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Roasted potato, mung bean, tomato and feta salad in Indian spice and za’atar

24 Feb

Roasted potato, mung bean, tomato and feta salad in Indian spice and za’atar

Where is your chip?

I like to tell myself that I have learned and earned more cultured stripes over the years and that through a progression of a London education, being reasonably well-travelled and having worked in a multi-cultural environment with stimulating and bright folk, I am now more ‘worldly’.  I eat biscotti and macaroons, not just digestives and there is artichoke on my salad today with panko breadcrumbs.  My bread had apple and pecan on it and my muffin has a spiced and poached pear in it; there are certainly no sprinkles on top.  Maybe though, just perhaps, the omelette and chips are just etched into my makeup and frankly, I like that.

I have spent much of the last couple of month’s solo parenting, as you may know if you read my posts regularly.  Needs must, so this is the way it is and part of it comes with privileges which I am grateful for and a measure of it comes with sacrifices, which I accept.  It is no holiday though.

When I’m on my own I do find myself in a state of heightened sensitivity and maybe that’s the exhaustion, with some element of loneliness paired with the desire to feel reassured.  I am more grateful, in a philosophical way, for those who visit to keep me company in the quiet of the evenings or call to ask how I am doing.  I am touched into silence for the flowers of encouragement and the cakes of companionship that come to me when the stillness does.  I smile when people let me rant knowing that I sound ludicrous at times because, being maddened by a case of dying ladybirds on my landing isn’t really that terminal.  And then I recognised, quite proudly, that the iron chip that weighed on my shoulder when people didn’t ask, show support, or care was well removed. I had successfully removed that draining energy and walked on.  I had grown and I didn’t even know it.

Roasted potato, mung bean, tomato and feta salad in Indian spice and za’atar

Though there is one thing, when I need a bit of comfort there is nothing like a spud with a crispy exterior and sweet fluffy interior. I told you that the egg and chips hadn’t left me and I am very glad for it too because they cajole me into my natural rhythm and there are times in life when I need that.  Nowadays though, there are no baked beans but instead I have created a filling, spicy, sense rousing salad using mung beans, salty feta and sweet tomatoes.  I had used za’atar spices and a mild Indian tempering to give zingy, spiced and herby flavour to this salad. It works so well as a salad on its own or in a wrap or with some bread.

Ingredients to serve 4

120g mung beans

700g of roasting potatoes like King Edwards, peeled and cut into two inch cubes

225g baby plum tomatoes, halved or quartered

2 tbsp. Za’atar spice

½ tsp. turmeric

2 green chillies, cut and slit

175g feta cheese, cubed

One small red onion, finely diced

30g coriander, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp. cumin seeds

4-5 curry leaves

2 tbsp. sesame oil

Half a lemon

Salt to taste

 

Method

  1. Boil the potatoes for 7-10 minutes before draining them and then allow them to cool. Coat them lightly in olive oil and then roast them in the oven at 200degrees until they are golden brown.
  2. In the meantime wash and boil the mung beans for approximately 20-25 minutes until they are tender and toss them once they are drained to remove as many of the loose skins as possible.
  3. In a large bowl combine the tomatoes, red onions, feta cheese and mung beans before making the tempering.
  4. In a non-stick pan, heat the sesame oil and add the cumin seeds, garlic, chillies, turmeric and curry leaves. Allow the seeds to sizzle and then after a minute turn the heat off.
  5. Pour the tempering into the salad and then mix it well. Squeeze in the lemon juice, sprinkle in the coriander and toss the salad well.
  6. When the potatoes are roasted, combine them with the other salad ingredients too and then sprinkle in the za’atar spice mix and toss the salad well again before serving warm.

 

Scrambled masala tofu, beet and bulgur salad pockets

12 Feb

A lot of people tell me that if they could negotiate more hours in the day, they would. If they could move to somewhere sunnier, more peaceful or beautiful, they would and if they could make their work-life balance more life and less work hefty, they would.

Scrambled masala tofu, beet and bulgur salad pockets

Many others tell me that they would choose a different, more personally (not financially) rewarding career given the choice and that if they could just come out of the race and live somewhere exciting, they would.

