Archive | October, 2013

Mixed grains and vegetables in a tangy and fragrant coconut kadhi

15 Oct
Mixed grains and vegetables in a tangy and fragrant coconut kadhi

Mixed grains and vegetables in a tangy and fragrant coconut kadhi

We were in temple at Virpur in 1991 and we were travelling around pilgrimage and tourist sites of India. Some places we stayed in seemed shabby-palatial and some felt like cold student halls. My dad describes himself as atheist, but it isn’t true. He lights a diva in the morning (sometimes) and questions God often. Being in Virpur was very deliberate and it was a calming experience. It is the birth place of Jalaram Bapa and my family all have pictures or deities of him at home. Apparently my dad would pray to him for a little girl, before I arrived. And whilst my mum was in the throes of a terrible labour, Jalaram Bapa was whom he called upon.

We all sat on the floor with scores of other worshippers in an organised line and waited to be served. Slim men scooted around barefoot and expertly and neatly lay banana leaves before us. They could have been another form of leaf, I can’t quite recall. They were certainly not plates though. It was a novel experience for me and I was already charmed.

Before I knew it, hot, smooth, buttery and almost runny khichdi drizzled before me and then a gram flour and yoghurt soup, tempered in whole spices, curry leaves, chillies and ginger. Now, I eat with my fingers a lot but I was baffled as to how I would scoop khichdi into my mouth. But scoop I did.

I don’t know how much romanticism there is in my recollections of this experience, but look…clearly the experience has stuck in my mind after all these years. As you would expect, the kadhi was gloriously tangy, moderately spicy, creamy and slightly sweet. I loved it.

When I weaned my boy onto solids, I felt like I had the only child in the world that wouldn’t open that tiny mouth. I even bought an Annabel karmel book on purees. I tried it all; banana, butternut squash, baby rice, blueberries and carrots. Cauliflower cheese even, but nothing. He would turn his face and purse his lips. One day when I had made spinach kadhi for my husband ( he adores it) my little one grabbed the spoon and opened his mouth. Since then, kadhi has been his favourite food.

One of the awesome things about kadhi is that it is easy to bulk up. I add all sorts of vegetables, lentils, greens to it. This, However is one of my favourite recipes from my kadhi creations. It’s a one-pot, which makes my life simpler. It’s really easy to do; I made the lot in under twenty minutes and that includes chopping and mixing. This kadhi has grains in it, which we know are really good for us! I used the merchant gourmet pack which includes barley, quinoa and lentils and it does the job well! The coconut is delicate, smells divine and adds sweetness. Traditionally jaggery is added for sweetness. I’ve got some lovely and mellow veg in there, which you could vary. Hug a bowl of this and let it turn on the internal heating.

Ingredients

200g cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets
100g green beans, cut into bite sized pieces
100g asparagus cut into bite sized pieces
One large red onion, sliced
5-6 curry leaves
One stick of cinnamon
2 cloves
1 tsp minced ginger
One can of good quality coconut cream
500ml water
One pack of merchant gourmet mixed grains
2 tbsp ground nut oil
1 cup plain, natural yoghurt
1 tbsp gram flour
One red chilli, finely chopped
3/4 tsp brown (not black) mustard seeds
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
A squeeze of lime juice

Method

1. Heat the oil in a deep pan and add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, curry leaves, cinnamon, cloves, chilli and turmeric. When the seeds sizzle and pop add the onion and ginger and sauté until the onion has softened.
2. Whilst the onion is softening, mix the yoghurt and gram flour to a paste and put it to a side for a couple of moments.
3. Mix the vegetables into the tempering and coat then well with the oil. Then add the yoghurt and gram flour paste, coconut milk and water and stir again before adding the salt and lime juice (just one squeeze)
4. Tip the mixed grains in and loosen them up.
5. Bring the kadhi to boil and simmer on a medium flame for about 10 minutes.

Serve lashings no lashings of it immediately

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Aromatic curry of fenugreek, spinach and tofu

14 Oct

image
For a long time fenugreek was synonymous with breast milk production for me. I had it in spicy chapatis, in millet flour fritters, and in a curry with aubergines. My house was constantly circulating the fresh aroma of curries, because that is what fenugreek (methi) smells like. Curry. It certainly isn’t subtle, like spinach and when it’s cooked it becomes even more delightfully powerful.

