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

 

_______________________

 

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!

 

_______________________

 

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!)

_______________________

Advertisements

The best carrot soup ever!

IMG_7751

 Farmers’ market finds

 

Creamy. Gently spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon. Cooled with a hint of mint. Fired up with some spicy, garlicky rose harissa. – In short, the best carrot soup ever! 

The basic carrot soup recipes comes from the 1977 edition of ‘Mousewood Cookbook’ via Slashfood. I increased the amount of spices, and added the rose harissa and the cheese. Also, I used a mixture of butter and olive oil to cook the onions, because I really like the flavour of this combination. But it’s the harissa that’s the star of the show. It really does transfer the soup to another dimension and gives it soul! Gutsy, interesting, inviting soul. It makes it hot, garlicky, moreish. Rather funky for a carrot soup! I loved it!

Here is something you could do if you don’t have the harissa (I used the Belazu brand.). It’s basically a simple tarka or bhagar with garlic and chilies. Heat some oil and add dried red chilies. Fry for a 10 – 15 second, but be careful not to burn the chilies. Then add the chopped garlic. Remove from the heat and let sizzle. Stir into the soup. – Although it doesn’t reach the complexity of the flavour of a good quality rose harissa, the chili and garlic really do take the soup to an entirely different level.

I found this great website about British carrots. Check it out for some fantastic carrot recipes and fascinating facts.

This is my entry for Eating with the Seasons: DECEMBER. Join me and send me your seasonal recipes by 15 December!

These days, I have very little time to cook, or to take photographs. Or live for that matter! I miss my blog and reading other blogs… A couple of more weeks and I should be back to normal… Fingers crossed.

UPDATE 15/12/2008: I made it with pumkin tonight (and milk instead of yoghurt). It was lovely and creamy. It worked great, too!

And now the famous soup:  

 

________________________________________

Creamy carrot soup with rose

 harissa

 

SOURCE: the basic carrot soup recipe is from ‘Mousewood Cookbook’ (1977), via

Slashfood

PREPARATION TIME:10 – 15 min

COOKING TIME: 30 – 40 min

CUISINE: ?

SERVES: 2 (generously)

 

INGREDIENTS:

0.5 kg carrots, peeled and chopped

water

chicken or vegetable stock

1/2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tbsp butter

1/2 large yellow onion

3 small cloves of garlic

a small handful of almonds and cashews

1/4 tsp nutmeg (freshly ground if possible)

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 tsp dried mint

75 ml single cream (or less, according to taste)*

2 tsp rose harissa

salt and pepper

a handful of grated cheese (I used Double Gloucester)

 

METHOD:

I. Cover the carrots with water and  stock and boil until tender.

II. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and butter in a pan, then add the onion and a pinch of  salt. (The salt will draw out the moisture from the onion and make it cook more quickly). Add chopped garlic and nuts and saute until the onion is soft. When the onion is soft, add nutmeg and cinnamon. Stir and cook for 5 – 10 seconds to give time to the spices to release their flavours. Stir in the mint.

III. Put the onion mixture and carrots into the food processor and blend until smooth. (It’s easier to blend if you retain some cooking water and add it to the soup later on as necessary.)

IV. Return the vegetable puree to the pan, add cream and check for salt. Add water to achieve desired consistency. Stir in the rose harissa and the black pepper and heat through.

V. Fold in some cheese into the soup, and sprinkle the rest on top. Add another pinch of freshly ground black pepper and serve. Enjoy! 

Serves two generously for a hearty lunch or dinner.

 

 

Verdict

This is the best soup I’ve ever made, and one of the best ones I’ve ever had. How’s that for a verdict? 🙂

 

NOTES

*You can also use milk instead of cream. The soup is already rather rich because of the addition of nuts and cheese.

The soup lends itself to lots of variations. For example, you can use different types of nuts to add richness. Different dairy products instead of cream. You can also play with different spice combinations.

Also, I really like the idea of adding a tarka to perk up the flavours of soups! 

________________________________________

 

Other soups at Maninas:

Dalmatian fish soup

Fragrant and aromatic salmon soup with noodles

________________________________________

 

The Best of Aubergines: Italian Parmigiana

Sicilian dish parmigiana is one of my favourite dishes, if not the favourite dish, starring one of my favourite  vegetables – the aubergine! With its layers of soft, smoky aubergine that melts in the mouth, slices of mozzarella and tomato sauce, parmigiana is an absolute star dish! Simple, yet stunning, and showcasing the best of the seasonal ingredients, this is my entry for Eating with the Seasons: September. I know, I know, I’ve already cooked with aubergine for Eating with the Seasons, but hey – aubergine is in season! 😀

My parmigiana is very simple, with few ingredients, and this is just the way I like it. I grill my aubergines (hence the smokiness from the previous paragraph), rather than fry them, which is traditional; I use a simple tomato sauce, with a touch of fresh basil. That’s it. That’s my secret. Not that you need many secrets with a combination of flavours as perfect as this.

 

Parmigiana with

 

Aubergines

 

SOURCE: Can’t remember. My variation of a few versions

PREPARATION TIME: 5 – 10 min

COOKING TIME: about 1 h

CUISINE: Italian (Sicilian)

SERVES: 3 – 4

 

INGREDIENTS:

I. For grilled aubergines

1 large aubergine

a little olive oil

salt and pepper

II. For the tomato sauce

a little olive oil

1/2 yellow onion

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 tin tomatoes (I like the Napolina brand), or 400 g fresh tomatoes

a pinch of sugar

a handful of fresh basil

III. Cheese

1 packet of mozzarella, sliced

some grated parmesan for topping

 

IMG_6683

 

METHOD:

I. Grilled Aubergines

  • Cut the aubergines into either round slices, or diagonally. (Round is prettier!)
  • Season with salt and pepper and brush with olive oil. Try and use a brush here. It really makes your life easier, and the aubergines drink up less oil.
  • Grill the aubergine slices until soft and golden on both sides.

II. Tomato sauce

  • While the aubergines are cooking on the grill, gently cook the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft and translucent. (I sometimes skip the onion, and use only garlic)
  • Add the tomatoes, a small pinch of sugar and the seasoning, and cook for 5 – 10 min for a fresh-tasting tomato sauce, or longer if you prefer a richer tomatoey flavour.
  • Just before assembling the dish, put in a handful of fresh basil into the sauce and stir.

III. Assembling the dish

  • Put a layer of grilled aubergines at the bottom of a heatproof dish, top with mozzarella, and then tomato sauce. (I use an oval ceramic Le Creuset 24 cm baking dish for this purpose, which has the capacity of 1.1l.) Continue like this until you run out of aubergines, finishing off with a layer of mozzarella, sprinkled with parmesan on top.
  • Bake on 200 C or so for about 20 – 30 min, or until the top is nicely golden, and the cheese melted.

Serve with a salad and some garlic bread to mop up the juices.  

_________________________________________________

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.

Indian Aubergine Pate – Baigan Bharta  

_________________________________________________

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.

_________________________________________________

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.

_________________________________________________

%d bloggers like this: