Archive for October, 2010

A busy night!

Oct 08 2010 Published by under Events

Tonight at Take 5 we have 2 big important events one after another. At 7p.m we have about 25 persons arriving for a birthday dinner for Lucy. Lucy is a lovely English lady who has become part of our family, and runs the Light House Project for the NHS. I am going to treat them to punjabee samosas for starters, followed by a main meal of curries, tandoori, nan, salad etc which should be both tasty and filling.

Around 10, we will then get busy with our next event which is a charity fundraiser for M.E sufferers. This is organised by Justin, a guy who has been battling with M.E himself. He has a good line up of DJs who have released their own labels and the main genre will be triphop, breakbeat and dubstep. This is more of a club night with a £5 entry towards the Action for M.E charity.

All this will be followed by the 1st weekend in Bristol when most of the 2010/11 batch of uni students have arrived so we should see some curiousnew faces peeping in!, smelling our curries or hearing some good music as they pass by.

And if you are reading this, drop in too!

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Sam’s Super Wonderful birthday Last night!

Oct 05 2010 Published by under Events

I posted the following yesterday for the party last night, but I thought some may be interested in what happened. Well it was such a great success for sure. Sam’s mates did not turn him down and all of them came. They are a real nice bunch of people, friendly, loving, and basically no trouble. I started cooking around 6 so the food would be hot and warm by the time they arrived. My dosa breads had to be cooked by hand one by hand and dosa making is one fiddly art even for an experienced chef and I was getting a little nervous that I would be a little late, but by magic, the tandoori chicken, salad, chutney, vegetable curry, tikka sauce all came together at the same time, thanks to Liam helping me energetically in frying up about 30 poppudums to perfection, and everyone else from the bar popping into the kitchen to help me out such as Ana, Rob, and Rob the 4th, not to forget Ani. I really treasure the invaluable support they all give.

Sam’s friends can drink! and not get drunk! haha. They loved the food, and the backyard, and I forgot how many times Sam thanked me. His girlfriend Steph is one really wonderful lady who is so full of joy, love and kindness like an angel. They all loved the food, ambience, and kept the bar busy as well as had their own music plugged in to our system. I am one happy person today thanks to Sam and now, I am looking forward to this weekend’s parties which I will post about later.

The following is the excerpt from yesterday.
”Tonight is going to be exciting! One of our recent customers, Sam is going to be having a private birthday meal here at Take5, bringing about 25 or more family and friends! I call him Sam pineapple to set him apart from the other Sams i know. Pineapple because I gave him a jar of my own home-made pineapple on the house recently and he really loved it with his girlfriend and mates. Sam’s a very special person. He is a real friendly, genuine guy who is very kind to us and is very jovial, someone that can be loved and trusted.

I literally woke up with the birthday dinner in my mind thinking of what I am going to cook them. I want it to be a surprise so hopefully Sam wont read this, but my plan is to marinade lots of big chicken pieces with many spices and gently roast them into an crispy soft reddish authentic tandoori in the evening. I will collect all the drippings to make that into a separate creamy tandoori sauce with coconut and extra thick double cream. This will go well with special ‘rava (semolina, urud and rice) dosa breads I know Sam hasn’t tasted before, and yellow turmeric pilau rice with onion seeds. During the day, my kwok will be simmering away with a fresh batch of fruit chutney I am making today. I will also make a lovely vegetable curry and salad to go with all of this and some pakoras as starters.

Its going to be a busy day and I will have to try avoiding stressing those around me because I can be bossy and bitchy when I have a million things to do so its all perfect by the time our guests arrive. Dinners involve a lot of work such as getting the bar ready with wine, having candles and flowewrs everywhere etc. Its all fun!

I have personal friends such as Ani(lovely girl who is an architectural student at U.W.E) coming to help me too and the newest member of staff called Rob the 4th who graduated with a first in Asian history from SOAS last year, and just got back from Indonesia after completing a 1 year scholarship in Indonesia learning Indonesian.

