Tag Archives: cooking

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine and spinach

13 May

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine and spinach

 

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine spinach

The lines between ‘going back’ and going on holiday have blurred now, after this many visits to the UAE.  My three year old has made three trips out there and now has a collection of memories and a definite sense of identification with some of our regular haunts.  Neither me nor my husband are from the UAE or have family there but to be honest almost all of the people I talk to in Dubai are ex-pats.

Whilst in Oman, Muscat I reminisced about our honeymoon in Thailand because the mountainous back group and still waters evoked those entire serene and tranquil honeymoon images in my mind. Except this time, the people we made passing conversation with were a whole world away. We met an Australian family in the kid’s club and I remarked to my husband that it was they, not a nanny with their two young daughters. Most of the other children in the kids club were accompanied by a nanny that had joined their family to the resort. Australian dad now worked in Qatar and Australian mum was fond of truffles. She emphatically told me about the school her daughters attended and how her children didn’t see race or colour because their friends were of all origins; Indian, French, Japanese. She told me several times over, which I found curious.

People like to guess where you are from when on holiday don’t they? Most of the time people assume that I am from Arabic origin, in fact this happened to me at college and university too but it’s only in the UAE that people never assume that. The entertainer in the kids club remarked on my Indian eyes and English accent and asked if I was a full time mum, for again, I was the only mum in attendance there. An Indian (as in, from India) dad dropped his two smartly dressed children who were also decorated in 24ct gold jewellery, with entertaining lady and after he left she told me that he holds a very high position in the hotel and has since moved to LA to head up operations there. She herself is from a family of 7 sisters and 1 brother in the Philippines.

My little boy likes trains, unsurprisingly and the ones in Dubai are much less congested so this made for fervent and endearing conversation. Indian chap quipped that he should be on YouTube, not the head of a leading bank like he was. My boy replied, ‘maybe when I am 17 I will.’

So, as we stood at the floor to wall screens leading into the aquarium, for shark and stingray viewing my boy patted the screen guardedly inviting the sometimes smiling and sometimes frowning creatures to swim past him. Whilst he pressed his forehead against the cold glass and chattered away about what the fish must be doing, thinking, eating and travelling from a very pink, vivacious blonde haired little girl grabbed the arm of ‘Shanti’ as she explained where she saw similar looking coral. Shanti had a really peaceful demeanour and very smooth and very dark skin on a red-green-gold simple sari so I wondered if she was from southern India. Blonde mummy tried to join in the conversation but those wide eyes were mirroring only Shanti’s imperturbable smile. I wondered if this is what happens if you get caught up in the mode of, ‘because I can have hired help I will’. Or was shanti a friend? Was she the nanny?

‘Come…’ called Shanti and held the little blond girl close as she scooped her up, posing and prompting the parents to take pictures. I don’t know if Shanti heard, but I certainly did when they said, ‘just get her in there on her own, and hold it, that’s it…’

I picked up some freshly ground Baharat spice mix at the same supermarket that I go to each time that I am in Dubai and I know there must be more authentic places but you know, it was there in a big and inviting mound of freshness. A Lebanese lady next to me told me that she uses it in rice dishes and I wondered which other medley of dishes I could use them because the key ingredients are; cardamom, cassia bark, cloves, coriander, nutmeg, all spice, peppercorns, chilies or paprika. For whatever reasons the smoky aubergine, crisp potato and smooth spinach all work with this spice for a healthy vegetarian meal. Although I picked the blend up from Dubai with lasting effect in the suitcase, the spice blend is available in UK supermarkets too.

Ingredients to serve two

3 medium potatoes suitable for roasting

1 tbsp. rapeseed oil

Two medium aubergines

One tin of chopped tomatoes

4 dessert spoons of finely chopped spinach

One large red chilli

Salt to taste

2 tsp. Za’atar spice

3 tsp.  Baharat spice

150g fresh mozzarella cheese

 

A handful of cherry or plum tomatoes, quartered

Method

  1. Cut the potatoes into even sized cubes and boil them for 7-8 minutes before draining them and letting them dry completely. Then toss them in salt and the oil before roasting them in the oven at 190 degrees for approximately 25 minutes.
  2. Roast the aubergines whole at 180 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until the inside is soft and then allow them to cool before scraping away the skins.
  3. Mix the tinned tomatoes with the chopped chilli, salt, pinch of pepper and spread them onto an oven proof dish.
  4. Combine the aubergine pulp with the Za’atar spice and a pinch of salt.
  5. Now layer on the spinach and the roasted aubergine on top of the tinned tomatoes.
  6. Once the potatoes have caught a golden colour, toss them in the Baharat spice mix before adding them on top of the spinach and aubergine.
  7. Tear the aubergine and add them to the top with the tomatoes before returning the tray to the oven for approximately ten minutes.

