Tag Archives: asian vegetarian recipes

The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine

30 Aug

The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine

Sometimes, we need the reminders that a rainy day brings.

The sweet Greek salad - with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine

The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine by Deena Kakaya

Every day my toddler asks me, ‘what sort of tata are we going to today mumma’. Tata is the Gujarati baby word for ‘excursion’. I told him today that it is raining all day and we would get totally soaked. So we took a few moments to cuddle and listen to the crackles of thunder and look out at the hailstones patter against the window. ‘I don’t want to get wet mumma’.

I had a lot to do today. It is a Sunday but you know, the way my life works at the moment is that there is no traditional pattern of a 5-day working week. There were two recipes for a magazine to test and write up as well as two recipes for an upcoming cookery class and my head was still bulging with the images that a chat between a friends and I had, following a surprise bumping-into whilst shopping.

We had not seen each other in almost a decade. We were neighbours. We took the same bus home from work each day, from our completely different careers and we came back to very different lives, but we had connected on some level. We would hungrily talk about food on our entire journey home and I would moan about my post graduate studies. Her concerns were more grown up than mine for she returned to a toddler daughter who would wait at the door for her mummy whilst bobbing around in her grandmother’s arms and then she would bounce down the path to greet her mummy. I enjoyed playing with this sparky little girl who was sociable. Now she is preparing for secondary school. Now things aren’t as I had planned and now they are removed from the ideal. But now I have the toddler. Now I am on the other side of the lecture theatre. Now I am with different focus.

But as my husband and I prepared for the busy weeks ahead with engraved masala tins stacked up high and recipe writing and testing in between playing with my little sweetie, we felt happy.

The sweet Greek salad - with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine by Deena Kakaya

The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine by Deena Kakaya

I sang along to my favourite tunes interrupted by songs about planets and phonics. I twizzled my baby around and listened to rapturous giggles as his teeny hand cupped his mouth at the hilarity of mumma wiggling her bum. I felt blessed that my project is my husband’s project as he treaded, cautiously but willingly on culinary ground. We all got involved in making this salad and my boy eagerly described how the vegetables for it arrived in a massive box from a chap called Gary from Riverford. I see my reflection in him now and its capturing. He washed the glossy and ripe tomatoes and after a few impatient nibbles of the cucumber, he did a good job with that too. I have to admit, my husband did a darn good job with executing much of this salad including marinating the feta in those toasted spices. It’s a rarity, so I am cherishing this memory.

The sweet Greek salad - with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine  by Deena Kakaya

The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine by Deena Kakaya

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

 

I am linking this post to Lisa’s kitchen and Tinned tomatoes for the no croutons food bloggers challenge

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

1 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

For the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Cinnamon-chill onion, asparagus, cashew and cheddar filo rolls

4 Mar

 

Cinnamon-chill onion, cashew Asparagus and cheddar filo rolls

 

Sticks and cheese

Spring, 1994

I enjoyed my business studies class at school. In anticipation of starting the class I got some books out on the subject during the summer holidays and learned about the concept of barter trade and achieving break-even point and what constitutes profit.  I started the class with sense of fluency and that made me feel good. One day my not-so-tall, dry pink cheeked, booming-voiced male teacher sat at his desk across from us and I knew from his frown and the way that his two, ear-side grey tufts of hair flounced that he was not in a good mood.

He asked some of us what we wanted to become. He, himself a father of three boys and a qualified accountant had for some reason turned into a secondary school teacher. He pointed at one of the clever lads at the back of the room. Thin, dark, thick-spectacled and he had unfortunately shaped teeth but was a lovely boy. ‘I want to be a pilot’ he beamed.

‘You will never be a pilot, look at the thickness of your glasses, you will probably get a mostly A’s and a few B’s and become an accountant.’

Next he turned to one of the understated beauties of the class. Not one of those permed-haired divas but one of those faces that you know will turn into a success drawing, friend winning, and a champion of happiness. She told him that she wanted to be a dancer and a business woman. He told her that she would get mostly B grade and C grade GCSE’s and may have a clerical job.

