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Wonderful spiced nibbles and drinks for Christmas with Arun Kapil

Friday, 18 December 2009

Arun Kapil- Spice Specialist & Founder of Green Saffron Spices

Arun Kapil worked in London before coming to Ireland in September 2004 for the Ballymaloe Cookery Course. He went on to work at the House, as a chef. It was whilst working there that he came up with the idea of importing spices, making Indian blends and giving away simple-to-follow, delicious tasting recipes with each authentic blend. He really began to miss the old cooking smells and tastes of home
life...and so Green Saffron Spices started up.

Now at the age of 39 and taking a quick look back over the years, Arun has lead a very exciting and interesting life. He began by acting on stage and TV at the age of 11 with the UK National Youth Children's Theatre, singing in a school rock band and progressed to forming his first limited company at the age of nineteen - a record label launching the first ever DJ compilation album working with some of the bigger names in the music industry.

At present Arun's family are heavily involved in his business. Green Saffron is an environmentally friendly Indian family business. They bring small, frequent shipments of the freshest, highest quality spices direct from India to their base in East Cork. Ireland.

Each week they then expertly grind them into authentic family spice blends with really simple, easy-to-follow accompanying recipes for delicious tasting, intensely honest Indian meals of immense flavour, free from anything artificial
(Please include actual spelling of name + phonetic pronunciation (where required), where they are from, age, family details + any other information relevant to the guest/item)

Drinks and nibbles

Traditional Christmas Mulled Wine

Single Sachet - 1 packet for 1 bottle of wine

. 1 bottle of red wine (a big, full-on red, full of berry fruits. Something like an Australian, Californian or New Zealand Shiraz - either way it doesn't need to cost too much)
. 120g caster sugar
. 1 tsp ginger powder
. ½ tsp each of nutmeg, mace, cloves and allspice berries, all ground and mixed together
. 1 dash of Crème de Cassis (optional)
. Paired orange and lemon zest, cut into thin strips (optional)

1. Pour your chosen bottle of wine, sugar and spices into a thick bottomed saucepan
2. Place the pan onto a gentle heat, stir and heat for a few minutes until the aromas send tingles down your spine and the wine is warm to the touch.
3. Add the Crème de Cassis, orange and lemon zest-strips (if using) and stir again.
4. Take off the heat, strain through a sieve into a suitable serving jug.
5. Serve, drink, enjoy...Sláinte!!

To Serve
. For pure, warming indulgence you can also add a dash or two of brandy and port..just to help you through these cold nights.

Friends and family highly recommended!!!

Sugar Spiced Almonds

A brilliant little nibble to serve with drinks for a Winter evenings party...Christmas Eve drinks at home in front of the fire with friends, before popping out for the evening! This recipe makes the most beautifully crunchy, spiced almonds and if you have an air-tight container in which to store them, they'll keep for a good couple of weeks.


. A little sunflower oil
. 2 eggs, large
. 60ml Cava or your favourite ginger beer
. 1 level tsp salt
. 1tsp ground cassia or cinnamon
. ½ tsp ginger powder
. 250g caster sugar
. 1 kg almonds, de-shelled

Firstly, turn your oven on to high; 230°C or gas mark 7 is great.
2. Lightly coat a large, sturdy baking tray with the oil.
3. Crack the eggs open and carefully separate the whites.
NB You can store the yolks in your fridge to use for ice-cream or simply whip with a couple of teaspoons of sugar, pour strong coffee or espresso over and stir vigorously to make an excellent North Italian style coffee!!
4. Meanwhile..whisk the whites so they're 'frothy', not into 'peaks', then add the Cava or ginger beer and gently combine with the whipped whites, using a folding motion.
5. Then add the cinnamon, ginger, sugar and nuts.
6. Gently stir to combine.
7. Spread the almonds in an even layer over your oiled baking tray and pop into the oven.
8. It could take up to an hour, to get them right and you'll have to stir then every so often with a fork to prevent them from sticking to each other too much.
NB They're ready when the nuts appear dry and all the mixture has been 'absorbed'.
9. Take them out of the oven and immediately separate them out with your (trusty) fork and allow them to thoroughly cool on the tray below serving to your wonderful guests.enjoy!!

This recipe has been tried and tested by the Green Saffron Masaalchi and is pretty much guaranteed, but if you want to change the quantities of a couple of ingredients go for it..experiment and enjoy your cooking. With Green Saffron spices you can't go

Creamed Aubergine Dip

Based on the Egyptian dish, Baba Ganoush, this version of the North African classic is enriched with cream cheese, lemon juice and gentle cumin spices. It's great served with bread sticks, flat breads, or raw vegetables.

Serves many.

