Wine glass in hand, apron fastened around my waist, you will find me happiest in my kitchen, standing over a chopping board. Throw into the mix a few friends hanging out snacking on samosas and I’m positively buzzing. That’s the power of food.
Like music and art, food has the power to make us experience intense emotions ... in this case, warm, fuzzy memories of delicious aromas wafting from pots stirred by mothers and grandmas, tastes associated with first experiences or lessons learnt standing around a fire, braai tongs in hand.
But even more than emotions and memories, food shared has the power to foster social change. If that idea throws you, stick with me, I promise there’ll be a recipe parcelled in here.
An important lessons I’ve learnt as an adult, and indeed am still learning, is the art of being OK with others who disagree with me — be that a political view, a question of faith, or which is the greatest hip-hop album — Illmatic by Nas (fight me in the comments section).
At a time that we should be engaging in conversation, especially with those who have opposing views, it seems we’re retreating to murky echo chambers and exiling those who dare have a difference of opinion. We are seemingly siloed into extreme positions.
But I’ve found that is rarely the case when you take the time to look someone in the eyes and lend an ear, preferably across a table, to an opposing view. What I’ve found is more often than not opinions overlap. Or at least you gain insight into why the person has taken a particular view.
I’ve found that given an opportunity and space, people are willing to change their views. It’s never as set in stone as we may believe. At the end of the day, what most people want is simply an opportunity to be heard.
There’s an involuntary disarming that happens when you sit across a table sharing food with someone. It’s this lowering of defences that is crucial in building relationships and fostering conversation. This is the true power of food.
A catalyst of sorts, it’s the sweetness or the spiciness of a dish that makes difficult conversations palatable. It’s the long Sunday lunches that help carve out the time to work through weighty subjects that cannot be articulated in 280 characters.
Below you will find an authentic Durban style mince curry recipe. I would encourage you to have some folks over, preferably some with a different worldview than yours. Making more space at your table is easier than building bridges. I guarantee you’ll be happier for it, if not for your efforts to encourage dialogue then certainly for your killer cooking skills.
Mince Curry with Peas and Potatoes, serves four
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 sticks of cinnamon
- 3 cardamom pods
- 1 star anise
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 medium onion finely chopped (I pop the quartered onion into my food processor and blitz to finely chopped. No tears)
- 10 curry leaves
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground garlic
- 10 curry leaves
- 3 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
- ½ tsp coriander powder
- ½ tsp cumin powder
- 2 tomatoes finely chopped (I pop the tomatoes into the food processor as well)
- 500g beef mince — lamb mince makes a great substitute
- Salt to taste — about a teaspoonful should suffice
- 3 medium potatoes cut into quarters
- ½ cup frozen peas
- ½ tsp garam masalaFresh coriander
- Add the oil to a medium heavy-based pot on medium heat, temper cinnamon sticks, cardamom, bay leaf and star anise till fragrant. Add onions and cook for two minutes.
- Add curry leaves and cook till onions are golden brown. Brown onions equal flavour.
- Lower the heat to medium-low, add garlic and ginger and cook for a further minute. Be careful not to burn the garlic and ginger. Garlic develops a bitter flavour if burnt.
- Spoon in the chilli, cumin and coriander powder. Stir spices into the oil and fry for a minute.
- Pop in the chopped tomatoes and cook for two minutes or until you notice little pools of oil developing on the surface. You should have a deep red-brown paste that’s fragrant. Sip wine.
- Add mince and combine thoroughly making sure you work out all the lumps of mince. Salt to taste
- Throw in the quartered potatoes and a dash of water to help the potatoes cook. Resist any urge to add too much water or you will end up with a soupy curry and incur the wrath of the Indian auntie from down the street. Mince curry is a drier curry compared with other Indian dishes.
- With the heat around medium/low cover and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Stir occasionally so the mince doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
- Five minutes before the end add the frozen peas and stir through. Sprinkle the garam masala over the top, scatter some fresh coriander and you’re golden.
Serve with fluffy basmati rice or roti and tomato and onion sambals. Tag me in your Instagram post or it never happened.