Cluster Bean Dal Kootu | Kothavarangai Paruppu Kootu

Cluster Beans are similar to green beans except smaller, flatter, crunchier, tougher, and slightly but nicely bitter in taste. They have quite a distinctive taste. In Australia it is rare to find them fresh, even though they are grown here. They must all be exported. But frozen cluster beans are common in any Indian grocery.

Cluster beans are also known as Gawar Ki Phalli or Gaur in Hindi and Marathi, and Kothavarangai in Tamil.

The recipe is one of Meenakshi Ammal’s from her cook books Cook and See. One of our very special projects in the kitchen is to cook through these books, as they are very traditional Tamil recipes.You can find all of Ammal’s dishes that we have made here. Most of them are from Vol 1 so far.

Similar recipes include Ridge Gourd Dal, Sambar, and Aviyal.

Browse all of our Cluster Bean recipes. All of our Indian recipes are here, and our Indian Essentials are here. Or explore our Early Spring recipes.

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Spinach Bhaji | Spinach Stir Fried with Ginger and Spices

Greens are another vegetable that are cooked so wonderfully in India. With many varieties grown locally in all regions, often the Indian cook has a choice of a couple of dozen different greens to cook. Pity us, with our small choice in our green grocers. Half a dozen varieties if we are very lucky, and only 3 or 4 varieties used commonly.

Use spinach for this recipe. It is a dry dish flavoured with mustard seeds, chilli and a grating of nutmeg. Nice! You can also make this dish with just the stems of spinach if you have them left over and are looking for something to do with them. I am all for no-waste.

Are you looking for similar dishes? Try Spinach Thoran and Spinach Poriyal.

Browse all of our Bhaji dishes, and all of our Spinach dishes. Our Indian recipes are here. Or explore our Early Winter dishes.

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Bhindi Bhaji | Stir Fried Okra

This recipe for Okra is another simple, stir fried one that combines the okra with cumin and green chillies for a great afternoon snack, or as a side dish for a larger meal.

It is an easy recipe, one that you can cook in under 30 mins, perhaps under 20 if you are organised. These are the best recipe, don’t you agree? I know you will enjoy this one. Wonderful flavours.

Are you after other Okra dishes? Try Sri Lankan Okra Curry, Stir Fried Okra with Sesame Seeds, and Spicy Dried Okra.

Browse all of our other Okra recipes, and explore our Indian dishes. Or take some time to explore our Early Winter recipes.

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Roasted Whole Cauliflower with Green Tahini Dressing

Cauliflowers, roasted whole, have become a fashionable item for sometime – perhaps you might say it is going out of fashion, along with cauliflower steaks. But riced cauliflower still makes a regular appearance and I am glad about that – late onto the bandwagon as usual, I tried it for the first time recently and it is quite amazing.

So it is a surprise that Ottolenghi has a roasted whole cauliflower recipe in his new book Simple. And simple it is – par boiled then roasted with butter and oil before serving with a green tahini sauce. Elements of Ottolenghi, without all the hoohaa of his other books.

In a way, though, it is shockingly simple. It almost doesn’t feel quite right, doesn’t feel quite  like Ottolenghi. Even the style of the book has changed – the texture is different (different papers used), the layout is different. I am in 2 minds about the style changes – I wanted it to have all the lux of over-the-top Ottolenghi cookbooks, but with simpler recipes.

The book defines simple in 6 different ways (the first letters of which spell out SIMPLE), and each recipe is labelled to indicate which of these various simplicities it belongs to. For me, the most important simplicity is S ie Short on Time. In my household, somewhere between 6 and 8 dishes are made daily, so spending a minimum of 1 hour on an Ottolenghi dish does not make efficiency sense, even though we might adore the dish. HOWEVER, in defence of Ottolenghi’s other books, they contain recipes that can be a whole meal. That is not the case in Simple. TBH, you’d have to make 2 or 3 dishes to make a whole meal from Simple, or pair one dish with other plates of food.

Another first impression is that, reading through Simple, many of the recipes feel like half-recipes. That is not a criticism! It is a comment on the way he layers textures and flavours in his other books, and thus the simplicity of this book shocks! For example, take Whole Roasted Cauli. I might have expected Roasted Cauli, pureed, with cooked and toasted chickpeas, a tahini dressing and herb oil topped with baby falafel with a sumac dust. No, wait! That actually sounds great! (makes note to self). But here in Simple, we have only the cauliflower with a tahini dressing. It does make the recipes very accessible for weeknight cooking. And, for all its simplicity, this dish is a cracker!

