Curries

Simple Black Bean & Pumpkin Curry

 

 

We had this for breakfast! Might not be everyones bowl of morning happiness but Jane and I love curry for brekkie, a pleasant habit we picked up at train stations and little bus stops in India. We wanted the all-time classic ‘Chana Masala’, but we didn’t have chickpeas!? What’s going on there?!! I feel like I have failed our household. Still, it lead to this creation which I was so pleased with, I felt the urge to share and write and celebrate the beauty of a simple curry.

SPICY WAKE UP CALL

We were getting tired of the smoothies and bowls of nuts and fruits and things routine, we wanted some SPICE in our early, sleepy eyed life!  When the grey tickles us, as it can at this time of year, we need to put some rainbow flavours and magic into our food.  Spices are magic dust right?!  Does any food have as much pizazz and down right tastiness as a deep and potent curry?  It can enliven the senses.  The sheer complexity of flavours mingling and merging, having a massive party all over your taste buds?  This curry doesn’t have to be eaten for brekkie, but do let us know if you try.  Ditch the fry up this Sunday AM and get spicy!!

I’ve been to India many times, it has become my second home.  I love living a life of contrasts, living on a hill in middle of nowhere, slightly mossy, Wales, straight to the honking depths of down town Delhi, thats my kind of contrast.  Mix things up.  Keep things vibrant and interesting.   For me, India is the country with everything going on within its borders, travel there is rich.  I know I go on about the food all the time, but, it is incredible.  Consistently.  Mind boggling in variety.  Like I’ve died and gone to a Dhaba.

Intensely orange – Pumpkin this time of year they be.

HIDDEN TREASURES (AND PICKLES)

If you’re looking for the best spices and Indian/ Pakistani/ Bangladeshi/ Nepalese etc ingredients, I recommend a regular visit to your local Asian shop/ supermarket.  It’s where all the best ingredients will be hiding and normally for very reasonable prices.  I find them a perfect location for spice worship.  Eastern cooking treasure troves, designed for real food lovers to disappear into for days, reappearing with carfull’s of fantastic ingredients, pickles and inspiration.

I say, take the afternoon off and have a good luck around, ask for help and guidance.  For me they’re like a flavour library for a cook, sifting through the ingredients and always finding something new and interesting to take home and play with in the kitchen.

The curry powder we used here was recommended to us by an Indian man in one of my favourite Asian supermarkets in Newcastle.  He wasn’t wrong, its brilliant, fiery and fragrant.  Curry powder has a bit of a bad name, but its just the same as any spice mix like bharat, ras el hanout etc.  If you buy a decent one, it works well.  Of course, making your own is the holy grail of any spice enthusiast.  But having the time and means to do that can be a challenge.  This is a quick dish, so lets keep it simple.

This is no traditional curry, but its not far off.  I’ve made this curry super easy for you, I’d love you to cook and enjoy it!  With only two spice mixes, garam masala and curry powder, which most of you will have knocking about in your cupboards and a quick cooking time.

If you don’t have the spice mixes, just try making your own up using things like turmeric, cumin and coriander for the curry mix, adding a little cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom for the garam masala.  Could be a very nice experiment!  I add red lentils to thicken the sauce up and make things hearty and substantial.  I used pumpkin, because its their ultra orange time of year, but use any vegetables you like here and a nice idea is stirring some greens in just before serving, a couple of handfuls of spinach leaves is cool.

In Nirvana, this is breakfast!

India, we miss you!x

Recipe Notes

I like the curry quite thin, more a thick daal than a chunky curry. Better for dipping warm chappatis into!  The lentils will just keep sucking up the water, so just keep some warm water handy when cooking, preferably a recently boiled kettle (easier) and top up the water as you fancy.

Mash it up!! Your garlic and ginger and chilli as best you can, blending them or whacking them in a pestle and mortar is best.  Releasing all their vibrant potential.

Leaving the curry to cool slighty, let it sit for 10 minutes with a lid on, will help the flavours to mix and mingle, get deep and meaningful.

I’ve gone easy on the chillies because Jane is anti-chilli, but you go wild if you like!

The lemon and coriander to finish are extras, but the lemon especially, will add a lovely citrus twist to the generally sweet curry, it also seems to re-vitalise the spices a little, bring the flavours to some kind of glorious crescendo!!!!  Swadishtx

The chickpea chapatis in the photos are made by whisking some gram flour, water and salt together, until a double cream texture forms, and frying in a little oil.  Simple, gluten-free, healthy, tasty…….

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Simple Black Bean & Pumpkin Curry  Serving suggestion – eat outside, in a garden.

Simple Black Bean & Pumpkin Curry
The Bits – For 2

1 small onion (sliced)
1/2 tbs cooking oil

3 garlic cloves (peeled and crushed)
1 inch ginger – roughly 1 heaped tbs (finely grated)
1/2-1 green chilli (finely diced)

250g black beans
75g red lentil – 1 big handful (washed)

200g squash/ pumpkin – 2 handfuls (diced)
300ml hot water
2 tomatoes (chopped and mashed)
1 heaped tbs tomato puree
1 teas salt
1 1/2 tbs curry powder

1 heaped tbs garam masala

Roughly 2 teas lemon juice

Handful chopped coriander (optional one for the coriander lovers out there)

 

Do It

In a large sauce pan, fry the onions until they are texture like sun (golden brown), then stir in your garlic, ginger and chilli, stir and fry for a minute and then add the lentils, beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, curry powder, squash, water and stir together.  Bring to a boil.

Cook on a fast simmer for 10 minutes with a lid on, stirring occasionally to stop the lentils sticking to the bottom. Add your garam masala and cook for 5 minutes more.  Stir in a little more water if its getting too thick.

Once the squash is nice and soft, stir in the lemon juice, check seasoning and serve. If you like coriander, sprinkle some chopped coriander over the dish. I like it with warm chapatis or chickpea chapatis, dip them in and enjoy!  I also served it with some green mango pickle.  One of my favs.

 

Foodie Fact

Pumpkin is full, full of good things.  Especially this time of year when they’re bang on seasonal and hopefully quite local.  Very orange, means goodness.  Lots of vitamin A, one cup contains 200% of your daily need.  You’ll be seeing in the dark in no time.  It’s got loads of fibre and pumpkin is also said to keep our skin shining.  Bananas are famous potassium sources, but pumpkin actually has considerably higher levels of potassium than bananas.  Vitamin C, also in the mix somewhere, they’re just one of the best things we can eat at this time of year and throughout winter.   Superstars!!

PS – Please don’t throw away the seeds, clean them off and roast them for a while in an oven.  You will not regret the slightly time consuming picking orange gloop off them.

 

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Categories: Autumn, Curries, Dinner, gluten-free, healthy, Nutrition, Organic, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Vegan Thai Yellow Curry with Squash & Fava Beans

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Thai Yellow Curry with Squash & Fava Beans

This is an ideal, quick and easy, curry at this time of year, using seasonal squash (one of my favs) plus British grown fava beans from Hodmedods and all the beautiful flavours of Thailand in a creamy and rich coconut sauce.  It’s one of those dishes that most vegetables will love and mingle into, add whatever combos you love, I kept it simple here.

SQUASH SEASON

There are so many squashes around at this time of year, the one I used here was a Hokkaido Squash which is a great all-rounder for roasting, stew/ curries and grating or slicing into a salad.  Hokkaido is lovely and sweet with a brilliant orange colour and is normally quite small, making it ideal stuffing size.  You’ll also find loads of Acorns, Kabocha, Crown Prince (I love that one) and if you’re lucky, a Spaghetti Squash, which is well worth seeking out.  When roasted and fluffed with a fork, it forms a spaghetti like texture.

A lot of people I meet don’t like squash, strange as that may sound to some of you.  It’s normally down to the fact that pumpkin is so popular, the variety we carve strange faces into at Halloween (although we always used a giant swede – the vegetable that is).  That type of pumpkin is a little watery and lacking in flavour, not great eatin’, I’d recommend any of the winter squashes way ahead of old scary pumpkin head.

RECIPE INSPIRATION VIA BANGKOK SUBURB

This recipe is based on one of our favourite places to eat in Bangkok, Lemon Farm Organic Restaurant near, well, it’s kind of popped in the middle of a mass of sprawling Bangkok-ness (Chatuchak).  It’s an out of the way place if you’re a tourist, a mainly residential area where we had the pleasure of staying with the awesome Kessi for a few weeks.  There was really very little to do, so Jane and I did a lot of cooking (using only a rice cooker and kettle) and made a little home on the 13th floor of a tower overlooking the sprawling, buzzing city of Bangkok.

Down the market – Bangkok ’16

This dish is modelled on something cooked for us by the amazing Buppha, head chef/ manager at Lemon Farm, which was a sweet, rich and coconut-y lentil dish from her hometown of Phuket in the South.  I had never tried Thai lentils before and it really inspired me.  She made it with red lentils and always shared her recipes generously, but I was normally trying to write them down in a little notebook whilst holding a plate of food and being jostled by crowd of hungry Lemon Tree punters.  It got packed at office lunch time you see.  So I free styled this recipe and used the best of what was to hand, but the taste is similar, reminders of good times for sure.

THAI-STYLE (EAT!)

Phuket is a foodie centre, which can be said for all parts of Thailand I’ve found, and the dishes there are distinctly chilli-fied!  Pow!!    Buppha used to wake up at 4am with her team of chefs to prepare the days array of dishes and was very passionate about all things cooking, many of the recipes had been handed down to her by her mother/ grandmother.  The food was served buffet style, with a little noodle soup spot in the corner of an organic food shop.  It was cheap, very varied, plentiful and many dishes were vegan friendly, using some tofu and lots of interesting veggies.  Buppha just loved cooking with vegetables and they even had their own little vegetarian festival.  A week of vegetarian cooking that falls between September and October most years, most Thai’s go veggie at that time.  This years festival ended yesterday!

This one’s full of the flavours of Thailand!

VEGAN THAI TRAVEL

Thailand is of course a Buddhist country, but meat is very common in dishes, to the point that eating without planning in Bangkok and all over Thailand can be a challenge.  This is just one of those things, the veg markets in Thailand are some of my favourite in the world.  In fact the veg market in a little fishing town called Prachuap Kiri Khan is probably my favourite in the world (not to mention they have a vegan restaurant and a couple of vegetarian restaurants, plus an outdoor food market every night).   These veggies just don’t seem to surface on restaurant menus though, but this is a gripe of mine all over the world (one you’ve probably heard before).  It seems that most veggies are used in the home and meat is a ‘treat’ when people go out to eat.  Having said that, Thai’s seem to eat out all the time, everyday, such is the abundance of street eats to be found.  No country is like it, most streets have carts, wagons and tables vending all kinds of local delicacies.  It’s almost impossible to keep up with what is going on and taste bud overload can occur.

Prachuap Kiri Khan is a small town, on the coast south of Bangkok, but we managed to stumble upon a vegan festival there!

Thailand is not the easiest country to travel around as a vegan, especially when you get off the tourist trail.  English is not spoken generally and like I said, vegan options need to be sniffed out and the outrageous abundance of Thai street food is pretty much off the menu.  Still, when you do find vegan hot spots, like the tourist friendly Chang Mai or one of the main tourist islands like Koh Samui, you’ve hit Thai food heaven.  Thai food is very diverse, much more interesting than I imagined on my first visit.  I was ignorant to the geographical differences in ingredients and flavours, styles and approaches.  I should have known better really, as this is nothing new in the world of food, most countries have a similarly rich tapestry of dishes and produce as you wander around.  Nowadays, when I return, that first Green Curry or Pad Thai Noodles is always a very special moment.

