Archive | March, 2014

Barley, tomato, paneer, channa dal & cashew nut salad

27 Mar

 

Recipe 2: Barley, tomato, paneer, channa dal salad & cashew nut salad The definition of a salad seems to have evolved; this glorious, warm, spiced and zesty salad is full of wonderful surprise. The barley adds silky and nutty depth, the sweet tomatoes and spices mingle well with the spongy paneer and the channa dal adds a bite.  I like it with a bit of heat, so I went for the green chilies but you can moderate this if you wish.

I used Savera paneer for this dish and it works really well because unlike some brands of paneer, Savera paneer is moist and spongy (not hard and rubbery) so takes on the flavours and juices of the salad so well and is soft enough to add to the party of ingredients. Keep the paneer moist warm so that it retains a bit of that chewy glory.

 

Serves 4-6

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

225g paneer, cubed

75g channa dal, washed

100g pearl barley, washed

220g baby plum tomatoes, quartered

One medium red onion

100g cashew nuts

¾ tbsp. vegetable oil

For the dressing;

3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

Salt to taste

3½ tbsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. cumin seeds

15g coriander, finely chopped

½ tsp. turmeric powder

2 green chillies finely chopped (use one if you prefer less heat)

6-8 curry leaves

Method

  1. Boil the barley on a vigorous simmer for ten minutes and then on a medium flame for a further 30minutes. Drain it and allow it to cool
  2. Boil the channa dal for 15-20 minutes. It should retain a bite but be cooked. Wash the channa dal in cool water and drain it when it is cooked.
  3. Put the channa dal, tomatoes, onion and barley into a large shallow bowl.
  4. Heat the vegetable oil in a non-stick pan and stir fry the paneer until it catches a golden colour. Remove it from the heat and add it to the other salad ingredients.
  5. To make the dressing, heat the sesame oil in a non-stick pan add then chillies, curry leaves, turmeric and cumin seeds. Allow the seeds to sizzle before turning off the heat.
  6. Drizzle the dressing onto the salad and mix it well. Pour in the rice wine vinegar and then sprinkle in the salt and chopped coriander and toss the salad.
  7. Toast the cashew nuts on a non-stick pan until they are lightly golden and then allow then allow them to cool before tossing them into the salad.

 

 

This is a sponsored post but any views expressed are my own

Tofu sambal with curried okra, faro and coconut yoghurt

25 Mar

Tofu sambal with curried and Faro and coconut yoghurt

Tofu sambal with curried and Faro and coconut yoghurt I was a difficult eater as a child. My parents regurgitated their experiences of having to travel in search of a specific type of tinned ham (I turned vegetarian later, when I was a pre-teen) because it was amongst the very restricted variety of foods I would willingly eat. They wanted me to understand the pains they went through to nourish me. I remember sitting on an indoor swing, as a toddler with my parents singing to postman pat on the TV and sneaking a scoop potato curry, rice and yoghurt into my mouth at any reasonable opportunity. They would reminisce amongst themselves at the same time, about how they would get excited over every ounce of milk they would cajole me into drinking as a baby. I sensed the heart-swelling joy they felt when I was satiated and growing. I detected the worry, ‘when will she just eat’. The break-through in my eating came when I was about four. I remember attending an Indian function with my dad. I was a shy and quiet child with a silky mop of hair and a generous fringe which I sometimes tucked my eyes behind. I recall frowning at the party of swishing saris and singing aunties. I gripped my dad’s hand in silent protest each time someone tugged my cheek (it hurt) and remarked on my slight frame. My mum would always sigh, ‘yes, she doesn’t eat well’ and my dad would tell her to be quiet. The smell of samosa was overwhelming and I needed them, but I refused repeated offers.  On the way home I asked my dad for samosa. He laughed and bought them from an Indian café. I ate four.  I learned to follow my taste buds and my nose. I loved going to collect a Chinese take-away with my dad. I adored the aroma of sesame oil and the smokes that grew from the massive pans. I adored the look of slippery noodles being chucked around and crisp vegetables mingling their way between rice, egg and noodles. I was much more sensitive to the delicate juices that beansprouts oozed out and I also really fancied their chips. Luckily, this take-away made the stuff of dreams; a tin foil container with everything in it; veg, noodles, rice, and chips. The take-away made its way into my very limited repertoire of stuff I would eat. It eventually grew into non-child-like tastes, like stuffed okra curry. I watched my boy on a video call with his grandfather the other day. The same frown appeared from his very long fringe, it sits under his nose now. Head tilted forwards and eyes full of energy. He was talking about what he saw at the zoo. Most of the time he is asked what he ate and he quickly brushes over the topic, he isn’t bothered about food and he doesn’t know what pains I have been through over the last couple of years to nourish him. Even as a 4 month old, he wasn’t interested in feeding, he wanted to look around at the world and babble. He didn’t want to wean until he was 8months old and he wouldn’t eat a boiled carrot or a sandwich. My child eats pav bhajhi, paratha and quesadilla. My mum laughed out loud in the background of the call, ‘he’s just like his mum’.  The breakthrough for him came with Kadhi, a yoghurt and gram flour soup, but I added spinach. The other day we were driving home from the zoo. We asked him what he would like for dinner. My 25 month old said, ‘I want to eat Chinese food mumma, I want Chinese toast and Chinese rice and SOYA’.  My recipe today is an ode to all those favourites. The spongy tofu is cooked in a fresh, spicy, herby and lively Malaysian style sambal. It is probably one of the best sambal recipes I have made in a while, so I urge you to try it; this tofu is certainly not bland. The faro is nutty and light and is in a mix of curried yoghurt and like every good spicy meal, this is served with plenty of coconut yoghurt.  Ingredients 250g pack firm tofu 100g faro 200g okra, trimmed, washed and cut into bite sized pieces A few tablespoons of coconut yoghurt to serve (I used Rachel’s yoghurt) 1 tbsp. vegetable oil for the tofu 2 tbsp. vegetable oil for the okra 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped for the okra For the okra: Salt to taste, ½ tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. cumin powder, 1 tsp. coriander powder, chilli powder to taste For the sambal 30g chopped coriander 2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped 3 tbsp. palm sugar (use soft brown sugar if you really can’t get hold of palm sugar) The juice of one lime 4 green chillies Salt to taste ½ tsp. turmeric 3.5 tbsp. tamarind concentrate or pomegranate molasses 4 cloves of garlic 3 inch nob of ginger 5 shallots, diced 1-2 tbsp. of sesame oil Method 1.	Wrap the tofu in some kitchen paper to remove any excess water before cutting it into cubes. In the meantime, boil the faro per the packet ingredients 2.	To make the sambal blitz together the ingredients to a smooth paste. 3.	On a non-stick pan heat the 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil and stir fry the tofu until it catches a lightly golden colour and then stir in the sambal paste and cook for 7 minutes.  4.	Once the faro is cooked, heat the remaining vegetable oil in a non-stick pan and add the okra and garlic and sauté on a medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Don’t add the spices because any moisture will make the okra sticky. 5.	Add the salt, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric and chilli powder and sauté for a further minute before adding the faro. Mix it all well and then turn off the heat. 6.	You can either serve the tofu on top or alongside the faro, but this all tastes fabulous with some cool and sweet coconut yoghurt.

