Mum’s Green Mango and Coconut Rice (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

My summer holidays were often spent in a way that my parents thought best combined the two elements of being an Indian family in Australia.  It was a time before the teenage years descended on me with all their accompanying awkwardness.  Before that phase where the parentals were mortifyingly embarrassing, no matter what they did.  Anything they did that was too typically Indian would make me want to crawl under the nearest table and any attempts on their part to be more Aussie would be met with a roll of the eyes.  During those teenage years, they really couldn’t win.

Green Mango 1

But this was a time before all that adolescent angst set in, when this marrying of cultures was just part of life. We would drive to caravan parks in seaside towns, often with two or three other families from our community.  We stayed in a string of mobile homes that never went anywhere and splashed around in the pool while our mothers cooked and our fathers ate Bombay bhuja mix with their beers.

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The smell of barbequing meat would waft past us from the Australian families with whom we were sharing the park.  Our mothers would wrinkle up their vegetarian noses in disgust and set about cooking a good Indian meal using the impressive toolkit of ingredients they had packed into the cars.  Lentils were cooked, rice micro-waved and spices blended, the scents mingling with that of cooking meat, chlorine and sunscreen.

There was often some sort of South Indian bread- fluffy steamed idlis with chutney, or dosas made from batter that had fermented perfectly in the warm car.  Otherwise there would be the semolina based upma or some sort of flavoured rice dish such as a puliogare, lemon rice or this green mango and coconut rice.

Green Mango Rice 1

Luckily all the teenage angst eventually gave way.  Anything else would be a real pity as there is nothing remotely embarrassing about this flavourful, slightly tart rice dish that is a favourite in this Indian family.

Mangoes are in season now and although the ripe fruit are undeniably delicious, there is much you can do with the raw green version readily available in markets and ethnic grocers.  For this dish, try to choose greener, less ripe mangoes as the more tart they are, the better.  The crunch of the peanuts and roasted dhal adds something special.  If you are allergic to peanuts but tolerant of others, try using cashews.

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Mum’s Green Mango and Coconut Rice

Feeds 6-8

Get:

1  & 1/2 to 2 green mangoes, peeled and flesh finely grated (the greener the better!)
2 cups uncooked basmati rice
2  & 1/4 cups water

For the spice paste:
2 tsp fenugreek seeds
4 dry red chillies
Generous pinch asafoetida
1 cup fresh shredded coconut (I use frozen)
Any bits of mango that you could not grate
1-2 tbsp water

For the tempering:
1/4 cup cooking oil
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp channa dhal
1 tbsp urad dhal
1/2 tsp turmeric
Generous pinch asafoetida
10-15 curry leaves
3/4 cup small peanuts (available in Indian stores)

Salt, to taste

Make:

Cook the rice.  This can be done by placing 2 cups of rice in a rice cooker with 2 1/4 cups of water and cooking according to the rice cooker instructions.  Alternatively, you could place the rice and water in a large microwave dish and cook uncovered for 11 minutes, then covered for 2 minutes.

In a large non-stick saucepan, roast the fenugreek seeds until fragrant.  Grind the seeds in the spice grinder or food processor, then add the other spice paste ingredients and grind to a smooth paste.  Add a little more water if necessary.

In the non-stick saucepan, heat the oil and temper the mustard seeds on low heat.  Once they have popped, add the dhals, turmeric and asafoetida.  Fry until the dhals are a golden brown and then add the curry leaves, covering the pan immediately.

Once the curry leaves have crisped, add the peanuts.  Ensure the heat is on low and fry the peanuts, stirring gently until they are a golden brown colour.  This should take 5-7 minutes.

Add the spice paste and warm through for a minute or so.

In a large mixing bowl, fluff up the warm rice with a fork.  Add the grated green mango, spice paste/peanut mix and about 3 tsp salt to start.  Toss through gently to coat the rice in the other ingredients.  Taste and add more salt if needed.

Serve on its’ own or as a side dish to curries.

Note:
Green mangoes, the spices, dhals, small peanuts and frozen shredded coconut are all available at Indian grocery stores.

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Indian Tapas: Paneer Sang Choy Bau (Vegetarian)

Continue reading Indian Tapas: Paneer Sang Choy Bau (Vegetarian)

Green Beans and Fire

For most of us, the warmer months are something we await eagerly. As soon as the central heating of the nation is turned up, we dust off our beach towels, ditch the scarves and plan holidays, picnics, barbeques and the like.

