Paul Flynn: Relaxed dinner that reflects my soft spot for the spice bag

Three gently spiced dishes to emulate the Friday night takeaway

I have a soft spot for a spice bag. That might be shocking news for those of you who think that I live on quinoa and freshly pressed fennel juice. Underneath this youthful exterior and unblemished skin there lies a dark, greedy heart.

Fridays are takeaway nights; it’s often Chinese and there is always a spice bag in my order. I could go to the Indian as well, when I crave spice, but that would involve two stops and unnecessary complication. So, I made this gently spiced effort at home.

As I sometimes do, I’ve designed these three dishes to go together. They’re all fairly easy. Coconut rice is nothing new, but it was my first time making it. I’ve mentioned my 25-year-old rice cooker before. It’s my type of gadget, two settings, On and Warm. Even I, Mr TOT (terrified of technology) can’t get it wrong.

However, you don’t need to have a rice cooker, this recipe is one for the oven. I’m cooking the rice in light coconut milk and a few spices then embedding the spiced ling and spring onions in it to finish cooking. Ling is a revelation. If you can’t find it, use hake or well-trimmed monkfish. I’m giving two options of spice, a madras is a little more assertive than its gentle korma cousin.


These fritters have to be deep fried. I tried shallow frying them like patties but they weren’t nearly as nice. If you don’t have a fryer, use a deep pan and drop a little of the mixture in to see if the oil sizzles. Be careful. Leave the heat on medium high and cook them in batches. They are delicious.

Tarka is a method of flavouring with whole spices using oil or ghee. It brings a fresh spicy crunch to everything. I’ve made a simple mango and cucumber chutney with yoghurt, coriander and mint sauce, a little trick from home when I don’t have any fresh mint handy.

Served together, this is a lovely refreshing, fragrant dinner. I hope you give it a go.

Recipe: Spiced ling with fragrant coconut rice and spring onions

Recipe: Curried carrot, apricot and green chilli fritters

Recipe: Mango and cucumber tarka