Tag Archives: deena kakaya

Sweet mini peppers stuffed with feta, spinach, edamame beans and gorgeous spices

10 Sep

Sweet mini peppers stuffed with feta, spinach, edamame beans and of course some gorgeous spices

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As teenagers my best friend and I went on our first holiday together, without family, to Bulgaria.  Not Ibiza, Sharm el sheikh or Tenerife, but Bansko, a town at the foot on the Pirin mountains.  We’d decided to deviate from the popular, bikini-cladded sun soaking and wild nights of clubbing and we’d also decided that we liked mountains.
We’d of course done no research.  Google wasn’t a word that existed in our lives back then and of course we didn’t buy travel books.  We just rocked up at the travel agent with about £300 as our budget and a clear ish view of what we wanted; no loud clubbers, beautiful mountain scenery, friendly people, a different culture and cheap.  I’d never contemplate contracting to a holiday under such exposed and ill-informed circumstances now, because obviously I’m not daring and old(er)
We really had no idea what we’d let ourselves in for.  Funnily enough, I’d kind of like to go back there.  There were no known brands being sold in the kiosks. There were no known fast food joints in the town.  Our guide wanted us to hang out with his daughter so that it would improve her English but of course we taught each other rude words in our respective languages.  Restaurants looked like huts and we sat on big timber tables.  Outdoor bands played in the moonlight as the residents of the town gathered.  Children climbed under the water features in the town and hollered at us saying, ‘look at the Spanish girls’ as they’d never seen an ethnically Indian person.  Donkeys walked with their owners through the streets and as we walked through the evening streets we were frightened as there was barely any street light, so we sang ‘nelly the elephant’ loudly.   As you may expect, I’m smiling as I write this.
I don’t even think we appreciated the scenery fully. We hiked with a guide and stopped to look at Viagra plants and beautiful rocky and vast mountains, cool whites, blues and greens. I remember the vastness and quietness of the mountains and the distant ringing of bells around the necks of cows. I remember drinking fresh spring water after crossing streams on logs.
I don’t think that the hotel we were staying at, or the restaurants that we ate in had encountered many vegetarians. They seemed baffled.  On the first couple of days we were served boiled veg.  We then negotiated a spaghetti dish with the non-English speaking chef, but it didn’t taste of much.  Once they realised that cheese was in fact an option for us they served us huge long peppers roasted with loads of moist and salty feta.  It tasted faintly of clay and we loved it.  The cheese was so fresh and spongy.  Oh and they served it with a beautifully simple and mellow bean soup served in a clay pot. Brilliant.
So this recipe isn’t as simple as the one I had in Bansko but it is absolutely uplifting and thoroughly sensual.   I picked up a 500g bag of mini sweet peppers from Tesco for £3 which I thought was good value for money. I’d eat the stuffing raw off a big serving spoon, but…
The colours of this dish are striking; sharp yellows and red against bright green.  The smell is a whole new thing…my kitchen smells gorgeously sweet and toasty right now as I’ve just made these peppers. I’ve used nutty edamame beans from the freezer, but if you can’t find them maybe use frozen broad beans instead? I’m putting these peppers on top of a salad, but you could put them on some cous cous, pasta or even vegetable rice.   I’ve used 1tsp of piri piri spices, but you could use more or less. Honestly, this is a fresh, juicy and toasty dish that I hope you will want to share.
Ingredients
Makes approximately 20 mini stuffed peppers
150g feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup finely shredded spinach (I put it in the food processor)
1 cup of edamame beans boiled for 3 minutes
About 20 mini sweet peppers, washed
Spices; 1 tsp cumin seeds toasted and lightly crushed, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1tsp piri piri spice
Method
1. Take a mixing bowl be crumble the feta into it.  Add the spinach and mix well before adding the edamame beans
2. Stir in spices and mix again
3. Place the mixture into a food processor and turn it into a coarse mix. We don’t need the edamame beans to be smooth,  chunky, is great.
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4. Remove the tops off thee peppers and place onto a lined baking tray
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5. With a teaspoon, fill the peppers generously and coat them lightly in oil. Roast the peppers on 180degrees for about 12-15minutes or until they look browned and you are able to pierce them.
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Indian spiced pea puree pasta

8 Sep

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This week I read about all this stuff to do with food for the  poor and Jamie Oliver’s thoughts around it.  Essentially he wants to show people how to eat better on a budget and he’s doing a TV show called, ‘Jamie’s money saving meals’ and he’s written a book called, ‘Save with Jamie’.
Now the controversy, if you want to call it that, is apparently because of the connections he’s made between a poor persons diet to productivity and comparisons made with poor folks in Italy who supposedly eat fresh pasta and veg and the alleged relative superior productivity of Eastern European people.

So it’s got me thinking. I do think that you can eat well on a budget;

– a simple chickpea curry costs under a pound to make when you use canned chickpeas
– good old sweetcorn soup with a few asian spices and crusty bread can also cost £2 for feed two people
– a lovely indian spiced mixed vegetable omelette is also inexpensive when using frozen vegetables
– have you seen my BBC Good Food recipe for parsnip pancakes? If you have gram flour in the house, you could make enough for two people and them in bread as a sarnie for under a couple of quid
– if you are using tinned tomatoes, a simple tomato and basil spaghetti dish can cost around £3 for four people

However, as far as I can see, whichever way you cut it, chips are cheap.  Cheaper than most healthier alternatives.  If you’re buying them, they are filling, you don’t need any gas to cook them or water to wash plates.  They are one of life’s little comforts and if everything else is looking grim, the smell of fresh chips and a cuddle can do something lovely for the soul, for a bit.

So, I’m not sharing a recipe for the poor.  This is not a recipe that is labelled in any such way.  I’m sharing an absolutely scrummy, lightly tangy and pea-sweet, luminous, moorish and easy to cook recipe that happens to be pretty inexpensive to cook. Bonus
A lot of my mummy peers have come out of their previous careers, or have taken reduced hours.  It doesn’t mean our tastes have changed,  we still like to eat well; as well as we always have and perhaps even better now that little mouths want to copy us.  Saving a few quid along the way is a bonus though isn’t it?

When I was a teen people ate pasta on a diet, for the relatively low fat content.  I remember watching Oprah discussing her huge weight loss saying that she could eat pasta every day of the week and that her chef would do something completely different with pasta every day.  I think this is what I love about pasta.  I still haven’t fallen out of love with it and am not yet bored of it.  Funnily enough though, I spoke to a relative who was cooking pasta as we spoke.  I asked her what sort of sauce she was making and she said, ‘the normal one’.  This made me chuckle. The default pasta sauce is of course some sort of tomato sauce…come on, do something different today.

Ingredients

One medium onion, finely diced
2 fat cloves of garlic, finely diced
2cups petite pois, defrosted
200g creme Fraiche
2-3 tsp vegetable oil
100ml water
400g pasta
Some shavings of vegetarian hard cheese

The spices; 1tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp ajwain (carom) seeds, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/4 tsp turmeric, salt to taste, 1 1/2 tsp coriander powder

Method

1 . Put the pasta on the boil in salted water, per packet instructions. Don’t forget to wash it in plenty of cold water when it is cooked
2. Heat the oil and then add the cumin seeds and carom seeds together with the turmeric and allow the seeds to sizzle before stirring in the onions and salt. Soften the onions for a couple of minutes and then add the garlic and soften until the onions are transparent.
3. Add the peas and stir in the coriander powder, coat the peas and then add the water. Bring the peas to a simmer and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Then stir in the creme Fraiche and the back pepper and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
4. Pour the peas into a food processor and blitz it until its almost smooth.  It’s lovely with some texture in there, so don’t try and get it completely smooth
5. Place the pea purée into the cooking pan again and stir in the pasta
6. Serve and garnish with the shavings of cheese

I am submitting my recipe to this month’s Pasta Please, a monthly event by Jacqueline over at Tinned Tomatoes. This month’s host is Johanna over at Green Gourmet Giraffe and the topic is long pasta.

pasta please

Gram flour pasta in a spicy tomato and veg base

5 Sep

Gram Flour pasta in a Indian spiced tomato and vegetable base

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

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

Tomato and veg base

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

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

2 medium new potatoes cut into small cubes

4 shallots, finely chopped

3 gloves of garlic, finely chopped

3 green chilies chopped

1400ml warm water

1 ½ tin of tomatoes

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

The Gram Flour Pasta

¾ cup gram flour

1 cup finely milled whole wheat flour

1.5 tbsp Vegetable oil

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

150ml warm water

Method

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

Masala Popcorn

30 Aug

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Masala popcorn 

 
1991 Porbander, Gujarat, India 
 
The walls of the cinema hall were stained deep red with pan (stuffed  betel leafs that apparently freshen then breath) spittle.  Gross.  I sat there wondering why they seemed to find joy in squirting from the mouth and how they got away with it.  Gobfuls of red juices we ejected casually onto the walls and remained there, forever.  
I was feeling put off already and angrily bewildered as to why my dad held such fond memories of this cinema. He seemed so excited when he decided to cure my boredom by bringing me to the cinema of his youth.  Maybe he used to blow  those wolf whistles too as a teenager, like the ones ringing in my ears from behind me. How to escape?
Dad sensed my bubbling frustration…I was a pre teen with strong views and spitting was plain disgusting. Anyway,  he took me to find treats…I spotted malt biscuits, melting chocolate, nuts and masala popcorn packed un generously into small food bags.  Masala popcorn. No way! It tasted like every child’s favourite potato curry on popcorn. Winner. Smiles returned.
 