Again, the comments on simplicity are not a criticism, it is an emotional response. We all have these when confronted with change. During my project of cooking Plenty More I often lamented the complexity (especially of time) and hankered after some Elizabeth David recipes. I have my wish now, although perhaps the style of Simple is a little like Elizabeth David on a small dose of steroids. She can specify recipes in 2 or 3 lines. Ottolenghi still takes a page or 2 for each dish.

Truthfully, I can’t wait to dive into this book and get to know it as intimately as I know the others.

“I like to serve this in the centre of the table, for people to share with drinks at the start of a meal. We break the cauliflower apart with our hands, dip the individual florets and crisp green leaves into the sauce and sprinkle with salt.”

It is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi’s books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking through Plenty More (nearly finished), but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.

Similar recipes include A Plate of Cauliflower, Cauliflower Roasted in Olive Oil, and Cauliflower Roasted with Mustard Seeds and Curry Leaves.

Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. As we cook more, you will find all of our dishes from Simple here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Early Spring recipes.

We use Australian measurements: 1 tspn = 5ml; 1 Tblspn = 20ml; 1 cup = 250ml.

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Aloo in Aloo | Potatoes cooked in a Spicy Potato-Tomato Gravy

I am not sure if it is that we love potatoes or if it is that Indian treatment of potatoes is the best on this planet, but we do have a small obsession with Indian potato dishes at the moment. Here is another one – and it is really interesting.

In a way that you doubt would work, a gravy is made from mashed potato, tomatoes and chillies, and then more potato is cooked in that gravy, with spices. It is a delicious dish, perfect with chapati or paratha.

Similar dishes include Potato Pallya, Potato Subzi, and Milkman Potatoes.

Browse all of our Potato dishes and all of our Potato Curries. All of our Indian recipes are here, and our Indian Essentials are here. Or explore our Early Spring recipes.

We use Australian measurements: 1 tspn = 5ml; 1 Tblspn = 20ml; 1 cup = 250ml.

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Crispy Battered Okra with Tomato Sauce and Herb Oil

Okra lends itself to crispy frying, and here is another recipe that batters and fries it until crispy, before nestling it on a tomato sauce. It reminds me of fish and chip shop battered potatoes and other vegetables. This is a recipe from Ottolenghi, so it is definitely a modern take on the crispy okra and okra with tomato sauce themes. The okra in the fish-and-chip-shop style batter is topped with sour cream, a tomato and bread sauce, and a gorgeously green herb oil. The batter is made with a touch of polenta, and mixed with buttermilk which gives it a lovely tang.

There will be more herb oil than you need, but it is infinitely versatile. Use the remainder to drizzle onto soups or over roasted vegetables.

Are you looking for other Okra dishes? Read more about Okra here. And try Stir Fried Okra with Sesame Seed, Warm Salad of Charred Okra, Tomato and Preserved Lemon, and Pickled Okra.

Browse all of our Okra recipes, and all of the Ottolenghi dishes that we have made. All of our Ottolenghi dishes are here. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Late Autumn collection of recipes.

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Baked Dakos with Spiced Chickpeas, Tomato and Feta

Having just made Dakos (the wonderful Greek salad), using Dakos (the bread that has been dried until very hard), we turned to a recipe for baking Dakos (bread) with chickpeas and tomatoes, spices and feta. It is delicious, and it is just the day for turning the oven on.

The recipe is another one of Ottolenghi’s, but not from his books. It is published on the Ottolenghi website.  It is a great way to use up a packet of Dakos crisp bread, and I know you will enjoy it. Cook the chickpeas the day before if you like (or use canned ones).

The dakos becomes quite soft as it is soaked in tomato juices and a marinade of red wine vinegar and oil. The contrast of the vinegar in the dacos with the tomatoes and chickpeas is absolutely divine. Cook the recipe using a table-friendly oven proof dish, so you can take it direct from oven to table. It is harder to plate, but not impossible.

Similar recipes include Dakos, Dakos with Tomatoes, Herbs and Feta, Pasta Baked with Cabbage and Cheese, and Baked Eggplant Steaks.

