Preparing fresh cactus can literally be a pain. Obviously the thorns must be removed from the cactus before it can be eaten. Avoiding being pricked by the thorns which can be seen is one thing. It is the ones which aren’t so obvious that can really cause discomfort. The small fuzzy looking spots out of which the thorns grow are in fact comprised of hundreds if not thousands of almost microscopic needles. Those tiny fuzzy tufts seem to be magnetically attracted to human skin.
Faye and I once spent the night in the desert sleeping near a cactus plant. A mighty wind came up and blew those almost invisible needles into us and into our bedding. It was a miserable night, and we suffered for some time thereafter. It is difficult to extract that which you cannot see. Bathing in the creek the next morning didn’t help much.
A lot of time, effort and potential misery are avoided by purchasing fresh cactus which has already been skinned (de-thorned) and is washed and precut. It is simply a matter of boiling the cactus in salted water until tender and rinsing it under cold running water. It can then be used in many different ways.
Today I used the nopales to make a fugath. I began by greasing a hot skillet with coconut oil and sautéing:
- mustard seeds
- white poppy seeds
- cumin seeds
- urad dal
- chana dal
- curry leaves (dried and fresh)
Next I added onion and red jalapeño.
The boiled and rinsed nopales went in next along with some kosher salt.
After cooking for some time I added scraped coconut.
While the fugath was cooking I used up some open packages of instant mixes that had been hanging out in the freezer. I mixed what was left of the Utappam mix with the partial package of Dal Vada mix. I added baking powder and water to make a batter, and used an ebelskiver pan to cook the little vedas.
The flavor of the fugath were good but I made the mistake of not boiling the nopales long enough, and despite being cooked again by sautéing they were quite crunchy. Also on the plate was yogurt and homemade mango pickle.