Patty Pan and the Sicilian Aubergine Mystery

Like many cooks I fear, I do have a habit of lighting upon something that looks very interesting, buying it in a fit of enthusiasm and then forgetting all about it until the fridge thins out and reveals all.

This usually coincides of course with an absence of a few days, and returning home after all the shops have shut!  Thus it was yesterday, and my fresh supplies were running low.  Low enough to reveal though some delicious, albeit unusual combinations to try.  I had been given a few days earlier a Yellow Patty Pan squash and my enthused purchase had been a  wonderful globular Sicilian Aubergine, resplendent in pinkish purple and white.

Sicilian Aubergines

Sicilian Aubergines (Photo credit: designwallah)

To this I thought I had little enough to add, but some rooting about found a few organic supplies still unconsumed.  A carrot, some fresh ginger, a solitary green bean from the allotment, some smoked garlic and a tin of chopped Italian tomatoes along with a packet of Mozzarella.

I am, I freely confess, an Organic produce aficionado.  It may be more expensive (but not always) It may look sometimes a bit misshapen and irregular  (well so do I and what the heck!)

I waste very little of my produce purchases, in fact anything in the way of off-cuts is always destined for the compost anyway so you could say what goes around comes around, as the late, great Bob Marley said!

Anyway, enough prattling and on to the important stuff, FOOD!

Ingredients for 4 hungry people:

One Sicilian Aubergine, topped and then quartered longways and then into further 10 mm slices;  one Patty Pan Squash, topped and tailed, then cut in half across ways and the seeds scooped out, then into 20 mm slices;  one carrot;  2″ fresh ginger peeled;  one green runner bean, cut into 20 mm diagonal chunks;  smoked garlic, 2 fat cloves, just crushed;   1 x 400 ml tin Italian chopped tomatoes; A 275 g packet of organic Mozzarella;  Olive Oil; dried Oregano; 400 g of broad ribbon pasta like Pappardelle or similar, sea salt.

Medium heat your oil in a high sided fry pan, then add the aubergine slices turning to coat with oil (you may need to add a little oil to the later slices).  Keep the heat down to prevent charring and sprinkle the aubergines slices liberally with oregano turning to ensure even distribution.  It is the addition of oregano to aubergine dishes that gives them that Taste of Sicily!  Then add your Patty Pan and stir in gently.  Allow them to get acquainted at a low temperature while you open the tomatoes, pour yourself a glass of wine, etc., etc………………….

When the mix has nicely softened add the chopped tomatoes and the crushed garlic, stir and simmer.  Then using the fairly coarse side to your grater (I bought an OXO one recently and found it great, although a danger to unwary fingertips!) grate first the ginger in and stir well, then the carrot and stir that well in too.  Finally add your green bean!  Allow to simmer ’til the bean is al dente.

With your pasta water (I always put a little salt and olive oil in too) at a rolling boil, add your Pappardelle and ease into the water.  While it is cooking to the famous Al Dente stage, drain the brine from your Mozzarella packet and tear the soft cheese up, scattering it over your simmering dish.

Drain the pasta well and serve with it surrounding the gloriously coloured dish.  If you, and I suspect you won’t, have any left it makes an equally delicious cold Antipasti  for lunch the next day.

Buono Appetito!

Just before the Mozzarella!

Just before the Mozzarella!


Baighan Tarkari – Simple Aubergine Curry

This dish combines the wonderful creaminess of Aubergines with a tangy spiciness.  It utilises Paanch Phoran, an Eastern Indian spice mix, which is unusual in that it is used unground.  They’re the first items into the pan, to be fried off until just brown and releasing their wonderful aroma.

As those who have read my previous ramblings will know, I do not believe in using electric blenders to grind spices.  They are however wonderful for making a short cut to a basic paste which can be used in many curries.

Take your onion, garlic cloves and ginger, roughly chop and then whizz them up in a blender.  The resultant paste is usually the number two item to go into the pan and  scoops up all the spices and absorbs them into a lovely blend.

Ingredients for 4:

Paanch Phoran:  One tsp each of the following seeds, mix thoroughly and store what’s not needed here into an airtight container for future use.

Cumin seeds, Nigella seeds, Fenugreek seeds, Black Mustard seeds, and finally Fennel seeds.  Those who find Fennel too strong can substitute  perhaps Anise instead.

