Tag Archives: cuisine

Keralan Vegetable and Coconut Sambar Recipe

2 Nov Keralan Vegetable Sambar

Kerala is right at the top of my list of places I want to visit. It is located on the Malabar coast of south-west India and is known for having some of the best and most delicious vegetarian food in the whole of India. That and its beautiful beaches, backwaters, tropical forests and luxury Ayurvedic retreats and you can see why I am so keen to get there.

Until that day arrives I am happy to continue on my culinary journey around my kitchen and be transported by the flavours and smells unique to that area. Sambar is a typical southern Indian vegetable stew made with lots of vegetables and pigeon peas (or lentils) in a tamarind broth. The sambar is the spice mix or paste which has variations from state to state in the south.

Coconuts grow along the coast in Kerala and most of their signature dishes feature it in some form. This Keralan Sambar powder  is made by toasting coconut along with the spices and grinding it to create a paste that is used to flavour the stew. The sambar is finished or tempered with a garnish of mustard seeds, chilli and spices cooked in coconut oil that is poured over just before serving.

In the original recipe the pigeon peas or lentils are cooked separately with some turmeric and chilli powder until soft and mushy. They are then added to the vegetables cooked in the tamarind & stock to thicken the stew towards the end. I used dried quick cooking yellow lentils that cook in the same amount of time as the vegetables so I cooked it all together. Less washing up too.

The vegetables I used are just what I had in the fridge. You could use pumpkin, carrots, potatoes, aubergine, courgettes, okra…..

Keralan Vegetable & Coconut Sambar Recipe

Serves 4 with rice. Vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from The Mistress of Spices & Sankeerthanam

  • 75-100 g dried yellow lentils
  • 300 g sweet potato, scrubbed & cut into 2 cm chunks
  • 300 g cauliflower florets
  • 300 g (1 very large) tomato, chopped
  • 200 g green beans, trimmed & halved
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • 1 or 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
  • salt
  • about 1 tsp jaggery/brown sugar or honey

For the tempering:

  •  2 tsp  coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 dried red chilli whole (I used fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • curry leaves (if you can get them)

Put the veg stock and tamarind in large pot with the turmeric, chilli flakes, lentils, sweet potato and cauliflower. Bring to the boil, season with salt then lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes until the potatoes & lentils are cooked. Meanwhile make the sambar paste.

For the sambar paste

  • 4 Tbsp grated coconut
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 dry red chilli (I used fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • salt

Toast everything in a dry frying pan until fragrant and toasty. The onions wont be cooked. Blend to a paste adding some salt and water as necessary.

Stir the sambar paste into the vegetable pot then add the softer vegetables, the beans and tomatoes. Bring to the boil again, lower the heat, cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or longer, until the lentils have broken down and you have a thicker stew consistency.  Add the jaggery/sugar or honey and taste for seasoning. Does it need more salt or sugar?

When ready to serve, heat the coconut oil in pan over a medium high heat and add the tempering spices, chilli and curry leaves (if using). When the seeds start to splutter tip the contents of the pan over the stew and serve with rice or flatbreads.

Things That Made Me Smile Today….

The oranges are coming. They are turning from green to a yellowy orange. Getting more orange every day. Which means it’s not long till Christmas.

Which means I need to get busy making Grandad’s Pickled Onions if I want them to be ready in time for Christmas. They need at least a month to mature into the spicy perfect beasts that everyone adores.

What Christmas treats are you planning to make this year?

Have a great weekend!

Chana Saag – Indian Spiced Chickpeas with Spinach

25 Jun DCIM100MEDIA

Our chilli plant on the roof terrace has loads of green chillis on it all of a sudden. I’m sure it grows about 5 centimetres overnight. It’s been so hot here  so we have been watering it really well every evening when the sun goes down. It seems to be very happy there.

This is my cue now for putting chilli in everything. Not that I need another excuse. The Washer Up loves anything with chilli in it especially Indian food. Apparently eating chilli cools you down in hot weather too. Like having a cup of tea is supposed to. I don’t know about that but I’m willing to give it a try, this heat is unbearable.

Chana Masala (chickpeas in a spicy sauce) is one my favourite dishes. I always order it, along with Tarka Dal (spiced lentils), and Saag Aloo (potatoes with spinach) when we go out for Indian food. I borrowed this recipe from Dani at Moderate Oven which combines two of my favourite dishes. Chana Saag is spiced chickpeas with spinach. I’d never tried it before and couldn’t wait to debut our homegrown green chillis.

