Chinese black bean has been all the rage in our household for a while now. Known as Douchi in Chinese, they are essentially black soy beans that are heavily salted and fermented and used extensively to flavour everything from stir-fried vegetables and meats, eggs, to rice dishes. These little umami-laden nuggets are salty and sweet in the same bite and impart their gutsy flavour to whatever you choose to pair them with.
Chinese black bean paste, as is obvious, is made by pounding the fermented black beans and making them into a savoury paste. Extra garlic and soy are sometimes added to get the right piquancy and depth of flavour. I prefer the coarsely ground pastes to the black bean ‘sauces’ that you get, and it’s always fun to hunt around for those elusive beans in the dish afterward!
I know black bean has a bad rap in the Chinese takeaway scene. Soggy batter-fried strips of chicken doused in a goopy, almost gelatinous blanket of black sauce that makes any meat or vegetable in it completely indistinguishable. Or it’s a revoltingly sweet red sauce which tastes nothing like any Chinese that I’ve ever had anywhere. Not to mention the greasy noodles or fried rice with so much oil in it, that you wouldn’t actually need a side dish. Which reminds me of a recipe that I came across recently that said “add more oil if you’d like your rice greasier”. What, WHY?
This fried rice is healthy, and makes for a quick week night dinner; you could make it more substantial by throwing in more vegetables into the pot – baby corn, peppers, carrots, and beans work very well here. If you’re looking for a variation to your regular rice dish, this is a pretty good way of upping the ante.
Anything that is meant to be set just right “with a slight wobble to it” intimidates me. Cheesecake, crème caramel, quiche, custard pies..I fear you. The first recipe that I came across for a frittata looked pretty simple to follow, ingredients accessible, but the oven timings “varying widely” bit really got to me. I chickened out.
We usually end up eating out on the weekends. Checking out new restaurants flaunting different cuisines/fusion menus (re-fried beans replaced with green beans in a taco..don’t even ask), that’s our scene. Did I tell you about the time that I found chorizo in Chennai and yelped with joy? I had some sitting around in the fridge waiting to be used up along with some leftover spinach, and a frittata was the first thing that came to mind. Armed with my 2 packs of eggs (my husband eats only the whites and is a vegetarian, so that made me go through 1 whole pack for him so I made two separate pies), I very meekly set about this challenge. Amateur tip – watch them eggs like a hawk.
The eggs were perfectly set – slightly gooey because of the cheese, the flavours were delicious, and Sunday brunch turned out to be a real treat! The combination of chorizo and oven-dried tomatoes really elevated this frittata and made it so much more than just a glorified omelette.
Confession – I bought this without knowing what the hell it was, because it was purple. Didn’t have a name, and didn’t know what I was going to do with it. But I had to have it. A quick Google search along the lines of “purple spinach like plant” threw up a ton of options (there are so many different foods that are purple – what in the world are purple strawberries? Dipping in food colouring doesn’t count, you know. But seriously, do they really exist?) I know I’m digressing here, but blue/purple tomatoes too? Whaaat.
It’s Amaranth. You get them both in green and purple, and this one I had stumbled upon was the latter variety. What was a staple food of the Aztecs and Incas, and still a native crop in Peru, it apparently has been cultivated for over 8000 years now. Chock full of calcium, iron and protein, it’s been rightly named the “future crop of the year”! The grains of the plant have their equal share of nutrients too, and contain an unusually high quality of protein as compared to their more commonly found counterparts.
I wanted the keep the preparation as simple as possible and retain the vibrancy of its colour. Hence these simple baked eggs. The amaranth is lightly wilted and assembled like a wreath around the eggs. I’ve used chicken eggs, but just wanted to show from the picture that different types can be used (the smaller freckled ones are quail eggs).
Very quick to rustle up and makes for a great simple meal with a side of toasted bread. Moral of the story – venture out more and try new ingredients; you don’t know how much you might love it!
(I’ve fully cooked my eggs, but runny yolks would work wonderfully too).