Rainy days and Mondays…don’t always get me down

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Rain seems to turn a bank holiday into a ‘normal’ Monday without the usual warm and fuzzy feeling…it often becomes a day for doing chores, clearing out cupboards, getting rid of old paperwork…the dreaded bank account, washing, ironing, you get the picture. Occasionally it’s for pyjamas, freshly laundered with thick socks, the addition of a comfy sofa, a cuppa and a film (or in my case a box set of something I’ve seen 100 times like The West Wing or The Soprano’s).

The rest of the time, I choose to push on and pretend it’s not raining. So last Monday found us wandering along the Thames to the Alchemy festival – a celebration of spicy food. The Southbank have regular food festivals with different themes, so always somewhere to go – here is the link: http://www.realfoodfestival.co.uk/market.

Our little dog – sometimes ‘Ma petite cherie’ sometimes simply ‘Munchkin’ is a very reluctant walker in damp weather, so progress was slow and the looks from her were pitiful.

After a couple of freebie tasters and some purchasing of tasty snacks, like potato and onion pakora’s we wandered back along the river and contemplated supper… it had to be comfort food and what better than spicy dal.

Of course we wanted the queen of dal’s the dal makhani, a rich creamy darkly delicious and luxurious offering for which we should have soaked the urid dal and kidney beans over night – but that’s just silly because how did we know last night that we would crave dal today? That wretched pressure cooker was going to be unearthed to make up for the distinct lack of soaking.

Casting around in the freezer Rocket came up with some chicken curry from a week earlier and we decided to make some puri’s (light and fluffy whole wheat pillows) and saffron rice to go alongside – a bit of a feast…

I believe spices actually affect your mood for the better, and even the prospect of something with that warmth or fragrance will cheer me up in ways you cannot imagine. Rocket works away a lot and I guarantee that my most eaten dish whilst he is absent will be dal with rice or bread. Puri have many different forms in the various regional Asian cuisines, but this version is plain, I understand that Sanskrit for Puri means something stuffed and as the breads puff up in the pan they lend themselves well to be filled with all  kinds of loveliness that will be a  future subject.

First make the Puri dough.

Place a cup of atta flour (chapati flour) into a large mixing bowl and add ½ teaspoon of fine salt. Mix the salt through and then gradually add warm water.

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I can’t say exactly how much water because the flour can vary so add a little at a  time and gradually bring the dough together into a ball that is not too wet and sticky. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic. Lightly coat the dough in some sunflower oil, then place in bowl cover with cloth put in a warm place for about an hour or so.

Once rested, place the dough onto a smooth surface, if you feel it will stick just put a little oil on the surface – do NOT be tempted to put flour anywhere near it as the oil and the flour will form a crust together that will stop the puri’s from puffing when they are cooking.IMG_0364

Heat some oil in a large pan – I always use a wok or karahi, but a saucepan is fine as well. You will need quite a bit of oil for these are deep fried breads (which will be light and not oily when finished) place some kitchen paper beside the pan and make sure you have a slotted spoony type implement to hand.

Roll the dough to a thin sheet, about 3mm then get a cutter – any size you like but I usually make them with a 10cm cutter. Cut out the discs and re-roll any pastry and cut more discs.

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When the oil is very hot, drop the first puri in. It will first sink to the bottom of the pan, then it will start to rise and when it does so nudge it to the side of the pan with your spoon and gently bang the edge so that the puri nudges the side of the pan, This will encourage air into it and the puri will begin to puff – its like magic. Once puffed up into a ball, flip it over for a few seconds to cook the other side and then lift out and drain onto kitchen paper.

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For the Dal Makhani

In our house, red and yellow lentil dishes are made by me and black lentil dishes are made by Rocket – not sure why but it could be something to do with the pesky pressure cooker that scares the life out of me, anyway he has consulted widely on this dish, made it many times and varies the method from time to time but his favourite recipe is by a lady called ‘Manjula’ and here is the link.

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