August 2003 Archives

Aloo saag

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Aloo saag

Came home from the cinema at 10pm and had a craving for food, so I decided to cook this, which is a fairly quick potato and spinach curry.

  • 300g spinach
  • 4-5 potatoes
  • 1 large bunch green coriander, chopped
  • 3-4 fresh green chilies
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 1 piece fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • salt

Finely chop onions, ginger and garlic cloves. Briefly boil the tomatoes, then skin them and cut them into small cubes. Peel the potatoes and cut them into small cubes.

Briefly boil the spinach, then put it, the coriander leaves and the chilies into a blender and whizz.

Heat the oil in a large pan or wok. Add chopped onions, ginger and garlic and fry until the onions are yellowish, but not brown. Add the tomato cubes and ground cumin. Fry for a few minutes, then add the spinach/coriander/chili purée, the salt and the potatoes. Stir well. Add a bit of water (no more than ½ cup), cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring from time to time.

It is vital that the curry is neither watery nor sticking to the bottom of the pan because there is not enough water in it. Remove the lid so that excess water can evaporate more easily, or add a bit of water if it looks like there's not enough water in it.

When the potatoes are soft to the bite and the consistency of the curry is just right, remove from the heat; add the garam masala, stir well, cover and let stand for about five minutes, then serve with chapaties or rice.

Pizza all' alice e fiori de zucca

Pizza all' alice e fiori de zucca

Although the first pumpkins are already in the shops, some of those in the garden are still in bloom, and it would be a real shame only to harvest the pumpkins and let the blooms go to waste. You can harvest the blooms once you think they've been pollinated, or when, after a few days, the outer edges of the blooms get wrinkly.

We're preparing this pizza alla Romana, meaning with a thin, slightly crispy base (unlike the Neapolitan thicker or the American very thick dough).

For a one-person pizza, you need:

  • ½ cup (100ml) tepid water
  • 12g fresh yeast
  • 150-200g flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 fresh tomatoes
  • 2 pumpkin blooms or courgette blooms
  • 4-5 anchovies
  • 125g mozzarella cheese

Dissolve the yeast in the tepid water, then add the olive oil. In a bowl, mix the salt and flour, then pour in the water, mix well until you have a dough. Remove from the bowl and knead well, adding more flour if necessary, until you have a smooth dough that does not stick to the fingers. The longer you knead, the better.

Put the dough back into the bowl, cover and let stand in a warm corner of the room for at least 15 minutes.

In the meantime briefly boil, then skin the tomatoes. Whizz them in a blender, then pour into a pot, add a bit of salt and olive oil and let simmer for some 10 minutes, the longer, the better.

Careflully pluck the pumpkin blooms apart, removing the hard bits, so that only the soft petals remain. Then carefully tear each bloom into 4-6 longish vertical stripes, depending on the size.

Cut the mozzarella cheese into smallish stripes or cubes. Pre-heat the oven to 250°C.

Remove the dough from the bowl and roll it out with a rolling pin until it is fairly thin. It should have something like a 12" diameter or slightly more. You can also pull the dough with your hands, but be careful that it doesn't tear.

Put the dough on a slightly-oiled baking tray. With a spoon, put a thin layer of the tomato sauce on top of it (if you didn't let it simmer very long, you may have too much tomato sauce - don't use all of it, or the pizza will not become crispy, but watery and yukky!). Next comes the mozzarella cheese, then the pumpkin petals and the anchovies. As the pumpkin blooms have a very subtle, delicate flavour, don't use too many anchovies, nor a different kind of cheese, or it will spoil the flavour.

Put in the oven and bake for about 5-10 minutes, until the cheese has melted, but not browned. Serve with a glass of red or white wine.

Ratatouille of sorts

Ratatouille of sorts

What I found in my refrigerator today:

  • 1 leek, 4 weeks old, not too fresh
  • 1 eggplant, about 5 weeks old, slightly wrinkled
  • 250g mushrooms, about 4 weeks old, with brownish spots
  • 500g tomatoes, about 2 weeks old, in comparatively good shape

Time to get rid of the stuff. I removed the driest bits from the leek and chopped the remainder into smallish bits, cut the eggplant into cubes, cleaned the mushrooms, removing the brownish spots and cutting them (the mushrooms, not the spots) into slices. I briefly boiled the tomatoes, skinned them and cut them into cubes, too.

To complete the recipe, I needed this:

  • 1 smallish onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup (125ml) olive oil
  • 1 pinch thyme
  • 1 pinch coriander powder
  • salt
  • pepper

Heat the oil and fry the chopped onions and the chopped leek until the onion becomes transparent. Add the eggplant cubes. They will soak up most of the olive oil (add some more if necessary). Fry for a few minutes, then add the sliced mushrooms and fry some more until the mushrooms begin to shrink.

Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, coriander and thyme. As the eggplant loses water, a thick sauce should develop. Add a tiny bit of water if necessary.

Let simmer for at least 10-15 minutes. This should be a very thick sauce that must not, under no circumstances, be watery. Serve with rice and/or white bread.

You can also cook this with fresh ingredients.


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Goulash (spelt Gulasch in German), a spicy beef stew, is one of the Austrian staple dishes, which you can get pretty much everywhere. Like the Brits enjoy a hot curry when they've had too much to drink at a party, Austrians resort to goulash, which is often served at parties around midnight or in the early morning. Goulash originated in Hungary, where the dish is called pörkölt (the similar-sounding gulyas is a soup rather than a stew). A defining quality of Austrian goulash is that you take the same amount of onions as of meat.

  • 500g beef for stew (called "goulash meat" hereabouts), cut in cubes
  • 500g onions, chopped into biggish pieces
  • 80g fat
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 rablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground caraway seed
  • some marjoram, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 10g flour
  • salt
  • water

Heat the fat in a large pot and roast the onions until golden. Add the paprika and immediately pour in the vinegar and 4 tablespoons water. Add the beef cubes, salt, ground caraway seeds, marjoram and squeeze in the garlic with a garlic press. Let simmer for 2-3 hours, adding water from time to time, until the meat is tender. There should be little to no water left by then.

Add the flour, stir carefully, then add enough water so that you get a slightly creamy, but not thick sauce. Let simmer until the meat is well done.

Take care that the meat does not become too soft and that the sauce doesn't burn. Add some more paprika to get a nicer colour and to make it a bit spicier.

Usually, goulash is not served fresh out of the pot, but pre-cooked and kept warm or reheated for the meal. It is usually served with no special side dish, just a bread roll, although boiled potatoes are acceptable.