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Spiced Veg Salad (Cachumber)

12 Sep

This spiced salad of raw vegetables is known as Cachumber, Kachumber or Kachmbar in Southern India and Koshumbir or Koshimbir in Western India. These small side dishes of seasoned raw vegetables can be as simple as chopped onion seasoned with lemon and salt or a complex mixture of many vegetables and fried spices. This one is on the more complex end of the spectrum and is really delicious, it adds a lovely crunch to any meal. Choose your own variety of vegetables, whatever is in season, and feel free to experiment with other spices.

  • Onion
  • Tomato
  • Peppers (sweet or hot)
  • Carrot
  • Cucumber
  • salt
  • lemon juice
  • Herbs; Coriander leaf (optional), garlic chives (optional)

Seasoning for 2-3 cups of vegetables

  • 1-2 tbsp descicated coconut
  • 1/2-1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2-1 tsp whole cumin seeds
Finely chop the vegetables, for this recipe i usually do about 2-3 heaped tablespoons of each vegetable, aiming for about 2-3 cups of vegetables altogether.
Heat 1 tbsp of oil and when hot add the mustard and cumin seed then add the coconut. Stir and lift off the heat as soon as the mustard seeds crackle and the aroma from the coconut rises. Stir the fried spices into the freshly chopped vegetables add the juice of half a lemon or more and salt to taste. Leave for 1 hour before serving so that the flavours and juices of the vegetables mingle. Serve with a little extra coconut sprinkled on top.
Variation freshly grated coconut would be great but as i cannot grow it here i keep some bought unsweetened descicated in the pantry.
For other Koshumbir type recipes have a look at:

Summer Pickle (Gujarati)

12 Sep

Crisp, fresh, summer vegetables tossed in a sour-pungent dressing of crushed mustard seeds, lemon juice, turmeric, and asafoetida. This is an instant Indian pickle that comes from Gujarat where it is also served as a salad. This pickle or salad is best made just before serving but it will also keep for a couple of days in the fridge, so it can be made ahead of time.

  • 2 sweet carrots
  • half a small cucumber
  • 2 – 4 hot green chillis, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 6 or 7 cherry tomatoes or physalis
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida (Devil’s Dung)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp chilli oil
  • 1 small clove garlic (optional)

Peel and cut the carrots into thin 2cm-ish batons, peel the cucumber and cut into quarters lengthwise, remove the seeds and cut into bite size slices. Put the carrots and cucumber in a bowl with the salt and set aside for 15 minutes then pour off any liquid that forms. Halve the tomatoes, slice the chillis and crush the garlic add these to the salted veg along with the rest of the ingredients toss well to coat and it is ready to serve.
Other vegetables I would use any other sweet fresh crisp vegetables including; turnips, radishes, French beans, sweetcorn.

Recipe Source
This recipe is based on the Cucumber & Carrot Pickle in Tarla Dalal’s Book Achaar aur Parathe I have changed it slightly by adding yellow cherry tomatoes and using chilli oil instead of mustard oil, I also added crushed garlic and in future I would add more chilli and other summer veg.

This recipe was originally posted on on 31/7/2008.

Simple Tomato Chutney

19 May

This is a simple tomato chutney or Tamatar Chatni made with fresh tomatoes and a light Indian spicing. The flavour is delicate, sweet with only a hint of heat. It goes wonderfully with all kinds of dishes.

  • 3-4 large ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1-4 dried red chillis (to taste)
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 3cm stick of cinamon
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Roughly chop the tomatoes discarding the cores. Heat the oil in a saucepan and when it is hot put in the chilli, cumin and cinamon and fry until the chillis start to turn brown. Add tomatoes sugar and salt and cook for about 15 minutes until the tomatoes are cooked down and the chutney is fairly thick.

This chutney is ready to serve immediately, it is not a preserve but it does last for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

Source The original recipe came from The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Yamuna Devi.
Note the original recipe cooked the tomatoes in ghee but I prefer to use sunflower or vegetable oil and I also added more dried red chilli but that really is up to your taste buds it is also nice to add fresh green chillis thinly sliced green chillis for extra punch.

