I rarely cook the cuisine of the country I live in. I don’t know if I simply like being contrary, or if it’s because the locals prepare their own dishes much better than I ever could. I never cook any Chinese food here in Hong Kong. In Italy I don’t think I ever bought a packet of spaghetti, yet when I lived in Vietnam I loved making pasta dishes and never cooked myself noodles or spring rolls. Partly I think I’m always attracted to familiar products which take on exotic qualities when they are abroad – I loved browsing the gourmet shop in Ho Chi Minh City for such luxuries as Weetabix, Heinz Baked Beans and pasta shells. Such mundane items, so out of place in the tropical climate, the whirlwind of motorbikes, the street stalls selling their pho.
It was always pleasant to come home from a day of teaching, sometimes classes of forty exuberant Vietnamese kids, no air con to keep me cool or text books to keep me on track, and have a familiar taste of home.
Happily, amongst the foreign goods I’ve always managed to track down jars of Patak’s curry paste, and thus wherever I have lived, Indian food, such as this tasty biryani, has always been on the menu, even when I am too lazy (or sweaty) to make my own curry paste from scratch.
Serves 8, slightly adapted from BBC GoodFood
1.5 tsbp oil
1 onion, sliced
1 small cauliflower, chopped into small florets
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 litre vegetable stock
3-4 tbsp curry paste
500g basmati rice
140g green beans, halved
handful coriander leaves
1.5 tbsp lemon juice
1. Preheat the oven to 220C. Pour the oil into a roasting tin and put in the oven for a few minutes to heat up.
2. Carefully add the onion, sweet potato and cauliflower to the hot oil. Stir to coat, season and roast in the oven for 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, mix together the stock and curry paste.
4. When the vegetables are cooked, stir in the rice and green beans.
5. Pour over the spicy stock mixture.
6. Cover with foil and return to the oven for 30 minutes – turn the temperature down to 190C.
7. Remove from the oven and stir in the lemon juice, coriander and cashews. Serve!