"Need some help?" enquired one of the two charming students sitting opposite us for the 'all you can eat' thali. The hotel on MG road had seen grander days (Winston Churchill once stayed there) but now was a very popular lunch destination serving delicious food. Friendly staff brought us a couple of teaspoons, but I had been to South India before and had no need of these.
Sometimes a first course is needed. Or an appetiser. These little tarts are made with yeasted wholemeal pastry. The yeast leavens the pastry and turns solid crunchy wholemeal into an altogether lighter mouthful. Probably wouldn't win any prizes but they taste nice.
This simple curry was circulating around North London in the 1970s. It has no pretensions to be anything else.
Harvest Greek salad
At last I have a small crop of cherry tomatoes! These, plus the herbs which always grow in the garden, call for a celebratory salad on this hottest of days. In Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me, by Richard Fariña, the protagonist sets out carrying a jar of feta in his bag. A modern version of the latter is a key ingredient here.
I can eat it for breakfast, lunch and supper. I use it as a base ingredient for many other recipes - yes, with chili but also breakfast, barbecue pork and beans or tortillapatis. Doesn't taste anything like the bottled varieties - just hot sunshine on a plate (corn chip). Everyone has their own personal recipe, cooked or raw, mild or scorchio, but if you need somewhere to start look no further.
Minestrone senza formaggio
Taking a quick tour of the internet before writing this recipe I realised that there are wildly different ways of approaching this buxom vegetable soup. Some, incredibly to me, have no tomato (isn't that a minestre?) The subject of stock is heated. Some include ham and cheese. So, if you are happy with your own recipe there is no need to change. But, for anyone who has never made minestrone before, you might want to start here:
Root vegetable biryani
If you want great chicken biryani, go to my favourite blogger, The Lockdown Chef. For authentic, delicious lamb biryani, it's Mutton biryani - East African style from my friend Chachi's Kitchen, also available in print. This is not them. It is a vegan biryani, the sort of thing you might have paid a pound for …
Norfolk. The home of the root vegetable. Indoors, we ate mashed carrot and swede, roast parsnips, pot roast turnips, baked potatoes, pickled beetroot. Outside there were clamps of sugar beet and mangles everywhere. But I cannot remember ever eating or seeing celeriac. Technically a swollen hypocotyl, celeriac starts off knobbly and tough-looking but by the …
Another easy recipe, hardly anything at all to do here - practically cooks itself! This is essentially a Mediterranean dish and the scents of the herbs, garlic and oils are pretty important. Ripe, flavourful tomatoes are necessary too - if unavailable, use a tin.
No meat paella
Put the oil in a pan on a medium heat with the chopped marjoram, sliced fennel, garlic, chilli, salt, pepper and the halloumi cut into 1cm cubes. Stir this around for a few minutes, then empty out on a plate, leaving most of the oil in the pan. Now add the sliced onion and when it has gone translucent, the rice. You can put in a few strands of saffron now too.