Archive | January, 2014

Jaggery, pistachio, sesame, cardamom and chilli crusted popcorn

30 Jan

Jaggery, pistachio, sesame, cardamom and chilli crusted popcorn

 

My baby boy turns two today.

We went to buy his cake today and he, completely unprompted thanked the staff. In the supermarket he now walks with me, for quick shops only (rather than sitting in the trolley or pram) and natters the whole way; busses, music, birds, cars.  He scoots straight past all the dolls and pink crafts and goes straight to monster trucks, robots and aeroplanes.  He knows to hold my hand at all times.  When we got home he refused to let me cook dinner and swung from my leg until I carried him whilst cooking so that he could stir. After dinner he told me that wanted cuddles with mumma and whimpered until I sat down with him and he hurriedly made conversation, becoming breathless in fact…just in case I would get up and move away from talking about favourite vehicles, animals, planets or dinosaurs.

He still feels a part of me, an extension.  Not everyone will see this. I have learned an incredible amount about life through my boy in the last two years.

I eat more popcorn now than I have for many years, because he likes it.  I used to be a definite salted girl, but somewhere along the lines, things changed. Apart from when it comes to masala popcorn, of course!

Jaggery, pistachio, sesame, cardamom and chilli crusted popcorn

For this recipe I have used jaggery.  Jaggery is a molasses like block, deep and smooth and is a product of date, cane juice or palm sap without the separation of molasses and crystals and can vary from light to dark brown in colour.  Jaggery is typically combined with other ingredients such as nuts, coconut or condensed milk to make sweet delicacies. I am using jaggery because it has got to be better than using caramel and also, because I love the deep tones of jaggery. I know that jaggery has been used for Ayurveda as it contains minerals that aren’t found in sugar.  I had added sesame seeds and peanuts, which make the popcorn taste quite festive when combined with jaggery. There is an aromatic hint of cardamom and a kick of heat.  Give it a go.

Please be careful, melted jaggery is very hot and can burn you. Please don’t lick it for a taste test when hot.

 

Ingredients

175g jaggery

3 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

75g toasted and coarsely chopped pistachio

1/3rd cup of popcorn kernels

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

¼ tsp. cardamom

¼ tsp. chilli powder

Method

  1. Start by making the popcorn. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and allow the popcorn kernels to pop and then cool the popcorn
  2. Heat the jaggery on a medium to low flame in a non-stick pan. Be patient and let the jaggery melt. Cut it into smaller pieces to speed it up.
  3. Once the jaggery is smooth, turn the heat to a very low flicker and quickly stir in the spices, blending them through evenly. Turn off the heat and let the jaggery cool until it is warm, but not piping hot.
  4. Add the sesame seeds and pistachio and then the popcorn and stir quickly before it sets into clumps. Try and get an even coverage.
  5. Tip the popcorn out onto a large plate, letting it cool.
  6. When the popcorn is cool separate any clumps.

 

 

 

Fragrant Indian spiced mung dhal, potato, feta, toasted coconut and beetroot salad wraps-leftover Lunches

28 Jan

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It is one of those months where I need to grow ten extra arms, have superior and life enhancing technology, must have more restorative sleep, want to eat more energy-giving nutritious food, definitely spend less money, get hold of a magic wand, time machine…you get the picture.  Maybe not just this month but generally, we know that planning smartly helps in all aspects of life, not least food.

Vouchercodes.co.uk got in touch with me about a theme they are running which really resonates with what I am trying to do; making full, scrumptious and fabulous dinners that can then be incorporated for lunches for the next day…you know, the sort of food we enjoy and look forward to at lunch and not just a dull, lack lustre, floppy sandwich.

So here’s some colourful, deep and nutritious ingredients combine to deliver the sort of ‘salad’ that is modest with its simple ingredients but utterly enchanting to eat because all of these ingredients and spices so work in delightful harmony.

The bonus? Once you have a bag of mung dhal and desiccated coconut, you could make this salad again and you’ll just have to top-up on the fresh ingredients, which are pretty inexpensive.  Mung dhal cooks very quickly, so this is an added benefit!

