The Bell Jar [Bunny Chow]

“Because wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.” — Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Bunny Chow
*adapted from Curry Cuisine, Roopa Gulati (ed. Jeni Wright)

1 large loaf white sandwich bread, unsliced
4-6 tbsp vegetable oil
3 sprigs curry leaves (about 3 tbsp leaves)
2 onions, diced
2-in piece fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp crushed dried chilies
1 large potato, peeled and diced
14 oz (400 g) canned chopped tomatoes
1 tsp ground garam masala
6 oz (150 g) green beans, roughly chopped
2 cans (14 oz / 400 g each) kidney beans
juice of 1 lemon
large handful cilantro leaves, chopped
salt, to taste

Lay the loaf flat and slice a 1 1/4-inch layer horizontally off of the top. Reserve the top. Pull out most of the loaf, leaving 1/2-inch thick sides on the bread case. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and toss in the curry leaves. After about 10 seconds, turn the heat down low and stir in the onions, ginger and chilies. Cover the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the onions are really soft. Uncover and continue frying the onions until they are tinged golden.

Add the diced potatoes, cover the pan again, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until they’re almost tender. Lift the lid every few minutes and give the potatoes a good stir to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Add the tomatoes and garam masala and fry briskly until the tomatoes darken in colour and the sauce thickens. Add the kidney beans along with the liquid from the cans. Stir well, bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the curry thickens.

Add the green beans and cook 3 minutes, or until just tender, but still crunchy. Season to taste with salt.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Sharpen the curried beans with the lemon juice and stir in the chopped cilantro.

Place a piece of aluminum foil large enough to wrap the loaf with on a baking sheet. Place the hollowed loaf on the foil-topped sheet.

Ladle the hot bean curry into the hollowed-out loaf, being careful not to fill it all the way up to the top. Replace the lid, pushing down well, so that the bread has a chance to soak in the sauce. Wrap the loaf in the piece of foil. Bake 15 minutes.

Bring the foil-wrapped loaf to the table. Cut open the foil and break the four corners of the loaf. Use the bread to eat the curry — no cutlery required.

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