I was a difficult eater as a child. My parents regurgitated their experiences of having to travel in search of a specific type of tinned ham (I turned vegetarian later, when I was a pre-teen) because it was amongst the very restricted variety of foods I would willingly eat. They wanted me to understand the pains they went through to nourish me. I remember sitting on an indoor swing, as a toddler with my parents singing to postman pat on the TV and sneaking a scoop potato curry, rice and yoghurt into my mouth at any reasonable opportunity. They would reminisce amongst themselves at the same time, about how they would get excited over every ounce of milk they would cajole me into drinking as a baby. I sensed the heart-swelling joy they felt when I was satiated and growing. I detected the worry, ‘when will she just eat’.

The break-through in my eating came when I was about four. I remember attending an Indian function with my dad. I was a shy and quiet child with a silky mop of hair and a generous fringe which I sometimes tucked my eyes behind. I recall frowning at the party of swishing saris and singing aunties. I gripped my dad’s hand in silent protest each time someone tugged my cheek (it hurt) and remarked on my slight frame. My mum would always sigh, ‘yes, she doesn’t eat well’ and my dad would tell her to be quiet. The smell of samosa was overwhelming and I needed them, but I refused repeated offers.

On the way home I asked my dad for samosa. He laughed and bought them from an Indian café. I ate four.

I learned to follow my taste buds and my nose. I loved going to collect a Chinese take-away with my dad. I adored the aroma of sesame oil and the smokes that grew from the massive pans. I adored the look of slippery noodles being chucked around and crisp vegetables mingling their way between rice, egg and noodles. I was much more sensitive to the delicate juices that beansprouts oozed out and I also really fancied their chips. Luckily, this take-away made the stuff of dreams; a tin foil container with everything in it; veg, noodles, rice, and chips. The take-away made its way into my very limited repertoire of stuff I would eat. It eventually grew into non-child-like tastes, like stuffed okra curry.

I watched my boy on a video call with his grandfather the other day. The same frown appeared from his very long fringe, it sits under his nose now. Head tilted forwards and eyes full of energy. He was talking about what he saw at the zoo. Most of the time he is asked what he ate and he quickly brushes over the topic, he isn’t bothered about food and he doesn’t know what pains I have been through over the last couple of years to nourish him. Even as a 4 month old, he wasn’t interested in feeding, he wanted to look around at the world and babble. He didn’t want to wean until he was 8months old and he wouldn’t eat a boiled carrot or a sandwich. My child eats pav bhajhi, paratha and quesadilla. My mum laughed out loud in the background of the call, ‘he’s just like his mum’.

