As so often happens, the recipe I ended up making was nothing like the one I’d initially planned on. For starters there isn’t even any pineapple in it and the point of the exercise when I began was to use some of the pineapple that’s ready on the kitchen counter. But it’s a good thing that the culinary experiment went awry because the result was an absolutely fabulous blend of flavours and textures that merits repeating on a consistent basis. If you do make it, take the time to roast and grind your own spices: while it is a bit more time consuming, the result is well worth the effort.
What you need:
- 1 small leek cut in half and sliced fine (about a cup)
- 1-1/2 cups asparagus cut into 1’’ pieces
- 1 yellow pepper diced
- 1 medium carrot cut in half and sliced fine or julienned
- 3 cups cooked grains (cooled or not, it doesn’t matter. I used a combination of quinoa and Lundberg’s mixed rice blend but any grain except millet will work)
- 1/4 cup water
- A pinch of hing
- 1 tsp whole mustard seeds
- 1/4 tsp whole fenugreek seeds
- 1/4 tsp nigella
- 1 tsp ground roasted fennel
- 1-1/2 tsp ground roasted cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp red palm oil (make sure it’s fair trade. You could also use coconut oil, but it doesn’t have the deep red colour or buttery flavour that the palm oil has which really gives the dish depth.)
What you do:
- In a small cast iron pan, toast the cumin and fennel seeds until they’ve darkened a shade and smell toasty – but not burnt – or they’ll be bitter. Grind in a coffee or spice grinder. Combine the ground roasted spices with the coriander, ginger and salt and set aside.
- Melt the palm oil on medium heat in a large skillet or wok. When the oil is hot, add the hing and let it sizzle a second or two. Add the mustard seeds, fenugreek and nigella and let the mustard seeds pop: this should take a minute or two (you may want to cover the cooking dish to avoid mustard seeds all over the stove-top.)
- Add the leek and sauté 4-5 minutes until soft. Add the ground spice blend and cook another minute or two. Add the vegetables and toss in the oil and spices to coat. Sauté 3-4 minutes and then set the cover on for 4-5 minutes or until vegetables are tender-crisp.
- Add the grains and water and mix well. Toss until the grains are hot, well distributed through the veggies and coated with spices.
- Remove from heat and serve.