Gunda keri athanu – bird lime pickle

I was absolutely amazed last weekend to find fresh gunda berries in the Edinburgh asian stores. Both Amma Spices and Krishna’s Foods had them.  It’s pretty rare to get them in Scotland. The berries are used by Gujaratis to make a very well loved pickle – they have a morish taste that goes very well with the raw mango and spice mixture.  They are also called Glue Berries, Cordia Dichotoma or Lasoora (south indian name). The reason for the glue name is that when the berries are cut open, the stone is surrounded in a very sticky glue like substance. The stone and glue has to be removed before the pickle can be made using salt, a very sharp knife and preferably with gloves on.

Normally I would just use the pre-bought pickle mixture but this time, I wanted a go at making it from fresh ingredients. As I never watched mum make this, I had to resort to a recipe from a Tarla Dal gunda keri.

A note about chillies. The Gujarati pickle is made using Reshampatti chillies. This gives a wonderful rich red colour and pack quite a punch heat wise. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to find it anywhere up here. And the powder pretty expensive online when you take shipping into account (available from Amazon or from Spices of India). I had to settle for using extra hot chilli powder which hopefully will not compromise the flavour – this can be found in all the normal UK supermarkets just look in the Asian groceries aisle as that stuff is a lot cheaper than the tiny quantities in the herb and spices sections.

For convenience I’m copying the recipe here but it’s totally belongs to Ms Dal.

Am sorry for the lack of photos but as I got into the making, I forgot to take photos.

Ingredients

I used half the quantities listed in the recipe.

For the gundas
30 gundas
1 tsp sea salt (khada namak) (I used Maldon sea salt)

To be mixed into a stuffing
1/4 cup grated raw mango (peek the mango, remove the stone, then grate as picture above)
1/2 cup split mustard seeds (rai na kuria) (yellow mustard seeds are readily available from Asda etc)
1/2 cup chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
1/2 tsp asafoetida (hing)
1/2 tsp split fenugreek seeds (methi na kuria)
1/2 cup mustard oil (substitute with sunflower oil if you are not willing to used mustard)
1/2 cup sea salt (khada namak), roasted and powdered


Method

  1. Sterilise a large jar. Preferably with a metal screw on lid. I stuck mine in the dishwasher without any detergent.
  2. Heat the mustard oil to smoking point then allow to cool completely. This step is not necessary if you use sunflower oil.
  3. Take the grated mangoes and add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon turmeric. Set aside for at least an hour. This helps to remove the water from the mangoes. After an hour, squeeze all the water out of the mangoes as well as you can.
  4. Wash, thoroughly dry with kitchen paper and then destalk the gundas. Cut a small cross at the top of each berry to help with the stone removal. Lightly crush the gundas using a pestle. (Do not forget to dry the berries. They little buggers kept slipping away from me as I had initially skipped that step. So I had to go back, dry them then hold them in a small bed of tissue before thwacking them not-so-lightly with my pestle. )
  5. Remove the inside seeds using a sharp knife. Since a sticky substance surrounds the seeds, it is advisable to dip the tip of the knife in the sea salt and then remove the gunda seeds. Once I had done this, I rubbed a small amount of salt to further remove the glue.
  6. Start preparing the stuffing:
    1. Lightly toast the mustard and fenugreek seeds, cool then crush in a pestle and mortar.
    2. Add the other spices and mix then well
    3. Add the grated mangoes and the cooled oil. Again mix well.
  7. Put half the mixture at the bottom of the jar.
  8. Tightly stuff each berry with about a teaspoon of mixture, add to the jar.
  9. If you have mixture left, spoon that on top. The berries should be completely covered. The oil in the mixture acts a preservative.
  10. The pickle will be ready in 3 to 4 days (just in time for this year’s Diwali, yippppeeee!).
  11. If the oil doesn’t cover the berries, then you can top it off the next day. Again, I went over board and seem to have added more than I needed.
    Every day, I open the jar and stir the berries around a bit.
    When I eat it, I’ll dry to make sure I’m not consuming too much of the oil.

Home made paneer (curds and whey)

That little Miss Muffet knew a thing or two having a bowl of curds and whey. But if I was her, I’d have discarded the whey and just made use of the yummy curds. Curds are what Indian people called paneer and is used for both savoury and sweet dishes. It’s been years since I made my own paneer which is a sign of pure and utter laziness as it’s so very simple to make*.

I had a surplus of semi-skimmed milk (thanks to an online shop I had forgotten about and had added a huge amount of milk to!). With a bag of fresh baby spinach in the fridge, I wanted to make saag paneer.

