Monday, September 15, 2014

SPICY SICHUAN NOODLES



These noodles - a riff on the very popular dan dan noodles - are fiery and addictive! Don't be put off by the ingredient list. Although they sound hard to find, Sichuan pepper, Chinese pickled vegetables, and preserved chillies are easily found in any Asian grocery store, or even at a well-stocked regular grocery store.


Use any greens you'd like - this time I used sweet potato leaves from my garden but in the past I've also used sliced bok choy and spinach. I like spice but not infernal heat, so for some people these might not be spicy enough - simply adjust the spice level to your taste!

Spicy Sichuan Noodles
makes: 4 servings

- 1 recipe homemade noodles (or 1 packet of dried or fresh noodles of your choice)
- 3 - 4 dried red cayenne peppers (or any other dried red chillies)
- 4 scallions, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 in. piece of ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 jalapeño, sliced
- 2 carrots, julienned
- 1 zucchini, julienned
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 1 cup sweet potato leaves (or any other greens)
- 3 tbsp. pickled mustard greens and/or bamboo shoots, chopped (optional)
- 1 tbsp. crushed red pepper (flakes)
- 2 tbsp. rice wine (sake is fine) (optional)
- 2 tbsp. peanut oil (or safflower oil, but not olive oil!)

Sauce:
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil
- 1 tbsp. sesame paste (tahini is fine)
- 1-2 tbsp. Chinese preserved chillies (or red pepper flakes soaked in 1 tbsp. distilled vinegar)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tbsp. Sichuan pepper, crushed (optional)
- 1 tsp. corn starch (optional)

Garnish:
- 1/2 cup bean sprouts
- 1 cucumber, julienned
  1. In a small bowl mix all the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
  2. In a large pot heat water to a rolling boil. Add the noodles and boil for 7 - 10 min. till they are al dente or cooked to your preference. Drain the noodles.
  3. On medium-high, heat the peanut oil in a large pan. Add the dried peppers, scallions, garlic, ginger, and jalapeño, and give it a quick stir. Add the carrots, zucchini, sweet potato leaves, and pickled vegetables if using, and sauté, stirring constantly. Deglaze the pan with the rice wine. Add the soy sauce and crushed red pepper and stir.
  4. Add the noodles and sauce, turn the heat to high and quickly stir everything together. Turn the heat off.
  5. Serve in bowls, garnished with bean sprouts and julienned cucumber.

HOMEMADE NOODLES



Homemade Noodles
makes: 4 servings

- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1/4 cup cornstarch (or tapioca starch)
  1. Mix the flours, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry mix and add the egg. Mix the egg into the flour using a fork or your fingers, till you have a shaggy dough. Add water 1 tbsp. at a time and mix till you have a stiff dough. Knead really well - about 10 minutes - to make the dough supple and smooth. Cover and let it rest at room temperature for at least 15 min., up to 2 hrs. Dust your hands with cornstarch and divide the rested dough into 4 pieces.
  2. If using a pasta roller: Take one piece of dough and roughly shape it into a rectangle. Roll it through the pasta roller at the widest setting. Fold into thirds like a letter and roll it through again. Repeat two more times. After that, roll through without folding, and at successively narrower settings till you have sheets of the desired thickness (you don't want to go too thin or the dough will tear, but you don't want to be too thick because the noodles will swell slightly when cooked). Lightly dust with corn starch as needed, if the dough gets sticky. Hang the rolled sheet of dough over a hanger or the back of a chair to dry for 10 - 15 min. Repeat with the rest of the dough. On the pasta maker select the noodle width you want, and pass one sheet at a time through the cutter to make noodles. Gather the cut noodles into a loose pile and set aside while you cut the remaining sheets into noodles.
  3. If rolling by hand: flatten one piece of the dough and dust lightly with corn starch. Roll into a circle or rough rectangle, as thin as possible without tearing the dough. Let it dry for 10 - 15 min. Repeat with the remaining dough. Working with one sheet of rolled dough at a time, fold the sheet into thirds and use a sharp knife to cut evenly into noodles as wide or narrow as you want. Gather the cut noodles into loose piles and set aside while you cut the rest of the rolled dough into noodles.
  4. Steam the noodles for 5 - 7 minutes. Allow to cool. If not cooking immediately, store in a covered container in the fridge for up to two days. If cooking immediately, see Step 5 below.
  5. Finish cooking the noodles by boiling for 7 - 10 min. and enjoy in your favourite recipe!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

IRAQI AUBERGINE AND LAMB STEW





My favourite cuisines other than Gujarati are - in no particular order - French, Arabic (from Levantine countries), Afghani, Persian, Mexican, Greek, Italian, and Japanese. I love cuisines that effortlessly combine ingredients to create deep complex flavours. Especially cuisines that have a variety of vegetarian foods, since I am mostly vegetarian and seldom cook meat at home.

This delicious sweet and tangy Iraqi lamb stew is not vegetarian, but it contains a small enough bit of meat to remain light on the body. It's also very versatile - this time I made it with lamb because I needed to use up some leftover ground lamb but I usually make it vegetarian. I find that the split yellow peas add enough meatiness to make a substantial stew - it makes a great meal with bread or rice and of course, a small crisp salad. 

