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Sunday, January 26, 2014

A childhood full of tomato chutney...

Hey my dear reader! How are you doing? You know what I think…I think tomatoes are made in heaven! I mean I know it is a fancy thing to say, and tomatoes grow in their trees, so heaven must be in the air…but once in awhile when I start to love something or someone dearly,  my mind fills up with beautiful imagination – a different world is created where the boundaries of reality and imagination exchange each other’s caps. Now the thing is I really like tomatoes…some of my favorite food items contains them in abundance, imagine a pizza without tomato sauce! Or a Chana Masala without them! Or Ghughni without the red ripe tomatoes in them? Or Bruschetta without tomatoes! Spaghetti without tomato sauce! Even Bloody Mary will be incomplete without them! Sounds dull right? Yes the world will be dull without tomatoes. As a kid I was a huge fan of tomato ketchup, I grew up licking it, pouring them on noodles until it was  a bit too much, pouring them on puffed rice, samosas, puff pastry and what not! I remember as  a little boy I used to have tomato ketchup just like that anytime  really and when the big bottle was about to finish, no more drops will fall off, I used to pour a little water inside the bottle followed by some shakes so the water will turn into a lighter tomato ketchup and have it! Imagine this! Oh and where I will be without my glorious tomato chutney! Without the chutneys a big part of my childhood will lose its flavor, as if the sweet chutneys added their sweetness and flavor into my childhood and made it a sweet comfortable place.

                                                                      So how can I not tell you about chutneys? Especially the ones I adore. Chutney is Indian in origin and as time passed by it spread its flavor across the seas, so much so that chutneys are now established part of British cuisine. However the chutneys in India are quite different than the ones you may find in Britain, especially in the use of malt vinegar used in British chutneys for long keeping, so it becomes more close to the idea of pickles. In India vinegar is not used in any chutney, also the fact that there are almost 2 categories of chutney-the sweet ones and the savory ones. Basically chutney is a relish made from fresh fruits or tomatoes or dried fruits like dates, raisins, kismis and figs, from sun-dried mango pulp cakes/aam-papd/aamsatto plus the spices used in them which vary along with the ingredients. Chutney is real comfort food; you can have it at the end of a meal which will only make the ending sweeter, isn't that nice! You can have it mixed with a little rice, with crisp fried papadums, with a crisp thin toast, even spread on a thin crust pizza base…and we have in hand a very delicious sweet pizza... yummy. You can even use it as the main ingredient of a dressing for a salad...Like I do when I make green mango chutney which I later use as a dressing on a simple salad and the salad bursts into a song as the chutney comes into play! Oh I think I am getting carried away. By getting carried away has its own rewards…we reach new shores where we have not been before.

                            I simply love sweet chutneys, they are my comfort deserts, bursting with flavors and they pamper me so much. I enjoy them on a wet monsoon day when everything around me is wet and I dig into the chutney with my boat of crisp fried papadums which is super yummy, or a summer evening with green mango chutney, some tamarind chutney, on winter days like this I am with date-aam-papad chutney, mix fruit chutney, some days I’m busy with deep red cherry chutneys… I am seducing my soul writing about chutneys so much...because I have such memories it is very easy for me to get myself there mentally as I write it. What I really hope that you, dear reader, if you have never tasted chutney before, now the time has come that you must and after that experience you will be a very happy person.

The fun part was in the elaborate way of eating chutney with my hands, more hands- very less spoon experience. I used to sit with a big bowl of tomato and green mango chutney with tiny spoon, I only used the spoon to lift a little amount of chutney into my palm , then lick it, dip my fingers into the chutney, lifting up chunks of tomato n mango out of the bowl, balancing them on my fingers tips on the way to my lips while some drops of the syrup of the chutney will fall all over me, and then next moment is chutney mediation moment, eyes closed, lips sealed with chutney…ummmm. It was such a fun where the experience of enjoying it became as fun as eating it. I used to eat it at times with my sister and my friend. Now it is still fun for chutneys stay chutneys all along the time and they make us happy just like yesterday.