Ingredients:

  • 6 pints semi-skimmed milk
  • 1-2 tablespoons white vinegar or fresh lemon juice

Cooking

  • Put the milk into a heavy based pan and bring to the boil. Keep stirring to ensure the milk does not stick or burn as this will ruin the taste of the paneer
  • It had boiled when the surface of the milk makes a mound
  • Take the pan off the heat
  • Add the vinegar or lemon juice a little at a time until the milk separates. (I ended up using almost a whole unwaxed lemon – turns out fresh lemon is not as acidic. So if you have an older lemon, or are using vinegar then you won’t need too much)
  • The separation is pretty obvious so if the whey still looks milk, keep going with the vinegar/juice
  • The next stage involves removing the curds from the whey – put a muslin or J-cloth over a large bowl then pour the mixture in to strain the whey out. Bring the edges of the cloth together and squeeze. Now put a weight on and leave for an hour or more to squeeze even more liquid out.

This recipe yielded 262g of paneer from 6 pints of milk. I believe that full fat milk would produce more curds.  I’d probably left the weighing a bit long as the paneer was hard. It can also happen if you use lemon juice rather than vinegar. I would not squeeze as much to use the paneer to make a dessert (like rasmalia….oooooh RASMALAI).

I cut the paneer into cubes and fried in a shallow pan a little bit before added to my saag paneer. All in all, a very easy ingredient to use.

Milk in pan  DSC01784 DSC01785 IMG_0346

*My most distinct memory of making paneer was when we lived temporarily in East Barnet. Mum was ill  and would only live for a few months more. We lived in a maisonette with the most racist man living above us who regularly slashed our car tyres – doubly painful when we had to rush mum to hospital appointments. That day was lovely and sunny. I used the home made paneer to make a delicious rasmalai. Years on, now in my frozen Scottish kitchen I’m making paneer again, still thinking of Mum but very happy that with my daughter and husband I’ll do not have to deal with slashed tyres. Happy days.

Diwali Gajjar Halwa – carrot fudge

Well I have been a bit lazy updating this blog with recipes. I’ve got some new ones scribbled down on paper that I’ve been trying out and will post those up.

Today was a rather hectic one as it’s Hindu Diwali – my absolute favourite day of the year. It’s the Festival of Lights but should be renamed the Festival of Food as in our household growing up Diwali always meant Mum being in the kitchen weeks beforehand making gorgeous savoury bites for any visitors that were going to pop in. On the actual day we would have a very yummy meal.

I love the day but my preparations have come to a halt as my daughter has been ill since last Friday with this horrid tummy bug/cold going around. Even today, I felt guilty going into the kitchen whilst leaving her alone to watch Diwali bits on cbeebies. Luckily, she got some lovely presents in the morning so was actually feeling rather chipper.

So rather than a load of Diwali delights, after bleaching the kitchen surfaces to get rid of any lingering germs, I managed to make some shak, rice, dhal and gajjar halwa. You will find many recipes for the latter on the web – including very easy ones done in the microwave. However, I like to make mine by hand and prefer it to be gooey fudge like rather than dry. Today, I was really lazy and just stuck it all in a pot and hoped for the best. I say lazy but this took me about an hour to make….was rather relaxing after the stresses of caring for a  poorly child.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs ghee
  • 300g grated carrots
  • 300ml full fat milk
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder
  • A few strands of saffron
  • Slivers of almonds to garnish

Cooking

  • Melt the ghee over a medium heat in a heavy based pan (I used my wonderful bright orange Crueset casserole pot which I love for making sweets)
  • Add in carrots and cook until both ghee and carrots are well combined and slightly softening
  • Add in milk and sugar. Turn heat down a tad and cook the mixture until the milk has evaporated. When it’s about half way there, test to see if the amount of sugar is fine for your taste – if not add more. If you have too much, there is not much you can do I’m afraid but after all, it’s a sweet.
  • It takes ages but do remember to stir frequently, especially near the end when it’s really thcik and  liable to start sticking to the pan
  • When the mixture has really thickened (the quantity has reduced to about a quarter) add the saffron and cardamom
  • Keep stirring and cooking over a very low heat until you are happy with the thickness
  • Pour into a ghee greased dish and garnish with slivers of almonds. You can stick it in the fridge if you like.
  • Serve either warmed up with ice-cream or cold with double cream.  We had ours with double cream…yes very fattening but it’s Diwali and I can start my diet after Christmas!

Happy Diwali and a wonderful New Year for all my Hindu friends and readers. Happy Bandi Chhor Divas for all my Sikh friends and readers. xxxx

Sharkarkand nu shak – sweet potato curry

Sweet potato curry

I made this last Friday but haven’t had time to post it up….too busy gobbling. It is defo on my list of fave dishes. Friday in our house is Pizza night for Mr Plummy. For a while, I’ve been indulging in pizza too but I cannot eat the same thing every week for weeks on end. Too boring.

