Mirch Ka Salan With Peshawari Naan

Before I get to today’s recipe, Mirch ka Salan with Peshawari Naan, here’s a small rant.

I am not a Bolly-watcher, by any means. I am not hungry for the latest news on whichever middle-aged “hero” and painfully young “heroine” is dominating India’s movie industry. I couldn’t care less who’s going out with whom. And I don’t remember the last time I watched a Hindi movie I could half like (trust me, I’ve tried for nostalgia’s sake).

But our times make it hard to dodge information, even when it is information we’d rather not have. Recently, I started to see a common thread in messages posted on Facebook and on some Indian news websites: apparently, a number of top Indian actresses are gaining weight. And not losing it, or at least not losing it as fast as their fans want them to.

Aishwarya Rai, Lara Dutta, Vidya Balan, Kareena Kapoor… the reports listed the who’s who of India’s filmdom. And as much as I didn’t want to, I had to take notice: after all,  weight is a loaded topic in our culture and one that always evokes a visceral reaction. What really struck me was how vicious some of these reports were in a country where a little flab around the middle was once considered a welcome sign of prosperity. In fact, all the way through the 1990s and early 2000s, actresses like Sridevi, Rekha, Juhi Chawla and Madhuri Dixit made curves fashionable and beautiful.

I understand the value of fitness and I am not championing obesity. It is true that carrying too much weight can be an indicator of health problems as well as lead to a whole slew of diseases. And it is also true that countries like India are getting fatter faster than ever before and rates of diabetes and heart disease are rising correspondingly.

But none of these actresses who are being reviled for gaining weight are obese– not even remotely. They look like most women do and they still look perfectly beautiful. A couple of them gained a few pounds during pregnancies. One said she was in a happy relationship. It didn’t sound like they were at all obsessing with their weight; on the contrary, they sounded blissfully happy. It was just everyone else that was outraged.

Now I am not going to go where others would after this rant and beat up on the media because, let’s face it, the media today has been reduced to a barometer of what’s trending on Google and Yahoo news. And to a large extent these actresses and the industry they work in are to blame for setting these impossible standards in the first place that they themselves are now not living up to.

Even so, I think it’s refreshing to see that these actresses are, for a change, not obsessing with their weight — even if it is a temporary phase– because they are riding another high: the high of life. It offers us a welcome respite from that impossible obsession with impossibly thin, and reminds us that there’s something more important in life than being a size zero:

Being completely, and perfectly, and incandescently happy.

***

Now for the recipe that’s going to make you decadently happy without adding inches to your waistline: my Mirch ka Salan with a whole-wheat Peshawari Naan.

Mirch ka Salan is a popular dish from the city of Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, a south Indian state known for its spicy foods. The name translates approximately to a sauce of chilies, and if that makes your jaw drop and your mouth run dry with fear, pour yourself a glass of water and hear me out. 

The sauce here is made of “sweet ingredients” like coconuts and peanuts and sesame seeds and they add a rich nuttiness that becomes a perfect base for the chilies. In India, the chillies used are long, skinny, hot green peppers, but because neither you (I presume) nor I could deal with that much excitement, I used a mix of green bell peppers and poblano peppers which both add great flavor without adding incredible heat. If you are braver, feel free to substitute the poblanos with a spicier chili like jalapeno or even serrano.

To scoop up the spicy-sweet sauce I made a whole-wheat Peshawari Naan. A Peshawari Naan is a puffy flatbread that traces its origins into Pakistan and north India. It’s a little more special than your average, everyday naan because it is studded with nuts and dry fruits, making it the perfect complement to the spicy saalan.

I made the naan half whole-wheat– I have an all-whole-wheat naan on this blog that I posted a while back, but I find that using part whole-wheat and part white flour gives a more authentic texture and look while still being healthy.

Here’s the recipe. Enjoy, all!

