Tag Archives: indo chinese

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

Baby corn and potato curry in smoky Mexican chipotle chilli and dark chocolate

14 May

Baby corn and potato curry in smoky Mexican chipotle chilli and dark chocolate

 

Baby corn and potato curry in smoky Mexican chipotle chilli and dark chocolateMy parents were on face time whilst I was making this curry today. My little sweetie had been running around in his spider costume, “I’m not Aarav, I’m spider Aarav” and insisting that I play with him instead of cooking, not dad…mumma. He knows. “It’s nice to see Rakesh at home and in the kitchen too, wow” commented my dad. They know it doesn’t happen all the time. So my husband turned the phone towards  me, showing that I was grating chocolate into the curry, “Look at what your daughter is doing”. My mum let out her idiosyncratic youthful and quiet giggle and my dad thought it was really interesting. Interesting, rather than any ode to the ridiculous butchering of a simple curry.

I did live my childhood without limits in my mind. I’m sure that if I had told my folks I wanted to become a Bollywood actress they would have said something about me having to learn how to dance rather than see my 5ft1 inch frame as an eliminating clause. I remember wanting to write a novel and my husband (before our marriage when I was a teen) asked me why not.  There was no reason not. I know kids are supposed to do things when there’s a time but I saw that my little one wanted to talk and he started naming animals and objects at ten months, why not?

So then when did the limits come in (to my mind)? Was it when they gave me predicted grades at school and deliberately undercooked them to ‘motivate’ me? Apparently they never predicted straight A’s as that would have made me complacent, apparently. Or was it when my manager spent an hour and half telling me the things that I needed to do better or wasn’t very good at because there was no point in telling me about the 95% (as he stated) of stuff I did right? Or was it when the health visitors and nursery nurses told me that my child would probably never be an eater. Or was it the people who told me that mainly celebrity folk get published in the magazines. When did it become about what is ‘realistic’. What can we afford? Even that’s a limit isn’t it? Where is a realistic place to find a new house?

I say, be the child that lets the mind float into wants and ventures. Like this curry.

Baby corn and potato curry in smoky Mexican chipotle chilli and dark chocolate

Have you seen how dark and deep that colour is? The chipotle and red pepper give smoky accents to the vegetarian curry and then you feel this deep, lightly bitter sweetness that’s quite embracing. You will smell whole spices and they add warmth, but don’t overpower the recipe. It is not a quiet curry that hides in the middle of a week of ‘I just ate’. No. This curry is for those times when you want to carry forwards.

Ingredients

350g baby corn, slit into quarter lengths

450g potatoes, peeled and cubed

4 cloves of garlic, roasted in their skins

2 cloves

1 small stick of cinnamon

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Salt to taste

45g chipotle chilli paste

20g dark chocolate

500ml water

3 red peppers, roasted

1 tsp. coriander powder

1 tsp. cumin powder

1 tsp. amchur powder or a squeeze of lemon juice

One onion, thinly sliced

¼ tsp. turmeric

4-5 curry leaves

2 tbsp. cooking oil

Method

  1. Blitz the (skinned) garlic and red peppers to a puree and leave it to a side
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon and turmeric and curry leaves and allow the seeds to sizzle before introducing the onion and salt. Sauté the onion until it has softened before mixing in the baby corn and the potatoes.
  3. Sprinkle in the cumin powder, coriander powder and the amchur powder. Mix it all well and then add the water and roasted red pepper mix and bring the curry to a simmer.
  4. Stir in the chipotle chilli paste and then grate in the dark chocolate.
  5. Cover the curry and simmer it until the potatoes are cooked.
  6. Serve with rice or better, buttery chappati.

