Fried Indian Spiced Aubergines

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After the excessive eating around Easter time, which always happens when my family gets together for a few days, it was time to detox a little and by that I mean eat vegetable-only lunch and suppers. If you are a vegetarian, eating and cooking Indian food holds so many delicious possibilities, in fact it would be really easy to be a vegetarian in India as all the vegetable dishes taste so good and in many cases better than their meat and fish counterparts. Anyway after a few days of worthiness we did cook one dish, or perhaps I should call it a snack, that was perhaps a little less healthy – as they are fried – but are very addictive.

 

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They are incredibly moorish and the perfect accompaniment when eating rice/chapati and dal. The trick is to eat them within a couple of minutes of being cooked as they are not as tasty once they become cold. When eating Indian food with my family at home I tend to eat with my right hand – why? – well I find the food actually tastes better, although be careful not to over eat as it is easy to eat more this way ;o). Eating a thicker dal (not the overly soupy kind) and chapati with these fried spiced aubergines is one of lives pleasures. Have a go and you’ll know what I mean. They may not be pretty but they do taste rather good.

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To cook these little beauties follow these simple instructions:

 

Fried Indian Spiced Aubergines

4-6 people depending on the size of your aubergine

1 aubergine

100g chickpea/gram flour

100ml water

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp poppy seeds/sesame seeds

2 tbsp vegetable oil

 

1. To make the batter mix the flour and water together. You want to get the right consistency – not too watery and not too thick so add a little more water/flour as you see fit.

2. Add the turmeric, chilli powder, poppy seeds/sesame seeds and salt and mix into the batter.

3. Slice the aubergine into thin circles – approximately 1cm in diameter. If they are too thick they will not cook through properly.

4. Place the aubergine slices into the batter, a few at a time.

5. Add the vegetable oil to the frying pan on a medium heat. When it is hot add a few of the aubergine slices. Fry on both sides for around 3 minutes per side.

6. Once bronzed place carefully on some kitchen roll and serve immediately with more salt as required.

 

 

 

 


Indian Aubergine/Eggplant, Peanut and Tomato Curry

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Have you ever been a little ambivalent about aubergine/eggplant? On the one hand loving their smooth, shiny plum coloured exterior but never really in raptures about the taste. Well my other half, Mr B, tended to fall into this category, so a while ago I set out to prove him wrong.

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After mutterings of ‘you know aubergine is my least favourite vegetable, I prefer greens’, he tasted one mouthful and that completely shut him up. Murmurs of approval were given between mouthfuls and a 9/10 score (yes we regularly mark our food – is that unusual?). RESULT. Surprisingly my eldest child also adored it, surprising as it does have a fair amount of chilli in it! If you don’t like chilli, but like spice, just reduce or take out the chilli in the recipe below.

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The combination of aubergine, peanuts and sesame seeds works ridiculously well together so much so that you will have to restrain yourself from wanting to guzzle up the whole dish. Combine that with a spiced onion and tomato sauce and you have yourself a winning dish.  So put your assumptions to one side for a moment and give this recipe a whirl and I can assure you you will be more than pleasantly surprised.  I couldn’t resist the bijou aubergines on sale at my local market but a regular sized aubergine will work equally well. Just slice the aubergine into chunky chip sized pieces, keeping the skin on of course.

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Indian Aubergine/Eggplant, Peanut and Tomato Curry

Adapted from Sanjay Thumma’s Eggplant Tomato Curry

450g baby aubergine/eggplant (normal size is fine too), sliced lengthways or chunky chip sized if using a regular aubergine

cooking oil, enough to deep fry the aubergine

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 dried red chillies

1 small green chilli, finely chopped (optional)

5 curry leaves (fresh or dried)

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp of garlic paste

1 tsp ginger paste

1 white onion, finely chopped

200g chopped fresh tomatoes

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

2 tbsp salted peanuts

1 tbsp sesame seeds

150ml water

1 tsp salt (to taste)

1. If using baby aubergine/eggplant slice lengthways removing the stalk. If using a regular sized aubergine slice into chunky chip sized, again removing the stalk. Once sliced, immediately place in a pan of boiling oil to sizzle away and bronze. This should take no longer than ten minutes.

