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Tofu stuffed with toasted sesame, almonds, sorrel and chili

1 Jul

Tofu stuffed with toasted sesame, almonds, sorrel and chili

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

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

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

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

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

crispy chaat masala tofu salad with tamarind chutney and yogurt dip

tandoori tofu and cauliflower tacos

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

soy-masala tofu, quinoa, avocado and mozzarella salad

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

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

25 Jun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 medium-large aubergines

4 good pinches of alfalfa sprouts

A couple of handfuls of almonds

100g beansprouts

An onion, thinly sliced

100g orange tomatoes, sliced

100g green tomatoes, sliced

2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 tbsp. sesame seeds

The dressing

10 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

6 tbsp. kecap Manis

3 tbsp. sriracha sauce

Method

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

 

Ginger beer, lime, soy and chilli marinated and glazed vegetarian chicken with a puy lentil, yellow bean and soya bean salad

18 Jun

Ginger beer, lime, soy and chilli marinated and glazed vegetarian chicken with a puy lentil, yellow bean and soya bean salad

Ginger beer, lime, soy and chilli marinated and glazed vegetarian chicken with a puy lentil, yellow bean and soya bean salad

 

When I left the corporate world three years ago, I accepted some truths about myself and life and also resolved to live/be alive/ thrive/bloom/ differently.

I told myself that I would not choose work on the basis of money.

I resolved that I would aim to be happy in each day, for that day.

I committed to being more grateful for each of the blessings that currently I have in my life.

I decided that there would be no gossip in our home, no unnecessary negative or weighing talk.

I devoted more energy and time to love and to spending time with my loved ones.

I set to strive to stop measuring myself by successes and failures.

And I absolutely, most certainly did not want to be commuting into central London for work, again. No. No.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Ginger beer, lime, soy and chilli marinated and glazed vegetarian chicken with a puy lentil, yellow bean and soya bean salad

On Tuesday this week I went for a physiotherapy appointment and the physiotherapist made barely any eye contact with me at all and spoke to me in a uniform and mechanical tone. When I asked a question, she sighed deeply and answered into her computer screen, ‘nooooo, I told you…’

She later happened to ask me what I did before my son was born. I then noticed her well sculpted nose and thick layer of eye liner. She seemed tired and wore a diamond on her necklace that carried a leaf. ‘Oh, that’s interesting’. We then had an actual conversation before I left to go to the bank where really pleasant young chap with streaks of purple and pink in his otherwise almost-black hair helped me swiftly and politely. He chuckled respectfully about how he was cooped up indoors on a sunny day, but that’s what happens when you have a ‘normal’ 9-5 job, isn’t’ he joked. Isn’t it. It got me thinking about how lovely ‘normal’ is. That feeling of waking up in the morning purposefully and ready to do a good day’s work…even complaining about the traffic or that annoying email full of demands and not enough time. The banter, the parking issues, it is all reassuringly normal; validation that we are all part of a moving engine.

Anyway, later that day, as I headed over to a foodie event I was on the phone to my brother who is not a Londoner (but of course loves London) pronounced his obvious qualms about tube travelling and the maze that the map can be. He thought he would get lost, but I reminded him that he was on the circle line, it goes in a circle? He remarked how the masses of suited and trainer clad commuters moved pensively and determinedly about like wasps that were evidently very, very late. But they read. And I missed it. I felt glad that my upcoming two opportunities are London based.

So, in truths there lies change.

Back to the World Cup 2014. I have absolutely no interest in football but if you do, here is a recipe that you can pick at from your sofa seated position and I promise you that it will titillate you. It really, really will because the ginger beer soaks right through the spongy soya textures and if you are not vegetarian, use chicken. It’s a bit sweet, it’s a bit spicy and it is wholly pleasurable in a lightly sticky way. I am thoroughly excited by this recipe and can’t wait for you to try it.

