Stuffed Khandvi rolls with slow roasted tomato, garlic and fennel sauce

12 Mar

Stuffed Khandvi rolls with slow roasted tomato, garlic and fennel sauce

Stuffed Khandvi roles by Deena Kakaya

Biting my tongue (shutting my mouth to keep the peace) has not really been one of my strengths over the years. I have grown better at diplomatically responding and not having so much of an emotional response but, shutting my mouth…nope, not really improved in that department. So when people just assume that I get the cooking bug from my mum, it just isn’t true. Sorry mum, I know you read these posts-it gets better don’t worry…read on.

I face timed (is this even a grammatically acceptable term) my folks today to show them what I had made using the new Tefal Ingenio 13 piece induction cookware set that john Lewis sent me. There was much excitement over the handles that just clip on and off from a cleaning and ease of storage perspective but even the weight of them validates quality. I use Tefal non-stick pans in my cookery classes to make tandoori Halloumi and paneer dishes and so this was an especially welcome gift. They asked me to explore more and think of different cookery styles and I thought of my mum, who cooks soul soothing traditional food; her stuffed okra retain shape and colour without ickiness, her potato curry is yellow and gentle rather than heavily smothered in spice and tinned tomatoes and her puri are puffs of pleasure, particularly for my toddler.

The number of pretend arguments that happen in my parent’s living room over Khandvi is just now background noise under the debates about extending the house and that property across the ocean and I recall the efforts to scrape off disaster versions from tin pans. My parents used a lot of tin pans back in the day. But of course it’s all about non-stick these days and given that dad and I both love Khandvi, we have even more reason to make it with reduced risks now.

Khandvi is traditional vegetarian gram flour pasta that is pleasantly sour and lightly spiced. It is silky and thin and make for perfectly gratifying bites of loveliness. When my husband wants to suck up to me, he buys me macaroons or Khandvi. See what I mean?

Stuffed Khandvi rolls by Deena Kakaya

The non-stick pans make for easy Khandvi making- the mixture won’t stick to the pan, when any excess dries, you just peel it off the pan and pop it away (I just eat others eat cake batter). I even used one of the larger frying pans to spread the Khandvi onto.

SO the stuffing; well I have been watching a bit of Indian Masterchef recently (don’t judge me, OK fine do) and they stuffed it with paneer and desiccated coconut. I like this idea and I have created a sauce/chutney that totally lifts the whole experience; slow roasted tomato, garlic, fennel and chilli. I am not sure what the best part of this recipe is, but my goodness they are good.

Ingredients to make approximately 8 rolls

1 cup of plain natural yoghurt

½ cup of gram flour

¼ cup water

1 tsp. minced ginger

Salt to taste

100g paneer, grated

3-4 tbsp. desiccated coconut

3-4 tbsp. finely chopped fresh coriander

For the chutney

225g small cherry or baby plum tomatoes

One bulb of garlic

Salt to taste

2 tsp. fennel seeds soaked in warm water

3-4 fat red bullet chillies

For the tempering

2 tbsp. sesame oil

5-6 curry leaves

2-3 green chillies

Method

  1. Start by slow roasting the tomatoes and garlic on 150 degrees, for approximately 45 minutes. Make sure the tomatoes are all cut side up before you roast them and then drizzle them very lightly in rapeseed oil. Once the tomatoes have cooled to room temperature, blitz them smooth with the chillies, garlic, and fennel seeds and salt. Leave the paste to a side.
  2. To make the Khandvi, combine the gram flour, yoghurt and water in a mixing bowl and beat it until the lumps are softened and removed. Add the minced ginger and salt. Then pour the mixture into a non-stick saucepan (on a low flame) and with a spatula, mix it circular motions until it starts to leave the sides. You can check if it is ready by spreading a small amount onto the side of a non-stick pan and if, after it cools it can be peeled away then it is ready. Once the mixture is ready, work quickly by spreading thin lengths with a wide spatula onto the non-stick surface. Once it has cooled, spread the paste onto it, thinly. Next sprinkle a thin layer of paneer, desiccated coconut and finish off with coriander. Cut even sized lengths (mine were 3-4 inches wide) and then carefully roll them
  3. To make the tempering, heat the oil and add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and chillies and once the seeds pop and a perfume of the curry leaves is released then turn the heat off. Evenly drizzle the tempering onto the Khandvi.

