Archive | December, 2014

Roasted cauliflower, fennel and walnut soup

17 Dec

Roasted cauliflower, fennel and walnut soup

I don’t like sweet soups.

But then again I don’t like much sweet stuff in my savoury food and so raisins and apricots appearing in my dinner make me queasy.  It just feels odd to me, when there are gentle and definitely pleasant savoury flavours in a warm and spicy dish, out pops a raisin to ruin it. And this is also why I can’t cope with butternut squash curry.  My tongue is furring up in repulsed resistance as I type. I know, I know, I understand that the balance of sweet and heat works but I can’t make a meal of it. I may enjoy a forkful or two but I cannot make a meal of a sweet food. Years ago, before twitter became as massive as it is, I said something of this tune when flicking through foodie magazines and watching Saturday kitchen in bed. This was obviously back in the day before my boy and when I could work during sociable hours and I was still acquainted with free time. Anyway, I said something like, ‘oh no not another butternut squash curry’ and I have to say, it wasn’t a popular comment.

Roasted cauliflower, fennel and walnut soup by Deena Kakaya

Now that it is just ridiculously cold I am getting cosy with soup again, and this one is my current favourite. Roasted cauliflower is mildly sweet, but not in a sugary sort of way and that, I love. There are also lightly, suggestively sweet onions and delicately aromatic and tenderly sweet garlic and oh, creamy dreamy walnuts. The fennel seeds bestow this soup with generous aroma and lovely warmth. It’s a calming and soothing sort of soup this one, even the colours are neutral and I am finding myself in need of some calm. But you have to make sure that it isn’t lumpy…especially the walnuts.  I used my Optimum 9400 froothie and I got a superbly smooth and creamy result.

My head spins just looking at the queues at the supermarkets these days. I am thinking calm and warm thoughts, of an unquestionably savoury kind.

Ingredients to serve 4

One medium to large head of cauliflower, cut into florets

One large red onion, cut into thick chunks

Rapeseed oil to coat the onion and cauliflower

1 ½ tsp. fennel seeds, toasted and crushed

5 tbsp. walnuts

Whole milk to soak the walnuts in

6 cloves of garlic, lightly smashed

6 cups of vegetable stock

One medium potato, cut into chunks

1 tsp. cumin seeds

A pinch of garam masala

Method

  1. Coat the onion and cauliflower in the rapeseed oil and roast them in the oven, with the garlic at 180degrees until they are lightly golden and releasing their aroma.
  2. Soak the walnuts in the warm milk (enough to cover them)
  3. Heat the butter in a deep pan and add the cumin seeds. Allow the seeds to sizzle and add the potato, coating it in the butter.
  4. Pour in the vegetable stock and simmer for about 8-10 minutes, before introducing the cauliflower, onion, and garlic and garam masala.
  5. Blitz the walnuts smooth (there should be no lumps or chunks) and then add them to the soup.
  6. Simmer the soup for 5 minutes before blending it smooth. Add more water if you need to loosen it up.

 

Moroccan Harira meets vegan cottage pie

11 Dec

Moroccan Harira meets vegan cottage pie

They say that travel broadens the mind, but what does that actually mean?

Moroccan style vegan cottage pie by Deena Kakaya

Does it mean that we learn about other cultures and ways of life, new languages, different cuisines or perhaps unfamiliar landscapes and explore intriguing wildlife or flora? Does it mean that we speak to people that we wouldn’t ordinarily speak with and feel their joys, anguishes and reasons for fatigue? Or does it mean that we push ourselves out of a comfort zone and this in itself grows us?

I suppose it depends on not only where you go, but how you travel. Did lying languidly on a Mauritian beach a few years ago broaden my mind in an educational sense? Listening to an ex-prisoner on Robben Island telling us about the rationally differentiated ration card and cutting sun-reflecting limestone in the sun however, left me wondering how forgiving a person I am?

I spent 9 days in Dubai last week. It was my fourth visit and my husband travels frequently for work. In fact, we went to the same resort as we had visited last year when my boy was just a year old. We had decided many years ago that we would never visit the same destination twice, but many things change when you have children.

Moroccan style vegan cottage pie by Deena Kakaya

Dubai is packed full of ex-pats and a myriad of cultures, plethora of cuisines, a whole haze of languages and my eyes blur with the multiple construction sites. It is hot, it is growing and it is has promise. So, what did I learn during my recent travels?

