Cooking a hated vegetable dangerously

 

Image: Wikipedia Commons

 

Cooking a hated vegetable dangerously. This is what the Significant Someone would say if he saw me now. But my policy is: the one who is not here doesn’t get a say in what’s for dinner. So I do it my way. Or rather Madhur’s way. Dangerously cooking a plum purple aubergine on an open gas fire! Praying I don’t burn the house down (I suddenly remember that I was born a Catholic). Making baigan bharta, the Punjabi dish of aubergines, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, onions and chilies. Flavoured with a generous sprinkle of coriander. Yum!

Apart from the danger element, simplicity is the name of the game. Simple spicing and flavour, but utterly delectable results. This is my second try at it. I’ve got to admit that I didn’t have the nerve to cook it properly the first time around. Yes, I copped out, and baked it in the oven on high heat. And that was fine, but it didn’t have that characteristic charred taste. Still very nice, if you don’t have a gas hob.

And the danger? It really is not half as bad as it sounds. The first time I cooked this, I watched it like a hawk, but after I realised I wasn’t going to burn my home down, I relaxed. Still, be watchful and careful if you cook it on the gas hob.

This is my entry for my event Eating with the Seasons – July. Aubergines are in season in Britain at the moment. Enjoy them!

Beautiful flower, isn’t it.

Image: Aubergine flower (Wikipedia Commons)

 

Baigan BhartaIndian Aubergine Pate

SOURCE: Madhur Jaffrey’s ‘Flavours of India’, my wording

PREPARATION TIME: 5 min

COOKING TIME: about 20 – 30 min

CUISINE: Indian (Punjabi)

SERVES: 3 – 4 as a side dish

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 aubergine

1 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 medium onion

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 cm peeled and finely grated fresh ginger

3 green chilies

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I tend to leave it out)

1/2 can plum tomatoes

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

3 – 4 tbsp finely chopped coriander

 

METHOD: 

1. Wash your aubergine and wipe it clean. Remove the stem, and prick it with a knife a few times. Now this step is vital. If you fail to do this, you may have a hot and dangerous aubergine bomb exploding all over your kitchen!

2. Place the aubergine on top of a burning gas flame, and cook moving around until charred. Or simply bake it in the oven until soft to touch. Leave to cool, and then peel.

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in the pan until it starts sizzling when you dip a wooden spoon into it. Then throw in the cumin seeds. Let them sizzle for a few seconds, and when they’ve released their lovely warm aroma, add the onions.

4. When they turn golden, add the garlic, ginger and green chilies. Fry for two minutes until the ginger and garlic mellow a little.

5. Add the tomatoes and cayenne if using it, and season with salt. Cook the tarka (the tomato and onion mixture here) until it becomes shiny dark orange and the oil starts oozing out.

6. Now add the chopped aubergine and cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables come together. You can do this for a bit longer if you wish.

7. Add the fresh coriander, stir and remove from heat.

I sometimes add a touch of garam masala at the end.

Serve it with any Indian meal, or even as a dip at parties, or a delicious spread on crusty bread.

_________________________________________________

Verdict

This is a lovely way of cooking aubergine. Fragrant, and rather fresh tasting. Mildly spiced, so that the flavour of vegetables really come into their own.

_________________________________________________

 

Other aubergine recipes at Maninas:

Ajvar – aubergine and red pepper relish  V

This lovely relish is probably the most popular condiment of the former Yugoslavia.

_________________________________________________

Chana Masala & Rajma – From Scratch!

As promised, here is the recipe for my chana masala (chickpeas curry) and rajma (red kidney beans), made entirely from scratch!

As I said, I was loosely inspired by the ingredients list on the MDH chana masala box (I’ve long stopped using it though). The basis of the dish is made of browned red onions, garlic, ginger and green chili, spiced with a combination of whole and powdered spices. I’ve read somewhere that the difference between whole and powdered spices is like the difference between high and low notes: think high notes when using whole, and low when using powdered spices. Of course, quantities matter, too. The coriander stand out a little, as I’ve added 1 1/2 tsp of it. That’s how I like it. The dish is finished off with a sprinkle of garam masala to round the flavours, and some amchoor to add the sour tones that I’m so addicted to, and to heighten the other flavours.

(The photos are of rajma only, though!

