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Falooda, creamy tofu curry and spiced paneer – Arla organic milk recipes

30 Jun

 

We have made some subtle, but impactful lifestyle changes in our home recently and I’m not ever sure whether the change is enough, but there is change and I see that, as positive.  One of my boy’s teacher’s said something I will use, and that is that ‘practise makes progress’ (rather than the unattainable standard of perfection). We have moved from refined white flour to spelt for foods like pizza, pancakes or bread.  We have cut out the use of white sugar from our diets during the weekdays; I like to use a little honey though, just a little. I am reading more these days and I wish I had not fragmented my relationship with books during recent years, because I have always loved the vivid escapism that books can ignite; conjuring up mental pictures is a powerful thing after all, isn’t it. I have joined a new health club and I am really enjoying it; I have been busy balancing my body (using a mix of Tai Chi and Pilates), swimming in a lovely warm pool followed by the steam room and jacuzzi scattered with chatting to strangers and I have been playing badminton and I have also been attending classes in mindfulness. I have been walking more, working outdoors in the sunshine and watching a few movies here and there.  I have been exploring work that I will choose, because I will enjoy it – how profoundly important this is. My husband has been a voice on the shoulder, saying ‘do it (whatever ‘it’ may be) if it makes you happy, life is too short’.

So, when Arla asked me if I would write a post about their organic milk and how I would use it through the day, of course I said yes. Arla tell me that the nutrients in a 200ml glass of semi-skimmed milk are as follows:

  • 31% of our recommended daily calcium (needed for the maintenance of normal bones and teeth)
  • 74% of our recommended daily vitamin B12 (contributes to the normal function of the immune system)
  • 41% of our recommended daily iodine (contributes to normal cognitive function)
  • 35% of our recommended daily vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) (contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue)
  • 16% of our recommended daily potassium (contributes to the maintenance of normal blood pressure)
  • 14% of our recommended daily protein (contributes to the maintenance and growth of muscle mass)

So, this weekend just gone, I got lots of the fabulous white stuff going and I started with spiced paneer on toast. It always feels so clever to make paneer cheese, but it is so, so simple and the clean, soft textures are satisfying for my mouth and ego.

Spiced paneer on toast (serves 2)

For the paneer

700ml of Arla organic whole milk

About 1-2tsp. lemon juice

A muslin/cotton cloth

Vegetable oil for cooking (1 tbsp.)

A splash of lemon juice

A spring onion, chopped for the topping

Spices; salt to taste, ¼ tsp. ground turmeric, a pinch of kalonji (onion seeds), a pinch of cumin seeds, ½ tsp. ground coriander, ½ tsp. ground cumin, ¼ tsp. smoked paprika

For the asparagus; a large handful of extra fine asparagus spears, salt to taste, 1 tbsp. cooking oil, ½ tbsp. sesame seeds

Method

  1. Bring the milk to the boil in a non-stick pan, then add the lemon juice. Wait for the curds and whey to separate.
  2. Drain the paneer into a tightly woven muslin or cotton cloth, washing out the lemon juice. Remove as much of the water as possible.
  3. Heat the oil for the asparagus and add the sesame seeds. Let them catch colour before adding the asparagus and salt and cook them for about 4 minutes. They should have a bite, but not be chewy.
  4. Heat the oil for cooking, then add the ground turmeric, onion seeds, and cumin seeds before gently mixing in the paneer cheese. Now sprinkle in the salt, ground cumin and coriander as well as the paprika before the lemon juice is added and then cook the paneer for a couple of minutes
  5. Layer the paneer cheese and asparagus onto the toast and sprinkle with spring onions. I used siracha sauce too, because I like it hot!

We have made some subtle, but impactful lifestyle changes in our home recently and I’m not ever sure whether the change is enough, but there is change and I see that, as positive. One of my boy’s teacher’s said something I will use, and that is that ‘practise makes progress’ (rather than the unattainable standard of perfection). We have moved from refined white flour to spelt for foods like pizza, pancakes or bread. We have cut out the use of white sugar from our diets during the weekdays; I like to use a little honey though, just a little. I am reading more these days and I wish I had not fragmented my relationship with books during recent years, because I have always loved the vivid escapism that books can ignite; conjuring up mental pictures is a powerful thing after all, isn’t it. I have joined a new health club and I am really enjoying it; I have been busy balancing my body (using a mix of Tai Chi and Pilates), swimming in a lovely warm pool followed by the steam room and jacuzzi scattered with chatting to strangers and I have been playing badminton and I have also been attending classes in mindfulness. I have been walking more, working outdoors in the sunshine and watching a few movies here and there. I have been exploring work that I will choose, because I will enjoy it – how profoundly important this is. My husband has been a voice on the shoulder, saying ‘do it (whatever ‘it’ may be) if it makes you happy, life is too short’. So, when Arla asked me if I would write a post about their organic milk and how I would use it through the day, of course I said yes. Arla tell me that the nutrients in a 200ml glass of semi-skimmed milk are as follows: • 31% of our recommended daily calcium (needed for the maintenance of normal bones and teeth) • 74% of our recommended daily vitamin B12 (contributes to the normal function of the immune system) • 41% of our recommended daily iodine (contributes to normal cognitive function) • 35% of our recommended daily vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) (contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue) • 16% of our recommended daily potassium (contributes to the maintenance of normal blood pressure) • 14% of our recommended daily protein (contributes to the maintenance and growth of muscle mass) So, this weekend just gone, I got lots of the fabulous white stuff going and I started with spiced paneer on toast. It always feels so clever to make paneer cheese, but it is so, so simple and the clean, soft textures are satisfying for my mouth and ego. Spiced paneer on toast (serves 2) For the paneer 700ml of Arla organic whole milk About 1-2tsp. lemon juice A muslin/cotton cloth Vegetable oil for cooking (1 tbsp.) A splash of lemon juice A spring onion, chopped for the topping Spices; salt to taste, ¼ tsp. ground turmeric, a pinch of kalonji (onion seeds), a pinch of cumin seeds, ½ tsp. ground coriander, ½ tsp. ground cumin, ¼ tsp. smoked paprika For the asparagus; a large handful of extra fine asparagus spears, salt to taste, 1 tbsp. cooking oil, ½ tbsp. sesame seeds Method 1. Bring the milk to the boil in a non-stick pan, then add the lemon juice. Wait for the curds and whey to separate. 2. Drain the paneer into a tightly woven muslin or cotton cloth, washing out the lemon juice. Remove as much of the water as possible. 3. Heat the oil for the asparagus and add the sesame seeds. Let them catch colour before adding the asparagus and salt and cook them for about 4 minutes. They should have a bite, but not be chewy. 4. Heat the oil for cooking, then add the ground turmeric, onion seeds, and cumin seeds before gently mixing in the paneer cheese. Now sprinkle in the salt, ground cumin and coriander as well as the paprika before the lemon juice is added and then cook the paneer for a couple of minutes 5. Layer the paneer cheese and asparagus onto the toast and sprinkle with spring onions. I used siracha sauce too, because I like it hot! After what I would consider a plentiful breakfast I didn’t fancy much of lunch. I had a very small portion of the boy’s lunch of spelt pasta with a roasted red pepper sauce and this of course left plenty of space for my inner child to scoff a falooda milkshake whilst unashamedly sighing in pleasure, throughout. Doesn’t it look like fun to eat? Strawberry Falooda shake (Serves 2) 200g chopped strawberries with a good squeeze of honey 1 tbsp. chopped pistachios 1 ½ cup of Arla organic milk (I used whole milk) Another generous squeeze (or two) of honey A pinch of saffron strands ¼ tsp. ground cardamom ½ tbsp. rose water 2 tbsp. chia seeds A large handful of brown rice vermicelli, broken A scoop of ice cream for serving A few slices of strawberries for serving Method 1. Heat the milk and add the honey, saffron and ground cardamom. Remove about a third of it and pour it into a bowl, then mix it with the chia seeds. Allow this milk (with chia seeds) to cool to room temperature before placing it into the fridge. 2. Add the brown rice vermicelli to the remaining, two thirds of the milk and bring it to a slow simmer. Cook the vermicelli for a couple of minutes before allowing the milk to cool, to room temperature, before placing it in the fridge. 3. In a non-stick pan, simmer the strawberries combined with the honey until the pulpy. Allow them to cool to room temperature before, you guessed it, placing it in the fridge. 4. When all the ingredients are chilled, take one deep glass and spoon half the strawberry mixture onto the bottom, then add the milk with vermicelli, then the milk with chia seeds. Top it with the sliced strawberries, pistachio, desiccated coconut and ice cream (I used coconut gelato). I have finally, finally, got the boy to eat tofu – I know that this may not seem like a big deal, but for me it feels like a momentous accomplishment. If you have been reading my blog for some time, you may recall my worry and confusion from the point of weening, through to well, relatively recently when it comes to his eating. I mean, I still can’t get my boy to eat a vegetarian sausage or a sandwich but there are, thankfully, foods that he will indeed eat and I have to admit to flutters in my tummy when he picks up some tofu and actually consumes it, willingly. Anyway, back on to my adult taste buds. I like a creamy curry, but I can’t bring myself to use cream. It is a good job that cashews make for a mellow, lightly sweet and easy-to-make alternative. I don’t mind some crunchy bits in there, but you may choose to be more careful about that. Creamy (milky) tofu and broccoli curry A pack of firm tofu, drained and cubed 200g of broccoli florets, boiled or steamed for a couple of minutes 2 tbsp. vegetable oil for cooking 1 tbsp. for shallow frying the tofu A medium-sized onion, finely diced 2 cloves of garlic and a thumb sized piece of ginger, minced ½ can of tinned tomatoes, pureed 1 cup of warm milk combined with 30g cashews 1/3 cup of hot water Spices; salt to taste, ¼ tsp. ground turmeric, 1 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. ground coriander, ½ tsp. garam masala, 2 tsp. dried fenugreek leaves, ½ tsp. cumin seeds, a pinch of asafoetida, a small stick of cinnamon and a clove. Method 1. In a non-stick pan heat the oil and shallow fry the tofu until its golden brown. 2. Let the warm milk and cashews settled until the cashews are softened. This should take about 20 minutes. Blitz the cashews and milk together until they’re smooth, as a thick milk. 3. In a deeper pan, heat the cooking oil and add then asafoetida, turmeric, cumin seeds, clove and cinnamon. Allow the seeds to sizzle before adding in the onion and the salt. Soften the onion, before adding in the ground cumin, ground coriander and then cooking for just under a minute. 4. Now add the tomatoes, the dried fenugreek leaves and the garam masala. Simmer for a couple of minutes on a low flame before gently placing in the tofu, before giving them a little shake in the pan. Be careful not to break the tofu. Cook for a few minutes. 5. Now Add the cashew milk and the water, and then simmer for a further couple of minutes, let the curry base thicken. 6. Finally, introduce the broccoli. The broccoli should spend only 2-3 minutes cooking in the curry

