Tag Archives: Healthy indian recipes

Steamed kofta of spinach and paneer in a roasted red pepper gravy

25 Oct

Steamed kofta of spinach and paneer in a roasted red pepper gravy

Is it just me or are people less obsessed with being thin these days? Is it my age (thirties), where people grow into themselves more, or is it my life stage (mum of toddler and prefer sleep, family time, me-time and just some food over the less necessary stuff)? I don’t know but mostly, people say they need to lose weight but eat the brownie anyway, right? I made some a really gorgeous batch the other day with saffron, rose, cardamom and pistachio and nobody said no.

Steamed kofta of spinach and paneer in a roasted red pepper gravy by Deena Kakaya

However, my body has a way of telling me that I need to be kinder to it and right now; I have gone off my food (as in the taste rather than eating itself). If you have ever watched a cheesy television serial and I am old enough to admit to recalling the crashing sounds and multiple replays of dramatic scenes in Dallas (and every Bollywood serial I come across) then this is what is playing in my mind right now. I, Deena, have gone off the tastes in my food.

At first I thought it was the onset of a cold. But it didn’t appear. Then I thought perhaps it is just over-working and exhaustion. But then I realised that I do feel hunger, it is just that I am not enjoying eating so much. I want to feel the thrill. But I am not.

SO, I have surmised that there are many culprits to this condition of mine; exhaustion, A LOT of cooking recently (maybe too much of my own cooking), overindulgence and heavy tastes, eating more functionally than socially (a lot of eating alone or in a desperate rush). Explains a lot doesn’t it?

You know I have been putting myself into solution mode more and more these days and not focusing on the problems, ‘think solutions, not problems’ – chant, chant, chant. My solution is this steamed kofta of spinach and paneer in light and easy roasted red pepper gravy. It is the curry that thinks it is naughty, but really is quite virtuous. Deceptively simple, ridiculously soothing and fun to eat too! I like that I want to get my fingers into them, but should really wait for the gravy to join the kofta. Let me know if you do a better job at waiting to scoff the lot together, won’t you.

 

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Curry of steamed spinach and courgette dumplings in a spiced, roasted red pepper base

8 May

Curry of steamed spinach and courgette dumplings in a spiced, roasted red pepper base

Curry of steamed spinach and courgette in a spiced roasted red pepper base

I woke today feeling disoriented, I picked up my phone to check the time. Of course I don’t have a clock in my room. In fact I don’t have any clocks at all in the house at all. The tick-tock feels bothersome and the passing of time and constant reminder, it just isn’t positive is it.

Oodles of notifications welcome me through bleary eyes. Emails to answer, reminders of things to do. ‘Mamma! Mamma!’ I send my well wishes out to friends via Facebook whilst in the bathroom. My apologies to those who didn’t know, but it is unglamorously true. Happy anniversary, happy birthday, congratulations on your new baby, well done on…I think of my cousin’s words, ‘I just do my likes all in one go’.

Then I sent my best friend a message on whatSapp, to see how she’s coping with the sleep deprivation. I must remember to message my dear pal to enquire about her health stuff. There is tugging on my trouser leg. I proceed to tell the postman off for blocking the drive; I am especially annoyed because I had to holler repeatedly for his attention whilst he was leaned back in his seat with feet up. Did he not know how many phone calls I need to make whilst my boy sleeps and clearly he is oblivious to the toilet roll that my toddler unfolded all over the kitchen floor and the four bananas he mashed into it whilst I was in the toilet. Going to the toilet is an offense in the tick-tock of the day.

My hairdresser came over that evening, I have known her for years.  I always learn something new from her and it’s rarely about hair. I talk about travels and food, she talks about her friends and family and how she only measures herself by her own smiles. She is just 27 so her revelation stunned me; she has no laptop, no ipad and has only recently been given a smart work by her employers. She doesn’t use any form of social media.

We fixed a date for seeing my best friend, I decided which film to see with my husband (it’s been a very long time). My boy cupped my face and said, ‘do you want to play?’ and when I said yes, he leaped around the room grabbing his cars. I asked him if he wanted to cook and he said, ‘yes, it’s like art and crafts’.

So we made this healthy and colourful dish together. The dumplings are a bit like vegetarian pakora, or perhaps spinach kofta but they aren’t crisp, they are silky in texture and carry similar flavours. They are juicy with moist courgette and spinach. The roasted red pepper is bold, sweet and smells fabulously sexy. It is way easier to put together than it looks, this is a qick and easy recipe that you can prepare in advance. This is a simple dish, but just look at it. No, just taste it.

Curry of steamed spinach and courgette in a spiced roasted red pepper base

Ingredients

For the dumplings

1 medium sized courgette, finely grated

One medium onion, finely diced

Salt to taste

1 tsp. coriander powder

200g gram flour

250g spinach leaves, finely shredded in the food processor

½ tsp. garam masala

1 tsp. cumin seeds

½ tsp. chilli powder

For the red pepper base

3 red peppers, roasted

½ can of tomatoes

2-3 green chillies

4-5 curry leaves

1 ½ tsp. paprika

250ml water

½ tsp. garam masala

2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tbsp. cooking oil

Salt to taste

Method

  1. Start by combining the shredded spinach, onion and grated courgette and sprinkling in the cumin seeds, chilli powder, salt, coriander powder and garam masala and combine well.
  2. Add the gram flour gradually until the batter thickens to a loose, cake-mix type consistency. Use a single teaspoon full to transfer them into a steamer and then allow them to steam for approximately 20 minutes. Check that they are cooked by piercing them with a knife, when you remove the knife there should be no wet batter.
  3. Leave the dumplings to a side to cool whilst you prepare the red pepper base
  4. Blitz the roasted red pepper and tomatoes to a smooth consistency.
  5. Heat the oil in a pan and add the chillies, cumin and curry leaves and allow them to sizzle before adding the garlic. Sauté the garlic until it softens and then add the roasted red pepper and tomato sauce
  6. Add the salt, garam masala and bring it to a simmer. Gently drop in the dumplings and heat them through before serving.

