Feast-ing: I want the lot
I’m celebrating my love of the food columns and supplements in The Guardian by trying to cook at least one recipe from each issue of Guardian Feast in 2021. Find out a bit more about that here.
From Guardian Feast issue No.157 on Saturday 16 January 2021, my take on three dishes no less! Ravinder Bhogal’s pineapple, kale and red cabbage salad, Meerha Sodha’s vegan Hoppin’ John and Tamal Ray’s sweet spot lemon crumble cookies. Links to all original recipes at the end of the post.
First off, I had to try Tamal Ray’s lemon crumble cookies. What better way to start a Saturday than a fresh baked cookie with your mid-morning coffee and a sit down with the paper?
As Tamal says, these are a ‘cinch’ to make, requiring pleasingly few ingredients – all in most people’s store cupboards. In our house we have a bit of a citrus mountain: all those lemons destined for G&Ts and limes for margaritas have languished in our fruit bowl in the wake of Dry January. So, it’s good to find a different outlet for the little beauties. One friend has taken to making dried limes from her lime mountain a la Ottolenghi – more of that later.
I’ve never made cookies by piling the crumbed mix up on the tray for the heat of the oven to fuse into crumbly delights – I used an upside-down pastry cutter for a regular size and shape, which worked well. Unusually for me, I managed to get the precise number of cookies (16) Tamal said I should.
Just one beef here, Tamal: January’s hard enough without more restraint. The mere idea that these crumbly citrus beauties should be ‘sealed in an airtight container, something to be enjoyed over a couple of weeks’… er, no, not in our household.
On the Sunday we went for a long walk out of Berwick to Spittal, along a very waterlogged section of the Coastal Path to Cocklawburn Beach and back home through the fields and woods of Scremerston.
Views from our pre Hoppin’ John walk – a reminder of Scremerston’s mining history sandwiched between two views of Cocklawburn Beach. North Northumberland is a very delightful spot.
We were all knackered after our walk and by the time I turned to Meera Sodha’s take on all-American south dish Hoppin’ John, it was dark. Thing is, when a recipe says ‘1 1/2 tbsps Tabasco’, you start salivating and you can’t stop until you’ve scratched the itch. Hence, at about 7pm last Sunday I headed, torch in hand, down our garden, to snip cavolo nero off stalks that look as leggy as winter palms in the South of France. Meera uses spring greens but when you’ve grown something, you’re keen to use every last scrap. I didn’t have celery (and my daughters aren’t keen, anyway) so I threw in a couple of bay leaves for that earthier taste. I scraped all the shrivelling carrots, offcuts of fennel and onions off the floor of the fridge into a pan and brewed up some veg stock.
This is a seriously simple, biryani, pilau, paella type dish – perfect for a quick (ish) vegan supper. I didn’t have vegan mayonnaise in the cupboard. Those of us who worry about completism on the vegan front did not help ourselves to the bowl of Hellman’s and crushed garlic I provided.
We enjoyed Hoppin’ John so much that I made almost exactly the same meal again two nights’ later but, this time (sorry Meera and all vegans) with chicken.
We’ve all become big red cabbage fans during lockdown – particularly in the form of Asian slaw. So, Ravinder Bhogal’s pineapple, kale and red cabbage salad was not just up our street, it was parked in our drive. We had a half cabbage in the fridge along with a bunch of coriander – and, of course, my cavolo nero from the garden instead of kale.
There’s something marvellously profligate about a recipe that has four ingredients for the main event and 13 for the dressing – bring it on! Weirdly, this very straightforward (apart, perhaps from the number of ingredients) recipe was my most eventful of the week.
First challenge: tricky allergic daughter can’t eat raw pineapple. I googled replacements for pineapple and, bingo!, apricots were an option (we had some going a bit depressed in the fruit bowl). ‘You can replace pineapple with apricot!’ I announced to my two daughters. They both looked stunned, glancing uncomfortably at me and The Husband. Then giggling. Turns out eating pineapple is supposed to make semen taste nicer. How do my daughters know such things? Not from me. Cut a long story short, I also had a rather unripe mango which proved perfect for the job! The salad, that is.
For the dressing, I only had crunchy peanut butter, so I whizzed it as smooth as I could in a blender. Makrut lime leaves are not something that feature in my cupboard. Hallelujah! for my friend’s homemade dried lime powder. A healthy spoonful of that gave the dressing a good citrus kick, so I’m calling it the perfect sub.
I also discovered that the bag of open peanuts I was finally going to knock on the head for Ravinder’s nutty garnish went out of date in June 2020. Hey-ho time to use them up. They were fine! My biggest error was misreading the recipe and putting a full 400ml can (should have been 200ml) of coconut milk into the pan for the dressing. Actually, it was fine although I’m sure it diluted the powerful kick of the dressing. It did mean that the whole sliced red chilli garnish worked well with its fierce pops of heat and flavour. On the upside, we are also still enjoying the dressing’s umami deliciousness on a range of meals.
Next time from Guardian Feast Issue No. 158: Rachel Roddy’s budini di riso fiorentini (little rice pudding tarts) and possibly either Thomasina Miers’ savoy cabbage and fennel sausage ‘lasagne’ (if I can get a savoy cabbage without going to the supermarket (it’s not supermarket week!) or Yotam Ottolenghi’s macaroni with yoghurt and spicy lamb. We shall see.