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Indo-Thai Cassava, mango and broccoli curry

20 Jan

Indo-Thai cassava, mango and broccoli curry
Finding strength

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

Serve hot, I ate it just as it is.

Masala mushroom wontons in a curried soya bean soup

18 Jan

wontons 1Moody soup. I’d never imagined.

I never imagined that my life would be this way. I was always a dreamer and I always focused very hard on walked boldly in that direction, without fear, without doubt, without any shadow of any other person. Just me and the picture. Smiling.

Today I woke feeling bleary eyed and confused. You know those days where the waves of pace and tasks carry you along and but the mind lingers behind. It’s been one of those days where I have wondered how I got here, what decisions did I make, or not make. I bathed in rose salts and then used rose water in my porridge. Bizarre.

I then read something written by a palliative care nurse about the regrets of patients on their deathbed.

Working too hard. Not living the life that was actually desired. Not sharing emotions. Not letting themselves just be happy. Not staying in touch with friends.

So what did I do?

wonton 2

I put away my phone and iPad and that meant putting away the, ‘am I doing enough’ feeling. I grabbed a blanket, snuggled up with my boy and had a snooze on the sofa whilst watching cartoons. Then I made this soup, which matches my mood today. Mellow. ‘Screw it, just let go’.

This one looks harder than it is to make, I did it all within 30minutes or so. Silky and mildly spiced mushrooms tucked inside thin and smooth wonton parcels. They sit happily in a gentle and deep soup. Each mouthful releases a sigh. It’s uncomplicated and quite impressive. Just as life should be.

Ingredients to serve two

For the mushroom masala

75g enoki mushrooms , cut roughly into bite sized pieces
100g shiitake mushrooms, cut into 2cm pieces
3 baby onions, finely chopped
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp chaat masala
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp sesame oil
A splash of soy sauce
1/2 tsp paprika
15 wonton wrappers

For the soup

2 tbsp soybean paste
1 tbsp sesame oil
600ml hot water
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp (or to taste) sweet chilli sauce
4-5 curry leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 tbsp of corn flour mixed with a little water

Method

1. To make the mushroom masala first, heat the sesame oil in a frying pan. Add the cumin seeds, curry leaves and turmeric and allow the seeds to sizzle.
2. Add the onions and mushrooms and sauté them for a minute. Add the chaat masala, paprika, garam masala, paprika and soy sauce. Sauté for a further 3 minutes before turning off the heat.
3. Take a single wonton wrapper and place 2 teaspoons of mushroom masala in the centre and them bring the sides inwards to make a drawstring purse. Use a little water to to keep the purse together.
4. Place the wontons in a steamer and then steam them for approximately 6-7minutes and then remove them from the steamer.
5. In the meantime, whilst the wontons are steaming make the soup by heating the oil, adding cumin seeds, curry leaves, turmeric, minced ginger and garlic and then sauté for a minute. Then add the soya bean paste, mix it together before adding the water.
6. Bring the soup to a simmer before adding the sweet chilli sauce, rice wine vinegar and curry powder. Stir it to ensure that the soyabean paste has melted into the soup.
7. Pour in the paste of corn flour and water and simmer for 5-6 minutes.
8. To serve, place the wontons in a bowl and pour in a ladle or two of soup. Garnish it with coriander.

Pomegranate roasted baby onions with butter bean salad and tahini-chilli yogurt

16 Jan

Pomegranate roasted baby onions with butter bean salad and tahini-chilli yogurt
Onions from an onion

I went to a school which was populated with provably about 80 per centGujarati children (I come from a Gujarati background) at a guess. When my boy and I go to playgroup he is an, ‘ethnic minority’ by being in a broader group called ‘Asian’.

So when I was at school I was not (by other kids) differentiated by the colour of my skin, but my caste. My classroom was made up of surnames such as Patel, Mistry, Thakrar or Shah. All Gujarati of course. We all knew we belonged to different castes and we knew that we spoke in different accents, our mothers cooked different tasting foods or simply varieties and some of us would be vegetarian and others not. Mild teasing was not uncommon, ‘your surname is Tailor you can make my clothes when I grow up’. I think I could pick up on caste sometimes by physical appearance.

The caste system used to separate people vocationally, but no longer does. Well, not the people I know anyway. It created networks of people and they married within their caste, but that doesn’t happen any more either. Idiosyncrasies of castes are now diluted with western accents, mixed marriages and just general evolution of culture. My 23 month will probably never know much about the caste system and I’m sure his friends will be much more international than mine were at his tender age. London offers that diversity doesn’t it.

