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Cooking from Mighty Spice (and Mighty Spice Express) Cookbook by John Gregory-Smith

After reading beetlebug's excitement about this book, I started getting excited too. I ordered it and, after one read through, got even more excited. My list of recipes I want to make is in the mid-to high 20s. Since others (I'm looking at you, Pikawicca) said you'd be interested in a thread devoted to the book, I finally decided to cave and make one. I apologize to dkennedy and her wallet.

Just a reminder about the usual Chowhound rules about not giving exact recipes for copyright reasons.

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  1. Copying my earlier posted review of Mexican Chicken with Yogurt and Almonds (p. 75)

    I made the Mexican Chicken with Yogurt and Almonds. I will be honest with you - this choice of recipe was based more on having certain ingredients around the house that I needed to get rid of more than it being the most intriguing. That said, we really liked this very much. Homey, delicious, spicy but not overwhelmingly so so that I didn't have to worry about Lulu who (thanks to a friend) has suddenly started saying "I don't like spicy food" (as she eats spicy food that she hasn't been told is spicy). I sort of made 1 and a half times the recipe, so some of the spicing might have been a bit off, although I think I did a pretty good job of keeping it right as he wrote it. I could have taken it spicier, but I was thrilled with it nonetheless. Again - very homey, delicious. Basically braised chicken thighs, some garlic, then roasted red peppers (I added a yellow one too for more color) and roasted jalapenos (he called for red ones, I used green serranos), almonds ground but with still a bit of chunk to them, sliced scallions, juice of an orange, yogurt. Serve with tortilla chips (family *very* happy). I especially liked that bit with the little chunks of almonds in there. I have a feeling the leftovers will be even better. This would be great sitting in front of the tv watching football; fancier than chili but still very tasty and comfort food-ish.

    I have the Indian Spinach and Curry Chicken bubbling away on the stove now. That will be dinner tonight - will review once we've tried it.

    9 Replies
    1. re: LulusMom

      Thank you for this review, LulusMom! Now that I got the book and made one successful dish out of it, I am eager to go deeper:) I have two quilting friends over for dinner next week and plan to double the recipe because I can't imagine that 4 chicken thighs will serve four people and would like a bit of a leftover. Do you think I should double everything, even yogurt? I am thinking of serving this with brown rice and follow with a salad of mixed greens from Plenty.

      1. re: herby

        I'm a little nervous about me being the one helping you decide how to do this, since it seems we have fairly different tastes (no judgement there, just always seems to be the case). But I would say that we were 3 people (and honestly, my husband almost counts for 2 with his bike-rider's appetite) and I did 1 1/2 times the recipe, and we still had leftovers. I think rice to round things out and a salad will definitely help stretch this. I'm not sure how spicy you like things - I tend to always want to up the spices in this book; knowing that makes this book work wonderfully for me. If you like things less spicy, then doubling everything would work just right. Otherwise, maybe a bit less yogurt, a bit more of the things that appeal to you the most. I truly hope I'm not steering you in a direction that doesn't suit your tastes. What I can say is that this was a surprisingly big hit for us and just rereading my post makes me want to make it again.

        I look forward to hearing how it works out for you, and have my fingers crossed that you enjoy it even half as much as we did.

        1. re: LulusMom

          I know we had our tastes differences in the past but think that mostly it was the technique that I was not able to replicate - stir frying rings the bell - and when your meat steams instead of frying, any amount of good spice is not going to save the dish! I love things spicy, nice and hot:) One of my friends is allergic to all kinds of seeds - mustard, corriander, cumin, etc. - ginger of all things, canola oil and so on. She loves food but is getting very bored with her limited spices; this dish seems to have everything that she can eat and provide very nice flavour. So, I really want to double and she can take some leftovers home too if she likes it well enough:) The amount of yogurt got me a bit concerned - if I double it, I will be adding 2+ cups to the dish that sounds a bit too much. The same with the chicken stock... Maybe I wil increase the liquids by 1/4 and double the spices.

          Have you looked at Adria's The Family Meal? He provides quantities for 2/6/20/75 and they are not straight multiplications. I'll have to have a look at his liquids and extrapolate from there.

          Thanks, LulusMom! I will report in a week - the dinner in question is next Thursday.

          1. re: herby

            That is so nice of you to want to send leftovers home with your friend. OK, so I think I'd have the extra broth and yogurt on hand and see how the dish is looking and tasting, and then you can decide if you want to add the additional or not.

            I'm trying to imagine a life without coriander, cumin and ginger ... eeek! Poor friend. Good luck with this.