The old indian aunties prescribe a certain way of eating after the delivery of a baby. It helps the mother to heal and produce milk. The diet has many exclusions, such as cabbage and cauliflower (too windy) onions and chilli (acidic and hot) tomatoes and citrus fruit for being acidic and frankly too many other things to remember. My generation of women tend not to follow any of it and just carry on as normal, be it with baked beans or omelette. Their generation gossip about the unruly ways of our generation and how we will regret not listening when our babies puke or our stitches don’t heal. My generation gossips about the pushiness of their generation. I followed it. For way too long. I probably wouldn’t again, but I would take the good out of it.

My view is, that our diets, much like life, should be in balance. I did look into the merits of fenugreek for new mums though, and after frenzied calls to my lactation consultant (yes I did use one) at a ridiculous hour, she sent me to a site for foods that increase milk production. Guess what was there?

Punchy and powerful fenugreek also reminds me of eating in villages and road side cafes in India. I have beautiful and fond memories of the simple, buttery and nourishing food in humble and welcoming eateries. The food is always fresh, constructed in a simple and unfussy way, moderately spiced and not laced with flavourings, cream or colours. Just good, hearty, indian food. My grandmother told me that fenugreek was food that farmers ate with millet flour chapatis and that they were energy foods that were rich and satisfying.

My recipe isn’t traditional, its my concoction of strong and mild flavours with tofu to soak up those I incredible flavours and released the juicy flavours back again. This is a very good curry, it’s as simple as that. P.s. no chilli powder in this curry.

Ingredients to serve 4

100g of fenugreek leaves, washed
300g spinach leaves
1 cup of tinned chopped tomatoes
One red onion, diced
One pack of firm tofu
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp ground nut
1/2 cup water

The spices; salt to taste, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1/4 tsp black pepper

Method

1. Start by draining the tofu between sheets of kitchen paper. Draining the water leaves it able to mingle with the spices well.
2. Put the spinach and the fenugreek leaves in a food processor and whizz together until they are finely chopped. You could of course do it by hand.
3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, turmeric, and sizzle. Then stir in the onion and salt and sauté until the onion has softened. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for a minute before adding in the tofu. Stir the tofu well and then add the cumin powder, coriander powder, pepper and coat well. Cook on a medium to low heat for 4-5 minutes.
4. Add the spinach and fenugreek with the garam masala, tomatoes and water, mix gently not to break the tofu and then cover and simmer for ten minutes.

Serve with lashings of yoghurt.

Spiced papaya, coconut and toasted almond Breakfast porridge

11 Oct
Spiced papaya, coconut and toasted almond Breakfast porridge

Spiced papaya, coconut and toasted almond Breakfast porridge

Do you relate to any of these glimpses of my life that has been on replay?

I would walk slowly from the car to the on-site restaurant at work, dodging people and other obstacles because I was flicking through the long list of emails and email conversations whilst sighing and swearing. I was deep in thought about the problems, sorry ‘challenges’ that had occurred over evening to morning and gritting my teeth at the day ahead, full of poor shovelling. Great. I’d open the porridge pot and hope it wouldn’t be a thick sticky mess. I needed fuel to get me through, who knows if I’d get time go eat a decent lunch.

It’s was one of those days today. He didn’t quite want to accept that Thomas is broken and he didn’t want to be put down. Is it safe to make paratha whilst holding him? Probably not. TV? I shouldn’t. ‘Mama let’s go to Gambado’. (Soft play). ‘Mama, lets go to farm’.

After a lot of activity, it’s not easy getting him out. There’s s lot of protesting in the car and as a result of being distracted my car scrapes some bollards. He then falls asleep and wakes, annoyed as heck as I get him home. Can you imagine how the rest of it goes; he then doesn’t want lunch, doesn’t want to sleep, doesn’t want to talk. We have whimpering, cries and over exhausted squeals. I put him in the car and drive until he sleeps. It’s 2.30pm and I’ve had no lunch. I should have eaten porridge this morning.

Porridge. It’s humble. It’s un glamorous. It’s simple. It’s warm. It’s cosy. It’s heats the tummy up, drop by drop. It’s milky and sweet and thick and sleepy. It’s nourishing, cajoling and homely. It does the job. It’s funny how some foods conditioned in our minds to anchor us to certain times, moments or memories. Porridge throws me back to winters before school, that morning radio alarm, where the same song played every single day.

