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Roasted cauliflower, fennel and walnut soup

17 Dec

Roasted cauliflower, fennel and walnut soup

I don’t like sweet soups.

But then again I don’t like much sweet stuff in my savoury food and so raisins and apricots appearing in my dinner make me queasy.  It just feels odd to me, when there are gentle and definitely pleasant savoury flavours in a warm and spicy dish, out pops a raisin to ruin it. And this is also why I can’t cope with butternut squash curry.  My tongue is furring up in repulsed resistance as I type. I know, I know, I understand that the balance of sweet and heat works but I can’t make a meal of it. I may enjoy a forkful or two but I cannot make a meal of a sweet food. Years ago, before twitter became as massive as it is, I said something of this tune when flicking through foodie magazines and watching Saturday kitchen in bed. This was obviously back in the day before my boy and when I could work during sociable hours and I was still acquainted with free time. Anyway, I said something like, ‘oh no not another butternut squash curry’ and I have to say, it wasn’t a popular comment.

Roasted cauliflower, fennel and walnut soup by Deena Kakaya

Now that it is just ridiculously cold I am getting cosy with soup again, and this one is my current favourite. Roasted cauliflower is mildly sweet, but not in a sugary sort of way and that, I love. There are also lightly, suggestively sweet onions and delicately aromatic and tenderly sweet garlic and oh, creamy dreamy walnuts. The fennel seeds bestow this soup with generous aroma and lovely warmth. It’s a calming and soothing sort of soup this one, even the colours are neutral and I am finding myself in need of some calm. But you have to make sure that it isn’t lumpy…especially the walnuts.  I used my Optimum 9400 froothie and I got a superbly smooth and creamy result.

My head spins just looking at the queues at the supermarkets these days. I am thinking calm and warm thoughts, of an unquestionably savoury kind.

Ingredients to serve 4

One medium to large head of cauliflower, cut into florets

One large red onion, cut into thick chunks

Rapeseed oil to coat the onion and cauliflower

1 ½ tsp. fennel seeds, toasted and crushed

5 tbsp. walnuts

Whole milk to soak the walnuts in

6 cloves of garlic, lightly smashed

6 cups of vegetable stock

One medium potato, cut into chunks

1 tsp. cumin seeds

A pinch of garam masala

Method

  1. Coat the onion and cauliflower in the rapeseed oil and roast them in the oven, with the garlic at 180degrees until they are lightly golden and releasing their aroma.
  2. Soak the walnuts in the warm milk (enough to cover them)
  3. Heat the butter in a deep pan and add the cumin seeds. Allow the seeds to sizzle and add the potato, coating it in the butter.
  4. Pour in the vegetable stock and simmer for about 8-10 minutes, before introducing the cauliflower, onion, and garlic and garam masala.
  5. Blitz the walnuts smooth (there should be no lumps or chunks) and then add them to the soup.
  6. Simmer the soup for 5 minutes before blending it smooth. Add more water if you need to loosen it up.

 

Curry for change recipe and video! Black eye bean pakora in coconut kadhi

18 Sep

This is a post that is different to the posts you may be accustomed to seeing from me. Yes there is a recipe, but there is something different.

I was asked a few months ago to share a recipe for the Curry for Change competition, held in conjunction with Natco for the Find your Feet charity. I, like many of you out there get a lot of emails each day but this one caught my attention and held it. I used to be one of those people that was so preoccupied with life that charitable stuff was scheduled in for particular times of the year yet always on the agenda. Since having my boy, my emotional equilibrium has, well, shifted. If you have followed my blog (I thank you once again if you have been) then you will know that during the past few years I have found myself quite lost, confused and in search of that, ‘lifeline’. I have gone without so many aspects of previous life that I felt had defined me, but I can not pretend to know what it is like for people who go without the basics of life; food.

