Sunday, February 07, 2010

Spicy Nights

Chickpea and Okra Curry, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

It's been quite a while since my last post but that doesn't mean that my kitchen has been idle! Not at all, in fact, we have been cooking up a storm and I haven't had time to post! Rather than try and catch up with my posts, I'll start again - with last night's dinner...

Steve and I have been on a 'Curry Kick' lately. Long, cold winter nights benefit from the warm and sultry spices from the East. Our 3 masala dabbas are almost always in use as we anoint various dishes with different combinations of spices, whole and ground. Warm and exotic smells waft through the house - permeating my clothing and hair. Chillis, fresh coriander and curry leaves have become staples in our larder. It's an adventure and there's almost no food that isn't improved by the additions of cumin, turmeric and chilli powder.

Last month we were given some chat masala spices to try cooking with by our friends, Rupak and Kinnary who'd brought some back from their holiday over the Christmas break. The unassuming little boxes of masala, with brand names like 'Catch' and 'Tasty Treat' now sat on the shelf and even seemed to taunt me; I was intimidated by them! Every so often, Kinnary emailed me a recipe to use the spices in and Rupak would subsequently ask me if I had tried them yet. Friday I promised I would use them. (I lied, as it turns out - but more about that later!)

Yesterday I surveyed my vegetable boxes. Yet another swede (bringing the total to 2); I knew exactly one thing to do with swede - mash them up with carrots and butter. While it is a delicious dish, I didn't think it would go particularly well with my rice and dal. Right beside the swedes was a forlorn-looking butternut squash that hadn't made the cut when I cooked its younger, fresher brother in a pumpkin and coconut curry two weeks ago. The squash was beginning to show signs of aging and would need to be cooked. So I trawled the web, looking for help. I didn't find any recipes for swede curry but I found many for turnips which I have modified to produce what I'll call Swede & Pumkin Curry.

My larder also contains a growing collection of pulses (lentils). I've been experimenting with different lentils and different tarkas or seasonings. This time I tried making a Mixed Dal using three different dals; moong dal, toor daal and chana dal.

But now, back to the chickpea curry: we're in this thing together, Steve and I, so I asked him to cook it! We had a very busy kitchen last night with a mixed dal, a chickpea dish, rice and the swede curry all bubbling merrily on the stove. Steve's version of the chickpea dish was wonderful and was enhanced by the addition of baby okra, a vegetable we have taken to adding to various dishes as we to do with garden peas. The okra adds a wonderful texture (2 textures, really; the fuzzy somewhat resistant outer coat which gives way to the softer seeds on the inside) and flavour to the mix:

Recipe for Chick peas

From Kinnary Shah

One small finely chopped onion
Chopped tomatoes (half tin)
1 bay leaf (divided into half)
2-1/2 tbsp of Chole masala
One tin of Chick peas
1 cup frozen okra
1/2 tsp of Cumin seeds
1/2 tsp of ginger and garlic paste. (separately or together)
Salt to taste
Coriander for garnish (Fresh)
3 tbsp of oil
Small green Chile, cut from middle (optional)

1. Add oil in the pan, to it add cumin seeds, when the seed become brown add chopped onion, ginger garlic paste, bay leaf. (and Chile)

2. When onion gets light brown, add chopped tomatoes and to it add chole masala and salt, and stir till oil separates out (approx. 10 min).

3. Then add chick peas, okra and half cup of water and cover the pan.

4. Let it boil for 10 mins or till the gravy becomes thick (stir occasionally). If the water dries out, then add little water and let it boil.

5. Add coriander and serve...

Can be eaten with rice, or pullao.

Spicy Nights (II)

This was my first attempt to try mixing different lentils. I chose chana dal, toor dal and moong dal for this. The addition of green chillis, tomatoes and curry leaves helped make this a very tasty treat!



1/3 cup moong dal
1/3 cup toor dal
1/3 cup chana dal
½ tsp Cumin Seeds
a pinch of Asafetida
1 large onion, diced
3 tomatoes, diced
2 tsp ginger pulp
2 green chilies, chopped
20 curry leaves
½ tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp red chilli powder
Fresh coriander leaves for garnish
3-1/2 cup water (or enough to cover the lentils to a depth of 3 cm)
ghee, oil or a mixture of both, to fry
Salt to taste


1. In a large bowl, mix all the dals and wash and soak in water for about an hour. Drain and rinse until the water runs clear.
2. Add the mixed dals to a pan of salted water, to a depth of 3cm, and bring to the boil.
3. When frothy foam appears on the surface, remove by skimming the surface with a slotted spoon, then add the turmeric.
4. Meanwhile, heat the oil/ghee in a separate frying pan until hot and add asafetida and cumin seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the onions, garlic, curry leaves and chopped green chilli. Fry this mixture for 3 min or until the onions take on colour and have softened a bit.
4. Add tomatoes and fry for about 5 min to soften. Next, add the red chilli powder.
5. When softened, add this mixture to the dal, cover and cook on a low flame until the dal is softened and is ready to eat.

Garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves and serve.

Spicy Nights (III)

Swede and Pumpkin Curry, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

This dish is remarkably delicious! I was curious to see what swede would taste like curried, having never had it before. Too, I had 2 of the beasts in my larder and was not in the mood to have my usual mashedcarrotsandswede! The addition of the 'pumpkin' (in this case, butternut squash) was an inspiration born of necessity; one of those was rapidly ageing in the larder and needed to be cooked! My customary trawl of the interweb yielded quite a few good places to start (e.g. this one) which I took and modified:

Shalgam Curry (or, in this case, Swede and Pumpkin Curry!)

1 medium swede (500-600 gm or equivalent weight of turnips)
300 gms or 1 medium butter nut squash or pumpkin
1 medium onion, chopped
200-300 gms (2/3 can, approx.) chopped tomatoes
2 tsp ginger puree
2-3 cloves of garlic
2-3 green chillies, chopped
20 fresh curry leaves
1-2 tsp salt to taste
1 tsp. sugar
Chopped fresh corriander
ghee and/or oil for frying

1. Peel the swede/turnips and chop into 2-3cm pieces.

2. Boil the swede until soft or pressure cook for 3 minutes.
(I found this took around 30 minutes or so)

3. When nearly done, add the pumpkin/squash and cook with the swede until both are done.

4. Heat the ghee or oil in a frying pan and fry the chopped onions, ginger, green chillies, curry leaves and garlic until golden brown.

5. Add chopped tomatoes to the onion/garlic/chilli mixture, add salt to taste and 1 tsp. sugar. Mix together and cook for 20 minutes or so (adding water if necessary) until the gravy is golden in colour.

6. Add the swede and pumpkin, mushing gently with a spoon to create an uneven texture, cover and cook for a further 10 - 15 minutes or until the curry is well cooked.

Garnish with chopped corriander and serve.

(This amount will serve 4)