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Indo-Thai mango and coconut bhel

5 Oct

Indo-Thai mango and coconut bhel

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

Indo-thai bhel1 by Deena Kakaya

 

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

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

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

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

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

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Slow roasted tomato and pistachio pasta rotolo in a spiced butternut squash sauce

3 Oct

Slow roasted tomato and pistachio pasta rotolo in a spiced butternut squash sauce

 

I cook a lot of ‘welcome home’ meals these days.

Slow roasted tomato and pistachio pasta rotolo in a spiced butternut squash sauce

I have a husband who travels a lot for work and I’ve spent most of this month solo parenting, juggling lectures and cookery classes, recipe submissions and general life. Thank goodness for my awesome parents who have done their best, again, for me? Each time he goes away though, I feel like I grow.

Slow roasted tomato and pistachio pasta rotolo in a spiced butternut squash sauce

This time I have grown because I had to sort my repeated, month long car related mayhem out myself (although my brother helped significantly), I grew because I had to prepare lectures through till 2am and wake with my toddler at 7am and get him sorted without the 30mins of relief that his dad might otherwise give me in the morning.  I grew because I had to fix the printer ink issues out and get taxis at 10pm on my return from work that broke down whilst my phone battery died. I grew because when a relative told me that she is never left in the home alone by her family because she fears the silence and won’t go to toilet alone, i realised that i no longer dear the lonely evenings. I no longer feel sad when people see through social media that I am on my own but don’t take a couple of minutes to ask how I am, because you know, everyone is living their own challenge each day, in their own way. But most of all, I grew because life just carried on as normal.

So, after a couple of days with my folks I received a welcome home present from Riverford. A huge box of seasonal fruit and vegetables packaged in green, and tucked at the side of my home.  My toddler yelped, ‘yes, it’s the vegetables mumma, what did they send?’ The best of the season’s last tomatoes and a bulbous butternut squash amongst green goodness of autumn is what they sent.  I’m always so impressed by the perfect quality of the fruit and veg, there’s not a single bruise on them and they smell so sweet and earthy.  My tot almost instantly headed for a chair and asked to scrub the vegetables to reveal luminous oranges and red of sweet potatoes and peppers and we got the most perfectly quenching grapes.

 

I have to admit though; I’m not normally a butternut squash kind of person. I don’t like sweet soups and I can’t eat them boiled, I just can’t. But the colour of this one was just so rapturing that I needed to do something with it.

 

To me, a welcome home meal is one that is bubbling and simmering, thick and cajoling. A smile for home trickles through when the meal is nourishing and inviting, and full of the flavours of home. When my Husband arrived home from his last trip in Australia I made an Indian inspired feast of curries and dhal, vegetable and cheese raitha, Shrikhand and a stack of chapatti and vegetable rice. But this time, he returned from Mumbai and I knew he would have not only the finest Indian food but also some Chinese, Mexican and Italian food, so what to feed him this time?

 

This pistachio and slow roasted tomato rotolo is rousing in that the slow tomatoes tingle on the tongue with sharp sweetness and the pistachio and quark is a whack of aroma and colour which balances with the rich and thick spiced butternut squash sauce. A little goes a long way.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Curry of roasted sweet peppers filled with tofu and spinach, in a spiced cashew cream base

12 Sep

I think I need to eat less food.

roasted pepper curry 2+

Have I finally gone crazy? Maybe. My point is this; I think I generally eat pretty healthy foods not outrageously healthy foods, but I do eat lots of vegetables, plentiful grains like barley, faro and Quinoa, there are a few fruits, seeds, and nuts, dried apricots and some of the funky stuff like chia seeds, cacao, matcha and that sort of jazz. I consciously cut down the fruit sugar and increased the milk intake and when I am really good, I remember to take those iron pills. I don’t eat a lot of fried stuff or excessive amounts of sugar but my problem is this. I just eat way too much.

