Spicy brussel sprouts

Let’s face it, the brussel sprout is a bit evil. They can easily turn to mush and taste horrific.  They most definitely have never  left me salivating in anticipation. But they are currently in season, are Scottish grown and hey, like all brassica, are good for you . Last night around 3am when I couldn’t sleep I had an epiphany and decided to overcome my aversion to B.S. with a smattering of spice. A quick google (who knew this was a verb!) led to the delicious sounding Spicy brussel sprouts with leeks and curry leaves. I made a few changes. Perhaps I should have stuck to the original recipe as frankly, the results were not overwhelming. I thought it was alright for a first attempt but hubby  felt something extra was needed so I quickly roasted a papad for him. Also, we both agreed that it didn’t go well with rice. Next time I’ll serve it with rotlis or paratha and some pickles. I may also stick in some ghee and roasted chestnuts. I’m still not convinced about BS and peanuts though.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs groundnut oil (future improvement will be 1 tbs oil and 1tbs ghee)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds and a few fenugreek seeds
  • Pinch of asafoetida (I forgot about this completely. I don’t think it’s essential)
  • 1 leek trimmed, washed and sliced into 1/2 cm discs (around 100g)
  • 1/2 tbs grated ginger
  • 1 fresh green chili finely chopped
  • 200 g brussel sprouts. This was the finished weight after washing, removing tough outer leaves, trimming off stalk end and quartering
  • 10-15 fresh curry leaves. These can overwhelm a dish somewhat so you could add much less IMHO
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp coriander/cumin powder (dhana jeeru)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Lemon juice to taste
Cooking:
  • Heat oil over a hot / medium heat in a heavy frying pan or pot
  • Add mustard / fenugreek seeds and wait for them to sizzle
  • Add the leeks and cook until they start to soften frequently stirring
  • Add the ginger and chili and cook for about half a minute
  • Add the brussel sprouts, curry leaves and spices
  • Turn down the heat to medium and stir fry the mix until the sprouts begin to soften. The original recipe includes water but I didn’t want to risk mushiness so relied on the water content of the sprouts.
  • Once you are happy with the consistency serve with a form of bread (naan, rotli or paratha but defo not rice), papads and pickles.
Photos:
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Home-made gulab jamun – the cheat’s way

Yesterday was Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. For all Hindus and Sikhs too, Diwali goes hand in hand with gorgeous festival food both savoury and sweet.

I had a full meal planned and wanted to make a home-made sweet. In India a lot of sweets are made with khoya which is dried buffalo milk. I tried to get some from Laverstock farm but alas they only sell it in wholesale quantities at the mo and there is NO way we would eat that many sweets. So the next best thing….CHEAT using the Gits Gulab Jamun 200g mix which I bought from Tesco!!!

Was really keen to get started so didn’t read the instructions properly. I didn’t find the video until just now. Despite putting in milk in carefully, I ended up with a horrible wet mess. Luckily I’d bought some milk powder so stuck that in. Then my little daughter wanted to help form the balls but damn, they were so crumbly and the poor girl was put off. I added a bit of water and Ta DAH it all came together in a lovely dough. I formed balls but didn’t get the 40 stated in the pack because  I like my balls big (oooeeerrr missus). I fried them to a golden colour but next time, I’m going to let them go darker. The next crisis was when I read how much sugar was needed for the syrup. But hey ho, made the syrup and soaked the balls. Some of the balls fell apart, but the ones that didn’t taste absolutely delicious served warm (syrup was still very warm an hour after making it) with Mackie’s Vanilla ice-cream.  A wonderful Indian Scottish combination methinks.

Mushroom quiche

Nothing more vegie than quiche except perhaps nut loaf which I’ve never had, never going to, end of.  I love quiche in summer eaten cold with a salad, or straight out of the oven in autumn/winter with lots of oven roasted potato wedges or salad. Today I am rather pleased with myself as I made my little one two mini quiches, and a large seasoned one for hubby and myself. She felt very special having her own but funny little girl that she is, she ate the filling and left the crust.

I cheated. There I said it. My guilty secret is out – I used shop bought pastry but it was an all butter version and supposedly easier than making it myself. But what c**p – I had to let it defrost in the fridge for 24 hours, then leave it out for an hour before cooking. I could have just made my own pastry but I was busy, busy, busy (read that as lazy, lazy, lazy). This recipe is based on the mega delicious Louise Pickford’s Chickpea and Spinach Flan found in Vegetarian Cooking. Again, I normally blind bake the pastry to make it crispy but today I thought Nooooo, I shall Delia it and bung it in the oven, pricked over, brushed over with egg wash. It was fun, every now and again when the pastry rose, I opened the oven and pricked it to let more air out. It was fine. It worked.