 

Aubergine ‘meatballs’ (eggless)

5 Mar

Aubergine meatballs by Deena Kakaya
There are many questions that I do not know the answer to and over time, I have learned.
I have cultured the knack of softening a response to questions like, ‘muuuum, are people that hit bad?’, or ‘it is mean to eat a fish’.
My fingers are more nibble with Google referencing to questions like, ‘Can you throw the stones from Saturn’s rings into Saturn?’
The other day, we were in the temple and as my three year old stroked my face and said, ‘I love you mum, thank you for giving me a good day’, the congregation of around a dozen people softened a bit more out of their silent prayer. He carried on with, ‘why does God sit in the sky when so many children’s are hungry’.
I have developed that customary pensive sigh and pause when friends ask me, ‘do you think his behaviour is a road blocker?’
I chant positive affirmations when students ask me during lectures; ‘why don’t I understand this?’
When people text message and ask me ‘I hope you get some rest tonight?’ I reply with thanks. I don’t tell them that I will be up till 2am.
As I type away on this post, my three year old snores next to me and a couple of stray grey hairs shimmer under the lamp. My husband is in Australia and the laundry is waiting along with Lecture preparation. I have Mango and lime water with chia seeds waiting in the fridge for me and I am reflecting on this question I get asked via social media, ‘aww, how are you coping this week? Bet you haven’t been eating properly, not fun cooking for one is it?’

Well. This is a question that I can respond to with a picture-no words needed. I eat whilst my husband is away, it is true. He eats whilst he is away too. He doesn’t sob over soggy toast and neither do I. Its great isn’t it? Though there are shortcuts and easier meals involved because I have to do the cleaning up all by my 5ft 1 inch self. There are sandwiches involved but not cold and limp ones. There are vegetarian meatballs involved and they are full of gusto. There is nothing whimpering or diminishing about them. They are healthy, mighty and juicy. They are easy and peasy. They need time though. The knack with these Aubergine vegetarian meatballs is that the aubergines must be cooked on a low flame for a long time until they are golden and soft. They won’t be golden if you add the salt and garlic too early; they’ll just be wet and icky. The meatballs are sweet but remember not to add the spices too early otherwise they will burn and it will all taste bitter. Don’t forget the lemon juice, it really helps. I have accompanied my meatballs with a tomato and Harissa sauce. It’s a gobful this meal.

Ingredients to serve 4
2 tbsp. rapeseed oil
2 large aubergines cut into small cubes (approximately 2cm cubes)
3 fat cloves of garlic
1 tsp. dried chilli flakes
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. paprika
Salt to taste
A generous pinch of black pepper
The juice of one lemon
6-7 tbsp. breadcrumbs
Method
1. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and add the aubergines. Cook them on a low flame until they are soft enough to pierce and golden brown on the outside. It took me roughly 40 minutes to get them this way.
2. Just before the aubergines are cooked add the salt, garlic, coriander and cumin pastes with the paprika and sauté for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the aubergines to cool to room temperature.
3. Put the aubergines in a food processor and add the black pepper and lemon juice and blitz them until they are almost smooth. Add the breadcrumbs and pulse until it looks like patty mixture.
4. You should be able to form equal shaped meatballs now. If the mixture is too wet add more breadcrumbs. If it is a bit dry, add a splash of olive oil.
5. Put the meatballs on some baking paper and leave them in the fridge for an hour or so, to firm up.
6. When you are ready to cook the meatballs, add a splash of oil to a non-stick pan and add the meatballs on a low flame. Cook them until they are golden brown and lightly crisp on each side.

