Thursday, 27 September 2012
How to spice up your greens
Anjum Anand’s new book serves up some inspirational ideas for a vegetarian feast.
Written by Katy PearsonAnjum Anand, the Nigella Lawson of Indian cuisine, is not a vegetarian. So how did Anjum’s Indian Vegetarian Feast come about? ‘I married a vegetarian,’ she says. ‘His family is vegetarian and it’s part of their religion, so I spent a lot of time cooking vegetarian food for him and the children. And over the last few years I’ve realised a lot of people are becoming vegetarian and many of them do not find very interesting recipes.’
Anjum’s Indian Vegetarian Feast is her sixth book, in which she has introduced a lighter version of Indian food to a nation that is apparently under the impression that Indian food means chicken curry.
‘Everything is not a curry,’ she says. ‘A lot of people think that anything curried is therefore a curry. A curry to us is something that has sauce in it.’
To help the British understand Indian food better, or try cooking it at home, Anjum has launched The Spice Tailor – a range of seven authentic, traditional Indian sauces. Anjum’s Indian Vegetarian Feast is the first salvo in her next task: to persuade people to stop vegetarian-bashing. ‘Lentils and vegetarian foods have been bashed by TV chefs who say that they don’t understand vegetarian food and that people who are vegetarian don’t have taste buds. That’s so untrue. I want vegetarian food not to be something to be apologetic about when eating out.’
And if Anjum could give us one tip to spice up our lives? ‘Cumin,’ she says. ‘It’s versatile and has a lovely earthiness. If you add a little bit to anything hearty, it adds an element, even if it’s not Indian food.’
Anjum’s Indian Vegetarian Feast, with photography by Emma Lee (Quadrille, £19.99)
Stuffed peppers in a peanut-tamarind sauceServes 6
- 70g raw peanuts, skins rubbed off, plus more to serve (optional)
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 rounded tbsp dessicated coconut, plus more to serve (optional)
- 7 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 20g root ginger, peeled weight
- 4 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tomatoes, blended until smooth
- 1 rounded tbsp ground coriander
- 1½ tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ¼-½ tsp chilli powder, or to taste
- salt, to taste
- ½-¾ tsp tamarind paste, dissolved in 3 tbsp boiling water
- 450g baby mixed peppers
- ¾ tsp mustard seeds
- 10 curry leaves
- small fistful of chopped coriander leaves, to serve (optional)
For the stuffing
(enough for 12)
- ½ onion, finely chopped
- tsp turmeric
- 450g potatoes (1 large-ish potato), boiled, peeled and coarsely mashed
- 1 rounded tsp cumin seeds
- 1½-2 tsp lemon juice
Dry-roast the peanuts for a minute and pour into a spice grinder. Add the sesame and cumin seeds and dry-roast until the sesame seeds are golden. Pour into the spice grinder with the coconut (if used) and grind to a powder; it’s fine if there are chunks of peanuts.
Heat 4 tbsp oil in a pan and sauté the onions until golden. Blend the ginger and garlic with a little water until smooth. Add to the onions and sauté until the garlic colours. Add the tomatoes, ground spices and salt. Bring to the boil and cook for 10-15 mins, until the masala releases oil. Brown this paste, over a highish heat, for 3-4 mins, then stir in the ground nut mixture. Add 400ml water, return to the boil and simmer for 8 mins. Add most of the tamarind, then adjust seasoning and tamarind. It should be a chunky, creamy curry.
For the stuffing, heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan. Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the turmeric and, after a beat, the potato, cumin and salt to taste. Cook for 2 mins. Add the lemon juice, mix, adjust seasoning and put in a bowl to cool. Mash it if it’s lumpy. Wipe the pan. Slit the peppers lengthways so you can just open them, then stuff them. Don’t overstuff. Cook the peppers in two batches: in 1 tbsp oil for each batch, add half the mustard seeds and reduce heat. Once the popping dies down, add half the curry leaves and peppers. Stir for 20 seconds and season. Add a splash of hot water, cover and steam for 10 minutes or until the peppers are soft. Shake every so often. Keep warm while you repeat with the next batch.
Place the peppers on a serving platter or plates. Spoon the sauce over and sprinkle with coconut, or peanuts and coriander. Serve hot.
Bengal tiger lentil curry (pictured top)
- 20g root ginger, peeled weight, half of it julienned
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 175g Bengal gram (chana dal), well washed
- 75g split black gram (dhuli hui ma dal), well washed
- ½ tsp turmeric
- salt, to taste
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil, or half oil, half ghee
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 large-ish onion, finely chopped
- 4 small-ish tomatoes, blended until smooth
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ¾ tsp garam masala
- ¼-½ tsp chilli powder
- handful chopped coriander leaves
- 10-20g unsalted butter, to serve
Blend the chunk of ginger and the garlic with a little water until smooth. Tip all the washed lentils into a large pot, cover with 7.5cm of water and bring to the boil. Skim any scum from the surface. Add the turmeric and some salt. Cook, partially covered, giving the pan an occasional stir, until the lentils have softened and are starting to look homogenous with the water. Stir occasionally at the start and more often as they become tender.
After 40 minutes, start to make the tarka, but remember to keep stirring the lentils. Heat the oil or ghee in a small, non-stick saucepan. Add the cumin seeds and, once they sizzle and darken, add the onion and cook until colouring at the edges. Add the ginger and garlic paste and cook until the extra moisture has evaporated and the garlic starts to colour. Add the tomatoes and remaining spices and cook for 10-15 mins, until the masala releases oil.
Pour the tarka into the lentils with the julienned ginger, adding water from the kettle if it’s too thick. Make sure the whole thing is a lovely unctuous mass (if not, cook a little longer, adding water if necessary) then taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in the coriander and butter (if using) and serve.
Daily tip from the lady archive
“A GRACEFUL walk is a great asset, for sometimes it can create an illusion of beauty where little exists.”The Lady. Pleasant Exercises for Grace. 2nd April 1931