Moroccan spiced paneer, potato, asparagus and olive stew

17 Apr

 

Moroccan spiced paneer, potato, asparagus and olive stew

Moroccan spiced paneer, potato, asparagus and olive stew by Deena Kakaya

 

I’m feeling more alive these days.  I’ve already made my first trip of the year to Brighton, butterfly world and the zoo. We are now frequently taking walks in the park. Today I shook the branch of a tree heavy with pink blossom and to my toddler’s delight; confetti adorned his face and sweater. As I watched his face beam, I took in the sounds of chirping birds, chattering over ducks and felt the glint of sunshine in my eyes. I love spring time.

I’m also eating differently too, as I mentioned in my recent posts. Soups have given way to salads and mugs of green tea with cherries soaked into the mug have been replaced by slim and tall glasses of blueberry lemonade. Snacks of cheesy crackers are no longer the go-to, but strawberries with melted dark chocolates are welcomed in.

Still, I have said it before and I shall again…nothing can cajole me in the way a curry does. It feels natural. It doesn’t have to be an Indian curry though.  This week on twitter I caught some of the conversation about a fusion Udon noodle pot that is available in supermarkets. It was something with an ‘Indian twist’ in the recipe. Some people were clearly unimpressed at how these two cuisines could combine, or maybe it was the way that they were combined that was the cause of dismay. Anyway, I don’t see (well-executed) fusion recipes as a modern atrocity. Very simply, I think that if it ‘works’ (tastes good), then all is good.

On that note, I share with you a Moroccan spiced paneer, potato, asparagus and olive stew that feel fresh with mint and easy spices, light and juicy, zesty with lemon and the stew has bite and depth.  I haven’t used a ready-made Moroccan spice blend because there is no point; this one is so easy to make with store-cupboard ingredients. I normally buy large bags of spices from an Indian grocer but the folk from Schwartz pointed me towards their handy spices that are available from supermarkets; handy when I can’t get to the Indian grocer which I have to travel to! They are also conveniently packed so I took them away with me when I was demonstrating in Brighton for Vegfest. I found the spices of great colour and they smell just as they should do-lingering and fresh. This recipe uses ground cumin, coriander, turmeric and cinnamon which you can get from the Schwartz range.

I have also used savera paneer in this recipe because it is the closest thing out there to homemade paneer.

Moroccan spiced paneer, potato, asparagus and olive stew

Ingredients

2 medium sized potatoes

150g asparagus tips

225g paneer, cubed

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 medium red onions, finely sliced

3 tbsp. olive oil

Thumb sized piece of ginger, minced

A handful of mint leaves

The juice of one lemon

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground turmeric

600ml vegetable stock

Salt to taste (the vegetable stock would be salty, so only use salt once you’ve tasted the stew)

1 cup of chopped tomatoes (tinned)

125g pitted queen olives

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and add onions, sauté until they soften before adding the paneer garlic and ginger and cook until the paneer starts to catch a golden colour.
  2. Stir in the ground turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and coriander and sauté for 30 seconds before adding the potatoes and mixing well.
  3. Pour in the vegetable stock and the tomatoes and bring the stew to a simmer before squeezing in the lemon juice and the mint leaves.
  4. Cook for 7-10 minutes before adding the asparagus and the olives and then cook for a further 5 minutes.
  5. Serve hot with cous cous or fresh bread.

This is a sponsored post but any views expressed are my own.

Hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprout and asparagus rice paper rolls

14 Apr

Hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprout and asparagus rice paper rolls

Hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprout and asparagus rice paper rolls

 

Remember I told you that I was going to eat lighter, mood invigorating, colourful, vibrant, fresh food that won’t make me feel heavy, bloated, sleepy or overly hormonally imbalanced? Yes…

Apart from gross indulgence on peanut M&M’s it is going pretty well. My husband ran the marathon yesterday and he did it in one piece, looking a few shades darker, a bit puffed out but certainly not looking depleted, weak or drained. Impressive eh? I had a marathon of my own. Marathon hero took my (automatic) car to London in the morning to make life a bit easier on the homeward journey, but it had the buggy in it. So, I made the journey from Hertfordshire to the Mall with my immensely active, hugely curious, jumping, running, bouncing 26month old. Yes..

Physical exertion is rewarding, but comes with some pain, sometimes. I also did a class of body attack at the weekend and after all this, I think I need to eat light; refreshing foods that DON’T need a lot of work to burn off.

Summer rolls, Vietnamese spring rolls or rice paper rolls. Whatever you call them, they are one of the most versatile, quick-fix meal ingredients out there and they don’t need to be fried or baked. All you do is dunk the rice paper wrapper into warm water for under a minute and wrap up some delectable and seasonal ingredients and then, munch.

