the taste space

Mango Chana Masala

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on March 29, 2014

Mango Chana Masala

It is the most wonderful time of the year….

Not because the spring weather in Houston is positively happiness (it is!) or it is the beginning of a cycling season (it is!)…. but it is the beginning of mango season and now we live closer to the mangoes!

Nearly every year, Rob will hunt down Alphonso mangoes. The fancy mangoes flown in from India. I am not sure whether they will be coming to Houston, but it does not matter. There are cheap and plentiful Mexican Ataulfos to be found. Last week, we picked up a whole case for $5. (We split it with a friend to keep our eating crop fresh. I know we’ll be replenishing a few times, no worries)

We tend to keep the mangoes plain and unadorned (at least I do, Rob adds it to his breakfast granola) but used some frozen mangoes for this fun twist on chana masala. It kind of a combination of my Mango BBQ Beans combined with Indian flavours. While I have used amchoor powder (raw mango powder) to make a nice chana masala, this was a fun twist since it was hot and sweet, too. The heat came from our newest infatuation: roasted hatch chiles. The flavours complemented each other nicely, especially with the tang from the tomatoes and the earthy tones from the cumin, mustard seeds and garam masala, too. Not too overly spiced.

Rob actually made a double batch of this and we shared it with friends. We told them to give an honest opinion of the dish. It was the first time we tried it, so we could handle their feedback. Like us, they loved it! And I hope you do, too.

Here’s to a prosperous mango season!

Mango Chana Masala

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Chickpea & Kabocha Squash Lemongrass Curry

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on March 11, 2014

Lemongrass, Chickpea and Kabocha Squash Coconut Curry

Recently, Rob and I have been flip-flopping. One weekend Rob is home alone. The next, I am home alone as Rob is out. Travelling separately. Although I probably received the brunt of the solo travels as I ventured to the cold Canadian winter alone. Rob, however, is travelling without me but visiting and meeting friends throughout the US.

This weekend, he also left me without a car. My bike gets me to and from work but on the weekends, the car brings me to groceries. Our loot is  too big to bring home on a bike. Oftentimes, Rob will also pick up random missing ingredients throughout the week… so I lost that convenience, too. Although, we planned for this: a double grocery haul last weekend. This week, I get to eat through the fridge and pantry. And tackle my languishing winter squashes.

I am sure I am not the only one with winter squashes on my counter (right?). It happens every year to me. Houston-time, included.

Winter squash may not still be on your radar but with the last winter blast, a warming stew is hard to turn down. (I am not playing with you, Houston does get cold. I had pants on last week).

I finally decided to tackle Hannah’s Chickpea and Pumpkin Lemongrass Curry. Unlike most curries, this one has NO CUMIN. Blasted! A bit more sweet with the kabocha squash which worked well with the aromatics like cardamom and coriander, but still tempered by ginger, mustard and chile with a luscious coconut-infused broth spiked with lemongrass.

Do you still have winter squashes looming around? Heck, it is still winter, right? I shouldn’t feel too guilty, right? :)

Lemongrass, Chickpea and Kabocha Squash Coconut Curry

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, Meatless Mondays for squash and to this month’s Spice Trail.

Better With Veggies

PS. The winner of High Protein Vegan is Miss Polkadot. Congratulations! (more…)

Indian-Spiced Creamed Collard Greens & Tofu

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on February 18, 2014

Indian-Spiced Creamed Collard Greens & Tofu

I have resorted to this blog to help settle a question. Between these two words, which do you recognize? One? Both? None?

Ablution

Ambulate

Full disclosure: Rob’s word was ablution. I had never heard of it before. Me, I use ambulate all the time. Rob swears it is medical jargon.

The best part? We both agreed on one word: ablation. Mainly because there is a medical/biological use as well as a nerdy space definition.

As your ponder your newest words, this will be a short post with a short recipe.

