Tag Archives: deena kakaya

Stuffed and pickled baby aubergines

17 Feb

Stuffed and pickled baby aubergines

There is no race

Do you count when you run? I do. Perhaps it’s because I don’t want to run, or maybe there is a secret sense of achievement in ascending numbers. 34, 35, 36, 37…my mind bounds as fast my body, to the beat of my feet…38, 39, 40.  I feel all of my thoughts in pictures.   I see myself in PE at secondary school; one of my teachers had a rule that if we wanted to participate in with his scheduled activity we could, if not we run on the course that whole lesson. The default option was always to run. I saw myself at college, pre-hockey game. My dad would make me two eggs, two slices of toast and a large milkshake and I would run thinking of my breakfast and my aims, I needed those three ‘A’ grades for my a-levels, though I wasn’t sure why. 41, 42, 43, 44.

Stuffed and pickled baby aubergines

 

I feel the drizzle on my face and my throat is dry, my mind is running down the hill at junior school when the other girls didn’t want to play with me that day. The hill was littered with daisies and when you don’t know what to do, when standing still and all alone is confusing and unsettling, you stay busy and run.  45, 46, 47, 48…The new part of the school was being painted red and I could smell it amongst the daisy chains. 48, 49, 50…I wore trainers for the journey to work. I ran up the steps and down the spiral staircases and along the platforms, weaving myself between people traffic, frowning, as you do and thinking about the first meeting. If I got a seat I would whip out my phone and prepare to bash out that presentation.

51, 52, 53, 54…she said I should consider something that made me feel weak, he said that I need to do more. I said I have no time and that I am tired. You know when I am this busy, in this race, I nibble and not eat so much. I’m tired.

55, 56, 57, 58… I’m in the park with my best friend and we are young and laughing. It is what we did. There was nothing else, no competition, no pressure, no agenda. We walked a lot, we laughed a lot and we made up silly songs. We got wet, we ate a lot and we accepted. 59…I am in my quiet and secret spot on that bench amongst flowers. It is serene and cold and nobody knows I am there. There is no race.

If you have no time and you pick a lot, like me, make it one that will last. These sumptuous and silky bites give way to zing and heat and crisp little red peppers. These baby aubergines are stuffed with red pepper, parsley and garlic and this is a fine combination at any time of day. The idea of picking for me is to satisfy any mild hunger but more so, any urge for taste that will linger for a while. If I could keep a jar of these in my car with me I would, for an intermittent sigh of relief.

 

Ingredients

300g baby aubergines, stems removed

1 medium sized red pepper, finely diced

15-20g parsley, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic

1-2 green chillies

½ tsp. cumin seeds

Salt to taste

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. lemon juice

400ml white wine vinegar

4tbsp. sugar

200ml water

 

Method

  1. Clean and sterilise the jars you will put the aubergines into and then dry them thoroughly.
  2. Boil the baby aubergines for 10-12 minutes before draining them and leaving them to cool and dry.
  3. When the baby aubergines are cool and dry, make a slit into them, lengthways.
  4. Combine the red pepper, parsley, garlic, salt and chilli and then drizzle in the lemon juice and oil. Stuff 1 tsp. or more if possible into the aubergines before letting them rest for ten minutes of so.
  5. In the meantime, bring the white wine vinegar, teaspoon of salt and sugar to a simmer before gently placing the aubergines into the brine. Simmer for three minutes before removing them with a slotted spoon.
  6. Pour over the brine, so that the aubergines are completely submerged.

The aubergines will taste best the day after and should keep for a week in the fridge.

 

Slow roasted tomato, channa dal, feta and courgette ribbon spicy salad

11 Jan

Slow roasted tomatoes, channa dal, feta and courgette ribbon spicy salad

After a week of flying solo with the boy, this morning had been occupied with a bit of relief in the way of a back massage. My back is full of uncomfortable rocks as is my neck and I couldn’t wait to go and get them softened.

