Sweet corn, Feta and Mango pakora

19 Nov

Sweet corn, Feta and Mango pakora

Is there ever a time which is not emotional or filled with guilt of some sort when you are a parent?

Sweet corn, Feta and Mango pakora by Deena Kakaya

Well, I am embracing (perhaps reluctantly) another emotional time in the life with my two year old sweetheart because we have been viewing nurseries for next year, when he will be old enough to join a proper, actual nursery. Really.

There will be someone else there, to tell him to take his shoes off and listen to his fabulously demonstrative story-telling about planets, squirrels and cars and someone else will be listening to why Neptune is blue and why we can’t go on Mars. There will be animated enacting, I am sure, for all the other children on the bubbling volcanic scenes that make Mars red but my boy’s imaginary friend will be there I hear, but of course. He will play and interact with other little people and I won’t really know them, or be there for any awkward or charming moments. I won’t see his face broaden with that adorable glee upon discovering something new, though he may turn around and say, ‘look mumma’. I will miss the cheeky charm of those moments where he will just grab my head and exclaim, ‘I love you so much mumma; you are a genius’. But this is growth.

Sweet corn, Feta and Mango pakora by Deena Kakaya

So today, I treated my tiny boy with some much requested crunchy, crispy pakora of Indian food influence (vegetarian fritters) with sweet bite of sweet corn, small nuggets of salty feta that oozes when hot and some chewy baked pieces of sunny and happy mango that the folk from Urban fruit sent me. All in all, the sensations left me feeling like another holiday. Alas, sunny treats like these golden and sumptuous pakora must keep me going.

If you are cooking a vegetarian Christmas meal, this is always a crowd-pleaser. If you are not cooking a vegetarian Christmas meal this recipe pleases nonetheless for a tempting and fun starter, canape or side dish.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

175g sweet corn

One large red onion, finely diced

100g feta cheese cut into small cubes

100g baked mango chunks from Urban fruits

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. minced ginger

Salt to taste (remember that the feta is salty)

½ tsp. turmeric powder

½ tsp. garam masala

2 green chillies, choppped

100g gram flour

125ml water

Oil for deep frying

Method

  1. Heat the oil on a medium flame.
  2. Combine the sweet corn, red onion, feta with all the spices, salt, chillies and mango chunks and combine well.
  3. Mix in the gram flour and coat all the vegetables, combining well.
  4. Add the water to make a thick batter and then drop a small amount into the oil to check that the oil is hot enough to fry; if the batter sizzles and rises to the surface then add the pakora in small mounds with your fingers, equivalent to the size of a couple of tablespoons of batter.
  5. Fry the pakora until they are golden brown and crisp before removing them onto kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.
  6. Serve with chutney such as tomato, tamarind or chilli and coriander chutney.

 

 

Yellow courgette, basil chutney and Halloumi cannelloni

13 Nov

Yellow courgette, basil chutney and Halloumi cannelloni

I am time poor these days and the guilt mounts. The self-bashing about my overactive and restless mind that wanders off as my two year old speaks about the humungous spider we trapped in a cup, on the stairs for the nineteenth time. The let-down from not spending enough time with my husband in the evenings and cuddling text books instead. The inner sighs at not listening to my parents for long enough to hear what is troubling their ever flailing health right now. The promises to myself; I have in fact made a list for all the compensating I need to do. I am blessed that none of my loved ones punish me; I am the only one who does that to me. Since when does seeing my best friend feature on a list?

Yellow courgette, basil chutney and Halloumi cannelloni by Deena Kakaya

So I am cutting corners where I can. I am choosing reading books and number-puzzles over fussy and unnecessarily complicated cooking, shopping, and general life. I am choosing to pick up the phone to say congratulations or ‘sorry you aren’t feeling well’ rather than use social media. And in tune with this, I share with you a ridiculously easy and scrumptious recipe today.

Yellow courgette, basil chutney and Halloumi cannelloni by Deena Kakaya

For this time of year, the Riverford box we received this week was refreshingly green; masses of kale, thick pillows of spinach, and a whack of fresh basil all in pristine condition. We received massive and fairly young garlic that was not overpowering in aroma and almost nut like in texture. For me there is usually a star of the box I receive, something stands out to me as most exciting and frankly this is often a personal choice and mine this week have got to be that basil and garlic.