Hot and smoky aubergine curry

18 Feb

Hot and Smoky aubergine curry

 

My nose is tingling as I begin to tell you about what I experienced last week. I taught a cookery class that shifted me emotionally.

Hot and Smokey aubergine curry by Deena Kakaya

It was a community based cookery class, which means that it was for local Londoners and not for profit. I always, agreeably expect a mix people, from different worlds to join me in classes like this.  This time too, we had the world in our classroom; a lady, who spoke Spanish and then translated into English, used every opportunity to convey to me how it’s done in Spain. She spoke tenderly and her eyes were damp. I’m blushing when I admit, that a few years ago I might have considered this as decelerating the class but this time I felt calmly assured about this gentle lady. It turns out that she has an embolism on her lung and that she lived alone. She filled with tears as she expressed how much she looked forward to attending community classes and passionately, generously offered to sew some more of skilfully made aprons for the cookery school. She overflowed with love and told me that there are choices; show spirit and keeps busy, or not.

Hot and Smokey aubergine curry by Deena Kakaya

A gentleman who walked and talked unhurriedly made much conversation with me and as he filled in a technical term for me, which escaped my mind, I warmed to the way he spoke. I like intelligence.  It evolved with his telling me of his trekking in Africa and I told him about my mother’s family being expelled from Uganda. He told me about his brother, who despite having high-end cars and a focus on achievement hadn’t really lived.  As we surveyed spices and checked textures, he drew pictures in my mind of his sisters contrasting life in Italy, living on fresh produce from her garden and feeding many friends, around a laughing table. She has lived. He asked the question on why people should judge themselves or others, for simple choices in life when it is so short.

 

From a chirpy massage therapist to a man with no fixed abode, from a seasoned cook from Mauritius to someone who gave me the first smiles of acceptance after three cookery classes together. You know the interesting thing? Often in these classes there are light quips about the menu being entirely vegetarian or some vocalised disassociation with spice. There are sometimes questions, ‘so you aren’t from India then’, but in this class, there was simply overwhelming and unanimous praise, encouragement and enjoyment. There were no leftovers. There were empty plates. There were huddles around an iPad as they all perused my blog with intrigued eyebrows and sighs.

‘They really like you Deena, you’ve really given them something today, they loved the food too’, the cookery school manager stopped to tell me. It wasn’t all about the food I don’t always do good things. Sometimes I do darn silly things. But in that class, I took some lessons and I felt emotionally shifted.

 

One thing they did note is that it’s not all curry on the site, even though we did cook a couple during the class. These days, I’ve been hankering for something with a proper kick. I fancied a curry with attitude; a curry that isn’t weakly vegetarian as so often and unfortunately vegetarian curries are described to be. I have been visualizing thick, red gravy with some deep and juicy tones….you get the idea. For me, aubergines can go badly wrong if they are watery, understated and without garlic. Luckily this dish is none of those.  Where does the fusion come in? Well, as I served this dish the smell in Mexican but taste is Indian because I use Mexican guajillo chillies as well as chipotle to give smoky aromas and a total block red colour. This is not one for the faint hearted.  This is a bold curry, it’s alive.

 

Ingredients to serve 4-6

Two large aubergines

7 desert spoons of plain yoghurt

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

3 dried chipotle chillies

2 dried guajillo chillies

3 tbsp. cooking oil

¼ tsp. mustard seeds

One large onion, finely diced

2 bay leaves

6 green cardamom pods

6 cloves

6 cloves of garlic

Salt to taste

350ml water

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. smoked paprika

 

