Tag Archives: food

Smoky courgette ribboned quesadilla

2 Jul

ImageImageSmoky courgette ribboned quesadilla

I haven’t got time to cook. That’s what a lot of us say isn’t it?
Too tired, too busy, too active, too much work, too much kiddy mayhem, too fat so need to go the gym, too single so what’s the point, too expensive so what’s the point, too boring, too hot outside, too cold outside, too reliant on my mum…what have i missed?
I have to agree…kind of. The other day for example, I made onion and spinach bhajia for breakfast because my 16month old refused to eat anything else.  For lunch I made us mixed veg in dhal with rice and for dinner my little indian villager had a spinach, pepper and cheese dosa whilst the grown ups had full on salad with my beloved chargrilled artichokes amongst other gems like gentle mozzarella, sweet plum tomatoes and roasted red peppers.
Now, I love cooking..but if you team that up with the cleaning up that results, I could really have more time on my side.  Lets remember that the clearing up includes food chucked about and squashed into the highchair.
There is this kind of romantic and augmented nostalgia that repeats in the summers of my mind, you know the one where you’ve been running in and out of the kitchen for what seems like hours as a child..playing various ball games or hide and seek…and the whole time there’s something gorgeous smelling, bubbling away at the cooker or there’s some kind of chaos on the table that looks colourful and utterly edible.  Bits of cauliflower fall on he floor, grated carrots spread and flecks of turmeric threaten immediate stains.
But of course, that’s all too knackering.  I want to call our infrequent cleaner whilst just thinking about it. So here is a minimal cooking recipe.  It’s brilliant because courgette ribbons taste best when they are practically raw.  The spices are simple and few. The taste is, well delectably ‘ pow’.  I don’t even like that word, but you know what I mean.  These quesadilla taste smoky, spicy and crunchy..good huh? Not much to do really…have a go.
Ingredients for 4-5 quesadilla
2 courgettes with the skin peeled and then use the peeler to make ribbons
2 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
1 tsp smoked paprika
Salt to taste
A generous squeeze of lemon
One red onion, slices
1 tsp cumin seeds
Chipotle paste.  I’ve used 2 tsp because, of course, I like it hot.
4 handfuls of grated cheese
4-5 plain flour tortilla
Method
1. Heat a 3 tbsp of oil add the cumin seeds allow them to sizzle before adding the onion to shallow fry until the onion browns.
2. Add salt to taste, the paprika, garlic and lemon juice and stir well.
3. Add the courgette and chipotle paste and stir and cook for 2-3 minutes before removing from the heat.
4. Spread a thin layer of oil onto a non stick frying pan. Take a plain flour tortilla and on one half spread some cheese, then a 3-4 tbsp of the courgette mixture, then some cheese again.  Fold the tortilla in half and then place onto the pan.  Cook for a few minutes and gentle lift it with a spatula to see if it has Browned.   Once browned, gently turn it over and brown the other side before removing from the heat.
See, told you it is easy.

HOW TO MAKE TOFU TASTE GOOD

4 Aug

Most of my friends turn their noses up at the mention of Tofu. ‘Bland‘, ‘tasteless’ and ‘feels like a sponge.’  I’ve heard people complain about its plain appearance. ‘Oh’, my impassioned cried start off, ’the best bit about it is that it is like a sponge’.  Protein packed tofu is absorbute. It soaks up and retains juices and flavours and is illuminous with all with the colours of the concoctions you cook it in. It brings dishes to life with every mouthful, when all of the intended flavours of a dish burst out of the tofu.  I get quite romantic when describing tofu.  It’s the plain canvas, waiting to be touched with emotion and imagination.  Tofu is the bride, waiting to be adorned!  Maybe I should curtail the romantic descriptions!

A block of Tofu

Japanese, chinese, Indian or Italian; I use it in a myriad of dishes, but here are a few of my favourites.  I could eat these scrumptious items every week!

Pointed Sweet Peppers stuffed with spiced tofu

I do love sweet peppers. I adore the smell that permeates the kitchen. I could soak it up all day long.  The colours make me smile and these peppers are a joy to unravel and find more flavour packed inside.