. 3 medium aubergines
. 150g cream cheese or soft goats cheese
. 1tsp cumin seeds, roasted and crushed
. ½ tsp chilli flakes (optional)
. 1 lemon, juice and zest
. 1 tsp black pepper
. Dash of olive oil
. Salt to taste

1. Take an aubergine, lightly coat with a little oil and stick a fork into it.
2. Turn on a ring of your gas hob to high and carefully hold the aubergine over it, turning as the skin starts to bubble and scorch - just think, toasting marshmallows
3. When all the skin has been 'bubbled' all over and the aubergine flesh feels a little softer, set it aside on a plate to cool and repeat for the other aubergines.
4. NB You could also pop the aubergines onto a roasting tray, into a hot oven (about 230C or gas mark 7). Turn them occasionally to ensure the skin is evenly scorched.
5. The next part is a little messy; using your fingers, strip the scorched skin from each aubergine.
6. Throw the skin aside (for it is no more required) and roughly chop the aubergines.
7. Grab your blender and pop the aubergines into it with a quick splash of the olive oil
8. Blitz.
9. Add the cheese, cumin, chilli flakes (if using), lemon juice, black pepper and blitz again until you get a smooth 'paste'
10. Then, add more olive oil until it has a "whipped cream" consistency.
11. Have a quick taste of the mix and add a little salt if you feel it needs it.
12. Pour the dip into a colourful bowl and serve...enjoy!!

Nibbles and drinks

Santa Shake

This is a wonderfully aromatic, non-alcoholic cocktail based on an Indian Lassi. It's a 'whipped yoghurt' milkshake type drink; winter berries with Christmas spices, thick, yummy yoghurt presented in two layers..perfect for Santa as he takes quick break before getting back into the driver's seat and sets-off on his rounds. He won't be steering Rudolf in the wrong direction..!

Serves 4 people

. 100g mixed (winter) berries, frozen (defrosted) are perfect
. 1tblsp caster sugar
. ½ lime, juice
. ½ tsp Green Saffron's Mixed Spice
. 60g sugar syrup (syrup de gomme)
. 1 level tsp cinnamon or cassia, ground
. 2 x 500ml yoghurt, greek
. 3 tblsp runny honey
. 3 green cardamom pods, seeds only, crushed
. Handful ice-cubes
. 4 star anise and orange peel for garnish

. 4 high-ball glasses

In a blender jug, pop the (defrosted) berries, sugar, Mixed Spice and lime juice. Blitz to a purée.
2. Pour a little of the purée into the bottom of each of the four glasses
3. Wash out your blender jug
4. Pour the yoghurt, runny honey, crushed cardamom pods, ground cassia and sugar syrup into the (clean) blender jug and throw a handful of ice cubes in on top.
5. Blitz to a smooth, luscious mix.
6. Gently pour the spiced yoghurt mix into each glass to for the second layer.
7. Garnish each drink with a star anise and curled orange peel..serve immediately and enjoy!

Spiced Lamb Lettuce Cups

Another really simple nibble suggestion based on a North Indian minced lamb dish. It's really quick to make and looks great, particularly if you manage to get hold of a pomegranate to garnish each 'cup' with.

Serves 4 people

. 2 tblsp sunflower oil
. 2tsp ginger powder
. 2 tsp coriander seed, crushed
. 1 tsp cumin, crushed
. 1 tsp turmeric powder
. 1 tsp black pepper
. 1 tsp black mustard seeds (optional)
. ½ tsp salt
. 250g onions, diced
. 3 cloves garlic
. 500g minced lamb or turkey (leftovers if cooking for your News Years' party)
. 100ml natural yoghurt

. Baby gem lettuce and chicory leaves (for variety, but just the one type is fine. Cos or ice-berg lettuce also work fine)
. 1 pomegranate, seeds

1. In a thick bottomed pan, heat the oil over a medium flame
2. Add all the spices and stir for half a moment, until the mustard seeds start to pop
3. Add the onions, garlic and sweat them down until they're good and soft
4. Add the mince, turn up the heat and stir until the meat is lightly brown all over
5. Then, turn down the heat, pour in the yoghurt, stir and continue to cook on a medium heat until the nearly all the liquid has been absorbed (or evaporated).
6. Turn the heat off, move the pan and set aside
7. Meanwhile, separate the leaves, to form individual 'cups'

Now to get the seeds from the pomegranate
1. Halve the pomegranate with a sharp knife, then take a half in one hand and a wooden spoon in your other hand.
2. Gently tap the rounded, outer edge of the fruit with your spoon and catch the seeds in a strategically placed bowl.! You're trying to avoid getting the white pithy parts into your (collection) bowl.

And so, to serve..
. Take a leaf, and spoon a good dessert spoon of the spiced mince into the thick part of the leaf.
. Sprinkle with a few seeds and place on your favourite serving dish
. Repeat until you have enough...serve and enjoy!!