The Spiceman Cometh

A few weeks ago I mentioned a truly squeal-y moment. Well I can now reveal the details. My apologies to Wlx who did an awesome job of the card below. It’s been stuck on my fridge for me to admire and got a bit worn in the process.

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Probably the best leaving present that I have ever had – a one to one session with one of The Spicemen…. Mr T Singh himself.

There were quite a few mails back and forth trying to agree on what to cook and when.

When: I so wanted to wait until we had a new kitchen. But that would have been too far into the future (end April). Then I read that he isn’t allowed into his wife’s kitchen as he’s too messy so my mind was made up to get him in sooner. We were hoping he would come on a Friday afternoon when kiddo was at home. We agreed on a Friday but it had to be the morning (later found out he was off to take part in Saturday Kitchen’s 400th episode so he’s allowed to set terms!)

Cuisine: Tony has over 20 years experience as a chef doing all sorts of cuisines and though I would have absolutely loved a session in either chocolate work or pastry making, in the end I decided (lying here….hubby told me!) that it had to be Scottish Punjabi food. Before agreeing on the menu, I searched through the SpiceMen cookbook and also downloaded his latest book Tasty on the kindle to get some idea of what types of dishes interested me. Just a side note, never get a cookbook on Kindle, it’s just not the same as thumbing through a physical one and propping it up in the kitchen when cooking.

The final agreed menu:

Falafels

and Satan’s Ketchup

Stuffed Pratha

Wild Mushroom
Samosa`s

Dhal

( Curried yellow lentils)

Herbed Rice

Mint and Coriander Sauce

I had two weeks between leaving the job and my next one. The session took place on the last Friday. During those weeks, I spent a LOT of time tidying. Lots of moving stuff about. Doing my shoulder in moving shelf units about and realising that I have a lot of cookbooks. Partly to get ready for the kitchen refit, and partly because I didn’t want any spec of dust to be visible. Two weeks later the bloody laundry baskets were still not empty – rather like Terry Prachett’s The Luggage they just keep spewing out laundry. So they were chucked out of view.

A few days beforehand I took out my food processor – it’s part of a huge kitchen aid that Mr Plummy bought for my birthday last year. I only ever use the cake making part and didn’t even know there was a food processor bit until I was in the midst of the mad clearout. Whooo hoo. That was washed, instructions read and I was set!

The day before I went shopping for the ingredients list Mr Singh had sent me. Strangely there were not many spices but lots and lots of herbs. Four supermarkets later I was devastated that there were no wild mushrooms available anywhere in Livingston. But a quick email and he confirmed a substitute was fine.  I also bought a new chef’s knife and whilst practicing at home managed to slice off of a bit of my finger nail, painfully. So that was hidden away on a high shelf away for kiddo’s little fingers. I got Mr Plummy to sharpen up a selection of the knives that I use more regularly.

Friday 20th March was the day of the solar eclipse. Diverted my attention for all of an hour (clouds got in the way of my pinhole camera working hey ho). Then, I got ready by getting out equipment and ingredients. Note the total lack of space now! Limes… I’ve never used limes in Indian cooking so this was going to be interesting. As were the herbs (am getting obsessive innit)

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Then bang on time (which is very un-desi like), a Range Rover drove up and I had an uncontrollable fit of giggles. He was here, red turban, red shoes and ladybird earrings. I opened the door, then closed it in his face saying I had to get rid of the giggles. He came in with a crate.

In the kitchen he asked for a surface so I had to creep into the laundry filled conservatory and drag out a table. And what came out of the crate was this. SPICES. No wonder he didn’t list any in the shopping. He had them all. I was just sticking my nose in everything.

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Now some of these I have already. But it’s the ones that I don’t that I want! Garam masala is a prime example – Gujaratis don’t tend to use it much. His was delicious as it contained star anise giving it a slightly liquorice scent. And there was the curious pink pot which I later learnt contained asafoetida crystals –  I had no idea that asafoetida was resin extracted from a number of plants. The powder I have in my kitchen is the crushed up form of the crystals.

