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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.

 

 

Lychee and toasted coconut frozen yoghurt with rose and cardamom

23 Apr

Lychee and toasted coconut frozen yoghurt with rose and cardamom

Lychee and toasted coconut frozen yoghurt with rose and cardamom

 

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

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

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

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

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

Lychee and toasted coconut frozen yoghurt with rose and cardamom

Ingredients

750g plain natural yoghurt

2 tbsp. rose water

¾ tsp. ground cardamom

3/4 cup of desiccated coconut

125ml agave nectar

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

Method

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

 

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

27 Mar

 

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

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

 

Serves 4-6

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

225g paneer, cubed

75g channa dal, washed

100g pearl barley, washed

220g baby plum tomatoes, quartered

One medium red onion

100g cashew nuts

¾ tbsp. vegetable oil

For the dressing;

3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

Salt to taste

3½ tbsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. cumin seeds

15g coriander, finely chopped

½ tsp. turmeric powder

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

6-8 curry leaves

Method

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

 

 

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

Masala paneer, roasted red pepper and spinach wraps

21 Mar

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Tenderstem tip, roasted red pepper and barley salad with curried mayonnaise

7 Mar

Tenderstem tip, roasted red pepper and barley salad with curried mayonnaise

Fake it and make it

Tenderstem tip, roasted red pepper and barley salad with curried mayonnaise

 

I am not normally an advocate of faking anything. I’m not very good at it either.  I had pretty worthy week this week; Monday was filled with promise and colour, celebration and indulgence. Tuesday pulsed with exhaustion yet productivity. Wednesday was beamed with sunshine, innocence and smiles. Thursday was a right-off. The bubble of promise popped, the forthcoming celebration cancelled.  Someone sent me a message telling me that my writing is ‘raw and honest’. That encouraged me further to say it how it is.

As my I read my emails over and over again, my little one clambered over me whilst tugging onto my hair and strands floated down my pale t-shirt. I had got dressed up for playgroup this morning and I am glad that I did. I rested my forehead on my fingers to try and reason with clarity, but it wasn’t meant to be. My husband sometimes says that my boy doesn’t comprehend that he isn’t a part of me.  If I am thinking of something, my boy will often vocalise it. If I am happy, he frolics around encouraging loud, rapturing laughter from me. If I am sad, he throws himself onto me into a clumsy embrace and repeatedly reassures me with confessions of love. Today, he whimpered, reminding me that I have a choice…well sort of. Get, up and get on with it…or. Or what?

I didn’t want to make dinner today, but we had to eat. If we are going to eat, it has to be a satisfying one, both for the taste buds and the stomach. So here, in all its honesty, is how this recipe happened.

I put the barley on to boil, because I didn’t want to eat rice or pasta. I was on the phone trying to decipher what this potentially useful contact was advising me amidst, ‘mumma where’s the dinosaur train gone, its FINISHED’. So then I over cooked the barley a bit and it grew a bit lavender-ish so I disguised it in soy, chilli, basil and ginger and it tasted good.

I put the peppers onto roast but I forgot about them whilst fervently messaging my friend, ‘It thought it was…but it wasn’t’. They ended up well done, sweet and juicy but not burned. I simply trimmed any damaged ends and discarded them.

I can always be bothered with a dressing. In the same way that I got dressed for playgroup this morning, it makes something special of something understated. It styles uncomplicatedness and when you wash your hair, wear a nice top or put a fried egg or some creamy dressing on your food, life is a little bit better. Ordinarily I don’t use curry powder in a curry. Never ever, not at all, just no. It’s not bad (very good in fact) in a noodle soup or in mayonnaise though.

I made good from not-so-good. I made tasty from lack-lustre. I decided to get up and get on with it and do that same with Friday.

Tenderstem tip, roasted red pepper and barley salad with curried mayonnaise

Ingredients to serve 2-3

100g pearl barley

30g fresh basil, shredded

2 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. minced ginger

1 tbsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. dried chilli flakes

125g Tenderstem broccoli tips

3 red peppers cut into thick strips

7 tbsp. mayonnaise

1 lemon

2 tsp. curry powder

Method

  1. Boil the barley per the packet instructions and when it is cooked, drain it, wash it and leave it to a side.
  2. Roast the peppers in the oven at 180degrees until they blister and start to brown. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool to room temperature.
  3. Boil the Tenderstem tips for 3 minutes.
  4. Heat the sesame oil in a pan and add the minced ginger and sauté for a minute on a light flame. Mix it well with the soy sauce and chilli flakes before combining it with the barley.
  5. Toss in the shredded basil, squeeze in half the lemon and mix it all well.
  6. In a bowl mix the mayonnaise and the other half of the lemon juiced and whip it all together with the curry powder.
  7. When the roasted red peppers have reached room temperature and the broccoli is cooked combine them with the barley and serve with the curried mayonnaise.

