Tag Archives: Light meals

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki

15 Oct

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki

I am doing it again but must nip it in the bud. I am once again the hamster (on a wheel), the rat (slowly racing) and the chicken (very much headless). I am not quite the dog (I don’t eat other dogs and not just because I am vegetarian.) I am most definitely, absolutely the owl (night is when I work, not sleep). That is not because I enjoy being up late but because I want to be productive in a work sense, and also want my child to have his mother raising him and whilst my panda eyes lose focus now and again, my heart is not.

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki by Deena Kakaya

This time in life, I am looking back at the smaller steps I have made, and they are steps forward. I have so far been so fixated with big milestones for the future that I have neglected to be grateful and recognise for the smaller steps that I have made. The little things have lifted me, given me hope, encouraged me, kept my days rolling, stopped me thinking of wasteful things, buffered my falls, given me reason to channel energies, re-instilled confidence for me, pushed me to change, made me more humble, made me more me. The small things, the smaller steps. When I thought of how I would feel should I no longer have the teeny sized fruits of the small seeds I planted, then…well. It wasn’t a happy thought.


spinach tikki 2

This is why today, I share with you small tikki. I have taken inspiration from tikki that Indian street food sellers tantalise passers-by with; steaming hot patties that are crisp on the outside, fluffy and moist inside and full of peppery spice. Traditionally they would be made of chickpeas and potatoes and I am using deep black beans, silky spinach and a little oozy cheese. I have retained the influence of pungent and peppery chaat masala, which uses black salt.

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki by Deena Kakaya

Riverford sent me the silkiest perfect leaves of spinach, not punched with ominous looking holes. A huge bag of light green and juicy goodness, none of this limp stuff you often get. Spinach actually happens to be one of those refrigerator items that sometimes yield less love than we in our house can spread over the week, a bit like bananas. Now, experimental as I can be, I am not about to suggest pairing banana and spinach together today. Not today anyway, but the tikki, now those I ate a few straight off the pan, ah the little pleasures.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

 

Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

11 Mar

 Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

Her grass is so much more luscious

I’ve learned, over time and with some stumbling, to count my blessings more deliberately, more appreciatively, knowingly and openly.  When anyone tells me how lucky I am in a discussion that ultimately leads to my being lead to sympathise with their heroism in coping with the comparatively (and self-declared) unlucky (rather than of course apathetic) position that they are in, I say ‘thank you’.

This week, I have been told that I am ‘lucky’ that I have just one child and not a crowd of three. One, mother-infatuated child is a doddle apparently, even though my husband is off on his fourth international trip this year and my family is a couple of hours away. I say, thank you because I am blessed to be a mother.

The next thing I am ‘lucky’ for this week is opportunity to work with a new food brand who sought out my freelance support to reinvigorate their brand by creating some youthful and energising recipes for them. I nodded at my banker friend, who brings home a guaranteed, fixed income each month on a permanent contract. She tells me how she toils over each accomplishment in her career. I wondered whether to send her a cheeky ‘hello’ text message at 1.30am when I was wearily churning inspiration into submission. Instead I say thank you, because I am grateful that a new brand understood and appreciated my style of cooking, had faith in me to deliver something exciting and innovative for them and that that I feel fulfilled.

Also, I was made aware of how ‘lucky’ I am to be in a position where I have career options. I think this is the one that set of expletives in my head. Options. It has taken me three years of loosening my grip on that rope which bound me and the world of security and sort-of-positive-affirmation of capability through my ascent into corporate middle-management, then nursing my wounds of confusion and lack of direction and eventually finding my real inclinations and talents and then turning them into some sort of purposeful and meaningful reality. Instead I said thank you, for if it weren’t for this slogging and striving, I would not have the hope that I do today.

Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

On the subject of green grass and positive notes, my broccoli soup with gram flour and courgette dumplings has been a total joy to eat. It’s very lean because the dumplings contain no oil whatsoever and the green; well that’s just a healthy colour isn’t it. It’s mellow, kind, lightly sweet. It’s juicy and the dumplings are dense and spongy with the courgettes keeping the dumplings moist. This is again a very easy recipe to whip up. We ate it with some fresh apple and spice bread. Now if I hadn’t finished off with a cheeky lemon curd biscuit, I would have been very ‘lucky’ to have cooked and eaten a gratifying bowl of goodness.

