Mum's Saijan Bhaji & Coconut
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In life, it is very important to have a support system. I needed mine 24/7 for the past couple of months. My whole life, I have been fiercely protecting my independence. Fighting off anyone or anything that threatened it. In my culture, being an independent female is rare. At least for my generation. I have spent most of my adult life being "rare" enough that people didn’t seem to know how to process my existence. And soon enough I didn't know how to process theirs. From a very early age, I learned to not care. I learned to not care about what people thought about me. I learned to not care if I was not included in fun happenings because I was different and made different life choices. I learned to not care and be happy on my own. I learned that at an early age. I learned to depend on me and me alone because even if everything around you was falling apart, you would always have YOU. I fiercely pursued my happiness, developed my own personal values, and kept building my career and independence. There were times where I felt indestructible and joked-not-joked about ruling the world. But then a couple of years ago, during some of the lowest moments of my career, I got sick. I got sick enough that I couldn't go to work for weeks. For weeks, I would wake up, lay on the couch, shower, lay back on the couch and then go to bed. I was extremely weak. Doctor's did not know what to diagnose me with. I saw many specialists. I had a hard time driving myself to the appointments. One day, I felt decent enough to go back to work. I promptly felt bad again in a matter of hours and had to go to urgent care. It was that day, that I realized how alone I was. How replaceable I was. I remember going back home and deciding that I did not want to feel that way ever again. I didn’t want to sacrifice my health and happiness again for my career. It was one of those eye-opening, punch-you-in-the-gut, epiphany moments. I decided that as soon as I was better, I would go back home to where my parents were, my support system was and all the love I was missing was. My lovely fiancé at the time, helped me pack and move home. He would join me later. He has stood by me for so many years through so much. Very slowly, I have learned that aside from depending on me and my parents sometimes, I can take a break and depend on him too. He has become one of my greatest strengths and I am forever grateful that I met him and get to call him my husband. For the first time in my life, I made a move without having a plan. I did not have a clue as to what I would do once I moved back to CA. All my old career plans had already gone out the window. I did not want to be a part of that work culture anymore. Had no clue what to do but eventually things started falling into place. And then I got sick again but this time, I had my whole support system in place to help me. It is like having a whole army stand behind me. Even though things have been hard medically speaking, I feel lucky, blessed and so grateful. Turns out I am not indestructible and I do need help from time to time. Learning that I could ask for help and it would be given unconditionally has been quite the mind trip. I want to thank all my peeps for being there for me especially my husband, parents, sister, kids. How lucky am I? Happy heart :D
Today's recipe is for saijan bhaji. Saijan is the Hindi word for the moringa plant. We eat the leaves (bhaji) and fruit of this plant as well. Recently, the moringa plant has come into the limelight as a superfood and trendy folks have been consuming various variations of this plant. I have been finding this a bit funny. We have been eating saijan for generations and have known about the health benefits of doing so. It is not only tasty but great for the digestive system. However, literally no one enjoys cleaning the leaves. It takes forever in my opinion. We purchase saijan from our local Indian store where they are sold in bundles. Then we painstakingly pick each leaf off the stems, wash and drain them. Different people have different techniques on cleaning but I only know the straightforward way. If there is an easier way, please let me know!
I hope I have not scared you off by now. This recipe is quite tasty and once the leaves are ready, everything gets cooked in no time. First, lightly toast unsweetened, shredded coconut and keep it aside. Then cook down the saijan leaves with some oil, onions, garlic and salt. Then add the toasted, shredded coconut and cook it for a couple more minutes with the cooked bhaji. After this the saijan bhaji with coconut is done! Eat with freshly made rotis!
You can make this recipe without the coconut too. That is the regular way to make it but adding the coconut makes the dish super tasty. Plus coconut is also good for you! Let me know how this recipe goes for you!
Finally, just like coconut and saijan support and make each other better in this recipe, find people who can also support you and make you better. Find the coconut to your saijan.
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RECIPES: Serves 8 Prep time 30 minutes Cook time 30 minutes Ingredients: 6 oz shredded unsweetened coconut 2 tbsp olive oil 1/2 cups diced onions 1 tbsp crushed garlic 2 bundles of saijan or moringa leaves cleaned Salt to taste Method:
Lightly toast unsweetened, shredded coconut on medium heat and keep it aside.
Heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onions. Once edges turn brown, add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add saijan bhaji and salt. Cook for five minutes.
Once saijan bhaji has cooked down, add toasted coconut.
Cook for another five minutes.
Turn off heat and enjoy with freshly made rotis!