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Broccoli and Chinese leaf curry in a miso base

6 May

Broccoli and Chinese leaf curry in a miso base

Broccoli and Chinese leaf curry in a miso base

Broccoli and Chinese leaf curry in a miso base

It’s only now that I can see chapters in my life. As ceaseless as each one may feel, they do. I wasn’t there on the day of my father’s bypass because I had an exam the next day and I didn’t cry at my wedding, not even a damp eye. I cried the entire day at work when I failed the first and only (postgraduate) exam of my life. There was a time when I would curl my eyelashes post clear mascara every day and have regular facials. At a point in my life all I could see was the next level up. I wasn’t sure if I would cry at the birth of my child. Look at me now.

In the same way, not every curry needs to have a tomato base…or a coconut one. Mellow it out now and again with some umami. Earthy. I’m not sure I like that word much. Anyway, I put this curry together very quickly because Chinese leaf and broccoli need barely any time at all and the japanese miso is soothingly easy to eat as well as prepare. A healthy and light bite in the broccoli and some gentle spices…aah.
If you like miso, head over to my friend Kellie’s site where you will find some fabulously creative and definitely delicious concoctions that will leave you glowing with health. One of my favourite of her miso-inclusive recipes is her Honey-miso roasted broccoli and wholegrains salad

Broccoli and Chinese leaf curry in a miso base

Ingredients
200g broccoli, cut into medium sized florets
1 tsp. soy bean paste
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. amchur powder
500ml warm water
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 kaffir lime leaves
2-3 green chillies slit open
½ tsp. turmeric powder
1/3 tsp. garam masala
200g Chinese leaf, shredded
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. minced ginger
One medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. coriander powder
Salt to taste
1 tbsp. corn flour
2 tbsp. cooking oil
Method
1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, turmeric and chillies. Allow the seeds to sizzle before stirring in the onions and garlic.
2. Mix the corn flour with the warm water.
3. Sauté the onions and add the amchur powder and coriander powder, cook until the onions soften before adding the broccoli and water.
4. Stir in the soy bean paste, soy sauce, and kaffir lime leaves and ginger before bringing the base to a simmer. Cook for 2-3 minutes before mixing in the Chinese leaf and then cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

Cauliflower, fenugreek and mint curry

25 Apr

Cauliflower, fenugreek and mint curry

Cauliflower, fenugreek and mint curry

I like to peel back the layers of stuffed okra and nibble on them. I have a bit on an obsession with black head removal and I have never drunk a cup of tea or coffee, not a full one anyway. I never dance, not at parties not in the house and I like reading about reincarnation and have books on Dr. Stevenson’s work on the subject, documenting case studies. I never went to clubs in my university days and I actually enjoyed childbirth. It is true. Go on, say it if you haven’t already…I know, I must be weird.

Cauliflower, fenugreek and mint curry

I am weird, aren’t you? But now, I love sharing my unusual recipes with you. This one emerged from a visit to the Indian grocers.  My toddler and I chat about each of the ingredients. He went over and picked some fresh dill and told me that it smells yummy. We looked at parsley and it didn’t do anything scent-wise but the aromas of the fenugreek and mint wafted the most impactful smack of green freshness and as I got a good whiff of them together, I thought, actually…they work pretty well together. I have never had these two ingredients cooked together in this way, but let me tell you…It is strong. It is also pretty healthy and nutritious as far as curry goes.

Cauliflower, fenugreek and mint curry

Ingredients

One medium head of cauliflower cut into florets

One medium onion, thinly sliced

200g fenugreek, leaves (or one bunch) removed

50g fresh mint leaves

2 tsp. tomato puree

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 cloves of garlic

¾ tsp. garam masala

½ lemon, squeezed

Salt to taste

2 green chillies slit open and halved

1 tsp. coriander powder

¼ tsp. mustard seeds

1 tsp. cumin powder

½ tsp. ground turmeric

2 tbsp. cooking oil

Method

  1. Finely chop the mint and fenugreek leaves together or use a food processor for a finer texture.
  2. Heat the oil in a deep pan and add the cumin, chillies and mustard seeds, then allow them to sizzle.
  3. Add onion, salt and turmeric and then sauté the onion until it starts to soften before adding the garlic. Cook for a further minute before introducing the cauliflower, fenugreek leaves and mint leaves.
  4. Sprinkle in the salt, garam masala and the coriander and cumin powders. Mix the curry well and then squeeze in the lemon juice and then incorporate the tomato puree.
  5. Cover and cook the curry until the cauliflower is soft enough to pierce.
  6. Serve hot and steaming with chapatti and lashings of cool yoghurt.

