Saturday, February 18, 2012

Black Eyed Peas - As fresh as Fergie

The hubby had gone off on another jaunt to Chandore near Mangaon (on the Mumbai - Goa route) and apart from his archaeology related work he also was on the lookout for fresh produce to pick up from the farmers that set up stalls on the highway. This time he came back with a big bag of beans. Really. What he picked up was a kilo of fresh black eyed peas in the pod.

I hadn't a clue what they were or how to cook them, having seen black eyed peas only in their usual dried form. I view most 'sabut' or 'kada dhanya' or dried beans/peas with a healthy hatred if I have to cook them. I can never get them soft, the flavours never seem to permeate into the beans themselves and so I avoid cooking them. I love the stuff, just can't seem to cook them. Confronted with the fresh variety was a like a leap into the extreme unknown for me. I didn't know these were eaten fresh. Ignorant me.

So we set out on a little adventure in the kitchen as we broadened my culinary horizons yet again and cooked the black eyed peas as fresh as Fergie from the pods. No pop was involved in the cooking of these babies apart from the mustard that couldn't be restrained.

I have a healthy fear of the unknown and this extends to cooking too. I don't take to new and unfamiliar ingredients easily and have no confidence dealing with them. Fortunately the hubby is more courageous (and patient) and he said he'd give me directions all the way. So we sat down and peeled the lot. Hubby, me and the maid. Soon we had a decent pile of pretty pale green and white 'beans'.

Then the cooking began. It's a fairly simple recipe with very few flavours. We let the black eyed peas do the talking.

Here's how -

Heat oil in a pan and throw in some mustard seeds. Once they pop and crackle add a couple of green chillies and a sprig of curry leaves. Throw in a chopped onion and sauté the lot till the onions begin to get pink. You can also add some garlic here if you like.

Now's the time to chuck in diced potatoes. I used 1 large potato. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and let the potatoes cook for a bit. Chop up one largeish tomato and add it in. Stir everyone around nicely and put in a teaspoon of dhaniya (coriander) powder and one of jeera (cumin) powder. Mix well, cook covered for another couple of minutes.

I automatically reached for the turmeric but the hubby said no. So once again, unfamiliar territory for me - I mean, how many Indian style vegetable/ vegetarian preparations are there without turmeric? Actually, don't answer that. There are probably quite a few around, it's just me who's blissfully unaware!

So, back to the black eyed peas. Once the potatoes are about nearly done add the shelled babies.

Stir and mix everything really well, add half a cup of water at the most, cover and let it cook. Leave it alone. Every time you open it to see what's going on in there you're letting all the steam escape and thereby wasting gas and time. So leave it alone and remember to turn down the flame too. After about 15 minutes you're going to be home free.

Add salt about 5 minutes before getting it off the flame. You can also sprinkle a nice bit of chopped fresh coriander at this stage. The fresh smell of coriander is such an upper! Cover again, cook for that last 5 minutes.

That's it. Beautiful fresh black eyed peas cooked to perfection. Just a few simple flavours meld together for a healthy and tasty dish that's ridiculously easy to make.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Bacon Whiskey Jam - What a wonderful idea!

The first time K told me about Bacon Whiskey Jam, I thought he was kidding. He showed me the recipe on this wonderful blog and I was hooked. As I read the recipe I was even more intrigued - this recipe also had coffee.

I spent a couple of weeks looking for streaky bacon (which the original recipe demanded) and eventually I had nailed down all the ingredients, bacon included. The first batch was made and a few basic lessons were learned. Don't crisp the bacon, leave it soft. That makes all the difference to the colour, texture and even taste of the final product. I also learned to be confident and substitute sensibly instead of obsessing about getting all the exact ingredients.

This morning I settled down to make the second attempt. Ever since I made it the first time my friends on the Mumbai Food Exchange group have been waiting to get their bottle of BWJ. Well, the jam is ready and here's a new blog post after a huge gap - two birds with one stone :)

 This is my adaptation of the original recipe that you can read here.

Bacon Whiskey Jam with a bit of tweaking -

500gms Streaky Bacon
5 red onions, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 or 3 green chillies, finely chopped
50gms dark brown sugar
50ml Golden Syrup (instead of Maple syrup)
150ml fresh brewed coffee
100ml whiskey
50ml cider vinegar
50ml red wine

If you compare the ingredients to those in the original recipe you will notice some differences. I've increased the quantity of onions. I also used Golden Syrup because I had a bottle already and didn't want to spend a packet on maple syrup. I've also used red wine instead of rw vinegar. Actually, that was an unintentional change. The first time I made this jam I used red wine by mistake thinking it was vinegar. It worked beautifully so I decided to stick with it :) I might use Kolah's sugarcane vinegar instead of Cider vinegar the next time because the sc vinegar has a much more full bodied flavour that I think will work very well in this recipe.

To get on with the recipe -

Cut the bacon into small bits. Fry it lightly till it releases some of its fat. Do this on a slow flame and let the bacon cook slowly. DO NOT let it crisp. I took about 15 minutes to cook the bacon leisurely over a medium flame.

Stir it often and keep an eye on it. Tilt pan and let the fat collect on one side. If there's a lot, drain off some. Reserve the bacon in a plate.

Heat the fat and throw in the onions. Pink the onions, don't let them get brown. Once again, do it doucement. Patience will be rewarded. I promise. Let the onions sweat it out gently for about 15 minutes in the bacon fat.

Throw in the chopped garlic and give it all a good stir and follow it up with the fried bacon. Now here's the time to resist the temptation to throw in some eggs and make the best scrambled eggs on God's Earth. Resist!

While the bacon and subsequently the onions have cooked slowly, get the other ingredients together in a bowl. Measure and pour into your bowl so you only have to dunk the whole lot in when it's required. Just leave the red wine out. It makes its entry at the end.

So, the onions, garlic and the bacon are all mixed together and you have managed to stay away from the eggs.  Grab that bowl of brown sugar, golden syrup, coffee, vinegar, and whiskey and pour it into your pot. Stir and sprinkle in the chopped green chillies. Add a bit of water if needed and let it all simmer for an hour. Check every 20 minutes and add water only if required.

Add the red wine and give it another 15 minutes to simmer. Cool the jam and run it in your food processor to give it a nice texture.

The bacon pieces might be big and a run in the food processor will break it down nicely. Don't liquidise it, leave it slightly coarse.

You're in for a treat. Grab a slice of toast, slather on some BWJ and get ready for a heavenly burst of flavour. Remember the coffee? It works fabulously! In fact, I think it's the coffee that binds the flavours together and gives you a mouthful of nirvana.

This is one jam I'm going to be making quite often.