This is an Indian spin on creamed greens. Beefed up with some tofu, you pan-fry it first, then simmer it along with coconut milk and collard greens. Easy peasy. Serve with some brown rice if desired. Kind of a hybrid of my Spicy Coconut Braised Collards and Indian-Spiced Chickpeas and Kale. All delicious.

Looking for other reading to keep your brain working? I try not to disappoint and will steer you elsewhere.

Other recommended links:

Why the Olympics Are a Lot Like ‘The Hunger Games’
The Power of Protein Timing
Sweet nothing: The real science behind sugar
All About The Filter Bubble (make sure to watch the associated TED talk)

Indian-Spiced Creamed Collard Greens & Tofu

This is my submission to Speedy Suppers.

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Creamy Mung Bean Curry

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on January 16, 2014

Creamy Mung Bean Curry

I loved your feedback to my mung bean stew last week, especially Hanna’s rendition of the dish. If your comments are any indication, you may have bought mung beans a while ago but not sure what to make with them. I was like that, too. Last year, I couldn’t get enough of simple spiced mung beans. Despite having the mung beans in my cupboard for 2 years or so, I discovered their awesomeness as I (attempted) to eat through my pantry. I became so enamored with them that I bought another 4 lbs when I moved to Houston. With a focus on eating through my pantry yet again, I have been experimenting with mung beans. Bring on more beans, right? :)

While this creamy mung bean curry hails from the ever fabulous Lisa, ever an Indian bean whiz should I meet one, I knew it was a winner before I even made it. Like my recent Kabocha Squash, Coconut & Lentil Soup, it includes all my favourite things: tamarind, cumin, Aleppo chili flakes, and a bit of coconut milk for a touch of creaminess for the sauce. A simple twist of adding curry leaves makes this a different dish altogether. Southern Indian-style.

Have you tried mung beans yet? How do you like to prepare them?

Creamy Mung Bean Curry

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

PS. The winner of Superfood Smoothies is Annette.

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Indian-Spiced Mung Bean Stew

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by janet @ the taste space on January 7, 2014

Mung Bean Casserole

While it may seem like I had a severe lack of down-time  over the holidays, I was able to catch up on a few things on my to-do list. I caught up on the links Rob routinely shares with me, watched my share of movies, read a few books and cooked up a few bookmarked recipes. In the spirit of clearing out a bit of blogging backlog, I thought you may enjoy my favourite finds, too… so here were my linkable highlights:

1. 38 Life Lessons Leo has Learned in 38 Years.Great list. An old post, but timely in the spirit of the New Year.

2. Batkid: More feel-good moments. My friend was The Penguin in this heist. You can read about his experience here.

3. 2013 World Press Photo Winners. I would scope out the travelling exhibit of jaw-dropping photography while in Toronto, but this year I savoured it online.

4. 2013 National Geographic Photo Competition Winners. Another fabulous collection of photographs can be savoured online. National Geographic rarely disappoints for awesome pictures, including this other favourite.

5. Time-Lapse Auroras Over Norway. Watch it. Love it. It brings me back to my vacation in Iceland.

6. The Happiest Facts of All Time. Very cute list.

7. Ten Words You’ve Probably Been Misusing. Not entirely accurate but I am guilty of a few misused words. ;)

Mung Bean Casserole

I have been gravitating to easier meals and have not been cooking up as many dried beans from scratch lately. One solution to this problem is to use quick-cooking no-soaking needed beans, like lentils, anasazi and mung beans. Yes, mung beans. I am back on the mung bean bandwagon with great results. Simmer the mung beans directly with an assortment of veggies (kabocha squash, tomato, bell pepper and spinach here) with simple Indian spices: cumin, fenugreek and turmeric. The kabocha squash and mung beans melt into a deliciously creamy stew. A thick and hearty stew, perfect for the winter.

Where have you been on the web recently?

Mung Bean Casserole

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s Let’s Cook with Green Vegetables.

