Eggplant (Aubergine) Rolls

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I have been planning on making some sort of eggplant rolls for a very long time. I even found out how to tie up the rolls with spring onion but it seems like I had to wait until I had some left overs to put together this:

Eggplant (Aubergine) Rolls
4 grilled eggplant (aubergine) slices in oil, drained (choose the smaller ones)
1 potato, peeled and boiled
8 split green olives marinated with chilli and garlic
1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley chopped
4 toothpicks

• Mash boiled potato with a fork or a potato masher. Chop 4 olives and add to mashed potato. Add half the parsley and mix well.
• Spread the eggplants over a large plate fill them up with potato mixture and roll.
• Secure each eggplant with an olive and arrange on a serving plate.
• Sprinkle the remainder of parsley and serve.

Recipe Notes: I didn’t use any seasoning in the potato mixture because the olives are very salty.

Nilgiri’s, St Leonard, Sydney

IMG_0631-P (1280x960)Our tastebuds are dancing with A-joy every time we go to Nilgiri’s; no exceptions! This has been the case since we discovered Nilgiri’s about 13 years ago. Soon after our discovery, we became friends with Ajoy Joshi (the owner of Nilgiri’s) and today, we are one of their regular customers. Of course, we introduced our friends to Nilgiri’s too. Here’s how you can measure up our feelings for you, friends: if you think we’re friends and we have never, ever taken you to Nilgiri’s then you’re not that close to us. But if we took you there and dumped you later on, well, it’s because we don’t love you anymore. You were a mistake and we happily moved on 🙂

IMG_0633 (1280x960)I have always been fascinated by Indian culture, not just the cuisine. Especially, since my health situation had been saved by an Ayurvedic physician about 25 years ago, my fascination took a different turn and I even studied Ayurveda in the end –received my diploma in Advanced Ayurveda a few years ago. When it comes to Indian food though, we have been taken on an exquisite culinary journey through India at Nilgiri’s so far.

IMG_0639 (1280x960)Nilgiri’s Food
I am one of those people who enjoys sophisticated alchemy of Indian cuisine. My problem with many Indian restaurants, though, is the fact that their food tastes like a mixture of every single herb and spice that is grown on the face of the earth which makes it almost impossible to identify any. Wait, I even have a name for it: spiced mud. At Nilgiri’s, however, every dish has its own star spice, a lead singer in a band so to speak. The star spice is then well-balanced by other spices (back-up singers) and well-orchestrated by the other ingredients carefully (like the rest of the band) and all of that is put together by the fantastic team of Nilgiri’s. And, this is the kind of music you can actually eat!

Gobhi 65 (1280x960)-PGobi 65 (above)

There are many things about Nilgiri’s that sets it apart from other Indian restaurants. Usually you get a particular style of cooking or region depending on where the owner comes from and that style never changes. Neither does their menu. It’s because Ajoy was trained by six Indian master chefs who are experts in their own regional cuisine, Nilgiri’s Sunday Buffet menu changes every month and each time it is another exciting regional food that blows your mind. Moreover, Indian food you have at Nilgiri’s is quite contemporary yet all solid foundation of the cuisine is still preserved.

Aloo Gobhi (1280x853)Aloo Gobhi (above)

The Restaurant
Nilgiri literally means Blue Mountain in many languages. This world class, award winning restaurant is located on Christie Street in St. Leonards. Upstairs, there is the actual restaurant and private function rooms. Downstairs, there is reception and tiffin room.

IMG_0640-P (1280x960)Malai Kofta (above)

Private Function Rooms
A friend of ours once told us that the current premise of Nilgiri’s used to be a Japanese restaurant and that’s how you may be able to explain some of those function rooms with a hole in the middle through which your feet go, in a dangling-in-the-air fashion. You take your shoes off before you enter and the table area has cushions on the floor. Each room is named after five elements in Ayurveda: boomi (earth), vayu (air), jal (water), agni (fire) and akash (space). Private function rooms are excellent for celebrations or get-togethers. We celebrate our birthdays with my husband as they are only a day apart.

