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Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine and spinach

13 May

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine and spinach

 

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine spinach

The lines between ‘going back’ and going on holiday have blurred now, after this many visits to the UAE.  My three year old has made three trips out there and now has a collection of memories and a definite sense of identification with some of our regular haunts.  Neither me nor my husband are from the UAE or have family there but to be honest almost all of the people I talk to in Dubai are ex-pats.

Whilst in Oman, Muscat I reminisced about our honeymoon in Thailand because the mountainous back group and still waters evoked those entire serene and tranquil honeymoon images in my mind. Except this time, the people we made passing conversation with were a whole world away. We met an Australian family in the kid’s club and I remarked to my husband that it was they, not a nanny with their two young daughters. Most of the other children in the kids club were accompanied by a nanny that had joined their family to the resort. Australian dad now worked in Qatar and Australian mum was fond of truffles. She emphatically told me about the school her daughters attended and how her children didn’t see race or colour because their friends were of all origins; Indian, French, Japanese. She told me several times over, which I found curious.

People like to guess where you are from when on holiday don’t they? Most of the time people assume that I am from Arabic origin, in fact this happened to me at college and university too but it’s only in the UAE that people never assume that. The entertainer in the kids club remarked on my Indian eyes and English accent and asked if I was a full time mum, for again, I was the only mum in attendance there. An Indian (as in, from India) dad dropped his two smartly dressed children who were also decorated in 24ct gold jewellery, with entertaining lady and after he left she told me that he holds a very high position in the hotel and has since moved to LA to head up operations there. She herself is from a family of 7 sisters and 1 brother in the Philippines.

My little boy likes trains, unsurprisingly and the ones in Dubai are much less congested so this made for fervent and endearing conversation. Indian chap quipped that he should be on YouTube, not the head of a leading bank like he was. My boy replied, ‘maybe when I am 17 I will.’

So, as we stood at the floor to wall screens leading into the aquarium, for shark and stingray viewing my boy patted the screen guardedly inviting the sometimes smiling and sometimes frowning creatures to swim past him. Whilst he pressed his forehead against the cold glass and chattered away about what the fish must be doing, thinking, eating and travelling from a very pink, vivacious blonde haired little girl grabbed the arm of ‘Shanti’ as she explained where she saw similar looking coral. Shanti had a really peaceful demeanour and very smooth and very dark skin on a red-green-gold simple sari so I wondered if she was from southern India. Blonde mummy tried to join in the conversation but those wide eyes were mirroring only Shanti’s imperturbable smile. I wondered if this is what happens if you get caught up in the mode of, ‘because I can have hired help I will’. Or was shanti a friend? Was she the nanny?

‘Come…’ called Shanti and held the little blond girl close as she scooped her up, posing and prompting the parents to take pictures. I don’t know if Shanti heard, but I certainly did when they said, ‘just get her in there on her own, and hold it, that’s it…’

I picked up some freshly ground Baharat spice mix at the same supermarket that I go to each time that I am in Dubai and I know there must be more authentic places but you know, it was there in a big and inviting mound of freshness. A Lebanese lady next to me told me that she uses it in rice dishes and I wondered which other medley of dishes I could use them because the key ingredients are; cardamom, cassia bark, cloves, coriander, nutmeg, all spice, peppercorns, chilies or paprika. For whatever reasons the smoky aubergine, crisp potato and smooth spinach all work with this spice for a healthy vegetarian meal. Although I picked the blend up from Dubai with lasting effect in the suitcase, the spice blend is available in UK supermarkets too.

Ingredients to serve two

3 medium potatoes suitable for roasting

1 tbsp. rapeseed oil

Two medium aubergines

One tin of chopped tomatoes

4 dessert spoons of finely chopped spinach

One large red chilli

Salt to taste

2 tsp. Za’atar spice

3 tsp.  Baharat spice

150g fresh mozzarella cheese

 

A handful of cherry or plum tomatoes, quartered

Method

  1. Cut the potatoes into even sized cubes and boil them for 7-8 minutes before draining them and letting them dry completely. Then toss them in salt and the oil before roasting them in the oven at 190 degrees for approximately 25 minutes.
  2. Roast the aubergines whole at 180 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until the inside is soft and then allow them to cool before scraping away the skins.
  3. Mix the tinned tomatoes with the chopped chilli, salt, pinch of pepper and spread them onto an oven proof dish.
  4. Combine the aubergine pulp with the Za’atar spice and a pinch of salt.
  5. Now layer on the spinach and the roasted aubergine on top of the tinned tomatoes.
  6. Once the potatoes have caught a golden colour, toss them in the Baharat spice mix before adding them on top of the spinach and aubergine.
  7. Tear the aubergine and add them to the top with the tomatoes before returning the tray to the oven for approximately ten minutes.

