Tag Archives: Indian

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine and spinach

13 May

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine and spinach

 

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine spinach

The lines between ‘going back’ and going on holiday have blurred now, after this many visits to the UAE.  My three year old has made three trips out there and now has a collection of memories and a definite sense of identification with some of our regular haunts.  Neither me nor my husband are from the UAE or have family there but to be honest almost all of the people I talk to in Dubai are ex-pats.

Whilst in Oman, Muscat I reminisced about our honeymoon in Thailand because the mountainous back group and still waters evoked those entire serene and tranquil honeymoon images in my mind. Except this time, the people we made passing conversation with were a whole world away. We met an Australian family in the kid’s club and I remarked to my husband that it was they, not a nanny with their two young daughters. Most of the other children in the kids club were accompanied by a nanny that had joined their family to the resort. Australian dad now worked in Qatar and Australian mum was fond of truffles. She emphatically told me about the school her daughters attended and how her children didn’t see race or colour because their friends were of all origins; Indian, French, Japanese. She told me several times over, which I found curious.

People like to guess where you are from when on holiday don’t they? Most of the time people assume that I am from Arabic origin, in fact this happened to me at college and university too but it’s only in the UAE that people never assume that. The entertainer in the kids club remarked on my Indian eyes and English accent and asked if I was a full time mum, for again, I was the only mum in attendance there. An Indian (as in, from India) dad dropped his two smartly dressed children who were also decorated in 24ct gold jewellery, with entertaining lady and after he left she told me that he holds a very high position in the hotel and has since moved to LA to head up operations there. She herself is from a family of 7 sisters and 1 brother in the Philippines.

My little boy likes trains, unsurprisingly and the ones in Dubai are much less congested so this made for fervent and endearing conversation. Indian chap quipped that he should be on YouTube, not the head of a leading bank like he was. My boy replied, ‘maybe when I am 17 I will.’

So, as we stood at the floor to wall screens leading into the aquarium, for shark and stingray viewing my boy patted the screen guardedly inviting the sometimes smiling and sometimes frowning creatures to swim past him. Whilst he pressed his forehead against the cold glass and chattered away about what the fish must be doing, thinking, eating and travelling from a very pink, vivacious blonde haired little girl grabbed the arm of ‘Shanti’ as she explained where she saw similar looking coral. Shanti had a really peaceful demeanour and very smooth and very dark skin on a red-green-gold simple sari so I wondered if she was from southern India. Blonde mummy tried to join in the conversation but those wide eyes were mirroring only Shanti’s imperturbable smile. I wondered if this is what happens if you get caught up in the mode of, ‘because I can have hired help I will’. Or was shanti a friend? Was she the nanny?

‘Come…’ called Shanti and held the little blond girl close as she scooped her up, posing and prompting the parents to take pictures. I don’t know if Shanti heard, but I certainly did when they said, ‘just get her in there on her own, and hold it, that’s it…’

I picked up some freshly ground Baharat spice mix at the same supermarket that I go to each time that I am in Dubai and I know there must be more authentic places but you know, it was there in a big and inviting mound of freshness. A Lebanese lady next to me told me that she uses it in rice dishes and I wondered which other medley of dishes I could use them because the key ingredients are; cardamom, cassia bark, cloves, coriander, nutmeg, all spice, peppercorns, chilies or paprika. For whatever reasons the smoky aubergine, crisp potato and smooth spinach all work with this spice for a healthy vegetarian meal. Although I picked the blend up from Dubai with lasting effect in the suitcase, the spice blend is available in UK supermarkets too.

