Tag Archives: indian recipes

My food onesie; ‘samosa filling’ macaroni and cheese

11 Nov


Samosa filling macaroni cheese

When I am tired and cold (which is pretty much every evening theses days) I want foods that will soothe me into my natural rhythm and it’s not always posh nosh. I am a fan of strange and superb concoctions, novel recipes that get the mind and the taste buds tingling…but when I am feeling this way, you know what I want. I want a hot water bottle, a blanket, cuddles, Mahabharata on the telly ( the only programme I watch these days) and some proper comforting and nostalgic comfort food. This is why I call it my food onsie.

What’s happened to me? Thinking back a few years I never wore my hair up when I was out, wore contact lenses only when socialising and mostly wore make up when I left the house. I went shopping for clothes regularly and knew about what was trending. I watched films and knew what was hot and not. And now?

Now I am cold and tired and I need more sleep. Last week I went to playgroup with snot on my shoulder and I wear leggings way too often. My hair is up because I don’t want it pulled and I wear glasses more than lenses. I wear cosy socks and thought of investing in a slanket (blanket with sleeves). I need sleep and comfort food that tastes hot and moderately spiced and just delicious. That’s it. Talk about the simple things eh?

This one is indulgent and is like eating a samosa in the rain. It just works. The vegetables are simple and easy, just how life should be. The mac is cheesy and the top is crunchy with breadcrumbs and its good. Just how life should be. Let me tell you, you won’t get the munchies after eating this dish…you will sleep well…just as we all should.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

600g macaroni
Half a medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets
75g petit pois
75g sweetcorn kernels
One medium onion, diced
100g green beans, cut into bite sized pieces
5-6 curry leaves
2 green chilies
Salt to taste
3/4 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cumin seeds
2tbsp, vegetable oil for cooking
1/2 tsp turmeric
One medium potato, diced
One medium leek, cut into bite sized chunks
120g mature cheese, grated plus another couple of handfuls for the topping
100g breadcrumbs
1200ml milk
20g butter
4tbsp. Plain flour

Method

1. Boil the macaroni per the packet instructions. Wash and drain when it is cooked and leave it to a side.
2. In the meantime, heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin, turmeric, curry leaves and chilli. Let the seeds sizzle and then add the onion and salt. Sauté until the onion is softened and then add the rest of the vegetables.
3. Mix the vegetables in the oil well and then sprinkle in the garam masala. Cook until the potato is soft enough to pierce. This should take 10-12 minutes.
4. In the meantime, make the cheese sauce by melting the butter and adding the plain flour to make a soft paste. Loosen it up with a bit of oil if needed. Add the milk and whisk on a medium to low flame until the paste is absorbed into the milk. Then add the cheese and whisk lightly and loosely until the sauce thickens. Turn the heat off.
5. Take a deep and long baking tray and spread the macaroni into the tray. Combine it with the cooked vegetables and mic thoroughly. Introduce the cheese sauce and mix again. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese and and then top with the breadcrumbs, evenly.
6. Put the tray under the grill and brown lightly.

Serve hot and you won’t need a hot water bottle. Snooze afterwards if you can, it adds to the effect.

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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Mixed grains and vegetables in a tangy and fragrant coconut kadhi

15 Oct
Mixed grains and vegetables in a tangy and fragrant coconut kadhi

Mixed grains and vegetables in a tangy and fragrant coconut kadhi

We were in temple at Virpur in 1991 and we were travelling around pilgrimage and tourist sites of India. Some places we stayed in seemed shabby-palatial and some felt like cold student halls. My dad describes himself as atheist, but it isn’t true. He lights a diva in the morning (sometimes) and questions God often. Being in Virpur was very deliberate and it was a calming experience. It is the birth place of Jalaram Bapa and my family all have pictures or deities of him at home. Apparently my dad would pray to him for a little girl, before I arrived. And whilst my mum was in the throes of a terrible labour, Jalaram Bapa was whom he called upon.

We all sat on the floor with scores of other worshippers in an organised line and waited to be served. Slim men scooted around barefoot and expertly and neatly lay banana leaves before us. They could have been another form of leaf, I can’t quite recall. They were certainly not plates though. It was a novel experience for me and I was already charmed.

