Friday, 13 April 2012


You know, it's pretty invigorating busting a taboo. After all those years thinking I hated Indian food - turning the page on recipes, skipping past restaurants, chucking takeaway menus straight into the recycling bin - all of a sudden, wide new vistas have opened up to me. I'm not just talking about the Chicken and Cauliflower Balti. I only just noticed that there's an Indian restaurant at the end of our road, which had never really registered with me before. Turns out, there are tempting Indian recipes scattered throughout all my favourite cookbooks. There are whole aisles of the supermarket which I completely ignored just a month or so ago. Honestly, I feel as though Diagon Alley has just popped into view, squeezed between a Favorite Chicken and a Sue Ryder, and now all sorts of adventures lie ahead.

Step Two in this odyssey (after the balti) was to try making something else at home. But all Indian food is pretty much a mystery to me at the moment - honestly, I have no idea what tandoori is, nor the difference between a poppadom and a chapatti, and what is the deal with mango chutney? - so I didn't really know where to start. I pulled down Nigella's Feast, flicked through the index for inspiration and, sure enough, all sorts of recipes swam into view that I hadn't really noticed before. Yet although she has a whole Indian Feast section at the end - with meat and vegetable curries, sides, puddings, even - the dish which really caught my eye was a keema, described as a spicy, spiky, sloppy mince and pea concoction. Mince and peas? Two mainstays of our freezer? It was on. Round two had begun!

Because I'm too lazy to go to the shops especially for a recipe, I freestyled a bit. Lemon replaced lime; pork mince replaced lamb; regular chilli replaced bird's eye (possibly mistakenly, see note below); Madras curry powder replaced garam masala. Are those differences too big? Have I basically buggered it up, doing something like replacing chocolate with courgettes or milk with chilli sauce? I hope not. 

Either way, even if my version was shockingly inauthentic, it was still pretty damn tasty - bright, hot and hearty. We slurped it up in bowls with some naan to swipe through the sauce and even if the end result wasn't quite as hard core as it could have been - that's the bird's eye chilli shaking its head at me reprovingly - I'm still counting it as a success. So in summary, victory in Step Two, Captain. On to step Three! I'm excited.

From Nigella's Feast
Makes 4 servings (and freezes well)

- 1 onion, finely chopped or whizzed up in the food processor
- 1 clove of garlic, ditto
- a tin of chopped tomatoes
- a 3cm long piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (again, I just blitzed it in the machine)
- 1 bird's eye chilli, finely sliced (I only had a normal chilli and it wasn't hot enough, to be honest - go for broke)
- 1 teaspoon of garam masala (whoops, we used Madras curry powder mix)
a handful of chopped fresh coriander, if you want it. I didn't because it's the work of the devil.
- 500g of mince - she says lamb, I used pork
- 250g of frozen peas
- 250ml of boiling water
- juice of half a lime, to taste. I used lemon because it's what we had and the world did not end.

Heat some oil in a big saucepan and chuck in the onion and garlic. Cook over a high heat until golden brown, stirring. Then turn the heat down quite low and add the spices, ginger, chilli, tomatoes, a few big pinches of salt and the coriander if you want it. Stir it all together (she says "until shiny", which baffled me) then add in the mince.

Stir it around, using your spoon to break up the meat, then add the peas and stir again. After a couple of minutes, pour in the boiling water and bring the pan back to the boil. Then turn it down to a low simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes. 

Squeeze in the lime/lemon, and serve with warmed naan, rotis, that kind of thing. 

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