I think chutneys are quiet romantic food, if someone has to make a sweet impression on someone or just to make someone happy, prepare a delicious chutney and you will see how far it goes. I hope it goes very far. Now there is a saying “ all is well that ends well”, now this I find to be true, wherever I go out to eat at a traditional place  or I cook up a whole traditional meal ending with chutney, it becomes the most satisfying moment to end with a good chutney. There can be blunders in the course of the meal where some items didn't make you happy, while some blew my mind away with their flavors, but as the sweet chutney makes it entry…u la la…i forget about all the blunders, superb dishes are forgotten, all I remember is the chutney.

Aright so now straightaway I will give you the recipe for the sweet tomato chutney. Oh! By the way did I tell you that the word chutney has its source from the word “chaat” which is a verb and which means to lick, so you must lick.

The recipe: You will need
4-5 medium red ripe tomatoes
1 tsp of five spice (cumin, fennel, nigella seeds, black mustard, fenugreek seeds-use half the amount of fenugreek compared to amount of each individual other spice, like 1 unit each of cumin, fennel, nigella, black mustard n ½ unit of fenugreek seed.)
¼ the block of aam-papd/aamsatto block cut into ½ inch cubes.
A handful of dates halved or quartered.
½ cup of sugar (you may need more or less depending on the tartness of the tomatoes or how sweet you want your chutney to be)
1 ½ cup of water
 Pinch of salt.
½ tsp of vegetable oil.
Around ½ tsp of tamarind paste or store brought tamarind chutney for a touch of sourness.

 Begin by removing the eye of the tomatoes from their top part , then  cut them into medium chunk along their length, say making 4-5 chunks out of one half of the tomatoes. Having done that place the sugar and the water together in a pan, then put the pan on low flame, stir in between until the sugar has completely dissolved , then increase the flame to medium and let it come to a simmer. While it comes to a simmer take another pan, on medium flame, heat the oil in the pan, then add the five spice in the pan, on low flame give it 30 seconds until the mustard seeds start to sputter, then add the tomatoes, toss them with the spices for a 2-3 minutes. Now transfer the whole batch of tomatoes along with the spices in the sugar syrup. Add the dates and half of the aam-papad cubes and then cover the pan and let it only simmer like that for about 15 minutes. Add a pinch of salt in between, check the sweetness, if you think it need more sugar according to your taste go for it. after about 15 /20 minutes it has reached the stage of being called a chutney, most of the water by now has reduced now, it is much more thicker now, the tomatoes are softer, part of the tomatoes has melted into the syrup. If you would want the chutney to be little thin stop at this part, if you want otherwise give it couple of minutes. Now add the tamarind pulp/chutney, mix well, and put the flame off. Add the rest half of the aam-papad, cover the pan and leave it for 5 minutes. Super simple isn't it! Now you can start licking. :) enjoy it with crisp friend papadums, crisp chips, crisp tortilla, crisp roti, on toasts, on graham crackers or just on their own. Bon appétitJ

Thursday, January 16, 2014

My Green Pea stuffed fried flat bread or should I say Karaisutir kachuri!

  Just 2 evenings ago coming back home I realized it was quiet late, there was hardly anyone in the street, it was chilled night, that’s the thing about winter nights, it wasn't even that late, 10.45! I was all alone, walking as fast as I thought I should, and then something happened! I reached home and I had company with me…

A kilo of fresh green peas! 

Yeah, sorry for shattering your ongoing imagination dear reader, but that’s the truth, well as it turns out there was this man near the train station, selling his last heap of green peas and  because it was so late in the night n he has to run back home also, he gave it to me as fast as he could. So there I was with a heap of fresh green peas looking at me and I just knew what to do with them. Fried flat bread stuffed with a paste of flavored green peas…yum-mm….

