Saturday, January 22, 2011

Veg and Protein in One

I’ve been saving this recipe, Black-eyed Bean and Eggplant Curry, for awhile until I had all the necessary ingredients (Korma paste, for instance). Gave it a go this weekend, and the dish passed the family 'taste' test. So here is the recipe from a newspaper promotion of Sanitarium. You can find more at

What you’ll need:
* ¾ cup dried black-eyed beans, soaked overnight
* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 1 onion, finely chopped
 * 2 garlic cloves, crushed
* 2 cm ginger, grated (about 1 teaspoon)
* 275g eggplant, (1 medium eggplant), cubed
* 1 tablespoon Korma curry paste
* 1 cup tomato passata sauce
* ½ cup vegetable stock
* ½ cup natural yoghurt (they recommend reduced fat, I used normal yoghurt mixed with a little bit of cornflour to prevent curdling).
* ½ cup coriander, chopped roughly

Fresh coriander/cilantro
Black-eyed peas
What to do: Place soaked, drained beans in a saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. (Or microwave the lot under the legumes setting).
Next heat oil in a pan. Add onion, garlic, ginger and eggplant. Cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in curry paste. Cook for another minute. Stir in beans, tomato sauce and stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10-20 minutes or until eggplant and beans
are tender (and fragrant). Stir through yogurt and coriander. Service with brown rice. (Or any other kind of rice).

Sweetcorn and Egg Soup

After Chandra Dissanayake, my second must-have cookbook author would have to be Madhur Jaffrey. Thanks to her I’ve learnt to make some family favourites, including this Chinese soup which always disappears with second and third helpings. It’s from her World of the East Vegetarian Cooking.

What you’ll need as a minimum quantity:
* 4 cups of vegetable stock ( I make this with stock powder or cubes according to the directions on the package. Then add 2 cloves garlic, a sliver of ginger, half a stick of celery sliced, 1-2 finely sliced cabbage leaves, ¼ teaspoon sugar).
* 2 teaspoons cornflour
* 2 teaspoons sesame oil
* 2 small eggs or 1 large egg
* 1 cup creamed sweetcorn (or corn kernels – slender blended)
* 1/3 to ½ teaspoon salt
* 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper (or black pepper)
* ¾ teaspoon thin soy sauce
* 2 teaspoons finely sliced spring/green onions

What to do:
Mix ¼ cup of the stock (cooled) in a measuring jug along with the cornflour and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Set aside.
Sliced spring/green onions
Lightly beat the eggs with 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and set aside. (I just stir the eggs and oil with a fork). I do this in a separate measuring jug.
Heat the stock (with the optional ingredients). Cook 20-30 minutes. Then add corn, salt, pepper and soy sauce. Simmer.
Then in a thin stream, add the cornflour mixture. (The spout of the measuring jug helps the pouring process). Stir until the soup thickens slightly.  At this point, slender-blend the corn (if not creamed), along with the optional ingredients (I don’t throw them out).
Then Ms Jaffrey recommends taking off fire and pouring the egg in a steady stream to cover the surface of the soup. I take off fire and stir in the eggs (poured in a thin, steady stream from a measuring jug) with an egg whisk (or spoon if too many egg bits stuck in the whisk), then add the sliced spring onions.

Simple and Tasty Lentils with Spinach

When we visit family friends Uncle Impa and Nimalka Aunty in Geelong, we always come away fresh vegetables straight from their garden. This time we came home with lovely, large spinach leaves, and my father immediately asked for this lentil dish. I love it too because it tastes good as is very simple to make. So here’s Lentils with Spinach, one of the easier dals to make, except this one is from the Middle East and the recipe is more or less from Madhur Jaffrey’s ‘World of the East Vegetarian Cooking’.

Red lentils
What you need:
* 750g spinach (or 250g); have also substituted silverbeet and bok choy
* 1 medium onion, sliced
* 5 tablespoons oil
* 2 (or 4) cloves garlic, crushed
* 1 cup lentils, washed and drained
* 1 ½ to 1 ¾ teaspoons salt (or 1 teaspoon stock powder and ¾ teaspoon salt)
* 1 teaspoon cumin powder
Spinach leaves
    * 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

What to do: If using a bunch of fresh spinach, wash well, then chop leaves and roots. (I had leaves only, so chopped that). If using frozen, I add the frozen spinach to the cooked dal at the very end. Now back to the rest of the preparation: Fry onion and garlic in hot oil. They add drained lentils and 3 cups of water. Boil, then cover and simmer for 25 minutes or until lentils are cooked. If using spinach roots, stir them into cooked lentils, along with salt (and stock powder) and cumin. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes until roots are tender. Then stir in pepper. Take off fire, then stir in chopped fresh spinach leaves or frozen spinach. The heat of the lentils will cook the spinach, either fresh or frozen. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Colourful and Quick

There are some cookbooks in our house that are so well-used, they are now falling to bits - the Australian Women’s Weekly Oriental Dinner Party cookbook is one such favourite, and this recipe,
Snow peas and Mushroom Salad, is one of the many quick salads that is good for a hot summer’s day when you don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen.

What you’ll need:
For the Salad:
* 500g snow peas
* 500g mushrooms sliced, (used baby brown mushrooms)
* 2 red peppers, chopped

Mushroom, snow pea
For the Honey dressing:
* ½ cup oil
* ¼ cup vinegar
* 1 teaspoon honey
* 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
* ½ teaspoon sambal oelek (or if you’re out of that, a teaspoon of chilli sauce mixed with crushed chillies)
* (Also added 1 teaspoon salt)

What to do:
Top and tail snowpeas. Microwave/boil/steam until cooked, then immediately rinse through cold water (Or put them in a colander and place in freezer, until cool, when the tech-heads around the house are not watching).
Red capsicum
Then next bit involves a lot less drama: Slice (cleaned) mushrooms and chop peppers. Then combine snowpeas, mushrooms and red pepper in a bowl – since I didn’t have the patience to arrange it all nicely on a plate as shown in the book.
For the dressing: Mix all ingredients and pour over the vegetables. If you are using a plate, the amount of dressing is sufficient. Or you will have to double the quantity as the “taste-testers” won’t be able to taste the dressing which has all pooled at the bottom of the bowl.

Made with Methi

Checking out what was what on the fresh herb shelves at the Asian vegetable shop in Dandenong Plaza, saw fenugreek leaves. Bought a bunch a home, then searched the web on what to do with it as Sri Lankans cook with fenugreek seed but not the leaves.

Apparently, fenugreek leaves or methi is so popular in Indian cooking, there are entire web sites dedicated to this herb. So guess I’ll have to buy a few more bunches and try out some more dishes. In the meantime, this is one cobbled together from three or four different recipes on the web for Aloo Methi aka potatoes with fenugreek leaves

What I used: 
* 1 ½ cups fresh fenugreek leaves/methi (washed and chopped) = 1 bunch from the Asian veg store
* 500-750g potatoes (cubed and cooked in the microwave)
* 2 small onions, sliced
* 1 large sprig curry leaves (about 15-20 leaves)
* 2-3 whole dried red chilles (broken into large bits)
* 2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
* ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
* 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
* ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
* Pinch garam masala
* ½-1 teaspoon cumin powder
* 1 teaspoon coriander powder
* 2-3 tablespoons oil

What I did:
To hot oil, added cumin seeds, then curry leaves and broken dried chillies. Next added the onion, which was fried until translucent. After that, added chopped fenugreek leaves and fried for a few minutes, then the put in the rest of the spices with the cubed potatoes. Stir-fried until the potatoes were well-coated for about 5-10 minutes.

A Yummy Carrot Salad

There were two shows my mother would watch without fail on Dubai TV when we were living in the UAE: one was the Bold and Beautiful (with the kissing parts edited or substituted with still photos of date palms); the other was a cooking show by Kurma Das, which fortunately didn’t have kissing so we got to see the whole show.
The problem was my mother would write the recipes on bits of paper, which would later be misplaced. So of course when we came to Australia, and since Kurma Dasa was Australian, we had to get her a cookbook with nice, orderly lists of ingredients in a hard-to-lose format. Now though, as the recipes are so good, I’ve sort-of permanently “borrowed” the cookbooks (!) and here’s a favourite from Cooking with Kurma, called South Indian Carrot Salad

What you’ll need:
* 500g carrots, grated coarsely
* 1 large green chillies or (2 medium ones), chopped (since julienne strips are for people who get paid to do that)
* Leaves from 1 small bunch of coriander/cilantro, chopped roughly (I used the leaves of 3-4 plants)
* 1 teaspoon salt

(Hot oil dressing)
* 3 teaspoons oil
* ¼ teaspoon black mustard seeds
* 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
* 10 fresh curry leaves (or 20 because I really like the taste of curry leaves)
* 1 teaspoon split urad dal (worth a trip to a Sri Lankan/Indian spice shop to get this ingredient as it gives a lovely nutty flavour to the dish. BTW, I added 2 teaspoons)
* ½ teaspoon yellow asafetida powder (which I never have, so substituted 1-2 cloves of finely chopped garlic)
* 2 tablespoons of lemon juice

What to do:
Place carrot, coriander leaves, green chillies and salt in a bowl.
For the hot oil dressing: Heat oil (of course), sprinkle in mustard seeds. Then when they begin to crackle, add curry leaves, cumin seeds and urad dhal. When dhal turns golden brown, remove from fire and add asafetida (or in this instance, garlic), swirl, then pour the lot over the carrot-coriander-chillies. Finally add the lemon juice and mix well.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bok Choy Specials

Bok Choy
Bok Choy was on special at the local market the other day and we ended up with 2 kilos worth. So guess what we’ll be eating all week… same veg, different dish. Here are two I tried out:

The first version is what you’d expect from this ‘Chinese vegetable’, a stir-fry. From Margaret Fulton’s ‘Encylcopedia of Food & Cookery’, the original recipe is titled Baby Bok Choy with Oyster Sauce. However, my version should be called Mature Bok Choy with No Oyster Sauce.

What I used:

* 500g bok choy, washed clean of soil, then chopped into bite-sized pieces
* 375g pre-sliced button mushrooms
Then everything else on Ms Fulton’s list except for 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce, though I was thinking that black bean sauce, Hoisin sauce or other vegetarian sauce could have been substituted
* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 1 teaspoon sesame oil
* 4 cloves garlic, chopped
* 1 tablespoon ginger, finely grated   
* 1 teaspoon soy sauce
* 2 teaspoons rice wine vingegar
* ½ teaspoon cornflour
(* Oh and I added 1 teaspoon of salt, not on the list of ingredients)

What I did:
Mixed soy sauce, cornflour, rice wine vinegar in a glass and set it aside.
Heated vegetable and sesame oils in a pan. Added sliced mushrooms straight from the supermarket container. Fried until the mushrooms lost their ‘raw look’. Added garlic and ginger, stir-fried for a minute as Ms Fulton suggests. Added bok choy and tossed until wilted. Then added sauce mixture, until vegetables were coated. Took off fire.

The second bok choy dish is adapted from a Leeks White Curry recipe in Chandra Dissanayake’s ‘Ceylon Cookery’ book. (Never miss a chance!). This is the adapted Bok Choy Very Yellow Curry.

What I used:
* 500g bok choy, washed well and sliced finely.
* ½ teaspoon turmeric
* ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
* ¾  cup coconut cream diluted in ¾ cup water
* 1 small onion, chopped
* 2 green chillies, chopped
* 1 sprig of curry leaves
* 1 teaspoon salt
* Extra ½ cup of coconut cream (undiluted)

What I did:
Separated the sliced bok choy stems from the sliced leaves. 
Added the sliced stems and all other ingredients (EXCEPT the extra half cup of coconut cream) into a saucepan. 
Cooked on high heat until mixture boiled, then added the extra half cup of coconut cream. 
Cooked again until curry starts to boil. 
Fenugreek seeds
Then took off fire and added the sliced bok choy leaves. This is to retain some of the green-ness of the leaves, which will cook in the heat of the curry.  

Lazy Nachos

Friday nights are usually no-effort meal days. Or very little effort. This is one such meal that my sister, Amali, often puts together with variations of her own making. For instance, last week she added a fried eggplant and apple mixture, which worked really well. But the basic dish is simple and very easy to make.

What you’ll need:
1 packet of corn chips
1 tin baked beans
Grated cheese – any easy-to-melt variety will do, and a dollop of cream cheese if you’d like to stare a few more calories in the face.

What to do:

Line the bottom of a microwave-proof dish with corn chips. Top with baked beans, then grated cheese. Microwave until cheese melts. And you’re done.

In Yellow and Green


Broccoli is a versatile vegetable but it tastes best with a minimum amount of cooking, like in stir-fries. So why not a ‘mallung/mallum’, usually a shredded-leaf dish that's cooked for a few minutes. So here’s a mallum adapted from Chandra Dissanayake’s Ceylon Cookery’ book for ‘Mukunuwenna Mallum’.
Used broccoli as I didn’t have mukunuwenna – a popular green weed that is still sold door-to-door by ‘greens’ hawkers, in Colombo. I like this dish because it doesn’t use oil. And I make it in bulk to freeze for weekday dinners.

What you’ll need:
1 to 1½ kg broccoli
2 sprigs curry leaves
4-6 green chillies, chopped (or 1-2 teaspoons crushed chillies)
1 cup desiccated coconut, rehydrated with half a cup of water
1 red onion
1 teaspoon turmeric
2-3 teaspoons salt

What to do:
In a food-processor, finely chop broccoli and onion together. Then into a saucepan, add broccoli-onion mixture, curry leaves, re-hydrated desiccated coconut, chillies, turmeric and salt. Dry fry (no oil) for a few minutes until the broccoli is done.   


I once served this cabbage mallum with string hoppers but it tastes just as good with rice. Best of all it’s on and off the stove in minutes. Again this is a favourite from the ‘Ceylon Cookery’ book by Chandra Dissanayake.

What you’ll need:
* 250g cabbage
* ¼ teaspoon turmeric
* ½ cup desiccated coconut
* 1 sprig curry leaves
* 1 small onion
* 2 dried red chillies, broken into bits
* 1 teaspoon mustard powder
* ½ teaspoon pepper
* 1 teaspoon salt
* ¼ cup of water or less (I don’t use any)

What to do: 
Shred cabbage and onion together in a food processor. Empty cabbage mixture into a saucepan. Add curry leaves, salt and water, if using. Cook for a few minutes. Then add coconut and spices. Stir for a few minutes more and take off fire. I generally add all the ingredients in one go and take off the fire after a few minutes.