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Thai Sweet Potato and Kabocha Squash Stew

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on November 11, 2013

Thai Sweet Potato and Winter Squash Stew

I have mastered eating leftovers, which is the ultimate way to cook for one. I did not really think I would cook differently while Rob was away, but towards the end of nearly 5 weeks without Rob, I had little interest in making complete meals.

And then, suddenly, when I knew Rob would return (again), all I wanted to do was make something for him to enjoy.
(I just became disinterested in cooking while he was away; Rob had limited use of a kitchen while away)

Thai curry for Rob! With sweet potatoes! And Kabocha squash! AND PEAS! (Rob loves peas!) AND COCONUT! (he likes that, too)

Thai Sweet Potato and Winter Squash Stew

I have already shared with you the main ingredients (plus WHITE BEANS! yay!) so you can imagine the delicious taste of flavours.

The sweet potatoes and Kabocha squash are roasted separately to bring out their sweetness and keep their shape. I don’t like green peas as much as Rob, but I really liked them here, next to the creamy roots. The red curry paste was not overwhelming, and really, I should have added more for Rob’s palate, but I played it safe so I could savour it, too. Instead of using a flour to thicken it up, I simply simmered it longer until it was a nice creamy coconutty consistency.

Thai Sweet Potato and Winter Squash Stew

Joanne’s tantalizing original recipe was actually for a Thai-inspired potpie with a pumpkin biscuit topping, which I am sure would have been lovely… but hey, baby steps, here. This was a glorious curry, even without a topping.

Thai Sweet Potato and Winter Squash Stew
To return the favour of delicious food, I had to ask Rob to photograph the leftovers. If I thought the lack of daylight after work was bad before the daylight savings switch, there is now no way I can make it home before darkness now. So here, is Rob’s signature style photo… because as he puts it, he wants to SEE THE FOOD:

Thai Sweet Potato and Winter Squash Stew

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Four Seasons Food Challenge for one-pot wonders, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this month’s No Croutons Required for blogger inspiration.
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Red Thai Curry with Asparagus, Zucchini and Tofu (Heidi’s Weeknight Curry)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on October 27, 2013

Red Thai Curry with Asparagus, Zucchini and Tofu (Heidi's Weeknight Curry)

I have written before about our Mixed Diet Relationship. Granted, while Rob is mostly vegan at home, there are still some other ingredients that have been earmarked for Rob. Slowly, they have been coming my way, though.

There was a time, I did not like curry. Until we started experimenting at home and fell in love with dal bhat.

Then there was kimchi, normally too spicy for me until I found a brand and recipe I really liked.

Now, I can add Thai red curry paste to that list. In Toronto, Rob bought a (non-vegan) Thai curry paste and would constantly tell me how spicy it was. When we moved to Houston, we scoped out a vegan brand (Thai Kitchen). And let me tell you: it is not spicy at all. At all. Some may even consider it bland. However, for me, a world of opportunities has been re-awakened for my kitchen!

Red Thai Curry with Asparagus, Zucchini and Tofu (Heidi's Weeknight Curry)

This was actually my gateway curry.

A quick Thai curry.

So easy, it is Heidi’s weeknight curry.

Red thai curry paste infuses a coconut milk-based broth which is simmered with vegetables and tofu. Sadly, the vegetables look a tad plain; a tad monochromatic in the white/green shades; but they worked really well together. The cauliflower was firm, the asparagus tender crisp, the zucchini meltingly tender and soft cubes of tofu.

I can’t wait to try it in other dishes. Do you have any favourite red curry recipes?

Red Thai Curry with Asparagus, Zucchini and Tofu (Heidi's Weeknight Curry)

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Tamarind Roasted Eggplant and Chickpeas

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on October 8, 2013

Tamarind Roasted Eggplant and Chickpeas
Of all the recipes on my blog, I am most proud of this one.

Not because I came up with the fabulous idea to mix together roasted eggplant, tamarind and chickpeas, but because I kind of ran with a taste in my mouth and help from a friend.

One of my co-workers is vegan and recently invited Rob and me for dinner. He went all out with multiple salads, curries, biryani and dessert. Served on a weekday, at that. I was blown away. By all of it.

The dish that I enjoyed the most was the tamarind roasted eggplant with chickpeas. I asked how it was made:. He said it was easy, just roast the eggplant with masala spices, then cook it with tamarind and chickpeas. Easy, peasy, right? Not really.. a bit too vague for my liking for me to recreate it. ;)

I figured my Baingan Bharta with Chickpeas (Roasted eggplant and tomatoes with chickpeas) was a good starting point, though, and after reading it over, my friend gave me some tips:

1. No ginger, more garlic to enhance the eggplant (I happily obliged)

2. No cilantro, and if so, just add it at the end (I just omitted it – it was better without)

3. Heat the chickpeas and slightly mash them, so that they can better absorb the flavours from the rest of the dish (great idea!!)

4. Add some turmeric (done!)

5. Remove or limit the coconut (removed!)

With a bit of trepidation, I set out to recreate this dish. I got my eggplant roasting and re-read my instructions. Sauteed onions and a good dose of garlic. Ground coriander, cumin and garam masala…

It has been a long time since I’ve cooked with eggplant (over 2 years, if you excuse my Raw Eggplant Bacon from last year as that was not technically cooked). Roasting it is definitely my preferred cooking method. It may take a while to cook but the results give you a silky base. Here, the fragrant Indian spices contrast nicely with the sweet/tart tamarind, floating in the silky eggplant peppered with chickpeas. The photos don’t really do it justice because it looks kinda of chunky when it actually wasn’t. Definitely one of my favourite dishes this year.

Have you ever been really excited by your own culinary creation?

Eggplant, chickpeas and tamarind elsewhere:

Eggplant, Chickpea and Tamarind stew at The Guardian

Tamarind Spiced Roasted Eggplant Soup at Everything in the Kitchen Sink

Tamarind Eggplant and Chickpeas at Relish

Eggplant, Tomato, Chickpea Tamarind Stew at Allotment 2 Kitchen

Eggplant Curry with Tamarind & Mint at Veggie Num Num

PS. Have you entered my giveaway for The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen yet?
Tamarind Roasted Eggplant and Chickpeas

This is my submission to this month’s Four Seasons Food for Roasting. (more…)

Chickpea Curry with Fresh Dill Leaves

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on October 3, 2013

Chickpea Curry with Fresh Dill Leaves

Experimental curry…

A few of my friends have become new mamas (or very soon mamas-to-be), and Rob and I have been cooking up meals to share. One less thing for them to worry about. Rob offered one of our delicious dals. I wanted to experiment with a new curry, but Rob was adamant: Let me make dal bhat! We know it is awesome.

I won’t argue with that, nor with Rob offering to do the cooking.

I still experimented with a new curry but kept it for myself. Curry with dill? I was intrigued. Especially since it doesn’t call for a smattering of dill. It uses a whole 2 cups of dill, leaves and stems, akin to a leafy green instead of a finishing aromatic. Sauteed with my favourite flavours, garlic, ginger and coriander with a bit of tomato for some sauciness, this was a delicious chickpea curry. There was enough zip from the chile flakes to keep it well balanced. The flavour of dill was surprisingly not overwhelming and I really enjoyed it. Next time, we’ll know. This curry is definitely good enough to share.

Do you have any favourite meals to share with others? Have you ever cooked with this much dill at once? :)

PS. I am all over the cookbook giveaways these days, if you hadn’t noticed. My giveaway for The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen is still going, so check it out. I also highly recommend The Great Vegan Bean Book (see my review here). Head over to Miss Muffcake for her giveaway of the book here.