It is just as well that the lovely folk at Riverford have been sending me the season’s jewels. The sweet peppers in the vegbox from this week smell so sweet that I detected their untainted beauty before I even saw them as I rummaged through the picks of the week. I know I always get the most massive fresh leaves of spinach that aren’t gritty or punched with off-putting holes as many crops I get from the supermarket are. I have been eating the spinach raw and my husband even uses it in smoothies but I thought I would do more justice to the silky loveliness in this curry.

roasted pepper curry 1

So what I have been trying to do is satisfy my taste buds (the culprit of my excessive eating) with bold flavours. So bold and capturing that relatively little goes a long way. I have used homemade cashew cream in this curry rather than using double cream or coconut milk or coconut cream but for whatever reason my husband was convinced that I did use coconut. I have used tofu in the stuffing rather than paneer. It is all sounding good eh? It is bold without being heavy or overly spiced. In fact, there is very little of that, ‘I have just had a curry and I can really feel it’ aftermath. You know the one I mean don’t you?

Its sweet, its spicy, its creamy its oof. It did it for me.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

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).

 

Ginger beer, lime, soy and chilli marinated and glazed vegetarian chicken with a puy lentil, yellow bean and soya bean salad

18 Jun

Ginger beer, lime, soy and chilli marinated and glazed vegetarian chicken with a puy lentil, yellow bean and soya bean salad

Ginger beer, lime, soy and chilli marinated and glazed vegetarian chicken with a puy lentil, yellow bean and soya bean salad

 

When I left the corporate world three years ago, I accepted some truths about myself and life and also resolved to live/be alive/ thrive/bloom/ differently.

I told myself that I would not choose work on the basis of money.

I resolved that I would aim to be happy in each day, for that day.

I committed to being more grateful for each of the blessings that currently I have in my life.

I decided that there would be no gossip in our home, no unnecessary negative or weighing talk.

I devoted more energy and time to love and to spending time with my loved ones.

I set to strive to stop measuring myself by successes and failures.

And I absolutely, most certainly did not want to be commuting into central London for work, again. No. No.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Ginger beer, lime, soy and chilli marinated and glazed vegetarian chicken with a puy lentil, yellow bean and soya bean salad

On Tuesday this week I went for a physiotherapy appointment and the physiotherapist made barely any eye contact with me at all and spoke to me in a uniform and mechanical tone. When I asked a question, she sighed deeply and answered into her computer screen, ‘nooooo, I told you…’

She later happened to ask me what I did before my son was born. I then noticed her well sculpted nose and thick layer of eye liner. She seemed tired and wore a diamond on her necklace that carried a leaf. ‘Oh, that’s interesting’. We then had an actual conversation before I left to go to the bank where really pleasant young chap with streaks of purple and pink in his otherwise almost-black hair helped me swiftly and politely. He chuckled respectfully about how he was cooped up indoors on a sunny day, but that’s what happens when you have a ‘normal’ 9-5 job, isn’t’ he joked. Isn’t it. It got me thinking about how lovely ‘normal’ is. That feeling of waking up in the morning purposefully and ready to do a good day’s work…even complaining about the traffic or that annoying email full of demands and not enough time. The banter, the parking issues, it is all reassuringly normal; validation that we are all part of a moving engine.

Anyway, later that day, as I headed over to a foodie event I was on the phone to my brother who is not a Londoner (but of course loves London) pronounced his obvious qualms about tube travelling and the maze that the map can be. He thought he would get lost, but I reminded him that he was on the circle line, it goes in a circle? He remarked how the masses of suited and trainer clad commuters moved pensively and determinedly about like wasps that were evidently very, very late. But they read. And I missed it. I felt glad that my upcoming two opportunities are London based.

So, in truths there lies change.

Back to the World Cup 2014. I have absolutely no interest in football but if you do, here is a recipe that you can pick at from your sofa seated position and I promise you that it will titillate you. It really, really will because the ginger beer soaks right through the spongy soya textures and if you are not vegetarian, use chicken. It’s a bit sweet, it’s a bit spicy and it is wholly pleasurable in a lightly sticky way. I am thoroughly excited by this recipe and can’t wait for you to try it.

