Sri Lankan-style chickpeas for Lisa

I’ve created this dish especially for a blogging event run by a one of my favourite bloggers, Lisa from Lisa’s Kitchen. The event is No Croutons Required, and the this month’s topic is chickpeas. I really wanted to take part, partly because I haven’t in ages, and partly because I really love chickpeas myself. After a bit of thought, I decided to adapt one of my favourite veggie Sri Lankan recipe, varar, adding caramelised shallots, coriander and lemon juice. The result is a gorgeous warm salad of chickpeas flavoured with caramelised shallots, curry leaves, coconut and lemon juice that goes great with many Indian and Sri Lankan dishes, and it’s also delicious on its own as a snack. I love it. I hope Lisa will like it, too.

A note on chickpeas. I really notice a difference in flavour between tinned and dried chickpeas, and for me, this is one instance when it’s worth taking the time to soak and cook the chickpeas. They’re so much nicer like that! I can even eat them as popcorns after they’ve just been cooked – they really are delicious. But if you really really can’t be bothered, then next time you’re in your favourite Asian supermarket, pick up a tin of East End brand of chickpeas. They’re the tastiest ones I’ve found. Still, for hummus and falafel, I’d soak and cook my own chickpeas.

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Sri-Lankan-style chickpeas

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Sri-Lankan-style chickpeas salad

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SOURCE:  Inspired by Jasmine’s varar

PREPARATION TIME: 2 min, if the chickpeas are ready

COOKING TIME: 5 – 10 min, again, if you’re not soaking your own chickpeas

CUISINE: Sri Lankan

SERVES: 1 as a salad, 2 as a small side dish

 

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INGREDIENTS:

a little vegetable oil

2 medium shallots, halved and then sliced thinly

1 green finger chilli 

a small handful of (preferably fresh) curry leaves

a little salt

1 tsp tempering spices (a mixture of brown/black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds – see Sri Lankan spices for recipe)

a pinch of turmeric

1 cup of chickpeas (cooked, or tinned)

a handful of desiccated  coconut

fresh lime juice to taste

1 heaped tsp chopped coriander leaves

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METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a wok (or frying pan) and add the shallots and the chili. When the shallots start going brown, throw in the curry leaves and a little salt. Stir and cook until the shallots are completely caramelised. Then, remove half of the mixture and set aside. (This will be sprinkled on top when the dish is done).
  • Return the pan to the heat, and add the tempering spices and turmeric. Stir.
  • Add the chickpeas to the pan, and a couple of tbs of water (or chickpeas soaking water), and warm the chickpeas through. Then in goes the coconut and a pinch of salt. Stir it and cook for 30 s, again until it’s warmed through.
  • Just before serving, add lemon or lime juice, chopped coriander and some more salt if needed. Sprinkle with the remaining shallots and serve. Enjoy!

 

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More Sri Lankan food at Maninas:

 

The aroma of curry leaves: Sri Lankan cooking (Introduction)

Sri Lankan spices (including recipes for Sri Lankan garam masala, curry powder and more!)

Varar – Sri Lankan cabbage and leek with coconut (V)

Sri Lankan coconut dhal (V)

Sri Lankan Pineapple Curry (V)

Sri Lankan Fish Curry (Meen Kulambu)

Sri Lankan Fish Cutlets

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And more chickpeas recipes:

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)

Chana Masala (V) for RCI Punjab

Chana masala from scratch (V) – No shop bought spice mixes!

 

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MLLA21Logo

I’m also submitting this post to to MLLA-21 hosted by Mirch Masala, and started by Susan, The Well Seasoned Cook.

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Varar – Sri Lankan cabbage and leek with coconut

This gorgeous Sri Lankan vegetable side dish is the dish that made me love both leek and cabbage! It magically transforms the everyday common leek and cabbage a real star of a dish. The vegetables are gently stir-fried with onion, chilies and curry leaves, tossed with fresh or desiccated grated coconut, and livened up with a squeeze of lime. Quick to make and utterly delicious! I love it!

Any green veg can be used in this dish (e.g. spring onion, baby leek, other types of cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower), except for spinach and pak choi and other vegetables with high water content. This dish goes really well with fish, or with coconut dal (recipe coming soon) for a vegetarian version.

Even if you can’t find curry leaves, it’s worth giving this dish a go as the flavour combinations are so good. Enjoy!

This my entry for the Eating with the Seasons: January

 

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Varar – Sri Lankan cabbage and

leek with coconut

 

SOURCEJasmine’s recipe

PREPARATION TIME: 10 – 15 min

COOKING TIME: 5 – 10 min

CUISINE: Sri Lankan

SERVES: 3 – 4 as a side dish

 

INGREDIENTS:

a little vegetable oil

1/2 medium to large yellow onion, finely chopped

2 – 3 green chilies (Jasmine uses finger chilies)

a handful of (preferably fresh) curry leaves

a little salt

1 tsp tempering spices (a mixture of brown/black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds – see Sri Lankan spices for recipe)

a pinch of turmeric

2 medium leeks, shredded finely

a handful of desiccated  coconut

fresh lime juice to taste

1/2 medium cabbage, shredded finely

 

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a wok (or frying pan) and add onion, chilies curry leaves and a little salt. Stir and cook until the onion is soft.
  • Now add the tempering spices and turmeric. Stir.
  • Add cabbage and leek and stir for a few minutes, until the cabbage is slightly soft but still crunchy. Do not overcook the vegetables! That’s the secret behind this dish.
  • When the veg is done, add desiccated coconut and stir for a minute or so.
  • Just before serving, add lime juice and some salt if needed. Enjoy!

