Ratatouille with lemon and coriander cous cous

I’m was never keen on ratatouille… it’s a bit too much like nut roast in being very “vegetarian”. In the olden days before being veggie was acceptable, ratatouille was often the only offering on a restaurant menu, and it was awful.

However, times have changed (or is it me? or was it the film Ratatouille????). I went for a Delia recipe of oven roasted ratatouille. I started off cooking it on the hob, the moved my casserole pot to the oven to roast it off. I also missed off the coriander seeds because I forgot them but the results were great so I don’t mind. The first time, I cooked it with basil however, tonight I used crushed chili seeds instead. Both were equally yum.

On both occasions, I ate it with cous cous with a healthy squeeze of lemon and 1 tbs of finely chopped coriander stalks. It’s so delicious and a bonus for me is that it can be frozen as for some very mad reason Mr Plummy Mummy will not eat cooked aubergine or courgettes….more fool he.

As it’s a Delia recipe, I can’t copy it here. However,as the pictures I took were just so colourful, I cannot help but post them up.

    

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Dudhi halwa (bottle gourd pudding)

I like puddings that have vegetables in them – showing the sweet side of their nature. It also makes me feel I’m getting one of my five-a-day (ignoring all the sweet stuff). A classic is carrot cake. Or in India, carrot halwa which is a sweet pudding made from carrots, sugar, milk and a few other ingredients. I normally eat bottle gourd (known as “dudhi” in Gujarati) as a shak/curry. Occasionally, if I add chick pea lentils it can be a delicious dal. Yesterday I decided to try out an Indian dessert called Dudhi Halwa tweaking the recipe slightly to make a smaller amount .

Indian desserts are hardly ever good for you – they often contain sugar, clarified butter (ghee), milk and khoya which is made from buffalo milk and is a creamy ingredient. This is no exception – however, as it’s so sweet, you are unlikely to have too much. And anyway, a treat every now and then keeps a girl happy.

Once again, I apologise for the blurred images. Must must MUST sort out my camera soon. Hope you can see OK.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup bottle gourd. Peel hard skin off, finely grate the flesh. If yours has seeds in it, remove these before grating. 1 cup is roughly half a dudhi – I put the other cup of grated dudhi in the freezer as an experiment.
  • 1 cup full fat milk
  • 2 tbs clarified butter / ghee (see prep below)
  • 1 cardamom dry roasted then powdered in a pestle and mortar (discard the outer skin, pound black seeds only)
  • 2 tbs caster sugar (granulated would do just as well but as caster sugar is finer, it dissolved faster).
  • For garnish – 4 almonds. Soaked in hot water, then remove skin and cut into thin slivers. Also use pistachios if you have them which you just simply slice into slivers.
Preparation:
  • At some point I will do a post on making ghee at home. However, for the pudding I cheated. I put 20g of anchor butter in a small point and brought to heat. When the salt had separated, I took off the heat. Then carefully poured out the clarified butter leaving the salt in the pot.

Method:

Method – as per original recipe. Copied below for convenience. Blurred photos are all mine I’m afraid.

   

  1. Heat a heavy bottom pan over medium heat, add ghee.
  2. Add grated doodhi and saute until it turns translucent.
  3. Add the milk and bring to boil.
  4. Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. When halwa is almost dry, add sugar, mix well.
  6. Stir continuously until moisture has evaporated.
  7. Turn off the heat and add cardamom powder, mix well.
  8. Garnish with sliced almonds and pista, Serve.

Falafels with home-made hot sauce

This is a mixed post – part ready mix and part home made. Today we went all Mid-Eastern and had pitta pockets full of falafels, coleslaw, tomatoes, pickled cabbage, humous, tahini and home made hot sauce. I’m sorry for the rather blurred quality of the pictures …I really need to take more time with the photography but was busy eating.

Falafels:

  

I’ve had this box in the cupboard for a few months. It was the easiest thing in the world to make – so yep, you guessed it, I got the little one to do some of the work. A bit of mathematics as she mixed the right quantity of water into the mix. A scientific lesson in the different states of objects as the dry mix went from almost solid (too little water) to being a runny mess (too much water). Next time, I’ll get her to put in slightly less water. A torturous lesson in patience as we waited for 2-3 minutes as per box instructions followed by a lesson in H&S when I burnt myself during the frying stage as she distracted me by dropping tic-tacs on the floor. At this stage, tot was banned from the kitchen until all frying was done. The falafels were lovely and crispy on the outside but I think that the outer cooked too quickly as the inner was not really cooked through – so next time I’ll turn down the oil a bit. In reality I would have preferred to bake them in the oven but not sure the mix would work out right.

Hot sauce:

Have you ever had Belazu rose harissa – it is a simply delicious mix of 40 spices which includes rose petals and is undoubtedly manna from the God of chillies. Unfortunately, the supermarket didn’t have any so I decided to make my own. Googling left me all goggly (it’s a real word!) as there is a multitude of recipes for harissa. The basic ingredients seem to be dried red chillies, garlic, caraway and cumin seeds, cumin and coriander powders, olive oil and lemon juice. I used far less of the former and substituted rose essence for the latter. Though my result wasn’t bad, I shan’t be putting Belazu out of business quite yet methinks…hubby disagreed as he gobbled up loads of the sauce with the falafels.

  

Ingredients

  • 2 red chillies (sorry no idea what type. Came as part of a mixed bag of chillies) – de-seeded, vein cut out and chopped
  • 5-6 cloves garlic – peeled and chopped roughly
  • 1/2 red pepper grilled until skin charred. Removed skin and chopped flesh
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds lightly pan roasted
  • 1 tsp cumin / coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4-5 drops rose essence
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs tomato puree
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs chopped fresh coriander
  • Hearty squeeze lemon juice

Put all the ingredients in a blender and whizzed away adding ingredients in bits until I got to a happy place. Store in a sterilised bottle with a layer of olive oil on top. When you use some, make sure the remainder is covered with oil to preserve it for longer.