A nice firm, shiny, unblemished Aubergine.  Slice lengthways first into 15 mm slices and if the centre is too ‘seedy’ or soft slice this out too and discard it.   Cut across the slices to give you about 4 sections from each slice; 1 medium onion, peeled; 2 fat garlic cloves, peeled; about 25 mm of peeled fresh ginger [rough chop all these and blend as above into a paste]; 1 tsp coriander powder; 1 tsp chilli powder; 1 tsp cumin powder; 1/2 tsp turmeric powder; 2 ripe, juicy tomatoes, rough chopped; 1 tbsp tomato puree; 2 tbsp of good quality veg oil;  sea salt if required for seasoning and some fresh Coriander leaves for serving.

Heat the oil in your pan.  Add 1 tsp of the Paanch Phoran mix and fry off ’til the seeds pop and give off their wonderful aroma.  But do not allow to burn!  Add your onion/garlic/ginger paste and stir well so that it picks up all the spices and allow to cook for a few minutes.

Add your Aubergine and stir well and cook for about 5 minutes.  Mix your ground spices is a small bowl and then sprinkle evenly over the pan.  Stir in well.

Mix the chopped tomatoes and puree and stir in next.  Wait ’til the mixture starts to bubble up then reduce the heat and allow to simmer gently away until your aubergine is thoroughly cooked and creamy in texture.  Then test and add a little salt if necessary to taste.  Serve piping hot. Sprinkle the Coriander leaves as a dressing for the dish.

A plain rice or simple Roti is all you need to go with it.

apanē bhōjana kā ānanda!

Golden Spiced Eggs

This lifts simple boiled eggs to a new level, and served with steamed vegetables and plain rice this becomes an easy delicious meal for one of those, “What can I cook tonight?” dilemmas.

You probably already know that Eggs do not belong in a fridge!  If you are one of those souls whose eggs live in a dark chilly cave, please, please bring them out and let them reach a normal temperature before using.  Then if you’re feeling brave try leaving the next eggs you buy just in your store cupboard.  You will find that, not only do they taste better, because they don’t pick up the smell and flavours of things they’ve shared their frigid cell with, but they do not go off – well, not unless you don’t use them for a couple of months or so!

Ingredients to serve 4 hungry folks!

8-10 large organic Eggs; 2 x 400 ml cans of Coconut Milk, well stirred; 1 Onion, finely chopped; 2 fat Garlic Cloves, finely chopped; a large, ripe, sweet tomato, chopped well; 2 tsp Ghee or Veg/Rice Oil; 1 tsp Turmeric; 2 dried Red Chillies, crushed; Sea Salt; a bunch of fresh Chives – preferably with their delightful lavender coloured flowers on too – they are perfectly edible!

First boil the eggs ’til they are [just] hard.  Try and get them hard enough to not fall apart when cut in half, but not so hard that you could use them for golf balls!  Pop them in a bowl of cold water to cool down, and then shell and cut in half.

Using a largish, high sided, fry pan warm the ghee or oil.  Gently stir and saute the onion and garlic til golden brown. Add the tomato and continue to cook ’til it has softened.   Add the turmeric to about 600 ml of your coconut milk, then stir it slowly into the mixture.  Then add in your crushed chillies and a small sprinkle of salt.  Bring it to a just bubbling simmer for a couple of minutes, then slide in your egg halves.  Give the whole another 2-3 minutes to warm through then carefully transfer to a warmed serving dish.

Chop your chives to 2/3″ long and dress the golden eggs with them and arrange the flowers around the dish.  It looks superb, but as you can see is ‘easy-peasy’ to do!

Nepalese Spicy Chickpeas – Quick and Easy!

Those Europeans who trek the high paths through Nepal get used to simple daily meals of Daal and Rice. But such are the talents of a good Nepali cook that you can prepare yourself for differences of taste and texture such as would test the talents of any Asian Escoffier.

