It’s Fathers’ day. Pip gave Mark a lovely card, a hedgehog feeder and a box of Maltesers. Mum and Dad never made a fuss of these occasions but they always seemed pleased if you acknowledged it in some way, however small. Not phoning was the worst you could do on the day. If you left it until late in the evening, you might get a disappointed voice on the other end, just enough to make a point, and then we could move on to other subjects. I hope I could convey my appreciation of them throughout the year but it’s always nice to have another day to celebrate them. Essentially, Mum and Dad wanted us to save our money rather than fritter it away on luxuries such as hedgehog feeders. Pip loves creating things so (apart from buying the box of chocolates, which it transpires she got at a heavily reduced price because I didn’t give her the £2.50 for the school Fathers’ Day sale this week) we’ll let her off.
Even though we should be thinking of our fathers, I’ve been thinking about Mum a lot recently. It’s almost two and a half years since she died and yet I haven’t got anywhere close to fulfilling her recipe legacy. This week I made Karti Kebabs for Pip’s school’s International Evening but I substituted meat for paneer as we’re trying (and often failing) to be more veggie because of the terrible impact the meat industry has on the climate. I was rather pleased with how they turned out and didn’t miss the meat at all; tangy and spicy with the Madras kebab paste as usual but also with an unexpected crunch from oven baking the marinated paneer. Together with crisp red onions and a sluice of lemon before rolling, they were really rather good (even if I do say so myself!).
So this weekend we’ve been eating the Madras paneer leftovers in all sorts of ways (I made way too much for the 40 rotis I had…). First I made a batch into a vegetable curry adding bell peppers and chili to make it spicier. I also made some Tarka Dhal because I bought a huge bag of lentils when I went to Southall for the big shop.
Then I ran out of rice so made a cous cous bowl using porcini mushroom stock to soak the grains and adding sliced red onions, barberries and sultanas to make it a sort of Middle Eastern affair. This was also a success! The paneer has stayed firm at the edges but has lost its crispness so it really does taste like chicken.
Today, the paneer has all gone but I still fancied something spicy and tangy and only had tinned fish to hand so I followed Mum’s Moli recipe, which calls for meat or fish. I’m using tuna and mackerel just to make it go further. I remember Mum making tuna curries and Moli made from a cheeky tin from time to time but the best version is with mutton and, yet, she would only really make it as an afterthought when the meat was left over from a bigger meal the day before. One of the delights of this recipe is that it needs a piece of creamed coconut, which I always keep a box of for emergencies in the fridge, like Mum used to. A little chunk of this goes a long way but, when I was young, I never understood why the box always seemed to be there, defying the use-by-date and looking retro and exotic with its palm leaves and azure sea. It used to sit beside the sturdy box of Atora Suet, a stalwart tin of ghee and myriad jars of mustard and horseradish.
The other powerful ingredients in a Moli are ginger and vinegar: classic Anglo flavours. What these create is a tangy, sharp, moreish stew, pale in colour but strong in its warming, medicinal effect. I tend to make it go further by adding a tin of coconut milk, more vinegar and, today, some bell peppers because I still have loads from the big shop. This has made it soupier – like the classic Moli or Molee but unlike Mum’s, which was thicker and more concentrated. I prefer hers any day of the week even if I have given up meat (sort of).
Mark is having a lazy Sunday and Pip is playing a video game on Papa’s iPad. It is of course a day to remember fathers; in two weeks it will be a whole year since Dad died. Paul and Jennifer are coming over from America to mark the occasion as well as Uncle Colin from Australia. The Griffithses will assemble to commemorate him and also Mum, who we will be interring in Granny and Papa Upshon’s grave in Greenford followed by (probably) a classic British buffet or a roast dinner. If Nana Griffiths was in charge, the spread would be eked out with a Fray Bentos pie, clouds of buttery mash and mushy peas. We’ll have to have something like this for Griffstock.
But for now, we remember Mum and her understated but delicious Fish Moli. I added cubed potatoes before I started writing this and they are now perfectly cooked so it’s time to eat. It’s not a complicated recipe – Mum’s simple instructions make that clear. Just don’t forget to add the vinegar.
(Some pictures of International Evening at Pip’s school, June 2019)
(The Paneer Kathi Roll process)
(And when you think only the best Samosas and Pakoras will do…)