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Raspberry, chia, quark and peanut butter lollies

26 Aug

Raspberry, chia, quark and peanut butter lollies

They keep telling me that kids are either fruit-lovers or more at ease with vegetables and I am not quite sure that I believe them. I am one of those mothers that looks over at the lunch boxes of other toddlers in cafes or at the zoo and I always see sandwiches (which my child won’t eat), some carrot and cucumber sticks (we have some joy there) and always berries and grapes and I have theories on why my toddler is so disinterested in fruit but none of them are proven.

raspberry chia peanut lolly

My first theory is that when I was pregnant I was quite cautious of developing gestational diabetes as I come from a family of diabetics and so I followed a low GI diet pretty well and cut back the fruits and sugar. Perhaps that’s why my toddler will reject the chocolate brownie and go for the garlic cracker? But then I did eat a lot of cake when I was nursing. A LOT.

My second theory is that he simply takes after me in yet another way-I am definitely a vegetable person and that sounds like a silly thing to say about a vegetarian doesn’t it? But I do know vegetarian folk who get by without green stuff and lacking in pulses and lentils in their diets. I don’t know if taste buds are genetically influenced but if any of you do know, please do tell me!

My third theory is that maybe I just don’t eat enough fruit and consequently he needs more exposure? Well it is a good job then that the wonderful family at Riverford sent me a huge box of the most special and glorious fruits and vegetables. They look positively bulging with vitality and goodness and thankfully my toddler gets as excited about the delivery and washing all the lightly soiled vegetables as I do. This time he even took a bit of interest in Riverford’s perfectly formed and bouncing raspberries…but not enough to try them until of course we made these lollies for grown-ups (that kids seem to love too).

I have no idea why the raspberries were more appealing in a lolly but I witnessed the magic of fruit licking and it was one of those moments that just happens so swiftly and unexpectedly that the breath is held in case the moment passes before it is been beheld. Well anyway, poetic stuff aside, there was FRUIT licking.

I soaked the chia seeds in rose water and if you haven’t use chia seeds before they are nutty and silky-slippery. They swell lots when they come into contact with liquid and take on the flavour of whatever they are soaked in, you could use apple juice for instance.

The quark is lean and a very much healthier alternative to ice cream and is creamier than yoghurt. Peanut butter just works. It just does.

For the full recipe head over to great british chefsRaspberry, chia, quark and peanut butter lollies by Deena Kakaya

Apple, yoghurt, lime and cardamom pancakes

5 Jul

Apple, yoghurt, lime and cardamom pancakes

I have become a serial well-wisher. What about you? Are you overflowing with perpetual congratulation giving, spilling over with ‘well done’ encouragement and brimming with huge smiles and ‘that’s incredible’ commendations?

Apple, yoghurt, lime and cardamom pancakes

Back in the day I was encouraging and supportive on my friend’s achievements; grades, hockey team, someone playing netball or some art project or maybe even a musical instrument, a dance thing even. This then progressed to romantic relationships, holidays, buying first homes and getting married.  Everyone had their own thing didn’t they? Somewhere along the lines though, it changed.

Though these congratulating moments have stayed in my mind and still make me smile. When we got our a-level results my best friend didn’t get what she needed to, so we had to wait to find a university place for her and meanwhile I had scored a hat trick. We didn’t celebrate until she found her place, which she ended up being really happy with and it involved a lot of cheese in a regular Italian restaurant with a flirtatious waiter and even more cake. When we bought out first home we celebrated on the floorboards (there was no carpet or wooden floor) with a crowd of bums on cushions (we had no sofa) and chow Mein with fizzy apple juice lay on kitchen roll (no table, no tablecloth). More friends frequented that first place, which was tiny and awkward with the only bathroom flowing from the bedroom, than do our current home. More dinner parties were had on the cheap glass table in the first place than on the more solid and lasting wooden one we have now. Why?

