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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Risotto Bianco for Dummies!

So many make a great fuss about Risottos.  It actually takes no more time than any other hearty family dish.  Does it need stirring?  Yes!  So what!  It only needs it each time you chuck another ladleful of stock in.  Use the time in between to prepare something else, the pudding, or test the wine, talk to your guests, grate the cheese, whatever!  This is cooking not a boring task like scrubbing the bath!   Enjoy!

This is a simple recipe for a basic risotto, excellent on its own, or you can experiment and add items [mushrooms, sea-food, bottled artichoke hearts, etc] to make something even more special.

Serves 4, though as usual you can increase the basic ingredients to suit the number of bodies!

1 1/2 pints stock [I make mine from organic veg cubes or powder, but, even better, if you have your own stock, chicken, fish or w.h.y. do use it as appropriate for the dish];  1/2 a good size fennel bulb separated and finely chopped; 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced; a medium onion finely chopped; 8 oz of proper Risotto rice; 1 good wineglass of Pino Grigio [and make it a good one, don’t cook with stuff you wouldn’t serve to your favourite guests]or a Dry Vermouth; 2 oz unsalted butter; 2 tbsp good olive oil; about 3 to 4 oz of grated Manchego [personal bias again,I just find it creamier when melted than Parmesan]; Sea salt & pepper to taste.

Heat the stock ’til it has boiled then leave to stand on one side, add a pinch or two of sea salt and pepper. I put mine in a large jug with ladle at the ready in it.  Use a good size, wide & deep, fry pan with a flat bottom and cover  if you have one, and heat the olive oil & butter together ’til melted.  Add the Fennel, Garlic and Onion and cook on a lowish heat for about 15 mins stirring occasionally so it goes translucent but NOT brown.  When the mix, or soffrito, is ready add your rice and turn up the heat.

The rice begins to fry, keep stirring and the rice begins to take on the oil and become somewhat translucent itself.  When it does add the wine/ vermouth and stir away ’til the rice has absorbed it, enjoying the delightful smell being given off.  Cook’s Perks!

Then add your first ladleful of hot stock.  A soon as it boils up turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice doesn’t begin to harden on the outside. Stir and push the rice around so that it begins to give off its creamy starch.  Let each ladleful get absorbed before adding the next.  I usually add my extra ingredients, if I’m using any, about half way through the stock jugs contents. This is plenty of time for seafood, artichokes or whatever to heat through without breaking down to mush.

Continue adding stock and stirring the rice and test when you think it may be done.  A slight al dente is about perfect.  Don’t worry if you run out of stock before this happens, just have a little boiling water on hand to add to your jug and keep going ’til it’s done.  By this time it will be creamy and smooth.

Turn the heat off and sprinkle the grated Manchego over evenly.  Put your cover on and leave for a couple of minutes ’til it’s melded into a delicious whole.  Serve immediately, with a mixed green salad and ripe plum tomatoes, sliced.  Perfecto!

Buono Appetito!