Tamarind Dal

Tamarind Dal with Rice

Why has it taken me sooo long to make a dal? Especially when they are so simple? And sooo tasty!

Inspired by the dal I had eaten at the Coco Diner (see post “Coco Delights“) I wanted to recreate it as closely as I could.  Though in the menu it said there was cream in the dal, I chose not to do this, wanting to avoid unnecessary dairy… Knowing the recipe had curry leaves, mustard seeds lentils and was a South Indian dish, I did some searches online, found some recipes and modified them to make my own.  Here’s what I did:

1 cup red split lentils
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup tamarind water *
a few curry leaves (I used dried)
1 tsp turmeric
chilli powder (to your preference – I had just a sprinkle for a mild dal)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
good pinch of hing (asafoetida)
2 medium sized ripe tomatoes, chopped

1. Put the lentils in a pan with the water/tamarind water, turmeric, chilli powder and curry leaves.  Cook until lentils are soft (approx 30 mins, but may vary).  You may need to add more water if the lentils get dry, but don’t let them get too watery, as red lentils go all mushy, so it’d be hard to drain, off: you’d probably have to cook down.
2. Whilst the lentils are cooking, chop the onion very finely.  Heat some oil in a non-stick pan and fry the onion along with the hing and mustard seeds until the onion is thorougly softened, starting to go a little brown.  When nearly done, add the chopped tomatoes and cook these down until soft.
3. Once the lentils and the onion mixture is cooked, add everything in the frying pan into the lentils, stir, taste, season if necessary, then serve.

*Tamarind water: It can be hard to get real tamarind pods but you can find tamarind paste in quite a lot of supermarkets now. Because I work for them, Blue Dragon tamarind paste was on hand.  You just mix a teaspoon of paste with hot water to get 100ml of tamarind water. Easy as pie!


Caramelised onion-butternut roast with chestnuts

Another Veganomicon recipe (p152), this was deliciously sweet – to be served with plain accompaniments, eg, steamed green veg or breads.  Very nice and Christmassy with the inclusion of chestnuts and sage in the topping.
I won’t list the ingredients as I have a feeling I’m going to end up copying out every recipe from Veganomicon at this rate!

Caramelised onion-butternut roast with chestnuts

It has beans in it which makes it nice and satisfying – good to have as your ‘meat’ for a roast dinner (in case mum and dad invite me round! – it’s always good to have a nice recipe to use).

Roasted Portabellos and butternut squash

I’ve just bought a few vegan cookbooks in an effort to find more recipes without cheese, as  I have developed an intolerance to it. This is a good thing in most ways, since cheese is the product of an unethical milk industry; it is addictive and fattening and it predisposes you to all sorts of illnesses as you age, including osteoporosis, ironically.  For more info on my milk is not the wonder product the industry claims it to be see this website: Not Milk

Anyway, so far the star player in my cookbook collection is “Veganomicon” a really interesting Vegan book the writers claim to be the ‘ultimate vegan cookbook’.  This post charts my first cooking adventure: Roasted Portobellos served with Roasted butternut squash with coriander seeds: a pretty tasty and satisfying meal.

Roasted portabellos served with roasted butternut squash with coriander seeds, steamed broccoli and spinach

First I got the squash going – oven about 200C:

1. Cut your butternut squash into bite-size pieces, put in an oven tray and toss in some olive oil until all pieces coated lightly.
2. Crush in a pestle and mortar about 1tbsp of Coriander seeds (don’t grind too small, as the texture is nice), then mix in with the squash, and place in the oven.
3. Cook squash for about 35 minutes, tossing occasionally.  Make sure your squash is starting to go a bit brown – this is when it starts to caramelise and taste really sweet and smokey. mmm.

3 portabello mushrooms (for 2 people to share)
1/2 cup cooking wine
1tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed

1. Mix marinade ingredients together and bathe mushrooms in for about 20mins, then cover and cook in oven for 30mins.
2. Take cover/foil off then flip them over before returning to oven for a further 10 mins.

