Category Archives: Vegetarian

Methi Dana ki Sabzi (Indian style Fenugreek Seeds Stir-Fry)

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to a friend’s home for a  girls’ lunch meet-up where I came across one of the most interesting dishes using fenugreek seeds.

My friend was so excited to serve this dish because none of us had ever heard of or seen this preparation before. Many of the girls thought it was a lentil dish but I did figure out that it was fenugreek seeds from that mild hint of bitterness. Though I use fenugreek seeds a lot in my cooking, it has always been as a spice and never as the main ingredient.

Fenugreek seeds - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

And even before the thought entered my head, my girlfriend had decided that I must share it on my blog. Love it when people get so excited about my work and want to share unique and amazing recipes with me for the blog. Deeply indebted for having friends who are always willing to share their knowledge.

This is a traditional dish from India, commonly prepared in some parts of North India. I haven’t seen anything like this from the southern part of India or from any other part of the world; please correct me if I am wrong.

Now the reason why fenugreek seeds are generally used sparingly is because of its mildly bitter taste. But when I tasted this dish, it was hardly bitter….just a mild aftertaste if you eat the stir fry on its own and almost none if paired with rotis.

Methi Dana ki Sabzi (Indian style Fenugreek Seeds Stir-Fry) - thespiceadventuress.com

And my friend told me that’s because the fenugreek seeds are first boiled in a particular manner, washed thoroughly and then used for the stir fry. The recipe is an extremely simple one and the only care to be taken is in the cooking and washing of the seeds which I have outlined below.

So please do give it a try, it’s a really unique and interesting way to consume fenugreek seeds.

(Thanks a lot to my friend, Alka who not only taught me how to make this dish but also came home the day I was making it to ensure it turns out perfect. Also my hand model for the day!)

Methi Dana ki Sabzi (Indian style Fenugreek Seeds Stir-Fry) - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. ½ cup fenugreek seeds/methi
  2. 1 small red onion; finely chopped
  3. 1 tsp ginger; grated
  4. 1 tsp garlic; grated
  5. 1 green chilli; chopped
  6. ½ tsp cumin seeds
  7. A pinch of hing/asafoetida
  8. ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  9. ½ tsp red chilli powder
  10. ½ tsp coriander powder
  11. ¼ tsp garam masala
  12. Salt, to season
  13. 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
  14. Coriander leaves; chopped for garnish

Method:

  1. Pour 5 cups of water into a saucepan and place over low to medium heat.
  2. When the water has become slightly warm, measure out the fenugreek seeds using a spoon or measuring cup and add to the water (do not touch the seeds with your hand or wash it before adding)
  3. Bring to boil and then simmer till the seeds are cooked. If you want to check if the seeds are cooked, use a spoon to remove a few from the water and discard after checking. The fenugreek seeds will plump up lightly and the water also turns dark while cooking. The seeds are cooked when it has become soft but still has a bite to it (it might still taste slightly bitter at this stage).
  4. Once cooked, place the saucepan with the seeds in it under a trickle of running water. Do not disturb or touch by hand. You can see that the water begins to run clear after some time. When the water runs completely clear, strain into a colander and keep aside.
  5. To prepare the dish, heat oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds. As it begins to splutter, add the asafoetida followed by the chopped onions. Sauté for a minute and then add the chillies, garlic and ginger. Sauté till the onions are lightly browned.
  6. Add the turmeric, red chilli, coriander powder and garam masala. Mix well and tip in the fenugreek seeds. Season with salt and cook till the extra moisture from the seeds have dried out.
  7. Garnish with coriander leaves.
  8. Keep the dish for at least 30 minutes before having it.

Note – As I mentioned, the only care that needs to be taken is not to touch the seeds by hand at any point till the dish is done. A lot of dishes on the internet using the fenugreek seeds are prepared by soaking the seeds overnight, wash and then use for cooking. I tried out this method too but found that though the seeds do not taste bitter after soaking, it does develop a bitter taste once cooked.

Methi Dana ki Sabzi (Indian style Fenugreek Seeds Stir-Fry) - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

 

The ‘Hummus’ Revolution (with recipes for Beet Hummus & Kashmiri Chilli Hummus)

Hummus, a simple rustic chickpea dip that has somehow bridged geographical, cultural and religious borders. Today it graces our dinner tables in a zillion avatars, from simple to gourmet.

I love hummus, not just for its soul-satisfying taste, but because it is a taste of my childhood. Growing up in the Middle East, there was no way you could avoid this condiment. And it was such an integral part of the food we ate, because hummus was one of the very rare dishes that my dad would eat outside the traditional Kerala cuisine. So it made its appearance constantly sitting unassumingly alongside a platter of kebabs and tikkas.

And when we returned back to India, it was one of the main things that we missed; so much that my mom would request every friend who travels from Dubai to get her a bottle of tahini (which was very difficult to source in India at that time).

Today, we aren’t just talking about hummus as a dip, but as a medium for social and religious cohesiveness…..and it’s through the #spreadhummusnothate campaign spearheaded by Lina J, an award winning food blogger and the creative force behind ‘The Lebanese Plate’.

I have been following Lina’s work on Instagram for quite a while now and I really appreciate the work that she is doing to spread awareness and help address unwanted social and religious stigmas we have as a society. So here are excerpts of an interview with Lina and the significance of the #spreadhummusnothate campaign.

The first question and perhaps the most relevant one to this conversation….Where were you born? Are you an Australian?

I was born & brought up in Sydney.

Why #spreadhummusnothate? Could you tell us what led you to take up this campaign?

This campaign came about after coming across the hashtag #spreadhummusnothate. I felt there was increasing negativity towards people from diverse backgrounds & especially people of Muslim faith. I used the hashtag online but really felt that I needed to take it off line into our everyday lives in order for it to have a lasting effect. This is when I came up with creating opportunities for everyday Australians to sit & converse with everyday Australian Muslims & literally ‘spread hummus’ together.

You are an award winning food blogger but is that the only reason why you chose ‘food’ as the medium to express your opinions?

I don’t even think of myself as ‘award winning’ to be honest!

Working with & around food naturally led me to use it as the basis for this campaign. I think we tend to take for granted the power of food, not just as something to nourish the body, but also as a tool to bring people together.

 Is it a single person initiative or do you have a team working along with you in this campaign?

It is just me really. I have certainly had people help here and there along the way, but mostly just something that I have been pushing on my own.

What is the primary message that you want to spread through this campaign? And how do you go about it?

That all it takes is one conversation (over food) to break down barriers. I hope that people will be able to see that although we have some difference, we actually have a lot more in common. Life isn’t about agreeing with or being exactly like the next person, it’s about understanding & respecting our differences & still be able to converse in a positive way.

 How has the response been so far?

I would say 99% of response to this campaign has been quite positive, which really gives me hope.

I have seen on your Instagram account that you host events in relation to the campaign? How are these done and is it open to the public?

The events have been smaller gatherings up until this stage. I am currently in some collaboration talks with some lovely people who really want to help take this to the next level, where hopefully there will be more opportunities for a wider range of people to attend such events. There’ll be more detail soon about these events on my social media.

What are the different ways in which anyone who interested in this campaign be of help?

A number of people have helped spread the word, which is really important! But a number from my Insta family have assisted in providing goods for the #SpreadHummusNotHate Brunch, cake & desserts, meat & poultry, fresh fruit & veg. Couldn’t thank these people enough for their support.

And on a lighter note, you have become the ‘queen of hummus’ platters with all sorts of flavours including beautiful looking ones like the beet hummus. But which is your favourite?

I do love the Beet hummus, especially topped with a marinated feta, but at the end of the day, the original hummus will always be my favourite!

Do check out her blog and Instagram page (for some amazing photography and mouthwatering food).

Of course, I cannot leave you without sharing any hummus recipes so there are two delicious ones today. First, it’s the super gorgeous beet hummus recipe, one of Lina’s favourites which she has kindly shared with all of us. And second will be my signature hummus recipe with Kashmiri chilli (you will love this!)

So let’s #spreadhummusnothate

Beet Hummus

Beet hummus - thespiceadventuress.com

Photograph courtesy – thelebaneseplate.com

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup dried chickpeas; soaked overnight
  2. 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (optional)
  3. 250g roasted beetroot
  4. Salt, to season
  5. 3 cloves garlic
  6. ¼ tsp ground cumin
  7. 1 tbsp  tahini paste
  8. 1/3 to 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  9. olive oil for serving
  10. 1 tbsp Persian feta (optional, for serving)

Method:

  1. Beginning the night before, soak the dry chickpeas in a bowl of (approximately) 3 cups water with the teaspoon of bicarb. The chickpeas will need to soak overnight and will double in size.
  2. The following day, rinse chickpeas and place in a pressure cooker (see note) with plenty of fresh water. Lock the lid and turn to the LOW pressure setting. Once it comes to pressure (mine begins to whistle when at full pressure), turn heat to low and cook for a further 20 minutes. Take pressure cooker off heat and allow the pressure to release and cool naturally. This may take a further 30 minutes or more depending on the type of pressure cooker you have.
  3. As the chickpeas are cooking, preheat oven to 200ºC and prepare beetroot for roasting. Cut off greens and scrub beetroot thoroughly. Using a large enough piece of baking paper, wrap beetroot loosely and enclose by folding both ends into the middle and folding up ends to create a bag. Place paper bag with beetroot on an oven tray and into the oven. Roast for approximately one hour, or until beets are soft and cooked through. Remove from oven; allow to cool before peeling skin.
  4. Once pressure is released from the cooker, drain away as much liquid as you can leaving only chickpeas behind. You will find that the chickpeas look mushy, but do not fret…that’s exactly how you want them! I find using the pressure cooker softens and almost melts away the chickpea skin that you don’t need to remove them.
  5. Place the garlic, salt and cumin into a mortar and pestle and crush to create a paste. Set aside with the lemon juice.
  6. Place the chickpeas in a food processor and blend until a smooth puree is formed.  Add the beetroot and continue to whiz until you have a vibrant puree.
  7. Add tahini, garlic, salt and cumin paste and blend some more. While processor is on, add 1/3 cup of lemon juice in a steady stream. Stop to scrape down sides and taste for more lemon juice.
  8. Serve with Persian feta and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

NOTE: If you do not own a pressure cooker, use a large saucepan instead. Add chickpeas to pot with plenty of cold water and a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for at least an hour until chickpeas are very soft.

Kashmiri chilli Hummus

I used dried Kashmiri chillies for this recipe which can be easily found in any Indian/Asian store. These chillies have a beautiful deep red colour but very less heat when compared to other varieties.

Kashmiri chilli hummus - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup dried chickpeas; soaked overnight
  2. 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (optional)
  3. 3-4 Kashmiri chillies (soaked in warm water)
  4. Salt, to season
  5. 2 cloves garlic
  6. 1 tbsp  tahini paste
  7. Juice of 1 lemon
  8. 1 tbsp thick greek style yoghurt
  9. olive oil for serving
  10. Dried chillies (for garnish)
  11. Green olives (for garnish)

Method:

  1. The first step (just as in the beet hummus) is to soak the chickpeas overnight with bicarb. Canned chickpeas can be used if you are really rushed for time but soaking and cooking the chickpeas yourself makes a big difference to the taste.
  2. Next day, rinse the chickpeas well and cook in a pressure cooker or pan till well done and lightly mushy. Season the chickpeas with salt while cooking.
  3. While the chickpeas is cooking, soak the Kashmiri chillies in warm water for at least 15 minutes or more if possible.
  4. Using a blender, grind the chillies, garlic and a pinch of salt to a coarse paste.
  5. To this add the drained chickpeas (reserve a little for garnish), tahini paste, yoghurt and half the lemon juice. Blend till a smooth consistency is achieved (you may need to scrape down the sides in between). Taste and add more salt or lemon juice as required.
  6. Transfer to a bowl and serve with olive oil. Garnish with the cooked chickpeas, sliced olives and crushed dried chillies.
  7. Enjoy

Kashmiri chilli hummus - thespiceadventuress.com

Mushroom & Sundried Tomato Hummus Toasties

On a slightly chilly evening, about two months ago, I sat down with my pen and diary to plan out the blog posts leading up to Christmas. There was so much I wanted to cook and post, especially traditional dishes like roasts, cakes, cookies etc…..

