Pierre once told me he often "forgets" that I dwell in the tropics and keeps imagining, though he knows where I live, that I inhabit colder climes. Silvia is curious to know what I eat when no one is looking. Both are foodie friends and while I've had exchanges about food and sometimes, life, with both of them, neither, as far as I know have met or cyber-spoken to each other. These two seemingly disparate yet related remarks from two very different people, got me thinking about something. There is perhaps, a sense of spectacle or showmanship about what we bloggers write and post, if for no other reason, then to capture and sustain reader interest. There's nothing wrong, I suppose, with that. After all, where would bloggers be, if no one cared enough to read our thoughts and musings? And let's face it - most, if not all food blog followers, would choose a bit of food fantasy and escapism, laced with a liberal dose of gastroporn, over warts-and-all kitchen reality.

Hence we spice up, we enliven our stories, we obsess over shooting then selecting the best possible pictures to post. Sometimes, we glamourise or humourise our (kitchen) blunders and I truly doubt that every food blogger eats such dreamy and fabulous food, every meal of every day. Sometimes I eat very simply and as much pleasure and satisfaction as it gives me, I have my doubts that anyone would want to know about the toasted cheese sandwich I just had, that sent me into raptures. Other times, what I eat might challenge less gastronomically intrepid palates, and, Andrew Zimmern probably wouldn't like me  encroaching on his turf ;)

Today's post is about a simple dish of vegetables that I love to distraction and often cook, whether or not anyone is looking ;) Simple, but delicous and neither boring nor unduly challenging. I doubt I would ever have posted something so ordinary and well, down home, if not for Pierre and Silvia, so thank you both, for the inspiration.  It's not exactly Indian, whatever that may or may not be, but it certainly is Indian influenced or inspired, if nothing else. I don't always use the same vegetables, but the chickpeas are always there, and usually, the daikon or mooli and green chillies, as well. These three are the regulars, with the guest starring roles given to any number of vegetables that catch my eye at the market.

I was drawn to these diminutive but assertively flavoured bitter gourds and thought they would work well with the flavour blunting mealiness of potatoes and chickpeas. They're the green ones in this picture, the white root with the knobbly top being daikon (mooli). Look for supple, light green bittergourds as the darker ones tend to be unpleasantly bitter.

Cumin has become something of a superstar of the spice world and I'm sure many have it in their kitchens, as every other recipe now seems to call for a pinch, a teaspoon or a tablespoon of ground cumin. I wonder though, how many are as familiar with the seed form of the spice, which looks like this.

This is vegetarian, vegan in fact but don't think it's rabbit fodder or diet food - it satisfies and pleases completely. It's more my personal treat then anything else as no one else at home loves their vegetables as I do. If you think indulgences only come under a thick blanket of chocolate or drowning in cream, try this over rice or with flat breads like paratha, naan, soft tortillas, Mid Eastern flat breads or my favourite way, stuffed into a chappati like so.

Are you convinced now Pierre, how truly, madly, deeply tropical I am? Finish this flavoursome vegan treat with a very large cup of Chai. Contentment and serenity will follow. Ommmmmmmmmmmm....

Prep 20 mins       Cook 15 mins       Serves 3 - 4


A generous pinch cumin seeds
2 smallish waxy potatoes, peeled, quartered and sliced thinly across
5 fat cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
4 small bittergourds, topped, tailed, halved, seeds and pith scraped out then sliced thickly across
Half a large daikon radish, peeled, quartered and sliced thinly across
3-4 fresh green chillies, sliced thickly across
A generous pinch hot red pepper flakes
1 can thoroughly drained cooked chickpeas
1 level tsp sea salt (or to taste)


Heat about 3 tablespoons light vegetable oil (sunflower, soy, canola etc) in a deep pan or wok. When moderately hot, add the cumin seeds and stir for a few seconds, taking care that they don't burn.

Add the sliced potatoes and cook, stirring until potatoes begin to crisp. Add the garlic and continue to stir until garlic begins to brown.

Add in the sliced bittergourds and cook, stirring until they begin to brown at the edges. Stir in the sliced daikon and green chillies and cook, stirring often for about 3 minutes or until vegetables are almost done but still have some crunch.

Add the red pepper flakes, chickpeas and salt and stir for about 2 - 3 minutes or until chickpeas are thoroughly heated through.

Dish out and garnish with cilantro if you like. I didn't have cilantro when I made this but I do like it here. Serve immediately.