Like most recipe sites, Dassana’s Veg Recipes has succumbed to the SEO horror. The end result is presumably good for stickiness, but terrible to following a recipe. End result? I’m writing up my own notes for Rajma!

  • kidney beans (see below)
  • green chilies (2 – 4)
  • root ginger (2 – 3cm chunk)
  • garlic (4 cloves)
  • oil / butter (1 tsb)
  • purple onion (medium size, approx 150g)
  • ripe Tomatoes (2 or 3, approx, 200g)
  • cumin seeds (1 tsp)
  • mango powder (1 tsp)
  • chili powder (1/2 – 1 tsp)
  • turmeric (1/4 – 1/2 tsp)
  • garam masala (1/2 tsp)
  • asafoetida / hing (1/4 tsp)
  • salt (1/4 – 1/2 tsp)
  • kasuri methi / dried fenugreek leaves 1 tsb)

I’m cooking kidney beans in a pressure cooker after soaking them for at least 24hrs. The thing with Rajma is that the beans need to be well cooked all the way through, close to the point where a few of them have skins cracked. It would probably work pretty well wish good quality canned. We usually cook more than are needed, but i guess that one, or one and a half cans would be about the right balance.


  • finely chop the onion and tomato.
  • crackle the cumin seeds in the oil, and start to slowly fry the onions. they need to be soft.
  • while the onions are frying grind the chilies / garlic / ginger into a paste (it doesn’t need to be smooth, and probably wont be!)
  • when the onions are soft, add the chili / garlic / ginger paste, let it cook for a minute or so – until the raw garlic smell goes
  • add the tomatoes, let them cook for a couple of minutes and start to break down
  • add the ground spices (mango powder, chili powder, turmeric, garam masala, hing) mix well
  • now you need to cook this masala until the oil starts to come out of the mixture. it’ll probably take longer than expect, but don’t let it dry out.
  • add the kidney beans, mix them into the masala
  • add 1 – 2 cups of water, or the cooking liquid from the pressure cooker, add salt, mix well
  • cook on a low simmer for around 10 minutes. the sauce will thicken, you have to make a decision about thick you want the rajma… the longer you let it simmer, the thicker it’s going to be. if you’re eating it with rice leave it a little thinner, with naan / chapati thicker. have noticed i tended to let it thicken too much in the first couple of attempts
  • crush the kasuri methi, and stir well

The whole “until the oil starts to come out” stage of cooking the masala seems to be the key to getting a good curry. You’re basically making a roux to thicken whatever comes next, and if you don’t let cook well things won’t end well!

The original recipe has a step about adding a couple of tablespoons of cream right at the end. Have never tried it with cream, but yogurt also works, just make sure it isn’t too sour. It doesn’t really add too much – but i’m not into that whole “restaurant style” thing, prefer to keep things “rustic”.

† – the garam masala that i’m using (TRS brand) kind of sucks… it’s so strong that you either use so little that you may as well not bother, or you don’t bother! When i forget and put it in… regret. Should probably try some other mixes. All the other spices are kind of integral to the experience – the mango powder providing extra sourness, and the asafoetida doing that thing that is does with beans / lentils… which is kind of indescribable. Sorry.

Burpee Death

Death by Burpee! These bastards are killing me.

A few years ago i got into the habit of doing Burpees every day… and then, like most good intentions, it fell away. Have now started again. It is going to take a while to build back up to any reasonable level of fitness. Twenty repetitions makes me wonder if i’m having a heart attack. Still, a few days in my recovery time is already improving. Hopefully it will only take a few weeks to get back to some level of fitness.

Spicy Octopus Pasta

  • octopus legs (one per person?)
  • garlic 2 – 3 gloves
  • shallot
  • tin of whole tomatoes
  • dried chilli flakes 1 tsp
  • olive oil

Wash the octopus in salty water, rinse and cut into thick slices. Thinly slice the garlic and shallot. Sauté the garlic and shallots in olive oil until they start to have a little colour, add the octopus pieces, cook for a minute, then add the chilli flakes and tomatoes. Break up any large pieces of tomato. Season. Simmer for 15 – 20 minutes on a medium heat, partially covered.