Fragrant Indian spiced mung dhal, potato, feta, toasted coconut and beetroot salad wraps-leftover Lunches

Ingredients to serve 4-6

2 medium potatoes, peeled diced

200g cooked beetroot, diced

100g mung dhal

4-5 curry leaves

200g feta cheese, cubed

2½ tbsp. vegetable oil

2 long green chillies, halved and then slit open

1/3 tsp. turmeric

Salt to taste

2 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. cumin seeds

¼ tsp. brown mustard seeds

30g coriander, finely chopped

1 cup desiccated coconut

8-10 plain flour tortillas

Method

  1. Wash the mung dhal and boil it in roughly 600ml water, for approximately 15 minutes. Remove any froth as it appears but do wash the dhal in cold water once it is cooked. It should be cooked but have a bite.
  2. In a separate pan boil the cubes of potato for roughly ten minutes, or until they are cooked. Drain the potatoes and let them cool to room temperature.
  3. When the potato and mung dhal are cooked and cooled turn them into a large and shallow bowl
  4. Make a tempering by heating the vegetable oil and adding the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and allow the seeds to sizzle and pop. Add the curry leaves, chillies, and turmeric then infuse them into the oil. Turn the heat off and allow the tempering to cool to room temperature before adding it to the potatoes and mung dhal.
  5. Toss the mixture with the finely chopped coriander, lemon juice and salt and make sure there is even coverage. Stir in the feta and beetroot.Ingredients to serve 4-6 2 medium potatoes, peeled diced 200g cooked beetroot, diced 100g mung dhal 4-5 curry leaves 200g feta cheese, cubed 2½ tbsp. vegetable oil 2 long green chillies, halved and then slit open 1/3 tsp. turmeric Salt to taste 2 tbsp. lemon juice 1 tsp. cumin seeds ¼ tsp. brown mustard seeds 30g coriander, finely chopped 1 cup desiccated coconut 8-10 plain flour tortillas  Method  1.	Wash the mung dhal and boil it in roughly 600ml water, for approximately 15 minutes. Remove any froth as it appears but do wash the dhal in cold water once it is cooked. It should be cooked but have a bite.  2.	In a separate pan boil the cubes of potato for roughly ten minutes, or until they are cooked. Drain the potatoes and let them cool to room temperature.  3.	When the potato and mung dhal are cooked and cooled turn them into a large and shallow bowl 4.	Make a tempering by heating the vegetable oil and adding the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and allow the seeds to sizzle and pop. Add the curry leaves, chillies, and turmeric then infuse them into the oil. Turn the heat off and allow the tempering to cool to room temperature before adding it to the potatoes and mung dhal.  5.	Toss the mixture with the finely chopped coriander, lemon juice and salt and make sure there is even coverage. Stir in the feta and beetroot.
  6. Toast the desiccated coconut lightly and quickly on a non-stick frying pan and introduce it to the salad too.coconut 1
  7. Prepare the plain flour tortilla per packet instructions and then fill them generously.

Spicy Courgette, carrot and ground rice steamed dumplings

25 Jan

Spicy courgette, carrot, ground rice steamed dumplings by Deena Kakaya
Somewhere along the journey, the lines between work and play, rest and recreation changed.

For most of the years that my husband and I have been together, we shared energy and squinted-eyed enthusiasm for filling our pockets of free time with making memories, having fun, exploring, travelling and being spontaneous in a sensible sort of way. Our summers were long and full of weekends away and eating outdoors and with friends in the weekday evenings.

Each summer we would make our trip to our favourite spots in Cornwall. Pothcurno being one of them. Pothcurno houses an open air theatre on the edge of a cliff, overlooking seas with a blue swirl that could easily be confused for a Mediterranean destination. We hang around until the evening until we grab steaming hot cheese and baked bean jacket potatoes, a blanket and sit under the stars watching opera whilst sat on the cool stone.
Culture and history soaking in Bath, picnics in Windsor, outdoor pubs and chips in Brighton, scenic walks and clotted cream ice-cream in the cotswolds or nearer to home and ambling the streets of london popping our head into Dim Sum or kathi roll joints. I have a lot of happy memories.

