half an orange pepper
half a cup of dried 16 bean mix
one dried chile de arbol
one medium onion
one small tomatillo
an inch and a half of ginger
a tablespoonful of coconut milk
a level tablespoonful of dried basil
a teaspoonful of turmeric
a squeeze of lemon
the dried bean mix needs to be soaked overnight. otherwise they don’t soften no matter how long they’re boiled. so many disasters with dried beans in general, i was beginning to give up. but. success! spectacular success! yay!
beans need to be boiled in unsalted water for at least 20 minutes. maybe more. lots of poking individual beans with a fork to check firmness is called for. i add the turmeric right before i start adding the veggies. i save the ginger, basil, salt and chile for the last, right before the coconut milk. then i turn the heat off and let everything stew in the residual warmth from the beans.
i like my ginger chewy and almost raw. i don’t peel it, but rather just sort of brush it vigorously under running water. i also don’t grate it finely so that it sort of disappears during the cooking process. i like the crunchy bits of rough chopped ginger in my food and i put it in almost everything i cook, always at the very end like a garnish. i’d put fresh coriander too, except they’re a hassle to store and clean.
i don’t eat salad. or raw foods. unless it’s poke or sashimi or something with smoked beets/salmon in. i don’t eat pasta either. i’ll have skinny rice noodles, but nothing made of durum. except. except tabouleh. so much minty goodness. i use bulgur wheat and couscous interchangeably when i tire of rice and miss wheat. who would’ve thought such a thing was possible? one misses the strangest things—concrete, wheat, furniture.
anyway so this is my couscous breakfast. and yeah, i could and have had this for all meals in a day and it never gets boring. which is what i like about it. apart from the fact that it requires zero effort. if only i could add little matchstick sized carrots or something to it to make it more meal-like and balanced still be sure that i’d like it. otherwise it’s just a lot of carbs with condiments thrown in. but i hate carrots and love this as it is. it’s such a challenge to find something half healthy i can make at home and will willingly eat.
1/8 of a cup of couscous (and however much water the package indicates)
3/4 oz of mint leaves
1/4 of a large red pepper
1 inch of ginger root
half a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
the juice of half a lemon
and that’s it. no parsley, onions, no endless chopping. just boil couscous with the olive oil added, let it rest, fluff it, and add the diced veggies in. it smells fresh and wonderful and makes you really full really quickly. this is good of at least two servings. if i could stick to a diet, i’d have this for brunch and lentil/bean soup for the rest of the day. except, i see a quiche a immediate want it. i think of sacher torte and immediately run to crepe heaven to get one. i stay on the arc trainer for half an hour and decide to reward myself with mambo chocolate love right after. true story. my arteries must hate me. i’m already feeling the hate from all muscle groups. maybe i can appease them by feeding myself lentil soups for the rest of the week.
1 cup water
1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric powder
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1/4 of a medium red pepper
1 small tomatillo (i think the tomatillo is my new favourite fruit, love the tartness and fresh hit)
1/2 a cup of storebought coleslaw mix (which is basically shredded cabbage, carrots and suchlike from a bag, without the dressing of course)
1/2 a cup of peas
1 inch of ginger
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 dried chile de arbol
1/2 a teaspoon of ghee
right. the aroma of this thing is unbelievable. needless to say, i ate it all before i thought to take a picture or record the recipe. the tomatillo i think really holds this together. but i’m not sure if i should call this soup. none of the usual diced onions, carrots and celery business here. but i think this tastes better than any of those kinds of soup. the coleslaw mix adds the bulk and crunch and makes a whole meal out of it.
wash lentils, add water and turmeric and bring to a boil. let simmer for 10 minutes. add garlic and peas. i use frozen peas, directly thrown into the pot without thawing, and i like them soft and buttery, hence their addition so early to the pot. after the water’s come to the boil again, the peppers, tomatillo, and coleslaw mix go in. at this point, i’ll whisk everything together and cover the pot, turning the flame down and wait till the lentils are almost done. say about 10-15 more minutes. i”l then add the ginger, and instead of doing a chhownk seperately, because i just can’t be arsed, i just splonk the frozen solid ghee at the centre of the bubbling goodness, wait for it to melt, and then add the cumin and crushed chile de arbol in the little pool of melted ghee. when the ghee too has heated through and started simmering and i can smell the cumin and chile cooking, i whisk the little pool of spice into the rest of the soup, salt the whole thing, and switch off the flame. unbelievable yumminess.
picture. leftover yumminess.
so clearly, the cauliflower is one of my star vegetables. i love baby corn and courgettes too, but more as a supporting cast. although the baby corn could very well be a star in its own right if one is in the mood for greasy cornflower-coated chilli baby corn done indian style with lots of square pieces of capsicum and enough green chillies to unclog all sinuses. i clearly remember my first chilli baby corn experience many many years ago when i was an ickle little thing who never ate out unless traveling, and even then only a very narrow selection of ‘travel food.’ we were staying at a guest house in salt lake, which at that time, for me, was a terribly confusing place with bad tasting water, and we needed to find some dinner. we stumbled across this little place, with seating for maybe ten, in what looked like somebody’s converted garage, but it smelled nice and looked clean, and promised quick service. and that’s where i first ordered this chilli baby corn dish, meant to be a substitute for chilli chicken, since i avoided eating non-veg meals out while traveling. it was glorious, and really, not too greasy at all. these little places that run out of garages and serve quick spicy sides and your basic calcutta noodles are the best finds ever. i remember being famished once after a long day out with mother, and eating the best noodles ever in a tiny non-descript alley in gariahat.
