I think of garlic (strictly, a member of the onion family) as an essential seasoning. I am often teased about my constant use of garlic, but remain unrepentant: you can, if you truly dislike it, always leave it out, but time and again I have heard from other cooks that garlic has often been added to dishes served to garlic-haters and they’ve been none the wiser!
If like me you happen to love it, did you know it’s very easy to grow? All you do is separate the cloves (individual sections) from the bulb, and plant them 2 inches (5 cm) deep and about 2 inches (5 cm) apart in early spring. Then in August you can harvest your own crop, which will be firm, juicy and tasting so much better than imported garlic bought from a shop.
One way to crush garlic – a question I’m asked all the time – is to place the clove on a board, set the flat side of a small knife on top and press with your thumb until you have squashed it to a pulp. You could invest in a proper garlic crusher, though these are tiresome things to clean. Probably the best way is with a pestle and mortar: add a little salt as this helps to reduce the garlic to a smooth paste.
And one tip for peeling garlic – place the unpeeled clove on a flat surface and simply press it with your thumb. This breaks the skin all over, and it peels away very easily.
Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best: this one is also brilliant if you're eating cheaply as the ingredients are all very economical and you'll probably have them in the storecupboard already.
This, thankfully, is a Thai recipe that doesn't require all the speciality ingredients that are sometimes so elusive. The list of ingredients seems rather long, but it is made in moments and has a lovely fragrant flavour.
Make the peppers ahead for an easy dish when entertaining. Stuffing vegetables with a mixture of rice, nuts and dried fruit adds plenty of flavour and a very Mediterranean element.
Dhal is simply the Indian word for lentils. The best kind to use for this are the red split lentils which most supermarkets stock.
Black-eyed beans are the lovely nutty beans that are popular in recipes from the deep south of America and, with the addition of other vegetables, they make very good beancakes.