Archive | September, 2013

Beetroot, chipotle and feta fritters with Asian style cucumber salad

29 Sep

Beetroot, chipotle and feta fritters

Beetroot, chipotle and feta fritters

Our taxi driver confidently lead us down a shabby lane in Cairo. It was such a hot and dusty day and the atmosphere around the roads was subdued. We dodged the rocks and stones that had dislodged from the road and buildings and skipped over small mounds of stinking rubbish. I shot huffy expressions towards my explorative and overly-polite husband who simply adjusted the cap on his head, mopped his face and said, ‘come on babe, lets just see’.

Lets just see? What did he mean? What if something happened to us? I’m a natural worrier and this, together with having had regretful holiday experiences in the past, had fired off dozens of atrocious images in my mind from being food poisoned to being shot.

I reassured myself that our driver was in fact a lovely, pious man. He had gelled quite well with my husband and he told us lots of stories to pass the journey times during out holiday. Whilst we stumbled and hopped along the path he was leading us along, towards this supposedly acclaimed restaurant, he was telling us why men in his hometown wore a bruised forehead. Apparently it demonstrated their religious devotion and credited them to be god following people because you could see that they bowed down for prayer regularly.

So, we weren’t shot. We arrived at the restaurant and it had a feel of the rainforest cafe in London. The roofs were leafy and crowded in a fun sort of way. Fake birds bobbed up and down above us, but they added to the rainforest feel. Fish swam beside us and whilst we settled ourselves at our table and my inner child was tickled. As you can imagine, I was smiling and that unrequited, ‘I told you so’ naturally blurted at me.

So I wondered off to watch this giant man rub his hands a couple of times and produce perfect falafels into the biggest wok I had ever seen. It was bubbling with steaming hot oil and none of the chickpeas escaped. Perfumes of tahini and parsley dominated the smoke above him. But then I saw his hands appear blood stained. Flutters of panic seared through me..he wasn’t cooking with meat was he? Was I right all along?

It was beetroot. He was stuffing grated beetroot into the falafels. He was watching my expression and then he and his big toothy grin handed one to me on a plate.

It was sweet, nutty and slightly spicy. Probably the way I’d describe my favourite friends and oh my goodness they were crispy and addictive. I wanted more. I couldn’t believe how fluffy they were, so light. They taste a bit like little burgers, I’d happily stick them in some pitta with dollops of hummus.

So I came back and I created these beauties. You know I like spice so I’ve whacked in some beautiful smokey chipotle, it makes the whole combination more sensual. I’ve got salty feta in there too and it works in harmony with sweet beetroot. I love these because they are moist without being pasty. I don’t add plain flour because it gives it that texture that sticks to the roof of the mouth. Instead I have used gram flour and chickpeas to give that nuttiness. Whether you eat these with salad or as a burger, you’ll find them easy to make and freezer friendly.

Ingredients

300g cooked beetroot, grated
75g breadcrumbs
100g chickpeas, squashed
2tbsp finely chopped parsley
1tbsp finely chopped chives
1/2 tbsp chipotle paste
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 egg lightly beaten
3 tbsp gram flour
50g feta cheese, crumbled
2 spring onions finely chopped
Oil for shallow frying
Salt to taste
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds
Salt to taste

Method

1. Squeeze as much if the juice out of beetroot as possible
2. Add the onion, feta, spices, herbs and add the chickpeas by imagesquishing them between your fingers. Use the salt carefully because feta is salty.

3. Add the chipotle paste, gram flour and the egg. Mix it all together before adding the breadcrumbs. If you feel that the mixture is too wet add a bit more gram flour
4. Form golf sized balls before dropping them into the warmed oil. Shallow fry them until they are golden brown on each side and serve with an Asian style cucumber salad.

Beetroot, feta, chipotle, chickpeas

Frying golf ball sized parities of Beetroot, feta and chipotle with chickpeas for nuttiness

For the cucumber salad

Peel one whole cucumber and stir it together with

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp sesame oil

Spinach, spring onion and spice pancakes with lime and coriander crème fraîche

26 Sep

Spinach, spring onion and spice pancakes with lime and coriander crème fraîche
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We were in Dubai in June and my then 16month child lost a few hundred grams in weight over the first few days of our 10 day stay.

We were very lucky to be staying at the Atlantis, which is not only stunning with its in-house aquarium which felt as big as the London aquarium, beautiful clear views of the azure sea, towering heights and arches, shimmering lights; but it is architecturally astounding with its arabesque domes and spires. They couldn’t do enough for us and I lost count of the number of restaurants they had that served fresh and delicious foods from throughout the world. My favorite was the Lebanese restaurant; they served an entire table of vegetarian dishes at each course and I’m not kidding.
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So why, with such lovely and helpful staff and so much variety did my boy not eat? Why, when they made him whatever we asked for, either on or off the ‘menu for kids’, would he just not eat? The truth is, I don’t know. Could have been the heat, but then the hotel was air-conditioned. It could have been the time changes, but then we stuck to UK time for him. It could have been the fatigue of travelling, but surely that would settle after a couple of days. It could be because mumma didn’t make it. But come on.

