Thursday, 7 April 2016
My first cast iron cooking experience was with this gorgeous Staub 24cm Cocotte, the lovely people over at Zwilling UK sent over. I have been thoroughly enjoying my time with it, or rather getting used to cooking with it and I'm very happy to have it as part of my new kitchen. If like me you do like a bit of colour, then look no further because Staub Cocottes come in a range of colours from cinnamon to basil to cherry red to graphite grey. etc Those who know me, also know my obsession with the colour yellow so no surprises there when i opted for the mustard colour Cocotte. It arrived promptly on time and i got cooking with it the very same day.
One thing i had to get used to was the weight of the cast iron pot. Having dealt with light weight thin stainless steel pots and such, the weight of the cast iron pot was a bit of a shock in the beginning, but i soon got the hang of it especially once i realised how the weight works to your favour while cooking. It also retains heat really well which also helps with cooking food evenly. I also noticed that all the dishes i made in the Staub cocotte was done at a much lower temperature than i usually do. For example, if i was cooking previously on the heat mark 7 on my ceramic hob, with the Staub i was doing it on heat mark 4, sometimes even reducing it down to 3 because of the heat retention and things like onions and garlic getting burnt. I agree it does take a while to get used and I'm still experimenting with what heat settings work well for what. The point is, energy consumption has reduced drastically, and my husband who was sceptical about this whole cast iron cooking is now absolutely impressed and sold on the idea.
Another excellent feature about the Staub Cocotte is the heavy lid with small spikes on them which act as a natural baster. The water drops back into the pot keeping your meat moist and this to me is a great plus point. When i usually slow cook meat, i have to keep adding water every now and then to keep the meat moist and also to prevent the food from burning or sticking to the base because the water would evaporate quite quickly. This i think is my most favourite feature from Staub, the really heavy lid and the special drip structure makes sure no moisture escapes and whatever gets collected gets poured back into the pot. I loved how my rogan josh didn't need any refilling through the entire cooking process and also how my rice was cooked perfectly well without moisture escaping, and without going through all that drama of covering the lid with a cloth or paper towel.
When i made the rice, i was pretty sure it would stick to the bottom, but was pleasantly surprised it didn't. The enamel coating even though not completely non stick works to a great extent when it comes to cooking and cleaning, and even if it does stick a bit to the base, a bit of a soak easily removes it all. I have to try a biryani in the pot to see how the whole 'dum' aspect works, but before that i need to familiarise myself with the cast iron pot a bit more.
The only negative thing, well i cant quite call it negative really, is that the entire pot and lid becomes really hot while cooking. If you hold on to your pot while stirring and mixing, this becomes a bit uncomfortable. I managed to burn my hand twice, even after using a cloth but, this again is something i need to get used to, and nothing a pot holder cant solve. It however, doesn't affect the performance of the pot at all. Then there is of course the price which, lets be honest, is steep. When i was thinking of investing in a cast iron pan, i did a lot of research on various products in the market. and Staub definitely stood out. It is one of the best out there so think of it as an investment that would last you forever, and put it on your birthday gift list.
Coming to the recipe, I made a mutton rogan josh last year and it differs from this one quite a bit. I would like to think that is definitely the more authentic recipe and this one by Madhur Jaffrey is a bit more Anglicised, if i may call it that. But it works, its absolutely flavourful and we've been making it for years now.
Recipe adapted from here (serves 4 as part of main)
Ginger- 5cm piece, peeled
Garlic- 8 to 9 cloves, peeled
Oil- 4 tbsp
Beef- 700 gms (cut into 2 cm cubes)
Cinnamon sticks- 2 cm
Cardamom- 6 pods
Cloves- 6 pods
Bay leaf- 1
Whole peppercorns- 10
Onions- 200 gms, peeled and finely chopped
Coriander powder- 1 heaped tsp
Cumin powder- 1 1/2 tsp
Kashmiri chilli powder- 2 tsp
Spicy chilli powder- 1 tsp (adjust according to heat)
Salt- to taste
Yoghurt- 6 tbsp
Warm water- 400ml
Garam masala- 1/2 tsp
Grind together the ginger and garlic with 2 tbsp water to make a fine paste.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a deep thick bottomed pot and on medium-high heat sear the beef cubes in batches till they are all brown. Transfer to a plate.
Reduce heat to medium, add the remaining oil into the pot and throw in all the whole spices- cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, bay leaf and peppercorns - and saute till they are fragrant for about 10 seconds, take care not to burn them.
Follow with onions and saute them for about 5 to 10 minutes or till they turn brown.
Tip in the ginger garlic paste and continue to fry till the raw smell goes
Add all the spice powders one after the other along with salt, and cook for about 5 seconds, just to remove the raw smell. If you think the mix is sticking to the pan and has a chance of burning, add in a tbsp or two of water with the spices and cook till you can no longer smell the raw masala.
In goes the fried meat along with all the juices. Mix well so all the masala gets coated on the meat.
Add the yoghurt one spoon at a time, and stirring it into the meat mix after each addition.
Pour in 400 ml warm water and bring to a boil, scraping the sides of the pot.
Cover with a heavy lid, reduce heat to the lowest and cook for about an hour or until the meat is tender.
Keep checking in between to see if the water has reduced, and if the meat is sticking to the bottom add some more water, stir well and continue cooking closed.
Open the lid, check if the meat is cooked, add more salt if required, and if you can see a thin layer of oil on top, that's sign of a good rogan josh i believe.
If you do think there is too much liquid, increase heat and let the curry boil away some of the liquid.
Just before serving stir in the garam masala and serve hot with some steamed rice.
Notes: Instead of cooking this on the hob top, you can finish off the curry in the oven at 180C for about 1-1.30 hrs. Just make sure you stir it every 10 minutes or so and check for liquid levels. My Staub Cocotte would do a perfect job for this as you wouldn't need to transfer it into another oven proof dish but can directly move this from the hob to oven.
You can make the same dish with mutton/goat/lamb as well. Cooking times may slightly vary though.
Over the years I've made my own changes to it. I add a generous dash of cream just after i put the garam masala, making this quite irresistible.
With thanks to Zwilling UK for the Staub Cocotte that was sent to me. All opinions are my own and no monetary compensation was offered in return for a positive review.