Along the Grapevine


22 Comments

Tandoori Pickerel and Curried Spring Vegetables

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A dear blogger pal very kindly passed on to me some of her home-made Indian spices which I have been keen to feature with some of my own local ingredients. Although I haven’t posted many Indian recipes before on this blog,  South Asian cuisine is one of my favourites. I began to learn to cook during our two-year stint in Delhi, just before the craze for spicy Asian food hit North America in the 70s, and I have been at it ever since. It was in India where I really learned to appreciate local and fresh food, including home-ground spices which made everything from soup to nuts just so much tastier.

So when Sonal offered me some of her handiwork, I was thrilled. You can find her fabulous recipes on her blog, simplyvegetarian777 where you will discover some truly original recipes with a strong South Asian influence. Do drop by and check out her fabulous fare.

I met Sonal through The Novice Gardener’s weekly event, Fiesta Friday, so it is only fitting that I share these recipes with this week’s crowd. Our co-hosts this week are Effie @ Food and Daydreaming and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook who will be working hard to keep the party lively.

The spices Sonal sent me were a tandoori masala, a curry and Kasuri Methi, or dried fenugreek. This latter I intended to use as a garnish and then unfortunately forgot, but I did taste it and it would have made a wonderful accent for the two dishes I did make.

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For the tandoori spice mix I decided to make a fish dish using local wild pickerel, but you could use any firm fish.

Tandoori Pickerel

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients

1 lb pickerel filet, skinned and cut into serving portions

1 Tbsp tandoori masala

1 Tbsp sumac

1 Tbsp flour, rice, chickpea or jerusalem artichoke

1 tsp grated ginger

1 tsp grated garlic

1 tsp chili powder

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

3 Tbsp plain yogurt

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 tsp salt

Method

Mix all the ingredients except the fish in a bowl to make a paste. Coat the fish pieces with the paste and place them on a grilling pan in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Turn the pieces over and continue to cook for another five minutes or so, depending on the thickness, until the fish is cooked through.

I managed to achieve a nice red-coloured paste thanks in part to the addition of sumac which also goes well with this mixture taste-wise.

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To accompany this fish I wanted to make a really green curry with ingredients all from  my garden. The scapes, garlic, mustard seed and green chili are left over from last year’s crop, but the young dandelion leaves, lily shoots, and some nettles were all picked just moments before cooking.

Curried Spring Vegetables

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients

oil for frying

1 tsp mustard seed

1 green chili, seeded and chopped finely

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tsp curry powder

3 packed cups of mixed greens, e.g. lily shoots, scapes, dandelion greens and nettles

salt to taste

juice of 1/2 lemon (optional)

Method

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet and add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, lower the heat to medium and add the chili and mustard. Cook for 1 minute and then add the curry powder. Cook for another two minutes, stirring continuously. Add the washed, but not dried greens starting with the sturdier ones like scapes and shoots. When they start to turn a brighter green add the dandelion and nettles, cover and cook until they are just wilted. Remove from the heat and drizzle with lemon juice.

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9 Comments

Nettle Roulade

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A great substitute for spinach, stinging nettles, or urtica dioica, are an easily identifiable wild plant thanks to their particular ability to sting. The stems and leaves are covered in fine needle-like hairs containing three different toxins. As long as you wear protective clothing and especially sturdy gloves, they are easy to pick, and once steamed or dried, all the sting is lost. The plant appears in early spring and grows to about 1 meter in height. It has heart-shaped leaves with jagged edges.

They are commonly found in woodlands, in fields with rich, moist soil, and often near where there has been human habitation. It is invasive, and most people who find it on their properties use it for compost where its nutrients can be put to use. However, before it is fully mature and flowers, the leaves and stems are not only edible, but one of the most nutritious greens available to us. Because of its medicinal qualities, it has been most often dried and used primarily as a tea. More recently its nutritional value has been recognized and people are rediscovering many ways it can be used – in soups, as pesto, steamed or pureed.

To pick them, I remove the top leaves with my gloved fingers and drop them immediately into a bag or colander. Once picked, I rinse them in the colander and put them in a pot with little or no water, except what adheres to the leaves – and in seconds flat they are cooked. At that point I can remove my gloves.