The breakthrough for him came with Kadhi, a yoghurt and gram flour soup, but I added spinach. The other day we were driving home from the zoo. We asked him what he would like for dinner. My 25 month old said, ‘I want to eat Chinese food mumma, I want Chinese toast and Chinese rice and SOYA’.

My recipe today is an ode to all those favourites. The spongy tofu is cooked in a fresh, spicy, herby and lively Malaysian style sambal. It is probably one of the best sambal recipes I have made in a while, so I urge you to try it; this tofu is certainly not bland. The faro is nutty and light and is in a mix of curried yoghurt and like every good spicy meal, this is served with plenty of coconut yoghurt.

v

Ingredients

250g pack firm tofu

100g faro

200g okra, trimmed, washed and cut into bite sized pieces

A few tablespoons of coconut yoghurt to serve (I used Rachel’s yoghurt)

1 tbsp. vegetable oil for the tofu

2 tbsp. vegetable oil for the okra

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped for the okra

For the okra: Salt to taste, ½ tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. cumin powder, 1 tsp. coriander powder, chilli powder to taste

For the sambal

30g chopped coriander

2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped

3 tbsp. palm sugar (use soft brown sugar if you really can’t get hold of palm sugar)

The juice of one lime

4 green chillies

Salt to taste

½ tsp. turmeric

3.5 tbsp. tamarind concentrate or pomegranate molasses

4 cloves of garlic

3 inch nob of ginger

5 shallots, diced

1-2 tbsp. of sesame oil

Method

  1. Wrap the tofu in some kitchen paper to remove any excess water before cutting it into cubes. In the meantime, boil the faro per the packet ingredients
  2. To make the sambal blitz together the ingredients to a smooth paste.
  3. On a non-stick pan heat the 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil and stir fry the tofu until it catches a lightly golden colour and then stir in the sambal paste and cook for 7 minutes.
  4. Once the faro is cooked, heat the remaining vegetable oil in a non-stick pan and add the okra and garlic and sauté on a medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Don’t add the spices because any moisture will make the okra sticky.
  5. Add the salt, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric and chilli powder and sauté for a further minute before adding the faro. Mix it all well and then turn off the heat.
  6. You can either serve the tofu on top or alongside the faro, but this all tastes fabulous with some cool and sweet coconut yoghurt.

 

 

Masala paneer, roasted red pepper and spinach wraps

21 Mar

Recipe 5: Masala paneer, roasted red pepper and spinach wraps

I was in London the other day in the wrong shoes.

It was an experience I would have, a few years ago not imagined myself having.   As the wind gave me a totally dishevelled look, my mind felt the same for a while because I was in a meeting within a pub around the corner from the Bank of England, where I worked many years ago, except the meeting was not financial, pricing or lecturing related. My water tasted faintly of beer, the table looked outwards. People in shiny shoes hurried past me, lots of purple shoes. They were not purple/maroon when I was working around there. Workmen told me they did not know where number 21 was even though they were standing two doors away and I could not find any macaroons.

I left my meeting feeling hungry and the air had left me.  I combed through the local eateries for a vegetarian sandwich, a humble request. Dry falafel wraps, stinky red onion humus and thick slabs of cheese with chunky pickle. I get frustrated without food but I just did not fancy any of those ‘options’. I was turning into the angry hungry girl I was when I worked in the corporate offices where the restaurants offered burritos, salad, jacket potato and something else that I did not fancy in the restaurant at work.  This is why I make my own.

The folk from Savera paneer sent me some paneer recently and I made lots of wraps for,’lunch on the go’. I found the paneer moist, spongy and a great sponge for flavours.  Some packaged paneer can feel rubbery but this one was closer to the homemade stuff. I recommend eating these wraps when the paneer hot, so if you can keep the paneer hot and heat it up in the microwave when you are ready to eat, all the better. The spicy and succulent paneer contrasts well sweet red roasted peppers and crisp, raw spinach.  As far as vegetarian fast food goes, this is immensely tasty and makes for a quick and easy meal.

 

Ingredients to make 8 wraps/ to serve 4-6
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

Two large red peppers
One medium red onion, finely diced
100g chopped, tinned tomatoes
2 tbsp. cooking oil
½ tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. cumin seeds
4-5 curry leaves
Salt to taste
1-2 green chillies, finely chopped
1 tsp. coriander powder
¾ tsp. garam masala
¾ tsp. paprika
1 tbsp. lemon juice
275g grated paneer
100g baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
8 plain flour tortilla
Cooks tip; remove any excess liquid from the paneer before marinating it by wrapping it in kitchen paper and letting it rest for 15-20 minutes.
Method
1. Roast the peppers by placing them in the oven at 180 degrees until they start to blister and brown. It should take 30-40 minutes depending on your oven. When the peppers have cooled to handling temperature, put them into a food bag and let the skin slip off. Cut each pepper into 8, thick slices.
2. To make the paneer filling heat the cooking oil in a non-stick pan and then add the cumin seeds, turmeric, curry leaves and chillies and allow the cumin seeds to sizzle before introducing the onion.
3. Add salt to the onion and sauté until the onion has softened before stirring in the paneer, paprika, garam masala, and coriander powder and lemon juice.
4. Now add the chopped, tinned tomatoes and cook the paneer for 7-8 minutes before turning off the heat.
5. Heat the tortilla wraps per the packet instructions and then places a generous handful of spinach leaves in the centre. Next add a couple of thick slices of roasted red pepper and two dessert spoons of paneer. Fold the tortilla into a wrap.