This recipe leaves your mushrooms tasting quite rich and meaty, so they can be used for all sorts including burgers, salads or served like a meat in a meal like we did.

Coco delights!

Doggie bag plus quinoa

This isn’t one of my own cooking forays, rather just a note about a lovely meal we had last night at a local Indian restaurant – yes local! We didn’t have to go to London to find somewhere that had a good selection of veggie foods.  Coco Diner in Chatham, Kent is cursed with a particularly bad location and I think this is the reason the place was empty on a Saturday night.  The waiter told me they are thinking of moving to Rochester for this reason.

They serve South Indian/Keralan fayre which, I understand features lots of veggie food, except when you get nearer the coast where they like to eat fish.

Veggie options are mostly vegan and are listed separately from meat dishes.  There is a much better selection (though not huge) than  in normal Indian Restaurants.

We had a delicately tasty dal, some okra masala (quite sweet with red and green peppers), and a very interesting Masala Dosa – a paper thin rice pancake filled with soft, fluffy, spiced potatoes and served with a tasty mild vegetable curry to spoon on top.  The pancake was delicious – had a very sweet, maple-syrup roundness to it.  My husband and I sat beaming at each other very pleased with our find.  The tamarind rice (cooked with tamarind juice then ‘tempered’ with mustard seed, curry leaves and peanuts), was gorgeous: subtle and different.

We had some leftovers, so I doggie bagged it and have just eaten it for lunch with some quinoa!

Indonesian for tea tonight: I’m re-running https://rowantreestudios.wordpress.com/2010/04/27/indonesian-noodle-salad/

Tofu & stir fried veg with miso noodles

Tofu and miso with stir fried veggies

Realising that plain silken tofu and noodles in a miso (my original intention) would have been rather bland and unsatisfying to a fussy palate, I used whatever I could find in the fridge to jazz this up a bit!

Here are the ingredients – quantities are not measured, as they really are up to you and how much you want – there’s no right or wrong way to do it.

1 block silken tofu (firm), cut into bite size chunks
miso paste (I used a mixture of red and white, but if you only choose one, use red, like barley or brown rice miso)
veg stock
crushed garlic
red chillis chopped
pak choi/bok choi or any suitable soft greens like spinach or chard (this is what I used)
baby corn (finely sliced)
mushrooms (finely sliced)
yellow pepper (finely sliced)
spring onions (finely sliced)
fresh coriander

'bird's eye view' (but don't worry, the bird isn't likely to eat this!)

1. Cook noodles, drain and refresh with cold water to stop cooking – divide between bowls to be served in.
2. Stir fry your garlic, some of the chilli, peppers, baby corn, mushrooms, and some spring onions. When cooked, spoon ontop of noodles in their bowls.
3.  Meanwhile cook your pak choi (or other greens) by boiling for a couple of mins in the veg stock.
4. When wilted, take off the boil and stir in your miso paste (you mustn’t boil miso, as it destroys the goodness).  Taste the broth and add more miso until you like the flavour.
5. Scatter the tofu cubes onto the noodles and pour over the broth.
6. Garnish with your spring onions, chilli and coriander (you can add this to the broth at the end if you prefer).

Eat with a bib, as this is a messy, slurpy dish!  I’m told it’s considered polite in Japan to make slurpy noises when eating your noodles, as it’s a sign you’re enjoying the dish!  Not sure the Japanese would approve of my hybrid version, but we did!  With a nice kick from the chilli, fresh greenness from the coriander, wholesome goodness from the tofu and warmth from the miso – the stir fried veg just added that extra big of flavour and excitement: and we felt holier-than-thou eating it! nom nom…. slurp.

Thai Green Curry with Sweet potato and mixed veg

Mmmmm! easy peasy curry using shop bought paste BUT Warning: Many Thai Red & Green curry pastes have fish sauce in them, so this is not vegetarian.  I used Blue Dragon Premium Green Curry paste (small black jar). If you can’t find any from shopping around and are an avid fan, you might have to resort to making your own paste, but it can be hard (at least in most parts of the UK) to find the exotic ingredients.