As I scroll through my twitter timeline I see oodles of people who have done something tremendous. Every day, people are doing incredible things; writing books, climbing mountains, popping up in restaurants, TV, radio, magazines, all very wow-some. Then my Facebook feed is bursting with cute baby pictures and their older siblings and people getting married or visiting an incredible destination. Everyone on instagram is eating their way through the world. Wow. Everyone is amazing.

We stole 26 minutes of normality today. After dinner we were in the car and the boy fell asleep. We spent 26 minutes being nice to each other (the husband and I) and he again told me that he missed me. We talked about the old days, when life was simpler. We just went to work and the gym came home and ate and chilled and went exploring at the weekends. We smiled at each other and talked about the new kid’s pool I had discovered with shallow water and slides, a huge plus being that I wouldn’t have to hold the boy. We considered cinnamon donuts but decided that our bellies didn’t need sugar, but our lives certainly did.

So, I decided to do something nice in real life. Breakfast.  The breakfast that thinks it is naughtier than it is. Apples are juicy and good but don’t be fooled into thinking that they alone will make this dish. The light and fluffy pancakes need the sourness of yoghurt, the zesty lime and aroma of cardamom to avoid them feeling bland. In my opinion the yoghurt is the star of this show, but please will you let me know what you think? The sweet, sour, zingy and perfumed pancakes are the best way to start the day…being nice in the most real way.

 

 

Ingredients to serve four

200g plain flour

2 eggs

1 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. ground cardamom

3 golden delicious apples, peeled and grated

350ml plain, natural yoghurt

The zest and juice of one lime

50g sugar

Oil for frying the pancakes

Agave nectar, honey or syrup for drizzling

Icing sugar for sprinkling on top of the cooked pancakes

Method

  1. In one bowl whisk the eggs together before adding the yoghurt and sugar. Mix thoroughly and add the lime juice and zest.
  2. Fold in the grated apples and ensure that the mixture looks even.
  3. Mix the ground cardamom and baking powder with the plain flour in a separate bowl before combining it with the wet ingredients
  4. Heat a very thin layer of oil on a non-stick pan and then add dessert spoonful’s of pancake mixture and then flatten them slightly. Lower the heat to a low-medium flame and once they catch a golden colour on one side, flip them over and brown the lightly on the other side.
  5. Serve the pancakes immediately with icing sugar dusted on top and a drizzle of syrup.

Chimichurri and feta spiked mung bean sprouts in a baked, jumbo spring roll

1 Jun

Chimichurri and feta spiked mung bean sprouts in a baked, jumbo spring roll

Chimichurri and feta spiked mung bean sprouts in a baked, jumbo spring roll

I expended most of this weekend searching for a replacement car after mine was written off a couple of weeks ago. A van rammed into the back of my car at some traffic lights (I had stopped already) crushing the entire boot. I had a few moments of breathless hysteria because my little one was in the back, but fortunately, we are ok. A bit of whiplash, but blessed to be ok.

So, instead of visits to the zoo or park this weekend, we have been from car sales cosmos to showroom underworlds. Can you tell that I don’t enjoy shopping for cars? But it is an interesting world.

As I stood eyeing up a Seat Leon, two broad and bald men chuckled to each other that it is the poor man’s Audi. I smiled silently as I was thrown back to sitting/being squished in the back of the car of someone boasting to my mother about their impending purchase of a brand new Mercedes. Back then car sharing to weddings was common practise and London felt like planets away from Leicester, where I grew up. Of course back then I had no idea that London would become my home. It is where I started my married life, working life and built treasured friendships.

Anyway, I remember clearly sensing the inferiority that this lady wanted my mother to feel. She went on to describe their family business and property and how I looked awkward and that my face didn’t fit well on my body, but even though I was probably just 12 I knew that actually, she was without the basics in life of love and respect. I looked at my attractive mother who was adorned in a new sari and jewellery that my dad had chosen for her. Then I looked at the other lady, who was lacking.

The car is something of, ‘what do you do for a living’ or ‘where do you live’, isn’t it? Except it doesn’t grow does it? I once worked with a chap who did very well professionally and lived in an area brimming with upmarket delicatessens, fancy florists, and tiny Thai restaurants and of course fabulous schools, but drove a moving skip, as he called it. I learned a lot from him on many levels.

That said I know how I feel when I put on a nice dress, good perfume, make-up and a few simple but lovely accessories. I am sure my stance changes, my attitude might change too.

Head in a thorough spin, I decided to call it the end to a hot and bothersome level of thinking and head to the garden for some running under the sprinkler with the boy after the swings and slide. I needed refreshing with some zesty, summery, zingy, nutty, salty, juicy food with crunch and crisp thrown in. See where we are going with this?

I love mung bean sprouts; they are silky and nutty, cook quickly and I love the feeling of their little tails. They work fabulously well with chimichurri dressing but I have a confession; I cheated and used some Thai basil with the parsley and guess what? It gives the most fantastic, lasting herbiness. It is actually all pretty gorgeous, a healthy vegetarian recipe and I served the mung bean sprout spring rolls (baked for added bonus) with Za’atar sweet potato fries, because you know, it’s all about balance.

Ingredients to make 6 large rolls

For the sauce

350g mung bean shoots

One red onion, finely diced

3 cloves of garlic

The juice of one lemon

A large bunch of parsley

Salt to taste

1 tsp. chilli flakes or more if you like it hot

1 tsp. oregano, dried or fresh

A small bunch of Thai basil, finely chopped

2 tbsp. olive oil

Other ingredients

200g feta cheese, cut into small cubes

12 sheets of spring roll pastry, defrosted

Oil for coating the rolls

½ tsp. turmeric

Method

  1. Blitz together all of the ingredients for the sauce and leave to a side
  2. Heat a pan and add a splash of oil and then add the turmeric and mung bean shoots. Sauté for 2-3 minutes and then add the chimichurri sauce
  3. Cook the mung bean shoots for approximately 4-5 minutes longer before turning off the heat and allowing the mixture to cool and then add the feta cheese
  4. Take two sheets of spring roll pastry and leave a 3-4 cm gap from the bottom and sides and place 3-4 dessert spoons in a line and tightly roll into a cylinder shape and leave it to the side
  5. Place the rolls in an oven after greasing them lightly and bake them at 200 degrees until they are lightly golden.

 

 

 

 

 

Tandoori Tofu and Cauliflower Taco’s – National Vegetarian Week

22 May

Tandoori Tofu and Cauliflower Taco’s- National Vegetarian week 

We find ourselves in unspoken compromise in our house. Well it is unspoken most of the time. I like to escape with documentaries on the breastfed her children until they were eight years old whilst mister wants to watch Britain’s got talent or a magician in action. To be fair neither of us seems to find the time to actually focus on a TV programme anyway. I like mountains and he likes beaches, so we visited places like St. Lucia, where there tranquil emerald waters sit quietly in the lap of the pitons. He likes Mexican food and I like really bold and loud flavors. He even persuaded me eat at a Taco bell once.

I like Mexican food too, but when it comes to Taco’s the vegetarian variety (included in the option I explored above) seems to be filled with re-fried beans and the rest of the usual items of salsa, guacamole, sour cream and cheese and I am not the biggest fan of mushy re fried beans. Sometimes I make Taco’s with spiced vegetarian mince, which I like on a ‘cheat’ night. But here is an option that satisfied us all this evening. Tandoori tofu and cauliflower taco’s. Oh yes.

Tandoori Tofu and Cauliflower Taco’s

 

The cauliflower gives real bite, and the tandoori aroma is heady. The tofu gives wonderful and contrasting texture to the taco shell and with the carrot and avocado salad. We have some big mouthfuls of ‘pow’. And guess what? It is all a pretty healthy meal.

You will see that I have used thick, hung curd. Use Greek yoghurt but please remember to drain any excess water. The reason I say this is that when you marinade and roast the cauliflower you may end up stewing it if there is too much moisture in the yogurt.

