Tag Archives: Dubai

Mexican-Indian corn chaat

12 Jul

Mexican-Indian corn chaat

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I was in a waiting room for several hours the other day.

Between moments of exasperated and forced eye contact with staff down the window-less corridor and then stiller and weepily-hungry jiffies of reading ‘The Kite Runner’ I listened to a gentleman whose granddaughter had just graduated from a university in Birmingham and Grandson who had just departed for travels in Australia. His daughters’ tolerantly listened to ‘daddy’ repeating himself. Well, one did whilst the other arranged school pick-ups and take-away dinners. I wondered why they didn’t intervene when their father asked another waiting lady about how many children she had, again. She who had twin 7 year old sons and a four year old daughter had just miscarried and she had gently explained for the third or fourth time that, ‘these things happen’, ‘it’s really common’, ‘I just want to move on’. I wonder if she really was that calm when she heard the older gentleman resaying, ‘was it your first’, ‘oh that’s awful’ and ‘life is so unfair’. Maybe she was thinking the same as me, which is that we are all going to end up where this gentleman was except whether it is a lonely struggle or one accompanied by loved ones remains to be seen.

She tucked her gaze onto the sketch she was making; she is an artist and worked flexibly around her children, describing this harmony as ‘nice’. Across from me a father and daughter nestled into each other. She must have been 11 or 12, long dark and silky hair tied into wafting pony tails but sportily dressed, like her dad. When I was of that age, it would have been less common to see such snuggling in a public area. Things have changed. My husband asked my three year old son what we do in our family, he replied, ‘we just erm, give love’.

On my right a gentleman waited with his family. His wife smiled serenely and his son discussed important subjects around his work and readings. His father listened with eager eyes and encouraging nods, though I did notice him stifle a couple of yawns. His daughter explained how she wanted to gradually transition from her professional job into her own business and her father agreed devotedly. I thought back to my teens when some of my friends were chastised for even hinting at more artistic subjects and felt sorry for parents who could not truly understand, relate or advise their children on many of these education and profession related matters. But they tried, like my parents did.

And so, as an ode to the many colours of life, I share with you a recipe for Mexican-Indian corn chaat. I scoffed an entire (sharing) plate of corn chaat when in Dubai (where it is very easy to be vegetarian) a few months ago as my husband looked on smiling. It was supposed to be a light and easy meal. Sweet corn in chaat is probably not the most traditional chaat recipe but the juicy and cool kernels of corn work well amongst the crispy puffed rice, tangy chutneys and soft potatoes. As I was eating it I couldn’t help think of Mexican corn salad with lots of red onion, corn tortilla and green peppers. And so, the Mexican-Indian corn chaat is born; it has pungent and peppery chaat masala but also smoky Mexican Guajillo chillies. It has green chillies and also a double whammy of crunch from corn tortilla and puffed rice. I have smoothed on some cool whipped yoghurt for the base of the dish too. One serving of this dish is just never enough!

Ingredients to serve 2-4

3 guajillo chillies

3 green chillies, finely chopped

One medium red onion

½ cup mung bean shoots, or you could use chickpeas

2 tbsp. tamarind chutney (shop bought is fine)

5 tsp. chaat masala

125g chopped, fresh tomatoes

4 new potatoes, diced boiled

1 tin of 325g sweet corn

5-6 dessert spoons of plain, natural yoghurt

¾ cup puffed rice with peanuts (readily available in Indian supermarkets as sev mumra)

A couple of handfuls of corn tortilla, lightly crushed

Method

  1. On a dry pan gently roast the peppers until they start to smoke but don’t let them brown. Take them off the heat and immerse them with enough hot water to cover them. Leave them to stand for about 15 minutes before blitzing them to a paste.
  2. In a large bowl, add the drained corn and toss the kernels amongst the guajillo chilli paste and tamaring chutney.
  3. Now add the potatoes, onions, green chillies, tomatoes, mung bean shoots and then toss all the ingredients. Sprinkle in the chaat masala.
  4. Prepare each plate by layering the yoghurt on the base of the plate.
  5. Before serving, add the puffed rice with peanuts and corn tortilla to the bowl of ingredients. If you add them too early they will soften.

 

 

 

Moroccan Harira meets vegan cottage pie

11 Dec

Moroccan Harira meets vegan cottage pie

They say that travel broadens the mind, but what does that actually mean?

Moroccan style vegan cottage pie by Deena Kakaya

Does it mean that we learn about other cultures and ways of life, new languages, different cuisines or perhaps unfamiliar landscapes and explore intriguing wildlife or flora? Does it mean that we speak to people that we wouldn’t ordinarily speak with and feel their joys, anguishes and reasons for fatigue? Or does it mean that we push ourselves out of a comfort zone and this in itself grows us?

I suppose it depends on not only where you go, but how you travel. Did lying languidly on a Mauritian beach a few years ago broaden my mind in an educational sense? Listening to an ex-prisoner on Robben Island telling us about the rationally differentiated ration card and cutting sun-reflecting limestone in the sun however, left me wondering how forgiving a person I am?

I spent 9 days in Dubai last week. It was my fourth visit and my husband travels frequently for work. In fact, we went to the same resort as we had visited last year when my boy was just a year old. We had decided many years ago that we would never visit the same destination twice, but many things change when you have children.

Moroccan style vegan cottage pie by Deena Kakaya

Dubai is packed full of ex-pats and a myriad of cultures, plethora of cuisines, a whole haze of languages and my eyes blur with the multiple construction sites. It is hot, it is growing and it is has promise. So, what did I learn during my recent travels?

Well, I had a few moments to think whilst my husband fed my boy falafel and green rice in our favourite Lebanese restaurant within the resort. I had just watched, and admired a belly dancer whilst considering whether her body had been augmented and was now listening to the live singer whilst scooping up the most wonderful garlic and herb hummus with fresh balloon bread. My mind wandered off and that I do learn when I am away is that the jurisdictions of possibility are all in my head. Look at the people around me. I made a point of trying to learn the story of as many people I came across in Dubai as I could. The waiter from India who has doubled his salary by moving, didn’t stop at other’s notions of what is inconceivable, the female taxi driver who had escaped a harmful relationship and gained independence had not put limitations on herself either.  The people who yearned for sunlight and sand between their toes, or even just safety…they didn’t stop moving did they?

So from sipping Harira to wanting healthy comfort food at home, here are those two worlds on a plate. Harira is a fragrant with cinnamon and saffron and kind soup that is deep with lentils and gently spiced. This is an oil free recipe and vegan too. I haven’t even used any cheese because it is not needed with those Moroccan essences. I have used the finest sweet potatoes sent to me by Riverford and some of their massive shiny leeks that enhance the light sweetness of this dish.

for the full recipe head over to great British chefs

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.

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