In the cooler months we would visit farmers markets, recuperate in Spa’s, go to Edinburgh for windy stops and chill out in cottages in wales, and most excitingly, take our annual holiday to more exotic destinations. Each of my January birthdays after graduating was spent away, somewhere sunny, making memories. One of my birthdays was spent on a house boat in Kerela, another abseiling over shallow waters in Mauritius, one looking down at the pitons whilst having dinner in st.Lucia. They made me a fresh coco and coconut cake made with locally sourced ingredients. I had one birthday on safari, eating guava cheesecake in South Africa, whilst watching wilderbeast and one on the most scenic train journey near Zurich. We were both working full on, heavy roles and this trip was the carrot in our otherwise hectic lives.

Along the way, a lot changed. We had our boy, who has showered immense joy and love into our lives. We are a salary down. Husband has 23 international trips abroad planned this year, for work. We are tired.

This week I was clearing through the guest room and stumbled upon some old photographs. I sat down, puffed out at the realisation of how things have changed. My little one came and sat on my lap, ‘what you looking at mumma’. I told my nearly-two-year old that mumma was looking at lovely memories. One of the common threads between each of the pictures is that the long journeys were occupied with munching on Dhokla (steamed and spiced rice and lentil flour cakes, which are sour and fluffy clouds of scrummy glory) or muthia Dhokla, which a Gujarati savoury bite made from grated veg and cooked rice with some spice and also steamed and then tempered in curry leaves and mustard, cumin and chilli. It got me thinking. Things have got to change again. Having fun is the way to stay alive inside.

It also got me thinking about rice flour steamed dumplings, one of the Gujarati items my mum makes so well…put them all together and roll them around, I created these little steamed dumplings with the added sweetness of carrot and courgette. They make wonderful snacks to accompany a cuppa. Spicy, dense, filling, hot, smooth…oh, go on.

Ingredients to make 24 dumplings

3 cups of hot water
2 long green chillies
125g grated carrot
125g grated courgette
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ajwain, or carom seeds
1 3/4 cup of ground rice
Salt to taste
Oil to grease palms when forming the dumplings

Method

1. In a large vessel, heat the water and add the cumin seeds and coriander seeds with the minced chilli.
2. When the water is boiling add the courgettes and carrots, stir and simmer for a minute. When the vegetables have softened, start to trickle in the ground rice whilst stirring the water with a wooden spoon, to avoid lumps forming.
3. Continue to stir more swiftly, until a grainy dough has been formed.
4. Turn off the heat and tip the dough into a very large plate.
5. Prepare your steamer and oil your palms. Take golf ball sized amounts of dough, form a ball and then flatten it in your palms. Try not to let the ball crack.
6. Steam the dumplings for 8-10 minutes and serve with chilli oil, whilst still hot and moist.

I am linking this to Marks Made with Love Mondays because it is all kme made Jave

I’m also liking with Helen and Michelle, for hidden veg

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Spicy paneer wontons in a gentle spinach soup

23 Jan

spicy paneer wontons in a gentle spinach soup

I am pretty sure that I wasn’t well acquainted with paneer when I was a child, as my earliest memories of it must be from my pre- teens. I recall that one of my dad’s friends had landed a business deal delivering this marvellous new product that was increasingly popular, so popular in fact that it was flying off the shelves. It may have had something to do with the popularised chilli paneer dish? Packaged paneer ready in the fridge. I was new and it was exciting.

So he handed my dad some freebies and naturally I ensured that they landed in my lap and thus started an era of paneer experimentation. It had fast become the favourite food of every other Asian person in my network. Paneer is an unsalted, full fat Indian cheese that may be crumbly when fresh and spongy or even chewy when pressed and ready-made for sale. I think that a lot of tired taste buds weere wakened when paneer came into fashion with is almighty, loud and punchy flavours. Plenty spice, liberal use of garlic and ginger, copious soy sauce and ketchup made for lively and lasting tastes.