Lychee and toasted coconut frozen yoghurt with rose and cardamom

23 Apr

Lychee and toasted coconut frozen yoghurt with rose and cardamom

Lychee and toasted coconut frozen yoghurt with rose and cardamom

 

The lychee is a ‘happy fruit’ don’t you think? I mean one associated with luscious and smiling memories. Not like the banana.

When I worked in the city I harried to work much earlier (than my husband) in the morning, dashing to the train station under pressure and I returned much later than my husband, carrying the smells of the underground and compressed with the worries of the day. Each morning I would wake early to cook dinner, so that I could go to the gym after work. I would chop fast, scoop spices pensively and go through presentations in my mind whilst doing so. In my husband’s own way, he would help by popping some nuts, apricots and a banana into my bag. Maybe a packet of crisps. All the way to work I would smell that banana and I imagined it bruising and softening. I would eat it as I trawled through emails and often I had a bit of a lump in my throat. I don’t eat bananas so much now.

All the other kid’s loved thepla when I was growing up. Spicy, fenugreek chapatti that are well oiled for extra softness and my mother willed me to love them as they are convenient; they contain some nutritious fenugreek and are easy to transport. They are perfect for picnics, keep well for a couple of days and make for great packed lunches. I just didn’t take to them. I had eaten them once at my dad’s barbers shop with my brother. We sat waiting, legs swinging and bashing against peeling black, faux-leather chairs and pulling thepla out of my pink, ‘My Little Pony’ lunchbox.  We had been waiting so long for my dad’s turn and I was sure that it felt lengthier because the wide-jawed and white mopped fellow talked at length with each of his customers about their line of business, how life was much better when they lived in Africa and the price of petrol. I looked up and around the orange walls at the black and white pictures of Indian cars, Ganesh (the elephant headed God who would of course bestow prosperity to this shop), and sunny Indian plains.  I think I could taste hair in my thepla. It’s what put me off for many years. Until I was pregnant that is. From my second trimester onwards I ate thepla, yogurt and pickle for breakfast every single day.

Fresh coconut takes a long time to chew doesn’t it? It’s the fruit of religious festivities isn’t it? Please let’s not get into whether it’s a fruit or something else. When large, stainless steel bowls in the temple were used to offer coconut and nuts, I would always go for the coconut. That burst of juicy, fleshy coconut then lingered for ages and gave me a light ache on the side of my head but it was something to do whilst being jostled about by hordes of worshippers waiting in line to behold the idols of the Gods being celebrated that day, or the Prasad (blessed food offering) that day.  I grew more aggravated as I grew older. I whined to my mother about why we couldn’t just go home and eat and why people didn’t just queue in an on orderly fashion, why must they push and shove. Apparently Prasad tastes infinitely better than food cooked at home and not everyone knew what a queue is. Nonetheless, coconut IS the fruit of celebration. It formed a thick layer of freshness on my 30th birthday cake, in Mauritius. A layer of fresh cocoa, locally sourced coconut and light airy sponge made for memories that will glisten in the warm waters of my mind forever.

Of course I have been telling you about how I am taking better care of my body these days. This frozen yoghurt recipe is of course made from low fat yoghurt and it contains no sugar. I have used agave nectar to sweeten the yoghurt and it fits better with my low GI eating. Win-win.

