A Cupboard of Spices – A Quiet Kitchen – A Taste of India
Heat in the Kitchen,
Cooking with Spirit.
Temple junkie, temple builder, temple cleaner.
Lover of life, people, cultures, travel. Champion of growth, change and awareness.
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Our focus this Winter is to cook more Winter vegetables. We love them, but our Winters are usually filled with the same old culprits – carrots, potatoes, greens, eggplants, and so forth. The great produce of Winter – swedes, turnips, parsnips, the huge variety of greens, daikon – appears less often on the kitchen bench. So our focus this year is to include them more often.
In the Middle East it is common to cook turnips with Date Molasses, and it is the time of the year (Ramadam) as I write, where date-anything is available in the local Middle Eastern shops. But having just made our Winter batch of Quince Molasses, we used this instead, and the result is truly delicious. I have heard that this dish is common in Iraq and that Iraqi Jews can serve it as a dessert. It is not surprising -it is that sort of dish that can be served either as a savoury one or sweet one.
It is an easy dish to make, and the resulting sauce – turnipy and quincy – is perfect. I can also imagine that a dish of turnips slow cooked with fresh quince fruits would be spectacular too!
Kachumbers (or Kachambers) are the freshest of salads, crispy and crunchy, in the Indian cuisine. They dispel the myth that Indian does not use fresh, raw vegetables or include salads. Kachumbers are very easy to make, although some can take a little chopping. With a good food processor, the shredding or chopping is made even easier and quicker.
This salad is daikon radish, carrot and coconut – a fresh and lively taste for late Autumn and into Winter in our part of the world. However, daikon and carrots are available year round, so the vivid salad can grace your Summer table too. Yamuna Devi, in her book Lord Krishna’s Kitchen, has a number of these type of salads in the Little Salads chapter.
Where would we be without tomatoes? Here is yet another version of a Tomato Salad, one that pairs them with Mozzarella. Fresh or traditional mozzarella can be used – both are great. Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella and Boccancini balls go so well with tomatoes, but so does the traditional, drier Mozzarella. Normally associated with pizza, it is also nice eaten sliced or cubed as part of an antipasto plate or in a salad. That’s the one we use today, but you can choose either.
Winter is here, and it is a cold and wet start to the season this year. Out of the wardrobe come jumpers, coats, scarves and beanies. In the kitchen, soups arrive – wholesome and hearty, steaming as they hit the table. We are grateful to Winter for providing us with the weather to have these great soups.
Our approach to stock for soups has varied over the years. In current times, we tend to make it as we need it, quickly infusing skins and peels, lentils, vegetables, herbs and spices to match the soup. In past years, when we were busier, stocks always sat in the freezer – we made them in the evenings, or as we prepared other dishes the stock would bubble on the stove. Choose a method to suit your lifestyle and family. Sometimes we just use water! We rely on the vegetables and other ingredients itself to shine in the soup.
To help you on your way with stocks, here are the ones that we use the most.
Packets of miso often come with small recipes on or under the lid, and they are fun to try. Many of them are for Miso Soup, but I have that sorted already. Occasionally there is a recipe for a sauce or dip. This tiny but excellent recipe came on a pack of Shiro Miso. It mixes Shiro with Tahini – the taste is earthy, yeasty and awesome.
Mid Autumn is that last hurrah to Summer, at least here in Adelaide. We have the last of the warm weather, nights are cooler and mornings bordering on cold. Days can be warm and sunny, but April rains are also expected. Farmers turn hopeful eyes skyward, keen to ensure the seeding efforts won’t go to waste.
Early on in this month, we find ourselves eating lots of tomato salads, almost as though we are desperate to hang onto the warm weather, and onto the tomatoes which are always best after the intense heat of Summer has gone and the gentler days of Autumn arrive. French style, Italian style, Greek style, Persian style, we don’t really mind, as long as the salads are simple and the tomatoes delicious. We recommend you do the same. Simple lunches can be a bowl of salad, some flatbread, perhaps some cheese, followed by slices of fresh fruit.
The fig season is over, and okra is off the menu until the new crop comes in. Meanwhile, beautiful vegetables and fruits are appearing in the shops – daikon, cauliflower, pears, oranges, new carrots, such beautiful beetroot, juicy radishes. All ready for delicious salads. Lentils and Dried Beans begin to make an appearance later in the month as we look for more substance in our salads to counteract the cold weather.
This recipe is another from Meenakshi Ammal’s books Cook and See. It is a plain rasam, very simple and quick to make as it does not contain any significant amount of toor dal. She has three methods for making this rasam, each one treats the 1 teaspoon of toor dal that it does contain, in a different way. This is Method 3. Method 1 is here, and Method 2 is here. They are all very similar, but the taste and texture difference is subtle but noticeable.
This rasam may be simple and quick but it does not lose anything in flavour. It is amazing – tangy, spicy, and the taste of coriander complimenting the rasam. Make double the recipe, you might need seconds.
Just a note on Rasam powder – if you are going to make your rasam powder fresh for this recipe, make one without much toor dal. But, really, if you have some already made or purchased, it will still work well, so use whichever type you have. Even Sambar Powder will be Ok.
Poritha Kuzhambu is a delicious dish defined by the addition of coconut and cumin seeds. Many of our recipes for this dish have been made without tamarind, but today’s recipe includes that wonderful, sour tang.