Sweet corn, Feta and Mango pakora

19 Nov

Sweet corn, Feta and Mango pakora

Is there ever a time which is not emotional or filled with guilt of some sort when you are a parent?

Sweet corn, Feta and Mango pakora by Deena Kakaya

Well, I am embracing (perhaps reluctantly) another emotional time in the life with my two year old sweetheart because we have been viewing nurseries for next year, when he will be old enough to join a proper, actual nursery. Really.

There will be someone else there, to tell him to take his shoes off and listen to his fabulously demonstrative story-telling about planets, squirrels and cars and someone else will be listening to why Neptune is blue and why we can’t go on Mars. There will be animated enacting, I am sure, for all the other children on the bubbling volcanic scenes that make Mars red but my boy’s imaginary friend will be there I hear, but of course. He will play and interact with other little people and I won’t really know them, or be there for any awkward or charming moments. I won’t see his face broaden with that adorable glee upon discovering something new, though he may turn around and say, ‘look mumma’. I will miss the cheeky charm of those moments where he will just grab my head and exclaim, ‘I love you so much mumma; you are a genius’. But this is growth.

Sweet corn, Feta and Mango pakora by Deena Kakaya

So today, I treated my tiny boy with some much requested crunchy, crispy pakora of Indian food influence (vegetarian fritters) with sweet bite of sweet corn, small nuggets of salty feta that oozes when hot and some chewy baked pieces of sunny and happy mango that the folk from Urban fruit sent me. All in all, the sensations left me feeling like another holiday. Alas, sunny treats like these golden and sumptuous pakora must keep me going.

If you are cooking a vegetarian Christmas meal, this is always a crowd-pleaser. If you are not cooking a vegetarian Christmas meal this recipe pleases nonetheless for a tempting and fun starter, canape or side dish.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

175g sweet corn

One large red onion, finely diced

100g feta cheese cut into small cubes

100g baked mango chunks from Urban fruits

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. minced ginger

Salt to taste (remember that the feta is salty)

½ tsp. turmeric powder

½ tsp. garam masala

2 green chillies, choppped

100g gram flour

125ml water

Oil for deep frying

Method

  1. Heat the oil on a medium flame.
  2. Combine the sweet corn, red onion, feta with all the spices, salt, chillies and mango chunks and combine well.
  3. Mix in the gram flour and coat all the vegetables, combining well.
  4. Add the water to make a thick batter and then drop a small amount into the oil to check that the oil is hot enough to fry; if the batter sizzles and rises to the surface then add the pakora in small mounds with your fingers, equivalent to the size of a couple of tablespoons of batter.
  5. Fry the pakora until they are golden brown and crisp before removing them onto kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.
  6. Serve with chutney such as tomato, tamarind or chilli and coriander chutney.

 

 

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

20 Jun

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

I wonder if you share my terrible habit and guilty pleasure. It is so irresistibly wrong yet so right that I convince myself that it is worth it, between remorseful moments.

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

 

My justification? Well it starts a little something like this. This is of course not an excuse. I’m busy, so busy that it is hard to think sometimes and thinking is important, isn’t it? I need a quick fix, especially when I am out and can’t stop, after all, what would happen if I totally ran out of steam? That would be dangerous, wouldn’t it? Sometimes I feel sore inside and I need a pick-me-up…I think about it a lot. In the bath, on the train and even in the park with squealing children around…well, with all that commotion, I deserve it don’t I.  And then at the end of the day, when I slump into my spot on the sofa, my body throbs with fatigue, I need it. I need a treat, I deserve one don’t I?  And it is summer! We are making memories at the zoo, picnics in the park, lounging in the garden with friends or by frolicking by the sea and what happens.