After what I would consider a plentiful breakfast I didn’t fancy much of lunch. I had a very small portion of the boy’s lunch of spelt pasta with a roasted red pepper sauce and this of course left plenty of space for my inner child to scoff a falooda milkshake whilst unashamedly sighing in pleasure, throughout. Doesn’t it look like fun to eat?

Strawberry Falooda shake (Serves 2)

200g chopped strawberries with a good squeeze of honey

1 tbsp. chopped pistachios

1 ½ cup of Arla organic milk (I used whole milk)

Another generous squeeze (or two) of honey

A pinch of saffron strands

¼ tsp. ground cardamom

½ tbsp. rose water

2 tbsp. chia seeds

A large handful of brown rice vermicelli, broken

A scoop of ice cream for serving

A few slices of strawberries for serving

Method

  1. Heat the milk and add the honey, saffron and ground cardamom. Remove about a third of it and pour it into a bowl, then mix it with the chia seeds.  Allow this milk (with chia seeds) to cool to room temperature before placing it into the fridge.
  2. Add the brown rice vermicelli to the remaining, two thirds of the milk and bring it to a slow simmer. Cook the vermicelli for a couple of minutes before allowing the milk to cool, to room temperature, before placing it in the fridge.
  3. In a non-stick pan, simmer the strawberries combined with the honey until the pulpy. Allow them to cool to room temperature before, you guessed it, placing it in the fridge.
  4. When all the ingredients are chilled, take one deep glass and spoon half the strawberry mixture onto the bottom, then add the milk with vermicelli, then the milk with chia seeds. Top it with the sliced strawberries, pistachio, desiccated coconut and ice cream (I used coconut gelato).

I have finally, finally, got the boy to eat tofu – I know that this may not seem like a big deal, but for me it feels like a momentous accomplishment.  If you have been reading my blog for some time, you may recall my worry and confusion from the point of weening, through to well, relatively recently when it comes to his eating. I mean, I still can’t get my boy to eat a vegetarian sausage or a sandwich but there are, thankfully, foods that he will indeed eat and I have to admit to flutters in my tummy when he picks up some tofu and actually consumes it, willingly. Anyway, back on to my adult taste buds.  I like a creamy curry, but I can’t bring myself to use cream.  It is a good job that cashews make for a mellow, lightly sweet and easy-to-make alternative. I don’t mind some crunchy bits in there, but you may choose to be more careful about that.

 Strawberry Falooda by Deena Kakaya

Creamy (milky) tofu and broccoli curry

A pack of firm tofu, drained and cubed

200g of broccoli florets, boiled or steamed for a couple of minutes

2 tbsp. vegetable oil for cooking

1 tbsp. for shallow frying the tofu

A  medium-sized onion, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic and a thumb sized piece of ginger, minced

½ can of tinned tomatoes, pureed

1 cup of warm milk combined with 30g cashews

1/3 cup of hot water

Spices; salt to taste, ¼ tsp. ground turmeric, 1 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. ground coriander, ½ tsp. garam masala, 2 tsp. dried fenugreek leaves, ½ tsp. cumin seeds, a pinch of asafoetida, a small stick of cinnamon and a clove.

Method

  1. In a non-stick pan heat the oil and shallow fry the tofu until its golden brown.
  2. Let the warm milk and cashews settled until the cashews are softened. This should take about 20 minutes.  Blitz the cashews and milk together until they’re smooth, as a thick milk.
  3. In a deeper pan, heat the cooking oil and add then asafoetida, turmeric, cumin seeds, clove and cinnamon. Allow the seeds to sizzle before adding in the onion and the salt.  Soften the onion, before adding in the ground cumin, ground coriander and then cooking for just under a minute.
  4. Now add the tomatoes, the dried fenugreek leaves and the garam masala. Simmer for a couple of minutes on a low flame before gently placing in the tofu, before giving them a little shake in the pan. Be careful not to break the tofu. Cook for a few minutes.
  5. Now Add the cashew milk and the water, and then simmer for a further couple of minutes, let the curry base thicken.
  6. Finally, introduce the broccoli. The broccoli should spend only 2-3 minutes cooking in the curry

Creamy Tofu and Broccoli Curry by Deena Kakaya

 

Roasted cauliflower manchurian

5 Jul

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

roasted cauli manchurian by Deena Kakaya

 

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

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

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

Ingredients to serve 2-3

A medium head of cauliflower cut into large florets

1 ½ tbsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. minced ginger

1 tsp. minced garlic

A generous pinch of Chinese 5 spice powder

6 tsp. of corn flour

For the sauce

2 tbsp. tomato ketchup

1 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. siracha sauce

1 tbsp. agave nectar

1 tbsp. freshly chopped coriander

3 spring onions, finely chopped

Method

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

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.

