Quorn rendang curry

26 Jul

Quorn rendang curry by Deena Kakaya

As children, we knowingly grew up with and revelled in some food traditions.  During the week we typically had one ‘green’ curry which was something like okra, cluster beans or spinach for example with a lentil or pulse based dish and of course abundant chapatti and rice with, salad and pickles on the side.   When my aunts visited, we knew dad would go out and buy bright orange and sticky sweet spirals of jalebi, fluffy and lightly sour rice and lentil cakes of dhokla and all the children got bounty chocolate bars at the end. There were potato and cassava dishes for celebratory fasting days and summers full of steaming hot, spiced rice flour dough which puffed aromas of chillies as we lay the poppadum’s made with that very dough onto sheets of unused saris in the garden. On Thursdays we had hot, buttery Khichdi made of simmered down rice and lentils with potato curry, Kadhi and crisp poppadum’s. On Fridays, dad made proper chips after chopping and lightly boiling thick cuts of potatoes and they were accompanied by fried eggs, beans or mushy peas and lashings of vinegar. It was either that or a Chinese take-away or home-made pie but goodness my brother and I loved those Friday meals.

When I started working in London things altered. Every day was a food adventure rejoicing a different cuisine of the world with my friends or colleagues. One of the things I love about London is that pretty much any cuisine I want to explore is accessible. Some of these cuisines became regular features on my home-cooking menu such as Malaysian recipes with their fresh and sprightly flavours of lemongrass, chillies and lime leaves. Over the years I have read about the fusion of cultures that influences Malaysian cooking; Malays, Chinese, Indian and apparently even Portuguese and Dutch and for me this makes it such a testament to the success that fusion food can deliver. I am shameless when it comes to slurping up bowls of fragrant Laksa but the dish that has always made me most curious is rendang curry. I think it is the thick, clinging curry sauce that just makes me swoon for vegetarian alternatives to the traditional heavy meaty-based versions of this recipe. The curry gravy reaches thrilling levels of wonderfulness when simmered for around an hour, making it unsuitable for vegetable based dishes but Quorn works well in that it just becomes tender and soaks up the flavours of the curry base over this time. I have cut back on my intake of sugar so I haven’t added brown sugar, palm sugar or any sweeteners to this recipe but what I have done is add tamarind paste and also powdered some toasted coconut to give a little touch of sweetness.  It has taken me about three attempts to get to a rendang recipe that I am happy with and I have to say, this one is just divine. I have served it with a really easy and colourful carrot salad and steaming hot rice.

for the full recipe, head on over via this link to Great British Chefs

Pea and vegetarian Quorn mince Kofta curry

15 Jul

Pea and vegetarian mince Kofta curry

Sometimes, when my brother visits us, together with my family from Leicester, he makes unexplained (but definitely not mysterious) disappearances. Sometimes they are explicated. None of us feels illuminated. Let me explain;

Pea and Quorn mince Kofta curry by Deena Kakaya

When it comes to lunch or dinner, applying a menu favourably to the fussy audience that is my family is complicated. Each of them declares ‘I’m easy, whatever…’ but this is not factually correct. The children of course require a balanced, nutritious and mild diet and my parents like a more traditional menu these days or something with an x-rating on the chillies factor. But my dad is sick of chapatti every day so the mere indication of them will spin him off into, ‘that’s fine I will have Weetabix or toast for dinner’. What my diabetic dad really wants is something that resembles (or actually is) an obscenely dirty take-away; you know mounds of Chinese food, maybe some massaman curry or some deep fried aubergine Bhajhia.

But of course my husband likes the idea of all that but strokes his jumper down for the 97th time as he says, ‘no I have got to be healthier, I have lost 2kg and need to…’ right. By this time my sister-in-law, who has declined the chocolate cornflakes snack bites in the living room has made another trip to the kitchen corner and come out crunching, so the hunger is stirring. Oh, but where is my brother, how long has he actually been gone? He has of course, gone out in search of protein. It is I a fixation of his. Every meal must be loaded with protein that apparently fuels his work-outs and keeps him satiated for longer and various other reasons I switch off about and if its cabbage curry for dinner with vegetable rice and raitha, he is silently out and munching on chicken because we (which of course means ‘I’) have a no-meat rule in the house.

