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  • What’s cooking @TheAvalon part 1, Curry.

    Posted on December 15, 2015 by in blog

    What’s cooking @TheAvalon part 1, Curry.

    The Avalon kitchen has proved amazingly popular over the years. At the hotel I mostly cook what I like to eat at home, these are recipes I have picked up on my travels or from working in restaurants around europe. Recipes that I cook over and over, nothing posh, you won’t find any foams or emulsions, just great home cooking that has been tried and tested. I use the best seasonal ingredients I can find, which is hard in a ski resort as “seasonal” means bacon, beans and cabbage! I’ve got a fair few recipes for those but nothing exciting enough to serve at the hotel!

    Our kitchen revolves around three main themes. Firstly our regular menu of burgers and salads, secondly our legendary Curry nights and thirdly what have traditionally only been pop up nights, our Supper Club. The supper club will become a regular feature every Sunday night this winter.

    The burgers and salads need no explanation, great ingredients simply done to show off to their best.  The curry recipes are worth expanding on. Below I’ll give you an insight into the world behind the kitchen door.


    I’ve travelled extensively in the subcontinent so our curries aren’t the same as in Birmingham but they aren’t exactly what I found in India or Pakistan either! Each recipe is enough for 4 people.

    Northern Indian sauces


    The base of northern Indian curry is a simple trinity of, caramelised onions, ginger and garlic.  The trick is in the onions. Slice the onions into half moon paper thin slices. Three handfuls of sliced onions should be enough for 4 people.

    Simmer the onions at a low temperature in lots of oil (lots is a technical term!) about an inch of oil in the bottom of the pan should do it. Don’t worry, you’re going to drain off this oil and you can re-use it three or four times or feed it to the pig like we do at the hotel!

    The idea is to simmer off all the water in the onions and then there is a magic moment between the onions being water free and burning. This is the moment when all the sugars in the onions start to turn golden brown and their natural sweetness comes through. This gives a depth of flavour and sweetness that can’t be faked. Take your time it is worth it, Stir constantly! As soon as the onions start to change colour chuck in an inch of peeled, grated, fresh ginger and five crushed cloves of garlic. They will try to stick to the bottom of the pan so keep stirring. After a minute take the pan off the heat. This mix is the base of many many different curries. Remember it! More onions make it sweeter, more ginger hotter, more garlic richer. You’ll use this over and over in northern curry sauces. We make tons of this mix every winter!

    Dry spices

    Dry spices

     The Spices are a controversial topic but easily split into two factions. One is the purist side, fresh whole spices, freshly ground and toasted every time you cook. The other is the realist, with little time more and more Indians and Europeans alike are buying curry pastes. In the U.K. these come in jars, fresh whole spices, freshly ground, toasted and then jarred in oil. the Jars are sterilized then sold in all the major supermarkets. I prefer Pataks. These pastes are hugely popular in Asia. At the end of the spice markets you’ll find a guy with a wheelbarrow selling small plastic bags of curry paste! The flavour is great and the time saved huge. The pastes come in generic forms, either the standard masalas ( hot or mild) or regional masalas that have become household names ( Balti, Korma, Madras, Tikka, Kashmiri) .

    In India, Nepal and Pakistan each region or valley will cook their unique way with little variation from a central theme. Local masala local ingredients all a reflection of what grows locally and what passes through the region on trade routes.  You won’t find Korma on the Afghan border or Tikka in the Nepali Himalaya. If you stay too long in one town you will be driven mad by the same food over and over.  I got stuck in Chitral for a month due to snow on the passes and after 30 days of mutton Balti with flat bread or maybe/sort of beefy/muttony kebabs and flat bread I was going nuts!  So now we have our base and our spices we can get on with exact recipes!

    Chicken Balti

    Chicken Balti

    Chicken Balti.

    Take your caramelised onions, garlic and ginger and add balti paste, 3 red peppers roughly chopped and 3 skinless, boned chicken thighs chopped into big chunks. Over a low heat stir frantically not letting it stick. When you start losing the battle with the sauce sticking add some water, boil this off and add some more. Keep adding water and boiling it off until the meat is cooked and the sauce is as thick or runny as you like it. Once it is cooked through ( about 12 minutes) add a huge handful of roughly chopped coriander. Be generous with the coriander! Don’t cook the coriander as you will kill the flavour and fresh crunch of the leaves, Serve immediately.

    Creamy mild Korma

    Creamy mild Korma

    Chicken Korma.

    Wedding food, no expense spared, this rich creamy sauce takes days to make from scratch but is a pleasure to make in Europe where so much of the work is done for you! Twice as many onions in your base, half as much ginger and garlic! Add the curry paste to your onion base, a packet of creamed coconut and a tin of coconut milk. You’ll probably need to add a little water to stop it sticking. let it all simmer for a minute and then blend it into a smooth creamy gravy. Add 2 chopped skinless chicken breasts and simmer gently for 12 minutes (until the meat is cooked through). I like to add a handful of toasted, flaked almonds at the end.