Ingredients to serve two

3 medium potatoes suitable for roasting

1 tbsp. rapeseed oil

Two medium aubergines

One tin of chopped tomatoes

4 dessert spoons of finely chopped spinach

One large red chilli

Salt to taste

2 tsp. Za’atar spice

3 tsp.  Baharat spice

150g fresh mozzarella cheese

 

A handful of cherry or plum tomatoes, quartered

Method

  1. Cut the potatoes into even sized cubes and boil them for 7-8 minutes before draining them and letting them dry completely. Then toss them in salt and the oil before roasting them in the oven at 190 degrees for approximately 25 minutes.
  2. Roast the aubergines whole at 180 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until the inside is soft and then allow them to cool before scraping away the skins.
  3. Mix the tinned tomatoes with the chopped chilli, salt, pinch of pepper and spread them onto an oven proof dish.
  4. Combine the aubergine pulp with the Za’atar spice and a pinch of salt.
  5. Now layer on the spinach and the roasted aubergine on top of the tinned tomatoes.
  6. Once the potatoes have caught a golden colour, toss them in the Baharat spice mix before adding them on top of the spinach and aubergine.
  7. Tear the aubergine and add them to the top with the tomatoes before returning the tray to the oven for approximately ten minutes.

Sweet corn, Feta and Mango pakora

19 Nov

Sweet corn, Feta and Mango pakora

Is there ever a time which is not emotional or filled with guilt of some sort when you are a parent?

Sweet corn, Feta and Mango pakora by Deena Kakaya

Well, I am embracing (perhaps reluctantly) another emotional time in the life with my two year old sweetheart because we have been viewing nurseries for next year, when he will be old enough to join a proper, actual nursery. Really.

There will be someone else there, to tell him to take his shoes off and listen to his fabulously demonstrative story-telling about planets, squirrels and cars and someone else will be listening to why Neptune is blue and why we can’t go on Mars. There will be animated enacting, I am sure, for all the other children on the bubbling volcanic scenes that make Mars red but my boy’s imaginary friend will be there I hear, but of course. He will play and interact with other little people and I won’t really know them, or be there for any awkward or charming moments. I won’t see his face broaden with that adorable glee upon discovering something new, though he may turn around and say, ‘look mumma’. I will miss the cheeky charm of those moments where he will just grab my head and exclaim, ‘I love you so much mumma; you are a genius’. But this is growth.

Sweet corn, Feta and Mango pakora by Deena Kakaya

So today, I treated my tiny boy with some much requested crunchy, crispy pakora of Indian food influence (vegetarian fritters) with sweet bite of sweet corn, small nuggets of salty feta that oozes when hot and some chewy baked pieces of sunny and happy mango that the folk from Urban fruit sent me. All in all, the sensations left me feeling like another holiday. Alas, sunny treats like these golden and sumptuous pakora must keep me going.

If you are cooking a vegetarian Christmas meal, this is always a crowd-pleaser. If you are not cooking a vegetarian Christmas meal this recipe pleases nonetheless for a tempting and fun starter, canape or side dish.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

175g sweet corn

One large red onion, finely diced

100g feta cheese cut into small cubes

100g baked mango chunks from Urban fruits

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. minced ginger

Salt to taste (remember that the feta is salty)

½ tsp. turmeric powder

½ tsp. garam masala

2 green chillies, choppped

100g gram flour

125ml water

Oil for deep frying

Method

  1. Heat the oil on a medium flame.
  2. Combine the sweet corn, red onion, feta with all the spices, salt, chillies and mango chunks and combine well.
  3. Mix in the gram flour and coat all the vegetables, combining well.
  4. Add the water to make a thick batter and then drop a small amount into the oil to check that the oil is hot enough to fry; if the batter sizzles and rises to the surface then add the pakora in small mounds with your fingers, equivalent to the size of a couple of tablespoons of batter.
  5. Fry the pakora until they are golden brown and crisp before removing them onto kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.
  6. Serve with chutney such as tomato, tamarind or chilli and coriander chutney.

 

 

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

Homemade chilli oil with an Indian accent

23 Oct

IMG_3928

When we go to our favourite Chinese restaurant the first (of many) things we over eat on is vegetarian crackers with loads of chilli oil. Our tummies flare away after a few mouthfuls as do our tongues, but we keep going. We always joke that our Indian heritage is revealing itself here; not everyone hoovers up chilli in this way, surely?

My love for chilies isn’t just based on the heat. The flavour of chilies is something else. Sometimes sweet, sometimes smokey, sometimes tangy. I love the way they get into the nose and cheeks as soon as a they’re bitten.

