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Raspberry, chia, quark and peanut butter lollies

26 Aug

Raspberry, chia, quark and peanut butter lollies

They keep telling me that kids are either fruit-lovers or more at ease with vegetables and I am not quite sure that I believe them. I am one of those mothers that looks over at the lunch boxes of other toddlers in cafes or at the zoo and I always see sandwiches (which my child won’t eat), some carrot and cucumber sticks (we have some joy there) and always berries and grapes and I have theories on why my toddler is so disinterested in fruit but none of them are proven.

raspberry chia peanut lolly

My first theory is that when I was pregnant I was quite cautious of developing gestational diabetes as I come from a family of diabetics and so I followed a low GI diet pretty well and cut back the fruits and sugar. Perhaps that’s why my toddler will reject the chocolate brownie and go for the garlic cracker? But then I did eat a lot of cake when I was nursing. A LOT.

My second theory is that he simply takes after me in yet another way-I am definitely a vegetable person and that sounds like a silly thing to say about a vegetarian doesn’t it? But I do know vegetarian folk who get by without green stuff and lacking in pulses and lentils in their diets. I don’t know if taste buds are genetically influenced but if any of you do know, please do tell me!

My third theory is that maybe I just don’t eat enough fruit and consequently he needs more exposure? Well it is a good job then that the wonderful family at Riverford sent me a huge box of the most special and glorious fruits and vegetables. They look positively bulging with vitality and goodness and thankfully my toddler gets as excited about the delivery and washing all the lightly soiled vegetables as I do. This time he even took a bit of interest in Riverford’s perfectly formed and bouncing raspberries…but not enough to try them until of course we made these lollies for grown-ups (that kids seem to love too).

I have no idea why the raspberries were more appealing in a lolly but I witnessed the magic of fruit licking and it was one of those moments that just happens so swiftly and unexpectedly that the breath is held in case the moment passes before it is been beheld. Well anyway, poetic stuff aside, there was FRUIT licking.

I soaked the chia seeds in rose water and if you haven’t use chia seeds before they are nutty and silky-slippery. They swell lots when they come into contact with liquid and take on the flavour of whatever they are soaked in, you could use apple juice for instance.

The quark is lean and a very much healthier alternative to ice cream and is creamier than yoghurt. Peanut butter just works. It just does.

For the full recipe head over to great british chefsRaspberry, chia, quark and peanut butter lollies by Deena Kakaya

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.

Blueberry and basil, papaya, spinach salad with a chilli and agave pistachio nut topping

8 Jan

Blueberry and basil, papaya, spinach salad with a chilli and agave pistachio nut topping

I feel too young for aches and pains and body complaints. My knee is creaky and my back is full of rocks; it is muscular tension. Sniffles and coughs, fatigue and sleep deprivation. It’s all self induced.

My uncle was, and still is, one of the patriarchs of our family. A strong and disciplined man, he is giving and loving and he was always firm and fair. Growing up, when he would visited us and was offered tea by my folks, he would always reply that he would drink it only if I made it. He was one of those that limited his food intake and I actually never saw him indulge.

He’s now deteriorated in his golden years and knowing this has provoked much thought on how I should be grateful and look after this one and only body I have. It is true that some things we simply can not control or avoid and chips taste very good. It is true that making time for exercise is tough and that eating well is sometimes expensive. But, life is short.

My blueberry basil, papaya and spinach salad with chilli and agave pistachio is good for the body, the eyes, the taste buds and is very easy to put together. Blueberries are often talked of a superfood and I eat them like sweeties. Spinach is fabulous and best raw I reckon and let’s talk about papaya. I ate loads of the stuff after giving birth to my boy, it’s said that it has healing properties. This fresh and easy salad will liven up any table at this time of heat and will encourage picking on fruit, not crisps.

Blueberry and basil, papaya, spinach salad with a chilli and agave pistachio nut topping

For the full recipe, head on over to great British chefs

Carrot halwa breakfast porridge with agave nectar

7 Jan

Carrot halwa breakfast porridge with agave nectar

Carrot halwa is the warm, sticky, juicy and fragrant indian dessert of festivities and joyous occasions. Not a belly goes without a sinking sigh when served a delicate mound of bright orange halwa flecked with cardamon, infused with saffron and decorated with pistachio. This might just be the best thing to happen with carrots and I’m not kidding.

I’m really excited about this recipe and I knew it would work and I was affirmative about it being phenomenal. Now, although carrot halwa is the darling of indian desserts, there’s nothing new about it. It’s perfect as it is and that’s that. I’ve used agave nectar rather than sugar, so it’s not as sinful as the traditional recipe.

