Tag Archives: indian vegetarian

Indo-Thai mango and coconut bhel

5 Oct

Indo-Thai mango and coconut bhel

Two fabulous things happened at the tail end of last week; my husband returned home for a couple of days, after eleven days of business related work in Australia and I found a Riverford fruit and veg box wrapped up and tucked behind my garden gate.

Indo-thai bhel1 by Deena Kakaya

 

Years ago, when my husband made the switch from his role in the pharmaceutical industry to make a living in the field he is so passionate about (magic) I would cry upon his departure for these clustered long-haul trips. After years of listening to him talk about making dreams manifest and how life is so short and it is not worth spending limited moments of breath and potential smiles doing something one is less than passionate about, there was a juxtaposition of,  ‘I want you to LIVE’ and ‘I don’t want to be alone’.

I didn’t like the quiet of the evenings or cooking for one. I didn’t like the ‘filling in’ activities. I didn’t like waking alone or going to sleep with just the telly for company. But look, years on. Who would have thought that I could become accustomed to waving goodbye with a young child on my hip and that the quiet of the evenings would become precious time to prepare for lectures or cookery classes and those textbooks have become me, once again?  Years ago I would find solace in those messages, ‘how are you coping on your own’ and now I see ambition and vision through how much courage I have mustered up in recent years. I have even considered spending a few years abroad.

So the contents of the Riverford fruit and veg box this week made me chuckle because they matched my thoughts of more exotic climes and the will to LIVE. Now, I am sure I have gone on, and on enough about how much of an alphonso fan I am but alas we can’t have these in the UK this year but I was tickled by the delivery of a large and firm mango. I spotted red chillies and red onions, salsa? I could have done yes, but I fancied something sensational and explosive. It is how I want to feel you see.

I am taking a deep breath before I tell you this. Macaroons and chaat. OK. Let me explain. These are the two foods that make my limbs turn to jelly with anticipation and heart skipping joy. Heart-leap-frogging.  I am a girl that does not need to be gifted shoes, give me macaroons and chaat. And if I haven’t told you before, chaat is Indian street food (vegetarian snack) of inordinate amounts of sensual pleasure. The trickles of tamarind chutney and chilli green lip-smacking chutney heighten a fine balance of sweet, sour, crisp, cool, soft and spicy textures. It pops every sense and leaves anyone and everyone hankering for more, more, more.

But, you know me. I can’t just leave it there. I saw this mango and thought Indo-Thai would be absolutely perfumery delight. The mango gives sweet-sharp balance to the aniseed Thai basil. I have used coconut and peanuts for the salty and nutty elements too. This is not an understated dish (I have stressed that enough haven’t I?) it is a full show. New potatoes ensure that you get a soft bite without soggy mess that an ordinary potato can bring and you can get the puffed rice from most supermarkets or Indian grocers. I have used chopped mint and coriander too for a real herby feel. I would definitely recommend getting hold of the chaat masala that is made of peppery black salt, it lifts the dish to a whole new level. Just try it.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

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

My pasta Rotolo of masala Aubergine, spiced spinach and feta

23 Dec
Rotolo of masala Aubergine, spiced spinach and feta

Rotolo of masala Aubergine, spiced spinach and feta

Often my mind races through evaluation and check list mode; what of that email I was supposed to send…the music isn’t right is it, did I buy kitchen foil? Why did that person say/do that, am I looking too much into it? Do I need to make a doctors appointment, what was that recipe submission date? Will I get that contract and when will I get a chance to paint my nails? What shall I make for dinner and what should I charge as daily rate?

But then a little head lands in my lap, ‘happy birthday mumma’. It’s not my birthday, but I know he means that he loves me. I run my hand through his hair, cup his face and tell him that I love him. ‘Thank you mumma, you’re welcome, I love you’.

As we race matchstick cars down the track and talk about dinosaurs, planets and animals I reflect on how blessed I am and that with each day that passes, it is one less from his childhood. That’s why it’s so important to be ‘here and now’. In the present, in the moment and cherishing it all. Of course there are practicalities like working, bathing, eating, cooking etc, but you know what I mean. This is also why, at Christmas time when we have family and friends visiting us over a couple of weeks and I do much of the cooking, I don’t want to make elaborate, fiddly dishes that take hours to cooks and ages to clean up after. I want something that shows effort, looks like a feast and above, is utterly delicious.

We’ve all had those excruciating moments during entertaining loved ones, were the as the host we end up in the kitchen tossing, baking, simmering and assembling. We hear laughter and cheer in the living or dining room and wish we could be part of it. Why not prepare a dish you can stick some cling film ver and pop in the oven whilst you sit down and smile with the group, clutching a cup of something hot and sweet?

Cue my pasta rotolo; how does it look? Good eh? Let me tell you…it tastes like a spicy, tangy, slippery, crispy, cheesy and smooth gorgeous little nest. Just look at it, it’s quite impressive isn’t it? And guess what, it’s so easy to do! Here’s how.