Indo-Chinese vegetable balls on spaghetti in a butternut squash and chilli sauce

29 Nov
Indo-Chinese vegetable balls on spaghetti in a butternut squash and chilli sauce

Indo-Chinese vegetable balls on spaghetti in a butternut squash and chilli sauce

I was at lunch earlier this week with a very lovely lady of mixed, european origin. We were in a pretty decent Italian restaurant and I was craving strong cheese. I met a waiter who kept tilting onto one leg, grinning and telling me that I needed to add meat to my dish, even though told him I am vegetarian.

So this lovely lady and were trying each other on for size; gauging whether our frequencies matched. We were each asking each other obviously leading questions that would reveal thought processes, feelings on certain subjects and general outlook in unspoken agreement of openness. All during lunch. All the while we repeated the line, ‘I’m going to be completely honest’.

We spoke at length about the fusion of her european cultures compared to my own, and her close family of talented cooks, like mine. We spoke about money motivations and the sensible approach of working hard now to make life more comfortable in the future. We touched on how appearance conscious certain professions are and whether can be pull-off being less talented if you are exceptionally good-looking. All familiar topics that everyone has debated.

What happened? My ambitious and warm fellow diner, whose make-up was immaculately done, revealed the same thing that so many women do to me. So many women of my age group, broadly speaking. Her focused and formidable body language softened, her smile more gentle and she rushed, ‘I just want to settle down and have kids’.

‘No time’ was the problem we discussed. No time to stop, go out and have fun. No time to rest, no time for adventures, no time for stuff for the heart. No time.

The thing is, we all have our turnaround moment in life when we do, if we are fortunate enough. Mine was only three years ago, but life teaches us and shows us along the way, if we are open enough to see it. My husbands friends wife was diagnosed with a cancer this week, 42.

So as I was munching through my pasta with courgette fritters on top, I was asked whether I get annoyed by what I eat in restaurants because as a foodie I cook a lot. The answer is no. One of the many things I miss about being near my family is being cooked for. It always feels good to be cooked for. Sometimes, someone else’s cooking just feels refreshing.

On this occasion, I did find the need to tart up the pasta dish. The courgette balls didn’t have much favour and the pasta had been left dry. So in my version I’m using a variant of the popular Manchurian vegetable balls and using them on top of a mellow-sweet and spicy butternut squash sauce with spaghetti. So what happens is that you get these soft and spongy, spicy and salty vegetable balls contrasting with the spaghetti and balancing the whole dish out. You also get some pretty colours. Move over spaghetti and meatballs eh? Try it, let me know what you think

Ingredients to serve 2-3

For the vegetable balls

1/2 cabbage, grated
2 green chilies, chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 carrot, grated
50g green beans, chopped into small bites
1/2 cup plain flour
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 inch stick of ginger, minced
Oil for deep-frying

Ingredients for the butternut squash sauce

One medium-sized butternut squash , peeled and cut into chunks
500ml vegetable stock
1 tsp red chilli flakes
One medium onion, cut into chunks
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt to taste

You’ll need about 150g of spaghetti

Method
1. To make the butternut squash sauce, heat the oil in the pan and then add the onion . Brown the onion lightly before adding the squash and mixing it. Sprinkle in the salt and chilli flakes. Pour in the vegetable stock and simmer until the butternut squash is soft enough to mash.
2. Turn off the heat and use a hand blender or food processor to purée the butternut squash sauce. The consistency should be like a thick soup, rather than paste. Add water if you need to loosen it up.
3. Heat the oil whilst you prepare the Manchurian balls.
2. To make the vegetable balls, combine the cabbage, carrot, green beans, chilli, garlic and ginger in a bowl and mix well.
3. Stir in the soy sauce and combine again, before adding the plain flour and making a dough.
4. Check the oil is hot by dropping a small amount of the mixture into the oil, if it rises and sizzles the oil is hot enough.
5. Make small balls the size of a large coin and then fry them until they are golden brown before removing them with a slotted spoon onto kitchen paper.Manchurian vegetable balls

Manchurian veg balls
6. I would suggest making up individual plates by combining sauce and spaghetti in whatever proportions you like then top with vegetable balls.

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.
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