I love that paneer is a wonderful sponge for juices and flavours; it is clean and will mop up full flavours generously.  I experimented many times over the years, scrambled paneer in a bhurji is one of my favourites and this has become the stuffing for my wontons today.  I love thick and creamy shahi paneer dishes, kofta (balls with veg and simmered in thick gravy), I love paneer in cashew nut gravy and who can deny the simple, clean and guilty pleasure of ras malai?

A few people wrote to me this week asking about palak paneer (curry of paneer cubes simmered in smooth spinach) and it got me thinking…so I made this and I am very excited about. It’s pretty special. The spinach soup is light and easy, but incredibly addictive and soothing. Not a bad thing to find spinach addictive! The paneer is punch and full, has bite and parcelled into slippery smooth wontons. Can it get any better?

As a tip, make sure the paneer is pretty warm all the way through, cold paneer is chewy but when warm, this recipe really comes to life and it’ll be juicy and tender. Perfect.

Ingredients to serve 4 (makes 16 wontons)

For the wontons;

150g paneer, grated

¼ tsp. garam masala

1 tsp. mixed cumin and coriander powder

¼ tsp. turmeric

¾ tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. tomato puree

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped or minced

1-2 spring onions, finely chopped

1 tbsp. sesame oil

½ tbsp. soy sauce

16 wonton wrappers

Salt to taste

½ tsp. chilli powder

For the soup

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

200g finely chopped (or in the food processor) spinach

800ml vegetable stock

One medium onion, thinly sliced

4-5 curry leaves

One chilli, finely chopped

1 tbsp. corn flour mixed with water

1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 tsp. minced ginger

1 clove garlic, minced

Method

  1. To make the soup, heat the oil in a deep pan and then add the chilli, onion, curry leaves, garlic and ginger sauté until the onions have softened.
  2. Add the spinach and mix thoroughly, before adding the vegetable stock and the rice wine vinegar.
  3. Bring the soup to a simmer before adding the corn flour and water paste to thicken the soup. Simmer the soup for 5-7 minutes.
  4. To make the stuffing, heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes introducing the grated paneer.
  5. Stir in the turmeric, chilli, and coriander and cumin powder and mix thoroughly.
  6. Stir in the tomato puree and soy sauce and then cook the curry for 4-5 minutes.
  7. To make the wontons, place a teaspoon of paneer mixture in the middle of a wonton and then create little drawstring purses and seal them with a little water.
  8. Steam the wontons for 8-10 minutes before removing them from the steamer.
  9. Ladle the soup into bowls and then place 4 wontons into the bowl and serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m linking this to Anneli and Louisa for four seasons because its comforting an

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Asian influenced savoury breakfast porridge-broth with tofu, sundried tomatoes, edamame beans

22 Jan

Asian influenced savoury breakfast porridge-broth with tofu, sundried tomatoes, edamame beans and cucumber

Never say never

A few weeks ago I was remarking on salt-inclusive   breakfast porridge of a fellow foodie. It was a very pretty looking stewed pinky fruit number with salt. Artistic and tempting, class and containing salt. Salt, in breakfast porridge, no way!

That said, my cauldron seems some wickedly unusual combinations at any time of the day, not least at breakfast. It was during one of these experimental moments that Zoe, the spice scribe suggested that Danny, the Food Urchin and I perhaps try a savoury porridge.

‘Eh’, ‘what’s the point of that’ , ‘ew’ , ‘why’ , ‘but that’s not a breakfast is it’.

Is that what you are thinking? That’s certainly what I was thinking, but not one to ever dismiss a suggestion by the very lovely and food-smart Zoe and not one to dismiss an opportunity to experiment in an otherwise little explored area, I thought…why not. Besides, the charming and talented Mr.Food Urchin was game, this is going to be fun folks.

So I thought about what I like to eat what’s good for breakfast. Protein, oats, a bit of immune boosting (and frankly tasty) chilli. Let me tell you, I surprised myself. It’s good. It’s nutritious. It’s a bit weird at first, but it’s filling and tastes like a thick soup. Go on, you have to try it….

