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Mung bean and barley broth in tahini, a dash of Harissa, roasted mini peppers and torn mozzarella

10 Jan

Mung bean and barley broth in tahini, a dash of Harissa, roasted mini peppers and torn mozzarella

Do you plan? There’s the daily commute planning, school timings, work planning, menu planning, grocery planning…but I mean you know… do you ‘plan’.

I’ve always been a planner. I’ve planned at work and I planned the holidays. I took it upon myself to plan the savings plan and I even planned our weekends and outings at the best rates for weeks ahead. It goes without saying that for years I have sent my husband a weekly menu plan with a flag that tells me that he has received it and also a call to action his confirmation that he is happy with the plan. I like to feel like I’m in the driving seat, that I was taking the bull by the whatsits and generally, good girls planned and if we plan, things will come into fruition.

Well, that’s what I thought. I didn’t plan for my life to be this way. It’s different to what my mind had conceived. I don’t think it just ‘happened’ to me. In some shape or form by taking decisions, listening to instincts, or making priority calls…here we are. In the same breath I am much more open and mellow about what the future holds. I didn’t know I would be here and I don’t know what ‘there’ looks like.

Speaking of mellow, here’s a healthy detoxifying broth that is fitting of my mood lately, and my will to be healthier this month. Mung beans are the food that my mum fed me if I was sick as a child but this version is cooked in tahini, a dash of Harissa, barley for depth and some sweet min peppers for tingly sweet bite. I’ve even chucked in some fabulously fluffy mozzarella, weird I know but heck it works!

Mung bean and barley broth in tahini, a dash of Harissa, roasted mini peppers and torn mozzarella
Ingredients to serve 4-6

175g mung beans
100g pearl barley
500ml vegetable stock
One large red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1-2 bay leaves
8-10 mini, sweet peppers
2 litres of water
The juice of Half a lemon
1-2 tbsp Harissa
4 tbsp tahini paste
Salt to taste
1 tsp cumin seeds
200g fresh mozzarella
2 tbsp cooking oil
1/4 tsp black pepper
Coriander to garnish

Method

1. Boil the water, mung beans and barley together together for about 45 mins on a medium flame. When the beans are cooked most of the juices should have left into a thick soup. The beans should be mushy
2. Drizzle the peppers with some oil after cutting them in half or quarters and roast in the oven until they have browned lightly.
3. In a large and deep pan heat the cooking oil and add cumin seeds. When the seeds sizzle add the onion, bay leaves and salt. Sauté for a couple of minutes then add the ginger and garlic and sauté for another couple of minutes.
4. Add the mung beans and barley with the vegetable stock, then the tahini, lemon juice, pepper, Harissa and the simmer for 8-10 minutes. It should then look thick and broth like.
5. Stir in the peppers and tear some mozzarella before storing for another minute or so. Don’t over cook the mozzarella as it will go string. Keep the mozzarella fully and warm.
6. Serve with a garnish of coriander and slice of lemon

I am linking this recipe to Anneli from Delicieux and Louisa from Eat your veg because this is a virtuous recipe image

Soya bean, Barley, lettuce, feta and roasted lemon salad in a dill and chilli vinaigrette

2 Jan

Soya bean, Barley, lettuce, feta and roasted lemon salad in a dill and chilli vinaigrette

Soya bean, Barley, lettuce, feta and roasted lemon salad in a dill and chilli vinaigrette
The indulgent holidays were concluded with a healthy salad, the busy mess has been hoovered and dusted into the past. The sun has been shining today and when I woke my feel felt a little heavier. My bed had been moved closer to the heater and the long window, so I was warmer and more light washed over me, but it was the end of the happy lull.

I saw lots of social networking posts about 2013 being amazing, full of achievements and success. Many of my parent peers used the opportunity to announce that their family will be extended and some people told us that they bought bigger or newer houses or travel widely in 2013. New job, promotion, bigger and better. All very wonderful stuff which I’m really pleased to hear about.

I was part of that way of thinking too. I want to share with you something quite profoundly awakening in my life. Pre-2011, each year I would meet with friends on NYE and also go and see the fireworks in London. Each year my husband would tell me, ‘this is going to be your year’. As the fireworks lit up the skies of my beloved london, I’d think about all that I had manifested in that year. How was I doing career-wise, Had I grown enough? Had I travelled enough? Am I fit enough, did I attend enough gym classes and am I in good shape? Did I save enough money? Did I write for magazines extensively enough?

So, then after a few shake-ups at the end of 2011, NYE for impending 2011, 2012 and 2013 filled me with nerves. What had I actually achieved?

