Saturday, June 30, 2007


I've been really ill with viral for the past few days so haven't felt up to doing anything - blogging, talking, even reading. Food has been tasting like nothing which is really sad for someone who loves food like I do. But one dish that'll definitely taste good at any time and have the added benefit of being good for you is an old-style Karnataka vegetable stew called Sagu. It goes with puris, typically and makes for a wonderful Sunday brunch, especially along with Mango sheekarane in the summer. Hot sagu and puris is a wonderful meal in winter as well, and we love to eat this out on our terrace garden.

I suppose this is somewhat like Thai green curry in terms of ingredients, but the taste is totally different.

Here's the recipe:
  1. 1 handful freshly grated coconut
  2. 3-4 cloves of garlic
  3. 1 inch ginger
  4. 6-8 cloves
  5. 2 inch piece of cinnamon bark
  6. 1 tsp cumin seeds
  7. 1 handful fresh coriander leaves and stems
  8. fistful of roast chana dal - bhuna hua chana or hurakadale
  9. 3-4 green chillies
2 carrots, diced
2 onions, diced
2 potatoes, diced
half cup fresh peas, or frozen
half cup cauliflower florets
half cup beans, cut into 1 inch segments

For tempering:
1 tsp mustard seeds (black)
2 tsp oil
handful curry leaves, washed and dried
1 dried red chilli

  1. Put the first 9 ingredients into the blender with a little bit of water and grnd into a smooth paste.
  2. Put 2 and a half cups of water to boil, with salt added. Toss in the diced vegetables one by one in the order of how long they take to cook. So start with the potatoes, then add the beans, then carrots, then cauliflower, peas and onions last of all. Boil them until they are al dente.
  3. Add the paste of the first 9 ingredients to this water and stir to mix. Taste to check on salt, and let boil until the vegetables become soft but not mushy (another 5 minutes, say)
  4. Prepare the tempering: Put the oil on to heat at high in a small wok. Add the mustard seeds. When they have finished popping, add the curry leaves and red chilli and turn off the heat.
  5. Top the sagu with the tempering and serve it hot.

Sagu tastes great with rice or rotis, or even crusty bread. Sometimes I even have it by itself as a hearty soup!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Home remedies for kids

Today I'm thinking about recipes of a different kind, since my son has fallen ill with a bad throat infection. Lots of times, we tend to dismiss home remedies as just old wives tales or superstitious claptrap. I'm far from the superstitious type myself, and used to view a lot of things I heard from my grandmother as just a 'grandma's story'. However, after my son was born, I realised that some of these things may have a) some truth; and b) some efficacy, to them. 'There are more things in this world, Horatio...'

One of the things my husband and I now firmly believe in is nazar or 'drishti' as we south indians call it. There has never been a single occasion, from my son's first birthday party to the first time he swam or a school performance or even a long lost friend exclaiming over his photograph, of apppreciation of either his looks or his ability not resulting in an immediate illness. It sounds weird to hear two MBA types swearing by something as illogical and arcane as nazar, but we're both firmly convinced that some kids tend to attract it. It's now normal behaviour on our part to put a 'kala tika' (black mark) behind his ear or to get one of his grandmas to do a nazar utaaro ceremony every few days, because whenever we have failed to do so and exposed him to the world without that protection, he's fallen ill!

Anyway, one really good posset to brew up for a sore throat is as follows:
Good handful tulsi (holy basil) leaves
Handful of plain basil leaves
10 black peppercorns
10 cloves
2 inch piece of licorice root
2 inch piece of cinnamon bark
2 cups water

Boil all these things together on a slow flame for about 15 minutes. Add a teaspoon of honey and serve warm. It soothes the throat and many of these ingredients are also used in many herbal cough syrups. You can reheat and serve this till the water is finished. Serve only the liquid. For grownups, you can add a tot of rum - perks them up and cures the throat!

For a child under 5 years, with a runny nose, try this. My uncle and aunt apparently used it on all their kids and it works magic with mine too.

Take a teaspoon of warm milk. Add 3-4 strands of saffron to it and let the milk absorb the saffron for an hour or so till it thickens a bit. Dab a drop or two of the milk on the child's nose. He/ she will have a bright yellow nose but the runniness will stop. Repeat every half hour or so, and in a couple of hours, the kiddo will let out an almighty sneeze which is pretty much the end of the cold!

