Burnt on food

The first part of this tip is:

Do not leave food cooking while you jump on the computer to quickly check something on the internet. There is never anything quick about the internet and before you know it, food has burnt to a crisp and ruined your favourite stainless steel pressure cooker.

The second part of this tip is:

Follow manufacturers instructions for cleaning your pot. But if you are brave, ditch the Mr Muscle type products and reach for a can of diet soda, irn bru or in my case Fanta. Pour in enough to cover the burnt on food, then bring to boil. Leave overnight and magically the next day, the burnt on food should be easy to take off with a scourer.

I take no responsibility for your pots being ruined if you follow this tip. For myself, I have a nice shiny pressure cooker again so I’m happy.

Valor bateta nu shak (Hyacinth bean and potato curry)

Hyacinth bean curry

I spent quite a lot of time today trying to find the English word for “Valor”. I think it’s called Dolichos Lablab or Hyacinth bean. In some cookbooks, you will see it referred to as Walor, or even Papadi. Chances are if you have ever had a mixed vegetable curry, then you have eaten valor beans.

Green bean shaks are delicious. My favourites include valor and guar (cluster beans). This recipe works well for both though see the variation section below for some small changes when cooking guar. As many westerners may be unfamiliar with Valor, I’ve also included quite a lot of detail on how to select and prepare the beans.

Valor are very similar in appearance to runner and string beans, but the flavour is more intense. The flavour works well with both aubergine and peas but since my husband doesn’t like either of these, I leave them out.


  • 300g valor – see below for selection and preparation
  • 350 g potatoes – peel, wash and cut into large 3 inch chunks
  • 3 small aubergines (use brinjals rather than dutch) – cut in 2 inch chunks – optional
  • 1 cup peas – optional
  • 2 medium ripe red tomatoes (sorry I forgot to measure the quantities. I’m referring to vine tomatoes as opposed to beef, plum or cherry which do not work in this recipe)
  • 5 tbs groundnut oil – yes I know it’s a lot but this shak does well if it’s a little oily
  • 1 dried red chili (optional)
  • 4 cloves garlic – sliced thinly or crushed
  • 1 tsp rye/methi (fenugreek/mustard seeds)
  • 1 tsp dhana jeeru (coriander/cumin powder)
  • 1/2 lal marcha (red curry powder)
  • 1/2 hurder (turmeric)
  • 250ml water
  • Coriander to garnish


Valor bean

  • You local Indian greengrocer will have these in stock
  • Select green, firm beans with few blemishes. To check they are not old, try to bend the tip. If it snaps off cleanly, you are fine. If it bends, put it back and walk away.
  • The beans need to be stringed. The way to do so is to snap the end off and then pull along the edge. To do the other edge, snap other end off and pull the other edge.

Stringing valor

Valor innards

  • Once stringed pull apart the two sides of the bean and inspect for worms. Don’t be squeamish, it’s just part of mother nature. I find the beans are lovely looking, often having a purple hue. They also smell of wonderful nature and give the shak a nutty, deep flavour
  • If the beans are fine, cut them up into 3 inch pieces
  • Once you have done all of the beans, wash them thoroughly

Washing valor


  • Heat the oil in a large, heavy based pan over a medium heat. A pressure cooker works well here. Don’t skimp on the oil as I said above, this dish works better when oily
  • Drop in the dried chili if using and wait for it to turn blackish
  • Throw in the rye / methi and wait for the seeds to start popping
  • Add the chilies and garlic and wait until the garlic starts to brown slightly
  • Carefully put in the valor (and aubergine / peas if using also) and stir fry in the oil for a few minutes.
  • Add the potatoes, tomatoes and spices and combine all thoroughly. Keep turning in the heat for about 3 minutes
  • Pour in water. The water should not completely cover the vegetable mix else it will be too runny. You can add more water later if you find the vegies aren’t cooking
  • Turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Then turn down to a very low heat and cook for about 20 minutes. Every so often give the shak a stir. Also if the water is all absorbed but the potatoes are still hard, then add a small amount more water.
  • The shak is done when the potatoes are cooked – firm but you should be able to push a fork through
  • Garnish with coriander and serve with rotlis, roasted poppadums, fresh cut onions and sweets.


Guar or cluster beans are smaller and more delicate in flavour than valor. To select them, choose beans that are green with little marking. Again you can try to snap the end off to see if they are fresh. My brother spends ages picking out young guar and makes a very delicious shak with them.

To prepare the beans, you only need to snap the ends off and cut them into small 1 inch pieces. Inspect and discard any guar with small holes (yes, dreaded insects again!)

The recipe uses less oil (4tbs only) and garlic (2 cloves only).

Also this high soluble vegetable can sometimes cause gas it is sometimes advisable to add 1/4 tsp ajwain (lovage) seeds at same stage as rye methi.

ringan nu ohroh (smoked aubergine curry)

Ringan nu ohror

I may have the spelling wrong  but the cooking of this very tasty aubergine shak is spot on. It’s normally served as a side dish but I like to gobble it up as a main. In appearance, it’s similar to baba ghanoush but is much more spicy! However, don’t be tempted to overdo it as the glory of this dish is light spicing to enhance the smoked aubergine flavour.


