Tag Archives: food

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

Spicy beetroot and spinach Puri (fried breads)

4 Jun

Spicy beetroot and spinach Puri (fried breads)

We spent the day chasing bubbles on a sort-of man-made ‘beach’, with friends and giggles today. My boy and his friend ran around in bare legs, shining under their sun cream before washing our efforts into lake. We made, and resurrected sandcastles and settled quarrels over which colour spade belonged to which toddler, before washing gritty eyes out in the public toilets. As ‘I want’ and ‘pleaaaseee’ echoed through my mind, I realised that I had learned to let go a little.

Spicy beetroot and spinach puri by Deena Kakaya

Spicy beetroot and spinach puri by Deena Kakaya

Yes, the route to the park was unfamiliar and I had two loud toddlers in the bank demanding attention, but I made it. The toilets wreaked but it was OK, we washed the eye out. There was sand all over the clothes, but they can be washed and he had no interests in snacks but he would be fine. It’s OK. My phone buzzed but I didn’t check it, they could wait and I realised that I had returned those work emails for three days for the world wouldn’t collapse. We couldn’t get the toddlers out of there, naturally and so, we had two hungry little people who were busting for a wee the entire journey to a family friendly restaurant that I would never would have dined at before my boy was born, a whole hour and fifteen minutes late for lunch. But they ate. They ate cheese and tomato puree on cooked dough, but they ate. So for today, it’s OK.

I am really looking forward to the summer, even though I have this one challenge. On a day out to the zoo, or park or beach we usually take a vegetarian picnic. But we can’t take sandwiches for my toddler. My life would be so much simpler if my boy would eat a sandwich. I lament over the time I would save if he would just eat a sandwich. On our day out to an activity farm park for example (after which I had needed a nap) we took thepla (fenugreek chapatti), so I had been up until 11pm after returning from work the previous night at 10pm. You see my point?

This time, I made puri (Indian fried breads). Who can resist a fluffy, crisp balloon like puri? Not even my fussy toddler. At first he came into the kitchen and inhaled deeply, ‘thank you for making me puri, you are the best’. But at first when he saw them he declared that they would be for girls because they are hot pink. It didn’t take much persuasion for him to dig in; delicately sweet, slightly sour and gently warm with garlic…this is not a usual puri recipe but it really will hit the spot.

Recipe to make approximately 15 puri

Ingredients

1½ cup chapatti flour

½ cup finely chopped spinach

75g cooked beetroot, pureed

3 cloves of garlic, minced

Salt to taste

2 tbsp. plain, natural yoghurt

1 ½ tbsp. vegetable oil for the dough

Oil for deep frying

½ tsp. turmeric

You will need a large slotted spoon suitable for using when frying and some kitchen paper

Method

  1. Heat the oil for deep frying
  2. To make the dough, start by making in the middle of the flour within a large bowl. Then, using your fingers, blend the oil into the dough to ensure even and fine blending.
  3. Now add the turmeric and salt, again ensuring that it is evenly distributed.
  4. Now introduce the yoghurt, beetroot puree and garlic, together with the spinach. Form dough that is spongy, not sticky. If you need more water add it very little by little and if your dough is sticky then add flour, again little by little.
  5. Divide the dough into 15 equal portions and roll them out to approximately a palm size.
  6. Check that the oil is hot by placing a small amount of dough into the oil and if it rises immediately and begins to sizzle then place a single puri into the oil and gentle dab it with the slotted spoon. It should rise into a ball. Turn the puri around and cook it until it catches a light golden colour before removing it onto kitchen paper.

 

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class with Natco Foods

28 Oct

Oh my goodness. I am still smiling; the busy London kitchen got hot and steamy. Puffs of clouds lifted and carries the aroma of spices. Banter and laughter mixed with the sounds of sizzling pakora, bubbling curries and tinkles of pots and pans. 

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking classes www.deenakakaya.com

A fabulous bunch of people joined us for a cookery class that fused the world together on one vegetarian plate. Each of the recipes was introduced by a demonstration and people worked together to cook up dishes like kale, red onion and banana pakora. We even made cashew cream in the class to use in a curry.

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class www.deenakakaya.com

Some people came in pairs and some came alone. Either way, as the exotic drinks flowed, the group bonded and friendships grew.