For the first time this year, whilst welcoming in 2014 there were no flutters in my heart. There was peace. I had a take-away, put my feet up, thought about buying a onesie and whether its time to potty train my boy. I thought about all the recipes that I’m prepping for next week and for whom. It’s taken a long time, but it’s a phenomenal thing to just smile and have peace of mind.

So, as I wake with a less polluted tummy and a clearer mind for it, it’s time to keep going and keep doing and being grateful. My salad is light, filling, zesty, salty, herby, nutty, colourful, smooth, silky, crunchy, a bit of heat…you have it all, what more do you need?

I wouldn’t eat the lemon, it gives so wonderful colour and concentrated taste, but the rind is still the rind.

Ingredients to serve 3-4

100g pearl barley, cooked per packet instructions
2 lemons
One large red chilli
2 tbsp olive oil
15g finely chopped dill
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt to taste
100g feta, cub into bite sized cubed
Half a head of lettuce, shredded
180g soya beans, boiled for 3-4 minutes and drained
1 tbsp sumac and a little for presenting, if you like
2 cloves of garlic, minced
One red onion, finely diced
One large red chilli, finely diced

Method.

1. Slice the lemons thinly, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast in the oven for aproximately 20 mins at 200degrees. Watch them, they could burn easily. Once they are roasted, allow them to cool.
2. Combine the barley, lettuce, red onion, soya beans, lemon slices and feta in a large bowl.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the dill, salt, chilli, olive oil, white wine vinegar, garlic and sumac.
4. Drizzle over the dressing and then toss it all together.

I served with my hummus recipe and lots of lovely flatbread.

I am linking this recipe to Karen at Lavender and Lovage because this recipe uses citrus image

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.

How to make vegetarian hot noodle soup in 20minutes

1 Oct Vegetarian Noodles
Vegetarian Noodles

20 minute vegetarian hot noodle soup

Super speedy (20 minute) hot vegetarian noodle soup

I seldom have time off. I am constantly tired and submerged. But I am not complaining because the rewards are infinite and I am my happiest when I am with my boy. I do get the occasional moments of liberation into the friday night world when I see the girls and I only got my wings four or five months ago, so the excitement is a bit like the thrills I felt as a fresh and novice teenager venturing out into the bright lights.

So our last, enjoyable and tasty dinner out was at wagamama and behold, it was my first time. I was a wagamama virgin. When I’ve mentioned this to my friends they’ve all raised their eyebrows and given me an understated and polite chuckle. I cant say I haven’t considered going in recent years but I make a lot of noodle soup at home; it’s so easy and fresh as well as thoroughly tantalising.

It regularly surprises me when people tell me that they don’t make noodle soup, even when they like it. It isn’t much of a leap from a simple stir fry, all you need is a good stock. My recipe may stir a little bit of argument for the following reasons;

1. Curry powder- insult or enhancement?

I know a lot of foodies detest curry powder. I quite enjoyed watching faces aghast at the mention of it when I watched Rick Stein in India. It’s isn’t balanced creatively, it has one taste and isn’t fresh. I agree. I would never, ever use it in curries as they deserve proper layering of goods spices and each curry should be cooked in consideration of the vegetables in that curry. This noodle soup is a quick recipe and curry powder works. Simple.

2. I’ve called it a super quick 20 minute recipe, naturally this will be contested.

3. It’s hot.

4. Tomato purée – in a noodle soup? Yes. It is true. It adds colour and sweetness which I feel is important given that some of the other flavours are pungent.

Today I got my cosy socks on, thought about hot water bottles and made noodle soup. It’s my comfort food that doesn’t make me fat.

Here are my pointers for making noodle soups work

1. Be careful with chilli bean sauce and soya pastes. They add wonderful background depth and aroma, but if you over do it, you will taste bitterness and that’s not nice.

2. Don’t go crazy with noodles, they tend to swell in the soup.

3. Use exotic mushrooms rather than woods ones, they are soft and absorb juices well and the noodle soup is cooked for just a few minutes so work well with the delicate nature of exotic mushrooms like oysters.

4. Use salt sparingly, vegetable stock is salty. I didn’t add any to this recipe.

5. Use sesame oil or groundnut oil. Nutty oils are delicious in noodle soup. They are the vehicle for enhancing the other flavours.

I’m not an overly tidy Eater, I had splutters of the hot and spicy stock on my phone today. Luckily it has a cover on it, but this soup is drinkably, suckably, flaming good.