            1. re: LulusMom

              I made Mexican Chicken last night and it was a hit:) Unfortunately, my friend is allegic to so many things and I did not use any chilies, only red bell pepper. Even so it was not spicy (I love spicy food!), it was full of delicious flavour. I doubled the recipe but did not increase chicken broth and yogurt. Maybe because I cooked it in tagene, the amount of sauce was right. I served it with brown rice and steamed broccholi. There is a bit of leftover, enough for one serving and I will add a bit a Dunlop's chili sauce when I warm it up - bet it will be even better:) I think the key to this dish is a hit of smokey flavour from chared pepper.

              Thank you, LLM, for pointing this dish out for me!

              1. re: herby

                I'm thrilled to hear that it was a hit for you, and for our friend too. I'm completely with you on adding the hot sauce when you eat it without her.

                1. re: LulusMom

                  The leftovers were good and spicy with the addition of Dunlop's pepper sauce but I did not like it as much as the first night. Some dishes do not improve over time but it could have been me not liking leftovers in general. The smokey pepper flavour changed somewhat, the almonds softened too much... But the first night it was so good that I will definitely make it again!

      2. re: LulusMom

        Mexican Chicken with Yogurt and Almonds

        I got Mighty Spice for Christmas and this was the second recipe I tried. Ohhhh so good. Really delicious and with a really different flavor. I'm so used to certain flavors in Mexican dishes (probably because most are more Tex-Mex) and this had a really different flavor profile. It took much less time than I expected as well, and I had dinner done way too early! I will definitely make it again, and maybe get some soup plates because it's just begging to be served like that. My jalapenos had virtually no heat, so it could have been spicier, but who would have guessed jalapenos could be that mild? I served this with the Mexican rice in Bayless' Salsas That Cook (another Christmas gift based on recommendations from Chowhounds!) and that was equally delicious and paired beautifully.

        1. re: LulusMom

          Mexican Chicken with Yoghurt and Almonds, p. 75

          I made this tonight. I enjoyed it... BF LOVED it. I didn't have any jalapeños on hand (couldn't even find them at the supermarket!) so I used a few Birdseye chillis instead. This was still nice without the jalapeños but lacked a bit of heat so I added some extra fresh chilli to mine once it was done. The sauce thickened up really nicely once off the heat. Very comforting on an unseasonably chilly November night here.

        2. Indian Chicken and Spinach Curry (p. 70)

          Weirdly, I find myself not making the recipes I'm *most* attracted to in this book, but working off what makes the most sense given either what I have in the house or what I'll be making in a day or two. So, this was one of those that looked good but didn't especially interest me, but it seemed to me to work well with the dinners I had planned the evenings around tonight. So ... it turned out to be wonderful. Everyone in the family loved it, including Lulu (who, according to her, doesn't like spicy food - ha!).

          You boil some water and cook the spinach a minute or two until just starting to wilt. Save the water (at least 1/2 cup) and add that with the spinach to a processor until blended. Set aside in a bowl. In the same (now empty) processor now mix garam masala, salt, chopped onion, chopped tomato, garlic, ginger, green chili (he calls for 1/2 green; I used a whole serrano) and a little water until smooth. Heat oil in saucepan (I used the same dutch oven I'd cooked the spinach in, minimum clean up) and throw in 2 teaspoons cumin seeds (I used more - probably at least 3 teaspoons, I love cumin) until crackling, then pour in tomato mixture, stir, cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Finally, put the cooked spinach, the bite sized chicken (he calls for thighs, but I ended up using breast meat) and, if you want, 1/4 cup cream (I went for the cream). Cooked about 15 minutes. This was all fairly easy (once chopping the onion, tomatoes, chili, garlic and ginger was done - and those don't need much chopping since they're going in the processor), and the clean up can be done while the stuff is simmering. I served it with store-bought heated naan, and man, this was the easiest clean up in the world. And a delicious dinner. Husband said "can you put this in rotation? Not as much as Bloke's pasta, but still, in rotation?" (he LOVES JO's bloke's pasta). Overall, a surprisingly big hit; just make sure that if you like things spicy, you up the things you like best (for me, the chili and the cumin).

          5 Replies
          1. re: LulusMom

            Indian Chicken and Spinach Curry p. 70- half recipe

            This was much better received by my Mr. than the Bangkok chicken was last night. We used a thai chili, canned tomatoes, 1/2 T of oil (instead of 1), 1 1/2 t cumin seeds (instead of one) and omitted the cream. Like LLM mentions, this recipe is fairly easy to put together and the clean up is done while things are simmering away. I was surprised how tender the chicken was even though it is cooked on med-high heat. We served this with jasmine rice (we were out of basmati). We were both pleased with the results and am feeling rather virtuous for eating such a healthy, yet flavorful meal. Thanks again to LLM for testing out the recipe ahead of time. I feel like I'm cheating a little by benefitting from all the notes of LLM and bb. Thank you. More to come tomorrow.