Uncover and cook for another 10 minutes to let it reduce / thicken.

Really good with a pasta like Bucatini or Linguine.

Optional: sit back and remember how good this was when you ate it in Valetta.

Chorba / شوربا‎‎ / ሾርባ / شوروا‎ / शोरबा

Recently i’ve been making a simple lentil soup and telling everyone it’s “chorba”. Truth be told… the term is so generic that it’d be hard for that not to be the case.

  • brown lentils (soak over night, wash well)
  • medium onion
  • 4 – 8 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • bayleaf

Thinly slice the onion and fry in oil with the bayleaf, add salt, and cover until they are soft. Add the garlic, roughly chopped, and cook until the raw garlic smell is gone. Add the coriander powder and cumin, let it cook for a minute, then add the lentils, and cover with water. Add more salt as needed. Bring to the boil and simmer on a low heat for 20 to 30 mins, or until the lentils are soft / losing shape. Remove the bayleaf and puree with a hand blender until creamy.

In a food processor, make a smooth, thin, paste from:

  • cilantro / coriander leaves
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 – 2 tbsp of olive oil

Serve the soup with spoonfuls of the sauce – the sour / bitterness balances the creaminess of the lentils… and it’s a really pretty colour. Feels like it cures colds!

Grilled Mushroom and Spinach Pesto Pasta

Spur of the moment cooking with what was around…

  • long pasta
  • eryngii (King Trumpet) Mushrooms
  • large brown mushrooms
  • olive oil
  • spinach leaves
  • 3 – 4 garlic cloves
  • fresh lime
  • fresh tomatoes (cherry or large) roughly chopped

Cut thick slices of the mushrooms, throw a little olive oil at them, season with salt / black pepper, and put them under the grill.

Blanch a handful of spinach leaves (1 – 2 mins depending on how young / fresh they are), drain, and squeeze dry. Blend them in a food processor with olive oil, garlic, and the juice of half a lime.

Put the pasta on to boil (we’re currently in love with Bucatini, but spaghetti, linguine, etc. would be fine).

Meanwhile, cook the pesto on a *low* heat for a couple of minutes – you just want to warm it and cook away some of the raw garlic bitterness. Add the grilled mushrooms… you remembered to turn them, right?

When the pasta is cooked (leave it a little hard to the tooth – it’ll cook some more in the frying pan) use tongs to transfer into sauce. Don’t worry if the pasta is a little wet, that’ll just let down the pesto a little and stop it being to cloying.

Coat the pasta with the pesto and add the chopped tomato, and give them a minute to warm through. Serve with the rest of the lime squeezed over.

Black Bean Soup

Another ongoing recipe that will  always be under development.

  • 1 large Onion (chopped fine)
  • 3 – 4 gloves of garlic (chopped)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • cooked black beans
  • tin of tomato
  • 1 jalapeno (fresh)
  • 1 -2 chipotle (rehydrated)
  • 1 romano pepper
  • bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 1 fresh lime

In a large saucepan, heat a teaspoon of vegetable oil with bay leaves, slowly cook onion for five minutes. add the peppers, chills, garlic, and half the cilantro. Cook for another minute, and then add the cumin. Add the beans and tomatoes, and cover with water. Simmer slowly for 30 – 45 mins. Towards the end of the cooking time, if the beans haven’t started to lose their form “encourage” them with the back of a wooden spoon.

Serve with the rest of the cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and hot sauce as appropriate.


Raita. To go with the remains of the curry…

  • cucumber
  • yogurt
  • 1 glove garlic
  • 1/4 of a purple onion
  • tsp Coriander powder / seeds
  • black pepper
  • salt

Thinly slice the cucumber with a japanese finger tip remover (mandolin), mix with salt (1/2 tsp) for several minutes. When the water has started to come out of the cucumber, roughly five minutes, rinse off the salt and dry.

