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Last Postcard from Grenada

I spent my last couple of hours in Grenada putting together this post. I hit publish, boarded the plane, and got back today. Only when I hit publish, my post disappeared into some unknown ether. Gone from drafts to nowhere I can find, so I have just put it together again, with a very sleepy head.

Recipes, Grenada restaurants and more soon. Enjoy my last postcard for now :)

Grenada

Buying Jacks (small fish) in the blazing sunshine in Grenada

Selling jacks on the key in Grenada

Grenada

Old phone boxes, Grenada

Happy Hill, Grenada

Fisherman, Grenada

Buying nutmeg in the shell at the nutmeg factory, Grenada

Victoria Secrets, Grenada

The wild Atlantic, North Grenada

Met this guy sun drying his own cocoa in his driveway – most people have their own trees and do this

Bananas, Grenada

The Pink Palace, Grenada

Lush gorgeous rainforest in Grenada (the monkeys are in there!)

Avocados on the tree, Grenada

Vanilla on the vine, Grenada

Charlie at Charlie’s Bar, Grenada

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A Postcard from Grenada

Grenada

Grenada

I can’t quite believe that my week on this beautiful Caribbean island is coming to an end, but it is. It has been quite the non-stop adventure. I am busier here than I am in London, simply because there is so much that I want to see, and taste.

Lets start with an overview, and I will be back with more details and videos soon. More photos too, as this is really just the very tip of what I have taken.

Nutmeg in the shell, Grenada

Nutmeg in the shell, Grenada

Mace drying the sun, Grenada

Mace drying the sun, Grenada

Sun dried mace, Grenada

Sun dried mace, Grenada

Nutmeg, with mace, in the fruit - all parts are used

Nutmeg, with mace, in the fruit – all parts are used

Met this young guy on the road, Grenada

Met this young guy on the road, Grenada

The lovely folks at Belmont Estate, Grenada

The lovely folks at Belmont Estate, Grenada

Grenada Chocolate Company

Grenada Chocolate Company

Selling fresh fish from the back of a truck - jacks, very popular and in season now

Selling fresh fish from the back of a truck – jacks, very popular and in season now

Sorrel at the market, Grenada

Sorrel at the market, Grenada

Land crabs at the market, Grenada

Land crabs at the market, Grenada

The fish market, Grenada

The fish market, Grenada

Selling offal soup at the meat market, Grenada

Selling offal soup at the meat market, Grenada

Eating Crab Back at BB's Crab Back, Grenada

Eating Crab Back at BB’s Crab Back, Grenada

Land Crab, at BB's, Grenada

Land Crab, at BB’s, Grenada

Harvesting cocoa at Belmont Estate, Grenada

Harvesting cocoa at Belmont Estate, Grenada

Harvesting cocoa at Belmont Estate, Grenada

Harvesting cocoa at Belmont Estate, Grenada

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Recipe: To Dal, Daal, Dhal, or Dahl, that is the question

I hate confusing spellings and names. Why the world can’t agree to spell and name everything the way I do, I just don’t know. University was a high point of this, not only can’t the US and UK agree on spellings, they give the same thing different words at times: adrenaline meet epinephrine. Oh! We look the same? Well, you are the same. The very same, but people like to call you different things.  Gah!

It haunts me still in my world of cookery. Sichuan or Szechuan? I’ve seen both in print from reputable sources. What’s haunting me today is the most perplexing of all: Dal, Daal, Dhal, or Dahl? Again, all are online and in print. These last two we can only blame ourselves for. We can’t seem to agree how these words should appear in English. I want someone to tell me! Do you know?

For now, I am sticking with dal, I’ve been told that the correct pronunciation is with a long a. So daaaal could be our new spelling. However you spell it, it’s a great dish. Pulses are so very underrated, and when you add spices and other accoutrements, they absolutely come to life and sing. It’s a fantastic budget dish too and a great illustration of what can be produced with a little time, effort and a lot of love.

There are many versions, and most cooks have their own. I traditionally make a Tarka (also called Tadka) Dal where the pulses are cooked with turmeric with some tempered spices added at the end (these are the tarka). This is a delicious way to do it, the spice flavours are really bold and fresh and the dish is really zingy. Sometimes, when I prefer something a bit more gentle, I add the spices at the start and cook the lentils with them, adding other items like tomatoes and fresh coriander with some lemon at the end. I also like to put a few eggs in for the last ten minutes and serve the dal hot over halved peeled boiled eggs.