The colour of this curry is gorgeous, like sun on a plate. I’m sure it’s super good for you (Vit c, vit A, betacarotene) and extremely easy to make. I keep a very light hand on the spices as the vegetable has a delicate taste that is greatly enhanced with the kalonji seeds. Normally in Asian stores the red skinned white flesh sweep potato is available. But in your high street supermarket, you will also be able to get the orange fleshed brown version. I find the latter has the better taste.

For those not familiar kalonji seeds, they are small black seeds taken from the nigella plant. If you have had naan bread, they are the black seeds that give naan flavour. They are NOT the seeds of an onion though they are often labelled black onion seeds. If in doubt, get them from an Asian grocer.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs ground nut oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp kalonji
  • 1 small onion finely diced
  • 1 small fresh green chilli finely sliced
  • 8 or so black peppercorns
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 450g sweet potato (this is the cleaned, peeled and diced weight)
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cumin coriander powder
  • 250 g tomatoes finely diced
  • 8 or so curry leaves
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • Coriander to garnish

Preparation:

  • Wash the sweet potato thoroughly. Cut the ends off. It’s purely a matter of taste whether you leave the skin on or not. It’s healthier if you leave skin on – in which case give it a good scrub with a brush and just cut out any roots.
  • If you want to peel the skin, just take a very thin layer off. You will soon come to the flesh
  • Dice in 2 cm pieces

Cooking:

 

  • Heat oil over a medium flame in a large saucepan
  • Add the kalonji and as soon as it starts to sizzle, add the onion
  • Fry onions until they are caramelised. This can take some time.
  • Add the ginger, peppercorns, cloves and chilli. Stir for about 10 seconds
  • Add the sweet potato and spices. Mix so that the spices coat the pieces thoroughly
  • Turn down the heat slight, cover the pan and let it cook. Funnily, the white flesh version takes longer to cook than the orange. It’s a dry curry so don’t add water but give it a stir frequently to stop it sticking to the pan.
  • When you can put a knife through the potato easily (but before it’s become mush!) add the tomatoes and curry leaves. Add lemon juice to taste. I usually just give it a little squeeze of lemon – about 2 tsp
  • Cook for about 5 minutes more until the tomatoes are cooked through.
  • Garnish with coriander and serve with freshly cooked basmati rice. Goes very well with a kingfisher or cobra beer!

Scones, banana cake and shak

Today kiddo and I went into the kitchen to make scones. Unfortunately I didn’t have any baking soda so most of the google’d recipes were of no use. I also found most of the recipes in my Scots Kitchen book were a bit complicated for a 4 year old (and her 45 year old mother). However, my thoughtful brother in law gave me a Matalan 2012 Recipe Calendar which has a different bake recipe for each month. And you guessed it, July is Summer Scones. The recipe was simple,  egg and baking powder free and really easy to do with the kiddo. The first batch had rather burnt bottoms (accursed oven) and the second batch were slightly underdone (to avoid bottom burn). But both tasted lovely smeared in butter and homemade lemon curd then gobbled up.

Before the hubby came home for lunch, I quickly mixed up a banana cake using the Allrecipe’s site for inspiration. This really was the most Easy Banana Cake. I only had one banana so chucked in a handful of raisins. It’s so easy…I really urge you to try it.

Lastly, I used the some more veg from my recent trip to Amma spice to make a gorgeous valor, ringan and bateta shak …which is hyacinth bean, aubergine and potato curry.

Now I’m very full but very satisfied. It’s a good feeling. Something that’s been missing lately from my craft side as I’ve become overwhelmed by the talent that is out there. That’s the way with online surfing…sometimes it inspires me and sometimes it fills me with a depressed feeling that I’m never going to be as good. Luckily, a quick nibble on something delicious perks me right up.

Fenugreek and aubergine shak (methi, ringan nu shak)

CPC fenugreek aubergine shak with rotlis

As mentioned in my last post, I grabbed a couple of bunches of fenugreek from Amma Spices this weekend. I should have prepped them on the same day as they tend to quickly wilt so please excuse the rather sad looking pictures below. If you want to see more chef-fy type pictures go here.  Luckily, I was able to rescue quite a few of the leaves. I’ve saved one bunch’s worth for theplas which are a Gujarati spicy bread that I LOVE. The leaves of the other bunch went into another childhood fave of mine – the recipe I’m sharing tonight.