Monday morning. Husband in Hong Kong and toddler on my hip. It’s cold, grey and very windy. Everyone is tweeting and Facebook updating about going back to work. I stand at the fridge, knowing that I need to stoke the internal flames but also need to stop getting fatter. Conundrum. I’m hungry and always crave sugar or cheese when I’m hungry. I think about lemon drizzle cake. It doesn’t work for breakfast. Sort of. I think of saffron. I think of all the tweets about savoury breakfast concoctions. I have carrots in the fridge and they are massive and juicy. They wold make perfect carrot cake or carrot halwa. But i can not get any fatter, I should eat porridge. Bingo.

And there we have it. Let me tell you that my mum said that this was the best porridge she’s ever had. EVER. I’m really excited about this recipe, did I tell you that? Try it. Love it. I’m sure you will.

Carrot halwa breakfast porridge with agave nectar
Ingredients to serve 2

2 large carrots, grated
1 tsp margarine
Agave nectar to taste, I used about 4 tbsp.
400ml milk
1/4 tsp ground cardamon
A small pinch of saffron strands
2 tbsp of shelled pistachio nuts, coarsely ground
3/4 cup porridge oats

Method
1. Heat the margarine until it melts in a deep pan, then add the grated carrots and and cardamon then sauté them on a medium flame for about 4-5minutes.
2. When the carrots have softened, add the milk and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the saffron with the agave nectar and allow them to infuse into the milk. Simmer for a further 4-5 minutes.
3. Add the porridge oats and then simmer for 3-4 minutes until the mixture has thickened.
4. Serve hot and steaming with a sprinkling of pistachios in top.

My pasta Rotolo of masala Aubergine, spiced spinach and feta

23 Dec
Rotolo of masala Aubergine, spiced spinach and feta

Rotolo of masala Aubergine, spiced spinach and feta

Often my mind races through evaluation and check list mode; what of that email I was supposed to send…the music isn’t right is it, did I buy kitchen foil? Why did that person say/do that, am I looking too much into it? Do I need to make a doctors appointment, what was that recipe submission date? Will I get that contract and when will I get a chance to paint my nails? What shall I make for dinner and what should I charge as daily rate?

But then a little head lands in my lap, ‘happy birthday mumma’. It’s not my birthday, but I know he means that he loves me. I run my hand through his hair, cup his face and tell him that I love him. ‘Thank you mumma, you’re welcome, I love you’.

As we race matchstick cars down the track and talk about dinosaurs, planets and animals I reflect on how blessed I am and that with each day that passes, it is one less from his childhood. That’s why it’s so important to be ‘here and now’. In the present, in the moment and cherishing it all. Of course there are practicalities like working, bathing, eating, cooking etc, but you know what I mean. This is also why, at Christmas time when we have family and friends visiting us over a couple of weeks and I do much of the cooking, I don’t want to make elaborate, fiddly dishes that take hours to cooks and ages to clean up after. I want something that shows effort, looks like a feast and above, is utterly delicious.

We’ve all had those excruciating moments during entertaining loved ones, were the as the host we end up in the kitchen tossing, baking, simmering and assembling. We hear laughter and cheer in the living or dining room and wish we could be part of it. Why not prepare a dish you can stick some cling film ver and pop in the oven whilst you sit down and smile with the group, clutching a cup of something hot and sweet?

Cue my pasta rotolo; how does it look? Good eh? Let me tell you…it tastes like a spicy, tangy, slippery, crispy, cheesy and smooth gorgeous little nest. Just look at it, it’s quite impressive isn’t it? And guess what, it’s so easy to do! Here’s how.

Ingredients

2 medium aubergines
350g frozen spinach
150g feta cheese
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp chilli flakes
Salt to taste
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4-5shallots
5 tbsp oil for cooking
1 tsp cumin seeds
1.5. tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
A generous pinch of pepper
3 fresh lasagne sheets
Vegetarian hard cheese or mature cheddar for sprinkling on top

Method
1. Wash the aubergines, coat them in oil and roast them in the oven at 180degrees for 30mins or until they are soft on the inside and shrivelled on the outside. Let them cool and scoop out the insides. Mash them lightly on a plate until they are pulpy.image
2. To make the aubergine masala, heat 2tbsp oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds and once they sizzle add the onions and some salt. I added 3/4 tsp. cook the onions until they are golden before adding half the minced garlic. Sauté until the onions are lightly browned before adding the cumin powder, turmeric, 3/4 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp paprika. Sauté for 30 seconds and then add the aubergine masala and mix throughly. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool.image
2. To make the tomato sauce, heat 2 tbsp oil and then add the remaining garlic, paprika, chilli and salt (I added 1 tsp) and then sauté for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and bring it to simmer. Add a pinch of sugar if your tomatoes are sour.
3. To make the spices spinach, heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds, fennel and allow the mustard to pop. Add the spinach, salt, pepper and 3/4 tsp of garam masala. Cook for4-5 minutes, check that there are no frozen bits and turn it off the heat. Simmer for about 8-10 minutes on a medium flame.image
4. Heat the oven at 180 degrees and then start on the rotolo. Take one lasagne sheet and spread it with one third of the aubergine masala. then spread the spinach on top (a third) and crumble on some feta. Roll it up, then cut it in half, then half again.image
5. In a deep dish, spread the tomato sauce. Then, gentle place the rotolo pieces inside the sauce before sprinkling the cheese on top. Bake in the oven for 30mins or until golden brown.