The rawness of the truth for me is that I needed to feel that ‘I CAN’. That I can make a difference for myself, that I can be productive by myself, that I can voice myself once again. It has taken me a few years to find my feet again, and I am trying to imagine how someone who does not have the support, systems, means, facilities, access and options that I have, would find their feet.

So, my recipe was one of the winning recipes for this challenge, as selected by Vivek Singh and I am delighted to share it with you all today. The recipe is for black eye bean pakora in coconut kadhi. This is a sumptuous and soothing dish, filling and versatile and you can make the components ahead of a dinner party and then throw them together at the last minute. The pakora are deep and nutty and full of texture. The little gram flour fritters are lightly spiced and sit in a tangy, spicy and hot yogurt based soup/curry that is tempered with whole spices such as cloves, cinnamon, curry leaves, cumin seeds and ginger. I have used coconut powder to give it a light and fragrant touch. This is perfect for the season and easy to do.

pakora kadhi 1

When our own lives are filled with good food, it’s hard to imagine that one in eight people around the world will go to bed hungry tonight. 

The Find your Feet charity works to support families in Asia and Africa to not got hungry. Not by feeding them, but my helping them find their feet. They support and encourage families to innovate, using their own resources more productively, trying new seeds, making compost and diversifying their crops.

This means they can produce a variety of nutritious foods to eat throughout the year so that they never go hungry and to earn an income by selling the excess.

They provide them with training and support to start village saving and loan schemes so they can borrow a little capital to start a small business.

This allows them to sell their surplus vegetables or eggs or start a small local shop which enables them to become more self-reliant and provide a better future for their family.

They empower women so that they have the confidence to speak out and take a stand on issues that affect them, such as accessing better healthcare for their children or clean water for their village. This in turn enables them to demand what is rightfully theirs. 

Life is so short.

So, what can you do?

 

Well you could hold a curry event at your home or at a friends and ask each person to make a charitable contribution. You cook up a few dishes (you could use this recipe as one) and enjoy yourselves. For every penny your curry event raises, Nacto will match it. The person that raises the most will win a class with Atul Kochhar at his esteemed restaurant, Benares in Mayfair.

 

Here is my recipe and the video that I did, showing how to cook this recipe, for Curry for change.

 

 

Ingredients

For the pakora

60g black eyed beans, pre-soaked overnight

50g finely chopped fenugreek leaves

1 tsp. minced ginger

Salt to taste

½ tsp. chilli powder (or to taste)

1 tsp. amchur powder or the juice of ½ lemon

100ml water

100g gram flour

One medium onion, diced

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Oil for deep frying

For the coconut kadhi

400g plain, natural yoghurt

100g coconut milk powder

650ml water

2 tbsp. gram flour

Salt to taste

2-3 green chillies slit open

1 small stick of cinnamon

2-3 cloves

5-6 curry leaves

1 tsp. minced ginger

2 tbsp. cooking oil

Method

  1. You will need to pre-cook the black eyed beans for about 25=30 minutes until they are tender, then drain any liquid
  2. Heat the oil for deep frying whilst you make the batter for the pakora
  3. To make the pakora firstly lightly mash the black eyed beans. Don’t puree them but with your fingers give them a tender squeeze. The reason for this is to avoid them rolling out of the batter and popping in the oil on their own.
  4. Combine the lightly mashed black eyed beans. Then add the onions, fenugreek leaves and all the dry ingredients and mix them all well before adding all the wet ingredients and mix it all again.
  5. Drop a small amount of batter into the oil to check if the batter sizzles and rises. If it does, then drop in small amounts (roughly 3-4cm sized pieces) into the oil and deep fry until they are crispy and golden brown. Remove them with a slotted spoon, releasing any excess oil, onto kitchen paper.
  6. Turn your attention to making the Kadhi. Mix the coconut milk powder, yoghurt and gram flour to a smooth paste and leave it to side whilst you make the tempering.
  7. In a deep pan, heat the oil and then add the cumin seeds, chillies, curry leaves, cloves and cinnamon. Let them sizzle and then add the minced ginger before you sauté for under a minute, but don’t let the Kadhi brown.
  8. Pour in the yoghurt mixture and the water and bring it all to a simmer before adding salt.
  9. Cook the Kadhi for 7-8 minutes, and then add the pakora and cook for a further 2-3 minutes before serving with hot and steaming rice.

