Monday, January 29, 2018

Basic Bangladeshi Greens, Part 1 of n

Swiss Chard with Mustard & Fennel Seeds

সরষে ও মৌরি দিয়ে সুইস চার্ড 

Messy but delicious

I bought Swiss chard by mistake the other week. Embarrassingly, when I got home and unpacked my groceries, I didn't recognise the plant for what it was. I tentatively trimmed and washed some of it, then cooked it into mac & cheese. I was counting on the smoked cheese from my sauce to cover up any weird tastes or smells. It turned out the apprehension was unnecessary, as eventually someone on Instagram confirmed it was just chard! Chard I could work with, and I initially contemplated cooking the remaining plants just like spinach. Our family relies on the tried and tested garlic-and-chilli combo to cook most of our leafy vegetables, expect for maybe potato leaves and thankuni patha. 

But then I reconsidered, and began wondering how I could incorporate mustard into the dish. I've been a little obsessed with mustard since moving to Scotland, and I go through this thought process for pretty much everything I cook now. I decided ground mustard seeds would work quite nicely as a base flavour, with some fennel seeds as complement. I rounded off the ingredients list with a little turmeric for colouring, and some sliced onion to ease the frying process. The result was a win: think soft pieces of plant peppered with caramelised onion, each mouthful accentuated by a slight prickly heat from the mustard. I'm definitely adding this to my regular vegetarian repertoire. Speaking of which, I'm hoping to post more recipes for easy to cook greens, hence the title of this post. The recipe below makes enough for 2 as a small side, but scales up quite easily. 

  • 150.00 g of Swiss chard
  • 2.00 cloves of garlic
  • 0.50 teaspoons of yellow mustard seeds
  • 0.50 teaspoons of fennel seeds
  • Salt, to taste
  • Powdered turmeric, a pinch
  • Half a medium red onion

  • Finely slice the red onion, then roughly chop the garlic 
  • Put a non-stick frying pan on medium heat, and add a tablespoon of cooking oil
  • Once the oil is hot, add the garlic, onion and a pinch of turmeric
  • Stir to mix the turmeric evenly into the garlic and onion
  • Leave to cook around 5-6 minutes, or until the onion has gone soft and translucent 
  • While the garlic and onion are cooking, toast the the mustard and fennel seeds on a hot pan without oil, then pulse in a spice grinder. Alternatively, toast then crush in a mortar and pestle
  • Prepare the chard by chopping off the root area - this should leave individual stems and leaves. Wash the chard carefully, making sure to rid it of any soil or sand
  • Hold the chard in bunches, and chop through the stems and the leaves - leaving small manageable pieces of plant. Separate the leaves and stems
  • Return to the frying pan. Ensure the onion has softened, then add the mustard and fennel seeds, along with salt to taste. Mix everything together and let cook for 2 or 3 minutes
  • Add the chard stems, and mix them into the spices. Cook for a minute, then add the chard leaves, and again mix thoroughly to ensure even spice coverage
  • Cover the frying pan with a lid, and turn the heat down to low. Let the chard cook in this way for about 6 to 7 minutes, uncovering twice or thrice to stir
  • Taste for salt at this point, add more if desired. Bear in mind older plants may need a little longer to cook, so vary timings as required
  • Serve hot, as a side dish during a larger meal 

Additional Info:
This recipe can be adapted for any slightly tougher leafy vegetable, such as kale or cabbage. Vary the amount of mustard and fennel based on your preferences. I've on occasion doubled the amounts of both in this recipe to create a very intensely flavoured result.

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