“He who controls the spice controls the universe. Such were the words uttered by the main character of the movie Dune based on the Frank Herbert science fiction epic of the same name. In the story, the spice was the lifeblood of a vast empire. For the leaders of this empire, it was essential that at all times the spice must flow.
The spice trade of the Dune movie was no doubt inspired by the historical trade in aromatics from ancient times to the present. At various periods in history, spices have been as valuable as gold and silver. According to a 15th century saying: No man should die who can afford cinnamon.”
I love to cook with spices lately. Here is a perfect lunch or dinner, full of exotic ingredients and yet healthy, vegetarian dishes.
Four Grains Soup and Potato Stuffed Flatbread (Aloo Paratha) and Mint, Yogurt Dressing
- For the soup:
- 1/2 cup green split peas
- 1/2 yellow split peas
- 1/2 barley
- 1/2 lentils
- 1/2 alphabet pasta bits made from wheat flour, spinach and tomato (or pasta of your choice)
- 6 cups of water
- 1 potato, diced into small cubes
- salt to taste
- 2 tsp sunflower or olive oil
- 1/2 tsp black or brown mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 4 shallots, finely chopped
- 2 fresh green chiles, chopped (seeded if you like)
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 fresh tomato, chopped
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- For the potato stuffed flatbread:
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 tsp oil
- 1/2 cup water
- more flour in a plate, for rolling
- 2 large potatoes, boiled and peeled
- 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp or to taste red chili powder
- salt to taste
- 5 sprigs cilantro, finely chopped
- oil for pan frying
- For the yogurt dressing:
- 1 small cucumber
- 3/4 cup plain yogurt
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- a garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- fresh mint, to taste, finely chopped
For the soup: Put the grains into a medium saucepan. Add the water and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to medium and skim off the foam. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure that the grains do not stick to the bottom of the pan as they thicker. Stir in the salt and potato. (If you add salt too soon to the grains, they will take longer to cook.) Let it cook for another 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. When hot, but not smoking, add the mustard seeds, followed by the cumin seeds. Add the shallots and chiles and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes, then add the turmeric and ground cumin. Add the tomato and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
Fold the shallot mixture into the cooked grains. Stir in the cilantro, remove from the heat, and serve.
For the flatbread: If you are planning to cook Aloo Paratha for the first time, please visit the very helpful video of this recipe here. That's what I did-)))
For the yogurt dressing: Peel the cucumber and scoop out the seeds. Cut the flesh into bite-size pieces and set aside. Put the yogurt in a bowl and beat with a fork until smooth. Add the sugar and salt and mix well. Add the cucumber, garlic, mint, and paprika. Mix well and serve over flatbread.