Tag Archives: curry

Om shanti Om- pineapple, rose, ginger and cinnamon lassi

12 Nov

Pineapple, rose, cinnamon and ginger lassi

We saw a glimpse of the sunshine last weekend. We took my boy to feed the cows at the local temple and we walked in the cold, in the sun, wrapped up and smiling. The simple pleasures in life are much more fun when there is light. The sunshine makes such a difference to my mood and every time I say this my husband tells me how small the world is and how we could just go…go somewhere sunnier. Tempting.

The world is small isn’t it. Also at the weekend I was sending a very lovely and friendly magazine editor some insights into where to eat and what to eat in Amritsar. I talked to him about a very humble eatery that is very popular in Amritsar because they serve the best kulcha and lacha paratha. I remember seeing large and flash cars park outside the doors and send their staff in for paratha. I ate the best sheera at the golden temple which was made with the freshest, most luxurious ghee and I ate deep, brown, and earthy curries with a side portion of butter.

All of this was washed down with lassi. Salty, sweet, spiced, of fruity. They we thick and creamy, full of yoghurt and they settled any tingles of heat for the spices in the tummy. They also made me sleepy, which isn’t a bad thing.

With these relaxing thoughts, I needed a fix at the weekend and my foodie friends on twitter suggested lassi. It was mean to me.

Ingredients

300g fresh pineapple peeled and cut into chunks
500ml fresh, natural yoghurt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
5tbsp rose water
3/4 tsp ginger paste
2 tbsp agave nectar

Method
1. Put the pineapple chunks, ginger, cinnamon and agave nectar in a pan and heat on a low to medium flame until they have softened and you can mash them. Take it off the heat and allow it to cool completely.
2. Mix the yoghurt, rose water,and pineapple chunks and then blitz them together until smooth.
3. Serve cold and add sunshine if possible.

Family friendly, hot pink rice and quinoa (Beetroot, butternut squash and Indian spices)

8 Nov

Family friendly, hot pink rice and quinoa (Beetroot, butternut squash and Indian spices)

We all know that there is a relationship between bright and deep coloured food and how alluring we find them and this seems as, if not more true with little people. I showed my toddler some Beetroot other day and thankfully he only had a vest on at the time. ‘Oooh, what’s that mumma’.

I’d caught his interest, clearly. I willed him to bite into a chunk as I let him mess about with it. I recalled a magazine editor telling me that her fussy eater showed no interest in food until he went fishing and caught a fish which he then wanted to eat as he was involved from catching it, to cooking it. Maybe this messy Beetroot was my boys fish?

He did bite into it, but he didn’t ingest any, it ended up in my palm. Great. But it did get me thinking about how I could get him to eat beetroot given that he liked colour. I thought about my visits to Mumbai and being surprised at the inclusion of Beetroot in so many dishes. ‘I thought beetroot is a western vegetable’, I questioned. You can imagine what they thought of that!

There was beetroot in masala sarnies (freaking awesome), beetroot in dosa, beet in chaat, beet in gram flour fritters even. I didn’t see any Beetroot in curries…why haven’t I made one yet? It transpired that Beetroot works pretty well with masala and everyone loves rice don’t they, especially kids.

My recipe today is deep, sweet, spicy and alluring. That just sounded a big like one of those dating adverts didn’t it? Or a blind date catch line. Jokes aside, it’s light, packed, juicy and beautiful.

Ingredients

250g cooked Beetroot, cut into chunks
200g basmati rice, washed
200g butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 tbsp ground nut oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
One red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
One red onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste d
250g red and white quinoa (I used the merchant gourmet ready to eat pack)
200g basmati

Method
1. Par boil the rice, for about 8minutes until the rice has swelled and needs the starch removed. Wash the rice and drain the water and leave it to a side.
2. Boil the butternut squash until it is soft enough to piece all the way through. Drain and leave it to a side.
3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, turmeric and chilli. Allow the seeds to crackle and then add the onion and salt. Sauté until the onions are soft and lightly browned.
4. Stir in the Beetroot and butternut squash and then add the black pepper.
5. Blend the butternut squash and Beetroot smooth and turn the heat down to a flicker.
6. Introduce the rice and the quinoa and gently blend it all together. Cook for a further 6-7 minutes on a low flame until the rice is cooked.

