Thursday, 30 April 2015

Dinners from north and south (India)

Continuing the theme of accidentally vegan food, here are some other Indian dishes that I cooked during my vegan month. As I utilised a range of ready-made elements these were actually speedy enough to prepare quickly after work too. Firstly from the south of India, the classic masala dosa, and also the classic Gits dosa mix. It's going to be very hard to replicate a proper paper thin dosa at home, but actually the Git's mixes work pretty well even if my dosas were a little on the thick side. I cooked quick potato filling to go in them, as well as a green beans thoran.

I basically used this recipe for the beans, which proved to be excellent; fresh and crunchy, beans and coconut are an excellent combination. The potato masala was a simple mix of a medium potato, carrot, onions and peas with some added flavourings. Firstly fry a couple of teaspoons of mustard seeds in some hot oil until they start popping, and then fling in a small handful of curry leaves, around a tablespoon of ginger paste, a medium chopped potato, a small chopped onion, and a generous sprinkling of salt. Turn the heat down, put a lid on and leave until the potato is virtually cooked through. You can also add a little water if things are starting to stick. Then put a couple of handfuls of frozen peas in, and put the lid back on. Once the peas and potato are fully cooked, add a small handful of roasted cashew nuts, and give everything a good mix. Once the vegetables are done, I made up the dosa mix and cooked these in a non-stick pan. You'll definitely need to work quickly to spread the mix to get it as thin as possible, but even if they are bit on the thick side, they are still very tasty.

Moving further north, I utilised some ready-made Shana parathas to go with my soya mince keema. I always tend to have a packet of these in the freezer as they are very handy for emergency dinners, and on further investigation I also discovered that they are vegan (huzzah). Soy mince, like Quorn, is pretty flavourless so you need to be very generous with your other flavours. For this keema I fried two red, sliced onions in a couple of tablespoons of plain oil, with a couple of bay leaves, a stick of cinnamon, and two cardamom pods. Once the onion was softened and slightly browned, I added 2 tablespoons of garlic/ginger paste, a heaped teaspoon of chilli flakes, and good sprinkling of salt. This was all cooked over a medium heat, until the onions were nicely browned. At this point I added 3 teaspoons of garam masala, and 1 teaspoon each of ground coriander and ground cumin. After allowing the spices to fry for a bit, I tipped in around 300g of vegan soy mince. Once everything was well mixed and heated through (around 10 minutes), a couple of handfuls of frozen peas went in, and I left everything to simmer gently until they were cooked through. You should end up with a dry and spicy keema, which can be neatly scooped up by some hot off the pan parathas.

So there you have it, two pretty speedy dinners, which are full of flavour and spice and just happen to be vegan.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Chickpea chaat

As I mentioned before, Indian food is probably the easiest vegan food to prepare. Lots of it is accidentally vegan, and it's damn tasty. This is part recipe, part assembly job for a snack that can be easily expanded into a full-on meal. Chaat is the Hindi name for the Indian snack foods that are frequently available when you're out and about in any major town. They usually have a fried, crispy element, partnered with something sharp and tangy, and so of course are delicious. Here's my version of a cheat's chickpea (channa) chaat (I win at alliteration). You could definitely make your own tamarind chutney and channa masala spice mix, but I don't know anyone who makes their own chaat masala, so think I've still a good level of authenticity!

This version is vegan, but you could add a bit of yogurt on top too, especially if you make your chickpeas uber-spicy. Or indeed use a non-dairy, plain yogurt and still keep it vegan.

Recipe (enough for 4 hearty snack-sized portions)

For the channa masala-
1 tin cooked chickpeas, ideally kala channa (around 400g)
1 small onion, finely sliced
Half a thumb-sized piece of ginger, squashed to a paste
2 fat garlic cloves, crushed
1 dried bay leaf
1 tblsp channa masala spice mix
0.5 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional, as the spice mix should contain chilli too)
2 tsp sundried tomato puree
A little oil
A little water

I purchased the above from my local Indian supermarket, but the chutney and bhujia below were available from Tesco.

To make the channa masala heat a tablespoon or so of a plain oil in a pan, and when hot (but not smoking) tip in the onions and bay leaf. Stir and leave the onions to soften a bit. When they are lightly browned, add the ginger, garlic and chilli and cook for a few more minutes, before adding the spice mix. Give everything a good mix and leave to cook for a few more minutes until the spices lose their raw edge. Then add the tomato puree, and a little water to stop things sticking. Drain the cooked chickpeas and add to the pan, and simmer for 10-15 minutes (adding a little more water if needed, to make a thick 'gravy'). If you're using a ready made channa masala mix, it's unlikely you'll need any extra salt but do check.

Once the chickpeas are done, here's a list of things to generously sprinkle on top of each individual portion:
1 small red onion, finely chopped
Small chunk of cucumber (seeds removed), finely chopped
Several tblsp sev (thin chickpea noodles) or aloo bhujia
Several tsps chaat masala
Several tblsp tamarind chutney
A tblsp or 2 of yogurt (optional)

Chaat masala contains kala namak (black salt) which is quite sulphurous and can be an acquired taste, but somehow becomes quite addictive, quite quickly. This is an excellent accidentally vegan dish, which combines spice with fried, crunchy things- how could it not be delicious?