There is such a buzz to eating in Bangkok, eating out really means that, outside, huddled over a table near a main road, or near one of the hundreds of canals (think watery thoroughfare).  Theres a bustle and energy to it all, loads of skill and panache in preparing and serving food and you can spend all night walking around, eating tiny delicious portions of things and just keep going until the early hours.  It’s one of the highest forms of grazing, snacking at its best, Thai style!

Big Thanks to Hodmedods!

Just for being awesome really!!  They have such an amazing array of British grown pulses and seeds, so many interesting things (to me), like Blue Peas, Carelina Seeds, Black Badger Peas, Fava Umami Paste, loads of ingredients that get me excited about cooking, trying new things.   If you’re interested, they even do a Big Vegan Box!

Hodmedods were kind enough to send us some of their pulses and bits to cook with at our recent retreats and I think their fava beans are a cut above.  Filled with amazing flavour, I love making Fave E Cicoria, a really simple Puglian bean dip.  Making it with Hodmedods beans makes a huge difference to the flavour.  The dish is simply made with cooked fava beans, garlic and a little olive oil.  Doesn’t sound like much admittedly, but with those beans, it’s dynamite!!  PS – Well done on winning the 2017 Best Food Producer at the BBC Food Awards.  To celebrate they’re offering 15% discount on orders.

Recipe Notes
You can use any lentils you like, red lentils will take considerably less time to cook. Green/ brown lentils, dark green/ puy lentils will all work nicely.  Mung beans are also very ace.

Not all coconut milk is equal.  Check the cans, we’re looking for plenty of coconut content, if it’s around 50%, its going to be quite weak.  Still nice, but not as creamy.  We’ve been talking about the differences between Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream over on Facebook in the BHK Vegan Cooking Group.  I like this dish really rich and really creamy.

Check that your Yellow Thai Curry Paste is vegan.  It normally is.  The Green and Red Thai Curry pastes in most UK shops are not vegan.

Shop bought Thai curry paste can be high in salt, this effects our seasoning.

I didn’t have any coriander or fresh chilli, but that would have been the perfect addition to the topping of this dish.

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Thai Yellow Curry with Squash & Fava Beans

Quick Thai Yellow Curry with Squash & Fava Beans

The Bits – For 4

250g fava beans

900ml water

 

5-6 kaffir lime leaves

1.5 inches ginger (finely chopped)

4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)

1-2 teas chilli flakes

½ head small savoy cabbage (sliced)

1 small hokkaido squash – 300g (peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch chunks)

1 big handful desiccated coconut/ coconut flakes (toasted is nice)

1 can coconut milk

2 tbs coconut oil

4-5 tbs yellow curry paste (vegan)

1 tbs coconut/ brown sugar (optional sweetness)

Sea salt

 

Toppings (optional)

A little more desiccated coconut/ coconut flakes

1 red chilli (finely sliced)

1 handful coriander (fresh)

1/2 lime (cut into wedges/ slices)

The Bits

Do It
Wash and drain the fava beans. Cover with cold water in a large saucepan, bring to a boil, then simmer for 30-40 minutes, until soft. Add more hot water if needed.

While that’s going on, in a large frying pan, add the coconut oil, warm on medium high heat and add the onion and fry for 7 minutes until golden, then add the garlic and ginger, fry for 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk, chilli, desiccated coconut, lime leaves, squash and cabbage, bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the squash is soft. Stir in the yellow Thai paste, sugar and cooked fava beans (including cooking broth), warm through for a few minutes, adding a little hot water if needed.  Check seasoning.

Serve with warm rice, more toasted coconut, lime wedges and sliced red chillies if you like it hot.

*To add a Thai flavour to your rice, why not add a few lime leaves and a handful of coconut when you start cooking it.*

Foodie Fact

You all probably know that I love my beans!  But favas…..they’re almost a different league.  PACKED with flavour and so, so good for us.  Fava beans were dried and ground down to make bread traditionally in the UK, it was one of our major crops before we went wild for wheat and potatoes.  There is a rich history of fava/ broad bean growing in the UK, but growing up, they always seems a little exotic, something from the Middle East maybe, not the Midlands.

Fava/ Broad Beans are rich in shiny things like Vitamin K, Thaimin, zinc, potassium and loads of other minerals.  They are full of protein and have no saturated fat or cholesterol.  They also contain good amounts of iron and folate (one of the vitamin B bunch), plus loads of fibre.

Categories: Autumn, Curries, Dinner, gluten-free, healthy, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

Dal Bhat Power! What’s cookin’ in Nepal

May I introduce Dal Bhat. If you've been to Nepal, you are already friends.

May I introduce Dal Bhat. If you’ve been to Nepal, you are already friends.

After enjoying the most amazing traditional Nepali lunch earlier I had the urge to share with you all the delights of Nepali cooking.  My tastebuds were dancing and I felt inspired.  We’ve been here for two months now, travelling around, walking in the Himalayas, meeting the most amazing open hearted and kind folk. As usual, we’ve done a fair amount of hanging out in kitchens and nibbling things. We’ve been very pleasantly surprised by what Nepal has to offer and this is all made even more amazing by the fact that so many dishes are plant-based wonders.  Compared to China, life’s a breeze for a vegan exploring these stunning landscapes.

Nepal has a fascinatingly diverse and ancient culture, very distinct from Northern India and surrounding countries.  Nepal is technically a Hindu state, but many people we speak to are Hindu/ Buddhist.  They respect and adhere to some of the beliefs, festivals and rituals of both.  There is a great open mindedness about spirituality and it shows in the culture.  Nepalis are very tolerant, peace loving people and they know how to cook!

Nepal is basically the Himalayas in the top half and some flat lands in the south, there are countless valleys and micro-climates which means a huge diversity of crops; mangoes thrive in the south, millet and potatoes in the north.  There are many ethnic groups, the main ones being the Thakali and Gurung (north) and the Newari (Kathmandu valley) and Terai, further south, Lohorung in the east.  It’s a melting pot of cultures which can only add to the brilliance of the cuisine.

Jane is a big fan

Jane is a big fan

DAL BHAT POWER!
Dal (lentils) Bhat (grains, normally rice) is what fuels this lovely country. Twice a day, every Nepali eats a big plate of Dal Bhat. I’ve never been to a country that adores a single dish so consistently.

Nepalis normally have a nice cup of strong tea for breakfast, maybe a baked good of some description, but the tastiness really kicks off around 11 am with an early lunch of dal bhat with some chutney or pickle (achar) and a tarkari (veg side dish). We love the fact that you normally get some fried greens, mustard leaves are very popular, and also the fact that in most restaurants seconds and thirds are politely enforced. If you turn your head for a second, your pile of rice magically grows.  It’s very rare that you leave a premise without being totally stuffed full of spicy veggies. You will sometimes also get a nice little salad going on and one single, solitary, tooth meltingly spicy chilli. To be eaten raw by the afeciandos and fool hardy. I love em!  Certainly wakes you up.

Dal Bhat is also served for dinner, again an early sitting, 6pm-ish. I like the simplicity of it all. All over Nepal, you hear the pressure cookers hissing in the early morning. The pungent aroma of frying onions and spices are to me something synonomous with the haze of Nepali mornings.  Everyone one knows where they stand food wise, no over complictions, and it must be so easy for the home cook. No one needs to ask whats for dinner! Of course, the veggies vary and the dal morphs from legume to legume, but the combo remains undiminished. Dal bhat rules.

The dal component can mean anything, but mung beans (halved) are very popular. You may also see some rajma (kidney beans – Jane’s recent favourite, see our recipe here) and chana (brown or normal chickpeas).  When I make dal, it’s thick and hearty, but you’ll find in Nepal and India, dal is more like a soup.  If you’re very luck indeed, the restaurant may have a tandoor oven which opens the door to all kinds of stunning breads. Warm and crisp naan being the royality of any tandoor behaviour.

Fortunately for the nomadic vegan in these parts the veggies are very, very tasty. Up in the mountains and in the countryside most people have their own veg gardens that really thrive. The produce is delicious; potatoes, carrots (quite expensive for some reason), spinach, chard, cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, long white radishes (like daikon), mustard leaves, bitter gourd, green beans, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber.  We’ve even seen some pumpkin, but it’s a rare and very special event.  A beetroot curry has been savoured on one very special evening.  Even the stuff you buy from bigger Kathmandu markets is packed with flavour. We’ve enjoyed using this abundance in recipes in our little flat in Kathmandu, up in the north, a local neighborhood with dusty roads and a gently chaotic and superbly friendly nature.  We have a little kitchen and a sun trap terrace.

Monkey Temple Stupa - Kathmandu

Monkey Temple Stupa – Kathmandu

WHAT ELSE?

But dal bhat is not the end of the line.  There are also such delights as momos (technically they’re from Tibet, but they are loved all over Nepal and there are many Tibetans living here), things like Chow Mein and Thukpa (Tibetan noodle soup) have also made the hop over the Himalayas/ border.  Barley, millet and buckwheat grow well in the cold areas and you’ll find these regularly made into  a range of noodles or tsampa, a flour which is made into a hearty porridge.  This is perfect early morning fuel for a day hiking.  You’ll also find these grains being made into Raksi or Chang, potent distilled moon shine or quite a mellow wine like booze that is mixed with fruit juice sometimes.  It’s perfect chilled with apple juice!  On average, 15p per cupful.

These cooks are superheroes. Nepali cooks are very talented and capable of creating complex menus/ meals with very basic equipment. Plus, this guy was cooking at about 4000m up a big snowy hill.

These cooks are superheroes. Nepali cooks are very talented and capable of creating complex menus/ meals with very basic equipment. Plus, this guy was cooking at about 4000m up a big snowy hill.

THE REAL DEAL

So what was so special about todays lunch?  Thamel is the main tourist area in Kathmandu.  A jumble of lanes loaded with tourist traps of all forms and agendas.  You can get food from all over the world, but pizza doesn’t interest me in the slightest in Asia.  I could eat rice 24/7 anyway, so I’m never in the market for a seeded loaf or crepe when I’m wandering in Eastern parts.

We stumbled across a little old doorway, we ducked in and it opened out into a courtyard with beautifully carved wooden window ledges and perfectly wonky old walls.  Our host was toothless and beaming wearing a traditional Nepali hat.  We knew it was a proper joint, the kitchen was a hive of good natured activity.  I was excited as my expectations soared.

Most Nepali’s eat squating or sat cross legged on the floor, but in more urban restaurants, you’ll get a chair and tourists are always supplied a trusty spoon, although sometimes I like eating with my hands.  Really getting to grips with your food!  Just always remember, right hand only.  Left hand is a no go area for reasons I won’t go into on a food blog.

Safely perched on our chairs, we both went for the Nepali Veg Set or Khana, which is something we love.  It’s like Dal Bhat with a few more trimmings.  I went for dhendho with mine instead of rice, like a thick buckwheat porridge.  An earthy, wholegrain polenta.  The smells escaping the kitchen, a tiny room with very low ceiling, were tantalising.  No less than four pressure cookers were violently hissing, like some kind of out of sync steam train.  The waiters all fussed around us because there was only another couple of people in there and they were big fans of Gareth Bale (he’s a Welsh football player for non-sporties and officially the most famous Welsh person ever).  It’s always very strange to visit some very remote mountain village, lost to the vastness of the mystical Himalayas, and find a picture of Wayne Rooney pinned up beside Krishna in your family hostel reception.  I wonder what Wayne thinks about this kind of hero worship?  I wonder if he even knows!?

Mountain of dhendo! With all the Thakali trimmings

I know what you’re thinking, ‘that’s a big pile of dhendo!’ With all the Thakali style trimmings flavoured with the mighty ‘jimbu’.