Ingredients

2 medium aubergines
350g frozen spinach
150g feta cheese
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp chilli flakes
Salt to taste
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4-5shallots
5 tbsp oil for cooking
1 tsp cumin seeds
1.5. tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
A generous pinch of pepper
3 fresh lasagne sheets
Vegetarian hard cheese or mature cheddar for sprinkling on top

Method
1. Wash the aubergines, coat them in oil and roast them in the oven at 180degrees for 30mins or until they are soft on the inside and shrivelled on the outside. Let them cool and scoop out the insides. Mash them lightly on a plate until they are pulpy.image
2. To make the aubergine masala, heat 2tbsp oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds and once they sizzle add the onions and some salt. I added 3/4 tsp. cook the onions until they are golden before adding half the minced garlic. Sauté until the onions are lightly browned before adding the cumin powder, turmeric, 3/4 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp paprika. Sauté for 30 seconds and then add the aubergine masala and mix throughly. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool.image
2. To make the tomato sauce, heat 2 tbsp oil and then add the remaining garlic, paprika, chilli and salt (I added 1 tsp) and then sauté for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and bring it to simmer. Add a pinch of sugar if your tomatoes are sour.
3. To make the spices spinach, heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds, fennel and allow the mustard to pop. Add the spinach, salt, pepper and 3/4 tsp of garam masala. Cook for4-5 minutes, check that there are no frozen bits and turn it off the heat. Simmer for about 8-10 minutes on a medium flame.image
4. Heat the oven at 180 degrees and then start on the rotolo. Take one lasagne sheet and spread it with one third of the aubergine masala. then spread the spinach on top (a third) and crumble on some feta. Roll it up, then cut it in half, then half again.image
5. In a deep dish, spread the tomato sauce. Then, gentle place the rotolo pieces inside the sauce before sprinkling the cheese on top. Bake in the oven for 30mins or until golden brown.

Spicy Rice Flour Dough Balls (My Very Popular Khichi)

31 Jan

Spicy Rice Flour Dough Balls (My Very Popular Khichi)

Hot summer days during the school holidays, mother and aunties (in the broader sense, meaning women of mum’s age) in the kitchen boisterous and rosy. The wooden fence between us and the neighbours has been worn down to stubble from ever frequent visits by the neighbours kids indelicately climbing over them and aunties leaning over the fence, chit-chatting languidly after a hard day’s work.

The kitchen was spicy-steamy even though the windows and doors were wide open; the gleeful kids were darting between kitchen and garden. My mum would pick the hottest and least breezy days to make rice flour poppadum’s and I was the contented assistant; these goings-on were tradition for summer holidays. Mum and aunts simmered the chillies and spices in hot water leaving us all coughing, before adding the flour to make dough. It’s OK; we had strawberries and fresh fruit juices to distract our throats. They rolled the oiled dough to poppadum shapes; just a couple of millimetres thick and it was my starring role to lay them onto cleaned (but unwanted) wafting saris in the garden.  I collected heavy stones and bricks, full of purpose in my loud yellow and green floral dresses, to ensure the saris were controlled and I lay the papdi (the particular variety of poppadum) neatly, not overlapping them.   Barefoot in on the summer garden slabs, I enjoyed the heat under my feet.  I’d find a shady spot to intermittently paint under, whilst I safeguarded the poppadum’s from birds and insects too, or maybe it was the Bollywood music booming (and women singing) from the kitchen that did that!

The plan was to let the sun dry the dough out completely. Once dried out and microwaved or fried they taste impressively crunchy and crispy. They are deeper and slightly chewier than the poppadums you will find in restaurants, but they remain my favourite variety.  The smooth and slippery dough itself is delectably Moorish. When steamed its spongy, a little chewy, overflowing with punch and undeniably gutsy. Funnily enough the steamed dough is often eaten as a snack, with a little oil that’s infused with salt and chilli powder. Greasy fingers are typically all that remain once a plate of these gently green balls are served. Try it; tell me how you like it.

Khichi

Deena’s Spicy Rice Flour Dough Balls; My Very Popular Kichi

Ingredients

3-4 green chillies, minced

800ml of water

1 ½ tsp. of cumin seeds

1 tsp. of carom seeds/ajwain

Salt to taste

½ tsp. of ground cinnamon

375g of rice flour

Method serves 4-5

  1. Pour the specified amount of water into a deep pan, before adding the spices and seasonings with the minced chillies and bring it to a gentle simmer. Turn the heat down and continue to simmer for 3-4 minutes
  2. Take a long wooden spoon and gently pour in the rice flour and beat into the water, avoiding clumps forming. Do this quickly, before removing the dough from the heat
  3. Pour the dough into a large plate and grease your palms. Form flattened balls of about 5-6cm diameter and dip your thumb in the centre to create a well (keep the well empty though) and then steam for about 15 minutes.
  4. Remove onto a plate and serve with oil infused with chilli powder and salt.

Indian Superfood Recipes

1 Apr

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

Superfood PomegranateEasy Pomegranate Shrikhand

Recipe (to serve 3-4)
Ingredient

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

Method

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

Easy Blueberry Shrikhand

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

Recipe (to serve 3-4)
IngredientSuperfood blueberries

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

Method

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

Spinach and Tofu Curry

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

Recipe (serves 3-4)

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

Method

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

Vegetarian Indian Meal Ideas For Students

13 Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Curry out of a can

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

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

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

Fresh quickie Curries

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

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

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

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

Using Pasta

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

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

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

Indian Sandwich Ideas

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

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

Warmest wishes

Deena Kakaya

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