This week’s recipe seems quite timely, as the temperatures start to dip at the end of another largely disappointing summer.
Time to think about tweaking the central heating, and getting the sweaters out of the cupboard.
Time, too, to think about changing our kitchen repertoire to suit the cooler evenings.
As autumn begins, we start craving more substantial dishes, and often these involve those warm, comforting spices that define Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi food.
I don’t think there’s much that doesn’t benefit from the subtle addition of a few warm spices. Bangers and mash, cheese on toast, scrambled eggs. All great with a little cumin and chili to liven things up.
So this week’s recipe is another one of my intercontinental mash-ups that I always enjoy planning and cooking.
You’ll remember that we’ve tried a rather heretical chicken tikka lasagne which turned out incredibly well and a lovely Indian-spiced shepherd’s pie that I do urge you to try and this week it’s France’s turn to clash with the subcontinent as we try a spicy version of the classic potato dish, Pommes Boulangères.
The famous dish, traditionally made by housewives and then cooked in the local bakers’ oven, comprises potatoes layered with softened onions and stock, cooked until soft, with a crunchy top layer.
I figured that this would lend itself nicely to an Indian makeover, with the addition of a little special spice mix (I added my personal recipe here), fresh ginger and fragrant curry leaves.
READ MORE: Stephen Jackson’s recipe for Gadariya's Pie
After all, potatoes and spices are much used in India – for instance in the crunchy potato snack alloo tiki, or the famous Bombay alloo potato dish.
It certainly smells good as it cooks – the scent of the spiced chicken stock along with the garlic and ginger made it almost irresistible. And the curry leaves are pretty much essential here – they can be found in most large Indian grocers, and occasionally in supermarkets – and add a wonderful deeply savoury spiciness to everything they touch. Magical ingredient, and one I’m always keen to use.
As this is pretty much a side-dish, we have to add another element, and I thought I’d make up some spiced lamb skewers to accompany the potatoes.
Easy as anything to make up and cook, the whole dish makes for an exciting and easy supper which will have nostrils tingling all over the house.
You may wish to serve a little yoghurt (perhaps with some fresh mint) as a drizzle with this, but I think it’s lovely as it is, and certainly an entertaining twist on a classic supper dish.
For the spice mix:
3 tbsps ground cumin
3 tbsps ground coriander
4 tbsps medium curry powder
3 tbsps paprika
3 tbsps turmeric
1 tbsp garam masala
For the potatoes:
1kg large baking potatoes
2 tbsp spice mix
1 tsp turmeric
2 medium onions, sliced4 cloves garlic, minced
A small piece of fresh ginger, minced
1 litre hot chicken stock100-200g butter
6-8 curry leaves
Maldon salt and freshly-ground black pepper
For the skewers:
500g lamb mince
2 tbsp garam masala (or any spices you choose)
1 small red onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red chilli, chopped
Small handful fresh coriander, chopped
A splash of olive oil
A little Maldon salt
Skewers (metal or soaked wooden ones)
First, make up the spice mix; heat the ingredients in a dry frying pan, and allow them to become fragrant and lightly toasted. Tip into a bowl and cool, before decanting into a suitable storage jar or tub.
Now for the skewers; in a bowl, combine the lamb, the garam masala, onion, garlic, chili and coriander. Mix together, adding a little salt and a splash of oil. Bring together to form cylinders about 3cm in diameter and push onto the skewers. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook and start on the spuds; heat the oven to 180ºC / Gas 4. Melt a large knob of butter in a large pan, add the sliced onions, garlic and ginger and cook gently until completely softened, at least 30 minutes. Add the spice mix and turmeric, along with the curry leaves, and allow the spices to cook out, coating the onion mixture completely. Set aside.
Peel the potatoes and slice into discs about 1/2 cm thick – use a sharp knife or ideally a mandolin. Butter a suitable baking dish or casserole, and layer up the potatoes with the spiced onion mixture.
Season with salt and pepper as you go. Top up the dish with hot chicken stock, letting it almost cover the uppermost layer, and dot the top with more butter. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until a knife goes all the way through with no resistance, and the top is golden and crunchy. Keep in a warm place as you finish off.
To cook the skewers, heat a griddle pan with a little olive oil and sizzle the kebabs on all sides until just cooked through. You could also use the barbecues, or if all else fails, bake them in a hot oven for 20 minutes or so. Serve them immediately with a big wedge of the spiced potato boulangère.