I recently picked up a secondhand copy of Madhur Jaffrey’s Eastern Vegetarian Cooking, first published as World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking in America in 1981, then in the UK two years later.
I’m not a vegetarian-in-the-making, but it has some wonderful wheat free recipes and is helping me negotiate my way around our large collection of spices. Indian food with its use of alternative flours like gram (chickpea) flour and clever use of spices has a lot to offer if you’re trying to cut down on wheat.
For dinner the other day I decided to try out a potato recipe, adding tomatoes spices and creamed coconut in place of fresh. Once that was ready, I decided that my favourite spicy prawns, a Claudia Roden recipe copied by Jane Grigson in her book of English Food, would go with it perfectly.
Spicy prawns in a book on English food? It’s perfectly logical when you think how spice has been used throughout the ages in our food. We have cinnamon, cloves and ground ginger delivered along the spice trail to thank for our Christmas cake and Indian influence to thank for our chutneys or Worscestershire Sauce. My plan is to play around with spices under the instruction of the greats like Madhur or Claudia. So far the dishes have been delicious, so I wanted to share a couple with you.
Usha’s potatoes and tomatoes cooked with fresh coconut
Madhur credits her friend Usha for this recipe and introduces it with the words “I love this dish with an irrational passion…” Say no more Madhur, I’m giving it a go.
750g new potatoes (or 5 medium-sized potatoes, about 560g)
4 tbsps vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled and fine chopped
2 tsps chilli flakes (or 1 whole dried hot red pepper)
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 sachets creamed coconut – I use Bart (or 140g/5 oz freshly grated coconut)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp roasted and ground cumin seeds
560g/1 and a quarter lb ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced into 1.5cm pieces (use a 450-560g tin of Italian tomatoes if out of season)
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp red wine vinegar
Do some prep…
Prick the tomato skins, then cover with freshly-boiled water, leave for just over a minute before draining. Allow to cool then peel off the skins. Wash then cut the potatoes into 2cm dice and put into a bowl of cold water. (I don’t peel new potatoes.) Toast two teaspoons of cumin seeds. Stir the seeds so they don’t catch and take off the heat once they give off a lovely toasted aroma and have gone a shade darker.
Sizzle then leave to cook quietly on the hob:
Heat the oil in a heavy pot over a medium-high flame. Add the finely chopped garlic and stir for about 5 seconds, then add the chilli flakes and one teaspoon of untoasted cumin seeds. Stir for another 3 seconds. The garlic should brown lightly and the cumin seeds should sizzle. Lower the heat to medium, add the creamed (or grated) coconut and stir for around 10-15 seconds. Drain the potatoes. Add them as well as the turmeric, ground cumin, tomatoes (with all juices), salt and 12 fl oz of water.
Bring to the boil. Cover, turn heat to low and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Stir gently every 7 to 8 minutes during the cooking time. Once you’re happy the potatoes are cooked, add the sugar and vinegar. Stir again and cook uncovered for 1 minute.
Serve in a bowl with spiced prawns (recipe below), some greens and seasoned yoghurt on the side.
Super quick spicy prawn recipe by Claudia Roden
Funnily enough, I came across this recipe in Jane Grigson’s English Food. The original Moroccan recipe comes from Claudia Roden’s Book of Middle Eastern Food.
500g large, unpeeled and uncooked prawns (I use ready-peeled)
3 large cloves garlic, crushed and finely chopped
About 4 tbsps olive oil
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
half tsp ground ginger
good pinch Cayenne pepper
Bunch of green coriander, chopped
(If you have unpeeled prawns, first prepare them, removing heads, limbs, tails and the black vein.) Now fry the garlic in oil, in Jane Grigson’s words: “until it begins to waft delicious smells at you”. Add salt and spices, stirring, then the prawns.
Fry quickly, stirring and turning until they are pink. Add coriander and cook a minute longer. Done.