Finely chop the garlic and onion. Mix into the cucumber. Stir in the yoghurt and coriander. Serve with black pepper, and a squeeze of lemon / lime.

Still no pictures, but i’m sure you can imagine!

Chickpea and Kale Curry

For a while i’ve been trying to perfect my chana-masala. A couple of times it got close, but it’s generally really difficult to get ‘just right’. Getting the curry to the right consistency to coat the chickpeas is definitely an art. Just need to keep practicing!

This is a variation on the theme, adding kale. It is consequently a little more earthy / hearty than a traditional chana masala.

  • 1 large onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 10cm of fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp Coriander powder
  • 2 tsp Cumin powder
  • 1 tsp Tumeric powder (optional)
  • 2 – 4 Red Chilis (preferably fresh…)
  • Chickpeas
  • Kale
  • 1 can Tomatoes
  • salt (to taste)
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 Lemon / Lime

Slice the onion, chop the garlic and chilis, grate the ginger. In a *large* pan cook the onions in vegetable oil and a little salt until they’re getting soft (about 10mins), add the garlic, chills, and ginger, let them cook for another minute or so. Add all the spices, and mix them through the onions for another minute. Now add the chickpeas (we soak them overnight, and cook them in a pressure cooker, but a drained can would be fine) and the tomatoes, rinse the tin out with a little water. Stir and cover for around 15mins. It can get pretty dry / thick, but don’t worry, the kale will thin it down again.

Wash and clean the kale, taking out any large stems. Chop it though, or shred it if it looks tough. Add the kale into the top of the pan. Put the lid back and let it steam for a few minutes before attempting to mix it into the curry. Depending on how young / fresh the kale is, it’ll take 5 – 10 mins to soften.

Stir in the Garam Masala, and serve with lemon / lime juice. The sourness really brings out the spices. If you used fresh tomatoes it probably wouldn’t be as important, but the tinned ones are pretty sweet.

Oh, and the Turmeric is optional as sometimes it turns a little bitter if you don’t get it into hot oil. Not good.

As usual, i should have taken a picture. Next time!

Stir fried Cucumber

I wanted scampi. Big scampi, lightly battered, in a chinese sweet chilli sauce. We don’t have those things…

  • cucumber cut into 5cm sticks
  • cashew nuts
  • fried tofu
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • chilis (fresh or dried)
  • chili-bean paste (toubanjan, the ubiquitous lee kum kee!)
  • sake (or rice wine)
  • cornstarch
  • soya sauce

Toast cashew nuts in a pan / wok until they start to colour. Set aside. Stir fry ginger, garlic, and chilis in oil. Add tofu, cucumbers, cashews, and bean paste. Deglaze with sake, then add a splash of water. Cook for 30s to a minute – the tofu needs to get hot, then thicken with cornstarch. Soya sauce (shoyu, of course!) before serving.

Takes… meh, ten minutes including preparation time.

Millet Salad

Never been a huge fan of couscous, far too dry unless you slather it in olive oil… which isn’t great either. Millet (Hirse in german) is somehow better.

Cook a small amount of millet in twice as much water (by volume) for five minutes, and then let it sit with top on the pan for another five minutes. Meanwhile cook thinly sliced button mushrooms in a pan. when the are soft take them of the heat, cut them through, and stir into millet. Leave the top off the pan now, so it can cool.

In a large bowl, mix:

  • chopped tomatoes
  • black olives
  • capers
  • minced garlic
  • cooked green beans, cut into small (several millimetre length)

Let it all sit for a while, and prepare the following:

  • cucumber, chopped small
  • lettuce, shredded
  • bunch of fresh cilantro (parsley would be fine, some sort of tabbouleh!)

When the millet has cooled down, but is still warm… add it to the large bowl, along with the other ingredients, and dress it all with rape seed oil and lemon juice.

If i’d had a fresh green chilli…