Unfortunately cloning ourselves, time travel and morphing aren’t options but maybe our own minds and actions are, options.  Insofar as negotiating time is concerned I have a recipe which may just help with that.

Warm spices infiltrate tofu so well; there is no chance that it will be bland and what’s an added bonus, is that it is a good source of protein and oh…it cooks so quickly that you may reconsider wishing more time in your day. I’ve paired it with beetroot; it keeps the tofu lovely and moist and adds fantastic light sweetness and colour. Bulgur wheat is nutty and filling, healthy too.

For the full recipe, please head over to great british chefs

Scrambled masala tofu, beet and bulgur salad pockets

Spicy paneer wontons in a gentle spinach soup

23 Jan

spicy paneer wontons in a gentle spinach soup

I am pretty sure that I wasn’t well acquainted with paneer when I was a child, as my earliest memories of it must be from my pre- teens. I recall that one of my dad’s friends had landed a business deal delivering this marvellous new product that was increasingly popular, so popular in fact that it was flying off the shelves. It may have had something to do with the popularised chilli paneer dish? Packaged paneer ready in the fridge. I was new and it was exciting.

So he handed my dad some freebies and naturally I ensured that they landed in my lap and thus started an era of paneer experimentation. It had fast become the favourite food of every other Asian person in my network. Paneer is an unsalted, full fat Indian cheese that may be crumbly when fresh and spongy or even chewy when pressed and ready-made for sale. I think that a lot of tired taste buds weere wakened when paneer came into fashion with is almighty, loud and punchy flavours. Plenty spice, liberal use of garlic and ginger, copious soy sauce and ketchup made for lively and lasting tastes.

I love that paneer is a wonderful sponge for juices and flavours; it is clean and will mop up full flavours generously.  I experimented many times over the years, scrambled paneer in a bhurji is one of my favourites and this has become the stuffing for my wontons today.  I love thick and creamy shahi paneer dishes, kofta (balls with veg and simmered in thick gravy), I love paneer in cashew nut gravy and who can deny the simple, clean and guilty pleasure of ras malai?

A few people wrote to me this week asking about palak paneer (curry of paneer cubes simmered in smooth spinach) and it got me thinking…so I made this and I am very excited about. It’s pretty special. The spinach soup is light and easy, but incredibly addictive and soothing. Not a bad thing to find spinach addictive! The paneer is punch and full, has bite and parcelled into slippery smooth wontons. Can it get any better?

As a tip, make sure the paneer is pretty warm all the way through, cold paneer is chewy but when warm, this recipe really comes to life and it’ll be juicy and tender. Perfect.

Ingredients to serve 4 (makes 16 wontons)

For the wontons;

150g paneer, grated

¼ tsp. garam masala

1 tsp. mixed cumin and coriander powder

¼ tsp. turmeric

¾ tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. tomato puree

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped or minced

1-2 spring onions, finely chopped

1 tbsp. sesame oil

½ tbsp. soy sauce

16 wonton wrappers

Salt to taste

½ tsp. chilli powder

For the soup

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

200g finely chopped (or in the food processor) spinach

800ml vegetable stock

One medium onion, thinly sliced

4-5 curry leaves

One chilli, finely chopped

1 tbsp. corn flour mixed with water

1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 tsp. minced ginger

1 clove garlic, minced

Method

  1. To make the soup, heat the oil in a deep pan and then add the chilli, onion, curry leaves, garlic and ginger sauté until the onions have softened.
  2. Add the spinach and mix thoroughly, before adding the vegetable stock and the rice wine vinegar.
  3. Bring the soup to a simmer before adding the corn flour and water paste to thicken the soup. Simmer the soup for 5-7 minutes.
  4. To make the stuffing, heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes introducing the grated paneer.
  5. Stir in the turmeric, chilli, and coriander and cumin powder and mix thoroughly.
  6. Stir in the tomato puree and soy sauce and then cook the curry for 4-5 minutes.
  7. To make the wontons, place a teaspoon of paneer mixture in the middle of a wonton and then create little drawstring purses and seal them with a little water.
  8. Steam the wontons for 8-10 minutes before removing them from the steamer.
  9. Ladle the soup into bowls and then place 4 wontons into the bowl and serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m linking this to Anneli and Louisa for four seasons because its comforting an

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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.

