Khar | Assamese Garlicky Flavoured Mung Beans with Greens

Khar is a unique Assamese dish, traditionally served as a starter. Traditionally, pure khar uses kola khar as its main ingredient. Kola Khar is prepared by sun-drying the peels of the bheem khol banana tree trunk, burning them to ashes, and then filtering water through them. It is an alkaline preparation that is believed to have medicinal properties. The dish is served before the main meal to help prepare the digestion for the flavours to come in the main meal.

These days kola khar is often substituted with other items, usually baking soda. Khar can be made with a variety of ingredients – pulpy vegetables such as gourds, papaya, pumpkin, zucchini, eggplant and cucumber, as well as lentils and a variety of greens. Today we are using Mung Beans although toor dal and urad dal are also common. We have seen it made with rice flour and no lentils.

Mustard greens and some chilli leaves are used in our dish today, although Spinach would be equally as fine. I have added a couple of betel leaves, because they are in the fridge and they give a lovely flavour. However, there is no need to be so exotic. Use spinach and/or mustard greens, or whatever greens you have. The recipe has a lot of garlic in it which softens its raw bite due to the cooking and adds a lovely umami flavour. Don’t confuse this dish with Lebon Khar, which is a Middle Eastern dish of cucumber and sour cream or yoghurt with a vinegar and mustard dressing.

Similar dishes include Mung Dal with Green Mango, Bengali Mung Dal, and Mung Dal with Ghee.

Browse more of our Assamese recipes, all of our Mung Bean dishes, and our Dals. Browse our Indian recipes here and our Indian Essentials are here. Or take some time to explore our Late Spring dishes.

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Sarson ka Saag | Puree of Greens

When there is an abundance of greens available, what is better to make than Sarson ka Saag. Our green grocer stocks mustard greens now, so for the first time they are easy to obtain. We don’t get bathua greens though. It is traditional to use these but we have to substitute with other greens.

The dish is easy to make – the greens are cooked with spices until tender, then coarsely pureed. Some people prefer to be pureed to a smooth paste, but traditionally the greens would be hand-ground with a wooden mixer called a mathani to get a puree. However, you can make this to whatever is your preference.

Similar dishes include Khar, Sri Lankan Mustard Greens, Mustard Greens with Daikon, and Turnips with Mustard Leaves.

Browse all of our Mustard Greens recipes, our Chilli Greens recipes and all of our Spinach dishes.  All of our Indian recipes are here, and our Indian Essentials are here. Or explore our Late Spring recipes.

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Turkish Spinach Soup with Chickpeas and Barley

The earthy flavours of spinach, chickpeas and barley come together in this Winter dish which is Turkish in style. A soup, it is full of comfort, nourishment and hope for the future. Are you with me in your love for Winter soups? And with everything that is going on in the world at the moment, we need a little hope for the future. The inspiration for this came from Turquoise, a special book about Turkish cuisine.

Similar dishes include Mung Dal with Spinach and Cumin, Chickpeas and Beetroot Greens with Chilli, and Vegetable and Barley Soup.

Browse all of our Spinach dishes, all of our Chickpea dishes, and all of our Soups. Our Turkish recipes are here. Or explore our Late Winter set of recipes.

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Broad Bean Burgers/Patties

Chickpea flour is really easy to make at home, especially if you have a high speed blender. We toast the chickpeas until they are aromatic – either the small Indian chickpeas or the regular, larger ones – and allow them to cool. Then grind them to a fine powder in a high speed blender. We are fortunate enough to have a “dry” blender jug, designed for powdering dry ingredients, but I hear you can do this just as easily using the normal blender jugs.

We toasted our chickpeas early this morning, pre dawn, and the house smelled toasty and chickpea-y. They cooled while we had breakfast, and then made our flour – a couple of cups worth. The reason we are doing this today is that we were out of the flour and needed a little for today’s recipe. I love to make my own besan – you know what is in it when you grind it yourself.

The fritters come from an Ottolenghi recipe and I have made some adjustments to it. Firstly the egg is replaced with the chickpea flour as we do not cook with eggs. Secondly – we wondered why Ottolenghi was toasting spices and then adding black pepper separately. So we have used our South Indian tricks to toast and grind black peppercorns along with the other spices. We replaced fennel seeds with ajwain as we love ajwain and were out of fennel seeds.

We have also been used to making this recipe with a fabulous Indian tomato chutney to accompany it. Today we made it with a sour cream sauce but I do recommend it with the tomato chutney – I’ve included the recipe below.

And by the way – a little Indian sour and salty mango pickle sets these burgers off beautifully (we prefer to call them patties).

The broad beans were from our stash in the freezer.

It is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – a day 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 from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely (this recipe is from Plenty). 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 Broad Bean Dip with Wilted Greens, Broad Beans with Lemon and Coriander, Broad Bean and Cabbage Kofta, and Falafel.

Browse all of our Broad Bean recipes. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Late Spring recipes.

