I grew up watching my parents work hard in their allotment. My dad loved going down to the allotment and spending hours there. I never understood why when I was young, but as I got older it all made sense. That was one place he could relax in the bright sun (yes we did have bright sunny days in England when I was a kid) It reminded him of his home in Jummu/Azaad Kashmir, remembering the world, family he left behind to come to England. The good old days he would say. I loved listening to the tales, the stories he told us.
My first day at our new allotment was very exciting until I realised I had to get my hands dirty. Never did get the hang of getting rid of weeds. Still struggle with gardening. My 12 year old only yesterday advised me on going to a gardening course. She felt sorry for the lovely plant a friend had bought me.
I am not all bad when it comes to gardening. I am great with growing coriander. Some skills you don’t forget as you get older. I watched my mother grow coriander in the back yard before the allotment. She would grab some newspaper and get some coriander seeds. They had to be the darker seeds. My mother said the coriander grows better. She would put the seeds on the newspaper and then fold the paper and using sometimes a milk bottle she would crush the seeds. Then let me sprinkle the seeds in the soil. Watering the coriander and seeing the crushed seeds turning green, growing tall was a great memory. Then enjoying tasting the fresh coriander in the Kashmiri curries. Sometimes she would let the coriander over grow, until more seeds would appear, we would then gather all the seeds, ready to use in our wonderful Kashmiri dishes. She would grind it into powder. The smell was just amazing, so fresh.
I never argued with my mums gardening, after all she was the expert in growing crops in Kashmir and then bringing her skills to England, growing coriander, mint, in the back yard, until we got the allotment. My mum and dad had such pleasure giving away the spinach,garlic, potato, coriander etc to the community. The strawberries never made it to the friendly community, not possible there were five of us who loved picking strawberries. We had to get paid somehow, for all the watering we did at the allotment.
What can you do with coriander?
When I first started to teach cooking I would have bunches of coriander for all my students to add to their ingredients. Many of my students were from ‘white British background’ and one thing they struggled to understand is the amount of coriander to use. I would turn my back and it would all disappear. My facial expression gave away the shock of horror, maybe thinking how selfish these people are, at the time. But of course most of them were innocent.They would say ‘ Oooh I love coriander!’
I know my mother use to say a curries not a curry if you haven’t got coriander but I can tell you this much she also taught me how to balance the flavours. One thing you didn’t do is have a coriander curry. A chicken curry was a chicken curry but we always knew the fresh coriander flavour was there.
5 tips/info on coriander
1.Remember not to overpower your recipe with coriander. Don't waste the coriander. Always use the stalks when cooking dishes as it has lovely strong flavour, plus you won't need to use the whole bunch of coriander.
2. Chop coriander leaves , add them to salads, soups, kebabs and pastes/chutney for a beautiful aromatic flavour.
3..Any leftover coriander wrap it in foil. or as my mum did, wrapped in newspaper.and then refigerated.
4. Chop left over coriander up , place it in freezer bag ready to freeze, all chopped for your next dish.
5.Coriander like many herbs contains antioxidants and has many health benefits too such as reducing high blood pressure, skin inflamation ,Low cholesterol level.
Please visit my recipe and video page to create delicious dishes with coriander.
How about posting any tips you have for coriander or better still keeping plants alive. I promise I do water them. Happy cooking.