Pea and Quorn mince Kofta curry by Deena Kakaya

Cue my protein packed recipe. Every time we eat Quorn mince there are remarks from the non-vegetarian people around the table about how convincing it is. I have noticed over the years that it has actually become softer and juicier, less crumbly and they now lend so well to succulent, moist, lightly sweet, spice-soaked and juicy kofta. They hold so well and do not require any egg or potato. Peas are themselves a source of protein as well as the Quorn mince but I chose peas because they keep the kofta moist and add a little sweetness. They look pretty too don’t they? Let me tell you, we had some very happy people and also very quiet people eating these kofta.

 

for the full recipe, head over on this link to great british chefs

Mexican-Indian corn chaat

12 Jul

Mexican-Indian corn chaat

http://www.deenakakaya.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Mexican-indian-corn-chaat.jpg

I was in a waiting room for several hours the other day.

Between moments of exasperated and forced eye contact with staff down the window-less corridor and then stiller and weepily-hungry jiffies of reading ‘The Kite Runner’ I listened to a gentleman whose granddaughter had just graduated from a university in Birmingham and Grandson who had just departed for travels in Australia. His daughters’ tolerantly listened to ‘daddy’ repeating himself. Well, one did whilst the other arranged school pick-ups and take-away dinners. I wondered why they didn’t intervene when their father asked another waiting lady about how many children she had, again. She who had twin 7 year old sons and a four year old daughter had just miscarried and she had gently explained for the third or fourth time that, ‘these things happen’, ‘it’s really common’, ‘I just want to move on’. I wonder if she really was that calm when she heard the older gentleman resaying, ‘was it your first’, ‘oh that’s awful’ and ‘life is so unfair’. Maybe she was thinking the same as me, which is that we are all going to end up where this gentleman was except whether it is a lonely struggle or one accompanied by loved ones remains to be seen.

She tucked her gaze onto the sketch she was making; she is an artist and worked flexibly around her children, describing this harmony as ‘nice’. Across from me a father and daughter nestled into each other. She must have been 11 or 12, long dark and silky hair tied into wafting pony tails but sportily dressed, like her dad. When I was of that age, it would have been less common to see such snuggling in a public area. Things have changed. My husband asked my three year old son what we do in our family, he replied, ‘we just erm, give love’.

On my right a gentleman waited with his family. His wife smiled serenely and his son discussed important subjects around his work and readings. His father listened with eager eyes and encouraging nods, though I did notice him stifle a couple of yawns. His daughter explained how she wanted to gradually transition from her professional job into her own business and her father agreed devotedly. I thought back to my teens when some of my friends were chastised for even hinting at more artistic subjects and felt sorry for parents who could not truly understand, relate or advise their children on many of these education and profession related matters. But they tried, like my parents did.

And so, as an ode to the many colours of life, I share with you a recipe for Mexican-Indian corn chaat. I scoffed an entire (sharing) plate of corn chaat when in Dubai (where it is very easy to be vegetarian) a few months ago as my husband looked on smiling. It was supposed to be a light and easy meal. Sweet corn in chaat is probably not the most traditional chaat recipe but the juicy and cool kernels of corn work well amongst the crispy puffed rice, tangy chutneys and soft potatoes. As I was eating it I couldn’t help think of Mexican corn salad with lots of red onion, corn tortilla and green peppers. And so, the Mexican-Indian corn chaat is born; it has pungent and peppery chaat masala but also smoky Mexican Guajillo chillies. It has green chillies and also a double whammy of crunch from corn tortilla and puffed rice. I have smoothed on some cool whipped yoghurt for the base of the dish too. One serving of this dish is just never enough!

