Friday, October 9, 2015

Easy, Peasy. Cabbage and Peas, Bengali Style, #Vegan and #Gluten Free

   I grew up as a city kid in San Francisco before the time of crazy real estate prices and the influx of Silicon Valley Money. We lived in a working class neighborhood, where houses like the one I lived in most of my early life now sell for gazillions of dollars. Money was tight around our house and Thursdays (payday) were a big deal. My mom would go out and buy meat. Big whoop! Between paychecks we ate a lot of vegetables, unfortunately, most of them frozen as those were cheap and easy to fix. We also had a LOT of those 98 cent boxes (yeah I'm dating myself) of Kraft Mac and Cheese. If a neighbor went fishing in the Bay the whole block got in on the catch and we had fresh fish, but vegetables...not so much. One year I decided I'd attempt to grow some vegetables in our backyard such as it was. I bought seeds, planted them and at harvest time, got 2 zucchini and 1 pod of peas. That was the end of my "urban farming." It was back to Lima beans in a freezer bag and bell pepper surprise on the Wednesday before paydays.

   Flash forward to the present and I finally got my growing act together. I've always enjoyed foraging, both around the neighborhood in Santa Monica, and here in Sonoma, but this year we really got serious and planted a serious ass garden! When we bought our new house last year, besides doing interior renovation to make it water and energy efficient, as "green" as we could, we also took out the lawn and xeriscaped  both in front and in back. We put in 7 big raised growing beds, along with fruit trees, and this summer we started  reaping what we had sown.

   Here in Sonoma, there are a lot of farms so fresh vegetables are all over the place, but good organic stuff still can have a pricey sticker so we concentrated on planting things we loved and I cooked a lot in my Indian dishes. A lot of then veggies we grow are things that have a higher price tag in the markets. This Butternut squash for instance..all 8 and 1/2 lbs of it, organically grown, would coast 3 bucks a pound at the store, yet it's only one of the monsters I have in the garden. Prepare for a lot of squash recipes.

There are some vegetables however that are available very cheaply, and those I did not bother to plant, chief among these is cabbage.

   Cabbage is one of my favorite vegetables. It's amazingly versatile and can be found in almost every cuisine on the planet. There are a lot of cabbage dishes in the Indian kitchen most of them very easily, and inexpensively prepared. This Begali cabbage dish, aka Torkari is one of them. Just a note before starting. A very easy, in a cheap way, to fix this dish is to use bags of pre-shredded cabbage that are sold for coleslaw. These bags usually cost about 1 dollar and I recommend them for economy's sake for those who don't feel they'd like to commit to an entire cabbage. It's also a hell of a lot easier if you don't have the time or inclination to chop and shred. This dish can be on your table in under an hour which makes it a real keeper for work days.

Bengali Cabbage, Potato, and Peas

Here's What You Need:
1 cup of shredded fresh cabbage ( or 1 8 oz bag of preshredded coleslaw cabbage)
1 large boiling potato (cubed)
1 curry leaf (optional)
1 tsp cumin seed
1/2 cup of green peas (fresh or frozen)
3 Tbs vegetable oil (I use coconut oil)
1 large tomato fresh or 1 16 oz can of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp ginger paste
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp kashmiri chili
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala

Here's What To Do:

Traditionally, this dish is cooked by frying the uncooked potato in oil but I find if one wants to reduce the amount of oil in a dish, this isn't the greatest idea. Potatoes like eggplants tend to really soak up the oil, so what I do is quickly boil or steam the potato while I'm chopping up the other ingredients. This takes about 15 minutes. Cut the potato in quarters and drop it unpeeled in some water, by the time it boils it'll be pretty much cooked. When it's fork tender, it's ready.  Drain it, run cold water over the cooked pieces and set it aside to cool.

Place the grated cabbage in a bowl and pour cold water over it to cover.

Set it aside to soak for 30 minutes.
Peel the cooled, cooked potato.

Chop the potato into cubes.

Set them aside.
Make the ginger paste. Cut a 1 inch piece of raw peeled ginger into thin slices.

Place the ginger slices into a grinder along with the ground cumin, turmeric...

...and Kashmiri chili.

Add a teeny bit of water...

...and grind it into a paste.

That is your ginger paste.
Slice the fresh tomato, then chop it. This one is right out of our garden.

When the cabbage has soaked for 30 minutes, drain it.

 Heat 3 Tbs of vegetable oil in a skillet or kadhai. I use Sonoma Harvest Organic Coconut Oil.

When the oil is hot toss in the cubed potato.

Since the potato is already cooked, you just want to stir it around a bit so it crisps slightly.
Now, add in the curry leaf (if you are using it) and the cumin seeds.

When the cumin seeds start to sizzle add in the chopped tomato.

Stir it around toss in some salt to taste.

Cover the pan, and cook the tomato until it's soft.
When the tomato is nice and soft add in 1 tsp of the ginger paste.

Cook, stirring things around until they're well mixed and the oil in the pan starts to separate from the spices.
Add in the peas...

...and the drained cabbage.

Mix everything together well, then turn down the heat, cover the pan and let things simmer for about 20 minutes.
Take the lid off the pan, and if you have a lot of water coming off the cabbage, turn the heat up and let the water evaporate from the pan.
When the water has evaporated toss in the garam masala, and the sugar. Check for seasoning. Add more salt if necessary.

If you  are not vegan, at this point you can drizzle 1 melted tablespoon of butter or ghee over the finished dish before serving. This is not required however.
Serve it up!

   Spicy, sweet and crunchy, this is a delicious dish that requires nothing more than some rice and chapatti for an easy Indian lunch, or you can pair it with any Western meal for a great and inexpensive side. I love cooking with cabbage almost any time of year and those little bags of coleslaw cabbage are a real money and time saver. Coming up next a very special dessert, care of CocoaPlanet Chocolate. Follow along on Twitter at @kathygori


  1. Looks delicious, will try soon!

  2. Cabbage is an under appreciated veg. I lot of people turn up their noses at it (literally!) but I love it. And this looks like a particularly lovely way to prepare it. One of these days I'm going to take the plunge into Indian cooking. I've always been intimidated by its complexity—but you manage to make it look easy!

  3. Mmmm..
    I bet that would make a great momo or samosa filling too!



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