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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

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

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

18 Sep

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

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

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

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

pakora kadhi 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is so short.

So, what can you do?

 

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

 

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

 

 

Ingredients

For the pakora

60g black eyed beans, pre-soaked overnight

50g finely chopped fenugreek leaves

1 tsp. minced ginger

Salt to taste

½ tsp. chilli powder (or to taste)

1 tsp. amchur powder or the juice of ½ lemon

100ml water

100g gram flour

One medium onion, diced

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Oil for deep frying

For the coconut kadhi

400g plain, natural yoghurt

100g coconut milk powder

650ml water

2 tbsp. gram flour

Salt to taste

2-3 green chillies slit open

1 small stick of cinnamon

2-3 cloves

5-6 curry leaves

1 tsp. minced ginger

2 tbsp. cooking oil

Method

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

black eyed bean pakora in coconut kadhi

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.

 

 

Paneer, corn and sundried tomato pakora

12 May

These unusual, golden little gram flour fritters are crispy and light. They give way to spongy paneer, sweet corn and the light tang of sundried tomatoes. Sit back, relax, watch it rain and devour steaming hot, crisp and fluffy pakora. The paneer adds great texture, depth and succulence. I have used Savera paneer which is the closest out there to homemade paneer…best for this kind of recipe as you wont get a rough chewy texture, but instead you will get an awesome light and pillowy feel. Pillowy…sleep…now that sounds like a great plan doesnt it?

How do you eat yours? I am a tamarind chutney kind of girl and my husband uses ketchup or siracha sauce. I reccomend the later or a coriander and chilli chutney. Oof, comfort food. And guess what, it is easy peasy. It

Alas, no time for sleep right now (boo) but I will be taking these indian vegetarian snacks with a twist to our next picnic (setting is at the zoo). My toddler eats them as do his friends, which, as you will understand if you read my posts regularly is a really, really big deal. I am using some of the gram flour as a face pack. I need it. Have you seen me recently? Shocking.

paneer pakora

Serves 10-12 as a snack

Cost per serving: 60p

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

 

Ingredients

225g paneer, cut into bite sized cubes

250g gram flour

250ml water

1 large red onion, diced

100g sweet corn

120g sundried tomatoes, sliced (the ones that are preserved in oil)

Salt to taste

½ tsp. Turmeric powder

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. fennel seeds

1 tsp. minced ginger

2 cloves of garlic, minced

¾ tsp. garam masala

2 tbsp. lemon juice

1-2 green chillies, finely chopped

Oil for deep frying

Method

  1. Heat the oil on a medium to low flame whilst you prepare the batter
  2. In a wide bowl, collect the corn, paneer chunks and sundried tomatoes. Sprinkle in the salt, fennel, chillies, cumin, turmeric, garlic, ginger, garam masala and onion and combine all the ingredients well.
  3. Stir in the lemon juice and toss the mixture together well.
  4. Introduce the gram flour, stir the mixture thoroughly before pouring in the water and then form a thick batter.
  5. Drop a little gram flour batter into the oil to test the oil. If the oil is hot enough the batter will rise to the surface of the oil and sizzle.
  6. Form small and equal sized balls of batter and aim to include paneer, corn and sundried tomato within each ball. They should be smaller than a golf ball.
  7. Fry them until golden brown and then remove them with a slotted spoon onto some kitchen paper in order to drain them.

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

Curry of steamed spinach and courgette dumplings in a spiced, roasted red pepper base

8 May

Curry of steamed spinach and courgette dumplings in a spiced, roasted red pepper base

Curry of steamed spinach and courgette in a spiced roasted red pepper base

I woke today feeling disoriented, I picked up my phone to check the time. Of course I don’t have a clock in my room. In fact I don’t have any clocks at all in the house at all. The tick-tock feels bothersome and the passing of time and constant reminder, it just isn’t positive is it.

Oodles of notifications welcome me through bleary eyes. Emails to answer, reminders of things to do. ‘Mamma! Mamma!’ I send my well wishes out to friends via Facebook whilst in the bathroom. My apologies to those who didn’t know, but it is unglamorously true. Happy anniversary, happy birthday, congratulations on your new baby, well done on…I think of my cousin’s words, ‘I just do my likes all in one go’.

Then I sent my best friend a message on whatSapp, to see how she’s coping with the sleep deprivation. I must remember to message my dear pal to enquire about her health stuff. There is tugging on my trouser leg. I proceed to tell the postman off for blocking the drive; I am especially annoyed because I had to holler repeatedly for his attention whilst he was leaned back in his seat with feet up. Did he not know how many phone calls I need to make whilst my boy sleeps and clearly he is oblivious to the toilet roll that my toddler unfolded all over the kitchen floor and the four bananas he mashed into it whilst I was in the toilet. Going to the toilet is an offense in the tick-tock of the day.

My hairdresser came over that evening, I have known her for years.  I always learn something new from her and it’s rarely about hair. I talk about travels and food, she talks about her friends and family and how she only measures herself by her own smiles. She is just 27 so her revelation stunned me; she has no laptop, no ipad and has only recently been given a smart work by her employers. She doesn’t use any form of social media.

We fixed a date for seeing my best friend, I decided which film to see with my husband (it’s been a very long time). My boy cupped my face and said, ‘do you want to play?’ and when I said yes, he leaped around the room grabbing his cars. I asked him if he wanted to cook and he said, ‘yes, it’s like art and crafts’.

So we made this healthy and colourful dish together. The dumplings are a bit like vegetarian pakora, or perhaps spinach kofta but they aren’t crisp, they are silky in texture and carry similar flavours. They are juicy with moist courgette and spinach. The roasted red pepper is bold, sweet and smells fabulously sexy. It is way easier to put together than it looks, this is a qick and easy recipe that you can prepare in advance. This is a simple dish, but just look at it. No, just taste it.

Curry of steamed spinach and courgette in a spiced roasted red pepper base

Ingredients

For the dumplings

1 medium sized courgette, finely grated

One medium onion, finely diced

Salt to taste

1 tsp. coriander powder

200g gram flour

250g spinach leaves, finely shredded in the food processor

½ tsp. garam masala

1 tsp. cumin seeds

½ tsp. chilli powder

For the red pepper base

3 red peppers, roasted

½ can of tomatoes

2-3 green chillies

4-5 curry leaves

1 ½ tsp. paprika

250ml water

½ tsp. garam masala

2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tbsp. cooking oil

Salt to taste

Method

  1. Start by combining the shredded spinach, onion and grated courgette and sprinkling in the cumin seeds, chilli powder, salt, coriander powder and garam masala and combine well.
  2. Add the gram flour gradually until the batter thickens to a loose, cake-mix type consistency. Use a single teaspoon full to transfer them into a steamer and then allow them to steam for approximately 20 minutes. Check that they are cooked by piercing them with a knife, when you remove the knife there should be no wet batter.
  3. Leave the dumplings to a side to cool whilst you prepare the red pepper base
  4. Blitz the roasted red pepper and tomatoes to a smooth consistency.
  5. Heat the oil in a pan and add the chillies, cumin and curry leaves and allow them to sizzle before adding the garlic. Sauté the garlic until it softens and then add the roasted red pepper and tomato sauce
  6. Add the salt, garam masala and bring it to a simmer. Gently drop in the dumplings and heat them through before serving.

 

 

Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

8 Apr

Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

I have never been one for going on a ‘diet’ or consuming trendy foods just because. I have always eaten what I wanted to yet in moderation, most of the time. I’ve always looked in the mirror and seen room for improvement, but I like bread, cheese and steaming hot pakora. But.