Yellow courgette, basil chutney and Halloumi cannelloni

13 Nov

Yellow courgette, basil chutney and Halloumi cannelloni

I am time poor these days and the guilt mounts. The self-bashing about my overactive and restless mind that wanders off as my two year old speaks about the humungous spider we trapped in a cup, on the stairs for the nineteenth time. The let-down from not spending enough time with my husband in the evenings and cuddling text books instead. The inner sighs at not listening to my parents for long enough to hear what is troubling their ever flailing health right now. The promises to myself; I have in fact made a list for all the compensating I need to do. I am blessed that none of my loved ones punish me; I am the only one who does that to me. Since when does seeing my best friend feature on a list?

Yellow courgette, basil chutney and Halloumi cannelloni by Deena Kakaya

So I am cutting corners where I can. I am choosing reading books and number-puzzles over fussy and unnecessarily complicated cooking, shopping, and general life. I am choosing to pick up the phone to say congratulations or ‘sorry you aren’t feeling well’ rather than use social media. And in tune with this, I share with you a ridiculously easy and scrumptious recipe today.

Yellow courgette, basil chutney and Halloumi cannelloni by Deena Kakaya

For this time of year, the Riverford box we received this week was refreshingly green; masses of kale, thick pillows of spinach, and a whack of fresh basil all in pristine condition. We received massive and fairly young garlic that was not overpowering in aroma and almost nut like in texture. For me there is usually a star of the box I receive, something stands out to me as most exciting and frankly this is often a personal choice and mine this week have got to be that basil and garlic.

I have to confess that this recipe took me all of 15 minutes to prepare and I gave it another 15 minutes in the oven. It’s absurd isn’t it? But just look at it. The basil chutney has a good whack and the courgettes don’t turn soggy. The Halloumi is heated all the way through and let me tell you, this is a recipe that is very, very easy to eat.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Mexican spiced cauliflower in an almond-sesame crust

8 Nov

A few years ago I shared a recipe for crispy, tandoori spiced potatoes with BBC Good Food magazine and I have to admit that when they adjusted my gram flour based recipe to use plain flour, I was a little bit perturbed. Just a little; but I trust the editor, whom I admire and like lots so I went with it, and tried it out.

Mexican spiced cauliflower in an almond-sesame crust by Deena Kakaya

I wish I could convince myself to take that attitude more often in life, you know, just try it. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Maybe I would be living in a different country, carried out different jobs, different sports, and met new people and who knows what else? For now, I am learning to plunge a bit deeper, let go a little more, hold on a little less tightly and think a bit bigger, to be bolder.

I received a clean slate of a vegetable in this week’s Riverford box, a totally unmarked, brilliantly white and heavy cauliflower. I read recently that a celebrity chef called it the meat of the vegetarian world. Now I cannot say that this is a description that I find fitting, but what I interpret that to mean is that it’s a filling, bulky item that can easily be the main dish, rather than just one of those side dishes. I like it roasted, because it releases delicate sweet aromas and keeps that lightly firm bite!

Mexican spiced cauliflower in an almond-sesame crust by Deena Kakaya

Do you remember me talking about eating in a healthier way over recent posts? Have I gone on and on about that enough yet? No? Well OK then! My body is really crying out for some care so I am taking action. This recipe today uses my home made Mexican spice blend, none of the shop bought stuff. I have used no oil, and even the crumb for the crunchy cauliflower uses almonds and black sesame seeds rather that breadcrumbs. This is a vegan recipe but you could add an egg to the batter to give it a lighter, fluffier effect. I was pretty impressed that a wrap without cheese, with loads of green herby goodness and spice could taste like a weekday treat.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

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

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki

15 Oct

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki

I am doing it again but must nip it in the bud. I am once again the hamster (on a wheel), the rat (slowly racing) and the chicken (very much headless). I am not quite the dog (I don’t eat other dogs and not just because I am vegetarian.) I am most definitely, absolutely the owl (night is when I work, not sleep). That is not because I enjoy being up late but because I want to be productive in a work sense, and also want my child to have his mother raising him and whilst my panda eyes lose focus now and again, my heart is not.