And somehow I just never did any of those which I had planned so meticulously. Instead I found myself cooking whatever my heart fancies based on a spur-of-the-moment idea or ingredient. In short, bid goodbye to my best laid plans.

If this had happened a year back, I would have become super stressed about the whole thing and worried about blog stats, traffic etc… etc…. But 2016 taught me the biggest lesson of all; to enjoy what I do above all else and the rest will fall into place. I found my unique voice in terms of food and photography, a space I am very comfortable in. No more comparisons with what others are doing anymore. I learnt to say no to the zillions of emails that have nothing to do with my vision for the blog and learnt to embrace the differences that make me stand different in the crowd. Inner peace and clarity….at last!

Moving onto my recipe for the day; I was actually looking for inspiration to create a vegetarian canapé for my Christmas party, something I could prep ahead of time and just assemble on the day of the party. Browsing through Pinterest, I found quite a few versions of the avo toasties which sort of got me thinking along those lines and ta da……the idea for these delicious Mushroom and Hummus toasties took shape.

Mushroom & Sundried Tomato Hummus Toasties - a delightful vegetarian canape for the festive season - thespiceadventuress.com

I loved how these toasties turned out and the minute I got the approval from the boys, I knew it had to go on the blog. So here you go guys…..a very delicious vegetarian starter that can be enjoyed in any season.

P.S.: The sun dried tomato hummus makes an excellent dip…in fact, I am planning on making an extra batch of the hummus for the party which will go on the cheese board. And my little boy loves it slathered in his pita roll.

Sun dried Tomato Hummus - a delicious dip for the festive season - thespiceadventuress.com

Mushroom & Sundried Tomato Hummus Toasties - a delightful vegetarian canape for the festive season - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

(Makes about 20 toasties depending on the length of the baguette)

For the hummus:

  1. 1 cup chickpeas (soaked overnight)
  2. ¼ cup sun dried tomatoes (with the preserved oil)
  3. 2-3 tbsp tahina (sesame seed paste)
  4. 3 medium garlic cloves
  5. 1 lemon
  6. Salt, to season
  7. 3-4 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

For the toasties:

  1. 1 baguette (I used the sesame seed crusted one for extra flavour); thinly sliced
  2. Olive oil
  3. 200gms white mushrooms; sliced
  4. 200gms brown mushrooms; sliced
  5. ½ inch ginger
  6. 1 tsp paprika
  7. Juice of ½ lime
  8. ½ tsp dried thyme
  9. Salt, to season
  10. 2-3 sprigs fresh coriander leaves; finely chopped
  11. 1 cup sun dried tomato hummus

Method:

To prepare the hummus:

  1. Boil the chickpeas with a bit of salt till well done and lightly mushy. Drain and keep aside.
  2. Add the garlic cloves and the juice of ½ lemon to a food processor or blender and whizz.
  3. Then add the sundried tomatoes along with the preserved oil and 2 tbsp tahina. Blend well for at least 2 minutes.
  4. Next add the boiled chickpeas with a pinch of salt and blend well till smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust with lemon juice, salt and tahina if necessary.
  5. Remove to a bowl, create little depressions with the back of your spoon and add the olive oil on top.

Note – The texture of the hummus is better when preparing the chickpeas from scratch as opposed to using tinned ones. But if you are pressed for time, you may use the tinned chickpeas too.

If using the hummus as a dip, add more olive oil and garnish with black olives and a pinch of paprika.

To prepare the toasties:

  1. Preheat the oven (fan forced) to 180°C
  2. Line a baking tray with oven proof paper and place the baguette slices; drizzle with olive oil lightly and bake till light golden brown. Takes about 8 minutes depending on the oven. Remember that the slices only need to crisp up.
  3. Remove and keep aside.
  4. To prepare the mushrooms, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan and add the mushrooms. Cook on high heat for a minute and then add the grated ginger. Continue to cook for another minute and then reduce heat. Add the paprika, dried thyme, juice of ½ lemon and season with salt. Remove and keep aside.
  5. To assemble the toasties, spread a little bit of the hummus over a baguette slice and spoon some mushrooms on top. Do this for all the slices.
  6. Arrange on a platter and garnish the toasties with chopped coriander leaves and a touch of paprika.

Mushroom & Sundried Tomato Hummus Toasties - a delightful vegetarian canape for the festive season - thespiceadventuress.com

Mushroom & Sundried Tomato Hummus Toasties - a delightful vegetarian canape for the festive season - thespiceadventuress.com

Mushroom & Sundried Tomato Hummus Toasties - a delightful vegetarian canape for the festive season - thespiceadventuress.com

Mushroom & Sundried Tomato Hummus Toasties - a delightful vegetarian canape for the festive season - thespiceadventuress.com

 

Kaalan (Kerala style Yam and Plantain Curry with Coconut, Yoghurt and Peppercorns)

Onam is almost here, just another week to go and most households which celebrate this festival must have begun the preparations.

For those who have not heard of this festival before, Onam is an annual festival that is celebrated in the state of Kerala, South India. The whole state comes together irrespective of caste, creed and religion and every household celebrates it albeit in a small manner. Without going into the specifics, one of the most important aspects of this festival is the feast, also referred to as the Onam sadya.

The sadya is traditionally served on a fresh banana leaf and includes at least 24-28 dishes, sometimes even going as high as 64. Every year I try and add a few recipes to the list here and hopefully, some day I will have the entire compilation. So the next two posts here will be about this ‘delicious’ festival since I will be celebrating it this year too just as I have done for the past 35 years of my life.

Today’s dish is called kaalan (I know it’s a hard one to pronounce for all those who do not know the language) or a yam and plantain curry with coconut, yoghurt and peppercorns. This recipe might sound quite similar to avial but the taste is very different due to the vegetables used and also the texture and consistency.

Kaalan (Kerala style Yam and Plantain Curry with Coconut, Yoghurt and Peppercorns) - an integral part of the Onam feast - thespiceadventuress.com

A couple of days ago, I was on the phone learning how to make this dish from my mom. Even though I am familiar with the consistency of this dish, she kept stressing about its importance. In her words, ‘the consistency must be that if you throw a spoonful of the curry at a wall, it must stay put and not slide down’….. Sigh. Mothers have such a unique way of recipe telling!

Now I am not going to advise you to do the same. Just make sure that the curry is thick enough yet not too dry and the secret to getting that is a spoonful of ghee that you must add at the end. Though other spices are also added, the predominant flavour is that of peppercorns. A slight twinge of sourness from the curd completes the flavour profile of this unique vegetarian dish.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup yam; diced
  2. 1 raw plantain; diced
  3. ½ tsp red chilli powder
  4. ¾ tsp turmeric powder
  5. ½ cup fresh grated coconut
  6. 1 tbsp black peppercorns (adjust to preferences)
  7. 1 green chilli
  8. ½ tsp cumin seeds
  9. ½ cup natural thick curd/yoghurt
  10. 1 tbsp ghee/clarified butter
  11. 2 tbsp coconut oil
  12. ½ tsp mustard seeds
  13. ½ tsp fenugreek/uluva seeds
  14. 2-3 dry red chilli
  15. 2 sprigs curry leaves
  16. Salt, to season

Method:

  1. Add the diced yams, red chilli powder, half of the turmeric powder and salt to a pan; add 1 cup water, bring to boil and cook covered till the yams are completely cooked to a consistency where it can be mashed. Add more water if necessary but not too much; remember that a thick mash is what is needed at the end. (You can use a pressure cooker also).
  2. In another pan, cook the diced plantain with the remaining turmeric powder, water and salt till just done so that the pieces are cooked but still have a bite to it.
  3. Grind the coconut, black peppercorns, green chilli, and cumin along with curd to a fine paste. If the curd is a bit sour, add a pinch of sugar too.
  4. Once the yam is cooked well and mashed, add the plantain to this along with the ground paste. Simmer on low heat till mixed thoroughly. Add the ghee and continue to mix on low heat till the thick consistency is reached. Taste and season with salt if necessary.
  5. For the tempering, heat coconut oil and crackle mustards seeds. Add the fenugreek seeds, dry red chilli and curry leaves.
  6. Pour this over the top of the prepared curry, remove from heat and keep covered for at least 10 minutes before serving.

 

Kaalan (Kerala style Yam and Plantain Curry with Coconut, Yoghurt and Peppercorns) - an integral part of the Onam feast - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

Kootu Curry (Kerala style Black Chickpeas, Plantain and Yam Curry with Coconut and Peppercorns)

A taste of home!

Kootu Curry (Kerala style Black Chickpeas, Plantain and Yam Curry with Coconut and Peppercorns) - thespiceadventuress.com

The flavours of Kerala can throw a real surprise to those who are not familiar with the state. The style of cooking and choice of ingredients can be so varied from region to region inspite of it being such a small state in terms of topography.

Most people associate Kerala with non vegetarian food, which is understandable given the state’s fixation with seafood and beef. But the land also has a vast repertoire of vegetarian dishes, many of which are practically unheard of like today’s Kootu Curry. A disclaimer here…..there are a few versions of this dish that can be found across the state but the recipe that I am sharing with all of you comes from the Malabar region (which in my opinion is the most delicious!)

So the Kootu curry is essentially a mixed vegetarian curry and is always prepared using black chickpeas, raw plantain and Indian yams. This dish is a true representation of the state as the main flavour components are coconut and peppercorns. It is the Malabar region that gave ‘peppercorns’ aka ‘black gold’ to the world. So the Kootu curry is a befitting tribute to that discovery which changed the course of the world.

Kootu Curry (Kerala style Black Chickpeas, Plantain and Yam Curry with Coconut and Peppercorns) - thespiceadventuress.com

Black peppercorns - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

I am yet to find the Indian variety yams in any of the Melbourne markets, most often I find the other Asian varieties. Now if you are not looking for the exact traditional recipe, you may use that though the taste will vary slightly. Or you could get these traditional Indian ones, which are available frozen in most Indian stores.

The Kootu Curry is also an integral part of the Onam sadya (the banana leaf feast which Kerala is famous for); it’s one of the several dishes that make up the feast. But for everyday purposes, this is best served as a side to steamed rice and dal. To complete, add some pappadums!

So add these ingredients to your shopping list so that we can get cooking Kootu Curry or Kerala style black chickpeas, plantain and yam curry with coconut and peppercorns.

Kootu Curry (Kerala style Black Chickpeas, Plantain and Yam Curry with Coconut and Peppercorns) - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup black chickpeas; washed and soaked overnight
  2. 1 medium sized raw plantain; cut into large chunks
  3. 100gms yam; diced
  4. ½ tsp turmeric powder
  5. ½ tsp red chilli powder
  6. ½ cup grated coconut
  7. 1 ½ – 2 tbsp black peppercorns
  8. 2 large garlic cloves
  9. 2 tbsp coconut oil
  10. ½ tsp black mustard seeds
  11. 2 sprigs curry leaves
  12. 2 dry red chilli
  13. Salt, to season

Method:

  1. To a pressure cooker, add the black chickpeas with 1 ½ cups water, season with salt and cook till ¾ ths done.
  2. In another pan, cook the plantain along with red chilli powder, half of the turmeric powder, salt and 1 ½ cups water till done. Drain and keep aside.
  3. Add the diced yams to the black chickpeas and cook till the yams are lightly mushy (use the back of the ladle to mash the yams if necessary). Then add the drained plantain and mix well to combine.
  4. Coarsely crush the grated coconut, peppercorns and garlic in a mortar and pestle or grinder and add this to the cooked chickpeas. Add the remaining turmeric powder and mix well to combine.
  5. Taste and season with salt if necessary. Cook in low heat for 1-2 minutes and remove.
  6. To temper, heat coconut oil in a small pan and crackle the mustard seeds. Then add the curry leaves and dry red chilli. Pour this over the prepared chickpeas and mix well to combine.
  7. Keep covered for at least 15 minutes before serving.
  8. Enjoy with a bowl of rice and dal/lentils.