Chana Saag-  Spiced Chickpeas with Spinach Recipe

serves 2-3, adapted from Moderate Oven

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 cardamom pods, bashed
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tin (400 gr) chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 300 gr frozen spinach (not defrosted)
  • 1 tin/jar (400 gr) cooked chickpeas, rinsed & drained
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped plus some leaves for garnish

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and cardamom pods and cook for a minute until they start to pop, don’t let them burn. Add the onion and cook for around 4 minutes. When the onion begins to soften & brown then add the ginger, garlic & green chillis and cook for another minute.

Stir in the ground coriander, cumin, turmeric & cayenne pepper until coating the onions then add the tinned tomatoes. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring for 3 or 4 minutes. Add in the frozen spinach, stirring the tomatoes around and over it and simmer, partially covered, for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to break up the spinach until completely thawed.

Remove from the heat and use a stick blender or processor to (carefully) puree the spinach until smooth. Put the pan back on the heat with the spinach and add the rinsed chickpeas to it. Season with salt, pepper & garam masala and simmer, partially covered, for 8 -10 more minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn’t dry out. Add boiling water if necessary.

Stir in the chopped coriander, squeeze over some lemon juice and check the seasoning. Add more salt or lemon juice to taste. Serve sprinkled with fresh coriander leaves and a wedge of lemon on the side.

That reminds me I must go and water the chilli plants, it has been another ridiculously hot day, they must be thirsty!

Things that made me smile today…..

I think it must be baby snail (caracolillos) season. They live on the wild fennel at the side of the road. You see people with buckets picking them off.

It looks like they like artichokes too. If I wasn’t  vegetarian I would make a Snail, Fennel & Artichoke Risotto. But I am, so I won’t. Don’t let me stop you though….

Buen Fin de Semana!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Miso Risotto

2 Jun DCIM100MEDIA

It was my birthday on Tuesday (I’m 38!). I had a bit of a boring morning, went to the hospital for a chest X-Ray (just a follow-up thing) then went food shopping in Mercadona (not exciting). It got better from then on though, I bought a new yellow dress (I’ve got a thing about yellow at the  moment) and then “The Washer Up” left work early so we could go out for a late dinner at our favourite Indian Restaurant (wearing the new yellow dress).

The Mumtaz Mahal in Coin is the restaurant that we love. We love the food (always delicious) and the staff (so polite & friendly) and we can take the dog and sit outside.  The food is stunning, none of that “one sauce fits all” type of Indian restaurant. Every dish has a unique flavour and is cooked to perfection.

We have been guilty, in the past, of always ordering the same things because they are so gorgeous (tarka dal, chana masala, vegetable balti, bombay aloo) but recently have decided to branch out and order something different every time we go.

My latest favourite is the Paneer Tikka. Paneer is an Indian cheese made in a similar way to ricotta which is then pressed to firm it up. The paneer is marinaded in the tikka sauce, threaded onto skewers with peppers & onions and then cooked until slightly charred. It comes out sizzling on a cast iron and wooden plate which all adds to the drama, I love it..

Please excuse the dodgy photo, I still haven’t worked out how to take pictures at night with this camera but you get the idea. And, before you say it, yes I did eat cheese, it was my birthday treat, I had a day off the detox (yay)!

They also do the most amazing bread called an Onion Kulcha which is a mixture between naan and pizza topped with onions, chilli and coriander. We have that every time without fail which means we don’t try any of the other breads but I just can’t not order it, it’s that good.

Oh and we always order far too much which means we get to take the leftovers away and eat (and photograph) them the next day….

Back to the recipe. I know that squash isn’t exactly seasonal here at the moment but I saw the bright orange in a sea of green and had to buy it. A lot of my readers are in the southern hemisphere (including my dad in South Africa) where it is  Autumn/Winter so I’ll use that as my excuse.

I usually make a squash and feta cheese risotto. I like the combination of the sweet squash and the sour salty feta. Making a vegan version was going to be challenge. I needed to get that same contrast in flavours without the cheese. Inspiration came from A Meandering Mango in Australia. She made a roasted squash soup with miso as she didn’t have any stock. Miso has that umami savouriness that I needed to off set the sweet squash.

Roasted Butternut Squash & Miso Risotto

serves 3, vegan, gluten-free

  • 1/2 butternut squash (about 700 gr) including seeds
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 200 gr brown wholegrain rice (or risotto rice)
  • a big splash of beer
  • 1- 1 1/2 litres veg stock
  • 1 heaped tbsp miso paste
  • fresh coriander leaves to garnish
  • lime wedges to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Scrape the seeds out of the squash with a spoon, wash all the orange stringy bits off and dry the seeds. Place them in one layer on a piece of foil drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and roast in the preheated oven for 4 -5 minutes until golden. Keep an eye on them they burn quickly!