Method

  1. Cut the aubergines into large cubes and marinate them with the yoghurt, ground cumin and coriander. Leave them in the fridge for at least an hour.
  2. Take the chillies and gently heat them on a non-stick pan and let the aromas release before soaking them in the water for 30-40 minutes.
  3. Once the chillies have soaked, grind them to a paste with the garlic and then leave it to a side.
  4. Heat the oil and add the bay leaves, mustard seeds, cloves and cardamom pods. Allow the seeds to pop and then add the onion and salt then soften the onion until it is lightly golden.
  5. Add the chilli and garlic paste and fry for a minute until the oil surfaces.
  6. Now add the aubergine, with the marinade. Sprinkle in the paprika and lemon juice. Turn the flame to a low level and cook the aubergine for 5-8 minutes before adding the water.
  7. Now simmer the aubergine for 45-50 minutes until the aubergine is tender and the curry gravy is thick.

 

 

 

 

 

Pomegranate rose and white chocolate cookies (eggless)

9 Feb

Pomegranate rose and white chocolate cookies (eggless)

I was seven when I received my first Valentine’s Day card and things were different in my day.

Pomegranate rose and white chocolate cookies (eggless) by Deena Kakaya

I have one of those memories that stores happenings that are seemingly inconsequential but can’t recall the name of an actor in a film that I last watched (I don’t get to watch many films nowadays I have to add.) For whatever reason our teachers thought it would be a really good idea to hand out the Valentines cards we had made, in assembly and as I watched each little girl (and odd boy) go up to the front of a sea of awkwardly giggling infants, I assured myself that I wouldn’t suffer the mortification of actually having to go up myself.

At first I tried to convince myself and the teachers that it was for another Deena; there WAS another one I knew. They weren’t having any of it and we were asked to reveal the inside to the audience of little mockery artists, where there would be a large question mark. Because that’s what is supposed to happen, according to tradition. Except my card had a name on it and as Dipesh looked straight at me in recognition of his waywardness, I looked away in disconnected fury. It was like Bollywood for infants, except more excruciating.

On the way home I regaled entire hideous nature of the day’s goings on to my dad omitting any involvement and mentioning nothing of any hand-made card that I had received. I told him of so-and-so girl who had received five cards and someone else who got three. Dad asked if I got any and I accidentally let slip that I had received one. He gently mocked me, he probably thought it was cute but so much was the embarrassment that I scratched out the name and tore the card up. Dad feeling bad about poor Dipesh’s efforts being wasted and my discomfort, patched it back together.

Clearly it wasn’t a sign of things to come. Nowadays, I am making time for lost romance and that little oomph. I wonder if I should wear my hair down more and if I should get out the perfume he bought even if it is not a special occasion; after all special perfume can be worn for a day of lecture preparation, toddler amusing and Sainsbury’s runs. Though in my language, love inevitably relates to food. Oh stop it, yes that’s fine.

Romantic food should smell sweetly of flowers and taste tarty, shouldn’t it. It should release inner sighs and offer cuddles, right? Well here we have it; Pomegranate, rose and white chocolate cookies. The jewels remain crisp and are even more potent, tart and sweet. The rose comes through gently, and the white chocolate, well…oh and they are eggless/egg-free so I have used condensed milk which always give me a feeling of Indian barfi (sweets) but here they let the cookies stay moist and crumbly. These are so much better than shop bought my friends, and they are pretty quick to make.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Pomegranate rose and white chocolate cookies (eggless) by Deena Kakaya

 

 

 

Buckwheat, banana and passion fruit pancakes

30 Jan

Buckwheat, banana and passion fruit pancakes

On my first, accidental date with my now-husband he asked the waiter, ‘can I have some passion please’, whilst maintaining purposeful and unbroken eye contact with me. I am still cringing about this but laughing too and as they say, they can either keep you laughing or crying.

 

Roughly 16 years ago (ouch, that many) he persuaded me to go on a visit to a new temple, which had become something of a tourist destination for its grandeur and exquisite architecture. Reluctantly I agreed, but I did caveat my interest by declaring no particular devotion towards the central saints revered by worshippers in the temple. But we went and somehow, the ‘group of visitors’ ended up being just he and I.