Kootu Curry (Kerala style Black Chickpeas, Plantain and Yam Curry with Coconut and Peppercorns) - thespiceadventuress.com

Spicy Aubergine Chutney

Cheese platters are my thing!

I find it an utterly satisfying and relaxing experience to bring out my beautiful boards, pop on some delicious varieties of cheese (atleast one new type each time) and then fill up the platter with figs, grapes, crackers, cold cuts and chutneys. And of course, pop open a really good bottle of white….and unwind on a Friday evening.

It’s been a while since I had indulged this way; the past couple of weeks were work hectic which combined with poor time management skills left me thoroughly exhausted and drained out. So mid last week, I was a lady on a mission – to create a delicious platter experience for my small family catching up over some much needed ‘us’ time.

I always stock up on small batch chutneys in my pantry, both homemade and others that I pick up while travelling or from local businesses. But this time, I realized that I had run out of most of them and what was available wouldn’t really go well with the platter I had in mind. So what do you do? Just make one yourself….

Out came my cookbooks and my eyes fell on one which I had borrowed from a friend and totally forgotten about. The title, ‘The Preserving Book’ by Lynda Brown – just perfect! To cut a long story short, I narrowed in on this Spicy Aubergine (Eggplant/Brinjal) Chutney for two reasons. First, I loved the play of spices in this one and second; aubergines do not feature in my favourite list of vegetables so this would be an interesting way of eating it.

Spicy Aubergine Chutney - deliciously sweet and spicy - thespiceadventuress.com

I got a bit lucky while shopping for aubergines at my local veggie store. Found baby aubergines, the deep dark purple variety quite commonly used in India especially in South India. They were ripe and just perfect for the chutney. Remember to get really ripe vegetables when making chutney, also forget about the most beautiful and polished looking ones. (The food waste statistics of Australia scare me so I make it a point to pick up assorted shapes and sizes of vegetables especially if I am going to cut it up for the dish. How do the looks matter?)

A good chutney is all about balance and the perfect play of flavours so while the measurements that I have outlined would give you a delicious end product, I strongly urge you to taste along the way and make adjustments as I did while adapting the recipe from the book.

Apple cider vinegar and a dash of tomato paste add acidity which is counterbalanced by the sweetness form the raw sugar and sultanas. While there are other spices involved, what makes this chutney truly unique in flavour are the Nigella seeds and ginger.

Baby Aubergines - Food styling and photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Spicy Aubergine Chutney - deliciously sweet and spicy - thespiceadventuress.com

This chutney can be left to mature in flavour for a month before using and if preserved in the right manner, will last upto a year. So a great option if you are making in bulk. But I am a small batch person so prepared just 2 small bottles and also opened it within two days.

So here we have the deliciously sweet and spicy Aubergine chutney….the perfect condiment for your cheese platter. In fact, it is the perfect condiment to just about anything…..a dash of it with roast lamb cutlets or as a traditional chutney with your Indian meals. Fingerlickin good!

(The cheese that I picked up for the board include a soft creamy Brie, smoked cheddar with Native Australian pepperberry and a blue veined cheese)

Spicy Aubergine Chutney - makes a delicious addition to your cheese platter - thespiceadventuress.com

Spicy Aubergine Chutney - makes a delicious addition to your cheese platter - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 450gm baby aubergines
  2. 1 medium red onion; finely chopped
  3. 3/4 tbsp tomato paste
  4. 220ml apple cider vinegar
  5. 250gm raw brown sugar
  6. 60gms sultanas/raisins
  7. ½ tsp chilli flakes
  8. ½ tsp cayenne pepper/hot chilli powder (optional)
  9. 1 cinnamon bark
  10. 1 tsp Nigella/onion seeds
  11. 1 ½ tsp freshly grated ginger
  12. Salt, to season

Method:

  1. Wash the aubergines and pat dry. Slice the aubergines and place in a heavy bottomed pan along with the onions and salt. Also add the tomato paste and stir well to combine.
  2. Cook for a minute or two and then add the vinegar and sugar; mix well and then add the sultanas, chilli flakes, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, ginger and Nigella seeds. Stir well and cook on medium heat till the sugar has almost dissolved. Turn the heat up and bring to boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible, cover the pan and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  4. Open the pan and continue to cook on low heat stirring occasionally so that the mixture does not burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. The chutney is ready when it has turned thick and sticky; also taste and make sure that the vinegar has been absorbed well or it will taste acidic.
  5. Remove the cinnamon stick and allow to cool well. Ladle into sterilized jars with tight lids. Refrigerate.

Note – If you want to preserve the chutney, then add the chutney to sterilized jars and make sure there are no air gaps. Cover the lids with waxed paper discs and use non-metallic lids. Seal and label the bottle. Leave to mature for a month in the pantry. Refrigerate after opening.

Spicy Aubergine Chutney - deliciously sweet and spicy - thespiceadventuress.com

Spicy Aubergine Chutney - deliciously sweet and spicy - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

 

 

 

Potato, Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Crispy Bacon and Shallots

Soup weather is officially here!

The days have been cold, wet and grey and since we were relying too much on this cheesy bowl of comfort, I decided to experiment with more soups this season. Like this super creamy and delicious Potato, Cauliflower and Leek Soup generously garnished with crispy bacon and shallots.

Potato, Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Crispy Bacon and Shallots - Comfort in a bowl - thespiceadventuress.com

The weather also dictates for a good read and the book I just finished reading is a poignant drama ‘Like I Can Love’ by Australian author, Kim Lock.

My knowledge of Australian authors is slowly but steadily increasing especially when I signed up to do book reviews with Pan Macmillan Australia. I found it a great way to discover new authors and also expand my reading horizon considerably.

