Tag Archives: dinner

Padron pepper, paneer, carrot & quinoa salad in a teriyaki dressing

30 Jul

Padron pepper, paneer, carrot & quinoa salad in a teriyaki dressing

Padron pepper, paneer, carrot and qunioa salad in a teriyaki dressing by Deena Kakaya

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I stood in the kitchen amongst the pre-dinner pandemonium as we had our toddler boy perched on the worktop reciting a loud hum of, ‘mum..mumma, I want to talk to you, I need to ask you a question…Muuuum’ and quite abruptly, I disarmed all tools, turned down all simmering pots, swiped for some work surface space and exhaled, ‘ I think we should give thanks. Let’s do something to show our gratitude, you know…give back’.

Of course I knew he would say yes, but I explained anyway; he had achieved a recent promotion, our boy was going to ‘that’ nursery school. The one which we used to talk about when I was a new bride of 23 years of age, when we lived in our rented flat in an upmarket area. There was a school uniform shop on the high street and once or twice when we evening-walked past it, my husband softened as he divulged that he has always liked the idea of having a son, and if we should have one he would go to ‘that’ school. So we had received a few blessings. I had even ended my term of lectures on a high with positive and glowing feedback from both institutions I delivered courses at; with students writing in ‘I would love to have Deena as a lecturer again, she goes above and beyond’. I had waited so long for things to be positive again, that I really needed to show gratitude.

The following week, a hole appeared in the path. An uncomfortable hole appeared. This is life. Arrogantly, I had never contemplated a hole of this size and shape would ever be presented in my path, but this is life. Now I will spend some lengthy time and energy in building a bridge and mustering enough will to keep moving forwards. This is something I am not unfamiliar with, but this indeed, is life.

But there is a difference. I now have a few coping skills. I have learned a few ways of calming myself and pushing myself to see beyond the physiological reactions right now. Look, if I strip away that one hole, the other blessings are still there. If I strip away all the blessings that are ‘things’ the promotion, the accolades, the praise the recognition, the work the good stuff… even if we strip all that transient, ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ stuff, there is still enough to be grateful for. In time, the all the meetings the cancellations, the delays and the frustrations…all of it and none of it matter little. Around the dark hole is colour and beauty.

And that of course brings me to this recipe of delicate and mellow Padron peppers, succulent paneer, carrot and that low GI and high iron grain of quinoa. I have probably mentioned that I always have carrots in the fridge that are permanently in the at-risk status (at risk of going limp). But look at the colour they give the salad, and they work so well with spring onions and Padron peppers, which are one of my recent foodie best friends for being so easy, addictive and darn tasty. I have dressed the salad in home-made teriyaki sauce, though dark and bold it made my home smell lovely as it simmered away. All colour in darkness here.

for the full recipe follow this link to Great British Chefs

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine and spinach

13 May

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine and spinach

 

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine spinach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients to serve two

3 medium potatoes suitable for roasting

1 tbsp. rapeseed oil

Two medium aubergines

One tin of chopped tomatoes

4 dessert spoons of finely chopped spinach

One large red chilli

Salt to taste

2 tsp. Za’atar spice

3 tsp.  Baharat spice

150g fresh mozzarella cheese

 

A handful of cherry or plum tomatoes, quartered

Method

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

Wild rice salad with home-made satay dressing

27 Jan

It was my birthday last week.

I have never been one for parties or commotion but I do like indulgence. As I swiped through my social-media well wishes telling me to ‘have a lovely day’, I offered the third lunch alternative to my cold-ridden and self-confessed frustrated toddler who refused to eat anything. Unchanged from the morning and desperate for a bath, I bashed updates into my phone, telling my business-conventioning husband that this is NOT the way birthdays were supposed to be. Thank goodness I had macaroons to stifle the onslaught of tears and spits of ‘no I do not have plans’ that my poor brother got the end of. Deep breaths. My cousin shrugged, ‘well, this is what happens when you have kids love’. What finer and truer ways to tell me get a grip?

Thankfully I didn’t have to hold that grip for too much longer as the weekend brought redemption in the way of a much needed facial and utterly required massage. As I heard the knots click in my back, I wondered if I could have a snooze whilst the face pack dried. Anyway, I was treated to some vegetarian Thai fine dining in London in the evening, giving me an excuse to dress in sexy lace sleeves and wear make-up. I have to tell you that when they served the satay sauce warm with the tofu skewers, I had high hopes and my goodness they were delivered to a dizzy levels; I wanted to drink the stuff. Unlike shop bought stuff the satay sauce was deeper, lighter, disclosed a few crunches of peanuts and unveiled just a little heat. It wasn’t thick and heavy like we often see. Normally I would have asked for how they do it but I didn’t on this occasion and I regret it. I really do.