Next day when I got myself ready to cook again, I started to get the pods out of their green shells, as I kept doing that I could smell the slight sweetness they have. If you just eat them raw, which many people do, you will find them softly sweet, the fresh crunch and the flavor of the green peas. And this flat bread thing that I was gonna do I have eaten this before many times, it is a favorite in this time of the year; people usually have it as a snacks in the evenings and mornings with potatoes in light gravy. It is a traditional Bengali/Indian dish, perhaps eaten for many hundreds of years. In the region of Bengal they are known as “Karaisutir Kachuri” and in the Hindi speaking regions it will be “Hare Matar ki Kachori”-which is flat bread made from all purpose flour, stuffed with a paste of the peas, then rolled flat with a rolling pin and deep fried. It tastes delicious and it reflects the season so much. Green peas comes fresh in the months of the winter in India, so out of the many ways the peas makes its way into our palate, these kachuris  are one of the celebrated ways. Often they are eaten in get-together, in small and big celebrations like birthday parties, marriages.

I will tell you how it really feels special when you eat it, there is this slightly crunchy outside of the flat bread because it has been deep-fried and then as you bite you get to the green core of the bread, as it spreads in your mouth, you begin to taste the subtle sweetness of the peas, the flavor of the masalas (spices) and the peas still mingling in your mouth. Now does that not make you hungry! I am already! Writing in detail has its own effect on me.

These kachuris are best eaten with something light, perhaps lightly flavored potatoes in gravy. If you eat it with something intense, which you can, the flavor of the kachuri gets overpowered by that. So if you really want to enjoy it, choose something light, even beaten creamy yogurt seasoned with salt n sugar will be just fine.

I should tell you this sweet reader that “Kachori/Kachuri” are flat breads stuffed with something and then deep-fried, in this case stuffed with a paste of green peas.
A flat-bread without a stuffing and deep-fried will be called a “Puri/Luchi”

I do have childhood memories of eating this, I can still run those scenes and the whole experience runs in my head. It was my elder sister who is fond of cooking started cooking this in frequent winter evenings; I remember how the evening air in our home used to be heavy with the aroma. Every day after coming from college she would start cooking something special and delicious for the evening. Most of the evenings I spent were in the green fields with my friends playing cricket and football, and coming back home it was my time to smell the air and find out what is cooking in the kitchen and then dig in like a hungry panda. Some evenings I watched her cook, she used to knead the dough, cut the potatoes…it was those evenings that has memories of this kachuri stored in them and I can only access them when I remember it deeply or when I make the kachuris myself. It is yesterday once more. This is my own version.

The recipe: you will need
For the paste of peas                                                                
300 gms of green peas in their shell, then separated
1 tbsp of butter
1tsp of shahi jeera (long cumin) or cumin seeds
5 Methi ( fenugreek) seeds
1 clove
½  broken dry red chili
1 pinch of red chili powder
1/1 ½ tsp of Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp of sugar
2 pinches / ¼ tsp of Hing ( Asafoetida)
3 tbsp of water
1 tsp of soy bean oil/olive oil/sunflower oil.

For the dough
200 gms all purpose flour
1 tsp of flavorless vegetable oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp powdered sugar
½  tsp baking powder
About ½ cup water (lukewarm, though not necessary)

                               Let’s begin with the dough, sprinkle the salt, sugar , baking powder and oil in the flour and mix well, then make a well in the center, add some water and mix the flour from around the well, keep adding water a little part and mix well until all the dough comes together. Don’t add a lot of water in the beginning or at one time, add a little water and let the flour absorb it all, then if you think it needs more water, add a little more. A time will come when the dough will just come in one rough lump; at that point there is no need to add more water. Knead the dough for 4 mins, sprinkle some water with your fingers in between if you think it needs, after 4mins the dough will become smooth. Pour 1 tsp of oil on top the dough, spread it with your hands, cover the dough and leave it for half an hour.

While the dough rests we will prepare the peas. In a shallow frying pan place the butter and 3 tbsp of water, the pea pods together, place the pan on medium flame, cover it. After 2 mins you will see steam is coming out of the pan, reduce the flame to low and give it about 4/5 minutes.  After that take those off the pan and in the same pan add 1 tsp of oil, as the oil gets hot add 1 clove, shahi jeera/long cumin/cumin, methi seeds, and dry red chili. Give those 30 seconds in low flame and then add 2 pinches of hing powder, add the peas, mix well. Give them 1 minute, then add sugar, then salt to taste and a pinch red chili powder, lastly add the Worcestershire sauce in the pan, mix well. Take it off the pan and take out the broken dry red chili, then put into a small blender and make a paste of them while they are still hot. For the paste we need almost smooth texture, let the paste cool off.       

                                                          Now we have to put both of them together. Take the dough and roll it on a wooden board with your hands until it becomes elongated in long cylindrical shape. Now tear out small balls of dough from that which are around 1 ½ inch in diameter, flatten each ball lightly with your palm. Now when we are done using the whole dough making the balls, take out your rolling pin and start with one ball. On a wooden or smooth surface, rub the working surface lightly with oil, place one ball and with the 3 longest fingers in your palm together, press the ball lightly, and spread it lightly. Now with the rolling pin just roll the ball only slightly so that it just spreads just a bit, take it up in your hand, now take 1 tsp of the pea paste and spread it almost in the shape of a flat disc with your thumb in your other hand and place it in the middle of the flat ball dough. You will see the corners of the dough are clean while the pea paste sits in the middle, imagine a small circle of pea paste inside the big circle of the dough, now start pulling up n pinching the dough around the disc together while pressing down the pea paste as you do so, it will become natural as you start to do so. When you have pinched and collected all the dough around the pea paste together, hold that dough, pull it slightly and twist it a bit. Remember how they make the Chinese dumplings! Then place it on the wooden surface again, press it lightly with your fingers until it looks like a rough circle, keep pressing with your fingers lightly as u spread it a bit, work lightly always, the action of your hands is as important as the action of the rolling pin. Now with the rolling pin roll it lightly into a rough circle until it is about 4 inches in diameter. Prepare all the balls like this into flatten breads.


So now it is time to heat the oil for deep frying, so in a deep wok or in your deep fryer  heat any flavorless vegetable oil, I used soy bean oil around 4 cups. Heat the oil until it is quite hot, then reduce the flame to mid low, before you put the whole flatten bread into the oil, test it by dipping only a little part of the bread into the hot oil, it should begin to give off little bubbles and you will hear the sound of slight sizzle after 2/4 seconds. Now place 1 flat bread at a time carefully, give about 1 minute on both sides, as you place the flat bread in hot oil you will see it will drown first and the sides of the flat bread will start to bubble first, after about 10 seconds it will start to float up, that time lightly press with a slotted spoon in the middle of the flat bread and keep pressing lightly, you will see it will begin to puff up, after 1min, turn it over and again lightly press in the middle, give it 1minute,  what we need the flat bread gets light brown all over.  When it has got nicely light brown all over take it off carefully and then put a new one in the oil. Finish all the flat breads like this. We are doneJ
                                          So now just dig in, it is best eaten warm, enjoy it with a cooked potatoes in light gravy or with yogurt or just on their own when you can truly appreciate their flavor. Enjoy eating dear reader…Let me wish u Bon Appétit.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Bite of a Bruschetta!

Imagine a scene, you are making Bruschetta, arranging the tomato cubes onto the bread, drizzle the olive oil, friends have surrounded you, waiting in anticipation, some waiting with hunger, some with doubt-how can a simple tomato on bread be good! As your hands finish the seasoning you have begun to doubt yourself-what if they completely dislike it! Such an embarrassment! And then you announce it is ready! As everyone takes the initial bites, then  they take another, another…somewhere around the room you hear the word “mmm…mmmm” , but mostly there is not much sound , you are confused thinking maybe they don’t hate it. And then you get the real surprise…everybody just loves it, they just love it, no wonder  they go “mmm…” and gulp it without wasting much time, it totally pulls you into it. That is my dear reader is the magic of bruschetta!

When I made this Italian dish for the first time, it hit me so pleasantly that I fell in love with it just that moment, and not just me, my sister, my mother; my dad, my friends were soon to follow. While I was reading about it, I didn't have a doubt that it will be a nice dish, why? Because I know and believe in the power of tomatoes, garlic, rock salt and olive oil. What I did not know was that it will be much more than nice! It was super nice.