black eyed bean pakora in coconut kadhi

Two potato and sweet corn soup with three different garnishes

19 Aug

Two potato and sweet corn soup with three different garnishes

Two potato and sweet corn soup with three different garnishes

I’m sitting amongst the chaos of toys and emails whilst I write this, with my thick cosy socks wrapping my feet and a blanket draped on my legs. I have always felt older than my years you know, always. Eyes a bit bleary and dates a-muddle, it all feels a bit disorderly.

In full sleeved attire and legs well and truly covered I felt a bit of chill as we walked to the pool this morning. I looked forward to sitting in the warm and shallow kid’s pool, albeit with bedlam of squeals and splashing children swishing down the slide that sits in the pool. The pool is not large, so I chuckled that we sat in our costumes relatively close to each other and cooed at our own toddlers and infants but barely exchanged polite greetings towards each other. But it was nice to see so much love in that pool. My boy was happy, ‘you not working in cookery class today, daddy’s not here, but you’re with ME’. I asked him if he was happy, ‘yes, I love you mum, you stay with me’.

Amongst all the disarray of the last three and half years, this has happened. There is colour and some peace. And it tastes good.

Two potato and sweet corn soup with three different garnishes

I held a cookery class on Saturday and one on Sunday and my goodness they were at full capacity, in a gorgeous school in the city that I love (London, of course) and we had people frying, rolling spring rolls, making cashew nut cream…and we had smiles and fun. Can I tell you what I really came away with? A lady told me she was really proud of herself and she thought her curry was better than restaurant quality. Two women hugged and exchanged contact details as they left because they had connected so well. A couple fed each other and held hands because the class was their quality time together. A young pair of people flirted mildly (yes I noticed and sorry if you are reading this, but it was very sweet). A lady who was scared of frying made the best fusion style pakora. Everything ran to time. I was sent emails afterwards with thanks and professionals emailed me telling me that the class is ‘exceptionally good’. I had a lady who had not cooked because her mother and sister were the queens of the kitchen but now she felt like she had dishes to serve her little boy and husband. A young man came away saying, ‘now I can impress my mum’.

Things are beginning to make some sense.

My soup today tells this story. This recipe is inspired by a Columbian recipe for ajiaco and a harmony of deep, Autumnal soothing potatoes (both sweet and fluffy) in a stew-like soup with the promise of brightness with a fresh tomato salsa with coriander, light crème fraiche, and creamy green avocado. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t spice it up a bit so I have included fennel seeds, cumin seeds and guajillo chillies for a smoky touch. I have also included some mock chicken but you could use tofu. All in all this becomes a healthful and balanced meal. I didn’t need bread on the side; the soup is really filling, fresh and nourishing. With promise.

Two potato and sweet corn soup with three different garnishes

Ingredients to serve 4

For the soup

250g marabel potatoes (or other floury potato suitable for baking or mashing)

250g sweet potato

200g sweet corn (I used tinned)

One large leek, chopped into chunks

2 bay leaves

200g mock chicken/vegetarian chicken/soya chunks/tofu

1 ½ litres of good quality vegetable stock

3 spring onions

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 tsp. fennel seeds

2 guajillo chillies

2 green chillies

2 tbsp. olive oil or butter

For the coriander and tomato salsa

200g ripe red tomatoes, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 spring onions cut into bite sized chunks

50g coriander, finely chopped

You will also need;

One large ripe avocado cut into slim wedges

4-8 tbsp. crème fraiche

Method

  1. Lightly heat the olive oil or butter and then add the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, bay leaves and green chillies and once the seeds have started to sizzle stir in the marabel potatoes, garlic and spring onions and cook for a minute
  2. Pour in the vegetable stock and rice wine vinegar and bring the soup to a simmer before adding the guajillo chillies
  3. Simmer the soup for ten minutes before adding the leek, sweet corn and sweet potatoes and then cook for a further ten minutes.
  4. In the meantime, prepare the salsa by combining the tomatoes, coriander, spring onions and garlic.
  5. Ladle the soup into bowls and dress them with the garnishes or let the diners do it themselves for added fun.

