Cauliflower, Okra and Coriander Balti
December 2, 2008
Balti is a Punjabi food which, apparently, takes its name from the pot in which it’s cooked and served. This pot is ‘balty’ in Hindi and ‘balde’ in Portuguese, according to Wikipedia – and why the Portuguese link, you tell me. I’d love to know. Maybe the Portuguese colonised the area, or had trade routes with those parts of Pakistan and North India, several centuries back.
Whatever the reason, it’s hot dry curry, and we English have adopted it as pretty well a national dish. It’s hugely popular over here. Curry restaurants in Birmingham are affectionately known as ‘Balti’ houses and the town even has a ‘Balti Mile’.
Wikipedia (don’t you just love it, where else would you find out this trivia?) also tells me that there’s a Balti house in Australia named the Brum Balti (Brum being UK regional lingo for Birmingham). There they only play music by 70s Birmingham bands like the Moody Blues and the Electric Light Orchestra. True! Isn’t that a weird mix of cultures! And wouldn’t it be great to visit?
In the absence of a ticket to the Brum Balti, I’m stuck here in wet London and Balti is exactly the food I need. It may be December, but forget mince pies and shops full of Christmas decorations. I’ll do all that festive stuff when the time comes. For today I want heat. I want to be warm again.
Chillies! Spices! Exotic vegetables with strange names! (which you should top and tail but not slice – the okra I mean – or the seeds inside are prone to get a bit slimy).
Eat this with naan bread or chapatis. Not rice. And another thing; I used vegetable oil, because I had it, but ghee (a type of clarified butter), would be more authentic and taste even better.
Cauliflower, Okra and Coriander Balti, for 4
3 green chillies, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3cm cube of ginger, peeled and grated
3 tbs vegetable oil or ghee
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbs cumin seeds
juice half a lemon
1 level tsp salt
500g potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks
a quarter of a cauliflower, about 225g, split into florets
200g okra, topped and tailed
250ml light (ie not too strong) vegetable stock
for the garnish
chopped fresh coriander
In a large frying pan, heat the oil and add the green chillies, ginger, garlic and onion. After a few minutes, when the onion has softened, add the cumin seeds, lemon juice, turmeric, garam masala, and salt. Heat, stirring constantly, for another few minutes.
Add the potatoes and mix them in well. Partially cover the pan and let the potatoes cook gently for about 10 more minutes. Give them a prod every now and then.
Stir in the okra, the cauliflower florets and then the stock. Partially cover the pan again and leave to cook for 15 minutes. By the end of that times the vegetables should all be tender, but still have some ‘bite’.
While they’re cooking, make the garnish, which is dead simple. Just finely chop the tomato, the red chilli and the coriander and mix them together. The dry heat this garnish creates perfectly offsets the richer notes of the vegetables.
Serve with naan. And yoghurt raita for when your mouth sears off.