Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sesame Asparagus and Green Beans

I am not a tech-head, that’s a prelude to explaining my delight at finding an entire website dedicated to asparagus. (I can just imagine my sister’s face now – that same expression she had when I asked her what Pinterest was. Anyway she was the one who bought the asparagus and left me to find out a way to cook it). So here’s a dish that turned out surprisingly well on the first try. I’ve given the adapted version. The original recipe is called Sesame Asparagus’ and can be found at

What I used:
½  tablespoon olive oil and ½ tablespoon sesame oil
1 ½ cups sliced asparagus
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ small red onion, chopped, more or less a tablespoon
½ cup green beans, frozen
½ cup chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
¼-½ teaspoon salt or to taste

What I did:
1. Heated oils in pan (used a mix of oils instead of sesame oil alone as the latter heats too quickly). When hot, added ginger, garlic and red onion. Fried for a few seconds, before adding asparagus, green beans (still frozen) and sesame seeds. Stir fried until beans lost their frozen texture. Then added red pepper; cooked for a few more minutes before adding soy sauce and salt. Stirred through until well-coated and it’s done.

Carrot Soup with Yoghurt and Rosemary

Having a week off in winter is perfect weather to stay indoors, pop Vitamin D pills and trawl the internet for recipes. (Yes, I’m living the high life…). This carrot soup came from a site dedicated to carrots and was promoted as healthy, despite having heavy cream and butter. As I didn’t think half a kilo of carrots was enough to counteract all that fat, here’s my attempt to make this ‘Creamy Carrot Soup’ a bit more ‘healthy’. Also the original recipe had ginger, but I prefer garlic with rosemary so made that substitution as well. If you’d like to see the original version, go to

What I used:
1 large onion, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
500g carrots, sliced
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
2 cups stock
2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1 cup yoghurt mixed with 1 cup milk (used full fat - still lighter than heavy cream!)
½ - ¾ tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
½  tsp salt
¼  tsp fresh ground black pepper

What I did:
Heated oil, added onions and fried until golden brown. Next added carrots, potatoes, chopped rosemary and garlic. Stir-fried for a few minutes, then added stock. Covered and cooked until vegetables are tender, about half an hour.
Turned off heat; added yoghurt, milk, salt and pepper. The yoghurt curdled (aargh!) but pureeing the mixture solved the problem (phew!) and the soup was creamy, ‘healthy’ and yum-licious.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Chickpeas and Chana dal in minted sauce

Over the week, I experimented with one of my not-so-favourite herbs: mint. I like mint in tea and chocolate but not so much in anything else. Until now. This dish is called Paraati Chana  in Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian and I am now a mint convert and this recipe has now become my favourite preparation for chickpeas.

What you’ll need:
* 1 ½ cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
* ¾ cup chana dal or yellow split peas, washed and drained
* 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
* 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
* 3 hot green chillies, finely chopped (didn’t have any, so left out and it still tasted good)
* 1 cup mint leaves
* ¼ cup oil
* 2 medium onions (used both red and brown), sliced
* 400g can diced tomatoes (the original recipe calls for 500g ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped, but they don’t sell 500g tins of tomato at the local supermarket and I hate using 100g of a separate can!)
* 2 ½ teaspoons salt
* 1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
* 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
* ½ teaspoon garam masala
* 3 tablespoons thick tamarind paste or fresh lemon juice to taste (used tamarind paste which is a product of Sri Lanka and sold at the Pakenham Sri Lanka food and grocery store)

What to do:
In a large pot, add pre-soaked and drained chickpeas and 7 cups of water. Bring to boil. Cover and simmer for an hour. Add split peas, cover and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours or until chick peas and dal is tender. Set aside.
Blend garlic, ginger, green chillies (if available) and mint leaves. The original recipe recommends adding 6-8 tablespoons of water to puree the mixture, but I left out the water and ended up with a chunkier alternative.
Heat oil in a pan, brown sliced onions.  Add tomatoes until reduced and the gravy turns oily at the edges. Add mint paste, stir through for a few minutes, then add pan mixture to chickpea pot, along with salt, coriander powder, cumin, garam masala and tamarind paste. Mix well. Cover and simmer for half an hour.

South Indian Cabbage

My dad really likes this dish but I ignore  the friendly hints and don’t make it often because of the amount of oil used. 'Absence does make the heart grow fonder' but maybe making this dish once a year, in the middle of winter is a bit too harsh. Well here’s more or less the original recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian

What you’ll need:
*1/4 cup oil
*Generous pinch of asafetida (this is not a Sri Lankan household must, so I always substitute 1-2 teaspoons chopped garlic)
*1 teaspoon whole brown mustard seeds
*1 teaspoon urad dal, chana dal or yellow split peas (I added 4 teaspoons of urad dhal - like the taste!)
*5-6 whole fenugreek seeds
*2-3 whole dried hot red chillies
*10 fresh curry leaves
*750g cabbage, core removed, and leaves shredded
*1 to 1¼ teaspoons salt
What to do:
Heat oil in wok or similar pan over medium heat. Add asafetida (if using) or add mustard seeds and dhal. When mustard seeds start popping, add fenugreek seeds and red chillies. Fry until dhal is reddened and chillies darken, then add curry leaves and chopped garlic, followed by the shredded cabbage. Add salt. Stir through. Cover and let cabbage wilt in it’s own steam, then taste for salt. Fry for a few minutes uncovered (to get rid of any excess moisture) and serve.

Creamed Fennel Soup

Warning: This is not a low fat soup, but it’s delicious and perfect for cold, rainy winter days like today (in the southern hemisphere). It’s also super easy to make - which is what I like. So here's the adapted version from the Sensational Vegetable Recipes by Bay Books. 

What you’ll need:
*2 potatoes (used medium-sized)
*1 medium fennel bulb (had a rather large one)
*60g butter (added half that with a couple of tablespoons of oil)
*500ml (2 cups) stock - added an extra cup of vegetable stock to make the soup less thick
*125g cream cheese
*1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped (didn’t use)
*1 tablespoon lemon juice (haven’t used)
*Pepper to taste
*Salt if needed (usually don’t)
My variation: 2-3 raw garlic cloves

What to do:
Fennel bulb
The recipe calls for chopped fennel bulb to be cooked in melted butter over low heat. I lightly brown the potatoes in butter and oil, then add sliced fennel into the pan over the potatoes, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes. Then add stock, bring to a boil, cover and simmer until vegetables are cooked. Leave to cool a bit . Then add cream cheese and raw garlic and blend until smooth. And it’s good to go.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Malaysian Sweet Potato Curry

Found this recipe several years ago, when I was looking for something to make with sweet potato that was soupy without actually being a soup. What attracted me to this dish was the use of almond meal in the curry, and it always turns out good even with a bit of tweaking here and there. The untweaked version is by Nick Nairn and can be found in the Ready Steady Cook book published by BBC Books in 2003. Got the book on sale at the Pakenham book shop, which sadly is no more.

What you’ll need:
*500g sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
*1 red onion, sliced
*1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
*1 teaspoon chopped garlic
*2 red bird’s eye chillies or 1-2 teaspoons chilli flakes
*1 lemon grass stalk (didn’t have any so used a couple of lemon grass leaves from the pot plant that’s too juvenile to have thick stalks, combined with a kaffir lime leaf), finely chopped
*2 tablespoons ground almond (sold as ‘almond meal’ in Australia)
*2 tablespoons oil
*1 teaspoon cumin powder
*1 teaspoon coriander powder
*1 teaspoon red chilli powder
*½ teaspoon turmeric powder (the original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon)
*300ml vegetable stock/water (or water plus one stock cube)
*400g coconut cream/milk
*1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
*juice of 1 lime (have never used it)
“Chopped fresh coriander leaves for garnish (wasn’t used today, as I was serving the curry with the green bean dish that follows this post).

What to do:
The original recipe calls for the onion, garlic, ginger, fresh chillies, lemon grass, almonds, oil and spices to be pureed, then stir-fried.
I’ve never liked the prospect of cleaning out the oily mess left behind in the food processor, so prefer to the following method:
Fry sliced onions in oil until edges brown, then add garlic, ginger, fresh chillies. Stir fry for several minutes, then add sweet potato chunks. Fry until sweet potato is well coated, then add spices, including salt, pepper and almond meal. Stir fry until fragrant. Then add water/stock and coconut cream. Also add kaffir lime leaf and lemon grass. Bring to a boil. Then simmer for 15-20 minutes until sweet potato is cooked. Take off fire, and if using, add lime juice and chopped coriander leaves.

Green Beans with Sesame Seeds

This adaptation of a recipe came after we ran out of coconut and I only found that out (as is often the case in this household) in the middle of cooking. Fortunately, we all preferred the adapted dish to the original, which came from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking.

What I used:
*500g frozen green beans
*¼ cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
*2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
*1-2 fresh chillies, used both green and red
*2 tablespoons sesame seeds
*1/2 tablespoon whole black mustard seeds
*1 teaspoon salt
*1/2 tablespoon chilli powder
*1-2 tablespoons butter with 1-2 tablespoons oil

What I did:
Melt butter in oil. Add sesame and mustard seeds, fry for a few seconds, then add chilli powder. Stir through the seeds, then add frozen beans (still frozen). Fry until the beans are cooked through but still crunchy (15-20 minutes, on high heat, uncovered). Then add garlic, salt and fresh chillies. Fry for 5-10 minutes more. Take off heat, stir through fresh coriander leaves and it’s ready to serve.