Saturday, August 08, 2009

Bangladesh in Cambridge

A Vegetable Biriyani, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.
I woke up late this morning to the tantalising, spicy, garlicy, oniony cooking smells coming from my next door neighbours' Bangladeshi kitchen. Oh! I was instantly hungry! I got up and looked out of the bedroom window - outside in Mrs Begum's footpath lay a metal bowl, overflowing with bright red chillis which she was leaving to dry in the sun.

I quickly dressed and went outside to have a closer look at her bounty; the little front garden which she uses to provide her family with familiar foods from Bangladesh was bursting with vegetables, courtesy of the very wet weather we've been having this summer. There were several types of squash and beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic and various leafy vegetables which I could not identify and which my Bengali-speaking neighbours could not give me an English name for. There was leafy corriander in various patches, some of which was being allowed to go to seed for planting and for cooking. And there were pots of chillis, now nearly bare of fruit at various locations in the garden.

All of this in a space intended for the off-street parking of ONE car! I looked but there was no one in the front of the house; loud laughter, shouting and talking poured out of the house through the open front door along with the spicy cooking smells - there was little question, then, where the family was!

Steve suggested I make fried rice with the leftover basmati rice from last night's Pomfret fry dinner. While I agree that left-over basmati rice would be fine in a Chinese-style fried rice, I was already hopelessly intoxicated by the smells of South Asia which had permeated my dreams and lured me from my bed. I started thinking about what I could cook that would satisfy both my hunger and my hankering for these flavours.

I built this dish using leftovers from the night before. It was simple to make and incredibly tasty:


3 cups cooked basmati rice
2 handfuls frozen garden peas, thawed
1 cup cooked frozen (or left-over) mixed vegetables such as carrots, beans etc, diced
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1-2 green chillis, de-seeded and sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, mashed
juice of 1 lemon
3 eggs, hard boiled, peeled and cut into quarters
2 tbsp butter


1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
10 curry leaves
2 cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp garam masala
Sliced green chillis, lemon wedges and plain yoghurt (curd) to serve.

1. Measure all the spices EXCEPT the garam masala, curry leaves and salt into a cup or bowl.
2. Heat a wok or frying pan and add 2-3 tbsp oil or ghee to the pan. When hot, add the sliced onions and cook, stirring, until just beginning to colour.
3. Add the spice mixture to the oil in the pan and stir for 15 seconds in the oil before stirring into the onions.
4. Add the rice. Use the back of a spoon to separate any clumps into single grains. Continue to stir and fry, adding a splash of water if the mixture seems to be getting dry, until the rice softens.
5. Stir in the butter, chillis, salt, curry leaves and lemon juice.
6. Add the peas and vegetables. Stir fry for another minute or two.
7. When the vegetables have cooked stir in the garam masala.

Taste the rice and correct the seasoning adding additional salt, red chilli powder and garam masala, as desired.
Garnish with lemon wedges and sliced green chillis. Serve with a bowl of plain yogurt.


Couples Kitchen said...

mmmmmmm this looks very inviting! thanks

Yann said...

I absolutely love your page. I don't cook much... well except to eat..the only time cooking is about pleasure for me is well, when I am frustrated... it has an oddly soothing capacity to see something you mind eye and make it come to life.

Keep going strong.