Food, Recipes

Queen of pickles


The Swedish members of my family know me by the name Miss Gherkin, owing to my fondness for said preserve.

This weekend I felt I had truly earned the moniker, when I bagged first prize in the pickle category at this year’s Lambeth Country Show. (Placed third for my embroidery too, but that’s another blog.)

The annual event is pretty much your usual agricultural/horticultural/community show, but with added spice, given its London location. So there’s sheep shearing, jousting and falconry displays, all mixed up with African drums and goat curry. Plus funfair rides, fudge and scrumpy, stalls selling tat and those exhorting you to join your local library. It’s all very neighbourly.

And, of course, there’s the horticultural show bit, where members of the public bring in their homegrown, homemade stuff to be judged.

I had a hard time determining what to enter, cos I do a lot of preserving. Annabel Langbein’s spicy Indian-style tomato pickle won out, partly because I’d grown the tomatoes myself, and also as a nod to multicultural Brixton. Turned out to be a good choice, seeing as it won over the judges too.

Verily I say unto you, I *am* a domestic goddess. The judges have spoken.

Anyway, here ’tis, the prizewinning pickle, tomato kasundi.

225g green ginger, peeled
100g garlic cloves, peeled
50g green chillies, sliced in half lengthwise and seeds removed
2.5 cups malt vinegar
1 cup peanut oil
2 tablespoons turmeric
5 tablespoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons chilli powder
5 tablespoons mustard seeds, ground to a powder
2kg tomatoes, washed and chopped
2 and a quarter cups sugar
1.5 tablespoons Maldon salt

Puree the ginger, garlic and chillies with a little of the vinegar to make a paste.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add all the ground spices and fry until fragrant.

Add the pureed paste, tomatoes, the rest of the vinegar, sugar and half of the salt (check near the end of cooking to see if more is required).

Cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the oil floats on the top (about half an hour).

Ladle into sterilised jars while hot with a thin film of hot oil on the top of each jar, to stop the top from drying out, and cover with screw-top lids.

Leave for a couple of weeks to allow the flavours to develop before using. Stored in a cool place, kasundi will keep indefinitely.

Makes about 2 litres.

Food, Recipes

Mother’s little helper


This ginger, shallot and chilli sauce is another great fridge staple, from a book called Chow Down and Chill Out by NZ food writer Jennifer Yee. It makes pretty much anything taste Asian in an instant.

I use it to make the omelettes below (from the same book) and as a base for stir-fries. She also suggests using it as a base for marinades. Mighty useful to have on standby then if you’re getting fired up for the barbecue season.

1/2 cup peanut oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3/4 cup finely chopped ginger
4 red chillies, seeded and sliced
2 teaspoons salt

Heat the oils in a small saucepan until hot. Add the ginger, shallots, chilli and salt, reduce the heat and cook until the shallots are translucent. Do not brown. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before packing into a clean jar. It’ll keep sealed and refrigerated for up to three months.

Makes 1 cup.



Asian-style baby omelettes

This is what I’m talking about. Solo dining in a flash. The recipe makes three of the frittery little critters, just right for one person, with some Chinese greens on the side.

2 fresh eggs
2 tablespoons ginger, shallot and chilli sauce (see the previous post)
1 teaspoon peanut oil or olive oil
1/2 cup chopped chives

Whisk together the eggs and ginger, shallot and chilli sauce.

Heat the oil and toss the chives in it until just wilted. Pour in the egg mixture and tilt the pan to coat. Lift the edges of the omelette as it cooks to allow uncooked the egg to seep underneath.

When it’s just beginning to set, use a spatula to divide the mixture into three smaller omelettes or wedges and flip over to cook the other side.


chive and coriander fried rice
ingreds for one person:
1 teaspoon peanut oil

1 tablespoon ginger, shallot and chilli sauce
1 1/2 cups cold cooked rice
1/4 cup chopped chives
1 teaspoon light soya sauce
1 egg
1/4 cup coarsely chopped coriander

Heat the oil in a wok until hot. Add your dose of mother’s little helper(aka the ginger, shallot and chilli sauce), rice and chives. Toss to mix and stir fry until it’s good and hot all the way through.

Sprinkle the soya sauce over and stir it in. Push the rice to the sides of the pan, making a well in the centre. Break in the egg and stir to slightly blend the white with the yolk.

Fold through the rice mixture and toss until the egg is just cooked. Mix the coriander through and serve in a large deep bowl.