Before I knew it, hot, smooth, buttery and almost runny khichdi drizzled before me and then a gram flour and yoghurt soup, tempered in whole spices, curry leaves, chillies and ginger. Now, I eat with my fingers a lot but I was baffled as to how I would scoop khichdi into my mouth. But scoop I did.

I don’t know how much romanticism there is in my recollections of this experience, but look…clearly the experience has stuck in my mind after all these years. As you would expect, the kadhi was gloriously tangy, moderately spicy, creamy and slightly sweet. I loved it.

When I weaned my boy onto solids, I felt like I had the only child in the world that wouldn’t open that tiny mouth. I even bought an Annabel karmel book on purees. I tried it all; banana, butternut squash, baby rice, blueberries and carrots. Cauliflower cheese even, but nothing. He would turn his face and purse his lips. One day when I had made spinach kadhi for my husband ( he adores it) my little one grabbed the spoon and opened his mouth. Since then, kadhi has been his favourite food.

One of the awesome things about kadhi is that it is easy to bulk up. I add all sorts of vegetables, lentils, greens to it. This, However is one of my favourite recipes from my kadhi creations. It’s a one-pot, which makes my life simpler. It’s really easy to do; I made the lot in under twenty minutes and that includes chopping and mixing. This kadhi has grains in it, which we know are really good for us! I used the merchant gourmet pack which includes barley, quinoa and lentils and it does the job well! The coconut is delicate, smells divine and adds sweetness. Traditionally jaggery is added for sweetness. I’ve got some lovely and mellow veg in there, which you could vary. Hug a bowl of this and let it turn on the internal heating.

Ingredients

200g cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets
100g green beans, cut into bite sized pieces
100g asparagus cut into bite sized pieces
One large red onion, sliced
5-6 curry leaves
One stick of cinnamon
2 cloves
1 tsp minced ginger
One can of good quality coconut cream
500ml water
One pack of merchant gourmet mixed grains
2 tbsp ground nut oil
1 cup plain, natural yoghurt
1 tbsp gram flour
One red chilli, finely chopped
3/4 tsp brown (not black) mustard seeds
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
A squeeze of lime juice

Method

1. Heat the oil in a deep pan and add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, curry leaves, cinnamon, cloves, chilli and turmeric. When the seeds sizzle and pop add the onion and ginger and sauté until the onion has softened.
2. Whilst the onion is softening, mix the yoghurt and gram flour to a paste and put it to a side for a couple of moments.
3. Mix the vegetables into the tempering and coat then well with the oil. Then add the yoghurt and gram flour paste, coconut milk and water and stir again before adding the salt and lime juice (just one squeeze)
4. Tip the mixed grains in and loosen them up.
5. Bring the kadhi to boil and simmer on a medium flame for about 10 minutes.

Serve lashings no lashings of it immediately

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Spinach, spring onion and spice pancakes with lime and coriander crème fraîche

26 Sep

Spinach, spring onion and spice pancakes with lime and coriander crème fraîche
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We were in Dubai in June and my then 16month child lost a few hundred grams in weight over the first few days of our 10 day stay.

We were very lucky to be staying at the Atlantis, which is not only stunning with its in-house aquarium which felt as big as the London aquarium, beautiful clear views of the azure sea, towering heights and arches, shimmering lights; but it is architecturally astounding with its arabesque domes and spires. They couldn’t do enough for us and I lost count of the number of restaurants they had that served fresh and delicious foods from throughout the world. My favorite was the Lebanese restaurant; they served an entire table of vegetarian dishes at each course and I’m not kidding.
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So why, with such lovely and helpful staff and so much variety did my boy not eat? Why, when they made him whatever we asked for, either on or off the ‘menu for kids’, would he just not eat? The truth is, I don’t know. Could have been the heat, but then the hotel was air-conditioned. It could have been the time changes, but then we stuck to UK time for him. It could have been the fatigue of travelling, but surely that would settle after a couple of days. It could be because mumma didn’t make it. But come on.

