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Christmas leftovers of roast potatoes? Meet bubble and squeak’s sexy, Indian-spiced cousin.

26 Dec

Left over roast spuds? Meet bubble and squeak's sexy, Indian-spiced cousin.

Left over roast spuds? Meet bubble and squeak's sexy, Indian-spiced cousin.I love Christmas. I do wonder why people reserve the Christmas feeling for Christmas just for Christmas though. Arguably, there should be a special feel to the day.

I love that during Christmas, people are nice to each other. Even strangers smile and greet each other. Friends and relatives call each other and better still, see each other. Phones are put away, iPads go down and we play with children and talk to people instead. We eat well, laugh and watch movies that emphasise the true meaning of life; love, family, being well. Everyone seems happier in the run-up to Christmas; more excited. It’s fun to decorate with tinsel and planning trips to see Santa. It’s just lovely to sip hot drinks in the cold weather at a Christmas market. Board games, silly jumpers, cuddles and gifts. Why can’t it be like this every day?

I don’t really make New Year resolutions. I’m not suggesting that they aren’t a good idea, I just don’t. What I do try and resolve to, almost daily, is to hang onto ‘that’ feeling. The feeling of being good, feeling good and giving good..and I’m not just talking about the food.

This year I used marabel spuds for my Xmas table and they were mighty fine spuds! They are naturally a bit sweet and very fluffy. I roasted them with salt and smoked garlic and a few glugs of rapeseed oil. The only trouble is, I did way too many. I tend to have leftovers after Xmas but can’t cope with a repeat episode of the Xmas meal itself, so here’s a recipe for a fabulous facelift for the leftovers.

My recipe is a quick, aromatic and light mix of pasta, roast potatoes, savoy cabbage (you could use brussels sprouts ) and tomatoes. When you add indian spices to your veg, automatically, it becomes a tarted up version. I’ve used coconut oil to temper the cabbage and very light and mild spicing. I’ve used juicy plum tomatoes to freshen the dish up too. Try it, it feels light and fragrant…a welcome change after heavy and indulgent eating.

Ingredients

1/2 head of Savoy cabbage, shredded into ribbons
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
Juice of half lemon
1/2 tsp turmeric seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
Salt to taste
The equivalent of 3 medium potatoes worth of potatoes
2 handfuls of plum tomatoes, halved
250g pasta
4-5 curry leaves

Method
1. Boil the pasta per packet instructions and heat the oven to heat and crisp the potatoes up again.
2. In a deep pan heat the coconut oil and then add the turmeric, curry leaves, cumin and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds sizzle and pop add the the cabbage and stir fry with salt, lemon juice and chilli powder for 7-8minutes on a medium flame, or until the cabbage is cooked enough to bite through easily.
3. When the pasta is cooked, wash and drain it. Mix it with the cabbage and potatoes before introducing the chopped tomatoes. And tossing it all together.

Serve the dish immediately, whilst still hot.

My pasta Rotolo of masala Aubergine, spiced spinach and feta

23 Dec
Rotolo of masala Aubergine, spiced spinach and feta

Rotolo of masala Aubergine, spiced spinach and feta

Often my mind races through evaluation and check list mode; what of that email I was supposed to send…the music isn’t right is it, did I buy kitchen foil? Why did that person say/do that, am I looking too much into it? Do I need to make a doctors appointment, what was that recipe submission date? Will I get that contract and when will I get a chance to paint my nails? What shall I make for dinner and what should I charge as daily rate?

But then a little head lands in my lap, ‘happy birthday mumma’. It’s not my birthday, but I know he means that he loves me. I run my hand through his hair, cup his face and tell him that I love him. ‘Thank you mumma, you’re welcome, I love you’.

As we race matchstick cars down the track and talk about dinosaurs, planets and animals I reflect on how blessed I am and that with each day that passes, it is one less from his childhood. That’s why it’s so important to be ‘here and now’. In the present, in the moment and cherishing it all. Of course there are practicalities like working, bathing, eating, cooking etc, but you know what I mean. This is also why, at Christmas time when we have family and friends visiting us over a couple of weeks and I do much of the cooking, I don’t want to make elaborate, fiddly dishes that take hours to cooks and ages to clean up after. I want something that shows effort, looks like a feast and above, is utterly delicious.

We’ve all had those excruciating moments during entertaining loved ones, were the as the host we end up in the kitchen tossing, baking, simmering and assembling. We hear laughter and cheer in the living or dining room and wish we could be part of it. Why not prepare a dish you can stick some cling film ver and pop in the oven whilst you sit down and smile with the group, clutching a cup of something hot and sweet?

Cue my pasta rotolo; how does it look? Good eh? Let me tell you…it tastes like a spicy, tangy, slippery, crispy, cheesy and smooth gorgeous little nest. Just look at it, it’s quite impressive isn’t it? And guess what, it’s so easy to do! Here’s how.

Ingredients

2 medium aubergines
350g frozen spinach
150g feta cheese
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp chilli flakes
Salt to taste
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4-5shallots
5 tbsp oil for cooking
1 tsp cumin seeds
1.5. tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
A generous pinch of pepper
3 fresh lasagne sheets
Vegetarian hard cheese or mature cheddar for sprinkling on top

Method
1. Wash the aubergines, coat them in oil and roast them in the oven at 180degrees for 30mins or until they are soft on the inside and shrivelled on the outside. Let them cool and scoop out the insides. Mash them lightly on a plate until they are pulpy.image
2. To make the aubergine masala, heat 2tbsp oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds and once they sizzle add the onions and some salt. I added 3/4 tsp. cook the onions until they are golden before adding half the minced garlic. Sauté until the onions are lightly browned before adding the cumin powder, turmeric, 3/4 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp paprika. Sauté for 30 seconds and then add the aubergine masala and mix throughly. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool.image
2. To make the tomato sauce, heat 2 tbsp oil and then add the remaining garlic, paprika, chilli and salt (I added 1 tsp) and then sauté for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and bring it to simmer. Add a pinch of sugar if your tomatoes are sour.
3. To make the spices spinach, heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds, fennel and allow the mustard to pop. Add the spinach, salt, pepper and 3/4 tsp of garam masala. Cook for4-5 minutes, check that there are no frozen bits and turn it off the heat. Simmer for about 8-10 minutes on a medium flame.image
4. Heat the oven at 180 degrees and then start on the rotolo. Take one lasagne sheet and spread it with one third of the aubergine masala. then spread the spinach on top (a third) and crumble on some feta. Roll it up, then cut it in half, then half again.image
5. In a deep dish, spread the tomato sauce. Then, gentle place the rotolo pieces inside the sauce before sprinkling the cheese on top. Bake in the oven for 30mins or until golden brown.

18 Vegetarian recipes for Christmas, from me to you

21 Dec

Merry Christmas everyone. I wish you all smiles, peace and a heart full of love. I wish you all days where you wake up, looking forward to the day and I wish you nights where you will fall asleep smiling. I wish you all good, light and kind thoughts, you know the sort that shape your day to be just happy. I wish you joy without conditions and good health of the mind and body.

For the last three years, each New Year’s Eve, my husband and I watch the fireworks at midnight and he tells me, ‘this year will be your year’. This year I reminded him asked him if he will say this to me again, for the fourth time. Will he convince me about how this year really will be the one. Have I not had my year because I didn’t make it happen, or have they been mine but I’ve been too ungrateful to count my blessings.  This year, I hope I can release that pressure and just see how blessed I am. My loved ones are all alive and in reasonable shape. I have a beautiful, kind and smart boy now, a home and it’s all going to be…

Lets eat to that shall we? Here is a summary of foods that are special enough for Christmas.

18 Vegetarian recipes for Christmas, from me to you

Personalised Gifts

If you have left it too late to buy Christmas gifts or want I give something with a personal touch, why not try my Home made chilli oil with an Indian accent? It’s made with sesame oil to give a deeper, nuttier taste and smooth texture. It’s a hot oil with the aromas of cumin, fennel, cinnamon, cloves star anise. It’s definitely a special one.

Homemade chilli oil with an Indian accent

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If you prefer a sweeter texture, try my Hot Chilli and sweet lychee dipping sauce? It’s perfumed and sweet with a hot kick at the end. I use I with spring rolls, in sandwiches and even with chips.

 

Homemade sweet lychee and hot chilli dipping sauce

Homemade sweet lychee and hot chilli dipping sauce

Picky Pleasures

In our house we graze the day long..mouthfuls of crunchy or sweet nibbled are thrown into gobs whilst watching cheesy movies or playing board games together. I love these jaggery and spice crusted nuts so much. They ate smooth and crisp as well as sweet and aromatic with the cardamom.

Diwali and Christmas nuts-pecans in a crisp jaggery, cardamom and cinnamon shell

Christmas nuts-pecans in a crisp jaggery, cardamon and cinnamon shell
Christmas nuts-pecans in a crisp jaggery, cardamom and cinnamon shell

If you fancy something with a bit of a kick, try out my plantain chips with cranberries and nuts. Not only does it look pretty and festive, it’s quite moorish!

Christmas food gifts-plantain chips, cashews & dried cranberries in coconut, chilli and cinnamon

Christmas food gifts-plantain chips, cashews & dried cranberries in coconut, chilli and cinnamon
Christmas food gifts-plantain chips, cashews & dried cranberries in coconut, chilli and cinnamon

Sides, starters and party pieces

One of my favourites of this season has to be my smoked garlic, fennel, coconut, cumin and panko coated mushrooms. They taste crisp, exotic and nutty with a juicy and oozy mushroom inside. They’re magic.

Crispy Mushrooms in a smoked garlic, coconut, cumin, fennel and panko- is it Christmas yet?

Crispy Mushrooms in a smoked garlic, coconut, cumin, fennel and panko
Crispy Mushrooms in a smoked garlic, coconut, cumin, fennel and panko- is it Christmas yet?

Everyone loves a good fritter. For me they are the ultimate picky food. Whether they evoke memories of eating paneer pakora in the monsoon rain during holidays to India, or falafels being fried in huge quantities by friendly chefs who rolled them off their hands like balls of cotton wool. Whether they are eaten whilst sat under warm showers with smiles from beloved family, or nibbled whilst perched on a stool in a busy restaurant in Cairo. There is nothing like biting into a steaming hot and crispy shell to show bright green and moist beans tumble into the mouth.

Festive nibbles- broad bean and paneer fritters

Festive nibbles- broad bean and paneer fritters

How about my Trendy Kale, banana and red onion pakora? These pakora have some of that ‘seaweed’ essence and are a bit bitter-sweet in a glorious way because of the banana and onion. These gorgeous and fluffy bites make great party snacks and are best devoured when crispy and hot. I’d suggest serving them with any of these chutneys.

Trendy Kale, banana and red onion pakora

Trendy Kale, banana and red onion pakora

Brussels sprouts, the quintessential Christmas veg. How do mine look? pretty? tempting? These Brussels sprouts are treated tenderly, as they deserve to be but they aren’t your soggy or overcooked sprout. It’s a lively, lightly spiced and full of flavour, juicy sprout.

 

Crispy, Indo-Chinese style purple Brussels sprouts

Crispy, Indo-Chinese style purple Brussels sprouts
Crispy, Indo-Chinese style purple Brussels sprouts

For something lighter, healthier and simple why not try my Christmas coloured nibbles of balsamic, garlic and chilli roasted tomatoes with soybean and red onion dip. It’s red and green…Christmassy…get it? Alright, alright I know. It’s not exactly the whackiest idea for colours but it does look festive and it is fun. The tomatoes take on an intensely deep and sweet flavour when roasted and the garlic really comes through with a kick of chilli at the end. The dip left my husband in sigh’s of ‘mmm’s and he’s polished off the entire bowl of dip! I have to say that this nutty dip is really very good. The handy thing with this recipe is that it’s great warm or cold. I served with warm pitta and some smoked cheese.

Christmas coloured nibbles-balsamic, garlic and chilli roasted tomatoes and soybean and red onion dip

Christmas coloured nibbles-balsamic, garlic and chilli roasted tomatoes and soybean and red onion dip
Christmas coloured nibbles-balsamic, garlic and chilli roasted tomatoes and soybean and red onion dip

I can’t tell you how delighted I am at how popular my recipe for Goats cheese pakora in a spinach, sundried tomato, fennel, cumin and gram flour batter has been! I’m really excited by this one. It’s really quite special. When they are warm, the goats cheese is oozy and juicy and the case is fluffy, flecked with green spinach and sweet sun-dried tomatoes…does it get any better?

 

Christmas starters and sides-Goats cheese pakora in a spinach, sundried tomato, fennel, cumin and gram flour batter

Christmas starters and sides-Goats cheese pakora in a spinach, sundried tomato, fennel, cumin and gram flour batter
Christmas starters and sides-Goats cheese pakora in a spinach, sundried tomato, fennel, cumin and gram flour batter

Chutney makes it taste even better

If you find those veg a bit plain, here are a couple of chutneys to lift them to gorgeousness. My Kerala inspired tomato, pineapple and cucumber chutney has spruced up my sarnies lately and I’ve even had this chutney with roasted veg…just to test it out!

Tangy, sweet, spicy Christmas food gift-tomato, pineapple and cucumber chutney

Tangy, sweet, spicy Christmas food gift-tomato, pineapple and cucumber chutney
Tangy, sweet, spicy Christmas food gift-tomato, pineapple and cucumber chutney

 

From halwa to chutney- Butternut squash, almond and coconut chutney

I was also inspired by fond memories of halwa to make a butternut squash, almond and coconut chutney that is divine with bread and cheese, do try it.

halwa to chutney- Butternut squash, almond and coconut chutney

halwa to chutney- Butternut squash, almond and coconut chutney

 

The main event

It isn’t another nut roast, relax! I have nothing against a good, sumptuous and nutritious nut roast, but we can do better than that! How about my open ravioli filled with a layer of mushroom masala, another layer of saffron and chilli spiced butternut squash and topped with coriander and parsley pesto. For me, this sums up a vegetarian Christmas in three, simple layers.