Ingredients

100g baby corn chopped into bite sized pieces
100g green beans cut into bite sized pieces
2l vegetable stock
2 pak choi, roughly chopped
One bay leaf
1 tbsp curry powder
2 tsp tomato purée
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1tbsp chilli bean paste
4 spring onion chopped into bite sized chunks
75g exotic mushrooms (I’ve used largely grey oysters) torn
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp pounded schiuan peppercorns
75g Amoy vermicelli
2tbsp sesame oil for cooking

Method

1. Heat the oil for a few seconds before adding the garlic, ginger and spring onion. Sauté for a minute before adding the curry powder. Stir through until the colour deepens (it should take a minute or so).
2. Add the vegetables and coat well.
3. Stir in the vegetable stock, bay leaf, peppercorns, rice wine vinegar, chilli bean paste and tomato purée.
4. Bring the soup to a simmer and then add the noodles.
5. Cook for 3-4 minutes before serving.

 

Spinach, spring onion and spice pancakes with lime and coriander crème fraîche

26 Sep

Spinach, spring onion and spice pancakes with lime and coriander crème fraîche
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We were in Dubai in June and my then 16month child lost a few hundred grams in weight over the first few days of our 10 day stay.

We were very lucky to be staying at the Atlantis, which is not only stunning with its in-house aquarium which felt as big as the London aquarium, beautiful clear views of the azure sea, towering heights and arches, shimmering lights; but it is architecturally astounding with its arabesque domes and spires. They couldn’t do enough for us and I lost count of the number of restaurants they had that served fresh and delicious foods from throughout the world. My favorite was the Lebanese restaurant; they served an entire table of vegetarian dishes at each course and I’m not kidding.
image
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So why, with such lovely and helpful staff and so much variety did my boy not eat? Why, when they made him whatever we asked for, either on or off the ‘menu for kids’, would he just not eat? The truth is, I don’t know. Could have been the heat, but then the hotel was air-conditioned. It could have been the time changes, but then we stuck to UK time for him. It could have been the fatigue of travelling, but surely that would settle after a couple of days. It could be because mumma didn’t make it. But come on.

So, as is typical of my assertive and self-proclaimed solutions-not-problems focused husband, he said, ‘babe, just go and speak to the chefs like you normally would and go into the kitchen and make what he will eat’. Normally I wouldn’t go and cook uninvited because that is so rude. But my baby wasn’t eating and this made me so sad that I felt like it was the only thing I could do.

The head chef came out to meet my boy. The restaurant manager came to meet him. The sous chef took the head chefs instructions and then I went in to tell them how he likes it. My boy doesn’t even know lucky he is. We made him what he has at home, a spinach uttapam. I make this south Indian style crispy pancake with fermented and ground lentils and rice, loads of spinach. My little monster guzzled it down and the whole team was happy, especially me. Naturally.

The thing is though, that I don’t always have fermented rice and lentils to hand when he asks for the pancake and I know that instant versions are available in a packet and that too at the major supermarkets, but I worry about the amount of salt in them. So, I created this recipe that my whole family enjoy…even my fussy old man (my dad) loved them. My chappati-loving mum let out high-pitched praise. My Italian and Caribbean neighbors loved them (I’ve trialed this recipe out a couple of times so needed mouths) and best of all, my boy loves them. For a kids version skip the chili and salt if this is your normal practice given your child’s age. My boy is young so that’s what I’ve done.

These pancakes are really well-balanced in terms of spice and depth, they are smooth and really light and fluffy. Herby and moorish, they are so easy to make and even easier to eat.

Ingredients to serve 3-4

225g fresh spinach, finely chopped in a food processor
75g spring onions finely chopped
2 green chilies finely chopped (leave them out for kids or cut the amount of chili if you don’t like it hot)
One whole egg
One egg white, beaten until you get soft white peaks
150g self-raising flour
150ml milk
50g butter
Salt to taste (I used 1tsp)
1 tbsp baking powder

The spices; 1 tsp toasted cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp dried mango powder (amchur powder)

For the lime and coriander crème fraîche

250g crème fraîche
The zest of one lime
1 tbsp very finely chopped fresh coriander
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Method

1. In a large bowl mix the spinach with the cumin, salt, garam masala, mango powder, spring onions and chilies and mix it well.
2. With a fork, mix in the flour and then add the milk, butter and egg. Whisk it all together, add the baking powder and whisk again.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg until the egg whites are soft white peaks and then gently fold into the pancake batter.
4. To make the crème fraîche, add the zest of the lime into a bowl and add the coriander, salt and pepper. Mix it in gently with the crème fraîche and leave it in the fridge until you serve the pancakes.
5. To make the pancakes heat a non stick pan and grease it with a couple of tablespoons of oil. Pour a couple of tablespoons of batter onto the pan and ensure that the height is about 1 cm. Cook them until they are golden brown on one side before flipping over.