You know I like it hot though right? So whatever I include has to be masala-fied. The tofu in itself is a joy, crisp, a bit sweet, a bit hot, a teeny bit sticky, got a good whack of garlic and is utterly relish-worthy. I have used siracha sauce which is a kitchen must, isn’t it? And you know I talk about how I lost my hair in handfuls, so I eat a fair few sprouted beans so today I am using alfalfa sprouts. Try them, they are a bit addictive but its ok, better than over-doing It on peanut M&M’s.

Hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprout and asparagus rice paper rolls

Ingredients to make roughly 15 rolls

15 rice paper rolls

400g of firm tofu, cut into small cubes

125g fine asparagus tips

125g alfalfa sprouts

One medium onion, finely diced

Siracha sauce to taste (I used 1 tbsp.)

1 tbsp. sesame oil

2 cloves of garlic

¼ can of chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp. soy sauce

100g thinly sliced cucumber

Cook’s note: wrap the tofu in kitchen paper to drain off any excess moisture. When you stir fry it, it will crisp up better

Method

  1. Make the hot and spicy tofu by heating the sesame oil and adding the diced onion and allowing it to brown before adding the garlic, then sauté for another 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in the tofu and allow is brown lightly, then add the tomatoes, soy sauce and siracha sauce. Simmer the tofu until much of the moisture has reduced, for roughly 5-7 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  3. Submerge the rice paper roll into water for 30 seconds and then place it on a chopping board. About 3-4 cm from the bottom, place a line of stuffing; roughly 2-3 asparagus tips, a pinch of alfalfa sprouts, a pinch of cucumber strips and 3-4 cubes of tofu.
  4. Fold the sides inwards and hold them to a spring rolls shape, firmly and tightly. Leave it dry on a large dish.
  5. Serve with dipping sauces such as chilli sauce, coriander chutney or peanut chutney.

 

Soya chunk curry in a spinach and jalapeño base

11 Apr

Soya chunk curry in a spinach and jalapeño base

There’s a lady called Agnes in my aqua-fit class.

Soya chunk curry in a spinach and jalapeño base by Deena Kakaya

 

My mind has a tendency, even on an average and non-pool day, to go into overdrive and often feels like it’s floating away with the echoes of the pool. Light and drifting. Sometimes sinking. Washing and leaving.

‘Get those knees up HIGH, come ON ladies and gents!’ and I wonder where it is all going to end up in 5 years’ time. Oh my goodness, I’ve just realised how old I will be in 5 years’ time. Am I focusing on the right things? Do we move or do we stay what of the house prices. I can’t send him to school in this area, look at how much I have invested in him. Look at what it has yielded; he’s so polite, smart, and sweet and never hits another child, ever. But what of those house prices. More work, move abroad, or to invest, what to do? ‘Oh I am getting them up high, I have lots of practise, he he, he’ yells Agnes. I laugh, with the group, in the present.

‘Rocking horse AND TRAVEL’. What am I doing with this body, why haven’t I been eating those iron tablets regularly, why haven’t I removed this chapped nail varnish from my nails? I miss looking after myself, but that’s a ridiculous thing to say. I should make more time. How long does it take to put some hair oil in my hair at night? Exactly. Some oil in the bath? Some lovely hand cream. And I need to eat better too, I need to cut those cakes out. I come from a family of diabetics; do I want to be one of them? No! ‘oh, I love that rocking motion, you know what I mean!’ chuckles Agnes, then there’s a room full of echoes to the same tune, including mine.

‘PUMP those arms, come on, PUMP, and PUMP’ I need to get sink unblocker. I need to get the house sorted, I can’t live like this, I’m going to go mad if I continue cooking in that kitchen, and it HAS to get fixed. I cannot believe the neighbours have built their entire extension without planning permission or even telling us. It’s looking worryingly light-reducing. More paperwork to deal with, great. ‘Oh I like it, I love it, I like a bit of pumping action, ha ha ha’…belly laughs all round, Agnes throws her head back.

We all need an Agnes in our heads don’t we, well, I do anyway. Clearly.

Just like Agnes, I like it hot. This curry is hot, tangy, and fresh with green glory and has a tang! Again, I am sharing with you an unusual recipe, I don’t think I have cooked spinach and jalapeno peppers in a curry in quite this way, but believe me…it works SO well.

Cooks note: I have used vegetarian chicken from the TKC brand available in wing-yip and it works fabulously. I have also used meet the alternative which is pretty good. I would not use those popular vegetarian chicken products that are made from mushroom protein for this dish.