            1. re: BigSal

              Cheat away! i'm thrilled that someone is enticed to want to try these recipes. They are varied enough that you don't feel like you're eating the same type of food each night, and most of them are pretty easy too. I'm now remembering just how much we liked this (especially husband) and thinking "hmmm, maybe time to make it again, now that the cold weather is coming in." Thanks for the reminder, and so glad you liked it.

              1. re: BigSal

                PS - can't wait to find out what you're making next.

              2. re: LulusMom

                Indian Chicken and Spinach Curry, p70

                I made this last night - I used a whole chilli but seeded it against my better judgement. I should have left the seeds in as this was a little lacking in oomph. Or perhaps my chilli was lacking. Whatever, it was tasty but needed more spice.

                1. re: greedygirl

                  I really hate that about chilies these days. You have no idea how hot they'll be. Sometimes a jalapeno tastes like they always used to taste - hot. But usually these days they're sort of wishy-washy. Sorry it was too bland!

              3. Tamarind and Lemongrass Chicken Stir-Fry, p59

                We absolutely loved this - it was plenty spicy from the chilli, fragrant with lemongrass, and the tamarind water added a subtle tang. Easy too and I got a very handy tip about lemongrass!

                Briefly, chop 2 stalks of lemongrass roughly starting from the fat end (he says to stop when there are no more purple rings - I never knew this) and whizz it in a mini FP with 3 cloves of garlic. Transfer to a bowl and add diced chicken (he says thigh but I had breasts), 1tsp chili flakes, 2tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp sugar, 1.5 tbsp fish sauce. Mix well and leave for at least 30 mins or overnight in the fridge.

                Make the tamarind water using a nugget of paste and some hot water, and sieve to remove any solids.

                Stir-fry the chicken mixture with a sliced red pepper for a few minutes, until the chicken is starting to brown, then add the tamarind water and a tbsp of soy sauce and continue to cook until the sauce is reduced and sticky and the chicken is cooked. As I was using breast rather than thigh, I cooked it for slightly less time and there was still a little bit of sauce in the bottom of the pan.

                Really good with some plain steamed rice. Mr GG had requested something spicy, and he loved it. A definite hit. One thing though - he says this would serve 4 with 500g of chicken. I used 2 chicken breasts, just less than a pound, and we ate the whole thing. It would have served 3 at a stretch, but no way 4 unless you've got other dishes as well.

                4 Replies
                  1. re: greedygirl

                    My turn on the Tamarind and Lemongrass Chicken Stir-Fry

                    I also used chicken breasts, and played around a bit with the spicing. Possibly less lemongrass than intended (lemongrass stalks here vary SO widely in size) but double the chili flakes (and I would likely triple the next time) and I used 2 peppers instead of just one so that I could pretend that I was serving a vegetable with this and not have to make an extra dish. Very very nice meal. I wouldn't really call it spicy so much as very nicely flavored. Almost like a slightly spicy sweet and sour chicken without the cloyingness or fruit. We all lapped up every bit on our plates.

                    One thing I find with this book is that I think it helps to know your own preferences and to know a bit about cooking already. I know what spices I like lots of, and what sorts of things I don't need to double, and I think that helps make most of these dishes big hits. I guess that is true of most books, really, but especially since this one revolves around the idea of spices, I think it is especially true.

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      Tamarind and Lemongrass Chicken Stir-Fry, p. 59

                      A little late to the game, but I made this last week. Made pretty much as written, except that I de-pulped actual tamarind pods instead of using paste, and upped the chili flakes a bit. I chopped the garlic and lemongrass in a food processor as directed, but it never really made a paste as described in the recipe. More like a finer and finer dice. I guess I could have just moved it to a mortar and pestle, but I figured the ultra-fine dice was good enough. I felt like the quantity of the ingredients was just a bit more than I like to cook at one time in my 16" wok. It took a little longer than the 3-4 minutes specified for the sauce to reduce completely.

                      This was not a big hit at casa MM. It was really just a question of balance. Too much garlic for our taste, and it overpowered the lemongrass. If I were to make this again, I would reduce the garlic down to one clove, and add some ginger to balance it out. This is partly just a matter of personal taste. I am not crazy about a lot of garlic on its own.

                      1. re: greedygirl

                        Tamarind and Lemongrass Chicken Stir-Fry, p. 59

                        I made this today and did not love it. Lemon grass (which I love) is a delicate spice compared to garli and chili and it got completely lost in other spices. I made it as written but marinated overnight because of change in plans and wonder if this is the reason. Did all of you marinate for 30 minutes? Oh well... cann't all be winners:)

                      2. Hi Guys, I am thrilled that you have been experimenting with my new book, it was so exciting to read your posts! let me know which other recipes you try and how you get on, i would love to know!! take care
                        john

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: johngs

                          Hello John. Thanks for popping by and congratulations on the book. There are lots of things I want to try.