Yes, out comes the sugar and we don’t even notice it. I think it’s addictive and in this season of parties and picnics I find it harder to say no…well, everyone is doing it aren’t they?

I come from a family of diabetics and I really should know better. My body needed less sugar when I had my boy and it showed, very much. So I really should know better.

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

 

And here is what I am taking to the next picnic in the sun that we are currently enjoying. Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins. I adore slow roasted cherry tomatoes, the flavour is tongue tingling, sensationally rousing. I am hooked on that feeling of popping something into my mouth and having an intense flavour burst that revives me. Often I think of sugar for that instant hit, but it really doesn’t have to be that one. These tomatoes with their sweet zing and spicy kick really do hit the spot.

Now for the green stuff; mellow spinach adds texture to these muffins whilst the salad fennel adds peppery notes and there is a bit of cheese going in there too, it releases a really alluring aroma as the cheese bakes. ‘ahhh’ factor right here.

Ingredients

300g self-raising flour

2 eggs

2 tsp. piri piri spices

Salt

A couple of glugs of olive oil for roasting the tomatoes

2 handfuls of red Leicester cheese

A handful of pine nuts

200g spinach, finely chopped

300ml milk

90g melted butter

30g salad fennel

225g good quality cherry tomatoes

Method

  1. You will need to pre-prepare the tomatoes. Do this by slicing them in half and placing them cut sized up on a baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil and the piri piri spice mix. Roast them in the oven at 140degrees for about an hour. Allow them to cool.
  2. To make the muffins combine the flour, salt (I used about 1 tsp.) and the cheese, salad fennel and spinach and mix thoroughly before adding the tomatoes and mix again.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees and grease the muffin trays.
  4. In a measuring jug combine the milk, butter and eggs and whisk it all until it is smooth.
  5. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix it all to a batter.
  6. Evenly distribute the batter and then bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

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.

Blueberry and basil, papaya, spinach salad with a chilli and agave pistachio nut topping

8 Jan

Blueberry and basil, papaya, spinach salad with a chilli and agave pistachio nut topping

I feel too young for aches and pains and body complaints. My knee is creaky and my back is full of rocks; it is muscular tension. Sniffles and coughs, fatigue and sleep deprivation. It’s all self induced.

My uncle was, and still is, one of the patriarchs of our family. A strong and disciplined man, he is giving and loving and he was always firm and fair. Growing up, when he would visited us and was offered tea by my folks, he would always reply that he would drink it only if I made it. He was one of those that limited his food intake and I actually never saw him indulge.

He’s now deteriorated in his golden years and knowing this has provoked much thought on how I should be grateful and look after this one and only body I have. It is true that some things we simply can not control or avoid and chips taste very good. It is true that making time for exercise is tough and that eating well is sometimes expensive. But, life is short.

My blueberry basil, papaya and spinach salad with chilli and agave pistachio is good for the body, the eyes, the taste buds and is very easy to put together. Blueberries are often talked of a superfood and I eat them like sweeties. Spinach is fabulous and best raw I reckon and let’s talk about papaya. I ate loads of the stuff after giving birth to my boy, it’s said that it has healing properties. This fresh and easy salad will liven up any table at this time of heat and will encourage picking on fruit, not crisps.

Blueberry and basil, papaya, spinach salad with a chilli and agave pistachio nut topping

For the full recipe, head on over to great British chefs

Trendy Kale, banana and red onion pakora

26 Nov

Trendy Kale, banana and red onion pakora

My mum had never tasted Kale until today, or so she thought. She asked me what sort of bhajhi (green) it was and what seed it grows from. So I said, ‘mum, you know when we go to Chinese restaurants and we sometimes eat crispy seaweed? Well it’s often this stuff.’

‘Ohhhh, but why are you making pakora out of this stuff’. I explained how potent kale is; it’s rich in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C and calcium. I also told my mum how trendy kale is. She wasn’t so impressed with that bit, how can a vegetable be trendy after all. It is a bit ridiculous, isn’t it. People do use certain ingredients to express trendiness or snobbery don’t they. When I worked in the city I knew people who ate sushi or drank herbal tea without enjoyment. I know that secretly one or two of the women I knew would hold their breath when eating goji berries and heave whilst nibbling kimchi. What’s the point. I don’t even like mince pies or Christmas pudding, what does that say about me.