Soya chunk curry in a spinach and jalapeño base by Deena Kakaya

Ingredients

400g soya nuggets

200g fresh spinach leaves, very finely chopped in a food processor

175g jalapeño peppers in brine, 100g pureed and the rest finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

One medium onion, diced

Salt to taste

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. coriander powder

½ tsp. garam masala

450ml water

1 tsp. cumin powder

½ tsp. turmeric powder

The juice of half a lemon

2 tsp. tomato puree

2 tbsp. cooking oil

Method

  1. Defrost the soya nuggets per the packet instructions
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the turmeric, cumin and allow the seeds to sizzle. Then stir in the onion and salt then sauté until the onions have softened.
  3. Add the garlic and sauté for a further minute before adding the soya nuggets and coat them well in the tempering.
  4. Sprinkle in coriander powder, coriander powder, garam masala, and grow the tempering to a to a high heat over 30 seconds to a minute then pour in 250ml of water and stir in the tomato puree.
  5. Cook the soya until most of the water has evaporated; it should take about ten minutes.
  6. Add the spinach and cook the curry for a further 3-4 minutes.
  7. Add the jalapeno puree and the sliced jalapeno peppers and cook for a further 3 minutes before turning off the heat.

 

 

 

Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

8 Apr

Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

I have never been one for going on a ‘diet’ or consuming trendy foods just because. I have always eaten what I wanted to yet in moderation, most of the time. I’ve always looked in the mirror and seen room for improvement, but I like bread, cheese and steaming hot pakora. But.

Just before I got married, during the run-up I had decided that I wanted to look every bit the blooming bride. I was only 23 and I wanted pictures to look back on, proudly, of me looking my finest on a glorious day. I wanted no pleats of belly-fat as I sat on the throne-like chair bearing my midriff and neither did I want wobbly arms fanning the guests as I took my vows in the Hindu manner. I didn’t want those shadows around my nose to show and I certainly did not want to reveal stained teeth. There needed to be classy cheek bones, not cute chubby cheeks.  I imagined gliding, slender and light whilst greeting and mingling with my guests. And so it started with eating lean salads at lunch time. I ruled out even miniature chocolates but at work, where celebratory birthday treats decorated communal cupboard tops daily, this was hard. When we were in our favourite Chinese restaurant we ordered stuff that wasn’t deep fried and a curry with salad instead of rice or noodles. I went to the gym every, single day.

I thought it was working. I was wearing white, sheer cotton tops and hot pants that summer.

But as I called my then fiancé into the room whilst trembling, I knew it had not worked. Every time I ran my hand through my hair a bunch fell out. It had worn out to a wispy and flyaway state. That’s what ‘dieting’ did.

After I had my boy I adhered to the dietary requirements stipulated by female elders and ancestors. I overdosed on fenugreek, millet flour, spinach, roasted aubergines and mung beans. I ruled out cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, spice, potatoes and many other items that lend to a balanced diet. I was borderline diabetic but consumed ghee, jaggery and nuts in the name of natural healing. And I do think that they are useful and nutritious, when they complement a balanced diet.

Again, the horror of losing fistfuls of hair in the bath was upon me. I wore a headband to disguise the thinning, especially around the temples. I was fearful of washing my hair but the greasy look didn’t do me any favours. I felt sluggish, heavy and I just wanted my hair back.

My recipe today offers carbohydrates and cheese and plenty of taste. Let us embrace them with our taste buds, hearts and tummies. I have used Chinese 5-spice in the stuffing and I know it does sound unusual, but really, truly. It’s good. I could the stuffing on its own as a salad, in fact…

Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

Ingredients to serve 4

A pack of cannelloni tubes

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

3 red bell peppers

2 cloves of garlic, minced

Chilli flakes to taste

250ml water

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 large leeks cut into bite sized pieces

200g feta cheese

3 medium potatoes, cubed

1 ½ tbsp. soy sauce

3 tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Method

  1. Wash, cut and drizzle the peppers with oil and roast them until they brown lightly
  2. Head the vegetable oil in a pan and the cumin seeds and once they sizzle, stir in the garlic and sauté for a minute before pouring in the tomatoes and the roasted peppers. Sprinkle in the chilli and water and then cook for 5 minutes before blitzing it smooth.
  3. Boil the potatoes for 4-5 minutes and then drain then and allow them to cook
  4. Heat the sesame oil in a deep dish and then add the leeks and then once they start to soften, sprinkle in the Chinese 5 spice and soy sauce and then cook them for 4-5 minutes on a medium flame.
  5. Stir in the potatoes and then crumble in the feta and then remove the mixture from the heat. Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping
  6. Pour some of the sauce into a deep dish, then turn your attention to stuffing the cannelloni evenly and then place each tube into the sauce. The sauce should almost cover the cannelloni tubes.
  7. Once the tubes are stuffed, sprinkle the top of the dish with panko breadcrumbs and then bake the cannelloni in the oven at 180 degrees until the topping is golden brown and the tubes can be pierced all the way through.

Asparagus, Halloumi & potato curry in roasted garlic, chilli and pomegranate

3 Apr

My mind was a Bollywood movie when I was growing up.  A gentle breeze blew tenderly through my long fuzzy hair, never mind the split ends. I smiled demurely, raising the fine (but visible) hairs on my upper lip with me. Long eye lashes fluttered, wistfully, behind black-framed glasses.  When I rested my face on my palm, to day dream of course, I thought of the huge hoops that should sit on my cheeks, though I wore unpretentious studs.  As I hurried from class to class, I imagined swaying and flowing thin fabric skirts and slim legs under them. Instead my jeans hung off my under-developed bottom and skinny legs.  There was forever a song on my fruity-lip-balm smothered lips and a colourful dance sequence in my head to match, even in exams. Hazy eyes had no kohl on them, but inside them were plentiful, romantic and ambitious dreams.   I carried innocence, but quiet the realities of an average existence.   In my mind I had the conviction of any of those actresses, but the will and smarts to fly.