Ingredients:

  • 500g shortcrust pastry
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 small onion diced finely
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 150g organic chestnut mushrooms
  • 4 free range or organic medium eggs
  • 75g mature cheddar
  • 1/2 pint full fat milk
  • Butter to line pastry dishes
Cooking:
  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan oven)
  • Grease the fluted pie dishes with butter and set aside
  • Roll out the pastry and put into the flan dish (or dishes if your being a clever clogs like me)
  • Cut off excess. And then gently push the pastry into the grooves. It’s going to shrink so let a little over the edge.
  • Cover with egg wash ( break an egg, mix it up, take a pastry brush and brush a thin layer over the pastry)
  • Bung in the oven and cook until it is crispy and golden. If it dares to start rising, just prick a few times more. Most therapeutic.
  • Whilst the pastry cooks, prepare the filling.
  • Heat oil in a pan and add onions, garlic and turmeric. Fry for about 5 minutes til the onions start to brown. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook for about 3 minutes until some of the moisture from the mushrooms starts to ooze out.
  • While onions/mushrooms cook, mix the eggs and milk together. Season wth salt and pepper to taste.
  • Now the fun part. Spread onion mushroom mixture on the golden pastry cases. Then layer with cheese (leave a tablespoon or two for later). Final step, pour on the milk mixture. I had a tiny bit left over, guess it depends on the size of the dish(es).
  • Bake until the quiche is firm. As a final flourish, add a little bit of cheese on to create a thin crust.
  • Serve with chips, salad, potato salad or / and coleslaw.

Lal chori ne saag dal (red chori and spinach dal)

Red chori is also known as aduki/adzuki bean. If you are familiar with chinese or japanese cooking, you may know it as red bean paste used for desserts. Growing up, we didn’t eat this dried version but instead the long thin green legume also called chori which is delicate and best cooked simply with garlic, ginger, chilies and spices.

The lentil has a very earthy taste reminiscent of kidney bean but without the hard exterior.  The dal is heavy and thick which tastes better with rotlis than with rice. The proportions below fed two adult amply and there was enough left over for a meal to freeze.  In this recipe, I’m used dried lentils which require overnight soaking but in the past when pressed for time,  I happily pick up a tin of ready aduki beans from the local supermarket (same aisle as where canned chickpeas are). Mind you, I don’t like cooking this in a hurry and prefer a slow cook where the flavours have time to develop. Ideally, I like to cook it in the morning and then re-heat it for dinner time.

For once, I also decided to dry roast the spices. Whenever I see professional chefs cook on TV, they always dry roast the spices and then freshly grind them before adding to a dish. I’m in two minds about this – on the one hand it means that you aren’t picking out cloves,cardamom pods etc. while you are eating, and you bring out the flavours by roasting but, on the other hand my mother never did it as far as I know so I have grown up with the taste of non roasted spices. I find when I roast spices that they become a little stronger and when I just add them to the vagar (sauce) non roasted, I’m able to distinguish their tastes when eating which for me adds to the enjoyment of eating. But it’s entirely up to you. Roast & grind, or don’t.

Finally, a lot of the base ingredients are the same in many of my recipes. The distinguishing factor is the vegetable or pulse/lentil being cooked. I find it hard to write down quantities as sometimes I want to spice things up so add more, and other times want to hold back so use less of each base ingredients. In colder weather, spicier food is comforting but in the heat of summer, I go easy on the spices. In other words, see the quantities as a guide only and adjust according to your own tastes.

Ingredients:

  • 250g red chori dried weight.
  • 8 cloves (laving)
  • 8 green cardamom (elaichi/ elji)
  • 8 peppercorns (mari)
  • 1 stick cinnamon (tuj)
  • 2 tbs groundnut oil (tel)
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds (varia) (if not to your taste, cumin seeds  work just as well)
  • 2 dried bay leaves (tamal patra)
  • 1 dried red chili (lal marcha)
  • 1 large onion diced finely (dungri)
  • 1 tbs ginger / garlic paste (this is about 4 large cloves of garlic minced then mixed with 2 inches of grated ginger) (adu / lasun)
  • 1 fresh green chili  chopped finely (marcha)
  • 1 tsp salt (nimak)
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder (marcha)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (hurder/haldar)
  • 1/2 tsp coriander cumin powder (dhana jeeru)
  • 120g vine ripened tomatoes chopped finely (tamata)
  • 2 tsp sugar or guar/jaggery which adds a delicious molassas undertone) (gaur/gol)
  • 140g frozen spinach (I actually think fresh spinach would be better but don’t use baby as it won’t be up to the heat)
  • 8-9 curry leaves (limbra)
  • 3 dried mangosteen flowers (kokum)
  • Lemon juice to taste (limbu)

Preparation:

  • Dry roast the peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom in a tawa or saucepan.
  • That is, cook them over a medium heat until you see a very thin vapour / steam rising off them. Make sure they don’t burn as that will make it bitter.
  • Take off the heat and allow to cool
  • Grind either in a machine or in a pestle and mortar. The skin off the cardamom pods can be discarded if you wish.
  • Put aside ready to add to the vagar.

  • Wash the lentils in cold water until the water runs clear. Then put in a container with enough cold water to completely cover the lentils and 1 inch extra. Cover with a lid and leave overnight to soak.
  • The lentils will become enlarged slightly. That’s fine.
  • Discard the water they were soaked in.