Ingredients to serve 4

500ml vegetable stock
50g Amoy flour vermicelli
Half a block of firm tofu, cut into bite sized pieces
75g edamame beans, defrosted
50g sundried tomatoes, chopped into thin strips
2 spring onions, chopped
300ml water
3/4 cup porridge oats
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 1/2 tsp soy bean paste
100g thin strips of cucumber
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
15g basil, finely chopped

Method

1. Heat the sesame oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, then allow them to sizzle, before introducing the tofu. Sauté the tofu lightly until it starts to catch some colour then add the spring onion. Sauté until the tofu is lightly golden.
2. Add the vegetable stock with the edamame beans, cucumber and sundried tomatoes, rice wine vinegar and chilli flakes before bringing the pot to a simmer.
3. Add the porridge oats and vermicelli, basil and stir well. Add the water simmer for 4-5 minutes

Indo-Thai Cassava, mango and broccoli curry

20 Jan

Indo-Thai cassava, mango and broccoli curry
Finding strength

I don’t have many memories with my maternal grandmother because she lives in a different country, but the memories that I do have, affected me profoundly. The stories that my grandmother shared with me showed me how a woman can. A woman can grow from a cushioned girl to a lady who can walk gracefully among thorns so quickly, that tears don’t have time. These women are my very own mother and grandmother.

My grandmother told me about the comfort she lived in during her life in Uganda. She wore jewellery, was pretty and had long tresses which she put fresh flowers in. She had the support of hired help who worked with them and shared the busy tasks of looking after three little ladies; my mother and her three sisters.
As a child I found it strange for her to draw on memories of having a large dining table, big fridges containing bounties of sugary drinks and not having to go to work. She talked about the lovely fresh fruits, cassava curry and crickets singing them to sleep.

They were expelled from their homeland and my apparently stern and stubborn great-grandmother chose to go to India, because it would be too cold in England. My grandmother told me stories of flushing money down the toilet in case the army would find them and covering her daughters under blankets in a jeep, just in case the army would steal them. I wonder if they knew that they were actually going to a life much more humble and restricted by a small income, far smaller than what they had known.

I only ever saw my grandmother’s Indian home, the one bedroom, basic residence. She cooked on the floor and I saw mice run around the courtyard once or twice. She made the best khichdi ever and I loved scooping it up with spring onions. Her room was grey, two small beds and you could see the kitchen from the beds. The front door no longer lead out to leafy green fruit trees, but a dusty side street filled with children playing and the occasional vegetable seller.

My grandfather died soon after arriving in India, when my mum was a teen. They say that depression due to the transition massively affected him. My grandmother raised her three daughters and married them all off to suitors in the UK, so that they could have better lives, like the life she had before being expelled from Uganda.
My mother was the first one, married at 19. She counts her blessings that she met a person that loves her and her every smile, every day.

So, when I dwell upon my own transitions in life, from an academic, focused ambitious and day dreaming achiever, to a corporate career-focused and travelling young achiever, to lost and smiling mum. How can I not find strength from thinking about the women in my life who so gracefully took responsibility of the changes in their life and simply made it better.

I can never eat cassava without thinking of my mothers childhood, my grandmother’s struggles. My recipe is thick, steaming and nutty like there’s would have been, full of comfort and colour. The difference is that my recipe includes some of my heritage, well some that I learned from my beloved london, a Thai influence. I’ve used galangal, palm sugar, soy sauce, tamarind, mango, and coconut. On the other hand, I’ve used cloves, cardamon, broccoli and tomatoes. It works so well, I felt flutters of excitement when I tasted it. Join in.