Food, Recipes

Sugar and spice


No work today. Which sucks. But the splendid vege shop is heaving with ripe toms, so it’s been a great opportunity to potter about in the kitchen, stereo at full blast, and replenish my stock of chilli jam.

I’m addicted to this stuff. It rocks my world. The recipe comes courtesy of the wonderful Peter Gordon, from his Sugar Club Cookbook.

His suggestion to spread it on toast with a fried egg on top is what got me actually enjoying eggs. Ace hangover food.

We kicked off our Christmas dinner one year by layering it on top of seared scallops, along with blobs of creme fraiche; each towering little mouthful topped with a sprig of fresh coriander. Yum. And it’s great with grilled mackerel, too.

500g very ripe tomatoes
4 red chillies
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 thumbs of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
30ml Thai fish sauce
300g caster sugar
100ml red wine vinegar

Blend half the tomatoes, the chillies, garlic, ginger and fish sauce to a fine puree in a blender. Put the lot into a deep pot, along with the sugar and vinegar, and bring to the boil slowly, stirring all the time. When it reaches the boil, turn to a gentle simmer and add the remaining tomatoes, which you have cut into tiny dice, skin, seeds and all.

Cook gently for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every five minutes to release the solids that settle to the bottom. Also, be sure to scrape the sides of the pot during cooking so the entire mass cooks evenly.

When it’s done, pout into warmed glass jars and allow to cool to room temperature before storing in the fridge for later use. Makes two and a half cups.

Food, Recipes

A bit of a squeeze


Are we there yet? The question would be repeated, a high pitched whine, at 10 minute intervals between Palmerston North and Hastings.

First the winding road through the Manawatu Gorge, waving out to the train as we spotted it on the other side of the river, speeding in and out of tunnels, high above the rushing water. Then Dannevirke, Norsewood, Waipukurau … all manner of one-petrol-pump, one-pub towns … on and on until we got to Hastings.

Grandparental hugs and kisses followed, washed down with glasses of Nana’s homemade lemonade; the painted pop-art patterned glasses as integral to the experience as the syrupy tart cordial within them. Ahh. Bliss. We’d arrived.

Sheila’s lemonade (who says happiness can’t be found in a bottle?)

zest of six lemons, taken off in strips with a potato peeler

1.2 litres water
1kg sugar
600ml lemon juice

Add lemon peel to water and sugar and heat gently until sugar is dissolved, stirring often. Strain and add lemon juice. Mix well and pour into bottles. Dilute the lemon syrup with water, sparkling or still, depending upon how festive you’re feeling. If you’re a grown up, a tot of vodka wouldn’t go amiss. If there’s a nip in the air, substitute whisky and boiling water for an instant lemon toddy.

The very thought of lemons is a promise of summer to come – a glimpse of that sunny yellow on a dark day takes me back to an idyllic week house-sitting for my sister, who is fortunate enough to possess a backyard lemon tree – for five blissful days I gave in to the impulse to do nothing much other than laze in a shaded spot in the garden, buried in a book, gin at the ready, listening to cricket on the radio.

I couldn’t help myself. The lemons made me do it. Their charms were irresistible. And while I daydreamed, their scent carried across the lawn towards me, whispering sweet nothings of curd and meringue-topped pies and sticky semolina cakes drenched in syrup and pancakes and other, more savoury delights … mussels, roast chicken, risotto …

A bit of a squeeze, you see, is never a bad thing.

But back to Hastings again. At the end of the journey, there would be lunch. Which always meant pudding. Sometimes it might be icecream and Nana’s bottled apricots. More often it would be something hot. Lemon Delicious was a firm favourite, the mixture magically separating into a light sponge with lemony custard underneath.


three large eggs, separated
half a cup of self raising flour
one cup of sugar
grated zest of one large lemon
quarter of a cup of fresh lemon juice
four tablespoons of melted butter
one and a half cups of milk

Preheat oven to 180C. Separate eggs. Beat whites until stiff. In another bowl, beat together the yolks, flour, sugar, lemon zest and juice and melted butter. Gradually stir in milk. Slowly pour lemon batter onto beaten egg whites, folding through lightly. Pour into buttered casserole. Stand dish in a roasting tin or cold water and bake for about 1 hour. Cover loosely with foil during the last 15 minutes if the pudding is browning too much. Serve warm with runny cream. Makes enough for four to six people.