Spinach, mushroom and cashew curry

Well I’m feeling mighty pleased with myself today having come up with what I feel is a tasty combination. I hope you like it too. The cashews only work if they are crunchy so add those at the last-minute.

Ingredients:

  • 50-60 g whole cashew nuts lightly dry roasted until golden in a frying pan. Allow to cool completely (kaju)
  • 2 tbs ground nut oil (tel)
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds and a few fenugreek seeds (rai, methi)
  • 1 stick cinnamon (tuj)
  • 1 small onion diced finely (dhungri)
  • 2 cloves garlic minced (lasun)
  • 5 small new potatoes cut into 1/2 cm cubes (bateta / aloo)
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms – wipe clean and slice thickly
  • 1/2 tsp salt – or to taste (nimak)
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder (lal murcha)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric (hurder)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin coriander powder (dhana jeeru)
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 400g fresh baby spinach (palak)

Cooking:

  • Heat the oil in a large heavy bottom pan over a medium heat
  • Add the cinnamon and mustard/fenugreek seeds.
  • Once the seeds start to splutter add the onion and cook until they start to brown
  • Add the chili and garlic. Cook for another 2 minutes
  • Throw in the mushroom, potato and spices and soy sauce. Stir well and cook until the potato starts to soften (about 5 minutes)
  • Add the spinach and cook until wilted, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Do not add any water as both spinach and mushroom have plenty
  • When it is cooked, turn off the heat and add in the cashew nuts.
  • Serve immediately with freshly cooked basmati rice.
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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.

Chicken curry – spinach or creamy

As a vegie, I’m not keen on cooking meat and even though the hubby is a confirmed meateater (what Scot isn’t), he is often happy eating a vegie dinner. However, when in Dundee, I like to treat him and his brother in law to a Chicken curry. I’ve been using the same ingredients as the base of dhal and so far this week, they have tried chicken with spinach and a creamy chicken curry. The base is the same the only difference is the addition of either cream or spinach.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs groundnut oil
  • 25g butter (omit if you are dieting!)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 large sticks of cinnamon
  • 3 large onions blitzed in a chopper to make them tiny (the bro in law doesn’t like large pieces of onion. If you are ok with them, then just chop finely)
  • 6 cloves garlic and 2 inches of ginger made into a paste in a blender (blitz them with a teaspoon of water to help)
  • 6 green cardomoms
  • 6 cloves
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 2 fresh green chilies chopped lenghtways
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 250g canned chopped tomatoes (or 200g fresh chopped finely)
  • 3 tbs tomato puree
  • 500g skinless boneless chicken breast filets cut into 2 inch cubes
  • 1/4 pint vegetable stock
  • 4 tbs single cream or 200g fresh baby spinach (washed thoroughly)
  • Coriander to garnish

Cooking

  • In a large heavy based sauce pan, heat oil and butter over medium flame and add cumin seeds and cinnamon
  • When seeds start to sizzle, add the onions and cook until they begin to brown  (if you blitz them, this takes about 10 mins)
  • Add the garlic/ginger paste, cloves and peppercorns – cook for a few minutes
  • Add the spices and chillies and stir for a minute
  • Add the tomatoes and tomato puree and stir to combine
  • Taste this sauce to see if you need to adjust the spices.
  • Stir in the chicken pieces until they are well coated. If you are using it, stir in the spinach and cook until the spinach wilts slightly
  • Add stock to just cover the chicken (with spinach, you need a little less) and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occassionally to preven sticking,  until chicken is done. If you can, cook this in the oven at 200 degrees
  • Once the chicken is cooked, turn off the heat and stir in the cream if using
  • Garnish with coriander and serve with naans or basmati rice.

Hubby prefers the spinach version, his brother in law liked the creamy one. If you have any feedback or improvements, I’d be grateful to hear them.

Red radish and spinach curry stirfry

Until tonight,I’ve only eaten radishes in salads where they add a great crunch and gorgeous colour. However, I was in an experimental mood and decided to try cooking the little balls of peppery-ness. Googling radish recipes came up with loads of links to Mooli / Daikon based recipes – these are the long white vegetable often seen in Asian stores. Bored of the search, I took myself to the kitchen to throw things in a pan and ended up combining red radishes with spinach – both of which are in season right  (though sad to say my radishes were from Morocco and my spinach from the fridge). The end result was pretty tasty though next time I’ll add in the radishes a bit later as they softened very quickly.  The radishes lost some of their hot pepper flavour and took on the taste of the spices well.  Adjust the quantities of ingredients to your taste – nothing here is set in stone.

AMENDMENT: I found this spicy the first attempt so have removed some of the spices added to make it milder.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs ground-nut oil
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds (kalonji) or mustard seeds – optional
  • 3 echalion shallots or 1 medium onion sliced thinly
  • 1 inch ginger grated
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 100g frozen leaf spinach or fresh spinach (next time will use more e.g. 200 g spinach)
  • 240g red radishes – top and tail then slice into thin slices
  • 1/4 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste if you must!)
  • 1 tbs dark soy sauce
  • 2 tsp runny honey
  • Dash lime juice
  • 1 tbs toasted sesame seeds

Cooking

  • Heat the oil in a large heavy based frying pan over a medium high heat and add in the kalonji seeds
  • When the seeds start to sizzle add in the shallots/onions, garlic, ginger and chilies. Cook until the onions have browned slightly
  • Add in the spinach and cook until it has wilted (or defrost and cooks out a bit)
  • Add the radishes, spices, soy sauce and honey. Stir fry until the radishes start to soften (about 4 minutes), toss in the sesame seeds and cook for a further 2 minutes stirring to prevent any food sticking to the pan.
  • Add the lemon/lime juice to taste
  • Serve with noodles or rice. Tonight, I added a pack of Amoy Pad Thai noodles to the pan and let them cook in with the mix.