I have to confess that this recipe took me all of 15 minutes to prepare and I gave it another 15 minutes in the oven. It’s absurd isn’t it? But just look at it. The basil chutney has a good whack and the courgettes don’t turn soggy. The Halloumi is heated all the way through and let me tell you, this is a recipe that is very, very easy to eat.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Mexican spiced cauliflower in an almond-sesame crust

8 Nov

A few years ago I shared a recipe for crispy, tandoori spiced potatoes with BBC Good Food magazine and I have to admit that when they adjusted my gram flour based recipe to use plain flour, I was a little bit perturbed. Just a little; but I trust the editor, whom I admire and like lots so I went with it, and tried it out.

Mexican spiced cauliflower in an almond-sesame crust by Deena Kakaya

I wish I could convince myself to take that attitude more often in life, you know, just try it. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Maybe I would be living in a different country, carried out different jobs, different sports, and met new people and who knows what else? For now, I am learning to plunge a bit deeper, let go a little more, hold on a little less tightly and think a bit bigger, to be bolder.

I received a clean slate of a vegetable in this week’s Riverford box, a totally unmarked, brilliantly white and heavy cauliflower. I read recently that a celebrity chef called it the meat of the vegetarian world. Now I cannot say that this is a description that I find fitting, but what I interpret that to mean is that it’s a filling, bulky item that can easily be the main dish, rather than just one of those side dishes. I like it roasted, because it releases delicate sweet aromas and keeps that lightly firm bite!

Mexican spiced cauliflower in an almond-sesame crust by Deena Kakaya

Do you remember me talking about eating in a healthier way over recent posts? Have I gone on and on about that enough yet? No? Well OK then! My body is really crying out for some care so I am taking action. This recipe today uses my home made Mexican spice blend, none of the shop bought stuff. I have used no oil, and even the crumb for the crunchy cauliflower uses almonds and black sesame seeds rather that breadcrumbs. This is a vegan recipe but you could add an egg to the batter to give it a lighter, fluffier effect. I was pretty impressed that a wrap without cheese, with loads of green herby goodness and spice could taste like a weekday treat.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class with Natco Foods

28 Oct

Oh my goodness. I am still smiling; the busy London kitchen got hot and steamy. Puffs of clouds lifted and carries the aroma of spices. Banter and laughter mixed with the sounds of sizzling pakora, bubbling curries and tinkles of pots and pans. 

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking classes www.deenakakaya.com

A fabulous bunch of people joined us for a cookery class that fused the world together on one vegetarian plate. Each of the recipes was introduced by a demonstration and people worked together to cook up dishes like kale, red onion and banana pakora. We even made cashew cream in the class to use in a curry.

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class www.deenakakaya.com

Some people came in pairs and some came alone. Either way, as the exotic drinks flowed, the group bonded and friendships grew.

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking classes www.deenakakaya.com

We ate a lot too. Attendees ate their own cooking, they ate each other’s cooking and of course I had to taste-test too!

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking classes www.deenakakaya.com

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class www.deenakakaya.com

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class www.deenakakaya.com

This class was heaving with spice. We sniffed them, tasted them, broke them and ground them. We talked about the health impacts of each of the spices and I shared some personal experiences such as dill water to increase breast milk supply! On the less shocking side we talked about fennel and it helping to clear the tummy, cloves to soothe toothaches and turmeric to fight a cold. All of the spices were fresh and those who came along were able to take some gram flour or spices away with them thanks to our sponsors, Natco

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class www.deenakakaya.com

My favorite bits of every class? Has to be the pride when attendees cook a dish that works, to their own surprise. I enjoy seeing people overcoming fears, such as frying. I delight in the camaraderie that spreads through the room and especially so when people walk out in groups exchanging contact details. I revel in the comments like, ‘I am definitely going to cook this at home’, ‘I am going to treat my friends to this recipe when I host the next dinner party’ and even, ‘I could use this method with other ingredients that I like’.

If you would like to join us for a, hands on, fun and valuable vegetarian cookery class in London then please look out for the next dates on the site or click here

You will walk away with recipes, containers full of food and some experience that you can use in different ways. I am really looking forward to seeing you at a future class. x

Book onto my next class by clicking here

Steamed kofta of spinach and paneer in a roasted red pepper gravy

25 Oct

Steamed kofta of spinach and paneer in a roasted red pepper gravy

Is it just me or are people less obsessed with being thin these days? Is it my age (thirties), where people grow into themselves more, or is it my life stage (mum of toddler and prefer sleep, family time, me-time and just some food over the less necessary stuff)? I don’t know but mostly, people say they need to lose weight but eat the brownie anyway, right? I made some a really gorgeous batch the other day with saffron, rose, cardamom and pistachio and nobody said no.