Mirch ka Salan

Ingredients:

1 very large green bell pepper or 2 small ones, deseeded and cut into long strips

2 large poblano peppers (substitute with a hotter chili if you want to), deseeded and cut into long strips

1 large onion, sliced thinly

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/4 cup peanuts

2 tbsp sesame seeds

4 green cardamom pods

4 cloves

1 1-inch piece of cinnamon

1 tbsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp red chili powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

10-12 curry leaves

1/2-inch ball of tamarind

1 1/2 tsp canola or other vegetable oil

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt to taste

1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves

Heat 1/2 tsp of oil in a saucepan and add the peanuts and sesame seeds. Toast them until they just begin to change color, remove to a plate to cool, and add the coconut to the saucepan.

Roast the coconut until it turns very lightly golden. Coconut burns very fast, so don’t walk away from it and stir constantly.

Place the sesame seeds, peanuts and coconut in a blender along with the tamarind (make sure there are no seeds) and process with some water to a very smooth paste.

Heat the remaining oil. Add the cardamom, cloves and cinnamon and saute until they just start to brown and become fragrant. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and when they sputter, add the onions.

Saute the onions for a few minutes or until they start to brown at the edges. Then add the sliced peppers and stir fry until they start to brown slightly.

Add the turmeric, chili powder, coriander powder and cumin powder and stir until they are evenly distributed and roasted, about a minute or two.

Add the peanut-coconut-sesame paste and mix it well. Add some water if the sauce is too thick. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the peppers are tender but still have a bite to them.

Stir in the lemon juice, garnish with coriander, and serve hot with the Peshawari Naan (recipe follows).

Peshawari Naan

(Makes four naans)

Ingredients:

1 cups whole-wheat flour

1 cup bread flour

1 tsp salt

1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

1 tbsp vegetable oil

3/4 cup soymilk or other nondairy milk

Water as needed

1/2 cup finely chopped dry fruits and nuts (I used apricots and cashews but you could use pistachios, walnuts, raisins, figs…take your pick.)

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a regular bowl, place all the ingredients and knead, using as much water as needed to make a soft, smooth dough.

Continue kneading for about 10 minutes on low speed if using a stand mixer, or a little longer if doing this by hand.

Place in an oiled bowl, turning once to make sure the dough is coated in oil. Cover with a cloth napkin and set aside in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours. (In winter, I leave the bowl in my unheated oven with the light on)

After 2 hours, punch down the dough and divide into four pieces. Let the dough rest for another 10 minutes, covered.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees and place a baking stone or unglazed tiles on the middle rack.

Place a bowl of water next to you, and place a ball of dough on a lightly floured surface.

Dip your fingers into the bowl of water and press into the dough with all fingers, making little bumps and indentations on the surface even as you stretch and shape it. I shaped my naans into rounds this time, but you could shape them into the more traditional teardrops or just about any shape you wish.

Sprinkle the surface with a fourth of your nuts and dry fruits and press them in so they sink into the surface.

Carefully, taking care not to burn your fingers, place the naan directly on the hot baking stone. Place as many of the naans as you can on the stone, taking care that you leave at least an inch of space between them. They should not overlap.

Bake about 6-7 minutes or until the naans are all puffy and the top and bottom are a pale gold-brown.

Remove with tongs and serve hot.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Andhra-Style Stuffed Eggplants, And Tips For Traveling Vegan In India

India is point zero for vegetarianism. More than 30 percent of the country’s billion-plus residents shun meat — in fact most people in this group have never, ever eaten a creature that once breathed– and this is perhaps the only place on earth where you can find as many exclusively vegetarian restaurants as non-vegetarian ones.

Which might make it appear odd that I often get this SOS from vegan readers: I’m going to India and I am worried I won’t be able to eat anything. Do you have any tips?

To another vegan, that question makes perfect sense. Because vegetarian India is also incorrigibly milk-happy.

