Indian Panch Phoron Damson Achaar

After chatting on instagram with my friend Harriet, aka ‘The Nutritional Bean’ about damsons and what to do them – damson wine or chutney was my go-to response, my mother independently called me moments later to ask if I wanted any. Seeing it as a sign, I said yes and she arrived later that day with said damsons, as well as a bounty of other fruits and veg from the garden. Juicy sweet yellow plums, pears and some runner beans and tomatoes. The damsons were so ripe that they were about to turn and go off, so I felt an Indian achaar (chutney) would be a good way to work with them quickly. Indian achaar is different from those made with vinegar, which allows them to keep for a month or two. An achaar is often made and eaten on the same day with dal, rice and/or curry. Whatever fruit or vegetable that needs eating you can make into an achaar. This is my mango  achaar recipe.  They are always deliciously tangy, spicy, sweet and sour and work so well with Indian and Sri Lankan food.

The magic ingredient, which I have spoken about many times over the last nine years of writing this blog, is the Bengali five spice known as ‘panch phoron’. It is often used in achaar in West Bengal. You can either make your own – by reading this post – or you can pick up panch phoron at any Asian grocers and I have even seen some of the large supermarkets stock it. When it comes to de-stoning the damson you can either do it the long way (which was my option) by cutting it half and then scoping out the stone or invest in a cherry and olive pitter, which will also fit damsons. It’s definitely on my Christmas wish list.

 

Like all chutneys it does involve adding a good measure of sugar to counterbalance the acidity. As you will only be eating one or two spoonfuls per person per sitting, it ends up balancing itself out, but be aware that it does seem quite a lot at first glance. Taste test as you go and if you find your damsons are not too acidic then you can add less sugar.

Whilst you can eat the chutney with Indian snacks, curries or dal, the achaar also works really well with cheese. It lasts in the fridge for 3-4 days. Have you had any damsons this year? If so how are you using them? I would love to know.

 

Indian Panch Phoron Damson Achaar

Makes a small bowl full

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 small dried red chillies

1 tsp panch phoron/Bengali five spice

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

655g (or thereabouts) damsons, stone removed

2 tbsp raisins, optional

1 tsp grated ginger

3-4 tbsp sugar (you can use caster or brown)

salt, to taste

 

  1. In a deep pan heat the oil and then add the 2 dried chillies. Allow them to begin to darken – it may make you cough a little – this is normal.
  2. Next add the panch phoron (fenugreek, nigella, fennel, black mustard, cumin seeds) and allow them to begin to splutter.
  3. Next add the turmeric quickly followed by the damsons. Give a good stir then add the fresh ginger and raisins.
  4. Add the sugar, a little at a time and taste as you go. Depending on the acidity of the damsons depends on how much you will require.
  5. Allow to bubble away on a low heat for 15 minutes. Add a little salt if required.
  6. Allow to cool and serve with Indian food or cheese, it works really well with both – just probably not together.

 


Top Tips On Visiting Petra and a Recipe for Jordanian Shorba


View towards the Monastery and Umm Sayhoun in the distance

One of the (many) highlights of visiting Jordan is exploring the magnificent Nabataean red rose city of Petra, which is believed to have been established in the 4th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataean Kingdom. I thought it might be useful if I provide some helpful tips, which will hopefully make your visit to this UNESCO world heritage centre truly memorable. I visited in August, when it is searingly hot, but totally doable at the same time.

 First glimpse of The Treasury whilst waking down the Siq

When is the best time to visit Petra?

The cooler periods to visit Petra are autumn and spring when I hear the crowds are less heaving. We visited in August and didn’t come across any other British tourists in Petra, although it seemed to be very popular with the Italians and Spanish. Whatever time of year you visit the quietest time to explore Petra is as soon as the park opens at 6am and in the late evening 6-7pm. In the summer months it closes at 7pm and the winter at 4pm, but I don’t think they are too strict about this- we stumbled out just before 7pm and there were still a number of people we had passed going up to the High Place of Sacrifice as we were coming down. Although do bear in mind that once the sun sets it gets dark FAST and navigating getting out of Petra in the dark, without a torch could be rather tricky, although I guess it would make a good tale to tell the grandkids!

Even though there were lots of people mulling around by the Treasury when we first entered via the Siq, once you go further in, the crowds disperse and you are free to explore the caves and sites without huge swathes of people.

Having walked down the Siq you arrive at The Treasury

To Guide or Not to Guide?

Hiring a local Bedouin guide has it’s advantages if you want to hike some lesser known trails around Petra. Also it might be good to hire one for a few hours before breaking away on your own to explore. If you have a good guidebook, however, you can  read up about the various key sights while you are there. Everything is well signposted and you are provided with maps from the visitors centre at the entrance. The key places to visit are: the Siq (which you will walk along to actually enter Petra), The Treasury, Street of Facades and The Great Temple excavations undertaken by Brown University, Theatre, Royal Tombs, Colonnaded Street, The Monastery and the Place of High Sacrifice.

Tickets to enter Petra for one day are JD50 (£50/$70) for two days only 5JD more and three days 10JD more. Children under 15yrs old get in free. In hindsight I wish we had spent an extra day in Petra so we could explore more of the trails instead of walking 15 miles in one day.

Colannaded Street with local Bedouins on their donkeys

Donkeys, Camels, Mules and Horses

Local Bedouins are eager to offer tourists rides to and around Petra on their various beasts of burden. Whilst I realise this is an income for them and that most of the animals looked in fairly good condition, I passed up on their offer, preferring my own two feet to carry me everywhere. Climbing up to the Monastery were dozens of donkeys carrying weary walkers to the top. It’s steep and as a walker you need to be careful for fear of being knocked over the edge by the animals as they clamber with their heavy human loads. I almost saw one mule, carrying a tourist, go over the edge of a precipice. Coming down on the donkeys looked really precarious so I will leave it to you on what you decide. I think it’s an easy decision mind you!

Don’t let the bazaar vibes get you down

Most of the Bedouins living in Petra are from the B’doul tribe and many now live in the purpose-built settlement of Umm Sayhoun, which you can see in my first photo in the distance on the far right. Most work in the tourism industry working in hotels or camps or as horse riders, tour guides or souvenir sellers. One thing I noticed was the huge amount of souvenir sellers  all around Petra, all the way along the trails to the main sites. Whilst it does seem rather overrun with stalls, there are some good souvenirs to buy, many made by the local women, so its worth looking at what they have to offer. Remember it is not like shopping here in the UK. When they offer a price you need to haggle a little bit – it’s what they expect, so don’t agree with the first price.

Meeting Marguerite van Geldermalsen

One New Zealand tourist visiting Petra in 1978 fell for the charms of one of the souvenir-sellers – Mohammed Abdallah Othman and never left. She learned Arabic, converted to Islam and gave birth to three children, who are now all grown up. Mohammed has since past away sadly, but Marguerite still lives there. For seven years she made a home with him in a two thousand-year-old cave carved into the rock hillside, living like a Bedouin. Whilst she now lives in Umm Sayhoun, she can be found most days in Petra selling her memoir, sometimes with her grown-up daughter, as well as some beautiful jewellery that she has designed and made with the help of a local women’s co-operative. Her shop is very close to where her troglodyte dwelling used to be in fact.

Are Food, Water and Facilities Available in Petra?

Absolutely yes to all three. Deliciously cold bottled water is available all over Petra, although prices range on where you buy them. At the bottom of the hike to ‘The Monastery’ they were half the price to what they were at the top. The main restaurant in Petra is ‘The Basin’ and whilst it’s ok, I think opting for a packed lunch and sandwich is a better option. I didn’t really feel like eating that much in the heat, and besides I was there to explore and hike and not eat copious amounts of salads and hummus. You can pick up some snacks Wadi Musa – the town that has built up outside Petra, or get your hotel to make up a packed lunch for you. Another option is to pick up a fresh sandwich at ‘The Monastery’ with a cold orange juice when you get to the top.

You will also find Bedouin ladies making tea at a number of opportune places. In the late afternoon we climbed to ‘The Place of High Sacrifice’ where we had the place to ourselves. Then behind a rock we found the lady in the photo on the right beckoning us to have some tea and sit with her. At which point she got out her tin flute and played us a tune as we sipped our sweet tea and watched the sun reflect brilliantly over Petra. Hauntingly memorable.

Made it to The High Place of Sacrifice - incredible view from the top

 

Where to stay in Petra?

All the hotels and camps have been built in and around Wadi Musa, which has grown as the tourist industry has thrived. We stayed at the Movenpick Hotel, which is perfectly positioned at the entrance to Petra. The hotel would not win awards for architectural beauty from the outside, but inside is far more appealing than you would be led to believe, especially the atrium where you can linger over a cold drink and a good book. There is an outside pool, which was much needed after 10 hours on our feet and a great roof terrace where you can watch the sunset/rise. The rooms and bathrooms are a little dated, but the beds perfectly comfortable so overall the hotel was an excellent choice for our adventures in Petra.

Where to eat when you stay in Petra?

There are a number of restaurants in Wadi Musa all offering similar type dishes. We ate at a couple of restaurants – the best being ‘My Mom’s Recipe Restaurant’ which serves Jordanian fare in an atmospheric restaurant. It  is reached by climbing a couple of flights of stairs with rugs adorning the walls and ceilings. It was cosy and welcoming with good views of the nights sky and a local musician playing live music. I was also very impressed by the waitress who was Yemeni and spoke Arabic; English; Hindi and Filipino.

We also had an excellent buffet lunch at Al Qantarah where there was a wide selection of cold and hot dishes as well as some tasty falafels, which were freshly made.

I craved a hot soup (I know this may sound strange when it was mid 30’s outside), so ordered a local Jordanian favourite, Shorba, made of red split lentils, spices and lemon. It is similar to Indian dal, but with an Arabic twist.  I ate it quite a few times in Jordan so thought you would like the recipe too as it will be perfect for the months ahead.

Jordanian Shorba

serves 4-6

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 white onion, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

2 cups of red split lentils, washed under cold water and strained a couple of times

2.5 litres of water

1 chicken/vegetable stock cube

1 1/2 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

 juice of one lemon, or to taste

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 tsp salt

handful of fresh parsley, to serve

 

  1. In a deep pan heat the oil and add the onion, bay leaf and carrot and cook on a low heat for 5 minutes before adding the garlic and cooking for a further 2 minutes.
  2. Add the red split lentils and cover with the water and stock cube.
  3. Cook on a medium to low flame for 15 minutes, skimming any scum that may come to the surface.
  4. When it has softened, add the cumin and turmeric powders, lemon juice, freshly ground pepper and salt.
  5. Remove the bay leaf and then using a hand blender blitz the lentils so that they are smooth. You may need to add some more water if the soup is too thick.
  6. Taste test and add more salt/pepper/lemon juice as you see fit.
  7. Pour into bowls and add a little fresh parsley on top.

 

Exploring Little Petra - we pretty much had the place to ourselves

What is Little Petra?

Little Petra is about a 15 minute car ride from Wadi Musa. It is another archeological site located north of Petra. It is also Nabataean with buildings carved into the the sandstone walled canyon. It is thought to have been built to house visiting traders on the Silk Road – much like a caravanserai. It is free to visit and takes between 30 mins -1 hour to explore and there were only a handful of tourists when we visited. At the end of the canyon is a precarious climb to a view point with a souvenir seller at the top and a place to have some tea and cold drinks.

There are some other hikes, which start from Little Petra which take you further into the arid, mountainous desert region which look interesting if you have more time in the area. I would advise to get a guide if you want to venture further on this hike and make sure to carry lots of water and supplies as there will be no sellers offering food and beverages on the trail.

Local Bedouin man playing his Oud

Petra Night Tour – worth doing or not?