This quick and simple meal claims no such merits, but……….. Friends who have tried it [even confirmed carnivores] often say [in a casual, but entirely unconvincing manner] “Oh, if we’re having a curry evening next week is there any chance you could do that Gurkha Chickpea thing…………………”


2 ‘banana’ Shallots, chopped in fine rings; a sweet, ripe, Tomato, chopped fine; 3 fat Garlic Cloves chopped fine; 1 tsp Chana powder [see my previous post];  1 Green Chilli, cut a slit down lengthwise; 2 x 400 g  cans of Organic Chickpeas, drained [or about 1 lb of dried chickpeas soaked overnight].

Have to hand: Lemon juice; Black pepper; Sea or Black salt; 1 tsp of Ghee [clarified butter] or if unavailable [tut, tut, you really should have some!] 2 tsp Rice Oil

Heat your ghee or oil in a raised side frying pan, and saute the shallots til golden.  Then add the garlic, chilli and chana powder, and stir well in.  Grind over a good amount of fresh black pepper, and stir in, allow to simmer.

After a few minutes add the chickpeas, and tomato and a splash of lemon juice.  Stir and simmer for about 10/15 mins. Check for taste and add a little salt if needed.   Serve piping hot with a simple Jeera [cumin] Rice or plain Roti.

Ayo Gurkhali!

Nepalese Chana Masala Powder

Chana powder is an essential ingredient in many Nepalese dishes.  But not yet, thank goodness, found in the dusty spice archives of your local supermarket!

It is however simple to prepare, using many ingredients you probably have to hand already, and perhaps one ‘secret’ ingredient.  This you may have to search a little for but, like any quest, when found it becomes a treasure indeed.  It is Anardana, or dried pomegranate seed.  My source is a wonderful source of all things spicy with a superb delivery service too!

I’m assuming you have a mortar and pestle to hand, plus a suitable airtight container to store the mixture in.


Pomegranate seeds [Anardana] 1 tbsp; Coriander seeds, 3 tbsp; Cumin seeds, 1 tbsp; Black Cardamoms broken open for the seeds inside, 2 tsp; Black peppercorns, 2 tsp; Cloves 1/2 tsp; Cinnamon stick, about 4″ [chop up small with poultry scissors to start]; Dried red chillies, 8; Sea or black salt, 1 tsp.

First gently roast the Anardana, Coriander and Cumin seeds together in a dry pan.  Do not overheat  Then allow them to cool.  Put all your spices in a mortar and grind them well with a pestle until finely ground and melded together.  I generally resist using grinders for this task as I feel it smashes all the aromatics out of spices.  Just offer up the effort put into your handiwork as a blessing for those who will share and compliment you on your delicious meals in the future!

Finally use a  sieve [not too fine mesh] to take out some of the chaff, which will undoubtedly remain from the Cinnamon sticks.  Then store in a clean, dry, screw top container.  Try to find one which will just about be filled with the mix, leaving little airspace, and top up with freshly made Chana when you run out.

I will follow with a quick and simple Nepali Chick Pea recipe which your Chana mix will transform into a favourite recipe, which your guests will love, vegetarian or otherwise!

The Gurkha Oven – Spalding’s Superb Nepalese Restaurant

Imagine my surprise when this great eaterie appeared, not in London, or Cambridge, or any other of my usual haunts, but right on my doorstep in Spalding at 12b Sheep Market, near the centre of town.   What’s more, before I’d had a chance to try them, they had shot up the ratings to appear as our No.1 local restaurant.   I guess you will find it no surprise however that my next foray out was to sample the delights promised in their menu!


The staff are, again, polite, friendly and courteous, but without the obsequiousness that so grates in many Indian restaurants.   Again the ‘British Staple Curries’ featured strongly, as commerce presently dictates, but my aim was to try the Nepali range and compare them with my Edinburgh experience.

Well, I need not have worried.  There were a few alternatives that I hadn’t found in Edinburgh, such as a slowly cooked Goat Curry, on the bone, which was superbly, meltingly, delicious. Chicken Bhutuwa, another Nepalese traditional dish, was finely prepared with dried red chillies and crushed garlic.  Mouth and eye wateringly fine!

Starters included the classic Mo:Mo, this time with minced chicken filling and a light sauce, and spicy lamb kidneys, lightly fried with herbs.  Allo Bodi Tama, my favourite Nepali veg side dish, is available too.  Checha’pruk, the Gurkha version, I suppose, of chicken tikka, but marinated in a cheese and spiced sauce, remains to be tried as do their Duck dishes.