So, as is typical of my assertive and self-proclaimed solutions-not-problems focused husband, he said, ‘babe, just go and speak to the chefs like you normally would and go into the kitchen and make what he will eat’. Normally I wouldn’t go and cook uninvited because that is so rude. But my baby wasn’t eating and this made me so sad that I felt like it was the only thing I could do.

The head chef came out to meet my boy. The restaurant manager came to meet him. The sous chef took the head chefs instructions and then I went in to tell them how he likes it. My boy doesn’t even know lucky he is. We made him what he has at home, a spinach uttapam. I make this south Indian style crispy pancake with fermented and ground lentils and rice, loads of spinach. My little monster guzzled it down and the whole team was happy, especially me. Naturally.

The thing is though, that I don’t always have fermented rice and lentils to hand when he asks for the pancake and I know that instant versions are available in a packet and that too at the major supermarkets, but I worry about the amount of salt in them. So, I created this recipe that my whole family enjoy…even my fussy old man (my dad) loved them. My chappati-loving mum let out high-pitched praise. My Italian and Caribbean neighbors loved them (I’ve trialed this recipe out a couple of times so needed mouths) and best of all, my boy loves them. For a kids version skip the chili and salt if this is your normal practice given your child’s age. My boy is young so that’s what I’ve done.

These pancakes are really well-balanced in terms of spice and depth, they are smooth and really light and fluffy. Herby and moorish, they are so easy to make and even easier to eat.

Ingredients to serve 3-4

225g fresh spinach, finely chopped in a food processor
75g spring onions finely chopped
2 green chilies finely chopped (leave them out for kids or cut the amount of chili if you don’t like it hot)
One whole egg
One egg white, beaten until you get soft white peaks
150g self-raising flour
150ml milk
50g butter
Salt to taste (I used 1tsp)
1 tbsp baking powder

The spices; 1 tsp toasted cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp dried mango powder (amchur powder)

For the lime and coriander crème fraîche

250g crème fraîche
The zest of one lime
1 tbsp very finely chopped fresh coriander
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Method

1. In a large bowl mix the spinach with the cumin, salt, garam masala, mango powder, spring onions and chilies and mix it well.
2. With a fork, mix in the flour and then add the milk, butter and egg. Whisk it all together, add the baking powder and whisk again.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg until the egg whites are soft white peaks and then gently fold into the pancake batter.
4. To make the crème fraîche, add the zest of the lime into a bowl and add the coriander, salt and pepper. Mix it in gently with the crème fraîche and leave it in the fridge until you serve the pancakes.
5. To make the pancakes heat a non stick pan and grease it with a couple of tablespoons of oil. Pour a couple of tablespoons of batter onto the pan and ensure that the height is about 1 cm. Cook them until they are golden brown on one side before flipping over.

Serve the pancakes hot and with a dollop of the crème fraîche.

Indian spiced exotic mushroom, cauliflower and pea pie

24 Sep

Indian spiced exotic mushroom, cauliflower and pea pie
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For years I’d stopped eating pies. I’d happily bolt past the pasty stand at kings cross station, without a single hankering. I’d swiftly flick past the recipes for pies in the magazines and didn’t stop to consider the modern day varieties. My mind deleted the pie entries in restaurants and I certainly never made one at Christmas, just because we are vegetarians.

I think I stopped eating them because I found them boring, simple as that. Maybe there was a health factor too; after all, I was going to fitness classes 3-4 times a week. After a class of body attack, I didn’t want a pie. I just don’t fancy a load of mushrooms in pastry. We used to have one with samosa mix inside and cheese which was pretty scrummy, but even then…no.

Funnily enough, I became reacquainted with pies because I picked up some exotic mushrooms in Tesco and I was making a vegetable and cheese sauce for my tot. Exotic mushrooms are, for want of a better description, really mushroomy. They are delicate too and don’t need a lot of cooking. They are light and feathery and go so, so well with a crispy ad puffy pastry top. Also, the folks are staying this week whilst the husband is in Moscow. It is quite enlightening, seeing parents age and almost regress to behaviours such as a lack of patience, the emotional sensitivity and the need to be heard, a lot.

