Tag Archives: comfort food

Gram flour pasta in a spicy tomato and veg base

5 Sep

Gram Flour pasta in a Indian spiced tomato and vegetable base

pasta final

A few weeks before I fell pregnant with my baby boy, we did a tour around India.  I wasn’t overly enthusiastic at the prospect of being guided around historical monuments I’d already seen a couple of times, that too in the sweltering orange and dusty heat.  My husband had never done it though and he was really keen.  So, I looked up some contacts and I cooked with chefs throughout our journey; aloo wadiya and kulcha in Amritsar, kofta in Udaipur, mughlai dishes in Delhi, juicy paneer in Agra, chaat in Mumbai…It was so much fun.  The passion and skill in the chefs was moving.  The chefs and I nattered for hours, perched on the edge of our comfy chairs, about their ancestry, their feelings about food, how their family regard their chosen path.  It was so exhilarating  to be around people who love what they do.  We’d slump back in our chairs in smiling consideration.
To close our bustling and rousing trip we headed over to Gujarat to see family and get it touch with our religious roots.
So we arrived at one of Porabander’s best hotels really late into the night.  The bed had blue neon lights around it.  I don’t think I need to say any more.  As l stood there whispering WTF, familiar fishy smells of this seemingly standstill coastal town overwhelmed me. It didn’t feel any different to how it did 20 years ago.  Now I’m the sort of person that enjoys foods from around the world, it thrills me.  The experience of new senses in my mouth makes me giddily happy.  I love Italian, Indian, Lebanese, Chinese, Malaysian, Moroccan, Thai, Spanish…but.  After all of that, the cuisine that cajoles me into my natural rhythm is Gujarati food.  After being separated from my native food for over two weeks, I was restless with hankerings.  I was looking forward to Dhokla, Thepla, okra curry, gram flour straws in spicy tomato.
So I asked my husband to ring reception to see what sort of Gujarati food we could get so late and how we could get a thali the next day.  You know what they told us? No Gujarati food in the hotel. That’s right.  Noodles or a sandwich were offered to me. I was aghast.
My recipe today is inspired by Gujarati Dhokli, which is effectively gram flour pasta.  Traditionally it is simmered in dhal, but my recipe is quicker and just different, as it is in a spicy tomato and vegetable base.  It’s a filling and comforting dish that is pretty simple to make. You’ll sleep we’ll on this one.
Gram flour pasta in a spicy tomato and vegetable base
Ingredients

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

Tomato and veg base

200g green beans trimmed and cut into bit size 2cm chunks

150g baby corn, trimmed and cut into 2cm bites

2 medium new potatoes cut into small cubes

4 shallots, finely chopped

3 gloves of garlic, finely chopped

3 green chilies chopped

1400ml warm water

1 ½ tin of tomatoes

The spices; 1 tsp. cumin seeds, 1 tsp. fenugreek seeds, ½ tsp. mustard seeds, 6-7 curry leaves, salt to taste, 3 cloves, a pinch of asafoetida, ½ tsp. black pepper, ½ tsp. garam masala

The Gram Flour Pasta

¾ cup gram flour

1 cup finely milled whole wheat flour

1.5 tbsp Vegetable oil

The spices; 3/4 tsp. ajwain, 1 tsp. red chilli powder, ½ tsp. turmeric powder and salt to taste

150ml warm water

Method

  1. Start by making the pasta dough by mix all of the dry ingredients and spices.  Make a well in the middle and pour into the middle.   With your fingers massage the oil into the flour, creating a lightly crumbly texture and then with your fingers mix together the water, little by little, together with the flour and spices to form a ball. Coat the ball with vegetable oil and wrap in Clingfilm and rest it whilst you continue to prepare vegetables.pasta 1.1
  2. Roll out the dough to one centimeter thickness and cut into rectangles of between 4cm by 3cm. Once they are all rolled and cut out place them onto a dish and dust the pieces lightly.  If your kitchen is very warm, put the pasta in the fridge, so that the pieces do not stick togetherpasta 1
  3. To make the tomato and veg  base, heat 2 tbsp. oil and add the asafoetida, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, turmeric powder, mustard seeds, chilies and cloves before allowing the seeds to pop.
  4. Stir in the onions and salt, then sauté for a couple of minutes before stirring in the garlic.   Soften both before adding in the potatoes, green beans and the baby corn and mixing through thoroughly. Add the black pepper
  5. Stir in the tomatoes, water and bring to a simmer before cooking for 4-5 minutes
  6. Drop in the pasta simmer for 10-12 minutes before sprinkling in the garam masala and serving lashings of it.