Tandoori Tofu and Cauliflower Taco’s

for the full recipe head over to great British chefs

Hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprout and asparagus rice paper rolls

14 Apr

Hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprout and asparagus rice paper rolls

Hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprout and asparagus rice paper rolls

 

Remember I told you that I was going to eat lighter, mood invigorating, colourful, vibrant, fresh food that won’t make me feel heavy, bloated, sleepy or overly hormonally imbalanced? Yes…

Apart from gross indulgence on peanut M&M’s it is going pretty well. My husband ran the marathon yesterday and he did it in one piece, looking a few shades darker, a bit puffed out but certainly not looking depleted, weak or drained. Impressive eh? I had a marathon of my own. Marathon hero took my (automatic) car to London in the morning to make life a bit easier on the homeward journey, but it had the buggy in it. So, I made the journey from Hertfordshire to the Mall with my immensely active, hugely curious, jumping, running, bouncing 26month old. Yes..

Physical exertion is rewarding, but comes with some pain, sometimes. I also did a class of body attack at the weekend and after all this, I think I need to eat light; refreshing foods that DON’T need a lot of work to burn off.

Summer rolls, Vietnamese spring rolls or rice paper rolls. Whatever you call them, they are one of the most versatile, quick-fix meal ingredients out there and they don’t need to be fried or baked. All you do is dunk the rice paper wrapper into warm water for under a minute and wrap up some delectable and seasonal ingredients and then, munch.

You know I like it hot though right? So whatever I include has to be masala-fied. The tofu in itself is a joy, crisp, a bit sweet, a bit hot, a teeny bit sticky, got a good whack of garlic and is utterly relish-worthy. I have used siracha sauce which is a kitchen must, isn’t it? And you know I talk about how I lost my hair in handfuls, so I eat a fair few sprouted beans so today I am using alfalfa sprouts. Try them, they are a bit addictive but its ok, better than over-doing It on peanut M&M’s.

Hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprout and asparagus rice paper rolls

Ingredients to make roughly 15 rolls

15 rice paper rolls

400g of firm Cauldron tofu, cut into small cubes

125g fine asparagus tips

125g alfalfa sprouts

One medium onion, finely diced

Siracha sauce to taste (I used 1 tbsp.)

1 tbsp. sesame oil

2 cloves of garlic

¼ can of chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp. soy sauce

100g thinly sliced cucumber

Cook’s note: wrap the tofu in kitchen paper to drain off any excess moisture. When you stir fry it, it will crisp up better

Method

  1. Make the hot and spicy tofu by heating the sesame oil and adding the diced onion and allowing it to brown before adding the garlic, then sauté for another 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in the tofu and allow is brown lightly, then add the tomatoes, soy sauce and siracha sauce. Simmer the tofu until much of the moisture has reduced, for roughly 5-7 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  3. Submerge the rice paper roll into water for 30 seconds and then place it on a chopping board. About 3-4 cm from the bottom, place a line of stuffing; roughly 2-3 asparagus tips, a pinch of alfalfa sprouts, a pinch of cucumber strips and 3-4 cubes of tofu.
  4. Fold the sides inwards and hold them to a spring rolls shape, firmly and tightly. Leave it dry on a large dish.
  5. Serve with dipping sauces such as chilli sauce, coriander chutney or peanut chutney.

 

Masala paneer, roasted red pepper and spinach wraps

21 Mar

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Potato, edamame bean and pine nut curry in a spiced yoghurt gravy

2 Feb

I’ve been playing with nuts recently; pistachio with popcorn, cashew in curry and pine nuts mainly in salads. Oh and not forgetting walnuts in jaggery.

 

Potato, edamame bean and pine nut curry in a spiced yoghurt gravy

I know it may sound odd but I thought this recipe up whilst eating a jacket potato with cheese and beans at a soft play centre. ‘Finley the fire engine’ was playing in the background and I was urging my boy to eat the over-cooked cheese and tomato pasta that was the only vegetarian option in the café. I ate between, ‘it’s yummy yummy pasta’ and, ‘if you eat your pasta you will have more energy, do you want to go ice-skating next…yaay, let’s eat the pasta’. Normally I take his food with me, you know something nutritious, tasty and given that my boy seems the reincarnation of a Gujarati villager, something curried or spicy. But it was with birthday.