As you can imagine, juggling food preferences is no picnic. The boy likes spinach and tofu curry, dad won’t eat tofu. Dad wants a chip butty, the boy won’t eat bread. Mum can’t cope without chappati, I need variety. Dad likes lots of chilli and salt, I can’t cope with either. I want a herb pesto, dad thinks it is too fussy. I want gnocchi and he wants a jacket potato. You see where I’m going with this. So I made pie (right up his street) but my way. Guess who ate half the pie? (I’m not kidding, he really did).

This recipe does justice to mild and distinct flavours as well as being fragrantly spiced and sunny coloured. I’ve only got a pastry top on it, rather than the stuffing being encased in pastry. The stuffing is the star of the dish, gently but mature. Colourful and developed. Don’t get me wrong, there are some serious flavours in this pie, but it isn’t the spices.

Ingredients

350g puff pastry sheet, thawed if frozen (per packet instructions)
50g plain flour
300ml vegetable stock
400ml milk
A large nob of butter and a drizzle of oil
175g mixed exotic mushrooms. I’ve used pink oysters, yellow oysters and shiitake mushrooms
50g cheese
Half a head of a medium sized cauliflower
100g peas
2 cloves of garlic
One large onion, sliced

The spices; salt to taste, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp chilli powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp cumin seeds

Method

1. Start by making the stuffing. Heat a couple of tbsp of oil a d add the cumin seeds. Allow them to sizzle before adding the onion and garlic, sauté for a coupe of minutes.
2. In the meantime, boil the cauliflower and the peas for 3-4 minutes. Wen they are el dente remove from the heat and drain.
3. Stir in the mushrooms with the onions and garlic and sauté for about 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the cauliflower and peas to the mushrooms and add the salt, garam masala, turmeric and chilli powder. Mix well before turning off the heat.
5. To make the sauce, heat the butter and soften it with a drizzle of oil. Then add the plain flour and make a paste. Stir in the milk gently whilst whisking to avoid lumps. Add the vegetable sauce and on a medium flame, keep whisking until the lumps have dissolved and the sauce starts to thicken, before adding the cheese. Continue to stir until the sauce thickens, when you should turn off the heat.
6. Combine the sauce and the vegetables before pouring them into a circular oven proof dish. Mine is about 20cm diameter.
7. Top the pie with 3-4 long strips of pastry and dong forget to make s small steam hole in the top and bake in the oven at 180degrees for about 30minutes or until golden brown and crispy on top.

Coriander, ginger and basil pesto pasta with toasted cashews and peanuts

22 Sep Coriander, ginger and basil pesto pasta with toasted cashews and peanuts

Coriander, ginger and basil pesto pasta with toasted cashews and peanuts coriander, ginger and basil pesto pasta with toasted cashews and peanuts

My new husband grabbed my hand and gently led me out of the Bangkok shopping centre food court whilst I whimpered. I felt like a four-year old. But my hands were printed with Henna and every salesperson, tour guide or hotel staff would stop me to ask, sweetly , ‘honey moon?’

utterly frustrated and despairingly famished, I was just too worn out to talk. Or rather, complain. We were on honeymoon and spent the day sight-seeing, talking excitedly and traveling fair distances and had eventually landed up in a shopping centre where the shoes were the stuff of my dreams; very affordable, stylish and I gasped when I saw how small they were! I’m of course petite and wear size 3 shoes. I was delighted. Could it get any better? The morning had passed hearing traders haggle whilst I bobbed up and down a teeny boat on the floating market. I was inside that Jacobs advert. I’d inhaled the sweet smells from mounds of saffron and stopped on the water to buy an oversized straw hat. And now, look…small shoes!
So time elapsed and once the thrills had lulled, our tummies shouted in plight. The problem was that we couldn’t find any vegetarian food. The so-called-veggie dishes had oyster sauce in them or a fishy stock. I’d been served some in a noodle bar and the taste sent me out of the shopping centre.

So we were on the restless main road; sky train rumbling above us, cars honking past us and traders yelling at us. It was hot, dusty and it was all just too much. What we in awe of just hours ago, was now simply draining. Husband rang the hotel and they directed us to a restaurant they advised would actually serve proper veggie food.

It looked alright when we got there, but frankly I didn’t care anymore. My plate arrived and it was green. The noodles I mean, not the plate itself. I didn’t expect that; I was expecting coconut cream. It smelt like coriander and I almost wept. I told my husband about the time when my dad made mashed potatoes for my cousin, my brother and I when we were kids and he put coriander in it and we all gagged. My cousin held his breath and downed it because my dad bribed him with a giant bar of bounty. I looked down and my noodles and just wanted a bowl of tomato pasta. ‘Just eat it sweetheart, it is vegetarian and you haven’t eaten anything’.

I’d never tasted anything like it, it was like an Asian chutney on noodles. Garlicky heat and coriander with Thai sweet basil totally lifted me and the aroma of sesame oil, it was phenomenal. So simple, so fresh, moist and quite powerful. I asked for another portion as a take-away and I resolved to come home and make my own version.

