Peter Calder recently ate his way around Sandringham on tour with Eat Auckland with co-founder Lisa Loveday and tour guide Mary Taylor. Who knew you could age rice? It’s a silly question, really. The answer is probably about 3.5 billion people or half the world’s population. But until a couple of weeks ago, I was in the other half.
I learned about the ageing of rice at Bawarchi, a restaurant in the Auckland suburb of Sandringham. The proprietor, Azeem Mohammed, imports his aged basmati rice directly, so he can be sure of its quality.
My later research establishes that Indians are very fussy about the age of their rice: one year is regarded a minimum storage time and families lucky enough to be able to stockpile the staple food know that the old stuff tastes best.
Bawarchi is one of the 10 stops on the Sandringham Food and Spice Tour, on which participants eat their way around the small block of shops in a part of Auckland that has become affectionately known as Little India. That’s something of a misnomer: a Sri Lankan restaurant and a place that stocks Fijian produce has changed the mix slightly.
The afternoon (less walking than eating, by the way), takes in seven eateries where we get to sample different snacks or portioned larger meals and three markets where there’s fresh fenugreek, paneer, sour melons, rocket chillies and much much more.
Check out more details on their website eatauckland.co.nz
Mary Taylor’s lemon-infused Sri Lankan cashews
A little snack served before you start walking.
250g raw cashew nuts
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp Sri Lankan curry spice, roasted (see below for recipe)
12 curry leaves
1 tbsp oil
In a bowl, mix together cashews, lemon zest and juice, curry spice and curry leaves. Leave to infuse for 1 hour, then stir in the oil.
Preheat the oven to 175°C. Line a shallow oven tray with baking paper. Place in cashews and roast for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with a glass of homemade ginger beer.
Sri Lankan curry spice
1/2 tsp each fennel seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds
2 tbsp coriander seeds
6 each cardamom pods and cloves
10cm-piece stick cinnamon
Slowly dry roast all ingredients in a heavy-based frying pan until browned, then grind in a coffee mill or mortar and pestle.