Bisi bele bhath or Hot vegetable and lentil rice

Bisi (pronounced : be+see) bele (pronounced : bay+lay) bhath (pronounced : bath) is an old stalwart in the Bangalorean/Kannada kitchen. Simply put, it is a one pot dish consisting of rice, yellow lentils (split pigeon peas or toor dal), assorted vegetables and optional dollops of ghee/butter. It is one of those dishes that will always be dear to my heart and my taste buds and I’m very glad my husband loves it too. My version has red-skinned peanuts in it which my mum would absolutely shun but hey, it’s MY version.

The last time I made this dish was while I was on holiday and was busy playing with my then recently acquired Nokia D200. The result was a somewhat burnt spice mix (shhh), lots of not-so-great pictures (that caused the burning) but a delicious bisi bele bhath for a rather late lunch / early dinner. I have given you the recipe for the spice mix as well as the dish itself. Hope you will give it a go!

Bisi bele bhath with greek yoghurt on the side

Bisi bele bhath with greek yoghurt on the side – It tastes better than in looks, I promise

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Jerusalem, Moro and Ottolenghi and inspired dinner

I have recently become addicted to three cookbooks I acquired from Amazon and our local library. They are, in order of favouritism,

1. Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

2. Moro by Samuel and Samantha Clark

3. Ottolenghi also by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Why the addiction – well these books respect vegetables like I have been taught to respect them as a life time vegetarian. Growing up in a South Indian household, my mother and grandma had endless ways of making vegetables exciting and I try and continue this tradition till today. However, I’m also a little more adventurous that mum and grandma and I cannot eat the same/similar things day in and day out. This is something I did quite gladly did when I was still dependent on my parents, but ever since I’ve moved out on my own, my kitchen has been a bit of a playground, as is this blog I host.

Jerusalem, Moro and Ottolenghi, while laden with meat-based recipes are also quite generous with their coverage of vegetable/vegetarian dishes from Eastern Mediterranean regions, Israel, Palestine with influences from Italy, Spain and Northern Africa. Overall, these vegetables are prepared quite differently (most of the time) to how I’d prepare them as a person of South Indian upbringing and I find that really really exciting. Sometimes, I find some similarities and start thinking about the origins of certain food and how recipes might have travelled from one region to another in ancient time.

To summarize it is food, vegetarian food, exciting vegetarian food and I love it! Food to me is most satisfying when I’ve made it and others are enjoying it ūüôā An opportunity presented itself when we decided to host a dinner and board games evening at our place. While I usually cook Indian food, I decided that I’d try recipes from my recently acquired books instead. There was a deathly silence as everyone sat eating until one of our friends spoke up and said , “You know the food is good when everyone is too busy eating and cannot stop to speak”. I’m going to call it a successful experiment based on this !

My menu and links to the recipes are presented below. I managed to take a lot of pictures for the first few dishes and then ran out of time and my guests arrived so I couldn’t keep clicking any more. Hope you try some of the recipes and like them !

Menu for board games night

Menu for board games night

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Brie and chilli jam parcels

I made this little gem of a dish a while ago and thought it was about time that I posted it. A lovely friend of our who is very creative with artwork and in the kitchen gave us a bottle of home-made chilli jam at Christmas time. This jam is lovely – sweet at first but definitely with a bite and just my kind of things. We have had it with cheese and biscuits and the combination works really well.

The evening that I made these parcels, I thought I’d be a little more creative with the chilli jam. It was on a night that I go to pottery class which meant I had about a 30min window between when I returned from work to prepare for this dish. I decided I’d have the parcels on a bed of roast vegetables so I chopped and prepared them.¬† I also made the parcels ready to bake. The cooking of the dish I left in the hands of my darling husband. I trust him a lot more than myself not to burn stuff in the oven and sure enough, he delivered and they were the most delicious roast vegetables I’ve ever had. The parcels, of course, were the icing on top of the roast vegetable cake. As an added bonus, I didn’t have to scrape any black bits off my food – hooray !