but i digress. the point is, baby corn is never a semi-hit. it’s easy to cook, and always tastes awesome. the zucchini/courgette has really just grown on me recently. but they’re unobtrusive in a mixed vegetable dish, and soak up the spices really well, and i also like them grilled as a side when eating out.
the challenge with cooking at home, for me, has been to find vegetables that go well together, and don’t come out tasting/smelling overly raw even when cooked. my biggest failures have been with carrots and green beans. they hardly ever come out the way i want them to. my favorite green bean, the chinese long bean, or the yardlong, i can never find in binghamton. :(
anyway, so recipe:
4 oz baby corn, halvedquarter of a small cauliflowerhalf a medium yellow courgettehalf a medium red onionquarter of a large capsicumone large tomato1 tablespoonful of canola oilhalf a teaspoonful of cayenne powderhalf a teaspoonful of turmeric powder1 heaped teaspoonful of 7-spice mix. this is a mixture of seven different seeds mixed in the same proportion to each other, or really, just panch phoron with a couple of additions. the one i have, mixed by mother, has fenugreek, fennel, nigella, cumin, coriander, radhuni and either celery seeds or jowan, i can’t tell which. or maybe they’re both present. in any case, just basic paanch phoron would probably work just as well i imagine.
this is good for about three servings with rice.
heat oil, add the seeds, let splutter. add onions, fry, cover. add baby corn and cauliflower, cover and let soften on low. add tomato, courgette, turmeric and cayenne powder, toss vigorously and cover. add capsicum last, with the ginger and salt, so that it stays green and doesn’t get too yellow with the turmeric. and that’s it.
this is inspired by a recipe from one of jamie’s thirty minute meals. the original calls for chickpeas and readymade rogan josh paste. and i think cream or yoghurt? maybe vegetable stock too, since it was a very wet curry. i didn’t use any of those. no garlic either. also, no water/stock. i did add the fennel bulb, however, and i was going to use baby corn and peas, but forgot. i was famished and just wanted lunch. as quickly as possible. so yeah, flashbang semi-hit.
quarter of a small cauliflower
cubed butternut squash, same volume as the cauliflower
one teaspoonful of cumin
three pods of cardamom
an inch of ginger
half a large red onion
a smallish bulb of fennel
half a red pepper
one tomato, quartered
half a teaspoon of turmeric
order in which things go into the pan: oil->cumin->onion->fennel->butternut squash->cauliflower->red peppers and tomato->turmeric->ginger->salt->cardamom, cinnamon and cloves->coriander leaves
notes to self: don’t cover and leave on low too long. cauliflower WILL fairly melt. don’t smash cardamom pods with face too close. a stray seed WILL jump and poke you in the eye. also, next time, add chillies. fennel cools the ginger heat.
mushrooms spoil quickly. i am always afraid of them going slimy in the fridge. not like i am picking them all fresh from the backyard myself. and i quite like mushrooms. i’d have them everyday, if i could. in any case, i make this when i am bored of the usual coconut milk-ginger-coriander curry type thing, and when i want to make something i can keep in the fridge and have either as stand alone quick bite, hot or cold. or when i just want to throw my mushrooms in some vinegar so they don’t spoil. this recipe is versatile. you could throw all the ingredients together with some super fragrant and very virgin olive or or sesame seed oil and chuck in the fridge overnight and have the whole thing on toast for brekker next morning with some freshly diced tomatoes, like a super yummy bruschetta, or you can add some salad leaves and have that for lunch, or heat it in a pan and have it over rice for dinner. or you can skip the overnight part, and cook everything and then stick it in the fridge for next day’s meal. in any case, this is basically a side best savoured a day stale.
5 oz sliced shiitake
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
5 oz baby corn
half a medium red pepper
1 medium red onion (red, because it makes the dish rich, dark, almost purple, like coq au vin.)
1 tablespoon of drained capers
2 inches of ginger
1 teaspoonful of cayenne powder (because i ran out of fresh/dried options. the no cook version should have something fresh or perhaps dried, but certainly not powdered.)
