Smoked Aubergine Mash (Baingan Bharta)

 

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I always think it’s funny how there are foods we used to hate as kids but now love as adults. Not that I consider myself an adult. I see myself more as a tall kid. Am I aware that 5ft 2 is not technically tall? Sure I am, but lets not ponder on that.

I was a good eater as a child (my childhood photos reveal that) and I’d like to think I wasn’t particularly fussy. Granted I had some weird foodie combinations that I loved but who didn’t? Crisp and coleslaw sandwiches were a must whilst watching cartoons on a Saturday morning. Any crisp would do, though crisps made from maize or corn were preferable. Mango pickle mixed with yoghurt was a regular “snack”, oh and I could eat mountains of black olives and pickled onions at any given time. Perhaps I was an odd child…please don’t judge me. 

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But I digress. Generally, I ate very well and there were just a few things I detested which oddly, I now love! Any sort of seafood was a no go, however Chingri Malai Kari is now one of my absolute favourite dishes. I found bitter melon revolting growing up but now regularly crave it. I couldn’t stand the smell of anything cooked in ghee but now it’s a staple in my everyday cooking. It’s odd isn’t it?

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Baigan Bharta also featured on the loathe list but now I can’t fathom how I lived so many years without it! Spicy, smokey (almost BBQ esque) and slightly sweet, baigan bharta is an utterly satisfying dish that’s perfect with hot buttery chapatis. The mashed consistency of the aubergine is akin to baba ganoush so it also works great as a dip, in wraps and smothered on crackers too (I’m thinking canapés at dinner partys people). I hope you like this recipe. It’s surprisingly easy to make and packed full of flavour. Keep me posted on how it turns out for you! 

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Smoked Aubergine Mash (Baigan Bhartha)
Serves 3
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Ingredients
  1. 1 aubergine
  2. 2 tbsp oil
  3. 1 small onion, finely diced
  4. 1 green chilli, finely diced
  5. 2 tomatoes, diced
  6. 1 level tsp tomato puree (double concentrate)
  7. 1 1/2 tsp salt or according to taste
  8. 1/2 tsp chilli powder or according to taste
  9. 2 tbsp peas, boiled (optional)
  10. Fresh coriander
Instructions
  1. Grease the aubergine with oil and roast it over an open flame till it is fully cooked. It should take about 5-7 minutes. When done, the skin should be charred all over and and the aubergine flesh will become soft.
  2. If you do not have a gas cooker, you can also cook the aubergine in the grill at the highest temperature until soft. Note, this will however not achieve the smokiness in flavour.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Then peel and discard the skin. Mash the flesh with a fork and keep aside.
  4. Heat oil in a non stick pan. Then add the onions and chilli and cook for 3-5 minutes until light golden brown in colour.
  5. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, salt and chilli powder and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
  6. Now add the mashed aubergine and peas and mix well. Reduce the heat and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add the fresh coriander. Check salt and chilli and adjust accordingly. Remove from heat.
Notes
  1. If you are roasting over a flame, use tongs to hold the aubergine and rotate every few minutes. It may also help to cover the cooker around the ring with foil so it is easy to clean once the aubergine is roasted.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/

Nankathai – Indian Cardamom Shortbread Cookies

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Is it just me or is the sound of a kettle turning on the most comforting noise in the world. Hearing the water begin to boil away just makes me mentally go “ahhhhh”. The emoticon with the smiley rose cheeks? Yeah that face happens too. I’m sure it’s synonymous with the idea that I’m about to have a big fat hug in a cup. (That’s tea for people who speak normal english). 

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You’ve come home late, you’ve come home early, you’ve heard good news, you’ve heard bad news, you’ve made cake, you’ve not made cake. Any…scratch that…every scenario sounds/feels/tastes better with a cup of tea. Fellow tea lovers, can I get an amen?? When I went to university in the states, I quickly discovered that “putting the kettle on” is not a thing over there. In fact, kettles aren’t even widely available in shops. I know! Bunch of crazies. My thoughts exactly.

I think this love for tea (and kettles it would appear) stems from the British and Indian in me…two nations of tea lovers! And what better way to compliment tea than a biscuit or “biskoot” as pronounced in the motherland. Which brings me to today’s recipe of the utterly moreish, buttery, crumbly and fragrant nankathai. We are talking melt in mouth factor x 1000 people. Mum and I have been developing this recipe for years trying to make it better every time and you know what, I think this one is actually THE ONE. If you have tried the old recipe on the blog I urge your to re-make with this recipe. Try! Go now! Oh and come back and let me know your thoughts. Please :).