Buckwheat, banana and passion fruit pancakes

 

We, as two university students travelled by bus and foot and we talked, laughed and ate (samosa, dhokla, chutney smothered sandwiches) through the whole journey. I could see those young, stress-free eyes gleam with that new awe and it was quite charming.  We didn’t check emails on our phones and that’s not just because the facility didn’t exist back then. There was no social media, no phone calls or any other disturbance because we didn’t want, or need it. We were very young so there was none of that screening process happening in my mind, unlike some of my friends who screen suitors now; does he have his own property, is he tidy, is he career conscious, what are his friends like, does he have savings, and does he want/have children? For us then, it was very simple.

This weekend gone I was determined to get something of a lie in, I had been up until 2am preparing lectures after a whole day busying around my toddler. One of the things I find hardest to stick to in terms of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is actually just getting enough sleep. So I asked my husband to give my boy breakfast, whilst I sleepily addressed the very important matter of what my body was craving. Unlike those days of care-free eating my body is now giving me warning signals (as well as my doctor) and though weight isn’t the challenge here, my family has a history of diabetes and I cannot fight the genes with sugar and win. I had never really seriously considered buckwheat pancakes as an alternative to the plain flour version; the healthy option isn’t usually as tasty is it? Well, let me tell you my friends, these are so fluffy and light that I had to share the recipe with you. They are moist and airy, not gritty or clumpy at all so don’t worry on that front; I didn’t add any sugar but you could if you really wanted to. The banana is chopped into small pieces rather than mashed to avoid making them heavy and the passion…it comes through. I used pure maple syrup on top, but just a few drops. Pancake day, or Shrove Tuesday is coming up remember…

Buckwheat, banana and passion fruit pancakes

So then, I walked over to my husband who had his nose in emails and mortgage renewal papers and asked him if he wanted some passion.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Wild rice salad with home-made satay dressing

27 Jan

It was my birthday last week.

I have never been one for parties or commotion but I do like indulgence. As I swiped through my social-media well wishes telling me to ‘have a lovely day’, I offered the third lunch alternative to my cold-ridden and self-confessed frustrated toddler who refused to eat anything. Unchanged from the morning and desperate for a bath, I bashed updates into my phone, telling my business-conventioning husband that this is NOT the way birthdays were supposed to be. Thank goodness I had macaroons to stifle the onslaught of tears and spits of ‘no I do not have plans’ that my poor brother got the end of. Deep breaths. My cousin shrugged, ‘well, this is what happens when you have kids love’. What finer and truer ways to tell me get a grip?

Thankfully I didn’t have to hold that grip for too much longer as the weekend brought redemption in the way of a much needed facial and utterly required massage. As I heard the knots click in my back, I wondered if I could have a snooze whilst the face pack dried. Anyway, I was treated to some vegetarian Thai fine dining in London in the evening, giving me an excuse to dress in sexy lace sleeves and wear make-up. I have to tell you that when they served the satay sauce warm with the tofu skewers, I had high hopes and my goodness they were delivered to a dizzy levels; I wanted to drink the stuff. Unlike shop bought stuff the satay sauce was deeper, lighter, disclosed a few crunches of peanuts and unveiled just a little heat. It wasn’t thick and heavy like we often see. Normally I would have asked for how they do it but I didn’t on this occasion and I regret it. I really do.

