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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).

 

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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Chimichurri and feta spiked mung bean sprouts in a baked, jumbo spring roll

1 Jun

Chimichurri and feta spiked mung bean sprouts in a baked, jumbo spring roll

Chimichurri and feta spiked mung bean sprouts in a baked, jumbo spring roll

I expended most of this weekend searching for a replacement car after mine was written off a couple of weeks ago. A van rammed into the back of my car at some traffic lights (I had stopped already) crushing the entire boot. I had a few moments of breathless hysteria because my little one was in the back, but fortunately, we are ok. A bit of whiplash, but blessed to be ok.

So, instead of visits to the zoo or park this weekend, we have been from car sales cosmos to showroom underworlds. Can you tell that I don’t enjoy shopping for cars? But it is an interesting world.

As I stood eyeing up a Seat Leon, two broad and bald men chuckled to each other that it is the poor man’s Audi. I smiled silently as I was thrown back to sitting/being squished in the back of the car of someone boasting to my mother about their impending purchase of a brand new Mercedes. Back then car sharing to weddings was common practise and London felt like planets away from Leicester, where I grew up. Of course back then I had no idea that London would become my home. It is where I started my married life, working life and built treasured friendships.

Anyway, I remember clearly sensing the inferiority that this lady wanted my mother to feel. She went on to describe their family business and property and how I looked awkward and that my face didn’t fit well on my body, but even though I was probably just 12 I knew that actually, she was without the basics in life of love and respect. I looked at my attractive mother who was adorned in a new sari and jewellery that my dad had chosen for her. Then I looked at the other lady, who was lacking.

The car is something of, ‘what do you do for a living’ or ‘where do you live’, isn’t it? Except it doesn’t grow does it? I once worked with a chap who did very well professionally and lived in an area brimming with upmarket delicatessens, fancy florists, and tiny Thai restaurants and of course fabulous schools, but drove a moving skip, as he called it. I learned a lot from him on many levels.

That said I know how I feel when I put on a nice dress, good perfume, make-up and a few simple but lovely accessories. I am sure my stance changes, my attitude might change too.

Head in a thorough spin, I decided to call it the end to a hot and bothersome level of thinking and head to the garden for some running under the sprinkler with the boy after the swings and slide. I needed refreshing with some zesty, summery, zingy, nutty, salty, juicy food with crunch and crisp thrown in. See where we are going with this?

I love mung bean sprouts; they are silky and nutty, cook quickly and I love the feeling of their little tails. They work fabulously well with chimichurri dressing but I have a confession; I cheated and used some Thai basil with the parsley and guess what? It gives the most fantastic, lasting herbiness. It is actually all pretty gorgeous, a healthy vegetarian recipe and I served the mung bean sprout spring rolls (baked for added bonus) with Za’atar sweet potato fries, because you know, it’s all about balance.

Ingredients to make 6 large rolls

For the sauce

350g mung bean shoots

One red onion, finely diced

3 cloves of garlic

The juice of one lemon

A large bunch of parsley

Salt to taste

1 tsp. chilli flakes or more if you like it hot

1 tsp. oregano, dried or fresh

A small bunch of Thai basil, finely chopped

2 tbsp. olive oil

Other ingredients

200g feta cheese, cut into small cubes

12 sheets of spring roll pastry, defrosted

Oil for coating the rolls

½ tsp. turmeric

Method

  1. Blitz together all of the ingredients for the sauce and leave to a side
  2. Heat a pan and add a splash of oil and then add the turmeric and mung bean shoots. Sauté for 2-3 minutes and then add the chimichurri sauce
  3. Cook the mung bean shoots for approximately 4-5 minutes longer before turning off the heat and allowing the mixture to cool and then add the feta cheese
  4. Take two sheets of spring roll pastry and leave a 3-4 cm gap from the bottom and sides and place 3-4 dessert spoons in a line and tightly roll into a cylinder shape and leave it to the side
  5. Place the rolls in an oven after greasing them lightly and bake them at 200 degrees until they are lightly golden.

 

 

 

 

 

Curry of steamed spinach and courgette dumplings in a spiced, roasted red pepper base

8 May

Curry of steamed spinach and courgette dumplings in a spiced, roasted red pepper base

Curry of steamed spinach and courgette in a spiced roasted red pepper base

I woke today feeling disoriented, I picked up my phone to check the time. Of course I don’t have a clock in my room. In fact I don’t have any clocks at all in the house at all. The tick-tock feels bothersome and the passing of time and constant reminder, it just isn’t positive is it.

