Tag Archives: healthy recipes

Roasted garlic, spinach and coriander rice with feta and cashews

13 Mar

It is the season of escapism

I have always relished having, ‘hiding places’, especially in the warmer weather.

Roasted garlic, spinach and coriander rice with feta and cashews

 

As a child I would wander up and down the garden path, at the back of the garden and which was tucked away by arches of oversize rose bushes bearing pink, white and yellow roses.  Along the path grew spring onions on one side and strawberries on the other. There was other stuff, but I that’s what I remember. I would shuffle past the ivy on the back wall and pleat myself between long strands of grass, blackberries and more grass so that I stand on a discarded on a discarded flower pot and swing around on it, with my thoughts for company.

As a teenager I was part of a cosily demonstrative and animated crowd of friends.  We were together always, sometimes creating and sharing belly-laughs, occasionally sharing dramatic tears and sentiments with declarations of love. Vivacious, ambitious, boisterous and revelling in it… most of the time. Sometimes I would take a walk past the university which was down the road, through to the small, immaculately kept yet unfrequented park and just sit. My mind echoed with the shrill laughter, the ‘baaabe’ coos and the multiple hugs. My eyes rested on the wafting flowers in their tidy beds or over to elderly couples, sitting peacefully and easily in each other’s company.

I really loved the offices where I worked for almost a decade. I felt proud of the six buildings that stood tall in a semi-circle splendidly. We even had a few flags in the front near the fountains and I would always listen to the echo of my little feet as I would enter the light-flushed reception with the subliminal brand-tune playing in the background. High ceilings revealed the three floors and their balconies where important and discreet conversations happened. I would pick up my porridge from the restaurant, a green tea from the Starbucks and prepare for the deluge. When it got too much and I needed to breathe in order to later demonstrate professional calm, I would grab my phone and speed along on my heels past the smokers, through the car-park and over to the far side of the building where there was a quiet fountain. It was in a very pointless position.

Happy spring my friends. The grass will smell nicer, the flowers bloom and I hope that your smiles will too.

Roasted garlic, spinach and coriander rice with feta and cashews

On the subject of green, meet my rice. It’s bright with spinach and coriander and sweet with roasted garlic. Roasted garlic and salt are perfect together and the feta hits the spot perfectly. I served this rice with a roasted pepper and tomato chutney and some corn flour tortilla. It was utterly fabulous.

green rice 3

 

Ingredients

200g basmati rice

2 tbsp. cooking oil

150g spinach leaves, washed

100g coriander, washed and coarsely chopped

One bulb of garlic

One onion, half sliced and the other half diced

100g feta cheese, cut into bite sized cubes

A handful of cashew nuts

¾ tsp. fennel seeds

One lemon, half for the juice and half for slices

Method

  1. Rest the bulb of garlic, in all its skin and layers, on a sheet of baking paper. Remove the head off the garlic to expose the bubs and then drizzle the garlic with a splash of oil and some salt and roast it in the oven at 200 degrees until for approximately 30minutes.
  2. Boil the rice for approximately 8 minutes before draining and cooling it.
  3. In a food processor (you could finely chop by hand), blitz the spinach and coriander until it is finely chopped.
  4. Heat the oil on a non-stick pan and then add the fennel seeds and onion with some salt. Remember that the feta cheese is salty, so go easy. Sauté the onions enough to lightly brown them
  5. Mix in the spinach and coriander and sauté gently for a minute before adding the garlic.  You simply squeeze the base of the bulb and they will pop out. Add half the head of garlic and lightly mash them in. don’t worry about the lumps. Taste the rice, if it feels garlicky enough then stop, if not add more.
  6. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, sprinkle in the cashew nuts and mix well before turning the heat off.
  7. Mix in the rice, gently folding the green mixture through, cover and cook for a couple of minutes on a very low flame.

Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

11 Mar

 Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

Her grass is so much more luscious

I’ve learned, over time and with some stumbling, to count my blessings more deliberately, more appreciatively, knowingly and openly.  When anyone tells me how lucky I am in a discussion that ultimately leads to my being lead to sympathise with their heroism in coping with the comparatively (and self-declared) unlucky (rather than of course apathetic) position that they are in, I say ‘thank you’.

This week, I have been told that I am ‘lucky’ that I have just one child and not a crowd of three. One, mother-infatuated child is a doddle apparently, even though my husband is off on his fourth international trip this year and my family is a couple of hours away. I say, thank you because I am blessed to be a mother.

The next thing I am ‘lucky’ for this week is opportunity to work with a new food brand who sought out my freelance support to reinvigorate their brand by creating some youthful and energising recipes for them. I nodded at my banker friend, who brings home a guaranteed, fixed income each month on a permanent contract. She tells me how she toils over each accomplishment in her career. I wondered whether to send her a cheeky ‘hello’ text message at 1.30am when I was wearily churning inspiration into submission. Instead I say thank you, because I am grateful that a new brand understood and appreciated my style of cooking, had faith in me to deliver something exciting and innovative for them and that that I feel fulfilled.

Also, I was made aware of how ‘lucky’ I am to be in a position where I have career options. I think this is the one that set of expletives in my head. Options. It has taken me three years of loosening my grip on that rope which bound me and the world of security and sort-of-positive-affirmation of capability through my ascent into corporate middle-management, then nursing my wounds of confusion and lack of direction and eventually finding my real inclinations and talents and then turning them into some sort of purposeful and meaningful reality. Instead I said thank you, for if it weren’t for this slogging and striving, I would not have the hope that I do today.

Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

On the subject of green grass and positive notes, my broccoli soup with gram flour and courgette dumplings has been a total joy to eat. It’s very lean because the dumplings contain no oil whatsoever and the green; well that’s just a healthy colour isn’t it. It’s mellow, kind, lightly sweet. It’s juicy and the dumplings are dense and spongy with the courgettes keeping the dumplings moist. This is again a very easy recipe to whip up. We ate it with some fresh apple and spice bread. Now if I hadn’t finished off with a cheeky lemon curd biscuit, I would have been very ‘lucky’ to have cooked and eaten a gratifying bowl of goodness.

Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

Ingredients

300g broccoli florets

One large onion, coarsely sliced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1200ml vegetable stock

1 tsp. chilli flakes

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tbsp. cooking oil

For the dumplings

225g grated courgette

¾ tsp. caraway seeds

125g gram flour

Salt to taste

½ tsp. chilli powder

1 tsp. coriander powder

¼ tsp. ground turmeric

Method

  1. To make the soup, heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle before stirring in the onion. Sauté the onions until they soften lightly before introducing the onion and sauté until the  onion has softened down and caught light colour.
  2. Mix in the broccoli and then the vegetable stock. Bring the soup to a simmer before sprinkling in the chilli flakes.
  3. Simmer the soup for 5-6 minutes or until the broccoli is tender before blitzing it smooth.
  4. Whilst the soup is cooking, mix together the grated courgette, caraway seeds, salt, coriander and turmeric and chilli powders before mixing in the gram flour. It should form thick slightly sticky dough.
  5. Whilst the soup is simmering on a medium flame, gently drop in 50p coin sized amounts of the dough into the soup and cook them for 8 minutes or until the dumplings are cooked through.
  6. Serve hot so that the dumplings are moist and tender all the way through.

 

 

Black-eyed beans and smoky aubergines in dill with a walnut and gujalio crème fraiche

1 Mar

 

Black-eyed beans and smoky aubergines in dill with a walnut and gujalio crème fraiche

I took my 24month old to the children’s library the other day; he adores books just like his mumma. After reading the same book a couple of times he mouths the words whilst I read the book. This always makes me smile within, I came in the top 5% of the county for my English A-level, many years ago now and this boy of mine is a little piece of me. Enough showing off, there is a point to this post that leads to a recipe and to the showing off itself.

So we have been walking down the road that leads to the library these days, because he insists on it. On the way we came across a couple of women with their kids, maybe 3-6 year olds. They stormed down the narrow path on their scooters and as they scoffed packets of crisps I heard their mother’s chuckle that they hadn’t had any breakfast. ‘Oi, how many fish fingers you having’ roared one of the mothers.

We seem always to bump into elderly ladies and I do like it when they smile at my boy chattering away. ‘Look at that lorry mumma, it’s incredible and amazing and HUge.’ Elderly lady asked him if he likes Lorries. ‘Yes, I like lorries and busses and planes and motorbikes’. Elderly lady told me that she has three children, one has moved to Australia, one relocated to Ireland where her husband is from for a better lifestyle with her children and one lives relatively locally. She told us about her grandchildren whom she sees some of the holidays but not all. I am always told before parting from old ladies to make the most of my boy’s childhood because it goes so fast. I am no teenager and I know that I must hold onto these rehearsed words every day.

When we got to the library, my little bullet darted around looking at dinosaur, alien, vehicle and animal themed books and we chose one from almost all of these finely selected categories. The woman who brings her child with a potty (she sits her on it in the actual children’s area) wasn’t there and I was mollified from not having to keep my child from running into a peeing toddler or her wet tights. We made small talk with the librarian on our way out before she proceeded to tell me how I should borrow some library books for myself as reading is important for adult education too and that it broadens the mind. She said that even if I read a few pages each day it is valuable. I tried to intervene to tell her, but she didn’t let me. She continued. I smiled. She spoke loudly and with eyebrows rising and I watched the fine whiskers on her upper lip tremble and she puffed her wisdom to me.

Black-eyed beans and smoky aubergines in dill with a walnut and gujalio crème fraiche

On the way I out I realised that the reason that the librarian had affected me was not because she didn’t let me tell her that I have a graduate and post-grad qualification or a professional background or that that I am food writer and that I keep a clean home with well- fed people in it and that we read and sing and grow flowers. It was because she had perhaps touched on a nerve.

I came home and made a loud, heaving, present and deep dish. Dill, smoky aubergines tomatoes and beans.  Simple yet chockfull. My favourite bit is the dip; smoky gujalio chillies with walnuts in crème fraiche. I am alive and I am still me.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

Two cans of black eyed beans, drained

Two medium aubergines

3 cloves of garlic

25g fresh dill, finely chopped

3 fresh tomatoes

One large red onion, thinly sliced

2 tbsp. cooking oil

2 tsp. smoked paprika

Salt to taste

A good pinch of black pepper

50g walnuts

2 Guajillo chillies

200m plain natural yoghurt

300ml hot water

Method

  1. Wash and coat the aubergines in oil and roast them in the oven at 180degrees until they shrivel. It should take roughly 30-40 minutes. Once the aubergines have cooled then remove the pulp from the aubergines and mash it lightly to separate it.
  2. Soak the guajillo chillies and walnuts in boiling water for 15 minutes before draining it and then blitzing it smooth.
  3. Skin the tomatoes by soaking them in hot water until the skins start to split before whipping the skins off before chopping them.
  4. Heat the oil in a deep pan and then add the red onion, salt and garlic to sauté until the onion has softened.
  5. Add the tomatoes, black-eyed beans and dill and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the aubergine pulp and cook for ten minutes.
  6. Mix the walnuts, guajillo and salt together and when you serve the beans with gorgeous breads, pasta or even rice then top with the guajillo, walnut and crème fraiche dip.

Soy-Masala tofu, Quinoa, avocado and mozzarella salad

26 Feb

I remember that as children, my cousins and I knew broadly the menu we would be served at any family wedding, before even the wedding invitation arrived and each summer we would receive a collection of them.
Steamed, fluffy, lightly sour and spiced gram flour dhokla, potatoes in thick and rich curry gravy, black chickpeas perhaps or a curry of Val (field beans) and lots of fried puri breads. We knew there would probably be flaky samosa and multi-coloured mini poppadum’s that we would use to scoop up Kadhi-doused biryani. We would grab a compartmentalised plastic plate from the buffet and perch ourselves on a chair where we could find one and sometimes eat standing and giggling away.

Soy-Masala tofu, Quinoa, avocado and mozzarella salad

Weddings would always be in the hottest part of summer back then and we would look forward to seeing our lists of cousins and enjoying the banter between loud music and many guests. We would turn our chairs towards each other and admire one another’s colourful and detailed clothes, an arm full of bangles, glistening bindi and very often back then, weddings were held in school halls, where the walls evidenced children’s activities and the guests spilled over onto the green fields. Everyone attended you see. As young children we would run around the hall giggling and playing as the many parts of the ceremony carried on whilst our parents mingled.

Things have changed so much. Nowadays weddings are in hotels or stately homes and so there aren’t scores of guests spilling over, maybe because the venue is so hard to find. Cousins aren’t in lists, but in treasured few numbers. You won’t see kids running around; maybe they aren’t allowed at the ‘event’. Sometimes silence is observed during the abbreviated ceremony, sometimes it’s just quiet. Maybe that’s because not everyone goes, people are busy these days, aren’t they. Sometimes they aren’t invited, invitations nowadays are at the couple’s discretion and friends are the new family.

Soy-Masala tofu, Quinoa, avocado and mozzarella salad
People don’t always wear bindi or bangles, but certainly not an armful. Sometimes it’s just not fashionable to look overly celebratory, subtly or nonchalant, I am not sure. There are seating arrangements and food comes to the table and is kept warm. Gone are the days of Val bean curry or multi-coloured poppadum’s and established are the days of carrot halwa with ice cream and whatever else the couple fancies; from indo-Chinese and robustly spiced paneer to sweet corn curry in a mellow cashew nut gravy.

So I got thinking about some of the modern stuff served at celebrations these days and the cult recipe of chilli paneer came to mind. Doused with soy, ginger, garlic, chillies and ketchup this recipe seems to be an obvious option on most local Indian restaurant menus. Without doubt, and someone secretly, I admit..it tastes good.
BUT, that doesn’t mean I would make a meal of it or cook it up at home. It’s become to…well, ‘been there done that’. Taking healthy inspiration from of it, I have created this recipe for soy-masala tofu (healthier and protein fuelled) salad with Quinoa, avocado and mozzarella. I don’t know if you use mozzarella as a sponge in your dishes but it soaks up juices beautifully. Use fluffy clouds please, not the tough stuff.

Ingredients
250g cooked Quinoa
1 400g pack of firm tofu
One ripe avocado
200g mozzarella, torn into bite sized chunks
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. ketchup
1-2 tbsp. chilli sauce
1 tbsp. tomato puree
4 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. ginger, minced
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tbsp. sesame oil
1-2 green chillies chopped (optional)
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. coriander powder
¼ tsp. turmeric

Method
1. Wrap the tofu in kitchen paper to soak up any excess water. When it is dry, cube it.
2. Heat the sesame oil in a non-stick pan and add the chillies, cumin seeds and tofu. Stir fry until the tofu is golden before adding the onion, garlic, ginger, spring onions and turmeric. Cook for 3-4 minutes before pouring in the soy sauce, ketchup, coriander powder, chilli sauce, and tomato puree and rice wine vinegar.
3. Cook the tofu for a further 3-4 minutes before turning off the heat.chilli tofu
4. In a large bowl mix the cooked Quinoa, avocado, mozzarella and then stir in the tofu whilst warm and serve immediately with lovely flatbread.

Scrambled masala tofu, beet and bulgur salad pockets

12 Feb

A lot of people tell me that if they could negotiate more hours in the day, they would. If they could move to somewhere sunnier, more peaceful or beautiful, they would and if they could make their work-life balance more life and less work hefty, they would.

Scrambled masala tofu, beet and bulgur salad pockets

Many others tell me that they would choose a different, more personally (not financially) rewarding career given the choice and that if they could just come out of the race and live somewhere exciting, they would.

Unfortunately cloning ourselves, time travel and morphing aren’t options but maybe our own minds and actions are, options.  Insofar as negotiating time is concerned I have a recipe which may just help with that.

Warm spices infiltrate tofu so well; there is no chance that it will be bland and what’s an added bonus, is that it is a good source of protein and oh…it cooks so quickly that you may reconsider wishing more time in your day. I’ve paired it with beetroot; it keeps the tofu lovely and moist and adds fantastic light sweetness and colour. Bulgur wheat is nutty and filling, healthy too.

For the full recipe, please head over to great british chefs

Scrambled masala tofu, beet and bulgur salad pockets

Fragrant Indian spiced mung dhal, potato, feta, toasted coconut and beetroot salad wraps-leftover Lunches

28 Jan

wrap 1

It is one of those months where I need to grow ten extra arms, have superior and life enhancing technology, must have more restorative sleep, want to eat more energy-giving nutritious food, definitely spend less money, get hold of a magic wand, time machine…you get the picture.  Maybe not just this month but generally, we know that planning smartly helps in all aspects of life, not least food.

Vouchercodes.co.uk got in touch with me about a theme they are running which really resonates with what I am trying to do; making full, scrumptious and fabulous dinners that can then be incorporated for lunches for the next day…you know, the sort of food we enjoy and look forward to at lunch and not just a dull, lack lustre, floppy sandwich.

So here’s some colourful, deep and nutritious ingredients combine to deliver the sort of ‘salad’ that is modest with its simple ingredients but utterly enchanting to eat because all of these ingredients and spices so work in delightful harmony.

The bonus? Once you have a bag of mung dhal and desiccated coconut, you could make this salad again and you’ll just have to top-up on the fresh ingredients, which are pretty inexpensive.  Mung dhal cooks very quickly, so this is an added benefit!

Fragrant Indian spiced mung dhal, potato, feta, toasted coconut and beetroot salad wraps-leftover Lunches

Ingredients to serve 4-6

2 medium potatoes, peeled diced

200g cooked beetroot, diced

100g mung dhal

4-5 curry leaves

200g feta cheese, cubed

2½ tbsp. vegetable oil

2 long green chillies, halved and then slit open

1/3 tsp. turmeric

Salt to taste

2 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. cumin seeds

¼ tsp. brown mustard seeds

30g coriander, finely chopped

1 cup desiccated coconut

8-10 plain flour tortillas

Method

  1. Wash the mung dhal and boil it in roughly 600ml water, for approximately 15 minutes. Remove any froth as it appears but do wash the dhal in cold water once it is cooked. It should be cooked but have a bite.
  2. In a separate pan boil the cubes of potato for roughly ten minutes, or until they are cooked. Drain the potatoes and let them cool to room temperature.
  3. When the potato and mung dhal are cooked and cooled turn them into a large and shallow bowl
  4. Make a tempering by heating the vegetable oil and adding the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and allow the seeds to sizzle and pop. Add the curry leaves, chillies, and turmeric then infuse them into the oil. Turn the heat off and allow the tempering to cool to room temperature before adding it to the potatoes and mung dhal.
  5. Toss the mixture with the finely chopped coriander, lemon juice and salt and make sure there is even coverage. Stir in the feta and beetroot.Ingredients to serve 4-6 2 medium potatoes, peeled diced 200g cooked beetroot, diced 100g mung dhal 4-5 curry leaves 200g feta cheese, cubed 2½ tbsp. vegetable oil 2 long green chillies, halved and then slit open 1/3 tsp. turmeric Salt to taste 2 tbsp. lemon juice 1 tsp. cumin seeds ¼ tsp. brown mustard seeds 30g coriander, finely chopped 1 cup desiccated coconut 8-10 plain flour tortillas  Method  1.	Wash the mung dhal and boil it in roughly 600ml water, for approximately 15 minutes. Remove any froth as it appears but do wash the dhal in cold water once it is cooked. It should be cooked but have a bite.  2.	In a separate pan boil the cubes of potato for roughly ten minutes, or until they are cooked. Drain the potatoes and let them cool to room temperature.  3.	When the potato and mung dhal are cooked and cooled turn them into a large and shallow bowl 4.	Make a tempering by heating the vegetable oil and adding the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and allow the seeds to sizzle and pop. Add the curry leaves, chillies, and turmeric then infuse them into the oil. Turn the heat off and allow the tempering to cool to room temperature before adding it to the potatoes and mung dhal.  5.	Toss the mixture with the finely chopped coriander, lemon juice and salt and make sure there is even coverage. Stir in the feta and beetroot.
  6. Toast the desiccated coconut lightly and quickly on a non-stick frying pan and introduce it to the salad too.coconut 1
  7. Prepare the plain flour tortilla per packet instructions and then fill them generously.

Spicy Courgette, carrot and ground rice steamed dumplings

25 Jan

Spicy courgette, carrot, ground rice steamed dumplings by Deena Kakaya
Somewhere along the journey, the lines between work and play, rest and recreation changed.