Ingredients

2 pointed sweet peppers
A pack of firm Tofu, with the excess water removed and then scrambled
one medium onion
4-5 mushrooms, finely chopped (small pieces)
3-4 curry leaves

Spices: 1 tsp curry powder, 1 tsp tomato puree, salt to taste, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1tsp cumin seeds, ¼ tsp mustard seeds, 2 chilies finely chopped ¼ tsp black pepper

Tip: scramble the tofu by crushing it in your hands. It should break easily to give a scrambled-egg like appearance.

Method

1) Heat the oil in a non-stick pan before adding the mustard, curry leaves, chilies, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and allow them to crackle
2) stir in the onion and shallow fry until softened and transparent
3) Introduce the scrambled tofu and then mix thoroughly
4) Add the black pepper, curry powder, salt, coriander powder and cook for 3-4 minutes
5) stir in the tomato puree before turning off the heat

6) ) Make a slit pepper lengthways and then deseed the pepper.  Stuff the pepper with the tofu and then roast in the oven until its slightly blackened and roasted. don’t roast it enough so that it falls apart.  you will find that ten minutes is enough

Chick-pea and Tofu Curry

Curry juices burst out of the tofu when pressed with a hot buttery chappati and yellows and oranges enlighten the tofu. 

Ingredients

one can of chickpeas
A pack of  firm Tofu
2 firm red tomatoesChick Peas
5-7 g of ginger, peeled and finely grated or minced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
one onion, finely diced
1 tsp lemon juice
Spices: 1 tsp paprika, 2 cloves, 2cm piece of cinnamon, a bay leaf, 2 green chilies, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, ¼ tsp black pepper,  1 tsp cumin seeds, ¼ tsp of turmeric powder, a pinch of asafoetida,

Method

1) Heat the oil in a non-stick pan before adding the mustard and asafoetida, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, chilies, cumin and bay leaf.  allow the seeds to crackle.
2) Stir in the onion and saute for a couple of minutes to soften, before adding in the garlic and saute until both the onions and garlic are soft, but don’t let them brown
3) Mix in the chickpeas, before introducing the spices and salt to taste.
4) add ¼ cup of water and the tomatoes, simmer until the tomatoes have softened.  Do not simmer for more than 5 minutes.
5) Meanwhile, in a separate pan shallow fry the cubes of tofu until they are golden, before removing them onto kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil
6) Mix together the tofu and the curry and simmer for a further 2-3 minutes
7) garnish with the coriander and serve with lots rice or chappati.

serve with vegetables of your choice or rice.

Tofu Bhurji

Ingredients

One pack of firm Tofu
3-4 spring onions
¼ cup of peas, boiled for 3-4 minutes
1 red pepper, diced
one firm tomato, sliced horizontally into
¼ of sweetcorn kernels
¼ tsp of garam masala
¼ tsp of black pepper
¼ lemon, squeezed

Spices: 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp toasted cumin seeds, ¼ tsp mustard seeds, ½ tsp turmeric powder,  1 bay leaf, 2 green chilies (finely chopped),  ¼ tsp garam masala

Method

1) Drain the tofu and wrap it kitchen paper until all of the excess water has been absorbed.
2) Heat the oil on a non-stick pan and then add the cumin seeds, turmeric, mustard seeds, bay leaf and chilies and allow the seeds to crackle before adding in the onions
3) fry the onions for a couple of minutes, until they have softened.  Stir in the diced pepper and sweetcorn kernels and then the salt, coriander powder, cumin powder, paprika and then let the peppers soften until they can be pierced.
4) Crumble the tofu with your hands and aim to achieve a scrambled egg like texture and then combine with the vegetables and spices.  Turn the heat down to a very low flame, before squeezing in the lemon juice and sprinkling in the garam masala.  Cook gently for a further 3-4 minutes.

