After weeks of disturbingly mild weather the New York winter finally landed a convincing blow last week when, for the first time this year, what remains of my hair froze the second I stepped out of our apartment door. I actually love it when that happens because I'm one of these masochistic, cold-loving British types. I do not do well in warm weather. It makes me sweaty and unpleasant, in terms of both my physical condition and my temperament. I have no idea at all why any sane person would want to visit, say, Florida, let alone actually live there. Heat stultifies, enervates and oppresses me; cold invigorates and makes me feel fully alive. Perhaps this is partly to do with being raised on the chilly Humber estuary, where even the nearby seaside resorts couldn't pretend to be good places for suntans and swimsuits. Yes, only the English would even consider trying to sell a dismal dump like Skegness on the basis of it being cold and windy, and only in England could such a pitch succeed. Put on your sweaters, scarves and galoshes, kids, we're going to the beach! Hooray!
Depressingly, the temperature has climbed again over the last few days but last week's brief, thrilling chill was enough to turn my thoughts and appetite towards hearty, filling food, and I remembered that for years I've been promising Ann that I'd make Red Dragon Pie. This is a sort-of veggie version of Shepherd's Pie and features Aduki (or Adzuki) beans and rice as its principal ingredients. It's also very tasty and satisfying, and just the thing for a cold evening. So last Sunday I made it while Ann's daughter Sophie was here and it was every bit as delicious as I remembered. The recipe below makes four generous servings but I confess the three of us finished the lot without too much trouble. It's nice accompanied by a simple salad but also goes well with pretty much any sort of green veg.
Red Dragon Pie
4 oz aduki beans
8 oz diced carrot
2 oz rice (brown is good, but standard white, basmati etc. works fine too)
1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
1.5 lbs potatoes
2 tsp mixed dried herbs
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 tbsp chilli sauce of your favoured heat and style. I recommend medium-to-hot. Or you could use a fresh chopped chilli and fry it with the onions and carrots
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste
10 fl oz aduki/rice stock (see below)
Enough grated cheese (cheddar, gruyere, etc) to cover the top to the extent you see fit
Olive oil for frying
Knob of butter and a dash of milk for the mashed potatoes
Soak the aduki beans overnight, drain, boil gently for half an hour in about a 30 fl oz of water. Add the rice and cook for half an hour (if you're using brown rice add it after 20 mins and cook the two ingredients together for 40 minutes). Drain, but reserve your 10fl oz of the stock. Fry the onions in olive oil for about 5 minutes, add the diced carrots and fry for a further 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and beans, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, chilli sauce, herbs and stock. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile, boil your potatoes and mash them with a little milk, butter, salt and pepper. You know how to make mashed potatoes, I'm sure.
The bean/rice mixture should be fairly thick, but moist. Stick it into a lightly buttered casserole dish, top with the mashed potatoes, sprinkle your grated cheese over all and bake for 30 minutes on gas regulo 4 (350 degrees, for our American friends).
Ann says this is a very "late seventies/early eighties" vegetarian dish and I see what she means, but it's so damned good I'm happy to recommend it. Certainly more than I'd recommend Duran Duran or pixie boots, that's for sure.