They say that you appreciate your parents in a whole new way when you have your own children. My friend is trying to conceive and nervous about the labour. It is only now that I can say, that’s the easy bit because it is temporary.

My boy is generally a mummy’s boy and follows me everywhere I go, even to the toilet. ‘What you doing mumma, that’s terrible’. He goes wherever I go and wants me to hold him as I cook a meal so that he can stir and help to toss the dosa. ‘Special agent Aarav is on a special assignment mumma’. He empties my cupboards out whilst I cook and likes to sample the ingredients. This week he cracked open my freshly ground garam masala (again) and licked it whist remarking, ‘it’s yummy’. He tests out my raw pasta shapes, ‘like crips’ and he thinks this star anise ‘flower is amazing and crunchy’. Even when his dad is around, he chants, ‘mumma come, mumma come’.

It’s wonderful.

Through all the lifting, jumping up in the air and flying him like a rocket sort of antics he who is now weighing a quarter of my weight, my back has filled with fiery boulders and my knee has felt better days. This is what they mean don’t they…about the unconditional love and the things a mother will do. But I’m smiling as I sit here with a hot water bottle on my back.

Another part of my body that requires conditioning is my tummy. I put some newish jeans on today and they are snug. This should not be the case. I feel puffy. I feel the need for spice, zing, crisp, fresh and I certainly need cheese. I feel the need for salad. So here it is.

Ingredients to serve 4

2 courgettes, trimmed but not peeled
100g channa dal, washed
150g feta cheese, cubed
2 tbsp Harissa paste
1 tbsp olive oil and some to drizzle on the tomatoes
Salt to taste
1 tsp toasted and lightly crushed cumin seeds
15g finely chopped parsley
1 tbsp lemon juice
8 large and deep red tomatoes, quartered

1. Sit the tomatoes cut side up on a sheet of baking paper and drizzle them with oil and sprinkle with salt. Put them in the oven at 120degrees for about an 1hr-1hr 15. Ovens vary but they should look shrivelled and not wet. Their flavour will be intense. When the tomatoes are roasted allow them to cool.
2. In the meantime simmer the channa dal for around 15-20 minutes on a medium to low flame. Do not allow the dal to go mushy and should keep some bite. Once the dal is cooked drain it in cool water.
3. Take a vegetable peeler and make long peelings of the courgette. One for each ridge of the courgette and keep going until you get to the core. Don’t worry if some of the ribbons are shorter than the others.
4. Combine the courgette ribbons with the feta and daal and toss it all together. Stir in the Harissa paste evenly before adding the cumin, parsley, lemon juice and salt if needed. Add a glug of olive oil. You can add the tomatoes but if they feel a bit delicate then leave them for presentation so that they keep their shape.
5. Serve fresh with hummus (I used black eyed bean hummus) and lots of lovely bread.

Christmas food gifts-plantain chips, cashews & dried cranberries in coconut, chilli and cinnamon

13 Nov

 

 

Christmas food gifts-plantain chips, cashews & dried cranberries in coconut, chilli and cinnamon

Christmas food gifts-plantain chips, cashews & dried cranberries in coconut, chilli and cinnamon

My lovely neighbour gave me a bag full of plantain today; fresh and green. I racked my brain for ways to use it. I thought of the spiced plantain mash I had at ‘mama’s roadside kitchen’ in st.Lucia or the indian curry my mum would make when we were kids, using her experience of living in Uganda as a child. I asked my friends on twitter and they suggested cake. I didn’t fancy any of these lovely recipes today, for some reason.

In the morning, by boy and I went shopping for women’s undergarments. My normally chatty and excitable child completely freaked out and sobbed loudly in the fitting cubicle and insisted, ‘put a jumper and jacket on mumma, put the clothes on mumma’. He’s not yet two but here we go. So I took him for a walk and stopped at the dried fruits and nuts section which looked festive but blue. Why blue? Anyway, that’s when it struck me.

But I did have a brief period of confusion; which is a more festive nut…the cashew or almond? Cashews are more expensive. Does that make it more special? I do recall my mum sending food parcels of special stuff for my grandmother in India when friends or relatives visited. Mum sent cashews, always. She also sent saffron and chocolate. Now I think back, it’s such a lovely thing to do.

But then, almonds are pretty special also. When we were in st.Lucia we stayed between the majestic pitons, hidden away. We were staying at a resort where the beach sat in a calm little cove and one of the paths along the beach was layer in almond shells. I loves cracking them open to find smooth almonds. It’s lovely that nature can create such a perfect little nut.

I’m actually rather excited about this simple yet addictive recipe. It’s really good. This tropical looking mix is crunchy, sweet, aromatic and there’s a lovely hint of chilli right at the end. It’s delightful. I’ve used agave nectar to sweeten the mix so, healthier than loads of sugar. You have to try it.

Ingredients for two gift containers

One large green plantain
4 tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp chilli flakes
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3-4 tbsp desiccated coconut
A generous handful of dried cranberries
200g cashew nuts
Oil for frying plantain chips

1 . Heat the oil in a deep pan and in the meantime, take the green skin off the plantain and cut the plantain into 1 cm thick circles with a knife of mandolin.
2. Fry the chips until they are crisp and deepened in colour. You will feel that they are tougher and crisp when you move them with a slotted spoon.
3. Remove the chips onto a kitchen paper and leave them to cool.
4. In a non stick pan, toast the cashew nuts until they are lightly golden before adding the cinnamon and the plantain chips. Mix well.
5. Stir in the chilli flakes, mix again. Then add the agave nectar and the desiccated coconut. Thoroughly mix it all together to make sure the spices and coconut are evenly distributed.
6. Toss in the dried cranberries and mix again.

Allow the mixture to cool completely before packaging it.

This has also been entered into Feel Good Food Challenge hosted by Jibberjabberuk and Victoria at A Kick At The Pantry Door

 

This week I would like to link this to Mark of Javelin Warrior’s Cookin’ W/ Luv Made With Love Mondays,

Faster And Vaster Pasta! Broccoli, walnut, sundried tomato and basil pesto pasta

19 Oct

The other day my lovely friend and her gorgeous boy came over for a play date. As soon as the biscuits and fruits came out my friends happy and eager toddler was at them and when he had finished his, he wanted mine and everyone else’s and he whimpered in protest when we denied his prizing goodies from our mouths. Meanwhile, when my boy was offered fruits, chocolate biscuits, rice cakes…guess what his answer was? ‘

Faster and vaster pasta! Broccoli, walnut, sundried tomato and basil pesto pasta

Faster and vaster pasta! Broccoli, walnut, sundried tomato and basil pesto pasta

Faster and vaster pasta! Broccoli, walnut, sundried tomato and basil pesto pasta

Faster and vaster pasta! Broccoli, walnut, sundried tomato and basil pesto pasta

No mumma’.

I do concern myself about how to get some sort of varied and balanced diet into my boy when he is so reluctant, if not refuting active participation. I wish I could just give him raw carrots and raisins for him to tuck into, particularly as we know that raw foods are more nutrition packed than cooked foods. Some of the principles I’m learning are important;

1. Variety, keep them interested by offering small portions of a few food groups at meal times

2. Eat the same foods as the little ones, they often want to join in

3. Keep it tasty, why would they want to eat bland and boring food?

4. New recipes, new stimulations. It may seem easy to stick to their favourite recipes, but new foods arouse new interest and it’s just easier to hook them in!

5. Be happy and relax. Participation is more likely to happen if everyone is having fun.

Now, I’m all for having one meal for everyone; less time in the kitchen and less cleaning-hooray! But I’m not eating teeny broccoli and cheese pasta. This very grown up and somewhat classy recipe is a gorgeous blend of fresh flavours. Each ingredient speaks volumes and is very detectable without being difficult or slow to munch. It’s a grainy pesto that is nutty, herby and slightly tangy-sweet. It’s moist and moorish. It’s a filling dish with a variety of nutrients and has a pretty colour of green nuts. We all enjoyed this recipe at lunch time today, I wish I had made some extra pesto and frozen it. Next time….

