Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for aubergine fesenjan

This recipe is from Meera Sodha’s book Fresh India. You’ll need a food processor to grind the walnuts.

Prep 10 min
Cook 30-35 min
Serves 4 as a main

120g walnuts
4 medium aubergines (1.2 kg)
Rapeseed oil
Salt and ground black pepper
2 large red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
tbsp brown rice syrup
¾ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
250ml hot vegetable stock
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
1 handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6 and line a large baking tray with lightly oiled foil. In a food processor, blitz the walnuts to a fine crumb.

Cut the aubergines into 5cm x 2cm batons, toss in a bowl with a little oil to coat, season lightly, then transfer to the prepared tray and roast for 25 minutes, until meltingly soft.

While the aubergines are roasting, make the fesenjan sauce. Put three tablespoons of oil into a large frying pan over a medium heat and, once hot, add the onions and fry for 12 minutes, stirring regularly to ensure they don’t catch.

Add the garlic, fry for three minutes, then stir in the brown rice syrup, chilli powder, cinnamon, half a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of ground black pepper, the blitzed walnuts and the pomegranate molasses. Pour in the stock and cook for about eight minutes, until the sauce comes together.

When the aubergines are tender, pour the sauce into a serving dish. Arrange the aubergines on top, scatter over the pomegranate seeds and coriander, and serve with steamed basmati rice.

Photograph: Louise Hagger/The Guardian. Food styling: Katy Gilhooly. Prop styling: Jennifer Kay.

Spicy apricot Indian chutney

On the last Saturday before Christmas She Who Must be Fed worked her last shift for 2018. The shop owners are shuttering for a well earned break for several weeks and so upon closing emptied out the displays and fridges of their remaining organic fruit and veg stock and distributed it to She Who Must’ and her colleagues.

Terrific; two boxes of goodies to tide us through Christmas and New Year!

A tray of stone fruit went to the hungry carolers at the 2018 Bucketty Christmas Carols (RFS fundraiser). Amongst the rest that came home were eight or so apricots. Neither The VegHead or She Who Must’ are overly fond of apricots (though we partook of one each – not bad for an apricot) so the half dozen left after our sampling have been made into an inaugural Spicy apricot Indian Chutney.

This chutney has popped my chutney cherry. A bit of Duck Duck Go interweb trawling gave me the basics and then I ignored most of the specifics of the recipes I had found (as I am wont to do) and just MADE SHIT UP.

What went in (makes a medium jar):

  • 6 apricots; destoned and chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic; one crushed and the others thinly sliced
  • 1 hot birdseye chilli; thinly sliced
  • 6 white ends of spring onions; thinly sliced
  • 2 thin slices of ginger; finely sliced into strips
  • about a heaped TBSP of young, fresh curry leaves (if large ones then chop)
  • juice of one lime
  • rind of half a lime, thinly sliced
  • a pinch each of coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds; ground in a portar and mestle (What? You don’t have one of these?)
  • a generous pinch of salt
  • 1 TBSP of palm sugar
  • 1 TBSP of panela
  • 1 TBSP of coconut oil for frying
  • 2/3 cup of water

Taj Mahaling it all together:

  • Over a low heat saute the garlic, chilli, spring onions, and ginger until soft
  • Add the spices, salt and pepper and give it about another minute
  • Add the apricots, water, lime, sugars, and half of the curry leaves
  • With the saucepan lidded simmer gently until the liquid is reduced
  • Remove from heat, stir in the remaining curry leaves and jar that baby

Serve with something lovely, like these.

Spicy chickpea sausage rolls

These sausage rolls can easily be made gluten free by using appropriate pastry. The mix itself is gluten free without alteration.

For the putting in

  • 600g cooked chickpeas
  • ½ cup finely chopped (bamixed) mixed, roasted nuts
  • 2 thumb of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp chilli powder – to taste
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 tbsp tomata paste
  • Generous splash of tamari
  • pre-rolled puff pastry (use gluten free pastry if needed)
  • ½ cup soy yoghurt, diluted (to brush pastry)
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, to decorate

For the putting together

In a small pan, saute the onion in some olive oil until soft. Add the garlic, ginger and saute for four to five minutes more to soften the garlic and ginger.

Meanwhile, gently toast the cumin, coriander and fenugreek seeds in the oven until they smell fragrant, then add in with the nuts and bamix (using the dry foods thingy).

Using a slicing blade in a food processor roughly cut the chickpeas.

Into the onions stir in the tomato puree, tamari, salt, papper, and chopped chickpeas. Continue to cook on a low heat to reduce liquid, stirring occasionally.

If you are going to cook the sausage rolls right away, heat the oven to 180C.

Once the chickpea mix is fairly dry remove from heat and thoroughly mix with the chopped nuts. Allow to cool until it can be handled.

