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And on the Ninth Day… An Indian Feast

My not so secret anymore cooking totems. These fierce little creatures live in my kitchen and watch over me on days like this.

The last week in my job as a vegetarian chef at the Eighth Day is starting. The experience of working there for half a year will get it’s own blog post. I am still not able to do much physical work and so only working on some design projects for the Eighth Day. But today I spent the whole day, with many little breaks, cooking for a small dinner party for some colleagues of Mark from Bolton University. Originally it was dinner for four, but then Mark announced another guest about an hour before they all arrived.

It is interesting not to have an oven for the time being. We just moved from a little rented flat in Didsbury to our own house in Rusholme and although our new home is wonderful one of the floors needs replacing. Once that is done we will save up for a new kitchen. No oven and inspired by the area we lived in I planned an Indian meal, mixing South with Northern Indian dishes.

Some of the supermarket shopping I had done as usual online, but I got the paneer, chappaties, parathas, idli mix (sorry, I cheated with that one) and pistachio kulfi from the Asian supermarket down the road.

Well, on this 9th day it took me the whole day to cook, as I need to rest my back due to the sciatica pain. I enjoyed every minute of the day. Debbie, who is in the process of moving, came by with her son and husband to deliver some beautiful spare wooden shelves and a desk for Izzy. Debbie is the most interesting person I met at the 8th Day and we are planning to stay in touch.

It was a lovely evening. Our friend Dai, Mark’s boss Bill and their Dutch colleague from Edinburgh, Wilbert enjoyed the food very much. The discussions ranged from the ongoing conversation about educational cybernetics and learning design, slightly hideous Senegal Comic Stalinist statues, Welsh language, my dismissal from The Eighth Day to Lovelock and Newman and Baddiel’s “History Today”.

After tea and coffee I served some Green&Black cherry chocolate and wonderful sweet little Vivel pastries Mark had brought me from the UAE. We drank red wine and beer.

Mark also blogged about the evening: http://dailyimprovisation.blogspot.com/2010/04

Here we go, all the original recipe with my modifications in brackets.

Green Bean Curry (with added veggies)

This is inspired by my current favourite Indian cookbook “Fresh Flavours of India” by Das Sreedharan, chef and owner of the fantastic Rasa in Stoke Newington and the subsequent Rasa chain in London. Rasa is one of the best Indian restaurants I know. If you live in London, go and check it out: www.rasarestaurants.com

I added some more vegetables.

Ingredients

4 tbsp vegetable oil
2 green chillies, halved (I used one, but in hindsight could have used more)
2.5cm cube fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
10 curry leaves (I used dry ones)
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp tumeric powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 onion, finely sliced
400g fresh green beans, trimmed and cut in half
(I had less green beans and added 1 aubergine, cubed and fried in a little oil and two carrots finely diced)
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
50g freshly grated or desiccated coconut (I soak the desiccated coconut in a little hot water before I add it to the dish)
Salt and ground pepper

Method

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the green chillies, ginger, curry leaves, mustard seeds, tumeric and chilli powder and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the onion and continue cooking for 4 to 5 minutes or until it is lightly browned.
2. Stir in the green beans (and other veggies), tomatoes and 4 tablespoons of water. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the beans (and other veggies) are soft and tender.
3. Add the coconut, then some salt and pepper to taste and mix well before serving.

Palak Paneer (Spinach with Paneer)

This recipe is sourced from the BBC website www.bbc.co.uk/palakpaneer and is from Anjum Anand. Nice and easy. Palak Paneer or Saag Paneer is the one and only dish I order in Indian restaurants. But for some strange reason I never made it myself.  It is wonderful to eat it fresh. I forgot some of the ingredients, but it still tasted amazing. I prepped to just before you add the spinach to the onion and spice mix and finished the last stages just before serving.

Ingredients

750g/1½lb baby spinach, washed (I only had about 500g)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 large onion, chopped
thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into long julienne
1½ tbsp chopped garlic
1-2 green chillies, whole (I used one and halved it)
2 tsp ground coriander
salt, to taste
250g/8¾oz ready-made paneer, cut into cubes. (I used only about 200g and fried it in a pan with a little oil)
½-1 tsp garam masala (oh, I forgot that)
6 tbsp whole milk, or 4 tbsp double cream (or 5 tbsp single cream ;-))
1-2 tsp lemon juice, or to taste (hmm, another thing I did not read properly)

Method

1. Blanch the spinach in hot water for three minutes or until wilted. Drain into a colander and run cold water over it until cool. In a food processor or blender, blend to a smooth paste and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan. Add the cumin and fry for about 30 seconds, until fragrant, then add the onion and fry over a low heat for about six minutes, until soft. Add the ginger, garlic and chillies and cook for a further minute.
3. Add the ground coriander and salt to taste. Cook for another 30 seconds then add the spinach and a splash of water if necessary. The mixture should be loose but not watery. Bring to a boil and then simmer for three minutes.
4. Add the (fried) paneer cubes, garam masala and milk or cream. Stir and cook for a few minutes or until the spinach is nice and creamy. Stir in the lemon juice to taste.