Oodles of notifications welcome me through bleary eyes. Emails to answer, reminders of things to do. ‘Mamma! Mamma!’ I send my well wishes out to friends via Facebook whilst in the bathroom. My apologies to those who didn’t know, but it is unglamorously true. Happy anniversary, happy birthday, congratulations on your new baby, well done on…I think of my cousin’s words, ‘I just do my likes all in one go’.

Then I sent my best friend a message on whatSapp, to see how she’s coping with the sleep deprivation. I must remember to message my dear pal to enquire about her health stuff. There is tugging on my trouser leg. I proceed to tell the postman off for blocking the drive; I am especially annoyed because I had to holler repeatedly for his attention whilst he was leaned back in his seat with feet up. Did he not know how many phone calls I need to make whilst my boy sleeps and clearly he is oblivious to the toilet roll that my toddler unfolded all over the kitchen floor and the four bananas he mashed into it whilst I was in the toilet. Going to the toilet is an offense in the tick-tock of the day.

My hairdresser came over that evening, I have known her for years.  I always learn something new from her and it’s rarely about hair. I talk about travels and food, she talks about her friends and family and how she only measures herself by her own smiles. She is just 27 so her revelation stunned me; she has no laptop, no ipad and has only recently been given a smart work by her employers. She doesn’t use any form of social media.

We fixed a date for seeing my best friend, I decided which film to see with my husband (it’s been a very long time). My boy cupped my face and said, ‘do you want to play?’ and when I said yes, he leaped around the room grabbing his cars. I asked him if he wanted to cook and he said, ‘yes, it’s like art and crafts’.

So we made this healthy and colourful dish together. The dumplings are a bit like vegetarian pakora, or perhaps spinach kofta but they aren’t crisp, they are silky in texture and carry similar flavours. They are juicy with moist courgette and spinach. The roasted red pepper is bold, sweet and smells fabulously sexy. It is way easier to put together than it looks, this is a qick and easy recipe that you can prepare in advance. This is a simple dish, but just look at it. No, just taste it.

Curry of steamed spinach and courgette in a spiced roasted red pepper base

Ingredients

For the dumplings

1 medium sized courgette, finely grated

One medium onion, finely diced

Salt to taste

1 tsp. coriander powder

200g gram flour

250g spinach leaves, finely shredded in the food processor

½ tsp. garam masala

1 tsp. cumin seeds

½ tsp. chilli powder

For the red pepper base

3 red peppers, roasted

½ can of tomatoes

2-3 green chillies

4-5 curry leaves

1 ½ tsp. paprika

250ml water

½ tsp. garam masala

2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tbsp. cooking oil

Salt to taste

Method

  1. Start by combining the shredded spinach, onion and grated courgette and sprinkling in the cumin seeds, chilli powder, salt, coriander powder and garam masala and combine well.
  2. Add the gram flour gradually until the batter thickens to a loose, cake-mix type consistency. Use a single teaspoon full to transfer them into a steamer and then allow them to steam for approximately 20 minutes. Check that they are cooked by piercing them with a knife, when you remove the knife there should be no wet batter.
  3. Leave the dumplings to a side to cool whilst you prepare the red pepper base
  4. Blitz the roasted red pepper and tomatoes to a smooth consistency.
  5. Heat the oil in a pan and add the chillies, cumin and curry leaves and allow them to sizzle before adding the garlic. Sauté the garlic until it softens and then add the roasted red pepper and tomato sauce
  6. Add the salt, garam masala and bring it to a simmer. Gently drop in the dumplings and heat them through before serving.

 

 

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

Cauliflower, fenugreek and mint curry

25 Apr

Cauliflower, fenugreek and mint curry

Cauliflower, fenugreek and mint curry

I like to peel back the layers of stuffed okra and nibble on them. I have a bit on an obsession with black head removal and I have never drunk a cup of tea or coffee, not a full one anyway. I never dance, not at parties not in the house and I like reading about reincarnation and have books on Dr. Stevenson’s work on the subject, documenting case studies. I never went to clubs in my university days and I actually enjoyed childbirth. It is true. Go on, say it if you haven’t already…I know, I must be weird.