Sam’s gf, if you are reading this, sssh dont forget to bring along a birthday cake for him! ”

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Secrets of Thai Green Curry

Oct 04 2010 Published by under Recipes

Thai green curry has slowly become a very popular dish in this country. This is because it looks fresh and green, feels light, tastes slightly tangy, sweet sour, creamy, and coconuty, has a beautiful thick yet runny sauce consistency, and smells and tastes aromatic and spicy. It transports one back to South East Asia and goes well with rice. You can cook it with meat, fish or vegetables too.

At Take 5 cafe we have cooked Thai green curries for 14 years because it is constantly in high demand! It runs out before I can shop for, and cook the next batch!

Cooking a Thai curry is however a tricky business because it is akin to juggling many balls at the same time as it involves the art of balancing and pulling together opposite tastes(like sweet and sour) in fusion-like eruption, that is tantalising to the taste buds.

A common mistake chefs make is to assume that the secret of a Thai curry lies in creating your own ‘home-made’ paste( a romanticist idea they import from their understanding of Indian cooking). This is fallacy more than fact because 1) a good Thai green curry involves 3 pastes not 1 paste as I will explain below 2) the Tthai paste you get in a jar imported from Thailand has got more ingredients sourced cheaply there, than you might possibly buy in the UK at high prices, and this paste does not result in an inferior curry as happens in Indian cooking using ready sauces. In fact the paste has the right quantity of ingredients all properly combined together and, 3) It deflects attention from the real problem which is to focus on the balancing acts you need to perform as you are cooking a Thai curry. I will elaborate on this below.

1)A Thai curry involves 3 pastes. Paste A is a greeny thick paste which you can buy ready made, preferably made in Thailand. This is the paste people focus, on trying to recreate it on their own, and in the process neglect a lot of steps involving Paste B and Paste C . Paste B is the evolving paste that you create from start to finish which along the line will involve using Paste A, in one of its spiralling steps. Its all the steps of Paste B that you really need to pay attention to, as I will explain.

2)Paste A involves a load of ingredients that can be hard to obtain and are expensive and fiddly too like krachai, fresh turmeric, etc. You need to buy them separately usually and end up having to freeze the rest. You also spend a long time trying to peel and blend them to the right consistency as well as taste very close to the imported jars of ready paste. That’s why the most reputable Thai restaurants use these ready green jars of paste A.

3)Given that creating your own Paste A is not crucial, a ready jar helps you to focus on the balancing act to create the prefect sauce.

Below is my simple, time tested recipe secret that my customers have consistently loved.

Do a shopping at a oriental supermarket buying a small plastic jar of thai green curry paste, a small packet of kaffir lime leaves, a tiny amount of galangal , a couple of shoots of lemongrass, a small jar of non concentrated tamarind paste, coriander, shallots or just normal onion, palm or just white sugar, green cilies of your own fancy, coconut milk, dessicated coconut, 1 lime. and eith some chicken breasts diced or a medley of vegetables. a jar of thai fish sauce, a few basil leaves.

1)Fry together in a kwok, gently for 3 minutes, 1 small onion, some garlic paste, the lemongrass shoots chopped small, an inch or more of the galangal chopped fine or pounded, about 7-10 lime leaves(tear a few into half too), and 2-3 finely chopped green chillies, and a few chopped basil leaves.

2)Add to the kwok, a dollup(1 to 2 tablespoons) of the paste you bought, about 5-6 drops of fish sauce, and 2 -3 tablespoons of the tamarind paste, and fry over gentle heat for about 3-4 minutes till you smell the flavours, and the mixture turning slightly darker.

3)Next, add the diced meat or vegetables and stir through gently for 2 minutes.

4)Now add the coconut milk can to this simmering mixture and another too, if its too thick. Add 1/2 to 1/3 small cup of hot water too. Stir slowly till you see the mixture beginning to boil. Now reduce the fire to minimum and allow to simmer

5) In the meantime, use a small spice mill type of blender(which does not require water) to blend half a cup of dessicated coconut and half a cup of finely chopped coriander leaves. Make this into a fine pastely green paste(Paste C) and keep aside

6) Now back to your simmering mixture, taste that the meat or vegetables are cooked and add a tablespoon of sugar, and squeeze in
half a lime too, and a few more chopped basil leaves. Gently stir in, then add then Paste C you just blended. Stir it in and after 30 seconds the entire curry will turn very green. Switch off fire and serve with warm rice. Thai pandan/jasmine rice is ideal but you can use any other rice too.