This is a sponsored post. Any views expressed are my own.

Pav bhajhi of vegetarian mince, fresh vegetables and home ground masala

20 Mar

 

Pav Bhajhi of vegetarian mince, fresh vegetables and home ground masala

I can be a messy eater and an accomplished one too. If you follow me on twitter, you will know there was much discussion about me packing away something over 30 pani puri’s, with the juices trickling down my hands and resting on my wrists and puffed rice escaping from my lips. I make no secrets about my gratification upon sucking up tomato-drenched spaghetti or the glee associated with scooping Khichdi up with spring onions and taking sloppy, chin-decorating gobfuls. I certainly will not eat my buttery paratha with a knife and fork and prefer to eat my curry and rice with my fingers. When I go to a pizzeria, I start off delicately eating the inner part of my pizza with a knife and fork but as the juicy vegetables fall away, I often resort to just picking it up and simply relishing it despite what anyone thinks. At our favourite Chinese restaurant, my fingers dip into the fillings for my pancakes almost as soon as they land on the table. My husband uses the tongs.

The husband arrived home after another international business trip and whist he received his warm welcome from my boy, including ‘where’s my aeroplane and my car from OS-tray-lee-ar, where is it daddy?’ daddy was bribed with, ‘there’s pav bhaji in the kitchen for you daddy, your favourite, its delicious where’s my aeroplane, where is it’.

I had been listening to people talk of keema (mince meat) pav (bread, like baps) this week and decided to make the popular, vegetarian Indian street food of spiced vegetables like potatoes, peas, cauliflower and aubergines lightly mashed and eaten on bread buns. It’s a popular and powerfully spiced dish that is available in Indian shaks as well as restaurants. It is best a generous dollop butter and without concerns of being dainty when eating it, I have licked my fingers many times today. Anyway, so I thought, what the heck…let’s combine vegetarian mince with pav bhaji. And what do you know…it works. I highly recommend it and so does my boy who is very hard to please. If you follow my posts you will know how hard I find it to feed my boy, so seeing him willingly eat this dish which includes vegetables and protein and some carbs had been so fulfilling.

pau bhajhi 1a

I have made my own masala mix for this aromatic dish with a kick, but you could buy shop bought pav bhaji masala. I have to say that this is one of my best mixes yet so I would encourage you to take a few minutes out to make it.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

Half a head of cauliflower, cut into florets

200ml water

One medium aubergine, cut into cubes

100g frozen peas, thawed

3 medium sized potatoes cut into large cubes

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

A 5cm piece of ginger, minced

3 tbsp. vegetable oil or butter

One large onion, diced

Salt to taste

½ tsp. ground turmeric

½ can of chopped tomatoes

A squeeze of lemon

240g vegetarian mince, like Quorn

For the masala

1 tbsp. amchur powder (dried mango powder)

¾ tbsp. fennel seeds

2 tbsp. cumin seeds

The seeds of 4 cardamom pods

2 tbsp. peppercorns

1 stick of cinnamon

6 cloves

2 star anise

1 tbsp. coriander seeds

2-3 tsp. dried chilli flakes

1 tsp. chaat masala

A handful of coriander to garnish

Method

  1. On a hot non-stick pan heat the whole spices for a minute but don’t let them brown. Add the amnchur powder to release the aroma and then turn off the heat after a few seconds.
  2. Grind the spices together and then add the chaat masala.
  3. Boil the potatoes and aubergines for 5-7 minutes and then add the cauliflower and boil for a further 7 minutes before draining the water and lightly mashing it so that there are some whole pieces and some mash.
  4. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and then add the turmeric, onion, salt and sauté until the onions start to soften before mixing in the garlic and ginger. Sauté for a further minute then add the pav bhajhi masala and cook for under a minute but down let the spices brown or burn otherwise they will become bitter.
  5. Add the mince and then the water and tomatoes and simmer on a medium flame for 8minutes before adding the vegetables and cooking for a further 5 minutes on a low flame, so that the spices infuse.
  6. Serve on hot, toasted and buttered bread buns with a sprinkling of onions and coriander.

 

 

Roasted tomato, basil and paneer curry

18 Mar

 Roasted tomato, basil and paneer curry

The natural rhythm

There’s this park that has become a piece of my history. I can’t say that it’s anything spectacular, unusual or impressive and neither do I harbour much residual excitement for it or even love. But it’s there. Not here.

As a child it was the making of a special day out. The reason to gather cousins and friends, balls and bats and eat ice cream and thepla (spicy fenugreek chapatti because no picnic was ever complete without them). It was a reason to run fast and free, get wet and exhausted. The park felt enormous, an oasis in a city beating with samosa and cheese. It was a proper day out, from pet’s corner, café, boat riding to walking along the oriental bridge.

As teenagers my best friend and I, whom I met when we were just four, would take walks of distraction through the park. It felt much smaller now, as we walked fast to burn off those empty calories we had consumed during exam preparation with the drizzle on our faces. We would laugh and crack ridiculous jokes to ease the pressures and discharge the studious tones of the day. We would normally end up in the café, which looked like it had frozen in time a few decades ago. The counter revealed tray bakes with hundreds and thousands on them and sloppy icing. We giggled.

In our late teens my friends and I bonded on the bench that overlooked the boating lake. We had a hidden spot, or so we thought. I had overheard my mum and her friends talk about one of their colleagues who had an affair with a bloke and they would secretly meet on the same bench.

So we talked and shared. The more we shared the closer we felt and this was important at that age. Aspirations, family life, crushes, university, where we would like to live. Possibilities, opportunities, prospects and potentials; it was all open and we chattered about all the reactions surrounding this openness. Except now we weren’t beaming when squirrels came to greet us because we were busy scowling at glaring teenage boys and eventually we stopped frequenting that spot when we saw enormous rats scuffle along the trees behind the bench. Had they always been there?

In our early twenties, my now husband and I would find space in the park. Space to hold hands, to talk or to have it out about our frustrations. I had graduated but was in a London-Leicester limbo and he was working and missing me. We didn’t have a home of our own and when everyone else’s talking or eyes descended, we averted by walking in the park.

We took my boy and my niece to the park the other day when I was visiting the family. I could see the factories beyond the walls and hear the busses and cars swooshing past. My boy wanted to run free and fast.  The kiddies held hands as we showed them the ducks and the bridge looked small. The café wasn’t heaving with squeals or smiles but still sold sloppy looking tray bakes and chips with cheese on them. The faces were unfamiliar and there were fewer flowers. The rabbits were sleepy and fat. Had my rhythm changed, or is the past just the past.

It was good to be home. The house looked cleaner than I remembered leaving it and I wanted something to revive me from the fatigue and sleepy memories. Tomatoes are more intense and deep coloured when roasted, with more sweetness and that’s what got me started. There is no pairing like tomatoes and basil and a curry cajoles me into my natural rhythm, always. It was meant to be. This curry is unusual, but you know it will work, don’t you.

Roasted tomato, basil and paneer curry

Ingredients to serve 3-4ss

250g paneer cut into 2cm cubes

6 deep red tomatoes

4 cloves of garlic

2 cardamom pods

1 tsp. cumin seeds

¼ tsp. mustard seeds

2 cloves

1 small stick of cinnamon

200ml water

75g basil, very finely chopped (I used a food processor)

1 tsp. paprika

¾ tsp. paprika

Salt to taste

4 spring onions, trimmed and chopped

2 green chillies, slit and halved

½ tsp. turmeric

2 tbsp. oil for the curry and 1 tbsp. for shallow frying the paneer

Method

  1. Cut the tomatoes and in half and drizzle them with oil. Sit them on some baking paper with the cut side upwards and roast them in the oven at 150degrees until they look lightly brown and intense. Whilst the tomatoes are roasting, mid-way add 4 cloves of garlic in their shell and let them roast too.
  2. Heat a non-stick pan and add 1 tbsp. oil to shallow fry the paneer until it is lightly golden. Remove onto some kitchen paper and drain off the excess oil.
  3. Once the tomatoes and garlic are roasted, lightly blitz them together so that you have a chunky sauce.
  4. Heat 2 tbsp. in the non-stick pan add the cumin seeds, turmeric, chillies, cardamom pods, cloves and cinnamon and allow the seeds to sizzle before stirring in the onions and salt. Sauté for a couple of minutes.
  5. Pour in the tomato and garlic sauce and bring the mixture to a simmer before sprinkling in the paprika and garam masala and then the paneer with water.
  6. Simmer for 7-8 minutes before mixing in the basil and then simmer for a further two minutes.
  7. Serve hot with chapatti or rice.

Asparagus, radish & wakame in a lemongrass and chilli broth

14 Mar

Asparagus, radish & wakame in a lemongrass and chilli broth

 

After additional, nuisance bout of food poisoning or something gruesome of that nature it has been a week of gentle eating. It could have been the colossal over indulgence; there was the vomit-precluding list of sev puri Chaat, pakora, sandwiches, cheese, coco-choc ice cream, paprika chocolate…well, you get the picture.

Anyway, the result was a day in bed with very, very frequent visits from a 2 year old that chanted, ‘I want mumma, I want mumma’. I tell myself that maybe my body needed this rest; perhaps my body is not cut out for vast and enormous amounts of food or bacteria in sarnies. Whatever the course, a fast followed and then some actual nourishing food.