Ingredients

200g broccoli cut into medium-sized florets
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup of oily sundried tomatoes
2/3 cup of walnuts
2 tsp lemon juice
Salt to taste
1 1/2 cup of chopped basil
3tbsp of the sundried tomato oil (from the jar)
3tbsp water
Some feta or cheese of your choice to crumble on top
500g pasta

Method

1. Toast the nuts on a non stick pan until they catch a lightly browned colour, then let them cool
2. Boil the broccoli for about  3 minutes and then drain the water
3. Put the broccoli, basil, nuts, lemon juice, salt and sundried tomatoes into a food processor and blitz it together.
4. When the mixture is coarse, mix drizzle in the oil and water whilst the processor is still churning the pesto.image
5. Boil the pasta per the packet instructions and drain. When the pesto is ready, mix it well with the pasta and serve with a little crumbled feta (or cheese of your choice).

If you like novel  and scrummy pasta recipes, why not check these out 

Coriander, ginger and basil pesto pasta with toasted cashews and peanuts

Indian spiced pea puree pasta

Cooking with Herbs

image

Spinach, spring onion and spice pancakes with lime and coriander crème fraîche

26 Sep

Spinach, spring onion and spice pancakes with lime and coriander crème fraîche
image
image

We were in Dubai in June and my then 16month child lost a few hundred grams in weight over the first few days of our 10 day stay.

We were very lucky to be staying at the Atlantis, which is not only stunning with its in-house aquarium which felt as big as the London aquarium, beautiful clear views of the azure sea, towering heights and arches, shimmering lights; but it is architecturally astounding with its arabesque domes and spires. They couldn’t do enough for us and I lost count of the number of restaurants they had that served fresh and delicious foods from throughout the world. My favorite was the Lebanese restaurant; they served an entire table of vegetarian dishes at each course and I’m not kidding.
image
image
So why, with such lovely and helpful staff and so much variety did my boy not eat? Why, when they made him whatever we asked for, either on or off the ‘menu for kids’, would he just not eat? The truth is, I don’t know. Could have been the heat, but then the hotel was air-conditioned. It could have been the time changes, but then we stuck to UK time for him. It could have been the fatigue of travelling, but surely that would settle after a couple of days. It could be because mumma didn’t make it. But come on.

So, as is typical of my assertive and self-proclaimed solutions-not-problems focused husband, he said, ‘babe, just go and speak to the chefs like you normally would and go into the kitchen and make what he will eat’. Normally I wouldn’t go and cook uninvited because that is so rude. But my baby wasn’t eating and this made me so sad that I felt like it was the only thing I could do.

The head chef came out to meet my boy. The restaurant manager came to meet him. The sous chef took the head chefs instructions and then I went in to tell them how he likes it. My boy doesn’t even know lucky he is. We made him what he has at home, a spinach uttapam. I make this south Indian style crispy pancake with fermented and ground lentils and rice, loads of spinach. My little monster guzzled it down and the whole team was happy, especially me. Naturally.

The thing is though, that I don’t always have fermented rice and lentils to hand when he asks for the pancake and I know that instant versions are available in a packet and that too at the major supermarkets, but I worry about the amount of salt in them. So, I created this recipe that my whole family enjoy…even my fussy old man (my dad) loved them. My chappati-loving mum let out high-pitched praise. My Italian and Caribbean neighbors loved them (I’ve trialed this recipe out a couple of times so needed mouths) and best of all, my boy loves them. For a kids version skip the chili and salt if this is your normal practice given your child’s age. My boy is young so that’s what I’ve done.

These pancakes are really well-balanced in terms of spice and depth, they are smooth and really light and fluffy. Herby and moorish, they are so easy to make and even easier to eat.

Ingredients to serve 3-4

225g fresh spinach, finely chopped in a food processor
75g spring onions finely chopped
2 green chilies finely chopped (leave them out for kids or cut the amount of chili if you don’t like it hot)
One whole egg
One egg white, beaten until you get soft white peaks
150g self-raising flour
150ml milk
50g butter
Salt to taste (I used 1tsp)
1 tbsp baking powder

The spices; 1 tsp toasted cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp dried mango powder (amchur powder)

For the lime and coriander crème fraîche

250g crème fraîche
The zest of one lime
1 tbsp very finely chopped fresh coriander
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Method

1. In a large bowl mix the spinach with the cumin, salt, garam masala, mango powder, spring onions and chilies and mix it well.
2. With a fork, mix in the flour and then add the milk, butter and egg. Whisk it all together, add the baking powder and whisk again.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg until the egg whites are soft white peaks and then gently fold into the pancake batter.
4. To make the crème fraîche, add the zest of the lime into a bowl and add the coriander, salt and pepper. Mix it in gently with the crème fraîche and leave it in the fridge until you serve the pancakes.
5. To make the pancakes heat a non stick pan and grease it with a couple of tablespoons of oil. Pour a couple of tablespoons of batter onto the pan and ensure that the height is about 1 cm. Cook them until they are golden brown on one side before flipping over.

Serve the pancakes hot and with a dollop of the crème fraîche.

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

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

image
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.

image
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.

Smoked Aubergine polenta with sweet and spicy tomatoes on top

16 Sep

image

Smoked Aubergine polenta with sweet and spicy tomatoes on top

How do you get mosquito bitten in summery Milan? I counted 38 and I am not kidding.  And how do you get lost in Milan? Both of those unfortunate and grossly inconvenient situations lead us to walking around the streets utterly famished and wearily confused.
So we, (my dear friend and I) ended up in a quiet street that was lit dimly. In blue.  My friend is rubbish in the heat.   she, who is normally composed and upbeat, moans incessantly in the heat. She moans about walking, about her feet, about being thirsty, about stupid signs and idiotic drivers and about people who walk towards her.
So I stood over her, exasperated but coaxing her into telling me what we she wants to eat. I thought she’d give me her same-old line, ‘i don’t know, I don’t care, you decide’. But you know what she told me as I was being visciously attacked by Mosquitos sent back from hell? She told me she was in love.  With a man from Manchester.
And with this, I grabbed her arm, smiled and walked into the first reasonable looking place that was wasn’t lit in blue.  This is where the polenta comes in.  Hang in there.
So we were greeted by a middle aged guy that flirted outrageously and unprofessionally with my friend.  Before he even asked us what we would like to drink, he asked if she was married.  We were clearly in no mood for this. Remember, we are irritated, hungry and we need to talk about love.
So, I ask him what is there to eat that is vegetarian. He sings to me that the meat is gorgeous and how could I not…blah blah. So I repeat the question. Sternly. And you guessed it, polenta. So, with tummies rumbling, that’s what we ordered. It was the smoothest, most light and creamy polenta ever. Really silky, airy and just addictive.
Normally polenta is cooked in water, but as you will notice, my polenta is lighter in colour and that is because it is cooked in milk.  It works because it gives it a lighter, creamier texture.  I could suck the stuff off a spoon. I’ve added smoky roasted aubergines to the polenta and it is still delicate with the cumin and coriander. Beautiful.
I do find potatoes quite heavy, and although I love mashed potatoes they make me sleepy.  Polenta won’t do that, which is another great reason to use polenta.
This dish works harmoniously with sweet tomatoes on top.  The wonderful thing about this dish is the simplicity.   A few, quality ingredients make a darn good meal.
Ingredients to serve 3-4
For the tomato topping
100g of tomatoes, I’ve used red and yellow tomatoes and washed, then halved them
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
A handful of basil leaves, shredded
Salt to taste
3/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sugar
Chilli flakes to Taste
1/3rd tsp black pepper
A couple of tablespoons of cooking oil
For the polenta
1 litre of milk
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander powder
Salt to taste
75g fine polenta
2 medium roasted Aubergines with the pulp removed and then mashed
Method
1. Start by preparing the tomato topping.  Heat the oil in a pan and shallow fry the garlic for a couple of minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes and the salt, turn them to a slow simmer.  Sprinkle in the paprika, sugar, chilli and black pepper, toss it and cook them until they turn pulpy.  It should take 3-4minutes.
3. Sprinkle in the basil, toss again, cook for a minute before turning off the heat.
4. To make the polenta, heat the milk in a large non stick pan, with the toasted cumin seeds, coriander powder, Aubergine pulp, and salt then bring it to a simmer. Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and then in a slow and steady stream pour in the polenta, whilst whisking it gently.  Give it a couple of minutes before removing it from the heat.
Serve immediately with a few shavings of cheese if you like.

Juicy chaat masala mushrooms with goats cheese on toast

14 Sep

image imageJuicy chaat masala mushrooms with goats cheese on toast

The husband and I like to have special breakfasts at the weekends.  Something tremendous and indulgent.  Something voluptuous and pampering.   There is something quite dirty about a big, fat, yes-yes breakfast and I like it.
The tradition, as it now is, stems partly from the pre-baby practices of a lie-in on the weekends after loud and cheerful Friday nights.  We’d wake absolutely ravenous to TV in bed and before attacking a pre-jaunt ‘to do’ list, we’d eat liberally.  I think the tradition also stems from a love of hearty breakfast foods.  I adore a good fry up, as long as the the vegetarian sausages are home made.  I make home made ‘baked’ beans too.  You know what one of things I most looked forward to doing after I got married was?  I was popping with excitement about having a huge English breakfast in the hotel, after our wedding night. Even though we were, shortly afterwards, flying out to Thailand.  But listen, I didn’t get that slim/thin for the wedding on fried eggs and hash browns!
Oh, and pancakes soaked in lemon and sugar…heavenly. And what about my beloved Gujarati thepla (spicy chapatti with fenugreek)?  I always keep some Pathak’s hot and spicy pickle in the house so that I can eat it and the thepla and lashings of yoghurt.  My husband is quite fanciful of light and fluffy South Indian idli (steamed pillows of ground and fermented rice and lentils) with a fresh dhal. He also likes plentiful wraps and layered sarnies with proper beans such as black eyed beans in a fresh sauce, spinach and of course some crunchy potatoes. And cheese. Good cheese. Cheese good.
So, I bet you know where I’m going with this.  We are getting older and fatter.  Somehow, a hash brown doesn’t have the same appeal.  We aren’t as ravenous in the mornings and we don’t really want to burping beany-eggy-fried stuff the whole day.  But the tradition of wanting a large and loving, taste-powing and generally stupendous breakfast continues. My husband hasn’t traditionally been a lover of mushrooms but I have converted him and I owe the conversion to this mighty and fine recipe.
Have you ever eaten a chaat? The point is to tantalise the senses and the taste buds with a variety of textures; hot sour, crunchy and soft, cold and hot.  The spice that brings it all together is chaat masala. It’s a peppery and pungent mix with black salt in it.  Somehow it is just magical with exotic mushrooms.  The juices that release from the mushrooms and the masala, oh my goodness…I could drink it as a soup! Please don’t chuck it away when you cook this dish, let it soak through the bread.  This is a beautifully balanced and kind dish. You could have it as a light meal too. Go for it and let me know what you think.
Ingredients for two people
150g of exotic mushrooms.  I used yellow oysters, grey oysters and anis mushrooms
2 tsp of chaat masala
A few blobs of goats cheese on each slice of bread
2 spring onions washed and chopped into bite sized chunks
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp finely chopped, fresh thyme
2 fat cloves of garlic very finely chopped
2 tbsp of cooking oil (use butter if you wish)
Two splashes of lemon juice
I used jalapeño and corn bread from ‘your bakery’ at tesco. It’s soft and spicy.
Cooks tip; it’s probably most economical to get a pack of mixed exotic mushrooms. I bought the chaat masala from the ethnic aisle at a tesco megastore. Don’t add any extra salt to this dish as the chaat masala is salty, please be careful.
Easy-peasy Method
1. If your grey oysters are large, then chop them in half. Wash all of the mushrooms and leave them to a side.
2. Heat the oil in a pan and then add the cumin seeds.  Once they start to sizzle stir in the onions and garlic and sauté for a minute.
3. Place the bread in the toaster and Introduce the mushrooms to the onions and garlic and mix it all together.  Sprinkle in the chaat masala, stir and add the lemon juice and the thyme.  Simmer on a medium flame for about 3-4 minutes until the juices release and the mushrooms have relaxed.  Don’t let them shrink.  Exotic mushrooms aren’t tough so don’t need much cooking.
4. Plate the toast, then top with mushrooms and add a few blobs of goats cheese. Drizzle the stock onto the toast and serve immediately.

Kiddy friendly tomato and roasted red pepper rice with sweetcorn

12 Sep

imageKiddy friendly tomato and roasted pepper rice with sweetcorn

Life is full of beautiful moments when there is a child around.  Before bedtime yesterday, my boy sat on my tummy whilst I lay on the bed and he demonstrated a brand new learning.  I love it when he surprises me like this.  I don’t drill things into him, I much prefer that his own curiosity and his own rhythm reach him to fresh learnings.  Anyway, his face was aglow with pensive excitement as he told me stuff that I knew all along but of course he told it like it was red-hot, novel  information, ‘mumma, I like helicopters,  I like cars, I like animals, I like sev mumra (puffed rice and gram flour straws), I like tumeta bhath (tomato rice).  I asked him what mumma likes and he said, ‘ummm..biscuits’.
Of course he’s pooped in the bath tub twice this week and I am somewhat less enchanted by that.
He then didn’t want to get off my tummy and kept climbing back on for cuddles and to tell me about more stuff that he likes. ‘I like Andy airplane, I like….’ But I was still stuck on the tomato rice bit.
So today, that’s what’s I gave him.  If you’ve been reading my tweets you know how insanely difficult my boy is to feed.  You know I’ve tried it all.  Each meal time starts with an internal prayer and Chant, ‘I flipping hope he eats this, I flipping hope he eats this’
So,  I had the colouring book out and a book about diggers, because he likes diggers.  I mounted a bright blue spoon with red rice, because he likes the colour blue and he’s just told me likes tomato rice, so I hoped. And guess what? ‘Mmm, yummy yummy.’
There must be something about this dish, I recall having experimented with it as a teenager and then finding my brother, scoffing it into his gob directly from the cooking pan.
You could just use tomatoes alone in this dish, but the peppers add great nutrition and flavour.  My boy also likes paprika and I know this because I bought  Ruffles paprika flavoured crisps recently and he kept pinching them from my hands.
Ingredients
3/4 cup of long grain rice, I used Tilda Basmati
One medium onion, finely chopped
Two medium sized roasted red peppers
2/3 can of chopped tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup of sweetcorn
The spices; 1/3tsp turmeric, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cumin seeds
1. Boil the rice in plenty of water for 8-10minutes on a medium flame and then wash it in cold water and leave to one side
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds.  Allow the seeds to sizzle before stirring in the onion and adding the turmeric.  Soften the onion fit a couple of minutes before adding the garlic.  Cook until the onion has softened.
3. Add the tomatoes and chop the red pepper into chunks before adding that.
4. Stir in the paprika and simmer for 4-5 minutes on a medium to low flame.  Turn the sauce into a food processor and blitz it to a smooth consistency.
5. Stir in the rice and add about 30ml of water with the sweetcorn ( defrost first if you are using frozen sweetcorn) and heat the mixture to a simmer again. Turn to a low flame and cook until the water has reduced, the rice is separated and cooked.  This should take 8-10minutes.
Serve with smiles and confidence.  I also served with vegetable wedges, because he likes it.
%d bloggers like this: