Monday, August 1, 2011

Okra with tomatoes and coriander

Okra, bhindi, ladies' fingers - we haven't quite settled on a name, but these are one of my very favourite vegetable. In my opinion, the trick is not to overcook them, so that they have a good fresh taste, and a bit of crunch.

500g fresh okra
500g tomatoes
1 onion
3 tbsps vegetable oil
2 tsps minced ginger
2 tsps minced green chilli
1/2 tsps salt
half a large bunch of coriander (or 2 of those miserly packs they sell in supermarkets)

  1. Wash the okra, then top and tail them and cut them into 2-cm long segments. Slice the onion into strips. Cut the tomatoes lengthwise into 8 segments.
  2. In a wok or large frying pan, heat the oil, and fry the onion until it starts to brown. Add the ginger and chilli, fry for a few seconds more, then add the okra, and stir-fry for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and chopped coriander leaves, and fry for another 5 minutes.

Rice with peas

I've been a bit lazy with my rice recently, but I thought that my mackerel tikka masala deserved a little extra effort.

15 fl oz of basmati rice
23 fl oz of boiled water
2 tbsps of sunflower oil
4 cloves
4 green cardamom pods
generous handful of frozen peas

  1. Wash the rice in plenty of water to remove the starch, strain and transfer to a heavy-bottomed saucepan with the oil, cloves, cardamom pods, salt and boiling water.
  2. Stir gently, cover and bring to the boil. Add the peas, put the lid back on the pan (line it with tinfoil unless it is a very tight fit), reduce heat to absolute minimum and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Mackerel tikka masala

I cycled out to Cramond the other day, and Gemma came to meet me with the kids. For anyone who doesn't know it, Cramond is a village on the Forth estuary, just outside Edinburgh. There is a small island just off the coast, connected to it by a causeway which is only passable at low tide. As the tide was going out when we arrived, we decided to wander across. Looking down into the water by the causeway, we spotted several large mackerel which appeared to have been cut off by the retreating tide - on one side was the concrete causeway, and on the other mud flats with no obvious channel through them. Sammy and Carmela, who were already out on the mudflats, came over and guddled a couple of beautiful mackerel - each of which weighed in at exactly 12.5 oz (350 g) after gutting.

the one that didn't get away

The kids were amazed to see how the fish changed from light green when still alive to a deep purple after death, returning back to an almost turquoise hue an hour or so later. They were also intrigued by the way in which the fish gradually 'stiffened' as we made our way back along the causeway.

rigor mortis

I don't know if this is a regular occurrence or not - the only local we spotted taking part in the free feast was a grey heron, which glided in and greedily gulped down a medium-sized fish. We were a little more discreet, bringing ours home and putting them in a simple 'tikka massala' marinade before cooking them in tinfoil parcels.

2 large or 4 smallish mackerel - the fresher, the better!
1 pot of yoghurt
4 tablespoons of readymade tikka massala paste (or use your own mix of aromatic spices, chopped ginger, garlic and chilli)
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

  1. Mix the yoghurt, tikka masala paste and oil in a bowl.
  2. Make several slits in the sides of the gutted, cleaned mackerel, cover the mackerel with the marinade mixture and leave in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  3. Preheat your oven to 190oC.
  4. Wrap each of the mackerel in tinfoil to make a baggy parcel, containing plenty of the marinade mixture. Bake for 20 minutes if your fish are large, 15 minutes if they are smaller.

marinading mackerel

plated up (if a little blurry)

down to the bones

Cramond island from the shore

Carrot, lentil and red pepper soup

Since our weekly veggie box started arriving, I have been inspired to start making more soup. I've always loved soup and as a kid, I often had a tin of Baxter's soup for breakfast or lunch. Below, you can see me posing with two of my childhood favourites - cock-a-leekie and oxtail - in the Baxter's shop at the Ocean Terminal centre, in Edinburgh.

Anyway, back to the recipe. Looking into the fridge, I realised I still had 500g of carrots waiting to be used, together with a slightly wrinkly red pepper, so this is what I came up with.

1 large onion
1 red pepper
1 clove of garlic
olive oil
2 tsps cumin powder
500g carrots, peeled and sliced
100g red split lentils
1 litre stock
1/2 tsp of chilli sauce
salt to taste

  1. Chop the onion, red pepper and garlic, and fry gently in plenty of olive oil until the onion has softened.
  2. Add the cumin powder and fry for a few seconds.
  3. Add the carrots, lentils, stock and chilli sauce, bring to a boil, cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes.
  4. Allow the soup to cool a little, blend with a stick blender, check for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Serve with plenty of crusty bread.

Underage drinking
When I was growing up in Stirling, I would sometimes make a big pot of tomato and potato soup for me and my friends to eat when we had got back from the pub after a spot of underage drinking. There was a more or less recognised hierarchy of places where you could drink: you started off in the Allan Park, whose downstairs bar would serve 15 year olds at a pinch, while the upstairs bar was curiously a policemen's local, then graduated onto another place at 16 (whose name I have forgotten), before being ready for the trendy Barnton Bar & Bistro at 17.