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Thursday, 11 January 2018

Four Emotions?

So...
It turns out that we can all only ever experience four biologically based human emotions:
Happy
Sad
Afraid/Surprised
Angry/Disgusted

Yup.

So says the research from the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow.
Apparently, where now there are four, there used to be six - namely:
Happy
Sad
Afraid
Surprised
Angry
Disgusted

And now, as I said, there are four.

There's no cause for undue alarm - two weren't murdered or anything. They were just clubbed together with others. So, for instance, the researchers found that in the early stages of the emotions, anger and disgust looked very similar in that they shared a wrinkled nose, as did surprise and fear, which shared raised eyebrows. I don't know about you, but my eyebrows are pretty raised at the moment, and my nose too - quite wrinkled.  Very wrinkled in fact. Must be too much sun. In this sun-less island. Yeah.
Anyway, so it was found that it was only in later stages - as the feelings took hold - that our faces showed a distinction between these two sets of emotions, suggesting, the researchers say, that the distinction between anger and disgust and between surprise and fear, is socially, not biologically based.

Hmm...
Don't know if I can really get my head around that.
Because I'm not entirely sure - as bioligical creatures in a social world - how to disaggregate. How do you disaggregate?

Notwithstanding all that, though...
Four emotions? Or even six? Six?
Huh? How's it even possible to distill the wide spectrum of human emotion into six categories?
Take me, for example. The day I display one of these above six emotions is sort of a highly anomolous 'boring-day-in-the-life-of...'
Happy? I'm rarely "happy." Ecstatic, yes. Happy, no.
Anger? Rarely. Irritation, yes. Lots. But raise the stakes on irritation and it's not anger, see, no, nothing so mild - it's outrage.

Boredom? How about boredom? I mean I don't know about you, but I live in a state of perpetual boredom.
And what of the others?
How about contempt?
Wonder?
Anxiety? Terror? Desire? Despair? Joy? Anticipation?
And LOVE? The greatest emotion of all. What of Love?

Aha.
And therein, I rest my case. For nothing trumps love. Nor ever will.

But maybe we, or they rather - the clever neuroscience and psychology researchers - pare things down - they distil - in order to come up with a sort of middle-of-the-road scenario, to simplify an already overcomplicated world. Averages are good. Averages are normal. And normal is good. And beautiful. And predictable. Like the bell curve.

The problem with people like me, I guess, is that I don't really fit the bell curve; I'm hanging off it.
I don't do averages. Or normal. Or beautiful. Or predictable.
It's just the way I was made.
And, so, I'm guessing, was the creator of the Emoji.
I mean, have you ever gone through the whole range of those tiny round yellow faces? I have. There's 2,666 of them.
Yup.
So, imagine telling this creator person that 2,662 of his (or her) lovely little pictographic expressions are basically redundant? That really only 4 exist (research says) - the happy face, the sad face, the angry face and the afraid face...
Imagine that! I'm not a betting person, but if I was, I'm betting that the reaction you'd get wouldnt exactly be contained within four emotions...
So yeah.
I guess, he (or she) isn't a big believer of the 4-emotion theory either.
Like me.
And Stir-fried Tofu.
We are in the same bucket, emoji-maker, me, and stir-fried tofu.
The stuff of extremes. Yeah.

Here's what you need:
  • 2 x 150g packs tofu pieces
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 140g soya bean
  • 2 heads pak choi, quartered
  • Handful, chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
  • 1 bunch spring onions, sliced
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 ½ tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 whole dried red chillis
  • 25g roasted cashew nuts
Here's how you do it:
Heat the oil in a non-stick wok. Add the broccoli, then fry on a high heat for 5 minutes or until just tender, adding a little water as necessary. Add the garlic and chilli, fry for 1 minute, then toss through the spring onions, soya beans, mushrooms, pak choi and tofu. Stir-fry for a few minutes. Add the chillies, hoisin and soy sauces. Drizzle the nuts on top for that flavour and crunch.
Serve with steamed rice.

