England is one of the few countries that my ancestors are from that I have actually traveled to. I have made many friends from this country through my college’s Study Abroad Program. Apparently, when people see “New York” on an application, many assume you’re going to be close to New York City, but my college was about 5 hours from it! These students may not have had the city experience they were looking for here, but I’m glad they came so that I could meet them and make some lasting friendships.
When I first traveled to England, I had the time of my life. We went on a road trip from north to south and stopped to camp along the way. It is one of the greenest places I’ve ever seen. There are sheep everywhere, including in the middle of the road when you’re trying to get to the other side of town. There are ruins of castles throughout the country. It is definitely a cool place to visit with lots of sites to see.
My experience with the food was not quite as enjoyable, unfortunately. I am into big, bold flavors with lots of spices and herbs, which is very different from the food in England (I don’t mean to offending anyone from England, it just was not quite for my taste). The idea of “salad cream” instead of dressing was not appealing and none of the grocery stores sold ANY dressings. I have never been so perplexed in my life. The traditional “cheese and pickle sandwich”, which is exactly what it sounds like, was one of the few meals that I did enjoy. My second time visiting England, I made sure to pack some ranch dressing and Frank’s hot sauce for my own taste.
Interestingly enough, the most flavorful dishes I ate while on my trip were Indian. I was very surprised at how popular Indian food was in England, especially since it is in many ways the complete opposite of typical English food, which was not something that I was expecting. When I stopped to really think about it, it made sense, since England occupied India for a brief time in history and of course, took on some of their culture.
For this cultural cooking challenge, I really struggled with deciding what to make. In the end, I decided that although I have never liked traditional fish & chips, I would try to make my very own healthy version while tying in the Indian flavors that I love so much. I also used my Polish pierogi/dough-making experience and decided to make my own version of naan bread, inspired by this one. There are also a number of different recipes you can find on Pinterest or in other cookbooks.
Now, before you continue reading, I’d like to point out that many people I know are hesitant to try Indian cuisine (I can name at least 10 people that won’t try it because they have a preconceived notion of what Indian food actually tastes like). Let me just say that Tikka Masala is pretty mild. It is a sweet and comforting sauce that most people wind up loving when they try it. It is very common, and a good way to ease yourself into trying Indian cuisine. Then, if you do end up liking Tikka Masala, I recommend branching out to Korma and any kind of coconut curry.
Fish & “Chips” with Tikka Masala Sauce and Garlic Naan (serves 4)
20 oz. Tilapia (any fish will work)
1 cup all-purpose flour, divided (2/3 for batter, 1/3 for dry mix)
4 tbsp cornstarch, divided (3 tbsp for batter, 1 for dry mix)
1/2 tsp Tikka Masala seasoning (garam masala can easily be substituted)
salt & pepper
3/4 cup club soda
one large bunch of carrots, peeled
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper (to taste)
cilantro (fresh or dried)
Tikka Masala Sauce
3 cups tomato sauce
~2 tsp madras curry (to taste)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove
1.5 tbsp I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! Light 30% Vegetable Oil Spread
1/3-1/2 cup cashew milk or milk of choice
1 tsp red pepper flakes (season to taste)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Garlic Naan (makes about 9 small or 6 medium)
3 tbsp plain fat-free yogurt
1/4 cup egg whites (or from 1 egg)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup cashew milk (or milk of choice)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsbp I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! Light 30% Vegetable Oil Spread, melted
1 tsp minced garlic
1-2 tsp cilantro (dried or fresh)
1) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
2) Begin preparing the Naan
- In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, garlic, baking powder, and baking soda.
- Add in the oil and egg whites, and mix with a fork.
- Add the milk and mix (If it looks too dry, you can add a splash more milk. If you accidentally add too much, just add more flour to balance it out).
- Roll the dough into a ball
- Spray the bowl with cooking spray, put the dough ball back in and cover with a towel, then let it rest for 30 minutes.
3) Prepare the carrots
- Peel carrots and cut into “French fries”. Try to cut them to about the same thickness so they cook evenly.
- Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
- Toss the carrots in a bowl with cooking spray, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cilantro.
- Spread onto the baking sheet and roast for about 20-30 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure they aren’t burning.
4) Set up your dredging station for the fish
- In one bowl, mix 1/3 cup of flour, salt, pepper, and 1 tbsp cornstarch.
- In a second bowl, mix together 2/3 cup flour, salt, pepper, tikka masala spice or any other spices you’d like to flavor your fish with.
- Add club soda, 1/4 cup at a time, to the second bowl until you reach your desired batter consistency.
5) Cook the fish
- Spray a skillet with cooking spray and set to medium-high heat.
- Dip each piece of fish in the dry flour mixture followed by the batter.
- Add the battered fish to the skillet, and flip each piece once the bottom starts to crisp up (each piece of fish will typically cook for about 2-3 minutes or so on each side). Keep a close eye for burning.
- Repeat these steps with the rest of the pieces of fish.
6) Check on your carrot fries and remove if needed.
7) Start the sauce
- Add 3 cups of tomato sauce (store bought or homemade) to a pot.
- Add the milk, butter, garlic, and red pepper flakes.
- Add madras curry powder, cinnamon, and ground clove to taste.
- Simmer while you finish making the naan.
8) Continue making the naan
- Make the topping for your naan by mixing the naan ingredients together in a microwave-safe container and heating for 20 seconds or less.
- Mix the ingredients again after heating.
- Have a pastry brush available to apply the topping later.
- Lightly flour a surface to work on, then knead the dough a few times rolling it into an oval shape and cutting it into the number of pieces you want to make (I made 9).
- Spray a skillet with oil and heat to medium-high.
- Roll each piece into a circle or oval and heat both sides in the skillet. When both sides are golden brown, coat the top side with the butter mixture and remove from the pan, setting aside on a plate.
- Repeat these step until all of the naan is done.
9) Plate and serve with the sauce on the side
I have to say, I really outdid myself with this dish. I feel particularly proud that I took something that I never particularly liked and transformed it into something so rich and bold. The fish was crispy and light, the way it should be. It paired perfectly with the sauce. The tilapia also held up well in the skillet and didn’t fall apart while cooking.
To be honest, the fish was not even my favorite part of this meal- the naan won that by a landslide. There’s something about dipping a warm bread in sauce that always spoke to me. Even as a kid, my mom sent me to school with bread and gravy for lunch as per my request. There is just something so comforting about it that even as an adult, I can eat just bread and sauce for an entire meal. This is a recipe that I might use for pasta night to replace my usual garlic bread. Why not garlic naan?
Now as for the carrots, I know carrots are not French fries and they never will be. However, I felt like these got the job done for me. These can be paired with any meal and are a really healthy alternative to French fries and tater tots. You can transform these by playing around with different spices depending on what you’re making, too. I originally dipped them in the tikka masala sauce but found it wasn’t needed. They were delicious on their own.
With each meal that I make for my “Discovering My Heritage Through Cooking” series, I feel a little more connected to my family’s past and my own memories of places. This meal really did remind me of my travels. I also find that I can even surprise myself. This was not a country I was looking forward to cooking for, but it ended up being one of the best meals I’ve made for the series so far!
Still to come: Germany, Lithuania, and the Netherlands. Stay tuned!
What are your favorite English recipes?
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© Copyright Whatismyhealth, April 30th, 2017
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