Kale is one of those leafy items that can taste bitter or rubbery if it is not cooked right but when sautéed, steamed, or fried, it is one of those favours that lasts with you and urges you back for more. A few of the twitter foodies had great ideas such as Gujarati girlie who suggested putting them in a paratha and having shared with her and fuss free helen and Monica shaw some lovely ideas…I got the hankering. Then yesterday whilst using kale in a master lass with Signe from scandalicious, I had to do it.

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.

Tangy sweet spicy Christmas food gift tomato pineapple cucumber chutney

Halwa chutney butternut squash almond coconut chutney

Ingredients to serve 6-8

100g ribbons of kale
3 cups of gram flour
400ml water
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
3/4 tsp ajwain or carom seeds
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp turmeric
3/4 tsp garam masala
2 banana, chopped Ito 3-4cm bites
One large red onion, diced
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 green chilies, chopped

Method

1. Heat oil for deep-frying
2. In a large mixing bowl, start with the kale, onion, chillies and banana pieces and then add the dry spices and seasonings. Mix it well.
3. Sprinkle in the gram flour and then mix it all again. Pour in the water and lemon juice and stir it all to a batter consistency.
4. Put a drop of batter into the oil and if it rises and sizzles then the oil is hot enough. Take small balls of about 5cm and fry them until they are golden brown.
5. Place the pakora onto kitchen paper and serve hot with chutneys.

Chilli and tahini noodle soup with broccoli and tempeh

28 Oct

 

Tahini and chilli noodle soup with tempeh and broccoli

Tahini and chilli noodle soup with tempeh and broccoli

This sort of time two years ago I sat in the cafe adjacent to wing yip oriental supermarket with my mum, dad and my large baby bump. Our noses were puffy from the cold outside and my mum and I giggled like girls as we quietly splished spicy noodle soup around our lips. The heat of schiuan peppercorn and chilies thawed our noses as our chopsticks slipped around pak choi and jabbed into tofu. We eyed up the swan shaped pastry over the counter and the little creamy and fruity tarts. Light and airy bite-me- now sized cakes and buns.

As we were dissecting the swans and sighing lazily and contentedly, tears raced down my mums cheeks. Normally full of youthful laughter and red-cheeked over-excitement, my mum smiled through her gentle tears. I shot a baffled and questioning look towards my dad. He had been busy chomping through his egg fried rice and meaty-vegetable feast. When food is good value for money and Chinese, my dad is unusually focused. He did his cliched wise-laugh thing and said something that has stuck since then with me and will always remain with me.

‘Your mum is spending the time with you now that she never has done’.

We all have different choices and circumstances in life. My mum was just 22 when she had me. Almost a decade younger than I was when I became a mother. I grew into being a mother in my own mind, through maturity and transitioning through the various phases of my life. My mum just became a mum. I grew my career as did my husband. My mum had just learned to speak fluent English, let alone have a chance to work. My husband and I bought a house and did it up before we had my boy. I was born into a council flat. But look at this…my mum and dad worked tirelessly as a team, had multiple jobs, paid their mortgage and even my university fees and expenses.

The price my brave mum paid unfortunately, is the time with me. Funny thing is I had never heard her complain in all these years. I never sensed any resentment in her circumstances. She embraced it. We ate dinner together every day, she tucked me in, told me stories about her childhood in Africa and made me turmeric milk when I was sick. Some foods will always evoke emotional responses, whether it is turmeric milk, egg and chips or samosa in the rain. I’ve added noodle soup to that list of foods.

This one is unusual, because I use tahini (sesame paste) in the soup. The result is a nutty flavour with a smooth texture. I’ve used the chilli oil from my previous recipe as well as the sweet lychee and hot chilli sauce I made recently. If you don’t like tempeh or can’t get hold of this block of fermented soy beans, use tofu. This soup is warming, spicy, nutty, has bite and is soothing. My husband says it is in his top 3 noodle soups now.