And prepare to be many things.
Many hyperbolic things. #no4emotionbs.
10 mins to prep. 10 mins to cook. And so, so good. 
How can that just make you happy?
Not bell-curve material, this. Try it and let me know!  Don't worry, if you don't like it, I won't be "angry."

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Pesto - that gorgeous, desirable, irresistable hunk of happiness...

Pesto.
Say that word. No really, say it out loud. Feel it on your palette, the sound of those letters. Pesssto...
Mmm. Mmm. Mmm.
Pesssto...

Yeah.

Now, pesto, if you haven't figured it out by now, is a man.
See, I have this thing about my condiments being gendered. It helps me in the kitchen when I think about them this way. It gives them personality. And personality is necessary. It's about the only way you can get food to come alive.
So, for example, ketchup is female, mustard is male. Tobasco is male, sweet chilli sauce is definitely female. Mayonnaise, female; soy sauce male.
Get my drift?
You're shaking your heads right now, I see it, I see it.
I don't blame you, really.
I am a proper raving lunatic, sometimes I wonder how I'm even allowed to roam free.
But stay with me, people! Madness is more fun in large groups.

Yup...

So.
Moving on.
Pesto is male. Deffo.
And the beauty of this particular male is his versatility. Which sounds a bit like virility. Which isn't a coincidence at all.
Nosiree.
Because, pesto, you see, is a special sort of man, a kind of magician, really. He morphs from one thing to another effortlessly - he's a marinade, he's a sauce, he's a cooking medium, he's a spread, he's a salad dressing, he's a dip!
He's one thing one day, and another thing another day. I mean, what more could a girl want, than this much variety?
Like really. Think: Do most males have more than one use? (No, really).
Well, this one's got endless uses! A little perspectivity, people!

I'm such a feminist rabble rouser, I crack myself up. Just kidding. I HEART men. I do, I do!

But stop!
Stop
Right
Here

Because, it's important (imho) to know, before delving into everything one can do with this incredible stuff,  what this incredible stuff is. See, pesto, more formally known as Pesto alla Genovese is a Ligurian sauce-type mush originating, as its name implies, from, yes - Genoa! (drumroll please) (grazie). Strictly speaking, pesto is a generic term for anything that is made by pounding (etymology: pestare -> pesto -> ground/crush), but pesto, as we know it generically, is really a mortar-and-pestle pounded mixture of basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, coarse salt, and a mixture of hard cheeses - Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino - all blended together with olive oil.

Yum.

Confession:  I don't make it. Though I could. As could you. Anything I can do, you can do better. Trust me.
No really, it's very easy. Just replace mortar-and-pestle with one of man's greatest inventions (no, NOT the potato peeler - the food processor) chuck the above ingredients in and process away. There. Done. Happiness. Great, green globs of it.
But no, I don't make it. Mostly because I don't need to. Because I get  this lovely stuff,  in the supermarket in this lovely place called England. So I just buy it, unscrew the lid, and then I proceed to OD on it. It. Him. Whatever.
He makes me very happy.
And he's consistent.
He consistently makes me happy.
Which isn't what I've found with most men. That's the real heart of the problem.

Anyhow.

Here's some of what I've done with Mr. Pesto:

1) Used as a dip for an oven warmed, crusty baguette...
2) As salad dressing with rocket leaves and sun dried tomatoes...
3) Spread on pizza crust, a happy substitute for red sauce...
4)  Mixed with mayonnaise (yes, male and female makes many fireworks) and spread on a panini...tomatoe slices, cheese, ham. Or no ham. Olives...
5) Mixed into pasta - penne or bowtie. With a drizzle of pine nuts. Salmon.  Or no salmon...
6) Fresh tomato salad with mozzarella chunks and this beautiful pesto stuff...
7) Stirred into normal store bought hummus...
8) Dolloped upon ANY steamed vegetable plus a wedge of lemon...
9) As a marinade for most meats before grilling them...
10) Drizzled on top of soups and stews for a delightful basil kick...

Try it. Him.
He's swoon-worthy. He'll give you happiness. Oodles of it.
I'm telling you. And I'm picky.
Especially when it comes to men.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Two and a Half Years

Gee Whizz, has it been two and a half years since I was last here?
Really?
Two and a half years!
That's more than half the time my youngest son has been on this earth. Just to kind of put things in dramatic perspective. Because I've always loved a bit of drama. You know?
But what's odd is how two and some years seem - at the same time - both very long and very not, like all this time has passed in a flash, like some sort of time warp, in a kind of dream-like reverie, where you go to sleep and then you wake up, and it's two and a half years later.

Just
Like
That

Anyhow, this post isn't about food, because two and a half years later, it turns out that I've forgotten how to cook (gasp). Which makes this post, masquerading under a food blog rather fraudulent (sorry), but it really isn't about food. It isn't really about anything. It's just to say hello.
Well, hello!
Which is something that is as strange and wonderful for me as it must be to you, because I actually haven't said hello in about two and a half years. To anyone. On or off screen. It's not you, you see, it's me. Yup. That old ditty.
So, this is the thing with writing books, right? You forget common civilities. Like saying hello. And goodbye. And how are you. And things. I'd read about this, about other people who write books, clever people, good books - I'd read this about them, about what happens to them, the book inching forward slowly and stealthily into their lives, silently, like a thief in the night, and then suddenly, before they even realise anything strange is happening, it had already happened. "It" has spread it's invisible tentacles around them and taken over their very existence.
The book. That book. Their book. Their lives.

God. How I rejected that idea! It's a dead idea, that idea, I thought, the idea that a book begins to dominate your entire sense of being, like that. How weak were those people? How could they allow such a transgression? How could they not have the willpower to seperate work from life? Strike a balance? Tune out?
Those people. Those people. Those people.

Ah, the hubris.

That book. Their book. Their lives. My book. This book. My life.
Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
It's positively inexplicable how it happens. How quickly it happens. How quietly.
It's insidious really, like a disease you don't even know you have.
Those characters in your head, the imaginary ones, become - and so rapidly - so real, so tangible, you smell them, you feel them, you dream about them at night, you see them across the dining table as you eat your food, staring at the flesh-and-blood people in your life blankly, as if they are there but not quite.

The writer's mind is a selfish one.
Nothing matters.
Nothing matters.
Except The Book.
The Book.

Everything else is peripheral. A distraction. Or a purpose. A use. A means to an end. How do these flesh-and-blood people serve the purposes of my book? you start to think. How can I just get rid of them so I can write in peace? Or better, how can I USE them to advance my narrative?  Anything - snippets of conversation or stories from their lives become relevant only in the myopic context of the book. What can I do with this? How can I tie it in?  How can I make it better?
It's shameful.
Sinful almost.
You lose friends. You hurt people. You can't sleep. You're guilt-ridden. Only you don't feel it.
Your brain is numbed.
By The Book.
You're on a running path with wings on your soles.
You're flying.
You cannot stop.
You cannot help yourself. You're IN it. You're consumed.
By The Book.

In fact the more I stop and think about it, this is the really serious thing about writing, this thing that differentiates writers from everyone (and there are many) who can write. It isn't about talent. It's about the isolation. Having the capacity to deal with isolation. To be alone. 
Not many of us do.
And really, why should we?
We are social creatures, tribe making comes naturally to us. This is perhaps the most pleasurable part of the act of going to work for most of us, the social - human - interaction with our colleagues. This is what we bring back home after a day's work, who said what, what happened to whom, the news of the day.
There's no such thing in a writer's world. There's no news. Nothing happens.
And that's hard. It's lonely. It's horrible, truly. But then some of us can't help it - we are born with it, some sort of condition that takes over rational thought and sweeps us away and makes it all ok.
The isolation. The lonliness. The angst.