See the roll of knives. Yes, chefy types really do sharpen their knives –

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I had pen and paper ready to take notes but was told not to worry about recipes as he had copies for me. I should have read them before we started so I would have an idea of what we were going to make. But I just too excited and had so many questions to ask so we just got stuck into the prep. I wish I had taken notes but the next 3 hours were spent talking a lot. It was a golden opportunity chance to ask about working in the restaurant business, to find out what it was like to get work after he finished his catering studies (shortsighted restaurant people saw the turban and turned him away, the fools!), why so many Indian restaurants close in Edinburgh, about charities in Edinburgh and lots of questions about a Punjabi boy growing up in Scotland. We talked about family, about Punjab Junction (in Leith and run by his aunt, where his mum can be found) the recipes his female relatives won’t teach him as he’s a man! Lots of chatter about the healthy eating courses I teach and the cooking he does with communities/charities.  Some chat on diabetes (its high in Asian populations) and also the new rules on allergen labelling in restaurants. And all the while a lot of washing, peeling and chopping.

We chopped (OK mostly he did the work as I was too busy chatting) as the first lesson was about prepping ingredients all beforehand. There was a lot and in reality, probably too much for my little family. But he gave me tips on how to cover the garlic, ginger and chillies in freezer boxes then cover with oil. The oil preserves the ingredients, and as an added bonus infuses so you can use the oil itself in cooking for flavour.

Or to freeze them in ice cubes. I’ve frozen garlic/ginger before but never chopped chillies. It’s all about having things ready so that when you cook, you can just chuck things into the pot.

So here’s what was chopped:

A bag of white onions. At this point, I got a lesson in how to chop properly. First I had to use the correct knife. Out came the finger tip chopper. Then I was shown how to hold my left hand which holds the item to be chopped (think about how club scout salute!) but my hand didn’t like that so I was told to keep my thumb and pinky out of the way and then look at the shape of the blade which is designed to chop in a rocking motion. The tip should always remain on the board and I should use the heel of the blade to cut, not the top end near the blade as I’ve always done. I then got on with cutting the onions. And slicing off a tiny bit of my thumb. What a dummy! Blood started to seep out. Here’s the next tip – have the spray on plaster stuff in your cookbag or even superglue 3. I suspected he was taking the mick but he insisted that  it was used by the Americans in Vietnam to bind wounds temporarily whilst soldiers were taken to hospital. (Turns out there is some truth in this according to Wikipedia…!!!)

3 red onions – sliced ready for pickled onions.

Garlic: About 7 bulbs of which each individual clove was peeled by him

Ginger – I was doing my usual of scraping the skin when he told me to slice it off and freeze it to use in smoothies, or in ginger/lemon tea.  I’m looking forward to using that.

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Chillies – 150 grams worth!!!!! That’s a lot of chillies.  I was instructed to wash these and pull the stalks off.

To avoid washing the processor he advised that I should whiz up the ginger first, scrape it out then put that in to a freezer box, next do the garlic (scrap and store) and finally the chillies.

Herbs – coriander, parsley and mint. These were washed and I spun them in my salad spinner to drain off the water. He pulled the leaves of the mint off. I also had tarragon but this was not washed just taken out of the bags and then I pulled the leaves off.

Mint and coriander sauce:

My wee processor was not up to the task of making the sauce so he dashed to his car and got his supermixer. I would love to have this but I bet it costs a bomb. In went the mint, coriander, some of the whizzed up garlic, ginger and chilies, sugar, salt and vinegar. It was whizzed up to a runny paste and is happily sitting in my fridge now.

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Pickled onions: The sliced red onions were put into a large bowl, then we added the juice of 2 limes, distilled vinegar, chilli flakes, anar dana and salt. Now anar dana is a new ingredient for me – it’s the powder made from dried pomegranate seeds. It’s really tangy but sweet too which surprised me as pomegranates are never sour but are sweet. In the Tasty book, the recipe uses pomegranate molasses but he said the powder is a good substitute. OMG this mix was just delicious – we were all eating it straight out of the bowl. But the recipe says you should mix it, bottle it and wait at least 3 hours. Again in the book, it says wait a week. No way they are going to last a week – I’ve already had them with lunch and again at dinner that night, in sandwiches, as the base of mash and just as a sneaky snack.

