Tag Archives: Indian

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.

Stuffed Brussels Sprouts Curry

28 Oct

I shared this recipe with listeners of the Sonia Deol show on Monday 24th October, on the BBC Asian Network.  Brussels sprouts aren’t everyone’s idea of a treat of a meal.  Well that’s what Ray Khan, who was standing in for Sonia declared.  I said it’s because people don’t really know what to do with them… I mean, with cabbage we often stir-fry it, or stuff it, maybe make a curry out of!  All too often, attention-deprived Brussels sprouts end up on the Christmas table boiled and then vetoed.  As I said to Ray, if I served up boiled cabbage, that probably wouldn’t go down so well either.

Oh, and they don’t smell like fart…do they?

It is time to do justice to Brussels sprouts and their gratifyingly flavour-soaking layers of nutty shells. They’re delicate and smooth, silky and delicate…and waiting to be de-layered.  Brussels sprouts invite creativity and capture it oh-so-well.

This is arguably the best way to eat Brussels sprouts. Stuffed with smooth masala, these tiny little cabbages are lifted to new heights, as I’m sure you will be after devouring them.  That’s in fact what happened in the studios…sprouts-haters were reformed. Reluctant-pickers became munchers.  In fact, I ended up leaving the entire Indian family-sized serving with them.

Go on; make the most of the season’s jewels.

Ingredients

500g Brussels sprouts

½ tin of plum tomatoes, chopped

2-3 fat cloves garlic, finely chopped

4-5 curry leaves

One onion, thinly sliced

2 green chillies, coarsely chopped

1 tsp. cumin seeds

½ tsp. mustard seeds

½ tsp. turmeric

½ tsp. salt

450ml hot water

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

For the stuffing; 1tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. chilli powder, salt to taste, ½ tsp. garam masala, 1 ½ tbsp. vegetable oil, 4tbsp of gram flour, 1 tsp. lemon juice, 1 tbsp. coriander powder, ½ tbsp. cumin powder, 1 tbsp. water

Method

  1.  Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts and create slits to form quarter sections, but leave enough space at the bottom for them not to split apart.  You want them to hold together so that you can stuff them easily
  2. Make the stuffing, by combining all the ingredients, starting with the dry ingredients and then adding the oil, lemon juice and water.  You should form sticky dough.
  3. In a non-stick pan, add 1 tbsp. vegetable oil and then add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, chillies and curry leaves and allow the mustard seeds to pop. Add the sliced onion and sauté for a couple of minutes before adding the chopped garlic.  Sauté until the onion has softened and then add the chopped tomatoes, salt and turmeric.  Bring the base to a simmer, before adding the stuffed Brussels sprouts individually; try not to pile them on top of each other.
  4. Add the water and bring the curry to a simmer and cook on a medium flame for approximately 18 minutes.
  5. Serve hot and devour!

Spiced Apple, Blackberry and Lychee Crumble

24 Sep

Crumbles are the stuff of ‘what have we got here’ versatility, make-up preserving ease and tarty pleasure. 

Some people get quite nostalgic when talking about crumbles; I too have memories of hot, sunny days and seeing my dad languidly stewing up sugar and apples from my aunt’s garden when we were children.  My aunt, who lived just streets away, had a swing under the apple tree and that was the exciting bit for us.  From shady security, we swung and looked onto rows and rows of immaculately kept tall roses…taller than us. 

There were piles of apples under the tree back then, small and green.  We’d knock them about whilst swinging, deliberately of course.  However, one many of the things that I love about the crumble, is the pure simplicity involved in achieving sigh-some pleasure.  I mean, it’s just fruit, sugar, flour, butter and some spices really isn’t it?

I recently did this for a get-together of cousins.  I had an hour to muster up a main course for the bring-a-dish evening, as well as dessert. I was sleep-deprived, having been up since 4am and running late…so, what did I do? I made a zingy crumble with an exotic twist. On the top, sticky purple leaked to the surface, suggestively. So suggestively in fact that I noticed before serving time, a few spoons had illicitly made their way into the crumble. I highly recommend it.

Ingredients

3 cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped (I used Bramley apples)

150g Blackberries

150g lychees, stoned and halved

120g sugar

½ tsp. cardamom

1tsp. ground cinnamon

1 star anise

A generous knob of butter

 

For the crumble topping

150g plain flour

100g caster sugar

100g butter

 

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180degrees
  2. Make the crumble topping first, by combining the sugar and the flour, then rubbing in the butter gently, to make a bread-crumb like texture. When it’s ready, put it in the fridge until the topping is needed.
  3. Turn your attention to the fruit, by heating and melting the butter in a pan and adding the Apples and sugar.  Crisp the apples up for 3-4 minutes before stirring in the ground cinnamon, cardamom, and star anise. Turn off the heat and add the blackberries and lychees
  4. Turn the fruit into an oven-proof dish and spread the crumble topping over the fruit, evenly
  5. Bake the crumble in the oven for approximately 20-25minutes before serving…ideally hot!

 

 

Soya Chunk Chaat

13 Aug

Soya Chunk Chaat

Ooh, I do feel slightly naughty when I eat street-food.  It’s like eating that secret, forbidden pre-dinner burger on the way home from school, except Chaat is much more tantalising. I don’t know how we did it, my best friend and me.  After college we’d detour for some wicked pleasures largely containing either pastry or potato, before returning home to a full Indian meal. Nobody ever knew.

We weren’t particularly weight, make-up or boy conscious teenagers…we loved to laugh from deep in our hearts and be happy. We laughed a lot, loudly and energetically.  We sang, talked vibrantly with strangers and dreamed faithfully. We created our own joy and funnily enough we were healthy by heart, body and mind and did really well with grades. Maybe I should take up hockey again?

Crisp, sweet, sour, spongy, spicy and soft it’s all going on. A couple of chutneys smack the senses wide open and say hello to Delhi and the rickety street stalls that overflow with smiling and animated crowds, all huddled excitedly with tiny metal plates as a skilled Chaat maker crafts each serving one by one.

My personal opinion is that there is no perfect science to constructing Chaat. It really is about combining and layering textures and igniting, or even exploding the senses.   There’s a tang, fire, sweetness, heat and coolness as layers of crispy sev, puffed rice, easy-going potato, sweet tomatoes, dense chick-pea and those sweet and spicy chutneys mingle.   Mmmmm, sigh-some… And although I do love, love, love lashings of natural yogurt to relax the senses, I’m not so much of a fan of the softening effect it can have on chaat. Nothing worse than soggy Chaat. You could however, drizzle a little just before serving and then devour it pretty much instantly. Who could blame you?

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

4 cups of puffed rice (from an Asian Supermarket)

2 fresh tomatoes, cubed

½ cup of roasted peanuts

2 medium potatoes, cubed

125g of dried soya chunks

One medium sized onion, finely diced

For the green chutney

2-3 green chillies

For the tamarind chutney

1 tbsp. concentrated tamarind paste

Chilli powder to taste

The spices; grind the following spices together. 1 tsp. cumin seeds, 1 tsp. coriander seeds, ½ tsp. fenugreek seeds, 1 tsp. fennel seeds, ½ tsp. carom seeds, 1 tsp. sweet paprika, salt to taste, chilli powder to taste, 1tsp. Chaat masala

Cook’s notes: You’ll find Chaat masala at most Indian grocers and supermarkets. Some supermarkets stock it too, but it is definitely worth getting hold of, for that pungent peppery flavour it introduces. You may find different versions of the soya chunks, but essentially you want to have them cooked before you spice them up!

Some people make tamarind chutney by simply combining the water and the concentrated tamarind paste, but I think that can leave the chutney excessively tart. To allow the sweetness come through, simmer it.

  1. Start by making the chutney’s. The green chutney is really easy; just blitz together the coriander, chillies, salt to taste and 1/3rd cup of water until its smooth.
  2. To make the tamarind chutney, combine ½ cup water with the concentrated tamarind paste
  3. Boil the potatoes. Once they are soft enough to pierce, drain them, cool and then mix in the Chaat masala.
  4. Soak the soya chunks in hot water until they swell. Squeeze out the excess water, or cook per packet instructions. Then heat a tablespoon of hot oil in a pan and add the spices, frying for just 30 seconds-1 minute before adding the soya chunks and coating them well. Let them cook on a low heat for approximately 5 minutes, before turning off the heat.
  5. Now all you need to do is layer it. I usually go for puffed rice and nuts on the bottom, then the potatoes, tomatoes, onions and on the top, the warm soya chunks. Then the final act; drizzle them with the emerald and maroon shades with the chutney’s and eat it, quick!