Soba and Broccoli Salad

3 May

This healthy little salad makes a perfect spring lunch. A lovely combination of fresh green broccoli sprouts, buckwheat noodles and deeply satisfying oriental flavours.
Serves 2  Prep and cook time 10 minutes

  • 2 servings of Soba or other oriental noodles
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1/2 tsp fine sugar
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp mirin (optional)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • chilli (ground or flacked) to taste (optional)
  • sesame seeds

In a large pan of water. Boil soba for 3 minutes then add the broccoli florets and boild for a further 3-4 minutes until both are just cooked. Meanwhile slice the spring onions and put into a wide serving bowl along with the remaining ingredients. Whe the noodles and broccoli are cooked drain and toss in the dressing mixture. Serve hot or cold, sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Cooking Tip. It is important to slightly under cook both vegetables and noodles when making this salad to keep the ingredients fresh so they are at their best served cold.
Cooks Note soba are a Japanese noodle made from buckwheat whole wheat spaghetti makes a great alternative. Mirin can be replaced by 1tsp voka mixed with 2 tsp water and 1/2 tsp sugar.
Variationsadd char grilled red pepper strips.

Pasta Arrabbiata

14 Oct

This is a classic Italian pasta sauce, spicy tomato sauce with garlic, herbs and hot chilli pepper. Most commonly served with a ridged pasta such Penne all’Arrabbiata. Arrabbiata means “angry” in Italian referring to the red colour of the sauce and its angry heat. The main ingredients of an Arrabbiata Sauce are tomatoes and chilli most cooks will add some garlic, onion and one or more fresh herbs, I prefer oregano for this dish. Some cooks also use cured bacon but for my taste i like to add a couple of anchovy fillets to deepen the flavour. It is a simple sauce and can be cooked in the time it takes to boil the pasta, using either fresh tomatoes or bottled.
Serves 2 prep 5mins cooking 9 minutes

  • Pasta, 2 servings
  • olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 small red shallot
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 1-3 fresh red chilli peppers or dried chilli flakes to taste
  • 2-3 tomatoes or 1 cup of home-made passata
  • Fresh oregano leaves or basil chopped

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 9 minutes or until ‘al dente’. Mince the anchovies and fry in a good slug of olive oil l until they melt into the oil, add the garlic and fry until its aroma rises then add the chopped or flaked chilli, skinned and chopped tomatoes (I used home-made passata but you could also use tinned tomatoes) stir well and cook for until the sauce is thick, about 5 minutes. Serve on a bed of pasta that has been tossed in olive oil with a pinch of cracked black pepper and some grated parmesan cheese (optional).

Recipe Sources
I looked at several versions of this classic the simplest being the one from in mamas kitchen or this one with bacon some recipes advocate using parsley, basil, oregano, marjoram or even mint some even suggest using all of them.
Variation Leave out the anchovies and this is a great vegetarian pasta dish.

Chicken Curry (red)

13 Oct

There must be as many chicken curries as there are kitchens and this is mine, it is red from paprika, tomatoes and pureed red peppers. Simple robust and a great winter dish. I make it in a slow cooker so that it is ready at the end of the day but you could also cook it in an oven or the stove top in a heavy pan in less time.

  • 1 free range chicken
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 stick cinammon
  • 2 large onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4cm piece of ginger
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 2 hot green chillis
  • 3 dried hot chillis
  • 2 tbsp red pepper paste
  • water

1/4 tsp black pepper corns
1 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp fenugreek seed (optional)
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp coriander seed
4 cloves
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
Wash the chicken and butcher into small portions. Dust the chicken with 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp turmeric and set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. To make the masala grind the whole spices to a powder then add the paprika and turmeric. Grate or blitz in a blender the ginger, garlic and onion, the paste will give the curry a thick sauce, if you don’t want a thick sauce just chop the onions, ginger and garlic. Peel and chop the tomatoes. De-seed and chop the fresh chillis.
In a large wide pan heat a little vegetable oil and fry the chicken pieces, turning until they are browned on all sides, then remove and lay in a large cooking pot (a heavy bottomed stove top, a slow cooker or covered oven dish; something that can cook the curry slowly for several hours). Into the same pan the chicken came out of put the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick, then add the onion paste and fry until golden and the raw smell has cooked out. Add the masala powder and fry for two or three minutes add the tomatoes and chillis, both fresh & dried and add a little water. Stir to mix well then tip the whole lot over the chicken pieces. Stir, cover and cook for 4-6 hours in a slow cooker or 1-2 hours on the stove or in the oven. Serve sprinkled with coriander and along with rice or chapatis.