Steamed kofta of spinach and paneer in a roasted red pepper gravy

25 Oct

Steamed kofta of spinach and paneer in a roasted red pepper gravy

Is it just me or are people less obsessed with being thin these days? Is it my age (thirties), where people grow into themselves more, or is it my life stage (mum of toddler and prefer sleep, family time, me-time and just some food over the less necessary stuff)? I don’t know but mostly, people say they need to lose weight but eat the brownie anyway, right? I made some a really gorgeous batch the other day with saffron, rose, cardamom and pistachio and nobody said no.

Steamed kofta of spinach and paneer in a roasted red pepper gravy by Deena Kakaya

However, my body has a way of telling me that I need to be kinder to it and right now; I have gone off my food (as in the taste rather than eating itself). If you have ever watched a cheesy television serial and I am old enough to admit to recalling the crashing sounds and multiple replays of dramatic scenes in Dallas (and every Bollywood serial I come across) then this is what is playing in my mind right now. I, Deena, have gone off the tastes in my food.

At first I thought it was the onset of a cold. But it didn’t appear. Then I thought perhaps it is just over-working and exhaustion. But then I realised that I do feel hunger, it is just that I am not enjoying eating so much. I want to feel the thrill. But I am not.

SO, I have surmised that there are many culprits to this condition of mine; exhaustion, A LOT of cooking recently (maybe too much of my own cooking), overindulgence and heavy tastes, eating more functionally than socially (a lot of eating alone or in a desperate rush). Explains a lot doesn’t it?

You know I have been putting myself into solution mode more and more these days and not focusing on the problems, ‘think solutions, not problems’ – chant, chant, chant. My solution is this steamed kofta of spinach and paneer in light and easy roasted red pepper gravy. It is the curry that thinks it is naughty, but really is quite virtuous. Deceptively simple, ridiculously soothing and fun to eat too! I like that I want to get my fingers into them, but should really wait for the gravy to join the kofta. Let me know if you do a better job at waiting to scoff the lot together, won’t you.

 

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Corn on the cob roasted in homemade hoisin sauce

23 Sep

Last weekend felt like a weekend from the yester-summers, with a few subtle differences.

Corn on the cob roasted in homemade hoisin sauce  by Deena Kakaya

We attended a wedding near where we live and I do love a wedding.  As my husband and I fussed with car parking botches before our arrival at the wedding, thanks to faulty ticket machines and lengthy queues of cars filled with sari’s and gifts and then of course a toddler who unquestionably did not agree on how handsome he looked in the suit jacket and smart shirt, I sighed and smiled that this is all part of the happy mayhem with the background tune of, “I can’t like these clothes mumma, I don’t look brilliant.”

As we entered the wedding venue soft romantic music played to a quietly seated and orderly congregation of guests, not like the chattering sprawl my aunts and mum mingled between during my childhood. The priest spoke in soothing, professional and gentle tones, rather than the more directive and stressed tone I remembered from back in the day. The couple looked lovingly at each other, not tensed or fatigued. My cousins and I, who used to chase each other and chatter on in weddings as kids now we entertained our own in the corridors so as not to disturb the silence of the audience. We attempted to orchestrate pictures of the kids but alas, they just wanted to run, as we had once done. Luckily for the collective team of under 5’s the wedding was over in a couple of hours whereas in our day, they were full day affairs that rarely ran to time.