                          As you're here, could I ask you a question about the twice-cooked pork on p111. As I'm a Fuchsia Dunlop fanatic, I do always have chilli bean paste in the house. Presumably I could use that instead of the chilli paste recipe? How much, and do I still need to add it to water and reduce it down?

                          Thanks in advance!

                          1. re: greedygirl

                            haha she is amazing!! t

                            his is a hard one as i dont know how strong your chilli bean paste is. when ever i use mine at home, lee kum kee brand, i use about 1 tbsp per person, this is medium heat. you would not need the hot water as the chilli bean paste has already been cooked.

                            but i would suggest adding loats of chopped garlic into the wok once the pepper has browned. soy sauce would be optional extra - i just love it and cant help but add some!

                            1. re: johngs

                              I use Lee Kum Kee as well, although I also have a Sichuan brand that my local Chinese supermarket now stocks. Thanks - will give it a try.

                        2. Nice of you to stop by Mr. G-S. I have a crush on your book (something I didn't really realize was possible until a year or two ago). I hope I'm able to do your recipes justice.

                          Stir-Fried Squid with Chili and Cilantro (p. 145)

                          So all I could find was frozen calamari rings, and they didn't really smell so wonderful (frozen seafood seldom does, right?). So I started feeling nervous. But ... another huge hit. You heat veg. oil and add chili flakes and garlic, fry for about 30 seconds, then add the squid and do for 2-3 minutes (this is where I was nervous - my squid was cut differently than in the instructions, and it was this frozen stuff - would I fry too long?), then add oyster sauce, fish sauce and lime juice, fry another 30 seconds, and then toss in some chopped cilantro. I upped the spices by about an extra 1/2, and could have done more (but I"m BIG on spice). Served with rice and an asian cucumber salad. Squid not at all overcooked - very tender in fact. Everyone loved it. Lulu even said "This is really great Mummis, I like it so much." Aiming for a raise in her allowance, now that she expects to take gg out for dinner ...

                          I think this same recipe would work with lots of different proteins - tofu, shrimp or scallops, chicken. Another hit.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: LulusMom

                            I was so taken with the squid and chorizo salad recipe on p45 I totally missed this! Sounds great, and I think Lulu should get that raise.

                            1. re: LulusMom

                              love it! frozen seafood can be a bit off putting, generally i would just leave it in cold water , to naturally de-frost before cooking with it, exactly the same as fresh.

                              am thrilled you guys are loving the recipes. spread the word for me and keep the comments coming!

                              1. re: johngs

                                Yes, I defrosted under cold water for about 7 minutes. Did the trick. I was surprised at how tender it ended up being.

                              2. re: LulusMom

                                Stir-Fried Squid with Chili and Cilantro (p. 145)

                                Huge, huge, huge hit I loved everything about this dish. It was quick, easy, delicious and the squid was extremely tender. Plus, it was pretty in the bowl.

                                So, the changes I made.

                                3/4 lbs of squid bodies and tentacles. I cut open the squid as directed but also cut that in half lengthwise before scoring.

                                I kept the ratios of the pepper flakes, fish sauce, lime juice and cilantro as written. But, I decreased the amount of oyster sauce by half (2T down to 1T) since I find oyster sauce a bit overpowering. This was the perfect amount for my taste buds.

                                Also, if you have Dunlop's salted chiles on hand, I think that would be a great sub for the chile flakes. I thought about doing that, but was serving this with stir fried mizuna. I used the salted chiles for that instead.

                                I was a bit sad that I only made 3/4 lb for the two of us. But anymore, may have led to the undesired steaming effect.

                                Highly, highly recommend this recipe.

                                1. re: beetlebug

                                  If you liked this, try the scallops. I loved the squid, but the scallop dish was out of this world (bumped up, etc.).

                                2. re: LulusMom

                                  Did a variation on the stir-fried squid with chili and cilantro last night. Made it with shrimp (not quite a pound - we'd been well fed at a party a bit earlier) and then instead of rice I added some rice vermicelli at the end of the stir fry. This soaked up the little liquid there is, but it was a huge hit. Husband loves dry Asian noodle dishes and this had just the right hint of spice/flavor with the freshness of the cilantro and lime juice. Definitely a do-again meal, and really easy (even after the wine drunk at the party). Served with EGOR's silken tofu and avocado and a nice crisp sauvignon blanc.