Friday, 11 March 2011

Two spiced brassica recipes: Cauliflower Dhal & South Indian Cabbage

The hungry gap is the name gardeners give to this time of year, when the winter crops are over but before the spring vegetables appear. Mainly we're left with brassicas. But what to do with cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli week after week? I find they take to spice well (as do I) and so last night we had a double whammy - Cauliflower Dhal & South Indian Cabbage.

I know, I know, curry made at home is never the same as a curry house, but these really are good recipes, honestly - Madhur knows best. What, are you going to have cauliflower cheese AGAIN? Go on, give these a whirl. I think you'll be surprised.

Cauliflower Dhal (serves 4)
Adapted from Leith's Vegetarian Bible, with many amends (New Testament, perhaps)

225g green lentils (we only had Puy lentils, they were fine)
1 large onion, sliced
5cm piece of fresh root ginger, bruised (no fresh, so I used a teaspoon of ground ginger)
1 green chilli, deseeded and sliced (oops, I read the recipe wrong and used two, but they were mild ones)
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 small cauliflower, cut into florets
110g creamed coconut
290ml boiling water
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Put the lentils into a saucepan with the onion, ginger and chilli. Cover with water and simmer for about 30 minutes until tender (the puy lentils I used took longer - perhaps more like 45 minutes. Just keep testing them).
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan, add the mustard and cumin seeds and fry until they begin to pop. Add the garlic and cook over a low heat until soft, then stir in the turmeric. Add the cauliflower florets and stir until coated in the spice mixture.
3. Dissolve the creamed coconut in the boiling water and pour over the cauliflower. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until the cauliflower is tender.
4. When the lentils are cooked, remove the ginger and drain away any remaining liquid. Toss together with the cauliflower and serve hot.

South Indian Cabbage (serves 4)
Recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian

4 tbsp vegetable oil
A generous pinch of ground asafetida
1 tsp brown mustard seeds (or black ones... Who has more than one type of mustard seeds in the cupboard? Not me.)
1 tsp urad or chana dal, or yellow split peas (I used mung)
5-6 fenugreek seeds
2-3 dried red chillies
10 fresh curry leaves or fresh basil (I used about 5 dried curry leaves)
340g green cabbage/spring greens, cored and shredded
1-11/4 tsp salt

1. Put the oil into a large wok or frying pan and set over medium-high head. When hot, put in the asafetida. A second later, put in the mustard seeds and dal. As soon as the mustard seeds start to pop - a matter of seconds - put in the fenugreek seeds and whole red chillies. (To make life easier, I set out a series of little bowls, Blue Peter style, containing mustard seeds/dal, and another with the fenugreek and chillies. This way you can act immediately, as Madhur says, without leaving anything to chance.)
2. Allow the dal to get red and for the chillies to turn dark, then put in, first, the curry leaves, and then the cabbage. Give it a few quick stirs. Add the salt. Stir, and cook for one minute.
3. Now cover, turn the heat to low and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the cabbage has wilted completely (you might need to add a sprinkling of water). Uncover and taste for salt. Stir and cook for another 1-2 minutes, then serve.

Obviously you will want rice with this. I am renowned for getting rice wrong – too much, not enough, too mushy, stuck together, blah blah – but I tried cooking it in the microwave and it was a triumph. I am also a fan of Indian breads, and would always welcome a naan or chapati to the table, along with a chutney selection. Mango and Brinjal both went well with this, as did a dollop of natural yogurt.
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