My pasta Rotolo of masala Aubergine, spiced spinach and feta

23 Dec
Rotolo of masala Aubergine, spiced spinach and feta

Rotolo of masala Aubergine, spiced spinach and feta

Often my mind races through evaluation and check list mode; what of that email I was supposed to send…the music isn’t right is it, did I buy kitchen foil? Why did that person say/do that, am I looking too much into it? Do I need to make a doctors appointment, what was that recipe submission date? Will I get that contract and when will I get a chance to paint my nails? What shall I make for dinner and what should I charge as daily rate?

But then a little head lands in my lap, ‘happy birthday mumma’. It’s not my birthday, but I know he means that he loves me. I run my hand through his hair, cup his face and tell him that I love him. ‘Thank you mumma, you’re welcome, I love you’.

As we race matchstick cars down the track and talk about dinosaurs, planets and animals I reflect on how blessed I am and that with each day that passes, it is one less from his childhood. That’s why it’s so important to be ‘here and now’. In the present, in the moment and cherishing it all. Of course there are practicalities like working, bathing, eating, cooking etc, but you know what I mean. This is also why, at Christmas time when we have family and friends visiting us over a couple of weeks and I do much of the cooking, I don’t want to make elaborate, fiddly dishes that take hours to cooks and ages to clean up after. I want something that shows effort, looks like a feast and above, is utterly delicious.

We’ve all had those excruciating moments during entertaining loved ones, were the as the host we end up in the kitchen tossing, baking, simmering and assembling. We hear laughter and cheer in the living or dining room and wish we could be part of it. Why not prepare a dish you can stick some cling film ver and pop in the oven whilst you sit down and smile with the group, clutching a cup of something hot and sweet?

Cue my pasta rotolo; how does it look? Good eh? Let me tell you…it tastes like a spicy, tangy, slippery, crispy, cheesy and smooth gorgeous little nest. Just look at it, it’s quite impressive isn’t it? And guess what, it’s so easy to do! Here’s how.

Ingredients

2 medium aubergines
350g frozen spinach
150g feta cheese
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp chilli flakes
Salt to taste
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4-5shallots
5 tbsp oil for cooking
1 tsp cumin seeds
1.5. tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
A generous pinch of pepper
3 fresh lasagne sheets
Vegetarian hard cheese or mature cheddar for sprinkling on top

Method
1. Wash the aubergines, coat them in oil and roast them in the oven at 180degrees for 30mins or until they are soft on the inside and shrivelled on the outside. Let them cool and scoop out the insides. Mash them lightly on a plate until they are pulpy.image
2. To make the aubergine masala, heat 2tbsp oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds and once they sizzle add the onions and some salt. I added 3/4 tsp. cook the onions until they are golden before adding half the minced garlic. Sauté until the onions are lightly browned before adding the cumin powder, turmeric, 3/4 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp paprika. Sauté for 30 seconds and then add the aubergine masala and mix throughly. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool.image
2. To make the tomato sauce, heat 2 tbsp oil and then add the remaining garlic, paprika, chilli and salt (I added 1 tsp) and then sauté for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and bring it to simmer. Add a pinch of sugar if your tomatoes are sour.
3. To make the spices spinach, heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds, fennel and allow the mustard to pop. Add the spinach, salt, pepper and 3/4 tsp of garam masala. Cook for4-5 minutes, check that there are no frozen bits and turn it off the heat. Simmer for about 8-10 minutes on a medium flame.image
4. Heat the oven at 180 degrees and then start on the rotolo. Take one lasagne sheet and spread it with one third of the aubergine masala. then spread the spinach on top (a third) and crumble on some feta. Roll it up, then cut it in half, then half again.image
5. In a deep dish, spread the tomato sauce. Then, gentle place the rotolo pieces inside the sauce before sprinkling the cheese on top. Bake in the oven for 30mins or until golden brown.