2. Remove the aubergine with a straining spoon and place on some kitchen roll whilst you prepare the next steps.

3. In a new large pan add the olive oil and when hot add the mustard and cumin seeds. They will begin to pop immediately so move them gently around the pan for 15 seconds before adding the dried red chilli, fresh small green chilli (optional), curry leaves (fresh or dried), turmeric, garlic, ginger paste and onion. Continue to cook on a medium heat for around 7 minutes by which time the onion should have nicely softened, but not bronzed.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes, coriander, cumin and Kashmiri chilli powder and simmer for a further 5 minutes, by which time the tomatoes will have totally softened and blended into the sauce. Return the aubergines to the pan and fold gently into the sauce.

5. In a small pan dry roast the peanuts and sesame seeds for a couple of minutes, making sure to constantly move them around the pan so that the heat is evenly distributed and they do not burn. They will begin to bronze at which point you need to remove them from the pan.

6. Using a spice grinder (definitely one of my most useful items I own in my kitchen) – this is the one I use – see here – grind the peanuts and sesame seeds together to form a paste.

7. Add the peanut sesame paste to the pan and stir into the curry, adding more water if necessary. As I used salted peanuts I only needed to add a little more salt. Simmer for a few minutes and serve. If cooking ahead and leaving to rest you will have to add a little more water when heating up.

Serve with rice or Indian bread and you have yourself a vegetarian – in fact vegan – treat. Try it and leave a comment below.

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Bagel Mania

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As far as blog posts are concerned this post is definitely up there on the memorable stakes. Yes, it’s a labour of love, but I can assure you the wait and effort is more than worth it. In fact we all agreed that we had never tasted bagels so fresh and tasty, this was, of course, because they had just come out of the oven and we had toiled hard to make them ourselves.

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We’d headed out of London for the weekend to dog sit for my parents who live in the rolling Sussex countryside. I thought that bagel making would provide the perfect morning’s entertainment, with the results making a truly satisfying lunch.

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Big A and Little Z had their own bowls to make the dough and whilst a little flour, salt and yeast found itself out of the bowl, the majority made its way into the dough itself!

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Honey is added to the vegetable oil then poured into the dough mixture.

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Really getting involved in the dough-making is so rewarding, as Little Z found out.


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Big A had a natural ability at kneading the dough for ten whole minutes.

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Once the dough had been given a good work out we combined Little Z and Big A’s dough and created one large ball. Rub a little vegetable oil around a large bowl and all over the dough, and place inside the bowl. You need to cover the bowl tightly with cling film and leave it somewhere warm – but not hot for 2 hours. The airing cupboard  provided the perfect place.

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By the time we returned the cling film had created a huge dome like structure over the bowl and the dough had doubled in size.

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We decided to cover our bagels with either chilli flakes, black poppy seeds or sesame seeds, but you could also cover them in black onion seeds, grated cheese, cinnamon sugar or whatever takes your fancy.

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The best way to shape your bagel is to roll it into a ball and then to use the end of a wooden spoon and push through the centre. Once it has reached through the dough, keep the handle on the surface and wriggle it around until a hole is created to the size that you want the hole to be. You can also shape it further with your hands. When the desired shape is reached place to one side for ten minutes so as to let the dough relax into shape.

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Now this part is really unusual, but doing it will allow your bagel to have that wonderful soft sponginess in the dough, once it is baked. Don’t skip it, even if you think you’ve read the instructions wrongly…..because you haven’t, you do actually need to BOIL the bagels briefly for one and a half minutes each side by placing them in a saucepan of boiling water and black treacle, (I know sounds crazy right?) that is simmering away.