Dhal

This is based on the Dhal Surinder does at the Eighth Day. When I cook it with Izzy in mind I leave out the chilli and add some coconut…. Sorry, no precise measurements… I don’t think any of the Dhals I do is ever the same, as I always use what is available …

I washed a mix of channa dhal and red lentils (only a little of that), sufficient for up to 6 people, and boiled it with 1/2 tsp cumin. I always remove the foam and then turn down the flame until the lentils are soft. If there is too much water I just boil it down until it has the right consistency. Or I add water…

Ingredients and Method

In separate pan I fried in 2-4 tbsp oil:
first 1 tsp brown mustard seeds, then
1/2 tsp onion seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp Urad dhal

add 1 onion, chopped,  and 1 green chilli, halved, and fry until onions are golden brown,
add 1 tsp tumeric and 1 tsp ground cumin and fry for a little while
add a blended 2.5cm cube fresh ginger and 3 cloves of garlic with some water and oil and fry for a little while
add some tomatoe paste

add the whole mix to the cooked lentils, stir and add some vegetable broth, salt and pepper and 1 tbsp garam masala and a bit lemon juice

Enjoy!

Idlies

I used a ready mix (I told you I cheated) and to get the sour taste of fermentation I replaced some the water with goats yogurt.

I fried a tsp of mustard seeds in some oil, cooled it down and added it to the mix with some chopped fresh coriander.

Rice, Chappaties and Parathas

Because of the additional guest I cooked some whole short grain rice with bay leaves and cloves and nuked the ready made chappaties and parathas.

Coriander Chutney

Again, from Das Sreedharan, just with less chilli. Yum!!! Everyone of our guests loved this. It is so refreshing and cooling.

Ingredients

200ml plain yogurt (I only had goats yogurt)
100g fresh coriander leaves
100g freshly grated or desiccated coconut (soaked in water)
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2 green chillies
Salt

Method

1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and process for 2 to 3 minutes or until smooth.
2. Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Magic.

I also served some bought lemon pickle and mango chutney.

Pal Payasam (Rice pudding)

Also from Ras Sreedharan. I added some saffron and because I only had organic whole grain basmati rice I added more liquid (milk and single cream) during cooking.

Ingredients

7-8 cardamon pods
2 tbsp ghee (I used sunflower oil)
2 tbsp broken raw cashew nuts
2 tbsp raisins
100g basmati rice
600ml milk
100g white sugar (I used 75g and that was still too sweet ;-))

Method

1. Using pestle and mortar, crush the whole cardamon pods to a fine powder (I need to buy a pestle and mortar, because my rolling pin method did a bad job on that one). Set aside.
2. Heat the ghee (oil) in a heavy frying pan and sauté the cashews and raisins together until the cashews are golden and the raisins swell up. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside.
3. Wash and drain the rice. In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the milk for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the rice and continue to stir (and Das is not kidding you, you do have to stir…) over a medium heat until the rice is nearly cooked.
4. Add the sugar and continue to stir until the sugar has dissolved and the rice is well cooked (whole rice does not get that soft). Stir in the cashews, raisins and cardamon powder and serve hot.

The cold and green pistachio kulfi worked well with the warm yellow rice pudding.

Well, on this 9th day it took me the whole day to cook, as I need to rest my back due to the sciatica pain. I enjoyed every minute of the day. Debbie, who is in the process of moving, came by with her son and a friend to deliver some beautiful spare wooden shelves and a desk for Izzy. Debbie is the most interesting person I met at the 8th Day and we are planning to stay in touch.

It was a lovely evening. Our friend Dai, Mark’s boss Bill and their Dutch colleague from Edinburgh, Wilbert enjoyed the food very much. The discussions ranged from the ongoing conversation about educational cybernetics and learning design, slightly hideous Senegal Comic Stalinist statues, Welsh language, my dismissal from The Eighth Day to Lovelock and Newman and Baddiel’s “History Today”.

After tea and coffee I served some Green&Black cherry chocolate and wonderful sweet little Vivel pastries Mark had brought me from the UAE. We drank red wine and beer.

Mark also blogged about the evening: http://dailyimprovisation.blogspot.com/2010/04

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