Steamed kofta of spinach and paneer in a roasted red pepper gravy by Deena Kakaya

However, my body has a way of telling me that I need to be kinder to it and right now; I have gone off my food (as in the taste rather than eating itself). If you have ever watched a cheesy television serial and I am old enough to admit to recalling the crashing sounds and multiple replays of dramatic scenes in Dallas (and every Bollywood serial I come across) then this is what is playing in my mind right now. I, Deena, have gone off the tastes in my food.

At first I thought it was the onset of a cold. But it didn’t appear. Then I thought perhaps it is just over-working and exhaustion. But then I realised that I do feel hunger, it is just that I am not enjoying eating so much. I want to feel the thrill. But I am not.

SO, I have surmised that there are many culprits to this condition of mine; exhaustion, A LOT of cooking recently (maybe too much of my own cooking), overindulgence and heavy tastes, eating more functionally than socially (a lot of eating alone or in a desperate rush). Explains a lot doesn’t it?

You know I have been putting myself into solution mode more and more these days and not focusing on the problems, ‘think solutions, not problems’ – chant, chant, chant. My solution is this steamed kofta of spinach and paneer in light and easy roasted red pepper gravy. It is the curry that thinks it is naughty, but really is quite virtuous. Deceptively simple, ridiculously soothing and fun to eat too! I like that I want to get my fingers into them, but should really wait for the gravy to join the kofta. Let me know if you do a better job at waiting to scoff the lot together, won’t you.

 

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki

15 Oct

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki

I am doing it again but must nip it in the bud. I am once again the hamster (on a wheel), the rat (slowly racing) and the chicken (very much headless). I am not quite the dog (I don’t eat other dogs and not just because I am vegetarian.) I am most definitely, absolutely the owl (night is when I work, not sleep). That is not because I enjoy being up late but because I want to be productive in a work sense, and also want my child to have his mother raising him and whilst my panda eyes lose focus now and again, my heart is not.

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki by Deena Kakaya

This time in life, I am looking back at the smaller steps I have made, and they are steps forward. I have so far been so fixated with big milestones for the future that I have neglected to be grateful and recognise for the smaller steps that I have made. The little things have lifted me, given me hope, encouraged me, kept my days rolling, stopped me thinking of wasteful things, buffered my falls, given me reason to channel energies, re-instilled confidence for me, pushed me to change, made me more humble, made me more me. The small things, the smaller steps. When I thought of how I would feel should I no longer have the teeny sized fruits of the small seeds I planted, then…well. It wasn’t a happy thought.


spinach tikki 2

This is why today, I share with you small tikki. I have taken inspiration from tikki that Indian street food sellers tantalise passers-by with; steaming hot patties that are crisp on the outside, fluffy and moist inside and full of peppery spice. Traditionally they would be made of chickpeas and potatoes and I am using deep black beans, silky spinach and a little oozy cheese. I have retained the influence of pungent and peppery chaat masala, which uses black salt.

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki by Deena Kakaya

Riverford sent me the silkiest perfect leaves of spinach, not punched with ominous looking holes. A huge bag of light green and juicy goodness, none of this limp stuff you often get. Spinach actually happens to be one of those refrigerator items that sometimes yield less love than we in our house can spread over the week, a bit like bananas. Now, experimental as I can be, I am not about to suggest pairing banana and spinach together today. Not today anyway, but the tikki, now those I ate a few straight off the pan, ah the little pleasures.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

 

Indo-Thai mango and coconut bhel

5 Oct

Indo-Thai mango and coconut bhel

Two fabulous things happened at the tail end of last week; my husband returned home for a couple of days, after eleven days of business related work in Australia and I found a Riverford fruit and veg box wrapped up and tucked behind my garden gate.

Indo-thai bhel1 by Deena Kakaya

 

Years ago, when my husband made the switch from his role in the pharmaceutical industry to make a living in the field he is so passionate about (magic) I would cry upon his departure for these clustered long-haul trips. After years of listening to him talk about making dreams manifest and how life is so short and it is not worth spending limited moments of breath and potential smiles doing something one is less than passionate about, there was a juxtaposition of,  ‘I want you to LIVE’ and ‘I don’t want to be alone’.

I didn’t like the quiet of the evenings or cooking for one. I didn’t like the ‘filling in’ activities. I didn’t like waking alone or going to sleep with just the telly for company. But look, years on. Who would have thought that I could become accustomed to waving goodbye with a young child on my hip and that the quiet of the evenings would become precious time to prepare for lectures or cookery classes and those textbooks have become me, once again?  Years ago I would find solace in those messages, ‘how are you coping on your own’ and now I see ambition and vision through how much courage I have mustered up in recent years. I have even considered spending a few years abroad.