Cooking:

  • Heat the oil over a medium heat in a large heavy based saucepan (a pressure cooker is ideal)
  • Add fennel seeds, red chilli and bay leaves. If not dry roasting, also add the cinnamon stick.
  • Once the seeds start to sizzle, add the onion and cook for about 10 minutes until they start to brown. Stir often.
  • Add the ginger garlic  paste, and roasted spice mix (or the separate cloves, cardamom and peppercorns).  Stir and cook until the ginger garlic begins to brown
  • Add the remaining spices and cook for about 15 seconds to cook the spices then add the tomatoes and cook until they break down. Keep stirring to prevent sticking.
  • If you are using frozen spinach – add it now and cook for about 2 minutes so it starts to defrost.
  • Add the lentils, mangosteen and curry leaves and mix to ensure that it is all coated well.
  • Add 4 cups of water (600ml), mix well and bring to the boil.
  • Turn down the heat and cover. If using a pressure cooker, don’t put the weight on. Check it every now and again and stir else it may stick to the bottom of the pot. Cook until the lentils soften – add boiled water if the lentils aren’t co-operating. If using dried lentils this can take time. Once the lentils are softened, add the fresh spinach if using and lemon juice (if you feel it is not sour enough) and cook until spinach has wilted.
  • Serve with freshly made rotlis smeared in ghee or baturas. Alternatively, pile into a dish, add a large dollop of yoghurt and eat up as is.

Dudhi ne chana dal shak (bottle guord/calabash and split chana dal)

Calabash, cala bash what a great word almost Batman like word. I also like the word Dudhi especially since that Friends episode with Chandler and dooody. Dudhi  is a lovely delicate and versatile vegetable. It can be used to make shak, in a special Gujarati flat bread called thepla (look out for a recipe in future) or into another gujarati dish called Muthia which are a form of steamed dumpling.  Today’s offering is a mix of dudhi with lentils called Chana Dal, a split bengal gram lentil that gives a creamy taste to the meal. The dal needs careful washing and soaking for a few hours so if you pressed for time, you can leave it out and just have the vegetable. This is a slow cook shak with a stew like consistency – all the liquid needed comes from the veg. Slow cooking vastly improves the flavour. If you aren’t adding the dal, then the dudhi cooks quite quickly.

I have only ever used the long light green version of dudhi but they also come in a round ball shape. Honestly, I’m not aware if there is any taste difference. It’s available in large supermarkets but if you can, try to buy it from a Asian store as I think they tend to be fresher and have a nicer taste. When selecting look for one which is smooth skinned and firm, but not too hard skinned (e.g. like a marrow) and without many blemishes. I usually squeeze the tip near the stalk to make sure it doesn’t give as that’s a sign of an old vegetable. Further down, I’ll show you how to prepare it for this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbs ground nut oil (tel)
  • 1tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 1 dried red chili (lal marcha)
  • 2 bay leaves (tamal patra)
  • 3 cloves garlic minced (lasun)
  • 1 fresh green chili chopped finely
  • 6 cloves (laving)
  • 1 tsp salt (nimak)
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder (marcha)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (hurder)
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin coriandere powder (dhana jeeru)
  • 1 long dudhi chopped into 2 inch pieces (see below)
  • 5 tbs drained chana dal
  • 7-8 curry leaves (limbra)
  • 2 mangosteen (kokum). These give a sourness to the dal which is different from lemon juice. Almost a hint of tamarind. If you don’t have any, don’t worry as lemon juice does fine.
  • 2 vine tomatoes diced finely
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • Coriander to garnish

Prepare dal:

  • Measure out the dal into a bowl. Check there are no stones in there. Then wash in about 4 changes of cold water. Now they need to be soaked for 2- 3 hours in about a pint of water. Cover with a plate and set aside
  • After a few hours, discard the soaking water, thoroughly rinse the dal and set aside ready to cook.

Prepare dudhi:

  • Wash the dudhi then chop off the stalk and the other end. You may see an amber liquid oozing out – don’t worry it’s normal!
  • Peel a thin layer of the skin from the dudhi. I use a potato peeler for ease
  • Cut along length and then chop into small 2 inch pieces

Cooking:

  • Heat the oil over a medium heat in a large heavy based saucepan (a pressure cooker is ideal)
  • Add cumin seeds, red chilli and bayleaves.
  • Once the seeds start to sizzle, add the garlic, chilies and cloves.  Stir and cook until the garlic begins to brown
  • Add the spices and cook for about 15 seconds to cook the spices. Keep stirring to prevent sticking.
  • Add the dudhi, dal, mangosteen and curry leaves and mix to ensure that it is all coated well.
  • Turn heat down and cover the pan. If you are using a pressure cooker, don’t add the weight.
  • Cook until the dudhi and the dal softens. This can take up to half an hour. This slow cooking allows some of the gram from the dal to soak into the juices from the dudhi creating a slightly creamy texture. Don’t add any water as the dudhi has more than enough to cook the dal. Every now and again, give it a stir to make sure it doesn’t stick.
  • Once the dudhi is softened, add the tomatoes and lemon juice (if you feel it is not sour enough) and cook for a further 5 minutes
  • Garnish with coriander and serve with rice, rotlis or parathas.