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muthia andf pakora

We are flooded in and the chooks, who hate wet weather, are very miserable. But we are safe, have plenty of food and firewood and, with the new power system, even plenty of electricity.  So I’ve had a lovely day playing in the kitchen rather than the garden, and we had our neighbours (who are also flooded in, same side of the creek to us) over for a long late Sunday lunch.

I spent a couple of hours making corn vadai and azuki vadai and eggplant and beetroot  pakora and zucchini muthia, and I really needn’t have bothered cos there were two clear favourites on the platter, and they were the quickest and easiest ones – the muthia and the pakoras.

This is the third of my “Food to Share” series, a South Indian platter inspired by the ginger and turmeric and chilies going nuts in the midsummer garden.  This one has:

  • Corn Vadai – little patties made with corn, lentils and spices
  • Azuki Vadai – made with ground soaked brown snake bean seeds and spices
  • Eggpant pakora – just thin eggplant slices dipped in pakora batter and fried
  • Beetroot pakora – grated beet mixed with pakora batter and fried
  • Zucchini muthia – steamed zucchini and besan (bean flour) patties
  • Coriander mint dipping sauce
  • Hot Mango and Tomato Chutney
  • Green Mango Pickles in Oil
  • Fresh cherry tomatoes and sliced cucumber

All made from things that are so in season they are in glut in my garden.

Zucchini Muthia Recipe:

Grate two overfull cups of zucchini and put in a colander over the sink.  Let it drain for a few minutes, pressing and squeezing to get excess liquid out.

In a bowl, mix

  • 2 cups of drained grated zucchini
  • ½ cup besan (bean flour)
  • 2 dessertspoons plain wholemeal flour
  • 1 scant teaspoon of cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh turmeric (or substitute ½ teaspoon dried)
  • 2 medium to mild chilis, finely chopped (more or less depending on how hot you like it)
  • a handful of herbs, finely chopped.  Coriander, fennel, or Thai basil all work in different ways.
  • pinch salt
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 dessertspoons oil

Use your hands to mix, squeezing the mixture together.

Use wet hands to shape into 14 little patties. They should be a bit sticky but able to be made into patties. If they are too sticky, add some more besan.

Steam the patties for around 20 minutes, till they a skewer comes out clean. You can make them ahead up to this point, and they will keep in the fridge for several days.

To finish:

In a little oil in a frypan, pop ½ teaspoon of mustard seeds.  Add a little finely diced chili, if you like spiciness (or not) and a couple of dessertspoons of sesame seeds.

Add the steamed muthia and fry for a few minutes till they start to colour. The sesame seeds will stick to them.

Serve hot with chutney or pickles or dipping sauce.



Indian green mango pickles

It’s going to be a good mango year.  We are already eating the first of the ripe ones, but we have five trees loaded, mostly still green.  The possums and parrots will get a lot of them, but there will still be more than we can eat.  The neighbours all have mangoes too, so there’s a limit to the number can be given away.

But just having a glut isn’t enough incentive for me to make preserves on its own.  It takes a bit of work, and energy, and salt/vinegar/sugar/oil to make preserves, none of which I really need more of!  This recipe is frugal on the work and energy, but really it’s not for the sake of keeping mangoes I make pickles.  It’s for the sake of a condiment, a little bit of flavour sparkle to go with curries or dhal, or on crackers with cheese. Just a little spoonful of a really good Indian pickle can make a very plain lentils and rice dish seem like a feast.

This is an Indian type, oil based pickle, with a fair amount of spiciness.

The Recipe:

One Day Before Bottling Day:

You need 12 cups of diced green mango, skin on. Choose mangoes that are full size but still hard. Mine at this stage yield a cup per mango.

Layer the diced mango in a large jar or bowl or crock with a scant teaspoon per mango of salt (ie, 12 scant teaspoons, or about 3 tablespoons of salt).

Leave the jar out in the sun for the day.

salted green mango On Bottling Day:

Put some jars and their lids on to boil for 10 minutes or pressure cook for 5 minutes to sterilize them. You can use any kind of jar with a lid that pops as you open it. Nearly any kind of jar with a metal lid from the supermarket these days is this kind. Salt and vinegar and oil do the preserving in pickles, so in the olden days they wouldn’t even have required an airtight seal, but since these jars are so easily available, you might as well make use of them.