Browse all of our Dakos recipes and our Greek dishes. Our Baked dishes are here. and all of our Ottolenghi dishes are here.. We have written about our experiences cooking through his book Plenty More. Or explore our Mid Summer recipes.

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Miso Vegetables and Rice with Sesame Dressing

Oh my, this miso flavoured bowl of rice and vegetables is gorgeous. We have made it with noodles too, with equal success. Vegetables are poached in a mixture of miso, soy, mirim and vegetarian dashi for a high flavoured stock. They are served on rice (or noodles) and dressed with sweet rice vinegar, peanuts and sesame seeds. Highly gorgeous.

The play of the crispy veg with the soft rice and of the sweet and tart flavours of the sauce and dressing, the contrast of the dark sauce flavours with the freshness of the herbs and veg, the rubberiness of the mushrooms with the crisp veg, crunchy nuts and soft rice – all make this a dish worth the effort. Each veg has to cooked briefly, the rice is cooked, the sauce is reduced, the dressing is made, and, if you are making your own dashi, that needs to be made too. A comforting and nourishing dish indeed, but one that needs some time devoted to it.

The vegetables used are broccolini, carrots, shimeji mushrooms, cucumber and snow peas. It is a perfect balance of flavours and textures. It is best to use this combo the first time that you make it. It is an experience. For future dishes, if you need to change out some of the veg, consider substituting small broccoli florets, asparagus spears, enoki mushrooms etc. We have added sliced, rehydrated shiitake mushrooms too (delicious), and even the carrot can be substituted with jicama or kohlrabi if necessary. It is a versatile dish – sometimes we also add a few small leaves of Asian greens, blanched quickly in the stock. But the very very best combo of veg is the one specified by Ottolenghi.

The recipe is an Ottolenghi one from Plenty More, his recipe collection that never fails to delight! Use a rice that is a little sticky. He suggests sushi rice, and that is easily available.

Similar dishes include Malaysian Lemak Vegetables, Okra with Sambal and Coconut Rice, and Miso Sesame Dressing.

Browse all of our Rice dishes. All of our Ottolenghi dishes are here. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book.  Or browse our Late Summer recipes.

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Aloo Hing Jeera | Potatoes with Cumin

Of course, practice, perseverance and knowledge builds skill. This week I have been looking back as some recipes that I made all those decades ago when I began learning about Indian food. I’ve been cooking many of them again, and the results are almost terrifyingly different. A dish I thought was very basic, this recipe for Aloo Hing Jeera, I had marked as “subtly spiced, needs onions, better the next day, add green chilli and ginger.” That observation was not especially incorrect, according to my Western-trained palate at the time.

The same dish, made today, is beautiful, spiced well, the gravy is amazing and the texture of the potatoes with the spices is what I have come to expect of Indian food. My tastes have changed, I have experienced more widely, I have read widely and spoken to people both here and throughout India about food. AND, I have cooked and cooked and cooked Indian dishes. All shows in the difference between this dish and the one I made nearly 20 years ago. I hope you enjoy it.

Similar dishes include Aloo in Aloo, Sesame Potatoes, Aloo Bhindi, and Saag Aloo.

Browse all of our Potato dishes and our Indian recipes. All of our Indian Essentials are here. Or explore our Late Winter recipes.

We use Australian measurements: 1 tspn = 5ml; 1 Tblspn = 20ml; 1 cup = 250ml.

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Toasted Pearl Barley with Pistachios and Raisins

Such a wintery dish – beautiful Barley mixed with dried fruit and nuts, with a yoghurt-tahini and mint dressing, making a perfect salad, or an accompaniment for roasted winter vegetables. My house is a cold old house in the depths of winter, and there is nothing better than having vegetables roasting and barley bubbling on a cold evening. It fogs the windows and makes us and the kitchen toasty warm.

This Barley almost-pilaf-style dish is wonderful served with all sorts of roasted winter vegetables – Pumpkin, Jerusalem Artichokes, Fennel, Parsnips, Carrots etc. But don’t let that limit you. The Barley makes an excellent salad or side dish with the dressing just drizzled over the top.

Are you looking for similar recipes? Try Barley and Red Kidney Beans, Parsley and Barley Salad, and Mediterranean Barley with Crispy Tofu.

Or browse all of our Barley dishes, and all of our Middle Eastern recipes. And explore our Mid Winter dishes.

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