Variations I sometimes add a little anis powder, mace blades or grated nutmeg to the masala. This recipe makes a fine chicken curry without the tomatoes and peppers too but it won’t be red.

Cook’s Note Add enough water to cover the chicken if using stove top or oven methods. If using a slow cooker you only need to use a little water as the slow cooker retains most of the liquid. In the winter months I use frozen or bottled tomatoes. If you don’t have red pepper paste just add a fresh sweet red pepper or jar of preserved red peppers when making the onion paste.

Tunisian Chickpea Soup

7 Oct

It is pepper and chilli harvest time so I’ve been making batches of home made harissa paste which is a fundamental ingredient of this soup. In North Africa this would be called Lablabi, a popular every day dish from Tunisia; filling, nutritious and lip smackingly good. Pared down it is chickpeas in a broth seasoned with cumin, olive oil and harissa paste, simple food that tastes divine.

It can also be varied enormously with seasonings and garnishes; this one is garnished with; olive oil, cumin, lemon, and a poached egg.

Wash the chickpeas well and put into a large pan. Fill with cold water, leave to soak for 12 hours.Discard some of the water leaving just enough to cover the soaked chickpeas. Put the pan over a high heat and bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for one and a half hours or until the chick peas are tender. Stir in a good slosh of olive oil, a few cloves of crushed garlic, some ground cumin, some chopped parsley and lots of harissa to taste, cook for a further 5 to 10 minutes. Spoon the soup into a dish, give it a squeeze of lemon, a little more olive oil and a sprinkle of crushed cumin seeds. Serve with bread croutons spread with more harissa or some tuna, a poached egg, or olives, whatever takes your fancy on the day.

Try it with a bit of tuna too.

Variations: There are very many variations of this simple soup because Lablabi is a traditional dish so it has been around for a long time. The chick peas can be cooked with meat bones. Stale bread can be broken into pieces and used to line the serving bowl before pouring the soup over it or the bread can be served as croutons spread with harissa paste.

Topping: The basic soup is served topped with olive oil, cumin, and a dollop of harissa but for a more substantial dish the soup can be served topped with; fish such as tuna or sardines, egg, bread croutons, capers or olives.

Cooks TIP
The soaking and cooking of chickpeas takes a long time so save it, and cooking fuel, by cooking up a large batch then freeze or bottle in ready to use portions. I freeze cooked chickpeas drained for salads and small dishes like Spicy Chickpea Salad, Spinach and Chickpeas and hummous or in bags with their cooking liquor for soups like this one.

Recipe Sources
Mirage Blogspot
La Cuisine Marocaine
Cuisine d’Afrique

This recipe was originally posted on on 14/10/2008.

Chilli & Paprika Powders

5 Oct

Make your own chilli powder so you can blend it to get just the right amount of heat and flavour to suit your taste. It tastes so much better and fresher than the shop bought stuff and it is so easy just dry some chillies then grind them to a powder.

Drying Chillis
Collect mature chillies on a dry day. Spread out on a large metal surface (the heat of the metal speeds drying in the sun) or basket where air can circulate. If you’ve no sun stack on top of a radiator to dry. Once the chillis are dry store in an airtight container until ready to use.

I make small batches of powders from the dried chillies as I need it because once it is ground it will start to lose its flavour. The dried chilli I use the most for grinding is a Cayenne, it is hot and can be made hotter still if you grind the whole pepper, seeds and all.

Mild Cayenne
Slit the dried peppers and remove everything but the red outer shell. Grind to a fine to medium powder in a coffee grinder. Nice medium to hot heat and good flavour.

Hot Cayenne
Remove the stalks from the peppers break into pieces and put everything into a coffee grinder, including the pith and seeds, grind to a fine to medium texture. The resulting powder will be more orange than red and VERY hot.