Cinnamon-chill onion, asparagus, cashew and cheddar filo rolls

4 Mar

 

Cinnamon-chill onion, cashew Asparagus and cheddar filo rolls

 

Sticks and cheese

Spring, 1994

I enjoyed my business studies class at school. In anticipation of starting the class I got some books out on the subject during the summer holidays and learned about the concept of barter trade and achieving break-even point and what constitutes profit.  I started the class with sense of fluency and that made me feel good. One day my not-so-tall, dry pink cheeked, booming-voiced male teacher sat at his desk across from us and I knew from his frown and the way that his two, ear-side grey tufts of hair flounced that he was not in a good mood.

He asked some of us what we wanted to become. He, himself a father of three boys and a qualified accountant had for some reason turned into a secondary school teacher. He pointed at one of the clever lads at the back of the room. Thin, dark, thick-spectacled and he had unfortunately shaped teeth but was a lovely boy. ‘I want to be a pilot’ he beamed.

‘You will never be a pilot, look at the thickness of your glasses, you will probably get a mostly A’s and a few B’s and become an accountant.’

Next he turned to one of the understated beauties of the class. Not one of those permed-haired divas but one of those faces that you know will turn into a success drawing, friend winning, and a champion of happiness. She told him that she wanted to be a dancer and a business woman. He told her that she would get mostly B grade and C grade GCSE’s and may have a clerical job.

Cinnamon-chill onion, asparagus, cashew and cheddar filo rolls

Once he quietened down and the student’s eyes were down into their books I went to him and told him that I had been pondering about what he was saying to everyone. He laughed at me having used the word, ‘pondering’. I asked him why he felt that he could tell people what their destiny will be and why he felt that his influential words should be thrown around; wasn’t he fearful that he would miss-shape, or erode the confidence of a young mind? Weren’t his predictions limiting, shouldn’t he just let the individual dream and at least try? My dad told me that I could do, or be anything I wanted to.

As he gurgled with fury at my perhaps loaded question I turned around and to walk away and I felt my pulse in my mouth as my pony tail was pulled back into his fist. He growled something about my insolence but I don’t remember any of that, I was just stunned and felt clear horror.

When my hair was released, I unobtrusively walked through the buildings; along echoing corridors and I looked out at playing fields through murky windows. My feet patted gently along the balcony and I listened to the sounds of a PE class beneath me and then I shuffled past silent art classes. I sat down, on the large grey, lightly-rough chair at reception and told them that I wanted to speak to the headmaster immediately and that I needed to call my dad.

I was full of conviction, self-assurance and compassion. I was just 14. No words from my teacher damaged me or swayed me, even when my teacher crouched down before me in reception and apologised…something about going through a stressful time. I let him talk. I had plump cheeks and eyes that were always moist and I listened. I asked him if he had a daughter, knowing full well that he hadn’t.

Cinnamon-chill onion, asparagus, cashew and cheddar filo rolls

Winter 2010

I had gone from a ‘rising star’ to being unwanted. I replayed the words over and over and over and I believed them. I let the opinion of one person become my reality. Sticks and stones.

Winter 2014

I am learning from myself. You know, we often draw on examples from those we admire; those who have done things that we would like to do, or be the way that we would like to be. I have found that within myself I hold all the will, the strength, the courage and the conviction. I have done it before, I can do it again. I choose my words, both the ones I speak and the ones I listen to.

My sticks today are full of aroma. Cinnamon, chilli and onion work superbly together in a sweet, spicy, aromatic and fragrant glory. Silky onions work superbly with cashew nuts and there’s a light layer of mature cheese holding it all together with a spear of asparagus as the star of the show in a crisp filo shell. The tasters today told me that they are amazing. I have to agree.