Remove the pastry from the fridge, put on a floured surface and cut in half lengthways. Divide the mix in half and roll into two long sausages. Put a sausage along the length of each pastry and brush the long edges with the yoghurt wash. Roll the pastries around the mix and press the pastry together where it meets, using a fork to crimp the edges. Brush all over with yoghurt wash, sprinkle with fennel seeds and cut into mini rolls about an inch thick – any thinner and they will fall over in the oven. At this stage, you can freeze them, separating the layers with parchment paper.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until puffed and golden, and serve with a spicy tomato marmalade, Indian chutney.

If the mix is to be used later, refridgerate in a lidded container.

Serve with a jolly nice chutney.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Tofu and cauliflower ‘korma’

Serve this splendid vegan curry with rice or naan depending on personal preference, and a dollop of dairy-free yoghurt.

Prep 20 min
Cook 75 min
Serves 4

½ red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and black pepper
40g cashew nuts
20g blanched almonds
120ml olive oil
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2cm piece ginger, peeled and grated
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 cinnamon stick
6 cardamom pods, shells discarded, seeds roughly crushed in a mortar
2 tsp cumin seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar
2 tsp coriander seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar
¾ tsp ground turmeric
2 tomatoes, grated and skins discarded (180g net weight)
1 large cauliflower, cut into large florets (750g net weight)
15g coriander leaves, roughly chopped
250g extra-firm tofu, crumbled into medium chunks

Heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/425F/gas 9. In a small bowl, mix the red onion, a tablespoon of lemon juice and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt.

Put the cashews and almonds in a small saucepan on a medium-high heat, cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium, simmer for 20 minutes, then drain.

Meanwhile, heat one and a half tablespoons of oil in a large saute pan on a medium-high flame, then fry the onion, stirring often, for 10 minutes, until soft and well browned. Transfer to a blender, add the nuts and 200ml water, and blend for two minutes, until very smooth.

Heat another tablespoon and a half of oil in the same pan on a medium-high heat, then fry the garlic, ginger and chilli for a minute. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, a teaspoon each of cumin and coriander seeds, and half a teaspoon of turmeric, and cook, stirring, for a minute. Add the tomatoes, cook for four minutes, until thickened, then add the onion and nut mixture, 500ml water, a teaspoon and a half of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat to medium and leave to cook for 20 minutes, until reduced by a third.

In a bowl, mix the cauliflower with the remaining quarter-teaspoon of turmeric, three tablespoons of oil, three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Spread out on an oven tray lined with baking paper, and roast for 18 minutes, until cooked through and coloured. Stir into the sauce, add two-thirds of the coriander and the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice, and leave to simmer for five minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining two tablespoons of oil in a medium saute pan on a high flame. Add the tofu, half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp – about eight minutes. Lower the heat to medium, add the remaining teaspoon each of cumin and coriander seeds, and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Stir half of this mixture into the cauliflower, and reserve the rest.

Transfer the korma to a shallow serving bowl, top with the pickled red onion, followed by the remaining tofu and coriander, and serve.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/food/2018/nov/10/yotam-ottolenghis-curry-recipes

Photograph: Louise Hagger/The Guardian. Food styling: Emily Kydd. Prop styling: Jennifer Kay.

Its a hing thing

Hing is the Indian name for asofetida, which together with a big, fat, grated root of fresh turmeric is the spice that gives the most to the flavour of this chick pea curry. Many recipes have asofetida thrown in to the hot oil at the beginning of cooking, together with the other dried spices and chillies. However The VegHead finds that its flavour is overcome and lost if this is done, and prefers instead to sprinkle a little in once most of the cooking has been done.

Friday’s are the principal shopping day for the VegHead larder, and so Thursday nights tend to be “whatever is left” night. A shiny black-skinned aubergine begged to be eaten, and a pile of orange sweet potatoes just cried out to be culled somewhat. These, together with the big jar of chick peas in the fridge formed the basis for dinner.

The Thursday night larder:

  • 1 medium aubergine – cubed
  • 1 medium sweet potato – cubed
  • 1 cup of cooked chick peas
  • 1 small onion – diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic – chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes – chopped
  • 1 chilli – chopped
  • 1 thumb sized turmeric root (substitute 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder if unavailable)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of coriander seeds
  • small pinch of fenugreek seeds
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon of asofetida powder
  • 1 tablespoon of miso (or substitute vegetable stock)
  • sunflower oil
  • water
  • corn flour (or other thickening agent)

To do:

  • dry roast the spice seeds for 10 minutes or so, then grind to a powder with a mortar and pestle
  • roughly mash the chick peas with a “potato masher”
  • fry the dried spices, chilli, onion and garlic over a low heat for a few minutes (if using powdered turmeric add at this stage too)
  • add the chick peas, sweet potato, and aubergine. Mix thoroughly and cook covered over a low heat for several minutes
  • add the tomato and miso, and enough water to cover. Bring to a steady, low simmer and maintain until the sweet potato and aubergine are tender but not mushy
  • if using fresh turmeric root, grate and add now (best to only grate fresh turmeric root just before using or it browns quickly through oxidisation). Also add the asofetida powder. Simmer for another few minutes.
  • thicken the sauce. The easiest way to do this is to scoop out the vegetables into a bowl using a slotted spoon, leaving just the sauce in the pan (off the heat). Then spoon out a little of the sauce into a small bowl, add a little corn flour, and mix all the lumps out with a fork. Then add the corn flour mix back into the rest of the sauce in the pan, and mix through thoroughly over a low heat. Then add the vegetables back in. This might sound fussy but it ensures a lump-free thickening experience at the expense of two extra bowls and a slotted spoon in the washing up.
  • bring the saucepan back to a low simmer
  • serve with rice or idli

You can’t cycle to the Indian Grocery and then have pizza for dinner

The happy occurrence of the presence in the larder of fresh turmeric root, as well as methi leaves means that it was Indian on the menu last night in The VegHead’s kitchen.

Chick pea and brinjal to the left, and Methi Shaak Potatoes to the right. Kept from fighting with each other by a few Idli, each topped with a dop of (soy) yoghurt.

Not a great photo – but who takes a SLR to the dinner table every night?

Chick Pea and Brinjal with tumeric and methi leaves

This recipe relies pretty heavily on you having some fresh Turmeric Root. Though turmeric root is the source of the more common dried turmeric powder, it has a subtly different flavour. Turmeric root should is best grated on a ceramic ginger grater, just before you need to add it to the dish – it oxidises very quickly and then the bright orange turns a rusty brown.

The act of grating turmeric root is also recommended for anyone who wishes to go to an X-Files themed fancy dress party as The Cancer Man. It is incredibly staining, and even if you immediately wash your hands your finger tips will be left with an orange tinge reminiscent of a 2 pack a day habit for a day or so. It is quite a cheerful colour actually and will serve as a happy remembrance of a lovely meal even as you sit the next day in yet another interminable business meeting getting a numb arse, and an earache from all the corporate nonspeak.

Ingredients:

  • a small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 baby brinjal (aubergine), cut into thin wedges. It is best not to cut the brinjal until just before you need it, as the cut flesh quickly oxidises and turns brown.
  • 1 cup of cooked chick peas
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of dried black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • 3 cardamom (seed) pods
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 6-7cm (approx) long turmeric root, grated
  • 1 cm (approx) of ginger root, grated
  • tablespoon of light miso paste (or similar vegetable stock source)
  • 1 cup (approx) of methi leaves
  • (up to) 1 cup of water
  • vegetable oil

Zee making:

  • de-pod the cardamom seeds from the pods, and then dry roast together with all the other dried spice seeds for 5-10 minutes. Then grind to a course powder in a mortar and pestle.
  • saute the spices, together with the onion
  • add the chickpeas, tomatoes, miso paste, garlic, grated ginger and water and simmer for ten minutes on a low flame
  • add the brinjal and the grated turmeric root continue to simmer for a minute or two. The brinjal should best be still a little crunchy. Simmer longer however if that is not to your taste.
  • stir through the methi leaves and serve

* Image of turmeric root sourced gratefully from www.food-info.net

Methi Shaak Potato


Yesterday afternoon was clear and brisk. Ideal weather for slipping the iPod into the top pocket and donning the thickly knitted Moroccan skullcap hat that keeps The VegHead’s VegHead warm. Fortified by an earful of Michael Franti it is a ten mile or so cycle to the Indian grocery store. Driving to a place is travel, cycling is immersion. It also allows The VegHead to indulge in a wider range of food shopping choices while keeping the emissions down (notwithstanding the potential food miles of the purchased produce).

Methi leaves are one of those staples of Indian cooking that you would go to your grave ignorant of if you draw your view of the foodstuffs of the world from the shelves of the average big-chain supermarket. They are the leaves of the Fenugreek plant, the same plant that gives us the dried fenugreek spice (which is the ground, dried seeds). If you’ve ever been served a dish in an Indian restaurant that has spinach leaves in it, it probably is really meant to have methi leaves in it instead. Spinach is the Westernised version.

This Methi Potato dish has been adapted by SheWhoMustBeFed from a Shaak Potato recipe, which came into our kitchen from dour, plain, paperback sized Indian recipe book called “The Vegetarian Curry”.

Needing…

  • 3 medium potatoes, cut into thick “chip” shapes
  • 1 cup of methi leaves
  • 1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder (or if available, about 4cms of grated fresh turmeric root)
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of palm sugar
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • handful of chopped coriander leaves to garnish

Doing…

  • In a large pan (The VegHead uses the trusty wok) lightly saute the mustard and cumin seeds until they pop
  • Add everything else save the methi and fresh coriander. Add extra oil if needed. Fry until the potatoes are cooked, stirring to ensure even cooking and coating with the spice mix
  • Just before serving, add the methi leaves and stir through
  • On serving; garnish with the coriander leaves