Apple, Lychee and blackberry (coconut)crumble with rose, cinnamon, cardamon and star anise

6 Dec

Spiced Apple, Lychee and blackberry crumble
I watched the entire 30odd minutes of kangaroo Dundee today. What is wrong with me? I watched a whole programme about a tall and strong looking fellow rescuing and nursing baby kangaroos, becoming their mother

It did get me thinking about comfort though. The primitive need. My boy fell over at playgroup whilst playing away from me and he walked around searching from me in cries that escalated in volume until he found me.

No matter where I am in the world, I always crave okra curry and hot chapatti with yoghurt after a few days. Why does it feel so easy, warm and calm to wake up next to someone you love each day. Remember the feeling of laying your head in your mothers lap and having your hair stroked, or sitting on the lap of your mum or dad in a crowd, the safe place. Maybe the smell of chips is comforting because it was a regular treat, a common feature in the winter take-away suggestions on a Friday or on blustery days by the seaside, laughing with loved ones. Or remember that time when we escaped from arguing relatives, hit the road and ended up at the seaside, in the dark in a bank holiday with nothing to eat, but chips.

Maybe the reason I keep Bollywood serials running in the background is because it feels like someone is there, maybe the sounds are familiar in a way that other shows aren’t or maybe there transport me to times when I actually watched a movie without gadgets for distraction. It’s comforting. Perhaps kadhi is cajoling because its what I’ve always eaten with khichdi when I’ve been sick. Growing up my mum would persuade me to go to the temple with her, she said she got some peace of mind at the temple. I never understood it, until I grew up.

My next recipe offers me comfort. My uncle has become old and frail, but memories of him are younger, still very mature and active. His garden was well tended back in the day. I loved walking along the oaths that were lined with unusual flowers, lots of them. I would head straight for the back of the garden, where a swing hung from an enormous tree. I’d swing and avoid kicking apples. I knew my dad would be carrying them home for apple pie.

Nowadays I give this recipe an exotic and spiced twist. The juices burst through the top of the crumble and make I could drink it. It’s really good, try it.

Ingredients
3 cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped (I used Bramley apples)
150g Blackberries
150g lychees, stoned and halved
120g sugar
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 stick of cinnamon
2 star anise
50ml rose water
A generous knob of butter

For the crumble topping
150g plain flour
100g caster sugar
100g butter
75g dedicated coconut

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180degrees
2. Make the crumble topping first, by combining the sugar and the flour, then rubbing in the butter gently, to make a bread-crumb like texture. Then add the desiccated coconut. When it’s ready, put it in the fridge until the topping is needed.image
3. Turn your attention to the fruit, by heating and melting the butter in a pan and adding the Apples and sugar. Crisp the apples up for 3-4 minutes before stirring in the cinnamon, rose water, cardamom, and star anise. Turn off the heat and add the blackberries and lychees
4. Turn the fruit into an oven-proof dish and spread the crumble topping over the fruit, evenlyimage
Bake the crumble in the oven for approximately 20-25minutes before serving…ideally hot!

Christmas food gifts-plantain chips, cashews & dried cranberries in coconut, chilli and cinnamon

13 Nov

 

 

Christmas food gifts-plantain chips, cashews & dried cranberries in coconut, chilli and cinnamon

Christmas food gifts-plantain chips, cashews & dried cranberries in coconut, chilli and cinnamon

My lovely neighbour gave me a bag full of plantain today; fresh and green. I racked my brain for ways to use it. I thought of the spiced plantain mash I had at ‘mama’s roadside kitchen’ in st.Lucia or the indian curry my mum would make when we were kids, using her experience of living in Uganda as a child. I asked my friends on twitter and they suggested cake. I didn’t fancy any of these lovely recipes today, for some reason.

In the morning, by boy and I went shopping for women’s undergarments. My normally chatty and excitable child completely freaked out and sobbed loudly in the fitting cubicle and insisted, ‘put a jumper and jacket on mumma, put the clothes on mumma’. He’s not yet two but here we go. So I took him for a walk and stopped at the dried fruits and nuts section which looked festive but blue. Why blue? Anyway, that’s when it struck me.

But I did have a brief period of confusion; which is a more festive nut…the cashew or almond? Cashews are more expensive. Does that make it more special? I do recall my mum sending food parcels of special stuff for my grandmother in India when friends or relatives visited. Mum sent cashews, always. She also sent saffron and chocolate. Now I think back, it’s such a lovely thing to do.