This recipe is truly refreshing and soothing; it even made my hair feel cleaner. It’s like the welcome drink in Thailand when you feel hot, sweaty, tired yet excited in a need-to-sleep-first sort of way. All of the ingredients are gentle. Crisp heat from the radish and bite from the asparagus meets silky wakame (seaweed), and they work gloriously well with nutty brown rice. The broth is fragrant, easy and fresh.

The folk at Holy Lama sent me some of their lemongrass spice drops recently. It is potent. Really potent. I used just enough to fill the tip of the pipette that comes in the packaging and that was enough. The great thing is that I didn’t have any annoying bits of lemongrass getting stuck between my teeth but all of the flavour. You could of course just use a stalk of lemongrass and get a lovely impact…just make it and enjoy it.

Asparagus, radish & wakame in a lemongrass and chilli broth

Ingredients

200g asparagus cut into 2 inch pieces

200g red radish, sliced

2 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp. sesame oil

3-4 spring onions, cut into bite sized pieces

3 tbsp. wakame

One litre of vegetable stock

Red chilli flakes to taste

One tiny drop of lemongrass spice drops or one lemongrass stalk slit open

1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

125g brown rice

Method

  1. Cook the brown rice per the packet instruction and leave it to a side
  2. Soak the wakame in water and leave it to a side.
  3. Heat the oil in a deep pan and when it is hot add the onion, garlic, asparagus and radish and sauté for two minutes before adding in the vegetable stock, lemongrass, chilli flakes and rice wine vinegar.
  4. Bring the broth to a simmer and add the brown rice, wakame and cook for a further 5 minutes before serving hot.

 

Roasted garlic, spinach and coriander rice with feta and cashews

13 Mar

It is the season of escapism

I have always relished having, ‘hiding places’, especially in the warmer weather.

Roasted garlic, spinach and coriander rice with feta and cashews

 

As a child I would wander up and down the garden path, at the back of the garden and which was tucked away by arches of oversize rose bushes bearing pink, white and yellow roses.  Along the path grew spring onions on one side and strawberries on the other. There was other stuff, but I that’s what I remember. I would shuffle past the ivy on the back wall and pleat myself between long strands of grass, blackberries and more grass so that I stand on a discarded on a discarded flower pot and swing around on it, with my thoughts for company.

As a teenager I was part of a cosily demonstrative and animated crowd of friends.  We were together always, sometimes creating and sharing belly-laughs, occasionally sharing dramatic tears and sentiments with declarations of love. Vivacious, ambitious, boisterous and revelling in it… most of the time. Sometimes I would take a walk past the university which was down the road, through to the small, immaculately kept yet unfrequented park and just sit. My mind echoed with the shrill laughter, the ‘baaabe’ coos and the multiple hugs. My eyes rested on the wafting flowers in their tidy beds or over to elderly couples, sitting peacefully and easily in each other’s company.

I really loved the offices where I worked for almost a decade. I felt proud of the six buildings that stood tall in a semi-circle splendidly. We even had a few flags in the front near the fountains and I would always listen to the echo of my little feet as I would enter the light-flushed reception with the subliminal brand-tune playing in the background. High ceilings revealed the three floors and their balconies where important and discreet conversations happened. I would pick up my porridge from the restaurant, a green tea from the Starbucks and prepare for the deluge. When it got too much and I needed to breathe in order to later demonstrate professional calm, I would grab my phone and speed along on my heels past the smokers, through the car-park and over to the far side of the building where there was a quiet fountain. It was in a very pointless position.

Happy spring my friends. The grass will smell nicer, the flowers bloom and I hope that your smiles will too.

Roasted garlic, spinach and coriander rice with feta and cashews

On the subject of green, meet my rice. It’s bright with spinach and coriander and sweet with roasted garlic. Roasted garlic and salt are perfect together and the feta hits the spot perfectly. I served this rice with a roasted pepper and tomato chutney and some corn flour tortilla. It was utterly fabulous.

green rice 3

 

Ingredients

200g basmati rice

2 tbsp. cooking oil

150g spinach leaves, washed

100g coriander, washed and coarsely chopped

One bulb of garlic

One onion, half sliced and the other half diced

100g feta cheese, cut into bite sized cubes

A handful of cashew nuts

¾ tsp. fennel seeds

One lemon, half for the juice and half for slices

Method

  1. Rest the bulb of garlic, in all its skin and layers, on a sheet of baking paper. Remove the head off the garlic to expose the bubs and then drizzle the garlic with a splash of oil and some salt and roast it in the oven at 200 degrees until for approximately 30minutes.
  2. Boil the rice for approximately 8 minutes before draining and cooling it.
  3. In a food processor (you could finely chop by hand), blitz the spinach and coriander until it is finely chopped.
  4. Heat the oil on a non-stick pan and then add the fennel seeds and onion with some salt. Remember that the feta cheese is salty, so go easy. Sauté the onions enough to lightly brown them
  5. Mix in the spinach and coriander and sauté gently for a minute before adding the garlic.  You simply squeeze the base of the bulb and they will pop out. Add half the head of garlic and lightly mash them in. don’t worry about the lumps. Taste the rice, if it feels garlicky enough then stop, if not add more.
  6. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, sprinkle in the cashew nuts and mix well before turning the heat off.
  7. Mix in the rice, gently folding the green mixture through, cover and cook for a couple of minutes on a very low flame.

Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

11 Mar

 Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

Her grass is so much more luscious

I’ve learned, over time and with some stumbling, to count my blessings more deliberately, more appreciatively, knowingly and openly.  When anyone tells me how lucky I am in a discussion that ultimately leads to my being lead to sympathise with their heroism in coping with the comparatively (and self-declared) unlucky (rather than of course apathetic) position that they are in, I say ‘thank you’.

This week, I have been told that I am ‘lucky’ that I have just one child and not a crowd of three. One, mother-infatuated child is a doddle apparently, even though my husband is off on his fourth international trip this year and my family is a couple of hours away. I say, thank you because I am blessed to be a mother.

The next thing I am ‘lucky’ for this week is opportunity to work with a new food brand who sought out my freelance support to reinvigorate their brand by creating some youthful and energising recipes for them. I nodded at my banker friend, who brings home a guaranteed, fixed income each month on a permanent contract. She tells me how she toils over each accomplishment in her career. I wondered whether to send her a cheeky ‘hello’ text message at 1.30am when I was wearily churning inspiration into submission. Instead I say thank you, because I am grateful that a new brand understood and appreciated my style of cooking, had faith in me to deliver something exciting and innovative for them and that that I feel fulfilled.

Also, I was made aware of how ‘lucky’ I am to be in a position where I have career options. I think this is the one that set of expletives in my head. Options. It has taken me three years of loosening my grip on that rope which bound me and the world of security and sort-of-positive-affirmation of capability through my ascent into corporate middle-management, then nursing my wounds of confusion and lack of direction and eventually finding my real inclinations and talents and then turning them into some sort of purposeful and meaningful reality. Instead I said thank you, for if it weren’t for this slogging and striving, I would not have the hope that I do today.

Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

On the subject of green grass and positive notes, my broccoli soup with gram flour and courgette dumplings has been a total joy to eat. It’s very lean because the dumplings contain no oil whatsoever and the green; well that’s just a healthy colour isn’t it. It’s mellow, kind, lightly sweet. It’s juicy and the dumplings are dense and spongy with the courgettes keeping the dumplings moist. This is again a very easy recipe to whip up. We ate it with some fresh apple and spice bread. Now if I hadn’t finished off with a cheeky lemon curd biscuit, I would have been very ‘lucky’ to have cooked and eaten a gratifying bowl of goodness.

Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

Ingredients

300g broccoli florets

One large onion, coarsely sliced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1200ml vegetable stock

1 tsp. chilli flakes

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tbsp. cooking oil

For the dumplings

225g grated courgette

¾ tsp. caraway seeds

125g gram flour

Salt to taste

½ tsp. chilli powder

1 tsp. coriander powder

¼ tsp. ground turmeric

Method

  1. To make the soup, heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle before stirring in the onion. Sauté the onions until they soften lightly before introducing the onion and sauté until the  onion has softened down and caught light colour.
  2. Mix in the broccoli and then the vegetable stock. Bring the soup to a simmer before sprinkling in the chilli flakes.
  3. Simmer the soup for 5-6 minutes or until the broccoli is tender before blitzing it smooth.
  4. Whilst the soup is cooking, mix together the grated courgette, caraway seeds, salt, coriander and turmeric and chilli powders before mixing in the gram flour. It should form thick slightly sticky dough.
  5. Whilst the soup is simmering on a medium flame, gently drop in 50p coin sized amounts of the dough into the soup and cook them for 8 minutes or until the dumplings are cooked through.
  6. Serve hot so that the dumplings are moist and tender all the way through.

 

 

Tenderstem tip, roasted red pepper and barley salad with curried mayonnaise

7 Mar

Tenderstem tip, roasted red pepper and barley salad with curried mayonnaise

Fake it and make it

Tenderstem tip, roasted red pepper and barley salad with curried mayonnaise

 

I am not normally an advocate of faking anything. I’m not very good at it either.  I had pretty worthy week this week; Monday was filled with promise and colour, celebration and indulgence. Tuesday pulsed with exhaustion yet productivity. Wednesday was beamed with sunshine, innocence and smiles. Thursday was a right-off. The bubble of promise popped, the forthcoming celebration cancelled.  Someone sent me a message telling me that my writing is ‘raw and honest’. That encouraged me further to say it how it is.

As my I read my emails over and over again, my little one clambered over me whilst tugging onto my hair and strands floated down my pale t-shirt. I had got dressed up for playgroup this morning and I am glad that I did. I rested my forehead on my fingers to try and reason with clarity, but it wasn’t meant to be. My husband sometimes says that my boy doesn’t comprehend that he isn’t a part of me.  If I am thinking of something, my boy will often vocalise it. If I am happy, he frolics around encouraging loud, rapturing laughter from me. If I am sad, he throws himself onto me into a clumsy embrace and repeatedly reassures me with confessions of love. Today, he whimpered, reminding me that I have a choice…well sort of. Get, up and get on with it…or. Or what?

