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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).

 

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

20 Jun

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

I wonder if you share my terrible habit and guilty pleasure. It is so irresistibly wrong yet so right that I convince myself that it is worth it, between remorseful moments.

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

 

My justification? Well it starts a little something like this. This is of course not an excuse. I’m busy, so busy that it is hard to think sometimes and thinking is important, isn’t it? I need a quick fix, especially when I am out and can’t stop, after all, what would happen if I totally ran out of steam? That would be dangerous, wouldn’t it? Sometimes I feel sore inside and I need a pick-me-up…I think about it a lot. In the bath, on the train and even in the park with squealing children around…well, with all that commotion, I deserve it don’t I.  And then at the end of the day, when I slump into my spot on the sofa, my body throbs with fatigue, I need it. I need a treat, I deserve one don’t I?  And it is summer! We are making memories at the zoo, picnics in the park, lounging in the garden with friends or by frolicking by the sea and what happens.

Yes, out comes the sugar and we don’t even notice it. I think it’s addictive and in this season of parties and picnics I find it harder to say no…well, everyone is doing it aren’t they?

I come from a family of diabetics and I really should know better. My body needed less sugar when I had my boy and it showed, very much. So I really should know better.

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

 

And here is what I am taking to the next picnic in the sun that we are currently enjoying. Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins. I adore slow roasted cherry tomatoes, the flavour is tongue tingling, sensationally rousing. I am hooked on that feeling of popping something into my mouth and having an intense flavour burst that revives me. Often I think of sugar for that instant hit, but it really doesn’t have to be that one. These tomatoes with their sweet zing and spicy kick really do hit the spot.

Now for the green stuff; mellow spinach adds texture to these muffins whilst the salad fennel adds peppery notes and there is a bit of cheese going in there too, it releases a really alluring aroma as the cheese bakes. ‘ahhh’ factor right here.

Ingredients

300g self-raising flour

2 eggs

2 tsp. piri piri spices

Salt

A couple of glugs of olive oil for roasting the tomatoes

2 handfuls of red Leicester cheese

A handful of pine nuts

200g spinach, finely chopped

300ml milk

90g melted butter

30g salad fennel

225g good quality cherry tomatoes

Method

  1. You will need to pre-prepare the tomatoes. Do this by slicing them in half and placing them cut sized up on a baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil and the piri piri spice mix. Roast them in the oven at 140degrees for about an hour. Allow them to cool.
  2. To make the muffins combine the flour, salt (I used about 1 tsp.) and the cheese, salad fennel and spinach and mix thoroughly before adding the tomatoes and mix again.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees and grease the muffin trays.
  4. In a measuring jug combine the milk, butter and eggs and whisk it all until it is smooth.
  5. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix it all to a batter.
  6. Evenly distribute the batter and then bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

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.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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