1 tablespoonful of honey (to counter the sourness of the vinegar and capers)
three sprigs of coriander OR basil
1 tablespoonful of assorted roasted seeds (or magoj beej, prepared by mother, supposed to stimulate the brain, has other mysterious and fabulous properties. suggested substitutions: roasted/toasted sesame seeds.)
the no cook method, i’ve already described. i however, never buy ‘salad’ leaves and stock my fridge with those. i might have baby spinach, but i’d rather have that cooked with tomatoes and herbed feta. i also never have lovely loaves of bread at home, at least during the semester, so i’m going to record the recipe that goes best with hot piping plain rice.
heat oil, sizzle cumin, add onions, cover and soften, but not too much. add mushrooms, and baby corn, toss, glaze with balsamic vinegar, cover. let the mushrooms wilt a little and reduce in volume. throw in the peppers, capers and ginger. sprinkle the salt and cayenne. toss and cover for a bit. switch heat off, add coriander and honey, toss well, transfer into serving/storing dish, and sprinkle the seeds. et viola. yummy in the fridge for days.
half a small zucchini
half a big leek, sliced in halfmoons (wegmans sells ginormous leeks with half a foot of unusable green leaves)
1 medium tomato
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
3 pods of cardamom
1 inch of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 sprig of coriander
1 teaspoon of extra virgin mustard oil
i start with hot oil and cumin for this. i used to always start with hot oil and onions and then add the cumin because i was afraid i’d burn the spice. not anymore. i think i add cumin and ginger to everything. also turmeric, because it makes everything look more… cooked, and golden yellow and cheering. for this recipe, i think using the really kancha shorsher tel kinda lends a lovely yellowness to everything, so i don’t miss the turmeric. it also makes everything acquire a little bit of a bite, so no peppers need to be added to supply some heat. so this is slightly different from the trusted cumin-coriander-ginger triad i use for fish and vegetables, often with a little bit of coconut milk and lots of bright peppers.
anyway, so i let the cumin sizzle in the oil a little bit, then add the leeks, garlic and zucchini (in that order), cover and let everything brown a little on low heat. i then add the diced tomato, and the rest of the spices—bruised cardamom, cloves and broken cinnamon, salt the whole thing and cover up again. at this point, the vegetables release a little pool of water that can act as the braising liquid. i like wet food, so i don’t bring the heat back on high and evaporate the juices. i just switch off the stove and add coriander. it’s really flash, bang and all done.
if you’re a stickler for not diminishing the nutritional value of vegetables, and like them squeaky or crunchy, you could just saute everything and add the salt after you’ve removed it from the heat. i just like my vegetables soft, and pliant and well-seasoned. through and through. my only concession is to salt everything at the end. i also try and cook small batches of food on very low heat, all covered. which still kills most of the good stuff in vegetables raw food enthusiasts rave about. but, considering the fact that i tend to eat out and eat tonnes and tonnes of atrociously unhealthy dessert, this is positively the zenith of healthiness for me. i’m thinking of investing in a powerful blender/smoothie maker for summer. i’ll just have yoghurt and pulped fruit for brekker lunch and dinner and give up on cooking altogether. wishful thinking, i suspect.
since i’m blogging again, i might as well write the recipe for this down here. i find that, with my limited culinary skillz, most vegetables tend to turn out quite unlike how i expect them to. even vegetables i like. i love green beans, but i can never get them just right. i really dislike squeaky beans, i do. even crunchy ones. so no green bean salad for me. ugh. but even the cauliflower sometimes fails me by taking either too long to soften and become delish in a torkaari, or charring to cinders when roasting in the oven.
the only veg dish i’ve consistently been able to get right is a sort of mushroom and baby corn brothed in coconut milk. i always use shiitake for this, because the one time i tried it with chanterelle, it didn’t quite turn out as well as i’d expected. but then i was using dried chanterelle. shiitake just feels meatier and more earthy, i think. i switch the other veggies around, and sometimes use red or rice wine vinegar instead of coconut milk. but with leeks, i think coconut milk really is the ticket, because of its sweetness, otherwise there’s a slight bitterness to the leeks that pervades the whole dish and somehow doesn’t quite make you feel full and replete. i’ve realised that zucchini and leeks go really well, but then you need to have them with either toast or some kind of bread, and not rice, which is my usual carb and more likely to be available in the kitchen rather than any wheaty thing. i have substituted leek for onions in the mushroom-baby corn recipe i started out with, but i hadn’t done all four together before today. today, they went really well together, and i’m going to keep making this over summer. nothing like a freshtastic hearty veg dish that makes one feel like spring and sunshine. :)
half a cup of sliced leek.
1/4 of a cup of sliced red pepper.
5 oz sliced shiitake.
a handful of baby corn, maybe 12? halved.
half of a small zucchini, sliced in half moons.
1 heaped teaspoonful of whole cumin.
half a teaspoon of turmeric.
about an inch and a half of ginger.
1 habanero pepper.
4 springs of coriander.
2 tablespoons of coconut milk.
the juice of half a lime.
i add the cumin to the hot oil first, and then very quickly, all the vegetables, except the shiitake. i let the leek, baby corn and zucchini soften a little, and then add the turmeric and cover up for a bit. then go the shiitake, salt, ginger and habenero. i don’t bother to deseed the habanero, just slit it down the middle, because too much handling just leaves my fingers with hours of afterburn. the salt makes everything wilt and cook through very quickly while releasing all the juices. i add the coconut milk at this point, cover and simmer on low for maybe 30 seconds, and then add the coriander and lime juice last. awesomesauce in a bowl with enough brothy goodness to go over plain rice.