    Rick Paprika sauces and melt in your mouth meat!

    Rick Paprika sauces and melt in your mouth meat!

     Pork Kashmiri!

    Yup I know, neither side of the bloody war zone that is Kashmir eat pork! It is probably the only thing that lot can agree on! BUT the combination of this hot, spicy, rich, paprika filled sauce and pork neck is to die for so I’m putting it out here and if it unifies The Kashmiris in a common cause against me, well I’m o.k. with that as this is my favorite dish in the world!  Same base as ever but with triple the amount of ginger and a large handful of medium hot green chilies. Add the kashmiri paste as per the instructions on the jar, two cups of water and three handfuls of pork neck cut into large dice. Bang the whole lot in the oven at 150 degrees centigrade for 2 hours. Serve with a little fresh coriander leaf and Naan. Well worth dieing for! In Free Kashmir they make it with mutton on the bone and an endless supply of fresh Naan to sop up the juices. Along with the beauty of the mountains this is reason enough to visit that war torn land!

    Real Tikka!

    Real Tikka!

    Real Chicken Tikka.

    I’m sorry but that pink stuff you get in sandwiches in the U.K. is not Tikka. I make it to a recipe I got in Lahore, I had a lot of time on my hands in Lahore and between chatting with Sufi holy men and trying to get out of Pakistan learning to make Tikka and then eating it was a real highlight. You’ll need a really really hot grill, BBQ or oven. I mean like blast furnace hot! Marinate the chicken thighs in the paste, preferably an authentic hot tikka paste, if the paste you can get is too mild add some chili flakes! Now the trick, somehow you have to balance the baking dry heat of the cooking device and the fact that you must cook the meat through to the middle, without burning the outside too much. A bit of black is essential but black on the outside and raw in the middle is a no no. Try and try again, you’ll get there! Now if you must you can pour some yoghurt over the baked meat at the table (we do this at the hotel). The best option is bone dry spicy tikka crust on the outside and juicy meat in the middle served with chunks of Naan!

    Baked chicken marinated in a complex mix of spice.

    Baked chicken marinated in a complex mix of spice.

    Afghan Chicken. 

    Another recipe from the Hindu Kush, right up on the border with Pakistan. On the Pakistani side there is Chitral and the Yarkhun on Afghan side Nuristan (land of light).  The locals get a bit funny about their being part of Afghanistan. They are cut off from the world by snow for 6 months of the year and then so god dam remote for the other 6 months that they are only part of their own universe rather than any official country. Another dry curry, cooked on skewers over hot coals. I have added lemon quarters to the original recipe as I love the sourness they add. this is also the only recipe where I use whole spices as that’s the way i was taught. Cook off a standard amount of onion base and drain it dry. Add 2 tablespoons each of toasted coriander seeds and toasted cumin seeds add 4 or 5 bay leaves and enough mild curry paste to coat all the skinned, boned and diced meat of 4 chicken thighs. Add 2 lemons quartered and leave to marinate for a 2 hours or overnight. Cook as per the Tikka above serve dry with Naan or a mountain of pilau rice. I prefer with the fluffy rice.


    My god have I eated a lot of Dal, months and months of Dal and rice, dal and veggies, dal and dal, dal and Naan. Once you are out of pakistan and into India and Nepal Dal is what it is all about.  Dal is lentil stew/soup. Stop in a poor village in the jungles of Nepal and it will be a bowl of watery soup with a couple of lentils in the bottom for flavour poured over your mountain of rice. In a posh truck stop in Delhi it is the food of kings, rich, creamy and full of butter a million calories in each mouthful! The recipe here is about the Dal I like, more truck stop than jungle! 1/2 a cup of yellow lentils and 1/2 a cup of orange lentils, wash them over and over in cold water until the water runs clear. Boil them in two cups of water. When soft there should still be a little water in the pan with them. If they are drying out as they boil add a little more water. Add enough  mild curry paste for 4 portions to the onion, garlic and ginger base. Add a packet of creamed coconut and a tin of coconut milk, add two ounces of butter. simmer. This can simmer for hours just keep it runny and keep stirring !


    I have to mention Subji, this ubiquitous Indian/Nepali dish just means veg. Any Veg, whatever is in season served up with a little onion base and some mild curry powder, boiled potatoes, spinach, spring greens, cauliflower, turnip even spring onions. This, normally green, dish of veggies is served everywhere with everything.  it can be a tiny side dish so hot it blows your head off or a water green soup that tastes like dish water. I make it rich with loads of curry paste and almost dry with loads of spinach and a little cauliflower.

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