Tag Archives: Healthy living

Roasted cauliflower, fennel and walnut soup

17 Dec

Roasted cauliflower, fennel and walnut soup

I don’t like sweet soups.

But then again I don’t like much sweet stuff in my savoury food and so raisins and apricots appearing in my dinner make me queasy.  It just feels odd to me, when there are gentle and definitely pleasant savoury flavours in a warm and spicy dish, out pops a raisin to ruin it. And this is also why I can’t cope with butternut squash curry.  My tongue is furring up in repulsed resistance as I type. I know, I know, I understand that the balance of sweet and heat works but I can’t make a meal of it. I may enjoy a forkful or two but I cannot make a meal of a sweet food. Years ago, before twitter became as massive as it is, I said something of this tune when flicking through foodie magazines and watching Saturday kitchen in bed. This was obviously back in the day before my boy and when I could work during sociable hours and I was still acquainted with free time. Anyway, I said something like, ‘oh no not another butternut squash curry’ and I have to say, it wasn’t a popular comment.

Roasted cauliflower, fennel and walnut soup by Deena Kakaya

Now that it is just ridiculously cold I am getting cosy with soup again, and this one is my current favourite. Roasted cauliflower is mildly sweet, but not in a sugary sort of way and that, I love. There are also lightly, suggestively sweet onions and delicately aromatic and tenderly sweet garlic and oh, creamy dreamy walnuts. The fennel seeds bestow this soup with generous aroma and lovely warmth. It’s a calming and soothing sort of soup this one, even the colours are neutral and I am finding myself in need of some calm. But you have to make sure that it isn’t lumpy…especially the walnuts.  I used my Optimum 9400 froothie and I got a superbly smooth and creamy result.

My head spins just looking at the queues at the supermarkets these days. I am thinking calm and warm thoughts, of an unquestionably savoury kind.

Ingredients to serve 4

One medium to large head of cauliflower, cut into florets

One large red onion, cut into thick chunks

Rapeseed oil to coat the onion and cauliflower

1 ½ tsp. fennel seeds, toasted and crushed

5 tbsp. walnuts

Whole milk to soak the walnuts in

6 cloves of garlic, lightly smashed

6 cups of vegetable stock

One medium potato, cut into chunks

1 tsp. cumin seeds

A pinch of garam masala

Method

  1. Coat the onion and cauliflower in the rapeseed oil and roast them in the oven, with the garlic at 180degrees until they are lightly golden and releasing their aroma.
  2. Soak the walnuts in the warm milk (enough to cover them)
  3. Heat the butter in a deep pan and add the cumin seeds. Allow the seeds to sizzle and add the potato, coating it in the butter.
  4. Pour in the vegetable stock and simmer for about 8-10 minutes, before introducing the cauliflower, onion, and garlic and garam masala.
  5. Blitz the walnuts smooth (there should be no lumps or chunks) and then add them to the soup.
  6. Simmer the soup for 5 minutes before blending it smooth. Add more water if you need to loosen it up.

 

The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine

30 Aug

The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine

Sometimes, we need the reminders that a rainy day brings.

The sweet Greek salad - with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine

The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine by Deena Kakaya

Every day my toddler asks me, ‘what sort of tata are we going to today mumma’. Tata is the Gujarati baby word for ‘excursion’. I told him today that it is raining all day and we would get totally soaked. So we took a few moments to cuddle and listen to the crackles of thunder and look out at the hailstones patter against the window. ‘I don’t want to get wet mumma’.

I had a lot to do today. It is a Sunday but you know, the way my life works at the moment is that there is no traditional pattern of a 5-day working week. There were two recipes for a magazine to test and write up as well as two recipes for an upcoming cookery class and my head was still bulging with the images that a chat between a friends and I had, following a surprise bumping-into whilst shopping.

We had not seen each other in almost a decade. We were neighbours. We took the same bus home from work each day, from our completely different careers and we came back to very different lives, but we had connected on some level. We would hungrily talk about food on our entire journey home and I would moan about my post graduate studies. Her concerns were more grown up than mine for she returned to a toddler daughter who would wait at the door for her mummy whilst bobbing around in her grandmother’s arms and then she would bounce down the path to greet her mummy. I enjoyed playing with this sparky little girl who was sociable. Now she is preparing for secondary school. Now things aren’t as I had planned and now they are removed from the ideal. But now I have the toddler. Now I am on the other side of the lecture theatre. Now I am with different focus.

But as my husband and I prepared for the busy weeks ahead with engraved masala tins stacked up high and recipe writing and testing in between playing with my little sweetie, we felt happy.

The sweet Greek salad - with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine by Deena Kakaya

The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine by Deena Kakaya

I sang along to my favourite tunes interrupted by songs about planets and phonics. I twizzled my baby around and listened to rapturous giggles as his teeny hand cupped his mouth at the hilarity of mumma wiggling her bum. I felt blessed that my project is my husband’s project as he treaded, cautiously but willingly on culinary ground. We all got involved in making this salad and my boy eagerly described how the vegetables for it arrived in a massive box from a chap called Gary from Riverford. I see my reflection in him now and its capturing. He washed the glossy and ripe tomatoes and after a few impatient nibbles of the cucumber, he did a good job with that too. I have to admit, my husband did a darn good job with executing much of this salad including marinating the feta in those toasted spices. It’s a rarity, so I am cherishing this memory.

The sweet Greek salad - with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine  by Deena Kakaya

The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine by Deena Kakaya

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

 

I am linking this post to Lisa’s kitchen and Tinned tomatoes for the no croutons food bloggers challenge

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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