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.

A royal Diwali- paneer and sweetcorn curry in a cashew and tamarind gravy

26 Oct

A royal Diwali- paneer and sweetcorn curry in a cashew and tamarind gravy
I asked a question over my Facebook group the other day about what sort of foods people liked to eat as children. The funny thing is that tastes haven’t changed for many people. Gourmet and Michelin food have their place but when we are hungry, what hits the spot? A pizza with pineapple? Chips with loads of vinegar? Samosa? Baked bean curry? Macaroni cheese? A big bowl of spaghetti. Yes…now we are talking! Food nostalgia is a beautiful thing.

I won’t lie. I have been called a food snob on more than one occasion. I can’t make a meal of beans on toast (I make my own ‘baked beans’ ) and I like roasted garlic and artichoke on my pizza. I don’t like to use generic curry powder and I do not, ever, cook chilli paneer. I can almost hear the shrieks of surprise. I eat it if I am a party, but I won’t actually order it or make it. Chilli paneer is a cliched and over rated dish that was popularised in the 90’s. It is essentially paneer that is stir-fried in peppers and onions, lots of garlic and then doused in soy sauce and ketchup.

I was at my boys playgroup the other day when one of the mums mentioned that she tried out one of my recipe. I love it when I hear that! Then she mentioned that she’s been looking for a good paneer recipe and asked if I would post one. I kept my fingers crossed that she wouldn’t mention the word chilli to prefix paneer. Anyway, so then as she and another mum talked about paneer and take-always their eyes lit up in excitement…so here we are.

There are some tastes and textures that will always make us smile. They anchor us to happy memories and smooth us, sweetly. Some foods are like a taste lullaby, they sing us into a natural rhythm and give us flavoursome satiety. Sweetcorn and paneer are two of these ingredients.
With Diwali coming up I have been reminiscing about the Diwali’s of my past. Festivities are so exciting in childhood and I really hope that I can instil the same memories and sense of fun with tradition for my baby. Fireworks, family, food, fantasy and fantastic clothes. Dark cold nights, watching mum dress up and sitting on dads shoulders to see the pretty lights and fireworks. Eating hot pakora in the street, jacket potatoes or of course, chips. Throwing bangers on the floor, aunties chattering. It’s Diwali.

My recipe is one that will definitely add the sunny colour and creamy flavour to enrich your Diwali. It is based on some of the shahi (royal) dishes I ate in Delhi during my last trip. I have used a creamy cashew nut paste and tangy tamarind; rich and special, just like Diwali. This is a full on show-off curry, so if you are entertaining definitely whip this one out. The colour a depth are impressive.

Ingredients

250g paneer, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup of sweetcorn kernels
1 cup of chopped tomatoes (I used tinned tomatoes)
One red onion, diced
2 bay leaves
2 cloves
1 stick of cinnamon
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
3/4 tsp garam masala
2 green chilies, chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
2 large cloves of garlic , minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp coriander powder
3/4 cup cashew nuts
1 cup milk
2 tbsp tamarind paste
3 tbsp ground nut oil
2 cups of warm water

Method

1. Soak the cashew nuts in the milk for 15minutes or until you are ready to use them. Grind them to a smooth paste just before you add them to the curry.
2. Take a non-stick pan and add 1tbsp of oil and stir fry the paneer until it is golden brown. Remove it and place onto kitchen paper, allowing it to cool.
3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, bay leaves, chilies cinnamon, cloves and turmeric.
4. Allow the seeds to sizzle before you add the onion and the salt. Soften the onion for a couple of minutes before adding the ginger and garlic and sauté for another couple of minutes.
5. Add the tomatoes, tamarind, cumin powder, coriander powder, garam masala and simmer for 4-5 minutes on a medium flame before adding the cashew nut paste and the water. Bring the gravy to a simmer before adding the paneer and sweetcorn.
6. Cook for 8-10minutes before serving hot with buttery chappati.