Wild rice salad with home-made satay dressing by Deena Kakaya

Like all good things must, I have gone back for more…well, not to the restaurant already but I have satay’d at home with a healthful and abundant serving of wild rice, full of life’s colours and sweet balance from roasted peppers and sweet potato. It is nutty in itself and works so well with a couple of tablespoons of satay dressing per serving.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

For the wild rice

175g of wild rice, cooked per the packet instructions

One yellow pepper, diced

One red pepper, diced

150g sweet potato, diced

100g small broccoli florets

4 spring onions, diced

One tin of chickpeas, washed drained

4-5 shallots, skinned and halved

40g basil, finely shredded

5 tbsp. cashew nuts, lightly toasted on a non-stick pan

For the satay sauce

2 tbsp. peanut oil

2 1/2 tbsp. peanut butter

1 tbsp. brown sugar

One small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

One large red chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp. red chilli flakes

1 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

One can of coconut milk

Method

  1. Roast the peppers, onion and sweet potatoes in a light coating of rapeseed oil in an oven preheated to 180 degrees until they are lightly browned.
  2. Boil or steam the broccoli for 3-4 minutes or until tender
  3. In a large bowl, add the rice once it has cooled to room temperature.
  4. Now mix in the roasted vegetables, chickpeas, broccoli, cashews, basil and spring onions and combine well.
  5. To make the satay dressing, heat the oil gently before adding the onions, garlic and chilli and sauté on a low flame until the onion has softened.
  6. Now mix in the coconut cream, soy sauce, peanut butter, chilli flakes, brown sugar and rice wine vinegar and gently simmer for 4-5 minutes before turning off the heat and allowing it to cool until it is just warm.
  7. Serve each bowl of salad with a couple of tablespoons of dressing.

 

Pea, spinach and brown rice patties (vegan and oil free)

17 Jan

Are you doing the healthy eating thing this month?

People around me are having salads at lunch time and my friend last week even had hers without the dressing. I know.  On instagram, more people are asking me about ‘how to’ on roasting veg or other healthy vegetarian stuff, not tips on creamy curries or frying pakora.

I am off to a good start this year. No, I haven’t cut out bread, cakes, and biscuits or curry (as evidenced on my instagram profile). I am off to a good start because you know how I told you, that every year New Year’s Eve for the last four years I have been filled with dread?  I felt anxious as the year turned over that I had not done enough or not moved enough. I created, shaped and grew a larger monster of my normally hushed down feelings of confusion and mislaid bits of identity since my boy has been born and my redundancy. Am I still clever? Can I still be successful? Could I still earn what I used to?

Well, guess what? For the first time in four years, I didn’t feel it. I thought a little bit, my heart was still and my mind was sleepy. That my friends, is a healthy start to 2015. I have grown.

Pea, spinach and brown rice patties (vegan and oil free) by Deena Kakaya

So, with a healthier mind, I share with you green freshness and goodness. The pea, spinach and brown rice patties are oil free and vegan friendly. I am myself surprised that they have held so well and they are so moist on the inside. The oats and breadcrumb give a crisp exterior and even after freezing a batch and cooking them the other day, they are still moist inside. Even my two year old enjoyed them.

Pea, spinach and brown rice patties (vegan and oil free) by Deena Kakaya

Ingredients to make 12 patties

300g frozen peas, boiled for 3 minutes and then cooled

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1-2 green chillies

125g baby leaf spinach, shredded in a food processor

1 tsp. cumin powder

1 tsp. coriander powder

1 tsp. chaat masala

65g brown rice, cooked per packet instructions and then cooled

50g jumbo oats

80g breadcrumbs

  1. Combine the peas, garlic, spices and seasonings into the food processor and blitz them into a lightly lumpy paste. Then add the spinach and blitz again.
  2. Turn the pea paste into a large bowl and then add the oats, breadcrumbs and cooled, cooked brown rice and form it all into dough.
  3. Put the patty mix into the fridge for 15 minutes and then bring it out to form equal sized patties, placing them onto baking paper.
  4. Place the patties back into the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  5. Once the patties have set to a more firm shape, bake them in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until they are lightly golden on the outside.

Soy, galangal and star anise tofu & mango tacos

15 Jul

Soy, galangal and star anise tofu & mango tacos

Soy, galangal and star anise tofu & mango tacos

I took my toddler to the pool today and because I’m hanging on to every precious day and really feeling the countdown towards loosening the cord a little more, I was even more patient with him. He was even more ecstatic than usual. ‘I love you so much in the swimming pool’ he told me, and he also told me that he was going to ‘demonstrate’ his ‘swimming skills’. He is not even 2.5years old yet.

