Tag Archives: easy indian

Asparagus, Halloumi & potato curry in roasted garlic, chilli and pomegranate

3 Apr

My mind was a Bollywood movie when I was growing up.  A gentle breeze blew tenderly through my long fuzzy hair, never mind the split ends. I smiled demurely, raising the fine (but visible) hairs on my upper lip with me. Long eye lashes fluttered, wistfully, behind black-framed glasses.  When I rested my face on my palm, to day dream of course, I thought of the huge hoops that should sit on my cheeks, though I wore unpretentious studs.  As I hurried from class to class, I imagined swaying and flowing thin fabric skirts and slim legs under them. Instead my jeans hung off my under-developed bottom and skinny legs.  There was forever a song on my fruity-lip-balm smothered lips and a colourful dance sequence in my head to match, even in exams. Hazy eyes had no kohl on them, but inside them were plentiful, romantic and ambitious dreams.   I carried innocence, but quiet the realities of an average existence.   In my mind I had the conviction of any of those actresses, but the will and smarts to fly.

 

I wasn’t even conscious of that upper lip hair until my cousin pointed it out whilst we stood chatting under the light.  I don’t think I knew that spilt ends meant damage until I was a teenager; I had glossy and dark locks as a young child and then somehow it ended up light and fuzzy. I went from skinny child to full figured teenager and I didn’t even notice. Some of my friends talked about my colour one day and I went home to check it out, and in fact introduce myself to this bright complexion with rosy cheeks that they spoke about.

Asparagus, Halloumi & potato curry in roasted garlic, chilli and pomegranate

I was 16.   There was a boy who blushed when he made small talk with me. He slipped a few notes into my English A-level texts. I cut my hair and it now bounced, it was the ‘Rachel cut’ from friends.  The length of my tops shrunk from long and wafting to short and embracing. There was a chap that took the same bus home as me, so we could talk. He then detoured back to his home.  My face became smooth and free from overgrown eyebrows or whiskers beneath my nose.  I remember another young fellow who asked sent me inviting notes in a fast food café. I remember taking an interest in fashion and the re-emergence of 70’s clothing, the platform shoes, and the loud prints on skinny trousers to wafting ones, oh and even the hair. That’s when the gifts started coming in…from bags to earrings.

I am waiting to blossom again. To bloom. I did as a teenager, then as a mother and now I am waiting on the next phase of finding myself.

Asparagus, Halloumi & potato curry in roasted garlic, chilli and pomegranate

Meanwhile, here is a recipe that is something of an awakening. If you liked my paneer curry in roasted tomatoes and basil, I have to say that I think this one is even better. Someone wrote to me saying they thought I had out-done myself on that last curry, I actually think this one outdoes the last.

I love this one with sweet and deep heat, mellow yet fragrant garlic without its pungency sings through the curry and then you get a tang from the fruity molasses. The potatoes thicken the curry and the Halloumi..oof the Halloumi. Its saltiness balances well with the other senses and soaks up the curry juices with its light chewiness. You’ve got to do this one. Really.

Ingredients

225g Halloumi cheese, cut into bite sized chunks

100g fine asparagus tips

350g potatoes

½ tin of chopped tomatoes

1 ½ tbsp. of pomegranate molasses

1 ½ full bulbs of garlic

4-6 mild and thick chillies (suitable for salsa or stir fries) minced

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. coriander powder

1 tsp. cumin powder

3-4 cardamom pods

Salt to taste

½ tsp. turmeric

3 tbsp. cooking oil

One medium sized red onion, thinly sliced

225ml water

Cook’s note: I am not using the thin red chillies for this dish. What we want to achieve is that bright red colour and sweet and gentle heat. Please use the thick, but short red chillies that are used for stir fries and salsa.

Method

  1. Start by roasting the 2 bulbs of garlic. Drizzle them lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap them in baking paper and put them in the oven at 180degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until they are soft enough to pop out of their skins.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and add the cumin seeds with the turmeric and allow the seeds to sizzle before adding the onion, salt and turmeric. Soften the onion before adding the minced chillies and stir fry for 30 seconds on a medium to low heat.
  3. Stir in the potatoes, coat them in the tempering and then add the tomatoes and water. Bring the curry to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked but firm.
  4. Add the asparagus and the cumin and coriander powders and then the pomegranate molasses. Pop the cloves of garlic out of their skins (use approximately one and a half bulbs). Mash them lightly to release the flavours.  Mix well and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  5.  Mix in the Halloumi and cook on a low flame for 2-3 minutes.

