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The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine

30 Aug

The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine

Sometimes, we need the reminders that a rainy day brings.

The sweet Greek salad - with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine

The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine by Deena Kakaya

Every day my toddler asks me, ‘what sort of tata are we going to today mumma’. Tata is the Gujarati baby word for ‘excursion’. I told him today that it is raining all day and we would get totally soaked. So we took a few moments to cuddle and listen to the crackles of thunder and look out at the hailstones patter against the window. ‘I don’t want to get wet mumma’.

I had a lot to do today. It is a Sunday but you know, the way my life works at the moment is that there is no traditional pattern of a 5-day working week. There were two recipes for a magazine to test and write up as well as two recipes for an upcoming cookery class and my head was still bulging with the images that a chat between a friends and I had, following a surprise bumping-into whilst shopping.

We had not seen each other in almost a decade. We were neighbours. We took the same bus home from work each day, from our completely different careers and we came back to very different lives, but we had connected on some level. We would hungrily talk about food on our entire journey home and I would moan about my post graduate studies. Her concerns were more grown up than mine for she returned to a toddler daughter who would wait at the door for her mummy whilst bobbing around in her grandmother’s arms and then she would bounce down the path to greet her mummy. I enjoyed playing with this sparky little girl who was sociable. Now she is preparing for secondary school. Now things aren’t as I had planned and now they are removed from the ideal. But now I have the toddler. Now I am on the other side of the lecture theatre. Now I am with different focus.

But as my husband and I prepared for the busy weeks ahead with engraved masala tins stacked up high and recipe writing and testing in between playing with my little sweetie, we felt happy.

The sweet Greek salad - with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine by Deena Kakaya

The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine by Deena Kakaya

I sang along to my favourite tunes interrupted by songs about planets and phonics. I twizzled my baby around and listened to rapturous giggles as his teeny hand cupped his mouth at the hilarity of mumma wiggling her bum. I felt blessed that my project is my husband’s project as he treaded, cautiously but willingly on culinary ground. We all got involved in making this salad and my boy eagerly described how the vegetables for it arrived in a massive box from a chap called Gary from Riverford. I see my reflection in him now and its capturing. He washed the glossy and ripe tomatoes and after a few impatient nibbles of the cucumber, he did a good job with that too. I have to admit, my husband did a darn good job with executing much of this salad including marinating the feta in those toasted spices. It’s a rarity, so I am cherishing this memory.

The sweet Greek salad - with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine  by Deena Kakaya

The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine by Deena Kakaya

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

 

I am linking this post to Lisa’s kitchen and Tinned tomatoes for the no croutons food bloggers challenge

Roasted carrot, mung bean, Quinoa and tomato salad in a miso-masala dressing

28 Jul

Roasted carrot, mung bean, Quinoa and tomato salad in a miso-masala dressing

It was far too hot to go out today and that’s not something I often say and for some reason my toddler has a definite leaning towards traditionally boyish ways.  I never pushed cars, the solar system or action toys to him, in fact I have offered his cousins dolls and teddies for him to play with but there is certainly no interest. In the same tune, he refuses to let me tie his sweeping hair back in this hotness and would rather have his hair stick in clumps around his busy little face.

Roasted carrot, mung bean, Quinoa and tomato salad in a miso-masala dressing

Unlike my toddler I don’t much feel like rushing around and the absolute last thing I wanted to do is stand over bubbling pots of simmering concoctions in this heat. I am also conscious that this autumn brings changes in life where I need to feel my best and so I need to eat the best. Cue my salad of sweet roasted carrots, nutty pink (paprika and turmeric stained) Quinoa, deep and clean mung beans and juicy tomatoes and wrapped up in an umami style miso dressing spiked with coriander powder, cumin powder, chilli and curry leaves. Well, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t right?

So, instead of growing irritable (and in calories from customary ice-cream eating) in the park with newly holidaying kiddies galore and lugging around drinks, sun cream, hats and changes of clothes we washed mountains lightly soiled (it is muck and clover not artificial soluble fertilizer so we got messy) organic vegetables from Riverford. I stood my boy at the sink and we chatted over the washing of gigantic and crisp lettuce leaves, shiny and even courgette, huge and bulbous spring onions, feathery-headed carrots (apparently Rory the rabbit loves them) and even broad beans, which we ate raw (shhh). I have to say, the flavors of the veg on their own are intense and a reminder that vegetables really don’t have to be a side-dish. The carrots are the star of this dish, just look at them…intense in their roasted skins. A lot of people throw away the feathery greens but for goodness sake keep them! They add fabulous texture to a salad and unsurprisingly, taste very carroty.

This is not posh nosh, but the quality and balance is there and you know, just making this salad with my boy has been so enjoyable and enriching.