So here is the thing. Whilst he was shivering post-swim under my deep red towel and as we walked to find a large changing cubicle he chatted away to a member of the cleaning staff. He asked her about her favourite planet, car and animal. She asked him if he likes chocolate and he didn’t reply. He noticed that three of this softly spoken and calm looking staff’s colleagues kept walking by but nobody said hello to her. He asked me why? Well. What do you tell a not-yet-2.5 year old?

I had the same questions in my first job at the Bank of England. I had the same question in my last role at a household name-type brand. I thought it would be different in my new world. My new world is cluttered and tangled in a new way because it has emotion and passion factored in.

I was quite tempted to change the topic, but thought better. I told him that some people like to feel important, like a super hero. Some people like think Mars is better than Earth. Mars is amazing because it is red and Martians and they think they are cool because they don’t get dehydrated but people on Earth think they are cool if they are have lots and lots of stuff. ‘But that’s messy isn’t it’ he asked. ‘Yes’, I said. It certainly is.

So, here is a recipe that isn’t cluttered, it is simple. But you can get messy whilst eating it-if you fancy celebrating the glorious mess that one can be (me for a start). If you read my posts regularly (thank you if you do) then you will be familiar with how I love to balance contrasting senses. In tune with that, the (certainly not bland) tofu is salty, warm and bold. The mango is sweet and juicy. Then you’ve got spring onions. Who is celebrating a messy life with me?

The hubby recently bought Dhruv Baker’s book SPICE for me as a thank you. I have been instrumental in helping him (the husband) shed a few KG in weight with some of the lean recipes I have been cooking and in his book Dhruv cooks duck with some of the essences that I have used in the tofu. It works.

Ingredients to serve two

One block of firm tofu

2 tbsp. soy sauce

One medium sized mango, cut into thin strips or julienne

3 tbsp. kecap Manis

1 tsp. Chinese 5 spice powder

150ml water

3 star anise

8 taco shells

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp. cooking oil

1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 tsp. galangal paste

3-4 spring onions, finely chopped

Method

  1. Wrap the tofu in kitchen paper and leave it to stand until the excess moisture has been soaked up before cutting it into large chunks of roughly 3cm cubed.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and shallow fry the tofu until it is crisp and lightly golden.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes.
  4. Pour in the soy sauce, then the star anise and rice wine vinegar and mix through. Then add the 5 spice powder, galangal and kecap Manis and combine well.
  5. Pour in the water and reduce the heat to a medium to low flame and cook until the moisture has been absorbed and the tofu looks well coated and almost crisp.
  6. Compile the tacos by cooking the shells per packet instructions and adding the fillings as you like. Serve immediately whilst the tofu is still hot.

 

Beetroot, chipotle and feta fritters with Asian style cucumber salad

29 Sep

Beetroot, chipotle and feta fritters

Beetroot, chipotle and feta fritters

Our taxi driver confidently lead us down a shabby lane in Cairo. It was such a hot and dusty day and the atmosphere around the roads was subdued. We dodged the rocks and stones that had dislodged from the road and buildings and skipped over small mounds of stinking rubbish. I shot huffy expressions towards my explorative and overly-polite husband who simply adjusted the cap on his head, mopped his face and said, ‘come on babe, lets just see’.

Lets just see? What did he mean? What if something happened to us? I’m a natural worrier and this, together with having had regretful holiday experiences in the past, had fired off dozens of atrocious images in my mind from being food poisoned to being shot.

I reassured myself that our driver was in fact a lovely, pious man. He had gelled quite well with my husband and he told us lots of stories to pass the journey times during out holiday. Whilst we stumbled and hopped along the path he was leading us along, towards this supposedly acclaimed restaurant, he was telling us why men in his hometown wore a bruised forehead. Apparently it demonstrated their religious devotion and credited them to be god following people because you could see that they bowed down for prayer regularly.

So, we weren’t shot. We arrived at the restaurant and it had a feel of the rainforest cafe in London. The roofs were leafy and crowded in a fun sort of way. Fake birds bobbed up and down above us, but they added to the rainforest feel. Fish swam beside us and whilst we settled ourselves at our table and my inner child was tickled. As you can imagine, I was smiling and that unrequited, ‘I told you so’ naturally blurted at me.