Vegetarian Christmas recipe – open ravioli filled with a layer of mushroom masala, another layer of saffron and chilli spiced butternut squash and topped with coriander and parsley pesto

Vegetarian Christmas recipe - open ravioli filled with a layer of mushroom masala, another layer of saffron and chilli spiced butternut squash and topped with coriander and parsley pesto
Vegetarian Christmas recipe – open ravioli filled with a layer of mushroom masala, another layer of saffron and chilli spiced butternut squash and topped with coriander and parsley pesto

If you fancy a curry for the big day with a festive feel, try my Malaysian inspired curry of Brussels sprouts, tofu and potatoes. This curry is one of those that warms the tummy and keeps it flickering and teases the taste buds. It’s a glowing bowl of aroma and an utterly balanced dish for the senses. It looks mor complicated than it is…once you’ve made the curry paste, it’s very, very straightforward. What you get is a heat, sweetness and zing. You get the perfumes from star anise, kaffir lime leaves and some wonderful lemongrass. The great thing is that the potatoes, Brussel sprouts and tofu soak up all these juices. The other good thing about a curry for Christmas is that you can make it before your guests arrive and then relax and spend some quality time with them.

Christmas curry? Malaysian inspired curry of Brussels sprouts, tofu and potatoes

Christmas curry? Malaysian inspired curry of Brussels sprouts, tofu and potatoes

Sweet Stuff

I give the traditional apple crumble recipe an exotic and spiced twist. The juices burst through the top of the crumble and are a mix of the fruits and spices; it’s so good that I could drink it. It’s really good, try it.

Apple, Lychee and blackberry (coconut)crumble with rose, cinnamon, cardamon and star anise

Spiced Apple, Lychee and blackberry crumble

Spiced Apple, Lychee and blackberry crumble

The iced cold weather and then warming up with spices and central heating. The colours the charm, the music…and that’s what I have tried to capture in my recipe today. The icy yoghurt has a lightly sour tang, because its yoghurt. It’s sweet with pineapple and sweetener. The chilli adds a perplexing heat and I’ve added a touch of cinnamon, so the fragrance is festively sweet.

A scoop of Christmas – pineapple, cinnamon and red chilli frozen yoghurt

pineapple, cinnamon and red chilli frozen yoghurt

pineapple, cinnamon and red chilli frozen yoghurt

 

Now let’s have a drink

When the party is over, I get thirsty as heck. I want something soothing, fragrant , sweet and cold. I want the gola man from India to come and make me one whilst I have a foot massage (not from the gola man, let’s not get any ideas). I need a good soak in the bath with flowery fragrances. I fancied enacting one of those scenes from period films where the queen bathes in a pool of rose petals and warm water, with people passing her towels and drinks. Alas, I’m no queen but this cool, fruity, floral and fragrant cooler is a spa for the mind.

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

 

Rose, pomegranate and lime cooler

Rose, pomegranate and lime cooler

 

Om shanti Om- pineapple, rose, ginger and cinnamon lassi

Pineapple, rose, cinnamon and ginger lassi

Pineapple, rose, cinnamon and ginger lassi

 

 

 

 

Crispy, Indo-Chinese style purple Brussels sprouts

16 Dec

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Brussels sprouts, the quintessential Christmas veg. How do mine look? pretty? tempting?

I remember talking on a radio station about sprouts and we touched on the subject of the smell; some say that they smell of unpleasant bodily gasses. Some people say they hate the texture. The thing is, Brussels sprouts are delicate and kind little gems. If you overcook them, sadly you’ve lost them to awful smells and squelchy textures. Treat them tenderly , as they deserve and they will bestow silky and generous flavour with each pretty layer upon layer, upon layer…

Now, I know they can be boring if they are just boiled and smeared with butter and we and the Brussels sprouts deserve more than that at Christmas. My recipe for Indo-Chinese style Brussels is simple to throw together and offers a crispy layer that reveals some pretty punchy favours. They don’t consume the sprout like a thick sauce would remember, this more like a little juice that mingles with the sprout. It’s different, it’s fun, it tastes good. Oh and I’ve chosen to use purple Brussels sprouts, because they are pretty. Simple.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

5-6cm stick of galangal, minced
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 green chilies, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
One small red onion, finely diced
Oil for deep frying
2 tbsp of a chilli sauce (I used Natco Malaysian chilli sauce)
10tbsp plain flour
3/4 cup water
5 tbsp corn flour
300g purple Brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed
Salt for the batter
A pinch of ground black pepper

Method
1. Place the Brussels sprouts in one large bowl, then drizzle on the soy sauce and chilli sauce. Add the chilies, onion, minced garlic and ginger and onion. Stir it all well to ensure proper coverage and put it in the fridge for an hour.image
2. Heat the oil for deep frying
3. To make the batter stir the plain and corn flours together well whilst dry and then add the salt and pepper and mix again. Stir in the water for make a thick batter and then check the oil is hot enough by dropping a small amount of the batter into the oil. If it sizzles and rises then the oil is hot enough.
4. Scoop and individual Brussels sprouts into the juices and onion and then quickly dip it into the batter so as not to lose the juices into the batter. Drop it I into the oil and fry until lightly golden.
5. Remove the sprouts onto kitchen paper and serve whilst they are hot and crispy.