What makes Poritha Kuzhambu different from Sambar and Pitlay is its ground masala with coconut, cumin and urad dal (black gram dal). Some households use black pepper instead of cumin. Poritha Kuzhambu with Tamarind can be made with a medley of vegetables or a single one, often with the addition of a legume. Meenakshi Ammal always suggests using only one vegetable for Poritha Kuzhambu and a mixture of vegetables for Kootu. Although in this one, when listing the vegetables, she seems to relax that rule just for a moment for this recipe, suggesting that vegetables can be used in combination, but later instructions imply again that for Kuzhambu, one vegetable is best.
Another feature of Poritha Kuzhambu with Tamarind is that it often includes lentils and/or beans together with the traditional toor dal (red gram dal). We have made this with toor dal and chickpeas. Delicious!
This recipe is indeed one of Meenakshi Ammal’s from the first volume of Cook and See. This recipe is a tangle! Like the first ones in the book, for Sambar, this recipe definitely takes some detective work to untangle. Thoughts have been put down without logic and structure, so I have done my best to add sequence and process to the instructions. I do hope that you enjoy.
Early Winter sees the arrival of rains and cold weather. While the beginning of Winter can be mild, by mid month the chilly weather has usually arrived. In a good year it can rain daily in the latter part of the month. Gardens are not yet devoid of colour. Bougainvillea, cumquats, rosemary flowers, diosma, amaranth and bulbs of all sorts add welcome relief amongst the green weeds. Speaking of greens, all sorts of green leaves and salad leaves lose the limpness of Summer and are lush and abundant in the vegetable garden.
Salads generally have more substance now. Grains and beans creep in. Light salads no longer appear on the table. Although salads are served at room temperature they are still common but add substance and nourishment to the meal.
Okra is back in the shops, and an abundant array of other winter vegetables and fruits – daikon, cauliflower, broccoli, pears, oranges, grapefruit, cumquats, pomelo, carrots, beetroot, mustard greens and other beautiful greens, cabbage, such beautiful beetroot, pumpkins, marrows, juicy radishes.
When your broad beans pass their peak and become older, white in colour and rather tough, the best thing is to cook the diggins out of them. Indeed, this also applies to dried broad beans – or Fava Beans as they are most likely called in your local Italian deli or Provodore.
The great thing about dried fava beans is that they bring the beautiful broad bean into your kitchen even in the depths of winter.
Today, broad beans are cooked almost a la Grecque style, with water and olive oil, for a couple of hours for dried beans and a little less for fresh beans. They are then pureed with herbs to make a great spread, dip or accompaniment to your main dish. It makes a great Greek style salad topped with red onions.
It’s Friday night, Pasta night, and we are all home late and tired from a long week. There is no time for a cooked sauce, we are starving. So we turn to one of our simple but delicious pasta dishes, a salad and some crusty bread.
This recipe is simple, just tomatoes, cheese and basil, so very Italian in its composition. It takes no longer than it takes to cook the pasta. Enjoy!
Our local green groceries, run by a cohort of Vietnamese and Middle Eastern families, has recently begun stocking Mustard Greens. So we are making the most of them. Today’s recipe pairs them with daikon, the Japanese white radish that is also used extensively in India. When it is cooked, it loses the intensity of its bite and becomes soft and textural with a slight bitterness that is delightful. Matched with some chilli and the mustardy overtones of these greens, the result is a very morish side dish from India.
This cauliflower dish is a simple, every day but glorious dish. Allowing the cauliflower florets to brown slightly brings that beautiful depth of flavour to the dish.
Cauliflower is such an under-rated vegetable. Cooked well, it really is a vegetable to yearn for. Recipes from the sub continent and the Middle East are especially respectful of cauliflower, bringing out its flavours and adding interest with spices and herbs.
This dish is simple, yes, but it lets the cauliflower shine. Serve with Lemon Rice.
I went searching for some pineapple in the supermarket the other day, and nearly picked up a tub of chunks of pineapple for over $6 because I thought it might be my only option. It probably contained less than half a pineapple. I don’t often buy fruit and veg in the supermarket (for all sorts of reasons) but when something is less common or slightly out of season, they are more likely to stock it. But then I saw half a fresh pineapple for $2.50, so I grabbed it, pleased that I had saved $4. Later, at my Asian-Owned Green Grocer, they were selling whole pineapples for 99c. The lesson is: look around first! Lesson learned.
I quite like fruits with a sour tang with chilli – green mango, pomelo, pineapple, for example. So our salad today is just that. You can of course just slice the fruit and dip it into salt and chilli, but today we make a chilli vinaigrette for the pineapple.
Okra and Potatoes go well together – what doesn’t go well with potatoes? Today’s recipe is a vegetable fry style dish, or dry Subzi, where potatoes and okra are sautéed together with a range of spices until tender.
Dhana jiru is a spice mix used in this dish. Coriander and cumin seeds for the basis of this masala, and other spices can be added. Recipes for dhana jiru vary considerably – the ratios of coriander seed to cumin seed varies, some recipes add cinnamon, or pepper, for example, and others add up to 5 more spices for a complex spice mix. If you don’t have dhana jiru in your spice collection, simply dry roast 2 tspns coriander seed with 1 tspn cumin seed until a nice aroma arises, and then grind to a fine powder. Otherwise, use the mix that you have at hand.