India’s religion-based circle of compassion fails to embrace one of the most horribly abused animals in the food industry: the cow. And most Indians unfortunately turn a blind eye to the fact that the gentle animal they tout as holy gets pumped with hormones, is tethered all day in garbage-filled barns with hundreds of other cows, is denied veterinary care even when she is sick enough to be dying, and is given filthy water to drink. Most cows and buffaloes used for milk stand in their own feces all day and workers trying to manipulate them hit them with sticks and pull them by their tails. All this so people can have their fill of ghee (clarified butter), butter, yogurt, paneer and cheese, all significant components of the average Indian diet.

Vegans visiting India– and a growing number of vegans in India– very understandably want no part of this. But there’s no reason to despair either: while it is true that dairy is heavily consumed in India, the belief that it is impossible to eat vegan in the country is not just far-fetched, it’s a complete myth.

Here are some tips on traveling vegan in India:

–Eat more at South Indian restaurants like Udupi eateries, those incredibly delicious and low-priced outlets that you can find anywhere in the country these days and where you can always find vegan food. Steer away from sweets (although some like the gorgeous jalebi can be vegan) and from foods that specifically say they contain yogurt (and a waiter can guide you on this). At North Indian restaurants, stay away from foods with words like “dahi” and “paneer” in them. If you eat at Indian restaurants in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world, you probably already have a good idea of how that works.

– Explain what you want– or don’t want– to the waiter or, if possible, to the chef. Ask for an explanation of what is in a dish if you can’t tell by the name. And be patient if people don’t get you rightaway. Indians won’t quiz you on why you don’t eat meat because many of us don’t, and they won’t pester you with arguments about how meat tastes better because they know, thanks to their rich vegetarian tradition, that it doesn’t. But they will absolutely, positively not understand why you won’t eat milk products, which are the considered the food of the gods and the wealthy.

–Eating at cheap restaurants may be a bonus because they will not typically use ghee or other milk products which are expensive. But you might be able to make yourself better understood to the waiter and get your specific preferences more easily at an upscale restaurant that caters to tourists. Also, here’s one thing you don’t have to worry about: Indian vegetarian dishes almost never contain meat stocks– again thanks to the large vegetarian community here.

– Research eating choices at the places you are visiting. India may be known for its lacto-vegetarianism, but it is also home to a fast-growing community of compassionate vegans. Indian cities like BombayBangalore and Delhi have large and friendly vegan communities eager to help, and you can and should reach out to them for advice. Vegan India! has an extensive resources page, and Happy Cow has helpful lists of restaurants that are vegan-friendly.

–Learn local words for milk products and meat so you can make yourself better understood. India is gloriously multilingual and while you might not be able to learn how to say “curd” in 22 languages, you can get by in most places with a smattering of Hindi and English. Here are some Hindi and Tamil translations for words you might find useful:

Vegetarian: Shakhahari (Hindi), Saivam (Tamil)

Non-vegetarian: Maasahari (Hindi), Asaivam (Tamil)

Milk: Doodh (Hindi), Paal (Tamil)

Ghee: Ghee (Hindi), Nei (Tamil)

Yogurt: Dahi (Hindi), Thayir (Tamil)

Cream: Malai (Hindi). Not sure what the Tamil word for this is, but if anyone knows, please volunteer.

– When buying foods off the shelves, read the labels. Many Indian foods now do list ingredients, and they usually do so in English. If you plan to do your own cooking, tofu is widely available and so are soymilk and margarine/butter substitutes. You won’t easily find meat substitutes other than TVP, usually called soya granules or chunks, but that’s only more opportunity for eating gloriously healthy grains, legumes, veggies and fruits (and trust me, you’ll meet many you’ve never met before).

–Lastly, and I can’t stress this enough, lighten up. Don’t make a fuss if you happen to be served a sweet that contains regular sugar (often refined with bone char), or kick up a ruckus if you find your dal smells vaguely of ghee even after you specifically told the waiter you didn’t want any. Part of being a conscious vegan is educating people about cruelty-free choices without making your lifestyle look ridiculously rigid and unattainable. Just move on and better luck next time.