Just before I got married, during the run-up I had decided that I wanted to look every bit the blooming bride. I was only 23 and I wanted pictures to look back on, proudly, of me looking my finest on a glorious day. I wanted no pleats of belly-fat as I sat on the throne-like chair bearing my midriff and neither did I want wobbly arms fanning the guests as I took my vows in the Hindu manner. I didn’t want those shadows around my nose to show and I certainly did not want to reveal stained teeth. There needed to be classy cheek bones, not cute chubby cheeks.  I imagined gliding, slender and light whilst greeting and mingling with my guests. And so it started with eating lean salads at lunch time. I ruled out even miniature chocolates but at work, where celebratory birthday treats decorated communal cupboard tops daily, this was hard. When we were in our favourite Chinese restaurant we ordered stuff that wasn’t deep fried and a curry with salad instead of rice or noodles. I went to the gym every, single day.

I thought it was working. I was wearing white, sheer cotton tops and hot pants that summer.

But as I called my then fiancé into the room whilst trembling, I knew it had not worked. Every time I ran my hand through my hair a bunch fell out. It had worn out to a wispy and flyaway state. That’s what ‘dieting’ did.

After I had my boy I adhered to the dietary requirements stipulated by female elders and ancestors. I overdosed on fenugreek, millet flour, spinach, roasted aubergines and mung beans. I ruled out cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, spice, potatoes and many other items that lend to a balanced diet. I was borderline diabetic but consumed ghee, jaggery and nuts in the name of natural healing. And I do think that they are useful and nutritious, when they complement a balanced diet.

Again, the horror of losing fistfuls of hair in the bath was upon me. I wore a headband to disguise the thinning, especially around the temples. I was fearful of washing my hair but the greasy look didn’t do me any favours. I felt sluggish, heavy and I just wanted my hair back.

My recipe today offers carbohydrates and cheese and plenty of taste. Let us embrace them with our taste buds, hearts and tummies. I have used Chinese 5-spice in the stuffing and I know it does sound unusual, but really, truly. It’s good. I could the stuffing on its own as a salad, in fact…

Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

Ingredients to serve 4

A pack of cannelloni tubes

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

3 red bell peppers

2 cloves of garlic, minced

Chilli flakes to taste

250ml water

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 large leeks cut into bite sized pieces

200g feta cheese

3 medium potatoes, cubed

1 ½ tbsp. soy sauce

3 tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Method

  1. Wash, cut and drizzle the peppers with oil and roast them until they brown lightly
  2. Head the vegetable oil in a pan and the cumin seeds and once they sizzle, stir in the garlic and sauté for a minute before pouring in the tomatoes and the roasted peppers. Sprinkle in the chilli and water and then cook for 5 minutes before blitzing it smooth.
  3. Boil the potatoes for 4-5 minutes and then drain then and allow them to cook
  4. Heat the sesame oil in a deep dish and then add the leeks and then once they start to soften, sprinkle in the Chinese 5 spice and soy sauce and then cook them for 4-5 minutes on a medium flame.
  5. Stir in the potatoes and then crumble in the feta and then remove the mixture from the heat. Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping
  6. Pour some of the sauce into a deep dish, then turn your attention to stuffing the cannelloni evenly and then place each tube into the sauce. The sauce should almost cover the cannelloni tubes.
  7. Once the tubes are stuffed, sprinkle the top of the dish with panko breadcrumbs and then bake the cannelloni in the oven at 180 degrees until the topping is golden brown and the tubes can be pierced all the way through.

Asparagus, Halloumi & potato curry in roasted garlic, chilli and pomegranate

3 Apr

My mind was a Bollywood movie when I was growing up.  A gentle breeze blew tenderly through my long fuzzy hair, never mind the split ends. I smiled demurely, raising the fine (but visible) hairs on my upper lip with me. Long eye lashes fluttered, wistfully, behind black-framed glasses.  When I rested my face on my palm, to day dream of course, I thought of the huge hoops that should sit on my cheeks, though I wore unpretentious studs.  As I hurried from class to class, I imagined swaying and flowing thin fabric skirts and slim legs under them. Instead my jeans hung off my under-developed bottom and skinny legs.  There was forever a song on my fruity-lip-balm smothered lips and a colourful dance sequence in my head to match, even in exams. Hazy eyes had no kohl on them, but inside them were plentiful, romantic and ambitious dreams.   I carried innocence, but quiet the realities of an average existence.   In my mind I had the conviction of any of those actresses, but the will and smarts to fly.