Mung bean sprouts and paneer curry

18 Oct
Mung bean sprouts and paneer curry

Mung bean sprouts and paneer curry

We recently met a health conscious family where the elderly matriarch walked for miles each day, the parents played sports daily and even the kids were athletic both in lifestyle and body structure. There was no ghee, jaggery or samosa in sight within their Gujarati kitchen.

They told us that they started each day with steamed sprouts, karela or vegetable juices and seeds. Now, I am not stereotyping, but….it’s not often I see people of Indian ethnicity omitting gulab jamuns, rasmalai or jalebbi sweets. And what about the pakora, puri’s and cassava chips? What about paneer pizza and chilli cheese chips?

The thing that I find most impressive with the mentioned family is the constant awareness is that we are not immortal. We get damaged if we neglect ourselves. Hair falls, eyes weaken , teeth chip, break fall or rot and ears deafen. Skin shrivels and organs deteriorate. I know it sounds miserable, but life is quite fragile.

14 weeks after having had my baby I was having a brief period of relaxation during the weekend, soaking in a hot bath tub whilst the baby was sleeping and husband was tidying. I wash washing my hair to the tunes of 1970’s Bollywood music and experiencing a bit of escapism. Then I slid my hand through my hair and a found lumps of hair on my hand. It just kept coming away. I called for my husband with blurry eyed confusion and heart racing, I thought I had some sort of illness, my poor baby.

Husband frantically googled away. It turns out (after a visit to the docs) it was postpartum hair loss and I was anaemic. I had no warning or preparation about this post-baby hair loss stuff, but it seems that it just happens. The reason is that hair is dormant in pregnancy and doesn’t go through the natural growth and shedding cycle, so a few months after pregnancy it sheds.

Anyway, I focused quite heavily on eating foods that were rich in iron and had growth properties (protein). I ate dried apricots, kale, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, soy beans, kidney beans and tofu…amongst other stuff. I, like the healthy family, ate mung bean sprouts which are a good source of protein and vitamin B6, but particularly good for vitamin K and C, as well as good source of fibre and folate. For a while I stayed diligent and I think it helped. Nature is forgiving and the body does recover.

I’m not so diligent now, I kind of swing back into eating whatever I fancy and whatever tastes good, but I chipped a tooth today so I think for the next few weeks I want to look after myself. I’m using paneer because it tastes great and gives the dish a contrasting texture to the crunchy and filling mung bean shoots and we all need some fat don’t we. It’s a source of protein too.

Nutritious food tasting brilliant, that sounds like a good deal to me. This curry is dense, has a bite, is a lovely and juicy. The contrasting textures play well with the sense and you know that I enjoy that. I bought the mung bean shoots during a visit to the indian grocers, in fact my toddler picked them out. You can make them at home by soaking them in water overnight until they swell and then draining the water and leaving them covered, in sunlight until the they shoot. It normally takes a day in the summer, but seeing as we don’t have much day light now, I just bought them. Easy, I like easy…do you?

Ingredients

400g mung bean sprouts
200g paneer
One red onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red chilli, finely diced
3/4 cup chopped tinned tomatoes
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp ground nut oil
1/2 cup water

The spices; 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder, 3/4 tsp garam masala, salt to taste (go easy, soy sauce is salty), 1/4 tsp, brown mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Method

1. Grate the paneer and leave it to a side for a couple of minutes
2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard and cumin seeds. Once they sizzle add the onion and sauté with the salt and turmeric for a couple of minutes. Introduce the garlic and sauté for another couple of minutes
3. Stir in the paneer and add the cumin powder, coriander powder and black pepper.
4. Mix the spices and the paneer together and then mix in the mung bean sprouts. Add the lemon juice, garam masala, soy sauce and tomatoes. Mix again before adding the water and cook on a low to medium flame for about 12 minutes.

