Classroom memories

Last week I had a message from a friend who was following my blog, and thought that she recognised the format of the recipes I posted. She realised that it looked the same as some her mother had used and it transpired that her mother was a student at one of my mothers classes! These recipes were clearly well used with food stains and notes… This made my weekend, and I know my mother would have loved knowing her recipes were being used and passed down through another family.

It made me think back to those days she used to work at  three local adult education centres to teaching a variety of Asian cuisines. She worked two terms out of three, leaving the summer free to travel. Those two terms entailed heading out to Richmond, Merton or Kingston adult education centres two or three nights a week, teaching classes of 12-15 students. Whilst it was hard work to prep the ingredients and write the recipes, she thoroughly enjoyed these classes and got to know some of her students very well as they followed her term after term. I went along a few times, just to see what it was all about, and was surprised how social it was. Some students even brought in a bottle of wine…no ‘health and safety’ issues in those days! My mother being the lady she was would ensure that not only her students left well fed and with an armful of recipes, but the school caretaker also had his own plate too. This was not in vain… it meant that she was given special treatment, whether this be parking up next to the classroom, which for someone who didn’t like the cold and wet, was hugely important, or the caretaker helping her carry her things to and from her car. I like to think that he also looked forward to those Asian meals!

My recipes this week were very simple – Keema curry and fried okra. Keema curry is minced lamb or minced beef, and for us growing up, was probably the first type of curry we were introduced to. My mother made it mild and called it ‘baby curry’. As we grew older, our palate became more tolerant to spice, which is the way both my mother and I have taught my boys to enjoy spicy food. If you have leftover of this curry, you can use it to make curry puffs or samosas as they are better known here, with the addition of chopped boiled potato if you wanted.

The fried okra was one i created, based on the Indian restaurant classic ‘Bhindi bhaji’- You can swop the okra for aubergines, or even green beans.

We ate this with paratha – you can buy frozen paratha in any Indian or Asian grocery store, and I think even a large Tesco may have them. I prefer the plain one as it means the flavours of the dishes aren’t hidden.

Bhindi Bhaji – my styleimg_1676

300g Okra – each cut into 3

2 large tomatoes – cut into 8

1 onion – sliced

1 cloves garlic – sliced thinly

1tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp fenugreek, 1 /2 tsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp turmeric, 2 dried chillies

10-15 curry leaves (not imperative but nice to have)

Coriander leaves to garnish

Salt to taste, 3 Tbs vegetable oil

Heat the oil in a wok. Add the dried chilli, mustard seeds, fenugreek and fennel seeds. Let the spices pop and release their aromas.

Add the onion and soften. Then add the okra and tomatoes, sprinkle in the turmeric and salt. Stir fry over a high heat until the tomatoes and okra begin to soften and the onion takes on some colour. Turn the heat down and continue to stir fry, adding water if necessary to stop it sticking. Add the curry leaves and cook for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are all soft and have absorbed the flavours. Serve garnished with chopped coriander.

KEEMA (minced beef or lamb curry)

300 – 400 gms minced beef or lamb
1 chopped onion
½ tsp crushed garlicimg_1677
1 tbs minced ginger
1 tsp garam masala
2 tbs cooking oil
1 cup water (or more if necessary)
1 tsp chilli powder (less for a milder taste)
1 tbs cumin powder
1½ tbs coriander powder
½ tsp turmeric
1tsp lemon juice
Salt to taste


Mix the ingredients for the marinade into the meat and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
Heat the cooking oil and fry the onions till slightly brown. Add the garlic and fry till light brown then stir in the ginger for about a minute.
Saute the meat in the oil till nearly dry. Sprinkle on a little water if necessary. Then add the water and simmer till the meat is again nearly dry. Add the garam masala and cook for a further few minutes.

Serve garnished with fresh coriander and sliced green chillies.

**I added a couple of cups of frozen peas to ours – a throwback to the days we used to eat ‘baby curry’.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Annette Pocklington says:

    Lovely, so pleased you have continued in your mothers footsteps, exciting will start to cook a few thing’s when I get back to the UK. See you soon.


  2. Jools says:

    What wonderfully evocative posts. I’m looking forward to following you and your fabulous mother on this gastronomic Asian journey! x

    Liked by 1 person

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