Carrot pickle with crunch

WE WERE having dal and rice for tea and I wanted something spicy and crunchy to brighten things up. My Anglo-Mango chutney wasn’t quite the thing.

Instead of going out and buying a jar I rustled up my own version of gajar ka achar, or carrot pickle.

Sub-continental enthusiasts might bridle at my take on this lovely little side dish but it works for me.

For one sitting you’ll need two medium-sized carrots cut into batons and the principal spices are mustard seeds, turmeric and fresh ginger. Anything else is up to you – a bit of chilli if you want it hot, a pinch or two of cumin and a little fenugreek perhaps.

Heat a little oil (mustard oil is more authentic but not essential here) then add the spices. I used two dessert spoons of black mustard seeds, two inches of grated fresh ginger and a dessert spoon of turmeric.

I like to add a bay leaf when cooking and I scattered in a pinch of chilli flakes. Season to taste.

Now add the carrots batons and fry gently for about five minutes before adding a dessert spoon of sugar and enough white wine or cider vinegar to cover. Keep cooking until the vinegar evaporates. Add more if necessary.

You are looking for a sweet-sour, spicy finish with the carrots retaining a little crunch.

We find this very more-ish and it’s ready within minutes. It will improve if left for a day or two.

Incidentally, if you have any leftover rice and dal then mix them together with a little beaten egg, shape into small patties, dust with flour and shallow fry for a snack, lunch or light tea. They are very good.


A bagful of poppy seeds

WITH A paper bag in my pocket I strolled into town, ready to do a little bit of foraging along the way.

I bake bread a couple of times a week and always have a supply of poppy seeds to incorporate in the dough or sprinkle over the crusts. But why buy when you can get them for free?

They’re not hard to find. The ground outside some blocks of social housing have been turned into wildflower meadows and at their height they look spectacular.

The project has been put on hold this year but the area has become self-set and there are plenty of crimson field poppies ablaze at the height of summer.

But I wait for the flowers to fade and the seed pods to ripen. They turn from green to blue-grey to brown and little windows open just below the top for the seeds, myriads of them, to sprinkle out in the breeze.

Unless, of course, I get to them first. It’s coming to the end of the poppy foraging now but even so I managed to collect a couple of tablespoons worth of seeds this week.

Pop the heads into a paper bag and work your way along the poppies. You’ll find the seeds tumble out and collect in the bottom of the bag. Resist the urge to crack the pods open for any last seeds for you’ll only get little shards of pod.

Then remove the heads and you’ll be left with the seeds which you can funnel into a suitable container. There is no need to dry them, they will be dry enough already.

I won’t get enough to last me all year but it will for a few months as I have collected them on a few trips out. That will spare me spending a few pennies!

I like the thought of saving dough when I make my dough . . .

A fishy tale in Sharrow Vale

IT’S BEEN a gloomy old week and that’s not including the weather. Holiday cancelled yet again and we really need to cheer ourselves up.

Let’s go down the hill and see if a trip round Sharrow Vale can revive our spirits.

Sharrow Vale may not be Minori – or Majorca – but it is close on becoming Sheffield’s new Restaurant Quarter with a more than Continental flavour.

Spanish, Sardinian, Italian, Vietnamese, Modern British, veggie and fishy places are all within a short stroll.

We fancy lunch at Mann’s wet fish shop where you just point at whatever you fancy on the slab and get it cooked at counter price. How is that for a bargain?

It is when you consider this place has spawned Native, the new, trendy ( and minty) fish restaurant Native, recently opened at Gibraltar Street, West Bar, a sort of son of Mann’s.

Chef-turned-fishmonger-turned-entrepreneur Christian Szurko has rapidly built up a mini fish empire based on his success in wet fish.

Mann’s: Join the club

First there was a unit at Kommune, now deceased, then Native and almost simultaneously a fish shop in upmarket Bakewell.

The surroundings at Sharrow Vale are hardly swank: no more than eight stools bum to bum and within inhaling distance of the fish counter, with no chance of booking so it’s first come, first served, but, hey, it’s atmospheric and with the same ingredients as Native this is a bargain.

Yes we have done it before but it’s well worth reporting it again.

I strike lucky and keep two seats warm while my wife finishes an appointment. To keep myself amused I have three lovely oysters at £2 each, enjoying the thought I am saving 50p a mouthful on Native prices.

The fishmonger-chef is Scott Mills who will cook it how you want it while selling halibut or hake to non-dining customers.

He suggests a crab and coconut daal (one of two ‘sides’ available although the fish chowder has run out) and we settle on a scallop, couple of cod’s cheeks and some sea trout on top. Actually that just means we say yes to whatever he points to.

I reflect that cod’s cheeks have gone up in the world since you bought them for your cat.

Meanwhile I popped a few doors along to winesellers Starmore & Boss for a Madrigale rosato (just over a tenner).

That main was heaven. Daal is comfort food anyway ( the equivalent of sausage and mash), while the coconut added sweetness and a touch of the exotic and the crab a richness in flavour.

The trout skin was blackened just this side of barbecue and very crisp, the scallop was sweet and the cod’s cheeks also firm and sweet and far too good for cats. A sprig of samphire rounded things off. That’s £12 a plate. Perfect Scott!

We are not finished. We need dessert and coffee and so decamp around the corner to Spanish cafe-deli IberiCo in Dyson Place, newly removed from Hickmott Road with a larger menu. This what the Spanish do, somewhere for tapas, another for mains, a third for dessert.

We sit outside in the wan, chill sunlight and enjoy fine coffee and equally fine cakes involving lots of almond.

We think how lucky we are to have all this on hand and be only a short walk back home for a siesta.

To finish: Coffee and cake