Iraqi Aubergine and Lamb Stew
makes: 4 - 6 servings

- 1 large aubergine, cubed
- 2-1/2 tbsp. salt
- 4 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 med. zucchini, cubed
- 1 potato, cubed
- 2 carrots, cubed
- 1 bulb fennel, cubed
- 1/3 lb. ground lamb
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
- 1/2 cup dried yellow split peas, soaked in cold water for 8 - 12 hours
- 4 dried red chillies
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp. chilli flakes or powder
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves 
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a colander, mix 2 tbsp. salt into the aubergine cubes. Let the aubergine sit for about 30 minutes until the bitter juices run out. Squeeze the cubes to remove any water that didn't drain out, and pat dry.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 F / 190 C. Mix the aubergine cubes with 2 tbsp. olive oil and bake for 15 - 20 min. or until tender.
  3. While the aubergine is baking, heat the remaining 2 tbsp. of the olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add the dried chillies, onion, and garlic and sauté till the onion is translucent.
  4. Add the lamb and cook for a few min. till the lamb is evenly browned, breaking up large chunks with a spoon. Add the split peas, all the vegetables (except the aubergine, which is still baking!) and the spices and stir to mix well. Turn the heat to high and add 2 cups water. Cook on high for 5 min. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the baked aubergine, pomegranate molasses, and remaining 1/2 tbsp. salt and cook till the vegetables are done, about 20 - 30 min., stirring occasionally.
  5. Turn the heat off and adjust salt if needed. Serve with any Arabic bread or rice.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

SUMMER VEGETABLE QUICHE



Summer Vegetable Quiche
makes: 1 9 in. quiche/4 servings

1/2 recipe basic yeast dough, (or any pizza/bread dough of choice) after the first 60 min. rise
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup grated cheese of choice
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 1 tbsp. dried mixed herbs (or any herbs of your choice)
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg powder
- 1 zucchini, sliced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved 
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 1 serrano, jalapeño or any pepper of your choice, sliced (optional)
  1. Lightly grease a 9 in. cake pan. Roll the dough into an approximately 9 in. circle and lay it in the pan. Starting from the centre and working your way out, push the dough up the sides of the pan to form approximately 2 in. high sides to get a deep shell.
  2. Let the dough rise for 20 min. Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C.
  3. Using a fork prick holes all over the dough and bake for 20-25 min. till the shell is lightly browned and has pulled away from the pan. Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes.
  4. Turn the oven up to 425 F/220 C.
  5. Arrange the zucchini slices in a more or less single layer in the quiche shell. Arrange the onion slices on top of the zucchini slices.
  6. Blend the next eight ingredients (eggs through nutmeg) and pour into the quiche shell. Arrange the tomatoes cut sides down on the eggs (it's ok if they float a little). If using, arrange the sliced pepper in the spaces between the tomatoes.
  7. Bake at 425 F/220 C for 20 min. then turn the heat down to 350 F/180 C and bake for another 15 min. or till the filling appears set and the top is lightly browned. 
  8. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 15 min. Remove from the mould.
  9. Cut the quiche into wedges and serve over a salad or on it's own. Store leftovers in fridge for up to 3 days... it reheats really well!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

HARISSA-ROASTED VEGETABLES WITH CHICKPEAS


Roasted vegetables are delicious, quick, cook on their own, and are my favourite! And *these* roasted vegetables are my all-time favourite. With the chickpeas, olives, and raisins added to the vegetables laced with smoky spicy harissa, this is just an incredible meld of flavours in a bite. And, just like a meal should be, it's filling yet light, and doesn't leave you feeling sluggish.

Use any kind of green olives, and any vegetables that roast well - carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, any kind of summer or winter squash, and any others that come to mind. I love these with salad greens and maybe a little avocado added into it all if I'm really hungry, but to make it an even more hearty meal, serve this with rice or bread and a salad on the side.

Harissa-Roasted Vegetables with Chickpeas
makes: 4 - 6 servings

- 2 tbsp harissa (home-made or bought)
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 tbsp. olive or avocado oil
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3 cups green cauliflower florets (broccoflower, but any coloured cauliflower is fine)
- 2 purple potatoes, cut into large chunks (I used purples, but any potato variety is fine)
- 1 yellow squash or zucchini, halved and cut into thick slices (or any winter squash, cubed)
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one 15 oz. can, drained and rinsed)
- 1/2 cup sliced red onion
- 1 cup sliced capsicum (of any colour)
- 1/2 cup green olives, pitted
- 1/4 cup raisins (preferably soaked in warm water for 10-15 minutes to soften)  
- 2 tbsp. water
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C). Lightly grease a large gratin/lasagna pan.
  2. In a large stove-proof pan mix the lemon juice, harissa, oil, and salt. Add the vegetables and chickpeas, and toss or mix well to coat the vegetables. Transfer everything to the greased pan and bake for 30 - 40 minutes, mixing the vegetables once during baking. Turn the heat down to 375 F (190 C) for the last 10 minutes if needed.
  3. In the same stove-proof pan you used to toss the vegetables, sauté the onions and capsicum, adding the 2 tbsp. water if needed (the little bit of the harissa mixture remaining in the pan is plenty for sautéing. No need for additional oil.). Mix in the olives and raisins in the last few minutes before turning off the heat.
  4. Remove the vegetables from the oven and mix in the sautéed vegetables.
  5. Serve immediately or at room temperature, over salad greens, or with bread or rice.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