So I wondered off to watch this giant man rub his hands a couple of times and produce perfect falafels into the biggest wok I had ever seen. It was bubbling with steaming hot oil and none of the chickpeas escaped. Perfumes of tahini and parsley dominated the smoke above him. But then I saw his hands appear blood stained. Flutters of panic seared through me..he wasn’t cooking with meat was he? Was I right all along?

It was beetroot. He was stuffing grated beetroot into the falafels. He was watching my expression and then he and his big toothy grin handed one to me on a plate.

It was sweet, nutty and slightly spicy. Probably the way I’d describe my favourite friends and oh my goodness they were crispy and addictive. I wanted more. I couldn’t believe how fluffy they were, so light. They taste a bit like little burgers, I’d happily stick them in some pitta with dollops of hummus.

So I came back and I created these beauties. You know I like spice so I’ve whacked in some beautiful smokey chipotle, it makes the whole combination more sensual. I’ve got salty feta in there too and it works in harmony with sweet beetroot. I love these because they are moist without being pasty. I don’t add plain flour because it gives it that texture that sticks to the roof of the mouth. Instead I have used gram flour and chickpeas to give that nuttiness. Whether you eat these with salad or as a burger, you’ll find them easy to make and freezer friendly.

Ingredients

300g cooked beetroot, grated
75g breadcrumbs
100g chickpeas, squashed
2tbsp finely chopped parsley
1tbsp finely chopped chives
1/2 tbsp chipotle paste
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 egg lightly beaten
3 tbsp gram flour
50g feta cheese, crumbled
2 spring onions finely chopped
Oil for shallow frying
Salt to taste
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds
Salt to taste

Method

1. Squeeze as much if the juice out of beetroot as possible
2. Add the onion, feta, spices, herbs and add the chickpeas by imagesquishing them between your fingers. Use the salt carefully because feta is salty.

3. Add the chipotle paste, gram flour and the egg. Mix it all together before adding the breadcrumbs. If you feel that the mixture is too wet add a bit more gram flour
4. Form golf sized balls before dropping them into the warmed oil. Shallow fry them until they are golden brown on each side and serve with an Asian style cucumber salad.

Beetroot, feta, chipotle, chickpeas

Frying golf ball sized parities of Beetroot, feta and chipotle with chickpeas for nuttiness

For the cucumber salad

Peel one whole cucumber and stir it together with

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp sesame oil

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
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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.
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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.

Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Rice

5 May

Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Rice

Do you have childhood memories of being cajoled into eating?

Shiny shoes with glistening buckles swung, knocking at the kitchen cupboards whilst I was perched onto a kitchen worktop in velvety dungarees and a sympathetic, fresh polo neck jumper. Mum or Dad leaned their tummy gently against my knees, for balance and in sing song and over-enthusiastic grins and upstretched eyebrows, they  transported ‘aeroplanes’ loaded with rice, bathed in tomato soup and widened their mouths, hoping that I’d mirror them.

It’s the sort of food that’s easy, juicy and sweet in a dribble inducing sort of way. Modest, economical but its familiarity and succulence is calming…but you know that I like to meander to new ways with gorgeous stuff. These days it’s a roasting red, spicy kick that I’m longing for. The thought of dried red chillies, releasing their sweet heat when soaked sets my heart a-flutter (but not on fire, I don’t go that far!). That’s why this recipe I’m about to share with you gives me my fix; I can change it to suit my mood. More or less heat, some veg, a bit of bite or crunch or something soft or squidgy. To be honest, I could make a meal out of this recipe, I don’t need much else.

Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Rice

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 cup tomato pulp

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

200g of roasted red peppers (the jarred stuff is fine to use for this recipe)

4-5 shallots, finely chopped

7-8 curry leaves

2 tbsp.  Channa dhal (Bengal gram)

10-15 cashew nuts halved

2 red chillies and 1 green chilli (or to taste)

300g uncooked rice

The spices; ½ tsp. garam masala, ½ tsp. mustard seeds, 1 tsp. cumin seeds, pinch of asafoetida, salt to taste,

Method

  1.  Wash and boil the rice and then keep it to the side
  2. Whilst the rice is cooking, whizz (roughly) together the  tomatoes and the roasted red peppers to a deep red pulp
  3. Heat the oil in a deep pan, then add the asafoetida, cumin seeds, mustard seeds,  chillies, Bengal gram and curry leaves and cook until the gram is golden brown and crunchy
  4. Stir in the cashew nuts and stir until they’ve browned a little
  5. Bring it together with the onions, add the salt and sauté for a couple of minutes before bringing in the garlic and sauté until they have softened
  6. Add the tomatoes and red pepper and bring It to a gentle simmer before stirring in the garam masala and then stir in the cooked rice
  7. Serve with something yogurt and garnish with coriander.
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