Porridge need not be boring. There’s so many ways to make porridge exciting, not just comforting. Don’t restrict yourself to toppings of fruit, nuts or chocolate. My recipe for spiced papaya and coconut porridge feels evokes memories of holidays in my mind…it’s bright and cheerful for dull days like these, with an aroma of sweet, creamy coconuts and this one has a toasty crunch.

Wake up, Brighten up, keep going. It’s going to be a good day. Eat porridge.

Ingredients to serve 2-4

One can of coconut milk
1 tbsp agave nectar
1.5 papaya
200ml cows milk
1/8th tsp cinnamon
1/8th tsp cardamom
A handful of flaked almonds
80g of porridge oats

Method

1. Remove the skin and seeds from the papaya and cut it into chunks. Leave a few to the side (for topping the porridge) and put the rest into a non stick pan together with the milk and sides and simmer until the papaya is pulpy. Add the agave nectar and then put the mixture into a food processor. Blitz until its smooth.
2. Pour the milky mixture back into pan and then add the oats. Stir intermittently for 4-5 minutes. In the meantime, toast the almonds until they are golden brown, then leave them to cool.
3. Pour the porridge out, top with almonds and a couple of chunks of papaya and enjoy it immediately.

I am sending this to this month’s breakfast club, hosted by Michelle where the theme is fruit.

Breakfast club

Curry of banana stuffed with spices, coconut and tamarind

10 Oct
Banana curry stuffed with spices, coconut and tamarind

Banana curry stuffed with spices, coconut and tamarind

Sometimes it is difficult to decipher what the important things are in life. For me anyway. I have friends at various stages of life. This week I’ve been talking to friends and there’s a spectrum of belief systems, coming from people with similar backgrounds and listening to them has provoked much thought and discussion.

One of my friends is holding off from baby stuff until the promotion; I did that. Another has taken a career turn and a big pay cut in order to spend time with her girls; I relate to that. One has moved abroad and declared she’s not settling down; I admire her will, clarity and honesty to herself. Another friend has quit work and decided to be a full time mum for the foreseeable future; I’m full of respect for the devotion. She’s fortunate that her husband earns well and they are able to make this choice, but it is a lovely, challenging choice to devote all your time to your little people.

It’s like people put conditions on their happiness. ‘I will be happy if and when I get that job’, ‘I will relax when I earn this much’. ‘I will be so happy if I get pregnant’, ‘I’m going to be so excited if I get that house’

Nothing is forever. I have had the promotions and the holidays and the horrible bosses and horrendous jobs. I’ve done the slim body and had the bigger body. I’ve had lots of hair and then it fell out. Here today, gone tomorrow. One of the things I’ve only just recently learned is that it’s important to be happy now. Just because and just for the sake of it. Because we are only here for a short time. You may expect me to now say do what you love etc, which is great…but most of us have mortgages and bills to pay. Never have I more appreciated how important it is to have hobbies, friends, to laugh and to live.

Most of my friends work very hard at whatever they do and it’s a struggle to keep those flickers of excitement burning when you are constantly tired, pressurised and stressed. Maybe that’s why they holiday frequently.

One of my most memorable, holidays was in Mauritius. The boxes were being ticked and I was celebrating. I was happy because the conditions for my happiness were being met. I’d hit the grade at work that I thought I could chill at for a few years. I’d been working hard at the gym and the body looked ok. The renovations to the house were done. It was all good and I was in Mauritius. It was all temporary stuff. Stuff that came before a few stretch marks, redundancy and a life full to the brim of unconditional love.

We were sick of continental hotel food so ventured down the road at the back of our hotel. It was dark and quiet but we felt safe amongst the banana trees and signing crickets. A local restaurant, for locals shone brightly with fairy lights and , Mosquitos bounced off the white walls. The menu was minimalist but I picked the strangest vegetarian food I could. I like to be educated.

One of the dishes was mashed and curried plantain. The restaurant was run by Indians, so I kind of expected this. It was cooked in tomatoes and curry spices and was sweet and sour. This is what I’ve tried to achieve with this curry and you know what? The sweet banana tastes Mingle in with the tomato curry base so well, that they become one. The nutty stuffing is slightly sour and spicy and works in harmony with the bananas. You’ve got to try this one. It’s a dish full of unexpected flavours and textures. The banana doesn’t go squishy, just soft and aromatic.

