Camargue red rice salad

I’ve used a couple of moderately unusual ingredients in this salad. Camargue rice comes from a beautiful mosquito-infested region of France, and I’ve heard it’s technically not really ‘rice’ but that’s what they call it. It has a brilliant nutty taste and can be found in supermarkets (well, Waitrose in Bath at any rate).

Dukkah spice is something I’d never heard of until I saw it on a menu in a swanky pub restaurant a couple of months ago. Then I went in Sainsbury’s and it turns out they actually have their own brand version of it, so it’s either the latest trendy ingredient or something really common that completely passed me by. Anyway, it’s sort of crunchy, with a taste of coriander seeds and dried garlic, and works well in all sorts of salads. Including this one.
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Fatteh with aubergines and tahini yoghurt sauce

Although it doesn’t have the most appealing title, fatteh is a pretty special dish. The Arabic name comes from the crumbled bits of pitta bread that form the middle part of this multi-textured layered concoction. Warm spicy chickpeas beneath crispy bread and cold tangy yoghurt. It’s basically the delicious Middle Eastern chickpea dish balila with a yoghurt dip and some croutons, all in one, but there are many variations. This one adds aubergine to the chickpeas and tahini to the yoghurt. Anything goes, really.
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Roasted celeriac and potato curry

Here’s a basic vegetarian curry that doesn’t require a great deal of effort. Roasting the vegetables separately means they’re guaranteed to be cooked through when you’re ready to serve – there’s nothing worse than preparing to dish up a curry only to find that the spuds still haven’t started to break up properly in the sauce. The mild bitterness of celeriac is excellent with a nice sweet and sour chutney, but you could make this with just potatoes if you’re not convinced.
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Prawn, cashew, lemon and coriander rice

This fragrant rice dish is excellent with a nice vegetable curry. I guess it’s a bit like a biryani, but apparently a proper biryani has the rice cooked separately to the other ingredients, whereas this is all done at once, so I’m not sure what it should be called. Regardless of authenticity, it’s delicious and pretty much foolproof.
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Potato curry with fresh turmeric

I made this curry using fresh turmeric, an ingredient I’d been meaning to try for some time. Widely available at Thai, Chinese and Indian stores, it looks like small, orangey pieces of ginger root, and I can confirm that it’s every bit as fabulously delicious as I had hoped. Thanks, probably, to fresh turmeric, this turned out to be a triumph of home currying.

However, fresh turmeric is also the most astonishingly stainy stuff I’ve ever touched. From the knife I used to cut it, to the chopping board where it briefly rested, turmeric left a vivid reminder of its presence. Two days later, despite vigorous scrubbing with a pumice stone, my hands still look like I’ve had an accident with a fluorescent highlighter pen. Next time I’ll wear gloves, but if you’re looking for a substitute in this recipe, dried turmeric tastes absolutely nothing like the fresh stuff, so you might as well leave it out.
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The easiest crab and shrimp gumbo recipe

When I started looking for recipes for this famous, yet (to Brits like me) mysterious, Creole dish, I was amazed at just how complicated most people seem to think it is. Take the rather ambiguous ‘roux’ base, for example. Even if you can figure out what it is, there are dozens of different methods for making it and a lot of conflicting advice on when it’s supposed to be added to the dish.

Then there’s the arcane ingredient known as filé powder, which is made from sassafras leaves. Some recipes suggest it’s virtually impossible to get outside of the US, which is complete nonsense. I’d never heard of the stuff before, but five minutes on the internet resulted in a packet of it dropping through my letterbox the next day, from a UK company, for about the price of a pint.

Anyway, this is my cut-the-nonsense version. I make the sauce in one pan and cook everything else in another, then add them together at the end. This way you eliminate 90% of the technical faffery that makes the average gumbo recipe look like something even Heston Blumenthal would dismiss as being impractical for home cooks. Adjust the quantities as you see fit – there’s no right or wrong way to do this, but the recipe below works for me.
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