 

I wasn’t even conscious of that upper lip hair until my cousin pointed it out whilst we stood chatting under the light.  I don’t think I knew that spilt ends meant damage until I was a teenager; I had glossy and dark locks as a young child and then somehow it ended up light and fuzzy. I went from skinny child to full figured teenager and I didn’t even notice. Some of my friends talked about my colour one day and I went home to check it out, and in fact introduce myself to this bright complexion with rosy cheeks that they spoke about.

Asparagus, Halloumi & potato curry in roasted garlic, chilli and pomegranate

I was 16.   There was a boy who blushed when he made small talk with me. He slipped a few notes into my English A-level texts. I cut my hair and it now bounced, it was the ‘Rachel cut’ from friends.  The length of my tops shrunk from long and wafting to short and embracing. There was a chap that took the same bus home as me, so we could talk. He then detoured back to his home.  My face became smooth and free from overgrown eyebrows or whiskers beneath my nose.  I remember another young fellow who asked sent me inviting notes in a fast food café. I remember taking an interest in fashion and the re-emergence of 70’s clothing, the platform shoes, and the loud prints on skinny trousers to wafting ones, oh and even the hair. That’s when the gifts started coming in…from bags to earrings.

I am waiting to blossom again. To bloom. I did as a teenager, then as a mother and now I am waiting on the next phase of finding myself.

Asparagus, Halloumi & potato curry in roasted garlic, chilli and pomegranate

Meanwhile, here is a recipe that is something of an awakening. If you liked my paneer curry in roasted tomatoes and basil, I have to say that I think this one is even better. Someone wrote to me saying they thought I had out-done myself on that last curry, I actually think this one outdoes the last.

I love this one with sweet and deep heat, mellow yet fragrant garlic without its pungency sings through the curry and then you get a tang from the fruity molasses. The potatoes thicken the curry and the Halloumi..oof the Halloumi. Its saltiness balances well with the other senses and soaks up the curry juices with its light chewiness. You’ve got to do this one. Really.

Ingredients

225g Halloumi cheese, cut into bite sized chunks

100g fine asparagus tips

350g potatoes

½ tin of chopped tomatoes

1 ½ tbsp. of pomegranate molasses

1 ½ full bulbs of garlic

4-6 mild and thick chillies (suitable for salsa or stir fries) minced

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. coriander powder

1 tsp. cumin powder

3-4 cardamom pods

Salt to taste

½ tsp. turmeric

3 tbsp. cooking oil

One medium sized red onion, thinly sliced

225ml water

Cook’s note: I am not using the thin red chillies for this dish. What we want to achieve is that bright red colour and sweet and gentle heat. Please use the thick, but short red chillies that are used for stir fries and salsa.

Method

  1. Start by roasting the 2 bulbs of garlic. Drizzle them lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap them in baking paper and put them in the oven at 180degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until they are soft enough to pop out of their skins.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and add the cumin seeds with the turmeric and allow the seeds to sizzle before adding the onion, salt and turmeric. Soften the onion before adding the minced chillies and stir fry for 30 seconds on a medium to low heat.
  3. Stir in the potatoes, coat them in the tempering and then add the tomatoes and water. Bring the curry to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked but firm.
  4. Add the asparagus and the cumin and coriander powders and then the pomegranate molasses. Pop the cloves of garlic out of their skins (use approximately one and a half bulbs). Mash them lightly to release the flavours.  Mix well and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  5.  Mix in the Halloumi and cook on a low flame for 2-3 minutes.

Serve immediately with rice.

Saffron polenta, chipotle & tomato, black bean and Tenderstem bake

1 Apr

Saffron polenta, chipotle & tomato, black bean and Tenderstem bake

I know that it’s meant to be spring but I am cold and rather weary. Days are drowsy but hectic and nights aren’t quite long enough.  My nose still feels icy and my mind is clouded, though at least the rays of sun out there are promising. I am even considering reacquainting myself with the hot water bottle.

It’s on days like this that I need a bold, reviving and soothing dish and something to awaken the senses.  Something plentiful and bright, something smooth and definitely present, here and lingering. But with low effort required.

So with my cosy socks on and my trusty, thick knitted cardigan with tassels and plentiful buttons, I decided to layer pillows of saffron polenta, succulent and spiced tomatoes with deep black beans and a crunchy layer of Tenderstem. And of course, most things in life taste better with a layer of cheese on top.

