This is not late-breaking news. I saw my first Tim Hortons™ advert in a Spar™ (that’s a 7-11-type convenience store) just off Trafalgar Square back in May, but only recently parted with my pence for a coffee and donut. When one thinks about it, unless they are going to open a window in every grandmother’s living room, Tim’s will have to go abroad for growth, to keep the investors happy (happy investors: what a quaint idea). Any more shops domestically and Canada will have more Tim’s outlets than voting citizens. I’m sure they already outnumber beavers and caribou put together. While it’s never great coffee, Tim Hortons™ is the comfort food that most Canadian adults can recognize and agree on, and whenever homesick I could sure go for one. So I gave it a go this week: the results were mixed.
In my local Spar™ the Tim Hortons™ coffee is dispatched by push button from a machine. Not surprisingly, it tastes like any other pod-dispensed coffee, and nothing like the real McCoy. Not even close. No resemblance whatsoever. If you want a timmies in the UK, grind a medium-quality mocha java and drip it at home. But the donut (neither gluten- nor egg-free; I can eat what I like when on the street) was much more authentic. Chemically-speaking, it was the same boston cream donut one would be served in or Coquitlam, or Flin Flon, or Gander. If it disappointed, it was because it was clearly puffed-up in an oven off-site, and shipped to the store. In Canada, the donut is puffed-up in the oven on-site, and so is one step fresher. But the boston cream was essentially correct (although I’m more of a honey cruller girl, myself; I’d stop into a Spar™ for that).
Happy thanksgiving, Canada! Congratulations on all those solvent banks! And don’t worry: minority governments look great on you, really!
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For all I know, it’s ‘palak pakora.’ Pakora was suggested by the letter home to parents as a buffet food for the school Eid party. This surprised me, as I think of parkora as Hindu, but the chick pea fritter extends throughout the subcontinent, and I believe that everyone eats them. Ashamedly, I have no idea what ingredients might make a pakora more typical of Bangladesh or of Pakistan rather than Tamil-Nadu, so I made them as I always do. I expect that vegetarian pakora was suggested by the school because it neatly skips the issue of halal, which might vex the non-Muslim parents, and thereafter by extension the Muslim parents, too.
Pakoras are very quick and simple. For these I sifted besan (gram, chick pea) flour with a little ground cumin and cardamon, pinches of salt at bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). I then made a paste with water, and stirred in chopped spinach, cilantro, diced red onion and green chili (not much, these were for the kiddies). I promptly deep-fried them by the tablespoon-full in sunflower oil and drained them on towel. My son dips them in yogurt. I like them with lime pickle in oil.
Otherwise, I’ve been absorbed in the markets these past weeks, watching the Fall of the Empire. I buy the FT every morning and it’s out-of-date by lunch. I hang on Robert Peston’s every word, and am consequently tickled to anticipate every calamity by twelve hours. Months ago I found rights issues fascinating (for all the good it did those banks…), but they look ho-hum these days, with half the high street evaporating and Iceland slipping beneath the North Atlantic in a hiss of leverage. I wonder if I’m too old to learn Mandarin…
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This is my version of a sweet-and-sour cabbage dish from north-eastern China (not to be confused with the more famous Chinese hot-and-sour cabbage). If you imagine this dish as Slavic cabbage rolls that have been gutted of their meat before being sent through the office shredder, you will not be too far off the mark. In its preparation, thin slices of cabbage and a little salt are first stir-fried aggressively in oil for two minutes, then covered to steam gently for five. Once the cabbage is removed from the wok, a simple sauce is made quickly there with stewed tomato, the squeeze of a mandarin orange, rice vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce, all thickened with a little cornstarch. It is a green vegetable with sauce prepared in less than fifteen minutes.
I shall leave you with the poetry of Henan-born Du Fu (712-770CE):
A poet should beware of prosperity,
Yet demons can haunt a wanderer.
Ask an unhappy ghost, throw poems to him
Where he drowned himself in the Milo River.
From ” To Li Bai at the Sky Send” by Du Fu, as translated by Witter Bynner in The Jade Mountain: A Chinese Anthology, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1929. Li Bai was also a poet of the Tang Dynasty, and a friend of Du. The drowned poet of the verse is Qu Yuan, who wrote centuries earlier during the Warring States Period.
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This is my version of saag paneer (or palak paneer), an quick Indian side of greens with fresh cheese. The version one reconstitutes from powder in a pouch tends to be more pablum-like. When I make it at home I like mine chunky, with fried paneer and the tang of a tomato sauce. This specimen is a saute of onion, garlic, coriander, cumin, fenugreek (methi) seed, and spinach leaves to which chopped canned tomatoes have been added toward the end. Very simple, quick to do, and not at all hot, so a hit with small children. The onion and fenugreek make it seem quite sweet, actually.
Be warned that paneer is a vengeful dairy product. It hath wrath. Sweetly toasted cubes of cheese come at the price of hot oil spitting about the kitchen and the cook. For minimal spitting, buy a well-pressed block of paneer and fry the whole thing over medium heat on its two significant sides. The fried slab of paneer may be subsequently chopped, producing on each cube two nicely browned sides of six, all for minimal fuss and violence. Frying individual cubes of paneer is maddness: a volley of hot oil shrapnel will pepper your hairy forearms and set them on fire. And once that spreads to your eyebrows your evening is pretty much ruined.
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