Plus I must next time try their version of the spicy lamb curry – just to compare notes with Edinburgh you understand!

It would be invidious to choose which restaurant was the better of the two – even if it were possible – I would only say that I unhesitatingly recommend both.  So if you are lucky enough to be in either locale, and puzzling over where to find a great meal, well cooked and served, you now have somewhere to go!

Namaste Kathmandu : A Favourite Nepalese Restaurant

Well, I promised a review, or two, when I posted my Alloo Bodi Tama recipe a while ago so here we go!

Many miles apart, Edinburgh and Spalding, but very close in the winning qualities that make for a good restaurant you want to visit time and again.  Super food, all at very reasonable prices, and a cheerful and helpful staff are the factors I prize in any establishment, and these two are at the top of my list. I have found all the Nepalis I have met over the years to be unfailingly courteous, and the staff at both restaurants are no exception.

Namaste Kathmandu

The first, Namaste Kathmandu in Forrest Road, is located a short distance uphill [everywhere in Edinburgh is uphill or seems to be!] from the famous ‘Greyfriar’s Bobby’ statue.  I visited it first on a Saturday evening, which, as you might imagine, meant it was busy!  Nevertheless a table for two was found, menus appeared, and then……we were allowed plenty of time to mull over the delights contained within.  Unlike so many other restaurants on a Saturday night when you feel you’ve stepped on a conveyor belt!

The menu, in deference to ‘British tastes’, does show a number of the standard dishes that can be expected in any Indian restaurant.  However but a little searching will reveal a number of unfamiliar Nepalese dishes, and, as you might expect, it was these we concentrated on.

Starters range from Kukhura Ko Sekuwa, a sort of Nepali chicken satay, marinated in herbs and barbecued, through Haku Choila,  a traditional grilled lamb starter, and the staple of all Nepalese homes, Mo:Mo.  Vegetable filled dumplings steamed or fried and garnished with fresh coriander. Kwati Ko Suruwa is a delicious nine bean and green vegetable broth simmered in Himalayan spices and herbs.  They list several others, all sounding equally delicious, but even I can only attempt so much!

Of the main courses Kukhura Ko Johl was a superb, chicken on the bone,  dish containing onion, tomatoes and timur, better known perhaps as Sichuan Pepper, topped with sliced green chillies.  Khasi Ko Masu, lamb marinated in Himalayan herbs was superb and spicy, only just topped by Bheda Tona, lamb on the bone marinated in yoghurt and herbs.  As an accompanying side dish you would find it hard to beat their Kaakra Ko Achar, a fresh tasting Nepalese cucumber pickle.  Jeera Rice, with cumin seeds, soaked up all the sauces so nothing was wasted!

How did two of us manage to eat all that?  Well, the food was so wonderful that we had no hesitation in eating there on Sunday night too!!

Alloo Bodi Tama – Nepalese Potato and Black Bean Curry

For those Curry aficionados, and I count myself blessed to be one, there is a growing number of Nepalese Restaurants  in the UK offering something different from the [ I think boring as hell!] usual fare of ‘Tikka Masala’ or ‘Bangalore Phal’ – hot as possible, cos I’m a REAL MAN!

To those who enjoy such bastardised dishes, fine.  But they are a world away from the subtle spiced delights of the Asian Sub-Continent.  This is a staple Nepali dish, fine as a main course for vegetarians, or as an accompaniment to Lamb or Goat dishes.


200 ml of organic Sheep or Goat’s Yoghurt; 400 g Bamboo Shoots [if you have a choice select those broader thick shoots, similar to thin leeks], cut to thin slices then cross-cut smaller if necessary;  400 g tin of Black-eyed peas or beans rinsed [or overnight soaked if dried];  400 g tin of organic tomatoes, chopped;  1 lb potatoes [waxy new varieties if poss.] peeled and cut to about 1/2″ pieces;   1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thinly;  2 fresh red chillies sliced into rounds, seeds and all!;  2 cloves garlic finely chopped;  1/2″ fresh ginger finely chopped; 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper;  1 tsp cumin powder;  1/2 tsp turmeric [or better still one short piece of fresh turmeric finely chopped]; 200 g thick yoghurt;  1/2 pint organic veg stock;  handful of fresh, roughly chopped Coriander as garnish;  2 tbsp Rice oil.