 

 

Thai asparagus, spinach and mung bean soup

2 May

Thai asparagus, spinach and mung bean soupWe’ve been having a fair bit of spring-time fun lately, between the bouts of studious noses in books, mammoth sessions of ironing and washing, messy but successful recipe development and you know…general work.

We have eaten chips at the zoo in front of pelicans, samosa toasties at butterfly world, churro’s at the real food festival, Chinese ‘mix boxes’ in Camden and pizza at the foot of the cable cars in London. Of course there was Indian ice-cream, warm chocolate fudge cake and a whole box of alphonso mangoes in between.

So, at the start of this week I made this Asparagus, spinach and mung bean soup with a real Thai feel. When you look at it, I hope you will find the bright green, smooth and pulpy look as enticing as it is promising of nutrition and seasonal freshness. When you smell it, you get a really rousing whack of juicy, lightly sweet and spices essences. The taste…a bit likes a Thai green curry with an Indian and English accent. How’s that for a healthy fusion?

Thai asparagus, spinach and mung bean soup

For the full recipe, head over to great british chefs

Thai asparagus, spinach and mung bean soup

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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Mung bean sprouts and paneer curry

18 Oct
Mung bean sprouts and paneer curry

Mung bean sprouts and paneer curry

We recently met a health conscious family where the elderly matriarch walked for miles each day, the parents played sports daily and even the kids were athletic both in lifestyle and body structure. There was no ghee, jaggery or samosa in sight within their Gujarati kitchen.

They told us that they started each day with steamed sprouts, karela or vegetable juices and seeds. Now, I am not stereotyping, but….it’s not often I see people of Indian ethnicity omitting gulab jamuns, rasmalai or jalebbi sweets. And what about the pakora, puri’s and cassava chips? What about paneer pizza and chilli cheese chips?

The thing that I find most impressive with the mentioned family is the constant awareness is that we are not immortal. We get damaged if we neglect ourselves. Hair falls, eyes weaken , teeth chip, break fall or rot and ears deafen. Skin shrivels and organs deteriorate. I know it sounds miserable, but life is quite fragile.

14 weeks after having had my baby I was having a brief period of relaxation during the weekend, soaking in a hot bath tub whilst the baby was sleeping and husband was tidying. I wash washing my hair to the tunes of 1970’s Bollywood music and experiencing a bit of escapism. Then I slid my hand through my hair and a found lumps of hair on my hand. It just kept coming away. I called for my husband with blurry eyed confusion and heart racing, I thought I had some sort of illness, my poor baby.

Husband frantically googled away. It turns out (after a visit to the docs) it was postpartum hair loss and I was anaemic. I had no warning or preparation about this post-baby hair loss stuff, but it seems that it just happens. The reason is that hair is dormant in pregnancy and doesn’t go through the natural growth and shedding cycle, so a few months after pregnancy it sheds.

Anyway, I focused quite heavily on eating foods that were rich in iron and had growth properties (protein). I ate dried apricots, kale, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, soy beans, kidney beans and tofu…amongst other stuff. I, like the healthy family, ate mung bean sprouts which are a good source of protein and vitamin B6, but particularly good for vitamin K and C, as well as good source of fibre and folate. For a while I stayed diligent and I think it helped. Nature is forgiving and the body does recover.

I’m not so diligent now, I kind of swing back into eating whatever I fancy and whatever tastes good, but I chipped a tooth today so I think for the next few weeks I want to look after myself. I’m using paneer because it tastes great and gives the dish a contrasting texture to the crunchy and filling mung bean shoots and we all need some fat don’t we. It’s a source of protein too.

Nutritious food tasting brilliant, that sounds like a good deal to me. This curry is dense, has a bite, is a lovely and juicy. The contrasting textures play well with the sense and you know that I enjoy that. I bought the mung bean shoots during a visit to the indian grocers, in fact my toddler picked them out. You can make them at home by soaking them in water overnight until they swell and then draining the water and leaving them covered, in sunlight until the they shoot. It normally takes a day in the summer, but seeing as we don’t have much day light now, I just bought them. Easy, I like easy…do you?

Ingredients

400g mung bean sprouts
200g paneer
One red onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red chilli, finely diced
3/4 cup chopped tinned tomatoes
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp ground nut oil
1/2 cup water

The spices; 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder, 3/4 tsp garam masala, salt to taste (go easy, soy sauce is salty), 1/4 tsp, brown mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Method

1. Grate the paneer and leave it to a side for a couple of minutes
2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard and cumin seeds. Once they sizzle add the onion and sauté with the salt and turmeric for a couple of minutes. Introduce the garlic and sauté for another couple of minutes
3. Stir in the paneer and add the cumin powder, coriander powder and black pepper.
4. Mix the spices and the paneer together and then mix in the mung bean sprouts. Add the lemon juice, garam masala, soy sauce and tomatoes. Mix again before adding the water and cook on a low to medium flame for about 12 minutes.

Serve with hot chappatis and yoghurt. Don’t forget the salad!

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