Tchoek vaangan/ Kashmiri khattey baingan/ Baby aubergines in a tamarind sauce

So usually one vegetable will have one name in one language, yes? In English a tomato, for example, is a tomato, a carrot is called a carrot, and an onion an onion.

Oh and then there are some that are called by two different names, in the same language, depending on where you are. When I first came to this country, for example, no one knew what I was talking about when I asked for capsicum, because here they call them peppers – green, red, yellow, orange. Coriander is apparently called cilantro in America etc.

And then there are aubergines. Or eggplants. Or brinjals. *eye roll*. For the longest time I thought these were all different varieties. And in as much as there are white/ yellow eggplants etc, maybe that’s true. In any case I’ve made my peace with all these names, though I have to say I prefer the Kashmiri “vaangan”.

And that brings me, quite neatly, to Kashmiri tchoek vaangan. These are baby aubergines cooked in a spicy tamarind sauce. No onions. No tomatoes. And in the Kashmiri Pandit version, no garlic.

Fun fact – most Kashmiri recipes don’t use tomatoes, because tomatoes came to the region after these brilliant recipes had already been perfected. Ahem.

Anyway.

This is one of those quintessential Kashmiri recipes – up there with RoghanJosh and Yakhni. There aren’t many purely vegetarian dishes that get Kashmiris going, but this is definitely one.

Mum’s recipe again, this. What I love about calling her up for recipes is how she assumes a certain level of knowledge. For this recipe, for example, I asked her at the very end, “so no garlic? Or ginger powder?” And she goes, “tch of course you put garlic with the haldi/ mirch. And ginger powder at the end.” 🙄😊

She’s the best ❤.

Should we get to it then?

Ingredients –

1 kilo of baby aubergines. Washed. The idea is to leave the stems on, and cut them lengthwise twice, so you have four long slices, still attached at the stem. Easier than it sounds. Believe me.

2-3 fat cloves of garlic. Crushed.

About 1-2 teaspoons of tamarind. You can use fresh whole tamarind, dried, paste, all work. You can substitute this with lemon/ lime juice, even vinegar. This is where the tartness comes from.

Whole spices –
2-3 pods of black cardamoms
1-2 teaspoons of cumin
1-2 inch piece of Cinnamon/ cassia

Ground spices –
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1-2 teaspoons of kashmiri red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger powder
1 teaspoon of ground fennel powder

Salt

Oil

Method:

So first of all you take a pan full of boiling water and drop your washed, slices aubergines in, just long enough for everything to come back to the boil. Then using a sieve, or a colander, drain all the water out and let the aubergines dry a bit.

In another pan put your tamarind in with some water and bring to boil. Then simmer and cook till the pulp separates from the stones and you have a fairly homogeneous tamarind-water. Sieve to get rid of the stones and skins, and set aside.

Next heat a generous amount of oil in a thick bottomed wide pan. In to this add your blanched, drained aubergines, in a single layer. You’re basically trying to deep fry them, on all sides, without actually deep frying them, and making sure they don’t break in the process, so go easy with the stirring. Once you’re happy with your aubergines take them out of the pan with a slotted spoon and keep aside.

Now in the same pan add your cumin, Kashmiri chilli powder, turmeric, and garlic. In the Kashmiri Pandit version of this garlic is substituted with asafoetida. Fry everything together till fragrant – 2-3 minutes, then add a little of the tamarind water and cook it down, then do this again, and one more time, till you’ve used up all your tamarind water.

Now return your aubergines to the pan, making sure to coat them in the sauce. Add some water, not too much, because the idea is to cook it all down without turning the aubergines in to a pulp. To this then add the black cardamoms, cassia/ cinnamon, fennel and ginger powders. Salt to taste. Stir everything in. Bring it all to boil. Cover. Simmer, till the water is all gone and your aubergines and soft and cooked through. A bit of coriander to garnish, if you like, and you’re done.

This is served with, yep, lots of white fluffy rice. Usually alongside at least one meat dish. But it’s okay, you focus on the aubergines. Ahem.

