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Soothing kiss of kitchari

There’s something in the air in Berwickland. It’s been hot for weeks. Our weekends have tumbled into our weekdays as muggy days roll into languid dreamy evenings. We’ve overdone it – working, gardening and, yes, eating and drinking.

Dreamy cooling evenings: moon, bridge and swans in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland

So, Yotam Ottolenghi’s watermelon with pomegranate and mint sugar may sound cooling and seasonally appropriate, but it is the simple healing balm of Meera Sodha’s vegan tomato and turmeric kitchari that calls ‘eat me’ to us in Guardian Feast Issue No.183.

Kitchari is the perfect food for a Sunday soul slightly troubled by the memory of overindulgence the night before. And the fuel for a body wearied by hours of penitential garden strimming. Everything Meera says about this blend of rice, lentils, tomatoes, turmeric and cinnamon is spot on: cooking times, yoghurt and lime pickle accompaniments, suitable for all tastebuds.

At least a session of penitential gardening has a good impact on the garden!

Original recipe

Meera Sodha – kitchari with tomato and turmeric


The Sunday vegan memo was one The Husband missed. Just as the rice was having its 10-minute-rest, he rushed into the kitchen announcing he’d bought some fish that needed eating. So…

Meera’s kitchari with added fish

Nepal to Persia: feast your eyes; stuff your face

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.

Issue No.165 of Feast had my name on it. The flavours of Nepal and Persia are so enticingly different to our everyday food. Yotam‘s take on his friend’s Nepalese potato salad (who doesn’t love potato salad – and this one’s to die for!) had me at ‘120g of tamarind puree’ and ‘four green chillies’: wow! Marwa Alkhalaf‘s a Persian celebration looked achingly beautiful. The kind of spread I could sit and gaze at – for the 60 seconds before I pitched in to eat it. I said to The Husband: ‘I will have that, please. All of it.’

Just look at that!

The Husband disappeared into the kitchen for an hour or so and this was the result:

The Husband’s take on Marwa Alkhalaf’s a Persian celebration

What a cheering, mouthwatering sensation of a feast for a Monday night! We scoffed the lot. Of course we did.

The mahi shekam por (stuffed trout with saffron and bitter orange) was sensational – who’d have thought that marmalade and trout would marry up. The sabizi polo (herbed rice with saffron fennel) was a revelation: crispy rice on top from the baking and moist, fluffy herbaceously fennel-infused rice beneath the crust. My one little claim of participation was the baqleh gatog (broad bean and garlic chive dip). Even then, The Husband did all the prep – I fried, whizzed and garnished (we didn’t have garlic chives so used a bit of extra garlic). The dip’s citrus, garlic ping worked in perfect harmony with this medley of delight. Overall, The Husband declared the recipes ‘straightforward’. Although he said it would have helped to have a bit of an ‘order of play’ for preparing and cooking the dishes in relation to each other. He made a few substitutions, including cranberries instead of barberries and pomegranate.

Baqleh gatog – broad bean and garlic chive dip

Yes, Marwa’s offering is a showstopper. But, please, do not turn your nose up at Yotam’s Nepalese potato salad: it ups the ante on the ubiquitous buffet dish. Spicy, citrussy, sesame-ey and as far away from potatoes smeared in greasy daubs of mayo as you can get. It completely hit the spot after our campfire and cocktails in the garden (it was Saturday night, after all).

For the potato salad, Yotam recommends four green chillies which you slice and quick pickle. I had three red chillies kicking around in the back of the fridge that I’d pickled an age ago and decided they’d do. They were so knock-the-back-of-your-head-off hot that I just used two – in fact, the potatoes assimilate flavour brilliantly and I could easily have added number three. I was lucky to have some tamarind that a friend had given me, otherwise I would have had to use ready-made despite Yotam’s assertion that tamarind from a block is ‘much more balanced’.

The Husband had a dollop of yoghurt with his salad but the eldest daughter and I took it straight and savoured every delightfully spicy, mouth-puckering forkful. I think we can safely say it’s a good week for eating in our Berwick-upon-Tweed household.

Nepalese potato salad from Yotam Ottolenghi, prepared by me, Jackie.

Original recipes:

Marwa Alkhalaf – a Persian celebration

Yotam Ottolenghi – Nepalese potato salad

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