Well, I had a few moments to think whilst my husband fed my boy falafel and green rice in our favourite Lebanese restaurant within the resort. I had just watched, and admired a belly dancer whilst considering whether her body had been augmented and was now listening to the live singer whilst scooping up the most wonderful garlic and herb hummus with fresh balloon bread. My mind wandered off and that I do learn when I am away is that the jurisdictions of possibility are all in my head. Look at the people around me. I made a point of trying to learn the story of as many people I came across in Dubai as I could. The waiter from India who has doubled his salary by moving, didn’t stop at other’s notions of what is inconceivable, the female taxi driver who had escaped a harmful relationship and gained independence had not put limitations on herself either.  The people who yearned for sunlight and sand between their toes, or even just safety…they didn’t stop moving did they?

So from sipping Harira to wanting healthy comfort food at home, here are those two worlds on a plate. Harira is a fragrant with cinnamon and saffron and kind soup that is deep with lentils and gently spiced. This is an oil free recipe and vegan too. I haven’t even used any cheese because it is not needed with those Moroccan essences. I have used the finest sweet potatoes sent to me by Riverford and some of their massive shiny leeks that enhance the light sweetness of this dish.

for the full recipe head over to great British chefs

Home-made Lychee and cinnamon ice-cream

8 Dec

Home-made Lychee and cinnamon ice-cream

You know that feeling when your head swells a little and eyes lose focus…for an instant when you are neither here or there. I am feeling awkwardly poetic as I write this, but you know how there is just a moment, when a surge overcomes you and a sensation that feels so rousing that it sinks and then very quickly elevates your heart.  That is what happened to me today, when I tasted this ice-cream and I have so say, I am pretty proud.

lychee cinnamon ice cream by Deena Kakaya

Imagine. I knew that it would taste good when I was warming the custard base with the cinnamon going through it; it filled the house with festive Christmas essences but really, I didn’t know it would be quite this good. It was almost midnight when I stood at the ice cream maker with a dessert spoon, turned it off and planned to scoop it into a clean tub. But what happened? I had a little taste and then another, then another and now I can feel the cool lychee in my throat and the cinnamon on my skin and let me tell you…mmmm….

I am quite an ice-cream person so the cold weather out there doesn’t put me off. It did my friends who visited last week but when they tasted the star anise and amoretti number, they polished it off saying it was the best ice-cream they had tasted. I blushed, but you know that I love it. Anyway, it’s Christmas and if you are serving ice-cream on the side of a warm pudding or dessert, maybe a chocolate fondant or brownie, then make it this one.


lychee cinnamon 1

I used my froothie, the optimum 400 to blitz together the lychees and grind the cinnamon (not together) and found that there were no clumps of cinnamon or lychee in my ice cream and this is important because clumps of frozen lychee just don’t work because it is such a wet fruit. It is important to achieve a really smooth lychee pulp and this machine does a mighty fine job. I have also used Tesco’s extra thick double cream because the lychees are pretty wet.

Ingredients to serve 4

300ml double cream (I used extra thick double cream)

300ml whole milk

4 egg yolks

1 ½ tsp. of corn flour

200g sugar

1 ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

250g lychees

Method

  1. Beat the egg yolks, corn flour and sugar until they are smooth and have achieved a pale yellow colour from a deeper, egg-yolk colour.
  2. Warm the milk, cinnamon and cream together until they are just under boiling point, but do not allow them to boil.
  3. Add the milk and cream to the eggs and sugar little by little. Start with a very small amount and gradually build it up, whisking as you go. If you pour too much of the milk and cream in, you could curdle the eggs if they get too hot.
  4. Return the pan to the heat and stir on a gentle flame until the custard has thickened. Check that it is ready by drawing a line on the back of the spatula. If it doesn’t fade out, the custard is ready.
  5. Leave the custard to cool to room temperature and in the meantime, blitz the lychees smooth to a thick juice. There should be no chunks.
  6. Once the custard is at room temperature, mix in the lychees and then refrigerate for about four hours.
  7. Churn the ice cream in your ice cream maker or freeze it overnight. If you are not using an ice cream maker, break up any ice particles with a fork and then refreeze it.