Wild rice salad with home-made satay dressing by Deena Kakaya

Like all good things must, I have gone back for more…well, not to the restaurant already but I have satay’d at home with a healthful and abundant serving of wild rice, full of life’s colours and sweet balance from roasted peppers and sweet potato. It is nutty in itself and works so well with a couple of tablespoons of satay dressing per serving.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

For the wild rice

175g of wild rice, cooked per the packet instructions

One yellow pepper, diced

One red pepper, diced

150g sweet potato, diced

100g small broccoli florets

4 spring onions, diced

One tin of chickpeas, washed drained

4-5 shallots, skinned and halved

40g basil, finely shredded

5 tbsp. cashew nuts, lightly toasted on a non-stick pan

For the satay sauce

2 tbsp. peanut oil

2 1/2 tbsp. peanut butter

1 tbsp. brown sugar

One small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

One large red chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp. red chilli flakes

1 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

One can of coconut milk

Method

  1. Roast the peppers, onion and sweet potatoes in a light coating of rapeseed oil in an oven preheated to 180 degrees until they are lightly browned.
  2. Boil or steam the broccoli for 3-4 minutes or until tender
  3. In a large bowl, add the rice once it has cooled to room temperature.
  4. Now mix in the roasted vegetables, chickpeas, broccoli, cashews, basil and spring onions and combine well.
  5. To make the satay dressing, heat the oil gently before adding the onions, garlic and chilli and sauté on a low flame until the onion has softened.
  6. Now mix in the coconut cream, soy sauce, peanut butter, chilli flakes, brown sugar and rice wine vinegar and gently simmer for 4-5 minutes before turning off the heat and allowing it to cool until it is just warm.
  7. Serve each bowl of salad with a couple of tablespoons of dressing.

 

Pea, spinach and brown rice patties (vegan and oil free)

17 Jan

Are you doing the healthy eating thing this month?

People around me are having salads at lunch time and my friend last week even had hers without the dressing. I know.  On instagram, more people are asking me about ‘how to’ on roasting veg or other healthy vegetarian stuff, not tips on creamy curries or frying pakora.

I am off to a good start this year. No, I haven’t cut out bread, cakes, and biscuits or curry (as evidenced on my instagram profile). I am off to a good start because you know how I told you, that every year New Year’s Eve for the last four years I have been filled with dread?  I felt anxious as the year turned over that I had not done enough or not moved enough. I created, shaped and grew a larger monster of my normally hushed down feelings of confusion and mislaid bits of identity since my boy has been born and my redundancy. Am I still clever? Can I still be successful? Could I still earn what I used to?

Well, guess what? For the first time in four years, I didn’t feel it. I thought a little bit, my heart was still and my mind was sleepy. That my friends, is a healthy start to 2015. I have grown.

Pea, spinach and brown rice patties (vegan and oil free) by Deena Kakaya

So, with a healthier mind, I share with you green freshness and goodness. The pea, spinach and brown rice patties are oil free and vegan friendly. I am myself surprised that they have held so well and they are so moist on the inside. The oats and breadcrumb give a crisp exterior and even after freezing a batch and cooking them the other day, they are still moist inside. Even my two year old enjoyed them.

Pea, spinach and brown rice patties (vegan and oil free) by Deena Kakaya

Ingredients to make 12 patties

300g frozen peas, boiled for 3 minutes and then cooled

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1-2 green chillies

125g baby leaf spinach, shredded in a food processor

1 tsp. cumin powder

1 tsp. coriander powder

1 tsp. chaat masala

65g brown rice, cooked per packet instructions and then cooled

50g jumbo oats

80g breadcrumbs

  1. Combine the peas, garlic, spices and seasonings into the food processor and blitz them into a lightly lumpy paste. Then add the spinach and blitz again.
  2. Turn the pea paste into a large bowl and then add the oats, breadcrumbs and cooled, cooked brown rice and form it all into dough.
  3. Put the patty mix into the fridge for 15 minutes and then bring it out to form equal sized patties, placing them onto baking paper.
  4. Place the patties back into the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  5. Once the patties have set to a more firm shape, bake them in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until they are lightly golden on the outside.