But then, almonds are pretty special also. When we were in st.Lucia we stayed between the majestic pitons, hidden away. We were staying at a resort where the beach sat in a calm little cove and one of the paths along the beach was layer in almond shells. I loves cracking them open to find smooth almonds. It’s lovely that nature can create such a perfect little nut.

I’m actually rather excited about this simple yet addictive recipe. It’s really good. This tropical looking mix is crunchy, sweet, aromatic and there’s a lovely hint of chilli right at the end. It’s delightful. I’ve used agave nectar to sweeten the mix so, healthier than loads of sugar. You have to try it.

Ingredients for two gift containers

One large green plantain
4 tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp chilli flakes
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3-4 tbsp desiccated coconut
A generous handful of dried cranberries
200g cashew nuts
Oil for frying plantain chips

1 . Heat the oil in a deep pan and in the meantime, take the green skin off the plantain and cut the plantain into 1 cm thick circles with a knife of mandolin.
2. Fry the chips until they are crisp and deepened in colour. You will feel that they are tougher and crisp when you move them with a slotted spoon.
3. Remove the chips onto a kitchen paper and leave them to cool.
4. In a non stick pan, toast the cashew nuts until they are lightly golden before adding the cinnamon and the plantain chips. Mix well.
5. Stir in the chilli flakes, mix again. Then add the agave nectar and the desiccated coconut. Thoroughly mix it all together to make sure the spices and coconut are evenly distributed.
6. Toss in the dried cranberries and mix again.

Allow the mixture to cool completely before packaging it.

This has also been entered into Feel Good Food Challenge hosted by Jibberjabberuk and Victoria at A Kick At The Pantry Door

 

This week I would like to link this to Mark of Javelin Warrior’s Cookin’ W/ Luv Made With Love Mondays,

A scoop of Diwali – pineapple, cinnamon and red chilli frozen yoghurt

31 Oct
pineapple, cinnamon and red chilli frozen yoghurt

pineapple, cinnamon and red chilli frozen yoghurt

 

It’s Diwali. Flickering, gentle lights and decorated candles, bright colours and brighter smiles. Plentiful food and swelling cheer and seeing cute little kids over excited about fireworks and men displaying firework related bravado. Excitable aunties make a big deal of cleaning and men semi-snooze away. There’s always way too much sugar on display.

Impractical heels and frozen toes, pretty sari’s but now trending to flowing indian dresses. Visiting home to home of various relatives and receiving hugs and sweets. Everyone talks in raised sing-song tones, there’s something special in the air. And what about all those Diwali functions…dinner and dances and the parties? Are you going to any of those?

What’s my favourite thing about Diwali? I love that people are, even for just a couple of days, in really good spirits and that they are nice to each other. They take the time and effort to give good wishes and say positive and warm things. I also love that I get to see family members whom I don’t see on a regular basis. I love standing in a bustling and cold street filled with Asian shops and restaurants and eating steaming hot samosa or chilli chips with my friends and family. I love impromptu meals out and huge frothy ice cream milkshakes.

Although the open door policy does have its downfalls. When I was a kid one of our neighbours had become mentally very unstable. On Diwali day, our front door was flung open as aunts and uncles came in and out. I walked into the living room to find her just sitting there. She told my mum, utterly calmly that be had come to stay the night and would like her to vacate her bedroom.

Diwali is a real feast of the senses. The iced cold weather and then warming up with spices and central heating. The colours the charm, the music…and that’s what I have tried to capture in my recipe today. The icy yoghurt has a lightly sour tang, because its yoghurt. It’s sweet with pineapple and sweetener. The chilli adds a perplexing heat and I’ve added a touch of cinnamon, so the fragrance is festively sweet. Give it a go, it’s an impressive Diwali treat.

Ingredients

One medium pineapple, peeled and cut into chunks
5-6 tbsp caster sugar
3-4 tbsp agave nectar
One red chilli, finely diced or minced
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
700ml plain natural yoghurt
300ml whole milk
2 tsp lemon juice

Method

1. Put the pineapple, chilli and sugar with the cinnamon into a non stick pan and heat on a medium flame until its pulpy. Turn it off the heat and blitz it to a grainy texture in a food processor until its cool.
2. Whisk the yoghurt, lemon juice and milk until its smooth, then add the pineapple mixture. Turn it into an ice cream maker and churn it until it looks creamy and smooth. Either serve the frozen yoghurt immediately or freeze it for later
3. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, freeze the yoghurt mixture for a couple of hours, then whisk it to break up the crystals. Do this every 2-3 hours until its frozen.

I am entering this into Made With Love Mondays hosted by Javelin Warrior

 

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