Cauliflower, fenugreek and mint curry

I am weird, aren’t you? But now, I love sharing my unusual recipes with you. This one emerged from a visit to the Indian grocers.  My toddler and I chat about each of the ingredients. He went over and picked some fresh dill and told me that it smells yummy. We looked at parsley and it didn’t do anything scent-wise but the aromas of the fenugreek and mint wafted the most impactful smack of green freshness and as I got a good whiff of them together, I thought, actually…they work pretty well together. I have never had these two ingredients cooked together in this way, but let me tell you…It is strong. It is also pretty healthy and nutritious as far as curry goes.

Cauliflower, fenugreek and mint curry

Ingredients

One medium head of cauliflower cut into florets

One medium onion, thinly sliced

200g fenugreek, leaves (or one bunch) removed

50g fresh mint leaves

2 tsp. tomato puree

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 cloves of garlic

¾ tsp. garam masala

½ lemon, squeezed

Salt to taste

2 green chillies slit open and halved

1 tsp. coriander powder

¼ tsp. mustard seeds

1 tsp. cumin powder

½ tsp. ground turmeric

2 tbsp. cooking oil

Method

  1. Finely chop the mint and fenugreek leaves together or use a food processor for a finer texture.
  2. Heat the oil in a deep pan and add the cumin, chillies and mustard seeds, then allow them to sizzle.
  3. Add onion, salt and turmeric and then sauté the onion until it starts to soften before adding the garlic. Cook for a further minute before introducing the cauliflower, fenugreek leaves and mint leaves.
  4. Sprinkle in the salt, garam masala and the coriander and cumin powders. Mix the curry well and then squeeze in the lemon juice and then incorporate the tomato puree.
  5. Cover and cook the curry until the cauliflower is soft enough to pierce.
  6. Serve hot and steaming with chapatti and lashings of cool yoghurt.

Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

8 Apr

Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

I have never been one for going on a ‘diet’ or consuming trendy foods just because. I have always eaten what I wanted to yet in moderation, most of the time. I’ve always looked in the mirror and seen room for improvement, but I like bread, cheese and steaming hot pakora. But.

Just before I got married, during the run-up I had decided that I wanted to look every bit the blooming bride. I was only 23 and I wanted pictures to look back on, proudly, of me looking my finest on a glorious day. I wanted no pleats of belly-fat as I sat on the throne-like chair bearing my midriff and neither did I want wobbly arms fanning the guests as I took my vows in the Hindu manner. I didn’t want those shadows around my nose to show and I certainly did not want to reveal stained teeth. There needed to be classy cheek bones, not cute chubby cheeks.  I imagined gliding, slender and light whilst greeting and mingling with my guests. And so it started with eating lean salads at lunch time. I ruled out even miniature chocolates but at work, where celebratory birthday treats decorated communal cupboard tops daily, this was hard. When we were in our favourite Chinese restaurant we ordered stuff that wasn’t deep fried and a curry with salad instead of rice or noodles. I went to the gym every, single day.

I thought it was working. I was wearing white, sheer cotton tops and hot pants that summer.

But as I called my then fiancé into the room whilst trembling, I knew it had not worked. Every time I ran my hand through my hair a bunch fell out. It had worn out to a wispy and flyaway state. That’s what ‘dieting’ did.

After I had my boy I adhered to the dietary requirements stipulated by female elders and ancestors. I overdosed on fenugreek, millet flour, spinach, roasted aubergines and mung beans. I ruled out cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, spice, potatoes and many other items that lend to a balanced diet. I was borderline diabetic but consumed ghee, jaggery and nuts in the name of natural healing. And I do think that they are useful and nutritious, when they complement a balanced diet.

Again, the horror of losing fistfuls of hair in the bath was upon me. I wore a headband to disguise the thinning, especially around the temples. I was fearful of washing my hair but the greasy look didn’t do me any favours. I felt sluggish, heavy and I just wanted my hair back.

