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My glut crop this week is coriander seed. So easy to harvest this time of year.  I just let the seed fully mature on the plant, then rub the seed off into a baking tray, leave it on the verandah for a few days to get really dry, then winnow it by blowing all the chaff off.  The seed is then ready to store in a jar on my kitchen shelves, for using in preserves, dhall and curries.  Little jars of dried herbs or spices like this could be really easily prettied up to make good gifts, and since  so many of the spices sold in Australia are imported , it’s worth doing.

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kasundi

The glut crop this week was tomatoes.  This time of year we eat a lot of fresh tomatoes, practically every meal, and use fresh tomatoes for cooking.  That usually gets through most of them with some to give away fresh to friends, family, visitors.  I bottle some as passata, and sun dry some when the weather is hot and dry, and oven dry some late in the season when I have the wood stove going so it doesn’t cost fuel.  But fresh is so much better than even home preserved, and I am lucky enough to live in a climate where I can get at least some cherry tomatoes for at least  nine months of the year, from late September right through to late June. And in mid to late winter it’s citrus season, so there are fresh lemons and limes and tangelos that fill a bit of that sweet-tart spot.  Preserves have to really pay their way in my kitchen!

But the wet weather at the moment is causing my tomatoes to split, so I have to use them straight away.  Kasundi is a good way to make bottling tomatoes good enough for gifts and treats, worth the $5 or $6 a jar they would be worth if you paid yourself for the time it takes.  It’s a rich, spicy but not too hot, tomato sauce, great with eggs or baked beans (or eggs and baked beans!), or with dhall or dosa or on bean burgers or kangaroo burgers or a sandwich with cheese.  And all the other major ingredients are in season now too.

The Recipe:

Put some jars and their lids on to sterilize by boiling for 20 minutes or pressure cooking for 10.  The recipe will make 4 medium jars like these, or around 1.7 kg.

Use a food processor, or a mortar and pestle, to blend to a paste:

  • 120 gm ( a cup) of peeled and roughly chopped ginger
  • 30 gm (¼ cup) of peeled and roughly chopped turmeric (or 2 big teaspoons of powder)
  • 1 whole corm of garlic (8-10 cloves) peeled
  • chilies – depending on how hot your chilies are and how hot your taste is.  I like spicy kasundi, so I used about 25 Brishops Crown chilis
  • 3 big teaspoons smoked paprika
  • enough vinegar to make a paste

In a big pot, put a little olive oil and add:

  • 5 big teaspoons brown mustard seeds
  • 3 big teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 3 big teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 big teaspoon nigella seeds (Or substitute cracked black pepper)

Cook until the seeds start to pop, then add the ginger-garlic-chili paste.  Cook, stirring, for a few minutes, then add:

  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves
  • 1½ kg tomatoes (or substitute mangoes and/or tamarillos for up to ½kg of tomatoes). I used my yellow tomatoes (which is why it is more yellow than most Kasundi you will see) with 4 tamarillos and a couple of ripe mangoes.
  • ½ cup (packed) brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons salt

Simmer, stirring occasionally, for around an hour, until it is thick and sauce-like. A good tip is to put a metal soup ladle or enamel cup in the pot so it is sterilized too.  Then you can use it to ladle the kasundi into jars.

Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal.  Check that the lids pop in before storing. It will last on the pantry shelf for a long time, longer than you’ll ever hold off from eating it.

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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.

Assembling:

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.
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The Spring egg glut situation is still going on.  The goose eggs have started hatching (three babies today and another egg or two to go)  and the ducks have slowed down laying.  But the chooks are still laying four or five eggs a day (even though some of them are well into chook middle age).  So I made an egg curry on the weekend for a curry night feast for about twenty people, and it turned out so well that I made it again for just us.  It’s fast and easy and healthy enough to qualify as a  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipe but glamorous enough to make a good curry night feast dish too.

The Recipe

Serves 4 as a main dish.  This is a mediumly spicy curry but if you keep the  the chili, mustard, ginger and turmeric on the low side,  kids are likely to find it not too spicy. Like most curries from scratch it looks like a lot of ingredients, but they are all common spices and it is actually very quick and easy to make.

In a heavy pan, sauté 2 onions (chopped) in some olive oil until they just start to soften.  Then add:

  • 2 scant teaspoons of coriander seeds
  • 2 scant teaspoons of cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • seeds from one or two cardamom pods

Cook for a minute or two until the seeds start popping, then add

  • a small amount of chili or chili powder (depending on how spicy you like your food and how hot your chilis are, but it doesn’t need much. I used a scant half a teaspoon of my homemade chili powder)
  • one or two cloves of garlic,
  • two teaspoons of grated fresh ginger
  • two teaspoons of grated fresh turmeric (or one teaspoon dried)
  • pinch of  cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • little pinch of cloves
  • good pinch of salt
  • grating of black pepper

Cook for a minute or two, then add a jar of crushed tomatoes, a couple of bay leaves, and enough water to make a thick sauce.