Chickpea Curry with Fresh Dill Leaves

This is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair hosted by Princy, and to this month’s Cooking with Herbs.

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Goan Black-Eyed Pea Curry with Coconut Milk

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on September 19, 2013

Goan-Inspired Black Eyed Pea Curry with Coconut Milk

Next on my hitlist of grocers to try was Canino’s. It is billed as a farmer’s market but I am not sure how much of the produce is local and sold by farmers. However, it doesn’t mislead you that fruits and veggies are at the forefront of this store. There are 2 components: the front portion and the back alley peppered with stalls selling mostly Mexican produce. The back alley is more akin to a farmer’s market and where the better deals lie. Come early and you can snag super specials. Like 4 bunches of kale for $1, 5 bunches of collards for $1, 30 limes for $1, 4 broccoli crowns for $1, 4 heads of cabbage for $1. BOOYAH! I liked how you could even mix and match the 4 for a $1 items so you weren’t swimming in produce. But if you know me well enough, you will know that yes, I bought 4 bunches of kale and 5 bunches of collards without a clue as to what I’d make.. in addition to the broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes and fresh black eyed peas.

Fresh black eyed peas were new to me. I’ve tried dried black eyed peas before but trust me, there is a reason they call them black eyed peas. And no, I am not talking about their cute black mark. I am talking about the pea business. THEY TASTE LIKE PEAS! I never captured that flavour from dried or canned varieties. Not entirely sure whether this was a seasonal fresh bean, I snagged a bunch and ultimately decided to try this Goan black eyed pea curry. The tomato-coconut milk infused broth was tantalizing, spiced with ginger, coriander, cumin and tamarind with a bit of sweetness from maple syrup (use jaggery for a more authentic flavour). Exotic yet light, I served it with brown rice. Since fresh black eyed peas were new to me, I pre-cooked them beforehand (~30 minutes) but I think this recipe would lend well to cooking the fresh black eyed peas in the broth (adding the tomato to the end since it is acidic).

I have earmarked the fresh purple hull beans for my next visit. Rob doesn’t mind going to Canino’s because it is right next to a delicious Mexican bakery: El Bollilo. I get my fresh beans and he gets some fresh churros!

PS. I also love that Canino’s opens at 6am nearly every single day (the back stalls apparently have their own random schedule). It is great for us early birds! :)

Not only for New Year’s Day, other black eyed peas recipe here:

Mango BBQ Beans

Garlicky and Lemony Black-Eyed Pea and Kale Salad

Hillbilly Hummus (Black Eyed Pea and Peanut Butter Hummus)

Smoky Black Eyed Pea and Kale Stew

Goan-Inspired Black Eyed Pea Curry with Coconut Milk

This is my submission to this month’s VegCookBook Club for Vegan Indian Cooking and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays. (more…)

Nepalese Toor Dal Curry

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on August 1, 2013

Nepalese Toor Dal Curry

In our minimalism, we have made it difficult to host big parties. Unless it is standing room only or BYOC (bring your own chair). For now, we’re maxed out at 4. You see, we only have 2 kitchen chairs. When we move our table next to the couch, we can fit another 2 people. It actually worked pretty well for curry and games last weekend.

We have a large curry repertoire, but decided to play it safe and serve our favourite: Dal Bhat. Like most curries, this one tastes even better as leftovers, giving us the perfect excuse to make a big batch in advance and keep leftovers for the rest of the week.

I still haven’t figured out what makes our Dal Bhat a Nepalese specialty. When our friend travelled to Nepal and hiked up to Everest base camp, she told us our dal was superior to anything she ate there.  Dal bhat translates into lentils and rice, and it could be spiced in any matter. Random vegetables are also added.