I was so hungry when I returned from pottery that I didn’t stop to take a picture of the finished item when it was nicely plated. Instead, I have one of the lunch I took to work the next day. Do try it and let me know what you think at canwehavesomerasam@gmail.com

Chilli jam and brie parcels on roast vegetables

Chilli jam and brie parcels on roast vegetables: Lunch box version

Ingredients:

For the parcels

375gm (1 pack) of ready-rolled puff-patry sheet (use “light” sheets if you can find them, they are not as greasy)

4 tablespoons of chilli jam

50-80 gms of brie¬† or more if you like it (I used a French brie I got from the deli counter at Sainsbury’s)

 

For the roast veggies

2 medium sized potatoes, chopped into 2.5 cms chunks

1 sweet potato, chopped into 2.5 cm chunks

2 medium carrots, chopped into 2.5 cms chunks

1 large zucchini/courgette, chopped into 2.5 cms chunks

1 yellow pepper/capsicum, chopped into 2.5 cms chunks

1 red capsicum, chopped into 2.5 cms chunks

1 large red onion, chopped into 2.5 cms chunks

springs of fresh rosemary

3-4 cloves of garlic, still in their skins

4 tablespoons of oil

 

To serve

handful of salad leaves (I used baby spinach)

cracked pepper

feta (optional)

 

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Instructions that still remain on the kitchen board

Method:

1. It says it all in the picture above ;). Start by preheating the oven to 180¬ļC.

2. Toss the root vegetables – potatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes and garlic cloves in 2 tablespoons of oil. Place them on a tray and bake for 20mins until they start to sweat. Turn the vegetables so that their undersides are now facing up.

3. Add the soft vegetables – capsicum/peppers, onions, zucchini/courgettes to the vegetable mix along with the rosemary and remaining oil to the tray in step 2. Cook for 35-45 mins until the root vegetables have gone brown and the soft veggies are sweating.

4. While the veggies are cooking, prepare the pastry. Cut the ready rolled puff pastry sheet into 4. Spread a tablespoon of chilli jam across the pastry sheet so it reaches all the edges (Picture 1 below).

5. In the centre of each rectangles, place 3-4 pieces of brie (or more if you like it – Picture 1 below).

6. Fold each parcel like an envelope using the steps shown in pictures 2 & 3 below. If it is easier, place the rectangle in front of you such that one of the corners is pointing at your belly button. Start with that corner and fold it upwards and away from you. Then, fold in the left and right hand corners over the first fold. Finally, tuck the remaining corner into the centre to form and envelope like shape (Picture 4). I think I even cut some leaf-shaped bits of pastry and stuck them on top as decoration though the baking process hid them in the rest of the layers of puff pastry (they are just about visible in pictures 4 & 5 below).

7. Place the parcels on a separate tray in the oven while the vegetables are about 15 mins from being done. This will ensure that the veggies and pastry are ready at the same time.

8. To serve, place salad leaves on your dinner plate. On the leaves, plate a generous serving of roast veggies and grind some black pepper onto them. If you like feta, you can add this to the roast veggies too. Place one or two chilli and brie parcels on top of the veggies and dive right in.

Well that’s what I did!

Tips:If you’d like to make a gluten free version of this dish, try toasting brie and chilli jam¬† (until bubbly and melting) between some gluten-free English muffins or gluten-free tortillas and serve them on top of the roast vegetables!

Pictures :

Brie-chilli-jam-method_mod

Brie and chilli jam parcels – method

Carrot souffle with apple and rocket salad

It just so happened that I over-ordered carrots in our last Tesco delivery. While the temptation was great to whip up a carrot cake (mmm…), I have been warned by my partner to stop making delicious, sweet things and trying to fatten us both up for the wicked witch to consume. So, I sought out something different and savoury. I can’t say that it is the healthiest of recipes but the portions definitely were of a healthy size and the salad added a nice touch to the dish – I thought !

As usual, I shopped around for some recipes and used Ecualombian and my old favourite Amanda Laird ¬†from the Christmas souffle recipe. The end result was delicious. We had 1 each for lunch and one spare for a “leftovers” lunch on the weekend. Just beware that it isn’t a quick dinner option but is worth the time and effort. Also, this one isn’t for those trying to watch their calorie intake. Hope you try it and like it!

Carrot souffle on apple and rocket salad with balsamic vinegar

Carrot souffle on apple and rocket salad with balsamic vinegar

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1. Starter: Baozi or Pau – Malaysian vegetable steam bun

There are 2 parts to this recipe -(a) the outer casing or steam bun dough and (b) the vegetable filling.

 

(a) Steam bun dough recipe

Source: http://cheah2009.blogspot.co.uk/2010/06/steamed-bun-pau.html

Changes: 

1. I didn’t have access to “pau” flour so I used standard flour and this meant the buns weren’t as white as they are when you buy them. But hey, they are home-made and delicious.

2. I didn’t use the meat filling – being vegetarian and all…

3. I didn’t have a steamer so I improvised (Picture 5 below). I filled 1/3 rd of a large lidded wok with water. I then placed a small metal (heat-proof cup or ramekin will work too) upturned inside the wok as a stand. This was followed by the placement of the steaming bowl from my pressure cooker on top of the upturned cup. The steam buns went into this steaming bowl and I covered the wok with a lid so as to not let the steam escape. Each pair of steam buns took 17 minutes to cook to perfection. Check that the filling is warm before eating.