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki by Deena Kakaya

This time in life, I am looking back at the smaller steps I have made, and they are steps forward. I have so far been so fixated with big milestones for the future that I have neglected to be grateful and recognise for the smaller steps that I have made. The little things have lifted me, given me hope, encouraged me, kept my days rolling, stopped me thinking of wasteful things, buffered my falls, given me reason to channel energies, re-instilled confidence for me, pushed me to change, made me more humble, made me more me. The small things, the smaller steps. When I thought of how I would feel should I no longer have the teeny sized fruits of the small seeds I planted, then…well. It wasn’t a happy thought.


spinach tikki 2

This is why today, I share with you small tikki. I have taken inspiration from tikki that Indian street food sellers tantalise passers-by with; steaming hot patties that are crisp on the outside, fluffy and moist inside and full of peppery spice. Traditionally they would be made of chickpeas and potatoes and I am using deep black beans, silky spinach and a little oozy cheese. I have retained the influence of pungent and peppery chaat masala, which uses black salt.

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki by Deena Kakaya

Riverford sent me the silkiest perfect leaves of spinach, not punched with ominous looking holes. A huge bag of light green and juicy goodness, none of this limp stuff you often get. Spinach actually happens to be one of those refrigerator items that sometimes yield less love than we in our house can spread over the week, a bit like bananas. Now, experimental as I can be, I am not about to suggest pairing banana and spinach together today. Not today anyway, but the tikki, now those I ate a few straight off the pan, ah the little pleasures.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

 

Indo-Thai mango and coconut bhel

5 Oct

Indo-Thai mango and coconut bhel

Two fabulous things happened at the tail end of last week; my husband returned home for a couple of days, after eleven days of business related work in Australia and I found a Riverford fruit and veg box wrapped up and tucked behind my garden gate.

Indo-thai bhel1 by Deena Kakaya

 

Years ago, when my husband made the switch from his role in the pharmaceutical industry to make a living in the field he is so passionate about (magic) I would cry upon his departure for these clustered long-haul trips. After years of listening to him talk about making dreams manifest and how life is so short and it is not worth spending limited moments of breath and potential smiles doing something one is less than passionate about, there was a juxtaposition of,  ‘I want you to LIVE’ and ‘I don’t want to be alone’.

I didn’t like the quiet of the evenings or cooking for one. I didn’t like the ‘filling in’ activities. I didn’t like waking alone or going to sleep with just the telly for company. But look, years on. Who would have thought that I could become accustomed to waving goodbye with a young child on my hip and that the quiet of the evenings would become precious time to prepare for lectures or cookery classes and those textbooks have become me, once again?  Years ago I would find solace in those messages, ‘how are you coping on your own’ and now I see ambition and vision through how much courage I have mustered up in recent years. I have even considered spending a few years abroad.

So the contents of the Riverford fruit and veg box this week made me chuckle because they matched my thoughts of more exotic climes and the will to LIVE. Now, I am sure I have gone on, and on enough about how much of an alphonso fan I am but alas we can’t have these in the UK this year but I was tickled by the delivery of a large and firm mango. I spotted red chillies and red onions, salsa? I could have done yes, but I fancied something sensational and explosive. It is how I want to feel you see.