Cinnamon-chill onion, asparagus, cashew and cheddar filo rolls

Once he quietened down and the student’s eyes were down into their books I went to him and told him that I had been pondering about what he was saying to everyone. He laughed at me having used the word, ‘pondering’. I asked him why he felt that he could tell people what their destiny will be and why he felt that his influential words should be thrown around; wasn’t he fearful that he would miss-shape, or erode the confidence of a young mind? Weren’t his predictions limiting, shouldn’t he just let the individual dream and at least try? My dad told me that I could do, or be anything I wanted to.

As he gurgled with fury at my perhaps loaded question I turned around and to walk away and I felt my pulse in my mouth as my pony tail was pulled back into his fist. He growled something about my insolence but I don’t remember any of that, I was just stunned and felt clear horror.

When my hair was released, I unobtrusively walked through the buildings; along echoing corridors and I looked out at playing fields through murky windows. My feet patted gently along the balcony and I listened to the sounds of a PE class beneath me and then I shuffled past silent art classes. I sat down, on the large grey, lightly-rough chair at reception and told them that I wanted to speak to the headmaster immediately and that I needed to call my dad.

I was full of conviction, self-assurance and compassion. I was just 14. No words from my teacher damaged me or swayed me, even when my teacher crouched down before me in reception and apologised…something about going through a stressful time. I let him talk. I had plump cheeks and eyes that were always moist and I listened. I asked him if he had a daughter, knowing full well that he hadn’t.

Cinnamon-chill onion, asparagus, cashew and cheddar filo rolls

Winter 2010

I had gone from a ‘rising star’ to being unwanted. I replayed the words over and over and over and I believed them. I let the opinion of one person become my reality. Sticks and stones.

Winter 2014

I am learning from myself. You know, we often draw on examples from those we admire; those who have done things that we would like to do, or be the way that we would like to be. I have found that within myself I hold all the will, the strength, the courage and the conviction. I have done it before, I can do it again. I choose my words, both the ones I speak and the ones I listen to.

My sticks today are full of aroma. Cinnamon, chilli and onion work superbly together in a sweet, spicy, aromatic and fragrant glory. Silky onions work superbly with cashew nuts and there’s a light layer of mature cheese holding it all together with a spear of asparagus as the star of the show in a crisp filo shell. The tasters today told me that they are amazing. I have to agree.

Ingredients to make 5-7 rolls

7 sheets of filo pastry

3 medium onions, sliced

1 tsp. dried chilli flakes

¾ tsp. ground cinnamon

100g cashew nuts

125g mature cheddar cheese, grated

7 asparagus spears

Salt to taste

2 tbsp. cooking oil or a generous nob of butter

¾ tsp. caraway seeds

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Method

  1. Trim the base off the asparagus spears and boil them gently in water for 4-5 minutes before draining them in cool water and leaving them to dry.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, caraway seeds and then let them sizzle, before stirring in the onions and the salt. Soften the onions on a medium flame until they start to grow golden in colour.
  3. Sprinkle in the cinnamon and chilli flakes and sauté for another minute on a more gentle flame before turning the heat down and adding the cashew nuts. Turn off the heat and move onto assembling the rolls.
  4. Take a sheet of filo and fold it in half. Sprinkle a thin layer of cheese and then a couple of tbsp. of the onions and cashew nut mix.
  5. Place a spear of asparagus near the top, lengthways and leave the tip hanging outside. Fold it into a cigar and place each one onto a baking sheet. Drizzle a little oil on the filo and bake in the oven at 180 degrees until they are lightly browned.

Deep and Smokey Mexican-Asian noodle soup

9 Feb

Keep the song

Deep and Smokey Mexican-Asian noodle soup

 

My parents fretted that I was a bit of a hermit as kid.  It was somewhat the opposite as a teen but as a child I would hear my dad express his qualms about whether he was dipping me into social activities enough. Often when he asked if I wanted to join him on one of his frequent but small shops, I would say no.  My brother would always go.  The reason I stayed behind was so that I could sing freely, loudly, expressively and privately. I would day dream lots. I laid out piles of books around the room and became utterly lost in them, gleaning and storing snippets of them in a pensive haze. I remember how captivated I was by them both; books and music. So much so that when anyone hollered for me I wouldn’t hear them.

