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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

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).

 

Roasted garlic, spinach and coriander rice with feta and cashews

13 Mar

It is the season of escapism

I have always relished having, ‘hiding places’, especially in the warmer weather.

Roasted garlic, spinach and coriander rice with feta and cashews

 

As a child I would wander up and down the garden path, at the back of the garden and which was tucked away by arches of oversize rose bushes bearing pink, white and yellow roses.  Along the path grew spring onions on one side and strawberries on the other. There was other stuff, but I that’s what I remember. I would shuffle past the ivy on the back wall and pleat myself between long strands of grass, blackberries and more grass so that I stand on a discarded on a discarded flower pot and swing around on it, with my thoughts for company.

As a teenager I was part of a cosily demonstrative and animated crowd of friends.  We were together always, sometimes creating and sharing belly-laughs, occasionally sharing dramatic tears and sentiments with declarations of love. Vivacious, ambitious, boisterous and revelling in it… most of the time. Sometimes I would take a walk past the university which was down the road, through to the small, immaculately kept yet unfrequented park and just sit. My mind echoed with the shrill laughter, the ‘baaabe’ coos and the multiple hugs. My eyes rested on the wafting flowers in their tidy beds or over to elderly couples, sitting peacefully and easily in each other’s company.

I really loved the offices where I worked for almost a decade. I felt proud of the six buildings that stood tall in a semi-circle splendidly. We even had a few flags in the front near the fountains and I would always listen to the echo of my little feet as I would enter the light-flushed reception with the subliminal brand-tune playing in the background. High ceilings revealed the three floors and their balconies where important and discreet conversations happened. I would pick up my porridge from the restaurant, a green tea from the Starbucks and prepare for the deluge. When it got too much and I needed to breathe in order to later demonstrate professional calm, I would grab my phone and speed along on my heels past the smokers, through the car-park and over to the far side of the building where there was a quiet fountain. It was in a very pointless position.

Happy spring my friends. The grass will smell nicer, the flowers bloom and I hope that your smiles will too.

Roasted garlic, spinach and coriander rice with feta and cashews

On the subject of green, meet my rice. It’s bright with spinach and coriander and sweet with roasted garlic. Roasted garlic and salt are perfect together and the feta hits the spot perfectly. I served this rice with a roasted pepper and tomato chutney and some corn flour tortilla. It was utterly fabulous.

green rice 3

 

Ingredients

200g basmati rice

2 tbsp. cooking oil

150g spinach leaves, washed

100g coriander, washed and coarsely chopped

One bulb of garlic

One onion, half sliced and the other half diced

100g feta cheese, cut into bite sized cubes

A handful of cashew nuts

¾ tsp. fennel seeds

One lemon, half for the juice and half for slices

Method

  1. Rest the bulb of garlic, in all its skin and layers, on a sheet of baking paper. Remove the head off the garlic to expose the bubs and then drizzle the garlic with a splash of oil and some salt and roast it in the oven at 200 degrees until for approximately 30minutes.
  2. Boil the rice for approximately 8 minutes before draining and cooling it.
  3. In a food processor (you could finely chop by hand), blitz the spinach and coriander until it is finely chopped.
  4. Heat the oil on a non-stick pan and then add the fennel seeds and onion with some salt. Remember that the feta cheese is salty, so go easy. Sauté the onions enough to lightly brown them
  5. Mix in the spinach and coriander and sauté gently for a minute before adding the garlic.  You simply squeeze the base of the bulb and they will pop out. Add half the head of garlic and lightly mash them in. don’t worry about the lumps. Taste the rice, if it feels garlicky enough then stop, if not add more.
  6. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, sprinkle in the cashew nuts and mix well before turning the heat off.
  7. Mix in the rice, gently folding the green mixture through, cover and cook for a couple of minutes on a very low flame.

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.

Jaggery, pistachio, sesame, cardamom and chilli crusted popcorn

30 Jan

Jaggery, pistachio, sesame, cardamom and chilli crusted popcorn

 

My baby boy turns two today.

We went to buy his cake today and he, completely unprompted thanked the staff. In the supermarket he now walks with me, for quick shops only (rather than sitting in the trolley or pram) and natters the whole way; busses, music, birds, cars.  He scoots straight past all the dolls and pink crafts and goes straight to monster trucks, robots and aeroplanes.  He knows to hold my hand at all times.  When we got home he refused to let me cook dinner and swung from my leg until I carried him whilst cooking so that he could stir. After dinner he told me that wanted cuddles with mumma and whimpered until I sat down with him and he hurriedly made conversation, becoming breathless in fact…just in case I would get up and move away from talking about favourite vehicles, animals, planets or dinosaurs.

He still feels a part of me, an extension.  Not everyone will see this. I have learned an incredible amount about life through my boy in the last two years.

I eat more popcorn now than I have for many years, because he likes it.  I used to be a definite salted girl, but somewhere along the lines, things changed. Apart from when it comes to masala popcorn, of course!

Jaggery, pistachio, sesame, cardamom and chilli crusted popcorn

For this recipe I have used jaggery.  Jaggery is a molasses like block, deep and smooth and is a product of date, cane juice or palm sap without the separation of molasses and crystals and can vary from light to dark brown in colour.  Jaggery is typically combined with other ingredients such as nuts, coconut or condensed milk to make sweet delicacies. I am using jaggery because it has got to be better than using caramel and also, because I love the deep tones of jaggery. I know that jaggery has been used for Ayurveda as it contains minerals that aren’t found in sugar.  I had added sesame seeds and peanuts, which make the popcorn taste quite festive when combined with jaggery. There is an aromatic hint of cardamom and a kick of heat.  Give it a go.

Please be careful, melted jaggery is very hot and can burn you. Please don’t lick it for a taste test when hot.

 

Ingredients

175g jaggery

3 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

75g toasted and coarsely chopped pistachio

1/3rd cup of popcorn kernels

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

¼ tsp. cardamom

¼ tsp. chilli powder

Method

  1. Start by making the popcorn. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and allow the popcorn kernels to pop and then cool the popcorn
  2. Heat the jaggery on a medium to low flame in a non-stick pan. Be patient and let the jaggery melt. Cut it into smaller pieces to speed it up.
  3. Once the jaggery is smooth, turn the heat to a very low flicker and quickly stir in the spices, blending them through evenly. Turn off the heat and let the jaggery cool until it is warm, but not piping hot.
  4. Add the sesame seeds and pistachio and then the popcorn and stir quickly before it sets into clumps. Try and get an even coverage.
  5. Tip the popcorn out onto a large plate, letting it cool.
  6. When the popcorn is cool separate any clumps.

 

 

 

Indo-Thai Cassava, mango and broccoli curry

20 Jan

Indo-Thai cassava, mango and broccoli curry
Finding strength

I don’t have many memories with my maternal grandmother because she lives in a different country, but the memories that I do have, affected me profoundly. The stories that my grandmother shared with me showed me how a woman can. A woman can grow from a cushioned girl to a lady who can walk gracefully among thorns so quickly, that tears don’t have time. These women are my very own mother and grandmother.

My grandmother told me about the comfort she lived in during her life in Uganda. She wore jewellery, was pretty and had long tresses which she put fresh flowers in. She had the support of hired help who worked with them and shared the busy tasks of looking after three little ladies; my mother and her three sisters.
As a child I found it strange for her to draw on memories of having a large dining table, big fridges containing bounties of sugary drinks and not having to go to work. She talked about the lovely fresh fruits, cassava curry and crickets singing them to sleep.

They were expelled from their homeland and my apparently stern and stubborn great-grandmother chose to go to India, because it would be too cold in England. My grandmother told me stories of flushing money down the toilet in case the army would find them and covering her daughters under blankets in a jeep, just in case the army would steal them. I wonder if they knew that they were actually going to a life much more humble and restricted by a small income, far smaller than what they had known.

I only ever saw my grandmother’s Indian home, the one bedroom, basic residence. She cooked on the floor and I saw mice run around the courtyard once or twice. She made the best khichdi ever and I loved scooping it up with spring onions. Her room was grey, two small beds and you could see the kitchen from the beds. The front door no longer lead out to leafy green fruit trees, but a dusty side street filled with children playing and the occasional vegetable seller.

My grandfather died soon after arriving in India, when my mum was a teen. They say that depression due to the transition massively affected him. My grandmother raised her three daughters and married them all off to suitors in the UK, so that they could have better lives, like the life she had before being expelled from Uganda.
My mother was the first one, married at 19. She counts her blessings that she met a person that loves her and her every smile, every day.

So, when I dwell upon my own transitions in life, from an academic, focused ambitious and day dreaming achiever, to a corporate career-focused and travelling young achiever, to lost and smiling mum. How can I not find strength from thinking about the women in my life who so gracefully took responsibility of the changes in their life and simply made it better.

I can never eat cassava without thinking of my mothers childhood, my grandmother’s struggles. My recipe is thick, steaming and nutty like there’s would have been, full of comfort and colour. The difference is that my recipe includes some of my heritage, well some that I learned from my beloved london, a Thai influence. I’ve used galangal, palm sugar, soy sauce, tamarind, mango, and coconut. On the other hand, I’ve used cloves, cardamon, broccoli and tomatoes. It works so well, I felt flutters of excitement when I tasted it. Join in.

