Tag Archives: spicy

Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

25 Jun

Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

Throughout my 20’s I had infrequent contact with a self-indulgent and woeful lady who recurrently stressed to me that having children is the hardest thing in the world.  She meant raising them. She would stand over me as I slumped into the sofa, and she wafted an overstating finger above me whilst popping eyes glared at me, ‘it’s so hard’. I focused my eyes on the coarse hairs that grew under her chin and listened. I nodded as she told me how there is immense and overflowing love but there is no time even for a facemask or money left to buy clothes. I looked over at my husband and my expression clearly whispered, ‘I will still buy clothes’.

But look, I thought, people all over the world are popping them out. People in towns, cities and remote villages manage it and educated or uneducated, rich or poor, young or old…people all over the world and for as long as time has existed have been having children. So really, come on…

As my little one played with his friends in our garden and I looked at his sweaty little face reddening underneath layers of gritty sun cream. Underneath the wide forehead he gets from his daddy is a face that is so much like mine but that’s not the thing that sinks my heart and ties it in a knot.

Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

Tiny friends rushed around busily and purposefully with his toys as he watched. One snatched his ball as he watched, as kids often do at this age. My little one let her and decided to go and water some plants instead until another friend announced that he would do it instead. But that was OK and my two year old headed for the trampoline but alas his was bounced off. He quietly returned to me and tucked himself under my arm, ‘mumma I want my ball, it’s mine’. The bitter-sweet irony, as I could almost feel the sand under my feet on a school trip. I felt the pressure inside, even as a toddler as I was worried that my parents would be disappointed that I wasn’t as lively or vivacious as the other children or lacked the confidence to climb through the tunnels or jump off the bars as they were doing. I remember sitting near the teachers and watching the sand tumble through my feet and clearly feeling that somehow there was a waste here but I was too young to really understand the concept of money. I know I should talk to guests when they arrived at our home, when my parents told me to even more so, but I was too shy to make conversation and just willed them to turn their loud and animated interrogation off.

And here we are again. A nice boy that I made nice, to some degree, as his primary carer…but now, how to instil some personal robustness or survival instinct in him? At what point do my own experiences of the world become his perceptions? I don’t want my experiences to dirty his mind…and for someone who wouldn’t talk look at me now…I talk a lot, in front of crowds.

Here is to the bitter-sweet, hot and cool of life. A salad that tingles and zings with each mouthful of crunch from the beansprouts and alfalfa, heat from the chillies, silky smoky aubergine, nutty almond bites and sweet kecap manis. It’s loaded. I like loaded. Juicy orange and green tomatoes burst in the mouth…it’s all going on in this healthy plate. Life eh?

Ingredients to serve two as a main dish or four as a side dish

3 medium-large aubergines

4 good pinches of alfalfa sprouts

A couple of handfuls of almonds

100g beansprouts

An onion, thinly sliced

100g orange tomatoes, sliced

100g green tomatoes, sliced

2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 tbsp. sesame seeds

The dressing

10 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

6 tbsp. kecap Manis

3 tbsp. sriracha sauce

Method

  1. You will need to coat the aubergines in oil and roast in the oven at 180 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until they are shrivelling and soft enough to pierce. Allow them to cool before removing the skin and scooping out the pulp and mash it lightly on a large plate.
  2. Heat the sesame oil in a non-stick pan and add the onions, beansprouts and almonds and stir fry 3-4 minutes and then turn off the heat.
  3. Make the dressing by mixing the ingredients and smoothing any lumps with a fork
  4. Layer the aubergine pulp, then on top add the tomatoes, beansprouts mixture, alfalfa and the drizzle over as much dressing as you like.
  5. Serve with flatbread and share (try).

 

Soya Chunk Chaat

13 Aug

Soya Chunk Chaat

Ooh, I do feel slightly naughty when I eat street-food.  It’s like eating that secret, forbidden pre-dinner burger on the way home from school, except Chaat is much more tantalising. I don’t know how we did it, my best friend and me.  After college we’d detour for some wicked pleasures largely containing either pastry or potato, before returning home to a full Indian meal. Nobody ever knew.

We weren’t particularly weight, make-up or boy conscious teenagers…we loved to laugh from deep in our hearts and be happy. We laughed a lot, loudly and energetically.  We sang, talked vibrantly with strangers and dreamed faithfully. We created our own joy and funnily enough we were healthy by heart, body and mind and did really well with grades. Maybe I should take up hockey again?

Crisp, sweet, sour, spongy, spicy and soft it’s all going on. A couple of chutneys smack the senses wide open and say hello to Delhi and the rickety street stalls that overflow with smiling and animated crowds, all huddled excitedly with tiny metal plates as a skilled Chaat maker crafts each serving one by one.

My personal opinion is that there is no perfect science to constructing Chaat. It really is about combining and layering textures and igniting, or even exploding the senses.   There’s a tang, fire, sweetness, heat and coolness as layers of crispy sev, puffed rice, easy-going potato, sweet tomatoes, dense chick-pea and those sweet and spicy chutneys mingle.   Mmmmm, sigh-some… And although I do love, love, love lashings of natural yogurt to relax the senses, I’m not so much of a fan of the softening effect it can have on chaat. Nothing worse than soggy Chaat. You could however, drizzle a little just before serving and then devour it pretty much instantly. Who could blame you?

