“Aaaah yes. Rose Petal Masala. There’s a story involved. You’ll see…”
This here recipe is a recipe that’s not even a recipe. I mean, opening up this train of thought actually begins the conversation of ‘What is a recipe?’ because if it’s a list of techniques, then I guess it could be a recipe? But I feel almost too audacious to give you a ‘recipe’ when all I’m asking you to do is pour hot water on something and put it in an oven? Is that a recipe?
I read a book once (once, only once) called The Downstairs Cookbook: Recipes from a 1920’s Household Cook by Margaret Powell who stated that the term ‘recipe’ actually comes from the ‘receipt’. Back in the ‘olden days’, for lack of a more appropriate term, chefs and household cooks were instructed to write down everything they cooked and the manner in which everything was cooked as a means of justifying to their employer how they best utilised the money spent on food. These ‘receipts’ where then turned into ‘recipes’. Get it?
Anyway. I don’t run through recipes as a means of showing you how I curb my coins, I only give you these ‘recipes’ as an indicator to what I eat on a daily basis so that we can get a food conversation going and hopefully you leave this blog either hungry or with a plan for what you’re going to eat after work at some point this week. This recipe is one of those recipes. It’s just something I threw together when I was busy one evening and didn’t want to be shackled to the Kitchen.
And don’t be alarmed by Rose Petal Masala. Aaaah yes. Rose Petal Masala. There’s a story involved. You’ll see.
Preheat the oven to 200C and boil a kettle. What a joy to start a recipe this way. Pour about half a cup of plain couscous into a bowl. To this bowl add quarter teaspoon of cinnamon, quarter teaspoon of turmeric and two bay leaves. Now add a teaspoon of Rose Petal Masala. Story to follow.
I have a friend with middle class problems by the name of Lowri (who also happens to be the wonderful occasional photographer for this blog, see more of her work here – https://www.facebook.com/LowriBethanPhotography/) who was once on a road trip with her partner ‘Up North’ which at some point took them through Gloucestershire. They drove past an incredibly high end food shop. She slammed on the breaks. Walking around with a shopping basket, Lowri picked up a plethora of fantastic, overpriced, magnificent and totally unnecessary ingredients for no reason other than because she wanted to. And why not.
She called me and told me she had bought me a few bags of ‘weird and amazing spices’. She told me she had bought me ‘some weird rose petal stuff’. I asked her what it was. ‘I don’t know, it’s a masala. It’s got dried rose petals in it, it’s beautiful’. I asked her how it differed from garam masala. She answered ‘who cares? It’s got rose petals in it, it’s lush’. And there was the conversation, and the damn thing is so fragrant and beautiful I recommend it to anybody.
So if you don’t have access to Rose Petal Masala nor do you have a decadent friend who likes to stop in expensive food retailers, you can substitute this by adding a pinch of cumin, a pinch of nutmeg and a little ground coriander. It won’t have the perfume of the Rose Petal Masala but it will still hit the same notes. Add a pinch of salt and pepper before covering with the boiled water. Drop a plate on top of the bowl for about 20 minutes and allow the couscous to soak up.
Slice two peppers in half lengthways (picture below) and rid them of their seeds and any white pieces of nonsense. Put a little olive oil in your palms and rub the peppers all over. Place them on a baking tray and slip in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the peppers from the oven before spooning in the couscous. Grate over a little parmesan cheese before sliding back in the oven for a further 10 minutes until the cheese begins to crisp. Once crisped, throw a nice leafy handful of coriander over the top before serving.
I’ve served this with a salad dressed only with tomatoes and good olive oil but however you want to serve these is okay by me. And if you find you’ve made too much couscous, which I do regularly, I box it up and take it in to work with me the next day for a guilt free lunch. Just don’t be off put by the thought of not having the Rose Petal Masala. My friend and I are totally aware of our ridiculousness and just because we revel in it, doesn’t mean you have to.
Some cumin, nutmeg and ground coriander will be just fine.