Saturday, June 23, 2007


I probably sound seriously uncool to most people, but I have to admit to a fondness for leafy green vegetables. I love the entire lot of them, from lettuces of different kinds to spinach, mustard/ collard greens, fenugreek leaves, bathua leaves etc. I also love herbs to add interest to a variety of foods, and one of my favourite recipes in the winter is an herb pilaf/ pulao which is of Iranian origin, which I will blog about later.

What I didn't know was used in Bengali cuisine was the leaves of the drumstick tree, clled Sojne ka saag. My maid sometimes makes this vegetable for herself and when I heard about it, I thought, "Hmm, another green leafy to add to my repertoire", and promptly came up with my take on it.

If you have a drumstick tree in your neighbourhood, you can make this tasty, slightly bitter vegetable as an acompaniment to roti and dal, or add the leaves to any dal. It's supposed to be good for blood circulation and thereby the heart.

Recipe for Sojne ka saag

2 cups drumstick leaves

4-5 cloves garlic

1 onion

1 tsp cumin seeds

2-3 green chillies

salt to taste

2 tsp mustard oil

pinch sugar

  1. Wash the leaves and put them in a colander to drain

  2. Julienne the onion and the garlic cloves as fine as possible and chop the green chillies fine

  3. Put the oil on to heat

  4. When it is hot, put in the cumin seeds

  5. When they are toasted, add the green chillies, onion and garlic

  6. Stir occasionally, cooking over medium heat until the onion is turning brown

  7. Add the leaves and stir to mix, then let cook till the greenns are wilted and soft

  8. Remove from heat and add salt and sugar to taste

  9. If you want, you can squeeze lemon juice just before bringing it to table

  10. It's better to eat this in winter as it's supposed to be a 'heaty' vegetable

Some detailed information on the drumstick:

Moringa oleifera is one of the world's most useful plants. The Moringa tree is commonly named for its long bean-like fruit the ”Drumstick Tree”.
It is an extremely fast growing tree, drought tolerant and leaves and pods are of high nutritional value. It is commonly consumed in curries and contributes to a cheap and highly nutritious meal.

Use: leaves (vegetable), pods/drumstick fruit (vegetable), roots (oil), bark (medicine)
Purpose: food and medicinal purpose
Cultivation: requires very little space to thrive does neither need irrigation, nor artificial fertilisers or pesticides produces fruits/vegetable and leaves for more than nine months of the year
Nutritional value of drumstick leaves
Drumstick leaves are full of essential disease-preventing nutrients, they contain:
7 times more Vitamin C than oranges to fight many illnesses including colds and flu
4 times more Vitamin A than carrots against eye disease, skin disease, heart ailments, diarrhoea
4 times more Calcium than milk to build strong bones and teeth
3 times more Potassium than bananas essential for the functioning of the brain and nerves
nearly equal amount of Protein as in eggs `basic building blocks of all our body cells

Friday, June 22, 2007

Aromatic Dhania

I love the smell of coriander. To me there's nothing that spells freshness quite as much as the scent of this herb. I view it as such a thing of beauty that I hate throwing away even one leaf. I love garnishing dals or vegetables with dhania, dhania chutney with samosas or on a sandwich, in a raita. I even have a great recipe for dhania soup with garlic (another vegetable I love), a portuguese recipe, I believe, which is incredibly sensual with the two intermingled aromas and a dash of good quality olive oil. To me, a perfect lunch in the summer is cucumber salad with lemon juice as dressing, garnished with dhania, and salt and pepper to taste. Easy on the eye, on the nose and on the palate.

I was reading up about coriander for this post and I found that apparently while Latin Americans, Asians and Africans love the taste, some europeans find it soapy and 'like wet bedbugs', because of some genetic predisposition. My heart bleeds for them!

There are 2 variants of dhania chutney that I like. The first one, I call it Rustic chutney, because it is a relatively coarse method. I think the second version is a Gujarati recipe by origin. Both are yummy.

Rustic chutney:

1-2 bunches dhania - stalks and leaves cut up, only discard the roots

3-5 cloves garlic - crushed

2-3 Green chillies, chopped fine

1 cm ginger

Little bit of water - 1/2 cup?

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt to taste

Put everything together in a mortar and pestle, except for the salt and lemon juice and water and pound away - a good stress reliever - until the texture is coarse but the pieces are fine. If you prefer, you could do this in a mixie of food processor but be careful not to grind too fine.

