Creamy, oozing with comfort and addictive little stabs of chilli this savoury French toast with an Indian twist is just the dish to take refuge in whenever you’re feeling hungry, tired, skint or all three. It’s a proper serotonin-raiser, whether we’re talking a decadent breakfast in bed gesture or a midweek, post-work-pre-flicks/plonked on the sofa type affair. The peach and tomato salsa is bright, punchy and the perfect accompaniment (it’s basically my Bengali tomato salsa recipe plus a couple of very ripe peaches), although a hefty blob of ketchup is just fine if you really can’t be bothered. My aunt in Rochdale makes hers using cheap white sliced bread but for me it’s all about the nuttiness of wholemeal.
1-2 tbsp single cream
A large pinch of curry powder
4 of the finest eggs money can buy
slices of bread
½ Fresh green finger chilli sliced (or more if you like your heat)
1-2 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 shallot, finely chopped/spring onion
Salt and pepper
Tomato bortha/Bengali tomato salsa with a couple of ripe peaches roughly chopped and crushed in.
- Beat together the eggs and add the curry powder, cream, chilli, coriander, shallot and salt and pepper.
- Place a slice of bread in the mixture and leave for about 5 minutes then turn over, until well saturated with the egg mixture.
- Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and when sizzling carefully add the bread. Brown on both sides.
- Repeat until all the egg has been used up and serve hot with plenty of salsa/ketchup.
“I want the bastards that tortured my grandmother to bleed” spits Susan, her face contorting and reddening to match the hue of our food. “I want them to feel just a fraction of her pain.”
We’re in a tiny izakaya in Saitama-ken, just around the corner from my flat and Susan is explaining her dark reasons for being here over a bowl of kimchi ramen. “So your grandmother was a…a comfort woman then?” asks Manola, who teaches in the town next door. Manola is dead cool. The other JETs we’ve met are an assortment of private school tossers and downright weirdos, so we’ve made a point of only befriending Japanese people and each other. We spend our weekdays teaching English and our weekends in throbbing clubs and bars in Tokyo, grabbing steaming 5am bowls of ramen and larking about in purikura booths before catching the train home to the suburbs… Her Kanji count is enviable and she’s definitely the sensible one. I, on the other hand manage to unwittingly get us into countless dodgy situations, like the time we find ourselves in the car of a minor yakuza who tries to press pills upon us and entice us to some warehouse party with his mafia pals.
We love it all, but Susan has made it clear she’s purely here for vengeance.
She’s a towering half Texan, half Korean model type, and she fascinates us with tales of growing up in a trailer with anorexic friends. She’s like something out of a JT Leroy novel. She confirms that yes, her grandmother was one of the comfort women Japanese soldiers famously took “refuge” in during the war. A group of young Japanese men nearby openly ogle her, one plucks up the Asahi-powered courage to saunter over and tell her how “sekusi” she is. She tosses her hair and casts out a murderous look before archly turning her back on them. “Wow this kimchi’s great” murmurs Manola. Susan scowls and tells us about the proper stuff her gran used to make in huge earthenware pots which she’d bury in the garden for months. Years later and faced with a superabundance of cabbage I come across the napkin with her recipe scrawled over it.
I’ve searched high and low but cannot find a recipe for parathas anywhere. Before you start bombarding me with links to the contrary please note – I am fully aware that the net is saturated with recipes for what are effectively chapatti dough that’s been rolled out once and then fried, however these are not the parathas that I know and love. These are recipes for chapatti dough that’s been rolled out once and then fried.
There’s nothing out there for the kind that my mum has always rustled up. Hers are crisp, delicate and most importantly of all, shot through with a mille feuille of flaky buttery layers.
When I was about five years old I remember spending many a fun-filled afternoon helping to make these. I’d stand on a chair steadying the bowl as she poured in a big puff of chapatti and plain flours, sending up a white cloud of dust and depositing a fine and ghostly layer on my little brown arms and face. She’d then instruct me to mix in a big pinch of salt and make a hollow in the centre. Into this well she would pour what must have been a couple of teaspoons of molten ghee. There were never any measurements.