 

Green Beet Smoothie

So you know I’m a bit smoothie obsessed these days. And really if it isn’t green it isn’t super. You do the usual spinach, kale, Spring greens thing. And then you get a bit bored of the lovely, but same-old smoothies. So, in honour of Saturday I decided to shake things up a bit.

What are your thoughts on black cabbage? I confess I’d never even heard of it till yesterday. Turns out its Kale’s Italian cousin. All the goodness of Kale, slightly bitter and peppery. What’s not to love! (Having said that if you’re not of the *the-bitterer-the-better* school of thought, maybe just substitute black cabbage with regular kale. Yes? Good.)

Oh and beetroot, which is what gives this smoothie it’s lovely purple colour. Anyway let’s get to it then.

Ingredients:

1-2 leaves of black cabbage.

3-4 leaves of heart of lettuce.

Handful of coriander.

1 clementine.

Half a beetroot.

1/4 of a cucumber.

1 red raddish.

1 banana.

About an inch of ginger.

Half an inch of fresh turmeric.

2 Mejdool dates.

1/2 a cup of fresh/frozen strawberries.

3 walnuts.

4 cashews.

Method:

So basically all you do is prepare your ingredients – wash everything, peel, remove shells, stones – put everything in your blender, top up with water, and blend. And voilĂ , one super-green-purple-smoothie!

 

 

Best Ever Granola

So here’s the thing about breakfast cereals: I do not like them. At all. Not one little bit. Why? Well. They taste awful. Very little nutrition. And really not all that good for you either. In fact with most breakfast cereals all you can really taste is the sugar. (And cardboard?) In my mind, the worst, unhealthiest breakfast you can think of is still better than most ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. But – and if you are a time-strapped-working-parent this is a very very significant but – oh but the convenience of it! You open a box, pour a portion out into a bowl, add milk/ yoghurt, and within 30 seconds you’ve got breakfast on the table. But – yup another but – my point is this need not be and either/or proposition. In one word – GRANOLA. Yup. Make it at home and you get to control exactly what goes in, so you can make it as healthy or as naughty as you want knowing that even the naughtiest granola you make at home is going to be only a gazillion times better than your boxed cereals. Win-win, I say.

(I like my granola crunchy and not too sweet, but you can up the sweetness by adding an extra dash of honey if thats what rocks your boat.)

So, here we go.

Ingredients:

2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil.

3-4 tablespoons of agave nectar.

2-3 tablespoons of honey.

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

300g rolled oats.

125g of mixed seeds (I used pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and linseed).

100g of nuts (I used pecans this time, but you could used chopped almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashew – or even a mixture of some or all of these).

50g of desiccated coconut.

100g of dried fruit (I don’t really like dried fruit in this, but it can be done and works quite well. You could use dried berries, sultanas, raisins, apricots, whatever tickles your fancy.)

 

Method:

This is the easiest thing to make. In the Universe. Really. All you need to do is pre-heat your oven to 150C, which is 130C with fan, prepare two baking sheets/trays, and find yourself a big mixing bowl. Into the bowl add the oil, agave nectar, honey and vanilla, and mix. Tip in all the other ingredients, except the coconut. Give everything a good strong stir or five.

Now pour the granola mix onto the two trays and spread it out into an even layer. Into the oven for about 20-25 minutes. At this point get your trays out, mix in the coconut and dried fruit, and put them back in for another 15-20 minutes. Get out of the oven and let it cool before having a taste. Oh well, at least try.

Once completely cooled, you can store this is an airtight container for up to a month. (Though I admit I’ll be shocked if it lasts that long in your kitchen. In mine its all gone in a week, at the most :).) Absolutely fantastic with cold milk, over yoghurt, or on its own. Breakfast on the table in 30 seconds. And with good carbs, good fats and protein, fabulously good for you. Yay.

So. What have we learnt today? The best breakfast cereal is the one you make at home. Yes? Good.