Ingredients to serve 2

400g mock chicken (use the TKC vegetarian chicken)

450ml ginger beer

4 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tbsp. soft brown sugar

1 large red chilli, or more if you like

The zest of one lime

The juice of one lime

1 tbsp. groundnut oil

2-3 dried ginger roots

1 tbsp. chilli sauce (I use sriracha sauce)

2-3 spring onions, chopped into bite sized pieces

100g puy lentils

100g soya beans

100g yellow beans

Method

  1. Defrost the TKC vegetarian chicken as per packet instructions and then in a large bowl add the mock chicken, chilli, lime zest, chilli sauce and ginger roots then pour in half of the ginger beer. Then add the brown sugar, soy sauce and the remaining ginger beer. Let it rest in the fridge for a couple of hours
  2. Prepare the puy lentils by boiling them for approximately 20 minutes, or per packet instructions. Boil the soya beans for 3-4 minutes and then rinse them in cold water. Boil the yellow beans for 8 minutes and then rinse them in cold water. Combine these three ingredients before cooking the mock chicken.
  3. In a non-stick pan heat the oil and then add the spring onion and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the mock chicken without the juices and stir through. Then ladle in the juices, two at a time until the moisture is soaked into the mock chicken. You should see a golden and lightly sticky glaze develop. Repeat this process until ¾ of the marinade is used up. Use one ladle for the salad and then serve whilst the mock chicken is hot.

 

Paneer, corn and sundried tomato pakora

12 May

These unusual, golden little gram flour fritters are crispy and light. They give way to spongy paneer, sweet corn and the light tang of sundried tomatoes. Sit back, relax, watch it rain and devour steaming hot, crisp and fluffy pakora. The paneer adds great texture, depth and succulence. I have used Savera paneer which is the closest out there to homemade paneer…best for this kind of recipe as you wont get a rough chewy texture, but instead you will get an awesome light and pillowy feel. Pillowy…sleep…now that sounds like a great plan doesnt it?

How do you eat yours? I am a tamarind chutney kind of girl and my husband uses ketchup or siracha sauce. I reccomend the later or a coriander and chilli chutney. Oof, comfort food. And guess what, it is easy peasy. It

Alas, no time for sleep right now (boo) but I will be taking these indian vegetarian snacks with a twist to our next picnic (setting is at the zoo). My toddler eats them as do his friends, which, as you will understand if you read my posts regularly is a really, really big deal. I am using some of the gram flour as a face pack. I need it. Have you seen me recently? Shocking.

paneer pakora

Serves 10-12 as a snack

Cost per serving: 60p

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

 

Ingredients

225g paneer, cut into bite sized cubes

250g gram flour

250ml water

1 large red onion, diced

100g sweet corn

120g sundried tomatoes, sliced (the ones that are preserved in oil)

Salt to taste

½ tsp. Turmeric powder

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. fennel seeds

1 tsp. minced ginger

2 cloves of garlic, minced

¾ tsp. garam masala

2 tbsp. lemon juice

1-2 green chillies, finely chopped

Oil for deep frying

Method

  1. Heat the oil on a medium to low flame whilst you prepare the batter
  2. In a wide bowl, collect the corn, paneer chunks and sundried tomatoes. Sprinkle in the salt, fennel, chillies, cumin, turmeric, garlic, ginger, garam masala and onion and combine all the ingredients well.
  3. Stir in the lemon juice and toss the mixture together well.
  4. Introduce the gram flour, stir the mixture thoroughly before pouring in the water and then form a thick batter.
  5. Drop a little gram flour batter into the oil to test the oil. If the oil is hot enough the batter will rise to the surface of the oil and sizzle.
  6. Form small and equal sized balls of batter and aim to include paneer, corn and sundried tomato within each ball. They should be smaller than a golf ball.
  7. Fry them until golden brown and then remove them with a slotted spoon onto some kitchen paper in order to drain them.