I started thinking about how when I am solo-parenting my boy (when my husband travels for work) I snack a lot. I tend to eat less in any one sitting but snack more.  I can’t claim that they are always healthy snacks because I am sitting in front of the telly as I write this; sleep deprived, eating biscuits and thinking about churro’ and  sleep.

Anyway, back to snacking. Nuts.  Given that this week I am despairingly tired there is one thing that cajoles me into my natural rhythm. No matter how good other food tastes and no matter how many flutters in my tummy butterflies borough market or wing yip oriental supermarket gives me…there are times when only a curry will do it for me.

But you know I do funny things to curries.  I hope that you will agree that these are funny things that do work. I have simmered this curry in yoghurt, as we are fighting colds in our house at the moment and this makes me feel better.  There are loads of whole spices and pine nuts.

Pine nuts?! What the…but really, it works. Try it.

Ingredients to serve 4

3 medium sized potatoes cut into inch sized cubes

One large onion, sliced

2-3 cloves

2-3 green cardamom pods

1small stick of cinnamon

½ cup of chopped tomatoes (tinned is fine)

400 ml water

150g edamame beans

100g pine nuts

1 tsp. cumin seeds

¼ tsp. mustard seeds

1-2 green chillies, finely chopped

1 tsp. garlic, minced

2 tbsp. peanut oil

¼ tsp. garam masala

¼ tsp. turmeric

3-4 curry leaves

200ml plain natural yoghurt

2 tsp. gram flour

1 tsp. coriander powder

Method

  1. Toast the pine nuts on a non-stick pan lightly until the pine nuts catch a golden colour. Leave them to a side until they are needed.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin, curry leaves, cloves, cinnamon, mustard, turmeric and chillies and allow the seeds the sizzle before adding the onions and the salt.
  3. Sauté the onions for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic and then sauté for a minute before introducing the potatoes
  4. Sprinkle in the coriander powder and coat the potatoes well. Pour in the tomatoes and half the water and simmer the potatoes for 4-5 minutes.
  5. Blend the yoghurt and gram flour to smooth consistency before pouring it into the curry and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
  6. Add the edamame beans and pine nuts and garam masala, and then simmer for a further 4-5minutes.

Serve with warm chapatti or rice.

Slow roasted tomato, channa dal, feta and courgette ribbon spicy salad

11 Jan

Slow roasted tomatoes, channa dal, feta and courgette ribbon spicy salad

After a week of flying solo with the boy, this morning had been occupied with a bit of relief in the way of a back massage. My back is full of uncomfortable rocks as is my neck and I couldn’t wait to go and get them softened.

They say that you appreciate your parents in a whole new way when you have your own children. My friend is trying to conceive and nervous about the labour. It is only now that I can say, that’s the easy bit because it is temporary.

My boy is generally a mummy’s boy and follows me everywhere I go, even to the toilet. ‘What you doing mumma, that’s terrible’. He goes wherever I go and wants me to hold him as I cook a meal so that he can stir and help to toss the dosa. ‘Special agent Aarav is on a special assignment mumma’. He empties my cupboards out whilst I cook and likes to sample the ingredients. This week he cracked open my freshly ground garam masala (again) and licked it whist remarking, ‘it’s yummy’. He tests out my raw pasta shapes, ‘like crips’ and he thinks this star anise ‘flower is amazing and crunchy’. Even when his dad is around, he chants, ‘mumma come, mumma come’.

It’s wonderful.

Through all the lifting, jumping up in the air and flying him like a rocket sort of antics he who is now weighing a quarter of my weight, my back has filled with fiery boulders and my knee has felt better days. This is what they mean don’t they…about the unconditional love and the things a mother will do. But I’m smiling as I sit here with a hot water bottle on my back.