So, as is typical of my assertive and self-proclaimed solutions-not-problems focused husband, he said, ‘babe, just go and speak to the chefs like you normally would and go into the kitchen and make what he will eat’. Normally I wouldn’t go and cook uninvited because that is so rude. But my baby wasn’t eating and this made me so sad that I felt like it was the only thing I could do.

The head chef came out to meet my boy. The restaurant manager came to meet him. The sous chef took the head chefs instructions and then I went in to tell them how he likes it. My boy doesn’t even know lucky he is. We made him what he has at home, a spinach uttapam. I make this south Indian style crispy pancake with fermented and ground lentils and rice, loads of spinach. My little monster guzzled it down and the whole team was happy, especially me. Naturally.

The thing is though, that I don’t always have fermented rice and lentils to hand when he asks for the pancake and I know that instant versions are available in a packet and that too at the major supermarkets, but I worry about the amount of salt in them. So, I created this recipe that my whole family enjoy…even my fussy old man (my dad) loved them. My chappati-loving mum let out high-pitched praise. My Italian and Caribbean neighbors loved them (I’ve trialed this recipe out a couple of times so needed mouths) and best of all, my boy loves them. For a kids version skip the chili and salt if this is your normal practice given your child’s age. My boy is young so that’s what I’ve done.

These pancakes are really well-balanced in terms of spice and depth, they are smooth and really light and fluffy. Herby and moorish, they are so easy to make and even easier to eat.

Ingredients to serve 3-4

225g fresh spinach, finely chopped in a food processor
75g spring onions finely chopped
2 green chilies finely chopped (leave them out for kids or cut the amount of chili if you don’t like it hot)
One whole egg
One egg white, beaten until you get soft white peaks
150g self-raising flour
150ml milk
50g butter
Salt to taste (I used 1tsp)
1 tbsp baking powder

The spices; 1 tsp toasted cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp dried mango powder (amchur powder)

For the lime and coriander crème fraîche

250g crème fraîche
The zest of one lime
1 tbsp very finely chopped fresh coriander
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Method

1. In a large bowl mix the spinach with the cumin, salt, garam masala, mango powder, spring onions and chilies and mix it well.
2. With a fork, mix in the flour and then add the milk, butter and egg. Whisk it all together, add the baking powder and whisk again.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg until the egg whites are soft white peaks and then gently fold into the pancake batter.
4. To make the crème fraîche, add the zest of the lime into a bowl and add the coriander, salt and pepper. Mix it in gently with the crème fraîche and leave it in the fridge until you serve the pancakes.
5. To make the pancakes heat a non stick pan and grease it with a couple of tablespoons of oil. Pour a couple of tablespoons of batter onto the pan and ensure that the height is about 1 cm. Cook them until they are golden brown on one side before flipping over.

Serve the pancakes hot and with a dollop of the crème fraîche.

Gram flour pasta in a spicy tomato and veg base

5 Sep

Gram Flour pasta in a Indian spiced tomato and vegetable base

pasta final

A few weeks before I fell pregnant with my baby boy, we did a tour around India.  I wasn’t overly enthusiastic at the prospect of being guided around historical monuments I’d already seen a couple of times, that too in the sweltering orange and dusty heat.  My husband had never done it though and he was really keen.  So, I looked up some contacts and I cooked with chefs throughout our journey; aloo wadiya and kulcha in Amritsar, kofta in Udaipur, mughlai dishes in Delhi, juicy paneer in Agra, chaat in Mumbai…It was so much fun.  The passion and skill in the chefs was moving.  The chefs and I nattered for hours, perched on the edge of our comfy chairs, about their ancestry, their feelings about food, how their family regard their chosen path.  It was so exhilarating  to be around people who love what they do.  We’d slump back in our chairs in smiling consideration.
To close our bustling and rousing trip we headed over to Gujarat to see family and get it touch with our religious roots.
So we arrived at one of Porabander’s best hotels really late into the night.  The bed had blue neon lights around it.  I don’t think I need to say any more.  As l stood there whispering WTF, familiar fishy smells of this seemingly standstill coastal town overwhelmed me. It didn’t feel any different to how it did 20 years ago.  Now I’m the sort of person that enjoys foods from around the world, it thrills me.  The experience of new senses in my mouth makes me giddily happy.  I love Italian, Indian, Lebanese, Chinese, Malaysian, Moroccan, Thai, Spanish…but.  After all of that, the cuisine that cajoles me into my natural rhythm is Gujarati food.  After being separated from my native food for over two weeks, I was restless with hankerings.  I was looking forward to Dhokla, Thepla, okra curry, gram flour straws in spicy tomato.
So I asked my husband to ring reception to see what sort of Gujarati food we could get so late and how we could get a thali the next day.  You know what they told us? No Gujarati food in the hotel. That’s right.  Noodles or a sandwich were offered to me. I was aghast.
My recipe today is inspired by Gujarati Dhokli, which is effectively gram flour pasta.  Traditionally it is simmered in dhal, but my recipe is quicker and just different, as it is in a spicy tomato and vegetable base.  It’s a filling and comforting dish that is pretty simple to make. You’ll sleep we’ll on this one.
Gram flour pasta in a spicy tomato and vegetable base
Ingredients