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

lavenderandlovage_cooking2

 

 

Broccoli and Chinese leaf curry in a miso base

6 May

Broccoli and Chinese leaf curry in a miso base

Broccoli and Chinese leaf curry in a miso base

Broccoli and Chinese leaf curry in a miso base

It’s only now that I can see chapters in my life. As ceaseless as each one may feel, they do. I wasn’t there on the day of my father’s bypass because I had an exam the next day and I didn’t cry at my wedding, not even a damp eye. I cried the entire day at work when I failed the first and only (postgraduate) exam of my life. There was a time when I would curl my eyelashes post clear mascara every day and have regular facials. At a point in my life all I could see was the next level up. I wasn’t sure if I would cry at the birth of my child. Look at me now.

In the same way, not every curry needs to have a tomato base…or a coconut one. Mellow it out now and again with some umami. Earthy. I’m not sure I like that word much. Anyway, I put this curry together very quickly because Chinese leaf and broccoli need barely any time at all and the japanese miso is soothingly easy to eat as well as prepare. A healthy and light bite in the broccoli and some gentle spices…aah.
If you like miso, head over to my friend Kellie’s site where you will find some fabulously creative and definitely delicious concoctions that will leave you glowing with health. One of my favourite of her miso-inclusive recipes is her Honey-miso roasted broccoli and wholegrains salad

Broccoli and Chinese leaf curry in a miso base

Ingredients
200g broccoli, cut into medium sized florets
1 tsp. soy bean paste
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. amchur powder
500ml warm water
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 kaffir lime leaves
2-3 green chillies slit open
½ tsp. turmeric powder
1/3 tsp. garam masala
200g Chinese leaf, shredded
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. minced ginger
One medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. coriander powder
Salt to taste
1 tbsp. corn flour
2 tbsp. cooking oil
Method
1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, turmeric and chillies. Allow the seeds to sizzle before stirring in the onions and garlic.
2. Mix the corn flour with the warm water.
3. Sauté the onions and add the amchur powder and coriander powder, cook until the onions soften before adding the broccoli and water.
4. Stir in the soy bean paste, soy sauce, and kaffir lime leaves and ginger before bringing the base to a simmer. Cook for 2-3 minutes before mixing in the Chinese leaf and then cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

Thai asparagus, spinach and mung bean soup

2 May

Thai asparagus, spinach and mung bean soupWe’ve been having a fair bit of spring-time fun lately, between the bouts of studious noses in books, mammoth sessions of ironing and washing, messy but successful recipe development and you know…general work.

We have eaten chips at the zoo in front of pelicans, samosa toasties at butterfly world, churro’s at the real food festival, Chinese ‘mix boxes’ in Camden and pizza at the foot of the cable cars in London. Of course there was Indian ice-cream, warm chocolate fudge cake and a whole box of alphonso mangoes in between.

So, at the start of this week I made this Asparagus, spinach and mung bean soup with a real Thai feel. When you look at it, I hope you will find the bright green, smooth and pulpy look as enticing as it is promising of nutrition and seasonal freshness. When you smell it, you get a really rousing whack of juicy, lightly sweet and spices essences. The taste…a bit likes a Thai green curry with an Indian and English accent. How’s that for a healthy fusion?