Ingredients

6 ripe but firm bananas
1 cup of gram flour
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
Salt to taste (I’ve used 1tsp)
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
3tbsp tamarind sauce
1/3rd cup water
1/2 can of tomatoes
5-6curry leaves
A large red onion, sliced
2tsp vegetable oil
1 Tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric

Method

1. To make the stuffing, put the gram flour in a mixing bowl and add the coriander, cumin and turmeric powder with the salt and Chilli. Mix it well and then add the desiccated coconut, mix again and then add the tamarind sauce and oil with the water and make a dough.image
2. Cut the banana into 4equal pieces and then make a slit in the top of each piece of banana, lengthways. Take pinches of the stuffing and put it into the slit of the banana. Stuff all the sections and leave them to a side.image
3. Heat one tablespoon of oil and add the cumin seeds and curry leaves. Let the seeds sizzle and then add the tomatoes and salt to taste.
4. Sit the banana sections Into the tomato base and then add enough warm water to hit the top of the banana. Cook for 6-7minutes or until the banana is soft enough to pierce through the skin
5. Serve hot with rice or chappati

Dance, sing and drink a rose, pomegranate and lime cooler

8 Oct

 

Rose, pomegranate and lime cooler

Rose, pomegranate and lime cooler

We were at soft play the other day, the boy and I and guess who had a work out? I think I stared sweating when my arm was yanked and I heard the teeny, tiny and sweetly made command ‘Let’s go mumma, let’s do climbing’.

So we crawled through tunnels and shuffled through nets. We balanced on beams and swirled through tunnel slides then repeatedly bobbed up and down waved slides. My poor bottom, it’s not terribly well endowed and I get this from my mother. ‘Again mumma again’. Why I wore a jumper I don’t know.
My feet moonwalk towards the café for a bright pink and blue slush puppy, because I needed ice to cool down and as I popped my boy onto the carousel for a break, I reminisced.

Whenever I have a slush puppy it throws me back to Shacks in India that sell gola. I always feel a bit rude comparing dishes to English ones but at least you now know what I mean. The Indian ones are crushed on a large retro style wheel and as you may expect, offer the full show. Thick and fruity syrups of bright green or red and toppings of coconut and nuts make a full on cool, sweet and nutty experience. They’d move along the streets and kids would come running and bouncing with huge grins as the gola song was heard. You can’t help but love it.

It was my beautiful nieces birthday party at the weekend and she had a lovely gathering of friends and relatives with lots of fun stuff going on in a beautifully decorated hall. I spent the whole time talking and walking on heels and hands moving, bum opening doors and carrying my tot who didn’t want to part. He was glued to me when his aunts and uncles wanted cuddles and cute chat, but soon as the crowds left he was on the dance floor. Typical.

Party over, I was thirsty as heck. I wanted something soothing, fragrant , sweet and cold. I wanted the gola man from India to come and make me one whilst I had a foot massage (not from the gola man, let’s not get any ideas). I needed a good soak in the bath with flowery fragrances. I fancied enacting one of those scenes from period films where the queen bathes in a pool of rose petals and warm water, with people passing her towels and drinks.

Alas, I’m no queen and the m25 was calling, so a quick, but gorgeous drink it was. It hit the spot though and that’s why I am sharing it with you. Its Navratri now and if you are dancing, this will go down especially well. It’s fragrant, sweet, fruity and cold! Just look at that picture my royal friends!

Ingredients to serve 4

300ml pomegranate juice
200ml rose-water
5tbsp palm sugar
The juice of 1.5l limes
1/4 tsp crushed cardamon seeds
20 ice cubes

Method

1. Mix the sugar and rose-water in a pan with the crushed cardamon a heat the mixture until the sugar dissolves. Remove it from the heat and leave in to cool.
2. Put the pomegranate juice, like juice and ice in a food processor abs blitz it a few times until the ice is crushed
3. Once the rose-water is cool introduce it to the juice in the food processor and blitz again.
4. Chill it for 30mins and then serve.