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Dhal:

This was very different from the dhals I cook. For one, there was no ginger or garlic in it. Instead, he used asafoetida – which led to a chat about jains and swaminaryan bods who don’t use food taken from the ground (and hence no onions, garlic or ginger). So the dhals were boiled in water – he grabbed a mix fo dhals from my shelves including red lentils, yellow split dhal (which I never used before) and chana dhal (which I use in some curries but never as a dhal). These were boiled in plenty of water. After that he added in salt and tumeric and half a tin of chopped tomatoes. Once the dhal was soft, he added a tarka which was made by melting about 100g unsalted butter (eeek see my cholesterol levels go up) to nutty point then adding cumin seeds, chilli powder and about 2 tablepoons of asafoetida (which for me is a huge amount, I normally just use a small pinch). The recipe he gave me included ginger and garlic paste but I’m pretty sure he didn’t put any in on the day. This is mixed into the soft dhal and he usually finishes it off with more butter. But I had to insist that this was left off. There was no chili in this as I wanted my daughter to try it. It was the only way we could get her to eat it and truth be told – the dhal didn’t need it. It was simply delicious.

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At this point we were already 2 hours into the session and some of the food still had to be cooked. The kiddo and hubby were due and there was nothing for them to eat. There was only an hour left and so we made an executive decision that he would spend the remaining time cooking falafels and showing me how to make prathas. And whilst he wasn’t watching the clock, he did have a plane to catch to London later and I didn’t want to keep him too long. As we had cut up the ingredients, I was confident I could make the samosas and herbed rice myself later.

Falafels:

I had soaked the chickpeas the day before – he drained these and then whizzed them in the processor. Then in went some of the prepped garlic, parsley leaves, tarragon leaves, coriander leaves, baking soda, salt, pepper, cumin powder, ground coriander, ground cardamom and the juice and zest of a lemon. The herbs made the mixture beautifully green and fragrant.  Usually the recipe has chillies but I wanted to make them less spicy so I think he just put in a bit of chilli powder. OK as I was chopping bits of myself off, and talking, I didn’t see exactly what he was sticking into the food processor but I’ve got the recipe so should be able to replicate it all. The mixture was runny so we added gram (chickpea) flour to thicken it slightly. Unfortunately, once whizzed it was apparent the chickpeas hadn’t soaked enough as they were still grainy. This was really disheartening as they had been soaking for over 12 hours. Next time, I will do it for longer.

Just in time, hubby and kiddo came home and to my amazement, she wanted to help so he set her to getting the falafel balls ready for frying. I got another tip here which is to make sure that when putting the falafels in, I should not just drop them in but kind of glide them in so I don’t burn. We used rapeseed oil – another new ingredient which I have never used. On the rare occasions I fry food, I use either groundnut or sunflower oil. The latter usually leaves a strong frying smell in the house which is one of the reasons I don’t like frying food (and yes, the other is health, I would much rather use the oven). However, the rapeseed oil didn’t leave that strong smell around the house. So I may use that going forward though it is relatively more expensive (I got two bottles rather cheaply from Costco for this session)

BTW, Check out the white stripe in my hair …bride of Frankenstein!

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Prathas:

I love parathas (the way we pronouce it in our house). My mum used to make wonder stuffed ones -sometimes with spicy potato mixtures, other times with a very sweetened dhal. She also used to make simple ones fried in ghee (clarified butter) but I didn’t pay attention and never learnt off her. So fast forward 35 years and a Punjabi Scot showed a London raised Guju woman and her little kiddo how to make them. The little one was very cute as we got out her mini rolling board and pin. And he was very good about teaching us both – he’s a brilliant teacher and very patient. I can see why he is asked to go into schools to teach kids and he is very easy going but inspiring.