Thai asparagus, spinach and mung bean soup

For the full recipe, head over to great british chefs

Thai asparagus, spinach and mung bean soup

Moroccan spiced paneer, potato, asparagus and olive stew

17 Apr

 

Moroccan spiced paneer, potato, asparagus and olive stew

Moroccan spiced paneer, potato, asparagus and olive stew by Deena Kakaya

 

I’m feeling more alive these days.  I’ve already made my first trip of the year to Brighton, butterfly world and the zoo. We are now frequently taking walks in the park. Today I shook the branch of a tree heavy with pink blossom and to my toddler’s delight; confetti adorned his face and sweater. As I watched his face beam, I took in the sounds of chirping birds, chattering over ducks and felt the glint of sunshine in my eyes. I love spring time.

I’m also eating differently too, as I mentioned in my recent posts. Soups have given way to salads and mugs of green tea with cherries soaked into the mug have been replaced by slim and tall glasses of blueberry lemonade. Snacks of cheesy crackers are no longer the go-to, but strawberries with melted dark chocolates are welcomed in.

Still, I have said it before and I shall again…nothing can cajole me in the way a curry does. It feels natural. It doesn’t have to be an Indian curry though.  This week on twitter I caught some of the conversation about a fusion Udon noodle pot that is available in supermarkets. It was something with an ‘Indian twist’ in the recipe. Some people were clearly unimpressed at how these two cuisines could combine, or maybe it was the way that they were combined that was the cause of dismay. Anyway, I don’t see (well-executed) fusion recipes as a modern atrocity. Very simply, I think that if it ‘works’ (tastes good), then all is good.

On that note, I share with you a recipe for Moroccan spiced paneer, potato, asparagus and olive stew that feel fresh with mint and easy spices, light and juicy, zesty with lemon and the stew has bite and depth.  I haven’t used a ready-made Moroccan spice blend because there is no point; this one is so easy to make with store-cupboard ingredients. I normally buy large bags of spices from an Indian grocer but the folk from Schwartz pointed me towards their handy spices that are available from supermarkets; handy when I can’t get to the Indian grocer which I have to travel to! They are also conveniently packed so I took them away with me when I was demonstrating in Brighton for Vegfest. I found the spices of great colour and they smell just as they should do-lingering and fresh. This recipe uses ground cumin, coriander, turmeric and cinnamon which you can get from the Schwartz range.

I have also used savera paneer in this recipe because it is the closest thing out there to homemade paneer.

Moroccan spiced paneer, potato, asparagus and olive stew

Ingredients

2 medium sized potatoes

150g asparagus tips

225g paneer, cubed

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 medium red onions, finely sliced

3 tbsp. olive oil

Thumb sized piece of ginger, minced

A handful of mint leaves

The juice of one lemon

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground turmeric

600ml vegetable stock

Salt to taste (the vegetable stock would be salty, so only use salt once you’ve tasted the stew)

1 cup of chopped tomatoes (tinned)

125g pitted queen olives

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and add onions, sauté until they soften before adding the paneer garlic and ginger and cook until the paneer starts to catch a golden colour.
  2. Stir in the ground turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and coriander and sauté for 30 seconds before adding the potatoes and mixing well.
  3. Pour in the vegetable stock and the tomatoes and bring the stew to a simmer before squeezing in the lemon juice and the mint leaves.
  4. Cook for 7-10 minutes before adding the asparagus and the olives and then cook for a further 5 minutes.
  5. Serve hot with cous cous or fresh bread.

 

This is a featured post but any views expressed are my own. For more recipes from me and other contributors, you can check out great british chefs

Barley, tomato, paneer, channa dal & cashew nut salad

27 Mar

 

Recipe 2: Barley, tomato, paneer, channa dal salad & cashew nut salad The definition of a salad seems to have evolved; this glorious, warm, spiced and zesty salad is full of wonderful surprise. The barley adds silky and nutty depth, the sweet tomatoes and spices mingle well with the spongy paneer and the channa dal adds a bite.  I like it with a bit of heat, so I went for the green chilies but you can moderate this if you wish.

