Sunday, February 21, 2010

Back in my rhythm

Well after having the wind knocked out of my sails with weekend sickness, I'm slowly getting back on my feet and cooking again. Getting to clean things up a bit got me in the spirit, and after that, it took very little else.

Indian food is such a lay-up if you're wanting a good idea on how to eat honestly on a vegan diet. Most of the good dishes are already vegetarian, and without much fuss at all can become vegan. Like I mentioned before on the roti, the only thing that might prevent otherwise is ghee. Now, I love the flavor of ghee, but in the grand scheme of things, it's easy to use a neutral vegan oil to grease them up afterwards and its all good nonetheless. Usually, that's the case you'll find. It's the enrichments in vegetarian Indian dishes that are all you need to swap out. The creamy northern curries that use cream, yogurt, etc can do just as nicely with coconut milk. I usually prefer it that way, because coconut tastes flat-out amazing.

For curries further down the subcontinent, usually that ain't a problem. They're either thinner liquid curries, or they're dry stuff. Smoky-hot combinations of cumin, mustard seeds, curry leaf (tricky to find, I've got a funny story on it) and lots and lots of chili make a good southern style curry when I'm not angling for anything in particular. I'm weak in the knees on fenugreek too so I'll often sneak it in if I can get away with it.

This is one I put together in a vague south indian style. No recipe in mind, just a general idea of the flavors that work. If you'd like to recreate, here's what you'll need:

  • 2 pounds Kale, roughly torn (stems removed)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sambal oelek, or sriracha, or 1 tablespoon dried chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (optional - find in any specialty or indian grocer)
  • small handful of curry leaves (optional, generally only available in warmer climates, check indian grocers, but its not required)
Heat your oil on high till it's nearly smoking. Add mustard seeds, wait five seconds (careful they'll be popping on you) add your cumin, curry leaves, and fenugreek seeds, wait another five, and pull off the heat. Drop heat to low. Add onions, salt, and turmeric to your pan, stir together, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring about every five.

Crank the heat to high again, and add your kale and the water. Stir and press into the pan until the kale is uniformly wilted. Keep stirring to prevent anything from sticking and burning. Should take about five minutes at most. Remove from heat. Add your hot sauce or chilis and garlic, stir completely. Taste, and adjust your seasoning.

From here, put that on top of rice. I like basmati but any rice will do.

Also, folks may remember an old recipe I did back in 2008 called Gajjar ka Halwa. I reprised that one as well and used coconut milk rather than dairy milk to make it vegan. My camera skills, plating kung fu, and general awesomeness have all since improved, as has the product:

This is one of my favorite desserts ever, and a clear example of how less is sometimes very very much more. That's about three tablespoons of halwa. If you think that ain't enough, there's enough sugar in that to cause a meth-head to tweak. It's got a nice cardamom flavor too, so it leaves your breath nice and fresh. Y'all gotta try it sometime.

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