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Red pepper and goat’s cheese bites

11 Apr

Crispy, red pepper and goats cheese bites

red pepper and goats cheese bites by Deena Kakaya

red pepper and goats cheese bites by Deena Kakaya

I had a good day on the Friday just gone.  After a week of early starts with the school run and late finishes with work, I took time out on Friday. This doesn’t happen often (in fact it is very rare) despite my husband frequently persuading me about the benefits of ‘down time’.  There is a lot of sense in it; revived creativity, elevated mood, remembering the simple things in life and so contributing towards a heart that is full of gratitude and, it is true, I did feel lighter.

The girls and I had lunch at a friend’s house. We each took a little something with us, but our host did most the cooking and it was all gorgeous. I must have mentioned before that it is seldom that anyone will cook for me, so I feel particularly spoilt when I can sit back and watch (and of course eat).  Just sitting in the sunshine of her kitchen, I looked around at the other three ladies at different stages of life, all with different blessings and challenges and yet all were smiling.

The season of relishing the sunshine on the face, whilst eating picky foods is upon us; there is new hope, renewed energy and baby animals being born. My little friends in the garden (the flowers that visit us every spring) are pepping above the soil now and ready to burst open. Many of them are older than my five-year-old baby and many others have been planted with his help. This is the season of emerging colour and gentle excitement, it is my favourite season. My skirts get a good dusting off and the garden tools come out.  The meals get lighter, more portable and become more of a compilation of bite sized goodies, which is why I thought it timely to share this recipe for crispy red pepper and goats cheese bites; they’re oozy and sweet with cheese and pepper.  They’re mild yet lasting and have generous crunch and depth. They are easy to make, for when you have friends over. I used the remaining roasted red pepper to make a quick and easy harissa, the pairing worked!

Recipe (makes 16 crispy bites)

2 medium sized baking potatoes

100g goats cheese

150g of Cooks & Co roasted red pepper, sliced into bite sized pieces

1 large spring onion, or two medium sized spring onions

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Chilli flakes to taste

Salt to taste

¼ tsp. ground black pepper

50g plain flour

2 medium eggs, lightly whisked with a fork

125g panko breadcrumbs

Vegetable oil for shallow frying

for the full recipe please visit great British chefs

 

 

 

Indo-Thai mango and coconut bhel

5 Oct

Indo-Thai mango and coconut bhel

Two fabulous things happened at the tail end of last week; my husband returned home for a couple of days, after eleven days of business related work in Australia and I found a Riverford fruit and veg box wrapped up and tucked behind my garden gate.

Indo-thai bhel1 by Deena Kakaya

 

Years ago, when my husband made the switch from his role in the pharmaceutical industry to make a living in the field he is so passionate about (magic) I would cry upon his departure for these clustered long-haul trips. After years of listening to him talk about making dreams manifest and how life is so short and it is not worth spending limited moments of breath and potential smiles doing something one is less than passionate about, there was a juxtaposition of,  ‘I want you to LIVE’ and ‘I don’t want to be alone’.

I didn’t like the quiet of the evenings or cooking for one. I didn’t like the ‘filling in’ activities. I didn’t like waking alone or going to sleep with just the telly for company. But look, years on. Who would have thought that I could become accustomed to waving goodbye with a young child on my hip and that the quiet of the evenings would become precious time to prepare for lectures or cookery classes and those textbooks have become me, once again?  Years ago I would find solace in those messages, ‘how are you coping on your own’ and now I see ambition and vision through how much courage I have mustered up in recent years. I have even considered spending a few years abroad.

So the contents of the Riverford fruit and veg box this week made me chuckle because they matched my thoughts of more exotic climes and the will to LIVE. Now, I am sure I have gone on, and on enough about how much of an alphonso fan I am but alas we can’t have these in the UK this year but I was tickled by the delivery of a large and firm mango. I spotted red chillies and red onions, salsa? I could have done yes, but I fancied something sensational and explosive. It is how I want to feel you see.

I am taking a deep breath before I tell you this. Macaroons and chaat. OK. Let me explain. These are the two foods that make my limbs turn to jelly with anticipation and heart skipping joy. Heart-leap-frogging.  I am a girl that does not need to be gifted shoes, give me macaroons and chaat. And if I haven’t told you before, chaat is Indian street food (vegetarian snack) of inordinate amounts of sensual pleasure. The trickles of tamarind chutney and chilli green lip-smacking chutney heighten a fine balance of sweet, sour, crisp, cool, soft and spicy textures. It pops every sense and leaves anyone and everyone hankering for more, more, more.

But, you know me. I can’t just leave it there. I saw this mango and thought Indo-Thai would be absolutely perfumery delight. The mango gives sweet-sharp balance to the aniseed Thai basil. I have used coconut and peanuts for the salty and nutty elements too. This is not an understated dish (I have stressed that enough haven’t I?) it is a full show. New potatoes ensure that you get a soft bite without soggy mess that an ordinary potato can bring and you can get the puffed rice from most supermarkets or Indian grocers. I have used chopped mint and coriander too for a real herby feel. I would definitely recommend getting hold of the chaat masala that is made of peppery black salt, it lifts the dish to a whole new level. Just try it.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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