I love this recipe because all of the fresh flavours that come through really decisively. They don’t over power each other and you can taste them all. I’ve used fresh basil and ginger along with coriander and the juices are those you get carried away by. This is perfect as a mid-week meal because it is easy to do. Please do use sesame oil, this dish wouldn’t taste the same without the perfume of nutty sesame seeds. I’ve also added toasted cashews and peanuts on top which for me, compete the Asian feel on this pasta. Don’t ruin it by adding cheese, you really don’t need it.

Ingredients to serve four

4 tbsp finely chopped coriander
4 cloves of garlic , minced
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp minced ginger
Salt to taste (I added 1tsp)
2 tsp fresh lime juice
4 tbsp finely chopped basil
500g fresh pasta

3 handfuls of cashew nuts and one handful of peanuts (shelled)

Method

1. Sauté the garlic and ginger in a splash of oil in a pan for 2-3 minutes and stir intermittently to avoid sticking.
2. In a grinder, combine the coriander, basil, sesame oil, garlic and ginger, salt and lime juice and blitz it until it’s a smooth pesto.
3. Put the pasta on the boil and cook it per the packet instructions. Meanwhile, in a hot, non stick pan toast the nuts until they are golden brown
4. Once the pasta is drained, stir the pesto through it and top it with the nuts. We’ve warm. It’s best that way.

Cooking with Herbs

Sweet and chilli Beetroot, masala potatoes, toasted almonds, green beans and goats cheese salad

18 Sep Salad

Sweet and chilli beetroot, masala potatoes, green beans, goats cheese and toasted almond salad.

Salad

When I married my husband my kitchen inherited his eating habits. Naturally. We had a permanently colourful fridge tumbling with carrots and tomatoes that he ate raw; fantastic. Lots of fruit ; wonderful! There were requests for minestrone, lasagne and for stir fries. Sounds all very virtuous doesn’t it, it’s making me feel proud just reading it. Accompanying these very sensible, wholesome and fresh choices were some rather odd ones.

Light, fresh, delicate and sour crispy dosa were flattened and overpowered by the rude slathering of tomato ketchup. Wedges of apple were showered with salt and cumin powder. Crunchy and spicy Bombay mix was dunked to the soggy bottom of a mug of masala chai. Garlic chutney (literally just garlic and chilli powder) on cold Chappati comprised a long lingering breakfast.
The one I couldn’t dispute too much was the plate full of spicy, lightly crisped masala, peppery potatoes with lashings of natural yoghurt on top. Ironically, this carby dish is the food of fasts and it always throws me back to large family get togethers, nuts, saris and cold weather. All the lovely stuff.

Now it is of course wrong to change a man. Isn’t it. What of those women that alter the hobbies, eating, clothing, housing and everything else that makes the man. No. But…if all we are tweaking is banishing the hoodies and introducing a bit of colour to the plate…well that’s just helping and it is a contribution to the betterment of generations to come, isn’t it ?

So I have taken his beloved masala potatoes, changed it up a wee bit and sat them in a salad. Salad is a sort of catch-all, umbrella food term isn’t it. When I was a kid, Salad just meant cucumber, tomato, lettuce and sometimes sweetcorn. Salad cream was the dressing. Nowadays, a salad is a concoctive compilation of hot, cold, sweet, sour, crunchy or soft stuff with fruits or salad or both. Anything.

So back to my salad, or whatever we want to call it. Peppery potatoes in cumin and sesame seeds and a few simple spices that and punch. The beetroot is bathed in its own juices and some agave nectar and chilli. I used agave because it is low GI and won’t give me those sugar spikes that honey or sugar based products will. Toasted almonds are the crunchy and smoky bit and then I’ve got the juicy beans and salty and creamy cheese. This is a plate that plays with the senses and is pretty nutritious. No reason not to now is there?
Ingredients

600g of white potatoes
300g of beetroot with the juices
170g of green beans
30g flaked almonds
3tbsp agave nectar
3tbsp cooking oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds
A few blogs of goats cheese or feta

The spices; salt to taste, 1tsp chilli flakes, 1 tsp cumin seeds , 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp amchur powder (dried mango powder), 1/4 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Start by chopping the potatoes into wedges and boil them for about 7-8 minutes. Drain them and leave them to dry

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2. Whilst the potatoes are boiling, toast the almonds in a dry pan over a medium flame until they are golden brown.

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3. Next turn your attention to the beetroot. Chop it into chunks and simply dress it with the agave and chilli and leave it to a side.