Some of the veg I put in the curry!

Thai Green (or Red) can be made with pretty much whatever you fancy tossing into it.  I made the main feature Sweet Potato, and added chunks of courgette, mushroom, green beans, peas and tomatoes into the mix.  I served this with brown rice, because I’m trying to be saintly and majorly up my wholegrain consumption, but if you want it for a more special occasion, Thai Jasmine rice is particularly nice and fragrant.

Here’s a list of what I used and how I used it:

Ingredients (for 2):
1 tbsp oil
3 tsp thai green curry paste (depends on brand you are using – so check pack directions)
1 heaped teaspoon of ground coriander seeds (you may think this isn’t necessary, but I guarantee it makes a tastier, richer sauce)
400ml tin coconut milk
All your veg (see above for what I used).
Coriander to garnish

1. Heat oil in a pan (wok or deep frying pan)
2. Add curry paste and fry for a minute or so, being careful not to burn.
3. Add your coriander powder, stir and continue frying paste, stirring constantly.
4. Scoop out the fat that may have settled at the top of your can of coconut milk and add this to the paste, allowing to bubble with it for a minute before adding the rest of the tin.  (Don’t worry if it hasn’t separated, just pour a bit in to start then add the rest)
5. Add your veg – the slowest cooking first, and gradually add as the various veg require.  I added the sweet potato and left it for nearly 10 mins before adding anything else.  Make sure you cut it smallish, as it will take forever otherwise.
6. When all veg is cooked TASTE your sauce and make sure you are happy with its flavour.  At this point Thais would adjust the flavour of their curry by adding sugar and salt – palm sugar and fish sauce.  Of course fish sauce is out – buy soy is a good substitute, although it will darken your curry a little.  And normal sugar is fine – but if you have a brown sugar (not too dark), then that might be a little nicer.  The trick is to keep tasting. I added a small dash of soy sauce, and that was all that was needed.

Thai green curry

Sweet Potato Thai Green Curry served with brown rice

Lentil & couscous-but-much-better-than-just-that-salad

My plan is that this yummy salad lasts me for three lunches at work. I bought in loads of ingredients and made up a large bowl of the stuff at work. Really easy:

Lentil & couscous-but-much-better-than-just-that-salad

I bought the following and mixed them together in a bowl and garnished with crispy onions (bought in a tub):
Roasted tomato couscous (from the section where you get the hummus and other cold salady stuff
1 tin green lentils (drained)
some cucumber
1 avocado
spring onions
pickled beetroot

dressed with garlic infused extra virgin olive oil and juice of half a lemon. No seasoning necessary as couscous was quite salty.

Very tasty and the addition of the crispy onions at the end added that extra bit of texture and rich roasted oniony flavour that really took the biscuit. so to speak!

Tofu Miso Steaks with noodles

Tofu Steaks with noodles

Tofu Steaks with noodles

Thanks to my lovely hubby Rich for being the hand model in this pic!

Taken and adapted a little from the Wagamama cook book, I was nervous about cooking with tofu and have been for a while.  So it seems rather ambitious to be going for big hunks of the stuff for one of my first attempts!

I bought some brown rice miso and some sweet white miso at the supermarket as well as some tofu (by Cauldron), then found the recipe that resulted in this meal.  It was surprisingly tasty but also checked the ‘sanctimonious’ checkbox on the vegan chart! ha ha. It was so pure and healthy that I imagine I  shall be excreting nothing but natural mineral water and ash.

Here’s how I made it. (I measured nothing properly, by the way).

Open pack of (firm) tofu, drain, pat dry with kitchen towel and slice lenthways to make two ‘steaks’.  Make your paste to go on top:

about 1tsp red miso (brown rice or barley miso paste)
about 1 tbsp white miso
dash of sake (dessert spoon)
1 tsp sesame oil
generous pinch of togarashi seasoning
(original called for Schichimi, but can’t find the stuff anywhere – you could also use thai 7 spice – all this things seem to have chilli, orange or lemon peel, some poppy/seseame seeds and other stuff in varying degrees!  I got the togarashi from Waitrose)

mix together those ingredients then slaver on top of each miso steak.  Heat a griddle pan, oil it and then cook the steaks miso side up only for 6-8 minutes, making sure the bottom doesn’t burn.

Other ingredients required:
2 portions of noodles
greens (spinach or chard)
spring onions to garnish
coriander to garnish (I didn’t have any of this)
more miso to make broth
toasted sesame oil

In the meantime, cook some noodles: whatever takes your fancy – recipe called for rice noodles, but I used ramen.  I would have preferred to use a wholewheat noodle like soba, but they had run out 😦
When noodles cooked, drain and divide into bowls.

Steam or boil some greens.  When done and drained, place on top of noodles.

Prepare a miso broth (ie, just stir in some paste into some boiled water: don’t boil the broth as it kills the ‘friendly bacteria’ that is so good for you in the miso).  Then poor the broth to just cover the noodles and greens.

Place your cooked steak on top, garnish with spring onions (you could add chilli) and sprinkle over a little sesame oil.

Okra Curry, mushroom and peas served with cumin roasted carrots

So, with Indian meals I’m really getting into cooking more than one curry dish to keep my palate interested.  So far a great way to keep a meal fresh is to prepare a kachumber, but this time, I opted for something else, as I had none of the ingredients!

Okra Curry, Mushroom and Peas curry and roasted carrots with cumin

Okra Curry, Mushroom and Peas curry and roasted carrots with cumin

The recipes for this I found elsewhere on the internet, so instead of taking credit I will provide links to the relevant sites.  The first site I recommend is “Manjula’s kitchen” – brilliant for vegetarians that love Indian Food because that’s what it is all about, and to make it easy to follow Manjula has filmed herself cooking and talking through the recipes.  She’s not as charismatic as Ainsley Harriet, but that makes her much more watchable!
Mushrooms and peas was her idea: Manjula’s mushroom and peas
This recipe was has the tasty addition of Kasoori Methi (dried fenugreek leaves) – really worth getting into for that genuine Indian flavour (although it makes your clothes stink!).

The Okra (otherwise known as ‘bhindi’) Curry recipe is to be found here. This is the first time I cooked okra – a friend warned me not to be put off by any oozing the okra might do – it didn’t ooze but was very slightly slimy in the main dish, but I didn’t let that put me off.  It tastes very ‘green’ and fresh – I quite enjoyed it.  I added a yellow pepper instead of a green one to this recipe, which in retrospect, I think was a good thing to do, as it might have tasted all a bit too green for me.  The sweetness of the pepper tempered the greenness of the okra, if you get what I mean?

The carrots were so simple: just clean and slice in half lengthways some small carrots, place in an oven dish and poor over some oil, then sprinkle on some cumin seeds and roast for about half an hour or so at 200degrees.

Another yummy salad

I seem to have managed to avoid dairy and eggs for a good few days now, so my diet has been practically vegan (which would be an ideal for me, as I’m aware of the ethical issues of consuming eggs/milk products).  I think eggs will be the hardest thing to cut out, but I already drink only soy milk and use soy margarine: cheese is the next hurdle. But I’m not pressuring myself!

So apologies in advance for the poor photography – this is what happens when your husband is a professional wedding photographer and he takes both cameras out to work with him on a Saturday – I end up having to take a rubbish snap with my computer (hence it being out of focus!).

broccoli and garlic mushroom salad

Salad featuring broccoli and garlic mushrooms and avocado

So this salad was easy peasey: two things needed cooking – I boiled some broccoli until just cooked, then immersed them in cold water to stop the cooking and keep it that glorious green colour (not done justice by the photo!).  I also fried some sliced mushrooms along with a couple of small sliced garlic cloves.  These were added ontop of a pile of:

chopped avocado

Then I drizzled with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, spattered some balsamic vinegar and garnished with some seeds for protein, goodness and added texture. yum.  Any questions?