HARISSA



Harissa is a North African condiment that's got one of the most addictive flavour profiles! And, it's just at home on a slice of bread as in a complex stew or sauce. That's what makes it so brilliant! So if you like flavour with a punch, look no further! You can use any combination of dried chile types, and adjust the quantity to suit your taste and spice level. 

I have a general obsession with condiments and dips - a few, even one excellent condiment can elevate the simplest of ingredients to another level. I like having various types of condiments like harissa, pestos, salsas, salad dressings, dipping sauces, nut butters etc. around so I can make a quick meal with pretty much any fresh vegetable or fruit, cooked grains, eggs, leftovers, etc. Like this sandwich I made (photo above) with harissa and some leftover lamb meatballs with spicy tomato sauce I'd made for a dinner party (not-so-great photo below).


Harissa
makes: 1 cup

- 8-9 dried chiles de arbol or cayenne
- 2 chile guajillo
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon 
- 1 lemon, juiced 
- 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp. coriander
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika (optional)
- 1 tbsp. caraway seeds
  1. On medium-low heat, dry-roast the chiles in a skillet without burning them (or they'll taste bitter). Transfer to a bowl filled with enough hot water to submerge the chiles, and add the sun-dried tomatoes. Set aside for 10-15 minutes. Drain and remove the chile stalks.
  2. In the same skillet, dry-roast the caraway seeds. Let them cool.
  3. In a blender jar, add the drained chiles and all other ingredients and blend to a smooth paste.
  4. Transfer to a container and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

CARAMELISED PEAR UPSIDE DOWN CAKE






Barely adapted from here.

Caramelised Pear Upside Down Cake
makes: 8 servings

Caramel topping:
- 6 tbsp. (3/4 stick) salted or unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup sugar (I use Turbinado for everything but any sugar will do)
- 2 large pears, peeled, cored, sliced into 1/4 in. thick slices

Cake:
- 1-1/3 cups AP (all purpose) flour
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
- 1-1/2 tsp. powdered cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. powdered nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. powdered allspice
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup safflower oil (or any other neutral oil) 
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup coarsely chopped pears 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the sides of a 9 in. springform pan. 
  2. Make the topping: Melt the butter and sugar and pour into the greased springform pan. Working quickly, arrange the pear slices on the sugar, overlapping each slice over the previous. 
  3. Make the cake: Whisk the flour, sugar, ginger, spices, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Whisk the eggs, oil, and vanilla extract in a large bowl to blend. Mix in the chopped pears. Mix dry ingredients into the egg mixture to make a batter. 
  4. Pour the batter over the pears in the prepared springform pan and bake the cake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. If the cake is not done yet, let it bake for another 5 minutes and test. 
  5. Cool the cake in the pan for 15-20 minutes. Remove the springform side of the pan. Put a plate on the cake and invert the cake onto the plate. Serve warm, with or without vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

VEGAN OVERNIGHT OATS


Overnight oats - one of my favourite breakfasts! It's sattvic, light but really filling, quick, make-ahead, and if you put these in a jar with a lid, spill-free and portable. I also make these in my hotel room when I'm travelling, to have an energising breakfast before the activity of a construction site.

I seldom eat dairy products, but if you do, you can make these with milk if you want. Milk's not really necessary though... overnight the oats the mixture gets creamy and smooth just with water. I also don't use any processed milk like almond or soy. If you make homemade nut milk, by all means use that, it's delicious!

Also, since I don't use any dairy in these, I just leave them on the table. I find the chill of refrigerated breakfast too much of a shock early in the morning, even in the summer. But if you're using milk, do refrigerate!

Use any fruits and nuts you fancy. Bananas, berries, stone fruit like cherries and peaches, kiwi, mangoes, pineapple, passion fruit... they're all amazing with these oats.

Vegan Overnight Oats
makes: 1 serving

- 1/4 cup rolled oats (regular, not instant!)
- 1 tbsp. shredded coconut (optional)
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 cup champagne grapes (or halved regular grapes or any other cut fruit)
- 2 tbsp. toasted pumpkin seeds, coarsely chopped (or any other nuts)
  1. In a bowl, mix the oats, water, and coconut if using. Stir well and set aside for 10-15 minutes. Stir again, and if the oats seem dry, add a bit more water till you have a creamy mixture.
  2. In a jar or glass, layer the oats, pumpkin seeds, grapes, repeat. End up with a top layer of grapes.
  3. Leave overnight and enjoy a delicious start to your day!