For the tomato curry
cumin seeds 1 tbsp
coriander seeds 1 tbsp
cardamom pods 10
fennel seeds ½ tbsp
black mustard seeds ½ tbsp
star anise 2
sunflower oil 2 tbsp or other neutral-flavoured oil
ground turmeric ½ tsp
sea salt 1 tsp
coconut milk 400ml
tamarind paste 2 tsp
curry leaves a small handful
tomatoes 12 medium-sized
fresh green peppercorns 2 branches
sugar 1-2 tsp, depending on the sweetness of the tomatoes
coriander 6-7 healthy sprigs, leaves chopped
For the cucumber raita
cucumber 1 large, peeled
salt 1 tsp
plain yogurt 300g
lemon juice a little
garlic 1 clove, crushed and finely chopped
green chilli 1, deseeded and finely chopped
fresh mint 1 heaped tbsp, finely chopped
For the lemon pilau rice
butter 40g, plus an extra small knob
onion 1 small, finely chopped
basmati rice 200g (I always use Tilda and don’t wash it)
bay leaf 1
lemon 1 small, zested in thin strips using a potato peeler, and the juice squeezed into a small jug
salt and freshly ground white pepper
To make the cucumber raita, coarsely grate the cucumber and sprinkle over the salt. Mix well, put into a colander and suspend over a deep bowl. Leave the cucumber to soak and drip for about 30 minutes – or a bit longer, it matters not. Manually squeeze out excess moisture from the cucumber, then place it in a bowl and mix in the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, chilli and mint. Decant into a serving dish and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.
For the tomato curry, lightly toast the first 7 whole spices in a frying pan, until aromatic; take care that they don’t scorch, however.
Heat the oil in a wide, shallow pan and add the whole toasted spices. Fry for a couple of minutes over a moderate heat, then add the turmeric and salt. Pour in the coconut milk and stir in the tamarind and curry leaves. Bring up to a simmer and allow to cook quietly for about 15 minutes. Now, using a stick blender, blitz the mixture for about 30 seconds, just to break up the spices. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse while you skin and core the tomatoes and remove the peppercorns from their branches.
Pass the coconut sauce through a fine sieve and return it to the (washed up) pan. Put the tomatoes into the sauce (removed-core-side down) and sprinkle in the peppercorns. Allow the tomatoes to simmer in the sauce until softened and the sauce has reduced and become a touch thicker; about 15-20 minutes. Finally, taste the sauce to see if it needs a touch of sugar, or more salt, then stir in the chopped coriander leaves and serve forthwith.
To make the rice, preheat the oven to 160C fan/gas mark 4. Melt the butter in a roomy ovenproof pot that also has a tight-fitting lid. Add the onion and cook gently until lightly coloured. Tip in the rice and stir around a bit in the butter and onion until well coated. Pour in the water, add the bay and slowly bring up to a simmer. Meanwhile, finely cut the strips of lemon zest into small slivers and pop in the pot, together with a little salt and pepper.
Once the rice is simmering, put on the lid and slide into the oven. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, don’t lift off the lid, and leave to sit for 5 minutes. Now take off the lid, and fluff up the rice with a fork while also pouring in the lemon juice. Lay a tea towel over the pan and then clamp the lid on tight. Leave be for another 5 minutes; this allows the rice to steam, which will then be absorbed by the towel. Finally, remove the lid and towel – wonderful fragrance emanating – and stir in the knob of butter to glisten the rice.