Tag Archives: christmas

Green beans and soya beans in red sambal

9 Jan

I had a lovely Christmas break. If you are reading this and you didn’t then I can relate to you. Things are not always the same.

green beans and soya beans in red sambal by Deena Kakaya
This year, it was lovely. We saw Santa four times; at the activity farm where we ice skated, made a bear, rode a tractor and saw a real reindeer. We also saw Santa at the children’s theatre, where the performance charmed my child into sitting quietly, eyes widened for the whole lot. We went to the cinema and guess what? I went to the cinema on a separate occasion to watch a grown up, Bollywood movie with a friend. We went to the zoo; it was blustery but we had thepla, smiles and each other. We spent time with treasured family and cherished old friends and revelled in the good times. We ate out most days, even if we were slurping noodles in Camden market or Churro’s in the park and yes we even had muddy fun in the park.
My baby took part in his first nursery school concert and he looked edible, if not too grown up. He assuredly and dramatically rehearsed every day and was totally in his element up until the big day. But I am not disappointed or upset because the reason and experience totally moved me; as he walked onto the lit-up stage, he waved into the darkness of the audience, aimlessly as he didn’t know where I was. As the elves, Santa’s snowmen and donkey’s sang away, he repeatedly whispered to his neighbours and teachers, ‘where’s my mum’…his eyes wandered and so did his mind. As it was his turn to go onto stage, he looked behind; he looked around and still couldn’t see me. It wasn’t until the last five minutes that he finally spotted me and there was a sudden and latent burst of energy. I will take this with me.
I want to share what I learned from this Christmas holiday. That element of fun, that positive energy and gratitude, that high-frequency of love, the time spent with chosen and energising people, that free-spirit and relaxed mind…why should that be confined to Christmas. Why shouldn’t I inject spurts of it into my regular routine…the very simple things and the very simple pleasures? So that’s what I am going to do. And with that, I share a very simple pleasure of a Malaysian inspired recipe, my green beans and soya beans in red sambal.

A little nutty, very luscious and delicately sweet; it makes for a lovely side dish, or is great just with some rice. I have even put into a wrap with a drizzle of yoghurt. The aromas are so lifting in the red sambal, which for me makes the dish. The sambal is a blend of spices, onions and garlic and become gentler as it’s cooked. Add more chillies if you like!

Ingredients
175g green beans
175g soya beans
4 lime leaves, crushed
1 cup of warm water
1 tbsp. tamarind concentrate
2 tbsp. peanut oil
Salt to taste
1 tbsp. chilli oil
2 tbsp. toasted, unsalted peanuts, coarsely ground
For the red sambal paste
2 tsp. soft brown sugar
One large onion, chopped
5-6 cloves of garlic
5 long, dried red chillies soaked
2 tsp. lemongrass paste
1 tsp. minced ginger or galangal
1 tbsp. peanut oil
Method
1. Blitz together the ingredients for the spice paste and then leave it to the side
2. Heat 1 tbsp. peanut oil and add the paste on a very low flame and cook it, stirring to avoid sticking for approximately 5-7 minutes.
3. Now add the tamarind concentrate, chilli oil, lime leaves, salt and peanuts and then fry for another three minutes.
4. Now add the water and simmer for ten minutes.
5. In the meantime cook the edamame beans for three minutes and the green beans for 4-7 minutes or until barely tender. Drain and refresh them.
6. Combine the red sambal and the green and soya beans together and serve hot.

Christmas spring rolls made with paneer, butternut squash, puy lentils and beetroot

22 Nov

During Christmas my family and I eat throughout the day, you know to keep the energy up! There are no rules around the 5/7 a day or consideration of portion controls during the festive season and indulgence is high up on the agenda. The table is laid with abundance and variety and as we chat, chase children and chuckle we consume copious canapés like these pretty, seasonal and utterly Moorish spring rolls. They are filled with soft pillows of homemade paneer, sweet beetroot and butternut squash, nutty lentils and spice. The surprise ingredient is a hint of orange, because it’s Christmas.

Christmas spring rolls made with paneer, butternut squash, puy lentils and beetroot by Deena Kakaya

I made these spring rolls for demonstration at the Taste of London festival, at the tobacco docks.  I was on the busy and bustling a2Milk stand as part of the Great British Chefs team and wow, what an experience!  a2 Milk™, was used to make the paneer for this recipe. Regular cows’ milk contains A1 and A2 proteins and for some, the A1 protein causes side effects such as nausea, bloating and mucus build up. A2 carefully select dairy cows that naturally produce the A2 protein and not the A1 protein. If you have had trouble digesting regular milk, a2 Milk could be for you.

Makes approximately 24 spring rolls

Ingredients

For the paneer cheese (makes approximately 150g)

1 litre of full fat A2 milk

2-2 ½ tbsp. lemon juice

For the spring rolls

35og butternut squash (peeled) and cut into 2 cm cubes

70g puy lentils, cooked per packet instructions

130g cooked beetroot, cut into 2cm cubes

The zest of one medium orange

The juice of one orange

2 ½ tbsp. desiccated coconut

Finely chopped green chillies to your taste (I used 4)

5-6 curry leaves

2 tbsp. vegetable oil for the tempering

Vegetable oil for deep frying the spring rolls

½ tsp. ground turmeric

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Salt to taste

12 spring roll sheets

 

You will also need

Tightly woven fabric such as muslin or handkerchief material for making the paneer

Keep a finger bowl of water ready, this will be used when binding the spring rolls

Method

  1. Start by making the paneer. I would suggest making the paneer the night before you make the spring rolls, to allow the paneer enough time to set. It is important to use full fat milk, as any other milk will not contain enough fat. In a non-stick pan, heat the A2 milk until it starts to boil. Turn the milk down to a simmer and then add the lemon juice. You will see that the milk starts to curdle and large clumps that look like cottage cheese appear. Turn the heat off and allow the acidic reaction to fully separate the curds and whey; give it about ten minutes. In the meantime, line a colander with muslin in an empty sink. Pour the paneer cheese into the muslin and then tie the muslin and remove any excess liquid. You keep the whey and use it to thicken curry bases. Put some weight (like a saucepan) on the paneer and allow it to set. Once set, cut the paneer into 2-3cm cubes.
  2. Line a baking tray with baking paper and then coat the butternut squash with a light layer of oil. Roast the butternut squash at 190 degrees for approximately 30-40 minutes or until the squash is lightly crisp and soft enough to pierce.
  3. In a large bowl combine the (cooked) puy lentils, beetroot, orange zest, butternut squash, paneer (cut into 2cm cubes), orange juice, desiccated coconut, salt and toss all of the ingredients together.
  4. For the tempering, heat a non-stick pan and add the oil before introducing the cumin seeds, curry leaves, chillies and turmeric. Allow the seeds to sizzle and then add the tempering to the spring roll mixture and then toss to ensure even coverage.
  5. Cut the spring rolls in half to create two rectangles. Leaving approximately 3cm centimetres space at the bottom and sides, place a dessert spoonful of the filling towards the bottom. Fold the sides inwards, close the bottom panel and fold the spring tightly in a cigar shape. Seal the end panel with a little water.
  6. Allow the spring rolls time to settle and the let the sealed panel dry before frying the spring rolls in hot oil. Fry them until they are lightly brown and golden and then use a slotted spoon to remove them from the frying pan, placing them onto kitchen paper

 

Deena Kakaya at Taste of London Deena Making paneer

Rose Harissa, parsnip and paneer puff pastry plait + you can Win £50 waitrose vouchers

15 Nov

A winter main dish, for me should be one that tickles all the senses; a bit of heat to stoke the internal flames, a little sweetness to lift the fog and some light and easy depth to satisfy the heart. What better way than to wrap it all in pastry? Home-made paneer tastes fabulous when heated through and even more so with the rose scented Harissa and sweet roasted parsnips that this pastry plait holds. Merry Christmas 2015!

 

Rose Harissa, parsnip and paneer puff pastry plait by Deena Kakaya

I have created and written this recipe for a2 Milk™, using a2 Milk to make the paneer. Regular cows’ milk contains A1 and A2 proteins and for some, the A1 protein causes side effects such as nausea, bloating and mucus build up. A2 carefully select dairy cows that naturally produce the A2 protein and not the A1 protein. If you have had trouble digesting regular milk, a2 Milk could be for you.

a2 Milk have kindly offered a £50 voucher for one the readers of my blog.  All you have to do is leave a comment on the blog letting me know  your favourite recipe, using milk as a key ingredient, and leave your email address (via the link) and a name will be picked out of the hat! Happy happy. Alternatively you can simply enter the prize draw here you have until 16th December to enter and win! Good luck!

(For more information on how to enter blog giveaways using Rafflecopter please see this short video

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

You will find the full recipe here

Rose harissa, parsnip and paneer puff pastry plait by Deena KakayaRose Harissa, parsnip and paneer puff pastry plait by Deena Kakaya

 

 

 

Indian spiced sweet potato filo tart

1 Jan

‘Make sure you switch the Christmas lights off before you go to sleep’. Who would have thought that this line would be enough to fill my eyes?

Indian spiced sweet potato filo tart  by Deena Kakaya

The list of ‘make sure you do’ starts about a week before my husband flies off on his looming foreign business trip and although many people have now presumed that I am used to it and now longer ask how I am, it still makes my heart sink a bit each time there I hear one of the many, concerned reminders.

‘Please don’t stay up too late’ and of course I get the text reminders about locking the doors and not falling asleep on the sofa and a week before he leaves, I listen to the repercussions of missing iron tablets. Every burden and apprehension seems magnified in the silence of the evening, but I’m sitting here with phone in hand and virtually supporting friends who have horrible bosses, kids going through a difficult phase and husbands that just don’t get it. I do sympathise and sincerely want to help. At the same time, I want to remind them that they have jobs, albeit with manager woes. They have the smiles of children filling their hearts, as well as the mental draining that they bring with them and they have a friend that is a husband, even though they may be a long-distance one at time.

It might be easy at times like this to wallow; to sleep erratically, to overthink and to fall quiet. It might be easy to not eat very well, for eating for one isn’t much fun I think. But, I have my little companion don’t I? And the wells dry as I smile through writing this. My best buddy told me today that we should make fresh pesto pasta and he wasn’t kidding. I thought he was but when we finished the dish he exclaimed, ‘mumma thank you, I told you I wanted green pesto pasta’. So we eat well. At just two, he will throughout the day randomly declare his love for me and today he told me, ‘daddy’s gone to America, but you are my best friend and so can we go to borough market’, so I laughed. Because the afternoons are cold we went bowling with friends, and so we talked and I involuntarily chased him around each time he scored and roared in delight. Then we cooked, in a very much collaborative way and eggs are, I realise, fabulous for easy cooking with kids.

This is a light and sweet tart, deep and filling and great for picking and returning to. It’s easy and a soul-soother too. I lightly cooked the sweet potato first with the spices and the result after some time in the oven was sweeter than I expected, but in a really good way. The spices come through wonderfully, but not too strongly and that is a good thing as I know that you will understand if you cook with eggs. Pays to be kind to yourself, doesn’t it.

Indian spiced sweet potato filo tart  by Deena Kakaya

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Shrikhand, cherry and amoretti fool

25 Nov

Shrikhand, cherry and amoretti fool

I am writing this recipe on the request of the lovely people who came along to my last cookery class in London and we didn’t even cover this recipe at the class!  I just assembled 17 (one for each attendee, none for me) glasses of this pretty and easy to make sweet dish before they arrived and as soon as they came out, even whilst I was explaining what the fool comprises, they were swiftly lifted off my tray. Each of the glasses came back empty and many requests and follow-up requests ensued. So, I take this one is popular.

Shrikhand, cherry and amoretti fool by Deena Kakaya

Shrikhand is a sweetened, thickened curd. Traditionally, yoghurt would be strained through tightly woven cotton or cheesecloth to remove excess moisture and leaving creamy, pillows behind. This curd is then infused with saffron, cardamom and sugar as well as rose water. I remember my mother going through the onerous and utterly rewarding process from my childhood and oh, the joy of scooping Shrikhand up with some puri (fried and fluffy bread).

The funny thing is, a wonderful and sweet lady who attended the class said me ‘Deena I HATE Shrikhand, but I absolutely loved your fool’. Many jokes are popping into my head about who, ‘my fool’ may be, but let’s not.

The fool is layered with sticky sweet cherries; compote really, then there is a bite of amoretti and sprinkle of pistachio. I am being utterly serious when I say there was really not a lick of the spoon left in the kitchen. Wiped clean. Totally.