After the wedding my cousins, a few of our parents and of course all the kiddies came back to ours and we had a spray of happy chaos. A crawling baby, toddlers tugging over toys, grandfathers on strawberry picking special-assignments with little super-heroes and squeals on slides and swings. We had pasta and Khichdi and even roasted potatoes all over the house mingling with crisps and grapes. Nappies, spoons and splishing drinks generating curious scents and sounds and a few of us admitted that feeding tired and excitable kiddies was something we were dreading today.

Nobody wanted the Khichdi, or the vegetables, or the pasta or the potatoes but there is one vegetable that everyone agreed on (and this, amidst happy pandemonium is relief). That is corn.

http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/community/corn-roasted-hoisin-sauce-recipe

I am not sure whether it’s the independence element of grabbing corn and just going at the juicy kernels or the cave person freedom. Is it the juicy sweetness or just the easy pleasure? I don’t know but what I do know is that Riverford sent me the freshest and most untainted corn this week in my vegbox and not a single kernel of corn was bruised or damaged. Utterly in season, fresh and golden juicy gorgeousness was in my box and I wanted to do it justice.

Fresh and good quality corn like the stuff I received is sweet and loudly so. To balance the sweetness I whipped up some homemade hoisin sauce which includes salty soy sauce and nutty peanut butter, a bit of chilli and garlic…so you see all the flavours balance so well and it’s such a joy to eat corn sticky and bold in flavour. Go on, be happy.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Curry for change recipe and video! Black eye bean pakora in coconut kadhi

18 Sep

This is a post that is different to the posts you may be accustomed to seeing from me. Yes there is a recipe, but there is something different.

I was asked a few months ago to share a recipe for the Curry for Change competition, held in conjunction with Natco for the Find your Feet charity. I, like many of you out there get a lot of emails each day but this one caught my attention and held it. I used to be one of those people that was so preoccupied with life that charitable stuff was scheduled in for particular times of the year yet always on the agenda. Since having my boy, my emotional equilibrium has, well, shifted. If you have followed my blog (I thank you once again if you have been) then you will know that during the past few years I have found myself quite lost, confused and in search of that, ‘lifeline’. I have gone without so many aspects of previous life that I felt had defined me, but I can not pretend to know what it is like for people who go without the basics of life; food.

The rawness of the truth for me is that I needed to feel that ‘I CAN’. That I can make a difference for myself, that I can be productive by myself, that I can voice myself once again. It has taken me a few years to find my feet again, and I am trying to imagine how someone who does not have the support, systems, means, facilities, access and options that I have, would find their feet.

So, my recipe was one of the winning recipes for this challenge, as selected by Vivek Singh and I am delighted to share it with you all today. The recipe is for black eye bean pakora in coconut kadhi. This is a sumptuous and soothing dish, filling and versatile and you can make the components ahead of a dinner party and then throw them together at the last minute. The pakora are deep and nutty and full of texture. The little gram flour fritters are lightly spiced and sit in a tangy, spicy and hot yogurt based soup/curry that is tempered with whole spices such as cloves, cinnamon, curry leaves, cumin seeds and ginger. I have used coconut powder to give it a light and fragrant touch. This is perfect for the season and easy to do.

pakora kadhi 1

When our own lives are filled with good food, it’s hard to imagine that one in eight people around the world will go to bed hungry tonight. 

The Find your Feet charity works to support families in Asia and Africa to not got hungry. Not by feeding them, but my helping them find their feet. They support and encourage families to innovate, using their own resources more productively, trying new seeds, making compost and diversifying their crops.

This means they can produce a variety of nutritious foods to eat throughout the year so that they never go hungry and to earn an income by selling the excess.

They provide them with training and support to start village saving and loan schemes so they can borrow a little capital to start a small business.

This allows them to sell their surplus vegetables or eggs or start a small local shop which enables them to become more self-reliant and provide a better future for their family.

They empower women so that they have the confidence to speak out and take a stand on issues that affect them, such as accessing better healthcare for their children or clean water for their village. This in turn enables them to demand what is rightfully theirs. 

Life is so short.

So, what can you do?

 

Well you could hold a curry event at your home or at a friends and ask each person to make a charitable contribution. You cook up a few dishes (you could use this recipe as one) and enjoy yourselves. For every penny your curry event raises, Nacto will match it. The person that raises the most will win a class with Atul Kochhar at his esteemed restaurant, Benares in Mayfair.

