Our first cooked meal in what seems like and age, for no other reason than Ravi Shankar and memories of warm chapattis in Varanasi. Thats all we need and we’re back in the land of spice and wonder. Mother India, her food tantalises our palates and senses.
I was spending some time with brother Justin over at ‘The Lotus and Artichoke‘ blog. He is a man I trust highly with India food. He lives and breathes (and no doubt dreams) food and travel, a man after our own hearts. He has a book for sale and its awesome, we don’t have it, but one day we will. This is a man who has learnt to cook in real kitchens, real houses with real families, the proper way to go about understanding different cultures foods. These recipes are influenced by his and our shared love for India grub.
We dusted the pans off and said goodbye to our raw food time in style, what better way than a North Indian Banquet to remember. North Indian food is generally richer than food from the south, which is more coconut based. I like both, they are so different and suit their climates and geography perfectly. India is such a vast and diverse land, but these curries use spice mixtures that you will find all over and like all masalas (spice mixes), the balance is essential to the authenticity.
These two curry recipes are straight forward, but very rewarding. I became semi-addicted/ partially obsessed with Baingan (Bengan) Bhartha in Laos of all places! I was missing Indian food on my travels and I found a Gujarati fellow tucked away in Luang Prabang who made a mean curry, it did take well over an hour to arrive, but when it was well worth the wait. I loved the place, when we order beers and curries, one of his kids would jump on a scooter and buy the ingredients from the market. It was super fresh veg and herbs!!!!! And warm beer unfortunately.
Baingan Bhartha is normally a puree like curry/ dip served with chapatti, but I love it with rice also. Its actually a little like an Indian Babaganoush. I like to keep the aubergine in pieces and pan fry them until golden and just about falling apart. Traditionally I believe they are oven baked whole and the insides sccoped out or flame charred over an open flame. It all sounds good to me.
RAW EARTH MONTH – THE CLOSING CEREMONY
So we didn’t end it all in a tidal wave of cava or a wave of espresso’s, this month’s (six weeks actually) raw adventure came to an end with a curry and plenty of rooibos chai.
Raw Earth Month has actually been really enjoyable, all of the ‘sacrifices’ we’ve made have turned into enjoyable routines and good lessons. We certainly appreciate things more; lights at night, a washing machine, the joys of good chocolate.
We are not rushing back into anything and getting our bodies adjusted slowly. After the meal last night, we admit to feeling a little full and lethargic. We did eat alot, but cooked food definitely sits on the stomach. As we always say, it doesn’t really matter what you’re eating, as long as its cooked and eaten with love and last night was a lovely occasion.
So coffee and wine are back on the menu, wahee!!!!! The strange things is that we don’t really feel like either at the minute. After being raw vegan for four months, we both feel bright as buttons and our cravings have flown out of the window. We will no doubt encounter our little food vices again shortly, but at the minute, that morning beetroot juice is looking pretty damn good!
A WORD ON ONIONS
Curries rely heavy on onions. We are lucky to get ours from an organic farm at the minute and they are a completely different beast to those frequenting the fluorescent shelves of the supermarkets. Onions should be firm and easy to cut, most should make you cry like a big baby. If they are not fresh, they are really no good. This goes for garlic also. Onions and garlic suffer from being good agers, they last longer than most vegetables and therefore can be abused due to poor rotation. Buying smaller quantities of these staples works. Onions are such a wonderful ingredients, you can use them in so many different ways and with curries, they are the root of the flavour; the stage for the spices to do their merry dance. Good onions matter!
A WORD ON SPICES
Spices also matter! Big time! Freshly roasted spices are the best by far. If you have a pack of ancient turmeric lingering in the cupboard, please get rid of it and buy some more. I know its a waste, but old spices are pointless and lead to insipid curries. The beauty of Indian cooking is primarily found in the freshness of the spices used. If your using spices, keep them in an airtight container, in a dark place. We cherish our spices and generally use freshly roast spices, ground in a pestle and mortar. If you’re going to make a curry, you might as well make it spectacular!
The teaspoons below are all pretty level or one heaped half teaspoon.
Serves two curry fiends:
2 aubergines (cut into chunky batons), 3 medium tomatoes (roughly diced) or 1 punnet of cherry tomatoes, 4 cloves garlic, 2 cm ginger (finely chopped), 1 medium onion (finely sliced), 1 teas mustard seeds, 1 teas ground cumin, 1 teas ground coriander, 1 teas turmeric, 1/2 tsp sweet paprika, 1 chilli (finely diced), 1/2 teas asafoetida, 1 teas sea salt, 3 tbl oil, 2 tbl filtered water, fresh coriander (for garnish)
(We are adverse to turning our oven on for one little thing, so we roast our tomatoes and aubergine in pans.)
On a medium heat, add your cumin and coriander seeds to the pan. Roast for a few minutes, until fragrant and slightly brown. Bash up well in pestle and mortar.
Roast your aubergine in 2 tbl of oil on a high heat, tossing regularly. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until nicely soft and well caramelised. YUM. Set aside and cover with a plate. No roast your tomatoes in the left over oil on a very high heat, a little dark colour is good here, for around 5 minutes. Set aside and cover.
In the same pan, add 1 tbl of oil and saute your mustard seeds for 30 seconds, they will pop a little, then add your onions and lower heat slightly. Cook the onions until they are becoming golden, then add your garlic and ginger, cookf for three minutes, then your spices hit the pan, stir them well, not allowing the spices to stick to the bottom, add a little water if this happens. Saute for a few minutes and then add your tomatoes, aubergine and water (if needed, check consistency). Cover and warm through for 5 minutes.
1 small cauliflower (cut into big florets), 2cm cube fresh ginger (finely diced), 1 tomato (roughly chopped), 3 garlic cloves (finely diced), 1/2 lemon juice and zest, 1 tbs tamarind pulp/ paste, 1 teas turmeric, cumin, paprika and coriander, 1/2 teas mango powder, sea salt and black pepper, 2 dates (finely chopped), fresh coriander (for garnish), 1 tbs oil, rainbow chard (an extra that we added from the garden, couldn’t resist but not traditional in any way)
(If you feel like roasting this in an oven, please do, we used the hob.)
On a high heat, add the oil and roast the cauliflower for 5 minutes, until it becomes brown and slightly charred. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well (be gentle with the cauliflower). Cook for 10 minutes on a gentle simmer, then place a lid on the pan and leave to infuse for a further 10 minutes.
With mango pickle or your favourite Indian condiments. Our pickle actually comes from Pakistan and is really, really potent. We also had a little organic soya yoghurt. All scattered liberally with freshly chopped coriander and some nutty brown basmati.
We Love It!
For me, this is the ultimate meal. We are missing a few warm chapattis, but this is my idea of food heaven (for today anyway!) A selection of curries with all the accompaniments has long been my favourite meal, I was raised in the Philippines and every Friday night we had something like this for dinner. Mango chutney may be nice, oh, mango chutney, so sweet.
Asafoetida is a funny one, not just because if its tongue twisting name. It is the root of a herb and is also known as devils dung or stinking gum! It has a pungent aroma and some amazing medicinal properties, added to food it has a smooth flavour, similar to that of leeks.
Asafoetida aids digestion, it has been used to treat hysteria, respiratory problems, painful menstruation, it has even been said to cure impotence! It is a sedative and has been used to treat opium addicts, it has been used as a natural pesticide and has anti-biotic properties.