4. I made really huge (gargantuan) steam buns and we only had one each as a starter. Perhaps making smaller and more delicate ones will be the way to go (Pictures 1-4 below).

5. Finally, I skipped the bit where it said to let the steam buns rise after placing the filling inside them. It worked just fine!

6. These can be kept uncooked in the fridge overnight and steamed the next day for brunch.

7. We had them with some dark soy sauce and the combination was quite good – or so we thought (Picture 6 below)

 

(b) The curried vegetable filling

Source : http://3hungrytummies.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/curry-puff-malaysian-monday-48.html

Changes:

1. I left the chicken and eggs out.

2. I used runner beans (finely chopped) instead of peas.

3. I used Indian curry powder (Sabzi masala) instead of Malaysian meat curry powder.

4. I used Kashmiri chilli powder (lovely red colour and not as spicy) to spice the dish

4. I used coconut cream (3 tbps) instead of coconut milk.

5. I made the filling on Christmas eve and left it overnight in the fridge. The consistency was perfect for filling the next day.

Steps to making vegetable steam buns
Steps to making vegetable steam buns

Vegetable Uppittu/Upma or Vegetable and Semolina porridge

I have written about¬†Uppittu/Upma¬†before and in that recipe, I used bread as the base ingredient. Uppittu/Upma is a dish traditionally made with coarse semolina and some simple spices. Uppittu/Upma is made all over South India in the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Depending on where your are, different types of semolina (coarse, fine) may be used. In addition, semolina can be substituted for broken rice and that version is called “akki tari”. In Karnataka, the state I’m from, uppittu is a very popular breakfast dish. During a particular time of the year, a bean called¬†Avarekalu (Hyacinth bean, Indian bean,¬†Lablab purpureus)¬†becomes available and uppittu made out of these beans is a local delicacy. Sadly, I haven’t been able to find these beans in England so I’ve settled for vegetables in this recipe.

Uppittu can be had as breakfast, lunch, evening snack or even for dinner. As I mentioned in the previous Upma post, it is quite heavy and as a result, a good thing to make if you have a lot of guest-mouths to feed. If you are unable to have semolina as it wheat-based, then you can make the same thing with polenta. You’d have to cook the vegetables and polenta separately and bring them together at the end. Polenta sets quite nicely so you can cut it into little squares and serve.

Hope you try this traditional South Indian dish and like it!

Uppittu – ready to eat!

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Carrot halwa/halva or Gajar ka halwa/halva

WARNING!! This dish is not for the lactose-intolerant or those watching their waistlines. Once-a-year is about the right frequency for this dish. 

Halwa (or halva)¬†is a kind of dense dessert that takes many different forms and is consumed in many different countries around the world. Wikipedia says that the following countries produce and consume some kind of halwa – ¬†Albania, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Egypt, Greece and Cyprus, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria,, Libya and Tunisia, Lithuania, Palestine, Republic of Macedonia, Malta, Myanmar, Pakistan, Poland, Romania and Moldova, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Turkey and United States. This is pretty amazing given that for most of my life, I’d only met 2 types of halwa – carrot and beetroot. In Melbourne however, I met the Lebanese halwa made with tahini (sesame paste), ridiculous amounts of sugar and pistachios – yumm!

In most cases, halwa refers to a dense, sugar-rich and hence, calorie-rich dessert. My partner calls it “Diabetes-in-a-block” or “Heart-attack-in-a-bowl” but having grown up eating Indian halwa (amongst other sweets), I have a soft spot for halwa. When I was young, I remember mum making two kinds of halwa – one with carrot and one with beetroot. All I remember is that it would take her forever to make. ¬†Much of the process involved reducing the vegetable, sugar and milk down to a thick sweet paste. The end result, in my opinion, was delicious and totally worth the wait. Perhaps that also had something to do with the fact that mum only made it once or twice a year, given it was such an arduous process.

When I moved to Melbourne to do my PhD,  I lived in an apartment on my own for the first year and a bit. There, I spent many an evening experimenting in my studio kitchen. This kitchen was equipped with 2 electric plates and a convectional microwave (One that can perform the task of a microwave and an oven). My heart almost stopped when I first saw that there was no regular oven but the convectional microwave yielded many a tasty cake and tart. Hooray for technology!

It was in this microwave that I made my very first halwa – a microwave carrot halwa and the recipe is one I follow even today. It doesn’t take as long as mum’s used to on the stove and is practically a one-pot dessert. ¬†Given how rich it is, the serving sizes ought to be really small and hence this dessert can come in handy if you have a large number of guests. Hope you like it !

Carrot halwa

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