Serve with hot chappatis and yoghurt. Don’t forget the salad!

Aromatic curry of fenugreek, spinach and tofu

14 Oct

image
For a long time fenugreek was synonymous with breast milk production for me. I had it in spicy chapatis, in millet flour fritters, and in a curry with aubergines. My house was constantly circulating the fresh aroma of curries, because that is what fenugreek (methi) smells like. Curry. It certainly isn’t subtle, like spinach and when it’s cooked it becomes even more delightfully powerful.

The old indian aunties prescribe a certain way of eating after the delivery of a baby. It helps the mother to heal and produce milk. The diet has many exclusions, such as cabbage and cauliflower (too windy) onions and chilli (acidic and hot) tomatoes and citrus fruit for being acidic and frankly too many other things to remember. My generation of women tend not to follow any of it and just carry on as normal, be it with baked beans or omelette. Their generation gossip about the unruly ways of our generation and how we will regret not listening when our babies puke or our stitches don’t heal. My generation gossips about the pushiness of their generation. I followed it. For way too long. I probably wouldn’t again, but I would take the good out of it.

My view is, that our diets, much like life, should be in balance. I did look into the merits of fenugreek for new mums though, and after frenzied calls to my lactation consultant (yes I did use one) at a ridiculous hour, she sent me to a site for foods that increase milk production. Guess what was there?

Punchy and powerful fenugreek also reminds me of eating in villages and road side cafes in India. I have beautiful and fond memories of the simple, buttery and nourishing food in humble and welcoming eateries. The food is always fresh, constructed in a simple and unfussy way, moderately spiced and not laced with flavourings, cream or colours. Just good, hearty, indian food. My grandmother told me that fenugreek was food that farmers ate with millet flour chapatis and that they were energy foods that were rich and satisfying.

My recipe isn’t traditional, its my concoction of strong and mild flavours with tofu to soak up those I incredible flavours and released the juicy flavours back again. This is a very good curry, it’s as simple as that. P.s. no chilli powder in this curry.

Ingredients to serve 4

100g of fenugreek leaves, washed
300g spinach leaves
1 cup of tinned chopped tomatoes
One red onion, diced
One pack of firm tofu
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp ground nut
1/2 cup water

The spices; salt to taste, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1/4 tsp black pepper

Method

1. Start by draining the tofu between sheets of kitchen paper. Draining the water leaves it able to mingle with the spices well.
2. Put the spinach and the fenugreek leaves in a food processor and whizz together until they are finely chopped. You could of course do it by hand.
3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, turmeric, and sizzle. Then stir in the onion and salt and sauté until the onion has softened. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for a minute before adding in the tofu. Stir the tofu well and then add the cumin powder, coriander powder, pepper and coat well. Cook on a medium to low heat for 4-5 minutes.
4. Add the spinach and fenugreek with the garam masala, tomatoes and water, mix gently not to break the tofu and then cover and simmer for ten minutes.

Serve with lashings of yoghurt.

Curry of banana stuffed with spices, coconut and tamarind

10 Oct
Banana curry stuffed with spices, coconut and tamarind

Banana curry stuffed with spices, coconut and tamarind

Sometimes it is difficult to decipher what the important things are in life. For me anyway. I have friends at various stages of life. This week I’ve been talking to friends and there’s a spectrum of belief systems, coming from people with similar backgrounds and listening to them has provoked much thought and discussion.

One of my friends is holding off from baby stuff until the promotion; I did that. Another has taken a career turn and a big pay cut in order to spend time with her girls; I relate to that. One has moved abroad and declared she’s not settling down; I admire her will, clarity and honesty to herself. Another friend has quit work and decided to be a full time mum for the foreseeable future; I’m full of respect for the devotion. She’s fortunate that her husband earns well and they are able to make this choice, but it is a lovely, challenging choice to devote all your time to your little people.

It’s like people put conditions on their happiness. ‘I will be happy if and when I get that job’, ‘I will relax when I earn this much’. ‘I will be so happy if I get pregnant’, ‘I’m going to be so excited if I get that house’

Nothing is forever. I have had the promotions and the holidays and the horrible bosses and horrendous jobs. I’ve done the slim body and had the bigger body. I’ve had lots of hair and then it fell out. Here today, gone tomorrow. One of the things I’ve only just recently learned is that it’s important to be happy now. Just because and just for the sake of it. Because we are only here for a short time. You may expect me to now say do what you love etc, which is great…but most of us have mortgages and bills to pay. Never have I more appreciated how important it is to have hobbies, friends, to laugh and to live.

Most of my friends work very hard at whatever they do and it’s a struggle to keep those flickers of excitement burning when you are constantly tired, pressurised and stressed. Maybe that’s why they holiday frequently.

One of my most memorable, holidays was in Mauritius. The boxes were being ticked and I was celebrating. I was happy because the conditions for my happiness were being met. I’d hit the grade at work that I thought I could chill at for a few years. I’d been working hard at the gym and the body looked ok. The renovations to the house were done. It was all good and I was in Mauritius. It was all temporary stuff. Stuff that came before a few stretch marks, redundancy and a life full to the brim of unconditional love.

We were sick of continental hotel food so ventured down the road at the back of our hotel. It was dark and quiet but we felt safe amongst the banana trees and signing crickets. A local restaurant, for locals shone brightly with fairy lights and , Mosquitos bounced off the white walls. The menu was minimalist but I picked the strangest vegetarian food I could. I like to be educated.

One of the dishes was mashed and curried plantain. The restaurant was run by Indians, so I kind of expected this. It was cooked in tomatoes and curry spices and was sweet and sour. This is what I’ve tried to achieve with this curry and you know what? The sweet banana tastes Mingle in with the tomato curry base so well, that they become one. The nutty stuffing is slightly sour and spicy and works in harmony with the bananas. You’ve got to try this one. It’s a dish full of unexpected flavours and textures. The banana doesn’t go squishy, just soft and aromatic.

Ingredients

6 ripe but firm bananas
1 cup of gram flour
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
Salt to taste (I’ve used 1tsp)
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
3tbsp tamarind sauce
1/3rd cup water
1/2 can of tomatoes
5-6curry leaves
A large red onion, sliced
2tsp vegetable oil
1 Tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric

Method

1. To make the stuffing, put the gram flour in a mixing bowl and add the coriander, cumin and turmeric powder with the salt and Chilli. Mix it well and then add the desiccated coconut, mix again and then add the tamarind sauce and oil with the water and make a dough.image
2. Cut the banana into 4equal pieces and then make a slit in the top of each piece of banana, lengthways. Take pinches of the stuffing and put it into the slit of the banana. Stuff all the sections and leave them to a side.image
3. Heat one tablespoon of oil and add the cumin seeds and curry leaves. Let the seeds sizzle and then add the tomatoes and salt to taste.
4. Sit the banana sections Into the tomato base and then add enough warm water to hit the top of the banana. Cook for 6-7minutes or until the banana is soft enough to pierce through the skin
5. Serve hot with rice or chappati

Dancing curry: black bean and halloumi Indian curry vegetarian recipes

6 Oct
Slack bean and halloumi  curry

Black bean and halloumi curry

Don’t laugh, but the story of how my new recipe was concocted is religiously inspired in a non- veg sort of way. Don’t panic, only the thought not the ingredients. This recipe is most definitely vegetarian.

So Navratri has started, a Hindu festival of worship to nine goddesses. Celebration and devotion is marked by nine nights of dancing with great zeal into the small hours whilst clad in colourful saris.

I grew up in Leicester, a city with a lot of Asian inhabitants. During Navratri the city overflowed with scores of Gujarati dancers from all parts of the UK. It felt like every community hall and function hall had a new heartbeat as they swelled with the addictive dance music that characterises Navratri music.

Aside from worship of goddesses and dance Navratri has seemed to be an opportunity for young people to admire each other, shall we say. It’s not surprising is it, pretty young ladies with gorgeous Sari’s…I love Sari’s. To me, an irregular wearer, they fee so impractical but I truly believe that they are one of the sexiest and sophisticated items of clothing a woman can wear.

And this is what I inspired my next recipe. No, not sari’s, but the whole going out and getting hungry after dancing bit…you know that feeling of exuberance, being on your feet and talking away and then by the end of the night the tummy churns. Sudden hunger hits the tummy. You could go and get a take-away, but you can’t eat a portion of chips. You want something tasty, everyone else is talking about kebabs and you see…Halloumi? Bean burger? No. You go and make a halloumi and black bean curry because it is far tastier or you make one in advance because you are good at planning for a busy night.

The halloumi soaks up the curry juices really well and guess what? It doesn’t go stringy or too chewy. It turns it moist and has that familiar salty bite and it works so well with the deep black beans. You have to try this unusual dish, it’s oddly fabulous! Go easy on the salt, add less than you would normally as the cheese is salty.

Ingredients for Vegetarian recipes

250g cooked black beans
125g halloumi cut into bite sized pieces
One red onion finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp minced ginger
4-5 curry leaves
125ml water
1 cup chopped tomatoes (tinned is fine)
Spices; salt to taste, 1/3rd tsp garam masala, 1tsp cumin powder, 1tsp coriander powder, 1/4tsp turmeric, 1tsp cumin seeds

Method

1. Shallow fry the red onion until it is golden brown and then leave it to a side to cool. Once it is cooled, purée it.
2. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil and add cumin seeds, turmeric and the ginger and garlic. Sauté for couple of minutes before adding the cumin powder, curry leaves and coriander powder, then stir on a medium heat for just under a minute.
3. Add the beans and coat them with the spices before adding the tomatoes, fried red onion purée and the water.
4. Bring the curry to a simmer before adding the halloumi cheese. Cook for ten minutes and serve hot.

Proper mock chicken curry

8 Aug

Proper mock chicken curry

 
It was my sister in laws birthday party this weekend just gone and one of the things I heard people talk eagerly about was the food.  More specifically, the meat dishes.  I made the chickpea curry, but it was undeniably the meat that got the hands rubbing with the the jack-in-the-box walk going towards the trays of brightly coloured animal curries.  So I had a good look at them.
 
They looked like thick and happy curries…the sort where you know balanced spices had infiltrated the meat.  One was green…but the green looked fresh and healthy, not bitterly blackened.  The other was juicy and red and looked quite luscious, full of aromatic spices.  I watched cousins and friends tuck in with both hands…lots of mmm’s and aahs.  ‘You don’t know what you’re missing’ they said shyly in between sucks and unrestrained noshing.  So it got me thinking, why do people just love a chicken curry? 
 
I converted to vegetarianism at the age of 12, so I do remember what a chicken curry tastes like and I know my dad made a scrumptious one. But why is it a national favourite? Why do I people get hankerings for it, define it as their weakness and why do mouths salivate at the thought of chicken curry? 
 
Is it the texture? You know, the fact that is has a bite and oozes with curry juices with every mouthful? Is it the flavour of chicken (eww), or is it that chicken just soaks up all the flavours of a curry completely, ravenously and then generously releases then with each bite? 
 
Being a vegetarian, I don’t miss or desire the flavour of chicken.  I don’t want to eat an animal and yes I am raising my little one as a vegetarian. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like food with a bite and food that does all of those sensational things I just described with chicken curry.  I haven’t yet shared a mock chicken curry recipe for a reason.  I am categorically saying that I find the meat replacements available widely in supermarkets, less than impressive.  They’re rubbery, rather dry and taste mushroomy.  Why would I want to make a curry out of that?! Gross.  Frankly, I find recipes shared in magazines using that meat replacing rather unappealing. Yuck.
 
Oh but the Soya and potato chunks dubbed as mock chicken in Wing Yip (oriental supermarket)…now that’s the stuff.  Whenever I make a curry out of that stuff we have finger licking, sighing, leftover watching and even picture-taking in abundance. I kid you not…this is the probably the best mock chicken for a curry that I’ve come across.
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Recipe for proper mock chicken curry
 
Ingredients
 
TKC vegetarian chicken pieces 500g
2tbsp vegetable oil
One medium sized red onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic
Thumb sized piece of ginger, minced
500ml water
3 tsp sambal oelek 
150ml blended tinned tomatoes
A squeeze of lemon juice
 
The spices; 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1/4 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp paprika, salt to taste
 
Method 
1. Defrost the mock chicken and leave it to a side once defrosted
2. In a non stick pan heat the oil before adding cumin seeds and allowing them to sizzle. Then add the onion, salt and turmeric and sauté until the onion starts to soften. Stir in the garlic and ginger paste and sauté for another couple of minutes
3. Stir in the cumin powder, coriander powder, paprika and mix well and com for another minute.  Then add the lemon juice.
4. Stir in the mock chicken and coat in the paste ensuring full coverage.  Add the hot water and the tomatoes and then bring the curry to a simmer before sprinkling in the garam masala and blending in the sambal oelek.
5.  Turn the curry down to a gentle simmer on a low flame and cook for 20minutes.
Serve with rice, chapatti or pasta.
 
 

I blow raspberries at spinach curry

8 Jul

So it’s been a while. That’s a cheesy introduction isn’t it?  There is so much that I want to tell you, my fingers are furiously typing and unable to keep up with my baby-brain.  (Seriously, I have been wearing clothes inside-out and even walked out of baby classes without my shoes on, in the rain).

There is a lot of post-partum food related stuff I want to rant about, but I can’t pack it into one post.  I fear that the next few posts may become part of the rant-chronicles. Please bear with me.  As with life, there is a lot that I have learned through eating my way post-partum and there is a lot I want to share with you.

When my baby boy was born he filled my life and my heart with more love than I can ever imagine.  My heart swells and overflows like nature intended.  Funnily enough, I had always heard people tell me how hard it is…why do people do that? What is ‘easy’ in life…besides of course lying on a beach on holiday blah blah…Anyway, for the first 3.5months I kept pinching myself…could it really be this perfect?  I was joyfully singing baby rhymes in the shower and swinging from one sensory/music/dah-dah class to the next mums-and-baby lunch.

After the 3.5 months…no it’s not what you may be guessing. Nothing to do with my little bubba suddenly becoming a brat. He is still utterly and deliciously lovely (albeit a wee bit naughty). No. I was exhausted despite my baby being a good sleeper. I had headaches, nausea, dizziness…all of that.  I started to look unwell and feel it even more so.  I went to the doctor five times. Five.  The response always traced back to something to do with breast-feeding. Fobbed off?

It’s at that point that I started to analyse my food intake after having had my baby and I have a few opinions.  I will keep them flowing over the posts…

So, I followed this Indian post-baby diet thing.  In the days after I had my boyI adhered to it. Of course when people tell you that it’s best for the baby, you do it. It’s been proven over generations hasn’t it?  Certain parts of it make sense, some of it makes me angry till now, and parts of just perplex me.

I ate loads of fenugreek. That makes sense; apparently it encourages the milk come in and flow.  Actually if you take it within the first two weeks it has most benefit. I ate loads of aubergines. As a vegetarian I often get served aubergines.  I don’t get the aubergine thing.  Maybe because it’s a neutral, non-offensive vegetable insofar as its ability to cause tummy upsets or reflux is concerned. I was given more than enough of those and I don’t want to eat them for quite a long time now!

Unlike the villainous broccoli, cauliflower, potato, tomatoes I had to give up.  Oh and cabbage…anything that’s ‘windy’. Even my beloved lentils and pulses, my darling proteins, went into hibernation.  I gave up citrus and chillies. And even milk. Most people gain a lot of their dietary Iron from breakfast cereals, so this didn’t do me any favours when I later learned about my very low iron levels.

I didn’t even eat chapatti; I ate millet flour bread, which I don’t like. But apparently, even bread is a source of Iron?

I ate ghee and jaggery. When do I ever eat that? I think this stuff has got to suit your body.  This one I find remarkable, given that so many Indian people have a family history of diabetes.

I drank oceans of dill water. Now that one is thought-provoking, because when I smelt gripe water, that’s what it smelt like because the main ingredient is dill water (and sugar I think).  It clears the baby’s tummy. Well. So, by drinking it myself, I was keeping my baby’s tummy clear. Clever.

I ate mountains of spinach, but in a curry. Apparently, spinach has something in it that makes it harder for the body to process the iron. Also, I ate it in a cooked down curry and you know that depletes the level of iron I get from it.

The thing is, I didn’t maintain a balanced diet.  There was no orange juice in my diet (the logic was to avoid exacerbating the baby’s reflux problems) so that didn’t help the iron being absorbed. What happened to salads or watercress (high in iron), beetroot, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots and beanshoots?…The rainbow in my diet had disappeared.  Now, I am bringing back the rainbow and I will be sharing some more balanced recipes with you.  In the meantime, here’s a finger up at those ingredients that temporarily repulsed me (but a tastier take on them). I am sticking my tongue out as I post this…no actually let me blow a raspberry; I am good at that now.

Spinach, Sliced Aubergine and Spiced Tofu Filo Logs

Serves 4-6

12 sheets of filo pastry

400g of firm tofu

2 tbsp. vegetable oil for stir frying and some more for drizzling over the aubergine slices

1 medium sized aubergine, sliced into 1 cm rounds

6-7 curry leaves

200g spinach, wilted

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

2-3 green chillies, coarsely chopped

The spices; ½ tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. cumin seeds, ½ tsp. fenugreek seeds, salt to taste, ½ tsp. black pepper, 1 tsp. paprika, ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

Method

1. Firstly sweat the aubergines by salting them and leaving them to stand for about ten minutes. Dab them gently to remove the excess water before roasting them (coated lightly in oil) for about 8-10 minutes on 180 degrees.

2. Whilst the aubergines are roasting, bring the tofu to life. To do this, start by heating a non-stick pan and adding the oil. When it’s hot, sprinkle in the asafoetida, turmeric, chillies, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and cumin seeds and watch it sizzle, when the mustard seeds pop, add in the curry leaves, shallots, salt and garlic and then sauté until the onions have softened and lightly browned.

3. Crumble in the tofu with your hands, to a scrambled eggs texture. Then sprinkle in the paprika and black pepper and give it a good stir. Cook for 4-5 minutes before turning off the heat

4. Wilt the spinach by stirring it into boiling hot water for a couple of minutes. Drain and remove the water, give it a good squeeze and sprinkle in the nutmeg.

5. To make the rolls, spoon in equally divided amounts of tofu, aubergine onto the near-end of the pastry sheet. Roll along twice and tuck in the sides, so the mixture doesn’t escape. Stuff in the spinach and keep rolling to form a log, with the sides tucked in.

6. Bake in the oven on 180 degrees, for approximately ten minutes, or until the filo logs are golden and crisp, but not overly browned (you brown them too much you’ll taste a lot of bitterness). Make sure you serve them before they soften and wilt. Perky and crisp is a much better look (and taste, of course).

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