I’m sure every Asian person has an aunt that carries chilli sauce in their handbag, I know I have a couple at least! In my last corporate role the IT department was filled with people from Calcutta and Bangalore. They and I would queue for the microwaves in the canteen and they would heat up their stacks of Chappati, curry and rice separately whilst I would be tapping my single tub of daal and rice with forced patience and a smile masking my hunger and nervousness about making that meeting.

Anyway, those of the IT people that didn’t bring a packed lunch feast would buy something like chips and guess what they would pull out?

It’s engrained. On pizza, on cheese on toast, on chips, on jacket potatoes…chilli. So I thought, why not? Why don’t I make a chilli oil with an Indian accent, like my ex colleagues from Bangalore and my auntie and my mummy.

Do you know how easy it is to make chilli oil? I wasn’t even sure it warranted a recipe or a post on my site until I spoke to a few of my friends and they said they loved the stuff and asked me about the best place to buy it. So here we are.

These pretty little jars make excellent Christmas gifts that are handmade and special. My husband is away this week on business and I’ve been handing these little jars out to my friends and family who have come to keep me company and they’ve gone down beautifully.

I have used sesame oil and olive oil in my recipe because sesame oil makes the whole mix gorgeously nutty. I’ve used lots of whole spices that are used in garam masala and they all add aroma and gentle heat with some sweetness. Cinnamon and star anise smell sweet and floral respectively. All you need to do is heat it up to aid the infusion, but don’t burn the chilies by boiling the oil. Just be gentle. Remember that the infusion gets stronger over weeks. I would shake the oil once a week and keep it in a cool and dry place. Let me know what you think of this one!

Ingredients

225ml sesame oil
225ml olive oil
20g dried flaked chilies
5-7 whole dried chilies
3 medium sized sticks of cinnamon
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 star anise
5-6 cloves

Method

1. Sterilise the jars and dry them thoroughly.
2. Pour the oil into a deep bottomed non-stick pan and add the chilies and whole spices.
3. Heat the oil until you see gentle bubbles and turn down the heat. Don’t boil the oil or burn the chilies.IMG_3925
4. Keep the oil on the flame for 4-5 minutes to add the infusion, but on a low flame.
5. Let the chili oil cool and then pour the oil into the jars, try to distribute the while spices evenly.

Store the jars in a cook dry place and shake them once a week.

Canapés ? Courgette rolls filled with saffron and spice cauliflower and broad beans

21 Oct
Courgette rolls filled with saffron and spice cauliflower and broad beans

Courgette rolls filled with saffron and spice cauliflower and broad beans

I’m chuckling at how my parents and their peers see people who are a little bit chubby, or fuller figured and consider them healthy and happy. Being slightly rotund is a mark of a good life, apparently. Whenever I experience fitness class success, my mum looks at me worriedly, telling me that I need to put on weight because I need ‘energy’. Ok mum.

This is the season where I become festively fatter. Diwali involves a lot of gorging on a ridiculous amount of sugary and deep-fried treats. As we visit family members at each of their homes to offer them seasons greetings, we are offered sweets and crispy treats and that’s what we fill up on. Deep fried rice flour Catherine wheels , deep-fried dumplings filled with a sweet and nutty mixture, deep-fried brown bean popadums…

Then comes Christmas and I always seem to eat the most massive number of roast potatoes; I really love them. Pastry and cheeses are consumed in generous portions in our house and oh, the sugar. I’ve already started stocking up on the drinks which I always see as hidden calories. Nibbles; they’re dangerous too…I rarely remember how many of those mini chocolates I’ve eaten, let alone crisps and cheesy things.

So this season, I am publicly declaring my intent (yes, intent) to be more kind to my body. Now, I am not saying that I’m going t have a skinny Diwali and Christmas. What’s the point of that, they only come around once a year. What I am saying that I’m going to include some healthier stuff! I’m going to include canapés that are not deep-fried and they will taste good! Do you want to join me?