Lychee and toasted coconut frozen yoghurt with rose and cardamom

Ingredients

750g plain natural yoghurt

2 tbsp. rose water

¾ tsp. ground cardamom

3/4 cup of desiccated coconut

125ml agave nectar

200g lychees (tinned is fine, as long as you drain the liquid)

Method

  1. Blitz the lychees until they are pulpy.
  2. Mix the lychees together with the rose water and cardamom
  3. Pour the yoghurt into the lychee mixture and then turn it into your ice cream maker. Churn the yoghurt until it reaches a creamy and smooth texture.
  4. If you do not have an ice cream maker then place the yoghurt into a plastic container and allow it to freeze. Once ice crystals appear, beat the yoghurt with a fork to remove the ice granules and freeze it again. You may have to repeat this couple of times.
  5. Whilst the yoghurt is churning or before you’ve beaten it, you will need to add the toasted coconut. To toast the coconut, use a non-stick pan. Heat the pan and then sprinkle in the coconut and toast it gently and stir intermittently. Allow it to catch a sunny and golden colour.
  6. Once the coconut has cooled and whilst the yoghurt is thick but not quite ready, add it to the ice-cream machine. If you do not have an ice cream maker then add the coconut when you are beating out the ice granules.

 

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.

 

Soya chunk curry in a spinach and jalapeño base

11 Apr

Soya chunk curry in a spinach and jalapeño base

There’s a lady called Agnes in my aqua-fit class.

Soya chunk curry in a spinach and jalapeño base by Deena Kakaya

 

My mind has a tendency, even on an average and non-pool day, to go into overdrive and often feels like it’s floating away with the echoes of the pool. Light and drifting. Sometimes sinking. Washing and leaving.

‘Get those knees up HIGH, come ON ladies and gents!’ and I wonder where it is all going to end up in 5 years’ time. Oh my goodness, I’ve just realised how old I will be in 5 years’ time. Am I focusing on the right things? Do we move or do we stay what of the house prices. I can’t send him to school in this area, look at how much I have invested in him. Look at what it has yielded; he’s so polite, smart, and sweet and never hits another child, ever. But what of those house prices. More work, move abroad, or to invest, what to do? ‘Oh I am getting them up high, I have lots of practise, he he, he’ yells Agnes. I laugh, with the group, in the present.

‘Rocking horse AND TRAVEL’. What am I doing with this body, why haven’t I been eating those iron tablets regularly, why haven’t I removed this chapped nail varnish from my nails? I miss looking after myself, but that’s a ridiculous thing to say. I should make more time. How long does it take to put some hair oil in my hair at night? Exactly. Some oil in the bath? Some lovely hand cream. And I need to eat better too, I need to cut those cakes out. I come from a family of diabetics; do I want to be one of them? No! ‘oh, I love that rocking motion, you know what I mean!’ chuckles Agnes, then there’s a room full of echoes to the same tune, including mine.

‘PUMP those arms, come on, PUMP, and PUMP’ I need to get sink unblocker. I need to get the house sorted, I can’t live like this, I’m going to go mad if I continue cooking in that kitchen, and it HAS to get fixed. I cannot believe the neighbours have built their entire extension without planning permission or even telling us. It’s looking worryingly light-reducing. More paperwork to deal with, great. ‘Oh I like it, I love it, I like a bit of pumping action, ha ha ha’…belly laughs all round, Agnes throws her head back.

We all need an Agnes in our heads don’t we, well, I do anyway. Clearly.

Just like Agnes, I like it hot. This curry is hot, tangy, and fresh with green glory and has a tang! Again, I am sharing with you an unusual recipe, I don’t think I have cooked spinach and jalapeno peppers in a curry in quite this way, but believe me…it works SO well.

Cooks note: I have used vegetarian chicken from the TKC brand available in wing-yip and it works fabulously. I have also used meet the alternative which is pretty good. I would not use those popular vegetarian chicken products that are made from mushroom protein for this dish.