Baked Banana Blueberry Date Oats

So I realise that I’m very very lucky in that I actually enjoy my work and don’t quite understand *monday blues*. In fact I quite love Mondays. And all the other days. My only gripe with working weekdays is that I don’t have enough time for a proper cooked breakfast. And if you know anything about me at all, you know that when I say proper cooked breakfast I mean porridge, of course. Oh and baked oatmeal. The real reason I love weekends? I can actually spend half an hour in the morning baking oats. Seriously. So here’s a Sunday morning ritual : pot of tea – loose leaf first flush Assam these days, get boy started on some warm golden milk and a homemade granola bar, and then bake oats. Oh yes.

This morning it was banana, blueberries, dates, almonds, and a splash of Agave nectar. So so beautiful.

Let’s get to it then:

Ingredients:

1 cup organic rolled oats. (You know how I feel about organic, unprocessed food by now. Yes? Good.)

2 small bananas. Sliced

2-3 dates. I used Mejdool – roughly chopped.

1 cup of blueberries – rinsed.

1/2 cup of rice milk. You could use almond milk, even regular milk.

11 almonds – roughly chopped.

1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon powder.

1 tablespoon of agave nectar (totally optional this).

Some boiling water.

Method:

So, first of all you need to pre-heat your oven to 190C, which is 170C with a fan. Then pour your oats into a bowl, cover with just enough boiling water and let them soak for about 10 minutes.

While the oats are doing their thing, prep all your other ingredients – fruits nuts etc. Then stir everything including the rice milk, agave nectar, and cinnamon powder into your oats.

Transfer to a baking dish. I like to put some banana slices on top just because it looks pretty :).

In it goes into your preheated oven for about 20 minutes, till it’s nice and golden on top.

And you’re done. So awesome this is. Baking fruits caramelises natural sugars so everything is sweeter, the flavours deeper. And in any case you know you’re winning when boy wants seconds. Oh yes.

 

Best Spiced (Christmas) Porridge Ever

Oh my god this is seriously the best porridge I’ve ever made, or eaten. And given my forever, unending love for porridge, and the sheer amount of the stuff I eat, that is saying something. In fact that is saying A LOT. Slightly seasonal this, with cinnamon, nutmeg and/ or mixed spice. I added extra dates for garnish but you could make it even more christmassy with dried cranberries, if you like those.

Okay, so, without further ado, let’s do do do. (Or Ho Ho Ho. Ahem. Merry christmas y’all :).)

Ingredients:

(Serves one by the way. Me. Obviously.)

1/2 cup of rolled oats. I use organic jumbo oats – lots more texture, flavour etc, but any kind of rolled oats work. (I have to admit I do not like the ready-in-two-minutes- quick-oats though *oats-snob-alert* HoHoHo.)

Half an apple. Cored. Grated. Or could chop it up quite fine and that would work also.

Half a carrot. Grated.

3 dates. Pitted.

1 teaspoon of almond butter.

1 teaspoon of coconut oil.

1 cup of water.

1/2 cup of almond milk.

Spices:

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon powder.

1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg powder. (Of course freshly grated nutmeg is what you really want, but I didn’t have any at hand, and the powder worked pretty well.)

Pinch or two of mixed spice (optional).

 

Method:

So basically all you do is put your oats, water, almond milk, carrot, apple and 2 of the 3 dates into a saucepan, give it a good mix and cook it on a low to medium flame for about 8-10 minutes till its all lovely and gooey and porridge-y. Remember the more you stir, the creamier your porridge will be, so don’t be shy.

Once your porridge is ready. Take it off the heat and add your almond butter and coconut oil to the saucepan and give it a good stir till everything is nicely mixed together. The almond butter and coconut oil take this porridge to another level altogether. The creaminess is plain ridiculous. Anyway, time to put your spices in, and stir some more. By this point your kitchen actually smells like “’tis the season to be jolly!” Truly.

Now, pour your porridge into your serving bowl. And go crazy with the toppings! I used sliced apples, dates, almonds and toasted coconut flakes. But hey, whatever you fancy!

Christmas for breakfast. In a bowl. And so good for you, its not even funny. SoMuchWin.