Drain the diced mango well, then put it in a big pot with:

  • 2 cups of olive oil
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons of hot chili powder, or 3 dried hot chilis crushed (more if your chilis are milder).
  • 6 teaspoons of mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of nigella or onion seeds
  • 4 teaspoons of fennel or fenugreek seeds (or half and half of each)
  • 4 teaspoons of grated fresh turmeric, or a couple of heaped teaspoons of powder
  • 4 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger, or a couple of heaped teaspoons of powder
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • a good grating of black pepper

Bring up to the boil then simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Ladle the hot pickles into hot jars. (If the jars are not hot, they’ll crack). Make sure there is a centimetre or so of oil covering them, then wipe the rim of the jar with a clean cloth and screw on the lids.

As the jars cool, you will see and hear the lids pop in, creating a concave top and a seal.

Leave at least a week or so before eating.  They get better with time, and sealed jars last a long time in a cool dry spot. Once a jar is opened, it’s best stored in the fridge.



I have a simple, fast, comfort food dhal recipe in my Breakfast Cereal Challenge series from last year – Breakfast Dhal. But I actually managed to harvest some pigeon peas despite the parrots best tries to get through them all,  and that was worth a super dhal recipe.  Specially since I have some new season spuds, and coating them in curry sauce is one of the few ways potatoes can be improved.

And my turmeric and ginger are both just starting to sprout again. They could really do with some water. It has been such a dry spring here.  The ginger needs to be nursed along, watered and fed and protected from competition, but turmeric is really hardy and prolific in my sub-tropical climate – it just comes back every year and I just dig up what I need. We eat it quite a lot and there is never a shortage.  Turmeric is a really good source of anti-inflammatory anti-oxidants, with some good solid science now linking it to a whole host of health benefits. Pigeon peas are high protein, high fibre, low GI. So this recipe scores really well on all three of the Witches Kitchen versions of “good”.

And it makes it into the  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge rules of fast, healthy, in season, from scratch, with only some minor cheats: you need to remember to put the peas in water to soak for the day, and if you want naan bread wtih it, to make dough in the morning to prove for the day.

The Recipe

This makes two large bowls with leftovers for lunch the next day. (It’s one of those things that’s even better the next day).

There are two parts to this, and to do it in half an hour, you need to get both parts cooking at once.

Part One: The Pigeon Peas

How long they take to cook depends on how fresh they are.  Fully matured and dried pigeon peas, presoaked, take about half an hour of simmering or 10 minutes at pressure in a pressure cooker.  Three quarters of a cup of dried peas will make about 1½ cups of cooked peas. Add a good pinch of salt to the cooking water.

If you don’t have pigeon peas, the recipe works with mung dhal (split mung beans) instead, but pigeon peas will not break down the same way that mung beans will, even if you cook them for a long time.   If you use pigeon peas, you need to blend to get the consistency. If you use mung beans, you don’t.

When the peas are soft, drain them and return to the pot.

  • Add half a cup each of finely chopped celery and carrot, 
  • a cup of chopped tomatoes
  • two cups of water.

Simmer for 10 minutes, or bring back to pressure and pressure cook for five, then blend, adding water until it is the consistency you like.  A stick blender is perfect for this.

Return to the heat and simmer, stirring frequently. After it is blended, it will stick to the bottom of the pot really easily.

Meanwhile – Part Two – the Spice Base:

  • In a heavy pan, heat a little olive oil (or, traditionally, ghee) and sauté a chopped onion until it just starts to go translucent.
  • Then add one teaspoon each of fresh coriander seeds and cumin seeds. (If you don’t have fresh coriander seeds, better to use powder – old seeds are too tough).
  • Cook gently for a minute or two until the seeds start to pop, then add two teaspoons each of finely grated ginger, garlic, and turmeric. (You can subsitute a teaspoon of  turmeric powder if you can’t get fresh, but  turmeric powder is to fresh like ginger powder is to fresh.)
  • Add a little chili to taste. I added one medium-mild pickled chili chopped fine.
  • Then add a cup of diced potato.  You might need to add a little more oil.  Stir so it is covered in the spices and sauté, stirring a bit, for around 5 minutes until the potato is softened and the onion is going crisp and verging on overcooked.


Tip the potato and spice mix into the pea mix and stir in.  Cook for just a minute or two – you don’t really want to cook them together,  just mix.  Taste and add salt to taste, and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Add a good handful of chopped coriander and serve, topped with yoghurt if you like, and accompanied with naan bread.

It must really be Spring.  In one week, I have gone from feeling like only soups, stews and things eaten with a spoon from a bowl, to feeling like something with crunch and those hot-sweet-sour tropical flavours.