Simmer, stirring occasionally, just to let all the spices mingle.

While it is simmering, hardboil and peel 8 eggs and chop them in half.  You will find this much easier if you use slightly older eggs.  People tell me that putting the eggs in ice water helps if the eggs are too fresh to peel easily.

Take the sauce off the heat and add a good handful of finely chopped fresh coriander and stir through.  Then add the eggs and stir gently to cover them in sauce.

Serve with rice and/or naan bread.

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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.

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Saag just isn’t photogenic. Unfortunately, because it is very delicious, and I have bucketloads of silverbeet (chard if you are not in Australia)  in the garden at the moment and saag is one of the very best recipes I know to use bucketloads of it (and still want to come back for more tomorrow).

Saag is a northern Indian spiced puree of spinach (or silver beet).  This far north I never have spinach in those kind of quantities, but I do have silver beet – it’s a garden no-fail this time of year, and it’s a superfood for a whole heap of reasons.  It has lots of  antioxidant beta carotene, good for protecting against aging inside and out due to cell damage.  And it’s  a  good source of folic acid, which is good for the immune and nervous systems and with the number of colds and flu’s going round right now, that’s a good thing. And it has heaps of calcium and magnesium and vitamin K which are all important for bones.

The Recipe:

Serves two generously.

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)

Chop and have ready to add:

  • 2 finely diced chilis (more or less, depending on how strong your chilis are and how spicy you like your food.  Saag is best mildly spiced 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)

Heat quite a decent swig of oil in a big pot or pressure cooker.  Traditionally it would have been ghee, but I don’t like to use quite that much butter.  Olive oil is a bit strong flavoured though. I use macadamia oil, but any sweet or mild flavoured oil would work.

Add the seeds and cook, stirring till they start to pop.  (Don’t let them burn). Then add the chili/ginger/turmeric/garlic mix. Cook stirring for another minute or two, then add

  • a cup of vegetable stock, with some salt in it
  • the shredded leaves from a BIG bunch of silverbeet.  Just the leaf stripped from the stem, chopped reasonably fine.  Lots – at least two packed cupfuls.  I often add a few mustard leaves too.
  • bay leaves
  • 3 cm of cinnamon stick

Pressure cook for 5 minutes, or simmer for 15, then reduce until there is just a little bit of liquid left. Take it off the heat and blend in 3 or 4 heaped dessertspoons of cottage cheese (low fat works fine).  I use a stick blender for this, but you could use a blender, food processor, or even a mouli.

Serve with naan bread for scooping.

Do you have a favourite Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipe for this time of year?  Links are welcome in the comments.
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I cheated again. But it was worth it. The bean stock base makes this both really healthy and really satisfying, and (without going all Masterchef) it has some lovely complex flavours.  Beans are so high protein, and complete protein when they are combined with a grain, that even regular meat eaters feel like they’ve had a real dinner.  And they’re low GI, high fibre, full of vitamins and minerals.

The thing I am finding about the  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge is that the range of healthy, from scratch, vegetarian dinners you can make in half an hour is much bigger if you put a bit of pre-thinking into it.  Proving dough, soaking beans, salting eggplant all take only minutes to do, but you have to do them ahead of time.

This dinner came together in half an hour, including the naan bread to go with it.  But I put the beans in water to soak, the eggplant salted, and the naan bread dough proving before I left for work in the morning. All very fast easy morning jobs, and they meant that when I got home I could just put it all together.

The Recipe:

Makes three adult serves.  Leftovers are even better the next day.

In the morning:

  • Soak ½ cup white beans.
  • Chop a large eggplant (or the equivalent in small eggplants) into 2 cm dice, put in a colander, and sprinkle with a heaped spoonful of salt.

In the evening:

Drain the beans, add 2 cups of fresh water and a good pinch of salt, and pressure cook for 8 minutes or simmer for 25 minutes until they are very soft.  Then blend the beans in the cooking water to get a smooth liquid bean stock.

While the beans are cooking:

Prepare Dry Spice Mix:

  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon dill seeds

Prepare Wet Spice Mix

Use a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder to blend to a paste:

  • Thumb sized piece of fresh turmeric (or substitute a teaspoon of dried turmeric)
  • Thumb sized piece of fresh ginger
  • 2 medium hot chilis (more or less to taste)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
Chop the Vegetables:
  • 1 onion, finely sliced into half moons
  • 1 capsicum diced
  • 1 large eggplant chopped into 2 cm dice, salted and rinsed.

In a large heavy pot:

  • Fry the dry spice mix until the seeds are popping.
  • Add the wet spice mix and the rinsed eggplant, capsicum and onion.
  • Cook on high stirring for a few minutes to seal and coat the vegetables in spices, then add the bean stock along with a good dessertspoon of tomato paste and two kaffir lime leaves (or substitute juice of half a lime and a little grated zest).
  • Turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is cooked.
  • Serve in bowls, over rice or with naan bread. Fresh coriander makes a nice garnish.

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It’s the very end of the chilli season, and though it’s early in pumpkin season for everyone else, the turkeys have discovered ours. So the challenge is on to find just how many ways you can use pumpkin.

This pumpkin and chick pea curry is a good one – tasty, easy, healthy, low fat, using the pumpkin and the chilli, and also the other seasonal glut of the moment – lemons.  It also has turmeric in it, and the more I hear about the health benefits of fresh turmeric, the more I like using it.

The Recipe

This serves two generously, but the recipe doubles easily.

The recipe uses 1 cup of cooked chick peas, and chick peas need pre-soaking overnight and then take a long time to cook  (about an hour simmering or 20 minutes in a pressure cooker). So although the recipe is quick and easy, it does need some pre-thought.

I like using a mortar and pestle to grind spices. Grind together:

  • 1 thumb ginger
  • 1 thumb turmeric
  • 1 chili
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, or 2 leaves culantro
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Fry  a chopped onion in a little olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot till is just begins to brown, then add the spice paste and continue to cook it for a couple of minutes.

Add 2 cups of water and simmer for 20 minutes or so, then add:

  • 1 cup of cooked chick peas
  • 3 cups of raw pumpkin chopped into bite sized pieces,
  • 3 desertspoons of lemon juice
  • half a desertspoon of honey.

Simmer until pumpkin is cooked. Taste and add salt and more lemon juice and/or honey to taste. It’s good served with rice and a yoghurt, cucumber and mint raita.

 


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I had to do this recipe.  I like the rhyme just too much!  Vindaloo is a hot curry though, whichever way you look at it. You can reduce the chili and pepper a little bit in this recipe, but if you don’t like spicy food, probably best to go for a different curry entirely than to try to mellow it out too much.

Kangaroo is my choice of red meat, mainly because kangaroos don’t chew the cud, so they don’t contribute to  greenhouse gases.  They are also better adapted to the Australian environment, and they are truly free range meat.  And kangaroo meat is very lean.

It may seem a mission to make your own curry paste, but it is really very easy and worth the effort.  If you are a gardener, you probably have many of the spices for this growing in your garden. Cumin, coriander, mustard, bay, chilies, turmeric, ginger and garlic are all easy to grow in my climate.

Fresh, home-made curry paste also has the advantage of being much more aromatic and those aromatics are exactly what makes curry so healthy. Fresh turmeric in particular is really worth growing just for its health benefits (let alone the recipe options it opens up!)

The Recipe

Cut 500 gm kangaroo steak into 1 inch cubes.

In a heavy bottomed pan, dry roast your spices just for a few minutes:

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 heaped teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 heaped teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 heaped teaspoon mustard seed
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom seeds

Tip them out into a mortar and pestle, or a spice grinder attachment to a food processor.

Keeping your pan hot, add oil or (more traditionally) clarified butter, and sear the the kangaroo, then remove it from the pan.

Grind the roasted spices together with 2 cloves garlic, 1 heaped desertspoon dried or fresh turmeric, and one (or more) fresh red chili. Add a teaspoon of brown sugar, a tablespoon vinegar and the juice of half a lemon to make it into a paste.

Toss the seared kangaroo pieces in the spice mix to coat the cubes.

Now, still keeping the pan hot, (or reheating it) add a bit more oil or ghee if you need to and saute an onion, sliced thin, and a thumb sized knob of ginger peeled and sliced very thin. Add the kangaroo and cook for a few minutes, then add 1 ¾ cups of hot water.

Simmer very gently for about an hour. About 15 minutes before the end, add 1 desertspooon Garam Masala powder and salt to taste.  I also break with tradition to add vegetables – about a cup full altogether – at this time of year pumpkin, snake beans, and  capsicum.  But you could also go for peas, potato, or sweet potato.   Serve with rice, a cucumber raita, and mango chutney.  Makes 4 yummy serves.

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