Many of us enjoy cozying up with a cup of tea and watching our favourite cookery programmes but does our new-found knowledge fall by the wayside as we become caught up in our day-to-day lives, or do we put even a fraction of what we learn into practice?
At the moment Mr G and I are really enjoying Rick Stein’s beautiful India series where he visits homes of the ancient Moguls, glorious temples and roadside street vendors and then sizzles spices in a stainless steel pan in his lakeside kitchen, while we watch on salivating.
We immerse ourselves in the colour, wonder, richness and poverty of this enticing country and dream about visiting one day, though perhaps it will always stay a destination on our list, who knows. In the meantime we enjoy the cinematography and escapism during the hour-long episode each week and think about retirement…
The Golden Temple in Amritsar
The regions Rick visit seem to be split between meat-eating and vegetarian, but one practice that appears to be universal, is where Sikh gurdwaras (places of worship) encourage chefs and volunteers to cook vegetarian meals for people in need of a hot meal in langars (kitchens).
Apparently all the gurdwaras provide free food, but the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Sikh’s most holiest shrine, feeds up to 100,000 people a day, is open to every one of all religions, creeds and castes, and is paid for by worldwide donations.
Using ginormous cooking pots, they produce hundreds of thousands of meals free, every day, which is a lesson in humility some of us could learn. This idea was initiated over 500 years ago by Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion and as can be seen, is still practiced today. If you missed Rick Stein’s series where he visits the Golden Temple, photos and the scale of the operation at the Golden Temple can be found on the Aljazeera website here. A DVD of the India series is also available from Rick’s website.
Watching so many people having nutritious meals handed to them is a poignant reminder of how precious food is, yet according to figures from Stop Food Waste, a third of it is thrown away here in Ireland every year. This is an outrageous waste, an embarrassment and a travesty.
Recently, a group of us were given a series of homework tasks at a Master Composting course we’ve been attending; one of which was to take an inventory of our cupboards as part of our food waste awareness.
One cupboard I’ve wanted to tackle for a while, the only mouse proof cupboard we have in our old farmhouse, is the one where we store our baking products. Stuffed full of glass jars, containers and packets, it seemed like a great time of year to empty it, rediscover what was in there, and maybe conjure up a few meals at a time when we need to cut our weekly shop on the run up to Christmas.
Apart from all the various packets of sugar, flour, lentils and spices, I found two jars of baking powder, three tubs of black treacle, two bags of ground almonds, no muscovado sugar but three bags of chickpeas left over from my vegan sister’s visit. I can’t begin to explain how enlightening this simple project was. Apart from unearthing several potential meals in that cupboard, I now know exactly what ingredients to buy for my Christmas baking, without fear of duplicating any more.
As for those chickpeas? No better excuse for trying out one of Mr Stein’s recipes from his Indian cookbook – a simple yet very tasty chickpea curry, which having made it, we can definitely recommend.
Next on our chickpea cooking list will be the Chickpea Wellington that my sister bakes for her vegetarian family at Christmas.
Recipe for Chickpea Curry ∼ Chana Masala
Cooking time: 35 minutes once the chickpeas have been soaked and pre-cooked.
Serves 4-6 people
250g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
5 cm ginger, finely grated
2 fresh green chillies, chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (we used 1 tsp generic chilli powder)
½ tsp ground tumeric
300g vine tomatoes, skins removed after soaking in hot water, then chopped
2 tsp salt
1 tsp Garam masala
1 tbsp lemon juice
300ml water or liquor from the chickpeas
Handful of fresh, chopped coriander leaves
Bring a saucepan of water to boil then add the drained chickpeas to it, cooking for approximately an hour or until the chickpeas are soft and still hold their shape.
Reserving some of their cooking liquor, drain the chickpeas and set aside (don’t reserve the liquid if using tinned chickpeas).
Heat the vegetable oil in a pan, add the onions and fry until softened and brown then add the garlic, chilli pepper and chopped ginger. Mix together then add all the spices except for the Garam masala. Finally add the chopped tomatoes, the drained chickpeas, salt and chickpea liquor or water. Simmer for twenty minutes then stir in the Garam masala, squeeze the lemon juice over the mixture then finally scatter the coriander over the top.
Serve with a fluffy basmati rice or chapatis.
Will you take the challenge and take an inventory of your cupboards? Let me know how you get on if you do.