Ingredients to make 5-7 rolls

7 sheets of filo pastry

3 medium onions, sliced

1 tsp. dried chilli flakes

¾ tsp. ground cinnamon

100g cashew nuts

125g mature cheddar cheese, grated

7 asparagus spears

Salt to taste

2 tbsp. cooking oil or a generous nob of butter

¾ tsp. caraway seeds

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Method

  1. Trim the base off the asparagus spears and boil them gently in water for 4-5 minutes before draining them in cool water and leaving them to dry.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, caraway seeds and then let them sizzle, before stirring in the onions and the salt. Soften the onions on a medium flame until they start to grow golden in colour.
  3. Sprinkle in the cinnamon and chilli flakes and sauté for another minute on a more gentle flame before turning the heat down and adding the cashew nuts. Turn off the heat and move onto assembling the rolls.
  4. Take a sheet of filo and fold it in half. Sprinkle a thin layer of cheese and then a couple of tbsp. of the onions and cashew nut mix.
  5. Place a spear of asparagus near the top, lengthways and leave the tip hanging outside. Fold it into a cigar and place each one onto a baking sheet. Drizzle a little oil on the filo and bake in the oven at 180 degrees until they are lightly browned.

Black-eyed beans and smoky aubergines in dill with a walnut and gujalio crème fraiche

1 Mar

 

Black-eyed beans and smoky aubergines in dill with a walnut and gujalio crème fraiche

I took my 24month old to the children’s library the other day; he adores books just like his mumma. After reading the same book a couple of times he mouths the words whilst I read the book. This always makes me smile within, I came in the top 5% of the county for my English A-level, many years ago now and this boy of mine is a little piece of me. Enough showing off, there is a point to this post that leads to a recipe and to the showing off itself.

So we have been walking down the road that leads to the library these days, because he insists on it. On the way we came across a couple of women with their kids, maybe 3-6 year olds. They stormed down the narrow path on their scooters and as they scoffed packets of crisps I heard their mother’s chuckle that they hadn’t had any breakfast. ‘Oi, how many fish fingers you having’ roared one of the mothers.

We seem always to bump into elderly ladies and I do like it when they smile at my boy chattering away. ‘Look at that lorry mumma, it’s incredible and amazing and HUge.’ Elderly lady asked him if he likes Lorries. ‘Yes, I like lorries and busses and planes and motorbikes’. Elderly lady told me that she has three children, one has moved to Australia, one relocated to Ireland where her husband is from for a better lifestyle with her children and one lives relatively locally. She told us about her grandchildren whom she sees some of the holidays but not all. I am always told before parting from old ladies to make the most of my boy’s childhood because it goes so fast. I am no teenager and I know that I must hold onto these rehearsed words every day.

When we got to the library, my little bullet darted around looking at dinosaur, alien, vehicle and animal themed books and we chose one from almost all of these finely selected categories. The woman who brings her child with a potty (she sits her on it in the actual children’s area) wasn’t there and I was mollified from not having to keep my child from running into a peeing toddler or her wet tights. We made small talk with the librarian on our way out before she proceeded to tell me how I should borrow some library books for myself as reading is important for adult education too and that it broadens the mind. She said that even if I read a few pages each day it is valuable. I tried to intervene to tell her, but she didn’t let me. She continued. I smiled. She spoke loudly and with eyebrows rising and I watched the fine whiskers on her upper lip tremble and she puffed her wisdom to me.

Black-eyed beans and smoky aubergines in dill with a walnut and gujalio crème fraiche

On the way I out I realised that the reason that the librarian had affected me was not because she didn’t let me tell her that I have a graduate and post-grad qualification or a professional background or that that I am food writer and that I keep a clean home with well- fed people in it and that we read and sing and grow flowers. It was because she had perhaps touched on a nerve.