Spicy Rice Flour Dough Balls (My Very Popular Khichi)

31 Jan

Spicy Rice Flour Dough Balls (My Very Popular Khichi)

Hot summer days during the school holidays, mother and aunties (in the broader sense, meaning women of mum’s age) in the kitchen boisterous and rosy. The wooden fence between us and the neighbours has been worn down to stubble from ever frequent visits by the neighbours kids indelicately climbing over them and aunties leaning over the fence, chit-chatting languidly after a hard day’s work.

The kitchen was spicy-steamy even though the windows and doors were wide open; the gleeful kids were darting between kitchen and garden. My mum would pick the hottest and least breezy days to make rice flour poppadum’s and I was the contented assistant; these goings-on were tradition for summer holidays. Mum and aunts simmered the chillies and spices in hot water leaving us all coughing, before adding the flour to make dough. It’s OK; we had strawberries and fresh fruit juices to distract our throats. They rolled the oiled dough to poppadum shapes; just a couple of millimetres thick and it was my starring role to lay them onto cleaned (but unwanted) wafting saris in the garden.  I collected heavy stones and bricks, full of purpose in my loud yellow and green floral dresses, to ensure the saris were controlled and I lay the papdi (the particular variety of poppadum) neatly, not overlapping them.   Barefoot in on the summer garden slabs, I enjoyed the heat under my feet.  I’d find a shady spot to intermittently paint under, whilst I safeguarded the poppadum’s from birds and insects too, or maybe it was the Bollywood music booming (and women singing) from the kitchen that did that!

The plan was to let the sun dry the dough out completely. Once dried out and microwaved or fried they taste impressively crunchy and crispy. They are deeper and slightly chewier than the poppadums you will find in restaurants, but they remain my favourite variety.  The smooth and slippery dough itself is delectably Moorish. When steamed its spongy, a little chewy, overflowing with punch and undeniably gutsy. Funnily enough the steamed dough is often eaten as a snack, with a little oil that’s infused with salt and chilli powder. Greasy fingers are typically all that remain once a plate of these gently green balls are served. Try it; tell me how you like it.

Khichi

Deena’s Spicy Rice Flour Dough Balls; My Very Popular Kichi

Ingredients

3-4 green chillies, minced

800ml of water

1 ½ tsp. of cumin seeds

1 tsp. of carom seeds/ajwain

Salt to taste

½ tsp. of ground cinnamon

375g of rice flour

Method serves 4-5

  1. Pour the specified amount of water into a deep pan, before adding the spices and seasonings with the minced chillies and bring it to a gentle simmer. Turn the heat down and continue to simmer for 3-4 minutes
  2. Take a long wooden spoon and gently pour in the rice flour and beat into the water, avoiding clumps forming. Do this quickly, before removing the dough from the heat
  3. Pour the dough into a large plate and grease your palms. Form flattened balls of about 5-6cm diameter and dip your thumb in the centre to create a well (keep the well empty though) and then steam for about 15 minutes.
  4. Remove onto a plate and serve with oil infused with chilli powder and salt.

Deena’s Vegetable Dumplings Stewed in a Yogurt Soup/Curry (Kadhi)

16 Nov

I am, like many of you, really into comfort food in this season. I like being comfortable, comforted and ‘nice’.  I console and pamper myself from the elements of this season with long swaying sweaters, ear-soothing hats and blanket trousers – and oh, most definitely the secret snug of tights – and lots of them.  I nestle myself in front of the open hearth of our home, lulled to sleep by the glowing of coal and watching the mesmerising crackles and pops, which snap my attention back to the rice crispies adverts from years gone by but then I’m caught craving chocolate coated cornflakes. And then my mind wanders to open city streets and the smell of roasting chestnuts, despite never enjoying the taste as a child. I think it was just the idea of a sweet nut. Toes playing with fluffy layers of rug, elbow nestled in cushion and nose under the blanket that now inhabits the sofa. Even I get a wee bit lazier in the winter, but I can’t apologise for that? Where there is a (albeit lazy) will, there is a recipe from me!
 