For most of the years that my husband and I have been together, we shared energy and squinted-eyed enthusiasm for filling our pockets of free time with making memories, having fun, exploring, travelling and being spontaneous in a sensible sort of way. Our summers were long and full of weekends away and eating outdoors and with friends in the weekday evenings.

Each summer we would make our trip to our favourite spots in Cornwall. Pothcurno being one of them. Pothcurno houses an open air theatre on the edge of a cliff, overlooking seas with a blue swirl that could easily be confused for a Mediterranean destination. We hang around until the evening until we grab steaming hot cheese and baked bean jacket potatoes, a blanket and sit under the stars watching opera whilst sat on the cool stone.
Culture and history soaking in Bath, picnics in Windsor, outdoor pubs and chips in Brighton, scenic walks and clotted cream ice-cream in the cotswolds or nearer to home and ambling the streets of london popping our head into Dim Sum or kathi roll joints. I have a lot of happy memories.

In the cooler months we would visit farmers markets, recuperate in Spa’s, go to Edinburgh for windy stops and chill out in cottages in wales, and most excitingly, take our annual holiday to more exotic destinations. Each of my January birthdays after graduating was spent away, somewhere sunny, making memories. One of my birthdays was spent on a house boat in Kerela, another abseiling over shallow waters in Mauritius, one looking down at the pitons whilst having dinner in st.Lucia. They made me a fresh coco and coconut cake made with locally sourced ingredients. I had one birthday on safari, eating guava cheesecake in South Africa, whilst watching wilderbeast and one on the most scenic train journey near Zurich. We were both working full on, heavy roles and this trip was the carrot in our otherwise hectic lives.

Along the way, a lot changed. We had our boy, who has showered immense joy and love into our lives. We are a salary down. Husband has 23 international trips abroad planned this year, for work. We are tired.

This week I was clearing through the guest room and stumbled upon some old photographs. I sat down, puffed out at the realisation of how things have changed. My little one came and sat on my lap, ‘what you looking at mumma’. I told my nearly-two-year old that mumma was looking at lovely memories. One of the common threads between each of the pictures is that the long journeys were occupied with munching on Dhokla (steamed and spiced rice and lentil flour cakes, which are sour and fluffy clouds of scrummy glory) or muthia Dhokla, which a Gujarati savoury bite made from grated veg and cooked rice with some spice and also steamed and then tempered in curry leaves and mustard, cumin and chilli. It got me thinking. Things have got to change again. Having fun is the way to stay alive inside.

It also got me thinking about rice flour steamed dumplings, one of the Gujarati items my mum makes so well…put them all together and roll them around, I created these little steamed dumplings with the added sweetness of carrot and courgette. They make wonderful snacks to accompany a cuppa. Spicy, dense, filling, hot, smooth…oh, go on.

Ingredients to make 24 dumplings

3 cups of hot water
2 long green chillies
125g grated carrot
125g grated courgette
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ajwain, or carom seeds
1 3/4 cup of ground rice
Salt to taste
Oil to grease palms when forming the dumplings

Method

1. In a large vessel, heat the water and add the cumin seeds and coriander seeds with the minced chilli.
2. When the water is boiling add the courgettes and carrots, stir and simmer for a minute. When the vegetables have softened, start to trickle in the ground rice whilst stirring the water with a wooden spoon, to avoid lumps forming.
3. Continue to stir more swiftly, until a grainy dough has been formed.
4. Turn off the heat and tip the dough into a very large plate.
5. Prepare your steamer and oil your palms. Take golf ball sized amounts of dough, form a ball and then flatten it in your palms. Try not to let the ball crack.
6. Steam the dumplings for 8-10 minutes and serve with chilli oil, whilst still hot and moist.

I am linking this to Marks Made with Love Mondays because it is all kme made Jave

I’m also liking with Helen and Michelle, for hidden veg

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Pomegranate roasted baby onions with butter bean salad and tahini-chilli yogurt

16 Jan

Pomegranate roasted baby onions with butter bean salad and tahini-chilli yogurt
Onions from an onion

I went to a school which was populated with provably about 80 per centGujarati children (I come from a Gujarati background) at a guess. When my boy and I go to playgroup he is an, ‘ethnic minority’ by being in a broader group called ‘Asian’.

So when I was at school I was not (by other kids) differentiated by the colour of my skin, but my caste. My classroom was made up of surnames such as Patel, Mistry, Thakrar or Shah. All Gujarati of course. We all knew we belonged to different castes and we knew that we spoke in different accents, our mothers cooked different tasting foods or simply varieties and some of us would be vegetarian and others not. Mild teasing was not uncommon, ‘your surname is Tailor you can make my clothes when I grow up’. I think I could pick up on caste sometimes by physical appearance.

The caste system used to separate people vocationally, but no longer does. Well, not the people I know anyway. It created networks of people and they married within their caste, but that doesn’t happen any more either. Idiosyncrasies of castes are now diluted with western accents, mixed marriages and just general evolution of culture. My 23 month will probably never know much about the caste system and I’m sure his friends will be much more international than mine were at his tender age. London offers that diversity doesn’t it.

I am from the Lohana caste. Commercial people. Ironically I read economics at university, but really that nothing to do with caste. Coincidence. Lohana folk are said to fond of onions, and that’s why I often got called one whilst growing up. But I was proud, I love a good onion.

Sweet and juicy with a sour tang. That’s my salad. I’ve smothered pomegranate molasses over the onions and roasted them slowly so that they are sweet and sour and moist and slippery. I adore that smell. They work well with deep butter beans and my nutty and slightly spiced dressing. Go on, be an onion.

Ingredients to serve 4

20 baby onions, peeled and halved
4 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1-2 tbsp rapeseed oil
Salt
1 tsp sugar
A few handfuls of rocket leaves
2 tins of butter beans
2 tsp sumac powder
15g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
15g garlic chives, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp lemon juice

3/4 cup plain yoghurt
4 tbsp tahini paste
1 tsp red chilli flakes

Method

1. Coat the onions with the pomegranate molasses, sugar and a generous sprinkle of salt.
2. Lay the onions on some baking paper, drizzle them with oil and place them in the oven and roast them at 150 degrees for approximately 30minutes.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together the butter beans, sumac, lemon juice, parsley, salt to taste and garlic chives.
4. To make the dressing, simply whip the yoghurt, tahini and chilli together.
5. Serve the salad on some rocket leaves with some lovely warm bread.

Slow roasted tomato, channa dal, feta and courgette ribbon spicy salad

11 Jan

Slow roasted tomatoes, channa dal, feta and courgette ribbon spicy salad

After a week of flying solo with the boy, this morning had been occupied with a bit of relief in the way of a back massage. My back is full of uncomfortable rocks as is my neck and I couldn’t wait to go and get them softened.

They say that you appreciate your parents in a whole new way when you have your own children. My friend is trying to conceive and nervous about the labour. It is only now that I can say, that’s the easy bit because it is temporary.

My boy is generally a mummy’s boy and follows me everywhere I go, even to the toilet. ‘What you doing mumma, that’s terrible’. He goes wherever I go and wants me to hold him as I cook a meal so that he can stir and help to toss the dosa. ‘Special agent Aarav is on a special assignment mumma’. He empties my cupboards out whilst I cook and likes to sample the ingredients. This week he cracked open my freshly ground garam masala (again) and licked it whist remarking, ‘it’s yummy’. He tests out my raw pasta shapes, ‘like crips’ and he thinks this star anise ‘flower is amazing and crunchy’. Even when his dad is around, he chants, ‘mumma come, mumma come’.

It’s wonderful.

Through all the lifting, jumping up in the air and flying him like a rocket sort of antics he who is now weighing a quarter of my weight, my back has filled with fiery boulders and my knee has felt better days. This is what they mean don’t they…about the unconditional love and the things a mother will do. But I’m smiling as I sit here with a hot water bottle on my back.

Another part of my body that requires conditioning is my tummy. I put some newish jeans on today and they are snug. This should not be the case. I feel puffy. I feel the need for spice, zing, crisp, fresh and I certainly need cheese. I feel the need for salad. So here it is.

Ingredients to serve 4

2 courgettes, trimmed but not peeled
100g channa dal, washed
150g feta cheese, cubed
2 tbsp Harissa paste
1 tbsp olive oil and some to drizzle on the tomatoes
Salt to taste
1 tsp toasted and lightly crushed cumin seeds
15g finely chopped parsley
1 tbsp lemon juice
8 large and deep red tomatoes, quartered

1. Sit the tomatoes cut side up on a sheet of baking paper and drizzle them with oil and sprinkle with salt. Put them in the oven at 120degrees for about an 1hr-1hr 15. Ovens vary but they should look shrivelled and not wet. Their flavour will be intense. When the tomatoes are roasted allow them to cool.
2. In the meantime simmer the channa dal for around 15-20 minutes on a medium to low flame. Do not allow the dal to go mushy and should keep some bite. Once the dal is cooked drain it in cool water.
3. Take a vegetable peeler and make long peelings of the courgette. One for each ridge of the courgette and keep going until you get to the core. Don’t worry if some of the ribbons are shorter than the others.
4. Combine the courgette ribbons with the feta and daal and toss it all together. Stir in the Harissa paste evenly before adding the cumin, parsley, lemon juice and salt if needed. Add a glug of olive oil. You can add the tomatoes but if they feel a bit delicate then leave them for presentation so that they keep their shape.
5. Serve fresh with hummus (I used black eyed bean hummus) and lots of lovely bread.

Mung bean and barley broth in tahini, a dash of Harissa, roasted mini peppers and torn mozzarella

10 Jan

Mung bean and barley broth in tahini, a dash of Harissa, roasted mini peppers and torn mozzarella

Do you plan? There’s the daily commute planning, school timings, work planning, menu planning, grocery planning…but I mean you know… do you ‘plan’.

I’ve always been a planner. I’ve planned at work and I planned the holidays. I took it upon myself to plan the savings plan and I even planned our weekends and outings at the best rates for weeks ahead. It goes without saying that for years I have sent my husband a weekly menu plan with a flag that tells me that he has received it and also a call to action his confirmation that he is happy with the plan. I like to feel like I’m in the driving seat, that I was taking the bull by the whatsits and generally, good girls planned and if we plan, things will come into fruition.

Well, that’s what I thought. I didn’t plan for my life to be this way. It’s different to what my mind had conceived. I don’t think it just ‘happened’ to me. In some shape or form by taking decisions, listening to instincts, or making priority calls…here we are. In the same breath I am much more open and mellow about what the future holds. I didn’t know I would be here and I don’t know what ‘there’ looks like.

Speaking of mellow, here’s a healthy detoxifying broth that is fitting of my mood lately, and my will to be healthier this month. Mung beans are the food that my mum fed me if I was sick as a child but this version is cooked in tahini, a dash of Harissa, barley for depth and some sweet min peppers for tingly sweet bite. I’ve even chucked in some fabulously fluffy mozzarella, weird I know but heck it works!

Mung bean and barley broth in tahini, a dash of Harissa, roasted mini peppers and torn mozzarella
Ingredients to serve 4-6

175g mung beans
100g pearl barley
500ml vegetable stock
One large red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1-2 bay leaves
8-10 mini, sweet peppers
2 litres of water
The juice of Half a lemon
1-2 tbsp Harissa
4 tbsp tahini paste
Salt to taste
1 tsp cumin seeds
200g fresh mozzarella
2 tbsp cooking oil
1/4 tsp black pepper
Coriander to garnish

Method

1. Boil the water, mung beans and barley together together for about 45 mins on a medium flame. When the beans are cooked most of the juices should have left into a thick soup. The beans should be mushy
2. Drizzle the peppers with some oil after cutting them in half or quarters and roast in the oven until they have browned lightly.
3. In a large and deep pan heat the cooking oil and add cumin seeds. When the seeds sizzle add the onion, bay leaves and salt. Sauté for a couple of minutes then add the ginger and garlic and sauté for another couple of minutes.
4. Add the mung beans and barley with the vegetable stock, then the tahini, lemon juice, pepper, Harissa and the simmer for 8-10 minutes. It should then look thick and broth like.
5. Stir in the peppers and tear some mozzarella before storing for another minute or so. Don’t over cook the mozzarella as it will go string. Keep the mozzarella fully and warm.
6. Serve with a garnish of coriander and slice of lemon

I am linking this recipe to Anneli from Delicieux and Louisa from Eat your veg because this is a virtuous recipe image

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