A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Soup And A Curry

Yes, food - to continue the theme of the last post. I'm passionate about it. I love shopping for food, preparing it, cooking it, eating it. Even growing it. I started the vegetable garden very late this year - too late for the usual onions and potatoes I normally plant - but the runner beans, courgettes and sweetcorn are now coming up nicely.

It always amazes me how, at a time when we know so much about diet, nutrition and the direct relation between good food and good health, at a time when we're awash with cookery books and TV programmes, we're still a nation of instant frozen meal buyers and consumers of mediocre, fattening pub-chain fodder and crap takeaways.

Proper food needn't take an age to cook in the evenings - quick home-made soups, stir-fries, fish dishes and scores of other recipes can be ready in half-an-hour. Only yesterday I made a delicious soup by simmering in some stock a couple of potatoes, a couple of carrots, some runner beans, some mushrooms, a pile of shredded cabbage, some celeriac and loads of celery. A little or a lot of seasoning depending on your taste, a quick whizz after the vegetables have softened - and you have a fresh, tasty vegetable soup which can't possibly be reproduced in a packet or tin.

Even dishes like curries can be quick (though some Goan friends we once knew seemed to take all day to prepare theirs). Here's a recipe for chicken bhuna I often make. Raid your spice cupboard and prepare a marinade of yoghurt, lemon juice, garlic, turmeric, paprika, ground cumin, ground chilli, crushed cardamom (remove the husk first) and salt. Quantities are very much up to you. Experiment to find the amount of each spice you like. Add to the marinade strips or cubes of fresh, uncooked chicken and leave (several hours in the fridge would be ideal but I can never be bothered). Meanwhile fry some onion in a pan, add some rice (pilau is preferable but any rice will do) and also garlic, cardamom pods, fennel seeds and a cinnamon stick for flavouring, then pour in cold water to the level of 1 inch above the rice. Boil for 5 minutes, then cover with a lid and leave for 20 minutes. This will give you soft, steamed, spicy, flavoursome rice. You then serve this with the marinade-coated chicken you'll have fried 10 minutes beforehand. If you want, you can sprinkle garam masala and chopped coriander over the cooked chicken. And accompany with warm naan bread and a cucumber salad. Absolutely delicious.

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