Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Kerala Vegetable Strew

From Healthy Asian Vegetarian Dishes, Periplus Editions, 2003.
I am still cooking for myself so making dishes that last for at least a couple of days. I have had the ribollita, an Italian rich thick vegetable soup, so now I thought I would go for a spicy Asian stew.

The first task was to make a spicy paste. A tablespoon channa dal (split chickpeas) and a tablespoon urad dal (black lentils) were cooked in a tablespoon of heated olive oil until they began to brown. Now I added a chopped green chilli, 5 sliced garlic cloves, a tablespoon cumin seeds, ½ teaspoon turmeric and a good handful of desiccated coconut. These were all sautéed until the coconut had become a golden colour. The mixture was let cool, then placed in a blender with ½ cup water and zapped until it had become a thick puree.

Into a large saucepan now went about a cup of sliced cabbage, a sliced carrot, a cup of cauliflower broken into small pieces, ½ cup of green beans cut into sections, ½ cup peas and a teaspoon salt. A cup of water was added as well as the pureed spice mix. The vegetables were cooked for about 15 minutes.
When the cooking time was nearly up a tablespoon of ghee was melted in a pan and ½ teaspoon cumin seeds and ½ teaspoon yellow mustard seeds were added with about 6 curry leaves. When the mustard seeds started popping the mixture was poured into the vegetables  which were simmered for another few minutes.
I should have eaten this with rice but settled for slices of toasted sourdough bread which went well with it, though not as well as rice would have.
This served me for an enjoyable two meals. I do enjoy spicy foods and this was really well flavoured with spices, perhaps overpowering the flavour of the vegetables a little.
Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Creamed Spinach Pâté

From Vegetarian Cooking, The Australian Women’s Weekly Home Library, ACP Publishing, 1992.
I saw English spinach in the greengrocer’s and bought a bunch on the spur of the moment. Then I set out to look for what to do with it

After it was all washed, I cut all of the leaf ends off the root section and cut them roughly into pieces. These went into a saucepan with a very small amount of water and ½ vegetable stock cube. I grated fresh nutmeg on top and then turned up the heat under the saucepan to bring it all to the boil. The heat was then reduced to a simmer and the spinach cooked for about 20 minutes until all the moisture had evaporated.

While the spinach was cooking I chopped ½ onion and one garlic clove. These were sautéed in butter until soft.
Now I took ½ teaspoon cornflour and a teaspoon of water, mixed them together and stirred them into the spinach until it had thickened. The heat was turned off and the onion mix went in with about 2 tablespoons cream. The mixture now went into the blender and was pureed. It was spooned into a ramekin and placed in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
I served it on toasted sourdough bread. It had a strong savoury taste somewhat different from the spinachy flavour I had expected. This was due no doubt to the use of the stock cube. A useful and different dip-type dish.
Two days later I was making a fettucini dish with peas and green beans and wanted a pesto to go with it. I took the remainder of the pâté, added a little olive oil with some basil and gave it a burst in the blender. It made a very useful pesto.
Taste: ✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔✔

Thursday, 2 January 2014


From Tuscany, Phaidon Press, 2010.
This recipe comes from the area around Siena in Italy. I remember the last time I visited Siena with part wonder and part anxiety for we had taken over long admiring the wonderful cathedral and only had a few minutes left to catch our tour bus or be left behind. In the hurry to reach the bus stop we took a wrong turn and became totally lost. Thank goodness for maps on the iPad. With the map and by running up endless steps we managed to arrive just in time.

I soaked 250g haricot beans overnight to be ready to go ahead making the ribollita. The next day they were drained and placed in a pot of water to cook for about 40 minutes.
While the beans were cooking I prepared the vegetables. I chopped ½ onion, a celery stick and 2 carrots. I diced a potato. I sliced 2 zucchini. These all went into a large saucepan in which 2 tablespoons of olive oil had been heated. They were now let cook for half an hour at a very low heat. They were stirred every so often.

I now sliced a couple of leaves of rainbow chard, a couple of leaves of cavolo nero and about ¼ of a Savoy cabbage. These went into the vegetable mix with a little salt.  They were stirred to mix everything, the lid went on and they were cooked for a couple more minutes.
The beans were drained and the liquid saved. Half of the beans were pressed through a sieve and the bean puree was stirred into the cooking vegetables. The saved liquid was also added. The vegetables were now simmered for another hour.

It was now time to add the remaining beans together with a good handful of chopped parsley. The mixture was simmered for another hour. Salt and freshly ground black pepper were added to taste and the soup/stew was ready to serve.
In the serving bowl I laid a slice of toasted sourdough bread. The soup was ladled over this, then another slice of toast and a further ladle of soup. Olive oil was dribbled over. It was let stand for a minute or two to let the bread soften and it was ready to eat.
There was a lot of cooking time involved in this but it was worth it for the flavours of the vegetables seem to intensify. Added to this you have the taste of the toast. It was richly satisfying, comforting food. And, the next day when it was finished off, it was even better.
Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