This week I would like to link this to Mark of Javelin Warrior’s Cookin’ W/ Luv Made With Love Mondays,

This also been entered into the Four Seasons Food Challenge

fsf-autumn

Four Seasons Food hosted by Delicieux and Eat Your Veg

 

 

Vegetarian Christmas recipe – open ravioli filled with a layer of mushroom masala, another layer of saffron and chilli spiced butternut squash and topped with coriander and parsley pesto

11 Dec

Vegetarian Christmas recipe - open ravioli filled with a layer of mushroom masala, another layer of saffron and chilli spiced butternut squash and topped with coriander and parsley pesto

Vegetarian Christmas recipe – open ravioli filled with a layer of mushroom masala, another layer of saffron and chilli spiced butternut squash and topped with coriander and parsley pesto



I have a fabulous new recipe for nut roast’, my friend told me yesterday. Apparently it is different and definitely not dry.

‘What shall I make for my in-laws’ my neighbour asked. ‘I’m planning a mushroom pie’.

‘Well, I suppose we could all have turkey and the vegetarian can have the vegetables and some vegetarian gravy’. Said one of the ladies emailing me this week.

‘I might just get something vegetarian from Marks and Spencer’s or Waitrose and I’m sure it’ll be lovely’ proposed another.

I’m not mocking the traditional nut roast that is rich and nutritious. It doesn’t have to taste like dehydrated sawdust, honestly it doesn’t. And mushroom pie? Nothing wrong with it. I am sure you know how I feel about mushroom risotto but mushroom pie I can eat…and then I feel a bit icky.

So, here’s a colourful option for Christmas that has a balance of spicy and creamy mushrooms, sweet and spicy butternut squash and a punchy and herby coriander and parsley pesto on top. Lovely slippery pasta, some toasted cashew…it just looks and tastes special and that is what is about at Christmas I reckon.

To serve 4

To make the mushroom masala
250g chestnut mushroom, sliced
125g ricotta cheese
Salt to taste
2 cloves of garlic
One red onion, finely diced
3/4 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp oil

To make the butternut squash filling
1/2 peeled and grated butternut squash
1 tsp chilli flakes
A good pinch of saffron
Salt to taste
1 tbsp cooking oil

To make the pesto
30g coriander, finely chopped
30g pesto
2 tbsp sesame oil
One chilli
Salt to taste

You will also need
A handful of toasted cashew nuts
Extra virgin oil for drizzling
6-8 large, fresh lasagne sheets

Method
1. To make the butternut squash filling, heat the oil in a pan and the add the butternut squash. Sauté for a minute then add the chilli flakes, salt and saffron. Cook until it is soft enough to squash between fingers, but it should not go mushy. It should take approximately 7-8minutes.
2. To make the mushroom masala, heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds. When they sizzle add the red onion, then salt and sauté for a couple of minutes. Stir in the coriander powder and then the mushrooms and garam masala. Sauté for two minutes before adding the ricotta. When the ricotta is bubbling, cook for 3 minutes.
3. To make the pesto, simply combine all the ingredients in a grinder and blitz it together until it is fairly smooth.
4. When you are ready to serve, boil the pasta sheets per packet instructions. Wash and drain the lasagne sheets and then again in hot water.
Cut the sheet in half, then half again so that you have 8squares. Layer each square with 1tbsp. Mushrooms masala, then place another square on top of that. Place 1tbsp. Of butternut squash filling on that layer and place one more layer and top it with a tsp of pesto. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of toasted cashew nuts.

This week I would like to link this to Mark of Javelin Warrior’s Cookin’ W/ Luv Made With Love Mondays,

 

Baked spring rolls filled with paneer, courgette and sweetcorn for children

8 Dec

Baked spring rolls with paneer, courgette and sweetcorn

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We live in a culture where bigger is better and somehow, that has become a popular way of thinking when it comes to babies too. As I sat in a circle with other mums at a baby group with my little one on my lap I listened, ‘mine is only 6 months old but wears 9-12 month clothing’. Her friend quipped, ‘mine is 9 months old and where’s clothes for 18 month olds as she eats loads and she even ate some our pizza and garlic bread last night.’

I felt like I was doing my boy an injustice and I worried for his health. No matter which concoction of vegetables or fruits I offered him, he just would not open his mouth. I sang to him, sat him in the garden and even did messy play with food for him to befriend it. I cut his milk back to trigger off more hunger, but nothing. When he was about 8-9 months old I sought medical advice and you know what they told me? They told me he would probably never be an eater, he would always be smaller than average and that he would just not be interested.

I took a deep breath and hushed the expletives roaring around in my head. How can they doom him to a life of food indifference with such conviction? I calmly and firmly told them that I was a very fussy eater as a child and now I am healthy, food loving food writer.

I have learned a lot along the way to getting my boy interested in food. He now loves yoghurty dhal, dosa and spicy vegetable pasta dishes and of course spinach pizza. Here’s some of the things that helped me;

1. I had an ‘aha’ moment when one of my friends pointed out that my boy was getting lots of lovely flavours of Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Italian food through his milk from what I was eating. So then why would he want a boiled carrot. Introducing flavour and spice in food helps to keep it exciting. kids like flavour too.

2. Eating together as a family means that meal times are a fun and a sociable activity and my boy loves to join in.

3. Variety. In the earl days of weaning I would just give my boy his one bowl of food and if he stopped eating, I thought he was no longer hungry. What I found however is that smaller portions of a variety of items keeps the taste buds and mind stimulated and the tummy ends up fuller. It need not be laborious; I make home-made spiced and unsalted butter and spread it on seeded bread, for example.

4. Eating with other children is fun. I sometimes invite his friends over for pasta and veg with garlic bread. My boy loves to join in with his friends and especially with crunchy, spice and veg filled spring rolls.

5. Taking a picnic or a packed lunch for a day out makes for fun eating. Unravelling goodies whilst sharing special moments as a family is a delight that little ones will share too.

6. Sometimes, he is just not hungry and that’s fine. We don’t always eat three full meals. It’s ok to take the pressure off and leave it until the next meal.

My recipe works really well with my boy and his friends because these spring rolls are crunchy, packed with flavour and they are great hand-held treats for independent eating or eating on the go. Parents love them because they are baked and can be frozen, which is really handy for busy weekdays when you can just whip a few out and put them in the oven

For the full recipes head over to Great British Chef

Apple, Lychee and blackberry (coconut)crumble with rose, cinnamon, cardamon and star anise

6 Dec

Spiced Apple, Lychee and blackberry crumble
I watched the entire 30odd minutes of kangaroo Dundee today. What is wrong with me? I watched a whole programme about a tall and strong looking fellow rescuing and nursing baby kangaroos, becoming their mother

It did get me thinking about comfort though. The primitive need. My boy fell over at playgroup whilst playing away from me and he walked around searching from me in cries that escalated in volume until he found me.

No matter where I am in the world, I always crave okra curry and hot chapatti with yoghurt after a few days. Why does it feel so easy, warm and calm to wake up next to someone you love each day. Remember the feeling of laying your head in your mothers lap and having your hair stroked, or sitting on the lap of your mum or dad in a crowd, the safe place. Maybe the smell of chips is comforting because it was a regular treat, a common feature in the winter take-away suggestions on a Friday or on blustery days by the seaside, laughing with loved ones. Or remember that time when we escaped from arguing relatives, hit the road and ended up at the seaside, in the dark in a bank holiday with nothing to eat, but chips.

Maybe the reason I keep Bollywood serials running in the background is because it feels like someone is there, maybe the sounds are familiar in a way that other shows aren’t or maybe there transport me to times when I actually watched a movie without gadgets for distraction. It’s comforting. Perhaps kadhi is cajoling because its what I’ve always eaten with khichdi when I’ve been sick. Growing up my mum would persuade me to go to the temple with her, she said she got some peace of mind at the temple. I never understood it, until I grew up.

My next recipe offers me comfort. My uncle has become old and frail, but memories of him are younger, still very mature and active. His garden was well tended back in the day. I loved walking along the oaths that were lined with unusual flowers, lots of them. I would head straight for the back of the garden, where a swing hung from an enormous tree. I’d swing and avoid kicking apples. I knew my dad would be carrying them home for apple pie.

Nowadays I give this recipe an exotic and spiced twist. The juices burst through the top of the crumble and make I could drink it. It’s really good, try it.

Ingredients
3 cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped (I used Bramley apples)
150g Blackberries
150g lychees, stoned and halved
120g sugar
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 stick of cinnamon
2 star anise
50ml rose water
A generous knob of butter

For the crumble topping
150g plain flour
100g caster sugar
100g butter
75g dedicated coconut

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180degrees
2. Make the crumble topping first, by combining the sugar and the flour, then rubbing in the butter gently, to make a bread-crumb like texture. Then add the desiccated coconut. When it’s ready, put it in the fridge until the topping is needed.image
3. Turn your attention to the fruit, by heating and melting the butter in a pan and adding the Apples and sugar. Crisp the apples up for 3-4 minutes before stirring in the cinnamon, rose water, cardamom, and star anise. Turn off the heat and add the blackberries and lychees
4. Turn the fruit into an oven-proof dish and spread the crumble topping over the fruit, evenlyimage
Bake the crumble in the oven for approximately 20-25minutes before serving…ideally hot!

