Saturday, 5 November 2011

Sucker Panch!

Curry di Melanzane & Bietola Rossa con "Panch Puren"
Aubergine and Red Chard Curry with "Panch Puren"

Saturday in Frankfurt- sunshine, mild temperatures and blue skies... and that at the beginning of November! What a wonderful day to get out to the market and get some fresh vegetables! Today, I was quite taken by the vibrant, bright red chard- so the chard was in turn taken home by me! Along with some other vegetables, but also with some spices- namely the above mentioned "Panch Puren"...

Panch Puren is a mix of cumin, mustard and fennel seed, along with fenugreek and kalonji.
I will leave you to look up those more exotic sounding names, as I have found conflicting information on them online... all I know is that this is a very typical Indian flavor and a lot more fun to grind yourself than buying a pre-made powder.

I started off by dry-roasting the spices... I am not so familiar with cooking Indian food myself, but remember seeing Madhur Jaffrey always start her dishes this way. Heat the spices until they start to pop and dance in your frying pan! Then take them and grind them with a mortar and pestle, ready for use.

The rice was simply steamed, but also flavored a little, with a mix of freeze-dried herbs I bought: parsley, chives, fenugreek leaf and coriander.  Freeze-dried because the 2 stranger herbs are not available fresh. I also added a little butter and a pinch of saffron- just to give it a light hint of color and flavor.

I started the curry by frying the aubergine first- I used a little clarified butter and quite a bit of heat! I added grated garlic and ginger and a good teaspoon of the spices. After 4-5 minutes, I added the stalks of the chard, which I cut into bite-sized chunks. I seasoned with salt and pepper and added a squeeze of lemon juice, a half teaspoon of turmeric and a little ground chili. After a further 4-5 minutes, I added the leaves of the chard and continued cooking with the lid on, so that the leaves would cook in the own juices and steam nicely. 

Next, just to round-off the flavor, I used a teaspoon of a hot Madras curry and added 3-4 tablespoons of yogurt and a chopped spring onion. I let the curry simmer for 45 minutes until everything had come together nicely. As the fenugreek and kalohji have a mildly bitter aftertaste to them, I added a last squeeze of lemon juice and a squeeze of honey... and my vegetarian supper was ready to serve!

I sprinkled toasted sesame seeds and a little of the roasted spices over the curry and decorated the rice with a few threads of chili and some very young basil leaves. Whilst in no way an authentic or traditional dish- it was still pretty tasty, quick and easy... 3 of my favorite things! And I hope of yours too!

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