Ingredients

600g frozen cassava chops
Half tin of chopped tomatoes
4 green cardamon pods
3 cloves
A stick of cinnamon
3 green chillies, finely chopped
100g coarsely ground toasted peanuts.
150g mango chunks, (from a firm mango)
150g broccoli florets
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp minced galangal
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp mace
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp tamarind juice
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
1200 millilitres of water
3/4 cup of desiccated coconut

Method
1. Boil the cassava chips in plenty of hot water until they are tender, but not mushy. When they are cooked, drain the water and cut the cassava into one inch pieces.
2. In a deep pan heat the vegetable oil and then add the cumin, coriander, Turmeric, chilies, cloves, cardamon, cinnamon. Allow the seeds to sizzle before adding the onion, mace and nutmeg with the salt. Sauté the onion for a couple of minutes before adding in the garlic and galangal. Sauté for another minute or two.
3. Add the tomatoes and stir well before adding the palm sugar, soy sauce, tamarind juice and ground peanuts. You’ll find it’s a thick and nutty mixture now that smells absolutely wonderful.
4. Introduce the cassava, desiccated coconut, mango chunks and water and then simmer the curry for ten minutes.
5. Stir in the broccoli and simmer for a further 5 minutes.

Serve hot, I ate it just as it is.

Masala mushroom wontons in a curried soya bean soup

18 Jan

wontons 1Moody soup. I’d never imagined.

I never imagined that my life would be this way. I was always a dreamer and I always focused very hard on walked boldly in that direction, without fear, without doubt, without any shadow of any other person. Just me and the picture. Smiling.

Today I woke feeling bleary eyed and confused. You know those days where the waves of pace and tasks carry you along and but the mind lingers behind. It’s been one of those days where I have wondered how I got here, what decisions did I make, or not make. I bathed in rose salts and then used rose water in my porridge. Bizarre.

I then read something written by a palliative care nurse about the regrets of patients on their deathbed.

Working too hard. Not living the life that was actually desired. Not sharing emotions. Not letting themselves just be happy. Not staying in touch with friends.

So what did I do?

wonton 2

I put away my phone and iPad and that meant putting away the, ‘am I doing enough’ feeling. I grabbed a blanket, snuggled up with my boy and had a snooze on the sofa whilst watching cartoons. Then I made this soup, which matches my mood today. Mellow. ‘Screw it, just let go’.

This one looks harder than it is to make, I did it all within 30minutes or so. Silky and mildly spiced mushrooms tucked inside thin and smooth wonton parcels. They sit happily in a gentle and deep soup. Each mouthful releases a sigh. It’s uncomplicated and quite impressive. Just as life should be.

Ingredients to serve two

For the mushroom masala

75g enoki mushrooms , cut roughly into bite sized pieces
100g shiitake mushrooms, cut into 2cm pieces
3 baby onions, finely chopped
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp chaat masala
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp sesame oil
A splash of soy sauce
1/2 tsp paprika
15 wonton wrappers

For the soup

2 tbsp soybean paste
1 tbsp sesame oil
600ml hot water
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp (or to taste) sweet chilli sauce
4-5 curry leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 tbsp of corn flour mixed with a little water

Method

1. To make the mushroom masala first, heat the sesame oil in a frying pan. Add the cumin seeds, curry leaves and turmeric and allow the seeds to sizzle.
2. Add the onions and mushrooms and sauté them for a minute. Add the chaat masala, paprika, garam masala, paprika and soy sauce. Sauté for a further 3 minutes before turning off the heat.
3. Take a single wonton wrapper and place 2 teaspoons of mushroom masala in the centre and them bring the sides inwards to make a drawstring purse. Use a little water to to keep the purse together.
4. Place the wontons in a steamer and then steam them for approximately 6-7minutes and then remove them from the steamer.
5. In the meantime, whilst the wontons are steaming make the soup by heating the oil, adding cumin seeds, curry leaves, turmeric, minced ginger and garlic and then sauté for a minute. Then add the soya bean paste, mix it together before adding the water.
6. Bring the soup to a simmer before adding the sweet chilli sauce, rice wine vinegar and curry powder. Stir it to ensure that the soyabean paste has melted into the soup.
7. Pour in the paste of corn flour and water and simmer for 5-6 minutes.
8. To serve, place the wontons in a bowl and pour in a ladle or two of soup. Garnish it with coriander.

Pomegranate roasted baby onions with butter bean salad and tahini-chilli yogurt

16 Jan

Pomegranate roasted baby onions with butter bean salad and tahini-chilli yogurt
Onions from an onion

I went to a school which was populated with provably about 80 per centGujarati children (I come from a Gujarati background) at a guess. When my boy and I go to playgroup he is an, ‘ethnic minority’ by being in a broader group called ‘Asian’.