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

4 cups of puffed rice (from an Asian Supermarket)

2 fresh tomatoes, cubed

½ cup of roasted peanuts

2 medium potatoes, cubed

125g of dried soya chunks

One medium sized onion, finely diced

For the green chutney

2-3 green chillies

For the tamarind chutney

1 tbsp. concentrated tamarind paste

Chilli powder to taste

The spices; grind the following spices together. 1 tsp. cumin seeds, 1 tsp. coriander seeds, ½ tsp. fenugreek seeds, 1 tsp. fennel seeds, ½ tsp. carom seeds, 1 tsp. sweet paprika, salt to taste, chilli powder to taste, 1tsp. Chaat masala

Cook’s notes: You’ll find Chaat masala at most Indian grocers and supermarkets. Some supermarkets stock it too, but it is definitely worth getting hold of, for that pungent peppery flavour it introduces. You may find different versions of the soya chunks, but essentially you want to have them cooked before you spice them up!

Some people make tamarind chutney by simply combining the water and the concentrated tamarind paste, but I think that can leave the chutney excessively tart. To allow the sweetness come through, simmer it.

  1. Start by making the chutney’s. The green chutney is really easy; just blitz together the coriander, chillies, salt to taste and 1/3rd cup of water until its smooth.
  2. To make the tamarind chutney, combine ½ cup water with the concentrated tamarind paste
  3. Boil the potatoes. Once they are soft enough to pierce, drain them, cool and then mix in the Chaat masala.
  4. Soak the soya chunks in hot water until they swell. Squeeze out the excess water, or cook per packet instructions. Then heat a tablespoon of hot oil in a pan and add the spices, frying for just 30 seconds-1 minute before adding the soya chunks and coating them well. Let them cook on a low heat for approximately 5 minutes, before turning off the heat.
  5. Now all you need to do is layer it. I usually go for puffed rice and nuts on the bottom, then the potatoes, tomatoes, onions and on the top, the warm soya chunks. Then the final act; drizzle them with the emerald and maroon shades with the chutney’s and eat it, quick!

 

 

Spicy Rice Flour Dough Balls (My Very Popular Khichi)

31 Jan

Spicy Rice Flour Dough Balls (My Very Popular Khichi)

Hot summer days during the school holidays, mother and aunties (in the broader sense, meaning women of mum’s age) in the kitchen boisterous and rosy. The wooden fence between us and the neighbours has been worn down to stubble from ever frequent visits by the neighbours kids indelicately climbing over them and aunties leaning over the fence, chit-chatting languidly after a hard day’s work.

The kitchen was spicy-steamy even though the windows and doors were wide open; the gleeful kids were darting between kitchen and garden. My mum would pick the hottest and least breezy days to make rice flour poppadum’s and I was the contented assistant; these goings-on were tradition for summer holidays. Mum and aunts simmered the chillies and spices in hot water leaving us all coughing, before adding the flour to make dough. It’s OK; we had strawberries and fresh fruit juices to distract our throats. They rolled the oiled dough to poppadum shapes; just a couple of millimetres thick and it was my starring role to lay them onto cleaned (but unwanted) wafting saris in the garden.  I collected heavy stones and bricks, full of purpose in my loud yellow and green floral dresses, to ensure the saris were controlled and I lay the papdi (the particular variety of poppadum) neatly, not overlapping them.   Barefoot in on the summer garden slabs, I enjoyed the heat under my feet.  I’d find a shady spot to intermittently paint under, whilst I safeguarded the poppadum’s from birds and insects too, or maybe it was the Bollywood music booming (and women singing) from the kitchen that did that!

The plan was to let the sun dry the dough out completely. Once dried out and microwaved or fried they taste impressively crunchy and crispy. They are deeper and slightly chewier than the poppadums you will find in restaurants, but they remain my favourite variety.  The smooth and slippery dough itself is delectably Moorish. When steamed its spongy, a little chewy, overflowing with punch and undeniably gutsy. Funnily enough the steamed dough is often eaten as a snack, with a little oil that’s infused with salt and chilli powder. Greasy fingers are typically all that remain once a plate of these gently green balls are served. Try it; tell me how you like it.

Khichi

Deena’s Spicy Rice Flour Dough Balls; My Very Popular Kichi

Ingredients

3-4 green chillies, minced

800ml of water

1 ½ tsp. of cumin seeds

1 tsp. of carom seeds/ajwain

Salt to taste

½ tsp. of ground cinnamon

375g of rice flour

Method serves 4-5

  1. Pour the specified amount of water into a deep pan, before adding the spices and seasonings with the minced chillies and bring it to a gentle simmer. Turn the heat down and continue to simmer for 3-4 minutes
  2. Take a long wooden spoon and gently pour in the rice flour and beat into the water, avoiding clumps forming. Do this quickly, before removing the dough from the heat
  3. Pour the dough into a large plate and grease your palms. Form flattened balls of about 5-6cm diameter and dip your thumb in the centre to create a well (keep the well empty though) and then steam for about 15 minutes.
  4. Remove onto a plate and serve with oil infused with chilli powder and salt.
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