Soya chunk curry in a spinach and jalapeño base by Deena Kakaya

Ingredients

400g soya nuggets

200g fresh spinach leaves, very finely chopped in a food processor

175g jalapeño peppers in brine, 100g pureed and the rest finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

One medium onion, diced

Salt to taste

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. coriander powder

½ tsp. garam masala

450ml water

1 tsp. cumin powder

½ tsp. turmeric powder

The juice of half a lemon

2 tsp. tomato puree

2 tbsp. cooking oil

Method

  1. Defrost the soya nuggets per the packet instructions
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the turmeric, cumin and allow the seeds to sizzle. Then stir in the onion and salt then sauté until the onions have softened.
  3. Add the garlic and sauté for a further minute before adding the soya nuggets and coat them well in the tempering.
  4. Sprinkle in coriander powder, coriander powder, garam masala, and grow the tempering to a to a high heat over 30 seconds to a minute then pour in 250ml of water and stir in the tomato puree.
  5. Cook the soya until most of the water has evaporated; it should take about ten minutes.
  6. Add the spinach and cook the curry for a further 3-4 minutes.
  7. Add the jalapeno puree and the sliced jalapeno peppers and cook for a further 3 minutes before turning off the heat.

 

 

 

Barley, tomato, paneer, channa dal & cashew nut salad

27 Mar

 

Recipe 2: Barley, tomato, paneer, channa dal salad & cashew nut salad The definition of a salad seems to have evolved; this glorious, warm, spiced and zesty salad is full of wonderful surprise. The barley adds silky and nutty depth, the sweet tomatoes and spices mingle well with the spongy paneer and the channa dal adds a bite.  I like it with a bit of heat, so I went for the green chilies but you can moderate this if you wish.

I used Savera paneer for this dish and it works really well because unlike some brands of paneer, Savera paneer is moist and spongy (not hard and rubbery) so takes on the flavours and juices of the salad so well and is soft enough to add to the party of ingredients. Keep the paneer moist warm so that it retains a bit of that chewy glory.

 

Serves 4-6

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

225g paneer, cubed

75g channa dal, washed

100g pearl barley, washed

220g baby plum tomatoes, quartered

One medium red onion

100g cashew nuts

¾ tbsp. vegetable oil

For the dressing;

3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

Salt to taste

3½ tbsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. cumin seeds

15g coriander, finely chopped

½ tsp. turmeric powder

2 green chillies finely chopped (use one if you prefer less heat)

6-8 curry leaves

Method

  1. Boil the barley on a vigorous simmer for ten minutes and then on a medium flame for a further 30minutes. Drain it and allow it to cool
  2. Boil the channa dal for 15-20 minutes. It should retain a bite but be cooked. Wash the channa dal in cool water and drain it when it is cooked.
  3. Put the channa dal, tomatoes, onion and barley into a large shallow bowl.
  4. Heat the vegetable oil in a non-stick pan and stir fry the paneer until it catches a golden colour. Remove it from the heat and add it to the other salad ingredients.
  5. To make the dressing, heat the sesame oil in a non-stick pan add then chillies, curry leaves, turmeric and cumin seeds. Allow the seeds to sizzle before turning off the heat.
  6. Drizzle the dressing onto the salad and mix it well. Pour in the rice wine vinegar and then sprinkle in the salt and chopped coriander and toss the salad.
  7. Toast the cashew nuts on a non-stick pan until they are lightly golden and then allow then allow them to cool before tossing them into the salad.

 

 

This is a sponsored post but any views expressed are my own

Asparagus, radish & wakame in a lemongrass and chilli broth

14 Mar

Asparagus, radish & wakame in a lemongrass and chilli broth

 

After additional, nuisance bout of food poisoning or something gruesome of that nature it has been a week of gentle eating. It could have been the colossal over indulgence; there was the vomit-precluding list of sev puri Chaat, pakora, sandwiches, cheese, coco-choc ice cream, paprika chocolate…well, you get the picture.

Anyway, the result was a day in bed with very, very frequent visits from a 2 year old that chanted, ‘I want mumma, I want mumma’. I tell myself that maybe my body needed this rest; perhaps my body is not cut out for vast and enormous amounts of food or bacteria in sarnies. Whatever the course, a fast followed and then some actual nourishing food.

This recipe is truly refreshing and soothing; it even made my hair feel cleaner. It’s like the welcome drink in Thailand when you feel hot, sweaty, tired yet excited in a need-to-sleep-first sort of way. All of the ingredients are gentle. Crisp heat from the radish and bite from the asparagus meets silky wakame (seaweed), and they work gloriously well with nutty brown rice. The broth is fragrant, easy and fresh.

The folk at Holy Lama sent me some of their lemongrass spice drops recently. It is potent. Really potent. I used just enough to fill the tip of the pipette that comes in the packaging and that was enough. The great thing is that I didn’t have any annoying bits of lemongrass getting stuck between my teeth but all of the flavour. You could of course just use a stalk of lemongrass and get a lovely impact…just make it and enjoy it.

Asparagus, radish & wakame in a lemongrass and chilli broth

Ingredients

200g asparagus cut into 2 inch pieces

200g red radish, sliced

2 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp. sesame oil

3-4 spring onions, cut into bite sized pieces

3 tbsp. wakame

One litre of vegetable stock

Red chilli flakes to taste

One tiny drop of lemongrass spice drops or one lemongrass stalk slit open

1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

125g brown rice

Method

  1. Cook the brown rice per the packet instruction and leave it to a side
  2. Soak the wakame in water and leave it to a side.
  3. Heat the oil in a deep pan and when it is hot add the onion, garlic, asparagus and radish and sauté for two minutes before adding in the vegetable stock, lemongrass, chilli flakes and rice wine vinegar.
  4. Bring the broth to a simmer and add the brown rice, wakame and cook for a further 5 minutes before serving hot.

 

Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

11 Mar

 Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

Her grass is so much more luscious

I’ve learned, over time and with some stumbling, to count my blessings more deliberately, more appreciatively, knowingly and openly.  When anyone tells me how lucky I am in a discussion that ultimately leads to my being lead to sympathise with their heroism in coping with the comparatively (and self-declared) unlucky (rather than of course apathetic) position that they are in, I say ‘thank you’.

This week, I have been told that I am ‘lucky’ that I have just one child and not a crowd of three. One, mother-infatuated child is a doddle apparently, even though my husband is off on his fourth international trip this year and my family is a couple of hours away. I say, thank you because I am blessed to be a mother.

The next thing I am ‘lucky’ for this week is opportunity to work with a new food brand who sought out my freelance support to reinvigorate their brand by creating some youthful and energising recipes for them. I nodded at my banker friend, who brings home a guaranteed, fixed income each month on a permanent contract. She tells me how she toils over each accomplishment in her career. I wondered whether to send her a cheeky ‘hello’ text message at 1.30am when I was wearily churning inspiration into submission. Instead I say thank you, because I am grateful that a new brand understood and appreciated my style of cooking, had faith in me to deliver something exciting and innovative for them and that that I feel fulfilled.

Also, I was made aware of how ‘lucky’ I am to be in a position where I have career options. I think this is the one that set of expletives in my head. Options. It has taken me three years of loosening my grip on that rope which bound me and the world of security and sort-of-positive-affirmation of capability through my ascent into corporate middle-management, then nursing my wounds of confusion and lack of direction and eventually finding my real inclinations and talents and then turning them into some sort of purposeful and meaningful reality. Instead I said thank you, for if it weren’t for this slogging and striving, I would not have the hope that I do today.

Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

On the subject of green grass and positive notes, my broccoli soup with gram flour and courgette dumplings has been a total joy to eat. It’s very lean because the dumplings contain no oil whatsoever and the green; well that’s just a healthy colour isn’t it. It’s mellow, kind, lightly sweet. It’s juicy and the dumplings are dense and spongy with the courgettes keeping the dumplings moist. This is again a very easy recipe to whip up. We ate it with some fresh apple and spice bread. Now if I hadn’t finished off with a cheeky lemon curd biscuit, I would have been very ‘lucky’ to have cooked and eaten a gratifying bowl of goodness.

Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

Ingredients

300g broccoli florets

One large onion, coarsely sliced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1200ml vegetable stock

1 tsp. chilli flakes

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tbsp. cooking oil

For the dumplings

225g grated courgette

¾ tsp. caraway seeds

125g gram flour

Salt to taste

½ tsp. chilli powder

1 tsp. coriander powder

¼ tsp. ground turmeric

Method

  1. To make the soup, heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle before stirring in the onion. Sauté the onions until they soften lightly before introducing the onion and sauté until the  onion has softened down and caught light colour.
  2. Mix in the broccoli and then the vegetable stock. Bring the soup to a simmer before sprinkling in the chilli flakes.
  3. Simmer the soup for 5-6 minutes or until the broccoli is tender before blitzing it smooth.
  4. Whilst the soup is cooking, mix together the grated courgette, caraway seeds, salt, coriander and turmeric and chilli powders before mixing in the gram flour. It should form thick slightly sticky dough.
  5. Whilst the soup is simmering on a medium flame, gently drop in 50p coin sized amounts of the dough into the soup and cook them for 8 minutes or until the dumplings are cooked through.
  6. Serve hot so that the dumplings are moist and tender all the way through.

 

 

Cauliflower & Halloumi in tomatoes, fennel stock and saffron

13 Feb

 Cauliflower and halloumi in tomatoes, fennel stock and saffron by Deena Kakaya

De-waste of time stuff

I took a walk with the boy the other day, before the storms.  I was a bit bleary eyed and I can blame only late nights and very good apple and pecan bread, oh and the cinnamon and raisin loaf.  We stopped to look at the blooming snowdrops and daffodils and I smiled that spring is almost here.   Lines of them fluttered for us and we had a little chat about the colour and how they need water and light to grow. My boy asked me, ‘like mumma and me’. I chuckled and said sort of, yes and that people need love and food too. Some groups of pre-teens walked past, in categories of pretty and flamboyant, comical and loud, and simply cheeky.  I, now feeling category-less, tried to reflect on what groupings I had grown through and what sort of company had influenced me, then decided that this was a pointless activity but you do become like the people you surround yourself with. We then stopped in the supermarket and a tot wanted to engage with me, I asked his mother how old he was, but she was tapping away at her phone and didn’t answer.  My phone buzzed away with messages about things that could have been more positive. My heart sank a few notches and I wondered why .

We talk about de-cluttering and detoxing in our family, quite a bit.  Clear the things or undertakings that are draining distractions or energy suckers. For example; omitting energy-draining foods, clearing unwanted magazines, removing damaged toys, halting diverting activities like too much time on Facebook that waste precious time, deleting fuzzy pictures on the laptop, giving away unused Christmas bits and bobs…and closing our eyes to the people that want to walk in our minds with their dirty feet.

I drank a lot of dill water when I was nursing.  I can’t admit to ever liking it but as a first time mother my protective maternal instinct was at lioness levels and I knew that the dill water helped to stimulate precious milk production and would help keep my new-born baby’s tummy clear and wind-free. That’s what inspired my recipe but do believe that this recipe is boring. Oh no.

What excites me about this recipe is that both cauliflower and Halloumi absorb flavours superbly. They are mellow in themselves and the cauliflower is a giver and receiver of flavour. The Halloumi softens politely and accepts the juices of this dish graciously. No longer chewy, the cheese becomes pleasurably oozy. The fennel stock is distinctly there, but not loudly. The saffron is absolutely showy in the colour and the delicate flavour, but not overpoweringly. The thyme, the lemon, the onion… all accents this dish subtly. There is nothing overwhelming about this recipe. But it is heart-warming. Do it.

Cauliflower and halloumi in tomatoes, fennel stock and saffron by Deena Kakaya

Ingredients to serve 4-6

One medium head of cauliflower, separated into large florets

One medium onion, sliced

1 ½ tbsp. fennel seeds

500ml boiling hot water

One can of chopped tomatoes

200g Halloumi cheese cut into thick fingers

A few springs of thyme

Half a lemon

A good pinch of saffron

Salt to taste

2 tbsp. mustard oil

Method

  1. Put the fennel seeds into a jug and pour in the boiling water. Let it settle for an hour or so and when the stock looks like its infused with the seeds, begin cooking.
  2. In a deep pan heat the oil and add the onion with the salt and sauté for a minute. Add the cauliflower and Halloumi and coat them well with the oil. Allow them to catch a light golden colour, before pouring in the chopped tomatoes and mix it well. Pour in the fennel stock, but not the seeds. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
  3. Add 1 tsp. of the fennel seeds and a good pinch of saffron and let them fuse with the stock.
  4. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add a few (4 or so) springs of thyme and simmer until the cauliflower is cooked.