My recipe today offers carbohydrates and cheese and plenty of taste. Let us embrace them with our taste buds, hearts and tummies. I have used Chinese 5-spice in the stuffing and I know it does sound unusual, but really, truly. It’s good. I could the stuffing on its own as a salad, in fact…

Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

Ingredients to serve 4

A pack of cannelloni tubes

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

3 red bell peppers

2 cloves of garlic, minced

Chilli flakes to taste

250ml water

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 large leeks cut into bite sized pieces

200g feta cheese

3 medium potatoes, cubed

1 ½ tbsp. soy sauce

3 tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Method

  1. Wash, cut and drizzle the peppers with oil and roast them until they brown lightly
  2. Head the vegetable oil in a pan and the cumin seeds and once they sizzle, stir in the garlic and sauté for a minute before pouring in the tomatoes and the roasted peppers. Sprinkle in the chilli and water and then cook for 5 minutes before blitzing it smooth.
  3. Boil the potatoes for 4-5 minutes and then drain then and allow them to cook
  4. Heat the sesame oil in a deep dish and then add the leeks and then once they start to soften, sprinkle in the Chinese 5 spice and soy sauce and then cook them for 4-5 minutes on a medium flame.
  5. Stir in the potatoes and then crumble in the feta and then remove the mixture from the heat. Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping
  6. Pour some of the sauce into a deep dish, then turn your attention to stuffing the cannelloni evenly and then place each tube into the sauce. The sauce should almost cover the cannelloni tubes.
  7. Once the tubes are stuffed, sprinkle the top of the dish with panko breadcrumbs and then bake the cannelloni in the oven at 180 degrees until the topping is golden brown and the tubes can be pierced all the way through.

Asparagus, Halloumi & potato curry in roasted garlic, chilli and pomegranate

3 Apr

My mind was a Bollywood movie when I was growing up.  A gentle breeze blew tenderly through my long fuzzy hair, never mind the split ends. I smiled demurely, raising the fine (but visible) hairs on my upper lip with me. Long eye lashes fluttered, wistfully, behind black-framed glasses.  When I rested my face on my palm, to day dream of course, I thought of the huge hoops that should sit on my cheeks, though I wore unpretentious studs.  As I hurried from class to class, I imagined swaying and flowing thin fabric skirts and slim legs under them. Instead my jeans hung off my under-developed bottom and skinny legs.  There was forever a song on my fruity-lip-balm smothered lips and a colourful dance sequence in my head to match, even in exams. Hazy eyes had no kohl on them, but inside them were plentiful, romantic and ambitious dreams.   I carried innocence, but quiet the realities of an average existence.   In my mind I had the conviction of any of those actresses, but the will and smarts to fly.

 

I wasn’t even conscious of that upper lip hair until my cousin pointed it out whilst we stood chatting under the light.  I don’t think I knew that spilt ends meant damage until I was a teenager; I had glossy and dark locks as a young child and then somehow it ended up light and fuzzy. I went from skinny child to full figured teenager and I didn’t even notice. Some of my friends talked about my colour one day and I went home to check it out, and in fact introduce myself to this bright complexion with rosy cheeks that they spoke about.

Asparagus, Halloumi & potato curry in roasted garlic, chilli and pomegranate

I was 16.   There was a boy who blushed when he made small talk with me. He slipped a few notes into my English A-level texts. I cut my hair and it now bounced, it was the ‘Rachel cut’ from friends.  The length of my tops shrunk from long and wafting to short and embracing. There was a chap that took the same bus home as me, so we could talk. He then detoured back to his home.  My face became smooth and free from overgrown eyebrows or whiskers beneath my nose.  I remember another young fellow who asked sent me inviting notes in a fast food café. I remember taking an interest in fashion and the re-emergence of 70’s clothing, the platform shoes, and the loud prints on skinny trousers to wafting ones, oh and even the hair. That’s when the gifts started coming in…from bags to earrings.

I am waiting to blossom again. To bloom. I did as a teenager, then as a mother and now I am waiting on the next phase of finding myself.

Asparagus, Halloumi & potato curry in roasted garlic, chilli and pomegranate

Meanwhile, here is a recipe that is something of an awakening. If you liked my paneer curry in roasted tomatoes and basil, I have to say that I think this one is even better. Someone wrote to me saying they thought I had out-done myself on that last curry, I actually think this one outdoes the last.