So with my cosy socks on and my trusty, thick knitted cardigan with tassels and plentiful buttons, I decided to layer pillows of saffron polenta, succulent and spiced tomatoes with deep black beans and a crunchy layer of Tenderstem. And of course, most things in life taste better with a layer of cheese on top.

For the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Barley, tomato, paneer, channa dal & cashew nut salad

27 Mar

 

Recipe 2: Barley, tomato, paneer, channa dal salad & cashew nut salad The definition of a salad seems to have evolved; this glorious, warm, spiced and zesty salad is full of wonderful surprise. The barley adds silky and nutty depth, the sweet tomatoes and spices mingle well with the spongy paneer and the channa dal adds a bite.  I like it with a bit of heat, so I went for the green chilies but you can moderate this if you wish.

I used Savera paneer for this dish and it works really well because unlike some brands of paneer, Savera paneer is moist and spongy (not hard and rubbery) so takes on the flavours and juices of the salad so well and is soft enough to add to the party of ingredients. Keep the paneer moist warm so that it retains a bit of that chewy glory.

 

Serves 4-6

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

225g paneer, cubed

75g channa dal, washed

100g pearl barley, washed

220g baby plum tomatoes, quartered

One medium red onion

100g cashew nuts

¾ tbsp. vegetable oil

For the dressing;

3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

Salt to taste

3½ tbsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. cumin seeds

15g coriander, finely chopped

½ tsp. turmeric powder

2 green chillies finely chopped (use one if you prefer less heat)

6-8 curry leaves

Method

  1. Boil the barley on a vigorous simmer for ten minutes and then on a medium flame for a further 30minutes. Drain it and allow it to cool
  2. Boil the channa dal for 15-20 minutes. It should retain a bite but be cooked. Wash the channa dal in cool water and drain it when it is cooked.
  3. Put the channa dal, tomatoes, onion and barley into a large shallow bowl.
  4. Heat the vegetable oil in a non-stick pan and stir fry the paneer until it catches a golden colour. Remove it from the heat and add it to the other salad ingredients.
  5. To make the dressing, heat the sesame oil in a non-stick pan add then chillies, curry leaves, turmeric and cumin seeds. Allow the seeds to sizzle before turning off the heat.
  6. Drizzle the dressing onto the salad and mix it well. Pour in the rice wine vinegar and then sprinkle in the salt and chopped coriander and toss the salad.
  7. Toast the cashew nuts on a non-stick pan until they are lightly golden and then allow then allow them to cool before tossing them into the salad.

 

 

