Susan and her partner live in Glasgow with their young child. Keen runners and keen to feed their daughter only the best, Susan was delighted to become a Watercress Ambassador and add more of the green stuff to their diet. Susan has tracked her watercress culinary experiences over the last seven weeks with some unexpected successes. Here she continues her watercress journey with a decidedly Indian theme…
We’ve all been in a bit of a party mood recently. With four family birthdays in the space of five days (mine included!), it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement. On the downside, we find ourselves eating out more than we want and this usually results in a collective weight gain. And that’s before we even get to Christmas.
However, one of the benefits to all of the birthdays is all of the presents. Now, after complaining that the pieces of watercress in my scones were larger than she would have liked, the mother in law did redeem herself. After catching me admiring the half-moon chopper she had bought for herself, she treated me to one for my birthday.
Now, I come from a household where single use kitchen items are frowned upon. It’s bad enough that we have a garlic press that isn’t dishwasher safe but something that only chops leaves and needs to be hand washed and immediately dried? It was testing my wife’s patience severely. However, it was a birthday present from her mother so there wasn’t much she could do about it.
Turns out it’s fabulous. And it arrived just in time. The wee one’s other grandparents had just come back from an all-inclusive holiday and requested a birthday meal at ours. I half thought about getting a take away since they had missed that on holiday, but when I thought about the extra salt, sugar and copious amounts of oil, not to mention the food colouring, I decided to make my own version.
But first, what to make? Perhaps I could take inspiration from Just Eat and their September 2017 survey of 2,000 people to find out the UK’s favourite Indian Dishes
Top 10 UK Indian Dishes
I’ve got a bit used to Indian buffets and can no longer make just one curry and be satisfied at that. So, to start, I served some poppadoms alongside a traditional Glasgow favourite of spiced onions. Raw onion is surprisingly tasty and it’s easy to prepare. Simply dice half a white onion (or red if you fancy showing off) and add a teaspoonful of mint sauce and 2 tablespoons of mango chutney.
Alongside this I made some bhel puri. We had this as a starter in a local restaurant and I’m still trying to perfect my version of it. But basically, it’s Bombay mix, mixed with tamarind sauce. I added a few twists such as ketchup and a little mint sauce. It typically has coriander through it, except this is me and, armed with my half-moon, I added some very finely chopped watercress instead. I’ll warn you now, it’s dangerously addictive.
Preparation Time: 5 mins
Cooking Time: 1 hr and 5 mins
A soup originally from eastern India, this spicy soup normally contains meat and vegetables. Our recipe does not contain meat but is just as delicious.
100g bag of watercress
1 onion, chopped
1 apple, cored and chopped
5cm piece of root ginger
225g split yellow peas, soaked overnight in water and drained
900ml vegetable stock
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon medium curry paste
Cook the ingredients.
Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onion and apple for 4 minutes until they have softened. Add the ginger, curry paste and peas and stir together well.
Make the soup.
Add the stock and bring the soup to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer covered for 1 hour until the peas are tender. Pour the soup into a food processor, add the watercress and blend until the soup is smooth.
Season with salt and pepper and serve with crusty bread.
For the main course, I rustled up my home-made chicken korma with a side of turmeric and cardamom rice (remember to count the cardamom pods as they go in and pick the same number out before serving!) as well as a tandoori style paneer with onions, garlic and watercress.
No food dyes were harmed in the making of the korma. The sauce comprised a blend of spices (garam masala and mild curry powder) added to coconut milk, dessicated coconut, flaked almonds and a load of turmeric to give it the colour. Because it was a special occasion, I added a couple of spoonfuls of sugar. I stir fried some chicken thigh which I then added to the korma sauce.
To balance out the creaminess of the korma, my paneer based curry had a bit more veg. I stir fried some onions in a tin of chopped tomato, added some tomato concentrate, tandoori seasoning and garam masala. At the same time, I dry fried the paneer in some tandoori seasoning and then added it to the curry. I have made my own paneer in the past as it just needs a carton of whole milk and some lemon juice but, with a baby to look after, some things are best shop bought for convenience. I cut a generous couple of handfuls of watercress with scissors and added them at the end along with a good dollop of full fat yogurt. This is optional but is healthier than adding cream.
For desert I made a chocolate cake with chocolate cream. Let’s not pretend I added any veg. This was full blown chocolate decadence. It actually reminded me of the Sarah Lee death by chocolate gateaux that we used to eat in the 90’s back when TV dinners were cool.
So there was curry, cake and candles. We passed on to the wee one our strange tradition of blowing your germs over a cake. Some people call it blowing out candles. Effectively it’s sneezing over a decorated cake without covering your mouth. Whatever way you look at it, the wee one didn’t seem to mind too much. And, with my birthday and her other grandfather’s birthday following in quick succession, it became a rare occurrence to eat dessert without singing and setting a cake on fire.
The origins of blowing out candles on a cake
Putting candles on a cake is a tradition that dates back to the Ancient Greeks who often burned candles as offerings to their gods and goddesses. For them, candles on a cake was a special way to pay tribute to the Greek Moon goddess, Artemis. They baked round cakes to represent the moon and candles were added to portray the reflected moonlight.
Candles on cakes have long been a popular tradition in Germany, too. For religious reasons, Germans would place a large candle in the centre of a cake to symbolise “the light of life."
Some scholars believe that other meanings have also been attached to the use of candles on cakes. People may have believed that the smoke from the candles carried their wishes and prayers to gods who lived in the skies. Others probably believed the smoke helped to ward off evil spirits.
Today, we still put birthday candles on cakes. Many people still hold superstitious beliefs about them too; some believe that the birthday boy or girl must make a silent wish before blowing out the candles. If all the candles are blown out in one breath, the wish will come true, and the person will have good luck throughout the year.
On the other hand, if it takes more than one breath to blow out all the candles or if the person tells someone what the wish was, it will supposedly not come true.
So, strange or not, is it worth the risk not taking seriously??
And at any rate, it’s good practice for Christmas when we set fire to the pudding!