So the contents of the Riverford fruit and veg box this week made me chuckle because they matched my thoughts of more exotic climes and the will to LIVE. Now, I am sure I have gone on, and on enough about how much of an alphonso fan I am but alas we can’t have these in the UK this year but I was tickled by the delivery of a large and firm mango. I spotted red chillies and red onions, salsa? I could have done yes, but I fancied something sensational and explosive. It is how I want to feel you see.

I am taking a deep breath before I tell you this. Macaroons and chaat. OK. Let me explain. These are the two foods that make my limbs turn to jelly with anticipation and heart skipping joy. Heart-leap-frogging.  I am a girl that does not need to be gifted shoes, give me macaroons and chaat. And if I haven’t told you before, chaat is Indian street food (vegetarian snack) of inordinate amounts of sensual pleasure. The trickles of tamarind chutney and chilli green lip-smacking chutney heighten a fine balance of sweet, sour, crisp, cool, soft and spicy textures. It pops every sense and leaves anyone and everyone hankering for more, more, more.

But, you know me. I can’t just leave it there. I saw this mango and thought Indo-Thai would be absolutely perfumery delight. The mango gives sweet-sharp balance to the aniseed Thai basil. I have used coconut and peanuts for the salty and nutty elements too. This is not an understated dish (I have stressed that enough haven’t I?) it is a full show. New potatoes ensure that you get a soft bite without soggy mess that an ordinary potato can bring and you can get the puffed rice from most supermarkets or Indian grocers. I have used chopped mint and coriander too for a real herby feel. I would definitely recommend getting hold of the chaat masala that is made of peppery black salt, it lifts the dish to a whole new level. Just try it.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Slow roasted tomato and pistachio pasta rotolo in a spiced butternut squash sauce

3 Oct

Slow roasted tomato and pistachio pasta rotolo in a spiced butternut squash sauce

 

I cook a lot of ‘welcome home’ meals these days.

Slow roasted tomato and pistachio pasta rotolo in a spiced butternut squash sauce

I have a husband who travels a lot for work and I’ve spent most of this month solo parenting, juggling lectures and cookery classes, recipe submissions and general life. Thank goodness for my awesome parents who have done their best, again, for me? Each time he goes away though, I feel like I grow.

Slow roasted tomato and pistachio pasta rotolo in a spiced butternut squash sauce

This time I have grown because I had to sort my repeated, month long car related mayhem out myself (although my brother helped significantly), I grew because I had to prepare lectures through till 2am and wake with my toddler at 7am and get him sorted without the 30mins of relief that his dad might otherwise give me in the morning.  I grew because I had to fix the printer ink issues out and get taxis at 10pm on my return from work that broke down whilst my phone battery died. I grew because when a relative told me that she is never left in the home alone by her family because she fears the silence and won’t go to toilet alone, i realised that i no longer dear the lonely evenings. I no longer feel sad when people see through social media that I am on my own but don’t take a couple of minutes to ask how I am, because you know, everyone is living their own challenge each day, in their own way. But most of all, I grew because life just carried on as normal.

So, after a couple of days with my folks I received a welcome home present from Riverford. A huge box of seasonal fruit and vegetables packaged in green, and tucked at the side of my home.  My toddler yelped, ‘yes, it’s the vegetables mumma, what did they send?’ The best of the season’s last tomatoes and a bulbous butternut squash amongst green goodness of autumn is what they sent.  I’m always so impressed by the perfect quality of the fruit and veg, there’s not a single bruise on them and they smell so sweet and earthy.  My tot almost instantly headed for a chair and asked to scrub the vegetables to reveal luminous oranges and red of sweet potatoes and peppers and we got the most perfectly quenching grapes.

 

I have to admit though; I’m not normally a butternut squash kind of person. I don’t like sweet soups and I can’t eat them boiled, I just can’t. But the colour of this one was just so rapturing that I needed to do something with it.

 

To me, a welcome home meal is one that is bubbling and simmering, thick and cajoling. A smile for home trickles through when the meal is nourishing and inviting, and full of the flavours of home. When my Husband arrived home from his last trip in Australia I made an Indian inspired feast of curries and dhal, vegetable and cheese raitha, Shrikhand and a stack of chapatti and vegetable rice. But this time, he returned from Mumbai and I knew he would have not only the finest Indian food but also some Chinese, Mexican and Italian food, so what to feed him this time?

 

This pistachio and slow roasted tomato rotolo is rousing in that the slow tomatoes tingle on the tongue with sharp sweetness and the pistachio and quark is a whack of aroma and colour which balances with the rich and thick spiced butternut squash sauce. A little goes a long way.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Carrot shrikhand in meringue nests

26 Sep

Carrot shrikhand in meringue nests

Carrots are pretty simple, aren’t they?