This is a sponsored post but any views expressed are my own

Tofu sambal with curried okra, faro and coconut yoghurt

25 Mar

Tofu sambal with curried and Faro and coconut yoghurt

Tofu sambal with curried and Faro and coconut yoghurt I was a difficult eater as a child. My parents regurgitated their experiences of having to travel in search of a specific type of tinned ham (I turned vegetarian later, when I was a pre-teen) because it was amongst the very restricted variety of foods I would willingly eat. They wanted me to understand the pains they went through to nourish me. I remember sitting on an indoor swing, as a toddler with my parents singing to postman pat on the TV and sneaking a scoop potato curry, rice and yoghurt into my mouth at any reasonable opportunity. They would reminisce amongst themselves at the same time, about how they would get excited over every ounce of milk they would cajole me into drinking as a baby. I sensed the heart-swelling joy they felt when I was satiated and growing. I detected the worry, ‘when will she just eat’. The break-through in my eating came when I was about four. I remember attending an Indian function with my dad. I was a shy and quiet child with a silky mop of hair and a generous fringe which I sometimes tucked my eyes behind. I recall frowning at the party of swishing saris and singing aunties. I gripped my dad’s hand in silent protest each time someone tugged my cheek (it hurt) and remarked on my slight frame. My mum would always sigh, ‘yes, she doesn’t eat well’ and my dad would tell her to be quiet. The smell of samosa was overwhelming and I needed them, but I refused repeated offers.  On the way home I asked my dad for samosa. He laughed and bought them from an Indian café. I ate four.  I learned to follow my taste buds and my nose. I loved going to collect a Chinese take-away with my dad. I adored the aroma of sesame oil and the smokes that grew from the massive pans. I adored the look of slippery noodles being chucked around and crisp vegetables mingling their way between rice, egg and noodles. I was much more sensitive to the delicate juices that beansprouts oozed out and I also really fancied their chips. Luckily, this take-away made the stuff of dreams; a tin foil container with everything in it; veg, noodles, rice, and chips. The take-away made its way into my very limited repertoire of stuff I would eat. It eventually grew into non-child-like tastes, like stuffed okra curry. I watched my boy on a video call with his grandfather the other day. The same frown appeared from his very long fringe, it sits under his nose now. Head tilted forwards and eyes full of energy. He was talking about what he saw at the zoo. Most of the time he is asked what he ate and he quickly brushes over the topic, he isn’t bothered about food and he doesn’t know what pains I have been through over the last couple of years to nourish him. Even as a 4 month old, he wasn’t interested in feeding, he wanted to look around at the world and babble. He didn’t want to wean until he was 8months old and he wouldn’t eat a boiled carrot or a sandwich. My child eats pav bhajhi, paratha and quesadilla. My mum laughed out loud in the background of the call, ‘he’s just like his mum’.  The breakthrough for him came with Kadhi, a yoghurt and gram flour soup, but I added spinach. The other day we were driving home from the zoo. We asked him what he would like for dinner. My 25 month old said, ‘I want to eat Chinese food mumma, I want Chinese toast and Chinese rice and SOYA’.  My recipe today is an ode to all those favourites. The spongy tofu is cooked in a fresh, spicy, herby and lively Malaysian style sambal. It is probably one of the best sambal recipes I have made in a while, so I urge you to try it; this tofu is certainly not bland. The faro is nutty and light and is in a mix of curried yoghurt and like every good spicy meal, this is served with plenty of coconut yoghurt.  Ingredients 250g pack firm tofu 100g faro 200g okra, trimmed, washed and cut into bite sized pieces A few tablespoons of coconut yoghurt to serve (I used Rachel’s yoghurt) 1 tbsp. vegetable oil for the tofu 2 tbsp. vegetable oil for the okra 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped for the okra For the okra: Salt to taste, ½ tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. cumin powder, 1 tsp. coriander powder, chilli powder to taste For the sambal 30g chopped coriander 2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped 3 tbsp. palm sugar (use soft brown sugar if you really can’t get hold of palm sugar) The juice of one lime 4 green chillies Salt to taste ½ tsp. turmeric 3.5 tbsp. tamarind concentrate or pomegranate molasses 4 cloves of garlic 3 inch nob of ginger 5 shallots, diced 1-2 tbsp. of sesame oil Method 1.	Wrap the tofu in some kitchen paper to remove any excess water before cutting it into cubes. In the meantime, boil the faro per the packet ingredients 2.	To make the sambal blitz together the ingredients to a smooth paste. 3.	On a non-stick pan heat the 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil and stir fry the tofu until it catches a lightly golden colour and then stir in the sambal paste and cook for 7 minutes.  4.	Once the faro is cooked, heat the remaining vegetable oil in a non-stick pan and add the okra and garlic and sauté on a medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Don’t add the spices because any moisture will make the okra sticky. 5.	Add the salt, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric and chilli powder and sauté for a further minute before adding the faro. Mix it all well and then turn off the heat. 6.	You can either serve the tofu on top or alongside the faro, but this all tastes fabulous with some cool and sweet coconut yoghurt.

I was a difficult eater as a child. My parents regurgitated their experiences of having to travel in search of a specific type of tinned ham (I turned vegetarian later, when I was a pre-teen) because it was amongst the very restricted variety of foods I would willingly eat. They wanted me to understand the pains they went through to nourish me. I remember sitting on an indoor swing, as a toddler with my parents singing to postman pat on the TV and sneaking a scoop potato curry, rice and yoghurt into my mouth at any reasonable opportunity. They would reminisce amongst themselves at the same time, about how they would get excited over every ounce of milk they would cajole me into drinking as a baby. I sensed the heart-swelling joy they felt when I was satiated and growing. I detected the worry, ‘when will she just eat’.

The break-through in my eating came when I was about four. I remember attending an Indian function with my dad. I was a shy and quiet child with a silky mop of hair and a generous fringe which I sometimes tucked my eyes behind. I recall frowning at the party of swishing saris and singing aunties. I gripped my dad’s hand in silent protest each time someone tugged my cheek (it hurt) and remarked on my slight frame. My mum would always sigh, ‘yes, she doesn’t eat well’ and my dad would tell her to be quiet. The smell of samosa was overwhelming and I needed them, but I refused repeated offers.

On the way home I asked my dad for samosa. He laughed and bought them from an Indian café. I ate four.

I learned to follow my taste buds and my nose. I loved going to collect a Chinese take-away with my dad. I adored the aroma of sesame oil and the smokes that grew from the massive pans. I adored the look of slippery noodles being chucked around and crisp vegetables mingling their way between rice, egg and noodles. I was much more sensitive to the delicate juices that beansprouts oozed out and I also really fancied their chips. Luckily, this take-away made the stuff of dreams; a tin foil container with everything in it; veg, noodles, rice, and chips. The take-away made its way into my very limited repertoire of stuff I would eat. It eventually grew into non-child-like tastes, like stuffed okra curry.

I watched my boy on a video call with his grandfather the other day. The same frown appeared from his very long fringe, it sits under his nose now. Head tilted forwards and eyes full of energy. He was talking about what he saw at the zoo. Most of the time he is asked what he ate and he quickly brushes over the topic, he isn’t bothered about food and he doesn’t know what pains I have been through over the last couple of years to nourish him. Even as a 4 month old, he wasn’t interested in feeding, he wanted to look around at the world and babble. He didn’t want to wean until he was 8months old and he wouldn’t eat a boiled carrot or a sandwich. My child eats pav bhajhi, paratha and quesadilla. My mum laughed out loud in the background of the call, ‘he’s just like his mum’.

The breakthrough for him came with Kadhi, a yoghurt and gram flour soup, but I added spinach. The other day we were driving home from the zoo. We asked him what he would like for dinner. My 25 month old said, ‘I want to eat Chinese food mumma, I want Chinese toast and Chinese rice and SOYA’.

My recipe today is an ode to all those favourites. The spongy tofu is cooked in a fresh, spicy, herby and lively Malaysian style sambal. It is probably one of the best sambal recipes I have made in a while, so I urge you to try it; this tofu is certainly not bland. The faro is nutty and light and is in a mix of curried yoghurt and like every good spicy meal, this is served with plenty of coconut yoghurt.

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Ingredients

250g pack firm tofu

100g faro

200g okra, trimmed, washed and cut into bite sized pieces

A few tablespoons of coconut yoghurt to serve (I used Rachel’s yoghurt)

1 tbsp. vegetable oil for the tofu

2 tbsp. vegetable oil for the okra

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped for the okra

For the okra: Salt to taste, ½ tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. cumin powder, 1 tsp. coriander powder, chilli powder to taste

For the sambal

30g chopped coriander

2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped

3 tbsp. palm sugar (use soft brown sugar if you really can’t get hold of palm sugar)

The juice of one lime

4 green chillies

Salt to taste

½ tsp. turmeric

3.5 tbsp. tamarind concentrate or pomegranate molasses

4 cloves of garlic

3 inch nob of ginger

5 shallots, diced

1-2 tbsp. of sesame oil

Method

  1. Wrap the tofu in some kitchen paper to remove any excess water before cutting it into cubes. In the meantime, boil the faro per the packet ingredients
  2. To make the sambal blitz together the ingredients to a smooth paste.
  3. On a non-stick pan heat the 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil and stir fry the tofu until it catches a lightly golden colour and then stir in the sambal paste and cook for 7 minutes.
  4. Once the faro is cooked, heat the remaining vegetable oil in a non-stick pan and add the okra and garlic and sauté on a medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Don’t add the spices because any moisture will make the okra sticky.
  5. Add the salt, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric and chilli powder and sauté for a further minute before adding the faro. Mix it all well and then turn off the heat.
  6. You can either serve the tofu on top or alongside the faro, but this all tastes fabulous with some cool and sweet coconut yoghurt.

 

 

Masala paneer, roasted red pepper and spinach wraps

21 Mar

Recipe 5: Masala paneer, roasted red pepper and spinach wraps

I was in London the other day in the wrong shoes.

It was an experience I would have, a few years ago not imagined myself having.   As the wind gave me a totally dishevelled look, my mind felt the same for a while because I was in a meeting within a pub around the corner from the Bank of England, where I worked many years ago, except the meeting was not financial, pricing or lecturing related. My water tasted faintly of beer, the table looked outwards. People in shiny shoes hurried past me, lots of purple shoes. They were not purple/maroon when I was working around there. Workmen told me they did not know where number 21 was even though they were standing two doors away and I could not find any macaroons.

I left my meeting feeling hungry and the air had left me.  I combed through the local eateries for a vegetarian sandwich, a humble request. Dry falafel wraps, stinky red onion humus and thick slabs of cheese with chunky pickle. I get frustrated without food but I just did not fancy any of those ‘options’. I was turning into the angry hungry girl I was when I worked in the corporate offices where the restaurants offered burritos, salad, jacket potato and something else that I did not fancy in the restaurant at work.  This is why I make my own.

The folk from Savera paneer sent me some paneer recently and I made lots of wraps for,’lunch on the go’. I found the paneer moist, spongy and a great sponge for flavours.  Some packaged paneer can feel rubbery but this one was closer to the homemade stuff. I recommend eating these wraps when the paneer hot, so if you can keep the paneer hot and heat it up in the microwave when you are ready to eat, all the better. The spicy and succulent paneer contrasts well sweet red roasted peppers and crisp, raw spinach.  As far as vegetarian fast food goes, this is immensely tasty and makes for a quick and easy meal.

