I’m relieved 2011 is over. As grateful as I am for all the good things that happened last year – working on the Cook to Jhoom book (especially the food photography and writing this blog), being able to spend lots of quality time with my parents after moving back to Mombasa, and beginning a running program (which has suffered a temporary setback due to a very severe and lingering chest infection (caused by my drinking cold water after a run, according to my mum), but fear not, I will be pounding the pavement again in no time) – I experienced a fair amount of emotional instability – primarily self-inflicted – as I adjusted to my new life in Mombasa. Leaving London in February 2011 was ever so difficult and I’m afraid I spent a lot of time pining for my old life rather than accepting the reality of my new one in Kenya. I’ve wasted a lot of time. I love you London and I’ve left some really special people behind but it’s time to let go and move on and pay attention to all that I have here. In my defense, a large part of the difficulty in adjusting to life in Mombasa has been trying to find a space for myself here, vocationally. Should I throw myself into a career in food (my enduring passion) or follow on from the PhD I worked so hard to achieve by (re)establishing an academic career in this entirely new environment? Or go for a whole new career in the international public sector and wildlife conservation? Or plot yet another escape? In all honesty, I’m still not sure (no escaping, though) but I am determined to figure it out and soon. I have so much to be grateful for, so I will focus on counting my blessings while carving out my space here in Kenya. I am hoping that acceptance will be followed by enjoyment and enthusiasm.
During this time of transition, The Cook to Jhoom book has been the one steady, shining beacon. When I’m in the kitchen, it doesn’t matter where I am geographically, the outside world just fades away; I’m fully present and fully engaged – I think it’s called being in the zone. In one of my earlier blogs I had mentioned that the book would be out in September of last year. It has been delayed with good reason. Just Jhoom! is growing fast and in various different directions; there is so much in the pipeline that was unforeseen that we were, in hindsight, rather ambitious about the release date of the book. Things are now moving along very well and we are aiming for a March publication. I am well excited! In the meantime, I will continue to share new recipes, and occasionally get a little personal, in this blog.
This morning around 10am, I hadn’t had breakfast and was in no way willing to wait until lunch, when I had a craving for some spicy breakfast potatoes. My favourite are Jeera Alu – or cumin potatoes. They are usually made with a fair amount of oil but I found a way to add flavour and moisture while cutting down on the fat. I had them with grilled tomatoes. I enjoyed them so much I might have them again tomorrow. Oh wait, I can’t. I’m on a flight to Nairobi early tomorrow morning because I am going for a close friend’s wedding in which I am a bridesmaid! I’m tanked with antibiotics, antihistamines, and steroids to make sure I enjoy myself during this wedding and, more importantly, don’t disrupt the wedding vows with a coughing fit – how mortifying would that be? Back to the Jeera Alu, do try this quick, easy and very tasty recipe.
Preparation and Cooking Time: 20-25 minutes
6 medium all-purpose potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-1½ cm cubes (750g raw weight, 600 peeled weight)
1-2 medium tomatoes (120g), peeled and finely chopped
1½ teaspoons cumin seeds
1½ teaspoons cumin powder (roast the seeds in a pan and then crush them for the best flavour)
1 teaspoon anardana (dried pomegranate seed) powder OR amchoor (dried mango) powder OR 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon soft brown sugar or coconut sugar
½ teaspoon chilli powder or chilli flakes
Fine sea salt to taste
6 tablespoons water
Chopped coriander or chives for garnish (optional)
1 tablespoon sunflower/olive oil
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil (enough to cover the diced potatoes), add the potatoes and boil on medium heat for 5-6 minutes, they should be easily pierced with a knife but still retain a firm texture. Drain and keep aside.
While the potatoes are cooking heat the oil on medium heat in a non-stick pan, and then add the chopped tomatoes, cumin seeds, cumin powder, anardana/amchoor/lemon juice, sugar, chilli powder/flakes, salt to taste and the water. Let this cook for 2-3 minutes and then taste the mixture and adjust seasoning. It should be like a thick sauce and it should taste boldly of cumin, with some sourness and a hint of sweetness.
Add the boiled potatoes and stir carefully so that they are nicely coated. Take off the heat, garnish and enjoy!
Per serving: Calories 160, Protein 4g, Carbohydrate 31g, Sugars 3g, Fat 4g, Saturates 0g, Fibre 4g. A good source of Vitamin B6 and Potassium, and a very good source of Vitamin C.