2001 Leicester
 
My brother and I were both away at university and when we visited my folks we would let the oldies go to bed whilst we watched  channel four game shows or American comedies.  We’d join in the judging whilst watching ‘your face or mine’ back to back for hours.  Intermittently, we’d catch up on each others lives.  Gorging at 2am was obviously necessary.  Sometimes it would be indulgent spaghetti dishes, slathered with loads of cheese. Always, there would be popcorn, because my brother is somewhat fond of the stuff. To be honest, it seemed like he just needed to multi task; banter, telly, munch.   For me, I needed variety in popcorn…I like a kick.
 
2007 Friday night, london
 
The exhilarating Friday feeling; the hair pins came off and hair was unleashed.  My face was stripped of glasses and contact lenses came in.  I never socialised in glasses, it was the rule.  Trousers were swapped for skirts or dresses and the pumps flew into the hallway and the heels we finally on.  I felt liberated.
Friday nights were about impromptu meet-ups in london, discovering new restaurants, lots of giggles and late nights.  I’d return home surprisingly peckish. I couldn’t just go to sleep, I needed to unwind, catch up on the Bollywood soap masala action with popcorn in skirted lap, heel tucked under bum. 
 
2013 Friday night London
 
Too tired to talk. Baby asleep after teething related moaning and much cajoling and cuddling. Exhausted. Time for a movie? No. Ok, tv and popcorn? Make it masala popcorn.
 
Recipe 
 
40g popped popcorn 
20g butter 
A splash of oil 
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander power
Salt to taste 
1/4tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp turmeric powder 
1/4 Tsp black pepper 
Chilli powder to taste 
 
Method 
 
1. Melt the butter and add the oil 
2. Stir in the spices and seasoning and stir for less than a minute. Don’t let them brown.
3. Stir in the popcorn and coat thoroughly in the sunny coloured mixture
 
Serving suggestion 
 
Masala popcorn looks lovely in white containers or in paper cones. 
 
 
 
 

Tandoori Halloumi with Salad Stuff

21 Aug

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Tandoori halloumi with salad stuff

Are you one of those foodies of Asian descent that curries everything? Or do you know someone that does it? It is funny isn’t it…Brussels sprouts get curried, as does pasta, asparagus, baked beans,  bean sprouts, tofu and even pak choi.
I do laugh now at childhood memories of ambling in the open fruit and veg market with my dad, being jostled about by inconsiderate giants whilst my dad enthusiastically examined non-indian vegetables from above the rim of his glasses. Whilst he poked, stroked and rubbed edibles I took in the thrill of hearing native English stall holders bellow their banter in some Gujarati! Imagine that!
 If he liked the look of it, I knew what the natural question would be…’I wonder what this would taste like as a curry’.
Remember, I came from a generation where the words ‘we are having English food tonight’ meant either egg and chips or a plate of boiled veg with cheese, pepper and salad cream on top.  I am laughing as I’m writing this, but even the omelette was curried.  Mixed veg with an assortment of Indian spices and cheese in top.  oh but we loved it.  I have lovely, fond recollections of the cousins and I all sat down around large and loud curtain fabric in the living room, tucking into indian omelette and chips.  I guess currying everything was a simple way of befriending new foods.  Coincidentally, and unknown to any of us at the time, it has been one of the impetus for my very own style of cooking.
Years later, when I’d take into work leftovers of samosa stuffing mixed with pasta, or Brussels packed with toasted gram flour and nutty spiced, if get those looks and raised eyebrows that said, ‘that’s just wrong’. Until they tasted it of course.
It’s really important to get good quality halloumi cheese; avoid the ones that are rubbery on the inside.  Salty and chewy halloumi is beautiful in this sour marinade with a smooth and peppery kick.   It’s super easy to make and I love using it to liven up a salad.  In My picture I’ve teamed up the tandoori halloumi with a tomato, parsley and caper salad, some garlic and coriander hummus and potato wedges.  Summer isn’t over yet, but remember..tandoori halloumi isn’t just for summer, it is to be loved all year round.
Tandoori halloumi
Ingredients
3 desert spoonfuls of natural yoghurt
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp tomato ketchup
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Half thumb sized piece if ginger, minced
Salt to taste
Use 250g halloumi cheese, cut into 16 cubes
Method
1. Mix together all of the wet ingredients into a box, stir well.
2. Add in the spices, one by one and mix thoroughly
3. Introduce the chunks of halloumi and ensure that they are well coated
4. Chill the chunks for a couple of hours in the fridge
5. Set the halloumi on some baking paper and place them in the oven on gas mark 200 degrees until the halloumi is crispy and browned.
6. Serve immediately with a fresh salad, some pitta and take in the aromas.

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.
 
 
Aside

Coconut yoghurt, lychee and almond lollies

8 Jul

Coconut yoghurt, lychee and almond ice lollies

Did you ever, as a child, storm into the kitchen popping with excitement and surprise belting, ‘mum, dad, there’s an indian on the TV!”
And did they rush towards the TV to witness the novelty themselves? Go on, admit it…even if you are not of indian descent, it was such a rarity and perhaps even quite extraordinary. In those days we didn’t have Bollywood TV channels either, so there was always an absorbing reason for seeing an indian other than Madhur Jaffrey on the the screen.
Oh and do you remember the early days of those unsubdued and colourful Rubicon adverts…I hasten to describe them as ‘exotic’ but yeah..all that singing and dancing and falling, thirst quenching fruits of the almost unknown. Maybe the fruits were rather unknown back then…were Guava, lychees and passion fruits as widely available?
I remember, many years ago,  there being a lot of fuss about a shop near my folks that was, allegedly selling exotic ice creams.  Imagine.  amongst the favours were rose, pistachio, mango and coconut.  Even better, I heard that they were flecked with cardamom and cinnamon, even saffron! Well.  I never visited so I don’t know if the rumours were true.  This was all before the days of these flavours being readily available in supermarkets, but I do remember thinking…why don’t they just make it themselves?
It is with these entertaining memories in mind, that I share wit you my exotic recipe of lychee and coconut yoghurt ice lollies.  Easy peasy, just chuck a few ingredients in a bowl, stir and spoon into lolly moulds without eating it all.  Perfectly easy and delightful for gorgeous sunny, happy days.
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Ingredients for 6-8 lollies
450g coconut yoghurt
2tbsp sugar, or to taste
3quarters of a 450g tin of lychees
Half the syrup from the tin of lychees
2tbsp finely chopped almonds
Method
1. Coarsely blend the lychees and pour them into a pan for heating.  Add the syrup and add the sugar. The sugar takes the edge off any sourness in the lychees and you can moderate the amount of sugar you like.  Just simmer and stir for a couple of minutes, don’t eat the lychees brown.
2.  Let the lychees cool and in the meantime scoop the coconut yoghurt int a bowl and mix in the nuts.  When the lychees are cool, mix them.
3. Pour the mixture into ice lolly moulds and freeze over night.

Smoky courgette ribboned quesadilla

2 Jul

ImageImageSmoky courgette ribboned quesadilla

I haven’t got time to cook. That’s what a lot of us say isn’t it?
Too tired, too busy, too active, too much work, too much kiddy mayhem, too fat so need to go the gym, too single so what’s the point, too expensive so what’s the point, too boring, too hot outside, too cold outside, too reliant on my mum…what have i missed?
I have to agree…kind of. The other day for example, I made onion and spinach bhajia for breakfast because my 16month old refused to eat anything else.  For lunch I made us mixed veg in dhal with rice and for dinner my little indian villager had a spinach, pepper and cheese dosa whilst the grown ups had full on salad with my beloved chargrilled artichokes amongst other gems like gentle mozzarella, sweet plum tomatoes and roasted red peppers.
Now, I love cooking..but if you team that up with the cleaning up that results, I could really have more time on my side.  Lets remember that the clearing up includes food chucked about and squashed into the highchair.
There is this kind of romantic and augmented nostalgia that repeats in the summers of my mind, you know the one where you’ve been running in and out of the kitchen for what seems like hours as a child..playing various ball games or hide and seek…and the whole time there’s something gorgeous smelling, bubbling away at the cooker or there’s some kind of chaos on the table that looks colourful and utterly edible.  Bits of cauliflower fall on he floor, grated carrots spread and flecks of turmeric threaten immediate stains.
But of course, that’s all too knackering.  I want to call our infrequent cleaner whilst just thinking about it. So here is a minimal cooking recipe.  It’s brilliant because courgette ribbons taste best when they are practically raw.  The spices are simple and few. The taste is, well delectably ‘ pow’.  I don’t even like that word, but you know what I mean.  These quesadilla taste smoky, spicy and crunchy..good huh? Not much to do really…have a go.
Ingredients for 4-5 quesadilla
2 courgettes with the skin peeled and then use the peeler to make ribbons
2 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
1 tsp smoked paprika
Salt to taste
A generous squeeze of lemon
One red onion, slices
1 tsp cumin seeds
Chipotle paste.  I’ve used 2 tsp because, of course, I like it hot.
4 handfuls of grated cheese
4-5 plain flour tortilla
Method
1. Heat a 3 tbsp of oil add the cumin seeds allow them to sizzle before adding the onion to shallow fry until the onion browns.
2. Add salt to taste, the paprika, garlic and lemon juice and stir well.
3. Add the courgette and chipotle paste and stir and cook for 2-3 minutes before removing from the heat.
4. Spread a thin layer of oil onto a non stick frying pan. Take a plain flour tortilla and on one half spread some cheese, then a 3-4 tbsp of the courgette mixture, then some cheese again.  Fold the tortilla in half and then place onto the pan.  Cook for a few minutes and gentle lift it with a spatula to see if it has Browned.   Once browned, gently turn it over and brown the other side before removing from the heat.
See, told you it is easy.

Cheating on chilly nights

24 Feb

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Cheating on Chilly Nights

When the skies released fluffy white flakes again this week, smiles fluttered across my face as well as my boy’s, again.  Then I thought of all the inconveniences we would have to endure, again. And frankly, I’m quite sick of wearing tights. 

We stood looking out at it, gluing our foreheads to the window and chilling ourselves unnecessarily.  I forgot to talk at times and I always feel guilty about that, must keep talking to my boy.   I got busy thinking about how overcrowded the supermarkets would be. Because of course, everyone behaves as though the world is going to end and ritually go and pack the aisles of supermarkets up…just in case.  Even my parents do it and they’re supposed to be the educated bees! It always makes me chuckle how proud some people are for braving the stampede in the shops.

You know what I am going to say, don’t you?  I didn’t go and join the packs.  Yes I stocked up, but I also had few recipes up my sleeve. Ones that you can whip up with store cupboard ingredients.  Ones that bring colour to days that remind me of the Narnia before bad stuff happens. Ones that you can eat whilst hugging the bowl and tucked under a blanket, or perched by the window (forehead peeled off, of course).

You know I like cheating now and again.  As long as it is worth it, in terms of the quality of what is used.  There are days for creating lots of clever mess in the kitchen whilst singing and chattering or quietly experimenting.  Then, there are chilly nights where the blanket beckons.  That’s what this recipe I am sharing with you is for.

To me, there is nothing like some chilli to kick start the insides on a cold day, but if it doesn’t turn your internal furnace on then leave it out or moderate the usage. Use this recipe flexibly…you can use vegetables other than what I have; you could use pasta instead of gnocchi.  That’s my cheat-ready-made gnocchi.  Oh, and the Harissa paste. Oh and sometimes I use miso soup sachets instead of vegetable stock. Use some good quality, ready-made gnocchi and get a spoon in that broth…quickly!

Red Lentil,  Veg and Harissa Broth with Gnocchi

Ingredients to serve four

One large onion, diced

150g butternut squash, diced into bite sized chunks

4-5 leaves of Savoy cabbage, shredded

500ml of water or vegetable stock

Half a courgette, diced into bite sized chunks

Harissa paste to taste.  I used 2 tbsp

Spices; salt and pepper to taste, 1/2tsp cumin seeds, 1/4tsp turmeric

100g red lentils

400g gnocchi 

Method

1.  Cook the red lentils in plenty of water, until they are mushy in texture.  His should take about 15minutes

2. In meantime, heat 2tbsp of oil in a deep bottomed pan and add the cumin seeds and turmeric.  When the seeds crackle add the onion with the salt and soften the onion.

3. Stir in the butternut squash, savoy cabbage and courgette Cook fora couple of minutes before adding the red lentils and water. Season with pepper.

4. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked then stir in the Harissa paste.

5.  Cook the gnocchi per the packet instructions and serve into bowls before bathing them in the broth. Serve and devour immediately. 

 

 

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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