These pretty looking rolls, light, colourful and unusual. The courgette is raw, which allows that crispy gorgeousness. A bit of saffron does the job of giving colour, aroma and decadence. The filling is crumbly, lightly cheeses a wee bit spicy. You can make them fresh, or keep them in the fridge for a couple of hours, ready for guests to arrive. These are certainly different, give them a go!

Ingredients for 15-20 rolls

200g cauliflower florets
125g broad beans, thawed
One large red chilli, finely chopped
30g grated mature cheddar
4 pinches of saffron infused in 1 tbsp of warm water
3/4 tsp toasted cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander powder
Salt to taste
2 medium-sized courgette or one very large one

Method

1. Boil the cauliflower and broad beans for 5-6minutes, then drain and empty into a food processor
2. Add the cumin seeds, chilli, salt, saffron, coriander powder and cheese
3. Blitz the mixture until it is grainy
4. Take a peeler and make wide peelings on the courgette, one peel at each side of the courgette until it wears too thin
5. Line the courgette peel with two tbsp of the stuffing and then roll it up.

Serve either immediately or keep it in the fridge for a couple of hours in advance of your guests arriving.

I am entering this made from scratch Courgette rolls filled with saffron and spice cauliflower and broad beans to Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays.

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Mung bean sprouts and paneer curry

18 Oct
Mung bean sprouts and paneer curry

Mung bean sprouts and paneer curry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

Method

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

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

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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Curry of banana stuffed with spices, coconut and tamarind

10 Oct
Banana curry stuffed with spices, coconut and tamarind

Banana curry stuffed with spices, coconut and tamarind

Sometimes it is difficult to decipher what the important things are in life. For me anyway. I have friends at various stages of life. This week I’ve been talking to friends and there’s a spectrum of belief systems, coming from people with similar backgrounds and listening to them has provoked much thought and discussion.

One of my friends is holding off from baby stuff until the promotion; I did that. Another has taken a career turn and a big pay cut in order to spend time with her girls; I relate to that. One has moved abroad and declared she’s not settling down; I admire her will, clarity and honesty to herself. Another friend has quit work and decided to be a full time mum for the foreseeable future; I’m full of respect for the devotion. She’s fortunate that her husband earns well and they are able to make this choice, but it is a lovely, challenging choice to devote all your time to your little people.

It’s like people put conditions on their happiness. ‘I will be happy if and when I get that job’, ‘I will relax when I earn this much’. ‘I will be so happy if I get pregnant’, ‘I’m going to be so excited if I get that house’

Nothing is forever. I have had the promotions and the holidays and the horrible bosses and horrendous jobs. I’ve done the slim body and had the bigger body. I’ve had lots of hair and then it fell out. Here today, gone tomorrow. One of the things I’ve only just recently learned is that it’s important to be happy now. Just because and just for the sake of it. Because we are only here for a short time. You may expect me to now say do what you love etc, which is great…but most of us have mortgages and bills to pay. Never have I more appreciated how important it is to have hobbies, friends, to laugh and to live.

Most of my friends work very hard at whatever they do and it’s a struggle to keep those flickers of excitement burning when you are constantly tired, pressurised and stressed. Maybe that’s why they holiday frequently.

One of my most memorable, holidays was in Mauritius. The boxes were being ticked and I was celebrating. I was happy because the conditions for my happiness were being met. I’d hit the grade at work that I thought I could chill at for a few years. I’d been working hard at the gym and the body looked ok. The renovations to the house were done. It was all good and I was in Mauritius. It was all temporary stuff. Stuff that came before a few stretch marks, redundancy and a life full to the brim of unconditional love.

We were sick of continental hotel food so ventured down the road at the back of our hotel. It was dark and quiet but we felt safe amongst the banana trees and signing crickets. A local restaurant, for locals shone brightly with fairy lights and , Mosquitos bounced off the white walls. The menu was minimalist but I picked the strangest vegetarian food I could. I like to be educated.

One of the dishes was mashed and curried plantain. The restaurant was run by Indians, so I kind of expected this. It was cooked in tomatoes and curry spices and was sweet and sour. This is what I’ve tried to achieve with this curry and you know what? The sweet banana tastes Mingle in with the tomato curry base so well, that they become one. The nutty stuffing is slightly sour and spicy and works in harmony with the bananas. You’ve got to try this one. It’s a dish full of unexpected flavours and textures. The banana doesn’t go squishy, just soft and aromatic.

Ingredients

6 ripe but firm bananas
1 cup of gram flour
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
Salt to taste (I’ve used 1tsp)
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
3tbsp tamarind sauce
1/3rd cup water
1/2 can of tomatoes
5-6curry leaves
A large red onion, sliced
2tsp vegetable oil
1 Tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric

Method

1. To make the stuffing, put the gram flour in a mixing bowl and add the coriander, cumin and turmeric powder with the salt and Chilli. Mix it well and then add the desiccated coconut, mix again and then add the tamarind sauce and oil with the water and make a dough.image
2. Cut the banana into 4equal pieces and then make a slit in the top of each piece of banana, lengthways. Take pinches of the stuffing and put it into the slit of the banana. Stuff all the sections and leave them to a side.image
3. Heat one tablespoon of oil and add the cumin seeds and curry leaves. Let the seeds sizzle and then add the tomatoes and salt to taste.
4. Sit the banana sections Into the tomato base and then add enough warm water to hit the top of the banana. Cook for 6-7minutes or until the banana is soft enough to pierce through the skin
5. Serve hot with rice or chappati

Dancing curry: black bean and halloumi Indian curry vegetarian recipes

6 Oct
Slack bean and halloumi  curry

Black bean and halloumi curry

Don’t laugh, but the story of how my new recipe was concocted is religiously inspired in a non- veg sort of way. Don’t panic, only the thought not the ingredients. This recipe is most definitely vegetarian.

So Navratri has started, a Hindu festival of worship to nine goddesses. Celebration and devotion is marked by nine nights of dancing with great zeal into the small hours whilst clad in colourful saris.

I grew up in Leicester, a city with a lot of Asian inhabitants. During Navratri the city overflowed with scores of Gujarati dancers from all parts of the UK. It felt like every community hall and function hall had a new heartbeat as they swelled with the addictive dance music that characterises Navratri music.

Aside from worship of goddesses and dance Navratri has seemed to be an opportunity for young people to admire each other, shall we say. It’s not surprising is it, pretty young ladies with gorgeous Sari’s…I love Sari’s. To me, an irregular wearer, they fee so impractical but I truly believe that they are one of the sexiest and sophisticated items of clothing a woman can wear.

And this is what I inspired my next recipe. No, not sari’s, but the whole going out and getting hungry after dancing bit…you know that feeling of exuberance, being on your feet and talking away and then by the end of the night the tummy churns. Sudden hunger hits the tummy. You could go and get a take-away, but you can’t eat a portion of chips. You want something tasty, everyone else is talking about kebabs and you see…Halloumi? Bean burger? No. You go and make a halloumi and black bean curry because it is far tastier or you make one in advance because you are good at planning for a busy night.

The halloumi soaks up the curry juices really well and guess what? It doesn’t go stringy or too chewy. It turns it moist and has that familiar salty bite and it works so well with the deep black beans. You have to try this unusual dish, it’s oddly fabulous! Go easy on the salt, add less than you would normally as the cheese is salty.

Ingredients for Vegetarian recipes

250g cooked black beans
125g halloumi cut into bite sized pieces
One red onion finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp minced ginger
4-5 curry leaves
125ml water
1 cup chopped tomatoes (tinned is fine)
Spices; salt to taste, 1/3rd tsp garam masala, 1tsp cumin powder, 1tsp coriander powder, 1/4tsp turmeric, 1tsp cumin seeds

Method

1. Shallow fry the red onion until it is golden brown and then leave it to a side to cool. Once it is cooled, purée it.
2. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil and add cumin seeds, turmeric and the ginger and garlic. Sauté for couple of minutes before adding the cumin powder, curry leaves and coriander powder, then stir on a medium heat for just under a minute.
3. Add the beans and coat them with the spices before adding the tomatoes, fried red onion purée and the water.
4. Bring the curry to a simmer before adding the halloumi cheese. Cook for ten minutes and serve hot.

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