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

Tomato and veg base

200g green beans trimmed and cut into bit size 2cm chunks

150g baby corn, trimmed and cut into 2cm bites

2 medium new potatoes cut into small cubes

4 shallots, finely chopped

3 gloves of garlic, finely chopped

3 green chilies chopped

1400ml warm water

1 ½ tin of tomatoes

The spices; 1 tsp. cumin seeds, 1 tsp. fenugreek seeds, ½ tsp. mustard seeds, 6-7 curry leaves, salt to taste, 3 cloves, a pinch of asafoetida, ½ tsp. black pepper, ½ tsp. garam masala

The Gram Flour Pasta

¾ cup gram flour

1 cup finely milled whole wheat flour

1.5 tbsp Vegetable oil

The spices; 3/4 tsp. ajwain, 1 tsp. red chilli powder, ½ tsp. turmeric powder and salt to taste

150ml warm water

Method

  1. Start by making the pasta dough by mix all of the dry ingredients and spices.  Make a well in the middle and pour into the middle.   With your fingers massage the oil into the flour, creating a lightly crumbly texture and then with your fingers mix together the water, little by little, together with the flour and spices to form a ball. Coat the ball with vegetable oil and wrap in Clingfilm and rest it whilst you continue to prepare vegetables.pasta 1.1
  2. Roll out the dough to one centimeter thickness and cut into rectangles of between 4cm by 3cm. Once they are all rolled and cut out place them onto a dish and dust the pieces lightly.  If your kitchen is very warm, put the pasta in the fridge, so that the pieces do not stick togetherpasta 1
  3. To make the tomato and veg  base, heat 2 tbsp. oil and add the asafoetida, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, turmeric powder, mustard seeds, chilies and cloves before allowing the seeds to pop.
  4. Stir in the onions and salt, then sauté for a couple of minutes before stirring in the garlic.   Soften both before adding in the potatoes, green beans and the baby corn and mixing through thoroughly. Add the black pepper
  5. Stir in the tomatoes, water and bring to a simmer before cooking for 4-5 minutes
  6. Drop in the pasta simmer for 10-12 minutes before sprinkling in the garam masala and serving lashings of it.

Tandoori Halloumi with Salad Stuff

21 Aug

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Tandoori halloumi with salad stuff

Are you one of those foodies of Asian descent that curries everything? Or do you know someone that does it? It is funny isn’t it…Brussels sprouts get curried, as does pasta, asparagus, baked beans,  bean sprouts, tofu and even pak choi.
I do laugh now at childhood memories of ambling in the open fruit and veg market with my dad, being jostled about by inconsiderate giants whilst my dad enthusiastically examined non-indian vegetables from above the rim of his glasses. Whilst he poked, stroked and rubbed edibles I took in the thrill of hearing native English stall holders bellow their banter in some Gujarati! Imagine that!
 If he liked the look of it, I knew what the natural question would be…’I wonder what this would taste like as a curry’.
Remember, I came from a generation where the words ‘we are having English food tonight’ meant either egg and chips or a plate of boiled veg with cheese, pepper and salad cream on top.  I am laughing as I’m writing this, but even the omelette was curried.  Mixed veg with an assortment of Indian spices and cheese in top.  oh but we loved it.  I have lovely, fond recollections of the cousins and I all sat down around large and loud curtain fabric in the living room, tucking into indian omelette and chips.  I guess currying everything was a simple way of befriending new foods.  Coincidentally, and unknown to any of us at the time, it has been one of the impetus for my very own style of cooking.
Years later, when I’d take into work leftovers of samosa stuffing mixed with pasta, or Brussels packed with toasted gram flour and nutty spiced, if get those looks and raised eyebrows that said, ‘that’s just wrong’. Until they tasted it of course.
It’s really important to get good quality halloumi cheese; avoid the ones that are rubbery on the inside.  Salty and chewy halloumi is beautiful in this sour marinade with a smooth and peppery kick.   It’s super easy to make and I love using it to liven up a salad.  In My picture I’ve teamed up the tandoori halloumi with a tomato, parsley and caper salad, some garlic and coriander hummus and potato wedges.  Summer isn’t over yet, but remember..tandoori halloumi isn’t just for summer, it is to be loved all year round.
Tandoori halloumi
Ingredients
3 desert spoonfuls of natural yoghurt
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp tomato ketchup
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Half thumb sized piece if ginger, minced
Salt to taste
Use 250g halloumi cheese, cut into 16 cubes
Method
1. Mix together all of the wet ingredients into a box, stir well.
2. Add in the spices, one by one and mix thoroughly
3. Introduce the chunks of halloumi and ensure that they are well coated
4. Chill the chunks for a couple of hours in the fridge
5. Set the halloumi on some baking paper and place them in the oven on gas mark 200 degrees until the halloumi is crispy and browned.
6. Serve immediately with a fresh salad, some pitta and take in the aromas.

Cheating on chilly nights

24 Feb

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Cheating on Chilly Nights

When the skies released fluffy white flakes again this week, smiles fluttered across my face as well as my boy’s, again.  Then I thought of all the inconveniences we would have to endure, again. And frankly, I’m quite sick of wearing tights. 

We stood looking out at it, gluing our foreheads to the window and chilling ourselves unnecessarily.  I forgot to talk at times and I always feel guilty about that, must keep talking to my boy.   I got busy thinking about how overcrowded the supermarkets would be. Because of course, everyone behaves as though the world is going to end and ritually go and pack the aisles of supermarkets up…just in case.  Even my parents do it and they’re supposed to be the educated bees! It always makes me chuckle how proud some people are for braving the stampede in the shops.

You know what I am going to say, don’t you?  I didn’t go and join the packs.  Yes I stocked up, but I also had few recipes up my sleeve. Ones that you can whip up with store cupboard ingredients.  Ones that bring colour to days that remind me of the Narnia before bad stuff happens. Ones that you can eat whilst hugging the bowl and tucked under a blanket, or perched by the window (forehead peeled off, of course).

You know I like cheating now and again.  As long as it is worth it, in terms of the quality of what is used.  There are days for creating lots of clever mess in the kitchen whilst singing and chattering or quietly experimenting.  Then, there are chilly nights where the blanket beckons.  That’s what this recipe I am sharing with you is for.

To me, there is nothing like some chilli to kick start the insides on a cold day, but if it doesn’t turn your internal furnace on then leave it out or moderate the usage. Use this recipe flexibly…you can use vegetables other than what I have; you could use pasta instead of gnocchi.  That’s my cheat-ready-made gnocchi.  Oh, and the Harissa paste. Oh and sometimes I use miso soup sachets instead of vegetable stock. Use some good quality, ready-made gnocchi and get a spoon in that broth…quickly!

Red Lentil,  Veg and Harissa Broth with Gnocchi

Ingredients to serve four

One large onion, diced

150g butternut squash, diced into bite sized chunks

4-5 leaves of Savoy cabbage, shredded

500ml of water or vegetable stock

Half a courgette, diced into bite sized chunks

Harissa paste to taste.  I used 2 tbsp

Spices; salt and pepper to taste, 1/2tsp cumin seeds, 1/4tsp turmeric

100g red lentils

400g gnocchi 

Method

1.  Cook the red lentils in plenty of water, until they are mushy in texture.  His should take about 15minutes

2. In meantime, heat 2tbsp of oil in a deep bottomed pan and add the cumin seeds and turmeric.  When the seeds crackle add the onion with the salt and soften the onion.