Ingredients to serve 2

400g mock chicken (use the TKC vegetarian chicken)

450ml ginger beer

4 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tbsp. soft brown sugar

1 large red chilli, or more if you like

The zest of one lime

The juice of one lime

1 tbsp. groundnut oil

2-3 dried ginger roots

1 tbsp. chilli sauce (I use sriracha sauce)

2-3 spring onions, chopped into bite sized pieces

100g puy lentils

100g soya beans

100g yellow beans

Method

  1. Defrost the TKC vegetarian chicken as per packet instructions and then in a large bowl add the mock chicken, chilli, lime zest, chilli sauce and ginger roots then pour in half of the ginger beer. Then add the brown sugar, soy sauce and the remaining ginger beer. Let it rest in the fridge for a couple of hours
  2. Prepare the puy lentils by boiling them for approximately 20 minutes, or per packet instructions. Boil the soya beans for 3-4 minutes and then rinse them in cold water. Boil the yellow beans for 8 minutes and then rinse them in cold water. Combine these three ingredients before cooking the mock chicken.
  3. In a non-stick pan heat the oil and then add the spring onion and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the mock chicken without the juices and stir through. Then ladle in the juices, two at a time until the moisture is soaked into the mock chicken. You should see a golden and lightly sticky glaze develop. Repeat this process until ¾ of the marinade is used up. Use one ladle for the salad and then serve whilst the mock chicken is hot.

 

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

6 Jun

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients to serve 2

500g king Edward potatoes

4 tbsp. miso paste

2 tbsp. tamarind chutney

2 tbsp. oil

A few dabs of garlic mayonnaise

My salad had in it;

–          ½ cup of petit poi’s

–          8 spears of asparagus

–          A handful of Okahijiki

–          5-6 radish shaved or very thinly sliced

–          2-3 baby beetroot

Method

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

eat your greens logo

 

Extra Veg Badge

Sweet, silky heat-Beetroot and wasabi houmous

4 Jun

 

Sweet, silky heat-Beetroot and wasabi houmous

 

Sweet, silky heat-Beetroot and wasabi houmous

For someone who has typically felt unruffled by change, I am experiencing a lot of it at the moment. I was having a conversation with a loved one, in my head the other day.  I was telling them that I am looking forward to getting up there, in front of an academic group of grown-ups listening to me with notes before them and grit in the heart, sleep in the eyes. Then I told them that my loved one that I couldn’t believe that I just said that. It has been years since I looked forward to any activity of that kind. I am also looking forward to teaching my next three cookery classes. I am going to admit to something I haven’t reflected on in years.

 

A few years ago a neighbour knocked on my door. She has a sweet smile and very kind eyes, but I was still unsure. I didn’t see Asian ladies of her later years with a boyish grey mop, so when she spoke, very gently, kindly and eloquently it made a bit more sense. I now know that my neighbour is a retired GP and a helpful Christian. I see her on walks delivering eggs and milk to those less mobile than her and I listen to her as she tells me how her grandchildren are developing and how she is particularly fond of, ‘the boy’ as he is so affectionate.

 

Back then my neighbour asked me if I would teach some cookery on a charitable basis at the Church, on a weekday. I sighed inside and with great guilt I confessed how stretched I was. A full time job, a home that wasn’t yet developed…you know all of the rest. I told her that when I stopped for the baby I would be very glad to. ‘I understand’ she said, glowing in her tiny frame. Smaller than me.

 

She understood but now I look back I am not sure I do. Now I have less money but more humility. Less time but more love. Less greed and more of a sense of that I am not immortal and more of a drive to make it count. I am not saying that I am a better person now. What I have committed to is some more regular cookery for a charitable purpose alongside the other classes.

 

Meanwhile my son has gone from an angelic and sparky 2 ¼ year old to something of a teenager. Literally overnight. So, as you can see, it is time to open a new chapter whilst ingesting the sweet heat of my life as it is. On the subject of sweet heat…here is my recipe for beetroot and wasabi hummus or houmous. The beet gives a mellow and easy sweetness, as life should be. The wasabi gives a gentle background heat that pops just at the end of the experience, just like my toddler is offering me right now. Altogether we have some balance and I like to suck it up with lashings of breadsticks. Life. Houmous. Same.