Set in South Australia, ‘Like I Can Love’ is a poignant, heartbreaking tale of two friends. The book is also an exploration of different kinds of love, the varying spectrums of this emotion which can be fragile, sacrificing and sometime destructive. It is a tale of how love can make us do the most unthinkable of things leaving a mark on our souls and lives forever.

Beautifully etched by Kim Lock, the book captures the essence of love and friendship amidst the background of South Australia. By the end of it, I felt that the characters are real almost becoming a part of my life, as if I have known them all my life. It is a simple book to read but one that is profound and beautifully written.

Kim Lock resides with her family in the Barossa Valley and hence there is ample evidence of the culture and lifestyle of regional Australia in her book. The book is gripping without being too heavy which makes it ideal if you are a fiction lover.

Like I Can Love by Kim Lock - a book review - thespiceadventuress.com

Let’s also simmer away a pot of this delicious soup before you get too engrossed in the book.

Just as the name suggests, this is a Potato, Cauliflower and Leek soup. I wanted more oomph and comfort which is why the shallots and bacon make an appearance, but if you are a crouton person, here is a delicious one you can try out.

Spices ofcourse are my thing but I am sure you agree that potatoes and cumin is a match made in heaven. So mildly spiced with bay leaf and cumin which adds so much more flavour to the soup. No extra cream in this one as I found that it is quite creamy from the potatoes and cauliflower but if you wish to, you can add a bit as garnish or at the end of the cooking process.

Bay leaf and Cumin - love thy spices - thespiceadventuress.com

 

Crispy Bacon and Shallots - Garnish for the Potato, Cauliflower and Leek Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

And of course, the crispy bacon and shallots……..yumm yumm yummmm!!

Ingredients:

  1. 100gms bacon; chopped
  2. 50gms fried shallots
  3. 2 large potatoes; diced
  4. 1 small cauliflower head; cut into florets
  5. 1 leek; finely sliced
  6. 3 dried bay leaf
  7. 1 tsp cumin seeds
  8. 2 medium garlic cloves
  9. 2 tbsp butter
  10. Salt, to season
  11. Freshly milled black pepper, to season
  12. 1 litre homemade chicken stock

Method:

  1. In a deep pan, add the bacon pieces and fry on low heat. No extra oil required as the bacon has enough fat which will render down and crisp it up.
  2. Once the bacon pieces have browned and crisped up well, remove and drain on a kitchen towel. Keep aside.
  3. In the same pan, heat butter and add the bay leaf and cumin. Cook on low heat till the spices are fragrant and then add the garlic and leeks. Sauté for about 2 minutes on medium heat but take care not to burn.
  4. Next add the potatoes and cauliflower florets; season with salt (remember the stock has salt) and pepper. Mix well to combine and cook on low heat for about 2 minutes.
  5. Add ¾ ths of the stock, check seasoning and bring to boil. Turn the heat down and cook covered till the vegetables are softened and cooked through.
  6. Cool slightly and blitz till creamy. Add more stock if too thick.
  7. Serve warm with crispy bacon and shallots.
  8. Slurp it up!

Note – I always have a stash of homemade fried shallots in my pantry which I used. You could use the store bought ones too.

Potato, Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Crispy Bacon and Shallots - Deliciousness in a bowl - thespiceadventuress.com

 

Potato, Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Crispy Bacon and Shallots - comfort in a bowl - thespiceadventuress.com

Pssst….I am having this soup second day in a row with a  few drops of Tabasco hot sauce in it. Try it guys if you can take some heat!

 

Disclaimer – Not a sponsored post but the book was sent to me by Pan Macmillan Australia.

 

 

 

Chickpeas and Mustard Leaves Curry (with East Indian Bottle Masala)

My Instagram journey has so far been a highly delightful and inspiring one. I have been able to interact with a wonderful bunch of creative friends there and some wonderful human beings too. And a friend that fits that bill is Natasha (or Nats, as I sometimes call her). Nats is known as @thegutlessfoodie to the Insta folks and if you are curious as to why that name, check out her profile.

Apart from being such a darling, Nats has a whacky sense of humor that always brings a smile to my face. And if you follow her, you would get truck loads of inspiration for everyday dishes. Like I did, for this Chickpeas and Mustard Leaves Curry (with my special East Indian Bottle Masala).

Chickpeas and Mustard Leaves Curry (with East Indian Bottle Masala) - a comforting, nourishing chickpea curry with the goodness of homegrown mustard leaves - thespiceadventuress.com

This recipe is my adaptation of Natasha’s dish since I added mustard leaves and also used my special East Indian Bottle Masala to spice up the curry.

Mustard leaves are super healthy greens that are used extensively in North Indian cuisine especially states lying near the Himalayan belt. I wanted to try and grow these in my balcony garden but that meant trying to grow it in a pot. An experiment that yielded good results.

The only thing about growing mustard leaves in a pot is that you get only baby leaves and not the large one that is typical when grown on the ground. Also, since I was trying to grow it the first time, I planted the seeds in a small pot; next time I would try in a larger pot to see if the size of the leaves get bigger. If you live in an area where you can easily find mustard leaves in the market, then go ahead with that or substitute with any other greens if growing it in your garden is not an option for you.

Anyway, I found that the baby leaves tasted more refreshing than the larger mature ones which meant that I could use it for garnishing my salads and also in pasta dishes. In fact, I was planning on a salad when Natasha’s chickpea curry caught my attention.

For my East Indian Bottle Masala story, you need to read this post (which also tells you another delicious way to use this spice blend).

East Indian Bottle Masala - a traditional spice blend from Eastern India - thespiceadventuress.com

This chickpeas and mustard leaves curry is a simple, everyday dish that can be paired with flatbreads or rice and with a simple salad on the side. How I love these simple yet delicious and healthy almost one-pot meals that are just so comforting and nourishing at the same time.

The leaves wilt quickly even when added right at the end of the dish so you will hardly notice it in the photographs. But it’s there peeps…all the goodness and flavour is there.

Ok, so let’s get cooking….

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Chickpeas and Mustard Leaves Curry (with East Indian Bottle Masala) - a comforting, nourishing chickpea curry with the goodness of homegrown mustard leaves - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup chickpeas; soaked overnight
  2. ½ cup mustard leaves (roughly chop if you are using the bigger ones)
  3. Coconut spice mixture
  • ½ tsp crushed cinnamon
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • ¼ tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 green cardamom
  • 1 tbsp roasted gram flour/garbanzo bean flour/besan
  • ½ tsp almonds; crushed
  • ½ cup grated coconut
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 ½ tbsp East Indian bottle masala
  1. 3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
  2. 1 star anise
  3. 2 dry bay leaf
  4. 1 black cardamom; crushed
  5. 2 medium red onions; finely chopped
  6. ½ tsp red chilli powder
  7. A pinch of asafoetida
  8. 1 tbsp tomato paste
  9. Salt, to season
  10. 3 sprigs fresh coriander leaves; finely chopped

East Indian Bottle Masala:

  1. 12.5 gms dry Bedki chilli
  2. 12.5 gms dry Kashmiri chilli
  3. 45 gms turmeric powder
  4. 30 gms coriander seeds
  5. 14 gms cumin seeds
  6. 10 gms white sesame seeds
  7. 10 gms poppy seeds
  8. 7.5 gms fennel seeds
  9. 25 gms mustard seeds
  10. 2.5 gms black cumin/shahjeera
  11. 3 green cardamom
  12. 5 cloves
  13. 2.5 gms black pepper
  14. 3 gms cinnamon bark

Method:

  1. To prepare the bottle masala, dry roast all the spices till aromatic and fragrant. Cool and grind to a powder. Store in an airtight bottle or container and use as necessary.
  2. To prepare the coconut spice mixture, grind all the ingredients given under No.3 with a little bit of water to make a thick paste.
  3. Heat vegetable oil in a pressure cooker (or pan if you don’t have a cooker). Add the star anise, cardamom and bay leaf; after a few seconds when the spices have becomes fragrant, add the chopped onions.
  4. Sauté till light brown and then add the red chilli powder. asafoetida, tomato paste and coconut spice paste. Cook on low heat till the masala comes together and the rawness of the spices and coconut have gone.
  5. Then add the chickpeas and cook till done (around 2-3 whistles would be enough if using a pressure cooker).
  6. Finally, add the mustard leaves, stir through and remove from heat. Since these are baby leaves, it does not require any cooking time but if you are using the bigger ones, you may need to cook it for about a minute.
  7. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve warm.

Chickpeas and Mustard Leaves Curry (with East Indian Bottle Masala) - a comforting, nourishing chickpea curry with the goodness of homegrown mustard leaves - thespiceadventuress.com

Chickpeas and Mustard Leaves Curry (with East Indian Bottle Masala) - a comforting, nourishing chickpea curry with the goodness of homegrown mustard leaves - thespiceadventuress.com

 

Vegetable Stir Fry with Gochujang (Korean Chilli Paste)

Are you an extrovert, or an introvert, or someone in between?

I was an extrovert as a child, introvert as a teenager and an introvert’s extrovert in my adult life. Life takes us all through phases; high and low, good and bad, happy and sad…all of which leave profound marks on our character and personality. And there is only one way forward – to evolve with time.

Change is inevitable and the only constant in this world. I resisted it for the longest time in my life; despising it instead of embracing it. It pushed me into alleys of dark despair and loneliness…a sense of unwantedness. Till one day when I realized that I am meant to flow, evolve, adapt and change with the waves of time.

So do we change our entire being, transform ourselves into someone we don’t recognize? No, we don’t; we only adapt, shed the unwanted baggage retaining our core essence as a human, as a person. We reflect inwards, separating the chaff so that we end up with the purest grains.

For me, food takes the same journey of change. With time, my taste and preferences change. And when boredom strikes from the old and known, I need to recharge and experiment in my kitchen; not for the blog but to satisfy my inner need for change. It keeps me happy, it keeps me satisfied and motivated.

Today, I embrace this change in the form of an ingredient or rather a condiment – Gochujang.

 

Gochujang, Korean chilli paste - thespiceadventuress.com

Gochujang or Korean chilli paste is a spicy and pungent condiment that is prepared from fermented soybeans, hot chilli peppers, glutinous rice and salt. It adds that oomph, savoury and spicy kick that Korean food is known for. The heat is there at the back of your throat but you just can’t stop eating!

Darkish red in colour, piquant, smoky and rich to taste and a paste like consistency, Gochujang also has a small amount of sweetener added to it to draw out maximum flavour from the chillies. Traditionally fermented in large earthen jars, this condiment is central to Korean cooking and gives the food a unique flavour. Though not scientifically proven, it is believed that this condiment has nutritional benefits and is rich in several vitamins.

Many of the traditional dishes from Korea use gochujang as one of the key ingredients. But I am using it today in a simple stir fry – an under 30 minute dish which is simple to make, has loads of veggies, a bit of cheese and oh so delicious! Some sticky white rice or a simple fried rice to go along and it becomes the perfect weekday dinner.

Vegetable Stir Fry with Gochujang (Korean Chilli Paste) - thespiceadventuress.com

 

Vegetable Stir Fry with Gochujang (Korean Chilli Paste) - thespiceadventuress.com

 

I have added some Havarti at the end which just about melts when the wok reaches the table. You could go with tofu or paneer (Indian cottage cheese) if you want something firmer. Also no hard and fast rules as to the choice of veggies; I like texture in my stir fries which is why the addition of almonds and sesame seeds. You could also make a non-vegetarian version with chicken, prawns, lobster, scallops….endless options. And of course, don’t undermine the importance of a good carbon iron wok; the perfect vessel for all your Asian adventures.

 

Vegetable Stir Fry with Gochujang (Korean Chilli Paste) - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  2. 1 medium zucchini; cubed
  3. 1 red onion; cubed
  4. 1 orange bell pepper; cubed
  5. 1 cup white button mushroom; halved
  6. 100 gm havarti; cubed
  7. 2 large garlic cloves; finely chopped
  8. 2 tbsp gochujang
  9. 2 tbsp soy sauce
  10. 1 tsp palm sugar
  11. Salt, to season
  12. 2-3 sprigs coriander leaves; torn
  13. 1 tbsp almond slivers
  14. 1 tsp roasted white sesame seeds
  15. 3-4 tbsp vegetable oil

Method:

  • Heat oil in the wok and add the chopped garlic. Sauté for about a minute or till the raw smell of the garlic goes away.
  • Then add the gochujang and cook for another minute or two on low heat. Add soy sauce and palm sugar and mix well to combine. Check seasoning and adjust accordingly.
  • Increase the heat to high and add the onions and mushrooms. Toss well and cook for 30 seconds; then add the cherry tomatoes and zucchini. Cook for a further 30 seconds on high.
  • Then add the bell peppers and season with salt. Toss through and remove from heat.
  • Transfer to a bowl and garnish with coriander leaves, almond slivers and sesame seeds.
  • Add the havarti cubes just before serving.

Note – How much gochujang to add to your dish should be a personal one. The quantities I have mentioned keeps it medium spicy taking into account my little champ.

 

Vegetable Stir Fry with Gochujang (Korean Chilli Paste) - thespiceadventuress.com

Vegetable Stir Fry with Gochujang (Korean Chilli Paste) - thespiceadventuress.com

 

Tandoori Paneer Skewers with Goat’s Yoghurt

My first taste of goat’s milk was when I was around 10, while living in the Middle East.

We had friends who used to work on dairy farms owned by the rich Arabs and they would bring us all sorts of delicious and exotic foods that were not so commonly available back then. Exotic varieties of dates, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, yoghurt…..the best kind which were exclusively farmed for the rich families and not for sale.

I had almost forgotten what goat’s milk or yoghurt tastes like until recently when I got the opportunity to sample the same from CapriLac.

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Remember this vegan, dairy free almond yoghurt green smoothie and coconut yoghurt zucchini dip using No Udder products? CapriLac belongs to the same group but specializes in goat’s milk, yoghurt and goat’s milk powder.

Now you would ask, why goat’s milk?

Goat’s milk is not necessarily healthier than cow’s milk on a strict comparison basis. But it definitely has its merits. It has less lactose, a tab bit less sugar and also more calcium, potassium and Vitamin A than cow’s milk. It is also more easily digestible as it has a chemical structure which is quite similar to breast milk and hence is a great dairy alternative for those who have sensitive tummies. It is also less allergenic. So in a nutshell, it can be a great alternative to cow’s milk.

Goat’s yoghurt does not taste much different to cow’s yoghurt. I felt it is creamy but less sour than the cow’s yoghurt which makes it perfect for today’s paneer skewers.

CapriLac Goat products are Australian made (the milk comes from their own farms). No preservatives, no flavours, no additives…..which makes it a really good product for your family’s use.

I wanted to use goat’s yoghurt for a traditional Indian dish that has become a global favourite – tandoori.

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Myths and misconceptions regarding tandoori are rife and rampant. To being with tandoori refers to a dish that has been cooked inside a tandoor, a specialized kind of clay oven. The tandoor arrived in India through the Persian traders and even today, you can find plenty of households in Iran use the tandoor on a daily basis.

So technically the ‘tandoori’ refers to any dish prepared inside a tandoor but these days, the name has also been extended to dishes which use the traditional spice marinade. Again, this marinade has quite a few variations and this one is my version perfected after a lot of trial and error. I do not like to use besan (chickpea flour) in the marinade but prefer to keep it light with just yoghurt, aromatics and spices.

Paneer, as all of us know is Indian cottage cheese and now so commonly available in mainstream supermarkets. Now this is made from cow’s milk so those of you who wish to avoid it can use the same recipe for preparing mixed vegetable skewers (mushroom, broccoli, cauliflower), tofu, chicken or prawn skewers.

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Tandoori Paneer Skewers are an excellent party starter. In fact, it is a hit every time I make it for guests.  It’s flavourful, delicious, pairs equally well with beer, cocktails or wine and just the right summer party food. Perfect for your meatless Mondays too; pair with a simple green peas pilaf and mint coriander dip like I did.

If you have a tandoor at home, that’s great but since most of us will not have it…grilling or pan fry is the best option.

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Note – I have seen many photographs with perfect looking paneer cubes with hardly any signs of charring. But remember, it is those brown charred bits that you actually need because that’s where the deliciousness is!

Ingredients:

  1. 400 gms paneer (Indian cottage cheese); cut into equal sized cubes
  2. 1 medium red onion; cubed
  3. 2 ripe, yet firm tomatoes; remove pulp and cut into cubes
  4. 1 green bell pepper; cubed
  5. 3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
  6. 5-6 tbsp tandoori marinade
  • 4-5 tbsp Goat’s yoghurt
  • ½ tsp ginger paste
  • ½ tsp garlic paste
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp cumin powder
  • ½ tsp chaat masala
  • A pinch of black salt
  • 2 sprigs fresh coriander leaves; finely chopped
  1. Salt, to season
  2. Lemon wedges, to garnish
  3. Bamboo skewers

Note:

  • Kashmiri chilli powder is mainly for a deeper red colour. It is optional and the level of heat can be adjusted with regular red chilli powder.
  • Chaat masala and black salt (kala namak) are available at all Indian stores.

Method:

  1. To make the tandoori marinade, mix the goat’s yoghurt with all the aromatics, spices and coriander leaves in a non reactive bowl.
  2. Add the paneer and vegetable cubes into the marinade and mix well. Season with salt and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or as long as possible. Bring to room temperature before cooking.
  3. Soak the bamboo skewers in water for at least 15 minutes before using to prevent burning.
  4. Skewer the paneer cubes and vegetables alternately so that each skewer has paneer, tomato, onion and bell pepper.
  5. Oil a flat pan or grill well and heat to smoking point. Reduce heat and place the skewers. Increase heat to medium and grill till done on all sides. Paneer cooks really fast so a minute or two on each side would be enough.
  6. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve with a mint coriander dip.

 

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Disclaimer – This is a sponsored post in association with CapriLac Foods. But the recipe and all the opinions expressed are entirely mine. 

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