                                                                              By now you know that bruschetta is Italian in its origin, pronounced brusketta, it also comes in the category of antipasto, which refers to food served before the heavy meal, appetizer. Thankfully it has nothing to do with someone who hates pasta as some of us might think looking at “antipasto”.  Sometimes the Italians will simply char the country bread over charcoal, rub them with an open clove of garlic, drizzle their peppery olive oil and some rock salt and that is simply bruschetta, so all you need is good bread and some good olive oil. The one I am gonna tell you about is the tomato and coriander/cilantro bruschetta, which is my version,  though fresh basil is such a loving friend with tomato, so when you have fresh basil near your hands go for it, and there will be no stopping for you to fall in love with that.

                                                            Did I tell you that I have a story of this bruschetta making incident? Here it goes. One evening while I was at my friend’s home, we were animating or planning to animate something while she said she was hungry, so was I. And then another friend of hers drops by and co-incidentally she is also hungry! So there we are, 3 hungry young souls, one thinking “oh what she has in her home?” another thinking “gosh what do we eat now! I have almost nothing in my home” another thinking “mmm…what I am gonna cook now for them?” as it turns out my friend really didn't have anything substantial in her home to diminish our hunger, so I said well “lets buy some bread and I will make bruschetta!”  So we go out to buy bread, on the way my friend’s friend suggests we go to her home and cook there. So we end up in her kitchen. Now I have never been in her home before, and she lived with her parents and grandparents. So there I was cooking for a bunch of people I don’t know! Ah the pressure of expectations was on me heavily. Just to make it worse my friend has glorified the charm of bruschetta to her friend repeatedly to such an extent that her friend begun to say at a point of time that “oh I think this bruschetta is going to be disappointing! When someone praises it so much, building the expectations so high, mostly it fails to impress that much”

It didn't! I didn't! Bruschetta didn't. it gave them such a pleasant surprise and everyone was so happy after eating it, all I was hearing was laughter and praises after praises. Everybody was asking how did I make it? They were already coming up with little suggestions of their own which was so inspiring. Even the grandparents, whom I feared will not like it ended up loving it. Imagine my feelings reader! It was getting late in the night and I had to get back home, suddenly one of the grandparents suggests to me that since you have to travel for an hour to go home and if it is inconvenient  for you, I will ask you to stay here. I didn't stay because I had to go-while I was going out I hear the real story! My friends were surprisingly discussing among themselves which goes something like this “oh! So many of my male friends have come in my home, some repeatedly, they never asked anyone to stay! And he comes home for the 1st time and they are asking him to stay! How come, what happened to them?”

                                                Imagine my feelings again dear reader! All I was thinking how cooking can touch someone, how it can it make someone so happy, and thanks to my bruschetta for that lovely evening. It has entered into my list of simple golden cooking list forever. Now without wasting any more time I will give you the recipe straightaway, however you have to promise me that you will make it! Wont you? Bon appétit.

 The Recipe:  you will need
5 slices of brown bread/1 ciabatta loaf cut in 12 thin slices/ 1 baguette sliced thinly
4 red ripe plum tomatoes
5 small garlic cloves/3 medium garlic cloves, peeled, halved along the breadth, rubbed in a little salt.
2 tbsp of chopped or roughly torn coriander/cilantro leaves.
5 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp of pink rock salt (we need some pinches)
Freshly milled black pepper

                    Begin by preparing the tomatoes before toasting the bread, so boil some water and pour the boiling water over the tomatoes in a bowl so that they are submerged in it. Leave them for 1 minute, drain the water and then pour cold water over them, now slip off their skin, you will see they will come off easily. You can put little cross mark cuts on the top and the bottom of the tomatoes before pouring the water, in that way you can begin pulling the skin off from the cuts. Now chop them into small chunks, put them in a bowl, sprinkle freshly milled black pepper, 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, chopped coriander leaves, pinch of rock salt on them, mix them.

In a hot oven, I put it at 180 degrees Celsius; toast them until they become golden and crisp. If you have a ridged griddle, pre-heat it over a high heat for 10 minutes, when it is very hot, place the slices of bread on the diagonal and give them about 1 minute on each side until the same texture is achieved and they have charred strips across each side. You can toast them under a conventional grill. Now take a sharp knife, quickly make about 3 little slashes across each one (I skip this step if I am using slices of brown bread), rub the garlic on the hot crisp bread surface, you will see how the garlic vanishes as you rub it over the crispy surface of the bread. This is why it is important to get the toast the bread to crispy or you won’t be able to rub the garlic. Now drizzle 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil over each bread slice, sprinkle little rock salt over them, rub them lightly with your finger.