I came home and made a loud, heaving, present and deep dish. Dill, smoky aubergines tomatoes and beans.  Simple yet chockfull. My favourite bit is the dip; smoky gujalio chillies with walnuts in crème fraiche. I am alive and I am still me.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

Two cans of black eyed beans, drained

Two medium aubergines

3 cloves of garlic

25g fresh dill, finely chopped

3 fresh tomatoes

One large red onion, thinly sliced

2 tbsp. cooking oil

2 tsp. smoked paprika

Salt to taste

A good pinch of black pepper

50g walnuts

2 Guajillo chillies

200m plain natural yoghurt

300ml hot water

Method

  1. Wash and coat the aubergines in oil and roast them in the oven at 180degrees until they shrivel. It should take roughly 30-40 minutes. Once the aubergines have cooled then remove the pulp from the aubergines and mash it lightly to separate it.
  2. Soak the guajillo chillies and walnuts in boiling water for 15 minutes before draining it and then blitzing it smooth.
  3. Skin the tomatoes by soaking them in hot water until the skins start to split before whipping the skins off before chopping them.
  4. Heat the oil in a deep pan and then add the red onion, salt and garlic to sauté until the onion has softened.
  5. Add the tomatoes, black-eyed beans and dill and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the aubergine pulp and cook for ten minutes.
  6. Mix the walnuts, guajillo and salt together and when you serve the beans with gorgeous breads, pasta or even rice then top with the guajillo, walnut and crème fraiche dip.

Roasted potato, mung bean, tomato and feta salad in Indian spice and za’atar

24 Feb

Roasted potato, mung bean, tomato and feta salad in Indian spice and za’atar

Where is your chip?

I like to tell myself that I have learned and earned more cultured stripes over the years and that through a progression of a London education, being reasonably well-travelled and having worked in a multi-cultural environment with stimulating and bright folk, I am now more ‘worldly’.  I eat biscotti and macaroons, not just digestives and there is artichoke on my salad today with panko breadcrumbs.  My bread had apple and pecan on it and my muffin has a spiced and poached pear in it; there are certainly no sprinkles on top.  Maybe though, just perhaps, the omelette and chips are just etched into my makeup and frankly, I like that.

I have spent much of the last couple of month’s solo parenting, as you may know if you read my posts regularly.  Needs must, so this is the way it is and part of it comes with privileges which I am grateful for and a measure of it comes with sacrifices, which I accept.  It is no holiday though.

When I’m on my own I do find myself in a state of heightened sensitivity and maybe that’s the exhaustion, with some element of loneliness paired with the desire to feel reassured.  I am more grateful, in a philosophical way, for those who visit to keep me company in the quiet of the evenings or call to ask how I am doing.  I am touched into silence for the flowers of encouragement and the cakes of companionship that come to me when the stillness does.  I smile when people let me rant knowing that I sound ludicrous at times because, being maddened by a case of dying ladybirds on my landing isn’t really that terminal.  And then I recognised, quite proudly, that the iron chip that weighed on my shoulder when people didn’t ask, show support, or care was well removed. I had successfully removed that draining energy and walked on.  I had grown and I didn’t even know it.

Roasted potato, mung bean, tomato and feta salad in Indian spice and za’atar

Though there is one thing, when I need a bit of comfort there is nothing like a spud with a crispy exterior and sweet fluffy interior. I told you that the egg and chips hadn’t left me and I am very glad for it too because they cajole me into my natural rhythm and there are times in life when I need that.  Nowadays though, there are no baked beans but instead I have created a filling, spicy, sense rousing salad using mung beans, salty feta and sweet tomatoes.  I had used za’atar spices and a mild Indian tempering to give zingy, spiced and herby flavour to this salad. It works so well as a salad on its own or in a wrap or with some bread.

Ingredients to serve 4

120g mung beans

700g of roasting potatoes like King Edwards, peeled and cut into two inch cubes

225g baby plum tomatoes, halved or quartered

2 tbsp. Za’atar spice

½ tsp. turmeric

2 green chillies, cut and slit

175g feta cheese, cubed

One small red onion, finely diced

30g coriander, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp. cumin seeds

4-5 curry leaves

2 tbsp. sesame oil

Half a lemon

Salt to taste

 

Method

  1. Boil the potatoes for 7-10 minutes before draining them and then allow them to cool. Coat them lightly in olive oil and then roast them in the oven at 200degrees until they are golden brown.
  2. In the meantime wash and boil the mung beans for approximately 20-25 minutes until they are tender and toss them once they are drained to remove as many of the loose skins as possible.
  3. In a large bowl combine the tomatoes, red onions, feta cheese and mung beans before making the tempering.
  4. In a non-stick pan, heat the sesame oil and add the cumin seeds, garlic, chillies, turmeric and curry leaves. Allow the seeds to sizzle and then after a minute turn the heat off.
  5. Pour the tempering into the salad and then mix it well. Squeeze in the lemon juice, sprinkle in the coriander and toss the salad well.
  6. When the potatoes are roasted, combine them with the other salad ingredients too and then sprinkle in the za’atar spice mix and toss the salad well again before serving warm.