3. Stir in the butternut squash, savoy cabbage and courgette Cook fora couple of minutes before adding the red lentils and water. Season with pepper.

4. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked then stir in the Harissa paste.

5.  Cook the gnocchi per the packet instructions and serve into bowls before bathing them in the broth. Serve and devour immediately. 

 

 

Social Grazing; Masala Peanuts

13 Nov

Most people I talk to these days reckon I should put my (swollen) feet up and chill (despite my internal combustion system) out, eat and watch movies etc. and let the (busy-at-work-due-to Christmas) husband indulge me.  Thinking about it is relaxing, but those who know me, know that I never stop!

So, my thinking has been that I want to pack in as much as I can before the baby arrives so that I feel upbeat and productive…a great mood to welcome a new little person with. Funnily enough I have been doing a lot of entertaining, chatting and late nights too (the baby websites express how naughty that is, after all, people in my ‘condition’ need the rest.)  This weekend for instance has been filled with the laughter of people in three different cities and multiple cuisines. I am generating and storing memories and bonds…the stuff of smiles.

Besides, I feel so blessed that well-wishers want to see me for adult-chat before the baby arrives and they want to see and track the development of the ever-growing bump.

This is a joyful time and you know that all of my happy times have a strong association with food and it’s usually me doing the cooking, of course. I have enjoyed treating my friends and family as guinea-pigs and seeing as I struggle with big meals, there has been grazing-a-plenty! 

I love this recipe…you can’t go wrong with crunchy, spicy nuts with a light sour kick.  A bowl full of these won’t last very long…but I love them for filling the gaps between courses, or simply for nibbling on whilst giggling, laughing crunching.

Masala Peanuts

Ingredients

3/4 cup shelled peanuts

3/4 cup gram flour

1/4 cup rice flour

The spices; 1 tbsp. coriander powder, ½ tbsp. cumin powder, ½ tsp. dried mango powder, ½ tsp. turmeric powder, 1 tsp. paprika, ½ tsp. ground black pepper, 1 tsp. red chilli powder, ¼ tsp. dried ginger powder

Up to 1 cup Water as needed

Oil to fry

Method

  1. In a hot, non-stick pan, lightly roast the peanuts until they have slightly browned, then leave them to cool
  2. Mix together all the dry ingredients and then add the water and the peanuts to form a batter and ensure all of the peanuts are covered evenly.
  3. Heat the oil in a deep bottomed pan to fry the peanuts, the oil should be a couple of inches depth.
  4. Fry the peanuts until they are golden brown, but make sure that they are separate and don’t clog together when frying.  Remove them onto kitchen paper and allow them to cool.  You can devour them just as they are.

Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Rice

5 May

Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Rice

Do you have childhood memories of being cajoled into eating?

Shiny shoes with glistening buckles swung, knocking at the kitchen cupboards whilst I was perched onto a kitchen worktop in velvety dungarees and a sympathetic, fresh polo neck jumper. Mum or Dad leaned their tummy gently against my knees, for balance and in sing song and over-enthusiastic grins and upstretched eyebrows, they  transported ‘aeroplanes’ loaded with rice, bathed in tomato soup and widened their mouths, hoping that I’d mirror them.

It’s the sort of food that’s easy, juicy and sweet in a dribble inducing sort of way. Modest, economical but its familiarity and succulence is calming…but you know that I like to meander to new ways with gorgeous stuff. These days it’s a roasting red, spicy kick that I’m longing for. The thought of dried red chillies, releasing their sweet heat when soaked sets my heart a-flutter (but not on fire, I don’t go that far!). That’s why this recipe I’m about to share with you gives me my fix; I can change it to suit my mood. More or less heat, some veg, a bit of bite or crunch or something soft or squidgy. To be honest, I could make a meal out of this recipe, I don’t need much else.

Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Rice

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 cup tomato pulp

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

200g of roasted red peppers (the jarred stuff is fine to use for this recipe)

4-5 shallots, finely chopped

7-8 curry leaves

2 tbsp.  Channa dhal (Bengal gram)

10-15 cashew nuts halved

2 red chillies and 1 green chilli (or to taste)

300g uncooked rice

The spices; ½ tsp. garam masala, ½ tsp. mustard seeds, 1 tsp. cumin seeds, pinch of asafoetida, salt to taste,

Method

  1.  Wash and boil the rice and then keep it to the side
  2. Whilst the rice is cooking, whizz (roughly) together the  tomatoes and the roasted red peppers to a deep red pulp
  3. Heat the oil in a deep pan, then add the asafoetida, cumin seeds, mustard seeds,  chillies, Bengal gram and curry leaves and cook until the gram is golden brown and crunchy
  4. Stir in the cashew nuts and stir until they’ve browned a little
  5. Bring it together with the onions, add the salt and sauté for a couple of minutes before bringing in the garlic and sauté until they have softened
  6. Add the tomatoes and red pepper and bring It to a gentle simmer before stirring in the garam masala and then stir in the cooked rice
  7. Serve with something yogurt and garnish with coriander.

Fragrant Jeera Rice and Then Some

25 Mar

Fragrant Jeera Rice and Then Some

I once caught a fine lady friend of ours scooping out the leftovers directly from the wok I’d cooked this rice in. With her long and dainty fingers.  Secret-eating-lady was back-turned to the kitchen door as I witnessed her hurriedly inhaling; it wasn’t even very much of a secret wolfing as the rest of us were nattering away in her (very) adjacent living room. Clearly, the temptation had taken over and she had succumbed. Sigh. It was quite undignified, but who can blame her?

I’m spending a fair bit of time in the garden these days, in between all of the foodness; I’m welcoming in the spring and summer. I’d hug it/them if I could.  I want it to be beautiful out there, for those many times that I am writing recipes.  I want to look out and see an array of colours and texture all wafting together, harmoniously. Delicious. Yet it is still rather nippy. Sometimes I don’t even notice my nose run.

So to warm myself up and wind down after a good day of grafting, I do what any other self-loving person would do. I eat carbs. I make mental lists whilst pounding down the streets on the way home, fantasising in pictures and sensations of all of the cheesy, bready dishes with mounds of steaming hot jewels of rice that I want to devour at that very instant. Of course the rice has to be steaming and must to be fluffy, well separated and pure for it to do the job.  My husband is quite the connoisseur when it comes to rice. I was once given the ‘wrong’ variety as a freebie. One forkful and that was it, he was done.

This recipe is very popular amongst my friends and family; it’s so easy to put together and you can vary it for your mood. These days I am obsessed with chargrilled artichoke hearts with chilli confetti (of course). I could happily eat a plate full of them mingled in with this rice dish. As its warming up out there, I like to mix the cooled rice jeera rice up with chopped avocado and some firm-ish cherry tomatoes. In fact, I don’t mind it with 5-spiced Pakchoi either thank you very much. For me, I could make a meal of sassed-up jeera-rice, but to take it from an on-your-lap Friday night telly meal, to the dining table you can serve this wonderful rice up with some luscious curry, or use it as a side dish. Right, now where’s the rice.

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

200g uncooked basmati rice (I’ve used Tilda)

2 green chillies

175g finely chopped shallots

2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 tsp. lemon juice

The spices; ½ tsp. ground nutmeg, ½ tsp. ground mace, 2 star anise, 1 stick cinnamon, 2 cloves, ½ tsp. black pepper, 2 bay leaves, 1 ½ tsp. cumin seeds

Method

  1. Start by cooking the rice. Wash it thoroughly, bring to a simmer and then boil uncovered for about 6-7 minutes before draining it of the starch. Bring it back onto the heat and when it’s steaming on a very low heat, give it another couple of minutes.
  2. Allow the rice to cool and in the meantime get the rest of it happening by heating the sesame oil on a medium to low flame; it will heat very quickly so add the cumin seeds, chillies, star anise, cinnamon, cloves and allow the cumin to sizzle.
  3. Add the onions, pepper, salt, nutmeg, bay leaf, mace, lemon juice and stir thoroughly. Soften the onion and then bring it together with the rice. Gently mix it in and give it a good toss before serving it up.
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