After the video shoot last week, we had some dasheen bush (leaves of the dasheen plant) left over so I decided to bring it home with me to share this dasheen bush bhaji recipe with you all. I was one of those strange kids who loved any sort of bhaji (Spinach) dish our mom would make for us as kids. Chorai (Jamaican callaloo), pak choi and lovely dasheen bush, especially if she added salted meats and coconut milk. Today I’ve added swiss chard, collard greens and north American style spinach to my diet.. I even plant the stuff in the little kitchen garden we have in the back yard every spring.
Traditionally this dasheen bush bhaji recipe is made without the coconut milk and okra, but I love that level of flavor you get by cooking with coconut milk so I just had to include it and the okra was left over from a soup I made a few days back, so I decided to include them. Moms would be proud that I didn’t waste them.
1 bundle of dasheen bush leaves (see note below)
12 small okras
1/2 hot pepper (Scotch bonnet or habanero)
4 cloves garlic
3/4 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tomato (optional)
1/2 large onion
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (substitute with water)
Note: When shopping for dasheen bush leaves, ask your vendor for baby leaves (more tender) if you can and if you’re wondering… a bundle is about 15 leaves (with stems). I used coconut milk in my recipe, but you can water if you don’t have coconut milk.
Before we can getting cooking this tasty bhaji dish, we need to prep everything. Slice the garlic very thin, chop the onion, tomato and hot pepper (remember to discard the seeds of the pepper if you don’t want that killer heat) and set aside.
Give the okra a rinse under cool water and trim off the stem and end tip and discard. Then cut each okra into 1 cm pieces (rough chop) and set aside.
You may have to refer to the video at the bottom of this recipe to see how I prepared the dasheen bush leaves as it’s a bit hard to explain and I may end up confusing you. All you’re doing is removing the stems by pulling on it while having a good grip on the leaf itself. A sort of string should pull away when you do… that is normal. Remember to wash each leaf and don’t discard the stems as they can be used as well. After you’ve trimmed each leaf, take about 5 and form into a bundle, with the part where the stems were attached at the top (again, see video please). Trim off that area and discard. Then with a tight roll, start cutting thin slices to sort of shred the dasheen bush leaves. Place the shredded leaves into a colander or bowl and rinse again.
Let’s now get cracking with cooking this bhaji… On high heat, in a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the slices of garlic, but turn down the heat a bit so we don’t burn the slices of garlic. The idea is to cook it for a couple minutes so we can infuse the oil with that rich garlic flavor.
When the edges of the garlic starts to go golden, turn the heat back up to med/high and start adding the shredded dasheen bush. It will pile up and you wonder if you pot is big enough. Fear not… it will wilt down. Give it a good stir then add the salt, pepper, onion, okra and tomato. Give that a good stir, then add the coconut milk to the pot. Bring that up to a boil, then reduce to a very gentle simmer. Allow this to cook for about 35-40 minutes with the pot covered. Be sure to stir every 5-7 minutes.
For some reason or the other I find that the dasheen bush we get here in Ontario (imported of course) takes a bit longer to cook, so I had to cook it for the full 40 minutes. The idea is to get the dasheen bush to melt away and form a thick (especially with the addition of the okra) consistency. After 40 minutes I still had a bit of liquid in the pot, so I removed the lid, turned up the heat and cooked it for a further 5 minutes. Move the spoon around the bottom of the pot and you should see it dry… it may sick, so keep stirring.
One of my favorite ways to have dasheen bush bhaji was with cassava dumplings but it also goes well with roti, rice and bread if that’s all you have. A wonderful creamy vegetarian dish, dasheen bush bhaji will surely excite your taste buds.