I took singing lessons as a teen. I sang on the way to lessons at college and even to exams. In fact I even had, ‘exam songs’. I sang in the park with my friends, whilst cooking and always in the bath. People tell us all the time that we should learn from our elders. I have to tell you quite honestly and humbly that I am right now in my life, learning from my younger self.

For I had a focus that I am only proud of now and wish that I still had. I knew that with every song and with my own decidedness I got myself in the zone. I knew that singing made my heart flutter and gave me a rush of energy. So why then had I let the song out of my life in recent years?

The radio in the car played the same nursery rhymes. The kitchen was quiet. The TV played as background noise and social media was the go-to.

I went on a girl’s night on Friday. I met the girls on my NCT group and the three of us have seen each other through big, emotionally-overhauling life changes.  We have spoken to each about stuff we wouldn’t normally say, candidly, angrily, ecstatically and most of all we have been exhausted together. We talked about our most recent changes in life. One of us is having a new baby; another is going through a separation. Then there is me.

I drove home at nearly midnight, eyes sore from fatigue. As I turned into the driveway I heard a song that threw me back to my teenage years. I closed my eyes and I was with my books and the windows were open, net curtains billowing…I was crouched on the floor, face cupped in hand, and hair everywhere. The romantic potential unlocked and singing, smiling, lost and with swelling with a beat.

knew that the moment I walked in through the door I would become a mother, so when the song had stopped playing I found it on youtube and played it again, thrice.

To fit the deep and smoky mood, I made this Mexican-Asian noodle soup.  I was sent some wonderful Mexican ingredients by CoolChille Company and I knew that I had to do it. The black beans are deep and earthy and brought to a further earthiness with soy bean paste. Guajillo chillies are wonderfully rich in colour and smoky. I toasted, soaked and then blitzed them to a paste and this has really released immense richness. Avocado brings silky and creamy quality and it works superbly with the soup. I have up epazote which is a citrus-medicinal type Mexican herb and works fabulously with black beans.  This one works as a bowl of surprise and sumptuous taste.

Deep and Smokey Mexican-Asian noodle soup

 

Ingredients to serve 2-3

200g cooked black beans

6 baby onions, quartered

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

700ml water

2 tsp.

1 tsp. soy bean paste

2 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

Half an avocado, sliced

6-7 baby corn, thinly sliced

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 large guajillo chillies

2 tsp. epazote

2 tbsp. cooking oil

A few sprigs of coriander to garnish

A couple of slices of lime to garnish

Method

  1. Start by toasting the Guajillo chillies on a non-stick pan to release the flavour. You will notice that the chilli will soften and will release a wonderful heat. Toast for about a minute on each side and then let them cool to room temperaturechillies 1
  2. Soak the Guajillo chillies in hot water for about 15 minutes, before grinding them to a paste.
  3. In a deep pan, heat the oil and add the cumin seeds. When the seeds sizzle add the baby onions and fry them until they brown lightly. Then add the garlic and baby corn and sauté for another minute
  4. Pour in the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and the epazote and cook for another minute.
  5. Pour in the water and add the soy bean paste. Bring the soup to a simmer.
  6. Introduce the black beans and the guajillo chillies then add the noodles.
  7. Allow the soup to simmer for 3-4 minutes or until the noodles are cooked.
  8. Serve the soup and top with the slices of avocado, coriander and lime. The lime infuses beautifully with the soup.

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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Masala mushroom wontons in a curried soya bean soup

18 Jan

wontons 1Moody soup. I’d never imagined.

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

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

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

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

So what did I do?

wonton 2

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

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

Ingredients to serve two

For the mushroom masala

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

For the soup

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

Method

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

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