Sometimes, when I visit the supermarket, I look around at the row and rows of fruits and vegetables, all perfectly shaped and perfectly wrapped and all perfectly clean and wonder if we are living in an over sanitised world. Looking at all those perfectly formed and uniformly sized products, makes me ask- are we really so perfect? What’s wrong with the gnarled carrot or the weird looking tomato? What would happen if those perfectly formed vegetables were replaced by ”oddly” ( though I would prefer to use the term ”natural”) formed ones, where each one is different to the other. Would we complain and stop buying? Is it harmful to our health?
What about those squeaky clean produces wrapped in plastic? Is it necessary to wrap each individual cabbage / cauliflower in one? If they weren’t so wrapped , would we not pick them up ?
Garlic from our tiny veggie patch
How bendy should a cucumber be, or how green should an asparagus be, or how long a carrot, how heavy a bunch of grapes? Yes, the European Commission did have guidelines for that ( still does??please do not hesitate to enlighten me). Last year, I heard that those guidelines were going to be scrapped in order to avoid wasting good food in times of global shortage. The standards are so strict that thousands of tonnes of fruit and vegetables are discarded each year because they are not beautiful or big enough. Farmers throw away mountains of cherries, onions, peas, plums and spinach among other fruit and vegetables (source). Amazing that many countries opposed the reforms at that time; I mean, how sensible is it to throw away perfectly edible food just because it is not bendy enough or long enough to the exact mm? Tch! Tch!
Now, what brought that on,you ask? Well, actually Dinesh and I both share a great love for fresh produce and wouldn’t mind any knobbly vegetable. But, I must admit that with no farmers markets very nearby, we do succumb to what the local supermarket has to offer. Perhaps we should start growing some more of our own! The other day, while returning from work, Dinesh came across two men on the roadside with a great supply of vegetables. And the vegetable lover in him stopped the car to have a look at them. That day, I had a very happy husband gushing over his loot like a child, and it was not long before I joined in. Everything in the bag looked so fresh and earthy. The potatoes were still covered in earth, and yes, they were the best I’ve ever had for such a long time. We were on a potato spree, roasted, fried, boiled and mashed, we did it all. And yes, I didn’t mind the potatoes covered in earth or that the carrots bent at awkward angles ! Yes, we prefer that to something flown in from miles away, anytime!!
One of the things that frequently graces our eating table is a bowl of mixed vegetables- broccoli, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, squash, aubergine, plantain and so many others. And it does help that Rengoni and Agastya share our love for vegetables too. They will happily munch away on florets of broccoli/cauliflower or strips of cabbage or sticks of carrots and many others. Touch wood to that! So, a combination of a few of these vegetables are always there. Another favourite vegetable of ours are green beans. I add them to dals, steam or add them to accompany other vegetables in a dish.
The recipe below is a simple one with some green beans and potatoes and can be made with ease. It has very simple flavours and forms a nice side dish with rice or any Indian flat bread. I wouldn’t even mind devouring a bowl of this on it’s own. So, here’s how i made this aloo- bean bhaaji. Where I come from (Assam) we call this kind of dry vegetable dish as bhaaji)
5-6 medium sized starchy potatoes, scrubbed well, chopped and boiled
1 C of 1-1 and 1/2 inch sized green bean pieces, steamed or boiled for a couple of minutes
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp of paas puron
1 whole red chilli, halved
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 tblsp of oil
1 small onion, sliced
salt to taste
- Heat the oil in a pan and add the paas puron, bay leaf and halved red chillies. When the seeds splutter, add the onions and cook till the onions soften.
- Add the turmeric powder, stir and add the potatoes and beans. Season with salt and stir for about 4-5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and serve hot as a side dish with rice or some Indian flat breads.
That’s it! Wasn’t that simple? Good, starchy potatoes are best for this dish. Carrots, cut into sticks of the same length as the beans also go well in this dish Steam/boil them together with the beans, making sure they still retain their crunch.
And I did say, I could have a bowlful of this all in itself, didn’t I? The soft potatoes, the crunch of the beans and the very slight heat from the chillies, with the mild flavours from the turmeric, all blend together beautifully. No gimmicks here- this is simple, comfort food. And yes, I didn’t mind scrubbing off the grime to reach those lovely taters!
“Simply delightful” !
On that note, wishing all of you a great weekend ahead!