Before I left Toronto, I spotted this curry: a Nepalese curry with toor dal. I wanted to use up the last of my toor dal before the move and it looked perfect. I really enjoy the creaminess of toor dal and this curry had many of my favourite spices also found in our version of dal bhat, including cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and garlic. Is that what makes it Nepalese? No cumin or coriander, but this one includes tomatoes which I added to the tarka and cilantro as an (optional) garnish. How could this not taste good? Trust me, it was spot on delicious.

Have no toor dal? Red lentils or split peas would be good substitutes. Have toor dal and need more ideas? Here are other curries with toor dal:

Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango from 660 Curries

Plantain, Cabbage and Coconut Curry with Split Pigeon Peas (Indian Cabbage and Plantain Kootu) from 660 Curries

Butternut Squash, Coconut and Lentil Stew (Aarti’s Indian Summer Stew)

Mixed Lentil Stew from Flatbreads & Flavors

Nepalese Toor Dal Curry

This is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair hosted by Siri.

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Curried Chickpea Salad with Carrots and Currants (The Best Chickpea Salad Ever)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by janet @ the taste space on May 11, 2013

Curried Chickpea Salad with Currants and Carrots

Enough of the doom-and-gloom? Bring on more tasty salads!

It has been a while since I proclaimed to make the best salad ever. As I continue to make more and more salads, I have higher salad expectations.

My old favourites are still wonderful:

The Best Salad Ever (First Version): Turkish Bulgur, Pomegranate and Almond Salad

The New Best Salad Ever (dethroning the above): Roasted Garlic Tofu Salad with Cilantro Rice, Black Beans and a Mango Salsa

The Best Lentil Salad Ever: 11-Spice Lentil Salad with Capers and Currants

And now, I present to you: The Best Chickpea Salad Ever.

I eat chickpeas a lot, but I don’t usually eat them as the main salad component. I would have a hard time thinking of a good cold chickpea-based salad off the top of my head. I don’t like chickpeas with vinaigrettes, preferring them pan-roasted or smothered in thick sauces. However, as soon as we tasted this salad, both Rob and I were smitten.

This is a perfect chickpea salad, combining the tang I enjoy from vinaigrettes with a light creaminess from tahini along with a sweet spice from curry powder, contrasted with sweet currants and carrots. It is quite similar to my favourite lentil salad, except I am using a pre-made curry powder. Granted, the success of your salad will depend entirely on the curry powder you use. I am very partial to Penzey’s sweet blend which is fragrant and flavourful without being too spicy or earthy. It is highlighted perfectly with the touch of maple syrup.

I had this recipe bookmarked for the longest time and once I made it, I was sad I hadn’t made it earlier. Do not delay in trying it out. It will make a great potluck salad this summer.

What is your favourite salad?

Curried Chickpea Salad with Currants and Carrots

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Four Seasons Food Challenge, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this month’s Eat Make Grow Blog Hop for picnic eats. (more…)

Chiang Mai Curry Noodles with Tempeh (Vegan Khao Soi)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on April 25, 2013

Chiang Mai Curry Noodles with Tempeh (Kao Soi)

What makes someone “interesting”?

Rob and I were discussing this. He thinks we’re interesting. We do a lot of things that are a bit out of the ordinary. Ignoring, of course, the obvious foodie fetishes (whole foods vegan is interesting? hehe).

1. We learn by gardening. Wherever we live, we’re the house with (edible) kale and collards in the front yard.

2. We like to cycle. Not only for commuting, but also our crazy long distances of years yonder. At one time, anything within 200km was fair game.

3. We go to the gym. My preferences are spinning, combat, shred and pump. (Not sure that makes me interesting but I can tell you how much I can squat for 5 minutes!)

4. We like to travel. Rob and I have traveled a few places together (Iceland, Colombia and multiple places in the US), but we met each other with passports already filled. Literally, Rob’s passport was filled after a year spent backpacking in Asia, New Zealand and Australia. Mine had stamps for a few places.

Chiang Mai Curry Noodles with Tempeh (Kao Soi)

This is beyond what we do for work… Rob knows all about mobile devices and its software, whereas I am a resident in pathology.