 

Here is my recipe and the video that I did, showing how to cook this recipe, for Curry for change.

 

 

Ingredients

For the pakora

60g black eyed beans, pre-soaked overnight

50g finely chopped fenugreek leaves

1 tsp. minced ginger

Salt to taste

½ tsp. chilli powder (or to taste)

1 tsp. amchur powder or the juice of ½ lemon

100ml water

100g gram flour

One medium onion, diced

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Oil for deep frying

For the coconut kadhi

400g plain, natural yoghurt

100g coconut milk powder

650ml water

2 tbsp. gram flour

Salt to taste

2-3 green chillies slit open

1 small stick of cinnamon

2-3 cloves

5-6 curry leaves

1 tsp. minced ginger

2 tbsp. cooking oil

Method

  1. You will need to pre-cook the black eyed beans for about 25=30 minutes until they are tender, then drain any liquid
  2. Heat the oil for deep frying whilst you make the batter for the pakora
  3. To make the pakora firstly lightly mash the black eyed beans. Don’t puree them but with your fingers give them a tender squeeze. The reason for this is to avoid them rolling out of the batter and popping in the oil on their own.
  4. Combine the lightly mashed black eyed beans. Then add the onions, fenugreek leaves and all the dry ingredients and mix them all well before adding all the wet ingredients and mix it all again.
  5. Drop a small amount of batter into the oil to check if the batter sizzles and rises. If it does, then drop in small amounts (roughly 3-4cm sized pieces) into the oil and deep fry until they are crispy and golden brown. Remove them with a slotted spoon, releasing any excess oil, onto kitchen paper.
  6. Turn your attention to making the Kadhi. Mix the coconut milk powder, yoghurt and gram flour to a smooth paste and leave it to side whilst you make the tempering.
  7. In a deep pan, heat the oil and then add the cumin seeds, chillies, curry leaves, cloves and cinnamon. Let them sizzle and then add the minced ginger before you sauté for under a minute, but don’t let the Kadhi brown.
  8. Pour in the yoghurt mixture and the water and bring it all to a simmer before adding salt.
  9. Cook the Kadhi for 7-8 minutes, and then add the pakora and cook for a further 2-3 minutes before serving with hot and steaming rice.

black eyed bean pakora in coconut kadhi

Curry of roasted sweet peppers filled with tofu and spinach, in a spiced cashew cream base

12 Sep

I think I need to eat less food.

roasted pepper curry 2+

Have I finally gone crazy? Maybe. My point is this; I think I generally eat pretty healthy foods not outrageously healthy foods, but I do eat lots of vegetables, plentiful grains like barley, faro and Quinoa, there are a few fruits, seeds, and nuts, dried apricots and some of the funky stuff like chia seeds, cacao, matcha and that sort of jazz. I consciously cut down the fruit sugar and increased the milk intake and when I am really good, I remember to take those iron pills. I don’t eat a lot of fried stuff or excessive amounts of sugar but my problem is this. I just eat way too much.

It is just as well that the lovely folk at Riverford have been sending me the season’s jewels. The sweet peppers in the vegbox from this week smell so sweet that I detected their untainted beauty before I even saw them as I rummaged through the picks of the week. I know I always get the most massive fresh leaves of spinach that aren’t gritty or punched with off-putting holes as many crops I get from the supermarket are. I have been eating the spinach raw and my husband even uses it in smoothies but I thought I would do more justice to the silky loveliness in this curry.

roasted pepper curry 1

So what I have been trying to do is satisfy my taste buds (the culprit of my excessive eating) with bold flavours. So bold and capturing that relatively little goes a long way. I have used homemade cashew cream in this curry rather than using double cream or coconut milk or coconut cream but for whatever reason my husband was convinced that I did use coconut. I have used tofu in the stuffing rather than paneer. It is all sounding good eh? It is bold without being heavy or overly spiced. In fact, there is very little of that, ‘I have just had a curry and I can really feel it’ aftermath. You know the one I mean don’t you?

Its sweet, its spicy, its creamy its oof. It did it for me.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Roasted sweet potato, fig and goats cheese salad dressed with Thai basil, chilli and green garlic

16 Jul

Roasted sweet potato, fig and goats cheese salad dressed with Thai basil, chilli and green garlic

Initially I thought this salad too simple to share the recipe for, but it’s so frigging good.

