And there I thought I was heading into a weekend of chicken roulade (with scalloped potatoes), something I’ve never made before. Instead, several days ago, whilst in one of my local stores, my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I noticed that they now have a small section of exotic vegetables. Seriously? They literally appeared overnight. Apart from the white fleshed sweet potatoes there’s cassava, dudhi (bottle gourd), kalera (bitter melon) and mooli, the cassava and the latter are probably the only ones I’ve seen before – and I haven’t tasted any of them. Who’s going to be a happy bunny over the next month, then?! So, as I haven’t got a clue how to cook the others I figured I’d start off with the white fleshed sweet potato. So, my usual thing to do is to head off to the legumes section, where I was hoping to pick up a can of organic chickpeas (garbanzo beans) – none left. Hah! So I opted for the organic black beans knowing they weren’t going to be right for this dish. They weren’t! What was very, very right was the combination of spices used. Hence the reason this idiot couldn’t wait until next week to try this out again with the chickpeas – OK, non organic chickpeas. What are you expecting, a tantrum? Not likely. With those new vegetables and the small International store nearby brimming with spices I’m beginning to like this…er, part of the country that’s very close to France – just not close enough!
Talking of which, am I really keeping the best to last? Perhaps. They’re now selling green finger chillies with…wait for it – a Scoville rating of 50,000!!! Whew, I’ve gone all light-headed. At last a chilli I can rely on. Green jalapeño’s (Scoville rating: only 2.500 – 10,000) deseeded and finely diced for my Mexican style guacamole (silent g, please!) that’s a must for summer and now the fingers to choose from for my faux curries. Believe me, they’re deliciously medium hot in this dish. Although, I am hoping the store hasn’t stopped stocking organic chickpeas for my hummus, which would be a minor disaster for summer months! What wasn’t was the use of the green cardamom pods in this. Normally with those I do split them slightly with the tip of a sharp knife. However, one of them didn’t need splitting so I thought I’d go with. And glad I did so as some of its seeds disappeared into the dish leaving mouthfuls of this with thee most amazing taste of cardamom. Couple that with freshly grated nutmeg and I was thrilled. Initially I’d thought this dish might need half a teaspoon of both cumin and mustard seeds – nope! Sometimes with certain combinations of ingredients they just happen to work, beautifully. Yesterday I thought, hold on, if there wasn’t a crunch to the cardamom seeds whilst eating this is it going to be possible to squish them after cooking them? Yes, with the back of a paring knife. That allows for better distribution of the spice as I wouldn’t be able to serve the first attempt to polite company. As I still haven’t found a suitable grinder as yet this is the way to go. As for subbing the orange fleshed sweet potato if white isn’t available I wouldn’t as it would be far too sweet for my palate. Organic salad potatoes, that I can buy at this time of year, just scrubbed and roughly chopped and cooked within the spiced stew would be a far better option. However, not nearly as nutritional!
Spiced Chickpeas and White Fleshed Sweet Potato, with cardamom, coriander, fresh ginger and nutmeg
For a milder dish start off with the lesser quantities:
- 400g (14.10 oz) x white fleshed sweet potato, cut into large chunks and either roasted or follow instructions below
- oil, I would prefer a coconut oil
- 200g (7.05 oz) x onions, cut in half, peeled, trimmed, slice each half to near the root end, turn and slice crossways
- 1/2 – 1 x green finger chilli, washed and cut in half
- 2 x green cardamom pods, split slightly with the tip of a sharp paring knife at one end only
- 1 x whole clove
- 1 x dried bay leaf, split
- 1 – 2 x large salad tomato(es), washed and cut in half (next time I’ll use a beefsteak tom)
- 3 x garlic cloves, peeled, trimmed and crushed
- 1 x 2.5cm or 1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled with a teaspoon and finely grated (I used a heaped tsp)
- 1 – 2 x teaspoons coriander seeds, dry toasted and freshly ground (I love the flavour of freshly ground coriander seeds so I used 2)
- 1 x 420g or 240g drained weight (14.81 or 8.46 oz drained) can chickpeas, thoroughly rinsed
- 1 – 2 x tablespoons tomato purée, if using less fresh toms
- up to 100ml (0.21 US pt lqd) x water + extra
- 5 – 10 cardamom seeds, after cooking retrieve one of the cardamom pods and grab some seeds, squish with the back of a paring knife (blade facing away from you) and break those up into very small pieces – add more to personal taste
- about 10 x very fine grates of whole nutmeg, more or less to personal taste
- seasoning, both freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
- Serve with a handful of salted cashews, peanuts or almonds
Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.
- The white fleshed sweet potato does need to be roasted. That can be done in the oven. However, as it’s milder here I’m roasting them on the hob or stovetop instead. Using a cast iron enamelled saucepan with lid they’re put on electric heat No 3 (out of 6) with the lid tightly shut. After that time the heat can be reduced to No 2, the potato pieces can be turned over and the lid kept slightly askew to allow steam to escape. Turn them over every 15 minutes until soft. Remove any pieces that are cooked, allowing extra time for larger pieces before removing those and allow enough time for them to cool before peeling. And do remove any dark blemishes as well.
- Put a heavy-based saucepan on heat No 3 for the onions. Add a spot of oil, the bay leaf, cardamom pods with the one clove and chilli. Initially clamp a lid on for the first 15 minutes of cooking. Take off the lid, reduce heat to No 2 and stir through occasionally as they can scorch. Keep cooking the onions until nicely golden, adding a splash or two of water to prevent them from drying out. When golden push the onions to the sides of pan and add the crushed garlic and freshly grated ginger to the pan. Take off heat as both can scorch.
- In the meantime, put a heavy-based saucepan on heat No 2, add a spot of oil and place the tomato pieces inside. Clamp on a lid for the first 15 minutes or so, removing it and turning the pieces over. Allow enough time for the toms to caramelise, add a splash or two of water if there is any sign of them drying out too much. Sometimes it’s best to reduce the heat and clamp on the lid again. When nicely soft and ready to be puréed add a splash of water, grab all of that sticky sediment and pour them into a fine wire metal sieve above the saucepan with the chickpeas. Rub through with a wooden spoon, grabbing all of the purée from underneath as well. Discard the pulp in the sieve.
- Before rubbing the tomatoes through put a large saucepan on heat No 3 or 4 with a little oil. Add the well rinsed chickpeas and allow enough time for them to get slightly golden. Reduce heat if there are any signs of scorching. When pale golden add the caramelised onion mixture to the pan along with the tomato purée and stir through.
- Put a small pan on heat No 1 and add the coriander seeds. Allow several minutes for their fragrance to develop before adding them to a grinder and grinding them to a powder. When done add to the chickpea mixture and stir through.
- Pour in the water to the chickpea mixture and stir through. In the meantime peel the roasted and cool enough to handle sweet potato pieces, removing any blemishes as well. For my lunch I simply cut those pieces into chunks. When done add those to the chickpea mixture.
- When the chickpea mixture has had time to infuse is when this needs to be tasted for any extra needed tomato purée from a can or tube. If so add that and stir through. If mixture is too dry add a little more water and stir that through as well.
- As for the cardamom seeds, retrieve one of the pods, split that open and using the back of a paring knife, with the blade away from you, press hard on each seed and squish until absolutely flattened. I used about 5 initially, adding more after allowing several minutes for the cardamom seeds to infuse. Grate over the finely grated nutmeg, taste again for any needed extra, adding more of the flattened cardamom seeds and nutmeg to get those flavours to personal taste.
- Remove and discard the clove, bay leaf pieces and cardamom pods before serving.
- I really liked this with a handful of salted cashews.
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