Ingredients to serve 2-4

3 guajillo chillies

3 green chillies, finely chopped

One medium red onion

½ cup mung bean shoots, or you could use chickpeas

2 tbsp. tamarind chutney (shop bought is fine)

5 tsp. chaat masala

125g chopped, fresh tomatoes

4 new potatoes, diced boiled

1 tin of 325g sweet corn

5-6 dessert spoons of plain, natural yoghurt

¾ cup puffed rice with peanuts (readily available in Indian supermarkets as sev mumra)

A couple of handfuls of corn tortilla, lightly crushed

Method

  1. On a dry pan gently roast the peppers until they start to smoke but don’t let them brown. Take them off the heat and immerse them with enough hot water to cover them. Leave them to stand for about 15 minutes before blitzing them to a paste.
  2. In a large bowl, add the drained corn and toss the kernels amongst the guajillo chilli paste and tamaring chutney.
  3. Now add the potatoes, onions, green chillies, tomatoes, mung bean shoots and then toss all the ingredients. Sprinkle in the chaat masala.
  4. Prepare each plate by layering the yoghurt on the base of the plate.
  5. Before serving, add the puffed rice with peanuts and corn tortilla to the bowl of ingredients. If you add them too early they will soften.

 

 

 

Roasted cauliflower manchurian

5 Jul

These days when I fleetingly look in the mirror, consciously or not I look out for very different signs as compared to a few years ago. I’m not so much checking for neat eyebrows, tidy make up or how large my eyes appear (yes that indeed used to be a consideration a lifetime ago), but the checklist is wearily composed of; do I look tired, how many grey hairs are peeping through, do I spot any facial hairs and mostly…do I look healthy?

roasted cauli manchurian by Deena Kakaya

 

Pre-child I had promised myself that I wouldn’t let myself go. As I geared up for motherhood my husband heard reaffirmations from me a million times or more that I would continue to shop at my favourite boutiques, wear make-up, go to the gym and still have time for a facemask. It wasn’t until in recent months, when well intending friends pointed out how lovely it was to see the ‘old me’ back that it dawned on me, that I had faded quite a lot…into dark holes of formless, halfway-house and never-ending leggings. I have thrown them all away now, the leggings I mean.

It was going pretty well, I was eating more fruit and I felt light and springy as did my hair. Since then there has been a bit of dip in the bounce partly due to a fatigue induced ravenous appetite. My appetite has been as relentless as my schedule of work and toddler and I caught a flash of self-assessment whilst shopping today. Along with more sleep, it is time to behave well again on the food front but I can’t entertain the thought of any of these juice diets or carb-cycling thingies. I am a temperamental when hungry and I cannot and will not eat beans on toasts and when my husband suggests cereal for dinner after a long night and train journey home at 10pm, I just cannot. Eating cereal for dinner would be just hitting rock bottom.

I am satiated with bold colours and spice, deep texture and might. I crave vegetarian fast food. I tell myself that I must eat healthy recipes, whilst I am gratified by aromas that invite my fingers into the food and draw moisture to my mouth. And this vegetarian recipe for roasted cauliflower Manchurian (or Gobi Manchurian) cuts it. It’s a take on a popular indo-Chinese recipe, but I haven’t fried the cauliflower. It still hits the spot.

Ingredients to serve 2-3

A medium head of cauliflower cut into large florets

1 ½ tbsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. minced ginger

1 tsp. minced garlic

A generous pinch of Chinese 5 spice powder

6 tsp. of corn flour

For the sauce

2 tbsp. tomato ketchup

1 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. siracha sauce

1 tbsp. agave nectar

1 tbsp. freshly chopped coriander

3 spring onions, finely chopped

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Coat the washed cauliflower with the Chinese 5 spice powder, garlic and ginger paste, soy sauce and then finally the corn flour.
  3. Place each of the florets in the oven and roast them until they are crisp and lightly browned. This should take 45 minutes.
  4. Once cooked, remove the cauliflower florets and place them in a large bowl. Combine the cauliflower florets with the sauce and toss them until they are evenly coated.
  5. Serve the cauliflower Manchurian hot. I served with wholemeal tortilla and beansprouts, as a wrap.

