One of the wonderful things about living in Southern India was the food. Dishes are simply classified into veg or non-veg, and the choice of veg dishes was vast! Using this classification, veg excludes egg but does include dairy, so eating dairy free was still a challenge. I often grilled a poor waiter about the potential dairy content of a dish, only to find it laden with paneer or ghee. I had to become very un-British and be very specific with my food order!
Eating at friends houses was much simpler, once they knew what to avoid. And many of my Indian friends just loved to feed me, which was such a joy! They all had cooks who created these amazingly simple yet delicious dishes – 2 or 3 different ones for a light lunch! It was often a dhal, bean based curry and a dry vegetable dish (sauce, or gravy as they call it, is definitely more of a ‘Briti
sher’ requirement!). And I fell in love with stuffed parathas and freshly made chapattis; I still make heavy-handed attempts to make my own at home.
One of my favourite simple dry vegetable dishes is called poriyal. It’s basically a cooked vegetable – green bean, cabbage, carrot or a mixture of different ones – garnished with a tasty tempering and grated coconut. It’s ever so simple to make and is gorgeously tasty.
Cabbage has been a dominant feature of my veg box just recently; cabbage poriyal makes a tasty change to plain simply steamed cabbage or one of my many versions of coleslaw!
One of the wonderful cruciferous family, cabbage is amazingly good for you, particularly if it’s steamed rather than boiled to death as per school dinners! It’s packed full of phytonutrients that help protect against cancer, loads of fibre which will help reduce cholesterol levels and vitamin C, a natural antioxidant. On top of that, it has a whole variety of B vitamins, potassium and manganese. So it is definitely good to eat your greens!
Tempering is a method used in Indian cooking in which the whole spices are heated in oil (or ghee) until the aromas are released then poured on top of the dish prior to serving. Briefly cooking at a high heat releases the essential oils in the spices, and therefore their delicious flavour. If you want to be low or no fat, omit the oil and just heat in a non-stick pan – once the mustard seeds start popping, add the other spices and turn off the heat whilst still stirring. This stops the spices singeing but still releases their flavour. Give this a go and see what you think – you won’t find it in your local curry house, that’s for sure!
1 medium sized cabbage, finely chopped
2 tablespoons grated coconut, fresh or frozen (defrosted)
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon urad dahl (split lentils)
ginger chilli paste
1 red chilli, chopped
5 curry leaves
Steam the cabbage until just done. When it’s nearly ready, heat the oil in a pan and toast the mustard seeds. Once they start to splutter, add the grad dahl, turmeric and asafoetida. Once you can smell the gorgeous aromas, add the chilli and curry leaves, stir briefly then turn off the heat. Continue to stir for a moment then mix the tempering into the cabbage along with the coconut and ginger chilli paste (if you so desire). Season with a tiny sprinkle of salt if you need to, garnish with fresh coriander and serve alongside another veg dish such as a dahl and freshly cooked chapattis. Enjoy!