Tips: 1)If you are not a vegan, add some extra thick double cream towards the end for extra creaminess, 2)A vegan version of Paste A should be available and omit the fish sauce. If not blend together a small onion or a few shallots, a little galangal, krachai, lemongrass, green chillies, few leaves of basil, ginger, garlic, lime leaves, a teaspoon of turmeric powder or some fresh turmeric, 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds. 3) Tweak salt, sugar, lime juice, amount of creamed coconut to create a sauce of your own liking. 4) Ask me at the cafe if you are not getting a nice tasting curry after a few attempts and I will give you a free demo.

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Joint Exhibition!

Oct 04 2010 Published by under Events

Matthew a second year UWE arts student, and Samuel an arts graduate have teemed up to bring us an exhibition that is currently being displayed at Take5. Samuel has huge paintings based on the use of natural foraged materials put together in an explosion of colour and shapes. His 3 paintings are LOVERS, THE SMILING SWAMI AND A MANGROVE SWAMP. Matthew’s paintings are based on urban imagery focussing on issues such as loneliness, despair, and urban architecture. This exhibition might merge to become a 3some soon! involving the exciting paintings of yet another highly talented art graduate called Rob. I will keep you posted. The exhibition is free, so feel free to drop in anytime.

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Cooking lentils(dall)

Oct 03 2010 Published by under Recipes

Dall or lentils are high sources of protein and very tasty. They are the staple diet of many homes in South Asia, as they are cheap, quick and easy to cook and can be eaten with rice, bread or any cereal of choice. Accompanied by a meat or vegeterian dish and salad, and preferably a fruit after, they constitute a 5/day complete meal.

There are all sorts of lentils of different colours, shapes and cooking times. In western health shops you can buy lentils like puy lentils. In Indian/Asian grocers, you can buy lentils such as masoor, mung, masr, urud, black, chana, tur etc.

Cooking lentils involves 3 usual steps. Step 1 involves boiling them in plenty of water till they go soft and seem ready for eating. While they are boiling away you can proceed with step 2 which is to prepare a sauce called a ‘tempering sauce’ in English and a ‘turka’ in Indian. Step 3 involves adding the turka into the boiling lentils and stirring gently till they are ready. Understanding this helps you cut across a plethora of different recipes and cook your own lentils. Always garnish lentils at the end with finally chopped coriander and even spring onions. Lets spell this out more thoroughly:

1)When you go shopping pick a few small packets of different types of lentils to experiment.

2)Nowadays most packaging mention boiling times, if not add a reasonable amount of water and boil covered at top temperature, and once they start boiling reduce fire to let them simmer. Remember lentils soak in a lot of water as they boil so you may need to top up water. Check every now and then till they appear to be softened.

3)The basic recipe for a good turka invariably involves frying some onions with a few fenugreek seeds, ginger powder and garlic puree(or fresh cut ginger and freshly crushed garlic) on a medium fire till light golden brown and then adding some canned or fresh tomatoes, and a couple of teaspoons each of turmeric, cili and cumin powders and salt, strirring this till the oil bubbles appear.

4) Now add the turka to your ready prepared lentils and stir in some coriander and adjust for salt, and thickness. If its too runny, boil a bit more or add some crushed cooked new potatoes or teaspoons of arrowroot. If too thick just add more boiling water.

Tips; 1)To the turka for light coloured lentils add some black mustard seeds, some chopped aubergine/okra, a can of coconut milk and a few curry leaves for added taste. 2)To the turka of dark coloured lentils add a handful of dried kasuri methi leaves. 3)Add some blended mustard oil to your frying oil for any turka, 4)use a small pinch of anardana and dried mango powders as well as asotefida(hing) powder and some ajwain seeds for a richer more authentic flavour. 5)Stir in some butter or olive oil at the end of the cooking process to give it a buttery taste. 6) The boiling times for darker lentils like mung and mah, and even chana can be reduced by using a pressure cooker. In the case of chana just 1 or 2 whistles are required. Urud and masoor are best cooked uncovered as they just require 5-10 minutes of boiling.