Dancing curry: black bean and halloumi Indian curry vegetarian recipes

6 Oct
Slack bean and halloumi  curry

Black bean and halloumi curry

Don’t laugh, but the story of how my new recipe was concocted is religiously inspired in a non- veg sort of way. Don’t panic, only the thought not the ingredients. This recipe is most definitely vegetarian.

So Navratri has started, a Hindu festival of worship to nine goddesses. Celebration and devotion is marked by nine nights of dancing with great zeal into the small hours whilst clad in colourful saris.

I grew up in Leicester, a city with a lot of Asian inhabitants. During Navratri the city overflowed with scores of Gujarati dancers from all parts of the UK. It felt like every community hall and function hall had a new heartbeat as they swelled with the addictive dance music that characterises Navratri music.

Aside from worship of goddesses and dance Navratri has seemed to be an opportunity for young people to admire each other, shall we say. It’s not surprising is it, pretty young ladies with gorgeous Sari’s…I love Sari’s. To me, an irregular wearer, they fee so impractical but I truly believe that they are one of the sexiest and sophisticated items of clothing a woman can wear.

And this is what I inspired my next recipe. No, not sari’s, but the whole going out and getting hungry after dancing bit…you know that feeling of exuberance, being on your feet and talking away and then by the end of the night the tummy churns. Sudden hunger hits the tummy. You could go and get a take-away, but you can’t eat a portion of chips. You want something tasty, everyone else is talking about kebabs and you see…Halloumi? Bean burger? No. You go and make a halloumi and black bean curry because it is far tastier or you make one in advance because you are good at planning for a busy night.

The halloumi soaks up the curry juices really well and guess what? It doesn’t go stringy or too chewy. It turns it moist and has that familiar salty bite and it works so well with the deep black beans. You have to try this unusual dish, it’s oddly fabulous! Go easy on the salt, add less than you would normally as the cheese is salty.

Ingredients for Vegetarian recipes

250g cooked black beans
125g halloumi cut into bite sized pieces
One red onion finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp minced ginger
4-5 curry leaves
125ml water
1 cup chopped tomatoes (tinned is fine)
Spices; salt to taste, 1/3rd tsp garam masala, 1tsp cumin powder, 1tsp coriander powder, 1/4tsp turmeric, 1tsp cumin seeds

Method

1. Shallow fry the red onion until it is golden brown and then leave it to a side to cool. Once it is cooled, purée it.
2. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil and add cumin seeds, turmeric and the ginger and garlic. Sauté for couple of minutes before adding the cumin powder, curry leaves and coriander powder, then stir on a medium heat for just under a minute.
3. Add the beans and coat them with the spices before adding the tomatoes, fried red onion purée and the water.
4. Bring the curry to a simmer before adding the halloumi cheese. Cook for ten minutes and serve hot.

Vegetarian Herby soba noodles with pineapple, a sweet, zingy and spicy dressing and shiitake

4 Oct Herby soba noodles with pineapple, a sweet, zingy and spicy dressing and shiitake


Herby soba noodles with pineapple, a sweet, zingy and spicy dressing and shiitake

A few moons ago, when my then fiancé and I moved into our very first property together we had no furniture or household items to make a comfortable or functioning home. We had a one bedroom rented flat in a very lovely area but it was totally bare. It had character though, it was a large Tudor house that had been split into three levels.

Nonetheless we moved in and slept on blankets spread upon the old and cold floorboards of our freshly (magnolia) painted living room. We used the not-so-local launderette, as we had no washing machine and we watched TV on a  15 inch screen that had a dodgy aerial. We were in our early twenties and full of romantic notions about our future, and why not. We dreamed a lot whilst we wrapped ourselves in a cover-less new duvet and gazed over at the cheesy plaque at the doorway which held both of our names in printed unison with their respective meanings. The simple things.

Perhaps the hardest thing for me was not having a cooker or pots and pans during the first weeks. For the first few days we ate a medley of take-away curries, chow mein, chips and pizza…but this grew expensive. Then we made a radical switch to toasted sandwiches, salads and the most sophisticated instant noodles within boxes I could find. Then the microwave arrived and simultaneously I got better at devising recipes that did not need a cooker.