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

Roasted carrot, mung bean, Quinoa and tomato salad in a miso-masala dressing

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

Roasted sweet potato, fig and goats cheese salad dressed with Thai basil, chilli and green garlic

16 Jul

Roasted sweet potato, fig and goats cheese salad dressed with Thai basil, chilli and green garlic

Initially I thought this salad too simple to share the recipe for, but it’s so frigging good.

Roasted sweet potato, fig and goats cheese salad dressed with Thai basil, chilli and green garlic

Now, I am sure you know about how I have been simplifying my life recently. I have been spending weekends with less fretting about where this is all going and more time discussing the best parks and gastro pubs. The grand plan is less frequently referring to the clutter of attainments and more the sequence of activities the coordination of multiple children around the zoo. My Google searches aren’t so vocation oriented and are more about reincarnation, the key characters of the Mahabharata and people who are evidence of ‘devolution’.

This healthy vegetarian salad does not have anything to do with the feeling I got when I looked at the mirror this morning and the immediate bolt of, ‘oh goodness I look like one of those mothers’. It doesn’t relate to the inner sigh I experienced when I was writing this and felt my thighs cling together unfashionably. It certainly isn’t about wanting to fit into all those pre-career break professional clothes. OK, it is. BUT, it tastes SO frigging good.

Now, green garlic sounds exotic and exciting. It is pretty but it is essentially immature garlic before it separates into cloves and intensifies in flavour. Green, or spring garlic has a mellow and verdant flavour and works perfectly for this salad so don’t be put off by the idea of figs and garlic. The blend of sweet potatoes, aniseed-type flavoured Thai basil, creamy goat’s cheese and fleshy figs, there is even an even amount of lime to bring it all together…it’s almost too pleasurable. I am actually not kidding. I’m not…

Roasted sweet potato, fig and goats cheese salad dressed with Thai basil, chilli and green garlic

Ingredients

800g sweet potato, peeled cut into wedges

The juice of two limes

Half a bulb of green garlic

One large chilli, finely chopped

Salt to taste

Oil for roasting the potatoes

4 fresh figs cut into wedges, roughly 6 pieces per fig

65g of goat’s cheese

1 tbsp. sesame oil

25g Thai basil, shredded

Method

  1. Coat the wedges lightly in oil and roast them at 200 degrees for 25-30 minutes until they are crisp but definitely soft on the inside.
  2. To make the dressing heat the sesame oil and then add the chilli and garlic and sauté just until the garlic softens but don’t let it brown. Turn off the heat and add the lime juice and salt.
  3. Combine the roasted sweet potatoes, shredded basil and the dressing with the figs and dots of the goat’s cheese.
  4. Serve immediately.

I am sharing this recipe with Lavendar and Lovage for the cooking with herbs challenge

lavenderandlovage_cooking2

Coconut milk, coriander and jalapeno marinated Halloumi with figs

9 Jul

Coconut milk, coriander and jalapeno marinated Halloumi with figs

Coconut milk, coriander and jalapeno marinated Halloumi with figs

I have had a fuzzy couple of weeks, but bizarrely there has been some good to come out of this fog.

I have been in limbo between throat infection and glandular fever. I, the immunity hero who only suffered a single bout of flu in 5 years (it ended up being swine flu) have been down with more illnesses in the last two years than in the first entire lifetime. I blame serious exhaustion.

I fell asleep on the sofa today, before lunchtime, for an entire 13 minutes.  I know some of you are thinking, ‘I wish I could have a quick nap in the middle of the day’ but wait.  I have been known to knock out when I am not supposed to. I have done in lectures, even the postgraduate ones that were being paid for by the workplace at the risk of it being fed back to my employers, but I blame Saturday lectures for that. I have fallen asleep in meetings at work, especially the ones about the IT infrastructure, even when it concerned my pricing policies, but I blame the dimly lit rooms for that. I have fallen asleep in the toilets at work (I closed the lid first) and have  been late for meetings. Not much that I can blame for that one. It goes without saying that I have fallen asleep on the trains but surprisingly I have never missed my station.

But none of these badly-timed snoozing incidences have caused the chaos that 13 minutes in front of the telly, in my own living room caused today.

In the 13 minutes (with cartoons on the TV) my Tasmanian devil drew one the wall next to the bay window, tore up my recipe notes, emptied an entire kitchen cupboard onto the floor, filled up the tall kitchen bin with items that it certainly did not want to eat, unraveled two toilet rolls onto the cloakroom floor and every single toy car that my boy owns was strewn around the living room floor.

Stay awake. Stay awake. Stay awake. Stay awake.

