A lot of my favourite meals of late have been picnics out in our local park: sandwiches with Nutcrafter frawmage and salad, crackers and hummus, Ten Acre crisps, cake, and bottles of gin and tonic. I haven't managed to photo any of them, but they were so, so good.
But back in my kitchen - after visiting the Thenga Cafe not so long ago, and having reveries about the cabbage masala ever since, I decided to try and reconstruct the same joy at home.
Here's what I managed, using this here recipe:
It was several country miles away from the happy stomach-pleasing world of Thenga, but a respectable effort. I'm always a big fan of brassicas' work, so I knew me and cabbage masala would always get along, but I think this is the sort of dish that might persuade cabbaged-dodgers to give it one more go.
Another despatch from the world of things I'd never thought I'd make: homemade beans on toast. Beans are something you get out of a can, and cost you not very much indeed. I managed to come home late one night after a couple of beers, promising my beloved a can of aforesaid beans on aforesaid toast, only to find out the cupboard was bare of aforesaid canned delights.
It's alright, I said, I can make baked beans! If you're from the deep south, I dare say such an idea might seem quite a normal one. But in South London, it's like saying you'll just whip up some water by bonding hydrogen and oxygen: sure, you might be able to pull it off, but why would you try?
But needs must, and I had to attempt the impossible. I blended some ripe tomatoes, stock, spices and thickened it up with some potato starch. I used black eyed beans because we had an abundance of them in the cupboard.
And they were good. Really good. I was so impressed, I kind of wished I'd written the recipe down so I could make them again (I know - it's culinary heresy!)
In other experiments, I've been making dhokla - little savoury chickpea flour cakes that have a wonderful bouncy texture. The recipes I found online normally call for dairy yoghurt, but it's no bother to sub it for coconut or soya. They also normally call for steaming the dhokla in one big cake and then cutting it up, but I putting it into silicone cupcake cases seemed to work too.
The curry is my standard issue chick pea, potato, and spinach (based on this recipe) but with some tomatoes added into it for a bit of moisture. If everyone in the world was as reliable and good as this curry, it would be a lovely place.
Talking of shortcuts, I've been putting my all-purpose spicy sauce to good use as a tofu marinade.
The weather here has been crazy hot. Yes, London does get crazy hot occasionally. Well, hot for England. Late twenties centigrade, that sort of thing. Hot enough that guys start going to the pub and supermarket without their tops on - not so good, Al.
It does mean that I've just been wanting to eat salad a lot more than I normally do. I never normally make salad, you see - Mr Flicking the Vs describes salad as "crunchy water", and he kind of has a point. But if you put a bit of spicy tofu on it, even the humble crunchy water can justify its existence.