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Home-made chilli pickle

Oct 02 2010 Published by under Recipes

Chilli pickles bought from grocers can be sour and full of preservatives etc. The following recipe will help you create your own pickles at home. At Take5 we buy some pickles, but do usually make our own for you when we have time. The recipe below is a great favourite I created , which is even loved by my private Asian friends with a ‘classy’ taste!

Make extra jars to proudly share with your friends. Surprisingly this recipe will help your chilli pickle to be not too ‘hot’ but tasty and mild.

Do shopping at local Indian grocers and buy a bottle/tin of blended mustard oil, crushed yellow mustard seeds(or crush them yourself), black mustard seeds, onion seeds, dried mango powder, turmeric, 1 lemon , 1 lime, and a bunch of big mixed red and green chillies, as well as a few rocket(thinner and longer) green chillies. Have some jars ready too.

1) chop the chillies lengthwise into thin strips, without deseeding them. prepare a bowl of these chillies.

2) heat up a small ladle/4 tablespoons of blended mustard oil in a kwok, and add 2 teaspoons of onion seeds, 1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds, 2 teaspoons of crushed yellow mustard seeds, 1/2 teaspoon of dried mango powder, and gently stir till these seeds start popping. Now, reduce the fire to low and wait 1 minute.

3) Next, add the chillies and 2 teaspoons of turmeric as well as salt. Gently stir so that the chilies get coated with the rest of the ingredients in the kwok. Keep the fire reduced so as to not burn the chillies quickly.

4)As you see the chillies beginning to turn colour, quickly squeeze in half a lemon and half a lime. Stir and taste for salt. Squeeze in more lime or lemon juice according to taste. The pickle is nowready and should look shiny, fresh and coated with a yellowish sauce with mustard seeds. Using a tablespoon, quickly spoon the pickle into your jar, cover with a lid and once cooled, refrigerate it. Serve this pickle sparingly especially with Asian food letting people request for more.

Tips: 1)In making this pickle. the fire has to be low else the chillies will quickly turn soft and loose colour. The chillies do not need thorough cooking. They just need to be coated with the other ingredients and take on the taste of the mustard, and shine from the mustard oil. 2) You can variete this recipe by gently frying very thinly cut long pieces of ginger before you add the chillies. 3) Another variation is to add a spoon or half of white sugar, together with the chillies to create a sweet sour pickle.

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Making your own latte

Oct 01 2010 Published by under Recipes

Latte is is coffee topped up with steamed and frothed milk . This is a current favourite hot drink. It is a drink you can make at home even without any expensive coffee machines. You do need to buy a frother, preferably a stainless steel one because glass ones tend to break easily. You also need a small cafetiera and some fresh ground coffee, unless you wish to use instant coffee of your choice which is fine too. You could also use a small home expresso boiler(the screw top ones you use on a stove), for which you need expresso powder. Choose milk of your choice.

As you repeat the steps for making a latte, over and over again you will be able to do this really quickly.

1) Start by pouring boiling water into a cafetiera of fresh ground coffee powder.Use 1 tablespoon of coffee powder/person, and 1 small mug of boiling water /person. I normally use 2 of each in a small 3 person cafetiera so i can make a latte for another person too or have 2 myself. You need to wait 4 minutes before you press down the coffee plunger into the cafetiera

2)After pouring water into the cafetiera, get a mug of milk into your microwave on top temperature for 3 minutes or slightly more till the mug feels real hot on touch and has a film on it.

3)Now carefully and gently pour the milk into the frother and start frothing the milk for a few seconds.Once you see that there are plenty of bubbles and the milk has frothed, get the frother plunger out. Next gently start tapping the frother on one side till you see the bigger bubbles breaking into smaller thicker ones. This creates a layer of very concentrated thick froth. gently stir a tablespoon in this.

4)Now pour your coffee to about half the tallness of your mug and stir in sugar/honey if needed.Using the tablespoon gently pour the frothed milk in. For cappucino sprinkle some chocholate powder over. As you keep practising this, and , observe how this is done when you are in a coffee shop, you will slowly perfect the technique.

Tips:1) Try using muscovado sugar for a deep mysterious flavour. 2)You can flavour your latte by adding some crushed pods of cardamon or cloves or cinnamon or vanilla powder to your coffee powder in the cafetiera. 3)Get your milk really hot, and even pour hot water in all your utensils before you start using them, to end up with a steaming hot latte that will last a while. 4) At the bottom of your frother is where the unfrothed hot milk will be.Thats why you need a tablespoon to get this in too, or else you will end up with only froth on your coffee. This cools down quickly and you end up with a mug that is real light as all the air bubbles out leaving you with hardly any latte. All these are common problems made by staff of coffee shops all over town. I even have to tell them to ‘scald’ my milk to avoid them from serving me a semi cold latte.

I am a coffee lover myself, and I know how enjoyable it is to indulge in a few lattes or go on a latte cafe crawl,(instead of getting drunk in a pub) and am aware that it can be a strain on the wallet. Hence at Take5 we have kept our latte prices very low and do ask me to give you a free latte making demo the next time you drop in, if you are interested.

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Autumn arrives!

Oct 01 2010 Published by under Lifestyle

Its October now and there is autumn in the air in the U.K. Low pressure accompanied by wind, lower temperatures and rain. It feels cold and windy, and winter seems near. Now is when we reach for those woolens and jumpers we stashed away in april/may.

Changing seasons means a need to adjust our food, clothing and lifestyle accordingly. This can be tricky because on one hand we need to be active, not so dressed, and awake but on the other, we just want to wrap up and hibernate.

My day in these autumn season usually starts very early as the hormones of dawn such as cortisol and adrenaline, following my circadian rhythm, start circulating to induce me to sit up and meditate . Later, Liam brings me latte and a sandwich before he is off to college. Liam, who is from Switzerland, is the newest addition to the Take 5 family clan preparing to study architecture soon.

Then, I have a cold shower to start the day, dry myself, then use a moisturising mix of almond oil and a few drops of orange, lemon or lavender oil for my hair and face, followed by dressing up in light and bright colours, and having a protein rich sandwich or my own home-made breakfast bar and warm tea to kick start the day, together with a zinc and vitamin b6 supplement. This helps to activate me, cook my curries for the day for Take 5, do shopping, socialise with customers, and other work and personal activities. Dinner is usually around 5-6 p.m which is usually a family affair with Rob, Liam, Ana and other members of the Take 5 clan downstairs at Take 5 as we are open in the evenings too. Usually this is followed by a nice dessert cooked by Matthew (he keeps feeding us with apple crumble) with warm custard cooked by me.

In the evenings, I bring closure to the day as it gets even colder by having a warm calming bath, followed by a moisturiser mix of almond oil mixed with drops of ylang ylang etc as this help to prepare the mind to relax for sleeping. A warm herbal tea of dandelion or nettle is ideal after this too. After a few more hours, it is usually time to fall asleep so the hormones of darkness such as melatonine can get started in producing more of themselves and repairing this biological human body machine. Chanting a mantra silently within, following the breathing movements of in and out quickly induces me into a baby like -like sleep state!

This is also the right time to be digging out thermal tshirts etc because thermals reduce the need to wear too many layers. Thermal socks help keep the feet warm too. During the day, try to fight the urge to wear dark jackets, dark tshirts or dark dresses if you are a lady. Instead, choose bright colours like white or pastels to match the day light. You can blend in darker clothes as the day darkens into night slowly.

At Take 5, this is when we start getting busy with student parties, christmas dinner bookings, etc. This means more shopping, more staff and more planning. We also start changing the decor to make Take 5 look more warm, and inviting.The menu starts having a range of warm healthy breakfasts and warm soups. This autumn I am planning to even have a medieval roast on some sundays. We saw this advertised at a pub in Cheltenham recently and this idea caught our fancy. We are also toying with the idea of a range of smoothies and milkshakes with modern names such as an emo milkshake, gothic milkshake etc hehe.

Apart from buying lattes and herbal teas at Take 5 and other coffee shops, its a really nice idea to know how to make your own cappucino or latte at home so do check on the recipe section of this site as I will be posting that soon. Also stock up on a small range of herbal teas to keep you warm and if you are middle aged or more, now is the time for your annual flu jab.

Enjoy a pleasant autumn!….. and get ready for winter!

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The students are back!

Oct 01 2010 Published by under Lifestyle

Its 1st october 2010 and the current academic year has just begun. Bristol which is a university town is suddenly aflush with students. Autumn is fast setting in too. I see students everywhere buying everything from chopping boards to knifes to bags of shopping to set up in their new homes for the year and they come from everywhere around the world and U.K! Welcome dear students, summer gets rather quiet when you guys are not around.

I always do my very best for these students by making them feel Take 5 is a place in Bristol they can receive the human friendships and caring these students received back home, apart from feeling a sense of being acknowledged and recognised. My worst nightmare is being in a town where you are treated as a stranger and have no places where you can drop in and feel at home. Over the last 14 years, Take 5 has been a place where students can have dinners, birthdays and parties or just drop in to use the wi-fi, have a latte or a quick chat.

Every time I see a student, I see a potential adult taking the crucial step of education in his/her path to the fulfillment of career and life goals. Nowadays, education involves taking out huge student loans even for hefty fees and I wish there were more ways they received advice and tips as to how to cut their costs. Some tips I can share are as follows:

1) Cut out unnecessary activities which zap money like smoking or buying drugs. Reduce drinking to a minimum as well as clubbing.

2)Use your credit card only for emergencies. Budget all your expenditure and buy only what is absolutely necessary . Shun expensive labels and always eat before you go shopping

3)Food is a big expenditure. Hence look for places that serve affordable value meals and limit your eating out. Plan your food shopping very diligently by making a list of meals you wish to eat in a week. Utilise all left overs. Try making food from scratch without wasting too much energy and time on it. One pineapple for around £1 will make you about 3 jars of fresh pineapple jam. Likewise one whole chicken for around £4 could be hacked up and roasted into a curry lasting 3 days. Try making your own humus, guacomole etc. Your refrigerator will be stocked with food that you made yourself cheaply that you can pack into sandwiches and share with others. Always share what you cook to spread love!

4) You can also do away with most face creams and hair creams etc. Instead buy a bottle of carrier oils such as almond, grapeseed or coconut oil and a few tiny bottles of aromatherapy oils you like e.g lavender, lemon, orange etc(these are unisex oils with fresh citrus smells). In the palm of your hand stir a few drops of carrier oil and a few of your favourite aromatherapy oil and massage it gently into your scalp and to your face. This will be cheaper, fresher and chemical free.

5) Use your hot water, heating and electricity with care to cut out wastage

6)Try to get part-time/casual work so that instead of going out on weekends and getting drunk and losing all your money, you could be working on friday/saturday evenings at a hotel earning money , meeting nice guests, learning bar work and gaining work experience.

7)Learn to say no, instead of a big yes to every invite for a night out. Instead focus on staying at the library, and doing assignments, preparing for exams, reading up etc.

8)Treasure every penny and pound you have. That is either borrowed or hard earned money in your wallet and it needs a rethink before you spend it. Always think of alternative ways of doing things, and arranging your schedule, friendships and activities, so they are not timewasting, tiring, destructive and a strain on your finances.

9)Choose your friendships wisely. Some friendships can result in bankruptcy, hurt, becoming alcoholic and drug dependent. Others can result in an improvement of lifestyle and personal empowerment and enrichment.

10)Exercise care and caution so you are not a target of parking fines or pickpockets or muggers. Bristol offers a lot of support for any problem you may have and never be shy of discussing things with your gp, personal tutor, or support organisations.

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