 

Fragrant Indian spiced mung dhal, potato, feta, toasted coconut and beetroot salad wraps-leftover Lunches

28 Jan

wrap 1

It is one of those months where I need to grow ten extra arms, have superior and life enhancing technology, must have more restorative sleep, want to eat more energy-giving nutritious food, definitely spend less money, get hold of a magic wand, time machine…you get the picture.  Maybe not just this month but generally, we know that planning smartly helps in all aspects of life, not least food.

Vouchercodes.co.uk got in touch with me about a theme they are running which really resonates with what I am trying to do; making full, scrumptious and fabulous dinners that can then be incorporated for lunches for the next day…you know, the sort of food we enjoy and look forward to at lunch and not just a dull, lack lustre, floppy sandwich.

So here’s some colourful, deep and nutritious ingredients combine to deliver the sort of ‘salad’ that is modest with its simple ingredients but utterly enchanting to eat because all of these ingredients and spices so work in delightful harmony.

The bonus? Once you have a bag of mung dhal and desiccated coconut, you could make this salad again and you’ll just have to top-up on the fresh ingredients, which are pretty inexpensive.  Mung dhal cooks very quickly, so this is an added benefit!

Fragrant Indian spiced mung dhal, potato, feta, toasted coconut and beetroot salad wraps-leftover Lunches

Ingredients to serve 4-6

2 medium potatoes, peeled diced

200g cooked beetroot, diced

100g mung dhal

4-5 curry leaves

200g feta cheese, cubed

2½ tbsp. vegetable oil

2 long green chillies, halved and then slit open

1/3 tsp. turmeric

Salt to taste

2 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. cumin seeds

¼ tsp. brown mustard seeds

30g coriander, finely chopped

1 cup desiccated coconut

8-10 plain flour tortillas

Method

  1. Wash the mung dhal and boil it in roughly 600ml water, for approximately 15 minutes. Remove any froth as it appears but do wash the dhal in cold water once it is cooked. It should be cooked but have a bite.
  2. In a separate pan boil the cubes of potato for roughly ten minutes, or until they are cooked. Drain the potatoes and let them cool to room temperature.
  3. When the potato and mung dhal are cooked and cooled turn them into a large and shallow bowl
  4. Make a tempering by heating the vegetable oil and adding the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and allow the seeds to sizzle and pop. Add the curry leaves, chillies, and turmeric then infuse them into the oil. Turn the heat off and allow the tempering to cool to room temperature before adding it to the potatoes and mung dhal.
  5. Toss the mixture with the finely chopped coriander, lemon juice and salt and make sure there is even coverage. Stir in the feta and beetroot.Ingredients to serve 4-6 2 medium potatoes, peeled diced 200g cooked beetroot, diced 100g mung dhal 4-5 curry leaves 200g feta cheese, cubed 2½ tbsp. vegetable oil 2 long green chillies, halved and then slit open 1/3 tsp. turmeric Salt to taste 2 tbsp. lemon juice 1 tsp. cumin seeds ¼ tsp. brown mustard seeds 30g coriander, finely chopped 1 cup desiccated coconut 8-10 plain flour tortillas  Method  1.	Wash the mung dhal and boil it in roughly 600ml water, for approximately 15 minutes. Remove any froth as it appears but do wash the dhal in cold water once it is cooked. It should be cooked but have a bite.  2.	In a separate pan boil the cubes of potato for roughly ten minutes, or until they are cooked. Drain the potatoes and let them cool to room temperature.  3.	When the potato and mung dhal are cooked and cooled turn them into a large and shallow bowl 4.	Make a tempering by heating the vegetable oil and adding the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and allow the seeds to sizzle and pop. Add the curry leaves, chillies, and turmeric then infuse them into the oil. Turn the heat off and allow the tempering to cool to room temperature before adding it to the potatoes and mung dhal.  5.	Toss the mixture with the finely chopped coriander, lemon juice and salt and make sure there is even coverage. Stir in the feta and beetroot.
  6. Toast the desiccated coconut lightly and quickly on a non-stick frying pan and introduce it to the salad too.coconut 1
  7. Prepare the plain flour tortilla per packet instructions and then fill them generously.
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