West to East

posted in: Cooking | 0

On Sunday, we went to visit my husband’s grandparents in Kent. They live in a lovely cottage (if you can call it that!) surrounded by lots of land. Sometimes the land behind the house is used by a friend of theirs for sheep grazing. Beats having to mow all that grass! They have a few apple trees, which unfortunately were not ready to picked even though they were covered in apples. They also grow beans and tomatoes, as well as raise chickens for eggs. Matt and I were wandering through the garden when we came across the small greenhouse chock full of tomatoes. We looked around to make sure no one was looking and then picked one. It was the sweetest tomato I had ever tasted. So small yet so full of flavor. Even Matt, who is not a tomato lover, thought it was delicious. We ate another one; simply couldn’t help ourselves! I later learned they are a variety I had only heard of and I think is unavailable in the US, Gardener’s Delight. Much to my delight, we were sent home with a small bag of tomatoes and half a dozen eggs.

We were told they’d be at their best later in the week so I patiently waited till today and then had my way with them. Sweet and juicy tomatoes like that scream to be put in one of my favorite salads of all time, Insalata Caprese. It may seem like heresy to put British tomatoes in a Southern Italian dish but I don’t really think it matters as long as you enjoy the final product.

I first came across Insalata Caprese in Naples, Italy, where I lived for almost two and half years. It is by far one of the simplest Italian dishes to make and there is absolutely no cooking involved. In its purest form Insalta Caprese is nothing more than tomatoes, mozzarella di buffala, fresh basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. You can make it look pretty by alternating one slice of mozzarella with one of tomato and then sprinkling with everything else or you can just mix everything together and be done! My advice is, use the best ingredients you can afford because it makes a world of difference. Because there is no cooking, you don’t really have the opportunity to “correct” any flavor. Use sweet tomatoes, it doesn’t matter what variety or even size. Extra virgin olive oil is also best for this but most importantly, use good mozzarella.

It may be because I was spoiled, having lived in THE home of mozzarella, Campania and in THE home within THE home, the province of Caserta but….I have yet to find mozzarella I really like outside of Italy. I don’t know what it is but there is an odd aftertaste to the ones I’ve tried. The one I had today was probably one of the worst. Serves me right for buying it on sale! However, the tomatoes were amazing, as was the basil which came from my very own plant!

I was reading another food blog a couple days ago (Milk and Cookies) and I came across a recipe for Chickpeas and Potato Curry. It seemed pretty easy so I decided I’d give it a go today.

There is one ingredient you will never, and I do mean NEVER, see me using, that is coriander. It is not that I don’t like it, it’s that I hate it with a passion I cannot describe. Hate is not an overstatement in this case. Just the smell of it makes me want to throw up. It can not be sneaked into the food without me knowing because I will smell and taste it. Even the smallest amount of coriander is enough to make a meal inedible in my eyes. So, the couple times I have tried to cook anything Indian, I have omitted the coriander. This recipe is no exception. Here is my version.

Chickpea and Potato Curry

Serves 2 hungry people

1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 400g can of chickpeas
1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
6 baby new potatoes, quartered
2 shallots, minced
1 tsp of grated ginger
1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of ground cumin
1/4 tsp of red chili flakes
1/4 tsp of whole cumin seeds
1/8 tsp of chili powder

Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan, making sure the potatoes are submerged in the liquid. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked but not falling apart. Serve over Basmati rice.

Not only was it very simple to make, it was also tasty. I don’t normally like food with this much tomato in it but it is not overly “tomatoey” once liquid boils away, as it does. It is a quick meal that can but put together in a pinch. It is definitely filling and warming, perfect for a day like today!

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