Add the lemon juice and salt and mix well.

Add the water if you want to thin it out a bit.

Tastes great with anything - rotis, bread, crackers, namkeen, rice, yoghurt, uttapam, miniblinis, vadas.....

Gujju chutney

1-2 bunches coriander

Tamarind the size of a lemon, soaked in 1/2 cup hot water

1 tsp sugar

2-3 green chillies

salt to taste

Blitz the coriander and green chillies together with a tiny amount of water until minced fine. be careful with the water quantity - I've gotten it wrong a couple of times and the whole thing becomes runny and tasteless.

Squeeze the tamarind into the hot water it's been soaking in till you get the juice out. Strain the juice out and add it to the coriander. Discard the tamarind pulp.

Now add the sugar and salt and a little more water till you've got the chutney to the right consistency.

Again, tastes great with almost anything!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Boursin sans the fat!

When I lived in France, I tried out lots of different kinds of cheese, and even got to like some of the runnier, smellier ones (except for goat cheese, cannot stand that!). Boursin was something completely new for me, and I loved it from the moment I first tasted it. The ail et fines herbes is quite nice, but the I was thrilled to find it easily available at supermarkets in India when I returned from france. It does cost a steep Rs. 350 - Rs. 500 but I figure it's worth it as a monthly extravagance.

Well, recently I started a new diet, as anyone who's read my post on low cal snack would know, so I despaired of being able to enjoy Boursin pepper's creamy, spicy taste again. Then, yesterday, I had a brainwave, brought on by all the tsatsiki we had on vacation in Greece. I tried this and it's a pretty good substitute which I can totally inhale without worries about calories:

1 cup natural yoghurt
1 tbsp cracked pepper (cracked, not powdered, so I did it with my mortar and pestle)
1 tsp salt

Tie the yoghurt into a thin, clean muslin cloth and hang over a pan or the sink till all the whey has run out
Untie the cloth and scrape the yoghurt into a cup
Mix the salt and pepper and refrigerate
It keeps for about 2 days without turning sour

It works better if you have absolutely bland yoghurt. I'm planning to try the ail et fines herbes next (mint and coriander?)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Eggplant afghani style

I love eggplant/ aubergine/ baingan cooked most ways - grilled in olive oil, bhurta style, sweet and sour kashmiri style et al, but one of my favourites is a recipe that I read many years ago. It claimed to be an Afghani recipe, which tickled my fancy for exotic recipes, and it's been a summer family staple since. It's easy to make, tastes great on anything from bread to crackers to roti or even by itself and is easy on the eye too. It's also a great dish to serve when entertaining, because it looks more complicated than it is. I've even taught my maid to make it and she does a pretty good job though the presentation could be better.

For those of you following my blog, I have to admit it - I'm not a by-the-numbers anything, much less a cook. It bores me rigid to measure out ingredients and so on, except when I'm baking, in which case exactitute is of the essence. So make sure you adjust the measures as per your taste - I do!

Eggplant with yoghurt, afghani style

1 big round purple aubergine or 4-5 long purple aubergines cut into 1 cm slices
1 big onion, grated
2 tomatoes, grated
1 tsp cumin powder
1 cup yoghurt, hung
2-3 cloves garlic, finely mashed (add less or more depending on your fondness for garlic. I love it)
salt to taste
2 tbsp oil
chopped coriander for garnish

  1. Sprinkle salt on the eggplant and leave aside for some time

  2. Add the garlic and salt to taste to the yoghurt and mix well

  3. Pour some of the oil into a saucepan and heat till nicely hot.

  4. Shallow fry the eggplant in the oil, turning the slices till nicely cooked and browned on both sides. If you're calorie conscious (and who isn't, these days), you can grill the aubergine in the oven which may take longer to do.

  5. Set the eggplant aside to cool

  6. Pour the rest of the oil into a wok and heat

  7. Add the cumin powder, then the onion and cook, stirring frequently till almost brown

  8. Add the tomatoes and stir to mix, then cook on a slow flame till well cooked.

  9. Remove from the stove and cool

  10. Get a shallow serving dish with a wide base and layer first the eggplant slices, then the onion-tomato mix and then the yoghurt

  11. Top with coriander and pop into the refrigerator to chill until cool or cold - tastes good either way

Feel free to omit the cumin, it isn't essential.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Memories of childhood

I'm on a diet, desperately needing to lose baby weight, so I have to stay away from sinful treats like Lay's wafer style chips (love the red chilli one, with boursin pepper to dip into). I've gone back to some tried and tested snacks that we all used to love as kids.