I didn’t want to make dinner today, but we had to eat. If we are going to eat, it has to be a satisfying one, both for the taste buds and the stomach. So here, in all its honesty, is how this recipe happened.

I put the barley on to boil, because I didn’t want to eat rice or pasta. I was on the phone trying to decipher what this potentially useful contact was advising me amidst, ‘mumma where’s the dinosaur train gone, its FINISHED’. So then I over cooked the barley a bit and it grew a bit lavender-ish so I disguised it in soy, chilli, basil and ginger and it tasted good.

I put the peppers onto roast but I forgot about them whilst fervently messaging my friend, ‘It thought it was…but it wasn’t’. They ended up well done, sweet and juicy but not burned. I simply trimmed any damaged ends and discarded them.

I can always be bothered with a dressing. In the same way that I got dressed for playgroup this morning, it makes something special of something understated. It styles uncomplicatedness and when you wash your hair, wear a nice top or put a fried egg or some creamy dressing on your food, life is a little bit better. Ordinarily I don’t use curry powder in a curry. Never ever, not at all, just no. It’s not bad (very good in fact) in a noodle soup or in mayonnaise though.

I made good from not-so-good. I made tasty from lack-lustre. I decided to get up and get on with it and do that same with Friday.

Tenderstem tip, roasted red pepper and barley salad with curried mayonnaise

Ingredients to serve 2-3

100g pearl barley

30g fresh basil, shredded

2 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. minced ginger

1 tbsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. dried chilli flakes

125g Tenderstem broccoli tips

3 red peppers cut into thick strips

7 tbsp. mayonnaise

1 lemon

2 tsp. curry powder

Method

  1. Boil the barley per the packet instructions and when it is cooked, drain it, wash it and leave it to a side.
  2. Roast the peppers in the oven at 180degrees until they blister and start to brown. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool to room temperature.
  3. Boil the Tenderstem tips for 3 minutes.
  4. Heat the sesame oil in a pan and add the minced ginger and sauté for a minute on a light flame. Mix it well with the soy sauce and chilli flakes before combining it with the barley.
  5. Toss in the shredded basil, squeeze in half the lemon and mix it all well.
  6. In a bowl mix the mayonnaise and the other half of the lemon juiced and whip it all together with the curry powder.
  7. When the roasted red peppers have reached room temperature and the broccoli is cooked combine them with the barley and serve with the curried mayonnaise.

Artichoke, butterbean and Halloumi pie in a green pepper, cauliflower and coriander chutney

6 Mar

Artichoke, butterbean and Halloumi pie in a green pepper, cauliflower and coriander chutney

 

Artichoke, butterbean and Halloumi pie in a green pepper, cauliflower and coriander chutney

I’ve indulged quite a lot lately.  There has been a lot of wintery comfort in the way of creamy pasta, warm chocolate and waffles…not forgetting the deep fried mock chicken in Malaysian spices or the sticky rice. Oof.

So when the subject of Pie week came up, I felt a little queasy at the thought of puff pastry giving way to dense fillings in creamy sauces. I found myself silent in the kitchen, looking over at spring shoots in the garden, my annually visiting hyacinths, daffodils and snowdrops desperately wanting to burst through. I love this time of year. I feel a sense of freshness, newness, readiness and the urge to just go out and do things. I want to do fun things, be outdoors and be kinder to my body.

The fabulous thing about a crisp and light filo pie is that it can take on any character you like, cant it? I have created fresh, zesty, juicy, chutney to dress the salty and spongy Halloumi, deep butterbeans and silky artichoke and all in all it’s a bit like a spring salad in a crisp golden wrapping.

I’ve indulged quite a lot lately.  There has been a lot of wintery comfort in the way of creamy pasta, warm chocolate and waffles…not forgetting the deep fried mock chicken in Malaysian spices or the sticky rice. Oof. So when the subject of Pie week came up, I felt a little queasy at the thought of puff pastry giving way to dense fillings in creamy sauces. I found myself silent in the kitchen, looking over at spring shoots in the garden, my annually visiting hyacinths, daffodils and snowdrops desperately wanting to burst through. I love this time of year. I feel a sense of freshness, newness, readiness and the urge to just go out and do things. I want to do fun things, be outdoors and be kinder to my body.  The fabulous thing about a crisp and light filo pie is that it can take on any character you like, cant it? I have created fresh, zesty, juicy, chutney to dress the salty and spongy Halloumi, deep butterbeans and silky artichoke and all in all it’s a bit like a spring salad in a crisp golden wrapping.

The really exciting thing about this salad is the chutney and how well it works with the simple and clean ingredients. It’s bracing, it’s invigorating and it smells great.

The really exciting thing about this salad is the chutney and how well it works with the simple and clean ingredients. It’s bracing, it’s invigorating and it smells great. For the full recipe, head over to great british chefts

 

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