Spicy beetroot and spinach Puri (fried breads)

4 Jun

Spicy beetroot and spinach Puri (fried breads)

We spent the day chasing bubbles on a sort-of man-made ‘beach’, with friends and giggles today. My boy and his friend ran around in bare legs, shining under their sun cream before washing our efforts into lake. We made, and resurrected sandcastles and settled quarrels over which colour spade belonged to which toddler, before washing gritty eyes out in the public toilets. As ‘I want’ and ‘pleaaaseee’ echoed through my mind, I realised that I had learned to let go a little.

Spicy beetroot and spinach puri by Deena Kakaya

Spicy beetroot and spinach puri by Deena Kakaya

Yes, the route to the park was unfamiliar and I had two loud toddlers in the bank demanding attention, but I made it. The toilets wreaked but it was OK, we washed the eye out. There was sand all over the clothes, but they can be washed and he had no interests in snacks but he would be fine. It’s OK. My phone buzzed but I didn’t check it, they could wait and I realised that I had returned those work emails for three days for the world wouldn’t collapse. We couldn’t get the toddlers out of there, naturally and so, we had two hungry little people who were busting for a wee the entire journey to a family friendly restaurant that I would never would have dined at before my boy was born, a whole hour and fifteen minutes late for lunch. But they ate. They ate cheese and tomato puree on cooked dough, but they ate. So for today, it’s OK.

I am really looking forward to the summer, even though I have this one challenge. On a day out to the zoo, or park or beach we usually take a vegetarian picnic. But we can’t take sandwiches for my toddler. My life would be so much simpler if my boy would eat a sandwich. I lament over the time I would save if he would just eat a sandwich. On our day out to an activity farm park for example (after which I had needed a nap) we took thepla (fenugreek chapatti), so I had been up until 11pm after returning from work the previous night at 10pm. You see my point?

This time, I made puri (Indian fried breads). Who can resist a fluffy, crisp balloon like puri? Not even my fussy toddler. At first he came into the kitchen and inhaled deeply, ‘thank you for making me puri, you are the best’. But at first when he saw them he declared that they would be for girls because they are hot pink. It didn’t take much persuasion for him to dig in; delicately sweet, slightly sour and gently warm with garlic…this is not a usual puri recipe but it really will hit the spot.

Recipe to make approximately 15 puri

Ingredients

1½ cup chapatti flour

½ cup finely chopped spinach

75g cooked beetroot, pureed

3 cloves of garlic, minced

Salt to taste

2 tbsp. plain, natural yoghurt

1 ½ tbsp. vegetable oil for the dough

Oil for deep frying

½ tsp. turmeric

You will need a large slotted spoon suitable for using when frying and some kitchen paper

Method

  1. Heat the oil for deep frying
  2. To make the dough, start by making in the middle of the flour within a large bowl. Then, using your fingers, blend the oil into the dough to ensure even and fine blending.
  3. Now add the turmeric and salt, again ensuring that it is evenly distributed.
  4. Now introduce the yoghurt, beetroot puree and garlic, together with the spinach. Form dough that is spongy, not sticky. If you need more water add it very little by little and if your dough is sticky then add flour, again little by little.
  5. Divide the dough into 15 equal portions and roll them out to approximately a palm size.
  6. Check that the oil is hot by placing a small amount of dough into the oil and if it rises immediately and begins to sizzle then place a single puri into the oil and gentle dab it with the slotted spoon. It should rise into a ball. Turn the puri around and cook it until it catches a light golden colour before removing it onto kitchen paper.

 

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine and spinach

13 May

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine and spinach

 

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine spinach

The lines between ‘going back’ and going on holiday have blurred now, after this many visits to the UAE.  My three year old has made three trips out there and now has a collection of memories and a definite sense of identification with some of our regular haunts.  Neither me nor my husband are from the UAE or have family there but to be honest almost all of the people I talk to in Dubai are ex-pats.

Whilst in Oman, Muscat I reminisced about our honeymoon in Thailand because the mountainous back group and still waters evoked those entire serene and tranquil honeymoon images in my mind. Except this time, the people we made passing conversation with were a whole world away. We met an Australian family in the kid’s club and I remarked to my husband that it was they, not a nanny with their two young daughters. Most of the other children in the kids club were accompanied by a nanny that had joined their family to the resort. Australian dad now worked in Qatar and Australian mum was fond of truffles. She emphatically told me about the school her daughters attended and how her children didn’t see race or colour because their friends were of all origins; Indian, French, Japanese. She told me several times over, which I found curious.