And whatever you do, don’t focus so microscopically on the food– as wonderful as that is– that you miss out on the vibrant, high-fidelity and technicolor experience that is India.
***
Today’s recipe is one I snagged from everyone’s favorite Indian chef on YouTube, the VahChef. I had a bag of cute, tender, tiny eggplants that I bought at the Indian grocery store over the weekend and I wanted to cook them up into something special. I usually use these to make Bharli Vangi, a super-delicious, sweet-spicy Maharashtrian dish where you stuff the eggplants with a mixture of coconut, spices, jaggery (an unrefined Indian sugar) and peanuts and then cook them to melt-in-the-mouth tenderness on a low flame.

The VahChef’s also stuffs the eggplants but his recipe is from the state of Andhra Pradesh in South India and uses a different kind of stuffing that’s spicier.

The recipe was really simple to follow and I made just one big change and a small one: instead of deep-frying the eggplants in the beginning, as he does, I oven-roasted them. And I cut down drastically on the number of chillies.

Here’s the recipe. Enjoy the weekend, all!

Stuffed Baby Eggplants, Andhra-Style (Gutti Vankai)

Ingredients:

8-9 small eggplants (I used the more commonly found purple ones, but if you’d rather use white or the green Thai ones feel free to). Make two slits in the eggplant lengthwise starting at the tip opposite the stem (not all the way through) so you have something that resembles a flower bud with four petals. Place on a baking sheet coated with a spray of oil, spritz with another spray of oil on top of the eggplants, and bake in a 400-degree oven for 8 minutes until the eggplants begin to just tenderize. Remove from the oven and cool.

For the masala:

Heat 1 tsp oil in a skillet, then add one by one, roasting each for a minute over a medium flame:

2 dry red chillies

2 tbsp chana dal (bengal gram dal)

2 tbsp udad dal (black gram dal)

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

10 curry leaves

4 cloves of garlic

Cool the masala ingredients, then powder them coarsely in a blender or a spice grinder.

Place the masala on a dish and add enough water so that the spices come together in a ball.

Divide into 8 or 9 pieces (going by the number of eggplants you have). Stuff each spice ball into an eggplant, taking care not to break off any of the petals.

Heat 1 tsp oil in a skillet.

Add the eggplants one by one (don’t overlap) and cook over a medium-low flame, turning over the eggplant four times, once every five minutes, to ensure it is thoroughly cooked on all sides. The eggplant should be fork-tender (meaning a fork should sink into it without resistance).

Serve hot with rice or chapatis and some dal.

**
Snow Dogs

As aggravating as snow can sometimes be to jaded old me, Opie and Lucy never fail to show me just how delightful they think it is:

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

African Sweet Potato-Peanut Stew

African Sweet Potato-Peanut Stew
I made this African sweet potato-peanut stew for dinner last night because I was craving something easy, nutritious and exotic.
The stew makes a complete meal, with some brown rice. And it is, honestly, to die for. Creamy, spicy and sweet all at once, it is chock-full with the goodness of chickpeas and all sorts of brilliant-red veggies.I tweaked the original a bit by adding a melange of mint, sage and marjoram instead of the coriander, and by skipping the celery. I also added less water for a heftier stew– just two cups instead of the four in the original recipe. Next time I might also try adding some whole peanuts to the stew– along with the onions and sweet potatoes– for more great texture.

Enjoy, all!
African Peanut-Sweet Potato Stew

 

African Sweet Potato-Peanut Stew
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Cuisine: African
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 tbsp low-salt soy sauce
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 small carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup dried garbanzo beans or chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked until tender. Alternatively use 1 can of chickpeas
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh herbs. I used mint, sage and marjoram, but you can go with cilantro or even basil would be great.
  • 3 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 tsp curry powder (I used some Rajma masala I had on hand, but any curry powder would do for this)
Instructions
  1. Heat the soy sauce and water in a large saucepan.
  2. Add the onions and sweet potatoes, mix well, and cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions are softened.
  3. Add the carrots and bell pepper and cook another three to five minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes, water, beans with any liquid, herbs, peanut butter and curry powder.
  5. Stir to mix, bring it to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat for another 10 minutes or until the vegetables are fork-tender.
  6. Sprinkle more fresh herbs on top, and serve hot over brown rice.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Moong Dal Dosa, and Mayberry

Moong Dal DosaMount Airy is a gorgeous, sleepy town nestled in the valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains right near where North Carolina meets Virginia.

Once you’ve driven into town past the inevitable neon-lit fast-food restaurants, gas stations and strip malls, the landscape becomes kinder and gentler. The houses are small, the yards neat, and the streets rolling up and down show off breathtaking views in the distance.

By 5 pm all the shops on Main Street are closed. The only activity and sounds come from a handful of tourists taking pictures of the storefronts of Barney’s Cafe, Opie’s Candy Shop and Floyd’s Barber Shop. Outside the cafe– a diner straight from the ’60s with the picture of an iconic, bumbling sheriff’s deputy displayed large in the window–a sign announces classic southern dishes like chicken and dumplings, sweet potato pie and all sorts of desserts for $2 apiece. A little further down the street are signs telling you where you can find Wally’s gas station and the old courthouse.
Mount Airy, NCIf Mount Airy is beginning to sound a lot like Mayberry, the fictional town popularized in the Andy Griffith Show, a television sitcom way back from the ’60s, you’re right on the money. Mount Airy is the place where Andy Griffith was born, and the town that he is supposed to have based Mayberry on. Mount Airy, in turn, seems to be returning the compliment wholeheartedly by modeling itself on its fictional counterpart.

On our road trip this past week, we dropped in on Mount Airy en route from Charlotte, North Carolina, to say a quick “Hey.”
Mt. Airy, NCDesi and I started watching reruns of this series when we moved to the United States in the 90s. It was easy to sink into the snug comfort of a black-and-white world where everyone knows one another, is nice to each other, helps each other out, and where no problem cannot be solved in 30 minutes. (And now you know why we named one of our dogs, Opie, after the character a very young and adorable Ron Howard played in the series :).)

It was late by Mayberry standards when we arrived and all the Mayberry exhibits were closed, but we had a memorable visit nonetheless. Most of the people we met greeted us with a smile, quite unlike us Washingtonians who usually glare at tourists clogging our Metro trains at rush hour. We also stopped by the Andy Griffith Playhouse which was closed, but newspaper clips displayed outside announced the premiere of Griffith’s latest movie and recent pictures of the actor visiting his hometown.
Mt. Airy, NCSmall towns like Mount Airy are often the highlight of our road trips. Often, wrung out by the dreary highways we rely on to take us from one point to another, we stop in for a meal and sometimes for the night in those tiny towns where you can savor a uniquely different flavor of American life.

Sometimes we choose towns because we were charmed by how they looked or sounded on television or in a movie, even one we didn’t like, simply because that’s how we find out about it. After regretting the time we spent watching Runaway Bride, we still made a stop in Berlin, Maryland, the lovely town not far from Ocean City where it was shot. We’ve visited Burkittsville, also in Maryland, the wooded, one-road town where the cult classic Blair Witch Project was made. And on a trip through New York state we couldn’t resist dropping into Jamestown and Celeron, the neighboring towns where another one of our favorite yesteryear sitcom stars, Lucille Ball, was born and raised. (And yes, Lucy, our other dog, was named after her. You can also guess now who Freddie gets his name from!)

***
Now on to the recipe I wanted to share with you today, my Moong Dal Dosa, which is both quick and incredibly nutritious.

I love dosas but I don’t make them as often as I’d like to simply because all that overnight soaking is a little bit much for someone as unorganized as I am. This dosa requires just a two-hour soak which even I can make time for. And the result is super-delicious and nutritious: since the dosa has both lentils and rice in it, it makes a complete protein. How great is that?