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4. Now stir fry the potatoes by heating the oil in the pan and then stir in the potatoes. Add the sesame and cumin with the salt. Sprinkle in the pepper, paprika, oregano, mango powder and garam masala. Cook the potatoes until they attract a golden colour. This should taken ten minutes on a medium flame. Stir the potatoes intermittently to avoid them sticking.
5. Whilst the potatoes are cooking, boil or steam the green beans for about 7minutes or until tender.

Serve with the juices of the beetroot and sprinkle the almonds on top with the cheese.

Smoked Aubergine polenta with sweet and spicy tomatoes on top

16 Sep

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Smoked Aubergine polenta with sweet and spicy tomatoes on top

How do you get mosquito bitten in summery Milan? I counted 38 and I am not kidding.  And how do you get lost in Milan? Both of those unfortunate and grossly inconvenient situations lead us to walking around the streets utterly famished and wearily confused.
So we, (my dear friend and I) ended up in a quiet street that was lit dimly. In blue.  My friend is rubbish in the heat.   she, who is normally composed and upbeat, moans incessantly in the heat. She moans about walking, about her feet, about being thirsty, about stupid signs and idiotic drivers and about people who walk towards her.
So I stood over her, exasperated but coaxing her into telling me what we she wants to eat. I thought she’d give me her same-old line, ‘i don’t know, I don’t care, you decide’. But you know what she told me as I was being visciously attacked by Mosquitos sent back from hell? She told me she was in love.  With a man from Manchester.
And with this, I grabbed her arm, smiled and walked into the first reasonable looking place that was wasn’t lit in blue.  This is where the polenta comes in.  Hang in there.
So we were greeted by a middle aged guy that flirted outrageously and unprofessionally with my friend.  Before he even asked us what we would like to drink, he asked if she was married.  We were clearly in no mood for this. Remember, we are irritated, hungry and we need to talk about love.
So, I ask him what is there to eat that is vegetarian. He sings to me that the meat is gorgeous and how could I not…blah blah. So I repeat the question. Sternly. And you guessed it, polenta. So, with tummies rumbling, that’s what we ordered. It was the smoothest, most light and creamy polenta ever. Really silky, airy and just addictive.
Normally polenta is cooked in water, but as you will notice, my polenta is lighter in colour and that is because it is cooked in milk.  It works because it gives it a lighter, creamier texture.  I could suck the stuff off a spoon. I’ve added smoky roasted aubergines to the polenta and it is still delicate with the cumin and coriander. Beautiful.
I do find potatoes quite heavy, and although I love mashed potatoes they make me sleepy.  Polenta won’t do that, which is another great reason to use polenta.
This dish works harmoniously with sweet tomatoes on top.  The wonderful thing about this dish is the simplicity.   A few, quality ingredients make a darn good meal.
Ingredients to serve 3-4
For the tomato topping
100g of tomatoes, I’ve used red and yellow tomatoes and washed, then halved them
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
A handful of basil leaves, shredded
Salt to taste
3/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sugar
Chilli flakes to Taste
1/3rd tsp black pepper
A couple of tablespoons of cooking oil
For the polenta
1 litre of milk
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander powder
Salt to taste
75g fine polenta
2 medium roasted Aubergines with the pulp removed and then mashed
Method
1. Start by preparing the tomato topping.  Heat the oil in a pan and shallow fry the garlic for a couple of minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes and the salt, turn them to a slow simmer.  Sprinkle in the paprika, sugar, chilli and black pepper, toss it and cook them until they turn pulpy.  It should take 3-4minutes.
3. Sprinkle in the basil, toss again, cook for a minute before turning off the heat.
4. To make the polenta, heat the milk in a large non stick pan, with the toasted cumin seeds, coriander powder, Aubergine pulp, and salt then bring it to a simmer. Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and then in a slow and steady stream pour in the polenta, whilst whisking it gently.  Give it a couple of minutes before removing it from the heat.
Serve immediately with a few shavings of cheese if you like.