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After the brief dunk in boiling treacle water and a thorough drain, place the bagels on lightly oiled baking trays that are sprinkled lightly with polenta – this is to stop the bagels sticking to the tray. Brush a beaten egg gently over all the bagels and then decide on your choice of topping and sprinkle over the bagels, pressing down gently so that the toppings stay in place.

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Freshly baked straight out of the oven. At this point, our stomachs were rumbling and we were ready to dive into our lunch.

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More choices…..what filling to place in our bagels. We opted mainly for either:

* Grilled bacon, soft cows cheese or cream cheese, rocket and a spoonful of my chipotles sauce.

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* Smoked salmon, cream cheese, avocado and rocket with a splash of lemon juice.

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Other than Little Z we all had two (a little piggy I know but oooh they were soooo good!) and the remainder we ate the following day for breakfast.

After such a good feast we decided to don our country coats and wellies and head out with Tessie the dog for a good old long walk across the fields and through the woods. A perfect day to spend a Saturday.

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Tessie loves to dive into hollow trees!!

Homemade Bagels

makes 14

adapted from Rachel Allen:Bake!

675g strong white bread flour

3 tsp salt

10.5g fast-acting yeast

375ml warm water

3 tbsp honey

2 tbsp vegetable oil

3 tbsp black treacle/molasses

polenta, for sprinkling

1 egg, beaten

toppings of your choice (chilli flakes, sesame seeds, black poppy seeds)

1. Sift the four, salt and yeast into a large bowl and create a well in the centre.

2. Place the warm water, honey and oil into a measuring jug and pour the liquid in in stages, using your hands to begin to make the dough. This stage is rather messy and sticky so take your time not too add too much liquid at once.

3. Once all the flour has come together to form a dough, transfer to a flat surface and sprinkle a little extra flour and then knead the dough for a good ten minutes. I tend to push the dough away with one hand and then fold the dough towards me and then turn it slightly before repeating the process. You’ll be able to pick up a good pace.

4. Lightly oil a large bowl and pour a little oil in your hands and smooth it on the dough, which you have made into a ball. Place the dough in the bowl and cover tightly with cling film. Place in a warm (but not hot hot) place for around 2 hours – the airing cupboard worked perfectly – when the dough will have doubled in size.

5. Place 6 pints of water into a large deep pan and bring to the boil. Add the black treacle and stir in throughly. Once it has come to the boil, let the treacle water simmer gently on a low heat.

6. Preheat an oven to 220 degrees centigrade (425F).

7. Meanwhile, once the treacle water is heating up, take the dough out of the bowl and place on a surface sprinkled with a little flour and knead it briefly before breaking it off into small balls for you to then make into individual bagels. The best way I found to make the bagel is to place the end of a wooden spoon into the centre of the ball, which you have flattened slightly. When it pierces through the bottom of the dough, give the wooden spoon a good twist around so that a larger hole is formed. You can then reshape slightly with your hands. Place to one side until you have used up all the dough. More hands make light work at this stage!! You will need to leave the bagels to stand for 10 minutes before moving onto the next stage, however, by the time you have finished shaping your last bagel the first few you made will be ready to be boiled.

8. Place no more than 4 bagels into the boiled simmering black treacle water and turn over after 90 seconds and leave for another 90 seconds. Then drain thoroughly and place on lightly oiled baking trays that have a sprinkling of polenta on them.

9. Brush each bagel lightly with whisked egg and then cover with your choice of topping.

10. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, by which stage they will be bronzed and ready to eat. If you would like a more bronzed bagel then turn the bagel over for a few more minutes extra cooking, although I don’t think that you’ll need it.

Eat whilst still warm for the perfect bagel.

Filling ideas:

* smoked salmon and cream cheese *goats cheese and red onion *salt beef, mustard and gherkin *bacon, soft cows milk cheese, chipotle sauce and rocket * cheddar and chutney *tuna, tomatoes and capers

What’s your favourite topping and filling? Would love to hear.