For my part, it was pretty early on that I realised I was ok being alone. Come to think of it, I was good at being alone, in some ways I preferred being alone.
So there you go.
Writing for me is physiological. Like hunger or sleep. I feel it in my bones, the desire to go forth and create words that try so hard to mean something. To live in imaginary worlds at the expense of a real one.
That's what I've been doing. Publicly for the last two and a half years, and privately, for my entire life.
Feeding it, that hunger, that urge.
That urge.
That crazed, manic, all-consuming urge.
It's a creature, that urge, living and breathing, and always present, subliminally, beneath the surface. Or awake, in all it's beautifully hideous glory.
It's dormant, my creature, for the moment, but the seeds of tomorrow have already been sown and as you sow, so shall you reap.
I know it will surface again soon.
And I will not be able to wave it away. And then, once again, it will take over. Me and everything that's mine. I shudder at the thought, for while it is joyful, it is also frightening.
To lose control in that manner.
To be controlled.
But until then, here I am.
Just saying Hello.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

On Passion

Inspired by a friend with whom I was engaged in animated discussion on the right way to eat a passionfruit

Placing it on a cutting board and opening it up neatly with a knife, before scooping it out into a bowl and then eating it with a spoon
OR
Ripping open the fruit with one's hands and biting directly into the flesh

--------------------------------------

It's the end of something.
But the beginning - new and wondrous - of something else.
My first born has now lived half a decade.

And I am trying to get my head around the reality of it all.
Was it really only five years ago that he was inside me, another heartbeat, distinct from my own, and yet so intertwined that sometimes it confused me. When I heard that silent beating of our two hearts, it confused me, whose heartbeat was whose.

And yet on the eve of the fifth year of his life, I contemplate the boy he has become. And I don't do this with the rose tinted adoration of a mother, with the fierce loyalty and the deep biases that come, almost naturally, with my role. I do it objectively. Because I feel I should. I do it with my husband as we sit together on a Saturday night, feet up, with a glass of wine.

And while we applaud him - our little son, just turned five - for his independence, his unwavering moral compass, the sheer strength of his convictions, his ability to know - with such confidence - his own mind, we also shake our heads.
Yes, we shake our heads, and we furrow our brows and ponder ways with which to soften his edges.
"He's too loud," we say. Too rough. Too excited."
"He can't sit still. Can't focus. Why is he so restless?" we ask.
"Jumps headlong into things without thinking. Needs taming. Calming down."

"He's hard work," says my husband, leaning back into the sofa with a sigh.
It seems to neatly sum it up

Because you see, the other two boys in my life are so...easy.
My younger son is peaceful and happy going, social and gentle. He sits still and does what he's told. Calm and predictable. Lovely. A total and complete pleasure.

And Sid...
Sid is measured and rooted.
A man of few words, of little outward expression.
Quiet and deep.
And yet many times, in these years we have been together I am jolted by the intensity of it, this love that he is capable of, the selfless unconditional expanse of it.
Like the sands of the Sinai, burnished gold in the setting sun, uniform - but vast, unending.
Every now and then, there is a mirage, but only I can see it.
To the rest of the world it is just that, a mirage. An illusion...elusive, a trick of the mind.
But to me, it's real. A break from character, an unpredictability - playful, devious.
And I love it. The private mystery of it.
It's what drew us together so many years ago, it's what keeps us together now. Forever.

Our older son is different.
He loves openly and publicly.
Unabashedly.
He will not hesitate to scream "I love you" from the gates of his school where I drop him every morning, his voice resonating, for all the world to hear.
His kisses and his cuddles - private or public alike - are fierce and passionate, with a roughness that is startling even to me.
His is a different kind of love. Selfish and demanding.
When he gives, he gives his all. He is all consuming - of himself and of others.

And as I write these very words, as they come into my head, I am suddenly overwhelmed. And I have to stop mid-sentece, and find my husband, and tell him. Because - with our son, perhaps...just perhaps...

His trying ways
His quirks and flaws and imperfections
Are all too familiar

And I realise this now, somehow, suddenly.
When I look in the mirror.
And I see him.