Tot’s spinach and potato

Once of the easiest things to cook for tot and she seems to enjoy it a lot.

Ingredients:

1 tbs oil

1/4tsp cumin seeds

3 spring onions  – wash thoroughly and then chopped finely. I tend to discard much of the green part

1 small garlic clove – crushed

1 medium potato – peeled and cut into 1cm dice

1 frozen spinach bit (not sure what you call it, it’s the chunks that frozen spinach comes in) – defrost

1/5 tsp turmeric

30ml water

  • Over a low heat, heat oil and add the cumin seeds
  • When they sizzle add the spring onions and garlic and let cook until they soften. Keep an eye on it as I find that the  onions can burn really quickly
  • Add potatoes and turmeric
  • Add the spinach and stir it all so thoroughly combined
  • Add water and allow to cook until the potatoes are cooked

Serve either on its own or with some rice. If you are ok with you can add a small amount of salt at the same time as the turmeric but so far our tot has eaten it without any.

Spinach and paneer curry

Every time I go to an Indian restaurant, I order this dish as I enjoy it.  The best version in London that I have had is the one from the Punjab in Neal street.  The vagar (sauce it is cooked in) is similar to many of my shaks but hey, it works so why not stick with it!

It is possible to make paneer at home which has a nicer consistency in my view than the shop bought ones. However, I have had some luck with versions bought in Sainsbury and Tesco. It is normally found in the cheese section. Indian groceries will often sell paneer in their chiller sections too.

If you have time, dry roast the cinnamon, cloves and cardamon in a flat pan. Dry roasting means you don’t put in any oil you just add the stuff and let it cook. Cook until you see vapour coming off the ingredients then take off heat. This helps release the flavours.

A general note about the spices – the quantities are not set in stone. You should amend them to fit your taste. The only thing I would watch is the salt as spinach tends to become quite salty. But if you are not a fan of a particular ingredient then leave it out!

Ingredients

2 tbs groundnut oil

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 large dried bayleaf

1 large white onion – diced very finely

3 cloves garlic

1 inch ginger grated

1 – 2 chillies chopped finely

2 sticks cinnamon (about 5 cm long each)

5 cloves

5 green cardamon

1tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1tsp coriander cumin powder (dhana jeeru)

1tsp salt

2 tomatoes chopped into very small dice. Get very red tomatoes that are fresh.

5 curry leaves

1 pack paneer – open and chop into 2 cm cubes

1 pack baby spinach – wash out all grit

Squeeze of lemon juice

  • Heat oil in a pan and add bayleaf. Heat should be set to medium – you don’t want to burn anything!
  • Add cumin seeds and wait for them to start to sizzle.
  • Add the onion and let them cook until they start to caramelise/brown
  • Add garlic, ginger and chilis and allow to cook for a few seconds
  • Add cinamon, cloves and cardamon – again let cook for a few seconds
  • Keep stirring all these ingredients as you add spices
  • When spices have had time to cook out (shouldn’t take long), add tomatoes and curry leaves
  • Up to this stage, you are making what is known as vagar. It’s the sauce you will put your main ingredients into. The intention is to let the tomatoes reduce.
  • Now add the paneer and ensure it is well coated with the vagar
  • Then add the spinach and let it wilt down.
  • Add water and turn down the heat to a simmer. Let this cook for about 20 minutes. The paneer should be soft and have absorbed much of the vagar. The spinach should be completely wilted
  • Squeeze in the lemon juice, stir, cook for another 2 mins then turn off
  • Garnish with coriander and serve with rice.

I personally think this should be cooked at least 1 hour before it is needed to allow the ingredients to combine. When you are ready to eat it, then you can heat it through gently then serve with rice.

Spinach and potato shak

This is the first of my spinach recipes for today. This makes a dry shak. It is important not to add too much salt as spinach tends to be quite a salty thing to cook. If you can, use fresh spinach- baby spinach is the easiest but full leaves can be used. For the latter, you will need to remove the stems from each leaf (which is why I prefer baby leaves where the stem is soft and can stay), then chop each leaf roughly. Else frozen spinach works just as well.

2 tbs groundnut oil

2 tsp mustard seeds (make sure they are the black ones from Indian grocery stores not the yellow ones).

5 – 7 fenugreek seeds mixed in with mustard seeds

1 cinnamon stick

3 cloves garlic crushed

1 chili chopped finely

5 – 6 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm dice

1tsp chili powder

1 tsp coriander cumin powder (dhana jeeru)

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 tsp salt

400g frozen spinach thawed or one pack baby spinach.

Coriander to garnish

  • Heat the oil in the pan and add mustard/fenugreek seed mix
  • Once seeds start to pop add, cinnamon stick, garlic and chili to cook. Do not let mustard seeds burn as this will make the shak very bitter
  • Once garlic starts to brown, add the potatoes and stir to cover with oil
  • Add spices and stir again.
  • Let potatoes cook for 1 min, stirring to ensure they don’t stick to the pan
  • Add the spinach and again stir.
  • Add water – I would add a little at a time only as you only want to help the potatoes cook and not create a sauce.
  • Turn heat down and let the shak cook until you can easily push a fork through the potatoes.
  • Once cooked, garnish with finely chopped coriander and serve with rotlis, rice or naan.