Continuing cooking from my vegetarian Indian cookbook, I made this dish with what feels like a million ingredients. The book described this dish as the highlight of a feast. What it neglected to mention was that it also made enough to feed a party. So although I followed the recipe when I made the dish, I have reduced the quantities in the recipe I provide here. If you are tired of the same old vegetable dishes, I highly recommend that you give this a try. It is very delicious and has a unique flavour from the tamarind and cumin.
|Indian Sweet and Sour Vegetables
Like many other Indian dishes, this one starts out with quickly sauteing ginger, chilies, spices (whole cumin seeds, ground coriander, and ground black pepper) in oil. Cooking the spices releases their fragrance and flavours the dish, so this is a crucial step. The final mixture is called a masala. When preparing a masala, it is important to add the spices according to their cooking time so everything finishes releasing their fragrance at the same time.
Once the masala is ready, time to add in the tamarind pulp, brown sugar, water and cubed pineapple.
Aside: What is tamarind? (And the recipe for tamarind pulp)
Tamarind is a fruit found in tropical regions. The brown outer layer is hard and inedible. The inner brown flesh is edible. Its flesh surrounds a small dark brown inedible seed. It is often used to provide a sour and tangy taste to South Asian dishes and desserts. In North America, tamarind paste is often found in supermarkets.
To prepare tamarind pulp, simmer 1 part tamarind paste in 2 parts boiling water for 15 minutes, breaking it up with a spoon. The water should turn brown and the pulp should get softer. Strain the water-tamarind mixture and push through as much of the tamarind pulp with the back of a spoon as you can. When you’re done straining, only stringy bits and the seeds of the tamarind should be in the strainer, and the contents of the strainer should be dry-looking. Discard the tamarind left in the strainer, and use the strained tamarind pulp for this recipe and many others.
|Ginger, chilies, spices, tamarind, brown sugar, water and pineapple
Phew, that was a long explanation! Anyway, once you have all of the above in the pan over medium-low heat, it’s time to start frying your cheese. The cheese used here is paneer, a fresh Indian cheese made with cow’s milk. It has a very mild flavour, does not melt very well, and looks like tofu. It’s found in South Asian grocery stores, and it is a common ingredient in Indian dishes.
In the original recipe, the paneer is deep fried, but in the interest of health, I’m pan frying it in a few tablespoons of oil over medium heat. They’re done when all sides are (more or less) golden brown.
While the paneer is frying, add sliced carrots, celery and plantain to the pineapple, cook for a few minutes. Then add in the browned cheese, tomato wedges, and zucchini.
|Vegetables simmering in the pan
Cook until everything is tender. Season with salt and serve with rice or an Indian bread.
This is a pretty elaborate dish and took me quite some time to prepare. I think the most time-consuming part was chopping all those vegetables. The recipe here is a scaled down version, which should be less labour intensive. When I made this dish, I accidentally used too much tamarind, so it was quite sour. I corrected this by adding more brown sugar. So if you find it too sour or too sweet for your liking, feel free to adjust with tamarind and sugar. Balance is the key here!
|Indian Sweet and Sour Vegetables
Indian Sweet and Sour Vegetables
Adapted from: The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking
- 3 oz (85g) tamarind pulp (see Aside for instructions)
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
- 2 green chilies, sliced
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 pineapple, peeled, cored and cubed
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tbsp oil
- 5 oz (150 g) pressed paneer, cubed
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 2 stalks celery, sliced
- 1 green plantain, sliced, or 1 potato, peeled and diced small
- 1 zucchini, cubed
- 2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 1 tsp salt
- Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the cumin seeds, ginger, and green chili; after 30 seconds, add the ground black pepper
- To the pan, add water, brown sugar, tamarind pulp, pineapple, paprika, and ground coriander, allow to simmer and thicken for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning
- Meanwhile, fry the paneer in a 2 tablespoons of oil until golden brown on all sides, set aside
- To the pan with pineapples, add carrots, celery, and plantain (or potato), cook for 5 minutes
- Add the fried paneer, zucchini, tomatoes, and salt, simmer until all vegetables are tender