A Mexican-Indian mash-up may seem a little odd, but the two cuisines share an awful lot in common, plus tamarind and chipotle make a brilliant pairing. Plus a brunch dish with added wow factor.
I first tried the mouth-watering combination of sweet-sour tamarind and smoky chipotle in Mexico City, but to my delight you can get it here in various relishes, chutneys and pickles - Mr Vikki makes a great one, as does Spices Of India, and you can also cheat by adding some tamarind paste to Tabasco chipotle sauce. I make my tamarind paste from pods or dried blocks, both of which you can find in larger supermarkets, because it's so much better than ready-made ones, and lasts for over a week in the fridge.
Chipotle and tamarind prawns
Tamarind is Indian, chipotle Mexican, but the two cuisines share many features, so this is an intuitive match. It's really good with the sweetness of prawns, crab or lobster, and looks stunning on black rice. Serves four.
3-4 chipotle chillies (preferably the large, paler Meca variety)
200g block dried tamarind
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 tsp cloves, ground
2 tsp cumin, ground
1 stick cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp demerara sugar
2 400g tins plum tomatoes, crushed
500g raw prawns, shell on (and responsibly sourced, ideally; if using farmed, check the provenance)
Thai black rice
Fresh coriander, picked and chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges
Tear open the chillies, remove the seeds and membrane, and in a large, dry casserole, toast lightly all over on a medium heat for a minute or two, until just softened and smelling delicious (careful, because if chilli burns, it goes bitter). Put the chillies into a small pan, just cover with boiling water and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, cover the tamarind with 200ml boiling water, leave for five minutes, then massage to dissolve. Push through a sieve to remove the seeds, and set aside.
Heat the oil in the casserole and add the onion, garlic and spices. Season and cook for 10 minutes until the onion has softened. Remove the chipotles from their bath, reserving half the water (use gloves to avoid covering your fingers in fiery capsaicin), and finely chop. Add to the onion with a little chilli water (you can add more later, if you like it hotter). Add five tablespoons of tamarind pulp, the sugar and tomatoes, and cook for 15 minutes, to intensify and reduce the sauce. Once reduced, taste for seasoning, heat and sourness: you want a balance of taste, so add a touch more tamarind, salt or chipotle as needed.
Just before serving, throw in the prawns and stir over a gentle heat for about five minutes, until they turn pink. Serve on black rice and dress with a generous dollop of yoghurt (or crème fraîche for a silkier finish), coriander and a lime wedge.
US-style sweet potato waffles
Delicious, really easy and a great treat for a lazy weekend morning. The potato gives the waffles a sweet, nutty flavour, and the yoghurt adds a touch of lightness. If you can get hold of really good double or clotted cream, or creme fraiche, it will make all the difference. If you don't have a waffle iron, just cook the batter as you would pancakes. Serves four.
1 sweet potato
250g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
A pinch cinnamon
½ tsp salt
2 large eggs, separated
3 tbsp plain or Greek yoghurt
350mls whole milk
6 tbsp butter, melted
Creme fraiche or thick double cream
Peel the sweet potato, cut into equal-sized chunks and steam for 10-15 minutes, until tender, then drain and leave to steam-dry and cool a little. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the egg yolks until light and fluffy, then beat in the yoghurt, a third of the milk and the sweet potato, until fully incorporated into the egg mixture. Beat in the rest of the milk, to get a smooth batter.
Make a well in the middle of the flour mix and slowly beat in the sweet potato batter. Fry or grill the streaky bacon, reserving the fat for the waffle iron or frying pan. Melt the butter in a small pan and whisk four tablespoons of it into the batter, keeping the rest for brushing on to the toasted waffles.
Heat the waffle iron or frying pan until smoking hot, and brush with a little bacon fat or butter. Pour in a ladleful of batter and cook until golden brown (if making pancakes, cook until bubbles appear on one side, then flip to cook the other side - if your mixture is still a little wet, sift in a little extra flour).
Plate up the waffles as they are cooked, so they can be eaten while hot. Brush them with the extra melted butter and top with bacon, maple syrup and spoonfuls of cream. I like to follow with a bowl of yoghurt and blueberries, if only to make breakfast feel healthier, but occasionally I am tempted to scatter a few blueberries over the waffles, too.
And for the rest of the week...
Double the spices and grind to make a wonderful spice mix; making extra tamarind paste is also handy. With olive oil and fresh lime, the two make a seriously good salad dressing for winter leaves and watercress, either with prawns or, as a refreshing starter, with slices of avocado and orange. You can also spoon tamarind paste over vanilla ice-cream for a delicious instant pudding. .Roast sweet potato as you would a jacket spud: they're delicious filled with chile con carne. Or cut into chunks, toss in the spice mix with sliced red onion and a glug of olive oil, and roast - serve on couscous or bulghur wheat with feta and mint.
Thomasina Miers' chipotle and tamarind prawns: Mexico meets India in an altogether delicious way. Photograph: Johanna Parkin for the Guardian. Food styling: Henrietta Clancy