It all started when I decided to make some tarka dal and was rooting around the cupboards wondering whether the chana dal in a half-empty packet was the same as the packet of yellow split peas (it isn’t). Then I saw a third packet of yellowish objects.
This was not dal but popping corn with a sell-by date of 2008. I’d better use it, then. Later that evening I had a bowl of dal soaking overnight and a saucepan full of popcorn. It didn’t seem too bad, considering it was eight years out of date, but there was too much for one man to eat.
Then I had a brainwave. How about using it as a breakfast cereal? I dunked some in a bowl of milk and, if not quite the same as Sugar Puffs, it wasn’t at all bad. And then I wondered if I had created something new. So I asked Google. I had only typed in “Popcorn as b. . .” when it finished it for me, “breakfast cereal.” So, hardly new, but it’s an idea to bear in mind if you’ve made too much popcorn or have run out of cereal.
This last week it has rained and rained and rained and so, unable to get out to plant more lettuce or pick the first of the gooseberries, I have been mooching about the kitchen even more than usual. This is some of what I’ve been doing – no recipes, just ideas because that’s what I like from blogs.
The dal (made with chana although the split peas would have done at a pinch) was lovely. There’s no recipe because there are millions out there but I like to fry an onion with ginger, garlic and spices before adding the dal, then frying whole spices at the end to temper it. I had the spices ready but forgot! The dal didn’t really suffer because of the spices at the beginning. We had it with rice, a little potato and pea curry, home made chapattis, raitas and some bought samosas. Apart from the samosas and some really thick Greek yoghurt for the raita, it cost pennies.
It was even cheaper because the leftovers made lunch the following day. This is an idea I picked up from an Indian on a YouTube channel. Leftover rice, or dal, or both, can be made into croquettes. I stirred in the remains of the onion and mint raita, a few breadcrumbs, freshly rasped, and a teaspoonful of egg yolk to bind. Then I made little patties rolled in chickpea (gram or besan) flour but you could use any flour to give a crisp coating.
They were fried off and served with home made chilli jam mixed with some more of that creamy yoghurt, plus a little salad.
And still it rained. I had planned to pick some gooseberries and elderflowers to make a gooseberry fool but, as luck would have it, found a box of last year’s fruit in the freezer. I realised I could use my elderflower gin (more a liqueur, really). I wasn’t going to get soaked going to the shops for cream but Delia Smith has a recipe for gooseberry yoghurt fool. There was still some of that extra creamy Greek yoghurt.
Once the berries were defrosted I was ready to go. Delia says to cook the fruit in the oven but I did it gently on a simmer plate, once I’d added some sugar and a tablespoonful of gin. They cooked without bursting.
I reserved a few for the topping, then drained the juice from cooked fruit. I put half of it it back when I blitzed the gooseberries, putting the rest in the freezer to make an impromptu water ice. Only using half the juice is Delia’s idea: otherwise the puree would be too thin. I chilled the pulp before mixing half with some of the yoghurt.
From then on it’s an assembly job. Put the remainder of the pulp in a glass, add the gooseberry and yoghurt mix on top and finish with the reserved cooked gooseberries and a mint leaf. There’s nothing like a wet and rainy day or two to play around with ideas. And I’ve still got some yoghurt left.