I have never really been one to be overly excited about a carrot, not even when it is dunked in the world’s best hummus and I was one of those that drew them to a side at school when they appeared as boiled or soggy sides during forgettable lunch times. I don’t feature them at Christmas and when a health visitor suggested that I wean my boy on boiled sticks of carrot, even I turned my nose. Whilst the foodie world fusses over damsons and aubergines, gelato and burrata here I am, talking to you about, well…carrots.

But, a couple of days ago Riverford sent me a generous bounty of perfectly fragranced and muddy carrots which, when the boy and I finished scrubbing, revealed to be some ultra-orange charms that tasted so sweet that it confused my mind a little. It was the kind of sweetness that you get when you roast a vegetable, you know, delicate but abundant. So then what to do with this princely amount?

Carrot shrikhand in meringue nests by Deena Kakaya

So I did what anyone who needs a question answering does these days, I put it out on social media (yes, let’s all roll our eyes a little at this, but look I haven’t turned to telling my two-year-old son how proud I am of him over Facebook yet, so there is still hope). Anyway, social media responses suggested pickle (I have been thinking of it since so this will follow in due course, with lemon or limes), carrot halwa, carrot cake, and carrot juice…all sounding fab huh?

Given that these carrots hold so much sweetness and colour I am starting ‘mission carrot’ with a sweet dish and that is my beloved Shrikhand.

Carrot shrikhand in meringue nests

Shrikhand is an Indian sweet dish made of strained yoghurt, which when it becomes thick and creamy is sweetened with sugar and then spiced with saffron, rose water, cardamom, pistachio and is so indulgent and lick-worthy. But you know me. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t fusion-it-up. Behold the carrot Shrikhand that is juicy, creamy, royal-feeling and perfectly naughty on a crisp and airy meringue.

For the full recipe head over to great british chefs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corn on the cob roasted in homemade hoisin sauce

23 Sep

Last weekend felt like a weekend from the yester-summers, with a few subtle differences.

Corn on the cob roasted in homemade hoisin sauce  by Deena Kakaya

We attended a wedding near where we live and I do love a wedding.  As my husband and I fussed with car parking botches before our arrival at the wedding, thanks to faulty ticket machines and lengthy queues of cars filled with sari’s and gifts and then of course a toddler who unquestionably did not agree on how handsome he looked in the suit jacket and smart shirt, I sighed and smiled that this is all part of the happy mayhem with the background tune of, “I can’t like these clothes mumma, I don’t look brilliant.”

As we entered the wedding venue soft romantic music played to a quietly seated and orderly congregation of guests, not like the chattering sprawl my aunts and mum mingled between during my childhood. The priest spoke in soothing, professional and gentle tones, rather than the more directive and stressed tone I remembered from back in the day. The couple looked lovingly at each other, not tensed or fatigued. My cousins and I, who used to chase each other and chatter on in weddings as kids now we entertained our own in the corridors so as not to disturb the silence of the audience. We attempted to orchestrate pictures of the kids but alas, they just wanted to run, as we had once done. Luckily for the collective team of under 5’s the wedding was over in a couple of hours whereas in our day, they were full day affairs that rarely ran to time.

After the wedding my cousins, a few of our parents and of course all the kiddies came back to ours and we had a spray of happy chaos. A crawling baby, toddlers tugging over toys, grandfathers on strawberry picking special-assignments with little super-heroes and squeals on slides and swings. We had pasta and Khichdi and even roasted potatoes all over the house mingling with crisps and grapes. Nappies, spoons and splishing drinks generating curious scents and sounds and a few of us admitted that feeding tired and excitable kiddies was something we were dreading today.

Nobody wanted the Khichdi, or the vegetables, or the pasta or the potatoes but there is one vegetable that everyone agreed on (and this, amidst happy pandemonium is relief). That is corn.

http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/community/corn-roasted-hoisin-sauce-recipe

I am not sure whether it’s the independence element of grabbing corn and just going at the juicy kernels or the cave person freedom. Is it the juicy sweetness or just the easy pleasure? I don’t know but what I do know is that Riverford sent me the freshest and most untainted corn this week in my vegbox and not a single kernel of corn was bruised or damaged. Utterly in season, fresh and golden juicy gorgeousness was in my box and I wanted to do it justice.

Fresh and good quality corn like the stuff I received is sweet and loudly so. To balance the sweetness I whipped up some homemade hoisin sauce which includes salty soy sauce and nutty peanut butter, a bit of chilli and garlic…so you see all the flavours balance so well and it’s such a joy to eat corn sticky and bold in flavour. Go on, be happy.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

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