Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mt Nacho

We scaled its heights - and grimaced. I didn't really know what I was letting us in for when I ordered this starter. (Yes, it was an 'appetizer', not the main dish.) I thought it was a typical menu illustration where the picture has been magnified a hundredfold. It was, but that didn't mean the original was a rational size. I have a little more respect for menu illustrations now. Needless to say, our meal ended here.

(We had also ordered some corn and cheese poppers. They were only marbles, in comparison, and disappeared as soon as they appeared on our table.)

The dish itself underwhelmed, despite its overwhelming proportions. Beans in a hot cream sauce with some vegetables and lettuce swimming in it? Nah!

Want to try some brilliant (literally - look at the colour) potatoes? Here's my post on The Great Vega'n Vegetarian Project.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Couscous, And Some News

The appearance of some live forms of protein was no deterrent. It had cost good money, and it had to be used, so this was what I made with the last of my last batch of couscous.

I now have another batch of two big packets. It made its way here last January, a year and a month ago. I finally managed to inaugurate it last week. Along with that batch of couscous came a batch of other Mediterranean delights, which included sumac, thyme mix, zatar and orange flower water. I've used some of them on and off in the past year, the last is waiting to be opened. When that momentous occasion occurs, you, dear readers, will be the first to know.

Some chickpeas were waiting to be used up; so was a pack of commercial tomato puree. (I don't remember why I bought it, as I don't like it.) I thought I need to make a beginning on the couscous before it attracted life again, so out of the first 2 lb packet I had, I used half a cup.

I cooked this couscous by following the instructions on the other couscous packet, substituting plain water for stock, so I suggest you just follow the pack instructions if you make this dish. (Why didn't I do as I say? The pack I used didn't have instructions.) I had made savoury couscous just once before - it was bigger, and while the sauce used some of the same ingredients, the spices added to it made it very different so it was a new venture all over again for me.

Here's how you make the sauce:

Tomato puree: 200 ml (or just a little short of 1 cup)
Chickpeas/channa: 1 cup, soaked overnight, drained, washed, (pressure) cooked
Green thyme mix: 2-3 tbsp (Mine contains thyme, coriander, cumin, anise, fennel, sesame and salt)
Onion: 1, sliced
Garlic: 5 cloves, sliced
Olive Oil (EVOO): 1 tbsp

Heat the olive oil gently.

Add the onion and garlic and sweat them lightly.

Now add the tomato puree and 2 tbsp of the spice mix.

Mix well, keep stirring till well mixed.

*Taste. The spice mix already contains salt so make sure the sauce isn't salty, or overpoweringly spicy.

Depending on this, add salt, and more of the spice mix if you like.

Add the chickpeas and let it cook on simmer till it absorbs the flavours.

Now, I have some news for you. As if work, reading, this blog, a year-round photo-a-day project, insomnia and other businesses aren't enough, I've volunteered to collaborate on a group blog, The Great Vega'N Vegetarian Project. The initiative of Cynthia at Tastes Like Home, this blog was born out of her realisation that much of the food we cook is naturally vegan and vegetarian, and often, unconsciously so. As most of the food that I cook routinely (and does not make it to this blog) falls into that category, I will write about it there.

I'm sending this couscous and the chickpeas off to Presto Pasta Nights hosted this week for Ruth by Mrs Ergul - Passion for Life and Food as well as My Legume Love Affair hosted for Susan by The Cripsy Cook.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Mellow Mallum

There was Baby Bok Choy,
There was Big Bok Choy,
Then there were incessant
Cups of chopped choy.

In went the leek,
Garlic and salt
Green chilli, turmeric
Spicy things all.
Steamed was the mix,
Covered for ten minutes
Stirred now and then
In my li'l kitchen.

Off with the lid
So went the liquid
In went the coconut
Shredded and grated.

Mix it well
Mix it nice
Wait just a minute (or two),
And there's a dish
For your rice!

As in all great literary works, there is much creative licence in this poem too. (One instance of it is that you don't need the rice.) I will not bore you with the technicalities of meter and rhythm, but hasten to assure you that truth has its place in this licentious (poetically speaking) piece.

The weekly shopping expedition resulted in many greens, including a first for me - bok choy. (I've eaten it on the rare occasion, but I have never processed it myself, ever.) I got some fine specimens and though my head told me to search for adequately apposite recipes, my heart immediately knew it would go into only one, a formula I had discovered a few weeks ago when Cynthia wrote about how she made mallum (also mallung, a Sri Lankan dish) for her vegan guests.

The better part of this morning was taken up with cleaning and chopping the bok choy, it came to nearly 12 cups, stalks and leaves together. I had a couple of leeks too, so one of them went into it, sliced. I added some salt, turmeric and five cloves of garlic, minced, mixed it all up and set it to cook, covered, on medium high flame for 10-15 minutes. Stir it every 3-4 minutes. The greens will give off some water so do away with the cover after a while. When the chopped stalks turn a transparent green and the leaves have wilted just enough, add about one-and-a-half cups of grated coconut and cook for another minute or two.

Bok Choy Mallum

Cabbage mallum

In the other mallums I've made, I've used French beans, cabbage and hyacinth beans. With these vegetables, I did not even wait to add the coconut at a later stage, it was a one-shot attempt. With the hyacinth beans, which was more experimental than the rest and did not contain any coconut, I added red chilli flakes (not a cupful, no!), salt and turmeric alone.

French Bean mallum

Truth be told, this is not very different from most South Indian stir-fries but what I'm chuffed about is the absence of oil (other than that contained within the coconut) and water, and the novelty of mixing everything together and letting it cook entirely on/in its own steam!

Your pan needs to be suitably thick-bottomed, or you could end up with some charred coconut and vegetables.

Here are some links I found useful:

Leafy vegetable mallum (mallung)

"Mallum is usually shredded vegetables cooked with spices and grated coconut.

Cabbage is commonly used to make mallum, but Sinhalese also use jackfruit, breadfruit, ash plaintain and unripe papaya."
- From here

"Mallum combine one of any number of vegetables (on Sri Lanka, we most often encountered carrot mallum and green bean mallum) with chiles, onions, coconut, and turmeric. Once the ingredients are mixed together in a heavy pot they're steam-cooked over medium heat. Mallum require minimum attention once they're on the fire, and make an excellent side dish."
- From here

This goes to Simona of Briciole, who is hosting this week's Weekend Herb Blogging, created by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen and administered now by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once.