Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gobi-Palak chi bhajee/Cabbage & Spinach curry - just one out of the 660 curries

I know, I know, it is almost Deepavali or Diwali time and what am I doing blogging about every day cabbage while the entire blogosphere is buzzing with mouth watering sweets and savories in preparation for Deepavali? Let us just say I like to be different :-) or that I am watching my calories and staying away from an overload of sugar and oil or that I am plain lazy to cook anything elaborate right now. It is the last one and I know you guessed it :-). Nammamma has this unusual habit of eating a bowl of plain yogurt rice with a really soft and juicy lemon pickle on festivals. She says, she is so tired of smelling and being around all those goodies that she craves for something plain and different, I know the feeling. If you are looking for something to perk up your appetite after all the deeply rich Deepavali sweets and savories, here is one such dish. And the bonus is, you can make it on Diwali day also, it doesn't have onions or garlic and is suited for the saatvik festival menu. So, go ahead and book mark it or better still try it out immediately and let me know how you liked it. I will bring something nice and festive (don't know what yet as I haven't decided) next week, until then this perky cabbage-spinach curry will keep you company. 

I kept coming across the name Raghavan Iyer and his massive collection of curries again and again as I educated myself more and more in the foodie world. I keep a 'one note' list on my laptop with different pages to capture reminders about different faces of my life. Some pages are dedicated to my work, some have interesting items such as list of books I intend to read, blogs I plan to visit, movies I want to watch, some hold mundane shopping lists. Hey, what can I say, I have OCD when it comes to organizing. Beauty of it is, I can access it from anywhere and so I will have an electronic list handy even if I left home without a clue as to what I needed. Anyways, I had this list the other day and was browsing the aisles in 1/2 price books (the # of times I refer to this store, some one ought to think I get paid by them for advertising, well no such luck, it is all on my own dime and time) and chanced upon a fat book in the cooking section that said, "660 Curries" by Raghavan Iyer. Now if you are like me, you will understand totally what I did next, I broke into a wide grin like I had found some treasure, grabbed the book, did a quick happy twirl (does it matter if it wasn't graceful?) in the air and looked around to see no one was watching me or calling the cops, walked quickly to the check out, and paid for the book. After all the accolades I had read about the book and the author, I had to own it, and experience it myself.

My family is highly gifted, they read my face the moment I walk through the doors and guess how my day had been (or I have such a non poker face). On this particular occasion, both BH & DD said almost simultaneously, "What is it? What did you find?". One look at the fat, yellow book and they decided to take a short cut to their respective corners in the house and leave me alone with it. You see, they share my love of food with me completely but not my love of reading up about food :-). So I took the book to bed that night and a few nights after that and read through the recipes and marked some up to try. This book is indeed a treasure chest even if you merely count the number of pages or the number of options it offers to make a meal. It has everything you can imagine from ordinary dishes made on ordinary days in traditional Tambram homes to jazzed up, restaurant style contemporary/fusion curries categorized into easily readable/skippable sections. The recipes are explained in lot of detail, sometimes becoming annoying if you are just reading it as a book and not looking up a particular recipe as the steps are repeated in every recipe (For Ex, how to wash and prepare a legume or cook rice etc.) I would have loved it if they were part of a section you could look up. 

It is a great collection by a talented chef and lot of effort has gone into the recipes but my biggest grouch with the book is that it is totally devoid of any pictures. I am a visual person when it comes to food, not really the aesthetics or presentation but I believe a good picture gives so much information about the texture and final look of a dish which is very important to me. This book disappoints me completely in that regard. I have tried a few of the recipes and loved them (not even 10% of the book yet). Though it is titled "660 curries", it is not just curries, there is a whole slew of curry cohorts which includes rice varieties, rotis/bread, pickles, raitas etc. It is a wonderful book to have on your kitchen shelf and you will find one or more recipes to use up your refrigerator contents wisely, a big bang for the buck. But you have to trust the author since he doesn't show you how a dish looks and take some risk in the absence of pictures.