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Nankathai
Yields 20
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Ingredients
  1. ½ cup gram flour
  2. 1½ cups plain flour
  3. ¾ cup icing sugar
  4. ¼ tsp green cardamom seeds, ground into a fine powder
  5. 1 tsp baking powder
  6. 1/8th tsp bicarbonate of soda
  7. ¾ cup ghee
  8. almond slithers for garnishing
Instructions
  1. Line a baking tray and preheat oven to 180ºc.
  2. To a bowl, add the gram flour, plain flour, icing sugar, cardamom powder, baking powder and bicarb of soda. Mix well.
  3. Add the ghee and mix together using a whisk. When you see the ghee has mixed through, put the whisk down and scrape off any excess mixture back into the bowl.
  4. Now, hold the bowl with one hand and using your free hand, knead the mixture into a stiff but smooth dough. Note, it does take a few minutes before you see the mixture come together and begin to take the form of a dough but it will happen - keep at it.
  5. Divide the dough into 20 sections. (you can make more or less depending on what size you prefer. My photos reflect a yield of 20). Roll into smooth balls.
  6. Place them on the lined tray and flatten with your fingers slightly. Place an almond slither on each.
  7. Place the tray in the preheated oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. They should be light golden in colour. Remove from heat and allow to cool. (Do not touch before they cool otherwise they will crumble!)
  8. Serve or store in an air tight container.
Notes
  1. Tip - Very lightly oiling your hands can help with forming and kneading the dough!
Adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor's Khazana
Adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor's Khazana
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/

Punjabi Chickpea Curry – CHANNA MASALA

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So for the next 9 days I am vegetarian. It’s a Hindu thing.

Okay I’ll elaborate.  The Hindu festival of “Navratri” takes place over the next nine days. It’s referred to by the elders as an “auspicious occasion” and one that symbolises the triumph of good over evil! It’s also a time where celebrations are expressed in the form of colour, family reunions, force feeding of Indian sweets by random aunties, dancing and eating (very possibly followed by more dancing and eating). Although the “eating” comes in the form of vegetarian food, it’s not really a problem for me as:

a) I’m not a huge carnivore anyway
b) I was a vegetarian for 3 of my teen years (I gave up when I moved to America-damn the USA with their tasty junk food that looks awful but tastes so darned good. I’m looking at you Mr pancakes topped with crispy bacon & maple syrup!
c) There is no shortage of delish Indian vegetarian dishes

It is slightly more of an issue for my other half however, as his dreams of kick-starting the week with Murgh Masala Monday & Tandoori Chicken Tuesday, sadly no longer exist. It is for this reason that I have decided to cook up some vegetarian dishes this week that deliver an extra portion of dishoom – hopefully easing the burn of the lack of “meatiness” in the kitchen. 

Today’s recipe is spicy, filling, comforting and moreish – I don’t know how many more adjectives I need to list about this dish before it screams out MAKE ME! Enjoy and do let me know your thoughts. Oh and p.s . Happy National Curry Week!

Punjabi Chickpea Curry
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup chickpeas, raw
  2. pinch of baking soda
  3. 4 tbsp olive oil
  4. 1 tsp cumin seeds
  5. 3” cinnamon stick (optional)
  6. 2 cloves (optional)
  7. 3 peppercorns (optional)
  8. 2 bay leaves (optional)
  9. 1 black cardamom (optional)
  10. 1 large onion, peeled
  11. 1 birds eye chilli (optional)
  12. 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  13. 2" ginger, washed
  14. 2 tsp salt
  15. 1 tsp garam masala
  16. 1 tsp paprika
  17. 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  18. 1/2 tsp amchur (mango powder)
  19. 2 plum tomatoes & 2 tbsp juice
  20. handful fresh coriander
Instructions
  1. Soak chickpeas and baking soda in water overnight
  2. Wash and rinse thoroughly
  3. Place chickpeas in a pressure cooker. Cover with water until the water level is 1 1/2" above the chickpeas. Add 1 tsp of salt and place lid on carefully. Cook for 12 minutes after the first whistle. Turn off heat. Allow to de-pressurise naturally before removing lid.
  4. If you do not have a pressure cooker, place chickpeas with salt in a pan of water (same water level as above) and bring to boil. Now reduce the heat and allow to simmer until tender and cooked all the way through. This can take between 35-45 minutes. (If the water reduces before they have cooked, add more boiling water to the pan).
  5. To make the masala, coarsely grind onions in a processor and place in a bowl. Now coarsely grind the chilli, ginger and garlic.
  6. Heat oil in a non stick pan. Once hot add the cumin alongside the cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaf and black cardamom.
  7. When they begin to splatter in the oil, add the ground onions. Add 1/2 tsp salt and cook for 4 minutes, stirring continuously.
  8. When they turn slightly translucent, add the ground chilli, ginger and garlic mixture. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the masala turns completely golden.
  9. Now reduce the heat and add the remaining salt, garam masala, paprika, turmeric and amchur powder and mix well. Now add the plum tomatoes and juice and mash into the masala. When the oil begins to separate from the masala, add the chickpeas and 1 cup of water and bring to boil and cook for 5-6 minutes on high heat.
  10. Check for salt and adjust accordingly. Serve with hot chapatis, naan or basmati rice!
Notes
  1. You can add or reduce water depending on how dry or wet you would like the dish to be. Some like it to be wetter if serving with rice or drier if serving with breads.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/