Now top the bread with the tomatoes, season quickly with freshly milled black pepper, some chopped coriander leaves, a pinch of rock salt over the tomatoes, few more drops of olive oil over the tomatoes and serve straight away. And you will just feel the magic as you bite into one.

Monday, January 6, 2014

My delicious adventure with Ratatouille

Last evening when the setting sun was melting in the horizon, I finished making my ratatouille; my kitchen was filled up with the sweet savory smell of the red bell peppers, the aubergine, and the garlic.  An hour before was when it all started, lazily soaking the sun I was going through one of my dear cookbooks “Recipes from a Provencal Kitchen” by Michael Biehn, and my mind got stuck smelling the ratatouille from the book. Well it was not a logical cause n effect situation as you might think because I did make the ratatouille after reading it, the story is, prior to that evening while I was at the market my eyes met a young slender courgette and 1 sensational red bell pepper and 1 friendly yellow bell pepper and my mind uttered “Ratatouille! Ratatouille!” So how come I just walk away from such a scene but not end up carrying them home! I did.

Do you remember the film called “Ratatouille” by the studio of Pixar? What a beautiful and brilliant film! I can almost imagine when they decided to make that film, the animation director Brad Bird n Jan Pinkava might have inspired all the artists by saying perhaps…”we are going to make a film on cooking and food, I know it is a huge challenge, because the film is going to be animated but then how come we make a great film without a great challenge! So friends we are just not going to make a film on the passion of cooking and food, our film will be the best film ever on cooking and food… it must inspire people to cook and give anyone courage who ever seeks it, so let’s start cooking. ..Bon Appétit!”  Now the reality of my imagined part might have been different but it is no further in the spirit of it. My dear reader I hope you have watched that film, if you haven’t, I insist you to watch this film, you will cherish it.

                                                                                                                                                              Remy, The rat, the very talented rat who cooked with so much love n passion and his hands were the hands of the human Linguini! Quite something! Now my hands are of my own and I am yet to figure out what kind of rat I am?

      While I was going through the recipe in the book I tried to imagine how it will look like and taste like which is not a very easy thing to do. The recipe in the book calls for 2 hours of slow cooking, so I could imagine it will be like some kind of stew of all those lovely veggies and in its texture, it will be mushy and intense in its flavor. The thing is with any recipe , there exists many variations of it e.g. in the film Ratatouille it is done in different way, where the round discs of the veggies are arranged in a concentric circle over a base of tomato sauce, then baked which is visually pleasing. The version however I opted for is the more classic way, homely way and it tastes delicious.

  I remember while I was reading it, rerunning it in my mind, there was this breeze outside, playing with the leaves of the trees. My mind was filled up with ideas that I incorporated in my version of ratatouille! So in my version, there is use of cloves, long cumin seeds (“shahi jeera” in India), dry red chili, fresh coriander leaves, coriander power, turmeric and red chili powder and pink rock salt. With all these additions the resulting ratatouille is amazingly fragrant and very yummy! The interesting thing is it tastes even better when cold or the next day, so I literally found myself licking the spoon even eating it from my refrigerator.

   Such a wonderful dish where all the vegetables have absorbed and shared the flavor of each other! intensifying in the process of doing so. There is use of little sugar which balances the slightly bitter flavor of the courgettte and the acidity from the tomatoes; it improves the taste of the dish to a great extent.  At the very end of cooking I added a little finely chopped garlic into it and no more cooking is needed after that, it is a little touch of garlic at the end. For someone who is a vegetarian, it will be a delightful dish for him and a meat lover would just crave for it with his meat. My mother who is very choosy about what she eats ended up loving this ratatouille, she had with it a soft white bread and I had it with white rice. Now talking of bread I think it will be so wonderful to use this as a spread  of a piece of toasted bread with a little drizzle of olive oil or melted butter, it will be sensational I tell you. I wonder why people don’t make ratatouille more often, I hear about it so less, it needs a revival and in my version it is so satisfying. Now  after making it I realize I have eaten  similar food in traditional Bengali cuisine, where they resemble this in terms of its texture completely, in a very general term in Indian cooking it will called “Mixed veg”, “Mixed Sabzi”, “Ghyat”- where different kinds of veggies come together and slow cooked for a long period of time.