Another part of my body that requires conditioning is my tummy. I put some newish jeans on today and they are snug. This should not be the case. I feel puffy. I feel the need for spice, zing, crisp, fresh and I certainly need cheese. I feel the need for salad. So here it is.

Ingredients to serve 4

2 courgettes, trimmed but not peeled
100g channa dal, washed
150g feta cheese, cubed
2 tbsp Harissa paste
1 tbsp olive oil and some to drizzle on the tomatoes
Salt to taste
1 tsp toasted and lightly crushed cumin seeds
15g finely chopped parsley
1 tbsp lemon juice
8 large and deep red tomatoes, quartered

1. Sit the tomatoes cut side up on a sheet of baking paper and drizzle them with oil and sprinkle with salt. Put them in the oven at 120degrees for about an 1hr-1hr 15. Ovens vary but they should look shrivelled and not wet. Their flavour will be intense. When the tomatoes are roasted allow them to cool.
2. In the meantime simmer the channa dal for around 15-20 minutes on a medium to low flame. Do not allow the dal to go mushy and should keep some bite. Once the dal is cooked drain it in cool water.
3. Take a vegetable peeler and make long peelings of the courgette. One for each ridge of the courgette and keep going until you get to the core. Don’t worry if some of the ribbons are shorter than the others.
4. Combine the courgette ribbons with the feta and daal and toss it all together. Stir in the Harissa paste evenly before adding the cumin, parsley, lemon juice and salt if needed. Add a glug of olive oil. You can add the tomatoes but if they feel a bit delicate then leave them for presentation so that they keep their shape.
5. Serve fresh with hummus (I used black eyed bean hummus) and lots of lovely bread.

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

IMG_3928

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

 

 

 

 

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

4 Dec

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

They say you become like the people you surround yourself with.

Makes sense, doesn’t it. I mean I’m not talking about people who like to knit or read a particular genre of book. I’m talking about the energy within people. If you surround yourself with people who good-hearted, loving, supportive people who dream lovely things and smile and speak kind and generous words…that is what you’ll become. No ifs, buts, it’ll never work and life is rubbish because..

In this respect, I am blessed. My husband counts his blessings each morning and plays with my boy without checking his phone or looking at a tablet. He thinks that impossible is nothing. My parents taught me to dream and just be a kind and brave person. My brother will always listen and tell me to dust myself out, drop the negative and keep walking. My best friend cheers me on to just be happy in the day and smile for no reason. It’s also been true in the virtual world too.

Sarah from Brockhall farm makes cheese. She’s a witty, warm and utterly encouraging words to share with me for years now and my next recipe popped into my head during a twitter conversation with Sarah. It started with goats cheese, then onto Sarah’s favourite ingredient of chickpeas (chickpea flour in this recipe) spinach and tomatoes. Plus it’s Christmas and I feel like I can eat go no indulge again. So here we have it, a pakora that is goats cheese in a crisp and fluffy batter case of gram flour, spinach, sun-dried tomato and spices of fennel and cumin seeds. 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?

I can imagine these would be great as a starter or a side at any party table. Serve hot!

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

250g goats cheese (not soft) rolls
200g gram flour
120g sundried tomatoes, coarsely ground or chopped
150g spinach turned into a corse purée
Salt to taste
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
300ml water
Oil for deep-frying
Chilli powder to taste
1/4 tsp turmeric

Method
1. Heat the oil for frying.
2. Whilst the oil is heating, make the batter by mixing the dry ingredients of gram flour, salt, turmeric, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and chilli powder. Mix it through.image
3. Add the spinach, sundried tomato and water and mix it all into an even and thick batter.
4. Check the oil is hot by dropping a small amount of batter into the oil. If it sizzles and rises then the oil is ready.
5. Cut the goats cheese into circles of around 1.5 cm thickness and gently dip them into the batter and coat them well. Be generous. Quickly drop them into the oil and fry them until they are golden brown.
6. Remove the pakora onto kitchen paper and serve hot with chutneys.

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

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