Serve the pancakes hot and with a dollop of the crème fraîche.

Beans-On-Toast, The Stylish way.

2 Oct

Walking around Borough Market today was a whole sensory popping-corn experience.  There were excited people, buzzing around like mosquitoes, darting from chutney’s to cheese to veg and hovering in the most exciting places to absorb the newness and freshness of it all.  There were smells of fruit, fish and flowers within a single cloud, all singing out to be noticed.  People took pictures of the traditional English setting, people took pictures of foods of the world and people took pictures of other people buying.

I stopped to admire gigantic onions, carrots with huge green and feathery heads, bulbous beetroot and oh, those beautiful artichokes.  I smiled inside and out at the sight of those artichoke.  The lavender and rose petals, neatly bundled with the dried spanish chilies inspired me. The spices I have at home would really work with the flowery sweetness. But the cheese.  There is something hugely nostalgic about grilled cheese. The smell of massive hunks of good-quality cheese being grilled is just so inviting and comforting.  Plates of the cheese were gobbled up with new potatoes and asparagus. Could it get any better?

By this point I was ready to eat and I wanted it quickly.  There was no deliberation, as I’d already collected all the ingredients necessary, in my mind-my senses had told my head what to do!

It was decided.   A can of butter beans, sliced red onions (from the gigantic one I had picked up earlier), 1 tsp of cumin seeds, the dried chilli, chargrilled artichoke hearts (about 4 of them) cut into large slithers, a generous (well, heaped) teaspoon of Ras-El-Hanout, a good slosh or two of garlic infused oil and a few tablespoons of  creme fraiche.  I decorated all of this with some onion and chives infused cheese and beautifully sweet red little tomatoes from the vine. (Although, technically, they are all off the vine aren’t they?)

It was magnificent in minutes.  I had very little to do-the ingredients did it all for me.  I simply heated the oil and sizzled the cumin seeds and chili together before adding the onion to saute.  When they softened, I added some salt, Ras-El-Hanout and then the butter beans.  Once I had coated the beans, I added some chargrilled artichoke hearts, cut into slithers and then the creme fraiche (enough to make a sauce).  Familiar smells from the morning wafted up my nose and into my tummy. Mmmm….I let it all simmer whilst my husband toasted the bread for us and grated the cheese.  I halved a handful of those plump little tomatoes and when the bread was toasted,  the final act was just bread-topped with the bean and artichoke mix-topped with cheese and tomatoes.

Try it.

Warm wishes

Deena

Vegetarian Indian Meal Ideas For Students

13 Jul

Cooking may be the last thing on many (uni) students’ minds.  The fresher’s culture in particular provides ample persuasion in the form of £1 drinks, 7-stop bar crawls, clubbing, house parties and of course sleeping all of that off, in preference of freshly cooked food.  It probably doesn’t help that campus supermarkets are often expensive and probably not the best stocked (least so for Indian groceries).  Some students may just not know how to cook.

There are so many reasons why cooking vegetarian Indian food at home is the way forwards

• You may find yourself homesick.  Although you may have been bursting to get away from home, being at home does have its virtues; at least you get a good home cooked meal.

• If you live of junk food, you will gain weight!

• You may find the vegetarian options limiting, depending on where you have gone to university or you may simply yearn for Indian food which is perhaps harder to source, depending on where you are.

• A diet that’s poor in nutritional value will leave you feeling tired and lacking lustre, you may find it hard to stay awake and concentrate in those lectures.  Then of course there are the spots and greasy hair that may come as a result of a bad diet

• Cooking vegetarian Indian food in your student home will be a great way to impress people and make friends.  The very first meal I cooked for my now husband was when I was a fresher; channa masala (and I used tinned chickpeas).

Here I give you 12 delectable, really easy and speedy recipe ideas for vegetarian Indian dishes.  Whether you are a student or a concerned parent, these ideas are real winners.  I will also give you an idea of the basic spices to keep in the cupboard (don’t worry; they have quite a long shelf life!)

 

Curry out of a can

Tinned Legumes and pulses can be stored in the cupboard and it’s really easy to whip up a curry with them.  Try Butterbeans ; fry off onions , garlic, cumin, and a sprig of curry leaves in a couple of tablespoons of oil, add turmeric and salt, add chilli powder, turmeric, coriander and cumin powder, ½ tsp garam masala and half a can of coconut milk.  Then grate in 10g of ginger.  Mop it up with some bread…its heart-warming.