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking classes www.deenakakaya.com

We ate a lot too. Attendees ate their own cooking, they ate each other’s cooking and of course I had to taste-test too!

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking classes www.deenakakaya.com

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class www.deenakakaya.com

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class www.deenakakaya.com

This class was heaving with spice. We sniffed them, tasted them, broke them and ground them. We talked about the health impacts of each of the spices and I shared some personal experiences such as dill water to increase breast milk supply! On the less shocking side we talked about fennel and it helping to clear the tummy, cloves to soothe toothaches and turmeric to fight a cold. All of the spices were fresh and those who came along were able to take some gram flour or spices away with them thanks to our sponsors, Natco

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class www.deenakakaya.com

My favorite bits of every class? Has to be the pride when attendees cook a dish that works, to their own surprise. I enjoy seeing people overcoming fears, such as frying. I delight in the camaraderie that spreads through the room and especially so when people walk out in groups exchanging contact details. I revel in the comments like, ‘I am definitely going to cook this at home’, ‘I am going to treat my friends to this recipe when I host the next dinner party’ and even, ‘I could use this method with other ingredients that I like’.

If you would like to join us for a, hands on, fun and valuable vegetarian cookery class in London then please look out for the next dates on the site or click here

You will walk away with recipes, containers full of food and some experience that you can use in different ways. I am really looking forward to seeing you at a future class. x

Book onto my next class by clicking here

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.

 

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

20 Jun

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

I wonder if you share my terrible habit and guilty pleasure. It is so irresistibly wrong yet so right that I convince myself that it is worth it, between remorseful moments.

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

 

My justification? Well it starts a little something like this. This is of course not an excuse. I’m busy, so busy that it is hard to think sometimes and thinking is important, isn’t it? I need a quick fix, especially when I am out and can’t stop, after all, what would happen if I totally ran out of steam? That would be dangerous, wouldn’t it? Sometimes I feel sore inside and I need a pick-me-up…I think about it a lot. In the bath, on the train and even in the park with squealing children around…well, with all that commotion, I deserve it don’t I.  And then at the end of the day, when I slump into my spot on the sofa, my body throbs with fatigue, I need it. I need a treat, I deserve one don’t I?  And it is summer! We are making memories at the zoo, picnics in the park, lounging in the garden with friends or by frolicking by the sea and what happens.

Yes, out comes the sugar and we don’t even notice it. I think it’s addictive and in this season of parties and picnics I find it harder to say no…well, everyone is doing it aren’t they?

I come from a family of diabetics and I really should know better. My body needed less sugar when I had my boy and it showed, very much. So I really should know better.

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

 

And here is what I am taking to the next picnic in the sun that we are currently enjoying. Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins. I adore slow roasted cherry tomatoes, the flavour is tongue tingling, sensationally rousing. I am hooked on that feeling of popping something into my mouth and having an intense flavour burst that revives me. Often I think of sugar for that instant hit, but it really doesn’t have to be that one. These tomatoes with their sweet zing and spicy kick really do hit the spot.

Now for the green stuff; mellow spinach adds texture to these muffins whilst the salad fennel adds peppery notes and there is a bit of cheese going in there too, it releases a really alluring aroma as the cheese bakes. ‘ahhh’ factor right here.

Ingredients

300g self-raising flour

2 eggs

2 tsp. piri piri spices

Salt

A couple of glugs of olive oil for roasting the tomatoes

2 handfuls of red Leicester cheese

A handful of pine nuts

200g spinach, finely chopped

300ml milk

90g melted butter

30g salad fennel

225g good quality cherry tomatoes

Method

  1. You will need to pre-prepare the tomatoes. Do this by slicing them in half and placing them cut sized up on a baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil and the piri piri spice mix. Roast them in the oven at 140degrees for about an hour. Allow them to cool.
  2. To make the muffins combine the flour, salt (I used about 1 tsp.) and the cheese, salad fennel and spinach and mix thoroughly before adding the tomatoes and mix again.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees and grease the muffin trays.
  4. In a measuring jug combine the milk, butter and eggs and whisk it all until it is smooth.
  5. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix it all to a batter.
  6. Evenly distribute the batter and then bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

Baby corn and potato curry in smoky Mexican chipotle chilli and dark chocolate

14 May

Baby corn and potato curry in smoky Mexican chipotle chilli and dark chocolate

 

Baby corn and potato curry in smoky Mexican chipotle chilli and dark chocolateMy parents were on face time whilst I was making this curry today. My little sweetie had been running around in his spider costume, “I’m not Aarav, I’m spider Aarav” and insisting that I play with him instead of cooking, not dad…mumma. He knows. “It’s nice to see Rakesh at home and in the kitchen too, wow” commented my dad. They know it doesn’t happen all the time. So my husband turned the phone towards  me, showing that I was grating chocolate into the curry, “Look at what your daughter is doing”. My mum let out her idiosyncratic youthful and quiet giggle and my dad thought it was really interesting. Interesting, rather than any ode to the ridiculous butchering of a simple curry.

I did live my childhood without limits in my mind. I’m sure that if I had told my folks I wanted to become a Bollywood actress they would have said something about me having to learn how to dance rather than see my 5ft1 inch frame as an eliminating clause. I remember wanting to write a novel and my husband (before our marriage when I was a teen) asked me why not.  There was no reason not. I know kids are supposed to do things when there’s a time but I saw that my little one wanted to talk and he started naming animals and objects at ten months, why not?

So then when did the limits come in (to my mind)? Was it when they gave me predicted grades at school and deliberately undercooked them to ‘motivate’ me? Apparently they never predicted straight A’s as that would have made me complacent, apparently. Or was it when my manager spent an hour and half telling me the things that I needed to do better or wasn’t very good at because there was no point in telling me about the 95% (as he stated) of stuff I did right? Or was it when the health visitors and nursery nurses told me that my child would probably never be an eater. Or was it the people who told me that mainly celebrity folk get published in the magazines. When did it become about what is ‘realistic’. What can we afford? Even that’s a limit isn’t it? Where is a realistic place to find a new house?

I say, be the child that lets the mind float into wants and ventures. Like this curry.

Baby corn and potato curry in smoky Mexican chipotle chilli and dark chocolate

Have you seen how dark and deep that colour is? The chipotle and red pepper give smoky accents to the vegetarian curry and then you feel this deep, lightly bitter sweetness that’s quite embracing. You will smell whole spices and they add warmth, but don’t overpower the recipe. It is not a quiet curry that hides in the middle of a week of ‘I just ate’. No. This curry is for those times when you want to carry forwards.

Ingredients

350g baby corn, slit into quarter lengths

450g potatoes, peeled and cubed

4 cloves of garlic, roasted in their skins

2 cloves

1 small stick of cinnamon

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Salt to taste

45g chipotle chilli paste

20g dark chocolate

500ml water

3 red peppers, roasted

1 tsp. coriander powder

1 tsp. cumin powder

1 tsp. amchur powder or a squeeze of lemon juice

One onion, thinly sliced

¼ tsp. turmeric

4-5 curry leaves

2 tbsp. cooking oil

Method

  1. Blitz the (skinned) garlic and red peppers to a puree and leave it to a side
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon and turmeric and curry leaves and allow the seeds to sizzle before introducing the onion and salt. Sauté the onion until it has softened before mixing in the baby corn and the potatoes.
  3. Sprinkle in the cumin powder, coriander powder and the amchur powder. Mix it all well and then add the water and roasted red pepper mix and bring the curry to a simmer.
  4. Stir in the chipotle chilli paste and then grate in the dark chocolate.
  5. Cover the curry and simmer it until the potatoes are cooked.
  6. Serve with rice or better, buttery chappati.

Stuffed and pickled baby aubergines

17 Feb

Stuffed and pickled baby aubergines

There is no race

Do you count when you run? I do. Perhaps it’s because I don’t want to run, or maybe there is a secret sense of achievement in ascending numbers. 34, 35, 36, 37…my mind bounds as fast my body, to the beat of my feet…38, 39, 40.  I feel all of my thoughts in pictures.   I see myself in PE at secondary school; one of my teachers had a rule that if we wanted to participate in with his scheduled activity we could, if not we run on the course that whole lesson. The default option was always to run. I saw myself at college, pre-hockey game. My dad would make me two eggs, two slices of toast and a large milkshake and I would run thinking of my breakfast and my aims, I needed those three ‘A’ grades for my a-levels, though I wasn’t sure why. 41, 42, 43, 44.