Tofu Tips

If you  like your tofu to have a bit of bite and pull then a great way to achieve that is to drain it, cube it and then shallow fry it before freezing it. When you want to use them, just defrost in the microwave.

Drain, cube and marinade the tofu in 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tbsp of olive oil, black pepper and 5g ginger, 1 tsp of lemon juice.  Leave it for a couple of hours in the fridge and then shallow fry it or use it in a stir fry.  It really lifts the tofu.

Tart up the tofu by giving it a glaze.  If you marinade in a little soy sauce, then give it a honey and chili glaze before crisping it up either in a pan, or in the oven, you’ll be bountiful with little gems to scatter into your salad.

Replace Paneer with Tofu in curries for a lower fat alternative that responds well to curry bases and gravies.  For example, in palak paneer (spinach and paneer) curry, add shallow fried tofu.  Do the same with mutur (peas) paneer or even a mixed vegetable and tofu curry.

Stir fry crumbled tofu, or even silken tofu with pak choi, bean sprouts and spring onion with garlic and a little soy sauce and bundle them into wontons and then steam.  I love these as a starter or light meal.

Use up cooked rice, by shallow frying a large onion, 1 tsp of lemon juice, cloves, 2 chilies, cinnamon, star anise and a bay leaf and some crumbled tofu.  Add salt to taste.  sprinkle in ¼ tsp of black pepper.  This side dish is fabulous with a hot bowl of dhal.

Fry up the tofu with bell peppers, sliced onions and Cajun spices and then blanket them in tortilla wraps for a fun and tasty lunch.

Indian Superfood Recipes

1 Apr

These ruby red jewels are packed with vitamin C and are thought to contain antibacterial properties. Rich in antioxidants, the juice of this middle eastern fruit has been proven in some studies to combat heart disease and blood pressure. Pomegranate has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, to remedy diarrhoea and dysentery.

Superfood PomegranateEasy Pomegranate Shrikhand

Recipe (to serve 3-4)
Ingredient

100g of pomegranate seeds (about one medium sized pomegranate)
500g of quark cheese
Caster sugar to taste
¼ tsp of cardamom powder
A small pinch of saffron (approximately 4-5 strands)
2 tsp of rose water
12-15 roughly chopped pistachios

Method

1. In a mixing bowl, smooth together the quark cheese and caster sugar. Include enough sugar to your taste for a dessert.
2. Combine the quark cheese and sugar mixture with the cardamom powder, rose water and chopped pistachios.
3. Squash the strands of saffron into the side of the bowl, then beat them in. The light orange colour will infuse into the shrikhand.
4. Mix in half of the pomegranate seeds, leaving the other half for decoration and then serve.

Easy Blueberry Shrikhand

These antioxidant rich ’wild’ things are high in vitamin C, anti-oxidants, are a good source of fibre, and act to protect the heart. Some research has shown that blueberries may help to alleviate the cognitive decline occurring in Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions of ageing and they may even assist in prevent urinary tract infection.

Recipe (to serve 3-4)
IngredientSuperfood blueberries

150g of blueberries
500g of quark cheese
Approximately 6 tbsp of caster sugar
¼ tsp of cardamom powder
15 roughly chopped pistachios

Method

1. In a mixing bowl, blend 100g of the blueberries to a smooth consistency, leaving no pulp. Then combine it with 4 tbsp of caster sugar. Simmer the mixture on medium flame for 3-4 minutes, stirring continuously. Turn off the heat and then allow the blueberry sauce to cool completely.
2. Mix together the quark cheese and blueberry sauce until it turns a beautiful lavender colour. Add 2 tbsp of caster sugar (you can moderate this depending on your taste for a dessert).
3. Stir in the cardamom powder and the most of the pistachios, leaving some for decoration.
4. Serve, using the remaining blueberries (whole) for decoration or mix them in with the shrikhand. Sprinkle the individual portions lightly with the remaining chopped pistachios.

Spinach and Tofu Curry

Springtime spinach is a source of beta carotene and folate, but don’t expect Popeye’s instant biceps! Rich in antioxidants and containing vitamin K and Iron (which will be better absorbed with vitamin C) spinach will help your skin, immune system, heart, your bones and energy levels.