I would then incrementally add drops from a milk bottle and mix these in until it was just on the cusp of pliable and sticky. She would tell me that the stickiness was important because a firm dough that’s been made with less liquid is easier to work with but nowhere near as tasty to eat. I just thought the stickiness was important because I was five.
She’d plonk me in front of Chorlton and the Wheelies with a big bowl of this dough. I’d happily sit there, kneading away and wondering what it must be like to live in a teapot until the sticky mixture would come together in a smooth and supple dough.
I came home feeling ravenous and more than a little dehydrated after a strenuous session at Bikram yoga. Bikram basically involves working out in sauna-like conditions for an hour and a half. I always go and I always wonder what on earth I’m doing there about half way through when I’m half-blinded with sweat and feel like I’m on the verge of passing out. And I realise that like an absolute sucker I’ve paid through the nose for the privilege of that special feeling. Again. They say that Mr Bikram is loathed by traditional yogis and is seen as some some of snake oil peddlar of “ancient Indian wisdom combined with modern science” to gullible Westerners. That he is in fact a clever old charlatan who lives in LA and owns a stable of Rolls Royces, a mansion and a swimming pool. It’s difficult not to think about all this while gurning your way through the tree pose. That’s not what annoys me the most though. It’s the fact that Robert Downey Junior goes to my class. Robert Downey Bloody Junior. It’s just not right.
Anyway, on the way home I tried to recall what we have in the fridge – some duck stock that I’d been simmering away for a couple of days (on the lowest heat possible with some quartered onions, peppercorns and garlic) a leek, a couple of carrots, a tomato and some spinach. I’ve had these noodles in the back of my cupboard for a while so decided to throw together a big bowl of noodle soup. It hit the spot in an intensely hot and sour kind of way and made me feel awash with health to boot. Sod you Mr Bikram, this was FREE!! Mmmm!
Another happy accident. The kind that only occurs when you think there’s nothing in the fridge but you stand there for ages anyway just staring into it’s cool, glowing womb-like shelter, thinking… Eggs and curry powder are soul mates; and topping this with grilled cheddar makes the whole dish come alive.Read the rest of this entry »
I’d never made “Kedgeree” before. My mum brought us up on “kitchuri” which is quite a different beast (no fish or eggs, more lentils rice and spices) which I believe is the original dish this colonial version was based on. After looking at James Martin’s and Delia’s version, I came up with a slightly wetter concoction.
This ‘kedgereesotto’ cost me £1, makes enough to feed two with enough leftover to freeze, and resides in that satisfying spot where healthy food and comfort food meet.
This is the simplest soup ever. Add whatever vegetables you have knocking around, I find carrots, spinach and mushrooms work well. The only essentials are seaweed and the spring onion. I like to have this for breakfast with a fruit salad, or if I’m feeling particularly virtuous for supper with steamed brown rice, furikake and a tamagoyaki omelette. Although it’s not strictly authentic, I find a drop of rice vinegar adds the most delicious tang to to the salty broth. The miso paste and dashi can be bought online or from Chinese and Japanese food shops and once you have them they last for ages so it’s well worth investing in decent quality miso, i.e. with a minimum of ingredients. The one in my fridge only contains rice, salt and soyabeans.Read the rest of this entry »
Whenever I was ill as a child my mother would make me a big steaming bowl of this. She would also inexplicably give me Lucozade, but it was the 80′s I suppose. Sometimes I find myself craving this spicy, tangy broth. Adding soaked mung beans makes for a more substantial dish.
I once had a version of these in the Konditor and Cook cafe section of the Curzon Cinema in Soho. These are simultaneously healthier (wholemeal flour) and more indulgent (more cheese). You can of course use whatever kind of cheese you like. These are good cold and can be frozen for up to a month. They are especially delicious hot from the oven, the steaming fluffy spinach bread giving way to oozing molten cheese centres.
I don’t really like bananas, but I hate wasting food even more. I had to make this after I found myself unable to part with a glut of slowly blackening bananas. The walnuts and rum-soaked raisins really bring out the sweetness of the ripe fruit. This goes beautifully with chunks of cheddar.