 

Stuffed Brussels sprouts curry

4 Dec

This is my dad’s recipe and it is unconventional in way, but then that’s normal isn’t it.

http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/community/stuffed-brussels-sprouts-curry-recipe by Deena Kakaya

I remember my ‘aunties’ (relatives and family friends and of my mum’s generation, not just actually related aunties) would vociferously express how lucky my mum was because my dad could, and would cook. The words were complimentary, the tone and body language almost mocking and most definitely harsh. In those days, it was just less common for men of my dad’s age to cook and if they did, it was pretty limited to a liberally spiced, hefty chicken dish perhaps because it was an adventure or because the wife was vegetarian.

My dad though, just cooked. He cooked Indo-Chinese food, samosa-mix lasagna, curry-pies and just curries. He cooked adventurous fusion curries and humble dhal and my mum’s favorite okra Kadhi, knowing her cravings without her saying. All the curious recipes came with lashings of passion and a sprinkle of smugness. Even the neighbour bellowed to my scurrying mum as she returned from work, ‘your husband has been cooking for you, you are so lucky’, but she would only lift the lid on the pans when my mum was there.

She is lucky isn’t she, my mum. She has a husband who is a team mate. Though I do think that in those days, the definition of being lucky might have been to swing on a garden hammock in the hot climates that her friends had married within and grown old and fat into, with a maid oiling her hair and another sweeping the floors. Perhaps an afternoon’s nap, as is the norm over there and a few kids running around. The sexism of those days was to see how lucky my smiling and hardworking mum was, but not to see the fact that she was also standing shoulder to shoulder with her husband. Unconventional at the time but now, in hindsight I see that even I was pretty lucky.

This is my dad’s vegetarian (and this is relevant) recipe for stuffed Brussels sprouts curry and it is pretty much one of the very few ways in which I will eat Brussels sprouts. The stuffing is easy to make and the only slightly fiddly bit is stuffing the sprouts but it is pretty quick to do. The little layers of the sprouts soak up the spices from the stuffing and the gravy and the gram flour in the stuffing makes the curry gravy thick and nutty. Just don’t overcook the sprouts and they are gorgeously giving.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs 

http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/community/stuffed-brussels-sprouts-curry-recipe by Deena Kakaya

Artichoke, two potato and peanut curry

2 Dec

The ritual moaning became a means for bonding, even though we didn’t know it. As we dropped into our workstations on the open floor within our head offices, we compared how horrifically tired we were; too stressed, kids woke up at night or of course the wretched international business travel that we really did not want to do.  Then of course there was the travesty that of the car parking availability and all related discussion around where we ended up parking and having to walk from the north pole of the cark park, in the hideous weather; why don’t we just live abroad.

Artichoke, two potato and peanut curry by Deena Kakaya

We moaned about being underpaid, difficult colleagues, grading systems, ineffective governance systems, oppressive hierarchy, pay differentials, emerging stress related acne, the food in the canteen, the queues at the in-house Starbucks, the lack of available meeting rooms, the air conditioning noise and it was always just too darn cold. The ergonomic chairs weren’t ergonomic enough and the team away day was not in the right location but look, the thing is that we had people to complain to, with.

We confided in each other about fertility issues, we held each other’s hands through tumultuous periods with children. We comforted each other when we worried about the deteriorating health of parents and through illness or even just an argument with a loved one. We gave each other understanding around the challenges of inter-cultural marriages and we saw each other grow and evolve, out of divorce and through to new chapters. From parenting lost children to flourishing ones or from fertility challenges to becoming seasoned parents.

And following the grey clouds of ambiguity that I experienced in recent years, my ex-colleagues, my friends came along to my cookery class yesterday. A couple of them came along to show support and encouragement and each time they caught me around them they would say, ‘Deena I just love this, I am so happy for you.’ ‘Deena this is brilliant, well done you’. It is at this point that I realised how much I had missed them all and missed being around wonderful, like-minded and warm people. I feel so grateful that even after these years, they brought not only this wonderful energy back into my heart but also brought plenty of hellos from other friends.

I felt mellow, easy and I smiled. Fitting with this is my gentle, kind and lightly spiced but very fragrant vegetarian curry of artichoke, two potatoes and peanuts.  As you lift the lid on this curry you smell cinnamon, don’t skip the cinnamon on this one. There are no overpowering flavours, it is subtle yet soothing. Creamy but not with cream; the peanuts add sweet thickness because a paste is added in. The artichoke delivers silky texture and the potatoes sweet depth. The sweet potatoes and potatoes are earthy fresh, smelling of fresh air and good living because that is what the team at Riverford always, always deliver to me.

For the full recipe head over to great british chefs

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