Ingredients to serve 2-3

1 large red onion, sliced
2 tbsp chilli oil with 3 tsp of the chilli flakes or 2tbsp sesame oil and 2minced red chillies 
200g broccoli cut into bite sized florets
200g tempeh cut into bite sized chunks
1 litre vegetable stock
500ml water
3 cloves of galic
1 tsp schiuan peppercorns
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp tahini
3-4 tsp sweet chilli sauce 
100g udon noodles

Method

1. Mince together the garlic and schiuan peppercorns
2. Stir fry thr tempeh in 1 tbsp vegetable oil until it catches a golden brown colour
3. Heat the oil and chilies and then stir fry the onions until they soften before adding the garlic and peppercorns. Cook for anther two minutes before adding the broccoli, soy sauce, tahini and tempeh. Mix it well and then add the vegetable stock, water and sweet chilli sauce.
4. Bring the broth to a simmer before adding the noodles. Cook for 5 minutes before serving hot.

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.
image

Indian spiced exotic mushroom, cauliflower and pea pie

24 Sep

Indian spiced exotic mushroom, cauliflower and pea pie
image
For years I’d stopped eating pies. I’d happily bolt past the pasty stand at kings cross station, without a single hankering. I’d swiftly flick past the recipes for pies in the magazines and didn’t stop to consider the modern day varieties. My mind deleted the pie entries in restaurants and I certainly never made one at Christmas, just because we are vegetarians.

I think I stopped eating them because I found them boring, simple as that. Maybe there was a health factor too; after all, I was going to fitness classes 3-4 times a week. After a class of body attack, I didn’t want a pie. I just don’t fancy a load of mushrooms in pastry. We used to have one with samosa mix inside and cheese which was pretty scrummy, but even then…no.

Funnily enough, I became reacquainted with pies because I picked up some exotic mushrooms in Tesco and I was making a vegetable and cheese sauce for my tot. Exotic mushrooms are, for want of a better description, really mushroomy. They are delicate too and don’t need a lot of cooking. They are light and feathery and go so, so well with a crispy ad puffy pastry top. Also, the folks are staying this week whilst the husband is in Moscow. It is quite enlightening, seeing parents age and almost regress to behaviours such as a lack of patience, the emotional sensitivity and the need to be heard, a lot.

As you can imagine, juggling food preferences is no picnic. The boy likes spinach and tofu curry, dad won’t eat tofu. Dad wants a chip butty, the boy won’t eat bread. Mum can’t cope without chappati, I need variety. Dad likes lots of chilli and salt, I can’t cope with either. I want a herb pesto, dad thinks it is too fussy. I want gnocchi and he wants a jacket potato. You see where I’m going with this. So I made pie (right up his street) but my way. Guess who ate half the pie? (I’m not kidding, he really did).

This recipe does justice to mild and distinct flavours as well as being fragrantly spiced and sunny coloured. I’ve only got a pastry top on it, rather than the stuffing being encased in pastry. The stuffing is the star of the dish, gently but mature. Colourful and developed. Don’t get me wrong, there are some serious flavours in this pie, but it isn’t the spices.

Ingredients

350g puff pastry sheet, thawed if frozen (per packet instructions)
50g plain flour
300ml vegetable stock
400ml milk
A large nob of butter and a drizzle of oil
175g mixed exotic mushrooms. I’ve used pink oysters, yellow oysters and shiitake mushrooms
50g cheese
Half a head of a medium sized cauliflower
100g peas
2 cloves of garlic
One large onion, sliced

The spices; salt to taste, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp chilli powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp cumin seeds

Method

1. Start by making the stuffing. Heat a couple of tbsp of oil a d add the cumin seeds. Allow them to sizzle before adding the onion and garlic, sauté for a coupe of minutes.
2. In the meantime, boil the cauliflower and the peas for 3-4 minutes. Wen they are el dente remove from the heat and drain.
3. Stir in the mushrooms with the onions and garlic and sauté for about 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the cauliflower and peas to the mushrooms and add the salt, garam masala, turmeric and chilli powder. Mix well before turning off the heat.
5. To make the sauce, heat the butter and soften it with a drizzle of oil. Then add the plain flour and make a paste. Stir in the milk gently whilst whisking to avoid lumps. Add the vegetable sauce and on a medium flame, keep whisking until the lumps have dissolved and the sauce starts to thicken, before adding the cheese. Continue to stir until the sauce thickens, when you should turn off the heat.
6. Combine the sauce and the vegetables before pouring them into a circular oven proof dish. Mine is about 20cm diameter.
7. Top the pie with 3-4 long strips of pastry and dong forget to make s small steam hole in the top and bake in the oven at 180degrees for about 30minutes or until golden brown and crispy on top.