Remove the seeds from the oven and turn it up to 210 C. Cut the squash into 1 inch cubes (I didn’t peel it), put them on a baking tray lined with baking paper, drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle over the chilli flakes and season with the salt & black pepper. Toss everything together with your hands so evenly coated and lay the squash out in one layer. Roast in the 210 C oven for 35 -40 minutes until well cooked, softened and slightly browned.

After about 20 minutes you can start making the risotto. Put the veg stock and miso paste in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the miso while you make the risotto. In a large pan heat the olive oil over a medium heat, add the onion, celery and a big pinch of salt and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes until the onion is soft but not browned. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the rice and stir to coat in the onions. When the rice is starting to turn translucent at the edges, add a good splosh of beer and cook until all the liquid disappears. Add a ladleful of the hot miso stock into the rice and stir or swirl the pan until all the liquid is absorbed. Add another ladleful of stock, stir or swirl until absorbed and continue like this until the rice is nearly cooked. About 20 minutes with risotto rice, wholegrain rice takes about 25 minutes and more stock.

Stir in most or all of the roasted squash (depending on the size of your squash) and cook for 5 more minutes until it has melted into the risotto. Taste for seasoning, add salt if necessary.

Serve topped with the roasted squash seeds, a few fresh coriander leaves and a wedge of lime to spritz over if you like.

This has a slightly unusual flavour for a risotto but it is really delicious. In fact I’ve come up with the perfect name for it, it’s a misotto. You should give it a go, it’s surprisingly good, whatever the season…

Things that made me smile today..

Wild Orchids…

So beautiful…

A definite “Moment of Gratitude”…

Enjoy!!

Laos Style Aubergine, Mushroom and Lemongrass Curry Rice Bowl

21 Apr DCIM100MEDIA

Laos is in South East Asia bordered by Northeast Thailand, Viet Nam, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia & China. It is another place on my list of must visit countries that keeps growing by the day. I found the link to this recipe on Tes at Home. Tes grew up in Northeast Thailand but now lives in India. This recipe is my vegetarian version of her childhood memories of  a dish called Or Lam that she found on Eating Asia.  I took ingredients and techniques from both recipes and cooked the rice in the same pot but it would normally be served with sticky rice on the side. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any fresh dill for this dish so I replaced it with fresh coriander. Feel free to substitute the dill back in or a mixture of both would be nice.

You start by making a curry paste with shallots, garlic, chilli, lemongrass, lime leaves, coriander stalks and salt.  This is fried off then veg stock is added before adding the vegetables. The idea is to cook the aubergine until it is very soft and thickens the stew. I used my metal tea infuser to flavour the dish with Sichuan peppercorns and black peppercorns. This way you get some of the aromatic heat from the peppercorns but not the full on numb lips experience. I used 15 of each in the tea infuser. You could also use a  piece of muslin tied at the top with string). Or crush a smaller amount of each to add to the dish, say five of each.

Laos Style Aubergine, Mushroom & Lemongrass Curry Rice Bowl

serves 2, vegan, gluten-free

  • 1 large aubergine, quartered lengthways then cut into 2 cm chunks
  • 100 gr mushrooms, cleaned & sliced
  • 100 gr green beans, trimmed & halved
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped( I used 2 garlic & 1 spring garlic)
  • 6 shallots (I used 1/2 spring onions), roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, roughly sliced
  • 3 lime leaves, sliced
  •  1 red or green chilli, roughly chopped
  • a handful of coriander stalks
  • 1 tsp salt (or 1 tbsp fish sauce)
  • about 500 ml veg stock
  • 15 Sichuan peppercorns
  • 15 black peppercorns
  • 150 gr wholegrain rice
  • 2 big handfuls of fresh spinach
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped plus leaves for garnish

Put the shallots, garlic, chilli, lemongrass, lime leaves, coriander stalks and salt (or fish sauce) into a bowl or food processor and blend to a smoothish paste. Heat about 1 tbsp oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add in the paste and stir fry for a minute. Add in the veg stock and put both sets of peppercorns in the tea infuser(or muslin bag) and hang it  over the side of the pan so it is submerged in the liquid (or throw in the muslin bag).  Bring to the boil.

Add in the mushrooms, aubergine and rice, season with salt and boil for another minute. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered for about another 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the aubergine is soft and melting into the stock. If you like you can take out a ladle full of the stew and blend until smooth before adding back into the pot.

Add in the green beans and spinach, stir, cover and cook for another 3 – 5 minutes until the beans are cooked. Stir in the chopped coriander and taste for seasoning.

Ladle into warmed bowls and garnish with extra coriander leaves.

Imagine yourself on the banks of the Mekong river watching the boats go by or strolling through a colourful food market selling exotic, unknown foods, listening to the strange language and trying to recognise the unfamiliar smells. I will get there.. one day….

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