Last weekend, Jamie Oliver threw his voice behind 'Meat Free Week', a campaign that is being launched in the UK, after its launch in Australia in 2013. Meat Free Week is an online campaign to not only make people think about the amount of meat they consume and the importance of a balanced diet. But, it also compels us to think about the origin of all the meat, including processed meat, we consume and its impact on the welfare of the animals and this planet. To cater to the enormous demand for meat around the world, a large part of the meat we consume is factory farmed and factory farming is the number one cause for animal cruelty in the world today.
So, this is not a debate about vegetarianism but a platform to educate ourselves and make ourselves aware and make informed choices about the origins of the meat we eat. Just as we should be informed and aware of where our vegetables, our fruits, our grain and our dairy products come from. That's something to think about!!
Coming back to today's post, if there is one cuisine that celebrates its vegetables, it has to be Indian cuisine. For the sheer variety of vegetables available in the market to the diversity of ways of cooking them, it is very easy to go without meat in India. Moreover, with Summer here, I, anyhow have a personal preference for less meat.
In this weather, I, like many other Indians, can't help but lean on yoghurt as a way to cool the system to take on the rising temps. So, I made 'dahi baingan', a dish from eastern India that cooks aubergine in a simple, yoghurt curry. The curry is light and creamy while being light on spice with a tinge of sweetness. As you can see, in this weather, I also prefer less spice.
I paired it with lemon rice where the rice is flavoured with curry leaves, some whole spices, lentils and lemon, of course. It does have some whole red chillies but more to add to the flavour profile, not so much for spice. It works well with creamy curries from down South. So, I saw no reason why it could not be paired with the 'dahi baingan' and I was right.
This is all about flavour that is subtle and light on the palate, perfect for the weather in mind. I added some okra fries in the mix and that is purely as an indulgence and to tease the palate with some crunch and spice.
Fried vegetables as an accompaniment is a weakness of mine that I have inherited from my mother's side of the family. The food from Odisha is light on spices and the emphasis is on the letting the taste of the produce shine through. Their one indulgence, amongst many, is to fry different vegetables as an irresistible accompaniment to the meal. Potatoes, cauliflower, spinach, pumpkin flowers and any other vegetable that can be fried usually makes it to the table and they are so addictive that they compel you to throw all caution when it comes to portion size. As for these, okra fries, make them once and you will know what a good thing you are onto!!
Each of these three components can be had together or made on their own and paired with different components. Pair the lemon rice with a coconut based curry or the dahi baingan with some plain rice and dal or even meat. As for the okra fries, I'll suggest that you can even serve them as a bar snack!!
I'll sign off saying that there is a great need for all of us to educate ourselves on where our food is being sourced from so that we can make informed choices that are kinder on the world we live in.