----------------------------------------

Mango and Passionfruit Crumble

Here's what you need:

- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 6 tbsp cold butter
- 2/3 cup rolled oats
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 ripe mangoes - peeled and cubed
- 2 passion fruit
- 1 tbsp lime juice


Here's how you do it:

Preheat oven to 175 degrees C.
Mix the flour and brown sugar in a bowl, and cut the butter into the flour-sugar mixture. Mix well together until well combined and the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the oats, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and stir well.
Place the mango cubes on the bottom of a baking dish, and spoon the passion fruit pulp over the mango. The drizzle some lime juice over the fruit. Cover the fruit with the crumble mixture. Bake in the preheated oven until the top has browned and the fruit is caramelised. Serve with vanilla ice cream or fresh custard.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

5-Minute Chicken Fried Rice

So, most happily, I whipped this up from start to finish in under 5 minutes.
Totally serious.
One minute it wasn't there and the next minute it was.
Well not technically, the next minute. That would be a gross exaggeration.
But - in the next 4 minutes - it was. That would be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God.

!??

(Officially lost the plot today. Much too much going on. Brain damaged now. What brain you ask. Good question that.)

Anyway.

Honestly, though, this is one of those recipes that elicits funny phrases like "are you kidding me?" or "you're not kidding me!" or “Whaaaaa?” or “No way!” or "Ya way?" and such-like expressions of amazement over how something that can be made so quickly could possibly result in something so, so good.

But it can!
And it does!
I just did!
So there. Hmph.

See, fried rice is fried rice and no two recipes are ever identical, but mostly they amount to this pretty basic cast of characters:

1) Rice (but of course)
2) Chicken (yes, same)
3) Eggs
4) Peas
5) Sesame oil
6) Soy sauce

And you just mix the whole motley crew together in a sizzling pan and there you have it.
See?
Simples.
(I dig Alexander the Meerkat, in case that bell didn't ring)
(It's ok, don't worry, I'm not judging - my bell hasn't rung in quite some years actually)

But anyway.

Here's how much of each you need:

- 2-3 chicken thighs
- 3 cups cooked rice
- 2 Tbs sesame oil
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 2-3 Tbs soy sauce (more or less to taste)
- 2 eggs,  beaten
- 2 Tbsp chopped green onions (optional)

I use chicken thighs because the danger in fried rice is that the chicken dries out. Thigh meat is always, always more moist and succulent than breast meat and so, when cooking chicken, it's my cut of choice any day and in almost any recipe. This is particularly the case when cooking something like fried rice where you really don't want to be fighting (and losing) with tough, over cooked chicken. Frankly speaking, winning or losing is rather a moot point because really, one generally doesn't want to be fighting with a chicken. Overcooked or not.

So...

Anyway, here's how you do it:

Preheat a large skillet or wok to medium heat. Pour in some of the sesame oil. When smoking hot - and I mean smoking really, (think Giselle) - add in the chicken and quickly stir fry until cooked. Now, remove from heat into another container and wait for it to cool and then when you are positively sure that you won't burn your hands - because I will never, ever, ever forgive myself if you do - shred it neatly and nicely like good little girls and boys always do.

Now, add some more oil to the same wok and pour in the beaten eggs. Using a spatula, scramble the eggs expertly like you know what you're doing. Pretending is key. Trust me, I do it all the time.

Now, once cooked, add in the peas, rice and chicken to the egg mixture. Add in the soy sauce on top for salt and flavour (and msg) (we love msg) (thank you mum, dad and China). Stir and fry the rice and veggie mixture until heated through and combined. Add chopped green onions if you like. Or don't, if you don't like.

Now for the BEST bit.
Turn off flame, grab a fork and eat from pan.
Not.
I mean I did, but don't be like me...

Monday, 28 September 2015

Blackmailed!


I've been put on the spot by a very special friend who's just messaged me saying "Write--or cook--cuz now I'm hungry
wink emoticon xxx"

Hmmm...

Now that's what one calls proper emotional blackmail.
Which has properly worked.
Because if I ignored hunger pangs from anyone, let alone those of a friend, what kind of foodie would that make me seriously?
Because any foodie worth their salt NEVER ignores hunger pangs.
And so the fire has been lit.

And I scratch the itch to cook.
And to write.

Which is why I always say it's a good idea to have something up your sleeve that you can cook quickly, and simply, when you've got friends coming over at short notice.
Or you get cyber-emotionally-blackmailed
(What a ridiculous world we live in!)

So, anyway, where was I?
Yes, good idea to have something etc.
This is that thing.

When I asked said friend what they fancied, they replied with - "ok am about to go to the gym so maybe a nice post workout meal. Some kind of thai or asian chicken/fish curry?"

Your wish is my command, I aim to please, etc etc etc.
So Asian Fish Curry it is.
I had most of the ingredients in my store cupboard, but if you don't, it's an easy shop for stuff that will come in handy several times over.

Here's what you need:

- 1 400 ml tin coconut milk
- 1 - 2 tablespoon thai curry paste (I only happen to have yellow on me, but it works as well with red)
- 1 kilogram pumpkin or butternut squash peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
- 500 grams salmon fillets (pref organic) skinned and cut into large bite sized chunks
- pak choi (or any other green veg of your choice)
- 350 ml fish stock
- 3 tablespoons thai fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 3 kaffir lime leaves (if possible)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric


Here's how you do it:

Pour about a quarter of the coconut milk into a large saucepan with the curry paste on medium heat. Let it sizzle and, using a fork, beat the mixture together until well combined.
Now, add in the rest of the coconut milk, fish stock, fish sauce, sugar,  lime leaves and turmeric. Bring to a boil and then add the pumpkin/squash. Simmer on low heat until the pumpkin is tender, with just a tiny bit of bite to it.
Now, add in the salmon until cooked through, 3-4 minutes, stir in any green veg you're using - sliced, chopped or shredded as your little heart desires - and mix in.
When the vegetables have wilted, squeeze in the juice of half a lime, stir and taste and add the juice of the remaining half if you feel it needs it. Take the pan off the heat or and eat with some plain basmati or Thai rice.

Flavourful, nutritious, aromatic, filling and delicious - a perfect post work out meal, I hope?

P.S. - Sorry for the delay. I went for my 5K run.
(As you knew I would)
x








Thursday, 25 June 2015

Cheat Smart - Coconut Prawn Curry and Red Rice

I'm all for a little cheating.
But only on our diets! :)
In all other aspects of life, I would only ever advocate the path of inordinate virtuousness. For, you see, I am the personification of inordinate virtue.
Ha.

No, but seriously, coming back to food and nutrition, no matter how disciplined we might be, we all need to cheat every now and then to keep our sanity - I certainly do!
So, odd as it seems, it’s actually easier to stick to a healthy eating plan if you cut yourself a bit of slack every now and then.

I would only ask before you cheat, that you do two things:
1) That you recognise you are cheating when you're cheating
2) That you cheat for something that's worth it

With regards to my first point, it's simply being aware that you are cheating. In other words, recognise, acknowledge and accept that you are using up your brownie points (pun not intended!)  - so don’t eat your treat mindlessly in front of the TV or computer. Unfortunately, the lives we all seem to lead don't embrace eating and enjoying our food; we are obligated almost, to try and be productive at all times.

Don't be.
Rebel a little.

Have you heard that wonderful song by Ottis Redding - "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay"?
It goes like this:
"I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay
Watchin' the tide roll away, ooh
I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay
Wastin' time"

I love these words. They sound so dreamy and faraway. And so hopelessly impractical. Which is why I love these words. Because being productive 24/7 is highly overrated.

So - and really this is true for every time you put food in your mouth, and especially so for cheat meals -  take your time, sit down, focus on your food and thoroughly enjoy every last bit.

