Alambe Bhuthi – quick Mushroom stir fry

Mallika Basu - Alambe Bhuthi – quick Mushroom stir fry

Posted 5th December 2012

My new boss has declared that “shy” clearly doesn’t feature in my vocabulary. That didn’t take long. And yet, I ummed and ahhd over the  Madhur Jaffrey vid post for the best part of two weeks. Wondering if the fine art of self promotion was being stretched just a tad too far.

The thing had been on the telly, so on it went.

Frankly, I couldn’t believe the whole thing. Film editing is clearly a finer art than self promotion. The sprogs look like they’ve been dip-dyed in gold dust. My hair looks like something out of a Pantene ad. And the kitchen worktop is far from the oil-stained chipboard reality it was back then, painted a dusky grey in haste the day before filming. Not to mention me bossing none other than Madhur Jaffrey in my own home.

The sad truth is that none of us are that spectacular. Most days are a blur of relentless meetings, the caffeine kicks to get the day started and the dash home to make sure I get to see the bundles before they crash for the night. To get through it all, I cook and eat good food. That means a bit of everything: Oriental, lots of pasta, British comfort cooking and, best of all for me, authentic Indian food.

The trick, to cooking Indian food, I have learnt is in a bit of planning and a bit of common sense. Both of which I generally struggle with. So on busy days, I:

  • Marinade meats to be cooked in the evening before I leave for work (or the night before). Takes minutes and means that you will get really succulent curry even if you speed things up by using a pressure cooker later or cook wok-style
  • Fish clothes out of the laundry basket to cook in. Why soil new clothes and increase the dirty laundry stash?
  • One for the ladies: Wear a shower cap. If you cook Indian food, you will smell of spices afterwards. If you’re not blessed with naturally gorgeous locks, you can have a quick shower later without the need for a full hair wash/blow dry
  • Spend one evening mincing ginger and garlic separately in my food processor/hand blender. Then spoon the stash into silicon ice cube trays , cover with cling film and freeze. This way I don’t need to get your fingers/grater dirty every time I cook and it’ll cut down cooking times. Pop the cubes out at the start of cooking so that they can defrost while you get everything else ready
  • Cook extra. If you’re not calling the takeaway, you might as well get a second meal out of your effort. Freeze for a rainy day or save in the fridge for the next day
  • Stick to readily-available ingredients. I tend to do weekly bulk shops for every day food, delivered from my local supermarket. Everything else I source during weekend trips, like frozen, fresh grated coconut from Oriental shops near our favourite Dim Sum haunt and Indian spices from the local sweet shop. Online shopping is good too, only if there are enough products in the basket to warrant the delivery charges and someone is home to collect

I often find inspiration at the end of a long day with a quick look on the blogosphere on my way home. That’s how I found this sublime, tangy and spicy mushroom stir fry recipe with spicy coconut masala from Divya’s Easy Cooking and Vee’s Past, Present and Me that I chanced upon while searching for a decent way to use up some mushrooms and a bag of frozen shredded coconut. A quick stir fry, we scooped them up into torn chunks of readymade rotis for a mid week supper. With less chilli, it would have been great for the kids too.

So what are your tips to share for mid-week meals on busy days?


Feeds 4:

  • 150-200gm baby button mushrooms
  • Half inch ginger
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 4 whole red chillies
  • Half tsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp colourless, flavourless oil
  • 2 tsp coconut oil (optional)

Wash the baby button mushrooms under a cold tap in a sieve and leave to drain. Peel and grate the ginger (unless you have a ready stash) and chop the onion into small pieces.

In a small food processor, mince the coconut, coriander seeds and whole red chillies. The coconut will have enough moisture for this to be a coarse masala.

Next, bring the flavourless oil to heat on high in a medium sized pan. Saute the onion and ginger for five minutes until golden, then add the mushrooms. Stir for another two to five minutes until they start taking on colour and releasing moisture. Then mix in the coconut masala. Fry well for another five minutes, you will notice the sharp aroma changing to a more mellow one.

Then mix in the tamarind paste, salt to taste and coconut oil if you have it. Serve immediately with toasted pitta bread, naan or rotis.

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