Serve immediately with rice.

From halwa to chutney- Butternut squash, almond and coconut chutney

22 Nov

From halwa to chutney- Butternut squash, almond and coconut chutney

Often other people’s troubles seem more solvable than your own, don’t they. My cousin sat before me, beautiful and troubled. She has the sort of face that you just want to keep looking at. One of those faces that is often depicted in indian paintings; large eyes, lots of thick black hair and a delicate smile.

My much younger cousin has everything ahead of her. No career tangles or mortgage yet. All the joys of life are ahead. Yet she fought back tears. Everyone has their story, don’t they. Her resolve made me smile. Apparently I’m an effective coach; we talked solutions and we spoke about understanding what really was important. We talked about taking it one day at a time and that nothing, whether good or bad is forever. It all passes.

I scooped warm carrot halwa and ice cream into my mouth whilst I squinted at her in reassuring concern. I’m normally a crisps over chocolate girl and curry over cake, but this was good halwa. Normally I find carrot halwa overly sweet and sometimes grainy. This one was smooth and moderately spiced and certainly not overly spiced. Whilst the young cousins refrained from over indulgence on the paneer and fried cassava, I just ate. And listened to them. They laughed and texted away whilst sat next to each other.

I was thinking about savouring the taste of the halwa and I thought, I’d love to bottle it….bingo. That is when my butternut squash, almond and coconut chutney was conceived.

So the chutney is tangy and spicy and nutty and Jammy and ? Yummy. It makes for a great Christmas gift and so far it’s been on my toast, in a sarnie and even on a fenugreek chappati.

Ingredients

500g butternut squash peeled and grated
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
100g almonds, half of which should be flaked and half coarsely ground
2 tsp chilli flakes
150ml white wine vinegar
1 tsp ground cardamon
4tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
200g soft, light brown sugar
I used 1 tsp salt, moderate to your taste
2tbsp lemon juice
150ml water
2tbsp oil

1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin and coriander seeds and allow them to sizzle. Then add the almonds and lightly brown them before adding the squash, coconut, cardamon, chilli, salt and the sugar. Mix it all well, then add the vinegar.
2. Bring the mixture to a simmer and then add the lemon juice and agave nectar. Pour in the water and simmer on a medium to low flame for 25mins and then turn it down to a low flame and simmer for another 20minutes.
3. Turn off the heat when the chutney is jammy in consistency and most of the water has evaporated.
4. When the chutney has cooled store it in air tight and sterilised containers.

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

Post Diwali Paneer, black bean, chilli French toasties with fig raitha

5 Nov

IMG_4135Post Diwali Paneer, black bean, chilli French toasties with fig raitha
Diwali is over; the fairy lights are off and diya’s have been packed up. We don’t really receive cards anymore otherwise they’d be down too I suppose. The Diwali snacks tubs are still out, but the excitement for them has waned given the over indulgence on them over the last few days. The phones are now quiet and the pretty and bright indian clothes are back in their zip covers and packed up. The skies now sleep in the dark, instead of popping and banging. The hardest bit will be that I will miss my family, the liveliness and the cheerful Diwali banter. The husband goes back to work too. We are back to normal.

So this is where I stop being sad that the festive period is over and take gratitude in the reality, which is a blessing. I was listening to friends and family talk over the past few days and as I grow, the more I realise that it’s so important to keep things in life simple.

We are always chasing. We are always doing. We are always thinking, dreaming, planning and aspiring. All good things, I suppose. If they make you truly happy. Now and in the future. I just often wonder what the point is. The simple things make most people I know happy. Spending time with loved ones, walking, laughing, watching a good movie, eating out, reading a great book, having a soak in the bath. Whatever it is that makes you happy now, do that. Our brains have been conditioned to believe that anger, jealousy, competition are all natural parts of life. But they aren’t. They become parts of our thinking right.

So when I came back from the Diwali celebrations, tired and happy, I flicked on the heaters, stood in front of the fridge and announced that I need a light and tasty meal. It’s part of my gentle recovery from all the feasting over Diwali. I still need something that’s packed with punch, dense but light. If that makes sense. Going straight for the salads feels like a step too far right now. So this is what I concocted. A flavour and texture delight of paneer, black beans, chilli French toasties with a fruity and sweet fig Raitha.