With regards to my second point - make it count. Cheat smart.
And this really depends on you individually.
Because there's a big difference between enjoying your favourite foods once in a while and eating everything you adore. The key to maintaining some degree of control, is deciding what you want, how much you want, and then soldiering towards it in its most intense and tasty form.

See, for me, willpower is like a muscle - it can be trained. And I've trained myself over the years that even when I want to cheat, I will rarely crave, say a donut. Or french fries. I just won't. And you will see that as your body becomes healthier - and cleaner - even the foods that you cheat with will become less and less unhealthy. Your body, over time, will learn this. Instinctively. Effortlessly.

So instead of grabbing a a large bagel with your coffee as your treat and distractedly downing hundreds of doughy calories, splurge on something worth savoring. Something you love.

For me, because I don't have a sweet tooth, I crave savoury hits of flavour - the more complex the better. This is the kind of stuff that's got hints of sweet and hints of sour and hints of heat and hints of umami (but naturally) all packaged together beautifully into one delicious dish.

I'm going today for Coconut Prawn Curry and Red Rice, a food that's admittedly not top of the list on the naughty spectrum, but rice (even if its blushing) is still carbs and my prawn curry would not taste half as good without the liberal amounts of (high calorie) coconut milk I put it in. So, I am still cheating - I'm just cheating smart.

First things first, what is red rice?
Red rice, for the uninitiated, is generally unhulled or partially hulled rice which has a red husk. It's distinctive for it's nutty flavor, and as the germ of the rice is left intact, it has high nutritional value relative to other carbs. Ironically, it is much cheaper than regular white rice. When I let myself drift back, years and years ago to my childhood days in Madras, it was always the household help who would eat red rice. Unbeknownst to my mother, I'd often barely touch the lunch my parents and I were served on the dining table, and then I'd sneak in to the kitchen afterwards, while they were eating, sitting cross legged on the floor on large stainless steel plates and ask for their rice. Even then, within the inner workings of my 4-year old brain, I had it figured out that what they were eating was far, far tastier than what we were being served.

Now Goan prawn curry (not totally confined to Goa as it does travel up the konkan coast to Mangalore, albeit with a few variations) for those who haven't tried it before - is a revelation. 
Plump, juicy, tender prawns in a coconut rich, hot and sour curry is simply glorious. Try it, I assure you, you will become quite addicted.

Here's what you need:
- 1 tbsp sunflower oil
- 250g raw prawns, peeled and deveined
- 1 onion, finely chopped

- 1 tbsp ginger, grated or cut finely
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 4 dry kashmiri red chilies
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 5-6 curry leaves (optional)
- 3 tbsp tamarind pulp or 1 raw mango chopped length wise into 2 pieces or 3 tbsp tomato paste (whatever you have handy)
- 400ml can full fat coconut milk
- 2 tsp sugar
- Salt to taste



Here's how you do it:
Marinate prawns with little salt and set aside.
Heat the oil and once hot, fry the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli for 5 mins until starting to soften. Next add in your sour ingredient - the raw mango or tamarind paste or tomato paste, sugar and salt and mix well. Stir in the prawns and cook until the prawns turn pink. Finally, turn the heat down, add in the coconut milk and simmer for 2 mins on low heat.

I do my tadka separately. I fry the curry leaves and red chillies, in hot oil until sizzling and aromatic, then I stir it into the finished dish: to me, this quick and simple final touch really lifts the flavours. 

I cook the red rice the exact same way I cook regular white rice. I use a little olive oil to soften the rice, because the husk makes it naturally tougher. So, first I rinse the rice in water. Then I heat some oil in a pot, add in the rice and stir for 2 minutes. I add water and bring the whole pot to a boil. Then, I lower the heat, cover the pot and cook until liquid is fully absorbed. 

To serve, spoon the prawn curry - decadently rich, piping hot, and aromatic - over the rice and garnish with some coriander leaves.

Then devour it. All by yourself.
Because you deserve it.
Because you're worth it.