Anyway, lunch was ace.  Very traditional and a real taste of the Thakali style of cooking.  An ethnic group from mainly Mustang in northern Nepal (a fascinating region if you’re a culture/ history buff btw) which stretches down to Pokhara.  The Thakali’s love nothing more than flavouring their dishes with the brilliantly named ‘jimbu’.  It’s a member of the allium family, think potent onions crossed with chives, normally used to flavour dal but it was also evident today in the tarkari dishes. A delicious herby twist to the normally spice laden sauces.  The mustard leaves were radiantly green and fresh, there was even some gundruk, something you don’t always get.  Dried and fermented saag, which is a loose term for green leaves but something normally like spinach.  This was all finished off by some pickled white radish and a punchy chutney of tomato and coriander; plus crisp popadoms, some chopped up salad bits, a slice of lime and one of those highly explosive green firecrackers (chillies).  What a feast!  How many textures and flavours can you cram onto a large tin plate?!  All for the modest sum of £1.  You heard me right, £1!  And we still get people writing in asking why we choose to travel all the time.  £1 goes a long way in certain parts of the world and it can certainly buy you some delicious lunch options.

A random, yet delicious falafel wrap in Kathmandu. I may not seek out crepes when travelling, but falafels are always welcome.

A random, yet delicious falafel wrap in Kathmandu. I may not seek out crepes when travelling, but falafels are always welcome.

Other Nepali specialities we’ve encountered include bread made from grains like millet or buckwheat (gluten free options abound), fermented soya beans (kinema).  We stay with an amazing family in Kathmandu, papa is called Raju and he takes wonderful care of us.  He was the first face we saw off the plane from Beijing, escorting us through the tangled Kathmandu streets on his motorbike (a Honda ‘Enticer’).  We love visiting Rajus family home and checking out what his sisters (he has seven!) and Mum are up to in the kitchen.  We’ve had some of our favourite food there, especially the popped, squashed and dried rice (baji) staple.  A dish normally served with roasted peanuts and different tarkaris (curries).  Something very uniquely Nepali and, I must admit, a little strange at first.  More like a pile of crunchy breakfast cereal has invaded your plate.

One of the most interesting dishes that Raju has introduced us to is Yomari (or ‘tasty bread’ – see below).  It looked like a hand crafted parsnip.  It’s actually made out of rice flour dough and stuffed with cane sugar, giving a gooey sweet middle.  It looks really tough to prepare and is loved by Nepalis.  Traditionally made for the Yomaru Puri festival, these funny things are something to do with an offering to the God of Wealth (Kubera).  There are so many festivals and religious rituals going on in Nepal, it’s almost impossible to keep pace.  I’ve never had anything like it, but I always appreciate a parsnip and the exploding soft sweet centre was a treat.

Yomari - a very interesting and unique Nepali sweet

Yomari – a very interesting and unique Nepali sweet

Snack wise, our favourites are the peanuts sold off the back of carts.  Simple but effective.  They are roasted in sand and kept warm in big piles with traditional wood burning clay braziers.  Expertly moved around by the vendour.  A great smell on a brisk January morning.  A big bag is around 50p or less.  We’ve had some tasty samosas and also doughnuts, which the Nepalis call ‘sel roti’.  You’ll also get some dried fruit and roasted soya beans.  There are of course the massive corporations here dishing out crisps and poor quality chocolate.  In bus stations you’ll find men wandering around with big baskets on their heads filled with a selection of warm breads and pastries, all wrapped up snugly in colourful cloths.

Dessert wise, Nepal is probably not going to blow you away.  There are not the volume of sweet shops that you find in India.  Kheer is a constant, sweet rice pudding with dried fruits and coconut, but as a vegan, you’re really looking at fruits.  The papaya is sensational.  I have no complaints.  After three plates of dal bhat, I’m nowhere near the market for dessert anyway!  Randomly, some of the best sweet things can be found half way up mountains.  Little homestays do a roaring trade in fresh apple pie for weary hikers.

Of course, we’re only writing about the vegan highlights here.  There are vastly more dishes that contain meat and dairy.  A vegan must always be aware that many dishes are fried in ghee (clarified butter).  Many Nepalis speak very good English so explaining your needs is reasonably straight forward.  Even though Nepal is Buddhist (Gautama was born in Lumbini in the south) and Hindu, most people are meat eaters, especially in the mountains.  Veggies are harder to grow up there where arable flat land is scarce.  There are some signs in more touristy areas offering vegan options.  I feel that Nepalis are open minded, there has even been discussions about making Nepal an organic only country!  Big ambitions.  But what a great idea.  With an ethical, peaceful Buddhist and Hindu approach to things, I can also see veganism really connecting here.  After all, the veggies are amazing!

We made it up some mountains. Dal Bhat Power 24 hours!! (as they say here)

We made it up some mountains. Dal Bhat Power 24 hours!! (as they say here)

We’re off for dinner in one of our favourite local Newari restaurants where the chef is a genius (he actually wears one of those proper chef white jackets with proud and shiny buttons) with all things spice and they have a tandoor oven that looks like an antiquated space rocket.  When it’s cranked up it actually sounds a bit like one.  The naans melt in the mouth, especially when dipped into a feisty bowl of beans or used to mop up the last drops of tarkari.  I’m getting hungry now……..

See here for more of our Indian/ Nepali inspired recipes.

You can also peep up with our antics on Facebook and Twitter.

Dinner way up in the Himalayas (we slept in a draughty cupboard that night, but dinner was fine.)

Dinner way up in the Himalayas (we slept in a cupboard that night, but dinner was fine.)

 

Categories: Curries, Healthy Eating, photography, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Aviyal – Keralan Coconut & Vegetable Curry with Watermelon & Pineapple Salad

Aviyal - Keralan Coconut and Vegetable Curry with Pineapple and Watermelon Salad

Aviyal – Keralan Coconut and Vegetable Curry with Pineapple and Watermelon Salad

A simple, light summer curry with all the joys and sparkling nutrition of coconut and seasonal vegetables.  This is a recipe straight outta Peace & Parsnips and was recently featured online here in Reveal Magazine.  Recipes like this are a wonderful reminder for me of special times spent travelling and cooking in India.  Kerala is surely one of the most beautiful corners of the planet and its food is surprisingly vegan friendly, diverse and really healthy.

This is a recipe I learnt from my friend Narendra on the patio of a wooden hut in a yoga retreat, rural Tamil Nadu.  Although this is (probably) a traditional Keralan style curry, they love it in neighbouring Tamil Nadu also.  I had been eating it regularly in India and was so pleased when Narendra took the time to sit down with me and finally get a recipe on paper.  He taught me his families traditional recipe, from the ancient temple town of Madurai, and it was pleasing simple.  Like many Indian family staples, the difference is in the freshness of the ingredients; the vegetables and the spices.  Most Indian households will have what I call a ‘Sabji’ (Vegetable) man.  Just like a milk man in the UK, he wanders the streets in the mornings selling his wares from a cart, shouting up to the windows of house wives what’s good , freshest and of course, on special offer!  Fresh vegetables are everywhere in India and veg markets are frequent and always interesting to wander around and pick up some funky looking spice or odd looking root (maybe a mooli or two?).

The beaches of North Kerala are stunning!

The beaches of North Kerala are stunning! Kannur

Although this is a simple recipe, cooked most days in Keralan homes, it adapts well to the changing seasons in most countries.  Any variety of vegetables can be used in its preparation and Aviyal lends itself perfectly to British/ European veg.  In fact, Narendra’s grandmother used to call things like carrots ‘British veg’ as they we only grown and popularised in the time of the Raj, when much of Indian cooking as we know it was altered and influenced by British tastes.

The ladies at Varnam Homestay, Wayanand, Kerala - Lunch prep in full swing

The women Varnam Homestay, Wayanand, Kerala – Lunch prep in full swing

I was lucky to cook in a beautiful kitchen near Wayanad National Park, Northern Kerala with some amazing ladies.  Here I learnt some proper Keralan classics and top tips that you can only learn by actually getting your hands on the pots and pans.  I loved the way that they used very roasted coconut to add depth and flavour to sauces, especially when used with piles of freshly grated ginger.  I also loved cooking with a wide range of local produce, all of their dishes contained only ingredients from their own land.  Spices and all!  They even grew their own coffee and we were inundated each day with fresh exotic fruits, many of which I’d never seen before.  Mangoes grew above the hammocks in the garden, guavas, green figs, coconuts, plantains……you can imagine, it was a bit like eden/ nirvana!

Cooking at Varnam Homestay, Kerala

Cooking at Varnam Homestay, Kerala

Aviyal is such a healthy, light dish, nothing like the rich and fiery curries of the much of North India.  Coconut is king in the south, making travelling around South India a foodie paradise for vegans.  Its up there with places like Thailand or parts of the Med for traditional vegan dishes.  Anywhere that the vegetable or coconut thrives, you find brilliant vegan dishes.  Vegan food is so creative and evolving all the time, but it is nice to find dishes on my travels that reflect a cultures heritage and history.  We’ve always eaten and enjoyed vegan dishes, we just don’t necessarily give them that name (which, for whatever reason, can put some people off).

Indian spices, down at the market

Indian spices, down at the market

The Bits – For 4
For the curry
•2-3 fresh green chillies
•2 big handfuls of freshly grated or desiccated coconut
•2tsp cumin seeds
•220ml coconut milk or unsweetened soya yogurt
•2 large carrots, scrubbed
•2 large potatoes, scrubbed
•1 large courgette
•6 fat asparagus spears
•2 green plantains, peeled
•200ml water
•1tsp ground turmeric
•1tsp of sea salt
•1 big handful of mangetout or green beans
•2tbsp coconut oil
•2tsp mustard seeds
•3tbsp curry leaves
For the pineapple & watermelon salad
•A small pineapple
•One third of a small watermelon (don’t bother deseeding)
•1 large cucumber
•1 small handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
•A pinch of sea salt
•A large pinch of chaat masala mix or black salt (optional)

Do It
In a pestle and mortar or a food processor, blend together the chillies, coconut and cumin seeds (if you’re using desiccated coconut, add 2tbsp of the coconut milk to make a thick paste). This is best done in advance and can be left overnight in the fridge to develop zing.

Cut the carrots, potatoes, courgette, asparagus and plantains into 2.5cm pieces. Heat the water in a large pan and add the turmeric, salt, carrots and potatoes. Bring to a steady boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and pop a lid on the pan. Cook for 10 minutes, then add the courgettes and plantains and cook for 10 minutes more, keeping the lid on.

Add the coconut paste to the curry with the coconut milk or yogurt and stir carefully to combine. Cook uncovered for 8-10 mins on a gentle simmer. Check that the carrots and potatoes are tender, then add the asparagus and mangetout and remove the pan from the heat. Cover, set aside for a few minutes.

Jane and I in the Yoga Retreat, Tamil Nadu

Jane and I in the Yoga Retreat, Tamil Nadu

Serve

Really simply, with steamed rice.  Keralans love their rice!  A crunchy salad is great as a side, exotic fruits work well here with Aviyal.  This is how they served it in the Yoga Ashram (where the food was excellent).

Foodie Fact

Coconuts are wonderfully healthy, containing high levels of Lauric Acid which is anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacteria.  They also have the highest level of electrolytes known to man, making them perfect when exercising or when dehydrated.  In some parts of the world it is even used intravenously for the purpose of re-hydration.  Coconut can boost our metabolism and make our skin shine.

Keralan sunset

A Keralan sunset, Kannur

Categories: Curries, Healthy Eating, Peace and Parsnips, Recipes, Salads, Summer, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Baingan Bharta (Minced Aubergine Curry)

Baingan Bharta (Minced Aubergine Curry)

Baingan Bharta (Minced Aubergine Curry)

This curry is perfect for a Saturday curry festival.  I love BB, its surely one of my favourite Indian dishes and is always a delight.  This is one of those recipes that I will surely be cooking for the rest of my days.  When we look at Indian recipes, they can look a bit long, but most of the ingredients are spices and when you break it down, this is a very straightforward recipe and packed with gorgeous smoky flavours.