Ingredients

600g frozen cassava chops
Half tin of chopped tomatoes
4 green cardamon pods
3 cloves
A stick of cinnamon
3 green chillies, finely chopped
100g coarsely ground toasted peanuts.
150g mango chunks, (from a firm mango)
150g broccoli florets
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp minced galangal
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp mace
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp tamarind juice
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
1200 millilitres of water
3/4 cup of desiccated coconut

Method
1. Boil the cassava chips in plenty of hot water until they are tender, but not mushy. When they are cooked, drain the water and cut the cassava into one inch pieces.
2. In a deep pan heat the vegetable oil and then add the cumin, coriander, Turmeric, chilies, cloves, cardamon, cinnamon. Allow the seeds to sizzle before adding the onion, mace and nutmeg with the salt. Sauté the onion for a couple of minutes before adding in the garlic and galangal. Sauté for another minute or two.
3. Add the tomatoes and stir well before adding the palm sugar, soy sauce, tamarind juice and ground peanuts. You’ll find it’s a thick and nutty mixture now that smells absolutely wonderful.
4. Introduce the cassava, desiccated coconut, mango chunks and water and then simmer the curry for ten minutes.
5. Stir in the broccoli and simmer for a further 5 minutes.

Serve hot, I ate it just as it is.

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

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,

Chilli and tahini noodle soup with broccoli and tempeh

28 Oct

 

Tahini and chilli noodle soup with tempeh and broccoli

Tahini and chilli noodle soup with tempeh and broccoli

This sort of time two years ago I sat in the cafe adjacent to wing yip oriental supermarket with my mum, dad and my large baby bump. Our noses were puffy from the cold outside and my mum and I giggled like girls as we quietly splished spicy noodle soup around our lips. The heat of schiuan peppercorn and chilies thawed our noses as our chopsticks slipped around pak choi and jabbed into tofu. We eyed up the swan shaped pastry over the counter and the little creamy and fruity tarts. Light and airy bite-me- now sized cakes and buns.

As we were dissecting the swans and sighing lazily and contentedly, tears raced down my mums cheeks. Normally full of youthful laughter and red-cheeked over-excitement, my mum smiled through her gentle tears. I shot a baffled and questioning look towards my dad. He had been busy chomping through his egg fried rice and meaty-vegetable feast. When food is good value for money and Chinese, my dad is unusually focused. He did his cliched wise-laugh thing and said something that has stuck since then with me and will always remain with me.

‘Your mum is spending the time with you now that she never has done’.

We all have different choices and circumstances in life. My mum was just 22 when she had me. Almost a decade younger than I was when I became a mother. I grew into being a mother in my own mind, through maturity and transitioning through the various phases of my life. My mum just became a mum. I grew my career as did my husband. My mum had just learned to speak fluent English, let alone have a chance to work. My husband and I bought a house and did it up before we had my boy. I was born into a council flat. But look at this…my mum and dad worked tirelessly as a team, had multiple jobs, paid their mortgage and even my university fees and expenses.

The price my brave mum paid unfortunately, is the time with me. Funny thing is I had never heard her complain in all these years. I never sensed any resentment in her circumstances. She embraced it. We ate dinner together every day, she tucked me in, told me stories about her childhood in Africa and made me turmeric milk when I was sick. Some foods will always evoke emotional responses, whether it is turmeric milk, egg and chips or samosa in the rain. I’ve added noodle soup to that list of foods.

This one is unusual, because I use tahini (sesame paste) in the soup. The result is a nutty flavour with a smooth texture. I’ve used the chilli oil from my previous recipe as well as the sweet lychee and hot chilli sauce I made recently. If you don’t like tempeh or can’t get hold of this block of fermented soy beans, use tofu. This soup is warming, spicy, nutty, has bite and is soothing. My husband says it is in his top 3 noodle soups now.

Ingredients to serve 2-3

1 large red onion, sliced
2 tbsp chilli oil with 3 tsp of the chilli flakes or 2tbsp sesame oil and 2minced red chillies 
200g broccoli cut into bite sized florets
200g tempeh cut into bite sized chunks
1 litre vegetable stock
500ml water
3 cloves of galic
1 tsp schiuan peppercorns
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp tahini
3-4 tsp sweet chilli sauce 
100g udon noodles

Method

1. Mince together the garlic and schiuan peppercorns
2. Stir fry thr tempeh in 1 tbsp vegetable oil until it catches a golden brown colour
3. Heat the oil and chilies and then stir fry the onions until they soften before adding the garlic and peppercorns. Cook for anther two minutes before adding the broccoli, soy sauce, tahini and tempeh. Mix it well and then add the vegetable stock, water and sweet chilli sauce.
4. Bring the broth to a simmer before adding the noodles. Cook for 5 minutes before serving hot.

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