Every summer, my family would head down south to Bangalore, where my grandparents stay or Mysore, where my uncle and his family stayed. We kids had a wonderful time, despite my continuous attacks of asthma, getting up to all kinds of harmless mischief together. There was an old temple opposite my uncle's house with a banyan tree which had roots dangling nearly to the ground. We used to try and swing on those roots and go around the tree without touching the ground. In the evening, we used to climb up to the terrace (up a steeply sloping wall without a parapet - now I shudder at the very thought) and watch the sunset and the lights coming on at the Mysore Palace which was visible from the terrace. We could see hordes of terracotta-tiled roofs, and coconut trees waving their leaves in the breeze. One of our favourite snacks to enjoy up on the terrace was hacchida avalakki - made out of flattened rice.

Recipe for Hacchida avalakki
2 cups avalakki (flattened rice/ poha)
1 onion, finely chopped
3-4 green chillies, finely chopped
juice of 1 lemon
bunch coriander, finely minced
1/2 cucumber, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
2 tsps oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 red dried chillies
1 small bunch of curry leaves, washed and dried
salt to taste

  1. Set the oil to heat in a large wok on medium heat
  2. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. Wait for them to pop before adding the red chillies and curry leaves. Stir till the curry leaves are crisp, then add the flattened rice.
  3. Keep stirring slowly till the poha crispens
  4. Take it off the stove and mix all the other ingredients except the lemon juice
  5. Taste to check the salt and then add the lemon juice and mix well
  6. Serve immediately - it gets soggy if you let it sit around.

Salad dips

I'm a salad kinda gal, especially in winter here in Delhi, when the weather is great and you get all manner of great veggies pretty cheap. My favourite red and yellow peppers go down to Rs. 100 a kilo and so on. I love going down to the Malviya Nagar market and scouting out all kinds of veggies. I especially love green leafies and much to the dismay of my maid, who then has to try and stuff eveything into our rapidly-becoming-too-small fridge, usually lug home anywhere between 2-5 kilos of different kinds of greens, including stuff I have no idea how to cook or what it's called in English.

I have a gorgeous ceramic dish with 6 compartments for snacks and a central one for dip. On winter evenings, with our oil heater on creating a cozy cocoon, I love serving different kinds of veggies with my mom's fabulous dip recipe (given below), along with hot rum punch. The veggies I serve: Spring onions, split into two, blanched carrots, cut into sticks, blanched green beans, cut into 2 inch long sticks, blanched broccoli florets, blanched cauliflower florets and red or yellow peppers, oven roasted, peeled and cut into thin strips.

Yoghurt-cottage cheese dip
I cup ordinary yoghurt, hung till somewhat dry but not too dry (or greek yoghurt if you can get it easily)
100 gms cottage cheese (I use fresh paneer - low cal and easily available)
2-3 green chillies, minced fine
1 bunch coriander, minced fine
1 medium red onion, minced super fine (but not grated, ever)
salt to taste

Just mix everything together, making sure that the dip has a creamy texture. If needed, you can add a bit of fresh yoghurt to make the dip creamier. Chill till cold and then serve. You can also add other herbs like dill or mint. It's a great way to make kids eat their vegetables, and it's low cal. Try and make sure the veggies are a nice mix of colours - it looks more tempting.

Tip: While blanching, I prefer to use salted water - it makes the veggies taste better.

Rosy Dip - this is something I came up with by myself and now can't live without in winter. It tastes great with salad, chips, rice, pulao, roti, bread...

1 beetroot, grated
1 red onion, chopped fine
1-2 green chillies
1 bunch coriander, minced
1 cup yoghurt (Hung or not, depending on how creamy or runny you want it)

Just add everything to the yoghurt and mix well. Check for spiciness and salt. Garnish with the coriander or mix it in. The color is a brilliant fuchsia to purple, with hints of deep green. Looks and tastes delish... (as you can guess, I'm missing winter!)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

One-dish meals

I love the concept of one-dish meals especially on weekends. But I like them to be soul satisfying as well as convenient and easy to make. The tomato rice recipe is a trusted favourite of ours, and takes minutes to rustle up if unexpected guetss drop in.

