Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Bengali-style cabbage with prawns or badakopi torkari

Right back to a bit more Bengali food now. This cabbage dish is a staple of Bengali cooking, and one I remember being forced to eat when I was small. I would assiduously pick out all the prawns (and eat them), have a tiny bit of cabbage and then declare that I'd 'finished'. I didn't get away with this that often. Happily I am now a big fan of cabbage in all its forms, from Savoy to the white stuff.

Traditionally Bengali vegetable dishes aren't often cooked with garlic or onions, and so this cabbage recipe uses a simple combination of ginger and whole cumin seeds. Adding prawns is optional, and if you want to keep things vegetarian, peas are a good substitute. And in fact, having both in there is fine too.

Recipe (enough for 4 as part of a larger meal):

1 white cabbage, washed and shredded
Large thumb-sized piece of ginger, squashed to a paste
1 dried bay leaf
1 piece of cinnamon/cassia bark
1 green chilli
2 cardamon pods, split
1-2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1-2 tblsp sunflower (or other plain) oil
Around 150g cooked prawns and/or a couple of handfuls of peas
1 tsp salt, or enough to season

Heat up the oil in a large-ish flat bottomed pan (ideally) and when it's hot, but not smoking, throw in the bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamon. After a minute or two, add in the ginger and cumin seeds, and continue to stir over a medium heat for another couple of minutes. When the ginger is just starting to cook through and the seeds are slightly brown, put the cabbage in and stir everything really well. The residual water from washing the cabbage should provide enough liquid and steam to cook it. Once the cabbage has shrunk down a little, add the turmeric, salt, and green chilli (prick a couple of holes in it with a knife, so you get the flavour but not the heat), and stir well. Cook the cabbage for at least 15 minutes over a low heat with a lid on the pan- it should be completely tender and mildly yellow. Finally put in the prawns or the peas (defrosted if frozen), mix everything together and cook for a further 5 minutes until it's all heated through. Serve with rice or anything else Indian.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Cauliflower crust pizza

Pizza pre-cooking.

I am a big fan of the cauliflower. Roasted, puréed, in curries, covered in cheese sauce- it's basically very hard to go wrong. The one area I was very sceptical about however, was the cauliflower crust pizza. Much beloved of the low-carb movement, I just couldn't see how it this could possible work. I was imagining, at best, a sort of thin cauliflower cheese with added tomato sauce. And at worst, well something worse than that.

However when I spotted this recipe listed on the Guardian site a few weeks ago, it all sounded rather promising. And even more so when I saw the original blog post the recipe came from with its lovely photography.

Pizza post-cooking.

I followed all the steps required for cooking the cauliflower (using a food processor makes grating it a doddle but it's probably still feasible by hand), but did allow it to cool a bit before shaping into the bases. And the only minor substitution to the recipe was using a regular Philadelphia-style cream cheese rather than a goat's cheese. I was convinced at every stage that the mini-bases would fall apart, but they didn't at all. I let them fully cool while making a tomato sauce, and once this was done the bases were topped with a selection of cooked mushrooms, anchovies, red onion, and mozzarella or cheddar. They then went back in the oven until the cheese was golden and melted.

I was fully expecting the transfer from baking sheet to plate to result in pizza disintegration, but they even held up to being poked and prodded with a fish slice. The final pizza could be easily cut into segments, and tasted damn good (perhaps even more so as I did not have high expectations). This is not something you are going to mix up with a proper, thin-crust Italian pizza, but as the cauliflower base is very neutral the main flavours that come through are all the pizza toppings. And what's not to like about tomato sauce and melted cheese? So if you're looking for a slightly lighter pizza option, a gluten-free version, or just something a bit different, I would thoroughly recommend this recipe (which coincidently also reinforces my views on the usefulness of food blogs).