My wonderful sister-in-law is such a light in our lives. She’s an advocate of keeping things simple and the best ideas come to those who keep the clutter away. My sister-in-law is a genius ball of ideas. Honestly, sometimes she will just burst out, ‘ wouldn’t it be good if they invented…’

So amidst my child’s eating refusal, she suggested eggy bread. It’s crunchy and easy eat and taste great. It’s nutritious for a little one too. Of course me being me, I can’t just stop at eggy bread…and my little one loves spice. So I gave him this sarnie without the chillies!

Ingredients for four sandwiches

100g grated paneer
100g black beans
2 green chillies, finely chopped
One red onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 tsp chaat masala
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
2 tbsp butter
A little oil to loosen the butter
8 slices of bread

For the Raitha

75ml plain natural yoghurt
3 fresh figs, peeled.
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp coriander powder

Method
1. Combine the grated paneer, black beans, red onion, chaat masala, cumin seeds, coriander powder and green chilies in a bowl and mix well.
2. Combine the eggs and milk in a separate bowl, whisk and keep to aside.
3. Heat half a tablespoon of butter in a non-stick pan and add a little oil to loosen and make sure the butter doesn’t burn. Make a sandwich by placing some of the mixture inside and then cut it half. Hold it to close and dip into the batter. Place it on the pan and let it catch a golden colour before turning it over.
4. To make the raitha, simply combine the yoghurt with the flesh of three figs. Fork it down to a pulpy texture and them add a little coriander powder and a pinch of salt.

Serve immediately and wait for sighs.

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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.

Indian spiced exotic mushroom, cauliflower and pea pie

24 Sep

Indian spiced exotic mushroom, cauliflower and pea pie
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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.

Quick and Easy Blueberry Shrikhand Fool

18 Jan

ImageQuick and Easy Blueberry Shrikhand Fool

So, it’s a Friday night and you invited some friends round for dinner.  You are running late home from work, stupid transport and why are so many people in your way! Goodness, you really wanted to make it special…well, nothing gourmet necessarily, but still, somewhat impressive!! You didn’t want to get ready-made cake from the supermarket…but should you…is that just rude? Do you have time to go and grab a cake? Oh no…Friday, it’ll be busy. Darn it.

I have an answer for you…yes, it is cheating…but you still do some work! It’s not like you are plonking a shop-bought cake on a plate!

Shrikhand is a popular Gujarati sweet dish.  The traditional recipe is made with hung curd and is infused with saffron and cardamom and often garnished with pomegranate seeds and toasted pistachios. I could lick countless spoonful’s of sweet and creamy shrikhand.  I’ve added a twist with a deep purple infusion of blueberries which I think gives an alluring effect. I have also added a few chunks of meringue nests which add wonderful texture.

We all know about meringue don’t we…for those of us who watch ‘come dine with me’ we have seen the meringue disasters and triumphs and I am sure we have all picked up tips.  This is, however a cheats recipe…don’t sweat, just sling it together.

This is my cheat’s recipe…let’s admit it, we all do it…

I like to think of it; a bit like cheesecake…you don’t make the cheese do you? Nah…

Ingredients (serves 4)

150g of blueberries and a few for decoration (about 10-12)

6 tbsp. of icing sugar, or more if you prefer a sweeter taste

500g of Quark cheese

1 tsp of cardamom

A pinch of saffron

A couple of meringue nests broken into chunks (don’t crumble)

50g toasted pistachios. Half for decorating and half for the shrikhand

Method

  1. Blend the blueberries and icing sugar together until smooth.
  2. Transfer the blueberry and sugar puree to a non-stick pan and set it on a low-medium flame before bringing it to a gentle simmer. Continue to stir it gently and allow it to thicken; it should take 3-4 minutes until its ready.  Remove from the flame and then let it cool.
  3. In a mixing bowl whip through the quark cheese and saffron. Don’t worry about beating too heavily if the saffron doesn’t release its orange glow, this will happen as the shrikhand settles.  Add half the pistachio’s.
  4. Once the blueberry sauce has cooled, add it to the quark cheese and mix through thoroughly.
  5. All you need to do now, is layer through the chunks of meringue and shrikhand in individual serving dishes/cups and decorate with a couple of blueberries and pistachio’s and then share, if you can bring yourself to…

 

 

 

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