15 December 2008

Sunday was good!

My husband's friend Rehmah is having him over for dinner, and wanted suggestions on what to feed the boy.

His favourite is aubergine, done in any way, shape, or form. The easiest form I'd done is with some oil, garlic, onions, garam masala, and lots of ground red chili. You start with a screaming hot pan, and sautee your garlic and onion in it. Then, add the diced up aubergine, and sautee that over very high heat. It will sear the outside, and prevent the vegetables from sucking up all the oil in the skillet if you use very high heat.

When the aubergine is cooked almost completely through, I sprinkle in the garam masala. Just before serving, I add lots of ground red chili powder, and a touch of salt to taste, and serve. It's lovely with basmati rice, roti, naan, or bread. Also, any time you serve something spicy and smoky like this, it's always good to have a side of cooling vegetables, be they diced cucumber, chopped onions, or chopped tomato, with a bit of cilantro and lemon or lime juice. If you're not a fan of cilantro, by all means, use parsley.

As for appetisers, if you want to go the impressive route, bajji always does well. You make a batter with ajwain, rice flour, curry powder, and enough water to make it about the thickness of a crepe or pancake batter (you want the vegetables to be coated in batter, but not coated too thickly). Add a lot of red chili flakes to the batter itself to amp up the lovely flavours. Then, while your oil heats and your batter rests, slice up some potatoes, peppers, onions, or whatever other things you like to have as bajji, and keep them prepared for dipping and frying. I like to drain my bajji on a wire rack set over a cookie sheet.

Fry over high heat, and do the bajji in small~ish batches. You don't want to crowd the pan, as they will tend to stick together if you're not careful. I prevent this by counting to five before adding a freshly dipped vegetable to the oil. This makes it so that the previous bajji has time to float off on its own, and not crowd the new arrivals.

If you're looking for easy, however, you'll never go wrong with guacamole. Avocado seems to be coming in sale rather often, so try this on for size.

First, start with the best hass avocado you can find. Figure that each person will eat the equivalent of one. I'm not joking or making light here. When you set out guacamole, it will get finished. You don't want to leave anyone wanting for more. If you make a little extra, it stores just fine in the fridge, so make the extra and avoid the nasty glares from everyone. DO NOT, for the love of all that's holy, buy it from the store. For one thing, the cost of the avocado is much less than ready made guac. For another, they tend to add weird ingredients, up to and including dairy products, to store bought things, and it's best to avoid those if you can.

Per avocado, use 1/4 of a small onion (red onions are excellent, but white or yellow will be just fine as well). With a potato masher (I found this to be easiest) or fork or spoon or your hands, mash up the avocado. Add the onion and a bit of sea salt. If you don't have sea salt, then use half the amount of table salt that you think you'll need. Table salt has off-putting flavours that come from the iodide and the anti clumping agents added to it, and you don't want those interfering with your gorgeous avocado.

Use the smallest amount of lemon juice possible to give it a slightly sour taste. Any more, and it'll be ruined. Start with a 1/2 teaspoon, and taste it. If it seems a little bit sour, you're there. It doesn't need any more. That's it! You don't need to add anything else at all, because the garnishes will be very flavourful in comparison.

Serve the guac in a large bowl, alongside either red or green salsa, black beans, and a bit of yellow rice. Also, have plenty of chopped up other vegetables to pile up on for those who enjoy it. My brother enjoys pickled jalapeƱo peppers, and most of my family loves lots of cilantro to go with it all. The point is that now all you have to do is set out those little nacho chips with the little indented shape (they're called scoops or whatever), and you've got a lovely little interactive appetiser ready to roll, with minimum effort. If you buy tinned black beans, and a good quality salsa at the store, you've only got to throw together the guacamole!