 

Serve with pasta or rice or mop it up with bread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deep and Smokey Mexican-Asian noodle soup

9 Feb

Keep the song

Deep and Smokey Mexican-Asian noodle soup

 

My parents fretted that I was a bit of a hermit as kid.  It was somewhat the opposite as a teen but as a child I would hear my dad express his qualms about whether he was dipping me into social activities enough. Often when he asked if I wanted to join him on one of his frequent but small shops, I would say no.  My brother would always go.  The reason I stayed behind was so that I could sing freely, loudly, expressively and privately. I would day dream lots. I laid out piles of books around the room and became utterly lost in them, gleaning and storing snippets of them in a pensive haze. I remember how captivated I was by them both; books and music. So much so that when anyone hollered for me I wouldn’t hear them.

I took singing lessons as a teen. I sang on the way to lessons at college and even to exams. In fact I even had, ‘exam songs’. I sang in the park with my friends, whilst cooking and always in the bath. People tell us all the time that we should learn from our elders. I have to tell you quite honestly and humbly that I am right now in my life, learning from my younger self.

For I had a focus that I am only proud of now and wish that I still had. I knew that with every song and with my own decidedness I got myself in the zone. I knew that singing made my heart flutter and gave me a rush of energy. So why then had I let the song out of my life in recent years?

The radio in the car played the same nursery rhymes. The kitchen was quiet. The TV played as background noise and social media was the go-to.

I went on a girl’s night on Friday. I met the girls on my NCT group and the three of us have seen each other through big, emotionally-overhauling life changes.  We have spoken to each about stuff we wouldn’t normally say, candidly, angrily, ecstatically and most of all we have been exhausted together. We talked about our most recent changes in life. One of us is having a new baby; another is going through a separation. Then there is me.

I drove home at nearly midnight, eyes sore from fatigue. As I turned into the driveway I heard a song that threw me back to my teenage years. I closed my eyes and I was with my books and the windows were open, net curtains billowing…I was crouched on the floor, face cupped in hand, and hair everywhere. The romantic potential unlocked and singing, smiling, lost and with swelling with a beat.

knew that the moment I walked in through the door I would become a mother, so when the song had stopped playing I found it on youtube and played it again, thrice.

To fit the deep and smoky mood, I made this Mexican-Asian noodle soup.  I was sent some wonderful Mexican ingredients by CoolChille Company and I knew that I had to do it. The black beans are deep and earthy and brought to a further earthiness with soy bean paste. Guajillo chillies are wonderfully rich in colour and smoky. I toasted, soaked and then blitzed them to a paste and this has really released immense richness. Avocado brings silky and creamy quality and it works superbly with the soup. I have up epazote which is a citrus-medicinal type Mexican herb and works fabulously with black beans.  This one works as a bowl of surprise and sumptuous taste.

Deep and Smokey Mexican-Asian noodle soup

 

Ingredients to serve 2-3

200g cooked black beans

6 baby onions, quartered

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

700ml water

2 tsp.

1 tsp. soy bean paste

2 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

Half an avocado, sliced

6-7 baby corn, thinly sliced

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 large guajillo chillies

2 tsp. epazote

2 tbsp. cooking oil

A few sprigs of coriander to garnish

A couple of slices of lime to garnish

Method

  1. Start by toasting the Guajillo chillies on a non-stick pan to release the flavour. You will notice that the chilli will soften and will release a wonderful heat. Toast for about a minute on each side and then let them cool to room temperaturechillies 1
  2. Soak the Guajillo chillies in hot water for about 15 minutes, before grinding them to a paste.
  3. In a deep pan, heat the oil and add the cumin seeds. When the seeds sizzle add the baby onions and fry them until they brown lightly. Then add the garlic and baby corn and sauté for another minute
  4. Pour in the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and the epazote and cook for another minute.
  5. Pour in the water and add the soy bean paste. Bring the soup to a simmer.
  6. Introduce the black beans and the guajillo chillies then add the noodles.
  7. Allow the soup to simmer for 3-4 minutes or until the noodles are cooked.
  8. Serve the soup and top with the slices of avocado, coriander and lime. The lime infuses beautifully with the soup.
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