 

I wasn’t even conscious of that upper lip hair until my cousin pointed it out whilst we stood chatting under the light.  I don’t think I knew that spilt ends meant damage until I was a teenager; I had glossy and dark locks as a young child and then somehow it ended up light and fuzzy. I went from skinny child to full figured teenager and I didn’t even notice. Some of my friends talked about my colour one day and I went home to check it out, and in fact introduce myself to this bright complexion with rosy cheeks that they spoke about.

Asparagus, Halloumi & potato curry in roasted garlic, chilli and pomegranate

I was 16.   There was a boy who blushed when he made small talk with me. He slipped a few notes into my English A-level texts. I cut my hair and it now bounced, it was the ‘Rachel cut’ from friends.  The length of my tops shrunk from long and wafting to short and embracing. There was a chap that took the same bus home as me, so we could talk. He then detoured back to his home.  My face became smooth and free from overgrown eyebrows or whiskers beneath my nose.  I remember another young fellow who asked sent me inviting notes in a fast food café. I remember taking an interest in fashion and the re-emergence of 70’s clothing, the platform shoes, and the loud prints on skinny trousers to wafting ones, oh and even the hair. That’s when the gifts started coming in…from bags to earrings.

I am waiting to blossom again. To bloom. I did as a teenager, then as a mother and now I am waiting on the next phase of finding myself.

Asparagus, Halloumi & potato curry in roasted garlic, chilli and pomegranate

Meanwhile, here is a recipe that is something of an awakening. If you liked my paneer curry in roasted tomatoes and basil, I have to say that I think this one is even better. Someone wrote to me saying they thought I had out-done myself on that last curry, I actually think this one outdoes the last.

I love this one with sweet and deep heat, mellow yet fragrant garlic without its pungency sings through the curry and then you get a tang from the fruity molasses. The potatoes thicken the curry and the Halloumi..oof the Halloumi. Its saltiness balances well with the other senses and soaks up the curry juices with its light chewiness. You’ve got to do this one. Really.

Ingredients

225g Halloumi cheese, cut into bite sized chunks

100g fine asparagus tips

350g potatoes

½ tin of chopped tomatoes

1 ½ tbsp. of pomegranate molasses

1 ½ full bulbs of garlic

4-6 mild and thick chillies (suitable for salsa or stir fries) minced

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. coriander powder

1 tsp. cumin powder

3-4 cardamom pods

Salt to taste

½ tsp. turmeric

3 tbsp. cooking oil

One medium sized red onion, thinly sliced

225ml water

Cook’s note: I am not using the thin red chillies for this dish. What we want to achieve is that bright red colour and sweet and gentle heat. Please use the thick, but short red chillies that are used for stir fries and salsa.

Method

  1. Start by roasting the 2 bulbs of garlic. Drizzle them lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap them in baking paper and put them in the oven at 180degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until they are soft enough to pop out of their skins.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and add the cumin seeds with the turmeric and allow the seeds to sizzle before adding the onion, salt and turmeric. Soften the onion before adding the minced chillies and stir fry for 30 seconds on a medium to low heat.
  3. Stir in the potatoes, coat them in the tempering and then add the tomatoes and water. Bring the curry to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked but firm.
  4. Add the asparagus and the cumin and coriander powders and then the pomegranate molasses. Pop the cloves of garlic out of their skins (use approximately one and a half bulbs). Mash them lightly to release the flavours.  Mix well and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  5.  Mix in the Halloumi and cook on a low flame for 2-3 minutes.

Serve immediately with rice.

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