Stuffed and pickled baby aubergines

 

I feel the drizzle on my face and my throat is dry, my mind is running down the hill at junior school when the other girls didn’t want to play with me that day. The hill was littered with daisies and when you don’t know what to do, when standing still and all alone is confusing and unsettling, you stay busy and run.  45, 46, 47, 48…The new part of the school was being painted red and I could smell it amongst the daisy chains. 48, 49, 50…I wore trainers for the journey to work. I ran up the steps and down the spiral staircases and along the platforms, weaving myself between people traffic, frowning, as you do and thinking about the first meeting. If I got a seat I would whip out my phone and prepare to bash out that presentation.

51, 52, 53, 54…she said I should consider something that made me feel weak, he said that I need to do more. I said I have no time and that I am tired. You know when I am this busy, in this race, I nibble and not eat so much. I’m tired.

55, 56, 57, 58… I’m in the park with my best friend and we are young and laughing. It is what we did. There was nothing else, no competition, no pressure, no agenda. We walked a lot, we laughed a lot and we made up silly songs. We got wet, we ate a lot and we accepted. 59…I am in my quiet and secret spot on that bench amongst flowers. It is serene and cold and nobody knows I am there. There is no race.

If you have no time and you pick a lot, like me, make it one that will last. These sumptuous and silky bites give way to zing and heat and crisp little red peppers. These baby aubergines are stuffed with red pepper, parsley and garlic and this is a fine combination at any time of day. The idea of picking for me is to satisfy any mild hunger but more so, any urge for taste that will linger for a while. If I could keep a jar of these in my car with me I would, for an intermittent sigh of relief.

 

Ingredients

300g baby aubergines, stems removed

1 medium sized red pepper, finely diced

15-20g parsley, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic

1-2 green chillies

½ tsp. cumin seeds

Salt to taste

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. lemon juice

400ml white wine vinegar

4tbsp. sugar

200ml water

 

Method

  1. Clean and sterilise the jars you will put the aubergines into and then dry them thoroughly.
  2. Boil the baby aubergines for 10-12 minutes before draining them and leaving them to cool and dry.
  3. When the baby aubergines are cool and dry, make a slit into them, lengthways.
  4. Combine the red pepper, parsley, garlic, salt and chilli and then drizzle in the lemon juice and oil. Stuff 1 tsp. or more if possible into the aubergines before letting them rest for ten minutes of so.
  5. In the meantime, bring the white wine vinegar, teaspoon of salt and sugar to a simmer before gently placing the aubergines into the brine. Simmer for three minutes before removing them with a slotted spoon.
  6. Pour over the brine, so that the aubergines are completely submerged.

The aubergines will taste best the day after and should keep for a week in the fridge.

 

Masala mushroom wontons in a curried soya bean soup

18 Jan

wontons 1Moody soup. I’d never imagined.

I never imagined that my life would be this way. I was always a dreamer and I always focused very hard on walked boldly in that direction, without fear, without doubt, without any shadow of any other person. Just me and the picture. Smiling.

Today I woke feeling bleary eyed and confused. You know those days where the waves of pace and tasks carry you along and but the mind lingers behind. It’s been one of those days where I have wondered how I got here, what decisions did I make, or not make. I bathed in rose salts and then used rose water in my porridge. Bizarre.

I then read something written by a palliative care nurse about the regrets of patients on their deathbed.

Working too hard. Not living the life that was actually desired. Not sharing emotions. Not letting themselves just be happy. Not staying in touch with friends.

So what did I do?

wonton 2

I put away my phone and iPad and that meant putting away the, ‘am I doing enough’ feeling. I grabbed a blanket, snuggled up with my boy and had a snooze on the sofa whilst watching cartoons. Then I made this soup, which matches my mood today. Mellow. ‘Screw it, just let go’.

This one looks harder than it is to make, I did it all within 30minutes or so. Silky and mildly spiced mushrooms tucked inside thin and smooth wonton parcels. They sit happily in a gentle and deep soup. Each mouthful releases a sigh. It’s uncomplicated and quite impressive. Just as life should be.