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Once steamed, they can be frozen, or chopped or pureed for immediate use. Mix them with a little minced garlic, seasoning and lemon and they make a perfect green accompaniment for most meals.

With my last batch I prepared a squash roulade which I filled with nettles and cheese. I sometimes mix the nettles with other greens and herbs from the garden. The flavour, like spinach, is quite mild, so mixing it with other flavours is easily done.

Nettle Roulade

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: medium
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1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/3 cup plain flour

2/3 cup mild

1/3 cup cooked, pureed squash

4 eggs, separated

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 pound nettles

1/4 lb cheese, such as goat or mozarella

1/2 cup dandelion or other pesto

Steam the nettles and chop or puree. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a sauce pan over low heat. Stir in the flour. Gradually add the milk, continuing to stir. Add the squash and salt. Allow the mixture to cool.

Beat in the egg yolks. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold them into the sauce.

Prepare a shallow cooking tray by lining it with parchment paper and lightly greasing it. Pour the batter into it and spread it around evenly. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Immediately, spread the top with pesto, then the chopped or pureed greens, and finally the chopped or grated cheese. Starting with one of the long sides of the rectangle, roll it using the parchment paper. Then remove the paper.

If you are not able to fill it immediately, roll the ‘cake’ as above with no filling and when you are ready to fill it, unfold it, fill it and roll it again. If you try and roll a cooled cake, it will break. The method for rolling is in third picture below, without filling.

Best served at room temperature.

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Nettle Roulade on Punk Domestics


18 Comments >

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The best part of foraging is that you can harvest without ever planting a thing, and harvest before you have even had a chance to plant. My seeds for my vegetable garden are just beginning to sprout now inside the house, and it will be some time before any of them are useable, and I face a lot of work before any reach maturity. Meanwhile, wild greens are quickly making their appearance, and I don’t have to walk more than a few feet from my back door to find something tasty, or at least nutritious and green. That’s a good thing, considering it’s snowing outside as I write this, and the ground is just plain muddy. Luckily I picked a few leaves yesterday to add to a vegetarian curry of sorts. I am not suggesting you make curry necessarily – just to be aware that these harbingers of the growing season are already there for the picking, to be used in soups, salads, stews, baking, or wherever you want them.

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L to R nettles, dandelion, creeping charlie

I picked only three varieties for this dish: nettles, creeping charlie or mallow and dandelions. The total amount was about two cups, but enough to green-up my dish.

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These are all common in this area, relatively easy to identify, and impossible to over harvest. However, it’s still worth remembering two of the basic rules of foraging: always make sure you have identified the plant correctly and be sure to pick only from clean, non-treated areas .

Dandelions.  These are the easiest to identify and are super abundant in spring. My very first post was on dandelions and the dandelion pesto in it lasted me all winter. I will no doubt be posting more dandelion recipes this spring, but so far the pickings are slim. The leaves are so young and tender that they do not yet have the strong bitter flavour that I am looking for, but they offer such a load of nutrients, I wanted include them even now.

Mallow or Malva. This is another mild flavoured green which I have only recently started to use. You can read more about its identification and uses here. Again, it is more for its nutritional value than flavour that I use it. The roots are edible too, and I hope to figure that part out soon. I have also pickled the seeds in the summer to make something resembling capers.

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Creeping charlie can be used instead of mallow. They are similar in appearance, easily confused and interchangeable as far as the leaves go. To identify this plant, this site will help.

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Stinging Nettles. I found two recipes calling for nettles this morning just going through my regular blog mail, including this one for pesto and this one for spring rolls. As long as you are careful to pick these with sturdy gloves to protect you and then immediately dry, grind or blanche them to remove all the sting, these are really very easy to pick. Dried for tea is a popular use for them, but I like them in place of spinach, cooked the same way, quickly and with little water. My nettle patch is just getting started, but it has spread considerably since last year, so I hope to be able to experiment liberally with it. I will also keep chopping at it as there seems to be one school of thought that once it flowers, the leaves become more toxic. Not sure if that is so, but better to be safe.

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My curry was made with chick peas, onion, a home-made curry mixture, carrots and freshly dug Jerusalem artichokes. I added the greens just before serving, giving them only enough time to wilt.