Christmas curry? Malaysian inspired curry of Brussels sprouts, tofu and potatoes

2 Dec

Christmas curry? Malaysian inspired curry of Brussels sprouts, tofu and potatoes

On Christmas Day, one of the things I most enjoy eating is a good, crisp, roasted potato that is a fluffy and moist cloud on the inside. The subtle sweetness just takes me away to a land between the chippie of my childhood and a really good gastro pub that makes juicy and delicious vegetable sausages with steaming hot onion gravy.
I think I kind of enjoy the roastie banter too. My dad thinks he makes the best ones though, naturally. He does this funny thing of squashing them just before they are ready.

The sprouts though. Some of us love them (like me) and some won’t even give them a friendly prod at Christmas. As a result, we always have loads of them knocking around in the bottom drawer of the fridge. I love the Brussel sprout with its many layers, pretty like a flower. I love that they are silky, they soak up juices between those layers and I love that they are in season.

This curry is one of those that warms the tummy and keeps it flickering and teases the taste buds. It’s a glowing bowl of aroma and an utterly balanced dish for the senses. It looks mor complicated than it is…once you’ve made the curry paste, it’s very, very straightforward. What you get is a heat, sweetness and zing. You get the perfumes from star anise, kaffir lime leaves and some wonderful lemongrass. The great thing is that the potatoes, Brussel sprouts and tofu soak up all these juices.

It’s a Malaysian inspired dish. There are so many varieties of a Malaysian curry, even the term Laksa refers to plentiful variety. This is my way…give it a go.

Ingredients

One pack of firm tofu, drained and cubed into 3cm chunks
3 tbsp ground nut oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 star anise
1 stick of cinnamon
2 medium potatoes, cut into 3-4cm chunks
200g Brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 can of coconut milk
2-3 kafir lime leaves
300ml water
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
Salt to taste
1 tbsp lime juice

For the paste

5-6 small shallots
2 red chilies
1.5 inch galangal
2 cloves of garlic
2 sticks of lemongrass
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground nut oil

Method

1. Shallow fry the tofu in 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick pan until they are lightly golden. Remove onto kitchen paper.
2. Make a paste by grinding together the ingredients for the paste, it should be smooth.
3. Heat 2tbsp oil in a pan and add the cumin, coriander, star anise cinnamon and lime leaves and heat through for a minute.
4. Stir in the curry paste and on a low flame, cook for 4-5minutes until the oil is absorbed into the paste.
5. Introduce the potatoes, sprouts and tofu and mix gently.
6. Add the coconut milk and water as well as the lime juice.

Serve hot with rice.

He asked for jacket potato and beans-so I gave him black beans, smoked Aubergine, pineapple and feta on a jacket

30 Nov

sJacket potato with black beans, smokey Aubergine, pineapple and feta

I asked my husband what he wanted for dinner the other day and he said jacket potato with cheese and beans. Now, call me a food snob if you like but I don’t like the tomato sauce in the tins of baked beans. I know, I know, lots of people say that with a bit of chilli sauce or pepper they’re great with lovely melting cheese. I’m just not very keen on them and it seems like my little one isn’t either. He will eat black beans or kidney beans in a curry, but he won’t eat baked beans.

But who can blame the man for wanting a steaming hot jacket potato with a crisp and crunchy skin, fluffy clouds of soothing spud on the inside with oozy and juicy fillings? Is there anyone out there that isn’t drooling at the thought?

I know they are convenient and have some nutritional benefits, but no. I just can’t. So, following twitter conversations with Monica Shaw and Nazima Pathan I thought of a very gorgeous, balanced and flavour packed alternative. My jacket spud filling is far from boring or ordinary. It is deep with black beans, smoky with roasted Aubergine and smoked paprika, sweet with pineapple and has a kick of chilli and a tang from rice wine vinegar…lets not forget the Thai basil or salty feta on top. It’s a sigh-worthy comfort meal.

Ingredients to serve 3-4

4 medium baking potatoes
One tin of black beans
3 large tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
3 medium aubergines
150g ripe pineapple
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp minced Thai basil
1.5tbsp rice wine vinegar
1-2 red chillies, minced
2tbsp cooking oil
Feta for crumbling on top
Salt to taste.

Method
1. Wash the potatoes and dry them thoroughly with a cloth. Leave them to dry completely before drizzling them with olive oil and baking them in an oven at 180 degrees for 1.5hours. Ovens vary of course.
2. Wash and dry the aubergines and cover them in oil. Roast them until they shrivel and can be pierced all the way through. It should take 30-40minutes. Remove the Aubergine and leave them to cool. Once cool, remove the skin from the aubergines and mash the pulp to a soother consistency.
3. Skin the tomatoes by immersing them in boiling water until the skins start to split. Wash them in cold water before whipping the skin off. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and leave them to a side.
4. Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic, chilli and paprika and sauté for a minute. Then add the tomatoes, aubergine, pineapple and salt.
5. Stir in the Thai basil, rice wine vinegar and mix it all through. Cook on a low to medium flame for 8-10 minutes.
6. Once the potatoes are cooked, slit them open and top with the bean Michael and crumble feta on top.

