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!

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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…………………”

Ingredients:

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 http://www.theasiancookshop.co.uk 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.

Ingredients:

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!

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.

Ingredients:

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!