Monday, 7 October 2013

Sag Aloo and Keralan Cabbage with Spiced Squid and Garlic Chilli Sauce

We have just returned from one of the best family holidays we have had. It was such a simple little getaway, we didn't go far, and we spent a grand total of $9 the whole trip (excluding travel costs) which is about as simple as it gets, but we had a total blast and have come back feeling refreshed and shattered all at the same time!

Earlier in the week, hubby and I decided to take the kids away to Waiheke Island as a 'mid-school holidays' getaway. The kids have been really good all week, and we don't make the effort to get away as often as we should. We are extremely lucky that my in-laws have a holiday home on the island, so we just keep an eye out for cheap deals on ferry trips, and away we go. As we were only going for 2 days and 1 night, I packed all the food we needed and the only money spent was an ice block each for the kids after a long play on the beach, and a coffee for hubby on the morning ferry on the way there after an early start!

We are refreshed from having lots of time in the sun, sand and fresh air, and shattered from exactly the same thing! Hubby and I have also come home a little crispy - we are so worried about putting sunblock on the kids, and always forget about ourselves! Not a good example for the kids, and a lesson to both of us that we have to lead by example. I find spring the hardest time to remember about sun is the furthest thing from my 'winter-brain' that has been in hibernation and starved of strong sunshine for so many months! The 2 days we were there could not have been more summery, and we spent heaps of time in togs on the beach - the weirdest thing was that while we were working on putting in some beach hours, we had friends posting on facebook about having a wonderful time down the country skiing - we sure do live in a crazy little country!

Total change of topic now - Food!

Earlier in the week, I found a recipe in a magazine for an Indian Sag Aloo courtesy of Jamie Oliver. As I'm sure I've probably mentioned a thousand times, he is one of my food heroes (there are a few!) and I have always enjoyed tinkering with recipes he makes - they are usually essentially clean and fresh so generally I only have to make simple substitutes to remove gluten/dairy etc. A Sag Aloo is a gorgeous, aromatic dish made with potatoes and spinach with a nice spiciness to it.

The recipe for Sag Aloo got my mouth watering for an indian feast, so I decided to put together a kind of 'indian street food' kind of dinner (sadly I have not made it to India yet, so I am only imagining what the food there might really be like, but this was my interpretation!). I paired the Sag Aloo with a cabbage and coconut dish (Keralan Cabbage, some spiced squid (not very indian, but felt like eating squid that day!), and a yummy chilli and garlic dipping sauce. I served the dishes with some fresh cos lettuce leaves as a bit of a vessel for eating it in. This is also a fantastic budget meal, using potato and cabbage as the main ingredients. All of this deliciousness is gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, soy-free and nut-free.

I wanted to make life easier while I was cooking this dinner, so I went with the option of frozen spinach as I happened to have some in the freezer. As it does not take a lot of cooking time in the dish itself, and I only had the bunched up kind, not the free flow, I decided to give the cooking process a helping hand by steaming it first to pre-cook it before adding to the meal. Here is a photo of why you should not try and cook too many things at once...
 I burnt the pan to a crisp! Smoked spinach is NOT tasty, and my sneaky little time-saving effort really took a lot of time as I then had to not only start from scratch with the spinach, but I had a very nasty pot to deal with! Not cool! Thankfully with a bit of baking soda and vinegar (what can that mixture not fix!), a scourer cloth and a bit of elbow grease, the pot was saved. The nasty smoky smell lingered around the house for a couple of days though!

Thankfully the rest of the cooking process was uneventful and, as you can see in the picture above, the meal turned out out to be fresh, clean, vibrant and delicious! (with not a hint of burnt smokiness to be found)...lesson learnt!

Sag Aloo and Garlic Chilli Sauce (adapted from the recipe by Jamie Oliver)

(Gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, soy-free, nut-free)

1 onion
2 tomatoes
a large handful of fresh coriander (keep the stalks for the sauce)
2 heaped tbsps Rogan Josh Seasoning (You can either buy some pre-made, or very easily make your own. Click here for the recipe
Coconut oil
1.2 kg potatoes (or kumara if you do not eat potato), cut into 3cm chunks

200g frozen spinach (or fresh if you have it)

4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 fresh red chill, finely sliced
2 tsp cumin powder (or seeds if you prefer, I just happened to only have the powder in the cupboard)

1. Peel the onion and add with the tomatoes, coriander stalks, and Rogan Josh seasoning to a small food processor or blender. Blitz until smooth and combined.
2. Spoon the mixture into a non-stick frying pan with about a tsp of oil over a medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
3. Add potatoes to the pan with salt and pepper to season, then pour about 1/2 to 3/4 cup water over the potatoes (enough to come about halfway up the potatoes, but not cover them). Bring to the boil, cover with a lid of foil, and simmer for about 10-12 minutes until the potatoes are just cooked through.
4. Remove the lid, then turn the heat to medium-high and reduce until all the liquid cooks away and the potatoes start o get crispy and golden (should be about 15-20 minutes). At about the 10-15 minute mark, add the spinach and make sure you stir the mixture regular as the potatoes are crisping up. Once cooked, serve in a large bowl, topped with coriander leaves.
5. While the potatoes are finishing off, you can make the garlic and chilli sauce. In a small frying pan, place the chill, garlic and cumin with about 2 tbsp oil, and fry until golden. Remove from the heat and serve in a small bowl to accompany the main dish.

Spiced Squid

1 bag of frozen squid rings, defrosted (or you can get fresh squid hoods and cut into rings if you want to be fancy and have gorgeous succulent squid. I went for the lazy option on this one, plus they were already in the freezer!)
1 tbsp Garam Masal
1 tbsp coconut oil
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to season

1. In a large frying pan, heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the garam masala and cook for a minute or so to release the flavours.
2. Add the squid and fry for a couple of minutes, stirring often. Squeeze the lemon juice over, then add salt and pepper to taste. Stir quickly then remove from heat and serve in a large bowl with optional coriander to garnish

Keralan Cabbage 

(I borrowed this recipe from a little cookbook called Superfoods, but I have misplaced the details of the authors name. I will try and track it down)
(Gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, soy-free, nut-free)

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp curry leaves (these are available from you local asian supermarket)
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
1 tsp cumin seeds (or powder also works if that's what's in the cupboard)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tbsp desiccated coconut (or grated fresh coconut if you have it available)
1 onion, peeled and very finely diced
1/3 head of cabbage (about 2 cups), very finely shredded

1. In a large frying pan, heat oil over a medium heat
2. Add mustard seeds, curry leaves, chilli, cumin, turmeric and ginger. Fry for a minute or two to release the flavors. This will smell amazing!
3. Add the coconut and onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring often
4. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring often, for around 5 minutes until the cabbage is just starting to soften.
5. Serve immediately.