For more comfort food recipes, check out my;

Kale, banana and red onion pakora

Asian style sweetcorn soup with chilli, cumin and coriander rice flour dumplings

Easy entertaining portobello mushrooms stuffed with creamy, spiced smoky Aubergine pulp and Beetroot.

My food onesie; ‘samosa filling’ macaroni and cheese

You can follow me on Pinterest and Google+ now

Indo-Chinese vegetable balls on spaghetti in a butternut squash and chilli sauce

29 Nov
Indo-Chinese vegetable balls on spaghetti in a butternut squash and chilli sauce

Indo-Chinese vegetable balls on spaghetti in a butternut squash and chilli sauce

I was at lunch earlier this week with a very lovely lady of mixed, european origin. We were in a pretty decent Italian restaurant and I was craving strong cheese. I met a waiter who kept tilting onto one leg, grinning and telling me that I needed to add meat to my dish, even though told him I am vegetarian.

So this lovely lady and were trying each other on for size; gauging whether our frequencies matched. We were each asking each other obviously leading questions that would reveal thought processes, feelings on certain subjects and general outlook in unspoken agreement of openness. All during lunch. All the while we repeated the line, ‘I’m going to be completely honest’.

We spoke at length about the fusion of her european cultures compared to my own, and her close family of talented cooks, like mine. We spoke about money motivations and the sensible approach of working hard now to make life more comfortable in the future. We touched on how appearance conscious certain professions are and whether can be pull-off being less talented if you are exceptionally good-looking. All familiar topics that everyone has debated.

What happened? My ambitious and warm fellow diner, whose make-up was immaculately done, revealed the same thing that so many women do to me. So many women of my age group, broadly speaking. Her focused and formidable body language softened, her smile more gentle and she rushed, ‘I just want to settle down and have kids’.

‘No time’ was the problem we discussed. No time to stop, go out and have fun. No time to rest, no time for adventures, no time for stuff for the heart. No time.

The thing is, we all have our turnaround moment in life when we do, if we are fortunate enough. Mine was only three years ago, but life teaches us and shows us along the way, if we are open enough to see it. My husbands friends wife was diagnosed with a cancer this week, 42.

So as I was munching through my pasta with courgette fritters on top, I was asked whether I get annoyed by what I eat in restaurants because as a foodie I cook a lot. The answer is no. One of the many things I miss about being near my family is being cooked for. It always feels good to be cooked for. Sometimes, someone else’s cooking just feels refreshing.

On this occasion, I did find the need to tart up the pasta dish. The courgette balls didn’t have much favour and the pasta had been left dry. So in my version I’m using a variant of the popular Manchurian vegetable balls and using them on top of a mellow-sweet and spicy butternut squash sauce with spaghetti. So what happens is that you get these soft and spongy, spicy and salty vegetable balls contrasting with the spaghetti and balancing the whole dish out. You also get some pretty colours. Move over spaghetti and meatballs eh? Try it, let me know what you think

Ingredients to serve 2-3

For the vegetable balls

1/2 cabbage, grated
2 green chilies, chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 carrot, grated
50g green beans, chopped into small bites
1/2 cup plain flour
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 inch stick of ginger, minced
Oil for deep-frying

Ingredients for the butternut squash sauce

One medium-sized butternut squash , peeled and cut into chunks
500ml vegetable stock
1 tsp red chilli flakes
One medium onion, cut into chunks
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt to taste

You’ll need about 150g of spaghetti

Method
1. To make the butternut squash sauce, heat the oil in the pan and then add the onion . Brown the onion lightly before adding the squash and mixing it. Sprinkle in the salt and chilli flakes. Pour in the vegetable stock and simmer until the butternut squash is soft enough to mash.
2. Turn off the heat and use a hand blender or food processor to purée the butternut squash sauce. The consistency should be like a thick soup, rather than paste. Add water if you need to loosen it up.
3. Heat the oil whilst you prepare the Manchurian balls.
2. To make the vegetable balls, combine the cabbage, carrot, green beans, chilli, garlic and ginger in a bowl and mix well.
3. Stir in the soy sauce and combine again, before adding the plain flour and making a dough.
4. Check the oil is hot by dropping a small amount of the mixture into the oil, if it rises and sizzles the oil is hot enough.
5. Make small balls the size of a large coin and then fry them until they are golden brown before removing them with a slotted spoon onto kitchen paper.Manchurian vegetable balls

Manchurian veg balls
6. I would suggest making up individual plates by combining sauce and spaghetti in whatever proportions you like then top with vegetable balls.

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