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

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.

Moroccan spiced paneer, potato, asparagus and olive stew

17 Apr

 

Moroccan spiced paneer, potato, asparagus and olive stew

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Moroccan spiced paneer, potato, asparagus and olive stew

Ingredients

2 medium sized potatoes

150g asparagus tips

225g paneer, cubed

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 medium red onions, finely sliced

3 tbsp. olive oil

Thumb sized piece of ginger, minced

A handful of mint leaves

The juice of one lemon

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground turmeric

600ml vegetable stock

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

1 cup of chopped tomatoes (tinned)

125g pitted queen olives

Method

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

 

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

Hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprout and asparagus rice paper rolls

14 Apr

Hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprout and asparagus rice paper rolls

Hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprout and asparagus rice paper rolls

 

Remember I told you that I was going to eat lighter, mood invigorating, colourful, vibrant, fresh food that won’t make me feel heavy, bloated, sleepy or overly hormonally imbalanced? Yes…

Apart from gross indulgence on peanut M&M’s it is going pretty well. My husband ran the marathon yesterday and he did it in one piece, looking a few shades darker, a bit puffed out but certainly not looking depleted, weak or drained. Impressive eh? I had a marathon of my own. Marathon hero took my (automatic) car to London in the morning to make life a bit easier on the homeward journey, but it had the buggy in it. So, I made the journey from Hertfordshire to the Mall with my immensely active, hugely curious, jumping, running, bouncing 26month old. Yes..

Physical exertion is rewarding, but comes with some pain, sometimes. I also did a class of body attack at the weekend and after all this, I think I need to eat light; refreshing foods that DON’T need a lot of work to burn off.

Summer rolls, Vietnamese spring rolls or rice paper rolls. Whatever you call them, they are one of the most versatile, quick-fix meal ingredients out there and they don’t need to be fried or baked. All you do is dunk the rice paper wrapper into warm water for under a minute and wrap up some delectable and seasonal ingredients and then, munch.

You know I like it hot though right? So whatever I include has to be masala-fied. The tofu in itself is a joy, crisp, a bit sweet, a bit hot, a teeny bit sticky, got a good whack of garlic and is utterly relish-worthy. I have used siracha sauce which is a kitchen must, isn’t it? And you know I talk about how I lost my hair in handfuls, so I eat a fair few sprouted beans so today I am using alfalfa sprouts. Try them, they are a bit addictive but its ok, better than over-doing It on peanut M&M’s.

Hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprout and asparagus rice paper rolls

Ingredients to make roughly 15 rolls

15 rice paper rolls

400g of firm Cauldron tofu, cut into small cubes

125g fine asparagus tips

125g alfalfa sprouts

One medium onion, finely diced

Siracha sauce to taste (I used 1 tbsp.)

1 tbsp. sesame oil

2 cloves of garlic

¼ can of chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp. soy sauce

100g thinly sliced cucumber

Cook’s note: wrap the tofu in kitchen paper to drain off any excess moisture. When you stir fry it, it will crisp up better

Method

  1. Make the hot and spicy tofu by heating the sesame oil and adding the diced onion and allowing it to brown before adding the garlic, then sauté for another 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in the tofu and allow is brown lightly, then add the tomatoes, soy sauce and siracha sauce. Simmer the tofu until much of the moisture has reduced, for roughly 5-7 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  3. Submerge the rice paper roll into water for 30 seconds and then place it on a chopping board. About 3-4 cm from the bottom, place a line of stuffing; roughly 2-3 asparagus tips, a pinch of alfalfa sprouts, a pinch of cucumber strips and 3-4 cubes of tofu.
  4. Fold the sides inwards and hold them to a spring rolls shape, firmly and tightly. Leave it dry on a large dish.
  5. Serve with dipping sauces such as chilli sauce, coriander chutney or peanut chutney.

