Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spicy Sautéed Cabbage

I have found the absolute best way to prepare cabbage. Since learning of this recipe, I have already prepared it three times in the last two weeks. I recently mentioned that I was looking to expand my repertoire of Indian recipes - this is a delicious and super quick one for my file. This recipe is adapted from Anjum Anand's peppery hot cabbage salad given at BBC's Food website.

The original recipe calls for asafoetida, also known as hing. When this ingredient is cooked in oil it smells and tastes of garlic and onions. It is used by people that avoid members of the onion family because these ingredients excite the nervous system. I bought a bottle when I was last at my Indian grocer. On the ride home, I noticed a death smell coming from the backseat of my car.

After arriving home, I carried the groceries inside to begin unpacking them. I quickly figured out that the stench was coming from the seemingly innocent, white bottle of asafoetida. The smell had already started permeating my kitchen. I stopped what I was doing and headed downstairs to do a little Googling. I wanted to make sure asafoetida was safe to consume and/or breathe into my lungs. I learned that asafoetida has a number of health benefits which traditionally has made me want to incorporate an ingredient into my recipes as much as possible.

Did I mention that asafoetida is extremely pungent? I chose to stick with garlic and onions in my version. My one bottle is secured in a freezer bag inside a tightly sealed glass jar at the back of the top shelf of my pantry rack. I might use it one day but I will have to strike up the desire to release the smell of dead beast into my house first.

The original recipe called for mustard oil as well. I bought a bottle but found "for external use only" printed on the side. Through a bit more research I found that mustard oil has a rather controversial history regarding human consumption. I used my standard, safflower oil, in my preparation, but canola oil would work as well. Olive oil would introduce a very uncommon flavor in Indian cookery, so unflavored oils are best.

Use 2-4 chilies according to your preference for spicy dishes. I have split them lengthwise, but not in half. The chilies stay intact this way while some heat is released into the dish without it being too overpowering. Remove them when the cabbage has finished cooking.

1 tablespoon safflower oil
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon nigella/kalonji seeds
1 tablespoon chopped peanuts
4 small green chilies, leave stems intact and split lengthwise
10 fresh curry leaves, torn
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 head (450g) green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced

In a large non-stick wok, heat oil over medium-high. Add the seeds, peanuts, chilies and curry leaves to the wok; allow to sizzle for 30 seconds. Add the garlic, onion and salt; sauté for 2 minutes.

Add the cabbage. Use tongs to stir and coat the cabbage with the other ingredients. Sauté for 5-7 minutes allowing the cabbage to cook down until tender.

Serves 4

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