Fenugreek is used extensively in Indian cooking. The seeds which are hard little yellow stone looking things will be combined with mustard seeds at the start of many vagars (base sauces). I use it sparingly as the seeds are so strong but if I miss them out, the dish is definitely lacking. And as stated above, the leaf is used in theplas and curries both vegetarian and non. In Gujarati, it’s called “METHI”. These days it’s possible to buy frozen methi but in truth, I prefer fresh. It’s like the difference between frozen and fresh spinach – the former is convenient but the taste of the latter is infinitely superior.

The quantities in the recipe below make enough for one. I like to delicately spice this as I want the focus on the vegetables. If cooking for more people, double the quantities. Alternatively serve it as a side dish.

The taste can be bitter but I enjoy that bitter undertone that can come with some vegetables.

It’s meant to be really good for women who are breastfeeding but if you are preggers, best to keep away as it apparently induces labour.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs ground nut oil
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 green chili chopped finely
  • 2 -3 cloves garlic minced very finely
  • Leaves of bunch of fenugreek (see prep below)
  • 1 medium dutch aubergine or 2 – 3 small round indian aubergines (brinjal). Washed, then cut into very 2 cm small cubes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander, cumin powder

Prepping

When buying fenugreek, look for bunches with bright green leaves. Then prep them asap. Don’t leave them like I did to get yellow!

  

  • The stems of fenugreek can be quite thick so I don’t use it in my cooking. I am not sure it’s got much taste say compared to coriander.
  • For this reason, I pick off the green leaves and discard any yellow or mangy looking ones. If the stem attached to some leaves is thin/fine then I won’t pick that off.
  • Luckily, it’s very easy to pick the leaves off just using your fingers and thumb.
  • Rinse the leaves thoroughly until all the mud is removed. Else you are going to have really gritty food. The amount shown in the 3rd picture about is what I harvested from 2 bunches but for the recipe above, I only used half the amount. I put the other half into a freezer bag to use later.

Cooking:

CPC fenugreek aubergine shak

  • In a medium sized sauce pan, heat oil over medium flame
  • Once oil has heated up, add the mustard seeds (tip: add one seed to see if oil is ready, it should start to fry/splutter. Mustard seeds sitting in oil can end up really horribly bitter)
  • As the seeds splutter, add the chili and garlic. Cook for a few seconds, then add aubergine, fenugreek and spices.
  • Stir everything over a medium heat until the vegetables are well coated with spices
  • Turn flame down to low, cover the saucepan and cook until the aubergines soften and the fenugreek wilts. You may need to stir occasionally to stop the food from sticking to the pan.
  • Serve with hot, ghee smeared rotlis.

Tip:

If you cannot get fresh fenugreek, look for the frozen stuff in your local Indian grocery. Alternatively, you could try to grow your own…I’m going to have a go following the tips in this post Growing Methi once I figure out the right time of year to plant them. Or does that matter if I’m growing them indoors????

Cassava (Mogo) – roasted (or fried!)

Roasted cassava, chilipaperchains 

I didn’t take a solo picture of my purchase but the cassava are the the long brown veg at the back of the fat Sicilian aubergine. Gujuratis love mogo especially fried as fat chips or cut into thin slices and fried as crisps. Growing up my parents would eat the fried chips as a snack with lemon juice, salt and heaps of chili powder. I love the taste which is less sweet than a parsnip. They are a doddle to cook too. To prepare, wash the veg, then chop off the ends. You can cut the brown outer layer off with a knife but to save as much of the white inner you can peel the skin off. I did this by making a very shallow cut along one side then peeling the skin back. As soon as I did, I got a whoosh of the wonderful mogo smell. In truth the peel of this came off very easily whereas the other didn’t. Also, when I cut the ends off I was able to see black veins through the white flesh. A quick web search told me that the black veins mean it’s going off so sadly, I ditched that one.

Cassava Dodgy cassava Sliced cassava Par boiled cassava

  • Once peeled, wash again to remove any grainy bits and then slice into your preferred chip size, going a thin as a crisp if you like
  • Before cooking, I parboiled the mogo as it’s quite a hard veg. Only boil until it’s a bit easier to put a fork into the flesh – as in the fourth picture above where it’s slightly translucent at the edges
  • Drain the mogo and let it dry
  • Tonight, I really, really wanted to fry them as chips but I didn’t have enough groundnut oil so I decided to roast them instead. Like roast potatoes, it’s nice if you give the parboiled mogo a bit of a shake to make the edges roast nice and crispy
  • Place in an oven proof dish and toss about in a generous amount of oil
  • Cook until the outer skin is crispy golden brown and inner is soft (like a jacket potato). The amount of time to cook depends on the size of the chips and how young the mogo is (younger mogo takes longer as the flesh is firmer)
  • As I wanted my little one to try it, I served the roasted chips with a little salt. However, if they were for me, they would be deep fried and covered with lemon salt and chili powder!