Eggless, mushroom and quinoa vegetarian burger

6 Jan

My boy turns three soon and I have been racking my brain for where to take him on his birthday. In fact he will have two days out, one on his birthday with me and one we will all have as a family when his dad returns from Germany. The problem is that the bar is set quite high. Already at three he has had two international holidays and eats out most weekends. Our pre-nursery school days together have been filled with visits to the farm, aerodrome, and kids swimming centre, London markets, butterfly world and the zoo for which we have passes. He’s been to the space centre, IMAX, national history and science museums as well as the aquarium and let’s not touch on the topic of soft play centres or rainforest café-all done. I know there is an element of spoiling him here but the truth is that I am indulging myself in his childhood.

mushroom quinoa burger by Deena kakaya

Turning three is a big deal. It is the birthday before nursery school and now that he has his place we are frequently talking about how exciting that will be. After he is three he will have birthday parties too, with his friends in attendance. Up until now, I have steered away from hosting parties for him as I didn’t want to overshadow the special feelings with the complexities that grown-ups bring to parties. It will all be different next year.

The trouble is that these excursions aren’t cheap and are often sinful for the vegetarian tummy. These days I have been looking out for ideas like the RAF museum in Hendon, which in my opinion is little talked about but utterly impressive (I am not being paid or sponsored to write this). It is a little boy’s paradise with planes hanging off the ceiling and a few accessible for entranced exploration. There were old planes and newer planes and the whole place reminded me of that film, ‘a night at the museum’. We worked up an appetite walking around several buildings full of planes and at lunchtime I ordered from the on-site restaurant a vegetarian burger and some chips for the boy; something I said I would never do (before I had him). The problem was that there was no vegetarian alternative and normally I take his food with us, but it was post-Christmas. Anyway, my burger was a couple of baps with some grilled peppers and courgette tumbling out of it. I could spiral into a discussion about why restaurants don’t do vegetarian food so well, but that would be repetitive wouldn’t it.

The next day, we had another excursion planned with my boy’s cousin, to the national history museum in Tring. This time, I made burgers.

mushroom quinoa burger by Deena kakaya

Now, I have tried innumerate versions of the veggie burger but none have made it onto the blog. Is a burger, ‘special’ enough to blog about? Besides, many of the iterations felt either too; wet, or eggy, dry and crumbly, or just doughy. I simply wanted a burger that’s lean and an option for healthy vegetarian eating but I have been mindful about retaining the moisture and of course it has to have a crisp exterior. Otherwise what would be the point? I like colour and depth and succulence, as all burger lovers do. I am particularly pleased with recipe because I have managed to pack in some quinoa and even some iron-level boosting dried apricots. So, I am sharing with you this burger recipe because it really does the job.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Indian spiced sweet potato filo tart

1 Jan

‘Make sure you switch the Christmas lights off before you go to sleep’. Who would have thought that this line would be enough to fill my eyes?

Indian spiced sweet potato filo tart  by Deena Kakaya

The list of ‘make sure you do’ starts about a week before my husband flies off on his looming foreign business trip and although many people have now presumed that I am used to it and now longer ask how I am, it still makes my heart sink a bit each time there I hear one of the many, concerned reminders.

‘Please don’t stay up too late’ and of course I get the text reminders about locking the doors and not falling asleep on the sofa and a week before he leaves, I listen to the repercussions of missing iron tablets. Every burden and apprehension seems magnified in the silence of the evening, but I’m sitting here with phone in hand and virtually supporting friends who have horrible bosses, kids going through a difficult phase and husbands that just don’t get it. I do sympathise and sincerely want to help. At the same time, I want to remind them that they have jobs, albeit with manager woes. They have the smiles of children filling their hearts, as well as the mental draining that they bring with them and they have a friend that is a husband, even though they may be a long-distance one at time.