   My dear reader  as you go through my words, there are many visuals created in your mind and they are now just waiting for you to get up, gather your veggies , chop them up, start the cooking and after  an hour it will be right there in front of you.  Bon AppétitJ


1 large aubergine                                                         ½ red bell pepper
1 courgette                                                                   ½ yellow bell pepper
1 ½ medium red onion                                               1 ½-2 very ripe medium tomatoes
4 medium cloves of garlic                                          1 bay leaf
1 small sprig of thyme                                                4 sprig of fresh coriander leaves
1 tsp shahi jeera                                                          2 cloves
Pinch of pink rock salt                                                ½ tsp of sugar
½ tsp of red chili powder                                           ¼ tsp of turmeric
½ tsp of coriander powder                                        ½ broken dry red chili

Olive oil or soya bean oil or mustard oil                                          salt to taste

The Recipe above

Begin by chopping the aubergine and the courgette into ½ inch cubes, no need to peel them, just tail them. For the bell peppers cut them in half, remove the stalks, de-seed, Core and cut into square pieces. Peel the ripe tomatoes by pouring over them boiling water and keeping them immersed in that water for 1 min, then plunge in cold water and peel them, remove and discard the seeds if you want to, I kept the seeds in and dice them in cubes. Peel the red onions, chop them up roughly. You will also need 3-4 of unpeeled garlic cloves. Chop the coriander leaves roughly.

In a cast iron pot or in a big pan, heat 3 tbsp of olive oil or soya bean oil, I used a mix of mustard oil and soya bean oil; I used mustard oil for its flavor. When the oil is moderately hot, reduce the flame and put the cloves, shahi-jeera, dry red chili (throw away the seeds) and bay leaf and give them 30 seconds, then add the onions, increase the flame to medium, make them go moderately brown, then add the red and yellow bell peppers, the aubergines and let them brown until they are a nice golden color. Now as you add the aubergine you will find they will absorb all the oil from the pot, therefore add 1tbsp of more oil. Add a pinch of sugar now as you are sautéing the aubergine and the bell peppers on a medium heat. Add the courgettes and allow them to brown a little, add another pinch of sugar, then add the tomatoes, the garlic cloves, thyme, and 1 tbsp of chopped coriander leaves. Give them about 5 mins on medium heat, add the rest of the sugar now, mix well, then add 2 pinches of rock salt, then the salt. Stir thoroughly and increase the heat to high until the vegetables reach simmering point, while I was doing it there wasn’t much juice left in the pan to reach simmering point, so I kept them on the move at times so they won’t catch the pan. Reduce the temperature, cover and cook gently for 5 minutes, meantime dissolve the red chili powder, turmeric, coriander powder in 2 tsp of water and add it to the pan, mix well and give it another 10- 15mintues, stir in between so that it doesn’t catch the pan.  After that time, remove the lid and continue cooking for 5-10minutes uncovered until all the excess liquid has evaporated. Stir occasionally while the mixture reduces, the flavor now has intensified, stir them in between so they don’t catch the pan, if you see brown bits in the pan, that means it is catching a little, there is nothing wrong, spring a tsp of water and the brown bits will melt away. Check for the salt to taste, adjust if necessary , just before putting the flame off, add a finely chopped garlic clove to the vegetables, put off the flame and cover it, give it 5mintues of standing time. Now you are ready to serve and serve it piping hot or it even tastes better when cold, I absolutely enjoy it eating cold.
This ratatouille is great in its flavor; the sweetness from the sugar and bell peppers, the heat from the chili powder, the flavor of the vegetables mixed together makes it an awesome dish to eat. If you are not comfortable with chili, you can reduce it according it to your taste. Dear reader I wish you happy eating.