Fish Moli for Fathers’ Day


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…)


ND. Xx

Devil Fry




It’s just under an hour until a year exactly has passed since Mum died. It doesn’t feel like yesterday – it’s been a quick year in some ways but the events of the last 12 months have filled in a lot of the empty spaces.

Dad has pretty much redecorated the whole house, learnt to use Facebook and rid himself of prostate cancer; Jeff and Monika have watched our bundle of joy Lara learn to walk, negotiate far and near-flung staircases and swimming pools and start to call Pip “Peach”; Kris has rehabilitated himself after a year of Police service; Pip still hasn’t learnt to swim or ride a bike and Mark and I enjoyed having housemates until the autumn, which kept the wolf from the door.

Xmas came and went with pleasant company and plenty of lazy hometime. Thoughts of Nana were cheerfully recalled and her absence this year reminded us how the same time last year was much harder work.

I can’t forget what a shock it was to see her last Xmas day. She always made an effort for the family and ate a little but we all knew it would be a miracle if she survived another year.

I remember those few weeks of the new year much more fondly; she was blissfully narcotised on Oxycodone in her hospital chair and, even though mobility was difficult, she could still reminisce and chat and laugh.

In fact the recipe for Devil Fry was written down around the time she’d tell me her wishes for her funeral. It wasn’t a devastating time – it was a time of gathering stories, memories and recipes. And how we laughed.

So today Jeff, Monika and Lara came for lunch and I fed them the Boxing Day favourite (although not mine) Turkey Devil as we called it. Not sure if I did it justice but the house was certainly filled with that unmistakeable scent of fried onions and ginger, which hit you every time you arrived at Woodstock Avenue or Poplar Hill or Astley Avenue for that matter…

It’s simple really but the balance of ginger, sweetness and sour vinegar takes a little practice so Mum’s teaspoon and tablespoon measurements are approximate for a turkey crown sized amount of meat. As she would say, “you need to judge it.”

I’m writing this on the sofa surrounded by the detritus of Lara and Pip’s toybox carnage. I’m not planning on doing much else for a bit except lounge and ponder the events of this time last year (20 minutes to go).

Mark has lit a candle. I’m grateful to him for keeping Pip at school last January in the week running up to this day. I’m grateful that I had that time by Mum’s bedside and the privileged position of being there when she eventually died.

Soon she’d be trying to wriggle off the bed and say her last words “it’s so hard to explain” before being comfortably tucked back into bed. Soon she’d give that last distant look across the bed. Soon her breathing would shallow but her pulse would stay strong for an impressive time until finally ebbing away. Soon she would be at peace.

It’s 14:42 and in 10 minutes time, a year ago, we lost the most fun-loving, thrill-seeking, super-cooking Mum, Nana, Wife, Sister, Niece, Cousin and friend we could ask for. Rest in peace Phyllis Griffiths.




We called it stew although it never took very long from the first idea of making it to the unmistakeable clovey, vinegary, meaty, spicy yet herby fragrance filling the house to that sated feeling of wellbeing after your second or third helping. In other words, very little stewing takes place.

My memory is that this Anglo staple was a weekly meal when I was growing up, but it was probably only once a month due to Mum’s school-night dinner repertoire of stuffed hearts, faggots, lasagne, Oriental beef, dhal and rice, spag bol, sausages –  the usual Anglo-Indian-Welsh suspects. This dish though was not my favourite when very young; there must have been a turning point that led to complete slavering commitment to its warming deliciousness. Perhaps it was that well-known adolescent rite of passage when cauliflower and broccoli are no longer vom inducing. Perhaps only then are we truly adult.

Mum’s stew is not really a proper cowboy/cassoulet affair as she never cooked it for very long. Just until the meat was tender enough to allow time for the potatoes or suet dumplings (or sometimes both) to cook or flump up.

And Mum’s approach to tender meat was to cut diced beef into tinier cubes to reduce the cooking time, increase the meat-on-spoon ratio and, classic Mum, to be thrifty with her resources. Ever the economist, Mum wouldn’t bother with expensive cuts of meat (and would often criticise me for buying fancier stuff) and for a dish like this, I can understand her reasoning. The meat isn’t necessarily the star of this show (although this didn’t stop us diving for pearls of meatiness when it was our turn to help ourselves) because of the tangy red unction, softened cauliflower and floury, tender spuds.

I tried making this as a student, reluctant to always be phoning Mum for help, and always getting it wrong because I’d missed some seemingly irrelevant yet undoubtedly indispensable bay leaf or nub of ginger.  Invariably I’d add more vinegar than was necessary (being a good half-Anglo) and I’d end up with flavourless thin, cauliflower and tomato soup with tough, but expensively julienned, fillets of Duchy, free range, organic, sustainable cow from the a farmer called Jasper or similar…

Mum’s recipe calls for modestly essential Anglo ingredients: ginger, vinegar, cloves, cardamom, chilli, cinnamon and peppercorns and a daitchkey brimming with onions, celery, carrots, beans, tomatoes, cauliflower and potatoes. You know you’re a little bit Welsh when you require stodgy dumplings as well as the spuds to fulfil a paternally inherited need to mop juices with sliced white bread. You know you’re Anglo when you’ve made the above but don’t feel satiated without a portion of fragrant basmati rice.

I made this for my brother and Dad a few days after Mum died in that period when close family sit around and either pretend to feel alright or have little bursts of tears when they realise they haven’t asked all the questions they should have like “how much is too much cornflour to thicken?” It was a success, even though I hadn’t found the recipe cards yet.

I recently made it at home, again without the cards and it was bloody awful. I’d forgotten stock cubes despite using posh fresh beef stock and I replaced chilies with West Indian hot pepper sauce that masked all the other flavours. It was bland and chilli hot.

I asked Dad to bring the recipe cards with him on today’s visit to Aunty Rita’s in Worthing and, not understanding what I meant, filled the boot with half her recipe books and not the little linen pouch that I’ve kept safely in her kitchen. So, once again, I’ll have to post the actual recipe next time I go to Suffolk.

We are staying in a Travelodge family room overlooking the sea. We came a few days after Mum died to see Aunty Linda before she died and then again a few days after Mum’s funeral. It’s funny how I associate Worthing with Mum even though I don’t think we’ve ever been here together more than once or twice.

I still catch myself forgetting she’s dead. Yesterday, my cousin Catherine, who lives across the road from Mum and Dad, posted a picture of rice and peas and, for a split second, I thought ‘I wonder if Mum made her that and sent it over’. Then came the familiar sinking feeling…

Last week Pip and I went camping and I regaled our friends with memories of karti kebabs, tandoori chicken and paraffin stove beef curries. Mum’s curry powders went camping with her so I feel ashamed that we just took biscuits and sandwiches this time. Pip’s not entirely ready for Mum’s stew but luckily she understands that I’m trying to make Nana’s recipes partly for her benefit. It will be quite a feat to pull off the Phyllis Griffiths approach to camping so in the meantime I’ll stick to these old favourites.

Try it! But don’t forget to add tiny morsels of inexpensive beef and lashings of vinegar.

Beef Stew Recipe

Beef stew method (2)Beef stew ingredients (2)