A few of my class said they would make this for Christmas and I think I may too. Every family has guests that have dietary needs and in my family there is the exclusion of sugar as I come from a family of diabetics and you can make Shrikhand without using generic sugar. The other restriction is eggs; we generally need one eggless dessert.  So, this is an easy peasy one that you can make using quark and make each of the components ahead of time and then assemble them when you are ready to serve the dish; no fear of flattening bakes or ice creams that don’t set. Relax.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

500g Quark

100g caster sugar for the Shrikhand

Two pinches of ground cardamom

One pinch of saffron

1 tbsp. rose water

200g frozen cherries

70g sugar for the cherries

25g unshelled pistachio, finely chopped

4-6 amoretti biscuits

Method

  1. Combine the quark, sugar, rose water saffron and cardamom. If your saffron is in strands rather than the powdered version I have used, heat 1 tsp. of milk and infuse the strands of saffron into the milk before adding them (when cooled) to the Shrikhand.
  2. To make the berry compote, combine the sugar and cherries and heat them on a low-medium flame until they have thickened. This should take 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat and then allow the compote to cool to room temperature. Then, pop them in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  3. To serve, place two heaped dessert spoonful’s of the Shrikhand in the bottom of the glass, then top with the two dessert spoons of the cherries. Then place an amoretti biscuit on the top and a sprinkle of pistachio.

 

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,

Homemade sweet lychee and hot chilli dipping sauce

25 Oct

Homemade sweet lychee and hot chilli dipping sauce

Always follow your gut instinct.

This week has been a revealing and pretty testing one. When I was made redundant just before I fell pregnant, it was pretty messily and insensitively handled and frankly, the writing had been on the wall for a while, just that I didn’t read the signals. It shook my confidence so then determinedly, I secured a role that on paper was more exciting, more strategic, more pay and well, just more. For some reason however, it just didn’t feel right. I held off from accepting the offer for two whole weeks and as I drove to work on my first day as a newly pregnant and formally dressed person, I wasn’t excited. I didn’t even feel neutral. I knew the difference between nervous apprehension and plain dread.

It turned out that my gut instinct was right. It was a mistake, but I was brave enough to put a stop to that interlude. However it was another factor that I let augment my self perception.

This week I spoke to so many people with emotive challenges I’m life. For some reason my shoulder is pretty attractive to secretly woeful people who carry themselves with a smile. I listened to a friend who has anxiety attacks at work, I’ve wiped the tears from friends who miss their children because they are busy being hamsters at work. I’ve held the hands of friends contemplating fertility treatments and encouraged my neighbour back into education as she has now raised her children. I also said no to a corporate role that would have sucked the life out of my life. I listened to my gut instinct. Nobody should actively or passively do things in life that they know will make them sad.

A the same time my husband has been away for work this week. I’ve had friends and family over this week back-to-back and I feel loved and blessed. How to thank them? There’s less money in my household now so I’m not taking each of them for dinner, but what I can do is put some quality and love into a thoughtful gift.

Christmas and Diwali are around the corner, why don’t you try these either for yourself or as gifts for loved ones. It’s so lovely to receive a gorgeous catch of something tasty that doesn’t perish in a day or two. My lychee and chilli dipping sauce is versatile and smells amazing. So far I’ve used it with chips and spring rolls and can’t with each mouthful I’ve thought, ‘I can’t believe I made this’ .

This dipping sauce carries an exotic aroma, has a zesty and hot kick and is cheekily sticky. Go on, if you like it hot and sweet…

Ingredients

Two tins of lychees
5 tbsp of caster sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
8-10 red finger chillies

Method

1. Mince the chillies to a paste and keep them to a side.
2. Put the lychees int a food processor and blend them together to as smooth a consistency as possible, although it may be quite chunky don’t worry,
3. Pour the lychees into a non-stick pan together with the chilies and the sugar and bring the mixture to a simmer. Turn the heat to a medium flame and simmer for 15-20minutes until the juices have thickened.
4. Return the sauce to a food processor and blitz it until the lychee chunks have smoothed into the sauce.
5. Place the sauce back onto the hob and simmer for a further 5minutes until the sauce is thick and sticky.

Allow the sauce to cool before serving. If you aren’t serving it straight away then store it in an air tight, sterilised jar.

I am entering this made from scratch Homemade sweet lychee and hot chilli dipping sauce to Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays.
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Canapés ? Courgette rolls filled with saffron and spice cauliflower and broad beans

21 Oct
Courgette rolls filled with saffron and spice cauliflower and broad beans

Courgette rolls filled with saffron and spice cauliflower and broad beans

I’m chuckling at how my parents and their peers see people who are a little bit chubby, or fuller figured and consider them healthy and happy. Being slightly rotund is a mark of a good life, apparently. Whenever I experience fitness class success, my mum looks at me worriedly, telling me that I need to put on weight because I need ‘energy’. Ok mum.