 

A Bagful of Almonds – III – Chocolate Coconut Bites

Okay, so I have obviously saved the best for the last. You know when it’s mid-morning, or late afternoon, and you crave something sweet, and invariably reach for a bar of chocolate, or in my case, a flapjack? Sound familiar? Yes? Well, these little drops of goodness are perfect for those times, and they have absolutely nothing bad in them. Actually a health food. So you can stuff your face, within reason, without the slightest twinge of guilt. The sweetness in these comes from sticky sweet dates, the creaminess from almonds and coconut oil, and the general awesomeness from cocoa powder. Oh and this is another one for your blender by the way.

Should we get straight to it then? Good.

Ingredients:

1 cup of almonds.

1 cup of desiccated coconut.

3-4 tablespoons of almond butter (you could use any nut butter here).

1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil.

6-7 big fresh sticky dates – Medjool are really good, but I’ve made these with Daglet Nour dates as well, and those work just as well.

Drizzle of honey (optional).

Method:

First of all put your almonds and desiccated coconut in to your blender and blend till a flour forms (remember to use the milling blade if like me, you are doing this in the Nutribullet).

Next add the nut butter, coconut oil, cocoa powder, honey, and blend (extractor blade now). Then add the dates, slowly, so say, two at a time, and blend till you’ve used up all the dates and you’re left with a thick sticky mixture. Do take care not to over blend, because if you do your mixture could become too oily (almonds will release their oils, longer you blend).

So once you have your sticky mixture ready all you need to do is roll portions into balls and then dip those in extra coconut to coat them. Leave them to firm up a bit in the fridge for about an hour or so, and you’re done.

Incredibly good. And so nutritious. And they keep really well in an airtight container, in the fridge, for about a week. All those chocolate/sugar cravings sorted for a week. You’re welcome.

 

 

 

A Bagful of Almonds – II – Almond Butter

So, this is going to be part II of  my adventures with, you guessed it, a bagful of almonds. Oh Yes.

Now, I love a good nut butter. Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely and entirely and irrevocably in love with butter – never have done anything in moderation – but lets face it you can’t really get away with eating mountains of the stuff. Sigh. Slightly lactose intolerant in my old age, ahem, and also slight heart-scare recently. So all in all perfect time to look at alternatives that are delicious *and* good for you. And this is where nut butters come in. They are really really good for you. Good fat. Good protein. Lots of vitamins. And yummy. You can’t really go wrong with a good nut butter.

So of course almond butter is my favourite. I go through quite a lot of this stuff every week. And it ain’t cheap. Now since I had all these lovely almonds sitting there in a jar, I thought hey, maybe I should make some almond butter. And you know what, I did B-).

Again, you are going to need a powerful blender for this. I used the NutriBullet, obviously. Technically speaking you could, of course, make almond butter in a mortar & pestle, because essentially all you are doing is grinding the nuts up till they they emulsify into a sort of paste. So if you have the time, a big enough mortar & pestle, and very strong arm muscles, go for it!

Here:

Ingredients:

1 cup of almonds.

1 or 2 tablespoons of coconut oil.

Drizzle of honey (optional).

Method:

First of all what you need to do is put your almonds in to the blend and grind them up into a flour. If you’re using the NutriBullet, for this you’ll have to use the milling blade. That done, add the coconut oil (and honey, if using), and blend – this time using the extractor blade. That basically is it Within minutes you’ve got yourself the most amazing jar of homemade Almond Butter. #Win, I’d say.

 

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Super green smoothie

I finally bit the bullet and bought the, ahem,  NutriBullet (see what I did there. Yo) a few months ago and and I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love it. It makes making smoothies a doddle. Seriously. As easy and get, set and whiz. (Of course a blender will do the job just as well, but hey I’m a little bit in love, therefore allowed to gush. Sigh.)

So I thought why don’t I post a quick green-smoothie recipe while I’m getting the quince-lamb-curry recipe sorted in my head (what? It’s a process. It takes time. You can’t force it. Ahem).

Now I know most people look at green smoothies and go eewww, but I promise this one tastes awesome, is chockablock full of nutrients, and so so good for you. What’s not to love.

Still not convinced? All I’ll say is, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Give it a go. And prepare to be pleasantly surprised. Yo.

Ingredients

Spinach leaves, a handful or so, rinsed well.

Curly Kale, one big leaf, again, rinsed well.

Coriander, a handful, yep, rinsed well.

2 fresh dates, pitted.

1 fresh apricot. Remember to take the stone out. (You guys have no idea how hard it was to not write “stoned” next to apricot, up there. Such self control. Wah. :P)

Blueberries, handful or so again. By this time you know we’re washing everything that goes in this, right? Good.

1 inch piece of ginger.

1/2 inch piece of fresh turmeric root.

1 banana.

5 walnuts, shelled, obviously.

2 teaspoons of mixed seeds. Loving hemp, sesame and pumpkin seeds these days.

1 teaspoon of Maca powder. New super super food.

1 teaspoon flaxseeds.

Water.

Method

All you need to do is put everything into your NutriBullet/ blender cup, starting with the greens, and topping everything off with water — only upto the max line. Plug it in. Whiz for around 20-30 secs. Pour into a tall glass. Stick in a straw. I told you so.

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Granola Bars

Just a quick post about my most favourite granola bars in the universe. This has been my go-to recipe for breakfast bars for years. Lovely, slightly crunchy, and so so good for you. I made these last week and took some in to work. Always very popular these, but this time one of my colleagues suggested I should patent the recipe, quit my job, make and sell mountains of these :).

Such praise left me with no choice but to confess that its actually a BBCGoodFood recipe which I’ve kind of made my own. By the way, I *love* BBCGoodFood. Oh Yeah. So anyway I thought while I’m getting my head around the Tchaaman Ruvangan (Paneer with tomatoes) recipe, which I intend to put up next, I’d put this up.

My love for oats is the stuff of legends. No really. I love oats. Porridge is my thing. And no-cook-soaked-oats. Oh Yeah. And I’ve got an incurable sweet tooth. These bars are absolutely fantastic because there are oats in there, and good healthy sugars. And good healthy fat. And nuts. And seeds. And coconut! Ticks so many of my boxes. Oh Yeah.

So, without much further ado, how do you do!

Ingredients — 

100gms of coconut oil – you could use butter, but coconut oil is much much healthier and tastes amazing in this recipe.

3 tablespoons of honey –  golden syrup will do just as well, but again, honey is healthier.

85gms of demerara sugar – if you find jaggery (gudd) anywhere, you could use that as well, gives it a lovely complex flavour. But of course regular white sugar will do the job just as well.

140gms of porridge oats – so we’re talking regular rolled oats, not the quick cooking variety.

½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon – mmmm cinnamon.

50gms of desiccated coconut.

3 tablespoons of seeds – whatever seeds you prefer or have to hand : pumpkin, sesame, linseeds, melon, hemp. I like to mix all of them up and put the lot in.

100g chopped nuts – again of your choice. I love pecans in these. But walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, separately or mixed, work just as well.

—————————————————–

Method —

So once you have all your various bits measured out and in place this is a shockingly easy recipe to throw together.

Fire your oven up and preheat it to around 160C, which is 140C with the fan on. Take a square baking tin (the I one I use is 22cm), grease and line it with some baking parchment (I *love* baking parchment! Oh Yeah).

That done, what you need to do is to put your coconut oil, honey and sugar in a pan and melt it all down over a low flame. In a mixing bowl mix all your other ingredients – oats, cinnamon, coconut, seeds, nuts. Pour your melted oil/sugar/honey mixture into the oats and mix really well. All of that then you transfer to your lined baking tin. Level everything off, pressing the mixture down into the tin with the back of a spoon.

In it goes, in to the oven, for about 30-35 minutes, during which time your whole house will smell like candy. Oh Yeah.

Let it cool for about 5-7 minutes, then cut into slices, squares, triangles, whatever. Oh and try not to polish the whole lot off with your afternoon tea, because these actually store really well in an airtight container for unto a week.

And you’re done.