I love this one with sweet and deep heat, mellow yet fragrant garlic without its pungency sings through the curry and then you get a tang from the fruity molasses. The potatoes thicken the curry and the Halloumi..oof the Halloumi. Its saltiness balances well with the other senses and soaks up the curry juices with its light chewiness. You’ve got to do this one. Really.

Ingredients

225g Halloumi cheese, cut into bite sized chunks

100g fine asparagus tips

350g potatoes

½ tin of chopped tomatoes

1 ½ tbsp. of pomegranate molasses

1 ½ full bulbs of garlic

4-6 mild and thick chillies (suitable for salsa or stir fries) minced

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. coriander powder

1 tsp. cumin powder

3-4 cardamom pods

Salt to taste

½ tsp. turmeric

3 tbsp. cooking oil

One medium sized red onion, thinly sliced

225ml water

Cook’s note: I am not using the thin red chillies for this dish. What we want to achieve is that bright red colour and sweet and gentle heat. Please use the thick, but short red chillies that are used for stir fries and salsa.

Method

  1. Start by roasting the 2 bulbs of garlic. Drizzle them lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap them in baking paper and put them in the oven at 180degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until they are soft enough to pop out of their skins.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and add the cumin seeds with the turmeric and allow the seeds to sizzle before adding the onion, salt and turmeric. Soften the onion before adding the minced chillies and stir fry for 30 seconds on a medium to low heat.
  3. Stir in the potatoes, coat them in the tempering and then add the tomatoes and water. Bring the curry to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked but firm.
  4. Add the asparagus and the cumin and coriander powders and then the pomegranate molasses. Pop the cloves of garlic out of their skins (use approximately one and a half bulbs). Mash them lightly to release the flavours.  Mix well and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  5.  Mix in the Halloumi and cook on a low flame for 2-3 minutes.

Serve immediately with rice.

Saffron polenta, chipotle & tomato, black bean and Tenderstem bake

1 Apr

Saffron polenta, chipotle & tomato, black bean and Tenderstem bake

I know that it’s meant to be spring but I am cold and rather weary. Days are drowsy but hectic and nights aren’t quite long enough.  My nose still feels icy and my mind is clouded, though at least the rays of sun out there are promising. I am even considering reacquainting myself with the hot water bottle.

It’s on days like this that I need a bold, reviving and soothing dish and something to awaken the senses.  Something plentiful and bright, something smooth and definitely present, here and lingering. But with low effort required.

So with my cosy socks on and my trusty, thick knitted cardigan with tassels and plentiful buttons, I decided to layer pillows of saffron polenta, succulent and spiced tomatoes with deep black beans and a crunchy layer of Tenderstem. And of course, most things in life taste better with a layer of cheese on top.

So with my cosy socks on and my trusty, thick knitted cardigan with tassels and plentiful buttons, I decided to layer pillows of saffron polenta, succulent and spiced tomatoes with deep black beans and a crunchy layer of Tenderstem. And of course, most things in life taste better with a layer of cheese on top.

For the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Tofu sambal with curried okra, faro and coconut yoghurt

