Balti cooking - general hints

Yield: 1 info sheet

Measure Ingredient

A Balti Meal

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A Balti meal is fun with a number of main dishes. The more people who are eating a meal, the easier this is. With four people, you might serve one meat, one poultry, one fish or shellfish, and two vegetable Balti dishes, plus rice, bread and chutneys. Allow approximately 2 oz (50g) (uncooked weight) of each of the 5 dishes for each person, plus 2-3 oz (50-75g) extra. For rice allow 2oz (50g) dry uncooked weight per person for a small portion, 3 oz (75g) for larger appetites. For lentils, allow 1oz (25g) uncooked weight, minimum, per person.

If all this sounds complicated, it isn't really. as always, common sense should prevail.

As much of the enjoyment of Balti eating is to mix-and-match combinations of items (see below), I have adopted a portions formula in this book which should help you. All meat, chicken and fish or shellfish recipes are given as four person servings. Vegetables, on the other hand, are given as single-portion servings. Some items which you may wish to use a lot of - par cooked meat, lentils etc - are also given in bulk ten-portion recipes. Using some fresh and some frozen, will save you time, smells and multiple washing up.

Balti Combination Dishes

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The majority of recipes in this book are complete in themselves and can be served as they are with some bread and/or rice.

For the adventurous, however, the fun has only just begun! The beauty of Balti is that the dishes are designed to be combined in any way that takes your fancy or suits the contents of your fridge or freezer. This can be as simple as adding some plain vegetables to a particular Balti dish, or could involve combining two, three or more given Balti dishes into one spectacular combination Balti dish.

There are no rules. The only thing to remember is that you should aim to have 4 portions of main ingredients per dish to serve 4 people. the main ingredients can be meat, poultry, fish or shellfish, vegetables or paneer (Indian cheese).

So for example, if you decided to combine Balti Turkey Curry with some celery (or indeed any other vegetable from chapter 5), for every 1 portion of cooked celery (6oz/175g raw weight) added to the recipe on p 72, you would reduce the raw turkey by the same amount.

Similarly, if you wanted to combine Balti Prawns (US shrimps) with Balti keema, you would need only half quantities of each recipe (since both recipes make 4 portions) to serve 4 people.

For tips and suggestions on combining actual Balti dishes, see below.

Serving

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Traditionally, the various dishes should come to table in a blackened well-used Balti pot - a two handled wok like pan otherwise known as a karahi or kari, korai, kadai or kodoi. It is a circular hemispherical all purpose cooking pot used for stir frying, simmering, frying and deep frying. Sizes can range from massive (over 3ft 3 in (1m) in diameter) to small (as little as 3¼ in 8 cm).

As for eating Balti, the traditional way in the Balti lands (and in much of India and Pakistan also, for that matter - IMH ) and at the Balti house is to use no cutlery. The chapatti or naan is the traditional 'implement'. Break off a smallish wedge and using your right hand only, scoop up the food with the bread and pop it and the bread into your mouth. After practice it becomes quite easy and not at all messy (true, I've been eating curries for years like that IMH). Leave enough bread to do the traditional wipe-up of the dish at the end. For the faint-hearted, a fork and dessertspoon are the only acceptable cutlery. A finger bowl and ample napkins are mandatory.

And plenty of finger lickin' is expected of you! Balti combination Dishes

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'If you can't find your favourite combination on our menu, our chef will be delighted to cook it especially for you', so says the menu for the aptly named _I am the King of Balti_ in Birmingham. With over 60 Balti dishes on the menu, you would not imagine more possible combinations could exist. As I've mentioned elsewhere, it is the norm to combine different ingredients and dishes in Balti cooking.

This suits the home cook very well, as you can simply use ingredients you have to hand. Balti afficionados call this "mix-'n'-match". It means you can serve Balti "anything" with "anything". Balti meat or Balti chicken are perfectly acceptable of course, but so are Balti meat & mushrooms of Balti chicken and mushrooms. Or you could have Balti meat with mushrooms and dhal, or even Balti meat with mushroom, dhal and spinach. I'm sure you've got the picture. the permutations are almost infinite.

Some traditional Balti-house combinations make good reading (and eating!) and I've included them. Balti Tropical, for example is equal amounts of meat, chicken and prawns. Balti Tropical Plus adds keema (mince or ground meat). Balti Tropical Vegetable combines any six vegetables of your choice. Bhoti Balti is equal amounts of lamb, chicken and mixed vegetables.

The main thing to keep in mind is the total weight of ingredients.

the total approximate weight of all your (raw) principal ingredients should be around 1 ½ lb to serve four people. So in the case of Balti Tropical, the raw prepared meat, chicken and prawns will each weight 8 oz.

To help you work out quantities, all recipes state how many portions they make. If you require only one portion of a recipe that makes 4 portions, you will find it more practical to cook the complete recipe and freeze the surplus. Some suggestions:- Balti Meat & Chicken Balti Tropical Balti Tropical Plus Prawns & Keema Bhola Balti Balti Chicken & Egg Lentils & Potato Tomato, Celery, corn & snow pea Lobia Beans, Mushrooms & Spinach. Submitted By IAN HOARE On 05-07-95

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