One of the most often-quoted bits of linguistic trivia is the fact that the Inuit peoples have more words for snow that any other language – somewhere between 50 and 100, depending on which languages you include in your survey (to be fair, these words refer to both ice and snow!). At the other extreme, the language of the Amazonian Amondawa tribe has no words for periods of time like ‘month’ or ‘year’. Their culture evolved without calendars and rather than giving themselves ages, the Amondawa people take different names at different times in their lives, and also cannot describe ‘time’ as an abstract concept. The Inuit have an intense need to differentiate between minutely different types of frozen water, while the Amondawa have no need to demarcate their lives in the hours, days or years, and in this way both their languages are shaped and determined by the context of their daily lives.
Ah – context again. I’ve been thinking about context lately in relation to the insanely good summer we are having here in the UK. I often complain that the problem with the UK is that summer comes in 2-day instalments: two hot days, then three chilly days; then three hot days, then five days of rain. You can never settle into a routine (or a seasonal wardrobe!). But this year we have had 3 weeks now of fairly uninterrupted (in London anyway!) hot weather – sunny days and humid nights. When the weather forecaster comes on in the evening and there is a looming cold front coming from the Atlantic, he comes over all doom and gloom, saying things like “but by Thursday it will all be over and the rain will return” and everyone gets a little depressed. It always strikes me how different things are in South Africa, a country consisting of large chunks of arid semi-desert. You can’t talk to a farmer for more than five minutes without the topic of rain coming up – usually the fact that they have not had enough! Whereas the arrival of rain is cause for depression in England, it is cause for great celebration in countries like Africa or India, where the annual monsoon is regularly welcomed with a profusion of colourful celebrations.
The festival of Teej is one of the many monsoon festivals of India, taking place over two days in July/August, where married women celebrate by singing, dancing, telling stories, cooking festive foods, having their hands painted with henna, and wearing new clothes in shades of red, yellow and green. These same three colours are reflected in the gorgeous packaging for Masala Monsoon spices – a selection of floral garam masala blends created by Sumayya Usmani. Originally from Pakistan, Sumayya wanted people to understand that using spice in cooking is more complex than simply adding chilli to food – it’s also about how much to add, the correct stage of cooking at which to add, which elements of the food you want the spice to emphasise, and how the spice flavours are layered in a dish.
The three garam masalas in her first spice range can be used as rubs, sprinkles, marinades or simply to add to stews or curries. Each blend is subtly differentiated by the addition of a different floral flavour: rose petal garam masala (great with beef, lamb, vegetables or even dessert); jasmine garam masala (great with vegetables, rice, poultry or seafood); and marigold petal garam masala (great with seafood, vegetables, fruit or lentils). I decided to try the marigold petal garam masala which has a wonderfully vibrant yellow colour and a wonderful scent reminiscent of saffron. Rather than add it to a stew or a curry, I opted to toss some cubed pumpkin in oil and spice and roast it in order to use in a warm salad. While it was roasting, even my husband wandered into the kitchen, distracted from the Commonwealth Games on TV by the delicious spicy aroma. To balance the sweetness of the pumpkin (grown on the allotment last year, incidentally!) I also added some strips of fried halloumi cheese and a sprinkling of toasted sunflower seeds. The verdict? The perfect antidote to those who do not find salads substantial enough for a meal – spicy, crunchy, salty and delicious all in one bowl! Definitely cause for celebration, whatever the weather.
Masala Monsoon products are available direct via the website or from these stockists.
If you are a fan of halloumi, check out these halloumi recipes by other bloggers:
- Margot’s grilled tomatoes and peppers with halloumi cheese
- Helen’s fried halloumi salad with baked pomegranate grapes
- Elizabeth’s seaweed farfalle & pesto with chilli halloumi
- Michelle’s mixed vegetable, chickpea & halloumi salad
DISCLOSURE: I received the Masala Monsoon products as free samples at a recent workshop but was not required to write about them. I received no further remuneration to write this post and all opinions expressed are my own.
- about 2 cups of raw pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cubed
- olive oil (plus a little extra for frying the cheese)
- 1 tsp Masala Monsoon marigold petal garam masala
- 1 generous pinch of salt
- 1 generous handful of sunflower seeds
- about 150g halloumi cheese, sliced into 0.5cm slices
- 1 bag of wild rocket (about 2 cups of leaves)
- Olive oil and vinegar to serve
- Line a baking tray with foil or baking parchment and pre-heat the oven to 185C. Toss the pumpkin pieces in enough oil to coat, sprinkle with the masala and salt and roast for about 30 minutes or until soft (try to turn then once about halfway through cooking).
- In the meantime, in a small non-stick pan, dry fry the sunflower seeds over medium heat. Toss occasionally and keep an eye on them as they burn very easily. When they start to brown, remove from the heat.
- In a non-stick frying pan, heat about 1 tsp of the olive oil and add the halloumi slices in a single layer (work in batches if you have to). Cover them with a splatter screen as they tend to spit a little! Turn when they are golden brown and fry until the other side is also turning golden. Drain on some paper towels.
- Divide the rocket among 2 or 4 plates (depending if this is a starter or a main course), top with pumpkin cubes and cheese slices. Dress with olive oil and vinegar, then sprinkle with the sunflower seeds and a little extra garam masala. Serve immediately.