Courgette and gram flour dumplings in broccoli soup

Ingredients

300g broccoli florets

One large onion, coarsely sliced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1200ml vegetable stock

1 tsp. chilli flakes

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tbsp. cooking oil

For the dumplings

225g grated courgette

¾ tsp. caraway seeds

125g gram flour

Salt to taste

½ tsp. chilli powder

1 tsp. coriander powder

¼ tsp. ground turmeric

Method

  1. To make the soup, heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle before stirring in the onion. Sauté the onions until they soften lightly before introducing the onion and sauté until the  onion has softened down and caught light colour.
  2. Mix in the broccoli and then the vegetable stock. Bring the soup to a simmer before sprinkling in the chilli flakes.
  3. Simmer the soup for 5-6 minutes or until the broccoli is tender before blitzing it smooth.
  4. Whilst the soup is cooking, mix together the grated courgette, caraway seeds, salt, coriander and turmeric and chilli powders before mixing in the gram flour. It should form thick slightly sticky dough.
  5. Whilst the soup is simmering on a medium flame, gently drop in 50p coin sized amounts of the dough into the soup and cook them for 8 minutes or until the dumplings are cooked through.
  6. Serve hot so that the dumplings are moist and tender all the way through.

 

 

Tenderstem tip, roasted red pepper and barley salad with curried mayonnaise

7 Mar

Tenderstem tip, roasted red pepper and barley salad with curried mayonnaise

Fake it and make it

Tenderstem tip, roasted red pepper and barley salad with curried mayonnaise

 

I am not normally an advocate of faking anything. I’m not very good at it either.  I had pretty worthy week this week; Monday was filled with promise and colour, celebration and indulgence. Tuesday pulsed with exhaustion yet productivity. Wednesday was beamed with sunshine, innocence and smiles. Thursday was a right-off. The bubble of promise popped, the forthcoming celebration cancelled.  Someone sent me a message telling me that my writing is ‘raw and honest’. That encouraged me further to say it how it is.

As my I read my emails over and over again, my little one clambered over me whilst tugging onto my hair and strands floated down my pale t-shirt. I had got dressed up for playgroup this morning and I am glad that I did. I rested my forehead on my fingers to try and reason with clarity, but it wasn’t meant to be. My husband sometimes says that my boy doesn’t comprehend that he isn’t a part of me.  If I am thinking of something, my boy will often vocalise it. If I am happy, he frolics around encouraging loud, rapturing laughter from me. If I am sad, he throws himself onto me into a clumsy embrace and repeatedly reassures me with confessions of love. Today, he whimpered, reminding me that I have a choice…well sort of. Get, up and get on with it…or. Or what?

I didn’t want to make dinner today, but we had to eat. If we are going to eat, it has to be a satisfying one, both for the taste buds and the stomach. So here, in all its honesty, is how this recipe happened.

I put the barley on to boil, because I didn’t want to eat rice or pasta. I was on the phone trying to decipher what this potentially useful contact was advising me amidst, ‘mumma where’s the dinosaur train gone, its FINISHED’. So then I over cooked the barley a bit and it grew a bit lavender-ish so I disguised it in soy, chilli, basil and ginger and it tasted good.

I put the peppers onto roast but I forgot about them whilst fervently messaging my friend, ‘It thought it was…but it wasn’t’. They ended up well done, sweet and juicy but not burned. I simply trimmed any damaged ends and discarded them.

I can always be bothered with a dressing. In the same way that I got dressed for playgroup this morning, it makes something special of something understated. It styles uncomplicatedness and when you wash your hair, wear a nice top or put a fried egg or some creamy dressing on your food, life is a little bit better. Ordinarily I don’t use curry powder in a curry. Never ever, not at all, just no. It’s not bad (very good in fact) in a noodle soup or in mayonnaise though.

I made good from not-so-good. I made tasty from lack-lustre. I decided to get up and get on with it and do that same with Friday.

Tenderstem tip, roasted red pepper and barley salad with curried mayonnaise

Ingredients to serve 2-3

100g pearl barley

30g fresh basil, shredded

2 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. minced ginger

1 tbsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. dried chilli flakes

125g Tenderstem broccoli tips

3 red peppers cut into thick strips

7 tbsp. mayonnaise

1 lemon

2 tsp. curry powder

Method

  1. Boil the barley per the packet instructions and when it is cooked, drain it, wash it and leave it to a side.
  2. Roast the peppers in the oven at 180degrees until they blister and start to brown. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool to room temperature.
  3. Boil the Tenderstem tips for 3 minutes.
  4. Heat the sesame oil in a pan and add the minced ginger and sauté for a minute on a light flame. Mix it well with the soy sauce and chilli flakes before combining it with the barley.
  5. Toss in the shredded basil, squeeze in half the lemon and mix it all well.
  6. In a bowl mix the mayonnaise and the other half of the lemon juiced and whip it all together with the curry powder.
  7. When the roasted red peppers have reached room temperature and the broccoli is cooked combine them with the barley and serve with the curried mayonnaise.