You may find yourself trying to make the weekly shop last longer-particularly those of us that can’t forget being snowed in earlier this year! You may find that when the evenings are darker and colder you just can’t bear to creep out from the wallowing warmth of indoors, for extra food supplies. You may find that you always have leftovers of the big squash, cabbages, potatoes and onions because you just don’t get through it all.  Hopefully it’s not because you’ve been ordering too many take-a ways!
 
My recipe for Indian vegetable dumplings stewed in a gently spiced and thickened yogurt soup/curry (kadhi) hits all the magic comfort buttons, uses up leftovers and also it tastes flippin’ fantastic.  It’s a simple, humble recipe. No coulis. No jus. No precision, or layering to perfect angles on plates. It just is, in all its tastiness, a hearty and delicious meal in one bowl of sunny yellows and oranges.  As this recipe simmers away in the kitchen, you will find that the homely and calm aromas are capturing.

I grew up with variations of this recipe; it looks a little like vegetable sausages stewed in a sunny curry. Some people cook them with more flour than vegetables, for a firmer bite. I like mine soft and sweetened from root vegetables.  Some people use millet flour to help bind the dough, but I find that a little bitter.  Traditionally, I think people bind the dough with oil, but I really can’t bring myself to do that.  Some people use less gravy; I like a good slathering of ginger-spiked soupiness. Some people use very traditional vegetables like bottled gourd (tastes like courgette).  I like to use gourd sometimes, especially as it is so easily available in supermarkets, but more often I will use any of my root vegetable leftovers. If you are using leftovers, this recipe will taste like taste like you’ve gone to a lot of effort!

Deena’s Vegetable Dumplings Stewed in a Yogurt Soup/Curry (Kadhi)

Ingredients

1 cup cooked and cooled rice (that’s aproximately 1/2 cup when uncooked)

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 small/medium potato, grated

100g sweet potato, grated

125g of finely shredded cabbage

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1-2 green chillies, minced and 1-2 green chillies chopped

1 tsp ginger minced

400g yogurt

Gram flour; 3 tbsp for the kadhi and 1 ½ cup for the dumplings

1 cup chapatti flour

4-5 curry leaves

A handful of chopped coriander leaves

The spices ½ tsp ajwain/Carom seeds, 2 tsp cumin seeds (1 of which is toasted lightly), salt to taste, ½ tsp turmeric, pinch of asafoetida, ½ tsp mustard seeds, stick of cinnamon, 2 cloves.

Method

  1. In a very big bowl, combine the cooked rice, cabbage, onion, sweet potato, potato, minced garlic, 1tsp of toasted cumin seeds, carom seeds, salt to taste, ½ tsp turmeric and the minced chillies and mix thoroughly to ensure the spices coat all of the vegetables.  Don’t drain away the water from the vegetables, but allow the wetness to come through and this will help in bind the dough.
  2. Mix together the yogurt and the 3 tbsp of gram flour until smooth and there are no lumps
  3. Heat 2-3 tbsp of oil in a big, heavy bottomed and deep pan and add the asafoetida, chopped chilli (es), curry leaves, minced ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cumin seeds and mustard seeds and allow the mustard seeds to pop before adding the gram flour and yogurt mix and some salt. Add 11 cups of water and bring to a simmer on a medium heat.
  4. Then add the chapatti flour and 1 ½ cups of gram flour to the rice and vegetables, add 2tbsp of vegetable oil and 2tbp of water and mix thoroughly to make a dough.
  5. Grease your palms and make tight sausages no longer than the width of your palm and drop them into the kadhi that is simmering in the deep bottomed pan. When they are all in, simmer for approximately 20 minutes, stirring intermittently to avoid the dumplings sticking to the bottom of the pan. You will know when they are done as you wont see the grains of rice so much and the inside looks meaty, rather than floury.
  6. Sprinkle over the coriander leaves and serve hot!

Deena’s No-Rice, Comforting Vegetable Khichdi

7 Nov

As the nights draw in and the brisk chill hits, as many of us emerge from work, it feels like it’s been evening just all day long. I love the scene of the streets in the evening; smoky and poetically aglow with fog misted street-light. With Christmas decorations and jingly background signatures already making an appearance, it’s starting to feel like a Dickensian Yuletide already. As I walk hurriedly, hugging myself under layers of wool and faux fur, I’m careful not to slip on the glistening paths that will lead me home to the sweet welcome of comfort food.

