Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Guest Post: A Reunion

Thirty eight years ago, three young women, Linda, Izabel and Sherry met during their first year of university. Facebook helped us reconnect about five years ago, and we soon started talking about a reunion. A few years of dreaming became reality yesterday as Izabel from New Brunswick and I from BC arrived at Twig and Tree farm. We're here for two weeks to help Linda pick whatever is ripe and battle the weeds. And talk.

When you're talking about disco dancing, and professors you remember, and pub crawls you went on, and the fun you're going to have together in the coming weeks, picking 100 lbs of tomatoes goes by before you know it.

Linda is a vegan, and Izabel and I are not. But we came prepared to cook for the family, armed with our own favourite recipes that also happen to be vegan. One of my favourite meals is Mutter Paneer, a northern Indian dish traditionally made with green peas and a firm mild cheese called paneer. Tomatoes, onions and a few spices are simmered into a wonderfully rich gravy. Substitute tofu for paneer and the dish becomes vegan. Use chick peas if you don't like tofu. This dish is very mildly spicy, but if you don't like heat, omit the chili pepper and/or cayenne. If you've never tried cooking Indian food, this is a fast, easy place to start.

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Serves: 4 (easy to double)

The recipe has two steps: making a paste of tomatoes onions and spices, then simmering it for 15 minutes. In step two, you add a few more spices and the peas and tofu or cheese. Then you're done.

Step 1: Make the paste

3 medium sized ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 medium to large onion, roughly chopped
1 or 2 small green chilies, chopped (jalapeƱo or serrano work well)
1/2 inch fresh ginger, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp roughly chopped coriander (omit if you don't like this)
10 to 12 whole cashews
5 black peppercorns
2 cloves
1/2 inch cinnamon stick
1 tsp coriander seeds

Blend all these ingredients until smooth.

Step 2:

Assemble the rest of your ingredients

250 to 300 grams paneer or tofu
1 cup green peas
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp sugar, if needed
a few coriander leave for garnish
salt, to your taste

Heat about 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. Add the 1/2 tsp cumin seeds and saute until they splutter.

Lower the heat to medium low and add the tomato/onion paste. Simmer for 10-12 minutes until the oil separates from the paste. The paste will sputter while you're cooking, so have a lid handy to partially cover the pan if it sputters too much. Don't fully cover the pan or you'll have watery sauce. Medium thick is what you're aiming for.

Add all the dry spice powders - turmeric, cayenne & garam masala. Stir well.

If your sauce is too thick, add a little water, and the amount of salt you like. Taste and decide if you want to add the sugar. Add the peas, paneer or tofu and simmer until warmed through.

Boom, you're done. Serve over rice, or with Naan bread. Garnish with a little fresh cilantro, if you like it. So good. Enjoy.

Now the important part of this post is done (food!) please enjoy a few photos taken over the last few days from this beautiful farm.

Ruby, who just wants to eat cat food.

A warm welcome.  That's me under all the blankets and Ellie waiting for me to get up


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