I used Savera paneer for this dish and it works really well because unlike some brands of paneer, Savera paneer is moist and spongy (not hard and rubbery) so takes on the flavours and juices of the salad so well and is soft enough to add to the party of ingredients. Keep the paneer moist warm so that it retains a bit of that chewy glory.

 

Serves 4-6

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

225g paneer, cubed

75g channa dal, washed

100g pearl barley, washed

220g baby plum tomatoes, quartered

One medium red onion

100g cashew nuts

¾ tbsp. vegetable oil

For the dressing;

3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

Salt to taste

3½ tbsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. cumin seeds

15g coriander, finely chopped

½ tsp. turmeric powder

2 green chillies finely chopped (use one if you prefer less heat)

6-8 curry leaves

Method

  1. Boil the barley on a vigorous simmer for ten minutes and then on a medium flame for a further 30minutes. Drain it and allow it to cool
  2. Boil the channa dal for 15-20 minutes. It should retain a bite but be cooked. Wash the channa dal in cool water and drain it when it is cooked.
  3. Put the channa dal, tomatoes, onion and barley into a large shallow bowl.
  4. Heat the vegetable oil in a non-stick pan and stir fry the paneer until it catches a golden colour. Remove it from the heat and add it to the other salad ingredients.
  5. To make the dressing, heat the sesame oil in a non-stick pan add then chillies, curry leaves, turmeric and cumin seeds. Allow the seeds to sizzle before turning off the heat.
  6. Drizzle the dressing onto the salad and mix it well. Pour in the rice wine vinegar and then sprinkle in the salt and chopped coriander and toss the salad.
  7. Toast the cashew nuts on a non-stick pan until they are lightly golden and then allow then allow them to cool before tossing them into the salad.

 

 

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

Asparagus, radish & wakame in a lemongrass and chilli broth

14 Mar

Asparagus, radish & wakame in a lemongrass and chilli broth

 

After additional, nuisance bout of food poisoning or something gruesome of that nature it has been a week of gentle eating. It could have been the colossal over indulgence; there was the vomit-precluding list of sev puri Chaat, pakora, sandwiches, cheese, coco-choc ice cream, paprika chocolate…well, you get the picture.

Anyway, the result was a day in bed with very, very frequent visits from a 2 year old that chanted, ‘I want mumma, I want mumma’. I tell myself that maybe my body needed this rest; perhaps my body is not cut out for vast and enormous amounts of food or bacteria in sarnies. Whatever the course, a fast followed and then some actual nourishing food.

This recipe is truly refreshing and soothing; it even made my hair feel cleaner. It’s like the welcome drink in Thailand when you feel hot, sweaty, tired yet excited in a need-to-sleep-first sort of way. All of the ingredients are gentle. Crisp heat from the radish and bite from the asparagus meets silky wakame (seaweed), and they work gloriously well with nutty brown rice. The broth is fragrant, easy and fresh.

The folk at Holy Lama sent me some of their lemongrass spice drops recently. It is potent. Really potent. I used just enough to fill the tip of the pipette that comes in the packaging and that was enough. The great thing is that I didn’t have any annoying bits of lemongrass getting stuck between my teeth but all of the flavour. You could of course just use a stalk of lemongrass and get a lovely impact…just make it and enjoy it.

Asparagus, radish & wakame in a lemongrass and chilli broth

Ingredients

200g asparagus cut into 2 inch pieces

200g red radish, sliced

2 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp. sesame oil

3-4 spring onions, cut into bite sized pieces

3 tbsp. wakame

One litre of vegetable stock

Red chilli flakes to taste

One tiny drop of lemongrass spice drops or one lemongrass stalk slit open

1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

125g brown rice

Method

  1. Cook the brown rice per the packet instruction and leave it to a side
  2. Soak the wakame in water and leave it to a side.
  3. Heat the oil in a deep pan and when it is hot add the onion, garlic, asparagus and radish and sauté for two minutes before adding in the vegetable stock, lemongrass, chilli flakes and rice wine vinegar.
  4. Bring the broth to a simmer and add the brown rice, wakame and cook for a further 5 minutes before serving hot.