IMG_3744 (953x1280)Tiffin Room
Tiffin means snacks; quick and easy bites people eat between meals in Southern India. At Nilgiri’s, they serve thalis, biryanis, dosais and uttampams. Open during the day for lunches.

IMG_0622 (1280x960)Ajoy Joshi
Ajoy Joshi is an award-winning master chef, an authority on Indian food, not just in Australia or in India but overseas as well. He also appeared on TV and radio as guest chef –including New Zealand television, yes, Dad told us. Apparently, Ajoy founded Nilgiri’s in the late 90s and is supported by his wife Meera –whose masala chai recipe is a killer –and his son Aniruddh –who is a pretty handsome fella. And of course, let’s not forget the fantastic team at Nilgiri’s.

Cooking Classes
I remember taking one of Ajoy’s vegetarian cooking classes with my husband long time ago. We learnt how to make our own paneer, aloo samosas, dal makhani, palak paneer –you make paneer first, of course. That was the beginning of my education in Indian cuisine. That was the first time I was introduced to not-so-mainstream Indian spices and how to source them in Sydney as well. Considering those were my early days in this country, Ajoy’s vegetarian cooking class was just the right thing for me. These days, we enrol Dad for a cooking class whenever he’s in Sydney. He has done one and I’m sure he wouldn’t say no to another one 🙂

Nilgiri’s is ever so changing, ever so evolving. Get yourself there so your education in Nilgiri’s food can begin too.

Fully licenced and BYO (bottled wine only)
Address: 82 Christie Street St Leonards 2065 NSW
Phone: (02) 9966 0636

Salt n Pepper Tofu

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I usually don’t like abbreviations but I thought Salt n Pepper tofu looked kind of cute. What do you think?

Needless to say that we love this dish. Its simplicity and texture kind of speak to us. We even bought a deep fryer just to make salt and pepper tofu. Of course, I use it (the deep fryer) for other dishes too. There are a few places in the city where they do salt and pepper its justice like Mother Chu’s and Bodhi in the Park. Must admit, Mother Chu’s salt and pepper tofu is by far the best.

I have been experimenting with different types of tofu for some time now. Tried hard tofu, organic tofu and the list goes on… Finally we –I mean me and my husband –decided that something softer would be the right kind. Well, it happened to be silken tofu. So the recipe below is the latest. Enjoy Peoples!

Salt n Pepper Tofu

1 tub (300gr) silken tofu, cut into 9 (I used Macro Wholefoods which I bought from Woolworths)
4 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp black pepper
Vegetable oil
Garnish: 1 red chilli, chopped finely and shallots (spring onions), chopped finely or garlic chives

• Place the tofu between two layers of paper towel over a small flat plate. Put a larger flat plate on top of it and place anything heavy on top of it –I used 2 packs of Bonsoy to do the job. Change the paper towel every now and then as it gets very wet and stops absorbing moisture. I did that three times by the way.
• Add salt and pepper to the flour and mix well. Get yourself a large flat plate and sprinkle it with this mixture.
• Gently mix the tofu pieces through the seasoned flour and set aside.
• Heat the oil to 180°C –most deep fryers these days come with temperature control. Lift the basket and place tofu in it, making sure they are not touching each other.
• Deep fry the tofu pieces until golden then remove from the oil and drain on absorbent paper.
• Place the tofu onto a serving plate and garnish with red chilli and scallions.
• Serve warm.

Just remember: Silken tofu is a delicate creature. Handle it carefully.

Fried Rice

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This fluffy and light rice dish is ideal to serve with a variety of Chinese dishes, or, if you prefer, as a light snack. To make it more substantial, I added diced vegetarian ham.

As for the soy sauce, I used light soy sauce here because I like it better and it is easier for me to adjust. However, if you prefer a stronger flavour, then you should use dark soy sauce instead.

