I’ve just lost about 20 minutes – poof – poking around the google maps/images empire hunting for images or at least the former site of an Indian Restaurant near Portobello Road and Notting Hill gate that I used to go to regularly when I was a student living near there – 30 years ago. (Ack, the part of growing older that is truly shocking, ending statements with that rounded calculation as you go.) I wasn’t able to find it. There seem to be a lot fewer Indian restaurants in the area now that this neighborhood has become much more upscale. As a student on a limited budget, Indian Restaurants and Pubs were our world of eating out and I loved discovering Indian cuisine. Not that many years later I was frequenting the excellent Indian restaurants around St. Marks Place in NYC as they were often the chosen spots for tentative 2nd dates or meeting up with old college friends.
Then things change in your life and certain cuisines phase out. It was usually low on the list when heading out to eat with a little kid with simpler tastes. The Indian lunch buffets on offer near my office seemed too heavy a choice and my will power to not overeat too unreliable. Now that prices have climbed up at so many of the chi-chi choices in or around Fillmore, the all-you-can-eat Indian Lunch Buffet at $10.95 is looking good as a lunch hour choice again. I have gone there twice in two weeks because I’ve discovered how compatible the food is to the non-wheat eater.
I won’t lie to you. It’s hard to pass over the naan and chapati breads. I love them, of course. But there’s such a wide array of other foods there that I can quickly get over it. When I stopped in the first time I asked the waiter to walk me through, so to speak, and let me know which of the dishes in the buffet had wheat. He brought out the chef, a grandmotherly Indian woman who, looking pleased, said nothing in the buffet contained any wheat except for the naan breads. Nice. As I was contentedly layering my plate, the waiter came back out to tell me – an afterthought message from the chef, I believe – that the papadums and pakoras (the crispy round wafer-like appetizer item and spinach fritter, respectively) were open to me because they used lentil or chick pea flour. I was particularly excited for the pakora. I hadn’t had any fried food in while and the crunchy spinach ball with raita tasted so great.
There’s an Indian dish I’ve missed from the London days. Mushroom Bhaji. Though I tried to seek it out, I have never seen it on the menu of an Indian Restaurant in America. I more or less forgot about it until my husband was seasoning taco meat for us and I thought about the bag of mushrooms in the crisper and how I had loved the similarly spiced mushrooms over rice. I got on the internet and found the following recipe by googling Mushroom Bhaji. It led me to the foodgeeks website and this recipe credited to Kathleen Morris. It got so many positive comments I jumped right in and recreated my beloved dish. It tasted just as I remembered it. Fortunately I had everything in the cupboard to make it – except tomato paste. I substituted some (not much) jarred marinara sauce and it turned out very well. When I made it the next time with tomato paste it turned out even better. I highly recommend this dish as a vegetarian taco filling. I take the leftovers in to work as an easy and satisfying lunch over rice.
- 3 to 4 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 md. onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 3/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste
- 8 oz. sm. mushrooms
Heat the oil over medium heat and fry the onion until lightly browned. Lower heat and add the garlic, turmeric, chili powder, coriander and cumin. Stir and fry the spices, adding approximately 1 tbsp. water to prevent the spices from sticking to the bottom of the pan. As soon as this water evaporates, add a little more. Continue until you have fried the spices approximately 5 minutes. Add the salt and tomato paste; mix well and add the mushrooms. Stir until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Sprinkle in approximately 2 tbsp. water and cover the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes.
The finished dish should have a small amount of sauce, but it should not be runny. If necessary take the lid off and cook quickly until the sauce is reasonably thick.
As long as it’s a few days before Thanksgiving, I am going to shout out my gratitude for the internet. A powerful portal and resource for self-paced discovery about food and so many other things. It’s amazing how I could just poke around streets views of places via google maps. I was able to virtually retrace my steps and look at an old neighborhood. I know I sometimes mutter and curse about what a time sink internet activity can be, but overall I am very thankful for it. Thanks, Kathleen Morris, whoever and wherever you are, for reuniting me with Mushroom Bhaji. And thanks, wordpress, and my awesome friends and fellow-bloggers for making my blog a happy place for me and others.
Making anything special or new this year for the Thanksgiving feast? I’d love to hear.