Friday, 13 September 2013

Invisible Chicks and Incredible Spice

Curry di Zucchine "Panch Puren" alla Menta & Pane con Semi di Finocchio
Minty "Panch Puren" Curried Zucchini with Fennel-Seed Flatbread


Yes indeed it was those 2 ingredients that transformed a lowly and lonely zucchini into a wonderful vegetarian meal this evening. Chick-pea flour to be precise- an ingredient I grow to love more and more each time I use it! Try it yourselves sometimes if you are not already familiar with it- and you will too!

It was Friday evening, which means that I wanted to empty out my fridge of a few loose ends as usual. I had a strip of pizza dough left over from the other night- about a 4" length on the role- not much at all to be honest! Definitely not enough for any decent pizza in any case... but still I kept it, sure that I would think of something to make use of it! And this evening I did just that!

Along with the pizza dough, I had a couple of Spring onions, as always, a couple of small yellow peppers, a last chunk of ginger and obviously, one rather average sized zucchini. Could that be turned into a meal? You betcha! And I bet you wouldn't suspect it would be a meal that looks this delicious... but it was!

The stars of the show were the spices that go to make up the mix known as "Panch Puren" in India, a combination of cumin, fenugreek, brown mustard seeds, fennel and nigella seeds. I began by toasting these in a dry frying pan, along with 2 cardamom pods and a teaspoon of coriander seed, until the spices began to pop a little. Then into my mortar they went to get ground-up and ready for cooking!

To make this wonderful curry, all I needed to do was to toast about a tablespoon and a half of gram flour (chick-pea flour), again, in a dry pan. Whilst that was happening (it takes about 5 minutes, with an occasional stir in-between), I quickly sliced up the zucchini into bite-sized slices, about 1" of ginger, into thin strips, 2 Spring onions also into bite-sized pieces and the 2 mini bell peppers into small pieces. 

Once the gram flour was beginning to smell wonderfully of roasted chick-peas, I added all of the other ingredients and the spices at once. I stirred everything together well and seasoned with salt and pepper. After a minute or so, I added enough boiling water to cover everything, stirring it constantly to avoid any lumps, but as long as you move swiftly that will not happen anyway. What WILL happen though, is that the gram flour will immediately transform into a rich, dark, wonderful complex gravy! All of the aroma of the spices was infused directly into it and in turn, into the vegetables, which needed to simmer gently for the next 10 minutes to be just right.

And of course, in the meantime, in another pan, I transformed that last scrap of pizza base into a makeshift flat bread, which I sprinkled generously with fennel seeds, before toasting it in a dry non-stick pan. I simply cut it into 2 ovals which I sprinkled with seeds and then flattened our with a rolling pin, which made the dough nice and flat and also pressed the seeds into it nicely. I sprinkled the dough lightly with salt and then carefully laid it into the hot pan. After just 2-3 minutes of gently shaking around, the bread was ready to be flipped over and just 3-4 minutes after that, golden brown and ready to be enjoyed!

As was the curry by now! I added lust a little yogurt to the sauce to make it smoother, but decided to add a little extra once I had served it up. A nice swirl of yogurt, a generous sprinkle of mint and a good pinch of chili flakes made this into a real treat! I know that most people consider zucchini to be bland... but not like this it isn't! And together with the 2 little rounds of bread, it was easily satisfying enough to serve as a full meal! Obviously it would also be wonderful with rice- but however you make it- I know you are going to enjoy it! And you are going to be glad that you made good use of that good food!


  1. Veramente un bel piatto. Qui in Sicilia noi mettiamo i semi di finocchio nelle salsiccie, abbiamo anche il pane con i semi di finocchio. Complimenti!

  2. Grazie mille Francesca :-) Certo, lo so per il pane... sono anche io Siciliano! Grazie e saluti da Francoforte :-)