So when I was at school I was not (by other kids) differentiated by the colour of my skin, but my caste. My classroom was made up of surnames such as Patel, Mistry, Thakrar or Shah. All Gujarati of course. We all knew we belonged to different castes and we knew that we spoke in different accents, our mothers cooked different tasting foods or simply varieties and some of us would be vegetarian and others not. Mild teasing was not uncommon, ‘your surname is Tailor you can make my clothes when I grow up’. I think I could pick up on caste sometimes by physical appearance.

The caste system used to separate people vocationally, but no longer does. Well, not the people I know anyway. It created networks of people and they married within their caste, but that doesn’t happen any more either. Idiosyncrasies of castes are now diluted with western accents, mixed marriages and just general evolution of culture. My 23 month will probably never know much about the caste system and I’m sure his friends will be much more international than mine were at his tender age. London offers that diversity doesn’t it.

I am from the Lohana caste. Commercial people. Ironically I read economics at university, but really that nothing to do with caste. Coincidence. Lohana folk are said to fond of onions, and that’s why I often got called one whilst growing up. But I was proud, I love a good onion.

Sweet and juicy with a sour tang. That’s my salad. I’ve smothered pomegranate molasses over the onions and roasted them slowly so that they are sweet and sour and moist and slippery. I adore that smell. They work well with deep butter beans and my nutty and slightly spiced dressing. Go on, be an onion.

Ingredients to serve 4

20 baby onions, peeled and halved
4 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1-2 tbsp rapeseed oil
Salt
1 tsp sugar
A few handfuls of rocket leaves
2 tins of butter beans
2 tsp sumac powder
15g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
15g garlic chives, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp lemon juice

3/4 cup plain yoghurt
4 tbsp tahini paste
1 tsp red chilli flakes

Method

1. Coat the onions with the pomegranate molasses, sugar and a generous sprinkle of salt.
2. Lay the onions on some baking paper, drizzle them with oil and place them in the oven and roast them at 150 degrees for approximately 30minutes.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together the butter beans, sumac, lemon juice, parsley, salt to taste and garlic chives.
4. To make the dressing, simply whip the yoghurt, tahini and chilli together.
5. Serve the salad on some rocket leaves with some lovely warm bread.

Cauliflower keema curry with capers and potatoes

13 Jan

cauliflower kheema curry with capers and potatoesThe comfort zone

Have I just said a dirty word. I’m familiar with that semi-laugh and the quiet roll of the eyes, ‘she’s in the comfort zone’. I heard it when I said I didn’t want a more senior role at work a few years ago and when I didn’t want to move out of london. It’s a dirty phrase.

Apparently people don’t grow when they don’t push themselves out of their comfort zone. If you do what you have always done, you will be and keep getting what you always have. People don’t have jobs for life anymore and  honestly, I think people who stand still for too long somehow attract  less admiration than those who keep moving. Change is the only constant, it appears.

We must live in different places and make new friends, it broadens the mind and ensures we don’t get too bogged down it seems. We should change our hairstyles and our clothing style. Holiday in new places, rather than the same ones and we should definitely learn a new language.

Must we? Should we? Need we? Why.

Growing and developing has been important to me for many years in my life. Having said that, I wonder what is so wrong if people are happy in the comfort zone, especially if the zone is a pretty pleasant one. Why not feel grateful in the blessings of the calm and reassured and general peace that comes with a happy constant? What’s wrong with standing still and soaking in the goodness that you enjoy and the rays of easiness that today brings?

Today is a day that I am finding my comfort. A few crisps, chatting with loved ones, playing with my boy, TV junk and a blanket. Tastiest of all, a cauliflower keema with an unusual introduction of capers.

My cauliflower is grated, but I put it in the food processor so was readywithin a few blinks. Cauliflower is lovely this way, it mingles so well with the curry gravy. Often people add peas but today I wanted a zing and a kick of sourness. I needed it, it had been one of those days.