Juicy chaat masala mushrooms with goats cheese on toast

14 Sep

image imageJuicy chaat masala mushrooms with goats cheese on toast

The husband and I like to have special breakfasts at the weekends.  Something tremendous and indulgent.  Something voluptuous and pampering.   There is something quite dirty about a big, fat, yes-yes breakfast and I like it.
The tradition, as it now is, stems partly from the pre-baby practices of a lie-in on the weekends after loud and cheerful Friday nights.  We’d wake absolutely ravenous to TV in bed and before attacking a pre-jaunt ‘to do’ list, we’d eat liberally.  I think the tradition also stems from a love of hearty breakfast foods.  I adore a good fry up, as long as the the vegetarian sausages are home made.  I make home made ‘baked’ beans too.  You know what one of things I most looked forward to doing after I got married was?  I was popping with excitement about having a huge English breakfast in the hotel, after our wedding night. Even though we were, shortly afterwards, flying out to Thailand.  But listen, I didn’t get that slim/thin for the wedding on fried eggs and hash browns!
Oh, and pancakes soaked in lemon and sugar…heavenly. And what about my beloved Gujarati thepla (spicy chapatti with fenugreek)?  I always keep some Pathak’s hot and spicy pickle in the house so that I can eat it and the thepla and lashings of yoghurt.  My husband is quite fanciful of light and fluffy South Indian idli (steamed pillows of ground and fermented rice and lentils) with a fresh dhal. He also likes plentiful wraps and layered sarnies with proper beans such as black eyed beans in a fresh sauce, spinach and of course some crunchy potatoes. And cheese. Good cheese. Cheese good.
So, I bet you know where I’m going with this.  We are getting older and fatter.  Somehow, a hash brown doesn’t have the same appeal.  We aren’t as ravenous in the mornings and we don’t really want to burping beany-eggy-fried stuff the whole day.  But the tradition of wanting a large and loving, taste-powing and generally stupendous breakfast continues. My husband hasn’t traditionally been a lover of mushrooms but I have converted him and I owe the conversion to this mighty and fine recipe.
Have you ever eaten a chaat? The point is to tantalise the senses and the taste buds with a variety of textures; hot sour, crunchy and soft, cold and hot.  The spice that brings it all together is chaat masala. It’s a peppery and pungent mix with black salt in it.  Somehow it is just magical with exotic mushrooms.  The juices that release from the mushrooms and the masala, oh my goodness…I could drink it as a soup! Please don’t chuck it away when you cook this dish, let it soak through the bread.  This is a beautifully balanced and kind dish. You could have it as a light meal too. Go for it and let me know what you think.
Ingredients for two people
150g of exotic mushrooms.  I used yellow oysters, grey oysters and anis mushrooms
2 tsp of chaat masala
A few blobs of goats cheese on each slice of bread
2 spring onions washed and chopped into bite sized chunks
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp finely chopped, fresh thyme
2 fat cloves of garlic very finely chopped
2 tbsp of cooking oil (use butter if you wish)
Two splashes of lemon juice
I used jalapeño and corn bread from ‘your bakery’ at tesco. It’s soft and spicy.
Cooks tip; it’s probably most economical to get a pack of mixed exotic mushrooms. I bought the chaat masala from the ethnic aisle at a tesco megastore. Don’t add any extra salt to this dish as the chaat masala is salty, please be careful.
Easy-peasy Method
1. If your grey oysters are large, then chop them in half. Wash all of the mushrooms and leave them to a side.
2. Heat the oil in a pan and then add the cumin seeds.  Once they start to sizzle stir in the onions and garlic and sauté for a minute.
3. Place the bread in the toaster and Introduce the mushrooms to the onions and garlic and mix it all together.  Sprinkle in the chaat masala, stir and add the lemon juice and the thyme.  Simmer on a medium flame for about 3-4 minutes until the juices release and the mushrooms have relaxed.  Don’t let them shrink.  Exotic mushrooms aren’t tough so don’t need much cooking.
4. Plate the toast, then top with mushrooms and add a few blobs of goats cheese. Drizzle the stock onto the toast and serve immediately.

Kiddy friendly tomato and roasted red pepper rice with sweetcorn

12 Sep

imageKiddy friendly tomato and roasted pepper rice with sweetcorn

Life is full of beautiful moments when there is a child around.  Before bedtime yesterday, my boy sat on my tummy whilst I lay on the bed and he demonstrated a brand new learning.  I love it when he surprises me like this.  I don’t drill things into him, I much prefer that his own curiosity and his own rhythm reach him to fresh learnings.  Anyway, his face was aglow with pensive excitement as he told me stuff that I knew all along but of course he told it like it was red-hot, novel  information, ‘mumma, I like helicopters,  I like cars, I like animals, I like sev mumra (puffed rice and gram flour straws), I like tumeta bhath (tomato rice).  I asked him what mumma likes and he said, ‘ummm..biscuits’.
Of course he’s pooped in the bath tub twice this week and I am somewhat less enchanted by that.
He then didn’t want to get off my tummy and kept climbing back on for cuddles and to tell me about more stuff that he likes. ‘I like Andy airplane, I like….’ But I was still stuck on the tomato rice bit.
So today, that’s what’s I gave him.  If you’ve been reading my tweets you know how insanely difficult my boy is to feed.  You know I’ve tried it all.  Each meal time starts with an internal prayer and Chant, ‘I flipping hope he eats this, I flipping hope he eats this’
So,  I had the colouring book out and a book about diggers, because he likes diggers.  I mounted a bright blue spoon with red rice, because he likes the colour blue and he’s just told me likes tomato rice, so I hoped. And guess what? ‘Mmm, yummy yummy.’
There must be something about this dish, I recall having experimented with it as a teenager and then finding my brother, scoffing it into his gob directly from the cooking pan.
You could just use tomatoes alone in this dish, but the peppers add great nutrition and flavour.  My boy also likes paprika and I know this because I bought  Ruffles paprika flavoured crisps recently and he kept pinching them from my hands.
Ingredients
3/4 cup of long grain rice, I used Tilda Basmati
One medium onion, finely chopped
Two medium sized roasted red peppers
2/3 can of chopped tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup of sweetcorn
The spices; 1/3tsp turmeric, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cumin seeds
1. Boil the rice in plenty of water for 8-10minutes on a medium flame and then wash it in cold water and leave to one side
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds.  Allow the seeds to sizzle before stirring in the onion and adding the turmeric.  Soften the onion fit a couple of minutes before adding the garlic.  Cook until the onion has softened.
3. Add the tomatoes and chop the red pepper into chunks before adding that.
4. Stir in the paprika and simmer for 4-5 minutes on a medium to low flame.  Turn the sauce into a food processor and blitz it to a smooth consistency.
5. Stir in the rice and add about 30ml of water with the sweetcorn ( defrost first if you are using frozen sweetcorn) and heat the mixture to a simmer again. Turn to a low flame and cook until the water has reduced, the rice is separated and cooked.  This should take 8-10minutes.
Serve with smiles and confidence.  I also served with vegetable wedges, because he likes it.