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

 

 

 

 

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

13 Nov

 

 

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

My lovely neighbour gave me a bag full of plantain today; fresh and green. I racked my brain for ways to use it. I thought of the spiced plantain mash I had at ‘mama’s roadside kitchen’ in st.Lucia or the indian curry my mum would make when we were kids, using her experience of living in Uganda as a child. I asked my friends on twitter and they suggested cake. I didn’t fancy any of these lovely recipes today, for some reason.

In the morning, by boy and I went shopping for women’s undergarments. My normally chatty and excitable child completely freaked out and sobbed loudly in the fitting cubicle and insisted, ‘put a jumper and jacket on mumma, put the clothes on mumma’. He’s not yet two but here we go. So I took him for a walk and stopped at the dried fruits and nuts section which looked festive but blue. Why blue? Anyway, that’s when it struck me.

But I did have a brief period of confusion; which is a more festive nut…the cashew or almond? Cashews are more expensive. Does that make it more special? I do recall my mum sending food parcels of special stuff for my grandmother in India when friends or relatives visited. Mum sent cashews, always. She also sent saffron and chocolate. Now I think back, it’s such a lovely thing to do.

But then, almonds are pretty special also. When we were in st.Lucia we stayed between the majestic pitons, hidden away. We were staying at a resort where the beach sat in a calm little cove and one of the paths along the beach was layer in almond shells. I loves cracking them open to find smooth almonds. It’s lovely that nature can create such a perfect little nut.

I’m actually rather excited about this simple yet addictive recipe. It’s really good. This tropical looking mix is crunchy, sweet, aromatic and there’s a lovely hint of chilli right at the end. It’s delightful. I’ve used agave nectar to sweeten the mix so, healthier than loads of sugar. You have to try it.

Ingredients for two gift containers

One large green plantain
4 tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp chilli flakes
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3-4 tbsp desiccated coconut
A generous handful of dried cranberries
200g cashew nuts
Oil for frying plantain chips

1 . Heat the oil in a deep pan and in the meantime, take the green skin off the plantain and cut the plantain into 1 cm thick circles with a knife of mandolin.
2. Fry the chips until they are crisp and deepened in colour. You will feel that they are tougher and crisp when you move them with a slotted spoon.
3. Remove the chips onto a kitchen paper and leave them to cool.
4. In a non stick pan, toast the cashew nuts until they are lightly golden before adding the cinnamon and the plantain chips. Mix well.
5. Stir in the chilli flakes, mix again. Then add the agave nectar and the desiccated coconut. Thoroughly mix it all together to make sure the spices and coconut are evenly distributed.
6. Toss in the dried cranberries and mix again.

Allow the mixture to cool completely before packaging it.

This has also been entered into Feel Good Food Challenge hosted by Jibberjabberuk and Victoria at A Kick At The Pantry Door

 

This week I would like to link this to Mark of Javelin Warrior’s Cookin’ W/ Luv Made With Love Mondays,

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

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

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

On our houseboat in Kerala we had chef with us, as part of the deal. It was during one of my birthdays and what a way to spend it; lying on a mahogany hammock on the boat looking out at the lush green backwaters and watching birds swoop. I don’t often feel utterly relaxed, but that was a time where I did. I find that when I feel too absorbed in the microscopic elements of life, seeing life from a different angle makes me feel more alive, more grateful and more free.

Kerela house boat
Hammock
Scenary

I could see fluorescent green rice paddies in the distance. I watched small children take a boat, run past a tiny white-painted church so they could get to school. I watched fishermen and people looked happy. I thought about my own social circles, how different people are.

In the morning chef made stacks of hot, fluffy idli (sour steamed little cakes made of fermented rice and lentils) and puri. As a snack he would make banana fritters and steaming hot cardamom tea and just thinking of the dinner makes me feel satiated. I’d ask him to make just a small amount of vegetable rice and maybe one curry…but no. You know what he made? Okra curry, a red lentil dhal, a mixed vegetable Avial, salad, potato fritters and a mango milkshake. I’m not kidding. For two of us. He served us so eagerly and affectionately that the result was, totally truthfully, that my husband and I had to sit up for several hours in bed because we were too full to lie down.