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Palak Bhajiya | Spinach Fritters

Spinach and other greens are some of the easiest things to grow in the garden, so we always have them in abundance. One easy way (and delicious way) to use them is to make this great Indian snack, generally eaten during the Monsoon season. Spinach leaves are coated in a chickpea flour batter and deep fried. So put on your rainy weather gear, pick the palak, and make this bhajiya with lots of friends and lots of laughter. In the UK Bhajiya is called Bhajji (confusingly), and this practice is spreading. We could just call them Pakoda and be done with it.

Similar recipes include Pakora – Vegetable Fritters, and Onion Rings.

Please, browse all of our Pakora/ Bhajji, and all of our Snacks. Our Indian dishes are here, and our Indian Essentials here. Or take some time to explore our Late Winter dishes.

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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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Spinach and Watercress Salad with Ricotta and Seeds

I have been growing watercress this year, as it is so expensive in the shops. The exercise has been somewhat successful but it seems I need a little more knowledge about growing watercress. Perhaps next year. I have taken an Ottolenghi Salad, an easy one, and made it with Baby Spinach, a little watercress and a lot of herbs. You could use rocket too, in place of or in addition to any of the ingredients..

The seeds sprinkled over this salad at the end give it a real boost in look, texture and flavour. I’d be tempted to make more of the mix than you need, and keep it in a jar ready for your next creation that’s missing a crunch.

This is another of Ottolenghi’s many herbal salads, like Ettie’s Salad, Celery and Lemon Salad. and Orange and Date Salad. They are so common in the countries from Afghanistan to Israel, across the Mediterranean and onto the coast of North Africa.

I have to mention how lucky I am to have a green grocer owned by a Middle Eastern family. They stock the best Dill that I have ever seen. Very thankful.

Similar recipes include Raw Beetroot and Herb Salad and Spicy, Crunchy Herby Salad.

Browse all of our Ottolenghi dishes, and all of our Salads. Or explore our Mid Summer dishes.

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Lima Beans Baked with Spinach and Feta

I am a sucker for great Greek and Italian dishes, but abhor dishes that have lots of different processes with an associated mountain of pots and pans to wash. However, this 6-process dish is worth the effort. Allow enough time to cook the dish – you need soaking time for the beans plus cooking time of 3.5 hours. Perhaps it is a Sunday dish.

The flavours are beautiful. Soft, creamy butter beans with intense spinach flavour, salty feta and crispy breadcrumbs. I have to be honest, it is not the most instagram-ready dish when cooked, but despair not! You will melt over the flavours, and ask for a second helping.

Don’t avoid the kneading of the spinach. I have seen versions of this recipe where the spinach is blanched or steamed before cooking with the beans, to avoid the kneading. What we are looking for here is an intensity of flavour, and cooking the spinach beforehand diminishes that flavour. You will be quite surprised what the salting and kneading does to the spinach – it is broken down and quite edible at that point. And the flavour that it adds to the finished dish is a surprising intensity.

The recipe comes from The Glorious Foods of Greece by Diane Kochilas. It is a beautiful collection of regional and rural Greek dishes.

Similar dishes include Baked Lima Beans with Celery, Rustic Spicy Baked Butter Beans, and Florentine Beans.

Browse all of our Lima Bean recipes, and all of our Greek dishes. Or explore our Late Winter dishes.

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Malabar Spinach Pakoda

Malabar Spinach is a thick spinach like leaf that grows on a vine – it is often confused with other greens, but look for leaves that are thick, a little mucilaginous, and are on twining stalks.  It may also have white or purple flowers and seeds on the vine. These leaves are common in India and throughout S. E. Asia. It has various names and may be called Basella Spinach, Poi leaf, Bacchalikura, Vasalakkirai, Basale Soppu, Ceylon spinach, Buffalo spinach, Indian spinach, Red vine spinach, Vine spinach, Upodika and Poi. There are more – Bachali in Andhra, Basale in Kannada, Vaali Bhaji in Konkani, Mayalu in Marathi and Pui Shak in Bengali.

Malabar Spinach is not really a spinach at all, but the taste is similar and it is better suited to summer growing than real spinach.

Similar dishes include Huge Vine Leaf Pakora, Crispy Fried Potato and Onion Strings, Red Onion and Chilli Pakora, Bhajji, and Okra and Cauliflower Packora.

Browse all of our Malabar Spinach recipes and Pakora dishes. All of our Indian recipes are here, and our Indian Essentials are here. Or explore our Mid Summer recipes.

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Coconut Rice and Peas Salad with Spinach

Rice makes great salads – cooked, cooled, tossed with other ingredients, a dressing added if necessary, and served at room temperature. It is a variation on the Indian and Middle Eastern Pilaf, and is just as good.

Rice Salads have moved away from the rice salads that my Mother used to make. They were bland, and depended on the play of colours of capsicums, tomatoes and cucumber for their appeal. Sorry Mum, it was the fashion of the time, I know, but I am glad we have moved on from these salads.

Today, we make rice salads in such a variety of ways. You will enjoy this one where the rice is cooked in coconut milk and tossed with peas, nuts and spinach.

Are you after similar recipes? Try Spicy Rice and Fermented Black Bean Salad, South Indian Coconut Rice, and Balinese Coconut Rice.

You can browse our Rice Salads, or all of our many many Salads. Our Pea recipes are here. Or explore our Early Winter recipes for inspiration.

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