Shopping for Indian groceries in Scotland

I’m slowly tracking down the places to buy Indian vegetables in Scotland – to anyone living in North London this will seem like a strange list to hold but believe me, there is a genuine lack up here. Luckily, in the big towns some of the huge supermarkets sell some Indian ingredients and vegetables.

Falkirk

Halal Continental Food Store (138 Grahams Road, FK2 7BZ). Only went here once. The customer before me bought all the okra so I had little choice left. Went away with some dudhi and some fenugreek leaves/methi. The methi was kept in the cold store so it wouldn’t wilt. However, there was also meat in there and blood had dripped on the methi so I dumped the lot when I got home. Very little else in terms of dried pulses or spices currently available.

Dundee

Paradise Fruits – 346 Strathmore Avenue Dundee. I try to get to this store whenever we visit Dundee as they occasionally sell some of the green beans I like. For around £15 this weekend, I picked up some okra (yum for dinner, half has been frozen), a dudhi, some fresh coriander, 3 packs of dried lentils, a tin of patra (a guja snack with is colocosia leaves stuffed with gram flour mix and steamed), some spices and a rather dried up pack of fresh curry leaves.

Mini Fruit Market – 122 Albert Street, Dundee, Angus DD4 6QN. This is such an odd store. I have no idea how they stay in business. They sometimes have some Indian vegetable but when I first moved to Dundee the owner told me he hardly stocks it now as it doesn’t sell. I told him I’d buy loads if it was fresh but that didn’t convince him. I still manage to get the odd thing in here and this weekend walked away with a kerala, an aubergine, some rose essence, a block of ghor (jaggery which is an essential sweet ingredient) and some mustard oil.

Matthews Chinese Supermarket – this has some dried ingredients that are common to Thai and Indian cooking. Oh and frozen pastry for making either spring rolls or samosas.

Edinburgh

I need to get to out to Leith to try some shops there. We have been along Nicholson street and picked up a few items from stores there.

Bark as good as my bite

Often in my recipes I include cinnamon. I use the alternative which is known as cassia bark or chinese cinnamon for most of my cooking as it’s more robust in a sauce or when being boiled as part of a pilau. The usual amount is a 2inch piece of the bark. It is  cheaper, stronger tasting and less sweet than cinnamon – IMHO the latter is better suited to sweet dishes or for hot chocolate/mulled wine drinks.

There are some health concerns with cassia having large amounts of coumarin which can affect the coagulation of blood so if you are worried, use true cinnamon instead. For this reason, I only use Schwartz’ powdered cinnamon for my daughter’s food.

How to tell the difference: Cassia is bark like – dark, very thick and when in a tube, it is hollow

     

Cinnamon – a very pretty reddish brown. True cinnamon is shaped as quills and will cost a lot lot more than cassia.

 

Parsnip and potato parathas

Today is pizza night in our household. I don’t always fancy a cheesy hit so use the night to eat food that hubby isn’t into. So I cooked up my aubergine and potato shak. I usually eat that with rotlis or rice but today fancied a go at making parathas. Mum used to make a gorgeous potato stuffed one – damn I wish I had paid more attention to her cooking when she was around.

All my cookbooks are hidden in a moving box at the mo so I resorted to googling a recipe and settled on this simple Potato Paratha one. I substituted part of the potato quantity with parsnip mash as I love the creamy sweet combination of potatoes and parsnip. 150g of parsnips and 150g of maris piper potatoes (this is the washed and peeled weight). I also used a little less coriander. I found them really difficult to roll out as the stuffing kept squeezing out so in the end did it mum’s way but rolling out two rotlis, spreading out 2 tbs of stuffing, sealing the edges and cooking on the tawa.

The result was nice but didn’t really go with the shak. Whilst I was cooking them, I nibbled on the first one that I cooked. It is better without shak so I’m looking forward to tucking into a warmed up one with a sweet cup of tea for Saturday breakfast.  I wonder what other vegetables would go well?

Too hot to handle

Woooohooooo I am back to cooking on gas. I cannot tell you how much of a relief it is to have left our last house with it’s annoying induction hob and move to a place with a 5 ring gas hob. So now I’m back to proper cooking I  have an issue to overcome – all the spicy food I cook lately is too spicy. This might sound odd but I have never enjoyed food that is all heat – I like to taste the vegetable that I am eating and also some of the other ingredients in the dish. If a dish is too spicy all you get is pain (both on the way in and on the way out).

I have tried changing from the  4 rated finger chili to the 2 rated green chili (aka as an Indian Hot Pepper) from Tescos. In truth I prefer using bullet chilies from an Asian grocers but there aren’t any around here.  I just had a quick look on a chilli site which mentions a Jinta chilli that looks similar to ones I’ve used before so maybe I will order some.

In addition, I’ve just chucked all my Natco chili powder. The package is marked Very Hot which made me wonder if that was the cause of the heat in my food. Unfortunately, the TRS chili powder I found in a local supermarket is Extra Hot – what a shame they don’t sell the normal TRS chili powder. I’ve bought it for now though as I have to have chilli powder in my kitchen.

So I’m turning into a  Heston B here and experimenting with different amounts of fresh chilli and the chilli powder as there seems to be a point where too little is just so bland but a few grains more and I’m back to burning my head off. I would love to buy all the different versions of chillies and chilli powders (see the site Spices of India …there are loads and loads). And in the meantime, I’m going to start growing some at home using this pack that I was give for Christmas 🙂