Sweet corn curry is a popular favourite.  Using the same spices as the butterbean curry, but this time, minus the coconut milk and add a couple of dark red chopped tomatoes and a handful of ground nuts to the mix.  It’s very Moorish.  You can create more or less gravy simply by adding water.  I like it quite dry with some yogurt.

Chickpea curry is a classic.  I like to add a few twists to it, like spinach wilted in at just before I take it off the heat, or maybe some shallow fried tofu, or soya mince.  I like to add a couple of teaspoons of dried fenugreek leave to chickpea curries; some people recognise this as a general curry aroma.  If you want to avoid any of the spice-adding decisions, you can buy channa masala spices in a box from Indian grocers.

Fresh quickie Curries

Yes, fresh Indian ingredients can be hard to source, but that doesn’t mean to say we can’t use widely available vegetables to make a curry.  Here is a great one for detox; spinach, dill and fenugreek curry.  It’s so aromatic and easy on the tummy.  It contains Iron and fibre. All you do is chop then up, fry off a large onion and couple of spring onions in cumin, mustard seeds and a little garlic and then and all of your ingredients with a couple of chopped tomatoes.   Spice with coriander powder, cumin powder, chilli powder and turmeric.  Cook in on a low flame for about 15mins and then sprinkle ½ tsp of garam masala at the end.

Here is another cheat, inspired by a traditional Gujarati recipe.  Potato curry in thick, rich gravy.  Take a mixing bowl; add one can of chopped tomatoes, 70g of coarsely ground unsalted peanuts,  ½ cup of gram flour, then add ¼ tsp turmeric, salt and chilli powder to taste, 1 tsp each of coriander powder and cumin powder and ½ tsp of garam masala and 1 ½ tsp of dried fenugreek leaves.  The next bit is magic, all you do, is fry off an onion in some cumin and a sprig of curry leaves and then add a couple of cloves of garlic.  Then add about 700g of baby new potatoes and coat them in the oil.  Then add the mixture of tomatoes, gram, peanuts and spices.  Add water to cover, and cook until the potatoes can be pierced easily.

There are other simple ideas that can be made from readily available vegetables, such as cauliflower curry (don’t add any water), aubergine, cabbage (again, no water), or a simple avial which is made with julienned vegetables with desiccated coconut and curry leaves.  Although many recipes call for traditional vegetables like tindori, you can make this with carrots, courgettes, baby corn.

I love the versatility of aubergines.  I have three varieties in my fridge at the moment and I got them all from my local supermarket (not an Indian one!).  With the largest aubergine, I’m going to roast it, scoop out the flesh and mash it a little with a fork. I’m then going to fry off onions, garlic, green chillies and a then soften a couple of fresh tomatoes and add in just salt and turmeric and a squeeze of lemon.  With the Japanese style aubergines, I’m just going to make two slits opposite directions upwards from the base and then use the thick potato recipe with the aubergines, just with a nice helping of coriander.  With the baby aubergines, I am going to half and then roast them and then submerge them in spicy tomato gravy.

Using Pasta

Pasta is also really versatile and you can stock up on it. I’ve heard many people say that they could eat pasta every day of the week…but for that, you’d need lots of inspiration…including some Indian inspiration I reckon.

One of our family favourites is what I call ‘samosa filling pasta’.   A couple of medium potatoes chopped, ½  cup of peas, a small carrot, maybe ½ cup of sweet corn kernels and a very large onion make the basis of the mix, spiced in chilli powder, turmeric, curry leaves and cumin seeds and a squeeze of lemon.  Simply add in your pasta and there you have a meal for at least 2-3.  Sometimes, I add cheese on top, and funnily enough, it works.

You could try shallow frying some vegetables like ½ head of a small cauliflower, some sweet potato and a cup of peas and then adding a gram flour and yogurt mix (400g of yogurt and 2 tbsp of gram flour). Just add some curry powder and that’s how easy it is.

Indian Sandwich Ideas

One of my favourite sandwich recipes requires investing in some chat masala. It’s not hot, but it’s punchy and brings life to salads and sandwiches.  I really recommend a 3 layer sandwich.  Peel a potato and then slice it thickly.  Boil until cooked, drain and cool.  Then use ingredients like a little chilli sauce, cheese, cucumber, tomatoes.  If you have some coriander, grind together a couple of handfuls with a couple of chillies, a little lemon and salt and a tbsp of water.  Spread this on the bread…it’s amazing.  This sandwich throws my mind to the streets of Mumbai…anyway…Layer the vegetables on toasted bread, sprinkling chat masala gently.

I’d love to know how you get on with these user-friendly recipes.  I’d love to hear what you think.

Warmest wishes

Deena Kakaya

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