Sweet, silky heat-Beetroot and wasabi houmous

 

Ingredients

 

1 can of drained chickpeas

 

250g cooked beetroot, roughly chopped

 

1 can kidney beans, drained

 

¾ cup tahini

 

2 cloves of garlic, minced or finely chopped

 

4 tbsp. lemon juice

 

3 tbsp. ice cold water

 

Salt to taste

 

4 heaped tsp. wasabi paste (or more if you like it hotter)

 

1 ½ tbsp. olive oil

 

Method

 

  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the wasabi and olive oil and blitz together in a food processor.
  2. When the ingredients look smooth and silky, add 1 tbsp. olive oil and the wasabi paste and blitz again.
  3. Use a fork to smooth the houmous and remove any lumps of wasabi paste.
  4. Transfer the houmous into a bow and drizzle with a little oil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Crispy Chaat masala tofu salad with tamarind chutney and yoghurt dip

29 May

Crispy Chaat masala tofu salad with tamarind chutney and yoghurt dip

Crispy Chaat masala tofu salad with tamarind chutney and yoghurt dip

I was 26, but came weeping childishly down the stairs of our new build home at that time, flaccid, tousled and seeking warmth and comfort and really, an escape. I discharged my strains in barely comprehensible trickles, “I don’t want to study any more I’m just too tired”.

I drooped into my husband’s embrace, “I don’t wanna do it, I don’t want to”. Working full time and taking three papers of my final post graduate exams was proving too much. My palms and arms were stained with the colours of inducing some sort of excitement through pens and my hair flopped in half greasy protest, threatening an invitation for pimples. I felt the cool of the house and it began to calm me, the heat escaped my forehead and cheeks and diffused some of the tension. I have this strange habit of keeping the fan heater close to me whilst I am studying you see, even when it isn’t that cold. Maybe it insulates me from external distraction.

I whimpered to my husband that I wanted to wear nice clothes, not these vests and tracksuit bottoms with thick cosy socks that are suited for hibernation. I told him that I wanted to socialize and have fun and go for dinner, not be tied to my books and notes. I told him that I did not want to fail…and the sound of fatigue escalated. He said all the right things, about it being temporary and that nothing worth having comes easily.

In the exam hall, my eyes were sore and head foggy. Emotional, depleted and almost without hope, I listened to my peers as they waited for the rest of the students to be seated. “I don’t even care anymore because I am so tired”, said one. “I just hope the stuff I want comes up”. All I wanted was a hot soak in the bath and cuddles. But you know what? I nailed that paper, because there is always room for a little bit more, if you want to find it.  

Crispy Chaat masala tofu salad with tamarind chutney and yoghurt dip

The reason I am telling you this story is because it is how I felt over the last week or so. I am very tired. Of course I am a bit older and wiser now, so I have more of a toolbox. I won’t lie, I did have a day or two of bubbling over but then, a lovely lady prompted me to find a little bit more. Lovely lady, I know you will read this. Thank you.

I thought about what it is that actually makes me happy. Not what I think I should achieve, work for or do. I took a social media break. I baked a cake in my new oven. I stopped talking to people that inspired doubt. I livened up my sense with chaat.

Chaat is a combination of ingredients and flavors that tantalizes the senses. It is a mix of cool, warm, crisp and soft. The chaat masala itself is peppery, pungent and spiky. There is no food better at livening up the senses. Chaat masala is readily available in supermarkets in the Indian section, or in Indian stores. The tamarind chutney is ready bought and offers sweet and sour tastes without the sharpness. I have mixed it with the yogurt to give cool tang. You have vegetarian salad with a bit of naughtiness here, go on…life is short.