Heat the oil in a deep fry pan, with a lid if possible.  Throw in the red chillies and stir ’til darkened, then add the onion, garlic and ginger and stir fry ’til soft on a low heat.  Turn the heat up slightly and add the spices stirring ’til incorporated into the mixture.  Turn back down and then add the potatoes and saute for about 10 minutes covered, just checking that they don’t start to burn.  Add the beans, bamboo shoots and tomatoes, stir and allow a few minutes to heat through.

Mix the yoghurt with about half of the warm veg stock.  Add carefully as it will have a tendency to curdle if the stock is too hot.  If it does use a fork and…..beat it within an inch of it’s life!   Add to the curry and stir in well.  Turn up the heat ’til you see it just beginning to boil then turn down and allow to low-simmer for about 20-25 mins.  If the sauce gets too dry add a little at a time of your remaining stock.  Then when the potatoes and beans are tender and ready, garnish with the coriander, and enjoy.

Naan bread or similar Roti are all you need to go with this.

Ayo Gurkhali!

I shall be following with reviews of two of my favourite Nepali restaurants, one in Edinburgh, and one in Spalding, Lincs. !!!!

Spicy Crisp Broccoli

I find this a great accompaniment to richer curries as, done properly, it retains the fresh clean flavours to cleanse the palette between mouthfuls.


A good sized head of Broccoli, a little over a lb in weight, and make sure the florets are dark green.  Cut the florets off and don’t waste the stalk.  Finely slice it into thin rounds.

2 tbsp light oil [I have had good results using Rice Oil with this]; 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced; 2 tsp cumin seeds; 2 fresh red chillies, de-seeded and sliced into thin rounds; 1 heaped tbsp gram [chickpea] flour; 1 tsp ground cumin; 1 tsp ground coriander; 1 tsp ground cardamom; 1/2 tsp sea salt;  3 tbsp water.

Mix the gram flour, salt, ground cumin, coriander and cardamom together in a small bowl.  Use a largish frying pan, with a lid, and heat the oil.  Add the cumin seeds, chilli and garlic, then stir-fry for a couple of minutes, taking care the garlic browns but doesn’t burn.  Then add the broccoli, turn up the heat and stir-fry for about 3/4 minutes.  Turn the heat down low and add the gram flour mixture, sprinkling it evenly and stirring it in.   Add the water and stir then cook for a further 6/7 minutes.  Serve immediately.

apanē bhōjana kā ānanda!

Sun Blushed Tomatoes

My fellow Gastronomers will remember that I extolled the virtues of Sun-blushed Tomatoes in my Focaccia Recipe, but I know they aren’t easy to find, even in relatively good Delis.   That gave me a mission!  I asked around several good cooks of my acquaintance and one finally turned up trumps with this simple recipe.


About 30 small RIPE cherry tomatoes  [A good tip is to look out for reduced price punnets near their sell-by dates in Supermarkets or better still at the end of the day in your local market.  These have usually just got to the fully ripe state.  Don’t buy ‘ Cherry Tomatoes on the Vine’, they are ridiculously expensive, and what do the others grow on for heavens sake!!]; 2 level tsp sea salt; 1/2 level tsp demerara sugar; 1 heaped tsp dried oregano [lemon thyme works well too]; 3 generous tbsp good Olive Oil.

English: Super Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes

English: Super Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pre-heat the oven to 200-220 degrees C, 180-190 if a fan oven.  Halve the tomatoes and set them out close together, cut face uppermost, on a baking tray.  With the Olive Oil in a small bowl mix in the salt and sugar.  When dissolved add the dried oregano.  Carefully pour the mixture onto the tomato halves ensuring that each has its share.  Carefully place the tray in the upper part of the oven, check it’s up to temperature, then turn it off!

Leave the tomatoes in there all day, or prepare them in the evening and leave overnight if you anticipate needing the oven during the day.  When they are cooled you can [if you think they’ll last that long!!] put them in clean jam or olive jars and drizzle over them another tbsp of your Olive Oil for each jar.

A good idea is to make a nice ‘Rustic’ tag and tie it on to the jar, then you’ve the perfect thing to take to any ‘Foodie’ friend the next time you’re invited there for lunch or supper!