 

Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

11 Mar

 Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

Her grass is so much more luscious

I’ve learned, over time and with some stumbling, to count my blessings more deliberately, more appreciatively, knowingly and openly.  When anyone tells me how lucky I am in a discussion that ultimately leads to my being lead to sympathise with their heroism in coping with the comparatively (and self-declared) unlucky (rather than of course apathetic) position that they are in, I say ‘thank you’.

This week, I have been told that I am ‘lucky’ that I have just one child and not a crowd of three. One, mother-infatuated child is a doddle apparently, even though my husband is off on his fourth international trip this year and my family is a couple of hours away. I say, thank you because I am blessed to be a mother.

The next thing I am ‘lucky’ for this week is opportunity to work with a new food brand who sought out my freelance support to reinvigorate their brand by creating some youthful and energising recipes for them. I nodded at my banker friend, who brings home a guaranteed, fixed income each month on a permanent contract. She tells me how she toils over each accomplishment in her career. I wondered whether to send her a cheeky ‘hello’ text message at 1.30am when I was wearily churning inspiration into submission. Instead I say thank you, because I am grateful that a new brand understood and appreciated my style of cooking, had faith in me to deliver something exciting and innovative for them and that that I feel fulfilled.

Also, I was made aware of how ‘lucky’ I am to be in a position where I have career options. I think this is the one that set of expletives in my head. Options. It has taken me three years of loosening my grip on that rope which bound me and the world of security and sort-of-positive-affirmation of capability through my ascent into corporate middle-management, then nursing my wounds of confusion and lack of direction and eventually finding my real inclinations and talents and then turning them into some sort of purposeful and meaningful reality. Instead I said thank you, for if it weren’t for this slogging and striving, I would not have the hope that I do today.

Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

On the subject of green grass and positive notes, my broccoli soup with gram flour and courgette dumplings has been a total joy to eat. It’s very lean because the dumplings contain no oil whatsoever and the green; well that’s just a healthy colour isn’t it. It’s mellow, kind, lightly sweet. It’s juicy and the dumplings are dense and spongy with the courgettes keeping the dumplings moist. This is again a very easy recipe to whip up. We ate it with some fresh apple and spice bread. Now if I hadn’t finished off with a cheeky lemon curd biscuit, I would have been very ‘lucky’ to have cooked and eaten a gratifying bowl of goodness.

Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

Ingredients

300g broccoli florets

One large onion, coarsely sliced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1200ml vegetable stock

1 tsp. chilli flakes

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tbsp. cooking oil

For the dumplings

225g grated courgette

¾ tsp. caraway seeds

125g gram flour

Salt to taste

½ tsp. chilli powder

1 tsp. coriander powder

¼ tsp. ground turmeric

Method

  1. To make the soup, heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle before stirring in the onion. Sauté the onions until they soften lightly before introducing the onion and sauté until the  onion has softened down and caught light colour.
  2. Mix in the broccoli and then the vegetable stock. Bring the soup to a simmer before sprinkling in the chilli flakes.
  3. Simmer the soup for 5-6 minutes or until the broccoli is tender before blitzing it smooth.
  4. Whilst the soup is cooking, mix together the grated courgette, caraway seeds, salt, coriander and turmeric and chilli powders before mixing in the gram flour. It should form thick slightly sticky dough.
  5. Whilst the soup is simmering on a medium flame, gently drop in 50p coin sized amounts of the dough into the soup and cook them for 8 minutes or until the dumplings are cooked through.
  6. Serve hot so that the dumplings are moist and tender all the way through.