Baingan Bharta is eaten all over India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.  Its like an Indian version of Babaganoush (or is Babaganoush a Mediterranean version of BB?).  There are many variations, they use plenty of mustard oil in West Bengal of course and it is eaten in many parts of the sub-continent at weddings.  Brinjals (Aubergine) in India normally come in quite a small size, but its alot easier and convenient in Europe to use the larger varieties of aubs for this dish, more delightful aubergine flesh and less skin to deal with.  You can imagine that traditionally, a warm flatbread is the best accompaniment to this dish.

IS IT A DIP?

Some would call BB a dip, but I cannot get to grips with the word dip.  Especially for something so majestically tasty as BB or Babaganoush.  I always think of a supermarket bought ’90’s style dip medley’ (those four shades of dodgy dips that come in plastic trays) and these dishes are light years away from that kind of fare.  BB has serious heritage and is a feast in puree form.

Because aubergine breaks down so much when cooked, this seems like one (only one I may add) of the finest ways of treating an aubergine.  In Turkey they do amazing things to aubergines and its known as the ‘Sultan’ of vegetables.  In Wales we’ll call it the ‘Tribe Leader’ of vegetables!  I made a version of Babaganoush a couple of days ago and will post it somewhere soon.  You can never have too much aubergine on one blog!  Impossible!!

COOKING TIPS

I like to caramelise the aubergine in the pan, making it stick to the bottom a little.  A crust will form, this is fine and adds to the richness and depth to the sauce.  Just make sure that it doesn’t burn too much!  As with so many recipes, the pan scrapings are the best bits for making sauces/ gravy, basically concentrated flavours.

Traditionally Baingan Bharta is made a little like Babaganoush in that the aubergines are cooked over open flames.  Unfortunately, in the Beach House Kitchen we have an electric hob.  No open flames, so this technique is a decent option and more straightforward.  It also means that you get the benefits of all the goodness found in aubergine skins.

If you are getting a BBQ going this summer, I cannot recommend smoking a load of aubergines highly enough.  The flavour is wonderful and you can always freeze any excess aubs.  This gives you the base ingredient to make either of these delicious vegan dishes.  I mentioned on twitter recently that there is nothing as decadent as a well roasted aubergine and a few of you commented that you can probably think of a few things slightly more decadent.  This is probably true!  But aubergines to me are a sensational veg, especially for a vegan.  They have so many qualities, a wonderful vegetal creaminess and when mixed with something rich like olive oil or tahini, for example, I’ve got one foot in Nirvana.

G.M. CROPS IN INDIA

Genetically Modified (G.M.) crops are becoming a huge problem in India as large multi-national agriculture businesses, with a myriad affiliates and branches, try to introduce GM crops to India.  There are many people fighting against this unnatural invasion, one of the main spokesperson in Vandana Shiva.  In 2011 to protest against the introduction of GM Brinjal (Aubergine) into India, the Meridien Hotel and Greenpeace volunteers in Delhi cooked a world record 342 kilograms of organic aubergine and presented a portion of the dish to the president at the time, Manmohan Singh.  A very tasty protest!

A RADIANT DAY ON THE HILL

Its a lovely day up here on Tiger Hill and Jane is facilitating a Feminine Workshop, so I am home alone.  Jane has been working really hard on her new website this week, Womans Wheel.  It looks beautiful!  I’m off for a walk up ‘Myndd Mawr‘ (Big Mountain, also called Elephant mountain because it looks like a massive sleeping Elephant or ‘Yr Eliffat’) and will then plant Percy, our new Snowdon Pear Tree in the garden.  We’ve picked a nice sunny spot for him.  I’m also making tofu today and am seeking a nice firm tofu texture.  I’m going for a different salt to coagulate the beans and hopefully this will help.  Homemade tofu is really easy and cost effective, I’ll post the recipe soon.  Anyone got any top tips for homemade tofu?

Jane at the base of Snowdon with Mynydd Mawr in the background

Jane at the base of Snowdon with Mynydd Mawr in the background

JO POTT SUPPER CLUB

We had a delicious meal at Jo Pott’s last night.  Each month Jo puts on a fantastic five course menu, served in a very cosy and stylish attic space above her cafe in the Kiffin area of Bangor.  Last night, the theme was South Asia and we enjoyed all kinds of traditional delicacies with a twist.  I loved the Aduki, rice and ginger balls and I think Jane was quite taken with the Watermelon and Vodka crush (which I ate half of because Jane was driving).  The Lentil Cakes in Citrus Broth was also really interesting.  Jo’s food is always creative and looks beautiful.  Jo does this every month and the fact that Jane and I could sit down to a 5 course vegan meal in a beautiful space was a real treat.  Nice one Jo!

 

The Bits  – For 2

2 large aubergines (cut into chunky batons)

3 medium tomatoes (roughly diced)

4 cloves garlic

3 cm ginger (finely chopped)

1 medium onion (finely sliced)

Spices

1 teas mustard seeds

2 teas ground cumin seeds (1 teas ground)

3 teas coriander seeds (1 ½ teas ground)

1 teas turmeric

1 teas sweet paprika

1 chilli (finely diced or 1/3 teas chilli powder)

1/2 teas asafoetida

 

1 -2 teas sea salt

3 tbs oil

125ml water

 

Garnish

Fresh coriander (or sprouted lentils as we used)

 

Do It

On a medium heat, add your coriander seeds to a pan, toast for two minutes and then add your cumin seeds and toast for one more minute, until fragrant and slightly brown.  Bash up well in pestle and mortar.  Use ground spices if you’re in a hurry.

In the same pan, add 2 tbs of cooking oil on a medium high heat and fry the aubergines.  Stir/ toss them regularly and add 1 teas salt.  Cook for 12-15 minutes, until nicely soft and well caramelised.  They will stick to the bottom a bit, but this is perfect.  That crust equals deep flavour.  Set the aubs aside and cover with a plate.

Now put the pan back on the heat and add your tomatoes to the remaining oil on a high heat, stir them well and try to scrape up the aubergine crust to combine with the tomatoes. Fry for around 5 minutes.  Set aside and cover.

Wipe out the pan and add 1 tbs of oil and on a medium heat, fry 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, 8 minutes, then add your garlic, chilli and ginger, cook for three minutes, then your spices hit the pan, stir them well, not allowing the spices to stick to the bottom, add 1 tbs of water if this happens.  Saute for two minutes and then add your tomatoes, aubergine and 125 ml water and cover cook on a fast simmer for 5 minutes.  Add salt to taste.

Baingan Bharta

Baingan Bharta

Serve

We love it with fresh, homemade super simple chapattis (recipe here).  They are really easy once you get into a flow.  We also love Baingan Bharta with pulao and pickles, or with daal, why not go the whole shebang and get a Indian feast together, Beetroot Raita and all.  It is Saturday night almost after all!

One of our new neighbours - Trev

One of our new neighbours – Not sure what to call him yet?  Trev?!  

Foodie Fact

Aubergine is just one of those veggies that has it all, good lucks, charisma, tastiness, and dashing nutritional properties.  I love all veggies and when I learn about their nutritional benefits to body and mind, I get even more excited.

Aubergine has loads of dietary fibre, which is amazing for the digestive system and is one of the most important factors in detoxifying our body.  Vitamins are important, fibre equally so.

Aub is a nightshade, like tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.  Called ‘eggplant’ in many parts of the world, I think the coolest type of aubergine is surely the ‘graffiti’ aubergine, with its purple, speckled skin.

Aubergine is a good source of B1 and B6, potassium, copper and magnesium.

Categories: Curries, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creamy Peanut and Sweet Potato Curry

Creamy Peanut Curry with Sweet Potatoes (Vegan)

Creamy Peanut Curry with Sweet Potatoes (Vegan)

This is not a fussy thing!  Not a gram (or lentil) of stress, just lots of spicy and sweet creaminess……the perfect dish to end Vegetarian Week. Twitter takes up a lot of time! I’ve been tweeting like a nutter this morning but its great to come back to the BHK. Blog-ville!

Here is last nights dinner which worked out a treat. Creamy and sweet with a hint of nuttiness and plenty of spice this is pure plant and packed with things to make you shine and go MMmmmmmmm……. This is a chunky curry, all made in the one pan for ease of preparation. We like to keep things whole food and don’t think this means loads or extra prep or time over the hob. There is no separate masala sauce making here, we just dive straight in and get maximum flavour and richness from the soya milk and peanut butter.

Jane and I celebrated my birthday on the beach and in the garden yesterday. A little belated as I’ve been busy promoting ‘Peace and Parsnips’ down in London and working at the Trig.  We quaffed a nice bottle of Sancerre and watched the sun slowly set from a rug near our stone circle (quite a cool feature of our garden!)  Pretty idyllic behaviour!  Our garden is looking wild and verdant at the minute, alive with the hum of big busy bumble bees.  You have to wait ages for a sunset at this time of year, we gave up at 9:30pm and retreated into the Beach House. I mention in the recipe that we like our veggies with a little crunch and must say that the pictures of the curry were taken alot later in the evening when the curry had sat and carried on cooking. They were well cooked by that stage (a bottle of wine can have a bizarre effect on cooking).

The Beach House Garden - Waiting for sunset

The Beach House Garden – Waiting for sunset

NATURAL HEALING

Later we watched an interesting documentary ‘Sacred Science‘ about natural plant healing, straight from the shamans of the Amazon.  There is so much healing potential in the plant world, most of which we are unaware of.  This documentary opened our eyes to the potency of the natural world to heal even serious or terminal illness; cancer, parkinsons, diabetes etc.  The Amazon is tragically disappearing for a number of reasons, one of the main ones being deforestation for the growing of soya beans to fatten cattle for humans to consume.  Cutting out meat and dairy will have a hugely positive effect on the Amazon, safeguarding the plants that will one day, no doubt, be used more widely to cure illnesses that presently can only be treated with powerful chemical drugs with many side effects.

Shades view

Shades view

A WORD ON WELSH WEATHER

(Always an interesting conversation in North Wales.  We had hail stones the other day like ping pong balls.  It sounded like the world was being pummelled with marbles!) Its been chilly up here in North Wales and the plants are taking it slowly this year. Basically, not growing. We are about to put our crop of seedlings out into the veg patch, but if things don’t get alot drier and sunnier, we fear stunted beetroots and shy cabbages. Come on SUN! Trigonos (is our local organic/ biodynamic veggie farm) is growing a load of veggies this year and hopefully soon we’ll have some local seasonal veggies to play with. At the minute we are turning to things like sweet potato regularly, primarily because they are one of the most nutritious (see ‘Foodie Fact’ below) and delicious things that could ever pass your hungry lips.

Doing the not-so-famous 'Wine Crane' yoga pose

Doing the not-so-famous ‘Tipsy Crane’ yoga pose

ULTIMATE SPINACH!

Jane makes me a mix CD for my birthday every year, last year we had the magnificence of ‘Wild Honeypie’ which contained alot of tracks from the awesome snowboarding movie ‘Valhalla‘. This years offering is ‘Hazy Daze’ and I’ve popped a couple of the tunes at the bottom of this post. To give you an idea of what we’re grooving to when peeling our radiant orange spuds. Its fair to say that ‘Ultimate Spinach’ are our new favourite band for so many reasons.