We did NOT do this ourselves, owing to the fact we were too shattered after our 15 mile hike around Petra and quite honestly could not face walking another 2.5km down the Siq and another 2.5km back in the dark.  Our legs had given up on us and we fancied a leisured evening and rest, before visiting Little Petra the next day. It also sounded a bit of a tourist trap if I’m honest and on Trip Advisor has mixed feedback. If you fancy giving it a whirl however, it happens on Monday, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8.30pm when the tour walks from the visitors centre down the Siq to the Treasury. Apparently it is all lit up with candles and is very atmospheric, albeit you are witnessing this wondering with hundreds of other people. There are some locals playing instruments, some Arabic singing and story telling and tea drinking but apparently as there are so many people receiving tea is not guaranteed with that number of people. The whole experience lasts two hours and once the sun has gone down it gets cold, so bring sufficient clothes to keep yourself warm.

Tickets cost JD17 (£17/$24), children under 10 are free, and it last for a couple of hours.

 

Sitting with my back to the Royal Tombs overlooking the Street of Facades and Colonnaded Street

Brown Lentil, Smoked Sweet Paprika and Parsley Soup

Continuing on the theme of lasts weeks post I wanted to show you a recipe that incorporates garlic confit.

So who has made it yet? Be honest!

Basically garlic confit is great in soups, stews, broths and pastas. It adds warmth, flavour and many delicious notes to a dish.

You will wonder how on earth you survived without it until now.

The soup I wanted to show you I’ve made a few times since my discovery of garlic confit. It takes minutes to prepare and is addictively delicious. The brown lentils I use are the ones in glass jars, as I just think they taste a whole lot better. If you can only find the tinned ones then absolutely use those – it will still taste great.

I love soups whatever the weather but I know that it is not customary to eat hot soups in hot weather here in the UK. In India it is quite different and hot soups are eaten even in 35 degrees heat. This recipe does have autumnal tones and I think that it will appeal to a wide audience as the days get cooler – at least I hope so.

Brown Lentil, Smoked Sweet Paprika and Parsley Soup

Serves 4-6

3 tbsp oil from the garlic confit

8 confit garlic cloves

1 small white onion, finely chopped

2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped

1/2 tsp smoked sweet paprika

400g brown lentils

1 tbsp tomato puree

800ml of stock – vegetable or chicken

salt to taste

2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley chopped

juice of half a lemon

 

  1. In a large deep pan – I love to use my Le Creuset pot – add the garlic confit oil, along with 8 garlic confit cloves. Allow to heat up and then add onion and allow to soften.
  2. Add the tomatoes and smoked sweet paprika to the onion and garlic confit.
  3. When the tomatoes have softened, add the brown lentils and the tomato puree followed by the stock.
  4. Allow to come to the boil and then simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add salt to taste and then add the fresh flat leaf parsley and lemon juice.
  5. Serve immediately with some crusty bread.

 


If there is one thing you do this summer ………make Garlic Confit

Not so long ago ‘garlic confit’ entered my world. I had kindly been given the wonderful cookbook ‘Gjelina – Cooking from Venice California’ from a good Californian friend who knows I love the restaurant. I spoke more about it here. Flicking through the pages I saw a number of confit recipes so opted to try the garlic confit first. Of course I had heard of garlic confit, but never really had it to hand in my fridge. It is has now become one of my favourite fridge essentials, along with my chipotle of course.

It is really straight forward to make and the flavours it transmits in a dish are PHENOMENAL. The garlic cloves are slow cooked, which gives them a deliciously unctuous taste and texture and the oil they sit in is liquid gold that equally transforms a recipe. It’s one of those things that you wished you had cooked years ago – hence my enthusiasm to urge you to make a batch yourselves.

 

 

The only vaguely time consuming part is peeling 8 heads of garlic but that’s where your other half/children/neighbours/friends popping over for coffee, come in handy.

Would love to hear if you actually make it so please leave a comment in the comments section below.

Next week I will show you a deliciously easy recipe that includes garlic confit.

Garlic Confit

Makes around 1kg

8 heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled

12 fresh thyme sprigs

3 bay leaves, bruised

500ml extra-virgin olive oil

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
  2. Peel the garlic cloves and place them in an oven proof dish.
  3. Add the bay leaves, fresh thyme and extra-virgin olive oil.
  4. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes so that they are lightly browned but still hold their shape.
  5. Allow to cool completely and then transfer to an airtight container.
  6. Place in the fridge and use when needed. They will last for up to 2 months, but I can assure you you will finish them way before the 2 months is up.