 

Ingredients to make 8 wraps/ to serve 4-6
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

Two large red peppers
One medium red onion, finely diced
100g chopped, tinned tomatoes
2 tbsp. cooking oil
½ tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. cumin seeds
4-5 curry leaves
Salt to taste
1-2 green chillies, finely chopped
1 tsp. coriander powder
¾ tsp. garam masala
¾ tsp. paprika
1 tbsp. lemon juice
275g grated paneer
100g baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
8 plain flour tortilla
Cooks tip; remove any excess liquid from the paneer before marinating it by wrapping it in kitchen paper and letting it rest for 15-20 minutes.
Method
1. Roast the peppers by placing them in the oven at 180 degrees until they start to blister and brown. It should take 30-40 minutes depending on your oven. When the peppers have cooled to handling temperature, put them into a food bag and let the skin slip off. Cut each pepper into 8, thick slices.
2. To make the paneer filling heat the cooking oil in a non-stick pan and then add the cumin seeds, turmeric, curry leaves and chillies and allow the cumin seeds to sizzle before introducing the onion.
3. Add salt to the onion and sauté until the onion has softened before stirring in the paneer, paprika, garam masala, and coriander powder and lemon juice.
4. Now add the chopped, tinned tomatoes and cook the paneer for 7-8 minutes before turning off the heat.
5. Heat the tortilla wraps per the packet instructions and then places a generous handful of spinach leaves in the centre. Next add a couple of thick slices of roasted red pepper and two dessert spoons of paneer. Fold the tortilla into a wrap.

This is a sponsored post. Any views expressed are my own.

Pav bhajhi of vegetarian mince, fresh vegetables and home ground masala

20 Mar

 

Pav Bhajhi of vegetarian mince, fresh vegetables and home ground masala

I can be a messy eater and an accomplished one too. If you follow me on twitter, you will know there was much discussion about me packing away something over 30 pani puri’s, with the juices trickling down my hands and resting on my wrists and puffed rice escaping from my lips. I make no secrets about my gratification upon sucking up tomato-drenched spaghetti or the glee associated with scooping Khichdi up with spring onions and taking sloppy, chin-decorating gobfuls. I certainly will not eat my buttery paratha with a knife and fork and prefer to eat my curry and rice with my fingers. When I go to a pizzeria, I start off delicately eating the inner part of my pizza with a knife and fork but as the juicy vegetables fall away, I often resort to just picking it up and simply relishing it despite what anyone thinks. At our favourite Chinese restaurant, my fingers dip into the fillings for my pancakes almost as soon as they land on the table. My husband uses the tongs.

The husband arrived home after another international business trip and whist he received his warm welcome from my boy, including ‘where’s my aeroplane and my car from OS-tray-lee-ar, where is it daddy?’ daddy was bribed with, ‘there’s pav bhaji in the kitchen for you daddy, your favourite, its delicious where’s my aeroplane, where is it’.

I had been listening to people talk of keema (mince meat) pav (bread, like baps) this week and decided to make the popular, vegetarian Indian street food of spiced vegetables like potatoes, peas, cauliflower and aubergines lightly mashed and eaten on bread buns. It’s a popular and powerfully spiced dish that is available in Indian shaks as well as restaurants. It is best a generous dollop butter and without concerns of being dainty when eating it, I have licked my fingers many times today. Anyway, so I thought, what the heck…let’s combine vegetarian mince with pav bhaji. And what do you know…it works. I highly recommend it and so does my boy who is very hard to please. If you follow my posts you will know how hard I find it to feed my boy, so seeing him willingly eat this dish which includes vegetables and protein and some carbs had been so fulfilling.

pau bhajhi 1a

I have made my own masala mix for this aromatic dish with a kick, but you could buy shop bought pav bhaji masala. I have to say that this is one of my best mixes yet so I would encourage you to take a few minutes out to make it.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

Half a head of cauliflower, cut into florets

200ml water

One medium aubergine, cut into cubes

100g frozen peas, thawed

3 medium sized potatoes cut into large cubes

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

A 5cm piece of ginger, minced

3 tbsp. vegetable oil or butter

One large onion, diced

Salt to taste

½ tsp. ground turmeric

½ can of chopped tomatoes

A squeeze of lemon

240g vegetarian mince, like Quorn

For the masala

1 tbsp. amchur powder (dried mango powder)

¾ tbsp. fennel seeds

2 tbsp. cumin seeds

The seeds of 4 cardamom pods

2 tbsp. peppercorns

1 stick of cinnamon

6 cloves

2 star anise

1 tbsp. coriander seeds

2-3 tsp. dried chilli flakes

1 tsp. chaat masala

A handful of coriander to garnish

Method

  1. On a hot non-stick pan heat the whole spices for a minute but don’t let them brown. Add the amnchur powder to release the aroma and then turn off the heat after a few seconds.
  2. Grind the spices together and then add the chaat masala.
  3. Boil the potatoes and aubergines for 5-7 minutes and then add the cauliflower and boil for a further 7 minutes before draining the water and lightly mashing it so that there are some whole pieces and some mash.
  4. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and then add the turmeric, onion, salt and sauté until the onions start to soften before mixing in the garlic and ginger. Sauté for a further minute then add the pav bhajhi masala and cook for under a minute but down let the spices brown or burn otherwise they will become bitter.
  5. Add the mince and then the water and tomatoes and simmer on a medium flame for 8minutes before adding the vegetables and cooking for a further 5 minutes on a low flame, so that the spices infuse.
  6. Serve on hot, toasted and buttered bread buns with a sprinkling of onions and coriander.

 

 

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