As part of my plan to not spend unnecessarily in 2017, I’ve been looking for ways to cut down on our food waste too. We have a terrible obsession with bread. We love it in all its assorted and varied forms. But there are only two of us and buying a loaf a week seems to end with a few slices being thrown out each week. Which is wasteful but I really don’t need any more breadcrumbs in my freezer. And those are alongside naan breads and pitta bread and parathas and any other Indian bread you can think of.
So with a bit of time on my hands this afternoon and a craving for my Sri Lankan curry favorites (Jaffna chicken curry and paripu), I decided to explore how to make my own naan bread. And it’s surprisingly easy. Well, this version is, I didn’t want to buy anything new with which to make these so just used what was in the fridge and store cupboard. So here it is. I may also share my paripu (Sri Lankan dhal, basically) recipe as it’s perfect comfort food, only uses one pot and can be frozen. But that’s my next post.
Easy Naan Bread
250g plain flour
1/2 tsp Caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Then mix the milk and oil in a jug and pour into the well. Stir together until the dough comes together and then knead for approximately 8 mins, till the dough is smooth. Oil the bowl and put the dough back in to it and leave it to rest in a warm place for 30-40 mins.
Preheat the grill to medium and put a heavy tray to heat at the same time at the top of the grill. Take the dough from the bowl and split into six roughly equal pieces. Roll each one out into tear drop shapes (if you can, as you can see mine are less than perfect!)
Cook on the hot grill tray for a minute or two on each side, till they’ve browned. Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter.
I mentioned in my last post about how this referendum is making me feel like the country I was born and brought up in doesn’t really want me here.
But that got me to thinking about all the brilliant things about being an immigrant (or child of) and I thought, hell, let’s write a list. Because I’m bloody pleased that I’m a child of immigrants, and I’m (often – not always) bloody proud to call myself British and here are some reasons why the combination of my two cultures is actually a really good thing.
Something to rebel against
I did not have a bad childhood. Far from it, I had a great childhood. But I can only say that now with the benefits of hindsight. Ooh, I was a nightmare child. I mean, probably no worse than most teenagers, but I always felt the need to push against my heritage by way of rebellion, from wearing Doc Martens with saris to becoming vegetarian just to be stubborn (I get that my people generally are vegetarian what with the holy cow and all but the first gen Lankan contingent were committed meat eaters so being a vegetarian did not make them think I was pious and worthy and instead, it simply highlighted my brattishness). Also, weird shit like dressing me up in a sari and inviting all the locals over to gawp at me when I started my period (not even lying – see photo below) didn’t help me feel like being an immigrant was something to enjoy. My white friends just got given a box of feminine hygiene products and left to get on with it – I had a priest, pouring milk over my head, then getting dressed up like a 10 year old child bride in a sari with (fake) diamonds dripping off me and all of the Lankans in the extended family come over to watch the spectacle of me bleeding. Where are they now, eh? Maybe I should revisit this fun time once a month – they can watch me yell at the husband, cry and binge watch TV whilst eating all the Minstrels, I’m sure I could do that in a sari too.
So yeah, whilst I love the mad insane lot of them, being a child of immigrants gave me something to rebel against that helped me develop my personality (I have maintained the brattish behaviour throughout my life) when actually, all things considered, I had a very lovely childhood (and I wish I’d appreciated it more then).
(Swearing in)many languages.
My mum likes to tell a story about the time when I was in a Sri Lankan shop with her best mate who told me to put something down so I called her a litany of swearwords in Tamil. I was 35. Not really, I was like 10. Possibly not dressed like above (more likely to be in some sort of batwing and legwarmer – it was the 80s, after all. Admittedly I still love a batwing).
