I was having an off-day, one of those days when everything seems to go wrong. I felt wheezy, my throat was itchy, and there was lunch to prepare. It had to be something quick and easy. The freezer is a good place to look for that kind of food, but since we had had pastitsio the previous day, it was a bit too much to bring out the frozen portion-sized moussaka, which would have been the easiest solution.
I found a packet of mixed frozen vegetables in the deep freeze, the type that contains peas, carrots and corn (this one also contained red kidney beans and green runner beans). It had been, let's just say, forgotten about, without any expressed intent to be used for any particular meal. I can't remember why I had bought this packet of frozen vegetables in the first place. We have a large garden, so there are always fresh vegetables in the house. I suppose the picture on the packet looked tempting: a jumbled pile of coloured pebbles.
In New Zealand, my mother would often boil this kind of vegetable medley and serve them with pilafi rice or boiled potatoes. This kind of meal was quick and easy to prepare, a very important factor for a working wife and mother who left the house in the middle of the morning, and did not return home until after seven or eight o'clock at night. Even though she worked away from home for so many hours, I don't recall a day when there was no freshly prepared food in our house.
Frozen vegetables don't do it for me anymore. I remember a time when I ate them with greater relish, during my dieting stints when my food intake was reduced in terms of portions and variety, so these frozen vegetables looked colourfully inviting. I now find that frozen vegetables have a strange plasticky smell and a woody texture even when cooked, as if they were unripe at the time of processing. You will find a spoonful of this vegetable medley as an accompaniment to meat steaks at tavernas; they are used to fill the gap on the plate - very boring, and highly suspect. For this reason, when my mother-in-law would serve up this convenience food to her family, she would cook them Mediterranean-style in a light tomato sauce.
a 250g packet of frozen mixed vegetables
2 cloves garlic
some olive oil (between 5-10 tablespoons, depending on how oily you like your food)
2 freshly grated tomatoes
1 tablespoon of red curry paste (that was my addition, not from my mother-in-law's original recipe)
1/2 glass of water
a few sprigs of parsley
salt, pepper and oregano
Chop the onion and garlic finely, and saute in a pot with the olive oil heated up. Add the frozen vegetables and coat them in the oil. Then add the tomato and curry paste, and the water. Let the pot simmer away, covered, for 20 minutes, so that most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the chopped parsley towards the end of the cooking time. Done!
I keep some chicken off-cuts in the fridge for making stock, with which I can make a hearty Cretan pilafi. It doesn't take a long time once you have the stock ready. This is what I served the vege medley with. The curry and rice mixture reminded me of another cuisine I haven't had in a while? To date, I have no knowledge of any Indian restaurants in Hania...
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