
A tiny knob of butter or drop of sunflower oil
For the dahl
100g red split lentils
100g yellow split peas
1 small onion (chopped roughly)
1 inch fresh root ginger (cut into two big chunks)
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground corriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
5 green cardamoms (bashed gently with the back of a knife to bruise them)
2 strands of saffron
A knob of butter
1 tsp sunflower oil
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
250ml chicken stock
1 tsp black onion seed
1 tsp whole cumin seed
For the bhajis
2 carrots (peeled)
1 small onion (peeled and sliced reeeeaaallly thinly)
3 small, whole uncooked beetroot (peeled)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground corriander
150g gram flour
1 tablespoon ground rice
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 fresh green chilli (copped)
100ml tepid water
oil for deep frying
For the fish
4 sea bass fillets (skin on)
A knob of butter and a dash on sunflower oil
2 bay leaves
5cm of cinnamon stick
1 whole star anise
4 whole green cardamoms
4 whole cloves
1 heaped tsp whole cumin seed
1 heaped tsp black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon whole fenugreek seed
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (I would have used 2 tsp if I weren't feeding a 1 year old and a 4 year old!)
1 heaped tsp ground corriander
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garlic granules
The juice of one lemon
1. Soak the lentils over night in two separate bowls of water. Drain well before cooking.
2. Make the pea puree well in advance as this is easy to heat up when you are ready to serve.
Fry the onion and ginger in a little oil or butter until softened. Add the dried mint. Then add the frozen peas and the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the temperature and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before using a hand-blender to blitz it into a smooth puree. If the puree is too thin, you can return it to the pan and cook gently to allow some of the moisture to evaporate.
3. Make the dahl next. It will need some time to mellow before you serve it.
Cut the onion in half. Slice one half very finely and put to one side. Chop the other half roughly into pieces you wouldn't mind eating whole.
4. Melt the butter and fry the chopped onion and ginger until just softened. Add the garlic, ground ginger, corriander, turmeric, saffron strands, bruised cardamoms and chilli flakes. Pour in the yellow lentils and the chicken stock and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add in the red split lentils and top up with enough water to fully cover the contents of the pan. Bring to the boil and them simmer on a gentle bubble for around 30 minutes.
6. As the dahl cooks, make some crispy fried onions. Place the thinly sliced onion into a small frying pan with a tiny bit of sunflower oil and fry REALLY slowly for at least 20 minutes. The slower the better as this will result in amazingly crispy caramelised onions. Shortly before you remove them from the heat, add in the whole cumin and black onion seeds to fry for a couple of minutes.
7. Just before the dahl is fully cooked, the lentils will start to stick to the bottom of the pan. Make sure you stir regularly to prevent sticking and burning. When the lentils are totally softened, your dahl is ready. Stir in the fried onion mixture and put the dahl to one side to soak up all the yummy flavours as it cools. Once cool, you may wish to fish out the whole cardamoms and ginger chunks if you can see them (Mr. B. doesn't like finding large chunks of spices in his dinner).
8. Lara helped me make the Kashmiri masala paste which uses a classic combination of spices from the northern Indian region of Kashmir where red chillis are a particular favourite. If had been cooking for just grown-ups, I would have used a lot more red chilli in my masala paste!
We dry-fried all of the whole spices in a hot frying pan until they made an awesome smell. We removed the spices from the heat before they started to pop and placed them straight into a spice grinder (aka coffee grinder) to blend them down to a fine powder. Lara mixed the blended powder with the ground ginger, corriander and garlic granules before stirring in the lemon juice to make a paste.
9. Next, we made the beetroot and carrot bhajis. I used a food processor to grate the beetroot and carrots and mixed this with the sliced onion.
Lara sieved the gram flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground rice into a large bowl before stirring in the beetroot mixture and the chopped fresh chilli. Add a little water at a time to make the mixture soft enough to be able to form balls (don't make it too liquid as it will be hard to make the balls keep their shape).
I cooked our bhajis in a deep fat fryer in batches of 5 at 170 degrees for around 10 minutes for each batch. My mixture made 12 bhajis. Make sure you cook the bhajis nice and slowly to avoid burning the outsides before the soft middles have cooked. Look for a golden coating which is just starting to darken.
Drain the bhajis of fat by placing them onto a sheet of kitchen paper. The bhajis can be served hot or cold and can be re-heated in a warm oven if needed.
10. About 15 minutes before serving, baste the skins of the sea-bass fillets with the Kashmiri masala paste.
11. About 10 minutes before serving, slowly reheat the dahl and pea puree.
12. The sea-bass fillets only take about 4 minutes to cook. Heat the butter and oil together in a frying pan until it reaches a medium heat. Place the fillets into the pan flesh side down for 2 minutes. Turn them onto their skin side and cook for a further two minutes. The lemon juice will cause the spices to blacken quickly but don't worry, they won't turn bitter or burned in such a short cooking period!
13. Serve the fish on a bed of the aromatic dahl. Place the bhajis on a drizzle of the pea puree and finish off with a little freshly grated carrot and beetroot and a sprig of fresh mint.
My girls LOVED this fresh take on a fish curry and I found it to be an elegant and refreshing change. I've never cooked with beetroot before and I think these bhajis were a triumph! I loved the overall combination of savoury fish and dahl with sweet beetroot, carrot and peas. Yummy!
Find out more about the Schwartz #FalvourofTogether anniversary flavour forecast on the Schwartz Facebook page. Schwartz is looking for people to share their flavour stories on their facebook page and will donate $1 to United Way Worldwide and it's UK partner Focus on Food, for every story shared on the Schwartz website, Facebook page or other social channels