 

 

Black-eyed beans and smoky aubergines in dill with a walnut and gujalio crème fraiche

1 Mar

 

Black-eyed beans and smoky aubergines in dill with a walnut and gujalio crème fraiche

I took my 24month old to the children’s library the other day; he adores books just like his mumma. After reading the same book a couple of times he mouths the words whilst I read the book. This always makes me smile within, I came in the top 5% of the county for my English A-level, many years ago now and this boy of mine is a little piece of me. Enough showing off, there is a point to this post that leads to a recipe and to the showing off itself.

So we have been walking down the road that leads to the library these days, because he insists on it. On the way we came across a couple of women with their kids, maybe 3-6 year olds. They stormed down the narrow path on their scooters and as they scoffed packets of crisps I heard their mother’s chuckle that they hadn’t had any breakfast. ‘Oi, how many fish fingers you having’ roared one of the mothers.

We seem always to bump into elderly ladies and I do like it when they smile at my boy chattering away. ‘Look at that lorry mumma, it’s incredible and amazing and HUge.’ Elderly lady asked him if he likes Lorries. ‘Yes, I like lorries and busses and planes and motorbikes’. Elderly lady told me that she has three children, one has moved to Australia, one relocated to Ireland where her husband is from for a better lifestyle with her children and one lives relatively locally. She told us about her grandchildren whom she sees some of the holidays but not all. I am always told before parting from old ladies to make the most of my boy’s childhood because it goes so fast. I am no teenager and I know that I must hold onto these rehearsed words every day.

When we got to the library, my little bullet darted around looking at dinosaur, alien, vehicle and animal themed books and we chose one from almost all of these finely selected categories. The woman who brings her child with a potty (she sits her on it in the actual children’s area) wasn’t there and I was mollified from not having to keep my child from running into a peeing toddler or her wet tights. We made small talk with the librarian on our way out before she proceeded to tell me how I should borrow some library books for myself as reading is important for adult education too and that it broadens the mind. She said that even if I read a few pages each day it is valuable. I tried to intervene to tell her, but she didn’t let me. She continued. I smiled. She spoke loudly and with eyebrows rising and I watched the fine whiskers on her upper lip tremble and she puffed her wisdom to me.

Black-eyed beans and smoky aubergines in dill with a walnut and gujalio crème fraiche

On the way I out I realised that the reason that the librarian had affected me was not because she didn’t let me tell her that I have a graduate and post-grad qualification or a professional background or that that I am food writer and that I keep a clean home with well- fed people in it and that we read and sing and grow flowers. It was because she had perhaps touched on a nerve.

I came home and made a loud, heaving, present and deep dish. Dill, smoky aubergines tomatoes and beans.  Simple yet chockfull. My favourite bit is the dip; smoky gujalio chillies with walnuts in crème fraiche. I am alive and I am still me.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

Two cans of black eyed beans, drained

Two medium aubergines

3 cloves of garlic

25g fresh dill, finely chopped

3 fresh tomatoes

One large red onion, thinly sliced

2 tbsp. cooking oil

2 tsp. smoked paprika

Salt to taste

A good pinch of black pepper

50g walnuts

2 Guajillo chillies

200m plain natural yoghurt

300ml hot water

Method

  1. Wash and coat the aubergines in oil and roast them in the oven at 180degrees until they shrivel. It should take roughly 30-40 minutes. Once the aubergines have cooled then remove the pulp from the aubergines and mash it lightly to separate it.
  2. Soak the guajillo chillies and walnuts in boiling water for 15 minutes before draining it and then blitzing it smooth.
  3. Skin the tomatoes by soaking them in hot water until the skins start to split before whipping the skins off before chopping them.
  4. Heat the oil in a deep pan and then add the red onion, salt and garlic to sauté until the onion has softened.
  5. Add the tomatoes, black-eyed beans and dill and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the aubergine pulp and cook for ten minutes.
  6. Mix the walnuts, guajillo and salt together and when you serve the beans with gorgeous breads, pasta or even rice then top with the guajillo, walnut and crème fraiche dip.
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