Ingredients to serve two

For the mushroom masala

75g enoki mushrooms , cut roughly into bite sized pieces
100g shiitake mushrooms, cut into 2cm pieces
3 baby onions, finely chopped
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp chaat masala
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp sesame oil
A splash of soy sauce
1/2 tsp paprika
15 wonton wrappers

For the soup

2 tbsp soybean paste
1 tbsp sesame oil
600ml hot water
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp (or to taste) sweet chilli sauce
4-5 curry leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 tbsp of corn flour mixed with a little water

Method

1. To make the mushroom masala first, heat the sesame oil in a frying pan. Add the cumin seeds, curry leaves and turmeric and allow the seeds to sizzle.
2. Add the onions and mushrooms and sauté them for a minute. Add the chaat masala, paprika, garam masala, paprika and soy sauce. Sauté for a further 3 minutes before turning off the heat.
3. Take a single wonton wrapper and place 2 teaspoons of mushroom masala in the centre and them bring the sides inwards to make a drawstring purse. Use a little water to to keep the purse together.
4. Place the wontons in a steamer and then steam them for approximately 6-7minutes and then remove them from the steamer.
5. In the meantime, whilst the wontons are steaming make the soup by heating the oil, adding cumin seeds, curry leaves, turmeric, minced ginger and garlic and then sauté for a minute. Then add the soya bean paste, mix it together before adding the water.
6. Bring the soup to a simmer before adding the sweet chilli sauce, rice wine vinegar and curry powder. Stir it to ensure that the soyabean paste has melted into the soup.
7. Pour in the paste of corn flour and water and simmer for 5-6 minutes.
8. To serve, place the wontons in a bowl and pour in a ladle or two of soup. Garnish it with coriander.

Sweet and chilli Beetroot, masala potatoes, toasted almonds, green beans and goats cheese salad

18 Sep Salad

Sweet and chilli beetroot, masala potatoes, green beans, goats cheese and toasted almond salad.

Salad

When I married my husband my kitchen inherited his eating habits. Naturally. We had a permanently colourful fridge tumbling with carrots and tomatoes that he ate raw; fantastic. Lots of fruit ; wonderful! There were requests for minestrone, lasagne and for stir fries. Sounds all very virtuous doesn’t it, it’s making me feel proud just reading it. Accompanying these very sensible, wholesome and fresh choices were some rather odd ones.

Light, fresh, delicate and sour crispy dosa were flattened and overpowered by the rude slathering of tomato ketchup. Wedges of apple were showered with salt and cumin powder. Crunchy and spicy Bombay mix was dunked to the soggy bottom of a mug of masala chai. Garlic chutney (literally just garlic and chilli powder) on cold Chappati comprised a long lingering breakfast.
The one I couldn’t dispute too much was the plate full of spicy, lightly crisped masala, peppery potatoes with lashings of natural yoghurt on top. Ironically, this carby dish is the food of fasts and it always throws me back to large family get togethers, nuts, saris and cold weather. All the lovely stuff.

Now it is of course wrong to change a man. Isn’t it. What of those women that alter the hobbies, eating, clothing, housing and everything else that makes the man. No. But…if all we are tweaking is banishing the hoodies and introducing a bit of colour to the plate…well that’s just helping and it is a contribution to the betterment of generations to come, isn’t it ?

So I have taken his beloved masala potatoes, changed it up a wee bit and sat them in a salad. Salad is a sort of catch-all, umbrella food term isn’t it. When I was a kid, Salad just meant cucumber, tomato, lettuce and sometimes sweetcorn. Salad cream was the dressing. Nowadays, a salad is a concoctive compilation of hot, cold, sweet, sour, crunchy or soft stuff with fruits or salad or both. Anything.

So back to my salad, or whatever we want to call it. Peppery potatoes in cumin and sesame seeds and a few simple spices that and punch. The beetroot is bathed in its own juices and some agave nectar and chilli. I used agave because it is low GI and won’t give me those sugar spikes that honey or sugar based products will. Toasted almonds are the crunchy and smoky bit and then I’ve got the juicy beans and salty and creamy cheese. This is a plate that plays with the senses and is pretty nutritious. No reason not to now is there?
Ingredients

600g of white potatoes
300g of beetroot with the juices
170g of green beans
30g flaked almonds
3tbsp agave nectar
3tbsp cooking oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds
A few blogs of goats cheese or feta

The spices; salt to taste, 1tsp chilli flakes, 1 tsp cumin seeds , 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp amchur powder (dried mango powder), 1/4 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Start by chopping the potatoes into wedges and boil them for about 7-8 minutes. Drain them and leave them to dry

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2. Whilst the potatoes are boiling, toast the almonds in a dry pan over a medium flame until they are golden brown.