Here’s the recipe. Enjoy, everyone!
Moong Dal Dosa

Moong Dal Dosa
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 cup rice (you can use all kinds of fancy rices available specifically for dosas here, but I just use any medium-grain rice I have on hand)
  • ¼ cup moong dal
  • ½ cup coriander leaves, chopped
  • 2 green chillies, chopped
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Cover the rice and moong dal with water and allow them to soak for at least 2 hours.
  2. Drain the water and put the rice and dal in a blender along with the coriander leaves, chillies and salt. Add just enough water to keep the blades running and to get a batter that's thick enough the coat the back of a ladle, but runnier than a pancake batter (unless you want really thick dosas which I personally don't like)
  3. Heat a well-seasoned cast-iron or non-stick griddle. Once it's hot, scoop up about ¼ cup of batter in a ladle with a rounded bottom.
  4. Pour the batter into the center of the griddle. Using the bottom of the ladle, quickly spread the batter outward in quick, concentric circles until you have a dosa about 7 inches in diameter.
  5. Drizzle a few drops of oil around the edges of the dosa which helps crisp them up.
  6. When the bottom is golden-brown, flip the dosa and cook the other side around 30 seconds.
  7. Serve hot with
  8. chutney
  9. or any spicy, gravied vegetable dish.
  10. Tip: If you dosas don't spread and the batter clumps together instead, your griddle could be too hot. Turn off the heat or sprinkle some water on the surface of the griddle to cool it down and try again.

***

I’ll leave you with a picture of JoJo, an adventurous and gorgeous little cat who lived at a hotel we stopped at for a night in South Boston, Virginia. JoJo (that’s what Desi named him), who couldn’t get enough head rubs from us, refused to stay inside our room with the door closed but sat patiently right outside most of the night.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

 

A Moroccan Feast: Vegetable Tagine, Black-Eyed Peas Stew and Everyday Bread




I’m late catching the plane to Morocco for this month’s edition of It’s A Vegan World, started right here on Holy Cow! and hosted this month by the gracious Lavi of Home Cook’s Recipes. So I thought I’d make up for it by cooking up a feast.

It is not really a feast but more like every day Moroccan food. Still, it tasted so good to me, I couldn’t call it anything else.

There is a vegetable tagine here with tons of colorfully delicious vegetables. A stew made with one of my favorite beans– the rakish black-eyed peas. And a simple, utterly delicious and fluffy bread that was, honestly, the easiest bread I’ve ever baked (and I’ve baked a few), requiring just one single one-hour rise.

The natural flavors of these wholesome foods are infused and highlighted by the fragrance of herbs and some very simple spices, like cumin, paprika and anise.

All three recipes are loosely based on ones I found in the World Vegetarian which, as I’ve often said before, is one of my favorite cookbooks. Loosely because I changed many ingredients and some of the procedure based on what I had in my pantry and the time I had to cook.

Since I’m posting three recipes here, I’ll keep the chatter short. But this I’ll say– it was one of the most flavorful meals I’ve ever had.

Thanks, Lavi, for highlighting a country with a cusine so rich and wonderful. Enjoy, everyone!

Moroccan bread

Mix in a large bowl:

2 tsp active dry yeast

1 tsp sugar

1/4 cup warm water

Let stand for the yeast to start “flowering” and bubbling, about five minutes.

Now add to the bowl:

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I always use unbleached)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp anise seeds

2 tsp fennel seeds

Mix by hand or with the dough hook of a stand mixer set to low, trickling in warm water (about 1 cup) until combined.

On low speed, or by hand, knead the dough for another 8 minutes, until it is soft and smooth.

Prepare a baking sheet by greasing it lightly and sprinkling some corn meal on it.

Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly greased surface (I did this on my kitchen platform)

Pat out the dough to a disc about 1/2-inch thick.

Pick up carefully with both hands and transfer to the baking sheet.

With a very sharp knife, score a star or sunburst pattern in the center of the loaf.

Cover the loaf with a kitchen towel and allow it to rise in a warm place until doubled in height, around 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Now pierce the loaf on both sides with a fork, and place in the hot oven.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until the top has browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Cool on a rack. Cut into wedges and serve.