Fried Rice
¾ cup jasmine rice, rinsed well
1 cup vegetarian ham, diced
½ cup frozen baby peas (petit pois)
½ cup carrot, diced
1 tbsp light soy sauce
A drizzle sesame oil
2 shallots (spring onions), finely chopped

• Cook the rice in a rice cooker. Fluff it up and set aside to cool.
• Heat the oil in a wok and add peas and carrots. Stir-fry them for 3 or 4 minutes and add vegetarian ham. Continue to stir-fry them until the vegetables and ham are crispy.
• Gently stir in cooked rice and soy sauce and stir-fry for another 4 minutes.
• Just before you remove fried rice from heat, add shallots (spring onions) and sesame oil.

Bukhara Pilaf

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Inspired by an incredibly old recipe from an incredibly old cookbook –I think it was my mum’s. Well, the recipe evolved over time in my kitchen but it still must be one of the first non-standard pilaf I have ever cooked in my life. I think the original recipe uses some sort of liver but the recipe I used for the very first time was a vegetarian version. While I was tidying up my recipe archives I found it sitting somewhere, totally neglected. We love it and I hope you like it too. Enjoy Peoples 🙂

1 cup medium grain white rice, rinsed and drained well
1 carrot, peeled and grated
2 tbsp pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
2 tbsp dried currants, totally left alone
2 tbsp vegan margarine
2 cups water
Fresh parsley leaves to garnish
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

• Heat the margarine in a shallow, heavy-based pan over a medium heat and stir in the rice, grated carrot, pistachio nuts and dried currants. Fry until the rice is opaque and carrots are soft. Add the water and salt.
• Bring to the boil, then cover, reduce the heat to a bare minimum and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, fluff it up and leave it covered for 5 minutes with a piece of paper towel between the pot and its lid.
• Finally taste and adjust the seasoning. Spoon onto serving dishes and sprinkle with parsley and black pepper. Serve warm as a side dish.

Turkish Braised Cannellini Bean or Fasulye Pilaki

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Pilaki is a generic term for a certain group of dishes –pilaki is plaki in Greek, by the way. Beans –either borlotti or cannellini –are cooked with onion, potato, carrot, sometimes tomato or tomato paste (in some cases both), garlic and olive oil. Pilakis are classified as mezze in Turkish cuisine and because of that, they are always served cold. Here’s the recipe:

1 tin cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 brown onion, peeled and chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and cubed
1 small potato, peeled and cubed
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 cups good quality drinking water
½ lemon, sliced thinly
A handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Pinch of sugar

• Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onions, carrots, potatoes and 3 tablespoon of water. Cook until all the vegetables are soft, stirring continuously.
• Add crushed garlic, beans, sugar, salt and 2 cups of water. Give it a good stir without mushing the beans and turn down the heat.
• Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes over low heat.
• Remove from the heat and cool. Transfer onto a serving platter. Garnish with parsley and lemon slices and serve.
• Afiyet olsun Peoples!

Curried Potato Salad, VegFusion style

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I find potatoes incredibly versatile –yet, please don’t make me list all the things you can make by using potatoes here. Anyway, potato salads are probably one of my favourites in the realm of potato possibilities.

Just like my other dishes here on VegFusion, my version of this classic is –again –different. I actually don’t boil potatoes for salads anymore; I ActiFry them. The recipe below, yhough, covers both boiled version as well as my version which is ActiFried. Hope you enjoy VegFusion style curried potato salad.

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
2 tbsp (heaped) vegan mayonnaise
1 tsp (heaped) Dijon mustard
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 green onions, chopped
1 tsp mild curry powder
Fresh chives, chopped

• Place potatoes in a large pot with enough water to cover by several inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, add ½ tablespoon salt, and reduce to a gentle boil. Cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain into a colander.
• If you own an ActiFry; place the potato cubes in your ActiFry and add a tbsp of vegetable oil. Set the timer to 25 minutes. When it’s done, place the potatoes in a large bowl and let it cool.
• Place mayonnaise, curry powder, and salt in a large bowl; whisk to combine.
• Add potatoes, green onions and chives to mayonnaise mixture. Stir to combine.
• Chill until ready to serve.
• Sprinkle the salad with more fresh chives and serve.