Ingredients

200g Asparagus boiled or steamed until barely tender

150g radish, thinly sliced

250g firm tofu, cut into 3-4 cm cubes

8 heaped tablespoons of corn flour

2 tbsp. chaat masala

Oil for deep frying

4 dessert spoons of plain natural yoghurt

2 dessert spoons of tamarind chutney

Method

  1. Heat the oil for frying and in the meantime, drain the tofu and envelop it between sheets of kitchen paper to drain off excess moisture
  2. Mix together the corn flour and Chaat masala.
  3. Gently roll the tofu in the corn flour to coat it and then drop them into the oil when it is hot enough and fry until the cubes are golden and crisp. Place them onto some kitchen paper to drain off any excess moisture.
  4. Make the dip by mixing together the tamarind chutney and yoghurt
  5. Assemble the salad and serve it whilst the tofu is still hot. You will feel your mouth tingle!

 

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

Courgette bhaji with a spiced pea, ricotta and dill puree in a wrap-National Vegetarian Week

20 May

Courgette bhaji with a spiced pea, ricotta and dill puree in a wrap

Courgette bhaji with a spiced pea, ricotta and dill puree in a wrap

I took the 7.12 train into Euston today wearing tights and a business suit. I thought I would feel like the old me, but I didn’t.

I felt hot, but seasoned with plenty of protective products. My face didn’t sting in the heat in the way it used to because maybe I am less sensitive, but I did feel the pangs because I had left whilst my tot was asleep. This was a first for us. I fully anticipated that when I settled into that train, I would make no eye contact with my fellow passengers and as I looked around I wondered how proud, fulfilled, happy or self-assured these folk were.  The pretty lady with gorgeous nail colour; did she look happy?  That loud, on-an-important-call banker, every line he spoke sounded like a routine verse etched into my memory from my own experience. ‘Let’s touch base, see where we are at, I mean it is what it is, look I’m going to be honest… great to engage with you Kate’.  Was Kate rolling her eyes as I was? My mind whizzed with upbeat and self-coaching quotes about success and failure both being fleeting sensations. My emailed pinged with disappointment and polite bluntness. My physiology didn’t react, today.

Do you know what though? I spoke (not on any social media, I looked up long enough to really talk) to a friend (and ex-colleague) who told reminded me that even though it has been a few years, I would surprise myself today. I listened, but didn’t really accept it. She kept telling me that what I have learned is ingrained, inbuilt, unspoken, invaluable, and great. It hasn’t left me; it is just that I left myself. I now had to summon the confidence to do myself justice.

So, in my business suit, hairspray and make-up I made mildly inappropriate jokes, learned about people; their interests, direction, loves and losses. I read, I ate plentifully and I talked and gesticulated whilst doing so, in a natural accent and walking up and down, bouncing on a heel at times. I saw two men in the audience smile and raise eyes at each other approvingly and I knew. Do you know what? My friend was right. It was all there, it is all there. After three years there has been a turnaround in my own thinking. Three years. Three years of doubt, three whole years of submerged confidence. My friend was right, I am better than.

Here is what I ate afterwards. Crisp courgette bhaji (Indian spiced, gram flour coated courgette fritters) give way to juiciness and they are enveloped in a dill and ricotta soaked pea puree. fresh pea shoots add crisp freshness. I have used red oxtail as I was lucky enough to be given some from the London produce show. I felt comforted, cajoled, soothed and utterly satieted. Perfect for National vegetarian week, for picnics, for eating in the garden or eating out and about, on-the-go.

Courgette bhaji with a spiced pea, ricotta and dill puree in a wrap

Makes approximately 6-8 wraps

Ingredients

Oil for deep frying

100g watercress or pea shoots

6-8 plain flour tortilla

For the batter

140g gram flour

200ml water

One large courgette, thinly sliced into 1-2cm rounds

1 tsp. minced ginger

1 tsp. amchur powder (dried mango powder) or the juice of half a lemon

Salt to taste

½ tsp. chilli powder

For the pea, ricotta and dill puree

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

3 spring onions, finely chopped

1 tsp. cumin seeds

3 tbsp. freshly chopped dill

125g ricotta cheese

350g frozen peas, defrosted

Salt to taste

1 tsp. coriander powder

Method

  1. Heat the oil for deep frying.
  2. Prepare the batter by combining all of the ingredients and beat it to a smooth (not lumpy) consistency.
  3. Dip the courgette slices into the batter and quickly lay them into the oil to fry. Allow them to catch a golden colour before removing them onto kitchen paper.
  4. Heat the cooking oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, allowing them to sizzle before stirring in the spring onions. Sauté with the salt and then add the peas, ricotta cheese, chilli and coriander powder and then once it has simmered for 4-5 minutes on a low flame, blitz It to a chunky puree.
  5. Simply assemble the wraps with a couple of tablespoons of pea puree, watercress and courgette bhaji.

