Archive | September, 2013

Gram flour pasta in a spicy tomato and veg base

5 Sep

Gram Flour pasta in a Indian spiced tomato and vegetable base

pasta final

A few weeks before I fell pregnant with my baby boy, we did a tour around India.  I wasn’t overly enthusiastic at the prospect of being guided around historical monuments I’d already seen a couple of times, that too in the sweltering orange and dusty heat.  My husband had never done it though and he was really keen.  So, I looked up some contacts and I cooked with chefs throughout our journey; aloo wadiya and kulcha in Amritsar, kofta in Udaipur, mughlai dishes in Delhi, juicy paneer in Agra, chaat in Mumbai…It was so much fun.  The passion and skill in the chefs was moving.  The chefs and I nattered for hours, perched on the edge of our comfy chairs, about their ancestry, their feelings about food, how their family regard their chosen path.  It was so exhilarating  to be around people who love what they do.  We’d slump back in our chairs in smiling consideration.
To close our bustling and rousing trip we headed over to Gujarat to see family and get it touch with our religious roots.
So we arrived at one of Porabander’s best hotels really late into the night.  The bed had blue neon lights around it.  I don’t think I need to say any more.  As l stood there whispering WTF, familiar fishy smells of this seemingly standstill coastal town overwhelmed me. It didn’t feel any different to how it did 20 years ago.  Now I’m the sort of person that enjoys foods from around the world, it thrills me.  The experience of new senses in my mouth makes me giddily happy.  I love Italian, Indian, Lebanese, Chinese, Malaysian, Moroccan, Thai, Spanish…but.  After all of that, the cuisine that cajoles me into my natural rhythm is Gujarati food.  After being separated from my native food for over two weeks, I was restless with hankerings.  I was looking forward to Dhokla, Thepla, okra curry, gram flour straws in spicy tomato.
So I asked my husband to ring reception to see what sort of Gujarati food we could get so late and how we could get a thali the next day.  You know what they told us? No Gujarati food in the hotel. That’s right.  Noodles or a sandwich were offered to me. I was aghast.
My recipe today is inspired by Gujarati Dhokli, which is effectively gram flour pasta.  Traditionally it is simmered in dhal, but my recipe is quicker and just different, as it is in a spicy tomato and vegetable base.  It’s a filling and comforting dish that is pretty simple to make. You’ll sleep we’ll on this one.
Gram flour pasta in a spicy tomato and vegetable base
Ingredients

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

Tomato and veg base

200g green beans trimmed and cut into bit size 2cm chunks

150g baby corn, trimmed and cut into 2cm bites

2 medium new potatoes cut into small cubes

4 shallots, finely chopped

3 gloves of garlic, finely chopped

3 green chilies chopped

1400ml warm water

1 ½ tin of tomatoes

The spices; 1 tsp. cumin seeds, 1 tsp. fenugreek seeds, ½ tsp. mustard seeds, 6-7 curry leaves, salt to taste, 3 cloves, a pinch of asafoetida, ½ tsp. black pepper, ½ tsp. garam masala

The Gram Flour Pasta

¾ cup gram flour

1 cup finely milled whole wheat flour

1.5 tbsp Vegetable oil

The spices; 3/4 tsp. ajwain, 1 tsp. red chilli powder, ½ tsp. turmeric powder and salt to taste

150ml warm water

Method

  1. Start by making the pasta dough by mix all of the dry ingredients and spices.  Make a well in the middle and pour into the middle.   With your fingers massage the oil into the flour, creating a lightly crumbly texture and then with your fingers mix together the water, little by little, together with the flour and spices to form a ball. Coat the ball with vegetable oil and wrap in Clingfilm and rest it whilst you continue to prepare vegetables.pasta 1.1
  2. Roll out the dough to one centimeter thickness and cut into rectangles of between 4cm by 3cm. Once they are all rolled and cut out place them onto a dish and dust the pieces lightly.  If your kitchen is very warm, put the pasta in the fridge, so that the pieces do not stick togetherpasta 1
  3. To make the tomato and veg  base, heat 2 tbsp. oil and add the asafoetida, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, turmeric powder, mustard seeds, chilies and cloves before allowing the seeds to pop.
  4. Stir in the onions and salt, then sauté for a couple of minutes before stirring in the garlic.   Soften both before adding in the potatoes, green beans and the baby corn and mixing through thoroughly. Add the black pepper
  5. Stir in the tomatoes, water and bring to a simmer before cooking for 4-5 minutes
  6. Drop in the pasta simmer for 10-12 minutes before sprinkling in the garam masala and serving lashings of it.