I made various dishes with glass noodles and edamame with spices, I concocted Spiced hummus dishes with toasted and herb pita chips. I made cheesy pesto and used them on microwaved potatoes. I learned to adapt, but creatively. Perhaps one of my favourite recipes that arose from those days is the one I share with you today. It’s a proper sensory popping experience and I love that. Of course now I can eat it warm of cold and I’ve added cooked mushrooms to give the dish depth. You can serve this as a light meal, a starter, a side…what else? Shall I attempt a master chef type description of it?

A first you get the zing from the rice wine vinegar and the sharpness from the lime. Then comes in the sweetness from the palm sugar and the gentle heat from the chilli and it’s wonderful. You’ve got juicy and sweet pineapples that can add a touch of sourness, you’ve got silky soba noodles and you’ve got smooth and juicy shiitake. Lots of herbs bring it together with some light yet punchy aroma.

How did i do? Oh let’s just eat.

Serves 4-6

100ml rice wine vinegar
5tbsp palm sugar
1 tsp salt
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 lime zest and juice
250g soba noodles
150g shiitake mushrooms, sliced
400g ripe pineapple cut into bite sized pieces
30g basil, finely chopped
40g coriander, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced

Method

1. Start by making the dressing. Heat the rice wine vinegar and palm sugar together until the sugar dissolves. Remove it from the heat and then add salt, the chilli, garlic and lime juice and zest. Leave it to a side
2. In a tablespoon of oil, shallow fry the mushroom until it catches a lightly golden colour. On a medium heat this should take about 6-7 minutes.
3. Boil the soba noodles for about 5 minutes and then wash them in plenty of cold water.
4. In a large mixing bowl, add the noodles and the herbs and mix thoroughly. Add the pineapple chunks and mushrooms with the dressing and mix again until the ingredients are evenly distributed.

You can serve this either cold or hot.

pasta please

I am sending this to Pasta Please, the monthly vegetarian pasta even run by Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes

Za’atar aubergines and toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

2 Oct Za'atar aubergines and toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

Za’atar aubergines with toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

Za'atar aubergines and toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

Za’atar aubergines and toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

Great things can happen, both in life and food, completely by accident…or rather in an unplanned or coincidental fashion. For example, today whilst putting my boy to sleep I thought of my regular Chinese restaurant, then of Navratri (hindu festival which involves nine nights of dancing) following which I realised I hadn’t made one of the Gujarati classics that I’m pretty darn good at doing, in a while. All of these thoughts inspired the creation a weird but outrageously good new soup recipe which I will soon share.

Back to this recipe, which is also unpremeditated. My parents came to stay last week when my husband was in Moscow for work. They, besides enjoying time with my boy and I, were so helpful in the kitchen. My dad was my kitchen assistant.
They have a habit of overcooking and under eating. They have also started to use a tongue-swelling level of chilli in their cooking, which I can no longer endure. During my late pregnancy I developed intolerable reflux so I cut the chilli and since then I never really reintroduced it. Anyway, they’re a bit obsessed with aubergines, my folks. They cooked thick slithers of fresh and slippery Aubergine in oil, without water and lots of indian spices but no tomatoes. Such a simple and garlicky dish.

I don’t know why I was reluctant to try it, but when I did I actually really enjoyed it. But then the chilli kicked in and in the absence of cooling yoghurt I grabbed the hummus. And thats how this recipe happened.

Za’atar spice is a tangy and herbaceous spice blend with a thyme like flavour. The tanginess comes from sumac, which is made from dried fruits. The za’atar spice blend also contains nutty sesame seeds and aromatic cumin. It’s fairly delicate so I like to let it sing for itself rather than mix it in with other powerful flavours. Simple is best with spice blends like za’atar.

This is no word of an exaggeration, this hummus is probably the best I have made. Nothing sexy; it’s a simple, smooth and silky hummus. It’s really good though. This is why I’ve allowed for a batch for your fridge, it’ll keep for about 3 days.

Ingredients to serve four

One large Aubergine, cut into 2 inch slithers
4-5 shallots,sliced
1 1/2 tbsp za’atar spice
3 tsp lemon juice
A handful of pine nuts, dry toasted on a non-stick pan
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

For the hummus

2 cans of cooked chickpeas
4 tbsp lemon juice
7 tbsp of ice cold water
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup tahini
1 1/2 tsp salt

Method.