It might be easy at times like this to wallow; to sleep erratically, to overthink and to fall quiet. It might be easy to not eat very well, for eating for one isn’t much fun I think. But, I have my little companion don’t I? And the wells dry as I smile through writing this. My best buddy told me today that we should make fresh pesto pasta and he wasn’t kidding. I thought he was but when we finished the dish he exclaimed, ‘mumma thank you, I told you I wanted green pesto pasta’. So we eat well. At just two, he will throughout the day randomly declare his love for me and today he told me, ‘daddy’s gone to America, but you are my best friend and so can we go to borough market’, so I laughed. Because the afternoons are cold we went bowling with friends, and so we talked and I involuntarily chased him around each time he scored and roared in delight. Then we cooked, in a very much collaborative way and eggs are, I realise, fabulous for easy cooking with kids.

This is a light and sweet tart, deep and filling and great for picking and returning to. It’s easy and a soul-soother too. I lightly cooked the sweet potato first with the spices and the result after some time in the oven was sweeter than I expected, but in a really good way. The spices come through wonderfully, but not too strongly and that is a good thing as I know that you will understand if you cook with eggs. Pays to be kind to yourself, doesn’t it.

Indian spiced sweet potato filo tart  by Deena Kakaya

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Roasted cauliflower, fennel and walnut soup

17 Dec

Roasted cauliflower, fennel and walnut soup

I don’t like sweet soups.

But then again I don’t like much sweet stuff in my savoury food and so raisins and apricots appearing in my dinner make me queasy.  It just feels odd to me, when there are gentle and definitely pleasant savoury flavours in a warm and spicy dish, out pops a raisin to ruin it. And this is also why I can’t cope with butternut squash curry.  My tongue is furring up in repulsed resistance as I type. I know, I know, I understand that the balance of sweet and heat works but I can’t make a meal of it. I may enjoy a forkful or two but I cannot make a meal of a sweet food. Years ago, before twitter became as massive as it is, I said something of this tune when flicking through foodie magazines and watching Saturday kitchen in bed. This was obviously back in the day before my boy and when I could work during sociable hours and I was still acquainted with free time. Anyway, I said something like, ‘oh no not another butternut squash curry’ and I have to say, it wasn’t a popular comment.

Roasted cauliflower, fennel and walnut soup by Deena Kakaya

Now that it is just ridiculously cold I am getting cosy with soup again, and this one is my current favourite. Roasted cauliflower is mildly sweet, but not in a sugary sort of way and that, I love. There are also lightly, suggestively sweet onions and delicately aromatic and tenderly sweet garlic and oh, creamy dreamy walnuts. The fennel seeds bestow this soup with generous aroma and lovely warmth. It’s a calming and soothing sort of soup this one, even the colours are neutral and I am finding myself in need of some calm. But you have to make sure that it isn’t lumpy…especially the walnuts.  I used my Optimum 9400 froothie and I got a superbly smooth and creamy result.

My head spins just looking at the queues at the supermarkets these days. I am thinking calm and warm thoughts, of an unquestionably savoury kind.

Ingredients to serve 4

One medium to large head of cauliflower, cut into florets

One large red onion, cut into thick chunks

Rapeseed oil to coat the onion and cauliflower

1 ½ tsp. fennel seeds, toasted and crushed

5 tbsp. walnuts

Whole milk to soak the walnuts in

6 cloves of garlic, lightly smashed

6 cups of vegetable stock

One medium potato, cut into chunks

1 tsp. cumin seeds

A pinch of garam masala

Method

  1. Coat the onion and cauliflower in the rapeseed oil and roast them in the oven, with the garlic at 180degrees until they are lightly golden and releasing their aroma.
  2. Soak the walnuts in the warm milk (enough to cover them)
  3. Heat the butter in a deep pan and add the cumin seeds. Allow the seeds to sizzle and add the potato, coating it in the butter.
  4. Pour in the vegetable stock and simmer for about 8-10 minutes, before introducing the cauliflower, onion, and garlic and garam masala.
  5. Blitz the walnuts smooth (there should be no lumps or chunks) and then add them to the soup.
  6. Simmer the soup for 5 minutes before blending it smooth. Add more water if you need to loosen it up.

 

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