Oh, they laughed and were mortified all at the same time. Mortified because the only reason I’d know such filthy language was because my mum had used them on me in times of ultimate brattery. Your fault, mother. But in all honesty, more than swearing, I love the Tinglish of my people – you get them in a room and the words flow in all the languages and make a beautiful cacophony of sounds. It’s just great to be able to understand go to India or Sri Lanka or Wembley or Tooting and understand people talking around you (not all the people, obviously, there’s a lot of languages there)
A naturally built in community
So I have many communities. Friends, colleagues, the people you see when you get the same train every day, I would say the gym/yoga/running club but that’d be a lie. But you get the drift. But what I love/loathe more than anything is being able to spot a Sri Lankan Tamil at 100 paces. We have a ‘look’ you see. Depending on who I’m with (mostly my dad, really) you’ll then get the whole ‘which village are you from’ conversation – and invariably, you’ll find out that their mother’s second cousin, twice removed’s husband’s sister’s dog was walked by your cousin’s second wife’s sister’s neighbour. And you’ll be like, whoa, small world. But outside of those almost family members, there’s always all the actual aunts and uncles and cousins and second cousins as well as the family by heritage (mum and dad’s friends mostly) who turn up to the opening of an envelope. They’re ace. Annoying as all sin, but ace to know they’re there. It’s difficult to be alone when you’ve got a whole race that could potentially have walked your grandparent’s dog (not a euphemism) back in the home lands.
I have no idea if this is because they didn’t have much back in the home country (I don’t know that this is true for I’ve been force fed there too), but fuck me, we love to feed people. I get anxious if someone just pops in for a visit if I don’t at least have a bag of Doritos to forcefeed down their throats. Honestly, there’s a generosity of feeding that I blame entirely for my inability to fit my fat ass into anything gorgeous and ethereal and elegant, and instead has given me the delightful dumpy figure I endure today. But in all seriousness, I love that I can pop in to my cousin’s to drop off a bowl and be there hours later, eating all the mutton rolls – it shows such generosity of spirit (and food) and makes you feel part of a family. It’s also considered rude to visit someone without eating something. Honestly, I’m just realising why I’m fat.
Saris and shalwars
So as I’ve mentioned (once or twice) I am short and rotund. It’s OK, one day I’ll come to terms with this. But the best thing about that is saris specifically are made for short rotund people like me – you get a blouse made to measure to your specific requirements and then acres of beautiful fabric, folded and draped over your womanly curves to make you look as though you have actual womanly curves rather than gigantic sofa cushions stuffed in clingfilm (thanks skinny jeans and lying magazines). Similarly – having a day where you just want to eat all the food and nap on the sofa – throw on a shalwar kameez. Drawstring pants and baggy tops can still look elegant if a cousin pops over to drop something off/get fed till they explode. And being a child of immigrants means that you’ve got all those outfit choices at the back of your wardrobe along with all the clothes of your adopted country too. It’s superficial, sure, but it makes me happy.
I should probably say here that had I been born and brought up in Sri Lanka, I may be a step closer to the ‘castle/sprog/Indian version of Dior’ dream I had at 11. But having known my parents for like 40 years now, I don’t know that would be strictly true, but it might have been. I may have been less brattish after all. I grew up here, I got educated, I went to university, I lived on my own, I met my own husband (rather than one being chosen for me). I never felt like the world wasn’t mine for the taking – everything was available to me. Sure, I get that some people don’t have that, but going back to my first point, part of my rebellion was to ensure that I could go out and grab the world, and I never felt like I should be held back (and god help anyone who tried to).
As I’ve been writing this, I’ve realised that not much is simply down to the fact that my folks moved here in the 60s and are brown. These things: generosity of spirit, community, support, multiculturalism, saris; are there for the taking for anyone at all – we’re one big melting pot of cultures and classes and that’s a bloody brilliant thing in my book. But some people don’t like it. And that makes me sad. So my request for all my tens of followers is that you go out and learn something about your own culture or one you want to be part of and you’ll soon see, that we’re all more similar than you think.
I’ve mentioned it a few times but it deserves a post all of its very own so here’s week two in Goa and our stay at Casa Susegad.
The wino and I require very different things from our holidays – whilst he’s happy to lie on a beach or by a pool for a solid fourteen days, moving only to dip in the pool or go to sleep, I get a little bored of this after… well, usually a good 12 hours. So we agreed that week one would be beachside and week two would encompass a little more culture. What I hadn’t put into this equation was how much Goa would make me into a gigantic beach bum and as such, I was quite happy to sleep and hang out on the beach and not do much else.
We’d booked our week at Casa Susegad based on the lovely i-escape review and amazing Trip Advisor comments and thought it would give us a different pace of life from Jamboree Creek and Mandrem.
And that it did. We got a car from Mandrem to Loutolim – it’s about an hour and a half away but the vibe couldn’t be more different. It’s in a little village where there’s nothing apart from monkeys in trees and a Friday market. When you’ve been in a place where it was rare to see an Indian face and even rarer to see anyone over the age of 40, it was nice to be somewhere that felt more removed from the tourist trail.
You’re greeted by lots of dogs (and Carol and Norman, the owners) and whilst I won’t pretend to remember all their names, my two favourites (ie the ones who paid me the most attention) were Basil and Lisa – just lovely friendly dogs that hung out with the guests all day long. Don’t fall for their food begging though!
There are only five rooms at Casa Susegad but the house itself is palatial. All the rooms are situated around the pool, with the bar close by too. We were in the pink quartz room – and very pink it was as you can see below. The floor tiles were gorgeous too – discovered when the work was being done to the house and left in their original state. Loved them.
Next door to our room were the turquoise room and the sunshine room. Norman and Carol live in private quarters in the main part of the house and in the opposite wing is a full size snooker table and a large dining room, as well as a lounge where you can escape the heat and read or watch TV. We shared a terrace with our turquoise neighbours and got to know them really well – fabulous fellas.
Having spent most of the previous week just speaking to the wino, it took a couple of hours to get used to the openness at Casa Susegad – because the rooms surround the pool, you get used to speaking to your neighbours and having drinks with them and then sitting around the dining table to eat with them. And we loved this – it was so friendly, the owners are delightful and had old friends staying (who I mentioned before) so it felt very much like you were staying with friends. I wonder if I can say ‘friend’ another time in this sentence? Terrible grammar!
The pool is bordered by jungle – literally. You can see all manner of beautiful birds and families of monkeys jump across the roof to steal figs from the tree in the front garden. I’m sure there are creepy crawlies and snakes in them there woods but we didn’t see anything so I’m going to pretend they weren’t there. Oh, apart from a flying beetle that was the size of a small bird. That wasn’t terrifying at all.
Dinners at Casa Susegad are full three course affairs, with food whims taken in the morning and cooked up by Joanita to please all the guests. Admittedly, we hadn’t realised how little there was to do in Loutolim so whilst the meals are lovely and worth every penny, it’s best to budget as though you’re going to eat there every night as there aren’t many nearby places to enjoy a more cost effective meal. It’s great sitting around the gigantic dinner table, getting to know your fellow guests and shooting the breeze. Dinners can either be served on your terrace or in the main dining room – we mostly opted for the terrace it was slightly less formal but both are lovely experiences.
Norman and Carole know the region really well so can happily help you plan days out and arrange drivers and recommend places to eat. With our turquoise room neighbours, we went to Margao for a day of exploring including a fantastic lunch at Longuhino’s. And as previously mentioned, Helen took me out for a day to Panjim which included lunch at Hotel Vineet, the home of the Goan revolution. The nearest beach is 20 mins drive away and worth it for a day out, it’s beautiful and the food at Zeebops is amazing.
I’d happily go back to Casa Susegad – it’s a great location for chilling out, reading by the pool and enjoying some delicious cocktails and dinners. The staff are super friendly and on hand to help with anything you need. It’s also a small hop skip and a jump to the airport so even if you don’t want to spend a whole week in the jungle village, consider spending a couple of nights there before you fly, it’ll leave you feeling ever so zen. Particularly if you indulge in one of the massages, so very good.
And that’s my last Goa post. Sorry for being so indulgent but there was so much to share. Cannot wait for our next trip!
I’ve now officially finished working at my last job and have spent the last four weeks or so officially not working. Which has been awesome, but I am going slightly insane, what with talking to the cat, binge watching truly terrible series on Netflix (so far four seasons of The Vampire Diaries, which is like a rubbish combination of True Blood and Buffy), hanging out with my folks and being incredibly impressed by the quality of cars in the car park when I pick my niece up from her fancy school.
So, in my downtime from all that hard work, I’m spending a lot of time in my kitchen. My 1970s monstrosity of a kitchen, but a kitchen nonetheless. And as it’s (nearly) Christmas, there’s many an aroma of cinnamon and ginger and cloves emanating from within its orange and beige interior. But baking and eating aforementioned baked goods, doesn’t really promote good heart health when the most exercise you get all day is walking from the fridge to the sofa and back again.
From my earlier post, you’ll see that I’ve been on a bit of a juice binge recently but a girl cannot live on juice alone so I’ve been experimenting with granola and crackers.
First up, granola. On paper, I should hate granola – it’s dried fruit and nuts, neither of which makes me salivate. But turns out, coating them in a mix of honey and butter and baking them with oats, seeds and the merest hint of spices and a sprinkling of dark muscovado and then baking till they’re gooey and crunchy at the same time makes them utterly delicious. And it’s incredibly simple too, you just need to decide what you want to add to the oats and seeds.
I’m using US measurements (sorry) but I couldn’t find a good granola recipe to adapt on a UK site. And besides, it is a little trial and error because everyone likes different flavours or more or less crunch so don’t panic if you’re not happy with how this turns out, just try different variants on cooking time or oven heat.
1/2 stick of butter (this is about 57g in metric measurements)
1/3 cup of honey
2.5 cups of oats – not the quick cook kind but proper old school oats
A selection of seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, etc etc)
1/3 cup of sugar – I used dark muscovado because I like the treacly taste, but use whatever you have apart from icing sugar
Pinch of salt (about half a teaspoon but depending on what fruits you use, it could take more)
A selection of ground spices – cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, all work well. Add to your taste, I do about two tsps of cinnamon to half a tsp of ginger and a pinch of cloves
1/2 cup of nuts – pecans, almonds, brazils, cashews all work well – I find the taste of walnut a little overpowering but that’s just personal preference
3/4 cup of dried fruit – raisins, cranberries, blueberries, apricots (chopped, obviously), pineapple (I’m stopping there before this becomes a long list of fruit that can be dried- that’d be tedious)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (do this instead of the fruit or half the amounts if you’re doing a combination of fruit and chocolate)
Preheat your oven to gas mark 6 or equivalent and line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper
Melt together the butter and honey over a low heat till its all combined and set aside to cool whilst you mix the dry ingredients
Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl including whatever nuts you choose – but don’t add the fruit at this stage
Mix all the dry ingredients together – using your hands seems to make it easier to get everything evenly distributed
Pour in the honey and butter mix and stir till every oat is coated in butter and honey
Spoon the mixture into the baking try and press flat
Bake for approximately 15-25 minutes, giving the mix a stir half way through
You’re looking for a glorious golden shade on your oats so keep an eye on them to make sure you’re not going from gloriously golden to ‘burnt toast’ – this can happen quite quickly
After you’ve removed the tray from the oven at the end of the cooking time, quickly stir in the dried fruit or chocolate chips of your choice and then press flat again
Leave to cool in the tray – after it’s cooled, you should have a crunchy toasty tray full of delicious granola – break into bite sized chunks and store in an airtight jar. I’m gifting this with some crackers for Christmas, so have put into small Kilner jars
It should keep fresh for a good couple of weeks like this. It’s perfect as a healthy snack, on yoghurt or as a smoothie topping. Or just with milk for breakfast – it’s terribly versatile
Today I’ve made two batches: the first featured almonds, walnuts, cranberries, raisins and the second was cherries, blueberries, pecans and dessicated coconut. I added the coconut at the first stir (halfway through the baking) so it didn’t get tooooo toasted. The second batch I screwed up a little (hell, we all make mistakes, right?) by using the wrong sized cup to measure oats so the mix is a little chewier than I’d like.