 

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My other posts on Sri Lankan cooking:

The aroma of curry leaves. Sri Lankan cooking (Introduction)

Sri Lankan spices (including recipes for Sri Lankan garam masala, curry powder and more!)

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RCI Hyderabad: Hyderabadi Mint & Coriander Chutney

It’s been a while since I had time to take part in what is probably my favourite event – Regional Cuisines of India (RCI), the blogging event started by Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine, to celebrate the rich and diverse cuisines of India. This month I’m back, and exploring the cuisine of the princely state of Hyderabad. Our host this month is Mona, from Zaiqa.

Mona has a whole host of mouthwatering Hyderabadi recipes on her blog, and many of them caught my eye. One of them inspired me to create this lovely chutney, based on a treasured family recipe that Mona’s grandma used to make. I kept the ingredients the same as Mona’s, apart from substituting Thai red chilies for green chilies only. I also adjusted the quantities of tamarind to suit our taste, and the fact that I was using concentrate: I reduced it, otherwise it would have killed off all the other flavours. Also, my curry leaves were tiny, so I added a few more to give them a more prominent role in the chutney. All of this really shows how it’s necessary to work with the ingredients at hand, taste them to get to know them, and adjust the quantities accordingly.

 

Coriander and Mint Chutney 

(Hara Dhaniya aur Pudine Ki Chutney)

 

SOURCE: adapted from Mona’s recipe at Zaiqa

PREPARATION TIME:10 – 15 min

COOKING TIME: 2 – 3 min

CUISINE: Indian – Hyderabadi

SERVES: 2

 

Ingredients:

1/4 – 1/2 cup desiccated coconut

1 tbsp sesame seeds

a little groundnut oil

1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves, washed and dried, roughly chopped along with the tender stems

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves – 1 cup, washed and dried on paper towels, roughly chopped, only leaves

4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

6 green finger chilies, washed and roughly chopped (or fewer, according to taste)

8 – 10 fresh curry leaves

1/2 tsp tamarind concentrate

Salt to taste

 

Method:

  • Heat the oil on medium high heat, and as it warms up, add the shredded coconut and the sesame seeds, and roast them both together till light brown and aromatic. Let it cool. Keep aside.
  • Put the coriander leaves, mint leaves, garlic pods, red and green chillies, curry leaves, tamarind pulp, sesame seeds, shredded coconut and salt in a blender, and blend it till nice and smooth. You can add about half cup of water to aid in the blending if needed.

 

Notes

Tamarind is very strong-tasting and it can overpower other flavours. It’s best to add it cautiously.

The chutney keeps well in the fridge for up to a week. However, with time, all flavours fade, except for (you’ll guess) tamarind. You’ve been warned!

I served this with a fragrant and simple Hyderabadi tomato-based chicken curry (Hyderabadi Murgh Tamatar), which worked really well and perked up the dish considerably.

 

Verdict

Fragrant and tasty chutney, with vibrant, clean spicy notes of the green chilies. Enjoyed it, & will make again!

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.

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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.

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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.

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Craving vitamins: Chinese-style vegetable stir-fry with sushi ginger

I’ve been ill for a few days. It’s the boring old common cold – a nuisance really. As a consequence, I’ve had a huge craving for vegetables, crisp and fresh, and full of vitamins, and spices to give me a fix of energy. My body was yearning for something Indian or Chinese, but one look into my fridge decided the match: it was to be Chinese. A spicy, nutritious, aromatic and healing vegetable stir fry. 5-spice powder gave it a bit of warmth, and I like a sour tang in my stir-fries, so some rice vinegar took care of that! I added loads of garlic (I have a cold, people!), and sprinkled some sushi ginger on top – Delicious!

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Chinese-style Vegetable Stir-fry with Sushi Ginger

 

SOURCE: My own recipe

PREPARATION TIME: 5 min

COOKING TIME: 5 – 10 min

CUISINE: Chinese-inspired

SERVES: 1 – 2

INGREDIENTS: 

groundnut oil

3 cloves of garlic

2 red chilies (small & spicy!)

1/2 large carrot, cut into sticks

a handful of broccoli florets

broccoli stem cut into sticks

3 chestnut mushrooms

a handful of bean sprouts

a few slices of sushi ginger

1/2 mug basmati rice

Sauce:

oyster sauce (or replace with a vegetarian variety)

sesame oil

1 tsp ketchup manis (Sweet Indonesian soy sauce – can be substituted with soy sauce and sugar)

2 tsp rice vinegar

a generous dash of 5-spice powder

dark soy sauce

a few drops of Thai fish sauce (optional)

METHOD:

1. Prepare all the ingredients. This is essential, because everything cooks really quickly and you don’t have time to chop the veg as you go. Put the rice to cook. When it boils, start preparing the stir fry.

2. Heat some groundnut oil in the wok. Add chilies and garlic and fry for a few minutes (add fresh ginger if you have some now, too – I didn’t have any).

3. Add carrots and broccoli. Fry for a few minutes and add mushrooms. Then add broccoli stem. (I learnt this trick off Barbara: peeled broccoli stem has a wonderful tender structure and mild flavour, and is great in stir-fries. Of course, the choice of vegetables really depends on the content of your freezer! 🙂) The vegetables should soften slightly, but not too much – they should still be quite crisp.

4. Add the sauce and cook through. Serve with basmati, and sprinkle with sushi ginger.

Inhale deeply. It sure smells delicious! And it is delicious.

Notes

Don’t worry if you don’t have ketchup manis – just use soy sauce and add a bit of sugar.

You’ll notice I don’t add salt to stir-fries. This is because soy sauce and oyster sauce add enough saltiness to the dish.

As for the amounts – use your instincts and your preferences.

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