Gautham Iyer’s Spicy Potato Curry (Urulaikizhangu Kari)

Gautham Iyer's Spicy Potato  Curry(Urulaikizhangu Kari)

TWO new exciting eateries have opened in Cork in recent months; both are off the beaten track.

I’ve been hearing about Iyers on Popes Quay for several months and at last I managed to pop in. It’s a tiny little restaurant serving South Indian street food. It’s chic, tiny, just five tables and a counter with a large blackboard menu on the wall behind. I love South Indian food and there it was, samosas, dosas, uthappam, Madras thali, and more.

The owner Gautham Iyer comes from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu and his wife Caroline hails from Sligo, he’s an aeronautical engineer and she’s a jeweller. They’ve lived in Cork for 14 years and have at last achieved their dream to open a little restaurant serving the sort of Indian food they and their friends love to eat. They opened on January 17, 2013, and the word spread fast. They were often sold out before they closed at 5.30pm. They now stay open on Thursdays until 9pm.

The food is simple, delicious, and tastes authentic. On a recent visit they also had a couple of tempting cakes, the Pistachio and Rosewater cake had sold out so we enjoyed a slice of freshly made Mango, Banana and Coconut Cake and a Cashew and Coconut Cookie that had the bonus of being gluten free. Iyers is a vegetarian restaurant and Gautham cooks in the Ayurvedic tradition.

Don’t miss their chai, when I closed my eyes I was sipping the spicy brew in a roadside dhaba in India — Iyers is definitely worth seeking out and is stunningly good value for money.

Ramen on Angelsea St is owned by John Downey, a Ballymaloe Cookery School graduate, who was a retail manager for Aldi in his last life. He now serves new Asian street food in a contemporary setting. The open kitchen at the end of the room has five or six bustling Asian chefs. Rustling up the yummy food is head chef Zuul Basir from Kuala Lumpur.

It’s all very convivial, there’s a long timber sharing table down the centre of the restaurant as well as side tables along the wall. The menu is divided into Soups, Salads and Nibbles, and Something for Kids. Dishes from the Wok, Rice dishes, Noodle dishes and there’s strictly no MSG.

Customers order and pay first. Your choice of dishes arrives on a little metal tray; there will be an empty ice cream cornet for your complimentary whipped ice cream.

It seemed to me to be exceedingly good value for money — tasty delicious food. The word is out so you may have to queue at peak times, but the general consensus is that it’s worth the wait.

Wild and free food

Watercress (Nasturtium officinale)

For those who like to be on the cutting edge, you may be interested to know that watercress is the new rocket! Chefs are going crazy for it and using it in all kinds of recipes. But in reality there’s not much new under the sun.

There are references to watercress — the original hydroponic vegetable — in many early Irish manuscripts. It formed part of the diet of hermits and holy men who valued its special properties, which we now know include significant amounts of iron, calcium, folic acid, and vitamins A and C. Watercress is brilliant for detox — the mustard oils boost and regulate the liver’s enzymes. Its beta carotene and vitamin A are good for healthy skin and eyes, and watercress is naturally low in calories and fat. Gram for gram, water-cress has more iron than spinach, more vitamin C than oranges and more calcium than full-cream milk.

Watercress grows naturally in rivers and drains all around Ireland. When you’re looking for it in the wild, make sure the watercress you pick comes from a pure water source with constantly running water. Avoid water drained from fields that are grazed, especially by sheep, which may infest the plant with the liver fluke parasite. Look for darker leaves, which signify older plants and deliver more peppery flavour. Watercress often grows side by side with a plant called fool’s watercress (Apium nodiflorum), which is sometimes referred to as wild celery but it isn’t, even though it is part of the parsley and celery family.

It has small green flowers, whereas water-cress has small white flowers. With water-cress, the top leaf is the biggest and they decrease in size as you go down the stem; with fools watercress, it’s the reverse. When the watercress begins to form little white flowers the leaves elongate.

Gautham Iyer’s Spicy Potato Curry (Urulaikizhangu Kari)

500g (18oz) potato (waxy new potatoes are better)

1½ tsp red chilli powder

¼ tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp gram flour rice flour

Salt — to taste

For the seasoning you will need:

2 tsp sunflower oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

A very small pinch asafoetida/hing

225ml (8fl oz) water

1 tsp urid dhal (optional)

Small sprig fresh curry leaves

Peel and chop the potato (into small cubes) and leave soaking in a bowl of water.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to splutter add the urid dhal (if using) and curry leaves and fry till the dhal turns golden brown.

