Mmmm-mmm, doesn't that sound delicious? Savoury vegetable loaf. Sounds like it's made of sawdust and old potatoes. Luckily, this wasn't from some 1950s Woman's Day cookbook, but from our beloved Low Fat Indian Vegetarian Cookbook by Mridula Baljekar, so we were guaranteed something with a little flavour. Tonight's meal was being prepared in honour of SBS's month-long 'Hooray for Bollywood' extravaganza (four Sunday night movies celebrating India's finest), but neither Cindy or I were particularly enthused about a regular saucy curry. Instead, we browsed through the book trying to find something interesting but still Indian-themed. We settled on this baked loaf, served up with roti bread, yoghurty sauce, greens and the spicy mango chutney that came in the Oxfam pack that Mum gave us for Christmas.
The preparation was pretty time-consuming, with seemingly endless chopping and grating, some baking and a bit of frying at the end. Throw in the construction of the yoghurt sauce and the frying of the bread, and the whole process took a couple of hours. Luckily, it was well worth it, with a hot and flavoursome end product. The red chillies were probably a little hotter than ideal, and the yoghurt sauce had a bit more kick than necessary, meaning that the whole thing was spicier than Cindy would have liked, but I found it tremendous. The frying at the end crispies up the loaf slices perfectly, although I imagine it would still be fairly tasty if you were on a health kick and just ate it fresh from the oven. Definitely something to throw together again on a future Indian-themed weekend evening.
Savoury Vegetable Loaf
1 cup chickpea flour (besan)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 red chilli peppers, finely chopped
3 tablespoons coriander, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2/3 cup grated carrot
1 cup white cabbage, finely chopped
250 ml tomato juice (we used V8 vege juice, which is something like 80% tomato)
2 tablespoons olive oil
From here, things look pretty easy, but with all the grating and chopping in the ingredients list above, you've already spent half an hour in the kitchen.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the besan, salt and baking powder. Add in the remaining ingredients except the juice and oil and stir into the bowl - try to make sure the flour mix gets distributed through evenly, rather than into little clumps.
Gradually add the tomato juice and stir everything together until it's a nice, juicy paste. Spoon the mixture into a baking tin (lined with greaseproof paper) and bake at 190 degrees for about an hour. I checked up on it a few times to make sure it didn't overcook, but it really did take about an hour - even in our overhot oven.
When it's reasonably firm, take it out of the oven and let it cool. Once it's cool, cut it into slices about an inch thick and fry the slices in the oil for about a minute on each side.
Minted yoghurt and coriander sauce
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
1/3 cup fresh coriander, chopped
1 green chilli, sliced finely
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tbsp slivered almonds
Put all the ingredients in a food processor and zap them a few times until everything's nicely combined. If you're organised, leave the mixture in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavours combine, but it's fine if you just serve it straight up.