Gorgeous blossoms in the garden

Gorgeous blossoms in the garden

A vegetarian friend was visiting in advance of her move to India. We were going to eat in the sunny back garden and I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate to cook. Golden yellow dal with sunny egg yolks peeping out from behind chunks of red tomato and flecks of green coriander, begging to be eaten, as we basked in the sun under the lovely blossoms.

Recipe notes: The chana dal can also be bought as yellow split peas. They’re my favourite for dal as they have a lovely texture and retain their shape. Some people soak them, but there’s no need, unlike other pulses they won’t poison you, they will just take longer to cook (about 35/40 minutes, depending on their freshness). I added the tomatoes before the end as I had spashed out on some delicious English heritage tomatoes that were big, juicy and meaty, and I wanted to retain that flavour & texture in the dal, and not have them become mushy with longer cooking. If you can’t get tomatoes like this, I would recommend getting some small juicy tomatoes, if you can only get water bombs, add them earlier but try not to use them – they’re awful.

A note on the spices. You get much superior flavour from fresh whole spices that you toast and then grind. It seems like a lot of effort, but it’s not really and the return for that little bit of time and effort in flavour makes it a great trade. Try it – I am sure that you will agree.

Gorgeous blossoms in the garden

Gorgeous blossoms in the garden

Dal Recipe – makes enough for 4

Ingredients

500g Chana Dal
2 red chillis, finely chopped (enough for a bit of a kick – use one if you want mild)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seed
I tbsp turmeric
2 big tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and chopped or a handful of small ones, diced
1 tbsp red pepper flakes (optional)
a handful of coriander leaves, chopped (best to chop jyst before you serve for colour and freshness)
a fresh lemon
one egg per person – the best you can afford, I like Old Cotswold Legbar which have a gorgeous big yolk. Burford Browns are good too.
sea salt

Method:

Dry roast the coriander and cumin seeds for 30 seconds or so over a high heat in a dry frying pan to release the oils and therefore the flavours. Once you can smell the spices, they’re ready to grind, take care not to burn them. Grind them to a powder using a pestle and mortar (my preference) otr electric spice grinder.

Fry the garlic, chilli and ginger in some light oil (groundnut or sunflower work) for a minute or so, taking care not to burn the garlic as it will become bitter. Add the ground spices and fry for a further minute.

Add the chana dal, turmeric, red pepper if you’re using it and enough water to cover the chana dal with an inch to spare. Bring to the boil and cook for 25 minutes at a lower heat ensuring that it cooks at that tenperature but doesn’t explode all over your hob! Add water if it looks like it’s getting dry.

Add the tomatoes and your eggs and cook for a further ten minutes. If the dal is cooked it will be tender, it may need another few minutes if it’s a little old.

Add the coriander and a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. Season with salt to taste. Serve the dal over the boiled eggs, shelled and halved.

Enjoy!

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Spiced Chickpeas with Spinach

Yum scrum! Spiced chickpeas with spinach. The humble chickpea, small and nutty, packed full of protein and fibre. So tasty and cheap, I bow before thee. I first had chickpeas in a youth hostel in Rome many years ago, at the tender age of 19. A fellow youthful traveller was eating them out of a tin that he had hacked open with a swiss army knife, I was curious and had to try. I’ve never looked back.

I love chickpeas, whether they are in dips, stews or curries. In salads with cheeses, herbs and tomatoes. I like them baked as a snack or spiced in a pitta. Like all pulses, it is worth making the effort soaking dried ones over night and cooking them until tender, if reasonably fresh, usually for an hour or so. There’s no comparison for me between dried and tinned – the texture of those cooked from dried is so much better, firm to the bite, rich in flavour and not waterlogged like tinned.

Earlier this week, I soaked and cooked off a big bag of dried chickpeas, and, for that evening, spiced about 2 tins worth with spinach and froze the rest. It’s a quick dish with tasty results. This will serve 4 and is good served stuffed in toasted pitta bread. [Read more]