25 Mar

Tofu sambal with curried and Faro and coconut yoghurt

Tofu sambal with curried and Faro and coconut yoghurt I was a difficult eater as a child. My parents regurgitated their experiences of having to travel in search of a specific type of tinned ham (I turned vegetarian later, when I was a pre-teen) because it was amongst the very restricted variety of foods I would willingly eat. They wanted me to understand the pains they went through to nourish me. I remember sitting on an indoor swing, as a toddler with my parents singing to postman pat on the TV and sneaking a scoop potato curry, rice and yoghurt into my mouth at any reasonable opportunity. They would reminisce amongst themselves at the same time, about how they would get excited over every ounce of milk they would cajole me into drinking as a baby. I sensed the heart-swelling joy they felt when I was satiated and growing. I detected the worry, ‘when will she just eat’. The break-through in my eating came when I was about four. I remember attending an Indian function with my dad. I was a shy and quiet child with a silky mop of hair and a generous fringe which I sometimes tucked my eyes behind. I recall frowning at the party of swishing saris and singing aunties. I gripped my dad’s hand in silent protest each time someone tugged my cheek (it hurt) and remarked on my slight frame. My mum would always sigh, ‘yes, she doesn’t eat well’ and my dad would tell her to be quiet. The smell of samosa was overwhelming and I needed them, but I refused repeated offers.  On the way home I asked my dad for samosa. He laughed and bought them from an Indian café. I ate four.  I learned to follow my taste buds and my nose. I loved going to collect a Chinese take-away with my dad. I adored the aroma of sesame oil and the smokes that grew from the massive pans. I adored the look of slippery noodles being chucked around and crisp vegetables mingling their way between rice, egg and noodles. I was much more sensitive to the delicate juices that beansprouts oozed out and I also really fancied their chips. Luckily, this take-away made the stuff of dreams; a tin foil container with everything in it; veg, noodles, rice, and chips. The take-away made its way into my very limited repertoire of stuff I would eat. It eventually grew into non-child-like tastes, like stuffed okra curry. I watched my boy on a video call with his grandfather the other day. The same frown appeared from his very long fringe, it sits under his nose now. Head tilted forwards and eyes full of energy. He was talking about what he saw at the zoo. Most of the time he is asked what he ate and he quickly brushes over the topic, he isn’t bothered about food and he doesn’t know what pains I have been through over the last couple of years to nourish him. Even as a 4 month old, he wasn’t interested in feeding, he wanted to look around at the world and babble. He didn’t want to wean until he was 8months old and he wouldn’t eat a boiled carrot or a sandwich. My child eats pav bhajhi, paratha and quesadilla. My mum laughed out loud in the background of the call, ‘he’s just like his mum’.  The breakthrough for him came with Kadhi, a yoghurt and gram flour soup, but I added spinach. The other day we were driving home from the zoo. We asked him what he would like for dinner. My 25 month old said, ‘I want to eat Chinese food mumma, I want Chinese toast and Chinese rice and SOYA’.  My recipe today is an ode to all those favourites. The spongy tofu is cooked in a fresh, spicy, herby and lively Malaysian style sambal. It is probably one of the best sambal recipes I have made in a while, so I urge you to try it; this tofu is certainly not bland. The faro is nutty and light and is in a mix of curried yoghurt and like every good spicy meal, this is served with plenty of coconut yoghurt.  Ingredients 250g pack firm tofu 100g faro 200g okra, trimmed, washed and cut into bite sized pieces A few tablespoons of coconut yoghurt to serve (I used Rachel’s yoghurt) 1 tbsp. vegetable oil for the tofu 2 tbsp. vegetable oil for the okra 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped for the okra For the okra: Salt to taste, ½ tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. cumin powder, 1 tsp. coriander powder, chilli powder to taste For the sambal 30g chopped coriander 2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped 3 tbsp. palm sugar (use soft brown sugar if you really can’t get hold of palm sugar) The juice of one lime 4 green chillies Salt to taste ½ tsp. turmeric 3.5 tbsp. tamarind concentrate or pomegranate molasses 4 cloves of garlic 3 inch nob of ginger 5 shallots, diced 1-2 tbsp. of sesame oil Method 1.	Wrap the tofu in some kitchen paper to remove any excess water before cutting it into cubes. In the meantime, boil the faro per the packet ingredients 2.	To make the sambal blitz together the ingredients to a smooth paste. 3.	On a non-stick pan heat the 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil and stir fry the tofu until it catches a lightly golden colour and then stir in the sambal paste and cook for 7 minutes.  4.	Once the faro is cooked, heat the remaining vegetable oil in a non-stick pan and add the okra and garlic and sauté on a medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Don’t add the spices because any moisture will make the okra sticky. 5.	Add the salt, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric and chilli powder and sauté for a further minute before adding the faro. Mix it all well and then turn off the heat. 6.	You can either serve the tofu on top or alongside the faro, but this all tastes fabulous with some cool and sweet coconut yoghurt.

I was a difficult eater as a child. My parents regurgitated their experiences of having to travel in search of a specific type of tinned ham (I turned vegetarian later, when I was a pre-teen) because it was amongst the very restricted variety of foods I would willingly eat. They wanted me to understand the pains they went through to nourish me. I remember sitting on an indoor swing, as a toddler with my parents singing to postman pat on the TV and sneaking a scoop potato curry, rice and yoghurt into my mouth at any reasonable opportunity. They would reminisce amongst themselves at the same time, about how they would get excited over every ounce of milk they would cajole me into drinking as a baby. I sensed the heart-swelling joy they felt when I was satiated and growing. I detected the worry, ‘when will she just eat’.