I am currently on a refrigerator cleaning spree (I do this every so often so I can actually clean up the nook and cranny of the big box and start afresh) and have not gone to the grocery store in over 10 days. So last night when I was planning my menu, I only saw a half cabbage and some baby spinach in the crisper. Raghavan Iyer to the rescue and I zeroed in on this recipe. Sometimes you look at the list of ingredients for a recipe and don't think they are going to come together. That is how I felt when I read it but I am glad I tried it. It was one of those 'made for each other' combinations with rotis and we enjoyed it with a side of my favorite oralu kallu chutney made in the electrical blender :-).

Whether you like cabbage (I do, I love it) or not, try this dish out and you will love the flavors of the ingredients. Spinach & cabbage work together very well and give a nice texture to the bhaaji. This is not a gravy but a wet curry, perfect with bead or rice. I made a few minor changes from the original but the core is same. By the way, this curry is not a looker so don't judge by the very non-assuming pictures here. Take a leap of faith like I did and try it out, I am sure you will enjoy the pleasure of its taste.

What do you need to make Cabbage-spinach bhaaji?
4 cups cabbage
2 cup spinach
1/4 cup raw peanuts
1.5 inch piece fresh ginger
3-4 green chilies (slit & cut)
2 Tblsp oil
1 Tsp salt
1/4 Tsp turmeric powder
2 Tsp mustard
2 Tsp coriander seeds
2 Tsp cumin
1 Tblsp lemon/lime juice
Seasoning(This is optional & my addition):
1 Tsp oil
1/2 Tsp mustard
1 Tsp urad dal
1 dry red chili (optional)
4 curry leaves
1/8 Tsp asafoetida

How do you make Cabbage-spinach bhaaji?
  • Take mustard, coriander seeds and cumin seeds in to a spice blender and make a powder. Cover and keep aside until ready to use.
  • Coarsely powder peanuts, a few small bits is good for a bite but it should be mostly powdery.
  • Peel and finely chop ginger.
  • Remove stems from green chilies, slit vertically and chop into 2 or 3 pieces.
  • Heat oil in a wide pan, add the powdered peanuts, chopped green chili and ginger and sauté on medium heat for 5-7 minutes until you start to get the fragrance of roasted ginger and peanuts and the peanuts look browned slightly.
  • Add the powdered mustard+coriander+cumin mixture along with salt and turmeric powder and roast for a minute.
  • Add the chopped cabbage and 1/4 cup of water, mix it well so the spice mixture gets coated, cover and let cook for 5 minutes until cabbage becomes tender.
  • Add the chopped spinach, mix and cook for another 3-4 minutes until spinach wilts.
  • Switch off and add lemon juice.
  • Heat the oil in a seasoning pan, add asafetida, followed by mustard and urad dal. Let mustard pop and when the dal turns golden pink, add the dry red chilies, curry leaves and switch off.
  • Pour the seasoning over the curry and give it a mix.
  • I shredded the cabbage finely (long, thin strips) as I like the texture it provides. The original recipe calls for 1/4 inch pieces of cabbage.
  • The curry tastes sharp if you eat it as soon as it is made because of the raw mustard. As it settles, mustard mellows down and cabbage & spinach add a natural sweetness to it.  
  • The powdered mixture is very potent and I am thinking of using it in other bland or slightly sweet vegetable curries.
  • Amma makes an Andhra special curry called 'Aava pettina koora' by cooking cabbage with a paste of ground, soaked mustard but she doesn't add the other ingredients.


Swarna said...

Wow nice new recipe there. Never tried Cabbage with Spinach combo...thanks for sharing :)

Swathi Iyer said...

Delicious and healthy recipe Nagashree.

NamsVeni Pothas said...

wow...this is very interesting recipe with very simple and healthy ingredients. i like it.

Swarna said...

Thank you so much for your kind words on the blog Nagashree. Keep writing and happy deepawali.

LG said...

Chapathi roll is a sure winner ! Peanuts add extra flavor to this.

Naina said...

I tried this and came out well.. liked it. I didnt use peanut & lemon juice. Thank you.