Thursday, October 05, 2006

Madhur Jaffrey and Spice in our life

Madhur Jaffrey

Recently I have been trying to reintroduce a little spice into our gastronomic lives. Once upon a time we were adventurous cooks and eaters, whizzing all around the globe in the space of one day’s meals. Years of feeding small children, though, has had the whole family on a nursery diet, ever since the first toddler started rejecting anything adventurous in flavour. My long-suffering husband occasionally would express a wistful hope of something spicy, but cooking two seperate meals was beyond my energy levels. Instead I am now trying a little ingenuity and low cunning. Nigel Slater’s Moroccan lemon chicken recipe, with a slightly reduced amount of spices, made it past the flavour censors. Another recipe I tried from Madhur Jaffrey’s book was rejected though.

Reading through her Eastern Vegetarian Cooking, which has languished unexplored on our shelves for years, I found a few vegetable recipes that were simple enough to do alongside a main meal. Inspiration struck. A spicy vegetable side dish for the parents. Now I can feed us all the vegetables that the kids won’t eat: aubergine, spinach, peppers, with a variety of authentic Indian spice combinations, liven up our tranquillised palates and embellish the plain meals the chidren desire. Maybe one day they’ll be sufficiently curious to try the grown-ups’ special dish and then we will take the first step towards the cosmopolitan family gastronomy that we once so optimistically hoped for.

Here is Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe that broke new culinary ground for me recently.

Neela’s Aubergine and Potato

4 tbs vegetable oil
½ tsp whole black mustard seeds
5oz/140g peeled diced potatoes ( ½ in/1 ½ cm cubes)
4oz/115g dice aubergine (½ in/1 ½ cm cubes)
1½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground turmeric
1/8 –1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp salt
1 tbs fresh green coriander (optional)

Heat the oil in an 8-10in/20-25cm pot with a lid, over a medium-high flame. When hot put in the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop (just a few seconds) put in the potato and aubergine. Stir once. Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne and salt. Stir and fry for one minute. Add 3 tbs water, cover immediately with a tight fitting lid, turn heat to low and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Stir every now and again. If the vegetable seem to catch at the bottom of the pan, add another tablespoon of water. Garnish with the chopped fresh coriander if you like.

I had all the spices except the mustard seeds and it was good even without them but I will try and add them to my new, revived spice rack, as they feature in a lot of her recipes.

Eastern Vegetarian Cooking was originally published in 1983, when cooking Indian meals at home was still a novelty in the average British or American home. The recipes are excellent and easy to follow. Madhur Jaffrey's latest book World Vegetarian is an updated, excellent resource for vegetarians or those wishing to cut down on meat, as so much of Indian and Eastern cooking is anyway vegetarian by tradition. Endless ways have evolved over a thousand years of making the same vegetable take on new taste sensations and interest. My mouth is watering now in anticipation of trying her bread recipes. I haven’t had Naan bread since we left London and came to a farm far away from the delights of takeaways and ethnic restaurants. Here whatever we want to eat we have to cook for ourselves. One step at a time, I’m reaching beyond our self-imposed nursery and rediscovering the world through recipe books. Adventure beckons!

1 comment:

Priya Mani said...

I just received a copy of madhur jaffreys World vegetarian and what a joy!
Apart from my many favourite Indian recipies, there are myraid ways of cooking the same ingredients in wonderful ways, well researched and documented after years of travel. The best part sometimes, is just to read the recipies in Jaffreys inimitable style that makes even the everyday Indian dishes so wonderful! Must have in every vegetarian kitchen! I will now try and get a copy of Eastern vegetarian.