People like to guess where you are from when on holiday don’t they? Most of the time people assume that I am from Arabic origin, in fact this happened to me at college and university too but it’s only in the UAE that people never assume that. The entertainer in the kids club remarked on my Indian eyes and English accent and asked if I was a full time mum, for again, I was the only mum in attendance there. An Indian (as in, from India) dad dropped his two smartly dressed children who were also decorated in 24ct gold jewellery, with entertaining lady and after he left she told me that he holds a very high position in the hotel and has since moved to LA to head up operations there. She herself is from a family of 7 sisters and 1 brother in the Philippines.

My little boy likes trains, unsurprisingly and the ones in Dubai are much less congested so this made for fervent and endearing conversation. Indian chap quipped that he should be on YouTube, not the head of a leading bank like he was. My boy replied, ‘maybe when I am 17 I will.’

So, as we stood at the floor to wall screens leading into the aquarium, for shark and stingray viewing my boy patted the screen guardedly inviting the sometimes smiling and sometimes frowning creatures to swim past him. Whilst he pressed his forehead against the cold glass and chattered away about what the fish must be doing, thinking, eating and travelling from a very pink, vivacious blonde haired little girl grabbed the arm of ‘Shanti’ as she explained where she saw similar looking coral. Shanti had a really peaceful demeanour and very smooth and very dark skin on a red-green-gold simple sari so I wondered if she was from southern India. Blonde mummy tried to join in the conversation but those wide eyes were mirroring only Shanti’s imperturbable smile. I wondered if this is what happens if you get caught up in the mode of, ‘because I can have hired help I will’. Or was shanti a friend? Was she the nanny?

‘Come…’ called Shanti and held the little blond girl close as she scooped her up, posing and prompting the parents to take pictures. I don’t know if Shanti heard, but I certainly did when they said, ‘just get her in there on her own, and hold it, that’s it…’

I picked up some freshly ground Baharat spice mix at the same supermarket that I go to each time that I am in Dubai and I know there must be more authentic places but you know, it was there in a big and inviting mound of freshness. A Lebanese lady next to me told me that she uses it in rice dishes and I wondered which other medley of dishes I could use them because the key ingredients are; cardamom, cassia bark, cloves, coriander, nutmeg, all spice, peppercorns, chilies or paprika. For whatever reasons the smoky aubergine, crisp potato and smooth spinach all work with this spice for a healthy vegetarian meal. Although I picked the blend up from Dubai with lasting effect in the suitcase, the spice blend is available in UK supermarkets too.

Ingredients to serve two

3 medium potatoes suitable for roasting

1 tbsp. rapeseed oil

Two medium aubergines

One tin of chopped tomatoes

4 dessert spoons of finely chopped spinach

One large red chilli

Salt to taste

2 tsp. Za’atar spice

3 tsp.  Baharat spice

150g fresh mozzarella cheese

 

A handful of cherry or plum tomatoes, quartered

Method

  1. Cut the potatoes into even sized cubes and boil them for 7-8 minutes before draining them and letting them dry completely. Then toss them in salt and the oil before roasting them in the oven at 190 degrees for approximately 25 minutes.
  2. Roast the aubergines whole at 180 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until the inside is soft and then allow them to cool before scraping away the skins.
  3. Mix the tinned tomatoes with the chopped chilli, salt, pinch of pepper and spread them onto an oven proof dish.
  4. Combine the aubergine pulp with the Za’atar spice and a pinch of salt.
  5. Now layer on the spinach and the roasted aubergine on top of the tinned tomatoes.
  6. Once the potatoes have caught a golden colour, toss them in the Baharat spice mix before adding them on top of the spinach and aubergine.
  7. Tear the aubergine and add them to the top with the tomatoes before returning the tray to the oven for approximately ten minutes.

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

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: