Archive | July, 2015

Padron pepper, paneer, carrot & quinoa salad in a teriyaki dressing

30 Jul

Padron pepper, paneer, carrot & quinoa salad in a teriyaki dressing

Padron pepper, paneer, carrot and qunioa salad in a teriyaki dressing by Deena Kakaya

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I stood in the kitchen amongst the pre-dinner pandemonium as we had our toddler boy perched on the worktop reciting a loud hum of, ‘mum..mumma, I want to talk to you, I need to ask you a question…Muuuum’ and quite abruptly, I disarmed all tools, turned down all simmering pots, swiped for some work surface space and exhaled, ‘ I think we should give thanks. Let’s do something to show our gratitude, you know…give back’.

Of course I knew he would say yes, but I explained anyway; he had achieved a recent promotion, our boy was going to ‘that’ nursery school. The one which we used to talk about when I was a new bride of 23 years of age, when we lived in our rented flat in an upmarket area. There was a school uniform shop on the high street and once or twice when we evening-walked past it, my husband softened as he divulged that he has always liked the idea of having a son, and if we should have one he would go to ‘that’ school. So we had received a few blessings. I had even ended my term of lectures on a high with positive and glowing feedback from both institutions I delivered courses at; with students writing in ‘I would love to have Deena as a lecturer again, she goes above and beyond’. I had waited so long for things to be positive again, that I really needed to show gratitude.

The following week, a hole appeared in the path. An uncomfortable hole appeared. This is life. Arrogantly, I had never contemplated a hole of this size and shape would ever be presented in my path, but this is life. Now I will spend some lengthy time and energy in building a bridge and mustering enough will to keep moving forwards. This is something I am not unfamiliar with, but this indeed, is life.

But there is a difference. I now have a few coping skills. I have learned a few ways of calming myself and pushing myself to see beyond the physiological reactions right now. Look, if I strip away that one hole, the other blessings are still there. If I strip away all the blessings that are ‘things’ the promotion, the accolades, the praise the recognition, the work the good stuff… even if we strip all that transient, ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ stuff, there is still enough to be grateful for. In time, the all the meetings the cancellations, the delays and the frustrations…all of it and none of it matter little. Around the dark hole is colour and beauty.

And that of course brings me to this recipe of delicate and mellow Padron peppers, succulent paneer, carrot and that low GI and high iron grain of quinoa. I have probably mentioned that I always have carrots in the fridge that are permanently in the at-risk status (at risk of going limp). But look at the colour they give the salad, and they work so well with spring onions and Padron peppers, which are one of my recent foodie best friends for being so easy, addictive and darn tasty. I have dressed the salad in home-made teriyaki sauce, though dark and bold it made my home smell lovely as it simmered away. All colour in darkness here.

for the full recipe follow this link to Great British Chefs

Quorn rendang curry

26 Jul

Quorn rendang curry by Deena Kakaya

As children, we knowingly grew up with and revelled in some food traditions.  During the week we typically had one ‘green’ curry which was something like okra, cluster beans or spinach for example with a lentil or pulse based dish and of course abundant chapatti and rice with, salad and pickles on the side.   When my aunts visited, we knew dad would go out and buy bright orange and sticky sweet spirals of jalebi, fluffy and lightly sour rice and lentil cakes of dhokla and all the children got bounty chocolate bars at the end. There were potato and cassava dishes for celebratory fasting days and summers full of steaming hot, spiced rice flour dough which puffed aromas of chillies as we lay the poppadum’s made with that very dough onto sheets of unused saris in the garden. On Thursdays we had hot, buttery Khichdi made of simmered down rice and lentils with potato curry, Kadhi and crisp poppadum’s. On Fridays, dad made proper chips after chopping and lightly boiling thick cuts of potatoes and they were accompanied by fried eggs, beans or mushy peas and lashings of vinegar. It was either that or a Chinese take-away or home-made pie but goodness my brother and I loved those Friday meals.

When I started working in London things altered. Every day was a food adventure rejoicing a different cuisine of the world with my friends or colleagues. One of the things I love about London is that pretty much any cuisine I want to explore is accessible. Some of these cuisines became regular features on my home-cooking menu such as Malaysian recipes with their fresh and sprightly flavours of lemongrass, chillies and lime leaves. Over the years I have read about the fusion of cultures that influences Malaysian cooking; Malays, Chinese, Indian and apparently even Portuguese and Dutch and for me this makes it such a testament to the success that fusion food can deliver. I am shameless when it comes to slurping up bowls of fragrant Laksa but the dish that has always made me most curious is rendang curry. I think it is the thick, clinging curry sauce that just makes me swoon for vegetarian alternatives to the traditional heavy meaty-based versions of this recipe. The curry gravy reaches thrilling levels of wonderfulness when simmered for around an hour, making it unsuitable for vegetable based dishes but Quorn works well in that it just becomes tender and soaks up the flavours of the curry base over this time. I have cut back on my intake of sugar so I haven’t added brown sugar, palm sugar or any sweeteners to this recipe but what I have done is add tamarind paste and also powdered some toasted coconut to give a little touch of sweetness.  It has taken me about three attempts to get to a rendang recipe that I am happy with and I have to say, this one is just divine. I have served it with a really easy and colourful carrot salad and steaming hot rice.

for the full recipe, head on over via this link to Great British Chefs

Pea and vegetarian Quorn mince Kofta curry

15 Jul

Pea and vegetarian mince Kofta curry

Sometimes, when my brother visits us, together with my family from Leicester, he makes unexplained (but definitely not mysterious) disappearances. Sometimes they are explicated. None of us feels illuminated. Let me explain;

Pea and Quorn mince Kofta curry by Deena Kakaya

When it comes to lunch or dinner, applying a menu favourably to the fussy audience that is my family is complicated. Each of them declares ‘I’m easy, whatever…’ but this is not factually correct. The children of course require a balanced, nutritious and mild diet and my parents like a more traditional menu these days or something with an x-rating on the chillies factor. But my dad is sick of chapatti every day so the mere indication of them will spin him off into, ‘that’s fine I will have Weetabix or toast for dinner’. What my diabetic dad really wants is something that resembles (or actually is) an obscenely dirty take-away; you know mounds of Chinese food, maybe some massaman curry or some deep fried aubergine Bhajhia.

But of course my husband likes the idea of all that but strokes his jumper down for the 97th time as he says, ‘no I have got to be healthier, I have lost 2kg and need to…’ right. By this time my sister-in-law, who has declined the chocolate cornflakes snack bites in the living room has made another trip to the kitchen corner and come out crunching, so the hunger is stirring. Oh, but where is my brother, how long has he actually been gone? He has of course, gone out in search of protein. It is I a fixation of his. Every meal must be loaded with protein that apparently fuels his work-outs and keeps him satiated for longer and various other reasons I switch off about and if its cabbage curry for dinner with vegetable rice and raitha, he is silently out and munching on chicken because we (which of course means ‘I’) have a no-meat rule in the house.

Pea and Quorn mince Kofta curry by Deena Kakaya

Cue my protein packed recipe. Every time we eat Quorn mince there are remarks from the non-vegetarian people around the table about how convincing it is. I have noticed over the years that it has actually become softer and juicier, less crumbly and they now lend so well to succulent, moist, lightly sweet, spice-soaked and juicy kofta. They hold so well and do not require any egg or potato. Peas are themselves a source of protein as well as the Quorn mince but I chose peas because they keep the kofta moist and add a little sweetness. They look pretty too don’t they? Let me tell you, we had some very happy people and also very quiet people eating these kofta.

 

for the full recipe, head over on this link to great british chefs

Mexican-Indian corn chaat

12 Jul

Mexican-Indian corn chaat

http://www.deenakakaya.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Mexican-indian-corn-chaat.jpg

I was in a waiting room for several hours the other day.

Between moments of exasperated and forced eye contact with staff down the window-less corridor and then stiller and weepily-hungry jiffies of reading ‘The Kite Runner’ I listened to a gentleman whose granddaughter had just graduated from a university in Birmingham and Grandson who had just departed for travels in Australia. His daughters’ tolerantly listened to ‘daddy’ repeating himself. Well, one did whilst the other arranged school pick-ups and take-away dinners. I wondered why they didn’t intervene when their father asked another waiting lady about how many children she had, again. She who had twin 7 year old sons and a four year old daughter had just miscarried and she had gently explained for the third or fourth time that, ‘these things happen’, ‘it’s really common’, ‘I just want to move on’. I wonder if she really was that calm when she heard the older gentleman resaying, ‘was it your first’, ‘oh that’s awful’ and ‘life is so unfair’. Maybe she was thinking the same as me, which is that we are all going to end up where this gentleman was except whether it is a lonely struggle or one accompanied by loved ones remains to be seen.

She tucked her gaze onto the sketch she was making; she is an artist and worked flexibly around her children, describing this harmony as ‘nice’. Across from me a father and daughter nestled into each other. She must have been 11 or 12, long dark and silky hair tied into wafting pony tails but sportily dressed, like her dad. When I was of that age, it would have been less common to see such snuggling in a public area. Things have changed. My husband asked my three year old son what we do in our family, he replied, ‘we just erm, give love’.

On my right a gentleman waited with his family. His wife smiled serenely and his son discussed important subjects around his work and readings. His father listened with eager eyes and encouraging nods, though I did notice him stifle a couple of yawns. His daughter explained how she wanted to gradually transition from her professional job into her own business and her father agreed devotedly. I thought back to my teens when some of my friends were chastised for even hinting at more artistic subjects and felt sorry for parents who could not truly understand, relate or advise their children on many of these education and profession related matters. But they tried, like my parents did.

And so, as an ode to the many colours of life, I share with you a recipe for Mexican-Indian corn chaat. I scoffed an entire (sharing) plate of corn chaat when in Dubai (where it is very easy to be vegetarian) a few months ago as my husband looked on smiling. It was supposed to be a light and easy meal. Sweet corn in chaat is probably not the most traditional chaat recipe but the juicy and cool kernels of corn work well amongst the crispy puffed rice, tangy chutneys and soft potatoes. As I was eating it I couldn’t help think of Mexican corn salad with lots of red onion, corn tortilla and green peppers. And so, the Mexican-Indian corn chaat is born; it has pungent and peppery chaat masala but also smoky Mexican Guajillo chillies. It has green chillies and also a double whammy of crunch from corn tortilla and puffed rice. I have smoothed on some cool whipped yoghurt for the base of the dish too. One serving of this dish is just never enough!

Ingredients to serve 2-4

3 guajillo chillies

3 green chillies, finely chopped

One medium red onion

½ cup mung bean shoots, or you could use chickpeas

2 tbsp. tamarind chutney (shop bought is fine)

5 tsp. chaat masala

125g chopped, fresh tomatoes

4 new potatoes, diced boiled

1 tin of 325g sweet corn

5-6 dessert spoons of plain, natural yoghurt

¾ cup puffed rice with peanuts (readily available in Indian supermarkets as sev mumra)

A couple of handfuls of corn tortilla, lightly crushed

Method

  1. On a dry pan gently roast the peppers until they start to smoke but don’t let them brown. Take them off the heat and immerse them with enough hot water to cover them. Leave them to stand for about 15 minutes before blitzing them to a paste.
  2. In a large bowl, add the drained corn and toss the kernels amongst the guajillo chilli paste and tamaring chutney.
  3. Now add the potatoes, onions, green chillies, tomatoes, mung bean shoots and then toss all the ingredients. Sprinkle in the chaat masala.
  4. Prepare each plate by layering the yoghurt on the base of the plate.
  5. Before serving, add the puffed rice with peanuts and corn tortilla to the bowl of ingredients. If you add them too early they will soften.

 

 

 

Roasted cauliflower manchurian

5 Jul

These days when I fleetingly look in the mirror, consciously or not I look out for very different signs as compared to a few years ago. I’m not so much checking for neat eyebrows, tidy make up or how large my eyes appear (yes that indeed used to be a consideration a lifetime ago), but the checklist is wearily composed of; do I look tired, how many grey hairs are peeping through, do I spot any facial hairs and mostly…do I look healthy?

roasted cauli manchurian by Deena Kakaya

 

Pre-child I had promised myself that I wouldn’t let myself go. As I geared up for motherhood my husband heard reaffirmations from me a million times or more that I would continue to shop at my favourite boutiques, wear make-up, go to the gym and still have time for a facemask. It wasn’t until in recent months, when well intending friends pointed out how lovely it was to see the ‘old me’ back that it dawned on me, that I had faded quite a lot…into dark holes of formless, halfway-house and never-ending leggings. I have thrown them all away now, the leggings I mean.

It was going pretty well, I was eating more fruit and I felt light and springy as did my hair. Since then there has been a bit of dip in the bounce partly due to a fatigue induced ravenous appetite. My appetite has been as relentless as my schedule of work and toddler and I caught a flash of self-assessment whilst shopping today. Along with more sleep, it is time to behave well again on the food front but I can’t entertain the thought of any of these juice diets or carb-cycling thingies. I am a temperamental when hungry and I cannot and will not eat beans on toasts and when my husband suggests cereal for dinner after a long night and train journey home at 10pm, I just cannot. Eating cereal for dinner would be just hitting rock bottom.

I am satiated with bold colours and spice, deep texture and might. I crave vegetarian fast food. I tell myself that I must eat healthy recipes, whilst I am gratified by aromas that invite my fingers into the food and draw moisture to my mouth. And this vegetarian recipe for roasted cauliflower Manchurian (or Gobi Manchurian) cuts it. It’s a take on a popular indo-Chinese recipe, but I haven’t fried the cauliflower. It still hits the spot.

Ingredients to serve 2-3

A medium head of cauliflower cut into large florets

1 ½ tbsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. minced ginger

1 tsp. minced garlic

A generous pinch of Chinese 5 spice powder

6 tsp. of corn flour

For the sauce

2 tbsp. tomato ketchup

1 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. siracha sauce

1 tbsp. agave nectar

1 tbsp. freshly chopped coriander

3 spring onions, finely chopped

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Coat the washed cauliflower with the Chinese 5 spice powder, garlic and ginger paste, soy sauce and then finally the corn flour.
  3. Place each of the florets in the oven and roast them until they are crisp and lightly browned. This should take 45 minutes.
  4. Once cooked, remove the cauliflower florets and place them in a large bowl. Combine the cauliflower florets with the sauce and toss them until they are evenly coated.
  5. Serve the cauliflower Manchurian hot. I served with wholemeal tortilla and beansprouts, as a wrap.
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