Friday, 2 December 2016

Festive cooking: Chicken cordon bleu croissant wreath

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Its DECEMBERRRR! Shrieks in excitement!
As usual this year also flew by so fast. A brand new nephew (who i will meet in a weeks time), a good couple of breaks for Chaiparty, an interesting business preposition, a new house and a pretty decent year if you ask me. Really thankful for all that has been bestowed upon us this year.

Christmas is going to be at home in India with family this year and I'm thoroughly looking forward to it. Baking is on in full swing, to gift to neighbours and friends and this lil number right here was served at a pre Christmas party at mine a few weeks back. Christmas is the time for a table stunner of a dish and i think this Chicken Cordon Bleu croissant wreath will definitely give the guests something to talk about.
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I was lucky enough to attend a session with Maille at their flagship store in Piccadilly circus and got to taste some of their amazing flavoured mustard and must say I'm hooked on to them. It goes into my pasta's, bakes and with meat and I've also got the husband (a not so big mustard fan) hooked. I have also bought a few favourites like the mustard with carrot, with truffle and the one with garlic as gifts for family back home. They make lovely Christmas gifts, especially for those inclined to cooking.

A while back Maille sent me a gift hamper with their most popular products-  Dijon Originale, Honey Dijon and Wholegrain mustard and I've been thoroughly putting them to good use. They also sent me 2 recipes to use for the festive season, but i just couldn't resist making the cordon bleu wreath where mustard as a product would be put to its full use. Not to worry, I am definitely going to try the zesty carrot cake sometime soon and blog it too. I mean a cake that uses mustard, that should be pretty interesting I'm sure.

Do visit Maille for more festive inspiration including recipes, gourmet mustard flavours and gifts. The core range of delicious Dijon Originale, Wholegrain and Honey Dijon Mustards are available for purchase at most major retailers.
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The Dijon Originale and Wholegrain have been used in this recipe, and its such a great addition. They bring forth the mustard presence, but not in an overpowering, annoying sort of way and you still get the other flavours coming through. The honey Dijon has been making its way through to many salads and its perhaps my most favourite of the three. So darn tasty, i can actually eat it on its own :)

I dont think i'd get to update the blog till i get back from India, so here's wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas.

Serves- 3 to 4 as part of a main meal
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For the filling
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs- 450 gms
Salt - to season
Pepper- to season
Garlic powder- 1/2 tsp

Maille Original Dijon mustard- 1 tbsp
Mayonnaise- 2 tbsp
Ham slices- 4 to 5, cut in cubes

1 Jus Rol Bake-it-Fresh Croissant can
Parmesan or Swiss cheese- 1/2 cup, grated
Milk- 2 tbsp (for glaze)

For the mustard cream sauce
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Butter- 1 tbsp
Plain flour- 1 tbsp
Milk- 1 cup
Maille Multigrain mustard- 2 tbsp
Thyme- a sprig
Parmesan cheese- 2 to 3 tbsp*
Salt- to taste
Pepper- to taste

Cut the chicken thighs into small bite size pieces and cook in a saucepan with salt, pepper, garlic powered and a dash of water.
Cook till done and keep aside till slightly cool.
(You can also cook chicken on the bone, and if doing so, shred it into small pieces once cooked and cooled)
Once cool, stir in the Dijon mustard, mayo and ham slices.
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Preheat oven to 180C and line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Pop open the croissant can and lay out the croissants like a star, overlapping each other and as symmetric as possible. Make sure there aren't any gaps between the croissants.
Place the filling all around the ring and top with cheese.
Fold the croissants over and tuck under the wreath if possible or else, trim a bit and pinch the edge you fold over.
Give the wreath a milk wash and chuck into the oven for about 20 minutes.
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While the wreath is baking, get on with the sauce.
Melt butter in a saucepan on medium heat, and add the flour. Cook for about 2 minutes.
Add half the milk and whisk with the flour to form a smooth paste.
Pour in the remaining milk, the multigrain mustard, thyme, salt and pepper and  stir continuously until thickened.

Once the croissant wreath is out of the oven, cool on a cooling rack for a couple of minutes after which pour the mustard cream sauce over generously, slice and serve.
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Notes: You can do a veg version of this with beans, carrot, corn or even add spinach or kale to the chicken and do a non cordon bleu version.
I have also tried the same with puff pastry, and its equally delicious, but its a pain to get it as a wreath.
The filling can be made a day ahead
I used cheddar cheese as i was out of parmesan

With thanks to Maille for the fabulous hamper.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Fish pie

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Right. So the blog has been abandoned yet again and I'm not apologising for it because i know I'm going to abandon it again as I'm off to India for a long holiday in December. Blogging has taken a back seat, or rather no seat at all with work and Chaiparty and the like. Plus, some of these aggressive bloggers have made it all about how many products they get to review, how many likes they get on facebook and its become dramatically competitive. Bad experiences with bloggers have taught me to steer clear of that whole scenario. the past couple of weeks i kept reaching out to this blog of mine for recipes and it made me realise all over again why i started blogging. So in a tiny attempt to get my blogging mojo back, i thought I'd post a favourite.