Kiddy friendly, baked paneer and courgette spring rolls

3 Sep

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Kiddy friendly, baked paneer and courgette spring rolls

Feeding my little one is obscenely challenging.  I am not over reacting.  Here are some of the useless and aggravating comments made by people who think that they know better.
1. Leave him.  This is on the top of my list for a very good reason! Yes, tried that.  An entire day can pass but if the food doesn’t do it for him, it’s not going into that little tummy.  He will, if slept, take an interest in foods that he wants to take an interest in.  He touches everything to his lips.  Even if it has been hours and hours since he last ate, it has to pass that taste and texture test!
2. Let him play with and explore the food.  Yes, of course I’ve tried that..come on.  My child is very good at throwing; ask my walls, floors and the ants that he attracts.  He’s also very good at squashing, squashed courgette pakora make interesting patterns on white clothes, I’ve learned.
3. Give him a sandwich.  My child is the reincarnation of an indian villager.  He will eat a spinach curry in a chappati but he won’t eat a sandwich.
4. Give him what he likes.  Should I just laugh at this one?
5.  Turn the telly on.  Even with help of special agent OSO, Ra Ra the noisy little lion, Curious George, or my personal favourite of Charlie and Lola, he still knows what he wants and doesn’t want.
6. He won’t starve, he has stores.  Sigh. Yes, but if we can get through the day without hunger strikes and some down time (naps happen when tummies are full ish) I could see fields of green, skies that are blue, red roses too…
7. He will probably never be an eater.  This is what a health visitor said to me. It was like being back at school when that horrid teacher decided to publicly announced his predictions of each class members GCSE grades and their future careers.  I remember internally screeching, ‘don’t tell me what I’m going to be! I will carve that out!’
So I composed myself, shut down the expletives that were exploding in my mind and said, as calmly as I could, ‘my parents tell me that I was absolutely worse than him, but look at me now’
Are you sensing the exhaustion? Do you have it too?
All of the above said, I do have to set some boundaries.  We don’t spend infinite amounts of time in the high chair.  There is no forcing.  I don’t wedge his mouth open amidst screams and shovel food in.  He does not get a bag of crisps to replace a meal, just because he likes it.  We just move on, smile and hope for better the next time around.  I want my little monster to see food in the way I do; pleasure-giving and satisfying.  I want him to explore his senses and creativity through food. It’s so uplifting isn’t it?
I don’t think I have ever been so tested as a food writer.  My son, without doubt, is definitely the toughest person ever to please.  I’ve devised an array of recipes that have been super hits…but alas, phases pass so I keep creating! I will share them with you however, in case you find yourself flopped on the chair asking your little one, ‘so what will you eat eh?’.
I learn as we grow together, my boy and I. Things that may seem obvious to the more experienced mum, I just learn…gradually. For example, my boy never took to purees.  Of all the babies that I had come across, I’d never seen a baby that wouldn’t eat a purée.
Anyway, after a good couple of months of trying, someone said to me, ‘well he’s been tasting what you’ve been eating since he could taste in your tummy till now, why would he want to eat boring bland stuff’. I mean, isn’t it obvious? Why didn’t I think of that? So I did a mild, salt-free dhal. Bingo.
My boy then wouldn’t accept a spoon. Not accept a spoon, who does this?! So I gave him breadsticks, melon, green beans..and he would chomp on it.  But this felt like diet food, just  like the mush they call baby food in the supermarket aisles.  No butter, no cheese…so I have him bread with soft cheese it or buttered chappati.  As you can imagine, he quickly grew bored.
Amusingly, when we would eat out as a family, my boy would go for the onion fritters, samosa, Chinese rice, pasta, spicy chappati…anything that tasted flavoursome.  I think it can be a misconception that little mouths like plain and simple food…so many kids I know love garlic bread, that’s hardly a subtle taste is it?
So, the challenge was to make foods that my little one could hold and that contained something valuable to his growth and then just let him do his thing, calmly.   Here’s one that seems to be working really well at the moment.  My little one loves crunchy textures and spices and you can change the filling to suit what your child likes.  You could of course make a few grown up spring rolls just by adding salt to your own stuffing, so that you can all enjoy rating the same food together,
Kiddy friendly, baked paneer and courgette spring rolls
Makes 20 rolls
Ingredients
One small red onion, finely diced
One medium courgette, grated
Quarter tin of chopped tomatoes
A knob of unsalted butter for frying
 10 sheets of spring roll pastry
125g paneer, grated
1tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
Method
1. Heat the butter and add cumin seeds for a minute, then the onion and soften until transparent
2. Stir in the paneer and the courgette and then the spices and seasonings.  Mix well, then add the tomatoes.  Cook until the courgette has softened enough for you to break between your fingers.
3. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature and then blitz it together into a coarse texture.
4. Cut a spring roll sheet in half and then place about half a tablespoon of stuffing at the bottom of the sheet, leaving an inch of space. Fold in the sides by. 2-3cm and simply roll
5. Lightly coat the spring rolls in oil and then bake until they are crispy and lightly golden.
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