Those are fun things to chat about because I can’t tell you much about television shows (except my adoration for Dexter and Drop Dead Diva), movies (I used to watch a lot more movies) or make intelligible conversations about politics. We have no TV, although that does not excuse the latter.  Rob usually keeps me abreast of internet meme sensations. People like to talk about renovations and home design, whereas we both are pretty clueless on that front. Case in point: The only furniture we bought after we moved in together two years ago was a new bed… and Rob bought himself a new desk after our second move (because he broke the first one dismantling it for the move, hehe).

Does that make us interesting? It just makes us us.

The people who find us interesting likely have similar interests… otherwise, we’d just be boring to them. ;)

Chiang Mai Curry Noodles with Tempeh (Kao Soi)

I was recently reading through Rob’s (mostly neglected) blog and it brought back great memories. Cycling, travelling, birthdays. This year has been tough for me as I focus more on studying and less on my hobbies. Our last vacation (in Colombia) seems like such a distant memory. Our vacation this year will be our road trip to our new home in Houston. A bit shorter than usual at only a week, but we’ll still cover a lot of ground. Probably around 3000 km if we do a few detours. Once in Houston, we plan to capitalize on short trips to South and Central America (I hope!). And, let’s not forget our upcoming summer trip for Burning Man. Anyone else going? This will be my first time and Rob’s third visit.

A lot of happiness spurs from memories of our experiences. It is true that you forget the bad parts, or at least use the bad parts as fodder for jokes. The highlights stick with you most. The excitement of being in a hot air balloon overtop Turkey’s enchanting fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, or jumping into Icelandic hot springs after a frigid hike up a mountain, watching icebergs float to sea, hiking through a Colombian jungle to see The Lost City, waking up at the crack of dawn to go snowshoeing in freshly laid snow in Horseshoe Valley or the tears of joy after cycling to Niagara Falls and being greeted by a rainbow. I can’t believe this all happened within the past 3 years. It is amazing what we can do if we set our mind to it.

Getting back to one of our biggest hobbies, though: food!

Chiang Mai Curry Noodles with Tempeh (Kao Soi)

Intertwined with our travels, food can transport us back to those memories. Rob has recreated some of his favourite meals from his time while backpacking, including Vegetarian Khao Soi. One of his memorable meals from Thailand, it is a brothy coconut curry with boiled egg noodles and tofu, topped with crispy fried egg noodles. His go-to recipe is not Janet-friendly with red curry paste (our store-bought version has shrimp paste in it and is super spicy), fried noodles and fish sauce. Undeterred to share his love of khao soi with me, he decided to make this recipe with a few substitutions along the way.

A bit more involved than his original recipe, this version has you making your own curry paste from fresh turmeric (yes!), ginger, cilantro, garlic and chilies. No shrimp here. It is used to flavour a coconut curry broth that is studded with tempeh, noodles, lime and cilantro. I used kelp noodles for mine whereas Rob prefers the egg noodles. Absolutely delicious.

If you find yourself in Thailand, this dish can be found for a bargain for only $1. Although it may not be vegan-friendly, so why not try to make it at home instead? :)

So, please tell me… what makes you or someone else interesting?

Chiang Mai Curry Noodles with Tempeh (Kao Soi)

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays. (more…)

Indian Chickpea Curry with Mango Powder (Amchoor Chana)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on April 13, 2013

Most people probably roll their eyes when they hear you have dietary restrictions. I know my food choices can be a pain in the butt for some people but imagine combining it with other allergies and restrictions? I have a friend with a severe allergy to sulphites, another friend who won’t eat nightshades and beans and I recently met someone with some crazy diet for interstitial cystitis and I could only remember her telling me she eats no spices. I love trying to find meals we can enjoy together, though. I think the worse was when I was trying to find common meals I could share with my grandfather who needed a low potassium, low salt, and low cholesterol diet. The low potassium part made it the most challenging since he couldn’t eat any whole grains, beans, nuts or seeds which are my protein sources. Meal planning is like a fun puzzle for me although others probably find it a headache. :)