So, a simple curry which we hope you make with big smiles and eat with loved ones and laughterXXXXxx

Jane getting out little birthday picnic ready

Jane getting our little birthday picnic ready – the Beach House Garden

The Bits – For 4

850g sweet potatoes (peeled and chopped into 2 inch chunks)

1 large onion (sliced)

1 large pepper (deseeded and cut into 2 inch chunks)

1 large courgette

2 large tomatoes (roughly diced)

1 chilli (finely diced) or 1/2 teas chilli flakes

2 inches ginger (roughly grated)

250ml soya milk

2-3 tbs smooth peanut butter

1 tbs vegetable oil

1 teas sea salt

 

Spices

2 teas cumin seeds

1 1/2 teas mustard seeds

1 teas fenugreek seeds

 

1 teas ground turmeric

2 teas ground coriander

1/2 teas ground cardamom or 4 cardamom pods

Just about ready - Curries up!

Just about ready – Curries up!

Do It

In a large frying pan, warm the vegetable oil and add the spice seeds (only).  Leave them to fry and pop for 30 seconds and then add the onion.  Stir well and add 1 tbs of water if the pan is getting too hot.  This helps to prevent the spices from sticking and potentially burning.  Fry and stir for 5 minutes, when the onions are golden, add the ginger, chilli and sweet potatoes and cook for another 3 minutes.  Making sure you stir regularly.

Now add the ground spices to the pan, stir well and add the tomatoes with 2 tbs water.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Now add the soya milk, courgettes and pepper, turn the heat up a little and bring the curry to a boil. Lower the heat and cover and cook for roughly 5-7 minutes, until the courgettes are soft with some crunch still.  If you plan on serving the curry later, cook only for a few minutes, the veggies will cook through when you come to re-heating the curry.

Just before serving, stir in the peanut butter.  If you really like peanuts, go for 3 tbs, 2 tbs will give a light, nuttiness.

Serve

Would be lovely with some freshly chopped coriander, brown rice and all your favourite curry accompaniments. A spiced chutney of some sort will be magnificent!  To add even more nutrition by adding a few handfuls of spinach to the finished curry and stirring them in.

Creamy Peanut Curry with Sweet Potato (Vegan)

Creamy Peanut Curry with Sweet Potato (Vegan)

Foodie Fact

Sweet potato is one of our favourite ingredients.  Its such a treat in so many ways, just roasted in its jacket is something sublime.  Sweet potato (also called Yam) is grown all over the world, there are actually over 200 varieties.  The insides of these potatoes can be purple, cream, yellow, pink, white….  They are originally from Central and South America, one of the oldest foods known to man, nowadays the worlds largest producer is China. Sweet potato is one of the finest sources of beta-carotene, raising our Vitamin A levels.  Eating sweet potatoes with a little fat, i.e. the vegetable oil in this recipe, helps the body absorb the beta-carotene. These vivid tubers also contain lots of Vitamin C and Manganese.

Categories: Curries, Healthy Eating, Music, Nutrition, photography, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Toasted Cashew and Green Pepper Pulao plus the healthy magic of Cinnamon

Toasty Cashews.  YUMAH!

Toasty Cashews. YUMAH!

Toasty cashews with sweet peppers and a raft of spices and fluffy rice.  Its all there.  Indians taking a staple dish way up there towards Nirvana and beyond!!!!!!

A simple rice dish (don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients) with some seriously tasty touches.  Toasted cashews are ever delicious.  Pulao is basically a side dish, but can really be a main course, something like a Biryani for example, with a few more veggies and a little more spice.  Pulao is like a toned down cousin of Biryani.  Just like all Indian food, flavours here are turned up to 11 and the possibility of spice combing are fully explored.  This may seem like alot spices to be putting into your rice, but they are worth it and if you are interested in cooking Indian food, you will find that all of these spices are used almost on a daily basis in your average Indian kitchen.

In India this March, above the Himalayan snowline in a family home.  Dinner time was a huge highlight (we could warm out hands over the rice)

In India this March, above the Himalayan snowline in a family home. Dinner time was a huge highlight (we could warm out hands over the rice)

A SPICY CONUNDRUM 

When you see the recipes for many Indian dishes you are immediately confronted with the sheer length and seemingly mind boggling array of spices in even a simple dish.  Do not fret, once you get them all together and start cooking more Indian food, your dhaba (spice rack) will become your best friend.  I always bang on about this, but keep your spices in sealed containers and preferably in the fridge (if you live in a hot place or your central heating is potent).  Don’t mix strong smelling spices with, like Hing (Asafoetida) with other spices, they’ll all be tinged with the funk of hing.  Get your spices ready, in one bowl if possible, before hand.  Then when the pan is hot and the spatula is flying, you can simply pour them in with no real fuss.  Bear  in mind however that some spices are better added earlier or later in the cooking process, depending on the dish/ spice.  Its a little complex really!  Being a bit organised with your spices beforehand saves you clambering around with slippy jars and unruly spice bags.

I’ve used brown rice and thrown some of my favourites, flax seeds in, but both are not exactly traditional.   If you use white rice, you could knock 10 minutes off the overall cooking time.

One of the main men in Nainital market.  Great onions.  India '15

One of the main men in Nainital market. Great onions. India ’15

The Bits

1 tbs cooking oil (vegetable/ sunflower etc)

400g brown rice

600ml light vegetable stock

1 green pepper (as finely diced as you can)

1 handful of cashews (chopped in half lengthways, like half moons)

2 cloves garlic (peeled and smashed up or finely diced)

1 large tomato (finely diced)

 

Spices

1-2 large red chilli (dried and cut lengthways, remove seeds for less heat)

6 green cardamom pods (split)

1 small cinnamon stick (2 inches long)

5 cloves

6 green cardamom pods (split)

1 teas cumin seeds

1 teas fennel seeds

½ teas nigella seeds

1 tbs flax/linseeds

 

Optional Topping

1 handful toasted cashews

1 handful fresh coriander leaves (roughly chopped) – we didn’t have any (soz)

Fried Pulao - Just add a few tomatoes

Fried Pulao – Just add a few tomatoes for a super simple lunch treat

Do It

In a large saucepan, with a good fitting lid, warm the oil on medium high heat and add the green peppers, fry them for a couple of minutes before adding the cumin and nigella seeds, stir for a minute and then add the rest of the spices and garlic, stirring all the time.  Cook these for a minute and then it’s time to pour in the rice and tomatoes.  Combine all the ingredients well and leave to warm through for yet another minute.

Pour over the stock and turn the heat up a little until the rice is vigorously boiling.  Now place a well fitting lid over the rice and turn the heat down to minimum.  Leave to steam away for 40-45 minutes (white rice, know off 10 minutes cooking time).

While the rice is cooking, grab a small frying pan and on medium heat, add the cashews and toast them gently.  Tossing them about, getting them nice and coloured.  Toasty.  Gorgeous.  Dark golden.

Once cooked, have a peak, the rice should be nice and fluffy.  With a fork, being careful not to scratch your nice, non-stick pan (if you are lucky enough to have one), gently tease and fluff the rice.  If you like added richness, you can add a drizzle of oil here and coat the rice.  It gives nice shine and richness and would be condone by most Indian cooks I know, although they would probably add a good knob of ghee.  Pop the lid on and leave to sit for a few minutes before serving.  The final, fragrant mingle……

Side/Main Dish (just add spoons)

Toasted Cashew and Green Pepper Pulao – Side/Main Dish (just add spoons)

Serve

Pulao is an occasion.  Mix in most of the cashews.  Warm a platter and pile it in the middle, this makes for a lovely centre piece for any Indian feast.  Or you can line some tea cups with cling film and spoon the pulao into them, packing it down quite well.  Turn the cups over, onto the plate you’re using for serving and gently lift off the cup.  This will leave you with a very neat and professional looking pile of rice.  Scatter with some freshly toasted cashews and a little fresh coriander.

Foodie Fact

All these spices are so very good for you.  At random let me pick cinnamon, a serious, serious anti-oxidants.  So much so, that it should be offered in all pharmacies across the country to treat and prevent things like colds.  Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties, it can help to stabilise insulin and hormones and can even help against heart disease.

Spices are our natural friends and the more spices you can add to your food, namely cook plenty of food from India or the Middle East, the healthier you will no doubt be.  Imagine the cumulative effects of eating decent amounts of cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves, cumin, coriander…………….you’ll live a healthy life until you’re 200 (with some decent karmic conditions along the way).

JUST ADD SPICEX

Jane in Norbulingka Palace, Dharamasala, India '15

Jane in Norbulingka Palace, Dharamasala, India ’15

Categories: Curries, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Side Dish | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Sweet Potato and Spinach Thoran (Keralan Stir Fry)

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Thoran

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Thoran

Do not be put off by the long list of ingredients, this is Indian cooking in a flash! Thoran is like a South Indian stir fry, very quick to get together and whip up.  Its one of those dishes that easily slots into the ‘staples’ category of your recipe repertoire.   Small efforts are rewarded with massive and delightful flavours.  Definitely our way of doing things.

The ingredients for this have been adapted to Wales, a subtle change from steaming, tropical Kerala.  I’ve still gone for some non-native ingredients, pepper and sweet potato, but swede and parsnips just don’t seem to fit the bill (although I did use them for a soup – coming soon……)

Thoran is what the Indians would call a ‘dry’ side dish, normally served with a saucy curry (like Sambar) and rice, some coconut chutney would finish things off like a tropical Keralan dream.  Thoran is cooked especially well in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and this part of the world is a vegans heaven.  There are very few dishes which are reliant on ghee (clarified butter) that dominates the cooking of North India.  In the south its all about the coconut and sometimes, if you’re lucky, the odd cashew.  The food is lighter and seems fresher, without the reliance on uber rich, spicy sauces (which I might add are extremely delicious).

Thoran is an essential part of a Sadya, which is basically a very elaborate South Indian Thali, normally served on a banana leaf (if you’re in the right joint) at festival times.  Sadya showcases the depth and diversity of Indian cuisine, the way for centuries it has been designed and modified to tantalise all of the tastebuds and senses.  Sadya will have dry curries, saucy curries, fluffy rice, crispy papads (poppadoms), sour chutneys, creamy/ herb based chutneys, smokey chutneys, banana chips, spicy pickles and normally a tamarind based soup (Rasam) to aid digestion of all of this.  In fact, a full on Sadhya served at a big festival can consist of around 28 dishes (some even go up to 60!)  I would have to say that to get the most flavour from your Keralan food, it has to be eaten with (well washed) hands.  Roll up your sleeves and dive in.  A Sadya sounds like an elaborate feast but its actually quite a normal meal, inexpensive and versions of it are served in modest restaurants all over Kerala.  I think we normally paid around one pound for an all you can eat Sadya.  Yes ONE POUND for all that deliciousness!  Welcome to India!  The dishes all come out in a specific order and a nice gentleman will come over and just keep spooning things onto your welcoming leaf.  It is quite a complicated process, but when you’re the recipient, you just scoop away and smile.

Trying to help, learning loads.....

Trying to help, learning loads…..

I have just got back from the Mother land and while I was there stayed in some amazing homestays.  I spent the first six weeks travelling from Delhi to Kerala with my Dad (see out blog ‘The Jalebi Express‘) and then we met Jane in Delhi and Jane and I travelled the Himalayas and spent time with the Tibetans up in Mcleod Ganj. Homestays are not normal in India, they vary greatly, some are just like hotels although many hotels in India can soon become something like a homestay.  If you hang around for a while, you are bound to get to know all the people that work there.  More so than in other countries.  Even in the heart of Delhi, I now know all the people who work in my favourite hotels, restaurants, shops and chai stands.

Whilst travelling around the spectacular North of Kerala we stayed at Varnam Homestay, just outside Wayanad National Park.  There, I had the pleasure of cooking with Beena (our host) and her amazing team of lady helpers.  Wayanad is tucked away in the northern tip of Kerala and is a stunning area, the flora and fauna are dense and spectacular; wild elephants and tigers roam the land and the people are gentle and very hospitable.  The way of life hardly wavers above a gentle amble.  Beena and Varghese our gracious hosts were amazing and could not have made Dad and I more welcome.  When I mentioned my passion for food and cooking they immediately roped me in to helping out with the next days lunch and dinner prep.  I learnt so much and was amazed to see their chopping skills.  You pull a plastic sheath over your index finger and use it as a mid-air chopping board.  The knives are sharp and occasionally you end up cutting through the flimsy guard.  Once the blood is stemmed, you carry on with a new colourful finger guard.  This of course never happens to the ladies.

The Varnam ladies get busy

The Varnam ladies get busy

We prepared many dishes, but the Plantain Thoran was one of the highlights, cooked over a wood flame stove with minimal fuss.  We also made a Keralan classic sauce, with highly roasted coconut and ginger as a base.   A very unique flavour and something I will be cooking very soon (I forgot the name, it may be called Inchi Curry – see here for a recipe).  Once i find a good supply of coconuts up here, our kitchen is heading towards Kerala again.

Varnam Homestay was set in some impressive farmland and forests.  The little huts are raised on stilts to ensure the farmers have somewhere to go when a tiger wanders by

Varnam Homestay is set in some impressive farmland and forests. The little huts are raised on stilts to ensure the farmers have somewhere to go when a tiger wanders by

Varnam Homestay is set in acres of its own land and we were served only ingredients that grew on their land, that included the rice, coffee, all the sensational fruits and vegetables and even milk (they had a few cows roaming behind the kitchen).  The family were so friendly and warm, Dad and I stayed an extra two days, mainly exploring the locals hills and testing out the hammocks for comfort and durability.  They all seemed to work well.  We also saw a tigers footprint, which looked fresh, but I am no expert.  It sounds like I’m belittling the whole experience but the food was a highlight and to be served only homegrown, was a rare and highly tasty treat.  Another wonderful aspect was the other guests, not something you can say in every hotel. They were such a good bunch from all around the world, we ate together on a large table and during the delicious meals,  very quickly became friends.  I think eating is the best way to meet new people, we all relax over a good curry!

Varnam's Plantain Thoran

Varnam’s Plantain Thoran

Indian food is mind boggling at times and can be complex, but that’s why I like Thoran, its cheap and quick.  The other wonderful thing about a dish like Thoran is it is there to use up any seasonal produce.  In Kerala for example plantains are a regular ingredient, as well as bitter gourd, yucca, yardlong beans, giant arums, red cheera and several different types of flowers.  Even banana flowers make a mean Thoran.  In Britain, you can opt for potato, green beans, carrots, I’d even go for asparagus.

Thoran is quick to cook and so easy to get together

Thoran is quick to cook and so easy to get together

The Bits – For 4 (as a side dish)
2 tbs coconut oil
400g sweet potato – or 1 big one (peeled)
1 onion (peeled)
1 large red pepper (deseeded)
(all finely diced)
4 large handfuls spinach leaves
1 teas mustard seeds
1 teas cumin seeds
1 handful curry leaves
2 dried chillies (cut down the middle lengthways)
2 tbs grated ginger
1 tbs turmeric
75ml water

Finish with……
1 massive handful grated fresh coconut (or desiccated coconut will do)
1 large chilli (finely sliced)
1 handful fresh coriander (finely chopped)

Do It

Thoran cooks quickly, so best have all your ingredients to hand and prepared.  Stay with the pan for most of the cooking time, stirring gently with a non-metal spoon or spatula.  I love this kind of cooking, its exciting!

In a large, heavy frying pan, preferably with a chunky bottom, warm your coco oil on high heat.  Add the dried chillies, mustard seeds, when the seeds pop a little add the curry leaves.  Fry for a minute and then add your sweet potato, onion and peppers, stir.  After a couple of minutes, add the ginger and turmeric and a little water if things begin to stick to the bottom.  Fry for a couple of minutes and then scatter the spinach on top and cover the pan with a lid.  Lower the heat a touch, leave to cook for five minutes.

Check that the sweet potato is softened, then stir in the grated coconut, fresh coriander and chillies.  Reserving a little of these for a final flourish.

Serve 

Spoon into a preferably warm and striking serving dish and sprinkle on your ‘final flourish’ ingredients.  Munch with relish and dream  of swaying palms and endless rivers of mango juice.  Check out those vibrant flavours!!

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Thoran

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Thoran

Foodie Fact

Sweet potato is packed with beta-carotenes.  In fact it is one of natures best sources of Vitamin A.  They also boast plenty of vitamin C.  Although SP’s are a starchy root veg, they actually help to maintain and regulated our blood sugar levels, mainly due to their high levels of dietary fibre.

One of the local residents, who was friendlier than he looked

One of the local residents, who was friendlier than he looked

 

Categories: Curries, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Taste of Goan Cuisine and Papaya Paradise

 

Papaya Paradise - Papaya, cashews and a drop of coconut milk.  A fruity delight.

Papaya Paradise – Papaya, cashews and a drop of coconut milk. A tropical tickle.

Paradise for me involves papaya, cashews and coconut. Maybe a beach and a few palm trees lolling in the background. Put all those in a bowl (minus the salt water, sand and chewy leaves) you are approaching my idea of a fruit-based nirvana.  We are in Goa and all of these things are plentiful, there are stalls that enforce coconuts on you with each passing, men gifting papayas to you on a regular basis and cashews, the size of small curved chipolatas, are sold for peanuts.  Also, it is not mango season in India, so there is no fruity conflict for me, the papaya reigns supreme.

Peter (the wonderful man who looks after the apartment we are staying in) gifted us the largest and ripest papaya I have ever clapped eyes on yesterday. Carving it is something like hollowing out a canoe from a large orange tree trunk. Peter obviously has a secret local supplier, I’ve never seen a papaya like this is the stalls by the side of the road. It would take up half the stall!

I am not sure if you’re going to be able to get a decent papaya in Europe and beyond. Maybe try a Caribbean or Asian shop, you know the one, the Aladdin’s cave of interesting ingredients from all corners of the world. The little space that transports you to Africa, Jamaica, Thailand and Pakistan just by the power of the brands they stock, the occasional aroma and random, unknown, packet of semi-illicit looking spice that just has to be experimented with.

Se Cathedral - the largest cathedral in Asia (with the largest bell also)

Se Cathedral – dedicated to Saint Catherine, the largest cathedral in Asia (with the largest bell also)

Goa is a magical land, totally different from the rest of India, the cuisine is very interesting, a mixture of many things, Indian and Portugese especially. Each dish changes from region to region and this is not a huge state by Indian standards.
I have been reticent to cook much in the apartment, not wanting to stock up on loads of spices and ingredients, we are only here a short time and whenever I travel I always end up with kilos of half used packets and sachets lurking in the depths of my backpack. This time, I’m trying not to waste a thing.

Tonight I will try something like a Goan Curry, which normally has a good tang to it, created by adding toddy vinegar or tamarind. Adding vinegar to food was the main influence of the Portugese who were here for hundreds of years, in fact, Vasco de Gama landed in 1498 and they hung around until well into the 17th century.  Old Goa had population larger than Lisbon or London at that time. The Portugese also brought some other quite important staples across the waves; namely, chilies and potato, along with some very common spices, especially nutmeg, which the Goans love to use liberally in savoury dishes.  The Portugese also influenced the Goan desserts, many resemble the flans and tortas of the Iberian Peninsula.  Most of our local friends, living around the apartment have Portugese ancestory and could actually emigrate to Portugal if they wished. Interestingly, most of them have the last name ‘De Souza’, there are a few ‘Courtinho’s’, ‘Perrera’s’ and so on.

Dad does an Abbey Road Impression - in front of the Bom Jesus Cathedral, Old Goa

Dad does an Abbey Road Impression – in front of the Bom Jesus Cathedral, Old Goa (‘Bom’ means ‘good’ in Portugese.

Goa is mainly divided between Christian and Hindu (with a small population of Muslims), they have lived in harmony since the beginning and even share some festival days. Religious background affects the way that dishes are prepared, one Xacutti or Kodi will differ greatly depending on the faith involved. Goan cuisine is incredibly traditional and diverse, awe inspiring really. I have never tasted anything like the Vegetable Xacutti I had yesterday in the excellent ‘Viva Panjim!’. A restaurant tucked down a side alley in a sedate quarter of the capital city, Panjim. ‘Viva Panjim!’ is located in the old Fountainhas area of the city, with many colonial looking buildings forming small quiet alleyways and nooks. In this place you can really see what things would have looked like under Portugese rule. My Xacutti involved alot of roasted coconut and was heavy on the warming spices, especially cinnamon and clove, there was definitely some kind of nutmeg/ mace going on in there as well . Dad opted for a Kingfish Goan Curry (like a ‘Vindalau’ – as they call it here), which has a vibrantly red coloured sauce which contained; Kashmiri chillies, tamarind, lots of onions and garlic, cumin seeds and tomatoes. It looked sensational. All of this served in an old colonial home with slow fans and hand carved furniture. The owner Madam Linda D’Souza sat at a desk overseeing things and when we showed an interest in the cuisine, how it was prepared (I was digging for a recipe or two of course) she gifted us a beautiful cook book, packed with the history of Goan culture and very personalised recipes from local home cooks and chefs.  There are even diagrams of how to climb a coconut tree and work a rice paddy.

In 'Viva Pajim!' one of our finest dining experiences to date

In ‘Viva Pajim!’ one of our finest dining experiences to date

Goa has no end of old school hippy joints that sell homemade tofu or seitan, pancakes, vegan cakes etc which was fine for a couple of meals (Bean Me Up, Blue Tao, Whole Bean Cafe and the legendary German Bakery were particular favourites) but we are now definitely in the hunt for more Goan delicacies. The only problem is we’ll have to leave the beaches and head inland, to the small towns to find the real deal. It seems that travelers/ tourists are not really into the local wonders. Which is a real shame. We have been invited by two real old school gents, Patrick and Peter (who run a tiny bar beneath our place) to their home for a home cooked (vegan!) dinner on Sunday. Something we are both very excited about. Will keep you posted.

Vegetable Xacuti, Fried Aubergine Chips and Dad's Goan Fish Curry

Vegetable Xacuti, Fried Aubergine Chips and Dad’s Goan Fish Curry

Categories: Curries, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kala Chana Masala with Beetroot and Bok Choi

Jane on 'The Rock' - Karuna Farm, Western Ghats, Tamil Nadu

Jane on ‘The Rock’ – Karuna Farm, Western Ghats, Tamil Nadu

Finally, we post something!!!!  We have loads of half finished bits typed hurriedly in internet cafes, but have yet had the time and drive to actually finish one off!  

We’ve been in Indian now for three months and things have been thick with experience and too many foodie experiences to recollect.  Expect many Indian themed post soon, packed full of delicious and authentic recipes……. 

Kodai Kanal, Tamil Nadu 21st March 2014

Kodai is a little ex-British Hill Station (somewhere where the Raj used to go and cool off during the summer months).  Lots of little Anglo Indian stone cottages with lawns and chimneys, tea rooms and a beautiful lake.  We are staying on a farm, on a steep slope, with spectacular views over the plains towards Madurai.  It thick jungle, full nature and absolutely beautiful and best of all, we have a small kitchen to play in!!!!!

A random little post here, but we are half way up a hill in the middle of nowhere (Southern India). This recipe came together on our first night in Karuna Farm, in the green and verdant Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu. We have been sweating and meditating, sweating and yoga-ing, sweating and chanting our way through the early part of March in the Sivananda Ashram, outside Madurai. The temperatures soared, so it is magical to be up here in the mountains where the night air is crisp and the sunrises come on like an intergalactic firework show.

This is a spectacular little farm and we are witnessing many positive projects in motion. They are building earth ships, from recyclable car tyres and starting a permaculture project to supply the on-farm restaurant with some proper local produce.

On Sunday, Jane and I ventured up to Kodai Kanala (the main town). We walked through little villages, with many smiles greeting us, for 2 hours and then managed to catch a little rickety van the rest of the way to town (we’re quite remote here!).

Kodai is an old British hill station, with many rock built chalets and a large dollop of Christianity. It is now a popular retreat for Indian honeymooners and surprisingly few gringos on the streets.

Haggling at Kodai Market

Haggling at Kodai Market

Sunday is market day and we spent most of it wandering around and ogling the local produce. Non of it organic, but all of it vibrant and full of potential. Our accommodation, a nice little cottage in a banana plantation, actually has a kitchen!  The first time we’ve been able to cook, apart from random cooking classes and making spicy tea with the chai wallas.  I was so chuffed to be having a bash at the pots and pans again.  We filled our backpacks with veggies and fruits and have not looked back since.

Internet in India is tough and I must apologise for the lack of BHK activity in recent times. We have heads full of recipes and new ways of conjuring up tasty nibbles.  We can’t wait to share them with you all from HQ (North Wales, which seems like a million and one miles away).

WHAT IS KALA CHANA?

Kala Chana (also Desi Chana or Bengal Gram) are brown chickpeas, unprocessed and packed with fibre.   ‘Kala’ actually means black in Hindi and Urdu.  They have more of a robust texture than your average chicker.  This type of chana has been enjoyed all over the world for millenia, from ancient Rome, Persia and Greece, to Africa and Latin America.  It has been used in British cooking since the middle ages.

Chana is so versatile to a veggie cook, we can boil them, sprout them, roast them in the oven, make them into magic puree’s (like hummus) or even make desserts with them.

We love this rough chana, especially in a dish with full flavoured veggies like cabbage and beetroot. A lovely old lady was selling these bok chois, we couldn’t resist them. I have never seen them cooked in India, but you wouldn’t expect us to be traditional now would you??!!

This is a highly spiced dish, similar to chana masala in many ways. The spices are warming including cinnamon and cloves, making it very much north Indian fare. In the South we have been eating mainly coconuts and white rice, the staple down here. Generally lightly spiced bu heavy on the dried chilli.

This dish, served with a massive salad, made a wonderful change and we actually cooked it ourselves! I have to say our bellies have not felt this good in the 2 month India adventure.

Jane washing up sporting socks and sandals, our new look

Jane washing up sporting socks and sandals, our new look

Grating the veggies for the sauce (called a masala over here) gives the overall dish a smoother texture and helps to thicken things up. Of course, grating things unlocks the flavours of the veggies and means you don’t need to cook them for so long to get maximum flavour.

I will be volunteering on an organic farm and cooking in a vegan kitchen soon, settling down a little. I imagine they will have internet and should catch up a little with the backlog of recipes and posts that have accumulated on my little computer gadget. There are some crackers!
Namaste and Much Love,

Lee and JaneXXXXXXX

The Bits – For 2
2 tbs coconut oil (or cooking oil)
1 large beetroot (scrubbed and diced)
6 large leaves bok choi (plus their fleshly stumps, chopped)
1 large carrot (scrubbed and grated)
1 small potato (scrubbed and diced)
1 big handful cabbage (grated)

Masala
1 onion (peeled and grated)
4-5 cloves garlic (peeled and grated)
1 ½ inch ginger (peeled and grated)
3 tomatoes (grated, skins discarded)
2 teas garam masala (or spice mix of your choice)
6 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tea cumin seeds
1 teas black mustard seeds
2 tbs curry leaves
½ teas chilli powder
½ teas sea salt
½ teas black pepper

¾ cup chana daal (soaked overnight)

Brown Chana Masala with  Beetroot and Bok Choi

Brown Chana Masala with Beetroot and Bok Choi

Do It
Drain your chickpeas and rinse. Place in a small saucepan and cover with 3 inches of water, bring to a boil and simmer with a lid on for 1 hour (or until nicely tender).

Whilst they’re cooking, get your masala ready. In a frying pan, warm 1 tbs of oil, add the cumin seeds, cloves and cinnamon stick fry for a 30 seconds then add the onions. Fry all on a med high heat for 5 minutes, until golden.

Add the garlic, ginger and beetroot, fry for 3 minutes, then add the carrots and cabbage. Stir well and warm through. Cook for 5 minutes and add the garam masala, chilli powder and tomato. Bring to a boil and cover. After 10 minutes cooking on a steady simmer, add 100ml water and stir, then recover. Cooking for another 10 minutes. The sauce should be nice and thick.

Now add the masala to the chickpea pan, there should be some liquid left in the pan. Stir in and thin out the sauce with more water if needed. Check seasoning, adding salt and pepper. Be heavy on the pepper, chana masala loves pepper!

In a small frying pan, warm 1 tbs oil and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves on medium heat. Let the splutter for 30 seconds and remove pan from the heat.

Once the chickpeas are warm through, stir in the seasoned oil and serve.

No lights in our cabin, but candles are better anyway.

No lights in our cabin, but candles are better anyway.

Serve
In these parts we’d be having rice and rice (with a side helping of rice!)  but tonight, in our own little cottage, we’re having one of Jane’s bonza raw salads; with grated beetroot, kohlrabi, peanuts, beetroot leaves, carrot, coriander and lots more market fresh bits (when Jane does a salad, the entire veg basket is used!)

Sunrise outside the kitchen window

Sunrise outside the kitchen window

Foodie Fact
Kala Chana is very high in dietary fibre, one big bowlful of this curry with give women almost half of their daily intake of fibre (men a little less than that).  These brown garbanzos are also high in protein and rich in minerals like iron, copper and manganese.

Kala Chana is one of the earliest cultivated legumes, remains have been discovered dating back 7500 years!  India is by far the biggest producer of chana in the world, Australia is the second, which I find surprising.

 

Categories: Curries, Dinner, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

North Indian Feast – Baingan Bhantha and Gobi Tikka

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:

Bengan Bhartha

The Bits

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)

Do It

(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.

GOBI TIKKA

The Bits

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)

Do It

(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.

Serve 

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.

Foodie Fact 

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.

An Indian Cafe Menu - Gangotri, Himalayas

An Indian Cafe Menu – Gangotri, Himalayas

Categories: Curries, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Corn & Coconut Korm

Creamy, rich and super tasty Korma without all that ghee and cream business.

One of Jane’s creations here that will eclipse any former notion you have of what a korma should taste like, in a very good way. The influence for this came from the brilliant ‘Shoshoni Cookbook’ that we are loving at the minute. Our cookbook library has recently been vastly extended, we now own four, this being our favourite. We have made several Beach House touches to the dish and we are certain that the wonderful folk at the Shoshoni Yoga Retreat will not mind.

Usually, food served in Yoga retreats is rather amazing and very healthy, normally adhereing to the ayurvedic methods of food preparation.  Most food made are what is called sattvic in nature, meaning that they do not stimulate the body or mind and posses only good energy, are clean and pure and enhance the power of the body and mind.  The cooks in Yoga centres and the like have alot of responsibility, normally dealing with many special dietary requirements, this normally makes them very well versed in all things nutrition and always cooking to a tight budget, getting the maximum flavour and texture from the produce available.  I have only had amazing food in yoga retreats, always with the added bonus of it being nourishing to the body and mind.  Jane cooked this dish to recreate that positive atmosphere in the Beach House and it worked a treat.

I ate quite a few sweet curries in India, especially in the Gujarat region, but they are normally not my favourites, Jane toned that side of things down here but you may like it sweeter. Jane has a pronounced sweet tooth and found it sweet enough, so make of that what you will.

Due to having such a corker of a night we forgot to take pictures of the food so these are actually of the leftovers. We ate the dish with roast garlic flatbreads and cumin raita, but here I’ve served the Korma on a bed of spinach, a lot lighter and healthier for a Monday evening bite.

 

The Bits – Enough for 6

1 onion (cut in large slices)

3 small sweet potatoes (cut into chunks)

2 potatoes (boiled and cut into chunks)

1 medium carrot (thinly sliced)

3 cups sweet corn kernels

 

Masala

1 green peppers (cut in half and seeded)

3 large tomatoes (chopped)

2 tbs grated ginger

2 teas ground cumin

1/3 teas ground cardamom

1 teas ground coriander

1 teas turmeric

 

 

2/3 cup grated coconut (desiccated will do here)

1/2 cup almond milk

1 tbs brown rice syrup or other sweetener

1 1/2 teas sea salt

 

Do It

Begin to fry off your vegetables, making them nice and caramelised.

Start with the sweet potato in a frying pan on medium heat, a little oil, then fry and stir for 3 minutes, then add your onions and peppers.  Use your largest pan, so that the vegetables are not tightly packed in.  Once all have a nice colour and are softened, set aside, should take around 10-15 minutes.

Make your masala, place onions, tomatoes and peppers in a blender with your spices and blitz until smooth.

In a large saucepan, warm and simmer your masala for 5 minutes, then add potatoes, carrot, corn, coconut and sweetener.  Season to taste and simmer gently for 10 minutes.   Stir in the almond milk.

Serve

With your favourite curry condiments, a nice savoury raita would go down a treat here.  We had ours with garlic flat breads (recipe to follow soon hopefully!)

We Love It!

A really surprising dish that is easy to get together and has a delicious, satisfying flavour; all that roasted vegetables and a potent masala makes for flavour fireworks!

Foodie Fact

Sweet corn is a gluten free cereal and for its sweetness, relatively low in carbs.  Corn is a great source of dietary fibre, but should be avoided by diabetics as it has a high glycemic index.

Categories: Curries, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Punjabi Rajma Chawal – Red Kidney Bean Curry

Kitchen in a Punjabi Dhaba – http://alexbecherer.tumblr.com

A simple bean curry and very much a nutritious staple in India homes and especially the legendary roadside Punjabi Dhabas.  This red kidney bean curry has a fantastic full flavour and is easy and cheap to get  together (it’s also a super healthy bite).

Punjabi food is renowned as one of India’s finest.  Very rich and packed with spice.  Punjab is a state located in the North West of India, bordering Pakistan and is home to many Sikhs.  The Golden Temple in Amritsar is rightly regarded as one of the most awesome religious monuments.  The Punjab is a very arable region, meaning a great diversity of produce.

Punjabi dhabas are famous for their cheap, fresh and super tasty food.  They are basically an eatery, that have spread around India and the world.  Wherever there are Punjabis, there are Dhabas!  In a Punjabi Dhaba the food is always quick and plentiful with a constant stream of fresh rotis from the tandoor oven and top ups of all curries, relishes and rice dishes.  Its a great way to eat, a real food experience and you always leave with a full belly.

These Dhabas started to feed truck drivers originally and the range of dishes are quite standard from Chandigarh to Chiswick.  Dal Makhani is one of my favourites; a dark, rich lentil stew.  It will be here on the BHK soon (I can’t believe its taken this long!)

The Golden Temple at sunset

Chilling at the Golden Temple at sunset

For years I was disillusioned with kidney beans; I didn’t like the name or the way they were served (normally in an insipid tomato stew, aka the dreaded British style chilli con carne).  I was ten years old at that time and have come a long way round since.  This is one of the finest way to serve a kidney bean, the rich and spicy tomato sauce compliment the earthy bean well.

In India it can be difficult to get beans, but the rajma (kidney bean in Hindi) is easily found and consistently tasty with mounds of chawal (rice).  I cannot go long without a bean hit after all.