Rajma

Rajma – Punjabi Red Kidney Bean curry

 

Spice Tip – Coriander powder

Coriander powder does not burn easily. You can add it first among the powdered spices.

Techniques – Slicing onions

This is how I like slicing my onions. They look gorgeous when cooking, and cook rather evenly; another advantage is that I find it quicker than chopping onions as it takes no time to do it. Also, it does need a chopping board!

Take the sharpest small knife that you’ve got. Of course, you can use a bigger one, but it’s easier to use a small one. Also, the sharper, the better! Peel the onion, and cut it half, removing the hard end at the top where the little moustache used to be. Now, start slicing the onion thinly, creating thin semicircles of onion rings. That’s it!

Techniques – FRYING ONIONS to make Indian food

See this web page: Cooking Indian: How to fry onions.

Rajma

Chana Masala Perfected

 

SOURCE: ingredients loosely based on MDH chana masala box

PREPARATION TIME: 5 min

COOKING TIME: 45 min

CUISINE: North Indian – Punjabi

SERVES: 2 (as a main, 3 – 4 as a part of an Indian meal)

 

ingredients

2 medium red onions, sliced

1 1/2 tbsp ghee

 

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

3 – 4 cm ginger, peeled and chopped

3 – 4 green chilies

 

1 bay leaf

3/4 tsp cumin seeds

 

2 green cardamoms, slightly crushed

a pinch of fenugreek seeds (about 1/2 tsp)

4 – 5 cm cassia bark

 

1 1/2 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 – 3/4 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cumin

3/4 tsp chili powder

 

1/2 can tomatoes

a pinch of sugar (optional; I use it to tame the sourness of the tomato)

 

1 can chickpeas, or the equivalent amount of dried, soaked and cooked chickpeas

 

1/2 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp amchoor (dried mango powder)

1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped

 

method 

1. Heat the ghee to high medium heat, and add bay leat and cumin to it. Fry the onions, until they start to brown, following  the instructions here. (This is important; please take some time to read the instructions.)

2. When the onions start turning dark brown/purple, add garlic, ginger and chilies. Now add cardamoms, fenugreek and cassia bark. Fry further until the onions are dark brown, taking care not to burn them.

3. Now it’s time to add the powdered spices: add the coriander first and fry for a few seconds, then add the paprika, turmeric, cumin and chili. Fry for another 10 – 15 seconds.

4. Stir in the tomatoes and a pinch of sugar (optional). Cook until the mixture is thickened, preferably until the oil starts oozing at the top, which normally takes 10 – 15 min. This will  give it the best flavour.

5. Add the chickpeas, and cook for another 10 min.

6. Just before serving, stir in the garam masala, amchoor and coriander leaves. Serve with rice. Enjoy!

 

Verdict

I think I can now throw the MDH masala away! :D This is so much better! Especially when made with dried and soaked chickpeas, whose flavour is absolutely superior to the canned ones!

 

To Make Rajma

 Use the same quantity of rajma (red kidney beans) instead of the chickpeas.

IMG_8432-1

___________________________________________________________

Others’ chana masala recipes: Nabeela’s Chana Masala without the shop bought spice mixChana masala from Lisa’s KitchenHow to make your own chana masala powderMahanandi’s Chana MasalaMeena’s Chana Masala, and a lesson on legumesAnother Meena’s Chana Masala, garnished with a funny storyBarbara’s Chana Masala Sailu’s Chole Masala with PuriAnita’s Punjabi Chhole_____________________________________________________

Other recipes with chick peas at Maninas: My version of Catalan chick peas with tomatoes and almonds . VThis is a must-try, with its delicious flavours of saffron, garlic, tomatoes, almonds and coriander!My Moroccan-inspired chickpeas  VChana Masala for RCI Punjab ______________________________________________________

 

 

Chana Masala

In a previous post I spoke about my food being connected to people I know, and the places I’ve been to. This is true for this Chana Masala, too. I ‘inheritted’ a box of chana masala spice mix of my friend Mary. Mary is an American artist embroiderer whom I had a pleasure to meet in Oxford, UK; her work and musings on art can be found in her blog Stabbed. Now Mary is not only responsible for introducing this masala into my kitchen, but she is also the person who encouraged me to start blogging. I’d been reading other blogs for a while, and toying with the idea, but it was Mary who swayed me in this direction. I guess all of this is her fault, he he!

Chana Masala or Chole Masala is a North Indian dish, especially popular in the Punjab region. It’s main ingredient is chana, or chickpeas, which is cooked with onions, garlic, chilies, ginger and tomatoes; and spiced with turmeric, coriander, garam masala and dried mango powder; it is also possible to buy ready-made spice mix. Chana masala is normally eaten with roti (chapati) or rice, and yogurt. In India, it is often accompanied with bhatura, or chole bhature , a type of fried bread.

To find out more about Punjabi cuisine, check Richa’s excellent post at As Dear As Salt. The post is a part of the Regional Cuisines of India (RCI) blogging event, which is hosted by Richa this month, and the theme is Punjabi cuisine. RCI was started by Lakshmi, to celebrate the rich and diverse cuisines of India, and is hosted by a different blogger each month. I think this event is a fantastic idea, because not only does it encourage us to explore the many varieties of regional Indian food, but the round-ups also provide excellent resources of information and recipes! Here is the list of events yet to come, and here is the list of the RCIs held up to date:

APRILTamil cuisineIntroduction & Round-up at Veggie Cuisine

MAY – Andhra cuisineIntroduction & Round-up at Masala Magic

JUNE – Maharastrian cuisineIntroduction & Round-up Part One (snacks and light meals, street food, and rustic ), Two (complete meals or jevan; spice mixes or masale; powders, chutneys or pickles; salads; dried or curried vegetables, beverages)  and Three (dals and beans, eggs and meat; breads; rice dishes; sweets) at One Hot Stove

JULY – Punjabi cuisine –  Introduction & Round-up at As Dear As Salt

[cooltext49334985.gif]

Next month, RCI is featuring Oriya cuisine, hosted by Swapna.  (For more information on Oriya cuisine, look at Wikipedia, 123Orissa and Orissa Diary.)

This month, I’m also joining in in the exploration of regional Indian cuisine, and I’m submitting this post to Richa. If you’d alo like to take part, check this website for Punjabi recipes and inspiration!

Do try and make this delicious North Indian dish! If you don’t have the masala, you can still make this! Scroll down for a list of link to recipes that don’t use the masala.

I have no camera today, so there is no photo – for now. I’ll take a picture next time I make it, and upload it here.

 

Update 16 October 2007

Here is a photo of chana masala! Since this post, I made it a few times. One time, I added slices of fresh tomato to the cooked dish, which made it wonderfully fresh and tomatoy!

_________________________

 

 IMG_6478

Chana Masala

 

SOURCE: adapted from the recipe at the back of the MDH chana masala box

PREPARATION TIME: Less than 5 min

COOKING TIME: about 30 min

CUISINE: North Indian (Punjabi)

 

INGREDIENTS

ghee or vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

1 clove of garlic

2 green chilies

2 cm ginger

3 chopped tomatoes

1 can chick peas

20 g chana masala (I used MDH brand)

a little paprika

a pinch of cumin

 

METHOD

1. Fry the onions until they start turning golden. Then add garlic, chilies and ginger, and continue frying until the onions are brown.

2. Add tomatoes, the masala, and the other spices. Cook for a few minutes, and then add chickpeas. Cook for a further 10 min.

3. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve with rice and yogurt. Say yuuuuuum!

  IMG_6486_thumb1[4]

______________________________

 

Verdict:

This dish was delicious, and very easy to make. I shall definitely be making it again! Thank you, Mary!

I served it with my first attempt at making chapati, which is nothing to write about! I shall have to work on perfecting my chapati technique (a lot), and then I’ll share it with you!

 

_________________________

 

Other chana masala recipes:

Nabeela’s Chana Masala without the shop bought spice mix

Chana masala from Lisa’s Kitchen

How to make your own chana masala powder

Mahanandi’s Chana Masala

Meena’s Chana Masala, and a lesson on legumes

Another Meena’s Chana Masala, garnished with a funny story

Barbara’s Channa Masala

Sailu’s Chole Masala with Puri

Anita’s Punjabi Chhole

_________________________

 

 Other recipes with chick peas at Maninas:

My version of Catalan chick peas with tomatoes and almonds . V

This is a must-try, with its delicious flavours of saffron, garlic, tomatoes, almonds and coriander!

My Moroccan-inspired chickpeas  V

_________________________

 

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 

del.icio.us Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,