Recently I was asked to suggest meals fit for entertaining. Not usually a problem, because I keep a list for myself in case I forget. However, there was a caveat: no garlic, no onions, no leeks, no shallots, no green onions (no alliums). I know there are multiple reasons to avoid them (including those who are doing the FODMAPS thing), but they continue to be a staple in my diet. More than just aromatics, they have a lot of health benefits, too.

Never daunted by a special diet request, I mustered up a few suggestions (Raw Zucchini AlfredoRaw Tacos skipping the onion in the salsa, Thai Tempeh Wraps with a Mango Ginger SauceSushi Salad Bowl with Avocado and Asparagus, among others with minor modifications). In the end, Ellen made my Vanilla Sweet Potato and Kale Curry and it received high praises from her and her guests (YA!).

The request planted a seed in my head, though. What kinds of meals are naturally free from alliums? I know some people just don’t like chopping garlic and onion, and some Indian recipes call for asafoetida as a substitute. Thus, I looked through my Indian bible, 660 Curries, and while I didn’t pick a recipe with asafoetida, I picked one without onions and garlic.

Indian Chickpea Curry with Mango Powder

Cooking without the typical aromatics meant we needed flavour from elsewhere: loads of savoury spices. Cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, all the good spices Indian curries are made from. The special spice, this time, was amchur/amchoor (mango powder).

I’ve used amchoor before in chaat masala used with Malai kofta and a warm chickpea and mango salad. It is made from dried green mangoes, conferring a sour tangy flavour, not unlike vinegar or lemon juice. Since I substituted tomato passata for fresh tomatoes, this is a very pantry-friendly recipe when you run out of even the most basic perishables (onions, garlic and lemons) and don’t feel like going grocery shopping when it is snowing in April (!). The cilantro does perk it up, but not necessary.

Anyways, in essence, you are making chickpeas cooked in a nicely flavoured tomato sauce. No fuss, you simply simmer then away for a while as you tend to something else. Like most curries, they make fabulous leftovers and I ended up enjoying them overtop fresh green spinach as a quasi salad.

Do you feel overwhelmed or welcome the challenge of dietary restrictions? :)

Indian Chickpea Curry with Mango Powder

This is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair. (more…)

Cauliflower Dal with Panch Phoran

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on April 2, 2013

With limited time, I have been trying to multi-task. Studying on the subway to work… picking up groceries after my weekend work-out… and even combining social activities with cooking. While still cooking the majority of my meals on the weekend, I have invited friends to come over and help cook. Cooking + friends = fun times! Leftovers are good for me, too!  While I usually make 2 dishes and a dressing each week, I try to pare my menu down when friends are over. One dish only. Preferably a recipe I know tastes good.

This is another one of Rob’s Repeater Recipes. Whenever we see cauliflower on sale, this is what tugs at our tummies. Red lentils envelope chunks of cauliflower in this quick curry. Of course, what separates each curry is the specific spice blend and this uses Bangladesh’s signature spice mix: panch phoran (Bengali 5 spice mix). You might remember it from my Bengali Quinoa and Spinach Bowl with the simple combination of cumin, fennel, nigella, fenugreek and mustard seeds. For this version, I stole some cauliflower to make (Baked!) Lemon Cilantro Pakoras and swapped in additional zucchini.

I love it when Rob helps out in the kitchen, and he has really taken to sharing his Indian cooking tips with my friends. We’ve also made Dal Bhat and the Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime at other times, highlighting simple and tasty Indian home cooking. These are all lessons from Indian Cooking 101.. what will Indian Cooking 102 include?

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s No Crouton Challenge for Indian spices and this month’s Credit Crunch Munch.

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