Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Winter Mishmash

Just before Christmas, I went to J. A. Hyman or Titanics, which is a Jewish delicatessen in North Manchester between Cheetham Hill Road and the Bury Old Road, or is it the Bury New Road. I admit here I would never have found it, had it not won City Life Food Retailer of the Year 2005 or so. So here I was, only 4 years after the media buzz. I wandered round it for ages. There were soups made by the deli which I would have been tempted to buy had I not been on my bike, in the rain with a lot of shopping to do, so I emerged with a packet of snacks. Look at how I demolished the packet as I scoffed them down:

Yes, falafel flavour snacks. I loved them. Crunchy extruded wheat shapes with a good dose of salt and MSG, and yes, they did taste falafel-y. If I saw them again, I would buy them, but I don't think I would go from South Manchester to North just to get them. Of course, I could use the online service. Their motto: “You shop, we schlepp”.

Then for Christmas, I went to my parents'. We didn't do Christmas; my mother had held a ceremony, and had catered for all invited so we were eating leftovers for days afterwards. The one I most enjoyed and the one which I should make is shrikhand. That's not how I would pronounce it, but that is the spelling you would put into a search engine if you wanted to find recipes. It's an Indian dessert of curd cheese, sometimes strained yogurt and sometimes cream, flavoured with sugar and ground cardomom. Slivered almonds, pistachios, and saffron strands are optional tasty additions. I ate lots of it.

I didn't do any cooking whilst there; it's hard to have free reign of an unfamiliar and small kitchen, especially one without an oven or a grill or half the ingredients you are used to using. Hardest of all is trying to cook in the knowledge that my father doesn't like too much garlic and my mother doesn't really like anything which isn't spicy.

So I made these:

If I could call them anything, it might be mini bubble and squeaks. I based them on my mother's moothia (literally "fistfuls") of spicy vegetable matter held together with gram flour and lightly fried. It is mainly grated parsnip with a bit of carrot and savoy cabbage with the merest seasoning and three strokes of cinnamon stick on a grater. None of these are particularly starchy, so to bind them together, I used that afternoon's leftover white cooked rice. I could have added a bit more, they fell apart very easily, but once they did, they fried pretty nicely.

Last night, I heated Habanero chilli flakes (a Christmas present!) in oil and shallow fried blocks of tofu before adding to a stir fry. It gave them a really nice subtle flavour and a jolly golden colour. It's good to be back on the cooking saddle.