Sweet and chilli Beetroot, masala potatoes, toasted almonds, green beans and goats cheese salad

18 Sep

Sweet and chilli beetroot, masala potatoes, green beans, goats cheese and toasted almond salad.

Salad

When I married my husband my kitchen inherited his eating habits. Naturally. We had a permanently colourful fridge tumbling with carrots and tomatoes that he ate raw; fantastic. Lots of fruit ; wonderful! There were requests for minestrone, lasagne and for stir fries. Sounds all very virtuous doesn’t it, it’s making me feel proud just reading it. Accompanying these very sensible, wholesome and fresh choices were some rather odd ones.

Light, fresh, delicate and sour crispy dosa were flattened and overpowered by the rude slathering of tomato ketchup. Wedges of apple were showered with salt and cumin powder. Crunchy and spicy Bombay mix was dunked to the soggy bottom of a mug of masala chai. Garlic chutney (literally just garlic and chilli powder) on cold Chappati comprised a long lingering breakfast.
The one I couldn’t dispute too much was the plate full of spicy, lightly crisped masala, peppery potatoes with lashings of natural yoghurt on top. Ironically, this carby dish is the food of fasts and it always throws me back to large family get togethers, nuts, saris and cold weather. All the lovely stuff.

Now it is of course wrong to change a man. Isn’t it. What of those women that alter the hobbies, eating, clothing, housing and everything else that makes the man. No. But…if all we are tweaking is banishing the hoodies and introducing a bit of colour to the plate…well that’s just helping and it is a contribution to the betterment of generations to come, isn’t it ?

So I have taken his beloved masala potatoes, changed it up a wee bit and sat them in a salad. Salad is a sort of catch-all, umbrella food term isn’t it. When I was a kid, Salad just meant cucumber, tomato, lettuce and sometimes sweetcorn. Salad cream was the dressing. Nowadays, a salad is a concoctive compilation of hot, cold, sweet, sour, crunchy or soft stuff with fruits or salad or both. Anything.

So back to my salad, or whatever we want to call it. Peppery potatoes in cumin and sesame seeds and a few simple spices that and punch. The beetroot is bathed in its own juices and some agave nectar and chilli. I used agave because it is low GI and won’t give me those sugar spikes that honey or sugar based products will. Toasted almonds are the crunchy and smoky bit and then I’ve got the juicy beans and salty and creamy cheese. This is a plate that plays with the senses and is pretty nutritious. No reason not to now is there?
Ingredients

600g of white potatoes
300g of beetroot with the juices
170g of green beans
30g flaked almonds
3tbsp agave nectar
3tbsp cooking oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds
A few blogs of goats cheese or feta

The spices; salt to taste, 1tsp chilli flakes, 1 tsp cumin seeds , 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp amchur powder (dried mango powder), 1/4 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Start by chopping the potatoes into wedges and boil them for about 7-8 minutes. Drain them and leave them to dry

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2. Whilst the potatoes are boiling, toast the almonds in a dry pan over a medium flame until they are golden brown.

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3. Next turn your attention to the beetroot. Chop it into chunks and simply dress it with the agave and chilli and leave it to a side.

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4. Now stir fry the potatoes by heating the oil in the pan and then stir in the potatoes. Add the sesame and cumin with the salt. Sprinkle in the pepper, paprika, oregano, mango powder and garam masala. Cook the potatoes until they attract a golden colour. This should taken ten minutes on a medium flame. Stir the potatoes intermittently to avoid them sticking.
5. Whilst the potatoes are cooking, boil or steam the green beans for about 7minutes or until tender.

Serve with the juices of the beetroot and sprinkle the almonds on top with the cheese.

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