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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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 180ºC.

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

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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Sanjeev Kapoor’s Navratan Korma or Nine-gem korma

As the name indicates, this recipe is from my North Indian food guru – Sanjeev Kapoor. It features in his book “How to Cook Indian”. This book is different from most of my cookbooks in that there are no pictures. It is nearly 600 pages of recipes – joy!

Before I give you the recipe for this korma, a little bit of background and history. “Navratan” is an amalgam of the words “Nav” meaning nine and “ratan” meaning gems or precious stones. My first introduction to this term was when we studied Indian history in school and we learnt about Mughal (Muslim) rulers. The Muslim rulers brought amazing architecture to India such as the Taj Mahal , art and of course, some of the richest and decadent food that India is still known for. The most famous of the Mughal rulers was Akbar the Great (grandfather of Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal). Despite being illeterate,  Akbar liked to be surrounded by intelligent and talented people. He appointed 9 such people who were also his advisers and friends and he called them “Navratan” or his nine gems.

This dish is named Navratan korma as it contains 9 different, pretty components. The gravy itself is pale so as to allow  “9 gems” to stand out. I have given you the original recipe which serves 4. The pictures show you almost 3 times the quantity as I made this dish for a dinner party with nearly 40 people. This wasn’t the only dish at the party so the quantity was just right. In fact, I managed to keep a bowl of it at home which served us for lunch the next day.

Hope you like it as much as we did ! Also, check out my mum’s South Indian vegetable kurma. Can you tell the difference ?

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Mum’s vegetable kurma

Here in the UK, pretty much any “Balti”, “Tandoori” or “Indian” restaurant will feature a “Korma”. My general reactions to this word are (a) spelt wrong (b) wrong colour (c) tastes nothing like I remember it (if I decide to try it) (d) not coming back here again.

The kurma (right spelling) I do remember is my mother’s one and she often made it with chappati (unleavened whole wheat flat bread). As a child I remember not liking it very much – there was some flavour/spice in the dish I didn’t like.  It was only when mum gave me the recipe for kurma did I realise what it was – aniseed/fennel seeds. It is the same reason I don’t like Sambuca or liquorice. Yucky aniseed! There are always ways about things you don’t like – my solution here has been to use the smallest amount of fennel seeds I could get away with. And this time, I did like my mum’s kurma.

The recipe falls in the category of  “Over-the-phone” recipe which is more accurately an “over-SKYPE” recipe these days. The way it goes is this.

Me: Hi mum, I was thinking of Dish-blah that you used to make and wanted to make it.

Mum: Oh that – easy peasy (when you have made it for more than 30 years, sure)

Me: So, how do I make it ?

Mum: Chillies, coconuts, 10 more ingredients ………Got it ?

Me: Sure.

Mum: Do you want to write it down ?

Me: No, it’s all in my head

Growing up, mum always said to me that no one taught her how to cook. She just watched and learned. When it comes to recipes, I’ve never seen a single one written down by either my grandma or my mum. It is something that is communicated by word of mouth and remembered purely by repetition. So it is some sort of false pride deep inside me that says that if gran and mum can remember recipes, so can I. I try my best but in some cases, I have to resort to the neatly typed up recipes on my laptop. More recently of course, I have this blog to jog my memory. Enough blah,blah and now for the recipe.

Mum’s vegetable kurma

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Aloo paratha or unleavened potato-stuffed bread

This dish takes me back to my school days. There were 4 of us in what we called our “gang” but there’s only so much a “gang” can do for fun in an all-girls Catholic school so we were a pretty harmless “gang”. One of the gang members’ mum would make this every time we went over to her place and it was the yummiest thing ever. Every now and then, she would bring it to school as lunch. and the other two (not me) would somehow get to it before she did and finish it off. I didn’t care much for writing down recipes back then so this one is my take on aloo paratha. Hope you like it.

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Aloo paratha ready to eat

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