 

 

Baby corn and potato curry in smoky Mexican chipotle chilli and dark chocolate

14 May

Baby corn and potato curry in smoky Mexican chipotle chilli and dark chocolate

 

Baby corn and potato curry in smoky Mexican chipotle chilli and dark chocolateMy parents were on face time whilst I was making this curry today. My little sweetie had been running around in his spider costume, “I’m not Aarav, I’m spider Aarav” and insisting that I play with him instead of cooking, not dad…mumma. He knows. “It’s nice to see Rakesh at home and in the kitchen too, wow” commented my dad. They know it doesn’t happen all the time. So my husband turned the phone towards  me, showing that I was grating chocolate into the curry, “Look at what your daughter is doing”. My mum let out her idiosyncratic youthful and quiet giggle and my dad thought it was really interesting. Interesting, rather than any ode to the ridiculous butchering of a simple curry.

I did live my childhood without limits in my mind. I’m sure that if I had told my folks I wanted to become a Bollywood actress they would have said something about me having to learn how to dance rather than see my 5ft1 inch frame as an eliminating clause. I remember wanting to write a novel and my husband (before our marriage when I was a teen) asked me why not.  There was no reason not. I know kids are supposed to do things when there’s a time but I saw that my little one wanted to talk and he started naming animals and objects at ten months, why not?

So then when did the limits come in (to my mind)? Was it when they gave me predicted grades at school and deliberately undercooked them to ‘motivate’ me? Apparently they never predicted straight A’s as that would have made me complacent, apparently. Or was it when my manager spent an hour and half telling me the things that I needed to do better or wasn’t very good at because there was no point in telling me about the 95% (as he stated) of stuff I did right? Or was it when the health visitors and nursery nurses told me that my child would probably never be an eater. Or was it the people who told me that mainly celebrity folk get published in the magazines. When did it become about what is ‘realistic’. What can we afford? Even that’s a limit isn’t it? Where is a realistic place to find a new house?

I say, be the child that lets the mind float into wants and ventures. Like this curry.

Baby corn and potato curry in smoky Mexican chipotle chilli and dark chocolate

Have you seen how dark and deep that colour is? The chipotle and red pepper give smoky accents to the vegetarian curry and then you feel this deep, lightly bitter sweetness that’s quite embracing. You will smell whole spices and they add warmth, but don’t overpower the recipe. It is not a quiet curry that hides in the middle of a week of ‘I just ate’. No. This curry is for those times when you want to carry forwards.

Ingredients

350g baby corn, slit into quarter lengths

450g potatoes, peeled and cubed

4 cloves of garlic, roasted in their skins

2 cloves

1 small stick of cinnamon

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Salt to taste

45g chipotle chilli paste

20g dark chocolate

500ml water

3 red peppers, roasted

1 tsp. coriander powder

1 tsp. cumin powder

1 tsp. amchur powder or a squeeze of lemon juice

One onion, thinly sliced

¼ tsp. turmeric

4-5 curry leaves

2 tbsp. cooking oil

Method

  1. Blitz the (skinned) garlic and red peppers to a puree and leave it to a side
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon and turmeric and curry leaves and allow the seeds to sizzle before introducing the onion and salt. Sauté the onion until it has softened before mixing in the baby corn and the potatoes.
  3. Sprinkle in the cumin powder, coriander powder and the amchur powder. Mix it all well and then add the water and roasted red pepper mix and bring the curry to a simmer.
  4. Stir in the chipotle chilli paste and then grate in the dark chocolate.
  5. Cover the curry and simmer it until the potatoes are cooked.
  6. Serve with rice or better, buttery chappati.
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