So anyways, its bloody cold here, like so flippin cold, I don't even want to step out. I have been making a lot of stews and bakes for dinner and this fish pie was the outcome on one such cold evening. I am so not a seafood fan, although these days i can tolerate it a lot more than before and Ro says i secretly love a good sushi. Canned tuna is something i always have lying around in my pantry and potato, there is always potato at home- 2 main components of a fish pie, and so technically it should make its way through much more often, but it doesn't, and i have to listen to Ro whine about 'why is it that you don't make a really fishy fish pie.'

This is a slightly Indian-ised version of a traditional fish pie, one that is done back home. Tastes great nonetheless.

Serves 2 to 3 as part of main
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For the mashed potato topping
Potatoes- 500 gms
Butter- 2 tbsp
Double cream- 75ml
Nutmeg- a generous pinch
Curry powder- 1/4 tsp (optional)
Salt and pepper- to taste

For the filling
Onion- 1 medium, finely chopped
Green chilli- 1, finely chopped
Ginger- 1/2 tsp, crushed
Garlic- 1/2 tsp, crushed
Curry powder- 1 tsp
Tuna steak in sunflower oil- 150gms, drained
Canned Red Salmon- 150 gms, drained
Spinach- 200 gms
Salt and pepper- to taste
Oil- 1 tbsp

Eggs- 3, hard boiled and sliced into rounds

For the white sauce
Butter- 1 tbsp
Plain flour- 1 tbsp
Milk- 1 cup
Cheddar cheese- a handful + enough to sprinkle on top
Salt and pepper - to taste
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Boil the potatoes with enough water or in a microwave oven till fork tender. 
Drain and mash with the butter and double cream along with the seasoning- nutmeg powder, curry powder, salt and pepper. The potato should be fluffy and smooth.

Make the filling by sauteing the onion, green chilli, garlic and ginger in a pan with oil.
Tip in the curry powder and the spinach and saute till the spinach has wilted and all its water has evaporated.
Add the tuna and salmon chunks. Break them down will mixing it into the onion.
Season with salt and pepper. 

For the sauce, melt butter in a sauce pan.
On low flame, add the plain flour and keep stirring, avoiding lumps. Once it is nicely mixed in, add the milk little by little, again making sure lumps are not formed. Keep flame on high once the entire milk is used up and then add the cheese, salt and pepper. Keep stirring till the sauce becomes thick and creamy. If you think it is too thick, add some more milk.
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When ready to bake, preheat oven to 175C

Into an oven proof casserole spoon in a layer of fish mix evenly. 
On top of that layer the eggs and pour the white sauce over this mixture. 
if you have more filling, keep layering till you finish it all up, and ending with the egg layer and white sauce poured over it.
Finally layer the mashed potato on top, fluff with a fork, sprinkle some cheese on top and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
I used a piping bag and star nozzle to pipe the mashed potato on top.
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Notes:Use any vegetable of choice like carrots, beans, kale etc
Make it a day ahead, refrigerate and bake for about 30 minutes.
If you are not using canned fish, then pre cook the fish with salt and pepper, flake it and then use in the recipe

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Cheesy Mascarpone and Mozzarella meatball bake

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I'm clearly in Italy mode still and have been whipping up some Tuscan dishes. The only dish we were quite glad to give a miss for a while were pizzas, but otherwise still enjoying a good pasta and bruschetta. This meatball bake ended up being so darn good, I finished almost half of it on my own. The sauce is really thick and dunking a good slice of bread into it and letting it soak for a while before savouring it, gosh, the thought is making me hungry again.

Serves 4 as a main dish
Ground beef- 500 gms
Onion-  1 small, finely chopped
Italian seasoning- 1 tbsp
Oregano- 1 tsp
Garlic powder- 1 1/2 tsp
Worcestershire sauce- 1 tsp
Pepper- to taste
Salt- to taste
Oil- 3 tbsp, or enough, to fry the meatballs

Onion- 1 large
Baby spinach- 3 cups
Chilli flakes- 1 tsp
Tomato based Pasta sauce- 1 cup
Mascarpone cheese- 100 + 100 to scatter
Garlic- 3 pods, grated
Salt- to taste
Mozzarella cheese- 100 gms, grated
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Mix together the ground beef, onion, Italian seasoning, oregano, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper together in a mixing bowl. Either using your hands or a wooden spoon, but over work it or the beef turns brown. Bring together until just mixed.
Make small balls out of the mix, around the size of a small lime, and keep ready. I got 25 meatballs out of the mix.
Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the meatballs in batched, till just done. If the oil temperature is right, it would take you around 2  minutes per side for a batch of meatballs. Of course this is dependent on how big the meatballs are.
Drain on paper towels and continue frying all the meatballs.