Vegetable Tagine

Slice thinly into rings or discs:

2 red bell peppers (capsicum), seeded

2 medium potatoes, sliced

4 carrots, peeled

1 zucchini

Set aside and prepare:

2 cups shredded green cabbage

1 bunch scallions, ends trimmed and green and white parts chopped

You will also need:

2 tbsp minced garlic

1 tsp paprika

2 tsp cumin, ground

1 tsp black pepper, ground

Salt to taste

1/4 cup coriander or cilantro leaves, minced

2-3 sage leaves, minced

7-8 shoots of garlic greens (optional)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup water

(A tagine, an unglazed clay pot, is typically used to make this dish, but I just used a cast-iron pan with an oven-safe lid. Be careful lifting it in and out of an oven because it tends to be heavy.)

In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, layer the vegetables in the following order, sprinkling equal portions of the cumin powder, paprika, pepper, salt, garlic, and the herbs over each layer:

Zucchini and carrots

Potatoes

Spring Onions

Cabbage

Red Peppers

Once you have sprinkled all the remaining herbs, spices and salt over the red peppers, mix together the olive oil and water.

Pour evenly over the vegetables.

Cover with a tight-fitting lid or with tin foil.

Place in a 350-degree preheated oven. Bake 60-70 minutes. In the last 20 minutes of baking, use a bulb baster or a spoon to scoop up liquid from the bottom of the pan and pour it over the veggies.

Serve hot.

Black-eyed Peas Stew

1 1/2 cups black-eyed peas, soaked and cooked until tender.

1 hot red dried chili

2 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried thyme

3 bay leaves

1 fresh sage leaf, chopped

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp garlic paste, or finely minced garlic (about 5-6 cloves)

Salt to taste

Heat the olive oil in a skillet

Add the chili, and when it turns a few shades darker, in a few seconds, add the garlic and stir for a minute.

Now add the black-eyed peas with any cooking water that’s left, all herbs, and salt.

Add water if needed, so the stew is fluid and not too thick.

Simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Specks of oil will rise to the top of the stew.

Check for salt and turn off heat.

Serve hot with the bread and vegetable tagine.

For another great Moroccan stew, try out Holy Cow’s Chickpea Stew.

***
Michael Jackson’s dead, and the world is devoid of music, at least for a day.

Michael was one of my first connections with my adopted country, America, when I was a little girl growing up in Bombay. I would listen to his music all the time, any time, even when I sometimes couldn’t discern the lyrics sung in his quicksilver voice.

Later, it was a dream come true when I was among the reporters at the Telegraph assigned to cover the Michael Jackson visit and concert in Bombay in the mid-90s. While I hated covering celebrity stories, this was a huge exception.

My colleague Anita and I spent hours waiting to catch a glimpse of him in the lobby of the Oberoi Hotel when he arrived. With us in the crowded lobby — so crowded you could barely move an elbow– were thousands of guests from around the world, each one eager as a child. When we did see Michael, stepping out of the elevator, a shout of excitement went up in the lobby such as I’ve never heard before or since.

When his car was en route from the airport to the hotel, people lined the streets. People of all ages, people you’d think wouldn’t be interested in his music, so far from America. At one point, he got out of his car and danced with the slum kids of Bombay whose plight finally resonated in Hollywood last year with Slumdog Millionaire. It was a thrill not just for the kids, shouting “Michael, Michael,” but for every resident in the city.

At the concert, people passed out, which is apparently something that happened all the time at Michael Jackson concerts. A young woman who was plucked from the audience and called on stage became a tiny celebrity herself for days afterward, with every newspaper clamoring to interview her.

Years later, I saw Michael sing again, this time in DC, as part of the United We Stand concert to remember the September 11 victims. Many other musical stars had sung at the concert that evening, but no one else commanded the applause, awe and attention that Michael Jackson did.

What a loss this is for the whole world. We’ll always remember you, Michael.

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