This is the season where I become festively fatter. Diwali involves a lot of gorging on a ridiculous amount of sugary and deep-fried treats. As we visit family members at each of their homes to offer them seasons greetings, we are offered sweets and crispy treats and that’s what we fill up on. Deep fried rice flour Catherine wheels , deep-fried dumplings filled with a sweet and nutty mixture, deep-fried brown bean popadums…

Then comes Christmas and I always seem to eat the most massive number of roast potatoes; I really love them. Pastry and cheeses are consumed in generous portions in our house and oh, the sugar. I’ve already started stocking up on the drinks which I always see as hidden calories. Nibbles; they’re dangerous too…I rarely remember how many of those mini chocolates I’ve eaten, let alone crisps and cheesy things.

So this season, I am publicly declaring my intent (yes, intent) to be more kind to my body. Now, I am not saying that I’m going t have a skinny Diwali and Christmas. What’s the point of that, they only come around once a year. What I am saying that I’m going to include some healthier stuff! I’m going to include canapés that are not deep-fried and they will taste good! Do you want to join me?

These pretty looking rolls, light, colourful and unusual. The courgette is raw, which allows that crispy gorgeousness. A bit of saffron does the job of giving colour, aroma and decadence. The filling is crumbly, lightly cheeses a wee bit spicy. You can make them fresh, or keep them in the fridge for a couple of hours, ready for guests to arrive. These are certainly different, give them a go!

Ingredients for 15-20 rolls

200g cauliflower florets
125g broad beans, thawed
One large red chilli, finely chopped
30g grated mature cheddar
4 pinches of saffron infused in 1 tbsp of warm water
3/4 tsp toasted cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander powder
Salt to taste
2 medium-sized courgette or one very large one

Method

1. Boil the cauliflower and broad beans for 5-6minutes, then drain and empty into a food processor
2. Add the cumin seeds, chilli, salt, saffron, coriander powder and cheese
3. Blitz the mixture until it is grainy
4. Take a peeler and make wide peelings on the courgette, one peel at each side of the courgette until it wears too thin
5. Line the courgette peel with two tbsp of the stuffing and then roll it up.

Serve either immediately or keep it in the fridge for a couple of hours in advance of your guests arriving.

I am entering this made from scratch Courgette rolls filled with saffron and spice cauliflower and broad beans to Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays.

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What’s in My Gift Hamper

5 Dec

I love giving personalised gifts of food; I love exploring for atypical flavours or decadent ingredients; I love presenting smells that socialise attractively in the basket; I love the wafts of ideas as a heap of newness comes together and I smile-sigh harmoniously as I love that each of them is recommended by me and will give lasting memory. I love the surprised expressions that unravel the edible delights and I love that I have conjured up inspiration in the receiver. 

Of course it’s not all totally altruistic, I am always beamingly proud with my assembly of treasures and I always like the sharing of food and travel stories that I know will ensue.  And hopefully they will cook up some meals for me too, check out the gift hamper.

Black Garlic; Black garlic surprises with a fruity, molasses flavour that enhances the familiar taste of garlic. Confused? You have to try it to believe it. The garlicky taste is not nearly as strong as raw garlic – black garlic is fermented and gives a dried fruit like twist. In fact, the texture is a bit jelly like as well.
I like black garlic tossed into some pasta with fresh herbs and cheese. I just heat some olive oil, add soft slithers ofblack garlic and chili and just toss it together, no need to cook it down. Throw in the pasta, herbs and some lovely hard cheese (I use a vegetarian parmesan style cheese) and eat.
I also like black garlic with some broad beans, whizzed together as a dip. I add a kick of chili (I have to, maybe that’s the Indian in me?) and even on a pizza (but small pieces).
 
 

 

 

Pomegranate Molasses; It feels as though this syrupy ingredient is quite trendy at the moment.  Increasingly popularised, pomegranate molasses have a sweet, sexy flavour and a little of this flirty and fragrant stuff goes a long way. In Indian cooking, I often use tamarind. Nowadays I have been using this sticky and tangy pomegranate molasses in some dishes to keep it interesting and add a Middle Eastern flavour.