This Tuesday Night Vego Challenge took a bit of experimenting, and a bit of re-purposing of kitchen equipment.  You might have to do your own experimenting and repurposing to make it fit what you have available. It’s worth it.

The Recipe:

Makes 2 large  pancakes.

Part 1: The Pancake Batter

You need half a cup of brown rice flour. I can buy it at my local wholefoods shop, but it isn’t cheap and I don’t use a lot of rice flour.  Luckily, I have made the happy discovery that my little electric coffee grinder works beautifully to turn the local clear conscience rice into rice flour – slightly coarse but perfect for this.

You also need 2 dessertspoons of  coconut flour.  Again, my local wholefoods shop sells it but it isn’t cheap, and my coffee grinder will turn dessicated coconut into coconut flour perfectly.  Canned coconut cream isn’t a routine pantry item for me. It’s well out of my 100 mile zone, I’m not sure that I need that much fat of any kind (good or bad), and the cans come with all the energy and resource costs of canning along with BPA.

You may have to experiment to see if you have an implement that will make rice and coconut flour.

Blend together

  • ½ cup of brown rice flour 
  • 2 dessertspoons coconut flour
  • 2 dessertspoons cornflour (corn starch in USA)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh turmeric (or substitute ½ teaspoon dried)
  • 1 teaspoon raw sugar
  • ½ teaspooon salt
  • ½ cup water
You should end up with something the texture of a thin crepe batter. Let it sit while you make the sauce and filling.

Part 2: The Sauce

Blend together
  • juice of a lime
  • ½ red chili (more or less to taste)
  • a thumb sized piece of fresh ginger
  • one clove of garlic (this time of year I start getting frugal with garlic!)
  • 1 dessertspoon brown sugar
  • 1 dessertspoon wine vinegar
  • 1 dessertspoon soy sauce
  • 1 dessertspoon sesame oil
Let this sit while you make the rest.

Part 3: The Salad

This is just an Asian style salad and the ingredients are quite versatile.  I used:

  • 2 small carrots, julienned
  • 1 spring onion, thinly sliced diagonally
  • 2 radishes, julienned
  • a handful of snow peas, thinly sliced diagonally
  • a handful of mung bean sprouts
  • a handful of chopped mint, vietnamese mint, and coriander

Part 4: Cooking and Assembling

There is a knack to the pancakes. If you get them just right, they hold together and are crispy on the edges but soft enough in the middle to fold.  The tricks are in a nice thin, smooth batter, a well seasoned heavy pan, and working quickly. If it looks like turning into a disaster you can add an egg to the batter. It makes it hold together easily but you lose the crispiness.

Put a good swig of a nice sweet flavoured oil in a big heavy pan over a medium heat. I use sesame oil, but you could use peanut oil.

Pour in half of the batter and, working quickly, tip the pan and use a spatula to spread it thin. Then let it cook undisturbed until the top is set and the edges are going crispy.  It will be quite fragile and if you try to turn it too early you’ll break it.  If you have the knack you can turn it with an egg flip.  The safer way is to loosen it with the egg flip, tip it onto a plate, then slide it off the plate back into the pan to cook the other side.

As each pancake cooks, put it on a plate, pile half the salad onto one side of it, pour on sauce, and fold it over.

Serve leftover sauce on the side.


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Saag is the dish I order whenever I go to an Indian restaurant, and this time of year, with silver beet and mustard both in bulk in the garden, one of my home cooking regulars.  I posted a vegetarian Saag recipe a few weeks ago, in the  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge series.  This meat version is, sadly, no more photogenic. Traditionally mutton or goat are the meats used, but kangaroo is my red meat of choice these days, and it works really well in Saag.

The Recipe:

Serves two generously.

Heat a little olive oil in a big pot or pressure cooker.

Dice 500 grams of kangaroo steak and add it to the hot pot.

Into a cup, put:

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel or dill seeds
  • the seeds from 5 cardamom pods

(It’s better if you use whole seeds for this)

As soon as the kangaroo meat starts to brown, add the seeds.  You may need to add a little more oil.  Cook, stirring occasionally, till the seeds start to pop.  (Don’t let them burn).

Then add:

  • 2 finely diced chilis (more or less, depending on how strong your chilis are and how spicy you like your food.  Saag is more aromatic than hot though).
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • a heaped teaspoon of grated or finely diced fresh ginger
  • a heaped teaspoon of grated or finely diced fresh turmeric (or substitute a scant teaspoon of turmeric powder)

Cook stirring for a minute or two more, till the spices all coat the meat, then add:

  • a cup of stock.
  • the shredded leaves from a BIG bunch of silverbeet.  Just the leaf stripped from the stem, chopped reasonably fine.  It will be much more than you think should go in, but it reduces, and it’s the heart of the dish.
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cm of cinnamon stick

Pressure cook for 15 minutes, or simmer for 40 minutes.  If you simmer, you’ll need to add a bit more water.

It should end up with the meat and silver beet in a little bit of sauce. Take it off the heat and stir in 3 heaped dessertspoons of greek yoghurt.  Stir vigorously to break up the silver beet and make the sauce creamy.

Serve over rice, and/or with naan bread.



End of winter, it’s been a hard few months, and I don’t often get sick, but I feel like I might.  Phó is my go-to dinner when I feel like I need to ward off I-don’t-know-what.  This isn’t a real Phó, but it’s got that ginger/garlic/chili/anise/cinnamon/lemon grass spice profile that my immune system seems to crave.  And it uses lots of Chinese cabbage and kale, that I have in bulk even in my very neglected garden.  And egg noodles – the chooks are already in spring mode and laying (the ducks and geese too).  This comes together in the half hour of the  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge rules, even including noodles from scratch.

The Recipe:

For two big dinner sized bowls.

Put a big pot or a pressure cooker on to boil with 5 cups of vegie stock.  While it is coming to the boil, make the egg noodle dough.

1. The Egg Noodle Dough:

Egg noodles are just pasta.  The story is that Marco Polo brought them back to Italy where they became spaghetti.  Easy to make, and so easy to make a small quantity that I don’t even bother to pull out the pasta maker.

In a food processor, blend for just a minute till it comes together into a dough:

  • ½ cup baker’s flour (high gluten flour) You can use wholemeal flour if you like.
  • an egg,
  • a spoonful of light flavoured oil like grapeseed oil,
  • a good pinch of salt.

Knead for just a minute to make a dough ball, then let it rest while you make the soup stock. To stop it drying out, I cover the dough ball with a wet cup upside down over it.

2. The Stock:

You’re going to strain it, so nothing needs to be elegantly chopped. Into the boiling stock add:

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • a good thumb sized knob of fresh ginger, finely sliced
  • a thumb of galangal (if you have it), finely sliced
  • a stalk of lemon grass, chopped,
  • a chili, sliced
  • one inch of cinnamon stick
  • one clove of star anise
  • one or two bay leaves
  • the leaves from a couple of stalks of celery
  • the greens from a spring onion

Simmer for around 20 minutes, or pressure cook for about 7 minutes.  Then strain the stock, pressing down with a potato masher to get all the juice out.  Return it to the pot and bring it back up to the boil.

3: The Noodles:

While the stock is cooking, roll out the noodle dough.  If you flour the bench top well, and keep flipping it, you should be able to get it very thin.  Flour the sheet of dough and fold it over a few times, then, using a sharp knife, cut it into noodles.

Tease the noodles to separate them.

3. The Soup

By now the stock should be ready to strain and bring back to the boil. Add to it:

  • one spring onion whites, very finely sliced
  • 2 stalks of celery, very finely sliced
  • 1 (packed) cup of Chinese cabbage, very finely sliced
  • 1 (packed) cup  of cavolo nero kale, very finely sliced
  • 2 cups of mushrooms, finely sliced.

Simmer for another 5 minutes, or pressure cook for a couple of minutes, then add the noodles and simmer for just a couple of minutes more.

Taste and add soy sauce and/or lime juice to taste (or just allow people to add their own).



Sadly this isn’t one of my better examples of photography! I’ve been waiting all year to post this recipe.  Chili con Kanga is good on its own, but this time of year there is a little window of time when avocados, limes and coriander are all in season together, and the salsa with it makes it sensational.

I always make a great big pot of this when I make it, and we have it for dinners and lunches several times.  It will serve six or eight people for dinner easily, or you can freeze it or keep it in the fridge for several meals.  Or, you can halve the recipe.

Less red meat and more vegetables is a good idea, for health, environment, and hip pocket reasons.  And less factory farmed meat and more wild harvested, free range, organic meat is a good idea for the same reasons.  This combines both.

The Recipe:

Cook 400 grams dry beans till they are soft.  I soak them first and use a pressure cooker so they cook quickly.  The post about Bean Basics has my basic bean cooking method.  I don’t think it matters what kind.  They all add a different character to the dish, but they all seem to be good in their own way.

Brown 1 kg kangaroo mince in a little olive oil in a heavy pan.

In a big pot, saute together:

  • 4 onions (chopped)
  • 6 garlic (chopped)
  • 6 chilis (more or less, depending on how hot the chilis are and how hot you like it)
  • 3 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons smoky paprika
  • 1 capsicum (chopped)
  • 6 carrots (chopped)

Add the browned kangaroo mince and the beans, along with:

  • 1 heaped tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or a good teaspoon of dried)
  • 5 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 kilogram chopped tomatoes  (or a big jar of passata)
  • 2 big tablespoons tomato paste (leave out if you use passata)
  • 1 dessertspoon treacle (or brown sugar)
  • 2 cups of water
  • a good grinding of black pepper, and salt to taste

Simmer for half an hour or so until it reaches the right consistency.

Avocado, Lime and Coriander Salsa

Mash together:

  • An avocado
  • Juice of a lime
  • a big handful of coriander leaves, chopped fine
  • salt to taste

Serve the chili in bowls topped with a good dollop of avocado salsa, and, if you like, some warm tortillas to mop up with.



We have bulk chilis at this peak of the chili season.  I’m not a huge fan of preserving – I’m lucky enough to live in a climate where if we eat seasonally, we can eat fresh all year round.  Freezing takes lots of electricity, canning takes lots of work,  and most preserves have more sugar or salt than I really need.  But of course there are exceptions!

I’ve made Chili Jam with chilis and lemons,  Tamarillo and Chili Sauce with chilis and  tamarillos, and Pickled Chilis, with chilis and vinegar.  Normally by now I would have made sun dried chilis too, but it has been so wet this year I was in danger of being left without dried chilis for the winter.  But we have the slow combustion stove going regularly now, to heat the house, the hot water, and the oven.  A tray of chilis left in the oven with the door ajar dries to crispy by the morning.  These will go in a glass jar for adding some spice to winter dishes.


My partner is a chili fiend.  He would eat chili beans for every meal if he could. We compromise. But I do make chili beans quite a lot. He’s a big bloke and he needs a lot of fuel. But, like me, he alternates between being very physically active and spending too much time doing sitting work. So the perfect fuel is very filling but low calorie, low GI, high protein and high nutrient value.  Pretty much the kind of food that is good for all of us.

This time of year he’s in luck. I have chilis and more chilis in the garden, and plenty of mature beans. I dry and store some for winter – they’re a great easy-store crop. But fresh mature beans are one of those foods that only gardeners get to really appreciate. Commercially, you only have a choice between green beans or dried beans.

If you don’t have mature beans in the garden, you can use dried beans for this. You just need to think of it a half day in advance to allow for soaking time. And if you use mild chilis, it’s like a home-made healthy version of baked beans.

The Recipe

Makes 4 decent sized serves. It’s good on its own, or with brown rice or some other grain dish to make a complete protein. Makes great leftovers.

You need 2 cups of cooked beans for this recipe.  Mature beans, shelled, yield about the same cooked as raw, so you need 2 cups of fresh shelled beans. Dried beans swell to about double their size, so one cup of dried beans, soaked overnight or for the day.

All beans, fresh or dried, need soaking or boiling before cooking, and the first batch of water thrown away. They have a kind of complex, indigestible sugar called  oligosaccharide in their skin. It’s not dangerous, just fart producing, and it can give some people uncomfortable wind. Oligosaccharides are only in the skin and they are water soluble, so soaking gets rid of them.  With my fresh beans, I bring them to the boil, drain, replace the water, then pressure cook for 8 to 10 minutes. With dried beans, I just throw out the soaking water and pressure cook for around half an hour or simmer for an hour or so.

In a large pot, in a little olive oil, sauté

  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds

Cook till the onion is soft and the seeds are popping, then add

  • 1 diced capsicum
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 chilis (or to taste, depending on how hot your chilis are and how hot you like it, but beans mellow chili more than you would think)
Cook for a few minutes more, then add
  • 2 cups of cooked beans
  • salt
  • 600 grams of diced tomatoes, or a jar of passata
  • 1 teaspoon of treacle
  • 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder

The cocoa powder is the secret ingredient. It adds a bit of richness and balances up the sweet and acid. It’s not so weird – Mexicans use cocoa in savory dishes a lot.

You may need to add a little water, depending on your tomatoes. Simmer for at least 15 minutes and serve in a bowl on its own, or over rice, or in a tortilla.

Did you do the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge this week? Links welcome.