Recipe (serves 3-4)

Ingredient
250g of firm tofu, cubed
200g of baby leaf spinach, coarsely chopped
2 deep red tomatoes, chopped into cubes
One small-medium onion, peeled and diced
2 green chillies, chopped
2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped) and 5g of ginger (grated)
A bay leaf, 1 tsp coriander seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 2 cloves, a small stick of cinnamon, pinch of asafoetida (optional), 1 tsp of paprika, ¼ tsp of black pepper

Method

1. Heat 1tbsp of oil in a non-stick frying pan and shallow fry the cubes of tofu until they are golden brown. Remove the tofu onto kitchen paper and allow the cubes to cool.
2. In a separate pan heat two tablespoons of oil before adding the asafoetida. Next, put in the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cloves, bay leaf and cinnamon and let the cumin seeds crackle before mixing in the chillies.
3. Stir in the onions and sauté for a couple of minutes before introducing the garlic. When the onion has softened add the tomatoes, salt to taste and turmeric and cook until the tomatoes are smooth and pulpy.
4. Sprinkle in the black pepper and paprika, then combine the cubes of shallow fried tofu into the curry base.
5. Wilt the spinach into the curry and add the grated ginger. Simmer for 3-4 minutes before turning off the heat.

Vegetarian Indian Meal Ideas For Students

13 Jul

Cooking may be the last thing on many (uni) students’ minds.  The fresher’s culture in particular provides ample persuasion in the form of £1 drinks, 7-stop bar crawls, clubbing, house parties and of course sleeping all of that off, in preference of freshly cooked food.  It probably doesn’t help that campus supermarkets are often expensive and probably not the best stocked (least so for Indian groceries).  Some students may just not know how to cook.

There are so many reasons why cooking vegetarian Indian food at home is the way forwards

• You may find yourself homesick.  Although you may have been bursting to get away from home, being at home does have its virtues; at least you get a good home cooked meal.

• If you live of junk food, you will gain weight!

• You may find the vegetarian options limiting, depending on where you have gone to university or you may simply yearn for Indian food which is perhaps harder to source, depending on where you are.

• A diet that’s poor in nutritional value will leave you feeling tired and lacking lustre, you may find it hard to stay awake and concentrate in those lectures.  Then of course there are the spots and greasy hair that may come as a result of a bad diet

• Cooking vegetarian Indian food in your student home will be a great way to impress people and make friends.  The very first meal I cooked for my now husband was when I was a fresher; channa masala (and I used tinned chickpeas).

Here I give you 12 delectable, really easy and speedy recipe ideas for vegetarian Indian dishes.  Whether you are a student or a concerned parent, these ideas are real winners.  I will also give you an idea of the basic spices to keep in the cupboard (don’t worry; they have quite a long shelf life!)

 

Curry out of a can

Tinned Legumes and pulses can be stored in the cupboard and it’s really easy to whip up a curry with them.  Try Butterbeans ; fry off onions , garlic, cumin, and a sprig of curry leaves in a couple of tablespoons of oil, add turmeric and salt, add chilli powder, turmeric, coriander and cumin powder, ½ tsp garam masala and half a can of coconut milk.  Then grate in 10g of ginger.  Mop it up with some bread…its heart-warming.

Sweet corn curry is a popular favourite.  Using the same spices as the butterbean curry, but this time, minus the coconut milk and add a couple of dark red chopped tomatoes and a handful of ground nuts to the mix.  It’s very Moorish.  You can create more or less gravy simply by adding water.  I like it quite dry with some yogurt.

Chickpea curry is a classic.  I like to add a few twists to it, like spinach wilted in at just before I take it off the heat, or maybe some shallow fried tofu, or soya mince.  I like to add a couple of teaspoons of dried fenugreek leave to chickpea curries; some people recognise this as a general curry aroma.  If you want to avoid any of the spice-adding decisions, you can buy channa masala spices in a box from Indian grocers.

Fresh quickie Curries

Yes, fresh Indian ingredients can be hard to source, but that doesn’t mean to say we can’t use widely available vegetables to make a curry.  Here is a great one for detox; spinach, dill and fenugreek curry.  It’s so aromatic and easy on the tummy.  It contains Iron and fibre. All you do is chop then up, fry off a large onion and couple of spring onions in cumin, mustard seeds and a little garlic and then and all of your ingredients with a couple of chopped tomatoes.   Spice with coriander powder, cumin powder, chilli powder and turmeric.  Cook in on a low flame for about 15mins and then sprinkle ½ tsp of garam masala at the end.

Here is another cheat, inspired by a traditional Gujarati recipe.  Potato curry in thick, rich gravy.  Take a mixing bowl; add one can of chopped tomatoes, 70g of coarsely ground unsalted peanuts,  ½ cup of gram flour, then add ¼ tsp turmeric, salt and chilli powder to taste, 1 tsp each of coriander powder and cumin powder and ½ tsp of garam masala and 1 ½ tsp of dried fenugreek leaves.  The next bit is magic, all you do, is fry off an onion in some cumin and a sprig of curry leaves and then add a couple of cloves of garlic.  Then add about 700g of baby new potatoes and coat them in the oil.  Then add the mixture of tomatoes, gram, peanuts and spices.  Add water to cover, and cook until the potatoes can be pierced easily.

There are other simple ideas that can be made from readily available vegetables, such as cauliflower curry (don’t add any water), aubergine, cabbage (again, no water), or a simple avial which is made with julienned vegetables with desiccated coconut and curry leaves.  Although many recipes call for traditional vegetables like tindori, you can make this with carrots, courgettes, baby corn.

I love the versatility of aubergines.  I have three varieties in my fridge at the moment and I got them all from my local supermarket (not an Indian one!).  With the largest aubergine, I’m going to roast it, scoop out the flesh and mash it a little with a fork. I’m then going to fry off onions, garlic, green chillies and a then soften a couple of fresh tomatoes and add in just salt and turmeric and a squeeze of lemon.  With the Japanese style aubergines, I’m just going to make two slits opposite directions upwards from the base and then use the thick potato recipe with the aubergines, just with a nice helping of coriander.  With the baby aubergines, I am going to half and then roast them and then submerge them in spicy tomato gravy.

Using Pasta

Pasta is also really versatile and you can stock up on it. I’ve heard many people say that they could eat pasta every day of the week…but for that, you’d need lots of inspiration…including some Indian inspiration I reckon.

One of our family favourites is what I call ‘samosa filling pasta’.   A couple of medium potatoes chopped, ½  cup of peas, a small carrot, maybe ½ cup of sweet corn kernels and a very large onion make the basis of the mix, spiced in chilli powder, turmeric, curry leaves and cumin seeds and a squeeze of lemon.  Simply add in your pasta and there you have a meal for at least 2-3.  Sometimes, I add cheese on top, and funnily enough, it works.

You could try shallow frying some vegetables like ½ head of a small cauliflower, some sweet potato and a cup of peas and then adding a gram flour and yogurt mix (400g of yogurt and 2 tbsp of gram flour). Just add some curry powder and that’s how easy it is.

Indian Sandwich Ideas

One of my favourite sandwich recipes requires investing in some chat masala. It’s not hot, but it’s punchy and brings life to salads and sandwiches.  I really recommend a 3 layer sandwich.  Peel a potato and then slice it thickly.  Boil until cooked, drain and cool.  Then use ingredients like a little chilli sauce, cheese, cucumber, tomatoes.  If you have some coriander, grind together a couple of handfuls with a couple of chillies, a little lemon and salt and a tbsp of water.  Spread this on the bread…it’s amazing.  This sandwich throws my mind to the streets of Mumbai…anyway…Layer the vegetables on toasted bread, sprinkling chat masala gently.

I’d love to know how you get on with these user-friendly recipes.  I’d love to hear what you think.

Warmest wishes

Deena Kakaya

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