1. Heat 3 tbsp of cooking oil in a non stick pan and add the onions and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes
2. Add the aubergines and mix well. Stir in the za’atar spice blend and the lemon juice. Turn the heat to a very low flame and cook for about 20minutes or until the Aubergine is soft enough to pierce through, but not until they lose shape or become squashed.
3. To make the hummus put the chickpeas into a food processor and blitz until they are a coarse paste.image
4. Add the tahini, garlic, salt and lemon juice and then blitz again.
5. Whilst the food processor is doing its thing, slowly pour in the water and it should loosen up to a lovely consistency.

To serve, top the hummus with the cooked Aubergine whilst they are still warm and when the pine nuts. Serve with flatbread or pitta bread. Don’t forget to tell me how you enjoyed this recipe!

How to make vegetarian hot noodle soup in 20minutes

1 Oct Vegetarian Noodles
Vegetarian Noodles

20 minute vegetarian hot noodle soup

Super speedy (20 minute) hot vegetarian noodle soup

I seldom have time off. I am constantly tired and submerged. But I am not complaining because the rewards are infinite and I am my happiest when I am with my boy. I do get the occasional moments of liberation into the friday night world when I see the girls and I only got my wings four or five months ago, so the excitement is a bit like the thrills I felt as a fresh and novice teenager venturing out into the bright lights.

So our last, enjoyable and tasty dinner out was at wagamama and behold, it was my first time. I was a wagamama virgin. When I’ve mentioned this to my friends they’ve all raised their eyebrows and given me an understated and polite chuckle. I cant say I haven’t considered going in recent years but I make a lot of noodle soup at home; it’s so easy and fresh as well as thoroughly tantalising.

It regularly surprises me when people tell me that they don’t make noodle soup, even when they like it. It isn’t much of a leap from a simple stir fry, all you need is a good stock. My recipe may stir a little bit of argument for the following reasons;

1. Curry powder- insult or enhancement?

I know a lot of foodies detest curry powder. I quite enjoyed watching faces aghast at the mention of it when I watched Rick Stein in India. It’s isn’t balanced creatively, it has one taste and isn’t fresh. I agree. I would never, ever use it in curries as they deserve proper layering of goods spices and each curry should be cooked in consideration of the vegetables in that curry. This noodle soup is a quick recipe and curry powder works. Simple.

2. I’ve called it a super quick 20 minute recipe, naturally this will be contested.

3. It’s hot.

4. Tomato purée – in a noodle soup? Yes. It is true. It adds colour and sweetness which I feel is important given that some of the other flavours are pungent.

Today I got my cosy socks on, thought about hot water bottles and made noodle soup. It’s my comfort food that doesn’t make me fat.

Here are my pointers for making noodle soups work

1. Be careful with chilli bean sauce and soya pastes. They add wonderful background depth and aroma, but if you over do it, you will taste bitterness and that’s not nice.

2. Don’t go crazy with noodles, they tend to swell in the soup.

3. Use exotic mushrooms rather than woods ones, they are soft and absorb juices well and the noodle soup is cooked for just a few minutes so work well with the delicate nature of exotic mushrooms like oysters.

4. Use salt sparingly, vegetable stock is salty. I didn’t add any to this recipe.

5. Use sesame oil or groundnut oil. Nutty oils are delicious in noodle soup. They are the vehicle for enhancing the other flavours.

I’m not an overly tidy Eater, I had splutters of the hot and spicy stock on my phone today. Luckily it has a cover on it, but this soup is drinkably, suckably, flaming good.

Ingredients

100g baby corn chopped into bite sized pieces
100g green beans cut into bite sized pieces
2l vegetable stock
2 pak choi, roughly chopped
One bay leaf
1 tbsp curry powder
2 tsp tomato purée
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1tbsp chilli bean paste
4 spring onion chopped into bite sized chunks
75g exotic mushrooms (I’ve used largely grey oysters) torn
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp pounded schiuan peppercorns
75g Amoy vermicelli
2tbsp sesame oil for cooking

Method

1. Heat the oil for a few seconds before adding the garlic, ginger and spring onion. Sauté for a minute before adding the curry powder. Stir through until the colour deepens (it should take a minute or so).
2. Add the vegetables and coat well.
3. Stir in the vegetable stock, bay leaf, peppercorns, rice wine vinegar, chilli bean paste and tomato purée.
4. Bring the soup to a simmer and then add the noodles.
5. Cook for 3-4 minutes before serving.

 

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