This is something that I have been whipping up after work recently and although the list on ingredients looks a little extensive, its actually a stroll once you get into the groove.  Instead of all the individual spices, use something like a Garam Masala mix or even a good quality curry powder.

We normally stir some soya yoghurt in just before serving to give that extra touch of richness.  The finer you chop or grate your vegetables the greater release of flavour.  The just disappear into the sauce.  Grating garlic, ginger, onions and even tomatoes is a great way of making an intense fresh sauce, much, much better than anything you can buy in a tin.

The Bits

2 tbs cooking oil (unrefined)

1 onion (grated/ finely chopped)

4 cloves garlic

2 inch cube of ginger (both grated/ crushed)

4 tomatoes (chopped finely/ grated)

1 teas fennel seeds

1 teas cumin powder

1/2 teas turmeric

1 teas coriander powder

1/4 – 1/2 teas chilli powder

sea salt (to taste)

For the beans

2 cups dried red kidney beans (tins can be used, but not as good)

4 cloves

3 cardamom pods

1 stick cinnamon (or 1 teas cinnamon powder)

1 bay leaf

Topping

1 handful torn coriander leaves

1 tbsp soya yoghurt (stirred in – optional)

Gorgeous spicy tomato sauce get down reducing

Gorgeous spicy tomato sauce get down reducing

Do It

Beans – Soak your beans for 12 hours in cold water.  Rinse well and cover with 2 inches of water and bring to the boil, add your spices and allow to boil, then lower heat and pop a lid on.  Leave to simmer for 1 hour, until they are nice and tender.  If the beans are falling apart slightly, no problem, this will help to thicken the sauce.  You can of course use tinned beans if you’re in a hurry.

Sauce – In a frying pan, add your oil and on a medium heat cook your onions until golden, then add your ginger, fennel seeds and garlic, give it another three minutes, now its time for your tomatoes and spices, stir well and bring to a gentle simmer.  Cover and cook until tomatoes are nicely softened, 6-8 minutes is fine.

Get your beans into the mix (we used our flash new slotted spoon here.  Hoorah!) add all the beans and 250ml of the cooking stock (more can be added if sauce is a little thick).  Heat through, a gentle bubble, for 10 minutes more and you’re ready to get Dhaba’d!

Punjabi Rajma Chawal

Punjabi Rajma Chawal

Serve

Stir in your soya yoghurt and pour over fluffy rice and a chapatti (if you are very lucky and have time, make your own!).  Coriander leaves scatter very well here.

We Love It!

Simple and full of the spices and aromas that make India cooking so tantalising and satisfying.  Heres to all those Dhabas out there!  Dishing up brilliant food for pennies and keeping the truck drivers of India rotund and smiling.  Much better than a Little Chef I can tell you!

Foodie Fact

Red kidney beans and beans in general are full of fibre (in fact they are the best source of fibre) that benefits not only the digestive system but also lowers cholesterol.  These beans are a virtually fat free source of protein,

We get alot of our foodie fact information from the comprehensive site W H Foods.  Whats in a  kumquat?  W H know these things.

Tunes

The thing I love about cooking all this Indian food in the Beach House Kitchen is the opportunity to share my favourite Indian artists.  Here’s the master Ali Akbar Khan and another mesmeric raja:

Categories: Curries, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Rambo Tomato and Roast Fennel Curry

Rambo Tomato and Roast Fennel Curry

Rambo Tomato and Roast Fennel Curry

With tomatoes literally (almost!) falling from vines before our eyes, this is a curry that is local spice bonanza. For many years I’ve been hunched over a bubbling pot of fragrant curry masala: a spoonful here, a spoonful there; ever seeking perfection in blends of spices and sometimes herbs. This is not it, but its mighty close.

Some of my spices are straight from India, brought back on the plane in my backpack. The pack itself stunk like a Mumbai spice shop, fortunately I flew Egypt Air, Egyptians are no strangers to aromatic spices themselves. During the flight, I got vague sniffs of cumin and turmeric, I knew where they were coming from and I smiled, safe in the knowledge that I was smuggling curried gold dust.

People seem put off by curries, the list of ingredients itself can be daunting. It’s actually fairly straightforward, if you are a little organised (which for curries I am). Once you learn the basics of curry making, especially with a healthy tomato base like here, you are off into a world of pungent kitchen happiness.

These tomatoes are curiously named ‘Rambo’. I have no idea why and when I asked the tomato man at the market he simply said “Because they are from around here.” with suitable gruffness and disdain. They are a macho lot in these parts after all!

A little snap taken on a rambla walk near our casa.

A little snap taken on a rambla walk near our casa.

There are many spices here, not an everyday curry, but one fit for a feast and fine friends. The main difference between Indian food in restaurants and at home is that Indian chefs are not afraid to be wild and free with the spices. They also normally add lashing of ghee (clarified butter) to make it sparkle and tantalise. This tomato curry is perfect for the calorie conscious curry muncher, full of flavour and superbly healthy. This surely is some kind of elixir!  After some Indian meals in restaurants I feel quite heavy and lethargic (with a smile on my face however), you don’t get that treatment here.

Please try and buy good spices and keep them out of sunlight and in a sealable container. It is well worth it, a little effort could produce a curry that blows your mind.

This makes one large panful, enough for at least six hungry curry fiends.

The Bits

6 lovely large and ripe red tomatoes (chop – see below), 1 large onion (sliced), 1 stick of celery (thinly sliced), 8-10 cloves of garlic (finely chopped), 1 bulb of fennel (sliced), 1 large red pepper, 2 inch sq of fresh ginger (finely chopped), 2 teas fennel seeds, 1 teas yellow mustard seeds, 2 star anise, 2 teas ground coriander, 1 teas turmeric, 2 teas curry powder (a good one), 1 teas cumin, 8 fresh green cardamoms, ½ teas chilli powder (or as incendiary as you prefer).

Do It

Prepare all of your spices, this is quickly cooked and you don’t want to be fumbling around with packets and lids which normally leads me towards turmeric leaks and general chaos. Pop all ground spices into into a dry bowl, and the anise and cardamom into another.

Chop two tomatoes finely, forming something resembling pulp. The rest can be cut into large segments, roughly 8 to a normal sized tomato.

In a hot pan with a good glug of oil, roast off your fennel and peppers until both have colour and a little softness to them. Set aside and cover.

In the same pan on high heat, add more oil (1 tbs) and fry off your onions until soft (5mins) then add your fennel seeds and yellow mustard seeds, give a minute and constantly stir. Then the celery, garlic and ginger, stir in and give another minute and keep it all moving. Then for the spices (being careful not to burn them, add water if needed), add your spices and stir well for couple of minutes, then the cardamom and star anise can be added and the well chopped tomatoes added. Stir well and get all the flavour incorporated from the pan base (that’s the good stuff!)

Cover tightly and lower heat, leave to simmer and infuse for 10 minutes. Stir in your roasted fennel, peppers and tomato segments. Cover again and cook for a further 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft.

Try not to stir this curry much at this stage, you want the tomatoes retain their shape and texture.

Rambo Tomato and Roast Fennel Curry

Rambo Tomato and Roast Fennel Curry

Serve

Finish with a splash of olive oil stirred in (gives it shine and a little richness) then blob on some yoghurt and brown rice, topped all fresh coriander leaves. The serving style that we like to call ‘A La Beach House’.

We Love It!

One of our favourite homemade curry delights that we’d love you to try.  We made it for a recent curry night and there were many mmmmmmm’s.

Foodie Fact

Fennel is of the same family as parsley, cumin, carraway and dill.  Fennel could we be native to Spain and is a highly sought after veg in these parts.  Fennel contains many essential oil compounds, anti-oxidants and a good amount of dietary fibre.  Although the seeds are the real stars of the fennel plant, packed full of many, many good things.

 

Categories: Curries, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Rainbow Kale and Tofu Sabzi (Beach House Basics)

Rainbow Kale and Tofu Sabzi

“Simple is best.”

Sage advice and I managed to stick with it this time.  This Sabzi is quick, super healthy and a staple at the BHK.  All it takes is a little tofu, a scattering of seasonal veggies and a few sprinkles of fine spices.

Sabzi (pronounced ‘sabji’ or ‘chi’, my Hindi is not great) is a simple vegetable curry in India that is the cornerstone of most Indian meals. Sabzi, rice, chappatis, maybe some pickle and dahi (yoghurt), that is a hearty, balanced feast that can be enjoyed everywhere across India. It fuelled me daily and around 1 billion other folk on the sub continent for that matter.

Travelling in India is such a treat for all the senses, especially the belly sense.  The smell of toasting chappatis and a bubbling sabzi is a truly magical thing.  My best eating experiences in India were sat on the floor, on mats in communal canteens, eating by hand from a metal thali plate or banana leaf, steaming curries and daals served straight out of buckets.

This is a quick and easy Sabzi that I made a little heartier and healthier with the addition of the tofu, a substitute of sorts for paneer.  Make sure you get the firm tofu, it comes in many different textures and the firmer the better for cooking.  Silken tofu has a lower fat content and will just dissolve (but does make amazing tofu ice cream!)

Sabzi in India is prepared with what is growing locally and seasonally, the only way you can eat in most parts of the world, what you eat is where you are and for that reason, one of the wonderful things about travelling the world.  Our choice of veggies here reflects this with some gorgeous local organic tomatoes (plucked from the farms poly-tunnel).  The kale was yanked (lovingly) out of the Beach House garden, it’s actually doing quite well now winter is here!?  I have alot to learn with plants!  We are loving the cavolo nero cabbage that is available at the moment, it’s very dark green which can only be a good thing.  It has a really full texture and strong flavour making it perfect for stews, soups and even smoothies.

Oops!  I’ve managed to delete the rest of the photos from the camera but the dish is such a winner, I thought I’d share it anyway.

Serves four hungry sorts.

The Bits

1/2 block of firm tofu (chopped into cubes), 10 stems of kale (sliced), 6 stems of cabbage (like cavolo nero, long leafed is best, sliced), 1 stem celery (chopped), 1 courgette (cubed), 1 onion (chopped), 2 carrots (cubed), 4 tomatoes, 1 inch cube ginger (finely sliced), 4 cloves garlic (crushed), 2 teas turmeric, 1 teas gram masala, 1 teas chilli powder, 1/2 handful of methi leaves (curry leaves), 1/2 cup water, sea salt.

Do It

Add onion to the pan on a medium heat, get them nice and glassy, then add your ginger, spices and garlic, fry for a further 3 minutes.  Add your courgette, tofu and carrot and fry for 3 minutes, then the methi leaves and the tomatoes and cook this mixture down a little (5 more minutes will do).  The pan should be nice and hot, toss the kale and cabbage in along with the water, it should steam up nicely, put on a low the heat and pop a lid on the pan and leave to gently cook for 10 mins.  Check seasoning and serve piping hot.  This will keep very well overnight and may even be better for a good rest the next day.

Serve

With basmati rice (we used wholegrain) and some dahi (yoghurt), mango pickle if you have can.  If you have time and the skills, make some fresh chapattis.  This type of sabzi would normally be served out of a thali plate, a metal plate with compartments.

We Love It!

Eating Sabzi in Wales is a little like riding an elephant down Caernarfon high street, slightly incongruous yet very satisfying.

Foodie Fact

Tofu was discovered thousands of years ago in Japan, it is basically curdled soya bean milk.  It boasts many health giving properties from a plant based food.  Tofu is a brilliant source of protein and calcium.  Soy protein can lower your chances of getting a dodgy ticker and has also been shown to help during menopause.  Tofu is virtually fat free and contains many anti-oxidants and omega 3 fats.

In the absence of tofu photos, here I am with a cool car.

Categories: Curries, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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