I sometimes use pomegranate molasses to spruce up a stew or a bake. Just a little. Recently I did a bean stew with north African spices and I added a little of this molasses before topping it with crushed new potato, spring onion and ricotta stuffed baby sweet peppers, which I then put in the oven. My goodness the  sensual smells…

Orange Blossom Water; This is used in African and Middle Eastern cooking and has a distinctive fragrant orange flavour from the distilled orange blossom, but it’s also floral and sweet smelling. As with many good things, there is no need to pour this in.  Use it to flavour some cream or yogurt to accompany your dessert, or toss some salad through it.  You could add to your favourite hot drink, yes, even coffee.  I use a few drops in shrikhand, which is a thickened and sweetened yogurt dessert or even in a vegetable stew, just at the end of cooking. Sometimes, I marinade some tofu in it before quickly shallow frying.
 
Ral-el-Hanout; Recently I’ve been having a real love-affair with North African spices. Musky and punchy, they’re balanced with a gentle floral touch that makes for mysterious fun when using this wonderful spice mix. I love the stuff, it’s not strong enough to become bitter when used raw, and at the same time aromatic enough to really bring seemingly humble ingredients to life. 
Roasted Garlic Infused Oil; Yes it is lazy, but it does taste good. Dip some nice warm and fresh bread in it, or spike it with chili and dip delicious Indian rice-flour dough (khichi) in it. Drizzle it on mezze, make a dip from roasted aubergine flesh and yogurt. I’m sure you’ll find many more uses for this aromatic oil.
 

 

Stuffed Vine or stuffed Cabbage leaves; 
Dolmades are moist and lip-smackingly gorgeous little greek delights.  My favourite vegetarian variety is when stuffed with rice, lots of herbs, black olives and sundried tomatoes. They really get me in a holiday mood and are actually quite filling. I love them with mezze and lashings of hoummos. Plum Chutney; Now this I would rather see in my hamper than biscuits, for sure. Wonderful with a melted hunk of goats cheese, or in a sandwich. Or even, layered with vegetables and wrapped in some pastry. I must admit I have been known to steal spoonfuls of the stuff, but it’s no surprise really.
Chaat Masala; Don’t smell it before you buy it, just trust me on this one. The association with flatulence is limited only to the smell! Chaat masala is a great example of odd smelling things tasting incredible. It’s a blend of dried mango powder, cumin, black salt, coriander, dried ginger, salt, black pepper asafoetida and chili powder. Chaat is street food in India and very much bar-snack food in Indian restaurants in the UK. Crunchy rice puffs and puri’s set against potatoes and chickpea sponginess, with tamarind and chili chutney zing – and often soothing yogurt all combine like a sensory cocktail, punching up a cornucopia of flavours like a fruit machine. That’s the point of a chaat for me.  Chaat masala gives a chaat it’s distinctive accent of salt-and-pepper-ness.
Boil some potatoes, add the contents of a can of chickpeas, add some onion (my particular favourite is red onions), something crispy like Indian rice puffs and then add some mung-bean shoots or mixed sprouts and some freshly chopped coriander. Sprinkle in the chaat masala to your taste. It’s great as a side salad.
 

Lavender Sugar; Well for one, little jars of the stuff do look very pretty. And when you open the jar, it’s like summer just spilling into the room. Are you smiling already? Good, well that’s definitely part of the point of a gift and this looks very cute, traditional, attractive and I really like the taste of it when sprinkled on freshly baked biscuits (even when they have chocolate in them, or better still pistachio!)  You could even warm some berries up, and run some of this perfumed sugar through.

 

Chick-pea Spaghetti; I remember that when I first tasted chickpea spaghetti, I expected it to taste more like spaghetti and less chickpea than it later transpired to be. Ah. It needs to be cooked in a rich, flavoursome, bulky vegetable and tomato, curry-style Indian base. This sort of base really compliments the depth of chick-pea spaghetti and really helps to infiltrate it with juiciness. 

I really like this sort of food at this time of year because it’s warming, filling and deep but not stodgy and heavy. I feel less bad about curling up on the sofa with my blanket for a couple of hours when I’m eating a scrumptious bowl of this funky and colourful spaghetti. Word of caution for those who like to suck up their spaghetti though – doesn’t work so well with this variety!  

Star anise; I am still surprised at the number of star anise-virgins amongst us. Not only does it look beautiful in all it’s flower/star shaped glory, but it has a sweet aniseed flavour that permeates fruits, stews and curries beautifully. Stick it in a pear and bake it, simmer down summer berries with star anise inside, or in a curry.

 Most of these ingredients are available in good food halls and supermarkets or even on the web!
   

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