Chef made a spectacular tomato chutney which had some almost-raw bottle gourd in it (dud hi). I scooped excessive amounts of it on my idli in the morning and he smiled at me as I did so. He very kindly taught me how to make it I. The kitchen of the house boat and I gained new admiration for him. The kitchen was small as you’d expect, but it moved! This guy is genius.

I’ve adapted his recipe to Include pineapple for sweetness, and cucumber and not bottle gourd to give a crunchy texture and I’ve kept the tomatoes t give a sweetness and tangy. All in all, this is another sensory play that works fantastically with cheese and bread so you can whip it out for Christmas or dish them out as gusts, as I am doing.

Ingredients to make 4 jars of 150ml size

600g tomatoes skinned
400g pineapple chunks
280ml rice wine vinegar
2 tsp black onion seeds
2 tsp chilli flakes
5-6 curry leaves
1/4 tsp cinnamon
100g caster sugar
One large red onion
2 tbsp oil
2 tsp minced ginger
Salt to taste
Half a large cucumber, cut into bite sized chunks

Cooks tip; to skin the tomatoes pour boiling water into a pan with the tomatoes in. When the skin starts to split, drain the water and wash them in cold water before slipping the skin off.

Tomatoes

 

Method
1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion seeds and curry leaves and when the onion seeds crackle add the onions and salt. Sauté the onion for a minute before adding the ginger. Cook until the onion has softened.
2. Pour in the vinegar and sugar and stir it and simmer until the sugar has dissolved.

Simmering

3. Pour the tomatoes, cinnamon and pineapple in and lower the heat and simmer until the juices have dried and the mixture is tacky. It should take about 30minutes.
4. Add the cucumber and cook for a further 4minutes before turning of the heat.

Make sure the jars have been sterilised before you our the cooled chutney in.

Chilli and tahini noodle soup with broccoli and tempeh

28 Oct

 

Tahini and chilli noodle soup with tempeh and broccoli

Tahini and chilli noodle soup with tempeh and broccoli

This sort of time two years ago I sat in the cafe adjacent to wing yip oriental supermarket with my mum, dad and my large baby bump. Our noses were puffy from the cold outside and my mum and I giggled like girls as we quietly splished spicy noodle soup around our lips. The heat of schiuan peppercorn and chilies thawed our noses as our chopsticks slipped around pak choi and jabbed into tofu. We eyed up the swan shaped pastry over the counter and the little creamy and fruity tarts. Light and airy bite-me- now sized cakes and buns.

As we were dissecting the swans and sighing lazily and contentedly, tears raced down my mums cheeks. Normally full of youthful laughter and red-cheeked over-excitement, my mum smiled through her gentle tears. I shot a baffled and questioning look towards my dad. He had been busy chomping through his egg fried rice and meaty-vegetable feast. When food is good value for money and Chinese, my dad is unusually focused. He did his cliched wise-laugh thing and said something that has stuck since then with me and will always remain with me.

‘Your mum is spending the time with you now that she never has done’.

We all have different choices and circumstances in life. My mum was just 22 when she had me. Almost a decade younger than I was when I became a mother. I grew into being a mother in my own mind, through maturity and transitioning through the various phases of my life. My mum just became a mum. I grew my career as did my husband. My mum had just learned to speak fluent English, let alone have a chance to work. My husband and I bought a house and did it up before we had my boy. I was born into a council flat. But look at this…my mum and dad worked tirelessly as a team, had multiple jobs, paid their mortgage and even my university fees and expenses.

The price my brave mum paid unfortunately, is the time with me. Funny thing is I had never heard her complain in all these years. I never sensed any resentment in her circumstances. She embraced it. We ate dinner together every day, she tucked me in, told me stories about her childhood in Africa and made me turmeric milk when I was sick. Some foods will always evoke emotional responses, whether it is turmeric milk, egg and chips or samosa in the rain. I’ve added noodle soup to that list of foods.

This one is unusual, because I use tahini (sesame paste) in the soup. The result is a nutty flavour with a smooth texture. I’ve used the chilli oil from my previous recipe as well as the sweet lychee and hot chilli sauce I made recently. If you don’t like tempeh or can’t get hold of this block of fermented soy beans, use tofu. This soup is warming, spicy, nutty, has bite and is soothing. My husband says it is in his top 3 noodle soups now.