 


Roasted Fennel with Orange and Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Friends from California came and stayed at the weekend and gave me the Gjelina cookbook, which I have been cooking from ever since. My goodness it is good. Having received it on Saturday I have since cooked 4 recipes:

garlic confit

roasted yams/butternut squash with honey, red pepper flakes and lime yoghurt

roasted cauliflower with garlic, parsley and vinegar

roasted fennel with orange and crushed red pepper flakes)

I plan to cook a 5th (grilled squash with mint-pomegranate pesto, which is on the front cover below) tonight, so I guess you could say I’m rather smitten with the book.

For those of you in the dark, Gjelina just so happens to be one of my favourite restaurants in LA. As it says in the book cover: “In Southern California, there’s no restaurant that better expresses the energy and cool excitement of Venice Beach than Gjelina” and I couldn’t agree more. It epitomises grain and vegetable centric, globally inspired cuisine, which suits me down to the ground. It has echo’s of Ottolenghi’s tomes – think za’atar and pomegranate molasses infused dishes – but the thing I automatically liked about it is that the recipes are those you actually want to cook and share with friends and family, also they are dead easy and if you don’t have an ingredient you can ad lib and make your own additions. The photos and props are also definitely the style that I love.

I have a large pot of garlic confit sitting in my fridge now, like the one above. I can’t wait to make their version of mushroom toast – I mean how divine does it look?. This would definitely appeal to my father who also has a deep fondness to mushrooms, like myself.

So last night I made the ‘roasted fennel with orange and crushed red pepper flakes’. I couldn’t find any blood oranges so I used a regular orange. I also played around with the measurements here and there to suit me. The final dish was delicious and is perfect with a roast chicken, fish or perhaps some other vegetable dishes. Great for summer gatherings. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think.

 

Roasted Fennel with Orange & Crushed Red Pepper Flakes 

2 fennel bulbs, cut into wedges and the stem into thin slices, reserve the fronds

1 large orange, peeled and cut into segments

60ml extra-virgin olive oil

flaked sea salt

80ml fresh orange juice

30ml masala wine (they use 60ml of white wine but I none to hand)

60ml of vegetable stock (I used my homemade poussin stock which is so flavoursome)

pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

freshly ground black pepper

  1. Prepare the fennel bulbs and then in a large frying pan warm the olive oil. When it is hot add the fennel wedges so that the cut sides are against the bottom of the pan to get a good sear.
  2. Cook until the fennel is caramelised, which takes about 3 minutes. Turn over, using tongs, and caramelise the other side for a further 3 minutes.
  3. Season with salt and toss in the fennel stems and continue to cook for another 2 minutes so the stems are well-browned.
  4. Now add the orange juice, wine and stock and let reduce do that the sauce thickens and the fennel is seared and starting to softened – this should only take a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Pour onto a serving platter and garnish with the fennel fronds, orange segments.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Super easy and super delicious. I hope you agree.

 

 

 


Grand Blogger Dinner 2019 in the Stunning St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and Watermelon Granita Recipe

Photograph by @annekejagerphotography

 

It’s not everyday that you get invited to the inaugural ‘Grand Blogger Dinner’ in London hosted by Alwin, CEO and co-founder of the creative agency @mrgoodiebag, which is based in the Netherlands in fact. The company has been hosting similar decadent dinners across other European cities and their most recent launch was in London at the stunning ‘Renaissance Hotel St Pancras’.

Photograph by @annekejagerphotography

 

Forty food bloggers were invited to attend the sumptuous dinner that a select group of food brands had helped to inspire a different course. The proceedings started however with drinks and canapés, by what has to be one of the most incredible staircases in London.  I discovered the Spice Girls used it in their ‘Wannabe’ single. It is also the staircase that was part of the original Midland Grand Hotel, designed by George Gilbert Scott, which opened in 1873. Amusingly it was made extra wide  to allow ladies to pass each other with their wide bustle dresses. Can you imagine?

Photograph by @annekejagerphotography

 

Peter’s Yard, a brand I was already familiar with, as I adore their sourdough crisp bread, inspired all the canapés.  The smoked salmon, sour cream, salmon caviar, edible flower and leek ash were particularly standout. These were accompanied with deliciously light and fresh sparkling wine by Familia Torres Wines.

Photographs by @annekejagerphotography

 

It gave us all the opportunity to get to know fellow invitees before Alwin, our host for the night, welcomed us and spoke about the various brands that we were going to come across over the course of the evening.

Photograph by @annekejagerphotography

 

After our meet and greet we were then ushered into the most magnificent room that was to host the dinner itself.

Photograph by @annekejagerphotography

 

Pretty spectacular hey? I loved the floral arrangements and then discovered they were fakes – but rather brilliant ones don’t you think? They were made by @casashops

Photograph by @annekejagerphotography

 

The menu was included in a little booklet which outlined which brand was supporting the course.

  • trio of canapés with sourdough crisp bread by Peter’s Yard @petersyard
  • red shrimp crudo on orange and strawberry panzanella with aceto balsamic di modena’ by Ponti @pontiofficial
  • pearl barley ristotto, laverstoke burrata, fresh English peas, pea tendrils, lemon, ramson flowers @stpancrasren
  • watermelon granita with natural goats milk yogurt @sthelensfarm
  • galletto all’arrabbiata with delicious anchovy fillets in olive oil and peppers @delicius_official
  • authentic Italian artisan gelato @remeogelato

Quite a feast don’t you agree?

Photograph by @annekejagerphotography

 

Each course was paired with a different wine and we were given a brief introduction to each one. Standouts for me were:

Purgatori 2014 Costers Del Segre

Vina Esmeralda 2018

The evening went by really quickly – always a sign of a good evening. It was great to get to know others who are equally passionate about food and were happy to photograph it at length without any ‘oh hurry up’ or sarcastic remarks from our other halves.

Above is me pictured with (from left to right)  @anders_kitchen @kokkiecooking @eathappyfeelgood @emmaeatsandexplores and @endofthefork Do check out there feeds and blogs – all so inspiring and creative.

After a quick round of photos we were handed the most incredible goodie bags – I’m surprised I managed to carry it all home – and said our farewells and thank yous before heading off into the night.

 

Back at home I decided to make the watermelon granita again for the family. It’s perfect when you have a super hot day and need cooling down. Here are my efforts:

It’s absolutely delicious and easy to make ahead of time. The only part you need to do last minute is the blitzing of the iced watermelon in the blender.

Check out the recipe below and give it a whirl this summer

Watermelon Granita with Natural Goats’ Milk Yogurt

recipe created by St Helen’s Farm for the Grand Blogger Dinner 2019

serves 8

1 small watermelon (approx 1.8kg)

60g stem ginger in syrup

2 limes

1/2 bunch of fresh mint (approx 15g)

8 tbsp St Helen’s Farm Natural Goats’ Milk Yogurt

 

  1. First prepare the watermelon by removing the rind and chopping into small chunks and removing the seeds.
  2. Roughly chop the ginger and place in a large sealable freezer bag with the watermelon chunks.
  3. Finely grate in the lime zest, juice and then freeze for at least 8 hours (I froze mine for a few days as I wanted to have it ready for a hot day)
  4. When ready to serve, pick and reserve the baby mint leaves then put the rest into the food processor along with the contents of the freezer bag. You may need to do this is batches so that it is properly blitzed.
  5. Serve 2 heaped tablespoons of the ‘pink snow’ granita per person with 1 tbsp of goats’ yogurt, a drizzle of ginger syrup from the jar and a few baby mint leaves.

 

I was kindly invited to this event. All views and opinions are my own.


Wild Garlic Recipes Ideas

It’s that time of year again when a woodland walk will be interspersed by the smell of wild garlic on the wind. Follow the scent and you will find wild garlic growing – often near a stream – ready for picking. Over the years I have shown a number of wild garlic recipes on my blog so I thought it may be helpful to point them out.

If this is your first foray into foraging wild garlic may I suggest you start by making wild garlic pesto as it is very straight forward, tastes delicious and freezes really well (so much so I have enough to last me over the winter months and until the season starts again).

You can find the recipe here. When picking wild garlic simply break off the leaf, leaving the root and stem intact.

Wild garlic scones are great fun to make and a delicious treat after a spring walk – perfect for Easter gatherings.

You can find the recipe here.

Perhaps you are into soups – like me – then you might like making my wild garlic, courgette and lemon soup with a poached egg and panko breadcrumbs.

You can find the recipe here.

Or you can simply spread on hot butter toast, which is the favourite option of my eldest daughter and sister.

How do you like to eat wild garlic?  Have you ever eaten it? Any other new suggestions welcome in the comments section below. Happy Easter everyone.


Daler Bora – Bengali Lentil Fritters

Close to where we were staying in Kolkata there was a guy who set up a food stall in the late afternoon to make daler bora – Bengali lentil fritters. He would fry them upon request and serve them piping hot in little paper bags. They were so addictively good that one bag was never enough. We would munch them as we strolled back to our hotel, pausing often at the tea wallah for our last masala chai of the day.

It became a habit and one that the whole family enjoyed. Upon arriving back in London I decided that life without daler bora was incomplete, so after a bit of tweaking I came up with the perfect recipe to cook them in the home. They are light, crisp and not at all oily. They must be eaten hot and freshly made. Try them and let me know how you get on.

 

Daler Bora – Bengali Lentil Fritters

350g red spit lentils (masoor), soaked for 2 hours

Handful of fresh coriander

1 medium sized onion, chopped

1 inch of fresh ginger, skin removed and finely grated, optional

2 green chillies, finely chopped

1 tsp salt

1tsp turmeric powder

Sunflower or Vegetable oil for frying

sprinkling of chaat masala

  1. Once the red split lentils have soaked, drain them and then place in a blender along with the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Use a small deep pan and place enough oil in the pan so that the daler bora will float.
  3. Wait for the oil to be at the right heat – drop a little of the batter in the pan and if it fizzles and rises to the top then the oil is ready.
  4. Use two teaspoons and heap one teaspoon with the blended dal and use the other to gently push the blended dal into the oil. I usually fry one first and then try it to check for the right chilli and salt levels. If it needs any more of either of these then this is the time to add a little more.
  5. Place around 10 in the pan and then allow them to bronze. If the oil is at the right heat they should be done in 1-2 minutes. Turn them over half way with a slotted spoon.
  6. Once bronzed remove with the slotted spoon and place on kitchen roll and sprinkle a little chaat masala on top. This will give the lentil fritters a pleasing tang.
  7. Eat whilst still hot.

They are great dipped into an Indian chutney. My tamarind and date chutney works a treat.

 

 


Green Jackfruit Curry

 

Back in December, when I was in Kolkata, I was at a family gathering and was given a curry that tasted absolutely delicious. Deep in conversation I ate the curry, pausing after a few mouthfuls to ask what ‘meat’ it was as I couldn’t quite work it out and thought perhaps it was pork. The answer was ‘green jack fruit’. Somewhat surprised but delighted that such a fruit could taste so ‘meat-like’ in structure. It was substantial, filling and utterly delicious. In the photo below it is the curry bottom right.

Fast forward a few months and I’m down in Tooting taking some clients on a spice tour before heading back to my house to teach some Indian recipes. One of my shopkeeper friends – Rohit – delighted us all by giving us a plate of his delicious jackfruit curry that he had just made – it tasted divine and prompted one of my clients to immediately buy a fresh green jackfruit to take home to replicate the curry. I love enthusiastic foodies.

I returned a few days later to continue the conversation of his curry and how he made it exactly and to buy one myself so I can share it here with you. This is Rohit’s recipe and it works a treat. They are in season now (in India and Africa) so if you see one when you are next in your local Asian grocers be brave and pick one up and try making this recipe. Please note the yellow jackfruit is sweet and not used in savoury curries – you want to buy the green jackfruit.

