Last weekend, Jamie Oliver threw his voice behind 'Meat Free Week', a campaign that is being launched in the UK, after its launch in Australia in 2013. Meat Free Week is an online campaign to not only make people think about the amount of meat they consume and the importance of a balanced diet. But, it also compels us to think about the origin of all the meat, including processed meat, we consume and its impact on the welfare of the animals and this planet. To cater to the enormous demand for meat around the world, a large part of the meat we consume is factory farmed and factory farming is the number one cause for animal cruelty in the world today.
So, this is not a debate about vegetarianism but a platform to educate ourselves and make ourselves aware and make informed choices about the origins of the meat we eat. Just as we should be informed and aware of where our vegetables, our fruits, our grain and our dairy products come from. That's something to think about!!
Coming back to today's post, if there is one cuisine that celebrates its vegetables, it has to be Indian cuisine. For the sheer variety of vegetables available in the market to the diversity of ways of cooking them, it is very easy to go without meat in India. Moreover, with Summer here, I, anyhow have a personal preference for less meat.
In this weather, I, like many other Indians, can't help but lean on yoghurt as a way to cool the system to take on the rising temps. So, I made 'dahi baingan', a dish from eastern India that cooks aubergine in a simple, yoghurt curry. The curry is light and creamy while being light on spice with a tinge of sweetness. As you can see, in this weather, I also prefer less spice.
I paired it with lemon rice where the rice is flavoured with curry leaves, some whole spices, lentils and lemon, of course. It does have some whole red chillies but more to add to the flavour profile, not so much for spice. It works well with creamy curries from down South. So, I saw no reason why it could not be paired with the 'dahi baingan' and I was right.
This is all about flavour that is subtle and light on the palate, perfect for the weather in mind. I added some okra fries in the mix and that is purely as an indulgence and to tease the palate with some crunch and spice.
Fried vegetables as an accompaniment is a weakness of mine that I have inherited from my mother's side of the family. The food from Odisha is light on spices and the emphasis is on the letting the taste of the produce shine through. Their one indulgence, amongst many, is to fry different vegetables as an irresistible accompaniment to the meal. Potatoes, cauliflower, spinach, pumpkin flowers and any other vegetable that can be fried usually makes it to the table and they are so addictive that they compel you to throw all caution when it comes to portion size. As for these, okra fries, make them once and you will know what a good thing you are onto!!
Each of these three components can be had together or made on their own and paired with different components. Pair the lemon rice with a coconut based curry or the dahi baingan with some plain rice and dal or even meat. As for the okra fries, I'll suggest that you can even serve them as a bar snack!!
I'll sign off saying that there is a great need for all of us to educate ourselves on where our food is being sourced from so that we can make informed choices that are kinder on the world we live in.
Dahi Baingan - Aubergine Cooked in Yoghurt / Lemon Rice / Fried Spiced Bhindi (Okra)
Recipe source: Anjum Anand's 'Indian Food Made Easy'
Dahi Baingan - Aubergine Cooked in Yoghurt
- 200 gms aubergines (look for the Japanese style long ones, which if thick enough can be thinly sliced into rounds or you can quarter them and cut them into cubes as I have done for this post)
- 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
- salt, to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 150 mls plain yoghurt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 rounded teaspoon cumin seeds, roasted and ground
- large handful of fresh coriander, leaves and stalks chopped
- Coat the aubergines in the turmeric, salt and half of the red chilli powder and fry in the oil until soft and the point of a knife goes through with no resistance.
- Drain on a plate lines with kitchen paper and set aside.
- Beat the yoghurt with the sugar, salt and remaining red chilli powder.
- Heat, stirring, over a low heat until warm and loose. This will take 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in the ground cumin seeds, fried aubergine and coriander and cook for another minute.
- Turn off the heat. Check the seasoning and serve.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
- pinch of fenugreek seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon split Bengal gram (chana dal)
- 1/2 teaspoon split black gram (urad dal)
- 2 heaped tablespoons raw peanuts
- 1-2 dried, red chillies, left whole
- 1 teaspoon chopped ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 10 curry leaves
- salt, to taste
- 3 tablespoon lemon juice
- 200 gms rice, cooked
- Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and add both seeds, the lentils, peanuts and chillies and stir fry until the lentils are light brown.
- Add the ginger, turmeric powder, curry leaves and salt and cook for about 40 seconds
- Add the lemon juice and cook for another minute.
- Add the cooked rice and stir fry to heat through.
- Serve hot.
Fried Spiced Bhindi (Okra)
- 100-150 gms bhindi (okra), washed with the tops and tails cut off
- 1.5-2 tablespoons gram flour (besan)
- vegetable oil, for frying
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder
- 1/2 teaspoon chaat masala
- Slice the okra pieces lengthwise into quarters. Sprinkle and toss the okra with the gram flour.
- Heat the oil to a moderate heat. Fry the okra in batches until crispy, with some just turning a rich golden brown colour.
- Turn the okra onto a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain.
- In a bowl, combine the red chilli powder, salt and chaat masala and toss the fried okra in the spice mixture. Serve hot.