I am from the Lohana caste. Commercial people. Ironically I read economics at university, but really that nothing to do with caste. Coincidence. Lohana folk are said to fond of onions, and that’s why I often got called one whilst growing up. But I was proud, I love a good onion.

Sweet and juicy with a sour tang. That’s my salad. I’ve smothered pomegranate molasses over the onions and roasted them slowly so that they are sweet and sour and moist and slippery. I adore that smell. They work well with deep butter beans and my nutty and slightly spiced dressing. Go on, be an onion.

Ingredients to serve 4

20 baby onions, peeled and halved
4 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1-2 tbsp rapeseed oil
Salt
1 tsp sugar
A few handfuls of rocket leaves
2 tins of butter beans
2 tsp sumac powder
15g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
15g garlic chives, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp lemon juice

3/4 cup plain yoghurt
4 tbsp tahini paste
1 tsp red chilli flakes

Method

1. Coat the onions with the pomegranate molasses, sugar and a generous sprinkle of salt.
2. Lay the onions on some baking paper, drizzle them with oil and place them in the oven and roast them at 150 degrees for approximately 30minutes.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together the butter beans, sumac, lemon juice, parsley, salt to taste and garlic chives.
4. To make the dressing, simply whip the yoghurt, tahini and chilli together.
5. Serve the salad on some rocket leaves with some lovely warm bread.

Cauliflower keema curry with capers and potatoes

13 Jan

cauliflower kheema curry with capers and potatoesThe comfort zone

Have I just said a dirty word. I’m familiar with that semi-laugh and the quiet roll of the eyes, ‘she’s in the comfort zone’. I heard it when I said I didn’t want a more senior role at work a few years ago and when I didn’t want to move out of london. It’s a dirty phrase.

Apparently people don’t grow when they don’t push themselves out of their comfort zone. If you do what you have always done, you will be and keep getting what you always have. People don’t have jobs for life anymore and  honestly, I think people who stand still for too long somehow attract  less admiration than those who keep moving. Change is the only constant, it appears.

We must live in different places and make new friends, it broadens the mind and ensures we don’t get too bogged down it seems. We should change our hairstyles and our clothing style. Holiday in new places, rather than the same ones and we should definitely learn a new language.

Must we? Should we? Need we? Why.

Growing and developing has been important to me for many years in my life. Having said that, I wonder what is so wrong if people are happy in the comfort zone, especially if the zone is a pretty pleasant one. Why not feel grateful in the blessings of the calm and reassured and general peace that comes with a happy constant? What’s wrong with standing still and soaking in the goodness that you enjoy and the rays of easiness that today brings?

Today is a day that I am finding my comfort. A few crisps, chatting with loved ones, playing with my boy, TV junk and a blanket. Tastiest of all, a cauliflower keema with an unusual introduction of capers.

My cauliflower is grated, but I put it in the food processor so was readywithin a few blinks. Cauliflower is lovely this way, it mingles so well with the curry gravy. Often people add peas but today I wanted a zing and a kick of sourness. I needed it, it had been one of those days.

Ingredients to serve four

One large cauliflower, grated (or in a food processor)
2 tomatoes, chopped
3-4 curry leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
One large green chilli, chopped
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp minced ginger
One onion, diced finely
Salt to taste
1 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
A pinch of asafoetida
4-5 new potatoes
4 tbsp capers
2 tbsp cooking oil
1/2 tsp garam masala

Method
1. Boil the potatoes for 5-6minutes and then drain them in cool water.
2.Heat the oil in a pan and add the asafoetida. Let It sizzle then add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, curry leaves, turmeric and allow the seeds to sizzle and pop.
3. Stir in the onion and salt and sauté for a couple of minutes. Then add the ginger and sauté until the onion has softened. Add the coriander powder and then the tomatoes. Soften the tomatoes and add the garam masala as they soften.
4. Add the grated cauliflower, capers and potatoes and cook for approximately ten minutes.

Serve hot with lashings of Raitha and chappati. Sleep well.

Blueberry and basil, papaya, spinach salad with a chilli and agave pistachio nut topping

8 Jan

Blueberry and basil, papaya, spinach salad with a chilli and agave pistachio nut topping

I feel too young for aches and pains and body complaints. My knee is creaky and my back is full of rocks; it is muscular tension. Sniffles and coughs, fatigue and sleep deprivation. It’s all self induced.