Chilli Flakes or Kirmizi Biber
Kirmizi Biber is the kind of chilli flakes you would find in a Turkish food store and is one of the most useful spices in the kitchen mild enough to go in salad dressings but with plenty of flavour. The flakes are rubbed with olive oil to help preserve both the colour and flavour. Use a medium heat but flavoursome variety of chilli such as Acri Sivri or milder to suit your taste. Use a mixture to get a more complex flavour. Slit the dried peppers and remove everything but the red outer shell. Grind to a course powder or flakes in a coffee grinder and add a tiny drop of oil on the last wizz to coat the flakes. Pour into a bowl and rub adding a little more oil if necessary to coat the flakes pour into clean glass jars and store.

Once ground store chillis powders in airtight glass jars, away from light, to preserve its colour and flavour.

This recipe was originally posted on  

Tuna, Pepper & Potato Stew

1 Oct

Rachel is half Spanish Basque, so every now and again I like to cook a dish from her heritage, and this is one of her favourites. In Spain this Basque dish is called Marmitako, and was traditionally made by bonito fishermen while at sea. The ingredients and the method of cooking are simple; potatoes, peppers and tuna fish stewed in olive oil. Something that can be knocked up on a galley stove, but the result is truly spectacular. It is deliciously rich and oily and a superb dish to keep out the cold.
Serves 2 Prep 10mins Cooking 40mins.

  • 400g tuna fish, de-boned, skined and cut into chunks
  • 150ml Olive Oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 green peppers de-seeded and chopped
  • 500g waxy potatoes peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • salt to taste if necessary
  • 3 tblsp home made Red Pepper Paste
  • 1 tsp Spanish smoked paprika

Heat a large cast iron pan, add the oil, onions and peppers and sautee over a low heat until they start to soften. Cut the potatoes into long quaters to make more of a virtue of them, they cook more slowly and somehow have a better taste than if cut into small pieces. Add the potatoes fry gently for a few minutes then add the pepper paste, paprika and enough water to cover and cook for 30mins. In another skillet fry the tuna pieces in a little olive oil until sealed and starting to brown. Transfer to the potato and pepper stew and cook for a further 1Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the bonito and cook for 10 minutes more. Check the seasoning and leave to rest for a few minutes before serving.

Recipe Source: This recipe came from The Heritage of Spanish Cooking – Alicia Rios and Lourdes March. The original recipe calls for 2 dried red peppers, soaked for 12 hours and then pureed and a much greater ratio of fish, twice the amount of fish to potato. But as we are land lubbers and tuna is expensive I have used more potato. I have also used pepper paste and paprika instead of dried peppers, long green medium chillis instead of sweet green peppers, which makes it spicier, but otherwise the dish remains true to its simple origins.

Cook’s Tip Dried red peppers can be difficult to come by which is one reason i use pepper paste instead. I make my own but you can make a quick verison of pepper paste by mashing up a jar of preserved red peppers and adding some chilli or paprika powder to taste

Chilli Pickle (Pepperoncini)

1 Oct

This chilli pickle is for the faint hearted, a mild version of a classic Indian hot chilli pickle. Pepperoncini peppers are thin fleshed mild frying peppers that have a wonderful aniseed flavour but not too much heat. This pickle, whilst still hot, is not as madly hot as those made with hot chillis. It is ready to eat immediately but will keep and mellow with age.

Makes 1 pint Keeps refrigerated for 3-6 months
*250g green pepperoncini peppers (or small sweet green peppers)
*2 tbsp yellow mustard seed
*2 tbsp fennel seeds
*1 tsp turmeric
*1 heaped tsp chilli powder (use less for a milder pickle)
*Juice of 1 lemon
*1 tbsp salt

Slice the peppers into chunky rounds discarding the end with the seeds. Roast the fennel seeds in a dry pan then grind with the mustard seeds. Mix all the ingredients together well in a large bowl then pack into a sterilised jar(s). The pickle is delicious and can be eaten immediately, to mellow the flavour cook in the sun for 3-4 days by putting the jar on a sunny window ledge and bringing it back in at night. Keep refrigerated and it will store for 3 months or more.

Recipe Source Tarla Dalal’s Book on Indian pickles and breads Achaar aur Parathe and I’ve changed the recipe to use milder peppers and the ratio of spices to peppers.

Note I grow lots of lovely mild pepperoncini which we normally eat green simply pan fired with oil and salt in the classic Spanish Tapas style.

Originally posted on 21/8/2008 I am republishing it here as I have a fresh batch of peppers to make this pickle with