  • 1 large aubergine (350g)
  • 2 tbs groundnut oil plus extra for oiling aubergine
  • 1 large onion (80g), diced very finely
  • 1 very ripe tomato, roughly chopped. Optional. Can be left out
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced finely
  • 1 green chili, sliced finely
  • 1 tsp rye/methi seeds (fenugreek/mustard seeds. Don’t worry if you don’t have fenugreek. Also can substitute cumin seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp dhana jeeru (coriander cumin powder)
  • 1/2 tsp hurder (turmeric)
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • Coriander to garnish


The aubergine is smoked before it is added to the shak. To do this,

  • Wash the aubergine then dry skin with a paper towel
  • Cut a slit in the aubergine lengthways (2nd picture below), then rub all over with oil. Don’t chop off the stem as that will be handy for handling it in the grill

AubergineSlit shiny aubergine

  • Place on a baking tray and cook under a very hot grill. It is possible to roast it in the oven but I think the grill gives a particular smokey flavour so this is the preferred method. The skin should char and the aubergine begin to deflate as the water it contains is cooked out.
  • It will take up to 30 minutes to fully cook. Turn the aubergine so that it is chars equally on all sides, about every 9 mins.
  • The aubergine is ready when a knife slides in easily (By this stage, it will be very flat and should feel as if there is nothing in the skin!)

Smoked aubergineSmoked aubergine innards

  • Wait for the aubergine to cool before handling. Scoop out the innards and mash. Discard the charred skin and stem
  • And for your viewing pleasure, here is a picture of the onion, garlic and chili chopped in preparation


  • In a large pan, heat the groundnut oil over medium heat
  • Add rye/methi and wait for the seeds to start popping
  • Add onion and cook until translucent and browning at edges. This can take up to 10 minutes. It’s important to cook the onions well so don’t rush this stage
  • Add garlic and chili and cook for 2 mins
  • Add prepared aubergine and stir to combine well with onion/garlic mixture
  • Mix in the spices. Remember don’t be heavy-handed here…subtlety is what we are after in spicing
  • Stir in the tomatoes if using and stir all to mix well
  • Turn down the heat and cook for 5 minutes. Stir regularly to ensure that it has not stuck to the pan.

ringan ohror

The tomato is optional as without it the flavour of the smoked aubergine really shines through a bit like baba ghanoush but it’s also tasty with. Entirely up to you.

Once cooked, garnish with coriander and serve with rotlis.

The dish can be enhanced by adding spinach (after garlic/chili phase to let spinach wilt down before adding aubergine), or roasted red pepper (peel skin off, and chop pepper flesh into small pieces. Add at same time as aubergine)

Orange and lemon cupcakes

These were based on a Sainsbury’s little ones recipe for cupcakes. The original can be found here: Lemon cakes with iced flowers

I changed things slightly. Instead of lemon zest, I used orange. And for the icing I mixed orange and lemon juice then let my toddler go mad with the sprinkles many of which ended up in her mouth rather than on the cakes. The cakes are lovely, colourful and exceedingly yummy!

Orange Lemon CupcakeTray of orange lemon cupcakes

Gobi Aloo

I have a couple of cookery books by Monisha Bharadwaj. They are very good, colourful, full of helpful photos and cover the different regions of India. The recipe below is a variation of hers (i.e. it’s my version!)


  • 3tbs groundnut oil
  • 1tbs ghee
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 medium onion – chop very finely
  • 2 tsp ginger – grate
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 2 green chillies
  • 3 large potatoes – chop in 2 inch cubes
  • 170 g tomatoes (about 2 medium-sized ones) – chop into dice
  • 1 full head cauliflower – chop into florets
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp coriander/cumin powder (dhana jeeru)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs Water – optional
  • Coriander to garnish


  • In a heavy based pan, heat oil /ghee over medium heat
  • Add cumin seeds and wait for to start to sizzle and darken
  • Add onions, ginger and cinnamon and cook until onions start to brown
  • Add potatoes and chillies. Cook for 2 mins stirring often to prevent sticking
  • Add cauliflower, tomatoes and spices
  • Mix thorough and cook until the potatoes/cauliflower soften. If you cook slowly, there is usually enough water in the cauliflower for the shak to cook. However, if you want to help it along, add a couple of tablespoons water.
  • Garnish with coriander and serve with rice.

P.S. Ghee is clarified butter. It’s very easy to make. Take one block of butter (we use Anchor butter) and heat gently. The salt from the butter will start to separate out and form a skin. Cook gently for about half an hour then strain to remove the salt. The resulting liquid should be the colour of honey. Can be stored in the fridge for a few weeks.

New Ingredient: Stem ginger

I like ginger but have never had stem ginger…until NOW!

I like crumble, esp rhubarb crumble so why not combine the two.  That’s exactly what I did following a Louise Pickford Vegetarian Cooking recipe for Rhubarb, Apple and Double Ginger Crumble. And what did I think????? Hmmmm well I’ve learnt that I need to chop the stem ginger rather more finely than the huge chunks I put in. I liked the addition of ginger but not as much as Louise. Next time I do this recipe, I’ll use less. But my oh my, the crumble topping was delicious!