The first set were stuffed with the potato mixture which contained crushed boiled potatoes (not mashed, had some lumps in for texture), red onion, coriander powder, cumin powder, chili powder, salt and chopped up coriander and a bit of tarragon again. The recipe includes chopped chillies but as I wanted kiddo to eat them, we left those out. However, in the future, I will divide the mix and add chillies to the ones for hubby and me.

Another tip – prep dough to use for 3 days. I was aghast at this as I always make my dough fresh but he said that it’s fine to prep before and keep the dough in the fridge. Another time saver tip.

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And even though he was short of time, he showed us how to make a sweet paratha using jaggery and ghee which are laid onto one end of the rolled out circle, the the circle is rolled up. The roll is then made into a spiral and rolled out flat. He said that we could make layers and layers but healthy mamma said no, thats fine. In the pan, I dry cooked a side until brown spots appeared and then flipped over and brushed on ghee (oil on the potato stuffed ones). Once one side is cooked, repeat on the other. Both versions were just lovely and the little one enjoyed making them. In truth, I still need more practice before I get them perfect but at least I have a better idea of what to do now.

Mushrooms: Here’s our Tony cooking down the mushrooms. I had a mix of mini portabella mushrooms (wiped and sliced, stalks and all), shitake (wiped, stalks discarded as they are quite rubbery and chopped) and oyster (no wiping needed, all chopped). He cooked off onions in a bit of oil in the pan, then in went the mushrooms and herbs. Tarragon – wowser wonderful. The mushrooms were meant to be for the samosas but over the next few days hubby had them with sausages, I had them on toast and then also stirred through pasta. I am totally converted to tarragon – an aniseed type flavour that just tastes delicious.

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Through out all the cooking, he had me taste the mixes to make sure seasoning was right. I have to admit this is not something I always do, especially when I’m in a hurry and I know that I should.  I don’t think I always got it right as in retrospect, both the parathas and mushrooms needed more salt.

That evening, I made more parathas, falafels and also the herbed rice which even the kiddo ate together with the amazing dhal. I probably wouldn’t haven’t the herbed rice with all my dishes, but I can see it being a great base for the falafels, or for a lunch or just as a quick snack. I didn’t make the samosas as we had so much food to eat that we would have ended wasting them. I did however, mix up a small amount of satan’s ketchup to have with the falafels the following night for dinner – and let me tell you, it’s another keeper. Wonderful blend of tomatoes and spice that complemented the falafels well.

And here’s us at the end. Smiles all round.  I look demented – I don’t photograph at all well which is why I rarely show myself on this site and to make it worse, I was KNACKERED – it was a lot of work but man, what a superb morning.

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And the bonus, at some point once the kitchen is back he’ll be back to get a master class off me on how to make pickles. And I cannot wait as I’m sure by then I will be a master chopper and a much better kitchen helper.

P.S. it’s true the man is very messy. I took the rest of the day to clean up the mess!!!!!! Next time, I’m gonna make sure he knows where the mop is. 😉

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Really fried beans

Refried beans is a mistranslation of refritos. A closer meaning is “really fried” beans as in very well cooked beans. Every now and again, we have mexican wraps using tofu, peppers and onions cooked in a texmex mix. However, I’ve wanted to try home made beans for ages. And gosh, they take ages to do but we were pretty pleased with the result.

Like a bit of an idiot, I didn’t seek out a Mexican recipe but instead picked the Refried Beans recipe on the Savvy Vegetarian site. I made a few amendments to the recipe.

Starting the night before, I washed a cup of dried beans and then soaked them in 5 cups of water. I left these overnight then drained away the water, put the beans in my pressure cooker with 2 pints of water and cooked them for about 20 minutes. I wanted them really soft. I drained that water (which was a dumb thing to do, should have kept some for cooking later) and then mashed the softened beans to a pulp. Kiddo was meant to help but she said the beans stank and ran out of the room as fast as her legs could take her. She’s fussy. They didn’t smell more than any other boiled bean. Here is the amended list of ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp ground nut oil
  • 1/2 red onion finely chopped
  • 2 minced fresh garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. gr. cumin
  • 1 tbs paprika (I misread and put in a tablespoon instead of teaspoon, but they weren’t spicy at all)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • A glug of soy sauce – stated as optional. Next time I will defo leave this out as the result was too salty

Cooking

  • Fry the onions and garlic in the oil until caramelised
  • Add the beans, tomatoes and spices
  • Cook for about 20 minutes on a low heat stirring frequently
  • Once cooked serve with taco shells, salsa, sourcream & chives, lettuce and cheese. We forgot the cheese but it was fine without

I enjoyed this dish very much. Unfortunately, the tacos were horrid – El Paso ones that were weirdly plastic-y. I am going to have a go at making my own next time.

Kiddo refused to eat the beans. She’s not very keen on new things or on things that look “stinky” but likes falafels and I think this paste would make a good base for falafels. So I’m going to try to make it again and persuade her to eat little falafels (devious parenting I know but I have to be inventive to get her to try new stuff!)

E’s Tomato and bean soup

My recent trip home was great – especially when I was fed by friends including the lovely “E”. She quickly put together the most delicious home made soup which was served with home made croutons.

She’s allowed me to put the recipe here for all to enjoy (not that she had much choice as I posed the question “You don’t mind if I post this up do you?). Now like a lot of recipes, quantities are per taste as long as you have the core ingredients in sufficient quantity everything else you add as much or little as you want. The core ingredients here are onions, tomatoes, butter, stock and some form of white bean: butter beans, cannellini beans or chickpeas. Don’t leave out the butter, it’s VITAL to the silky taste here and with this soup you are covering 3 of your five a day (tomatoes, onions and beans) so fab all round.

When I made it, I added in a handful of fresh basil leaves because the plant on my window sill is getting too big for it’s boots. But hey, that’s me. It’s a versatile recipe, add what you wish but do have a go as it’s yum.

Ingredients:

  • 1 or 2 tbs olive oil
  • 10g butter (I used this much, not sure how much E uses but I suspect the quantity may change from batch to batch)
  • 1 large onion diced finely
  • 1 leek (optional but I like the taste so core to me) wash out the grit, slice up green and white bits
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 cans good quality chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cans butter beans (or alternative, use what’s in your cupboard) discard the water in the can and give them a quick rinse
  • 1 pint vegetable stock
  • Dash of soy (optional). Don’t go overboard just a quick flick of the wrist dash is all you want here

Cooking:

  • In a heavy based pan or pot, heat oil and butter over a medium heat
  • When butter has melted add the onions, garlic and leeks.  Sweat the onions only i.e. cook until they start getting translucent
  • Add tomatoes, beans and soy sauce.
  • Bring to the boil then simmer for a little while
  • Blend up the soup and serve with lovely home made bread croutons (or if you are me, shop bought bread!)

This makes enough for about 4 bowls of soup. As my little one doesn’t eat much I’ve got a delicious batch in the freezer to have in the next week or so.

 

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.

Urad (black lentil dhal)

This creamy dhal made of black lentils (Guju name Urad, latin name vigna mungo) is normally cooked on Saturdays. There may be some religious reason for it but I don’t eat for religious reasons but rather for the satisfaction of my belly being full of culinary delights. It’s much richer/heavier/silkier to eat than the Mug Dhal I have previously posted because as the dhal cooks it oozes into the vagar and enriches it.

A word of warning here: urad takes some prep and is best slow cooked over a few hours. The benefits are worth it though  – lots of protein, iron, fibre, great for diabetics. Sometimes you can be left with farty pants after eating it so to help reduce that risk I cook it with fennel seeds which aid digestion and give a liquorice undertone – a trick picked up from my dad. But if you don’t have fennel seeds then just substitute with mustard and cumin seeds (and have the windeze on hand in case).