Into the same pan, add more oil if needed, add the onions and baby spinach and cook till the spinach is wilted and all the water has evaporated.
Stir in the chilli flakes and pasta sauce. 
Spoon 100gms of the mascarpone cheese into the sauce and mix well.
Add the grated garlic and salt to taste and bring the whole sauce to a gentle boil. If you feel the sauce is too thick, add water to loosen it a bit.
Add the meatballs into the sauce and simmer for a couple of minutes and take the pot off heat.
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Preheat oven to 180C and transfer the meatball mix into an oven safe casserole/baking dish.
Scatter around scoops of the remaining mascarpone cheese and grated mozzarella cheese. Try to spread it around evenly.
Place in the oven for about 20 minutes or till the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling.
Remove from the oven and keep aside for 10 minutes before dunking your crusty bread into it.

Notes: You can do the entire cooking and baking in a single pot if you use an oven safe container to do the frying, sauce and baking. I used my cast iron pan.
You can use any store bought pasta sauce or make your own and even omit the mascarpone if you dont want it to be creamy.
The bake freezes well.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Italy in pictures

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We spent a week in Italy last week of July and i absolutely flipping loved it. Last year we joined friends of ours from the Netherlands on a Spain trip and ended up having so much fun, we decided to kind of make it a tradition and do our annual holidays together. Tuscany it was and we went about making our bookings beginning of the year.

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We are not the big city, touristy traveller but since it was cheaper to travel into Rome, hire a car from there and then drive on to Tuscany, I convinced the husband that it was a MUST to spend 2 days in Rome and then drive on. He wasnt too enthusiastic, but still agreed to it. Booked an AirBnb right off Piazza Navona which was a brilliant location with restaurants, bars, and all major attractions close by and we started our 2 days in sweltering 36 degree Rome.
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I'd read reviews saying everything was 20 minutes walk from the Piazza Navona area we decided to hire a bicycle and bike around Rome, which i think was one of the best decisions we took. I was a bit worried about riding on main roads, but Rome is like India, no one really obeys traffic rules and people are used to honking and the like. We managed to cover all the main attractions on day one and with a small hiccup (bad planning Ro would insist), I booked The Vatican city tour and The Colosseum tour on the same day. They make a fuss on the website with a given time, but we took our chances and went ahead of time thinking we could try our luck only to realise no one really checks the time or anything on the ticket, you just have to stand in long queues (even after opting for the skip the line queues).

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Colosseum was a let down for me, and Vatican a let down for Ro. Well he actually didnt want to do the Vatican tour at all but I insisted and we agreed to do it. Not ones for museums, we skipped almost all the rooms at the Vatican Museum and went straight to The Sistine Chapel which i must say was simply amazing. Spent a good 15 minutes taking in all the art and listening to what each of it meant (We did an audio tour). Just that room made my visit to the Vatican worth it. Hung around St Peters Square for a while (it is truly magnificent) and headed back home to get ready for an Italian Opera performance, which was our first, and i ended up enjoying it quite a bit.

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Off we drove to spend the remaining 5 days in Tuscany, a part of the trip we were both absolutely looking forward to. Radicofani is a small picturesque (well, every little town in the Tuscan region was simply gorgeous) town about 2 1/2 hrs from Rome and we stayed in an Agritourismo called La Selvella run by the exuberant Marina.  IMG_20160720_194151

The stay there was lovely and most of the evenings were spent at the farm enjoying the amazing view, some house wine and Pecorino cheese (which Pienza is know for). Dinner on 2 days was at La Selvella, where we got to enjoy some amazing Tuscan food, all sourced from the farm and organic of course. We also checked out some local restaurants and i had the most tastiest lasagna in a small restaurant called La Grotto in Radicofani.


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Pienza was a day trip i loved. Small little cobbled streets all pretty with plants and flowers and coloured doors. I went a bit crazy with pictures here and also shopped for some Tuscan favourites like Truffle honey, Truffle salk and Italian seasoning (have been using this for almost every dish i make now).
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The highlight of Tuscany was the discovery of the hot springs in Tuscany. Ended up spending two lazy days in the warm springs of Bagni San Filippo, a 10 minute drive from La Selvella. Go in the afternoon if you want the best spots, as the crowd seem to thin out by then. If you get a place in the shade its the best. Use good footwear as you need to trek down a bit to the pools.
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Monday, 11 July 2016

Roasted aubergine and yoghurt sauce

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I am a big Ottoleghi fan and though not much of a vegetarian food fan (only because i really am rubbish at cooking anything vegetable based, and making them taste good), whenever i go to his restaurant I always opt for the salad selection as they are seriously good. It was during one of those visits that i came across this aubergine and yoghurt combination which i absolutely loved and have been making at home ever since. A grilled chicken slice and this aubergine and yoghurt side is like the perfect summer lunch combo.