Tomato Rice
2-3 tomatoes, diced
1 cup basmati rice
1 onion, fnely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
5 mm piece of ginger, grated
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
small bunch coriander, finely minced
2-3 green chillies (depending on your taste for spiciness); can also be replaced by chilli powder
1 tbsp oil
salt to taste
2 cups water
1 tsp sugar (or to taste)

  1. Wash the basmati rice thoroughly and keep aside
  2. Put the pressure cooker onto the stove at medium heat and pour in the oil
  3. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and stir for a few seconds
  4. Add the turmeric and bay leaves and stir once more
  5. Add the onions, garlic, ginger and green cillies and stir to mix. Let cook till onions are translucent, then add the tomatoes. Mix together and let cook till tomatoes are soft
  6. Put in the rice and the 2 cups of water, add salt and sugar and stir to mix. Taste to check the levels of salt and sugar.
  7. Put the lid of the cooker on and pressure cook for 2 whistles.
  8. Let the cooker cool down and open.
  9. Mix the rice well and take out into a serving dish. Top with coriander and serve.

This rice is delicious served with plain yoghurt, or hung yoghurt mixed with minced dill or mint leaves, with rice papads on the side.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Gujju Food

Yesterday I went out for lunch with two colleagues to nearby MGF Mall and we homed in on Rajdhani, the Gujju restaurant. The restaurant is on the top floor of the Mall in Gurgaon. It's got a slightly mixed decor, with vibrantly coloured walls and displays of red and blue vases from The Next Shop hanging cheek by jowl with mirrored wall hangings from the emporium. The menu is a set thali. We were among the early diners and got a 4-seater table as soon as we entered. The restaurant starts operations at 12 noon, so if you go earlier, they won't have any food.

The service is really quick. Within five minutes of being seated, we had been served a bottle of mineral water and our thalis had been placed on the table. the steel plates they use are a really large size, with an assortment of 7-8 small steel katoris, which I thought were really useful for portion control at home too and have resolved to buy.

The serving staff is friendly and goes out of their way to ensure that you are eating adequately and that your plate is never empty - not good for those on a diet. The servers come around to each diner and serve them the various foods out of steel katoris - like at a typical south Indian restaurant in south India. Starters were warm dhoklas and mashed aloo bhajias, as well as a finely cut cabbage sabzi, served with a sweet chutney and a coriander chutney, both of which were delicious. The aloo bhajias were made with mashed aloo spiced with red chilli powder and a hint of garlic, which tasted wonderful.

The main course menu was extensive - we had bhindi sabzi, dahi-baingan sabzi, alu sabzi, chole, gujarati dal, teekhi dal and rajasthani kadhi. This was accompanies by both rotis and theplas, with ghee on top if you so wished. Rice followed, along with top-ups of anything you desired, and they provided salty chaach to wash all this down. The food was excellent, and delicately spiced, not at all oily. I particularly enjoyed the bhindi as well as the baingan sabzi, and the gujarati dal - sweet and spicy and very thin - and my colleagues freaked on the kadhi and the cabbage. The aloo sabzi was the only thing not particularly noteworthy.

The dessert menu had 4 desserts, including rasgulla (which I thought incongruous), sooji ka halwa, aamras and one more to which I didn't pay attention, having frozen on the aamras. The desserts were delicious too, though a little over sweet. They brought an Indian variant of finger bowls - the waiter holds a brass jug with a pointed spout in one hand and a brass platter with holes in the bottom (like a sieve) held over a brass pot to catch the water, and pours out the water for you. A truly satisfying meal which left us content and yet not overstuffed. Recipe for the cabbage follows, as well as my deduction of the dahi-baingan recipe.

Cabbage Sabzi (South indian style)
1 cabbage - finely chopped (really finely chopped!)
Handful of grated coconut
1 tsp Black Mustard seeds
Salt to taste
1-2 tsp oil

1. Put the chopped cabbage into water and let it steep for 10 minutes.
2. Pour the oil into a wok and let it heat up
3. Put in the mustard seeds and wait till they pop - you'll hear and see the popping
4. When they are done popping, put in the cabbage and mix
5. Put a lid on the wok for about 5 minutes or so, depending on how tender and finely chopped the cabbage is.
6. Take the lid off and check the cabbage - it should be al dente, not mushy.
7. Add the salt to taste and mix well
8. Top with freshly grated coconut and serve with rotis or rice and a lentil dish

Additions: In South India, we typically add curry leaves along with the mustard seeds. I also like to add a pinch of asafoetida to cabbage sabzi - the flavours go well together and it cuts down on gas! We also usually add a couple of finely chopped green chillies to the oil after the mustard has stopped popping.

Variations - You can add green capsicum or peas to this vegetable. Add the capsicum before the cabbage, and if using peas, boil them in advance and then add after the cabbage is almost cooked.

Baingan sabzi with Dahi ( eggplant cooked with yoghurt) - my take

500 gm Small purple eggplants, quartered but with the stems still attached
2 red onions, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
yoghurt - one cup, whisked well
1 tsp - methi (fenugreek) seeds
1 tsp - mustard seeds
pinch turmeric
2 tbsp oil
salt to taste
red chilli powder to taste
handful curry leaves

1. Salt the eggplant and leave aside to sweat for fifteen minutes
2. Pour the oil into a wok and let heat at medium heat
3. Wipe off the eggplants and cook in the oil till well done. I sometimes cover the wok with a lid so the eggplant cooks softer, which helps it absorb the spices better.
4. Take the eggplants out and put on a tissue paper to absorb the oil.
5. To the oil left in the wok, add the turmeric and mustard seeds and wait for the seeds to pop. Then add the fenugreek seeds and the curry leaves.
6. When the fenugreek seeds darken, add the onion and stir well. Let the onions cook until almost translucent and add in the tomatoes. Stir well and let cook until the tomatoes are cooked but not mushy.
7. Add the eggplant and mix all the ingredients together. Add salt and chilli powder at this stage.
8. Once all the vegetables are well-mixed, pour in the whisked yoghurt and keep stirring gently for a minute or two so all the flavours meld together. You can adjust the quantity of yoghurt and spices to your liking.

This vegetable is great as an accompaniment to rotis and a simple dal. I'm planning to try this over the weekend, and I'll update the post to tell you how it turns out.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Asparagus surprise

I have a newfound love of asparagus, fostered by the lovely buffet menu at the Hilton in Gurgaon. They have a truly amazing salad spread and superb asparagus is almost always featured. I like to have it with a thai chilli sauce dressing and shavings of parmesan - the combination of flavours and textures is to die for.

Recently I found that the Spencer's hypermarket stocks asparagus and that has become my weekly indulgence. I had bought asparagus from the Malviya Nagar subzi mandi earlier but never quite known what to do with it since I don't like Hollandaise and feel that asparagus soup doesn't bring out the delicate flavour of the vegetable.

Last week when I bought over a pound of fresh asparagus, I was once again at a loss for what to do and decided to consult one of my favourite cookbooks - World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey. Her descriptions of the settings and the recipes are glorious and guaranteed to immediately motivate you to start cooking. I tried out one of her recipes for asparagus, with some of my tweaks, and lo and behold - it's become a household favourite, not just for me, but my husband and 4 year old son. It's simple, fast and delicious:

Asparagus with soy dressing:

1 or 2 pounds Asparagus
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt
1-2 green chillies (depending on your palate and the fieriness of the chillies)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons water
1 tsp soy sauce
Juice of half lemon
2 tbsp Olive oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
handful of pine nuts or small skinned almonds (you can substitute with hazelnuts or macadamia if you like)

  1. Chop off the woody stems and cut the asparagus into thirds. Soak in water for 15 mts or so while you're preparing the other ingredients.
  2. Pour in a glug of olive oil (I use plain olive oil for cooking and extra virgin for salads, but please yourself) into a wok and heat on a medium flame. Put in the nuts and stir for a couple of minutes till they get somewhat browned and crisp. Take the nuts out and spread on a napkin to cool.
  3. Now add the onion, garlic and chillies to the oil and cook for a minute or two.
  4. Then drain the asparagus well and add to the wok and stir till all the vegetables are well mixed.
  5. Add the water (use your judgement about the amount of water needed), salt and sugar and bring to a simmer. Cover the wok at this point and let cook for a few minutes until the asparagus is tender.
  6. Uncover the wok, add the soy sauce and lemon juice and mix well. Let most of the water boil away and then add the sesame oil.
  7. Check the seasoning to make sure the flavours are balanced - hot, sweet, salty.
  8. Mix in the roasted nuts and serve immediately. If you feel like it, you could also add some roasted sesame seeds just before bringing it to the table.