I’m not a vegetarian (this sounds like a confession) but sometimes the seasonal veggies look so gorgeous that I buy up big and then seem to have quite a lot of veg to ‘deal with’. This week I had a whole cauliflower, a large bunch of spinach, and excess potatoes and I wanted to use them while they were still humming with freshness. Indian food seems to me to be the very best way to go ‘veggo’ so I decided to head in that direction.
I always enjoyed Cooking with Kurma that was on TV here several years ago and thought if anyone was going to make really tasty vegetarian food it was him so I looked up a cauliflower and potato Indian curry recipe with ‘Kurma’ in the Google search and came up with this one. There were lots of appreciative noises and two comments (from the boys) about it being surprisingly good given that there was no meat 🙂
A few weeks ago I posted about a dinner I made that included a Turkish pilav with spinach. I really liked this way of incorporating loads of spinach with the rice to accompany a dish so I thought I’d use this idea and create an Indian version. I consulted my ‘Classic Indian Cooking’ by Julie Sahni who helpfully explained that there are four essential spices to Moghul pilafs – bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom.
Classic Indian Cooking is the very first cook book I ever bought (for $3.50 on sale) when I first moved out of home – longer ago than I care to mention. I had no idea what I was selecting and it didn’t help me that both Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson gave it ringing endorsements on the back cover as, at that time, I didn’t know who either of them were! As it turned out it was an excellent pick and I’ve recommended (and lent) the book to several friends. I have also discovered that Julie Sahni is an incredibly well-respected Indian chef and food writer and this book is a seminal Indian cook book, in print continuously since first published (now in its 42nd edition). It really is excellent – a great introduction to Indian cooking with loads of information about spices, herbs, cooking styles, techniques and special ingredients and includes more complex dishes.
So with Julie Sahni’s advice about spices I decided to dry roast these whole spices before frying the onion, added some fresh curry leaves along with the onion and exchanged the dill for coriander. It worked really well.
I served the lot with my quince chutney and thick yoghurt. As this was an impromptu celebration for our friend Graham getting a big promotion, we opened a bottle of vintage champagne to start with, dahling 🙂
The dessert was the pear and ginger steamed pudding that I blogged about on my last post.
Indian Spinach Pilaf (adapted from Pistachio Pilav with Spinach and Herbs from Turquoise)
5 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
2 fresh bay leaves
1 Tbl butter
1 Tbl vegetable oil
1 onion finely chopped
8 curry leaves
1 large bunch spinach leaves, washed and shredded
200g Basmati rice
1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper
400ml chicken stock, heated in a jug in the microwave, or in a small saucepan on the stove-top
1/2 cup shredded mint leaves
1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves
Heat a non-stick, heavy based saucepan on low-medium heat and then dry roast whole spices until fragrant.
Add butter and oil to pan. Add onion and curry leaves andsaute, stirring continuously until it starts to soften. Increase heat then add the spinach and stir well until any moisture has evaporated.
Add rice to the pan, then season with the salt and pepper and pour in hot stock. Return to the boil, stir briefly, then cover with a tight fitting lid and cook over a very low heat for 12 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and use a fork to fluff up the grains and stir through the herbs. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Cover the pan with a clean, folded tea-towel, then replace the lid and leave it to stand for 15-20 minutes. To serve, tip the rice onto a serving platter and fluff the grains up with a fork.