I am taking a deep breath before I tell you this. Macaroons and chaat. OK. Let me explain. These are the two foods that make my limbs turn to jelly with anticipation and heart skipping joy. Heart-leap-frogging.  I am a girl that does not need to be gifted shoes, give me macaroons and chaat. And if I haven’t told you before, chaat is Indian street food (vegetarian snack) of inordinate amounts of sensual pleasure. The trickles of tamarind chutney and chilli green lip-smacking chutney heighten a fine balance of sweet, sour, crisp, cool, soft and spicy textures. It pops every sense and leaves anyone and everyone hankering for more, more, more.

But, you know me. I can’t just leave it there. I saw this mango and thought Indo-Thai would be absolutely perfumery delight. The mango gives sweet-sharp balance to the aniseed Thai basil. I have used coconut and peanuts for the salty and nutty elements too. This is not an understated dish (I have stressed that enough haven’t I?) it is a full show. New potatoes ensure that you get a soft bite without soggy mess that an ordinary potato can bring and you can get the puffed rice from most supermarkets or Indian grocers. I have used chopped mint and coriander too for a real herby feel. I would definitely recommend getting hold of the chaat masala that is made of peppery black salt, it lifts the dish to a whole new level. Just try it.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Slow roasted tomato and pistachio pasta rotolo in a spiced butternut squash sauce

3 Oct

Slow roasted tomato and pistachio pasta rotolo in a spiced butternut squash sauce

 

I cook a lot of ‘welcome home’ meals these days.

Slow roasted tomato and pistachio pasta rotolo in a spiced butternut squash sauce

I have a husband who travels a lot for work and I’ve spent most of this month solo parenting, juggling lectures and cookery classes, recipe submissions and general life. Thank goodness for my awesome parents who have done their best, again, for me? Each time he goes away though, I feel like I grow.

Slow roasted tomato and pistachio pasta rotolo in a spiced butternut squash sauce

This time I have grown because I had to sort my repeated, month long car related mayhem out myself (although my brother helped significantly), I grew because I had to prepare lectures through till 2am and wake with my toddler at 7am and get him sorted without the 30mins of relief that his dad might otherwise give me in the morning.  I grew because I had to fix the printer ink issues out and get taxis at 10pm on my return from work that broke down whilst my phone battery died. I grew because when a relative told me that she is never left in the home alone by her family because she fears the silence and won’t go to toilet alone, i realised that i no longer dear the lonely evenings. I no longer feel sad when people see through social media that I am on my own but don’t take a couple of minutes to ask how I am, because you know, everyone is living their own challenge each day, in their own way. But most of all, I grew because life just carried on as normal.

So, after a couple of days with my folks I received a welcome home present from Riverford. A huge box of seasonal fruit and vegetables packaged in green, and tucked at the side of my home.  My toddler yelped, ‘yes, it’s the vegetables mumma, what did they send?’ The best of the season’s last tomatoes and a bulbous butternut squash amongst green goodness of autumn is what they sent.  I’m always so impressed by the perfect quality of the fruit and veg, there’s not a single bruise on them and they smell so sweet and earthy.  My tot almost instantly headed for a chair and asked to scrub the vegetables to reveal luminous oranges and red of sweet potatoes and peppers and we got the most perfectly quenching grapes.

 

I have to admit though; I’m not normally a butternut squash kind of person. I don’t like sweet soups and I can’t eat them boiled, I just can’t. But the colour of this one was just so rapturing that I needed to do something with it.

 

To me, a welcome home meal is one that is bubbling and simmering, thick and cajoling. A smile for home trickles through when the meal is nourishing and inviting, and full of the flavours of home. When my Husband arrived home from his last trip in Australia I made an Indian inspired feast of curries and dhal, vegetable and cheese raitha, Shrikhand and a stack of chapatti and vegetable rice. But this time, he returned from Mumbai and I knew he would have not only the finest Indian food but also some Chinese, Mexican and Italian food, so what to feed him this time?

 

This pistachio and slow roasted tomato rotolo is rousing in that the slow tomatoes tingle on the tongue with sharp sweetness and the pistachio and quark is a whack of aroma and colour which balances with the rich and thick spiced butternut squash sauce. A little goes a long way.

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

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