Ingredients to serve four

One large cauliflower, grated (or in a food processor)
2 tomatoes, chopped
3-4 curry leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
One large green chilli, chopped
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp minced ginger
One onion, diced finely
Salt to taste
1 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
A pinch of asafoetida
4-5 new potatoes
4 tbsp capers
2 tbsp cooking oil
1/2 tsp garam masala

Method
1. Boil the potatoes for 5-6minutes and then drain them in cool water.
2.Heat the oil in a pan and add the asafoetida. Let It sizzle then add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, curry leaves, turmeric and allow the seeds to sizzle and pop.
3. Stir in the onion and salt and sauté for a couple of minutes. Then add the ginger and sauté until the onion has softened. Add the coriander powder and then the tomatoes. Soften the tomatoes and add the garam masala as they soften.
4. Add the grated cauliflower, capers and potatoes and cook for approximately ten minutes.

Serve hot with lashings of Raitha and chappati. Sleep well.

Slow roasted tomato, channa dal, feta and courgette ribbon spicy salad

11 Jan

Slow roasted tomatoes, channa dal, feta and courgette ribbon spicy salad

After a week of flying solo with the boy, this morning had been occupied with a bit of relief in the way of a back massage. My back is full of uncomfortable rocks as is my neck and I couldn’t wait to go and get them softened.

They say that you appreciate your parents in a whole new way when you have your own children. My friend is trying to conceive and nervous about the labour. It is only now that I can say, that’s the easy bit because it is temporary.

My boy is generally a mummy’s boy and follows me everywhere I go, even to the toilet. ‘What you doing mumma, that’s terrible’. He goes wherever I go and wants me to hold him as I cook a meal so that he can stir and help to toss the dosa. ‘Special agent Aarav is on a special assignment mumma’. He empties my cupboards out whilst I cook and likes to sample the ingredients. This week he cracked open my freshly ground garam masala (again) and licked it whist remarking, ‘it’s yummy’. He tests out my raw pasta shapes, ‘like crips’ and he thinks this star anise ‘flower is amazing and crunchy’. Even when his dad is around, he chants, ‘mumma come, mumma come’.

It’s wonderful.

Through all the lifting, jumping up in the air and flying him like a rocket sort of antics he who is now weighing a quarter of my weight, my back has filled with fiery boulders and my knee has felt better days. This is what they mean don’t they…about the unconditional love and the things a mother will do. But I’m smiling as I sit here with a hot water bottle on my back.

Another part of my body that requires conditioning is my tummy. I put some newish jeans on today and they are snug. This should not be the case. I feel puffy. I feel the need for spice, zing, crisp, fresh and I certainly need cheese. I feel the need for salad. So here it is.

Ingredients to serve 4

2 courgettes, trimmed but not peeled
100g channa dal, washed
150g feta cheese, cubed
2 tbsp Harissa paste
1 tbsp olive oil and some to drizzle on the tomatoes
Salt to taste
1 tsp toasted and lightly crushed cumin seeds
15g finely chopped parsley
1 tbsp lemon juice
8 large and deep red tomatoes, quartered

1. Sit the tomatoes cut side up on a sheet of baking paper and drizzle them with oil and sprinkle with salt. Put them in the oven at 120degrees for about an 1hr-1hr 15. Ovens vary but they should look shrivelled and not wet. Their flavour will be intense. When the tomatoes are roasted allow them to cool.
2. In the meantime simmer the channa dal for around 15-20 minutes on a medium to low flame. Do not allow the dal to go mushy and should keep some bite. Once the dal is cooked drain it in cool water.
3. Take a vegetable peeler and make long peelings of the courgette. One for each ridge of the courgette and keep going until you get to the core. Don’t worry if some of the ribbons are shorter than the others.
4. Combine the courgette ribbons with the feta and daal and toss it all together. Stir in the Harissa paste evenly before adding the cumin, parsley, lemon juice and salt if needed. Add a glug of olive oil. You can add the tomatoes but if they feel a bit delicate then leave them for presentation so that they keep their shape.
5. Serve fresh with hummus (I used black eyed bean hummus) and lots of lovely bread.

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