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Posts Tagged ‘spices’

Encouraged by a friend who was asking about sourdough a week or so ago, I posted my recipe and resurrected my starter. It had been sitting in the kitchen for many many months and had turned to a sort of strange buttery substance with a black liquid on top. I probably should have thrown it away but I kept on meaning to restart it.

I actually managed to inspire myself as I reminded myself of the joy of sourdough baking – it’s honestly like a sort of magic – making just flour, water and salt raise itself into a loaf. I used a spoonful of the ancient buttery starter, and threw the rest away, and followed the starter recipe. And today we had sourdough for lunch in the Vicarage – a sharp nutty loaf to go with some simple cheese. The starter has a bit of a way to go to make a perfectly textured loaf, and I need to get back in the sourdough groove, but it was still delicious.

When I restarted this blog, I wrote about our parish smelling of bread and spices. Sometimes the scent of bread and spices is right here in our Vicarage, not in the streets outside, but we hang onto the hope of the gospel – the bread of life, the aroma of grace. In these uncertain days, bread and spices will keep us pointed to the only way of hope.

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When the Vicar and I lived in Singapore, we had a lovely neighbour who was from Mumbai/Bombay. We celebrated the Millenium on her roof and shared recipes. And the Vicarage cat came to us through her feline loving contacts. Nomi also taught me to cook dhal. Spiced lentils is a staple of Indian cuisine, and there are heaps of different recipes. When I cooked this recipe for our Tamil church friends, though, they pleasingly said that it was ‘restauarant dhal’.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of toor lentils (not the oily ones) – these are yellow pigeon peas and can usually be found in specialist Asian grocers (or Tescos in our tow-un). If you can’t find them yellow split peas or red lentils would work as well.
  • pinch asafoetida (if you can find it, otherwise not a biggy – it’s meant to decrease the wind quotient of the lentils, but doesn’t really affect the taste)
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 tbspn black or brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tbspn cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup of curry leaves – dried or fresh if you can find them
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1-2 green chillies, chopped fine OR 1 tspn chilli powder OR 1 tspn crushed dried red chillies (use a smaller amount the first time you make this & increase next time if you’d like your dhal spicier)
  • 1 tspn turmeric powder

Cook your lentils in water according to instructions. I use a pressure cooker so I can cook them in about 15 minutes (plus all the time taken for the pressure cooker to calm down so I can open it without scalding my nose). When the lentils are cooked, you can add your asafoetida to make them less fartful. Then heat a good slosh of oil in the bottom of a frying pan. This oil will be flavoured and added to your lentils, so don’t skimp or you won’t be able to distribute the spiciness too well. I cover the bottom of my pan in oil – about 4-5 tbspns I guess. Heat the oil and then pop in the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves. Once the leaves start to discolour and the mustard seeds start to get lively, add the garlic, chillies and turmeric. Once the garlic has cooked and taken on some colour, add the spiced oil to the lentils. And stir and serve. This is brilliant with rice, naan, chappatis or pitta. And freezes really well. Great for lunch or supper with another curry.

The spiced oil

The spiced oil

A pot of dhal

And a pot of dhal

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Bee called us today as the Vicar needed to get some details for a return to the Registrar for her and Rocky’s marriage certificate. Since they’re no longer living in our attic, but in Bristol, where Rocky is now an ordinand, they’ve been following this blog for local news. I gave them all sorts of exciting updates (rather too exciting for this blog just now, I’m afraid) and then Bee asked me about Padda’s, our local grocers that mysteriously closed down a couple of weeks ago.

I was able to give her the good news that they have reopened. Hurrah! No longer will I worry about where to source spices and lentils. I’ve not actually visited the shop since the shutters opened again, but the Vicar has been. The staff told him cryptically that they’d been ‘on holiday’.

Not being as nosy as I am, he didn’t ask for further and better particulars, and I’ve not managed to find out anything more, though I was told that the owner ‘found a lot of money from somewhere’ to pay his outstanding bills. So that’s the rather unclear (non)story from here. Not quite sure what to make of it but relieved that our High Street hasn’t lost a valuable retail outlet.

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I love the strong, sweet and spiced Indian drink known as masala chai – spiced tea. Usually I go round to my friend Starstudent’s. She makes great masala chai. I normally visit her and have two mugfuls of the delicious drink. I always visit in the morning.

Delicious but not for insomniacs

Delicious but not for insomniacs

You make masala chai by boiling your water in a pan with the teabags and some spices – cardamom, cinnamon and others according to your family tradition eg fennel, ginger, cloves. You boil it for a good while and then add a good helping of milk, sugar to taste and boil for a little longer. Then you strain and serve.

When we visited our friends the Kanns last night I drank two mugfuls, just as usual. Very tasty. But also very high in caffeine (because the teabags are so well boiled I guess).

So I was watching the ceiling at 2.30am. Grrr.

What was really annoying was that I’d done this before. When we lived in Singapore, the church we attended was a Tamil congregation and they served masala chai after the evening service. I had to limit myself to a single cup and couldn’t drink the coffee at all, or I couldn’t sleep. Wish I’d remembered that before I tanked myself up on the caffeine last night.

I wonder how it tastes made with de-caff teabags?

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