 

Soya chunk curry in a spinach and jalapeño base

11 Apr

Soya chunk curry in a spinach and jalapeño base

There’s a lady called Agnes in my aqua-fit class.

Soya chunk curry in a spinach and jalapeño base by Deena Kakaya

 

My mind has a tendency, even on an average and non-pool day, to go into overdrive and often feels like it’s floating away with the echoes of the pool. Light and drifting. Sometimes sinking. Washing and leaving.

‘Get those knees up HIGH, come ON ladies and gents!’ and I wonder where it is all going to end up in 5 years’ time. Oh my goodness, I’ve just realised how old I will be in 5 years’ time. Am I focusing on the right things? Do we move or do we stay what of the house prices. I can’t send him to school in this area, look at how much I have invested in him. Look at what it has yielded; he’s so polite, smart, and sweet and never hits another child, ever. But what of those house prices. More work, move abroad, or to invest, what to do? ‘Oh I am getting them up high, I have lots of practise, he he, he’ yells Agnes. I laugh, with the group, in the present.

‘Rocking horse AND TRAVEL’. What am I doing with this body, why haven’t I been eating those iron tablets regularly, why haven’t I removed this chapped nail varnish from my nails? I miss looking after myself, but that’s a ridiculous thing to say. I should make more time. How long does it take to put some hair oil in my hair at night? Exactly. Some oil in the bath? Some lovely hand cream. And I need to eat better too, I need to cut those cakes out. I come from a family of diabetics; do I want to be one of them? No! ‘oh, I love that rocking motion, you know what I mean!’ chuckles Agnes, then there’s a room full of echoes to the same tune, including mine.

‘PUMP those arms, come on, PUMP, and PUMP’ I need to get sink unblocker. I need to get the house sorted, I can’t live like this, I’m going to go mad if I continue cooking in that kitchen, and it HAS to get fixed. I cannot believe the neighbours have built their entire extension without planning permission or even telling us. It’s looking worryingly light-reducing. More paperwork to deal with, great. ‘Oh I like it, I love it, I like a bit of pumping action, ha ha ha’…belly laughs all round, Agnes throws her head back.

We all need an Agnes in our heads don’t we, well, I do anyway. Clearly.

Just like Agnes, I like it hot. This curry is hot, tangy, and fresh with green glory and has a tang! Again, I am sharing with you an unusual recipe, I don’t think I have cooked spinach and jalapeno peppers in a curry in quite this way, but believe me…it works SO well.

Cooks note: I have used vegetarian chicken from the TKC brand available in wing-yip and it works fabulously. I have also used meet the alternative which is pretty good. I would not use those popular vegetarian chicken products that are made from mushroom protein for this dish.

Soya chunk curry in a spinach and jalapeño base by Deena Kakaya

Ingredients

400g soya nuggets

200g fresh spinach leaves, very finely chopped in a food processor

175g jalapeño peppers in brine, 100g pureed and the rest finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

One medium onion, diced

Salt to taste

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. coriander powder

½ tsp. garam masala

450ml water

1 tsp. cumin powder

½ tsp. turmeric powder

The juice of half a lemon

2 tsp. tomato puree

2 tbsp. cooking oil

Method

  1. Defrost the soya nuggets per the packet instructions
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the turmeric, cumin and allow the seeds to sizzle. Then stir in the onion and salt then sauté until the onions have softened.
  3. Add the garlic and sauté for a further minute before adding the soya nuggets and coat them well in the tempering.
  4. Sprinkle in coriander powder, coriander powder, garam masala, and grow the tempering to a to a high heat over 30 seconds to a minute then pour in 250ml of water and stir in the tomato puree.
  5. Cook the soya until most of the water has evaporated; it should take about ten minutes.
  6. Add the spinach and cook the curry for a further 3-4 minutes.
  7. Add the jalapeno puree and the sliced jalapeno peppers and cook for a further 3 minutes before turning off the heat.

 

 

 

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