Coconut is refreshing and quenching and smells so lifting and holiday like. I need a holiday, wonder if that will happen this lifetime? Coriander, green and renewing and with the jalapeno, it is so balanced. The fleshy figs are gentle and some say they are an aphrodisiac but clearly the mess-clearing isn’t, see…balance. If there is ever a ‘wake-up’ dish, it’s this one.

Coconut milk, coriander and jalapeno marinated Halloumi with figs

Ingredients to serve 2

A can of coconut milk

30g coriander, coarsely chopped

2 tbsp. chopped jalapeno peppers

1 tsp. galangal puree

2 figs, sliced

About 200g Halloumi, cut into 8 slices

Method

  1. Blitz the coriander and jalapenos together and mix the puree with the coconut milk and the galangal
  2. Combine the spiced coconut milk with the sliced Halloumi and keep it in the fridge for a couple of hours
  3. Once marinated, place the Halloumi on a hot non-stick pan with roughly half the coconut milk mixture and cook until the juices have dried and the Halloumi has browned. Then flip the Halloumi over, add the other half of the spiced coconut milk and brown again
  4. Serve hot with the figs and some of the left over coconut milk paste as a dressing.

I am sharing this recipe with Lavendar and Lovage for the cooking with herbs challenge

lavenderandlovage_cooking2

 

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.

 

Miso-tamarind roasted potatoes wedges with locally sourced, garden salad items

6 Jun

Miso-tamarind roasted potatoes wedges with locally sourced, garden salad items

I tasted cucumber flowers yesterday and they were a joy. See how I got straight into it today?

Miso-tamarind roasted potatoes wedges with locally sourced, garden salad items

 

They looked so pretty but what surprised me the most was the intense cucumber flavour of the stem. I was very spoilt at the London produce show. My toddler and I were picked up so that we could travel into town and along the way my boy remembered which roundabouts led to the oriental supermarket and which ones to London zoo. His childhood is so different to how mine was.  He knows his spices, including mixes like ras-el-hanout and he is just two.   Anyway, as I arrived at the Grosvenor house hotel there was a wonderfully quiet area where we were shown fabulous produce such as tomatina, purple carrots, red oxtail, pea shoots, wonderfully juicy asparagus, salad fennel and I took home some salty, shrub-like okahijiki, warm pinks steam radish, pepper salad fennel and some sea buckshorn! Oh and I was also given Valentine Warner’s new book, ‘what to eat next’.

We were given a master class and they made the most superb salad with simple ingredients from the collection above and lightly dressed with sharpness and oil but you know simple and fresh ingredients show off lots, and quite rightly too. The funny thing is, that whilst I was nibbling away at natures best stuff and chatting to fellow foodies about lifestyle choices such as ecological household items, living near farms and eating locally sourced eggs, bread and walking in the fields or even building eco-friendly homes…it reminded me of how each choice I make on a daily basis affects my body. Someone I know moved to the Cotswolds to nurture their family away from London, and you know I love London but there is something to this isn’t there.  I love being outdoors, fresh air, picking my own fruit and veg and then returning with bundles of fresh stuff to cook or freeze. What a life. Far cry from the underground and shopping centres of the city eh?

Miso-tamarind roasted potatoes wedges with locally sourced, garden salad items

I couldn’t let all that fresh and beautifully wrapped stuff that still smelt of the garden go to waste so the very next day I made this salad and I think it looks pretty. But let’s move onto those miso-tamarind roasted potatoes before I pop. They are really very, ‘oh my goodness’. I think miso is fabulous for its deeply mellow and gentle tones that are lasting and ‘brown’. Tamarind is spiky, tangy, sweet and sharp in a tantalising way. I wouldn’t have imagined them tasting good together but they REALLY do. Try it. (Oh and serve with a few dollops of garlic mayonnaise).

Miso-tamarind roasted potatoes wedges with locally sourced, garden salad items

Ingredients to serve 2

500g king Edward potatoes

4 tbsp. miso paste

2 tbsp. tamarind chutney

2 tbsp. oil

A few dabs of garlic mayonnaise

My salad had in it;

–          ½ cup of petit poi’s

–          8 spears of asparagus

–          A handful of Okahijiki

–          5-6 radish shaved or very thinly sliced

–          2-3 baby beetroot

Method

  1. Cut the potatoes into thick wedges and then boil them (skin on) for 7-8 minutes or until barely tender
  2. Drain the potatoes and let them cool and dry completely.
  3. In a large bowl mix the potatoes with the miso, tamarind chutney and oil and toss them all until there is even coverage.
  4. Roast the potatoes in the oven at 180 degrees until they are crisp and sticky brown.
  5. To make the salad simmer the asparagus, beet, peas for approximately 4-5 minutes and then drain them.
  6. Plate the salad and the potatoes and serve with garlic mayonnaise.

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