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Tofu Saag

Tofu Saag

This should really be Saag Paneer (or Palak Paneer), but I was too lazy to make paneer (Indian fresh cheese), so I simply used tofu instead. To serve 4, you need:

  • 300g tofu, cut in cubes
  • 500g frozen spinach (the cut & puréed variety, not the readymade one with cream in it)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 piece fresh ginger, grated
  • 4 fresh green chilies, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons yoghurt
  • 1 cup (250ml) water

Thaw the spinach. Remove excess water. Heat briefly in a pot, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Put garlic, ginger, chilies and onion in a blender and whizz until you have a smooth paste.

Heat the ghee in a wok, add the paste and fry for 5 minutes, then add salt, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, yoghurt and water and let simmer for another 5 minutes.

Add the spinach and tofu. If you weren't as lazy as I was and actually made paneer cheese, use it instead of the tofu to make Saag paneer. Bring to boil, then serve immediately with rice.

Tomato soup

Tomato soup

Tomato soup can be simple or sophisticated. This is a traditional Austrian recipe with a few extras that you might not expect.

  • 1 1/4 litre veal stock (use veg broth for strictly vegetarian soup)
  • ½ onion
  • ½ carrot
  • ½ parsley root
  • 1/4 celery root
  • 500g tomatoes
  • 4 black pepper corns
  • ½ bay leaf
  • 50g butter
  • 40g flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • salt
  • 40g cooked rice or 40g broken, cooked maccaroni

Chop the onion and cut the carrot, parsley root and celery root in thin slices. Heat some oil and fry them briefly; then add the crushed peppercorns, bay leaf and the washed, diced tomatoes. Let cook for a while until soft, then put everything in a blender and whizz thouroghly.

Melt the butter in the pot, then add the flour and fry briefly until light brown; then immediately add the mixture from the blender and the veal stock or veg broth. Stir well, then let simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Briefly before serving add salt, sugar, lemon juice and boiled rice or boiled maccaroni.

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.

Asparagus with gravad lax

Asparagus with gravad lax

I had this recently, and it's a feast, although it's almost too simple to prepare to warrant a recipe of its own. Still, as it's asparagus season, here we go (serves two):

  • 500g asparagus
  • sugar
  • salt
  • balsamic vinegar
  • 200g thinly sliced gravad lax (Swedish marinated salmon with dill)
  • 1 piece horseradish

Cut the base ends off the asparagus, then peel about two thirds up the stalks. Tie about half the stalks together with string, so that you have two bunches of asparagus (this is important so you can get them out of the pot later).

In a large pot, bring salted, sugared water to the boil, then put in the asparagus and let simmer until very tender, up to 20 minutes. Remove asparagus from the pot, cut the strings and let them dry and cool a bit.

Arrange the gravad lax (salmon) on one half of a plate and grate the horseradish over it. Put the asparagus on the other half; gently pour a little balsamic vinegar over the asparagus stalks, but make sure it doesn't mingle with the fish.

Serve with white bread and a glass of dry, fresh white wine like a young Austrian Grüner Veltliner.

(If you don't have gravad lax, smoked salmon will do, although this has a less subtle taste. If you don't have balsamic vinegar, you can use other kinds of vinegar, but again this might taste too intense. Also avoid wines that are too fruity or too sweet.)

White cabbage with ginger and red chillies

White cabbage with ginger and red chillies

Here is the recipe for something I improvised on the spot and to my total surprise I found that it tasted absolutely delicious. It's suitable as a side dish for 4, or as a main dish for 2.

  • 1 white cabbage
  • 1 2-inch piece of ginger root, peeled and chopped
  • 3-5 dried red chillies, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, cut into thin slices
  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 spring onion, chopped
  • 1 piece of lemongrass
  • salt

Remove the hard outer leaves and the trunk from the cabbage; then cut in quarters and remove the hard bits at the core. Cut into biggish stripes.

Remove the dry outer leaves of the lemongrass and then cut the white part into very thin slices. In a wok or large frying pan, heat the oil and fry the lemongrass, chilies, ginger, and garlic slices for a minute or two over medium heat. Add the spring onion and fry for a few minutes more until the onion becomes transparent, but not brown.

Add the cabbage, stir well for a few minutes, then add the soy sauce, rice vinegar and salt. Stir well, then cover with a lid.

After a short while, the cabbage should lose some water and boil in its own juice. With the lid on, let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then taste and add more soy sauce or salt as required. Serve with rice.

I served this as a side dish together with fried tofu and mushrooms, but found that it also works well as a main dish of its own. The amount of chillies can be varied according to taste, but a minimum of three is recommended. If you like a stronger garlic taste, put aside 2 of the cloves, squeeze them with a garlic press, and add the garlic paste to the cabbage together with the rice vinegar. Rice vinegar, by the way, is sweeter and not as sour as normal vinegar, so if you use normal vinegar, you may need to add some sugar and some water.