Roasted sweet potato, fig and goats cheese salad dressed with Thai basil, chilli and green garlic

Now, I am sure you know about how I have been simplifying my life recently. I have been spending weekends with less fretting about where this is all going and more time discussing the best parks and gastro pubs. The grand plan is less frequently referring to the clutter of attainments and more the sequence of activities the coordination of multiple children around the zoo. My Google searches aren’t so vocation oriented and are more about reincarnation, the key characters of the Mahabharata and people who are evidence of ‘devolution’.

This healthy vegetarian salad does not have anything to do with the feeling I got when I looked at the mirror this morning and the immediate bolt of, ‘oh goodness I look like one of those mothers’. It doesn’t relate to the inner sigh I experienced when I was writing this and felt my thighs cling together unfashionably. It certainly isn’t about wanting to fit into all those pre-career break professional clothes. OK, it is. BUT, it tastes SO frigging good.

Now, green garlic sounds exotic and exciting. It is pretty but it is essentially immature garlic before it separates into cloves and intensifies in flavour. Green, or spring garlic has a mellow and verdant flavour and works perfectly for this salad so don’t be put off by the idea of figs and garlic. The blend of sweet potatoes, aniseed-type flavoured Thai basil, creamy goat’s cheese and fleshy figs, there is even an even amount of lime to bring it all together…it’s almost too pleasurable. I am actually not kidding. I’m not…

Roasted sweet potato, fig and goats cheese salad dressed with Thai basil, chilli and green garlic

Ingredients

800g sweet potato, peeled cut into wedges

The juice of two limes

Half a bulb of green garlic

One large chilli, finely chopped

Salt to taste

Oil for roasting the potatoes

4 fresh figs cut into wedges, roughly 6 pieces per fig

65g of goat’s cheese

1 tbsp. sesame oil

25g Thai basil, shredded

Method

  1. Coat the wedges lightly in oil and roast them at 200 degrees for 25-30 minutes until they are crisp but definitely soft on the inside.
  2. To make the dressing heat the sesame oil and then add the chilli and garlic and sauté just until the garlic softens but don’t let it brown. Turn off the heat and add the lime juice and salt.
  3. Combine the roasted sweet potatoes, shredded basil and the dressing with the figs and dots of the goat’s cheese.
  4. Serve immediately.

I am sharing this recipe with Lavendar and Lovage for the cooking with herbs challenge

lavenderandlovage_cooking2

Coconut milk, coriander and jalapeno marinated Halloumi with figs

9 Jul

Coconut milk, coriander and jalapeno marinated Halloumi with figs

Coconut milk, coriander and jalapeno marinated Halloumi with figs

I have had a fuzzy couple of weeks, but bizarrely there has been some good to come out of this fog.

I have been in limbo between throat infection and glandular fever. I, the immunity hero who only suffered a single bout of flu in 5 years (it ended up being swine flu) have been down with more illnesses in the last two years than in the first entire lifetime. I blame serious exhaustion.

I fell asleep on the sofa today, before lunchtime, for an entire 13 minutes.  I know some of you are thinking, ‘I wish I could have a quick nap in the middle of the day’ but wait.  I have been known to knock out when I am not supposed to. I have done in lectures, even the postgraduate ones that were being paid for by the workplace at the risk of it being fed back to my employers, but I blame Saturday lectures for that. I have fallen asleep in meetings at work, especially the ones about the IT infrastructure, even when it concerned my pricing policies, but I blame the dimly lit rooms for that. I have fallen asleep in the toilets at work (I closed the lid first) and have  been late for meetings. Not much that I can blame for that one. It goes without saying that I have fallen asleep on the trains but surprisingly I have never missed my station.

But none of these badly-timed snoozing incidences have caused the chaos that 13 minutes in front of the telly, in my own living room caused today.

In the 13 minutes (with cartoons on the TV) my Tasmanian devil drew one the wall next to the bay window, tore up my recipe notes, emptied an entire kitchen cupboard onto the floor, filled up the tall kitchen bin with items that it certainly did not want to eat, unraveled two toilet rolls onto the cloakroom floor and every single toy car that my boy owns was strewn around the living room floor.

Stay awake. Stay awake. Stay awake. Stay awake.

Coconut is refreshing and quenching and smells so lifting and holiday like. I need a holiday, wonder if that will happen this lifetime? Coriander, green and renewing and with the jalapeno, it is so balanced. The fleshy figs are gentle and some say they are an aphrodisiac but clearly the mess-clearing isn’t, see…balance. If there is ever a ‘wake-up’ dish, it’s this one.

Coconut milk, coriander and jalapeno marinated Halloumi with figs

Ingredients to serve 2

A can of coconut milk

30g coriander, coarsely chopped

2 tbsp. chopped jalapeno peppers

1 tsp. galangal puree

2 figs, sliced

About 200g Halloumi, cut into 8 slices

Method

  1. Blitz the coriander and jalapenos together and mix the puree with the coconut milk and the galangal
  2. Combine the spiced coconut milk with the sliced Halloumi and keep it in the fridge for a couple of hours
  3. Once marinated, place the Halloumi on a hot non-stick pan with roughly half the coconut milk mixture and cook until the juices have dried and the Halloumi has browned. Then flip the Halloumi over, add the other half of the spiced coconut milk and brown again
  4. Serve hot with the figs and some of the left over coconut milk paste as a dressing.

I am sharing this recipe with Lavendar and Lovage for the cooking with herbs challenge

lavenderandlovage_cooking2

 

Tofu stuffed with toasted sesame, almonds, sorrel and chili

1 Jul

Tofu stuffed with toasted sesame, almonds, sorrel and chili

I taught a cookery class the other day and after I had introduced the dishes a gentleman who told me knew the general drill asked, “So where is the protein”. As I explained where the protein was and how in a vegetarian diet that is varied and borrows recipe from the world, there is plenty of delicious and nutritious variety…look at the pulses, tofu, lentils…

You know what followed don’t you? Yes, there was an upheaval of the ‘tofu is dull and sanctimonious’ debate.

Tofu stuffed with toasted sesame, almonds, sorrel and chili
1. Tofu is bland
a. A blank canvas more like! Is a potato bland? Well of course it is if you just boil it and eat it on its own. Tofu is inviting you to soak it, marinade it, dress it, bake it, fry it, scramble it; for goodness sake just do something to it. Nobody is asking you to eat naked slivers of spongy pointlessness as your main meal. Have you ever put it in a curry? It soaks up the juices and then releases them in succulent and generous bursts in each mouthful. Have you ever marinated it? It catches essences like a long-lost embrace. Have you scrambled it with some spices and veg-you won’t miss the egg!
2. Tofu is expensive
a. Is a block of tofu more expensive than a steak or chicken for a family dinner?
3. Tofu mushes up too quickly
a. Wrap it up in kitchen paper and leave it to stand for a 15 minutes if you are using firm tofu to shallow fry or in a curry and if you are using silken tofu then add them into a stock rather than when stir-frying vegetables.
4. I can just eat meat for the protein
a. Yes of course. Tofu is an protein source for a) those want to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet b) those who cutting down on meat to enjoy health benefits c) those who want to address food shortages in the developing world d) those who want to positively influence the environment
5. I don’t like the texture of tofu
a. Not sure I would be if I just ate it as it is. I like it shallow fried and then spiced and doused with soy, rice wine vinegar and chili. When I have friends over I sometimes deep fry it and they became crisp with a lovely chewiness inside and I add them to noodle soups and sometimes we assemble our own. I make, Vietnamese spring rolls where I use tofu in a slippery bite, and then there are kofta, which are spongy and juicy. Do you like scrambled eggs? Then you will like spiced and scrambled tofu in a pitta or wrap.

Funnily enough when I asked for feedback half the group asked for another class demonstrating different techniques on preparing and cooking tofu. Well…

You could use this recipe on your next barbecue and here a few of my other recipes for tofu if you haven’t already seen them

crispy chaat masala tofu salad with tamarind chutney and yogurt dip

tandoori tofu and cauliflower tacos

hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprouts and asparagus Vietnamese spring rolls

soy-masala tofu, quinoa, avocado and mozzarella salad

Ingredients
One block of firm tofu (I used the cauldron pack)
20g sesame seeds
60g almonds
2 tbsp. agave nectar
One large red chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp. sesame oil
Salt to taste
A few dashes of your favorite chili sauce
40g sorrel leaves
For the dressing
5 tbsp. light soy sauce
2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 tsp. chili oil
Method
1. Wrap the tofu in kitchen paper and rest it until the excess moisture has been soaked up.
2. Toast the almonds and sesame seeds until they lightly brown and the seeds begin to pop before taking them off the heat.
3. Place the sesame seeds, almonds, sorrel, agave, oil, chili, salt, chili sauce all in a food processor and grind it to a paste.
4. Slit the tofu open by making 4-5 lines across the tofu and then fill them as deeply as possible without breaking the tofu block but try and hit the bottom.
5. Lightly grease a non-stick pan and then place the tofu and cook until browned, a little charring is quite pleasant so don’t worry.
6. When once side is browned, flip it over and repeat. I usually start with the un-slit side first
7. Drizzle over some of the dressing and serve immediately- you will get the best effects when the tofu is still hot.

Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

25 Jun

Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

Throughout my 20’s I had infrequent contact with a self-indulgent and woeful lady who recurrently stressed to me that having children is the hardest thing in the world.  She meant raising them. She would stand over me as I slumped into the sofa, and she wafted an overstating finger above me whilst popping eyes glared at me, ‘it’s so hard’. I focused my eyes on the coarse hairs that grew under her chin and listened. I nodded as she told me how there is immense and overflowing love but there is no time even for a facemask or money left to buy clothes. I looked over at my husband and my expression clearly whispered, ‘I will still buy clothes’.

But look, I thought, people all over the world are popping them out. People in towns, cities and remote villages manage it and educated or uneducated, rich or poor, young or old…people all over the world and for as long as time has existed have been having children. So really, come on…

As my little one played with his friends in our garden and I looked at his sweaty little face reddening underneath layers of gritty sun cream. Underneath the wide forehead he gets from his daddy is a face that is so much like mine but that’s not the thing that sinks my heart and ties it in a knot.

Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

Tiny friends rushed around busily and purposefully with his toys as he watched. One snatched his ball as he watched, as kids often do at this age. My little one let her and decided to go and water some plants instead until another friend announced that he would do it instead. But that was OK and my two year old headed for the trampoline but alas his was bounced off. He quietly returned to me and tucked himself under my arm, ‘mumma I want my ball, it’s mine’. The bitter-sweet irony, as I could almost feel the sand under my feet on a school trip. I felt the pressure inside, even as a toddler as I was worried that my parents would be disappointed that I wasn’t as lively or vivacious as the other children or lacked the confidence to climb through the tunnels or jump off the bars as they were doing. I remember sitting near the teachers and watching the sand tumble through my feet and clearly feeling that somehow there was a waste here but I was too young to really understand the concept of money. I know I should talk to guests when they arrived at our home, when my parents told me to even more so, but I was too shy to make conversation and just willed them to turn their loud and animated interrogation off.

And here we are again. A nice boy that I made nice, to some degree, as his primary carer…but now, how to instil some personal robustness or survival instinct in him? At what point do my own experiences of the world become his perceptions? I don’t want my experiences to dirty his mind…and for someone who wouldn’t talk look at me now…I talk a lot, in front of crowds.

Here is to the bitter-sweet, hot and cool of life. A salad that tingles and zings with each mouthful of crunch from the beansprouts and alfalfa, heat from the chillies, silky smoky aubergine, nutty almond bites and sweet kecap manis. It’s loaded. I like loaded. Juicy orange and green tomatoes burst in the mouth…it’s all going on in this healthy plate. Life eh?

Ingredients to serve two as a main dish or four as a side dish

3 medium-large aubergines

4 good pinches of alfalfa sprouts

A couple of handfuls of almonds

100g beansprouts

An onion, thinly sliced

100g orange tomatoes, sliced

100g green tomatoes, sliced

2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 tbsp. sesame seeds

The dressing

10 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

6 tbsp. kecap Manis

3 tbsp. sriracha sauce

Method

  1. You will need to coat the aubergines in oil and roast in the oven at 180 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until they are shrivelling and soft enough to pierce. Allow them to cool before removing the skin and scooping out the pulp and mash it lightly on a large plate.
  2. Heat the sesame oil in a non-stick pan and add the onions, beansprouts and almonds and stir fry 3-4 minutes and then turn off the heat.
  3. Make the dressing by mixing the ingredients and smoothing any lumps with a fork
  4. Layer the aubergine pulp, then on top add the tomatoes, beansprouts mixture, alfalfa and the drizzle over as much dressing as you like.
  5. Serve with flatbread and share (try).

 

Miso-tamarind roasted potatoes wedges with locally sourced, garden salad items

6 Jun

Miso-tamarind roasted potatoes wedges with locally sourced, garden salad items

I tasted cucumber flowers yesterday and they were a joy. See how I got straight into it today?

Miso-tamarind roasted potatoes wedges with locally sourced, garden salad items

 

They looked so pretty but what surprised me the most was the intense cucumber flavour of the stem. I was very spoilt at the London produce show. My toddler and I were picked up so that we could travel into town and along the way my boy remembered which roundabouts led to the oriental supermarket and which ones to London zoo. His childhood is so different to how mine was.  He knows his spices, including mixes like ras-el-hanout and he is just two.   Anyway, as I arrived at the Grosvenor house hotel there was a wonderfully quiet area where we were shown fabulous produce such as tomatina, purple carrots, red oxtail, pea shoots, wonderfully juicy asparagus, salad fennel and I took home some salty, shrub-like okahijiki, warm pinks steam radish, pepper salad fennel and some sea buckshorn! Oh and I was also given Valentine Warner’s new book, ‘what to eat next’.

We were given a master class and they made the most superb salad with simple ingredients from the collection above and lightly dressed with sharpness and oil but you know simple and fresh ingredients show off lots, and quite rightly too. The funny thing is, that whilst I was nibbling away at natures best stuff and chatting to fellow foodies about lifestyle choices such as ecological household items, living near farms and eating locally sourced eggs, bread and walking in the fields or even building eco-friendly homes…it reminded me of how each choice I make on a daily basis affects my body. Someone I know moved to the Cotswolds to nurture their family away from London, and you know I love London but there is something to this isn’t there.  I love being outdoors, fresh air, picking my own fruit and veg and then returning with bundles of fresh stuff to cook or freeze. What a life. Far cry from the underground and shopping centres of the city eh?

Miso-tamarind roasted potatoes wedges with locally sourced, garden salad items

I couldn’t let all that fresh and beautifully wrapped stuff that still smelt of the garden go to waste so the very next day I made this salad and I think it looks pretty. But let’s move onto those miso-tamarind roasted potatoes before I pop. They are really very, ‘oh my goodness’. I think miso is fabulous for its deeply mellow and gentle tones that are lasting and ‘brown’. Tamarind is spiky, tangy, sweet and sharp in a tantalising way. I wouldn’t have imagined them tasting good together but they REALLY do. Try it. (Oh and serve with a few dollops of garlic mayonnaise).

Miso-tamarind roasted potatoes wedges with locally sourced, garden salad items

Ingredients to serve 2

500g king Edward potatoes

4 tbsp. miso paste

2 tbsp. tamarind chutney

2 tbsp. oil

A few dabs of garlic mayonnaise

My salad had in it;

–          ½ cup of petit poi’s

–          8 spears of asparagus

–          A handful of Okahijiki

–          5-6 radish shaved or very thinly sliced

–          2-3 baby beetroot

Method

  1. Cut the potatoes into thick wedges and then boil them (skin on) for 7-8 minutes or until barely tender
  2. Drain the potatoes and let them cool and dry completely.
  3. In a large bowl mix the potatoes with the miso, tamarind chutney and oil and toss them all until there is even coverage.
  4. Roast the potatoes in the oven at 180 degrees until they are crisp and sticky brown.
  5. To make the salad simmer the asparagus, beet, peas for approximately 4-5 minutes and then drain them.
  6. Plate the salad and the potatoes and serve with garlic mayonnaise.

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