The break-through in my eating came when I was about four. I remember attending an Indian function with my dad. I was a shy and quiet child with a silky mop of hair and a generous fringe which I sometimes tucked my eyes behind. I recall frowning at the party of swishing saris and singing aunties. I gripped my dad’s hand in silent protest each time someone tugged my cheek (it hurt) and remarked on my slight frame. My mum would always sigh, ‘yes, she doesn’t eat well’ and my dad would tell her to be quiet. The smell of samosa was overwhelming and I needed them, but I refused repeated offers.

On the way home I asked my dad for samosa. He laughed and bought them from an Indian café. I ate four.

I learned to follow my taste buds and my nose. I loved going to collect a Chinese take-away with my dad. I adored the aroma of sesame oil and the smokes that grew from the massive pans. I adored the look of slippery noodles being chucked around and crisp vegetables mingling their way between rice, egg and noodles. I was much more sensitive to the delicate juices that beansprouts oozed out and I also really fancied their chips. Luckily, this take-away made the stuff of dreams; a tin foil container with everything in it; veg, noodles, rice, and chips. The take-away made its way into my very limited repertoire of stuff I would eat. It eventually grew into non-child-like tastes, like stuffed okra curry.

I watched my boy on a video call with his grandfather the other day. The same frown appeared from his very long fringe, it sits under his nose now. Head tilted forwards and eyes full of energy. He was talking about what he saw at the zoo. Most of the time he is asked what he ate and he quickly brushes over the topic, he isn’t bothered about food and he doesn’t know what pains I have been through over the last couple of years to nourish him. Even as a 4 month old, he wasn’t interested in feeding, he wanted to look around at the world and babble. He didn’t want to wean until he was 8months old and he wouldn’t eat a boiled carrot or a sandwich. My child eats pav bhajhi, paratha and quesadilla. My mum laughed out loud in the background of the call, ‘he’s just like his mum’.

The breakthrough for him came with Kadhi, a yoghurt and gram flour soup, but I added spinach. The other day we were driving home from the zoo. We asked him what he would like for dinner. My 25 month old said, ‘I want to eat Chinese food mumma, I want Chinese toast and Chinese rice and SOYA’.

My recipe today is an ode to all those favourites. The spongy tofu is cooked in a fresh, spicy, herby and lively Malaysian style sambal. It is probably one of the best sambal recipes I have made in a while, so I urge you to try it; this tofu is certainly not bland. The faro is nutty and light and is in a mix of curried yoghurt and like every good spicy meal, this is served with plenty of coconut yoghurt.

v

Ingredients

250g pack firm tofu

100g faro

200g okra, trimmed, washed and cut into bite sized pieces

A few tablespoons of coconut yoghurt to serve (I used Rachel’s yoghurt)

1 tbsp. vegetable oil for the tofu

2 tbsp. vegetable oil for the okra

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped for the okra

For the okra: Salt to taste, ½ tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. cumin powder, 1 tsp. coriander powder, chilli powder to taste

For the sambal

30g chopped coriander

2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped

3 tbsp. palm sugar (use soft brown sugar if you really can’t get hold of palm sugar)

The juice of one lime

4 green chillies

Salt to taste

½ tsp. turmeric

3.5 tbsp. tamarind concentrate or pomegranate molasses

4 cloves of garlic

3 inch nob of ginger

5 shallots, diced

1-2 tbsp. of sesame oil

Method

  1. Wrap the tofu in some kitchen paper to remove any excess water before cutting it into cubes. In the meantime, boil the faro per the packet ingredients
  2. To make the sambal blitz together the ingredients to a smooth paste.
  3. On a non-stick pan heat the 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil and stir fry the tofu until it catches a lightly golden colour and then stir in the sambal paste and cook for 7 minutes.
  4. Once the faro is cooked, heat the remaining vegetable oil in a non-stick pan and add the okra and garlic and sauté on a medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Don’t add the spices because any moisture will make the okra sticky.
  5. Add the salt, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric and chilli powder and sauté for a further minute before adding the faro. Mix it all well and then turn off the heat.
  6. You can either serve the tofu on top or alongside the faro, but this all tastes fabulous with some cool and sweet coconut yoghurt.

 

 

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