Ingredients to serve 2-3

1 large red onion, sliced
2 tbsp chilli oil with 3 tsp of the chilli flakes or 2tbsp sesame oil and 2minced red chillies 
200g broccoli cut into bite sized florets
200g tempeh cut into bite sized chunks
1 litre vegetable stock
500ml water
3 cloves of galic
1 tsp schiuan peppercorns
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp tahini
3-4 tsp sweet chilli sauce 
100g udon noodles

Method

1. Mince together the garlic and schiuan peppercorns
2. Stir fry thr tempeh in 1 tbsp vegetable oil until it catches a golden brown colour
3. Heat the oil and chilies and then stir fry the onions until they soften before adding the garlic and peppercorns. Cook for anther two minutes before adding the broccoli, soy sauce, tahini and tempeh. Mix it well and then add the vegetable stock, water and sweet chilli sauce.
4. Bring the broth to a simmer before adding the noodles. Cook for 5 minutes before serving hot.

Za’atar aubergines and toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

2 Oct Za'atar aubergines and toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

Za’atar aubergines with toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

Za'atar aubergines and toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

Za’atar aubergines and toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

Great things can happen, both in life and food, completely by accident…or rather in an unplanned or coincidental fashion. For example, today whilst putting my boy to sleep I thought of my regular Chinese restaurant, then of Navratri (hindu festival which involves nine nights of dancing) following which I realised I hadn’t made one of the Gujarati classics that I’m pretty darn good at doing, in a while. All of these thoughts inspired the creation a weird but outrageously good new soup recipe which I will soon share.

Back to this recipe, which is also unpremeditated. My parents came to stay last week when my husband was in Moscow for work. They, besides enjoying time with my boy and I, were so helpful in the kitchen. My dad was my kitchen assistant.
They have a habit of overcooking and under eating. They have also started to use a tongue-swelling level of chilli in their cooking, which I can no longer endure. During my late pregnancy I developed intolerable reflux so I cut the chilli and since then I never really reintroduced it. Anyway, they’re a bit obsessed with aubergines, my folks. They cooked thick slithers of fresh and slippery Aubergine in oil, without water and lots of indian spices but no tomatoes. Such a simple and garlicky dish.

I don’t know why I was reluctant to try it, but when I did I actually really enjoyed it. But then the chilli kicked in and in the absence of cooling yoghurt I grabbed the hummus. And thats how this recipe happened.

Za’atar spice is a tangy and herbaceous spice blend with a thyme like flavour. The tanginess comes from sumac, which is made from dried fruits. The za’atar spice blend also contains nutty sesame seeds and aromatic cumin. It’s fairly delicate so I like to let it sing for itself rather than mix it in with other powerful flavours. Simple is best with spice blends like za’atar.

This is no word of an exaggeration, this hummus is probably the best I have made. Nothing sexy; it’s a simple, smooth and silky hummus. It’s really good though. This is why I’ve allowed for a batch for your fridge, it’ll keep for about 3 days.

Ingredients to serve four

One large Aubergine, cut into 2 inch slithers
4-5 shallots,sliced
1 1/2 tbsp za’atar spice
3 tsp lemon juice
A handful of pine nuts, dry toasted on a non-stick pan
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

For the hummus

2 cans of cooked chickpeas
4 tbsp lemon juice
7 tbsp of ice cold water
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup tahini
1 1/2 tsp salt

Method.

1. Heat 3 tbsp of cooking oil in a non stick pan and add the onions and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes
2. Add the aubergines and mix well. Stir in the za’atar spice blend and the lemon juice. Turn the heat to a very low flame and cook for about 20minutes or until the Aubergine is soft enough to pierce through, but not until they lose shape or become squashed.
3. To make the hummus put the chickpeas into a food processor and blitz until they are a coarse paste.image
4. Add the tahini, garlic, salt and lemon juice and then blitz again.
5. Whilst the food processor is doing its thing, slowly pour in the water and it should loosen up to a lovely consistency.

To serve, top the hummus with the cooked Aubergine whilst they are still warm and when the pine nuts. Serve with flatbread or pitta bread. Don’t forget to tell me how you enjoyed this recipe!

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