An important point to note:

  1. Once you cut into the jackfruit – cut into rounds and then use a serrated knife to cut away the tough outer skin – it is VERY sticky. Place a little oil on your hand that will touch the jackfruit to prevent the stickiness from covering your hand.

 

If you are keen to join me on a spice tour of Tooting followed by an Indian cooking class at my house- send me an email chilliandmint@gmail.com for details.

 

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Jack Fruit Curry

kindly given to me by Rohit – my friendly Asian grocer in Tooting

2 tbsp vegetable oil (you can use mustard too)

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 dried red chilli, broken in two

5 fresh garlic, roughly chopped

2 inches of fresh ginger, skin removed and finely grated, chopped also fine

1/4 tsp asafoetida/hing

2 fresh green chillies, finely sliced

2 or 3 large white onions, finely chopped

salt, to taste

1tsp coriander powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1x 400g tin of tomatoes OR 3 or 4 large tomatoes diced

200ml water

1 small green jackfruit, cut into rounds and then skin removed and then cut into 2 inch pieces

1 tsp garam masala

 

  1. First cut and peel the jackfruit and then cut into 2 inch pieces and place in a pan of boiling water so that it covers the jackfruit completely. Allow to boil for 20 minutes so that the jackfruit softens. It will never be soft, like potato for example, but when you place a sharp knife into one piece it will go in easily. Drain and keep to one side.
  2. In a different pan, heat the oil and when it is hot add the black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and dried red chilli. Move around the pan for 20 seconds and then add the chopped garlic and ginger and move around the pan for a minute.
  3. Now add the asafoetida/hing and fresh green chillies. Stir.
  4. Add the chopped white onion and some salt (to speed up the cooking time for the onion)and move around the pan, mixing all the ingredients together. Allow the onions to pick up some colour – lightly bronzed. This will take 10-12 minutes.
  5. Add the coriander, cumin and turmeric powders and stir once again.
  6. Add the tomatoes and mix together before adding the cooked green jackfruit. Stir gently into the sauce and add the water. Add the garam masala and cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Checking the salt and add more if necessary.

Serve with spiced rice or Indian naan or flat breads.

Do YOU have any spectacular green jack fruit curries that you would like to share? Please do so in the comments box below.


Aloo Matar – Potato and Pea Curry

Increasingly I am eating more and more vegetarian dishes (and fish) throughout the week. Has anyone else found that their meat/veg ratio has changed quite a lot in the last couple of years? I do still eat meat, but certainly not every day. I find it immensely helpful to have a number of go-to vegetarian recipes up my sleeve, so thought I would share this one with you. It’s a good one for the whole family as it is spiced but not spicy. Invariably I always have potatoes, tomatoes and frozen peas in my house, so this recipes is an easy one to whip together at a moments notice. It’s very similar to a dish that I started cooking way back at university, and in many respects laid the foundation stones for my future Indian cooking exploits.

I know that potatoes seem not to be so in vogue as they once were, like bread, but I still love to eat both potatoes and bread – especially sourdough – in many different guises. Do you have a potato recipe they you always fall back on time and time again? Do let me and my readers know in the comments section below.

 

Also if you cook this dish please share it on instagram and tag me @chilliandmint so that I can see.

 

Aloo Matar (Potato and Pea curry)

serves 4 

3 tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely grated

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander powder

½ tsp turmeric powder

½ chilli powder

1 tsp salt

400ml water

3 medium/large potatoes, chopped into 1.5inch pieces (approx)

100g peas

½ tsp garam masala

2 tbsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek)

1 tbsp fresh coriander

  1. Place the tomatoes and ginger in a hand blender and blend to a smooth puree. Place to one side.
  2. Heat some oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, they will begin to sizzle almost immediately. After 15 seconds add the red onion.
  3. Gently saute for 5 minutes before adding the coriander, turmeric and chilli powders.
  4. After a minute, add the tomato and ginger puree followed by the potatoes and cover with the water.
  5. Place a lid on the pan and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potato has softened.
  6. Add the peas after 8 minutes.
  7. Just before serving scatter the kasoori methi and garam masala and fold into the potatoes.
  8. Serve with a sprinkling of fresh coriander.