 

 

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.

MMM Mushroom Manchurian

5 Mar

MMM Mushroom Manchurian

I was a hungry and inquisitive teenager when there was an unexpected eruption of Indian pubs popping open around me; ripe time for new flavours and surroundings. I mean pubs that served Indian Food. On the menu was a whole, liberated jumble of deep-fried breads, dosa’s (probably with cheese) pizza’s (of course with chilli and maybe even paneer) and then chips that had been doused in chilli sauce (I inhale deeply and regretfully at the memory of that tart chilli) and most notably Indo-Chinese Food. All this colourful food whacked sporadically in the middle of a wobbly, red coated table.

I believe this cuisine originates from the Chinese community in Calcutta and is pretty widespread in the big cities of India. Neither Indian, nor Chinese in origin, this variety of food teases with a dance on the tongue and the mind where the routine is actually, oddly familiar but not quite known. Overflowing with flavour and curious modernity, I can see why this type of bite is popular in pubs because it is strong and punchy and ideal with drinks-a-flowing!

Loud and impactful throws of garlic and ginger, cumin and coriander, hot chilli but then wait…5-spice and soy sauce? Don’t worry, the essences collide and then embrace passionately. They’ll intoxicate you into heady state and don’t be surprised if you’re doddering out of the pub afterwards.

Confusing as it is, it’s addictive. It’s the sort of food that hits the spot when you’re famished. Crispy and sweet, spongy and tangy, spicy and…more, more, more…So much so, that even though you are suave, polished and worldly now and even though you eat foods of the world that are cooked for you by a super-chef and presented beautifully in Michelin style…you still come home to Indo-Chinese food, now and again. Like when you were 17 and eating Hakka noodles with your friends.

As always, let me know how you go…

Recipe

Ingredients

250g Mushrooms (I used chestnut mushrooms)

Oil for deep frying

Ingredients for the batter

150g of plain flour

6 tbsp. corn flour

3 cloves garlic, 5g knob of ginger and 1 large red chilli minced together

Salt to taste

1 tsp. of Chinese 5 spice powder

200ml water

Ingredients for the sauce

3 tbsp. soy sauce

4 tbsp. tomato ketchup (Groan. I know, but it’s necessary in this recipe)

1 tbsp. caster sugar

1 ½ tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 large red pepper, sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 green chillies, finely chopped

4-5 spring onions, chopped horizontally

1 tsp. Chinese 5-spice

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

Method

  1. Heat some oil, in preparation of letting the mushrooms sizzle and swim in it- and that too dressed
  2. Wash and chop the mushrooms into bite sized chunks and set aside
  3. To make the batter, combine the ingredients and whisk together, we don’t want any lumps but it should be pretty thick.
  4. Coat the mushrooms with the batter and drop them, individually into the oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan or else they’ll stick together-that’s not nice. When the mushrooms have achieved a golden brown colour, drain them on to kitchen paper to remove the excess oil.
  5. To make the sauce, heat 2 tbsp. oil in a pan and then add the garlic, spring onions, green chillies and red pepper and stir-fry until the peppers have softened a little; this should take 3-4 minutes. Then add the soy sauce, ketchup, 5-spice, vinegar, sugar and stir through and bring to a gentle simmer, before mixing in thoroughly the mushrooms. Serve immediately to ensure that the mushrooms stay nice and crispy. Try and share, I know it’s hard.

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.

Quick and Easy Aubergine and Halloumi Rolls

12 Dec

It’s not often that I cheat in the kitchen – although who can blame us when we’re time strapped? I will happily grind and roast my spices, releasing each intrinsic aroma and letting them infiltrate the spirit; readymade tandoori or curry powder, while convenient just isn’t quite the same. I soak and boil pulses to ensure that the depth of fresh flavour and texture is captured and I get that thick, smooth gravy; the canned alternative may win time-points but can be juice-deprived. What are kidney beans without their rich, succulent velvet juices? I make my own, malleable and moist paneer; I find the ready-made kind can be stiff and chewy, sacrificing freshness for minutes. I create yogurt at home, so that I know it will be smooth and mild, cooling and creamy, just like it’s supposed to be. I craft the sausages for my weekend breakfast with my own fair hands and I love indulging in home-made idli or dhokla only after soaking and grinding the lentils and the rice.

But I do use short-cuts- that’s not cheating! I deploy optimal weekday solutions to address the conundrum that many of us face; that is that I need a delicious, attention-grabbing, taste-bud rousing and nutritious dinner within 30 minutes of laptop releasing, coat slinging, shoes tossing and key chucking and phone grabbing for ‘hi mum’ at 6.30pm. 30 minutes before dinner time. It’s that time frame within which my husband decides to raid the snack cupboard for low GI snacks and hummus. Hmmm…

I love this recipe because it looks like an effort has been made, but it’s oh-so-easy. It’s so delightful, I have hankerings for it. Personally, I am a girl who likes unravelling foods. You know I like stuffing vegetables and filling them and…well, you get the gist. Mouthfuls of surprises…give it a go.

I serve these rolls on a salad.  Today my salad was made of asparagus, plump tomatoes and walnuts.  They also work well for a bbq or picnic.

Aubergine and Halloumi Rolls

Ingredients

2 large aubergines, cut lengthways into long slices about 2-3cm thick

Halloumi cheese cut into 3 cm chunks

Spices: 1 tsp. cumin seeds, ½ tsp. fenugreek seeds, 1 tsp. fennel seeds

2 fat cloves of garlic, minced

7 tbsp. of red pesto (that’s the cheat)

2 tsp. smoked paprika

Method

  1. Grind the spices together to form a powder, and toast them on a hot, non-stick pan (but low flame) for a couple of minutes to release the aroma, but do not brown the spices.
  2. Combine the spices with the minced garlic and red pesto and paprika to form a tangy paste
  3. Set the slices of aubergine out in a plate and microwave them for 3 minutes. Dry off the water and then put them in the oven at 200degF until they become pliable. This should take approximately 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the aubergine slices from the oven and once they have cooled enough to become manageable, spread about 1tsp. of the paste onto the aubergine slice, put into a chunk of halloumi cheese and wrap into a parcel.
  5.  Put the rolls back into oven (at 200degF again) until they brown. This should take about 10 minutes further.

HOW TO MAKE TOFU TASTE GOOD

4 Aug

Most of my friends turn their noses up at the mention of Tofu. ‘Bland‘, ‘tasteless’ and ‘feels like a sponge.’  I’ve heard people complain about its plain appearance. ‘Oh’, my impassioned cried start off, ’the best bit about it is that it is like a sponge’.  Protein packed tofu is absorbute. It soaks up and retains juices and flavours and is illuminous with all with the colours of the concoctions you cook it in. It brings dishes to life with every mouthful, when all of the intended flavours of a dish burst out of the tofu.  I get quite romantic when describing tofu.  It’s the plain canvas, waiting to be touched with emotion and imagination.  Tofu is the bride, waiting to be adorned!  Maybe I should curtail the romantic descriptions!

A block of Tofu

Japanese, chinese, Indian or Italian; I use it in a myriad of dishes, but here are a few of my favourites.  I could eat these scrumptious items every week!

Pointed Sweet Peppers stuffed with spiced tofu

I do love sweet peppers. I adore the smell that permeates the kitchen. I could soak it up all day long.  The colours make me smile and these peppers are a joy to unravel and find more flavour packed inside.

Ingredients

2 pointed sweet peppers
A pack of firm Tofu, with the excess water removed and then scrambled
one medium onion
4-5 mushrooms, finely chopped (small pieces)
3-4 curry leaves

Spices: 1 tsp curry powder, 1 tsp tomato puree, salt to taste, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1tsp cumin seeds, ¼ tsp mustard seeds, 2 chilies finely chopped ¼ tsp black pepper

Tip: scramble the tofu by crushing it in your hands. It should break easily to give a scrambled-egg like appearance.

Method

1) Heat the oil in a non-stick pan before adding the mustard, curry leaves, chilies, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and allow them to crackle
2) stir in the onion and shallow fry until softened and transparent
3) Introduce the scrambled tofu and then mix thoroughly
4) Add the black pepper, curry powder, salt, coriander powder and cook for 3-4 minutes
5) stir in the tomato puree before turning off the heat

6) ) Make a slit pepper lengthways and then deseed the pepper.  Stuff the pepper with the tofu and then roast in the oven until its slightly blackened and roasted. don’t roast it enough so that it falls apart.  you will find that ten minutes is enough

Chick-pea and Tofu Curry

Curry juices burst out of the tofu when pressed with a hot buttery chappati and yellows and oranges enlighten the tofu. 

Ingredients

one can of chickpeas
A pack of  firm Tofu
2 firm red tomatoesChick Peas
5-7 g of ginger, peeled and finely grated or minced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
one onion, finely diced
1 tsp lemon juice
Spices: 1 tsp paprika, 2 cloves, 2cm piece of cinnamon, a bay leaf, 2 green chilies, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, ¼ tsp black pepper,  1 tsp cumin seeds, ¼ tsp of turmeric powder, a pinch of asafoetida,

Method

1) Heat the oil in a non-stick pan before adding the mustard and asafoetida, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, chilies, cumin and bay leaf.  allow the seeds to crackle.
2) Stir in the onion and saute for a couple of minutes to soften, before adding in the garlic and saute until both the onions and garlic are soft, but don’t let them brown
3) Mix in the chickpeas, before introducing the spices and salt to taste.
4) add ¼ cup of water and the tomatoes, simmer until the tomatoes have softened.  Do not simmer for more than 5 minutes.
5) Meanwhile, in a separate pan shallow fry the cubes of tofu until they are golden, before removing them onto kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil
6) Mix together the tofu and the curry and simmer for a further 2-3 minutes
7) garnish with the coriander and serve with lots rice or chappati.

serve with vegetables of your choice or rice.

Tofu Bhurji

Ingredients

One pack of firm Tofu
3-4 spring onions
¼ cup of peas, boiled for 3-4 minutes
1 red pepper, diced
one firm tomato, sliced horizontally into
¼ of sweetcorn kernels
¼ tsp of garam masala
¼ tsp of black pepper
¼ lemon, squeezed

Spices: 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp toasted cumin seeds, ¼ tsp mustard seeds, ½ tsp turmeric powder,  1 bay leaf, 2 green chilies (finely chopped),  ¼ tsp garam masala

Method

1) Drain the tofu and wrap it kitchen paper until all of the excess water has been absorbed.
2) Heat the oil on a non-stick pan and then add the cumin seeds, turmeric, mustard seeds, bay leaf and chilies and allow the seeds to crackle before adding in the onions
3) fry the onions for a couple of minutes, until they have softened.  Stir in the diced pepper and sweetcorn kernels and then the salt, coriander powder, cumin powder, paprika and then let the peppers soften until they can be pierced.
4) Crumble the tofu with your hands and aim to achieve a scrambled egg like texture and then combine with the vegetables and spices.  Turn the heat down to a very low flame, before squeezing in the lemon juice and sprinkling in the garam masala.  Cook gently for a further 3-4 minutes.

Tofu Tips

If you  like your tofu to have a bit of bite and pull then a great way to achieve that is to drain it, cube it and then shallow fry it before freezing it. When you want to use them, just defrost in the microwave.

Drain, cube and marinade the tofu in 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tbsp of olive oil, black pepper and 5g ginger, 1 tsp of lemon juice.  Leave it for a couple of hours in the fridge and then shallow fry it or use it in a stir fry.  It really lifts the tofu.

Tart up the tofu by giving it a glaze.  If you marinade in a little soy sauce, then give it a honey and chili glaze before crisping it up either in a pan, or in the oven, you’ll be bountiful with little gems to scatter into your salad.

Replace Paneer with Tofu in curries for a lower fat alternative that responds well to curry bases and gravies.  For example, in palak paneer (spinach and paneer) curry, add shallow fried tofu.  Do the same with mutur (peas) paneer or even a mixed vegetable and tofu curry.

Stir fry crumbled tofu, or even silken tofu with pak choi, bean sprouts and spring onion with garlic and a little soy sauce and bundle them into wontons and then steam.  I love these as a starter or light meal.

Use up cooked rice, by shallow frying a large onion, 1 tsp of lemon juice, cloves, 2 chilies, cinnamon, star anise and a bay leaf and some crumbled tofu.  Add salt to taste.  sprinkle in ¼ tsp of black pepper.  This side dish is fabulous with a hot bowl of dhal.

Fry up the tofu with bell peppers, sliced onions and Cajun spices and then blanket them in tortilla wraps for a fun and tasty lunch.

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