Ingredients:

  • 200g black lentils (urad dhal) (dried weight)
  • 2 1/2 pints water (pani)
  • 3 pieces of dried mangosteen (kokum) – if you don’t have this don’t worry. It adds sourness which you can achieve with more lemon juice at the end
  • 6/7 curry leaves (limbra)
  • 1 tbs clarified butter (ghee)
  • 1/1 tbs ground nut oil
  • Pinch of asafoetida (hing)
  • 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds (if you don’t have these, substitue 1 tsp mustard seeds and 1 tsp cumin but lose the liquoricey flavour)
  • 1 stick cinnamon (taj)
  • 1 large dry bayleaf (tej patia)
  • 1 large white onion (dhungri) – diced very finely
  • 3 cloves (lasun) and 1 inch of ginger (adu)- either minced or made into puree
  • 1 or 2 fresh green chilies (murcha) chopped finely
  • 7 green cardamon pods (elaiche)
  • 6 cloves (lawing)
  • 1 tsp jaggery (ghor) – omit if diabetic
  • 1 tsp salt (nimak)
  • 1 /2 tsp red chili powder (lal murcha)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder (hurder)
  • 1 tsp cumin coriander seed powder (dhanna jeeru)
  • 2 tbs lemon juice (limbu) – this is a guide. Add little at a time until it’s to your taste
  • Coriander to garnish
  • Full fat yogurt or double cream to serve

Preparation

  • The night before check the urad for any stones, then wash thoroughly in cold water. This will take around 8 washes. Leave to soak overnight covered in water (first picture above) . In the morning, the urad will have swollen slightly and the water will be murky.
  • Discard the soaking water the urad was soaked in and rinse the urad a few times. It now has to be boiled until tender. This can be done in a pressure cooker and takes about 15 minutes in mine using 2 1/2 pints of water. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, it can take a few hours to cook on the stove. Just keep an eye on it until it is tender but still holding it’s bean shape. Do not throw away the water it was boiled in as this will be needed later.

Cooking

  • Put the mangosteen and curry leaves in the urad and set aside
  • In a saucepan, heat the ghee, oil, cinnamon and bay leaf over a medium heat.
  • Throw in a very small pinch of asafoetida then add the fennel seed.
  • Once the fennel is sizzling add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until browning at the edges
  • Add the ginger/garlic and chilies. Cook for another 5 minutes stirring frequently
  • Add the spices and stir to combine well
  • Add the jaggery and let it melt before adding in the chopped tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes have squished and a sauce is formed
  • Add this sauce to the dhal and the liquid it was boiled in. To make sure I get all the goodness, I usually put a spoonful of the dhal into the vagar pan and swish it around so it soaks up the spices. Add lemon juice to taste
  • Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cook until a the volume is reduced by a third and creamy texture is achieved. Check there is enough salt as you go so you can add more.
  • Basically the longer it is slow cook, the better the taste. Don’t be tempted to rapid boil it as end result isn’t the same.
  • Once cooked, garnish with coriander and serve with a dollop of yoghurt (or cream if you are decadent)
  • I like to eat this with freshly cooked rotlis smeared in ghee. I personally don’t like it with rice but don’t let that stop you from having some if you so wish. Alternatively, serve with parathas or bread.

Chili and colour

I have not posted any recipes lately. We have been a germ filled house which makes cooking less than fun and eating a chore. So there has been very little exploration of new recipes. I did make the Quorn Chili Recipe last night which wasn’t bad though next time, I will up the ante on the chilies (I added one huge green chili) as it wasn’t hot enough for me. We had it with taco shells and huge dollops of guacamole. I’ve frozen half of it to enjoy later…hubby said that things get spicier once frozen so maybe when it’s thawed it will be just right for my taste buds.

In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying some colour in my life. My beautiful Christmas cactus is in my porch and makes me very happy every time I walk in or out of the house. If you could love an inanimate object, then I would love this little plant as it hardly needs any care and rewards me twice a year with a magnificent display.

I’ve also been busy working away at various craft projects in time for Xmas. I hope the recipients appreciate them. Here is a granny blanket for tot  which just needs the ends woven in.