Sweet mini peppers stuffed with feta, spinach, edamame beans and gorgeous spices

10 Sep

Sweet mini peppers stuffed with feta, spinach, edamame beans and of course some gorgeous spices

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As teenagers my best friend and I went on our first holiday together, without family, to Bulgaria.  Not Ibiza, Sharm el sheikh or Tenerife, but Bansko, a town at the foot on the Pirin mountains.  We’d decided to deviate from the popular, bikini-cladded sun soaking and wild nights of clubbing and we’d also decided that we liked mountains.
We’d of course done no research.  Google wasn’t a word that existed in our lives back then and of course we didn’t buy travel books.  We just rocked up at the travel agent with about £300 as our budget and a clear ish view of what we wanted; no loud clubbers, beautiful mountain scenery, friendly people, a different culture and cheap.  I’d never contemplate contracting to a holiday under such exposed and ill-informed circumstances now, because obviously I’m not daring and old(er)
We really had no idea what we’d let ourselves in for.  Funnily enough, I’d kind of like to go back there.  There were no known brands being sold in the kiosks. There were no known fast food joints in the town.  Our guide wanted us to hang out with his daughter so that it would improve her English but of course we taught each other rude words in our respective languages.  Restaurants looked like huts and we sat on big timber tables.  Outdoor bands played in the moonlight as the residents of the town gathered.  Children climbed under the water features in the town and hollered at us saying, ‘look at the Spanish girls’ as they’d never seen an ethnically Indian person.  Donkeys walked with their owners through the streets and as we walked through the evening streets we were frightened as there was barely any street light, so we sang ‘nelly the elephant’ loudly.   As you may expect, I’m smiling as I write this.
I don’t even think we appreciated the scenery fully. We hiked with a guide and stopped to look at Viagra plants and beautiful rocky and vast mountains, cool whites, blues and greens. I remember the vastness and quietness of the mountains and the distant ringing of bells around the necks of cows. I remember drinking fresh spring water after crossing streams on logs.
I don’t think that the hotel we were staying at, or the restaurants that we ate in had encountered many vegetarians. They seemed baffled.  On the first couple of days we were served boiled veg.  We then negotiated a spaghetti dish with the non-English speaking chef, but it didn’t taste of much.  Once they realised that cheese was in fact an option for us they served us huge long peppers roasted with loads of moist and salty feta.  It tasted faintly of clay and we loved it.  The cheese was so fresh and spongy.  Oh and they served it with a beautifully simple and mellow bean soup served in a clay pot. Brilliant.
So this recipe isn’t as simple as the one I had in Bansko but it is absolutely uplifting and thoroughly sensual.   I picked up a 500g bag of mini sweet peppers from Tesco for £3 which I thought was good value for money. I’d eat the stuffing raw off a big serving spoon, but…
The colours of this dish are striking; sharp yellows and red against bright green.  The smell is a whole new thing…my kitchen smells gorgeously sweet and toasty right now as I’ve just made these peppers. I’ve used nutty edamame beans from the freezer, but if you can’t find them maybe use frozen broad beans instead? I’m putting these peppers on top of a salad, but you could put them on some cous cous, pasta or even vegetable rice.   I’ve used 1tsp of piri piri spices, but you could use more or less. Honestly, this is a fresh, juicy and toasty dish that I hope you will want to share.
Ingredients
Makes approximately 20 mini stuffed peppers
150g feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup finely shredded spinach (I put it in the food processor)
1 cup of edamame beans boiled for 3 minutes
About 20 mini sweet peppers, washed
Spices; 1 tsp cumin seeds toasted and lightly crushed, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1tsp piri piri spice
Method
1. Take a mixing bowl be crumble the feta into it.  Add the spinach and mix well before adding the edamame beans
2. Stir in spices and mix again
3. Place the mixture into a food processor and turn it into a coarse mix. We don’t need the edamame beans to be smooth,  chunky, is great.
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4. Remove the tops off thee peppers and place onto a lined baking tray
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5. With a teaspoon, fill the peppers generously and coat them lightly in oil. Roast the peppers on 180degrees for about 12-15minutes or until they look browned and you are able to pierce them.
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Indian spiced pea puree pasta

