When Miss Marmite Lover invited me to host a curry stall at her forthcoming underground food rave, I decided I’d offer dishes that were a little bit different alongside the same old traditional curries. Chaal kumro bhaja is a classic Bengali fried pumpkin dish, which involves panch phoran (Bengali five spice), fresh coconut and chilli. This roasted panch phoran pumpkin salad is my modern version. Fat chunks of the orange flesh are lightly coated in mustard oil, salt and garlic before roasting to fudgy tenderness. Cubes of paneer, raw cashews, fresh coconut, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are browned in panch phoran and chilli tempered oil before everything is tossed with a pinch of sugar, salt, fresh coriander, lemon juice and pomegranate seeds. A drizzle of chillified yoghurt and the contrast of crisp, spicy cheese, nuts and seeds with soft garlicky gourd is pretty unbeatable.
I’ll be serving this on Saturday 5th November, along with a more old school mutton kosha mangsho (slow cooked Bengali mutton and potato curry), saag and pea paneer (with home made paneer), spicy sausage rolls (both veggie and meat), potato and pea shingaras (Bengali samosas with nigella seed pastry) lentil doughnuts in raita (dahi vadai), organic, free-range chicken curry, vegetable biryani, masoor dal and smoked aubergine and tomato borthas (fresh Bengali salsas).
Serves 2- 3 as a main course and 6 as a starter/side dish
1/2 medium pumpkin or 1 small one, halved, deseeded and lopped into chunks
1 tbsp mustard oil plus extra for drizzling
1-2 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
½ block paneer, cubed
1 handful raw cashews
½ fresh coconut, sliced thinly
1 tbsp each of sunflower and pumpkin seeds
1 tsp each of fenugreek, asafoetida, cumin, mustard and nigella seeds
1 fresh chilli sliced or ½ teaspoon hot chilli sauce
Fresh coriander roughly chopped
Fresh lemon juice
½ fresh pomegranate, deseeded
2 tbsp natural yoghurt mixed with 3-4 tsp chilli sauce
- Place the pumpkin chunks in a baking tray and anoint liberally with the garlic, salt and a little of the mustard oil. Roast at 150C for around 30-40 minutes, or until slightly charred and very soft.
- In a frying pan, heat the remaining mustard oil and when hot, add the mustard and nigella seeds. Lightly crush the fennel, asafoetida and cumin and add to the oil, which should be spit and crackle.
- Add the paneer and coat well in the spices. Add the fresh chilli or chilli sauce and stir in the pumpkin and sunflower seeds, the cashews and the coconut. Mix thoroughly and continue to cook until everything is toasted and golden brown.
- Tip the contents of the frying pan over the roasted pumpkin, add a teaspoon each of salt and sugar and mix well. Strew with the coriander, pomegranate and a generous squeeze of lemon juice and drizzle with the chilli yoghurt dressing. Serve warm.
Mark Hix certainly seems to know his Asian food – I’ve had my eye on the mutton chop curry recipe in his latest cookery book for some time now. I chanced upon his recipe for these lentil and potato cakes on a yellowing scrap of old Independent I’d ripped out around, ooh seven years ago. Gently spiced potato cakes filled with a piquant mango chutney and lentil mix and rolled in coconut, they are the perfect packed lunch fodder and definitely taste more intense the next day. I used fresh coconut instead of desiccated and added some bay and grated ginger to the potato mix. I think a spot of fresh green chilli in there wouldn’t go amiss, or if you can get hold of it, the weeniest dollop of Mr Naga hot chilli sauce.
Crisp Bitter Melon
Bitter Melon, or Karella as it’s called in Bengali is a violently bitter vegetable. To temper this and extract those mouth-puckering enzymes a good long salting is required. Once broken down into paper thin crescents, fried up crisply with cumin, chilli and salt and eaten with mouthfuls of steaming rice, it makes a delicious dish, one that’s simultaneously salty, crunchy, bitter and ever so slightly sweet. These alien looking vegetables resemble warty, tubercle-ridden cucumbers and can be found in most Asian shops and markets. This recipe works well as a side with a mild dhal as a slightly sweet foil to the bitter edge, or as the palate-rocking prelude to a more substantial feast.
I am addicted to pickles.From Polish mushrooms to Korean radishes, English onions to German Sauerkraut, if it contains salt and/or vinegar I am usually overcome by the sort of craving that isn’t sated until the entire jar has been devoured in one sitting (and yes, if no one’s watching I have even been known to polish off the tangy pickling liquid. It’s that bad).
When I lived in Japan my neighbours would periodically satisfy this craving with gifts of pickled cucumbers and radishes, the vegetables lovingly preserved from a glut they had harvested themselves and the pickling recipe unique to each family. When I found this recipe on the fabulous “Appetite for China” site I had to give it a try. Miraculously I somehow managed to restrain myself enough to wait for the flavours to develop before eating them and it was well worth it. The crisp, tangy results were the perfect accompaniment to some tatsuta age mackerel and steamed basmati brown rice.
Mmmmm two of my favourite ingredients. I love Rowley Leigh’s column in the FT and I have wanted to visit the Café Anglais for ages, but never seem to have enough money. I’ve read some wonderful things about these parmesan custards so decided to have a go at making them myself using Rowley’s recipe. I had a bunch of tarragon in the fridge that needed using up so added a tiny bit to the toasts. I don’t have a Panini or sandwich maker and only had ciabatta for the toasts; so had to weigh them down with a pestle and mortar to make them requisitely thin.
I found 15 minutes was nowhere near long enough in my stubborn mule of an electric oven, so had to cook the custards for 40 minutes altogether, but it depends on how set you want them.
They are really delicious, and surprisingly easy to make. I think next time I’ll try adding some sun dried tomatoes, prosciutto and perhaps some olives, like a Mediterranean chawanmushi.
This is my favourite way to eat tofu. Fried until golden and then dipped in a tangy ginger-soy sauce with fresh grated daikon/mooli/Asian radish, it’s really easy to make. You can buy blocks of cotton tofu for around £1.50 in most Oriental supermarkets, and if you have this with some salad and rice it works out to be fairly cheap. Make sure you use fresh soft tofu and try to get it as dry as possible before coating in the flour.Read the rest of this entry »