My uncle was, and still is, one of the patriarchs of our family. A strong and disciplined man, he is giving and loving and he was always firm and fair. Growing up, when he would visited us and was offered tea by my folks, he would always reply that he would drink it only if I made it. He was one of those that limited his food intake and I actually never saw him indulge.

He’s now deteriorated in his golden years and knowing this has provoked much thought on how I should be grateful and look after this one and only body I have. It is true that some things we simply can not control or avoid and chips taste very good. It is true that making time for exercise is tough and that eating well is sometimes expensive. But, life is short.

My blueberry basil, papaya and spinach salad with chilli and agave pistachio is good for the body, the eyes, the taste buds and is very easy to put together. Blueberries are often talked of a superfood and I eat them like sweeties. Spinach is fabulous and best raw I reckon and let’s talk about papaya. I ate loads of the stuff after giving birth to my boy, it’s said that it has healing properties. This fresh and easy salad will liven up any table at this time of heat and will encourage picking on fruit, not crisps.

Blueberry and basil, papaya, spinach salad with a chilli and agave pistachio nut topping

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

Start the year as you mean to go on- tomato, pomegranate and roasted mini pepper salad

1 Jan

Start the year as you mean to go on- tomato, pomegranate and roasted mini pepper salad

The husband and I ate hurriedly, quietly and messily from one plate today. It had been a long time since we shared a plate, but the salad was very good.

Back in the day, we shared a plate a bit more frequently. Sharing food is a lovely and warm thing to do isn’t it. Nowadays we focus on feeding our boy and eat in between offering him cars or dinosaurs that find my little guys food so yummy and scrummy in the tummy.

I loved sharing fresh and hot donuts with my mum and brother in the open market in Leicester when growing up. They were hot and doughy and sprinkled liberally with sugar. I remember fondly sharing Chinese take-away boxes from Camden market with my husband when we were students or falafel wraps from edgware road late in the evening and it became a tradition for him to unravel it for me.

Now our bodies can not cope with too many late, heavy, fried or generally indulgent meals. Christmas and New Year meals have left my tummy feeling tender and polluted. It’s time for fresh, clean, colourful and juicy foods. Salad. It doesn’t have to be boring…

My tomato, pomegranate, roasted mini pepper salad is fresh, zingy, spicy, sweet and herby. The juices from the tomatoes, pomegranate and spices and herbs all blend into a fresh and refreshing utterly moorish mix. I’m so pleased at how well the pomegranate works with the tomatoes. I’ve used a red chilli, oregano and chaat masala to give it a real kick and aroma. Do invest in some chaat masala, it’s a salty and peppery spice blend that really livens up dishes and works fabulously well with tomatoes or cucumber.

I served this with flatbread and my recipe for hummus.

Ingredients to serve 2-4

350g plum tomatoes
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 1/2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
Salt to taste
The seeds of one pomegranate
Half and avocado, peeled and cubed
1 tbsp oregano leaves
1 mild and large red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tsp chaat masala
A couple of glugs of olive oil
About a dozen tiny red or yellow peppers, roasted in a light coating of rapeseed oil.

Method
1. Toss the tomatoes, pomegranate seeds, roasted mini peppers and avocado chunks togetherimage
2. In a small bowl whisk together the oil, pomegranate molasses, salt, garlic, chilli, chaat masala, white wine vinegar and oregano leaves.
3. Drizzle the dressing over dressing and serve with lots of flatbread and hummus

Garlic roasted cauliflower and red onion in za’atar and coriander, with chilli and toasted pine nuts

28 Dec

Garlic roasted cauliflower and red onion in za'atar and coriander, with chilli and toasted pine nuts  by Deena Kakaya

My belt is well and truly loosened and my pockets are emptier. My heart is fuller and my fridge now more revealing. The bins have flowed over and my insides feel a wee bit like them now. Ooof, it’s time to eat some natural, light and healthier meals.

I really can’t consume another roast potato or nibble on any more rich cheese. I will pass on the triple chocolate whats-it and close my eyes before being presented any fizzy drinks. I am ready to choose sleep over cold air blowing under my eyelids whilst shopping for presents or last minute ingredients. My husband has also signed up for the marathon, so let’s bring on some healthy foods.

Every time I tell my mum I’m having a salad as a meal, she starts her talk about how salad isn’t substantial enough, isn’t a meal as its not hot and isn’t balanced nutritionally. She has this image that I’m eating a lonely Greek salad for dinner. I love Greek salad, but there’s so much more to choose from.

My garlic roasted cauliflower and red onion is warm, lightly sweet and carries salty garlic through it. I’ve coated it in coriander and za’atar spices, topped it with a drizzle on rice wine vinegar, red chilli and toasted pine nuts. It’s immensely tasty, virtuous and really easy to throw together. Try it.

Ingredients

A medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets
A couple of glugs of rapeseed oil
One large red onion, sliced
A generous handful of coriander, washed an finely chopped
2 large red chilies, thinly sliced
A handful of pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 tsp salt
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp of white wine vinegar
4-5 tsp of za’atar spice mix

Method
1. Toss the minced garlic, cauliflower, red onion, salt and rapeseed oil together for even coverage and then pop it in the oven at 180degrees for approximately 25 minutes, or until it is lightly golden and soft enough to pierce through. It should still have a bite.image
2. Whilst the cauliflower is still warm and moist, toss it in the za’atar spice mix and coriander. Plate it up and then drizzle on the white wine vinegar and top with toasted pine nuts and the red chilli.image

I served this salad with hummus and flat bread. Magic.

Christmas leftovers of roast potatoes? Meet bubble and squeak’s sexy, Indian-spiced cousin.

26 Dec

Left over roast spuds? Meet bubble and squeak's sexy, Indian-spiced cousin.

Left over roast spuds? Meet bubble and squeak's sexy, Indian-spiced cousin.I love Christmas. I do wonder why people reserve the Christmas feeling for Christmas just for Christmas though. Arguably, there should be a special feel to the day.

I love that during Christmas, people are nice to each other. Even strangers smile and greet each other. Friends and relatives call each other and better still, see each other. Phones are put away, iPads go down and we play with children and talk to people instead. We eat well, laugh and watch movies that emphasise the true meaning of life; love, family, being well. Everyone seems happier in the run-up to Christmas; more excited. It’s fun to decorate with tinsel and planning trips to see Santa. It’s just lovely to sip hot drinks in the cold weather at a Christmas market. Board games, silly jumpers, cuddles and gifts. Why can’t it be like this every day?

I don’t really make New Year resolutions. I’m not suggesting that they aren’t a good idea, I just don’t. What I do try and resolve to, almost daily, is to hang onto ‘that’ feeling. The feeling of being good, feeling good and giving good..and I’m not just talking about the food.

This year I used marabel spuds for my Xmas table and they were mighty fine spuds! They are naturally a bit sweet and very fluffy. I roasted them with salt and smoked garlic and a few glugs of rapeseed oil. The only trouble is, I did way too many. I tend to have leftovers after Xmas but can’t cope with a repeat episode of the Xmas meal itself, so here’s a recipe for a fabulous facelift for the leftovers.

My recipe is a quick, aromatic and light mix of pasta, roast potatoes, savoy cabbage (you could use brussels sprouts ) and tomatoes. When you add indian spices to your veg, automatically, it becomes a tarted up version. I’ve used coconut oil to temper the cabbage and very light and mild spicing. I’ve used juicy plum tomatoes to freshen the dish up too. Try it, it feels light and fragrant…a welcome change after heavy and indulgent eating.

Ingredients

1/2 head of Savoy cabbage, shredded into ribbons
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
Juice of half lemon
1/2 tsp turmeric seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
Salt to taste
The equivalent of 3 medium potatoes worth of potatoes
2 handfuls of plum tomatoes, halved
250g pasta
4-5 curry leaves

Method
1. Boil the pasta per packet instructions and heat the oven to heat and crisp the potatoes up again.
2. In a deep pan heat the coconut oil and then add the turmeric, curry leaves, cumin and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds sizzle and pop add the the cabbage and stir fry with salt, lemon juice and chilli powder for 7-8minutes on a medium flame, or until the cabbage is cooked enough to bite through easily.
3. When the pasta is cooked, wash and drain it. Mix it with the cabbage and potatoes before introducing the chopped tomatoes. And tossing it all together.

Serve the dish immediately, whilst still hot.

18 Vegetarian recipes for Christmas, from me to you

21 Dec

Merry Christmas everyone. I wish you all smiles, peace and a heart full of love. I wish you all days where you wake up, looking forward to the day and I wish you nights where you will fall asleep smiling. I wish you all good, light and kind thoughts, you know the sort that shape your day to be just happy. I wish you joy without conditions and good health of the mind and body.

For the last three years, each New Year’s Eve, my husband and I watch the fireworks at midnight and he tells me, ‘this year will be your year’. This year I reminded him asked him if he will say this to me again, for the fourth time. Will he convince me about how this year really will be the one. Have I not had my year because I didn’t make it happen, or have they been mine but I’ve been too ungrateful to count my blessings.  This year, I hope I can release that pressure and just see how blessed I am. My loved ones are all alive and in reasonable shape. I have a beautiful, kind and smart boy now, a home and it’s all going to be…

Lets eat to that shall we? Here is a summary of foods that are special enough for Christmas.

18 Vegetarian recipes for Christmas, from me to you

Personalised Gifts

If you have left it too late to buy Christmas gifts or want I give something with a personal touch, why not try my Home made chilli oil with an Indian accent? It’s made with sesame oil to give a deeper, nuttier taste and smooth texture. It’s a hot oil with the aromas of cumin, fennel, cinnamon, cloves star anise. It’s definitely a special one.

Homemade chilli oil with an Indian accent

IMG_3928

If you prefer a sweeter texture, try my Hot Chilli and sweet lychee dipping sauce? It’s perfumed and sweet with a hot kick at the end. I use I with spring rolls, in sandwiches and even with chips.

 

Homemade sweet lychee and hot chilli dipping sauce

Homemade sweet lychee and hot chilli dipping sauce

Picky Pleasures

In our house we graze the day long..mouthfuls of crunchy or sweet nibbled are thrown into gobs whilst watching cheesy movies or playing board games together. I love these jaggery and spice crusted nuts so much. They ate smooth and crisp as well as sweet and aromatic with the cardamom.

Diwali and Christmas nuts-pecans in a crisp jaggery, cardamom and cinnamon shell

Christmas nuts-pecans in a crisp jaggery, cardamon and cinnamon shell
Christmas nuts-pecans in a crisp jaggery, cardamom and cinnamon shell

If you fancy something with a bit of a kick, try out my plantain chips with cranberries and nuts. Not only does it look pretty and festive, it’s quite moorish!

Christmas food gifts-plantain chips, cashews & dried cranberries in coconut, chilli and cinnamon

Christmas food gifts-plantain chips, cashews & dried cranberries in coconut, chilli and cinnamon
Christmas food gifts-plantain chips, cashews & dried cranberries in coconut, chilli and cinnamon

Sides, starters and party pieces

One of my favourites of this season has to be my smoked garlic, fennel, coconut, cumin and panko coated mushrooms. They taste crisp, exotic and nutty with a juicy and oozy mushroom inside. They’re magic.

Crispy Mushrooms in a smoked garlic, coconut, cumin, fennel and panko- is it Christmas yet?

Crispy Mushrooms in a smoked garlic, coconut, cumin, fennel and panko
Crispy Mushrooms in a smoked garlic, coconut, cumin, fennel and panko- is it Christmas yet?

Everyone loves a good fritter. For me they are the ultimate picky food. Whether they evoke memories of eating paneer pakora in the monsoon rain during holidays to India, or falafels being fried in huge quantities by friendly chefs who rolled them off their hands like balls of cotton wool. Whether they are eaten whilst sat under warm showers with smiles from beloved family, or nibbled whilst perched on a stool in a busy restaurant in Cairo. There is nothing like biting into a steaming hot and crispy shell to show bright green and moist beans tumble into the mouth.

Festive nibbles- broad bean and paneer fritters

Festive nibbles- broad bean and paneer fritters

How about my Trendy Kale, banana and red onion pakora? These pakora have some of that ‘seaweed’ essence and are a bit bitter-sweet in a glorious way because of the banana and onion. These gorgeous and fluffy bites make great party snacks and are best devoured when crispy and hot. I’d suggest serving them with any of these chutneys.

Trendy Kale, banana and red onion pakora

Trendy Kale, banana and red onion pakora

Brussels sprouts, the quintessential Christmas veg. How do mine look? pretty? tempting? These Brussels sprouts are treated tenderly, as they deserve to be but they aren’t your soggy or overcooked sprout. It’s a lively, lightly spiced and full of flavour, juicy sprout.

 

Crispy, Indo-Chinese style purple Brussels sprouts

Crispy, Indo-Chinese style purple Brussels sprouts
Crispy, Indo-Chinese style purple Brussels sprouts

For something lighter, healthier and simple why not try my Christmas coloured nibbles of balsamic, garlic and chilli roasted tomatoes with soybean and red onion dip. It’s red and green…Christmassy…get it? Alright, alright I know. It’s not exactly the whackiest idea for colours but it does look festive and it is fun. The tomatoes take on an intensely deep and sweet flavour when roasted and the garlic really comes through with a kick of chilli at the end. The dip left my husband in sigh’s of ‘mmm’s and he’s polished off the entire bowl of dip! I have to say that this nutty dip is really very good. The handy thing with this recipe is that it’s great warm or cold. I served with warm pitta and some smoked cheese.

Christmas coloured nibbles-balsamic, garlic and chilli roasted tomatoes and soybean and red onion dip

Christmas coloured nibbles-balsamic, garlic and chilli roasted tomatoes and soybean and red onion dip
Christmas coloured nibbles-balsamic, garlic and chilli roasted tomatoes and soybean and red onion dip

I can’t tell you how delighted I am at how popular my recipe for Goats cheese pakora in a spinach, sundried tomato, fennel, cumin and gram flour batter has been! I’m really excited by this one. It’s really quite special. When they are warm, the goats cheese is oozy and juicy and the case is fluffy, flecked with green spinach and sweet sun-dried tomatoes…does it get any better?

 

Christmas starters and sides-Goats cheese pakora in a spinach, sundried tomato, fennel, cumin and gram flour batter

Christmas starters and sides-Goats cheese pakora in a spinach, sundried tomato, fennel, cumin and gram flour batter
Christmas starters and sides-Goats cheese pakora in a spinach, sundried tomato, fennel, cumin and gram flour batter

Chutney makes it taste even better

If you find those veg a bit plain, here are a couple of chutneys to lift them to gorgeousness. My Kerala inspired tomato, pineapple and cucumber chutney has spruced up my sarnies lately and I’ve even had this chutney with roasted veg…just to test it out!

Tangy, sweet, spicy Christmas food gift-tomato, pineapple and cucumber chutney

Tangy, sweet, spicy Christmas food gift-tomato, pineapple and cucumber chutney
Tangy, sweet, spicy Christmas food gift-tomato, pineapple and cucumber chutney

 

From halwa to chutney- Butternut squash, almond and coconut chutney

I was also inspired by fond memories of halwa to make a butternut squash, almond and coconut chutney that is divine with bread and cheese, do try it.

halwa to chutney- Butternut squash, almond and coconut chutney

halwa to chutney- Butternut squash, almond and coconut chutney

 

The main event

It isn’t another nut roast, relax! I have nothing against a good, sumptuous and nutritious nut roast, but we can do better than that! How about my open ravioli filled with a layer of mushroom masala, another layer of saffron and chilli spiced butternut squash and topped with coriander and parsley pesto. For me, this sums up a vegetarian Christmas in three, simple layers.

Vegetarian Christmas recipe – open ravioli filled with a layer of mushroom masala, another layer of saffron and chilli spiced butternut squash and topped with coriander and parsley pesto

Vegetarian Christmas recipe - open ravioli filled with a layer of mushroom masala, another layer of saffron and chilli spiced butternut squash and topped with coriander and parsley pesto
Vegetarian Christmas recipe – open ravioli filled with a layer of mushroom masala, another layer of saffron and chilli spiced butternut squash and topped with coriander and parsley pesto

If you fancy a curry for the big day with a festive feel, try my Malaysian inspired curry of Brussels sprouts, tofu and potatoes. This curry is one of those that warms the tummy and keeps it flickering and teases the taste buds. It’s a glowing bowl of aroma and an utterly balanced dish for the senses. It looks mor complicated than it is…once you’ve made the curry paste, it’s very, very straightforward. What you get is a heat, sweetness and zing. You get the perfumes from star anise, kaffir lime leaves and some wonderful lemongrass. The great thing is that the potatoes, Brussel sprouts and tofu soak up all these juices. The other good thing about a curry for Christmas is that you can make it before your guests arrive and then relax and spend some quality time with them.

Christmas curry? Malaysian inspired curry of Brussels sprouts, tofu and potatoes

Christmas curry? Malaysian inspired curry of Brussels sprouts, tofu and potatoes

Sweet Stuff

I give the traditional apple crumble recipe an exotic and spiced twist. The juices burst through the top of the crumble and are a mix of the fruits and spices; it’s so good that I could drink it. It’s really good, try it.

Apple, Lychee and blackberry (coconut)crumble with rose, cinnamon, cardamon and star anise

Spiced Apple, Lychee and blackberry crumble

Spiced Apple, Lychee and blackberry crumble

The iced cold weather and then warming up with spices and central heating. The colours the charm, the music…and that’s what I have tried to capture in my recipe today. The icy yoghurt has a lightly sour tang, because its yoghurt. It’s sweet with pineapple and sweetener. The chilli adds a perplexing heat and I’ve added a touch of cinnamon, so the fragrance is festively sweet.

A scoop of Christmas – pineapple, cinnamon and red chilli frozen yoghurt

pineapple, cinnamon and red chilli frozen yoghurt

pineapple, cinnamon and red chilli frozen yoghurt

 

Now let’s have a drink

When the party is over, I get thirsty as heck. I want something soothing, fragrant , sweet and cold. I want the gola man from India to come and make me one whilst I have a foot massage (not from the gola man, let’s not get any ideas). I need a good soak in the bath with flowery fragrances. I fancied enacting one of those scenes from period films where the queen bathes in a pool of rose petals and warm water, with people passing her towels and drinks. Alas, I’m no queen but this cool, fruity, floral and fragrant cooler is a spa for the mind.

Dance, sing and drink a rose, pomegranate and lime cooler

 

Rose, pomegranate and lime cooler

Rose, pomegranate and lime cooler

 

Om shanti Om- pineapple, rose, ginger and cinnamon lassi

Pineapple, rose, cinnamon and ginger lassi

Pineapple, rose, cinnamon and ginger lassi

 

 

 

 

Keep it kind and easy- Tomato, chilli, lemongrass, basil and rice noodle soup

17 Dec
Keep it kind and easy- Tomato, chilli, lemongrass, basil and rice noodle soup

Tomato, chilli, lemongrass, basil and rice noodle soup


Keep it kind and easy- Tomato, chilli, lemongrass, basil and rice noodle soup


 I’ve been running through tunnels of cotton wool this week. Glimpses of light and muffled noises permeate through pillows and tangles but nothing seems to make sense. I’m running and I’m tired. I’ve got handfuls of fluff though, good enough?

I spent three days down with a horrid tummy bug and couldn’t eat for those three days. I had the usual nausea, fever and no food I ate settled, so I went without for three days. Now, even though it is Christmas and I perhaps should be cooking up a festive frenzy, I feel like I need to treat my body kindly, tenderly and eat easy, simple and gentle foods.

There also something in eating to your mood right? I’m not talking about cravings for chips or chocolate cake. I’m talking about eating hot and fiery foods when feeling as such. Nibbling on creative and classy little canapés when feeling fanciful, or eating simply, deliciously and naturally like I am feeling I should do, now.

My soup is not full of heavy doses of any ingredient, neither is it punchy. It is clean and subtle. Lemongrass is perhaps an unusual ingredient to be paired with tomato but it works and is refreshing. There’s a little bit of spice, a small amount of zing and a whole lot of calm.

Ingredients

500g deep red tomatoes, skinned
2 chillies, finely chopped
One root of lemongrass either minced to a purée, or slit in half
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
1.2 litres of vegetable stock
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp palm sugar
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp coconut oil (I used coconut oil by the groovy food company)
30g basil, shredded
1 tbsp coriander, finely chopped for garnishing
125g rice noodles

Method
1. Start by immersing the tomatoes in hot water for a few minutes and them rinse them in cold water. The skin will slip off.
2. Heat the coconut oil in a deep pan, then add the mustard seeds, chilies and cumin seeds. Allow the seeds to sizzle before adding the the onions and lemon grass. Sauté for a minute.
3. Pour the vegetable stock in, then the rice wine vinegar and soy sauce with the palm sugar.
4. Bring the stock to a simmer and then add the tomatoes after roughly chopping them. Sprinkle in the basil and simmer for another 5 minutes.
5. Add the rice noodles and continue to cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

If you like noodle soups you may enjoy some of these

chilli tahini noodle soup-broccoli tempeh

a soup is not just for winter Deena’s emerald summer-soup with thai basil

It’ll be ok asian style sweetcorn soup chilli cumin coriander rice flour dumplings

chilli tamarind asian style cauliflower soup

 

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