This week throughout the world various religious celebrations have brought family and friends together: Muslims celebrating Eid and Hindus worshipping the elephant God Lord Ganesh with the festival Ganesha Chaturthi. Although I do not practice either religion I still felt it necessary to get some old and new friends together for a celebration.
A slight chill in the air has arrived indicating soon summer will abruptly end. But there is still much work and harvesting to be done in the farmer’s fields. Ripe heirloom tomatoes, multi-coloured beets, fragrant golden apricots and an organic chicken shaped the menu with my friends: a beet, tomato, cumin salad; fenugreek chicken curry; and poached apricots scented with cardamom and saffron.
Beet, Tomato, Cumin Salad
For the beet and tomato salad I decided to use golden and ruby beets. In order to preserve their colour each beet variety needs to be cooked separately. Similarly, I used a few varieties of heirloom tomatoes. It is important to try and cut them roughly the same size. Don’t worry if you cannot find fenugreek sprouts as other seedlings can easily be substituted.
1 lb. beets (small or medium sized are preferred)
1 lb. tomatoes
½ tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
3 spring onions, finely chopped
½ cup fenugreek sprouts or micro green sprouts such as radish or sunflower
¼ cup coriander, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
Place beets in a large sized pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium high and cook for about 30 minutes or until tender. Drain and let cool for about 5 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Use your hands or paring knife to peel the beets. Cut beets into bite sized wedges or pieces. Place in bowl with cut tomatoes.
While the beets are cooking, core tomatoes and cut into bite sized pieces. Place in a large bowl.
Sprinkle cumin, salt and pepper over cut vegetables. Toss in lemon juice, spring onions and sprouts. Mix the salad well and adjust seasoning if needed.
Garnish with coriander and serve.
Fenugreek Chicken (Methi Murg)
This Punjabi chicken dish is one of my favourites. It is a great dish to serve large groups. I learned how to make it with dried fenugreek leaves, known as kasoori methi. If you are fortunate to get your hands on some fresh fenugreek leaves substitute one large bunch for the dried fenugreek. Simply wash and roughly chop the fresh leaves and proceed as normal for the remainder of the recipe (no need to soak the fresh leaves as required with the dried ones).
1 kg boneless chicken thighs (breast can also be used)
1 ½ cups diced onion
3 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
3 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
8 green cayenne chillies, slit lengthwise
1 box (25 grams) dried fenugreek (kasoori methi)
6 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
5 green cardamoms
1 bay leaf
½ to 1 tsp cayenne powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 cup diced tomatoes (if using canned, do not add liquid from can)
1 cup yogurt
½ to 1 cup water
Salt, to taste (approx. 1 ½ tsp)
A generous pinch of garam masala
2 tbsp ginger, julienned
¼ cup coriander, roughly chopped
Place dried fenugreek in a medium bowl and cover with water. Rehydrate for 20-30 minutes. Drain; discard water; and lightly squeeze out any remaining moisture.
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onions and cook for 10 minutes or until they are golden brown. Lower heat to medium and stir in ginger, garlic and slit chillies. Cook for 2 minutes. Add whole and ground spices. Cook for another couple of minutes. Add rehydrated fenugreek (or fresh, if using) and tomatoes. Stir fry for a few more minutes. Add chicken, some salt, and cook for another 5 minutes or until most of the pieces have turned white and lost their raw colour. Stir in yogurt. Add enough water to almost cover the chicken pieces. Cover the pot and bring the curry to a good simmer. Leave the cover slightly ajar, lower the heat and gently for another 15 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked.
Adjust seasoning, if needed and garnish with julienned ginger, pinch of garam masala and roughly chopped coriander. Serve with basmati rice, naan or fresh whole wheat chapattis.
Poached Apricots, Kashmiri Style
This is an easy and light dessert. Scented with cardamom and saffron, it can be made with fresh or dried apricots. I like serving it with ice cream or thickened yogurt and a homemade gingersnap cookie.
1 pound fresh apricots (or 18-21 dried apricots)
3 cups water
¾ cup sugar
10 green cardamom pods
Pinch of saffron
1 tbsp lemon juice (optional)
Place sugar, water and lemon juice (if using) in a medium or large sized pot. Stir to dissolve sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium.
While the syrup is coming to a boil remove seeds from the cardamom pods. Discard husks. Place seeds, pinch of saffron in a mortar and pestle and pound to a fine powder. Add to the sugar syrup.
Halve and deseed the apricots. Add to the spiced sugar syrup and bring the syrup back to a boil.
When it has reached the boil, cover and turn off the heat. Set aside and let the apricots steep for about 30 minutes. If making in advance, put apricots and syrup in a container to cool and for storage in the fridge.
Serve warm with thickened yogurt, ice cream or rice pudding- and gingersnap cookies!