My mind was a Bollywood movie when I was growing up. A gentle breeze blew tenderly through my long fuzzy hair, never mind the split ends. I smiled demurely, raising the fine (but visible) hairs on my upper lip with me. Long eye lashes fluttered, wistfully, behind black-framed glasses. When I rested my face on my palm, to day dream of course, I thought of the huge hoops that should sit on my cheeks, though I wore unpretentious studs. As I hurried from class to class, I imagined swaying and flowing thin fabric skirts and slim legs under them. Instead my jeans hung off my under-developed bottom and skinny legs. There was forever a song on my fruity-lip-balm smothered lips and a colourful dance sequence in my head to match, even in exams. Hazy eyes had no kohl on them, but inside them were plentiful, romantic and ambitious dreams. I carried innocence, but quiet the realities of an average existence. In my mind I had the conviction of any of those actresses, but the will and smarts to fly.
I wasn’t even conscious of that upper lip hair until my cousin pointed it out whilst we stood chatting under the light. I don’t think I knew that spilt ends meant damage until I was a teenager; I had glossy and dark locks as a young child and then somehow it ended up light and fuzzy. I went from skinny child to full figured teenager and I didn’t even notice. Some of my friends talked about my colour one day and I went home to check it out, and in fact introduce myself to this bright complexion with rosy cheeks that they spoke about.
I was 16. There was a boy who blushed when he made small talk with me. He slipped a few notes into my English A-level texts. I cut my hair and it now bounced, it was the ‘Rachel cut’ from friends. The length of my tops shrunk from long and wafting to short and embracing. There was a chap that took the same bus home as me, so we could talk. He then detoured back to his home. My face became smooth and free from overgrown eyebrows or whiskers beneath my nose. I remember another young fellow who asked sent me inviting notes in a fast food café. I remember taking an interest in fashion and the re-emergence of 70’s clothing, the platform shoes, and the loud prints on skinny trousers to wafting ones, oh and even the hair. That’s when the gifts started coming in…from bags to earrings.
I am waiting to blossom again. To bloom. I did as a teenager, then as a mother and now I am waiting on the next phase of finding myself.
Meanwhile, here is a recipe that is something of an awakening. If you liked my paneer curry in roasted tomatoes and basil, I have to say that I think this one is even better. Someone wrote to me saying they thought I had out-done myself on that last curry, I actually think this one outdoes the last.
I love this one with sweet and deep heat, mellow yet fragrant garlic without its pungency sings through the curry and then you get a tang from the fruity molasses. The potatoes thicken the curry and the Halloumi..oof the Halloumi. Its saltiness balances well with the other senses and soaks up the curry juices with its light chewiness. You’ve got to do this one. Really.
225g Halloumi cheese, cut into bite sized chunks
100g fine asparagus tips
½ tin of chopped tomatoes
1 ½ tbsp. of pomegranate molasses
1 ½ full bulbs of garlic
4-6 mild and thick chillies (suitable for salsa or stir fries) minced
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. cumin powder
3-4 cardamom pods
Salt to taste
½ tsp. turmeric
3 tbsp. cooking oil
One medium sized red onion, thinly sliced
Cook’s note: I am not using the thin red chillies for this dish. What we want to achieve is that bright red colour and sweet and gentle heat. Please use the thick, but short red chillies that are used for stir fries and salsa.
- Start by roasting the 2 bulbs of garlic. Drizzle them lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap them in baking paper and put them in the oven at 180degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until they are soft enough to pop out of their skins.
- Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and add the cumin seeds with the turmeric and allow the seeds to sizzle before adding the onion, salt and turmeric. Soften the onion before adding the minced chillies and stir fry for 30 seconds on a medium to low heat.
- Stir in the potatoes, coat them in the tempering and then add the tomatoes and water. Bring the curry to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked but firm.
- Add the asparagus and the cumin and coriander powders and then the pomegranate molasses. Pop the cloves of garlic out of their skins (use approximately one and a half bulbs). Mash them lightly to release the flavours. Mix well and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Mix in the Halloumi and cook on a low flame for 2-3 minutes.
Serve immediately with rice.