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But for those in some parts of Australia the anticipation of Spring and Summer is not so positive. The Australian heat brings with it a natural disaster that is devastating and uncontrollable. Every year like clockwork, fires rage through the Australian countryside, fueled by the dry vegetation that is typical of a nation that is in drought more often than it is not. The fires originate when they are lit either by accident or by pranksters who surely have no concept of the level of devastation they cause with the act.

Families evacuate on advice of the authorities, scooping up pets, food supplies and valuables. Inevitably hundreds of homes are lost and with them, all that their previous inhabitants owned and loved. So far in my state of NSW, the lives of two people as well as countless animals, including pets and wildlife, have succumbed.
For me, the bushfires are something that we hear about daily as hour by hour, more and more homes are engulfed despite the courageous efforts of the Rural Fire Service. Whilst close to home, we must be deeply grateful that we are not the ones who stand to lose everything to something that is beyond our control. And in our gratitude, we should try to provide whatever support we can to help the families get through yet another season of destruction.

If you would like to donate to the bushfire appeal, try here or here or to donate to help affected animals, try here. I’m sure if you choose to, it will come back to you one day a million times over.

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On a slightly brighter and simpler note, here is a simple green beans dish that is the perfect combination of low effort and high yield, a welcome thing in the heat. Freshness of the beans is paramount and it also helps if the tomatoes are a little over-ripe. For the most part, you can chop everything up and throw it in a pan after tempering the spices, then cover and forget about it for a good twenty minutes or so. Serve with your favourite Indian flat bread, in a wrap or as a side for meat dishes.

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Simple Green Beans Curry

Serves 3-4 as a side dish

Get:
500g fresh green beans, topped and tailed
2 over-ripe tomatoes, diced small
1 medium white or brown onion, finely chopped
2 tsp cooking oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/4-1/2 tsp chilli powder, according to taste
2cm ginger, finely grated
Salt
Water
Small handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Make:
Chop or break the beans into roughly 4-5 cm lengths. In a large non-stick fry pan, heat the oil and temper the cumin seeds. Reduce to a low-moderate heat and add the spice powders and fry for about 2 minutes. Add the ginger and onions and saute until the onion is a little tender. Then, in go the tomatoes, 1 tsp salt and about 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook on a low-moderate heat for 7-10 minutes, until the tomatoes yield easily when pressed.

Throw in the beans, stir through and add another cup of water. Cover and cook until the beans are tender with some bite (about 20 minutes). At this point if the mixture is still quite watery, uncover and cook on low heat until most of the water has evaporated. When the mixture has almost completely reduced, taste and add more salt or chilli powder if desired, then stir through. Stop cooking when the water has evaporated such that the tomatoes and onions cling onto the beans.

Before serving, garnish with the fresh coriander.

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Indian Tapas: Fish Tikka Tacos

This is the first of a series of dishes called Indian Tapas that I will share on this blog. It is my attempt to get a little more adventurous with canape and appetiser ideas using Indian flavours, expanding on the classic chicken tikka, samosa and bhaji option that one usually finds in restaurants.

Eventually, I hope to build a collection of Indian and Indian-inspired short-eats.  The sort of thing you serve when you have friends over for drinks or just as an appetiser at a dinner party.  The sort of thing that can line the stomach nicely for a glass of wine, or with a few different dishes, can build up to be a full meal.

For the first of the Indian Tapas series, I decided to create little grab-and-munch mini soft tacos using Indian flavours.  What I love most about this dish is that it combines my all-time favourite Indian cuisine with one of my other loves, Mexican food.

Fish Tikka Tacos 1

My experience of Mexico spans but a few hours.  It was when I was almost thirteen, on a trip with my parents that we took a bus tour from California across the border to Tijuana.  As far as cities go, it reminded me of almost anywhere in India; over-populated, polluted and full of smiling faces and intriguing smells.

I remember being told to be careful with photography as Mexican policemen did not like being snapped by tourists.  There was the warning to be even more careful with our valuables if we wanted to keep then.

I vividly remember the underground market where hawkers tried to sell us things.  Ponchos, blankets, trinkets and so on.  There was the sleazy old stall-keeper who offered to buy me from my parents, an offer which was politely declined.  There was the colourful watch my parents bought me, the face of which was half sun, half moon.  There were two soft leather bags that we took home and used for years, encouraged by our guide’s advice that Tijuana was known for its leather goods.

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Strangely, I have no memory of the food we ate there, surprising as food normally plays a strong part in my recollections of a place.  My best experiences of Mexican food were during my visits to Texas, which is close enough to the border to have developed their own version of the cuisine and to dub it Tex-Mex.

These appetiser sized tacos are the perfect little four or five bite morsels to be served with drinks and eaten with fingers.  I couldn’t resist using Indian flavours.  The fish tikka is one I’ve been making for a while now, and when it occurred to me to incorporate it into mini-tacos to create my first Indian Tapas recipe, I was unnaturally excited.

You can make the different components ahead of time and just bring it all together to serve.  Vegetarians, this would also work well with paneer or firm tofu.

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Fish Tikka Tacos

 Makes 6-8 mini tacos

Get:

300g swordfish or other white fish (fillet or steak)
Cooking oil- olive, canola, sunflower or vegetable should all work well

For the marinade:
2/3 cup greek-style yoghurt
2 cm fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely grated
1-2  hot chillies (optional)
3 tbsp tikka masala
1/2 tsp salt

For the yoghurt sauce:
1/2 cup yoghurt
2 tbsp fresh Dill
1 garlic clove, peeled
Pinch salt

To serve
Approx 1 cup baby spinach leaves
1/2 Red onion sliced thinly
A few fronds of fresh dill
Mini tortillas or normal sized tortillas quartered
Fresh lime wedges

Make:

Blitz the marinade ingredients in the food processor until a smooth mixture is formed.  In a large bowl, place the fish and cover with the marinade. Use your (clean) fingers to make sure the fish is well coated.  Cover the bowl with cling wrap and place in the fridge for at least an hour.

In the meantime, rinse out the food processor bowl and blitz the yoghurt sauce ingredients until the garlic is well incorporated.  Also, prepare the other ingredients ready for serving.

In a hot pan, preferably a griddle pan, drizzle a cooking oil of your choice.  Once the oil is hot, fry the fish until it is cooked through with nice char marks on either side.  When the cold marinade hits the hot oil, there will be a hot little spitty tantrum so do keep a lid ready to contain it.

Once it is slightly cooled, slice the fish up into bite sized pieces.

To serve, Lay out the tacos.  Along the midline of each taco, place a few spinach leaves, then some fish. Top with yoghurt sauce, red onions (don’t be shy!) and a few fronds of dill,then a squeeze of lime.  Serve with something alcoholic (preferably).
Fish Tikka Tacos 3

Scrambled Eggs, Indian-Style

Hello there….I was wondering when you’d arrive.  I thought I’d make us some breakfast, although I think most normal folk would call this brunch-time.  I hope you like eggs?

egg bhurji 3

Sit on that stool and chat to me while I chop these tomatoes.  I’ll pour you some orange juice.  Oh yes, you can grind those spices if you feel like it.

What’s that?  No, no it’s easy.  Just a sizzle of spices, a stir fry of some veggies and then the eggs.  It’s the sort of thing that’s done on a tiny kerosene stove in a stall on Juhu beach on a balmy Mumbai evening.  Then the whole fragrant, spicy, steamy  mess is piled onto some buttery bread to be devoured standing up amongst a crowd.

There, it’s done already.  Butter that toast, will you?  I’ll get you some cutlery but it really is better just to use your fingers, Indian style.

So then….tell me what you’ve been up to……

egg bhurji 2

Egg Bhurji (Indian-style scrambled eggs)

Serves 2 with toast

Get:

1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp butter + more for bread
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2-3 small green chillies, finely chopped
1/2 a red onion, finely chopped
1/4 – 1/3 capsicum, diced
4 eggs
Salt
1 tomato, diced
Small handful coriander, chopped
Bread, toasted and buttered

Make:

In a large non-stick pan, dry roast 1/2 tsp cumin and the coriander seeds until fragrant.  Grind to a powder with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.  In the same pan, melt the butter and add 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds.  When the seeds have popped, add the spice powder and turmeric, frying for a couple of minutes on low-medium heat.  Add the chillies and onion and fry until the onion is softened.  Add the capsicum and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.

In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs with 1/4 tsp salt.  Add the eggs to the pan and stir continuously to scramble.  When the eggs are half-cooked, add the tomato and more salt according to taste and stir until the eggs are fully cooked.

Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve on buttered toast.  Dousing with chilli or tomato sauce is optional but recommended.

egg bhurji 1

Cauliflower and Apple Salad with Tamarind Dressing

When I was asked by the Australian Jewish Newspaper to contribute a recipe appropriate for the upcoming Jewish festival Rosh Hashanah, I got to thinking about food with respect to religion.  Food is so complexly linked to our culture which in turn influences the way we choose to celebrate important religious festivals.

From the universally known bread and wine of Christianity to the more complex dishes I was raised with that are linked to the multitude of Hindu festivals, I am fascinated by the basis for why certain foods are considered auspicious.

Green apples 2

This is a month that is heavily concentrated with important Hindu festivals.  Krishna Janmasthami, or Gokulashtami is next.  Traditionally, many sweet and savoury snacks are prepared as an offering to the cheeky Lord Krishna, known for his mischievous thieving of home-churned butter as a child.  It is easy to see why this festival was a childhood favourite of mine, and it wasn’t just because I was always quite fond of Lord Krishna.

Barely have our waistlines recovered from the excessive consumption during Gokulashtami before Ganesh Chathurthi arrives, a celebration of the elephant headed God.  Little steamed or deep fried pastry parcels with a coconut and jaggery filling are a traditional staple.  There are many stories associated with the auspiciousness of this dish, variations of which are called the modakam or kadabu.  The simplest explanation is that the sweets were a favourite of Lord Ganesha and he is often depicted with a plate of the delicacies at his feet.

cauliflower

What especially strikes a chord with me is the significance of bevu bella, a mixture of bitter neem leaves and caramel-sweet jaggery.  A spoonful of bittersweet that is distributed during Ugadi, the Kannada New year.  It is a reminder that life brings with it both happiness and sorrow and one must begin each year prepared to handle both with equal grace.

Green Apples1

Rosh Hashanah falls in September and is the Jewish New year.  It is believed to be the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, and a ‘day of judgement’ for those that follow Judaism.  Foods such as apples, honey and dates are offered and eaten to symbolise a sweet new year.  Pomegranates are another auspicious food with their many seeds representing a fruitful year ahead.

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I put together a salad that was inspired by one I had at a trendy Sydney cafe, Kepos Street Kitchen.  There, hubs and I hipster-watched as we devoured a large bowl of an incredible cauliflower and pomegranate salad.  I couldn’t source any pomegranate for this recipe so I’ve used apple but pomegranate would also work well.

This is a salad that combines the bite of cauliflower with the tartness of green apples and cranberries.   The dressing is tamarind based, sweetened with honey and perfectly balanced with the warmth of cumin and paprika.  It is a dressing that will collect at the bottom of the bowl but this is far from a problem because you will find yourself sipping spoonfuls of it long after the solid ingredients are gone.  Crunchy toasted pecans, tossed in right before serving lend a final textural surprise.

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Cauliflower and Apple Salad

Serves 2-3 as a side dish

Get:

For the dressing:

Small ball of dried tamarind (ping-pong ball sized)
1/2 cup boiling water
1  1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp olive oil

For the salad:

1/4 cup pearl barley
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup pecans
1  1/2 cups cauliflower in tiny florets
1/2 a green apple diced or 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1 tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp parsley (flat or curly), finely chopped

Make

Preheat the oven to 160 C.  When heated, place the pecans in the oven on a tray for 8-10 mins or until toasted.  Allow to cool and chop roughly.  You will not be needing the oven after this.

Soak the tamarind in 1/2 cup boiling water for about 10 minutes.  Mash the tamarind in the water with a fork and drain, reserving the water.  You can discard the tamarind pulp.

Place the pearl barley, 1 1/2 cups boiling water and 1/4 tsp salt in a saucepan or pot.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 30-40mins until the barley is cooked but still a little chewy.  Drain and set aside.

In a small non-stick pan, toast the cumin until a little browned and fragrant.  You could probably also do this in the oven.  Using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, grind 1/2 tsp of the toasted cumin to a powder.

Chop the stems off the cauliflower just at the base of the florets and divide into tiny florets.  Wash well.  Blanch in boiling water (enough to completely cover the cauliflower) for 5 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Dice 1/2 a green apple into roughly 8-10 mm pieces.

To make the dressing, combine tamarind water and the rest of the dressing ingredients except for the whole cumin seeds in a large bowl.  Whisk to combine well.  Taste and add more salt or lemon juice if desired.

To the bowl add cauliflower, apple, barley, whole toasted cumin and herbs.  Toss well to coat in the dressing.  Just before serving, toss through the pecans.

Notes:

Dried tamarind is available at all Indian grocers.  You could also use tamarind paste- dissolve about 1/2 tsp in 1/2 cup boiling water.

Pomegranate seeds would also work really well in this salad either instead of or in addition to the apple.

Walnuts would also work well instead of pecans.

Want more salad? Try:

Quinoa Salad
Zucchini, Carrot and Fennel Salad
Warm Lentil Salad with Goats Cheese and Walnuts

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