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3. Next turn your attention to the beetroot. Chop it into chunks and simply dress it with the agave and chilli and leave it to a side.

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4. Now stir fry the potatoes by heating the oil in the pan and then stir in the potatoes. Add the sesame and cumin with the salt. Sprinkle in the pepper, paprika, oregano, mango powder and garam masala. Cook the potatoes until they attract a golden colour. This should taken ten minutes on a medium flame. Stir the potatoes intermittently to avoid them sticking.
5. Whilst the potatoes are cooking, boil or steam the green beans for about 7minutes or until tender.

Serve with the juices of the beetroot and sprinkle the almonds on top with the cheese.

Smoked Aubergine polenta with sweet and spicy tomatoes on top

16 Sep

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Smoked Aubergine polenta with sweet and spicy tomatoes on top

How do you get mosquito bitten in summery Milan? I counted 38 and I am not kidding.  And how do you get lost in Milan? Both of those unfortunate and grossly inconvenient situations lead us to walking around the streets utterly famished and wearily confused.
So we, (my dear friend and I) ended up in a quiet street that was lit dimly. In blue.  My friend is rubbish in the heat.   she, who is normally composed and upbeat, moans incessantly in the heat. She moans about walking, about her feet, about being thirsty, about stupid signs and idiotic drivers and about people who walk towards her.
So I stood over her, exasperated but coaxing her into telling me what we she wants to eat. I thought she’d give me her same-old line, ‘i don’t know, I don’t care, you decide’. But you know what she told me as I was being visciously attacked by Mosquitos sent back from hell? She told me she was in love.  With a man from Manchester.
And with this, I grabbed her arm, smiled and walked into the first reasonable looking place that was wasn’t lit in blue.  This is where the polenta comes in.  Hang in there.
So we were greeted by a middle aged guy that flirted outrageously and unprofessionally with my friend.  Before he even asked us what we would like to drink, he asked if she was married.  We were clearly in no mood for this. Remember, we are irritated, hungry and we need to talk about love.
So, I ask him what is there to eat that is vegetarian. He sings to me that the meat is gorgeous and how could I not…blah blah. So I repeat the question. Sternly. And you guessed it, polenta. So, with tummies rumbling, that’s what we ordered. It was the smoothest, most light and creamy polenta ever. Really silky, airy and just addictive.
Normally polenta is cooked in water, but as you will notice, my polenta is lighter in colour and that is because it is cooked in milk.  It works because it gives it a lighter, creamier texture.  I could suck the stuff off a spoon. I’ve added smoky roasted aubergines to the polenta and it is still delicate with the cumin and coriander. Beautiful.
I do find potatoes quite heavy, and although I love mashed potatoes they make me sleepy.  Polenta won’t do that, which is another great reason to use polenta.
This dish works harmoniously with sweet tomatoes on top.  The wonderful thing about this dish is the simplicity.   A few, quality ingredients make a darn good meal.
Ingredients to serve 3-4
For the tomato topping
100g of tomatoes, I’ve used red and yellow tomatoes and washed, then halved them
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
A handful of basil leaves, shredded
Salt to taste
3/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sugar
Chilli flakes to Taste
1/3rd tsp black pepper
A couple of tablespoons of cooking oil
For the polenta
1 litre of milk
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander powder
Salt to taste
75g fine polenta
2 medium roasted Aubergines with the pulp removed and then mashed
Method
1. Start by preparing the tomato topping.  Heat the oil in a pan and shallow fry the garlic for a couple of minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes and the salt, turn them to a slow simmer.  Sprinkle in the paprika, sugar, chilli and black pepper, toss it and cook them until they turn pulpy.  It should take 3-4minutes.
3. Sprinkle in the basil, toss again, cook for a minute before turning off the heat.
4. To make the polenta, heat the milk in a large non stick pan, with the toasted cumin seeds, coriander powder, Aubergine pulp, and salt then bring it to a simmer. Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and then in a slow and steady stream pour in the polenta, whilst whisking it gently.  Give it a couple of minutes before removing it from the heat.
Serve immediately with a few shavings of cheese if you like.
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