Roasted Red Pepper, Chickpea, and Spinach Curry

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Photo Credit: One Green Planet, 2018

 

Sometimes we need simple food to fill our souls. For a Meatless Monday, this Indian inspired curry is to die for! Chickpeas and spinach are blanketed in a rich, red pepper and coconut sauce. Not only is it spicy and fragrant, it is also good for you. If you’re looking for something that is rich in iron, look no further. What more could you want in a dish that will delight your palate and fill you up at the same time?

Adapted from Sonia Trurnit
One Green Planet, 2018

Serves 4

Ingredients
3 to 4 large red bell peppers
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, diced
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/3 cups coconut milk
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
A pinch of smoked paprika
1 1/4 cups  canned chickpeas
1 cup baby spinach, washed and dried
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the bell pepper on the foil. Put the bell peppers in the oven for about 30 minutes and roast until charred. Place the bell peppers in a plastic bag and allow to cool until they can be easily handled. Remove skin, seeds, and stems, then set aside.

While the bell peppers are roasting, heat up a pan on medium high and sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until golden brown Season to taste with salt and pepper, then set aside.

To a blender add the peppers, onion and garlic, coconut milk, cornstarch, and smoked paprika; blend until well combined. Adjust the seasoning, if needed with salt and pepper.

Heat the oven to at 390°F.

Transfer the vegetable mixture to a medium sized Dutch oven or a large cast iron skillet. Add chickpeas, spinach and halved tomatoes and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir.

Serve with rice or freshly baked naan.


Sake Dean Mahomed

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Sake Dean Mahomed was an Anglo-Indian traveller, surgeon and entrepreneur who was one of the most notable early non-European immigrants to the Western World. He helped break down cultural barriers between India and England in the early 19th century by introducing Indian cuisine and shampoo baths to Europe, where he offered therapeutic massage at a spa established. He was also the first Indian author to publish a book “The Travels of Dean Mahomed”, in English on January 15, 1794 .

Born in 1759 in the city of Patna, then part of the Bengal Presidency, Mahomed came from Buxar. His father, who belonged to the traditional Nai (barber) caste, was in the employment of the East India Company. He had learned much of alchemy and understood the techniques used to produce various alkali, soaps and shampoo. He later described the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II and the cities of Allahabad and Delhi in rich detail and also made note of the faded glories of the Mughal Empire.

Sake Dean Mahomed grew up in Patna, and his father died when Mahomed was young. At the age of 10, he was taken under the wing of Captain Godfrey Evan Baker, an Anglo-Irish Protestant officer. Mahomed served in the army of the British East India Company as a trainee surgeon and honourably served against the Marathas. Mahomed also mentions how Mir Qasim and most of the entire Bengali Muslim aristocracy had lost their famed wealth. He complained about Shuja-ud-Daula’s campaign against his Rohilla allies and how Hyder Ali defeated the British during the Battle of Pollilur. Mahomed remained with Captain Baker’s unit until 1782, when the Captain resigned. That same year, Mahomed also resigned from the Army, choosing to accompany Captain Baker, ‘his best friend’, to Britain.

In 1794, Mahomed published his travel book, titled “The Travels of Dean Mahomed“. The book begins with the praise of Genghis Khan, Timur and particularly the first Mughal Emperor Babur. It later describes several important cities in India and a series of military conflicts with local Indian principalities. Editor Michael Fisher suggested that some passages in the book were closely paraphrased from other travel narratives written in the late 18th century.

In 1810, after moving to London, Sake Dean Mahomed opened the first Indian hindoostane_coffee_house_(7599806070)restaurant in England: the Hindoostane Coffee House in George Street, near Portman Square, Central London. The luxurious restaurant offered Georgian Brits such delights such as hookah “with real chilm tobacco, and their first taste of curry in Indian dishes, … allowed by the greatest epicures to be unequalled to any curries ever made in England.” Unfortunately, this venture was ended two years later due to financial difficulties.

Before opening his restaurant, Mahomed had worked in London for nabob Basil Cochrane, who had installed a steam bath for public use in his house in Portman Square and promoted its medical benefits. Mahomed may have been responsible for introducing the practice of champooi or “shampooing” (or Indian massage) there. In 1814, Mahomed and his wife moved back to Brighton and opened the first commercial “shampooing” vapour masseur bath in England which was a spa providing a combination of a steam bath and an Indian therapeutic massage The establishment was located on the site now presently occupied by the Queen’s Hotel. He described the treatment in a local paper as “The Indian Medicated Vapour Bath (type of Turkish bath), a cure to many diseases and giving full relief when every thing fails; particularly Rheumatic and paralytic, gout, stiff joints, old sprains, lame legs, aches and pains in the joints”.

This business was an immediate success and Dean Mahomed became known as “Dr. Brighton”. Hospitals referred patients to his care and he was appointed as shampooing surgeon to both King George IV and William IV.

In 1814, Mahomed moved to the beachside town of Brighton and opened the first commercial “shampooing” bath in England, providing a combination of a steam bath and an Indian therapeutic massage. His business flourished, promising to cure diseases and provide relief from various physical pains.

He was so successful that soon he became known as “Dr. Brighton,” with hospitals referring patients to his care. He was also appointed shampooing surgeon to British kings George IV and William IV.

Sake Dean Mahomed and his wife Jane had seven children: Rosanna, Henry, Horatio, Frederick, Arthur, Dean Mahomed (baptised in the Roman Catholic church of St. Finbarr’s, Cork, in 1791 and Amelia (b. 1808). His son, Frederick, was a proprietor of Turkish baths at Brighton and also ran a boxing and fencing academy near Brighton. His most famous grandson, Frederick Henry Horatio Akbar Mahomed (c. 1849–1884), became an internationally known physician and worked at Guy’s Hospital in London. He made important contributions to the study of high blood pressure. Another of Sake Dean Mahomed’s grandsons, Rev. James Kerriman Mahomed, was appointed as the vicar of Hove, Sussex, in the late 19th century.

sake2Mahomed died in 1851 at 32 Grand Parade, Brighton. He was buried in a grave at St Nicholas Church, Brighton, in which his son Frederick was later interred. Frederick taught fencing, gymnastics and other activities in Brighton at a gymnasium he built on the town’s Church Street.He began to lose prominence by the Victorian era and until recently was largely forgotten by history. The literary critic Muneeza Shamsie notes that he also authored the books Cases Cured and Shampooing Surgeon, Inventor of the Indian medicated Vapour and Sea Water Baths etc.


Rose Petal Jelly

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From the earliest times, indeed throughout the history of civilization, people from around the world have held the rose close to their hearts.

Earliest roses are known to have flourished 35 million-years ago originating  in Asia.The earliest known gardening was the planting of roses along the most traveled routes of early nomadic humans.

In ancient Mesopotamia, Sargon I, King of the Akkadians (2684 BC — 2630 BC) brought “vines, figs and rose trees” from a military expedition beyond the River Tigris.

Rose petals were used in Ancient Egypt, and petrified rose wreaths have been unearthed from Egyptian tombs of antiquity. During the  late Ptolemic period (305 BC–30 BC), Cleopatra had her living quarters filled with the petals of roses so that when Marc Antony met her, he would long remember her for such opulence and be reminded of her every time he smelt a rose. Her scheme worked for him. Such is the power of roses.

The “rosa gallica” was already praised by the Greek poet Anacreon in the 6th century BC. Roses

It was probably brought to Gaul with the Roman conquest. The Romans cultivated a great beauty. Rose petals were also popular in Rome and Greece with the oil produced from them being used as both a medicine and as a perfume for wealthy Romans. The rose petals were used for balms and oils in the Roman society, particularly when worshiping the dead.Roman high society women used petals much like currency believing that they could banish wrinkles if used in poultices. Rose petals were often dropped in wine because it was thought that the essence of rose would stave off drunkenness and victorious armies would return to be showered with rose petals from the civilians that crowded the balconies above the streets long before the confetti and ticker tape parades welcoming events and people of note in New York City in the 20th Century. The Romans also used them as adornments at weddings where they were made into crowns to be worn by the bride and the groom.

And Even though petrified  remnants of roses wreaths have been  have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs and the evidence of rose hips having been found in Europe, the earliest record of roses being  cultivated by the Chinese  was about 5,000 years ago.

And because of trade and wars, the rose has been popular throughout the Middle East, with Iran being the center of it all.  You see, Iran, historically known as Persia, is situated on a bridge of land that connects the Middle East with the Far East. And because of Persia’s  geographic position, roses  have also been a staple in Persian cuisine for over a 3,000 years. It has a considerable place and  historical value in the evolution of the culinary arts from the Middle East to Europe, as it was right in the center of the ancient Silk Road.

The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes that connected the East and West. and  derives its name from the lucrative trade in silk carried out along its length, beginning in the Han Dynasty (207 BC –220 CE). Trade on the Silk Road played a significant role in the development of the civilizations of China, Korea, Japan, the Indian subcontinent, Iran/Persia, Europe, the Horn of Africa and Arabia, opening long-distance political and economic relations between the civilizations.  Though silk was the major trade item exported from China, many other goods were traded, as well as religions, syncretic philosophies, and technologies.

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Traders in antiquity along the Silk Road in include the  BactriansSogdiansSyriansJews, Arabs, Iranians, Turkmens, Chinese, Malays, Indians, Somalis, Greeks, Romans, Georgians, and Armenians (Hansen 2012). In addition to economic trade, the Silk Road was a route for cultural trade among the civilizations along its network (Bentley, 1993).   And has thus, a transitional point where  exchange of cultures and the trade of exotic products and cuisine  were passed between the West and the Orient for thousands of years.

Ancient Persians took their wares to all the corners of the world, in particular pomegranates, saffron and spinach, and the country also played host to much of the bargaining between the East and West. These bargained goods, including rice, lemons and eggplant, now feature prominently in the national Iranian dishes were traded for silk and roses.  Roses have been used in Persian cuisine for 3,000 years. In fact, the use of rose petals in Middle Eastern cooking is largely the product of Persian influence. Rose petals were adopted throughout the Middle East after the Persian Conquests which established the Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BC) and subsequently the Sasanian Empire (224–651 AD),and eventually roses were in many cuisines throughout the world including Indian and Chinese food.

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Roses often show up in Turkish delight, a Middle Eastern confection that is one of the oldest sweets in the world. Turkish delight can be made with rose petals or with rose water. They also often show up in certain blends of the Moroccan spice mix known as ras el hanout and in some sweetened rice dishes from India.

In Persian cuisine, dried rose petals have been used  in several dishes to flavor or as a garnish. Rose petals are often used to make rose water, which is a less-perishable way to get the rose flavor into baked goods like cakes and puddings. In the Persian household, rosewater is a regular pantry ingredient that is added to sweets, desserts and even coffee.

A popular dessert in  modern Iran just happens to be Bastani, a Persian rose and vanilla ice cream desert that is often garnished with cream chunks and sugar coated rose petals (For the Bastaini Recipe, follow the link to: The Persian Fusion, 2015).

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Eventually roses made their way to France. It is said that Thibaud IV, Count of Thibault_IV_Comte_de_ChampagneChampagne (1201-1253), He initiated the Barons’ Crusade in 1239 and  was famous for being a trouvère, and was the first Frenchman to rule Navarre O’Callaghan 1975). According to most historians, the Barons’ Crusade was not  a glorious campaign, but it  did led to several diplomatic successes (Richard, 1999). Souvenirs that he brought back to Europe included a piece of the true cross and the Chardonnay grape which in modern times is an important component of champagne. Thibaud also brought back a rose bush what was named “Provins” (Latin name rosa gallica ‘officinalis’, the Apothecary’s Rose) from this diplomatic expedition to Jerusalem. Though oral tradition is strong, this is not confirmed by any written chronicle, but the evidence of rose appearing in France during this time, lends credibility to the tale (Fray 2007). Thibaud’s poetic spirit was undoubtedly in awe of the beauty of the rose gardens found in the palaces of the Sultan of Damascus.It is said that Thibaud wanted to cultivate this rose on the hillsides of the Châtel in Provins. One can imagine that, from this intensive cultivation was born the link between the city and the flower, that from then on has been present in the city’s traditions: distinguished visitors, such as Kings Francis Ist, Henri IV, Louis XI, or Queen Catherine de Medicis were offered cushions of dried petals (Evergates, 2007).

Provins always had a vested interest in the cultivation of roses. Over time, these roses63654988_ce06cd1c1f have constantly evolved and wild roses started growing next to those cultivated for specific needs (Fray, 2007). This is true of the Rose of Provins, The apothecary rose, first recorded in the 13th century, and was the foundation of a large industry in growing roses that produced  jellies, powders and oils,  because this particular rose was believed to cure a multitude of illnesses. OLIVIER DE SERRES (1539-1619). French author and agricultural scientist, the father of agronomy in France, identified “several virtues to the one who distills rose water used by apothecaries of syrups and other things…” (Hoffman 1984).  And thus, products with medicinal properties where produced in the form of syrups to relieve digestive problems; as a lotion for dry skin; as products to clean and purify the skin; and made as a rock candy to soothe the throat.And these products are still being made and are still  being used in these modern times.

And since medieval times,the rose is still strongly associated with Provins’ confectionery creativity. Provins still produces all sorts of foods from roses, and its main specialties are rose petal jam, fruit jelly, rose honey, rose candy chocolate, liqueur and other delicacies. Provins is also   a large producer of wine, with the medieval methods of wine making are still being carried out by residents, and some vineyards are still being used to produce to  rose petal wine to this very day (Johnson, 1989) .

 And whether in France or in the Middle East, rose petal jam made from fresh rose petals often makes an appearance on the breakfast table to be eaten with bread and butter or clotted cream.The sophisticated floral flavor of rose petal jam truly elevates the foodie palette.

And it should be noted that the flavor of rose petals differs depending on which type of rose plant produced them. They can have a floral sweetness or a tartness similar that which comes from citrus fruit. They can also be mildly spicy. They are often intensely aromatic, which is the quality that is most valuable for cooking.

And given the rather long culinary history, how I came to adore rose petal jelly was through my Grand’s love of growing her own pink roses, not just for their beauty, but because she loved rose petal jelly too! This is her recipe that I share with you today.

Enjoy!

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Ingredients:
4 cups pink or red edible roses* (See Cook’s Notes)
6 cups water
1 lemon
6 Tablespoons Class Ball Powdered Pectin **(See Cook’s Notes)
3 cups granulated white sugar

Directions:
Measure the petals.Rinse in cold water to remove debris and small bugs, and drain using a colander. Add the petals and the water to a large saucepan . Set the saucepan on the stove and bring it to a boil. Turn the heat down and let the petals simmer for fifteen minutes.

Using a colander lined with a double layer of cheesecloth,pressing all the liquid from the petals strain the liquid into a bowl to cool slightly. Discard the petals.

Measure the liquid. There should be 4 cups. Add additional water to equal 4 cups of rose liquid, if necessary.

Juice one large lemon into the rose water.

Return the liquid to the saucepan, and add the pectin, stirring thoroughly. Place the saucepan back on the stove bring it to a boil, stirring constantly.

Once the liquid is boiling, add 3 the sugar and continue to mixture it boil for an additional two minutes.

Skim any foam that may form ontop of the jelly.

Ladle the jelly into prepared sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace and cap the jars with the lids and rims. Let the jarred jelly sit to cool and set on the counter overnight.

Jelly can be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months.

To preserve for storage at room temperature, cover jars with lids and rims, place in a hot water bath (2 -3 inches boiling water) for 15 minutes at a hard boil. However, it should be noted that the jelly must be refrigerated after opening.

Serve this versatile accompaniment with scones, crumpets, toast, croissants and other treats. The jelly also has a variety of uses, including using it as a glaze over fruit or tea cakes and even over vanilla ice cream.

Cook’s Notes:
*All edible flowers must be free of pesticides. Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries, or garden centers. In many cases they are treated with pesticides not labeled for food crops.

Dried rose petals are great in herbal tea mixes, too. You can also mix dried rose petals, tiny rose buds and a few cardamom pods with black or green tea leaves for an exotic brew.

Dried rose petals sold in UK supermarkets and online are mostly sourced from Pakistan and are usually of rosa canina variety. They are dark pink or crimson in color. Persian dried roses are pale pink and come from damascene roses. Both are good for food decorating but  most  Persian cooks prefer dried roses, available from Middle Eastern groceries and online, for use as a spice.

After boiling, you will notice that the water becomes a dingy brown, and the petals will lose their color. Do not fret. When adding the lemon juice, the acid from the lemons, will transform the liquid into a bright pinkish red.

** One 1.75 ounce package of powered pectin can be used a reasonable substitute.

Sources:
“How to use rose petals in cooking”. (2017). The Persian Fusion. Retrieved July 1, 2018.

“Provins in the dark”. Retrieved June 23, 2018.

Digest, The Reader’s (1978). The world’s last mysteries. Montréal: Reader’s Digest. p. 303. ISBN 089577044X.

Our Rose Garden.:The History of Roses: University of Illinois Extension. (2018). Retrieved July 1, 2018. Retrieves July 1, 2018.  https://extension.illinois.edu/roses/history.cfm

Bentley, Jerry (1993). Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 32.

Boulnois, Luce (2005). Silk Road: Monks, Warriors & Merchants. Hong Kong: Odyssey Books. p. 66. ISBN 962-217-721-2.

Elisseeff, Vadime (2001). The Silk Roads: Highways of Culture and Commerce. UNESCO Publishing / Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-92-3-103652-1.

Evergates, Theodore (2007). The Aristocracy in the County of Champagne, 1100-1300. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Fray, Jean-Luc (2007). Villes et bourgs de Lorraine: réseaux urbains et centralité au Moyen Âge (in French). Presses Universitaires Blaise-Pascal.

Hansen, Valerie (2012). The Silk Road. OUP US. p. 218. ISBN 9780195159318. Archived from the original, Retrieved June 20, 2017. Jewish merchants have left only a few traces on the Silk Road.

Hoffman, Philip. (1984). “The Economic Theory of Sharecropping in Early Modern France”. The Journal of Economic History 1984, page 312.

Johnson, Hugh. (1989). Vintage: The Story of Wine pg 122. Simon and Schuster.

O’Callaghan, Joseph F. (1975). A History of Medieval Spain. Cornell University Press.

Richard, Jean (1999). The Crusades, C.1071-c.1291. Translated by Birrell, Jean. Cambridge University Press.

Tyerman, Christopher (2006). God’s War:A New History of the Crusades. Penguin Books.

Xinru, Liu, (2010). The Silk Road in World History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 11. “Republic of Korea | Silk Road”. en.unesco.org. Archived from the original. Retrieved June 25, 2018.

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