Add the asafoetida and turmeric followed immediately by the drained potatoes. Stir for a few seconds.

Add 225ml (8fl oz) of water and then add the salt and red chilli powder and let the potatoes cook completely. If necessary add a bit more water.

Once the potatoes are cooked, reduce the flame and add ½ teaspoon oil and stir the potatoes to fry them. Sprinkle the gram flour/rice flour to help the potatoes brown evenly.

Transfer to serving dish and serve hot with rice or bread of your choice.

Mekong Duck — Ramen Style

John Downey from Ramen Restaurant in Cork city kindly shared this recipe with us. It’s a firm favourite with his customers.

2 duck breasts

2 tsp garlic, chopped as finely as possible.

2 tsp fresh root ginger, minced.

Mekong Sauce

1 tbsp tomato purée

50mls (2fl oz) pineapple juice

50mls (2fl oz) orange juice

2 tsp soya sauce

2 tsp sweet chilli sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp five spice

Vegetables

Pak Choi

Cherry tomatoes (halved)

Diced courgette

Mangetout

Fine beans

Carrots (julienned)

Pre-heat the oven to 160C/320F/Mark 3

Delicately score the fat on the duck breast and roast for 25 minutes. While this is roasting, create your Mekong sauce, by mixing all the ingredients together with a hand blender. Prepare all your vegetables and set aside for cooking. Slice the roasted duck breast into bite-size slivers.

Once the duck is cooked (it should still be slightly pink), heat your wok as hot as you possibly can. Add a splash of rapeseed oil, sauté the garlic, add the ginger, the Mekong sauce and the duck and cook on a high heat for 1 minute, until you achieve peak temperature. Add the vegetables; toss for 30 seconds and voila!

Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

Niloufer’s Cauliflower and Chickpeas

2 tbsp ghee, clarified butter, or canola oil

½ tsp fennel seeds

1 small yellow onion finely chopped

2 tbsp grated, peeled fresh ginger

2-3 cloves garlic, minced into a paste

½ tsp turmeric

¼ tsp cayenne, or more to taste

1 tsp garam masala

Salt

12 oz cooked chickpeas (or 6oz dried — soaked overnight and cooked)

1 head cauliflower, broken in florets

Large handful fresh ciltrano (coriander)

leaves and stems chopped

Juice of 1 lime

Heat the ghee in a large skillet over a medium heat and toast the fennel seeds for about 1 minute. Add the onion, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to keep it from sticking, until brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the turmeric, cayenne, garam masala and a big pinch of salt to the skillet and cook, dribbling in a little water as you stir. Add the chickpeas, cauliflower and ½ cup water. Cover and cook until the cauliflower is tender, 15- 20 minutes. Add the chopped ciltrano (coriander) and lime juice and serve with yoghurt and rice or big floppy flat bread chapatis, if you like.

Hot tips

Hospitality and business course “Being the Best” takes time, dedication and a commitment to raising standards every day. It’s what separates the best from the quickly forgotten, says Georgina Campbell, who is teaming up with business mentoring company Conor Kenny and Associates to run the Hospitality Business Development Programme from Thursday, March 13, to Thursday, May 29. www.georginacampbelllearning.com or call Linda Halpin on 01-6633685 for bookings

Calso Cooks — Real Food Made Easy. Watch out for the new kid on the Irish food scene, Paul O’Callaghan, aka Calso. He came late to the discovery that real food can be produced with little effort and be tastier and healthier. Paul had a plastering business in his native Armagh but when the recession hit, he lost everything. At first, he struggled, but by a quirk of fate, the house he rented had land attached, so he decided to grow food. He was soon hooked on cooking — and eating — the ingredients.

In 2001, he started his blog Calso Cooks from the Sustainable Larder. Paul now runs a food business, has a column in ‘EasyFood’ magazine and contributes to the Breakfast Show on 2fm. Look out for his first cook book, Calso Cooks — Real Food Made Easy, published in paperback by Mercier Press.


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