8 Sep

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This week I read about all this stuff to do with food for the  poor and Jamie Oliver’s thoughts around it.  Essentially he wants to show people how to eat better on a budget and he’s doing a TV show called, ‘Jamie’s money saving meals’ and he’s written a book called, ‘Save with Jamie’.
Now the controversy, if you want to call it that, is apparently because of the connections he’s made between a poor persons diet to productivity and comparisons made with poor folks in Italy who supposedly eat fresh pasta and veg and the alleged relative superior productivity of Eastern European people.

So it’s got me thinking. I do think that you can eat well on a budget;

– a simple chickpea curry costs under a pound to make when you use canned chickpeas
– good old sweetcorn soup with a few asian spices and crusty bread can also cost £2 for feed two people
– a lovely indian spiced mixed vegetable omelette is also inexpensive when using frozen vegetables
– have you seen my BBC Good Food recipe for parsnip pancakes? If you have gram flour in the house, you could make enough for two people and them in bread as a sarnie for under a couple of quid
– if you are using tinned tomatoes, a simple tomato and basil spaghetti dish can cost around £3 for four people

However, as far as I can see, whichever way you cut it, chips are cheap.  Cheaper than most healthier alternatives.  If you’re buying them, they are filling, you don’t need any gas to cook them or water to wash plates.  They are one of life’s little comforts and if everything else is looking grim, the smell of fresh chips and a cuddle can do something lovely for the soul, for a bit.

So, I’m not sharing a recipe for the poor.  This is not a recipe that is labelled in any such way.  I’m sharing an absolutely scrummy, lightly tangy and pea-sweet, luminous, moorish and easy to cook recipe that happens to be pretty inexpensive to cook. Bonus
A lot of my mummy peers have come out of their previous careers, or have taken reduced hours.  It doesn’t mean our tastes have changed,  we still like to eat well; as well as we always have and perhaps even better now that little mouths want to copy us.  Saving a few quid along the way is a bonus though isn’t it?

When I was a teen people ate pasta on a diet, for the relatively low fat content.  I remember watching Oprah discussing her huge weight loss saying that she could eat pasta every day of the week and that her chef would do something completely different with pasta every day.  I think this is what I love about pasta.  I still haven’t fallen out of love with it and am not yet bored of it.  Funnily enough though, I spoke to a relative who was cooking pasta as we spoke.  I asked her what sort of sauce she was making and she said, ‘the normal one’.  This made me chuckle. The default pasta sauce is of course some sort of tomato sauce…come on, do something different today.

Ingredients

One medium onion, finely diced
2 fat cloves of garlic, finely diced
2cups petite pois, defrosted
200g creme Fraiche
2-3 tsp vegetable oil
100ml water
400g pasta
Some shavings of vegetarian hard cheese

The spices; 1tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp ajwain (carom) seeds, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/4 tsp turmeric, salt to taste, 1 1/2 tsp coriander powder

Method

1 . Put the pasta on the boil in salted water, per packet instructions. Don’t forget to wash it in plenty of cold water when it is cooked
2. Heat the oil and then add the cumin seeds and carom seeds together with the turmeric and allow the seeds to sizzle before stirring in the onions and salt. Soften the onions for a couple of minutes and then add the garlic and soften until the onions are transparent.
3. Add the peas and stir in the coriander powder, coat the peas and then add the water. Bring the peas to a simmer and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Then stir in the creme Fraiche and the back pepper and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
4. Pour the peas into a food processor and blitz it until its almost smooth.  It’s lovely with some texture in there, so don’t try and get it completely smooth
5. Place the pea purée into the cooking pan again and stir in the pasta
6. Serve and garnish with the shavings of cheese

I am submitting my recipe to this month’s Pasta Please, a monthly event by Jacqueline over at Tinned Tomatoes. This month’s host is Johanna over at Green Gourmet Giraffe and the topic is long pasta.

pasta please

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