Vegetables and Grains

Vegetable Pilau

This savory dish is a combination of recipes from my Harvey Day paperback and a cookbook by one Yogi Vithaldas which I found in the Indiana University Library. Serves 8.

2 lg. onions, sliced
1 1/2 c. peanuts, preferably unsalted and unroasted (raw Spanish peanuts are nice)
Fry briefly in 1/4 c. ghee (clarified butter), butter or mustard oil in a big skillet or pot, 'til onions are soft.

2 c. rice, preferably jasmine or Basmati
(To make this a substantial main dish, you can add 1 1/2 c. lentils here [preferably the little white "urad" dahl or the red "mussoor"/"masoor" dahl, rather than regular brown lentils, which break up and get more mushy], and add an extra cup of water later.) Add and fry over med.-low heat just a few minutes, stirring constantly and watching for browning, 'til rice is completely coated and colored a pale gold. Add 4 1/2 c. water and bring to a boil.

2 (1") cinnamon sticks
4 t. turmeric
seeds from 4 green cardamom pods
1/4 c. raisins
, to taste--optional (golden raisins are a nice touch; I leave them out completely cuz Bill doesn't like 'em)
Add w/up to 1 t. salt, stirring well to distribute flavors. You can also optionally add here a variety of nuts, such as a handful each of unsalted pistachios, cashews, almonds and/or pine nuts (I usually don't have these on hand). Reduce heat to minimum and cover tightly. Let simmer briefly while you quickly prep the veggies (next)--or prep the veggies before you start, and add them with the nuts.

6 med. carrots, sliced
1 1/2 c. (frozen) peas
about 1 c. each cauliflower and broccoli florets

I usually cheat and just throw in a bag of "California Style" veggies (which conveniently consist of sliced carrots with cauliflower and broccoli florets), although the texture is not as good as with fresh veggies. You can always vary the veggies according to availability and taste, although the Yogi reminds us to "keep an eye out for color combinations". Cover tightly after adding the veggies and simmer about 20 minutes, 'til all water absorbed and everything cooked.


This Malawian recipe from The Africa News Cookbook makes a good template for the thickened carbohydrate dish served as the foundation of meals throughout Africa south of the Sahara (variously known as fufu, tuwo, sima...). Serves 6.

4 c. water
Bring to boil.

1 1/2 c. white cornmeal (yellow is OK, but white is more common in Africa)
Mix to smooth paste w/2 c. water or milk. Stir into boiling water with a big wooden spoon and return to boil.

1 1/2 c. white cornmeal
Stir in gradually (you may not need all of it), reducing heat to medium or med.-low. Cook, stirring, 'til smooth and of firm finger-food consistency (you may need to beat or press out some lumps with your spoon), and remove from heat. Transfer to serving dish, cool slightly, and serve with your stew.

Alu Matar

Curried potatoes and peas, from Harvey Day. Serves 4.

2 onions, sliced
Fry 'til golden in 1/4 c. ghee (clarified butter) or mustard oil (or whatever you've got to hand).

2 tomatoes, finely chopped (or pureed--or use 1 can pureed tomatoes)
Add and fry a few minutes more.

2 lg. potatoes, peeled if desired and chopped or sliced (whichever you like best in the dish)
1 lb. (frozen) green peas
1/2 t. cayenne
1/4 t. ea. turmeric, ground coriander and ground cumin

Add w/up to 2 t. salt, stirring to distribute spices thoroughly; reduce heat to low and cook 'til peas and potatoes done (check after about 15 minutes).

African-style Greens

This is my own improvisation, an amalgam of several different recipes--and very simple.

2 med. onions
4 tomatoes
2-4 hot chili peppers

Cut up and puree in blender or food processor (or chop onions finely, mince chilis, and use canned tomato puree). Fry in a little oil (palm oil, if you have it) 'til cooked down into a nice sauce. You can add a little nutmeg to this if you want to get fancy, or some ginger if you want to be Ghanaian.

1 lb. greens
Collards, turnip, spinach--or sweet potato or pumpkin greens, if you can get them from your own or a friend's garden. A combination of greens is nice. Wash and tear up the greens (or just use frozen cut spinach if you're in a hurry), add to sauce and cook 'til done (10-15 minutes, depending on what greens you used). You can also add maybe 1/2-c. finely chopped/powdered peanuts (you can grind them quickly in a blender or food processor; don't use peanut butter, though, unless you really like the gluey texture that results) with the greens.

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Abbie Anderson
Last updated 8/22/99