The yoghurt i used for this recipe is the Natural Yoghurt from Lactofree which is equally creamy and as flavourful as any other yoghurt. You wouldnt realise its Lactose-free and I've used it quite a few ways- as a dip, salad dressing, marinade,and my favourite, baking my French yoghurt cake. Results have been great so far and ive already suggested it to a friend whose daughter is lactose intolerant. Its great that brands like Lactofree are introducing more and more products for those with food intolerances and it makes life so much more nicer, they get to eat yoghurt! 

Recipe is super duper easy, and the use of Za'atar makes it just even more delectable. Just sprinkling some of this glorious Middle Eastern spice on to yoghurt and serving as a side to anything can do the trick. 

Recipe adapted from here, originally from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi (serves 4 as a side)
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Aubergine/ Egg plant- 2 large
Good quality olive oil- 1/4 cup
Thyme leaves- 1 tsp (I used dried ones)
Za'atar spice- 1 tsp
Salt and pepper- to season

Yoghurt- 1/2 cup
Olive oil- 1 tbsp plus enough to drizzle
Garlic- 1 small clove, finely grated
Za'atar- 1/4 tsp
Salt- to taste
Pomegranate seeds- 4 tbsp
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Preheat oven to 200C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Slice the aubergines in half, lengthwise, and using a sharp knife make incisions on the cut side, without going through the skin. 
Place on the baking tray and generously brush in the olive oil.
Sprinkle the thyme leaves, za'atar spice, salt and pepper and chuck into the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes or till the flesh is soft, roasted and completely cooked.

While the aubergines are in the oven, get the yoghurt sauce ready.
Just whisk together the yoghurt, olive oil, za'atar and salt in a bowl and keep refrigerated till ready to use.

Take the aubergines out of the oven, transfer to a serving plate and scoop generous amounts of yoghurt on top of them. 
Finish off with the pomegranate seeds and serve as a side to cous cous or grilled meat or fish.

With thanks to Lactofree for the yoghurt.

Monday, 6 June 2016

South Indian coconut rice

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On days I make rice, I make a bit extra and use it for variety rice, which is what we refer to rice that has been flavoured with various ingredients- lemon, tamarind, curd, tomato, coriander- to name a few. These are perfect when made with rice that is a day or two old and cold out of the refrigerator. Its also a one pot meal which pairs well with just a pickle, poppadom and maybe some yoghurt if needed,

This coconut rice recipe is an absolute favourite and it makes its way into my kitchen at least twice a month. Its perfect for summer (or whatever they call this ridiculous weather we've been having), light, not too spicy but with brilliant flavours and if you are feeling a bit indulgent you can of course pair it with a chicken curry and serve at a party.

Serves 2 as part of main meal
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Cooked basmati rice- 2 1/2 cups
Ghee- 1 tsp
Vegetable oil- 1/2 tbsp
Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
Dried red chillies- 3, crushed or torn
Curry leaves- a sprig
Cashew nuts- 2 tbsp
Asafoetida- a generous pinch
Urad dal- 2 tbsp
Grated coconut- 1/2 cup
Salt- to taste
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In a large wok, heat together the ghee and vegetable oil.
Add the mustard seeds and once they begin to pop, add the dried red chillies and curry leaves. Stir until they become almost crisp.
Add the urad dal, cashew nuts and asafoetida and continue stirring, making sure the dal and cashew nuts get ricely roasted and turn a light golden brown in colour. Make sure they do not burn, as this may change the flavour to a slightly smoky one.
Add the dessicated coconut and keep stirring on medium heat till the wetness from the coconut disappears and it becomes fragrant and lightly toasted- it should turn a reddish brown. This should take 7 to 8 minutes. keep a close eye as coconut can burn pretty quickly.
Add the rice, breaking it down carefully.
Add salt, mix them all together and take off the heat.
Transfer to a serving plate and serve hot with pickle and poppadoms.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Beef rogan josh in a Staub Cocotte

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Ever since we moved into our new house we've been talking of banishing our non stick Teflon pans and going all cast iron or stainless steel. We have been eliminating them bit by bit and the transition has been a bit of a challenge but i think its working and I'm slowly getting used to it.

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. 
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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.
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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)
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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
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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.
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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.