Comfort foods are gentle, nurturing and soothing. For me they are also foods that throw me back with duvet-soft smiles to good times; to times of being cajoled by my parents to protein-and-carb-up when I was an unwell girl, or times when I had been making beautiful memories whilst on dream-like holidays, cherishing birthday celebrations with family and friends, or those cosy nights in together – just my husband and I. It is times like these, that I want to be cuddled by the warmth of my home and soak up the gentle kisses of one of my all-time favourite comfort foods; Khichdi.

Khichdi is a buttery light blend of soft and smooth lentils and rice. I see Khichdi as one of the kings of traditional home-cooked food and unsurprisingly, it was popular with the great mughals. The magic of Khichdi is widely appreciated across Pakistan, northern India, eastern India and Bangladesh. The dish can also be found simmering away inside the kitchens of many Indian states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Bengal (where it is called Bengali: খিচুড়ী khichuri). In Bengali tradition it is customary to cook Kichuri on rainy days.

Hugging a bowl of vegetable khichdi in the comfort of your home and listening to the patters, splashes and roars as the heavens unleash is incredibly soothing as we know, but as someone on a low GI diet I was dismayed to hear that Khichdi is not the way forward. The reason for traditional khichdi being a low GI diet faux-pas is much the same as why mashed potato would be so wrong, and that is that the rice in khichdi is cooked down to a mushy consistency which increases the GI level. When you love a food enough, there is usually a way to enjoy it in a healthier way so I have found a delicious solution using bulgur wheat that will definitely press all the right sensory buttons, perhaps leave you feeling a little virtuous and won’t make you feel sluggish!

My recipe includes vegetables, so you get a nutritious meal in a bowl. Now, for those of you already familiar with khichdi please don’t let your memories of eating stodgy and bland versions put you off this recipe. My dear friend did that very thing this weekend when I suggested making this dish, which I proclaimed I could eat all day long. ‘No…’ she stressed. ‘I won’t like it; it just doesn’t taste of anything’. I made it regardless as I do love a good challenge, but also I was certain that this recipe, spiked with warming ginger, garlic, whole spices and full of vegetables, could evoke an enchanted sigh from her.

Deena’s No-Rice, Comforting Vegetable Khichdi

Ingredients

300g of split green moong dhal

180g of Bulgur wheat

½ head of a small/medium cauliflower, cut into bite size florets

One small/medium potato, peeled and cubed

A large onion, diced

1/3 cup of green beans

1/3 cup of sweet corn kernels

A handful of green beans, chopped into bite size pieces

2 large and fat cloves of garlic, minced 1 tsp of minced ginger

3 tbsp of rapeseed oil

2-3 green chillies, finely chopped

The spices A pinch of asafoetida, ½ tsp turmeric, 3 cloves, 4-5 curry leaves, salt to taste, 1 tsp cumin seeds, ½ mustard seeds, ½ tsp coriander seeds ¼ tsp black pepper

Method

1. Set the mung dhal to boil for 20-25 minutes. It should turn to a mushy consistency, but not be completely smooth.

2. Soak the bulgur wheat in boiling water, filling the level to just a couple of centimetres above the bulgur wheat

3. In a large and deep bottomed pan, heat the oil and then add the asafoetida, turmeric, curry leaves, cloves, coriander seeds and mustard seeds. Allow the mustard seeds to pop, and then add the chillies and sauté for a minute on a low flame. Stir in the diced onion and sauté until they start to soften. Then add in the minced ginger and garlic and continue to sauté until the onions are transparent.

4. Mix in the cauliflower, potatoes and green beans and then add the salt and black pepper. Allow them to cook for 7-8 minutes, or until the potato is soft enough to pierce through.

5. Gently stir in the mung dhal and the bulgur wheat, with two cups of warm water and simmer on a medium to low flame for a further 7-8 minutes. The khichdi should not become solid, but remain a smooth consistency.  If it starts to turn solid, add more water, until it is smooth in texture.

Go on, Hug a bowl of this delcious stuff.

%d bloggers like this: