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Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

8 Apr

Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

I have never been one for going on a ‘diet’ or consuming trendy foods just because. I have always eaten what I wanted to yet in moderation, most of the time. I’ve always looked in the mirror and seen room for improvement, but I like bread, cheese and steaming hot pakora. But.

Just before I got married, during the run-up I had decided that I wanted to look every bit the blooming bride. I was only 23 and I wanted pictures to look back on, proudly, of me looking my finest on a glorious day. I wanted no pleats of belly-fat as I sat on the throne-like chair bearing my midriff and neither did I want wobbly arms fanning the guests as I took my vows in the Hindu manner. I didn’t want those shadows around my nose to show and I certainly did not want to reveal stained teeth. There needed to be classy cheek bones, not cute chubby cheeks.  I imagined gliding, slender and light whilst greeting and mingling with my guests. And so it started with eating lean salads at lunch time. I ruled out even miniature chocolates but at work, where celebratory birthday treats decorated communal cupboard tops daily, this was hard. When we were in our favourite Chinese restaurant we ordered stuff that wasn’t deep fried and a curry with salad instead of rice or noodles. I went to the gym every, single day.

I thought it was working. I was wearing white, sheer cotton tops and hot pants that summer.

But as I called my then fiancé into the room whilst trembling, I knew it had not worked. Every time I ran my hand through my hair a bunch fell out. It had worn out to a wispy and flyaway state. That’s what ‘dieting’ did.

After I had my boy I adhered to the dietary requirements stipulated by female elders and ancestors. I overdosed on fenugreek, millet flour, spinach, roasted aubergines and mung beans. I ruled out cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, spice, potatoes and many other items that lend to a balanced diet. I was borderline diabetic but consumed ghee, jaggery and nuts in the name of natural healing. And I do think that they are useful and nutritious, when they complement a balanced diet.

Again, the horror of losing fistfuls of hair in the bath was upon me. I wore a headband to disguise the thinning, especially around the temples. I was fearful of washing my hair but the greasy look didn’t do me any favours. I felt sluggish, heavy and I just wanted my hair back.

My recipe today offers carbohydrates and cheese and plenty of taste. Let us embrace them with our taste buds, hearts and tummies. I have used Chinese 5-spice in the stuffing and I know it does sound unusual, but really, truly. It’s good. I could the stuffing on its own as a salad, in fact…

Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

Ingredients to serve 4

A pack of cannelloni tubes

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

3 red bell peppers

2 cloves of garlic, minced

Chilli flakes to taste

250ml water

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 large leeks cut into bite sized pieces

200g feta cheese

3 medium potatoes, cubed

1 ½ tbsp. soy sauce

3 tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Method

  1. Wash, cut and drizzle the peppers with oil and roast them until they brown lightly
  2. Head the vegetable oil in a pan and the cumin seeds and once they sizzle, stir in the garlic and sauté for a minute before pouring in the tomatoes and the roasted peppers. Sprinkle in the chilli and water and then cook for 5 minutes before blitzing it smooth.
  3. Boil the potatoes for 4-5 minutes and then drain then and allow them to cook
  4. Heat the sesame oil in a deep dish and then add the leeks and then once they start to soften, sprinkle in the Chinese 5 spice and soy sauce and then cook them for 4-5 minutes on a medium flame.
  5. Stir in the potatoes and then crumble in the feta and then remove the mixture from the heat. Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping
  6. Pour some of the sauce into a deep dish, then turn your attention to stuffing the cannelloni evenly and then place each tube into the sauce. The sauce should almost cover the cannelloni tubes.
  7. Once the tubes are stuffed, sprinkle the top of the dish with panko breadcrumbs and then bake the cannelloni in the oven at 180 degrees until the topping is golden brown and the tubes can be pierced all the way through.

Roasted potato, mung bean, tomato and feta salad in Indian spice and za’atar

24 Feb

Roasted potato, mung bean, tomato and feta salad in Indian spice and za’atar

Where is your chip?

I like to tell myself that I have learned and earned more cultured stripes over the years and that through a progression of a London education, being reasonably well-travelled and having worked in a multi-cultural environment with stimulating and bright folk, I am now more ‘worldly’.  I eat biscotti and macaroons, not just digestives and there is artichoke on my salad today with panko breadcrumbs.  My bread had apple and pecan on it and my muffin has a spiced and poached pear in it; there are certainly no sprinkles on top.  Maybe though, just perhaps, the omelette and chips are just etched into my makeup and frankly, I like that.

I have spent much of the last couple of month’s solo parenting, as you may know if you read my posts regularly.  Needs must, so this is the way it is and part of it comes with privileges which I am grateful for and a measure of it comes with sacrifices, which I accept.  It is no holiday though.

When I’m on my own I do find myself in a state of heightened sensitivity and maybe that’s the exhaustion, with some element of loneliness paired with the desire to feel reassured.  I am more grateful, in a philosophical way, for those who visit to keep me company in the quiet of the evenings or call to ask how I am doing.  I am touched into silence for the flowers of encouragement and the cakes of companionship that come to me when the stillness does.  I smile when people let me rant knowing that I sound ludicrous at times because, being maddened by a case of dying ladybirds on my landing isn’t really that terminal.  And then I recognised, quite proudly, that the iron chip that weighed on my shoulder when people didn’t ask, show support, or care was well removed. I had successfully removed that draining energy and walked on.  I had grown and I didn’t even know it.

Roasted potato, mung bean, tomato and feta salad in Indian spice and za’atar

Though there is one thing, when I need a bit of comfort there is nothing like a spud with a crispy exterior and sweet fluffy interior. I told you that the egg and chips hadn’t left me and I am very glad for it too because they cajole me into my natural rhythm and there are times in life when I need that.  Nowadays though, there are no baked beans but instead I have created a filling, spicy, sense rousing salad using mung beans, salty feta and sweet tomatoes.  I had used za’atar spices and a mild Indian tempering to give zingy, spiced and herby flavour to this salad. It works so well as a salad on its own or in a wrap or with some bread.

Ingredients to serve 4

120g mung beans

700g of roasting potatoes like King Edwards, peeled and cut into two inch cubes

225g baby plum tomatoes, halved or quartered

2 tbsp. Za’atar spice

½ tsp. turmeric

2 green chillies, cut and slit

175g feta cheese, cubed

One small red onion, finely diced

30g coriander, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp. cumin seeds

4-5 curry leaves

2 tbsp. sesame oil

Half a lemon

Salt to taste

 

Method

  1. Boil the potatoes for 7-10 minutes before draining them and then allow them to cool. Coat them lightly in olive oil and then roast them in the oven at 200degrees until they are golden brown.
  2. In the meantime wash and boil the mung beans for approximately 20-25 minutes until they are tender and toss them once they are drained to remove as many of the loose skins as possible.
  3. In a large bowl combine the tomatoes, red onions, feta cheese and mung beans before making the tempering.
  4. In a non-stick pan, heat the sesame oil and add the cumin seeds, garlic, chillies, turmeric and curry leaves. Allow the seeds to sizzle and then after a minute turn the heat off.
  5. Pour the tempering into the salad and then mix it well. Squeeze in the lemon juice, sprinkle in the coriander and toss the salad well.
  6. When the potatoes are roasted, combine them with the other salad ingredients too and then sprinkle in the za’atar spice mix and toss the salad well again before serving warm.

 

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