As I write the rain is pouring down, a summer downpour. I’m looking forward to going out later in the fresh lushness of it all, after the rain when everything smells so good and the plants are so green and alive and hopefully the sun is out. We’re going away tomorrow, which for us and especially me is always an event, as with everything health-wise these things aren’t easy to manage, but I’m really looking forward to the adventure! Watching from the train window as the countryside changes from hills, valleys and trees to the open flat of the Fens with its dykes and wide sky. Seeing my parents and my sister. Meeting new people and helping to celebrate a marriage in the village I went to school in as a teenager. The cogs of life keep turning. Years pass and moons rise and fall. And I am determined to enjoy myself, to not feel sad at my health limitations. I may have to leave a party early, or not go at all, I may not be able to do everything that other people can do or look forward to. I have to compromise. Lately life feels like one compromise piled on top of another, with me underneath fighting for air, and it is just a matter of getting my head around that and accepting it as a fact. As with so many things in this life it is the getting your head around it that is important, the facing in the right direction. Life’s not easy, if we accept this as fact and stop expecting it to be then we can find peace and throw ourselves into problem-solving and doing the best we can, without expectation or disappointment, without fear. Those are my thoughts as I watch the summer rain, now dwindling into a soft haze. I think too of this place we found up in the Peaks this month, where springs come up from the peat and microcosms of plants and insects flourish with dazzling green. How they all must be thriving in the rain.
The apricot curry I am sharing today, with spiced kasha, is a real favourite in our house, it’s one of those special meals that feels like a real treat. Cooking with apricots is such a joy, they’re perfect for a curry too, sweet and tangy. I just love them, they’re so beautifully formed and tactile. I have a lot of pain in my hands which of late has been very bad, and touching something so soft and pretty is just a lovely thing. They remind me of horses noses. Have you ever kissed a horses velvety nose? It’s just my favourite thing to do, though these days I don’t get to do it often. An apricot is as soft, though sweeter smelling (though I do love the smell of horses wildly!). I like to cook apricots best it brings out their flavour, but if you don’t have fresh fruit then you can use dried, just soak them first to re-hydrate and cut down on other sweetness in the dish maybe adding a squeeze more lemon, or lime too.
I often use baked sweet potato as the base for my curries, it easily replaces tomato, a nightshade fruit I can’t eat, when combined with a little more natural sweetness, salt and lemon, and lacks the acidity of tomato, creating a dish that is easier to digest and healthier. Sweet potatoes are packed with goodness, low GI/ GL, they’re truly super tubers!
This curry can be adapted for any time of year, but now with vines laden with green beans, swelling courgettes, broad beans and peas, they’re just perfect to throw in and go beautifully. Use what you have, the fresher the better. I like to use nearly raw peas as a garnish, when they keep their firm sweet flavour and vibrancy.
Spiced kasha is so good! Dan prefers rice, and so we cook him a separate dish, you can follow the same recipe for spiced rice, but kasha is beautiful and light and nutritious, and perfect for those grain-avoiders like me. You could also use un-roasted buckwheat, which will be denser and more like brown rice, and very good also. For a real spread serve with buckwheat flatbread, pea and onion bhaji, cumin poppadoms and coconut raita. Home made mango chutney recipe coming soon!
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 medium onion
- 1 heaped tbsp coconut oil
- 6 apricots, fresh best but if using dried soak in water to rehydrate and reduce other sweetness
- 2 baked sweet potatoes, medium
- 1/2 cup broad beans
- 15 or so green beans or runner beans
- 1/2 yellow courgette, green is fine too
- 1/3 cup peas
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 3 heaped tsp mild curry powder
- 1 tsp ground coriander seed
- 2 tsp + natural sugar or even better tangy jam or marmalade (hold back on if using dried apricot)
- 1 heaped tsp finely ground black pepper (more if coarse)
- 2 tsp salt, to taste
- 1/2 lime
- 1/3 cup cashew nuts
- Fried or baked mushroom pieces add texture and savoury goodness sprinkled on top.
- you can garnish with chopped fresh coriander leaf, and a dollop of coconut yoghurt would be delicious too.
- 1 cup kasha groats
- 2 cups water + a dash
- 1 medium onion
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, or other good oil
- 8 or so cardamon pods, crushed and dehusked
- 4 star anise
- 1/ tsp finely ground black pepper (more if coarse, to taste)
- 1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick or equivalent in bark
- 6 cloves
- 1 tsp salt
Bake the sweet potato. I bake in their skins whole. Remove the skins afterwards when cooling. You can add the sweet potato raw to the curry too, which is delicious but baking them allows them to become silkier and thickens and flavours the sauce beautifully, which is better.
Saute chopped onion with the heated oil and salt in your saucepan on a low heat with the lid on, stirring occasionally for 15 mins or so, until soft and sweet.
Add the spices and then the sugar, if using, and stir for half a minute or so to release the aroma and flavour from the spices. Add the sweet potato and mash them in. Add the coconut milk, juice of half a lime and vegetables, bar the courgette, and cook on a low/ medium heat, stirring regularly.
Add the courgette about ten minutes before you're ready if you like them with a little bite as otherwise they will melt in completely.
Heat a thick pan and toast the cashews with a little salt, tossing, being careful not to burn. Once browning and smelling good transfer them to a bowl, or add straight to the curry.
Add the rinsed kasha to a pan with the water and bring to the boil reduce the heat and simmer for 10 mins. Take off the heat and let it sit without the lid on to cool. Don't stir.
Heat your pan, the thicker the better, add the oil and heat, then add finely chopped onion, salt, and all the spices (count how many cloves you put in so you'll be sure to get them out). Saute with the lid on for 10 mins or so, stirring occasionally, then fry off until darkly browning.
Break up the cooled kasha with your fingers or a fork, it should separate easily into 'grains', and add to the spiced onion mixture on a low heat, mixing it together and stirring occasionally and gently so as not to mash the kasha. You could also add a handful of sultanas as you add the kasha to the spices.
When ready to eat remove the cinnamon, cloves and star anise.
Serve as it is or with finely chopped coriander leaf as a garnish and a dollop of coconut yoghurt.
The cashews can be sprinkled on top, added to the kasha or the curry they're delicious any way.
If you are using frozen peas, to keep them firm, green, sweet and flavoursome add them to hot or cold water a little before you're eating, drain and sprinkle on top. If you're using freshly podded, small peas can be sprinkled on raw, and the larger peas added to the curry or cooked separately and added on top to keep colour.
You can use whatever summer vegetables you have I recommend the green beans and peas (organic is best), they go so beautifully with the sweet fruitiness of the curry, but it is very versatile.
If you eat chilli you could use a stronger curry powder, I use mild as it is without chilli and I add heat with black pepper, which is really healthy too particularly combined with turmeric.
For the best results with a curry always use freshly, or recently ground spices, and spices that have been kept in sealed jars, it makes so much difference to flavour.
SONG OF THE WEEK Elton John ‘Rocket Man’