Spinach, ricotta, saffron and fennel cakes

21 Feb

ricotta pancakes by Deena Kakaya

 

This week I’ve been on my own with the boy, again. His daddy was in the states for work and so our week went with the usual mayhem of arts and crafts tumbling onto forbidden zones, the boy insisting on only pooping in the bath, his cupping my face and saying, ‘I love you so much Mumma’, lying on the floor and insisting on going to soft play, refusing to let me cook whilst giggling, swinging from my legs and emptying my kitchen cupboard whist eating raw panko breadcrumbs and the emergence of a new fascination with breaking or disassembling anything including my favourite sunglasses. All those on top of delivering a commission for some recipes and well, you know, ‘ordinary life

ricotta pancakes by Deena Kakaya

So, my diminished appetite was satisfied whilst reviving my sleepy taste buds with very quick and easy, simple yet fragrant dishes like this one.

 

These bright green pancakes are light and moist with ricotta, fragrant with saffron and carry the fennel so well. The spinach stays silky; the mouthfuls are easy and soothing. They look pretty, they taste like they have been paired with affection and they are so, so easy to put together.

 

Ingredients to make six pancakes to serve 2-3

 

1/2 cup plain flour

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1 1/2 cup shredded spinach

2 small pinches of saffron

Salt to taste

1 tsp. fennel seeds

1 egg

1/2 cup of whole milk

A few teaspoons of ricotta to serve

 

Method

 

1. Mix the plain flour, salt, spinach and fennel seeds in a bowl, before adding the ricotta, egg, milk and mixing well.

2. Mix the saffron in a tablespoon of hot water and once it’s infused add that to the other ingredients and mix again.

3. On a non-stick pan add two tablespoons of cooking oil and once it’s heated add a heaped dessert spoon of the batter and cook until they are lightly golden on each side.

4. Serve hot with a little ricotta to top them.

 

Garlic roasted cauliflower and red onion in za’atar and coriander, with chilli and toasted pine nuts

28 Dec

Garlic roasted cauliflower and red onion in za'atar and coriander, with chilli and toasted pine nuts  by Deena Kakaya

My belt is well and truly loosened and my pockets are emptier. My heart is fuller and my fridge now more revealing. The bins have flowed over and my insides feel a wee bit like them now. Ooof, it’s time to eat some natural, light and healthier meals.

I really can’t consume another roast potato or nibble on any more rich cheese. I will pass on the triple chocolate whats-it and close my eyes before being presented any fizzy drinks. I am ready to choose sleep over cold air blowing under my eyelids whilst shopping for presents or last minute ingredients. My husband has also signed up for the marathon, so let’s bring on some healthy foods.

Every time I tell my mum I’m having a salad as a meal, she starts her talk about how salad isn’t substantial enough, isn’t a meal as its not hot and isn’t balanced nutritionally. She has this image that I’m eating a lonely Greek salad for dinner. I love Greek salad, but there’s so much more to choose from.

My garlic roasted cauliflower and red onion is warm, lightly sweet and carries salty garlic through it. I’ve coated it in coriander and za’atar spices, topped it with a drizzle on rice wine vinegar, red chilli and toasted pine nuts. It’s immensely tasty, virtuous and really easy to throw together. Try it.

Ingredients

A medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets
A couple of glugs of rapeseed oil
One large red onion, sliced
A generous handful of coriander, washed an finely chopped
2 large red chilies, thinly sliced
A handful of pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 tsp salt
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp of white wine vinegar
4-5 tsp of za’atar spice mix

Method
1. Toss the minced garlic, cauliflower, red onion, salt and rapeseed oil together for even coverage and then pop it in the oven at 180degrees for approximately 25 minutes, or until it is lightly golden and soft enough to pierce through. It should still have a bite.image
2. Whilst the cauliflower is still warm and moist, toss it in the za’atar spice mix and coriander. Plate it up and then drizzle on the white wine vinegar and top with toasted pine nuts and the red chilli.image

I served this salad with hummus and flat bread. Magic.

Chilli and tahini noodle soup with broccoli and tempeh

28 Oct

 

Tahini and chilli noodle soup with tempeh and broccoli

Tahini and chilli noodle soup with tempeh and broccoli

This sort of time two years ago I sat in the cafe adjacent to wing yip oriental supermarket with my mum, dad and my large baby bump. Our noses were puffy from the cold outside and my mum and I giggled like girls as we quietly splished spicy noodle soup around our lips. The heat of schiuan peppercorn and chilies thawed our noses as our chopsticks slipped around pak choi and jabbed into tofu. We eyed up the swan shaped pastry over the counter and the little creamy and fruity tarts. Light and airy bite-me- now sized cakes and buns.

As we were dissecting the swans and sighing lazily and contentedly, tears raced down my mums cheeks. Normally full of youthful laughter and red-cheeked over-excitement, my mum smiled through her gentle tears. I shot a baffled and questioning look towards my dad. He had been busy chomping through his egg fried rice and meaty-vegetable feast. When food is good value for money and Chinese, my dad is unusually focused. He did his cliched wise-laugh thing and said something that has stuck since then with me and will always remain with me.

‘Your mum is spending the time with you now that she never has done’.

We all have different choices and circumstances in life. My mum was just 22 when she had me. Almost a decade younger than I was when I became a mother. I grew into being a mother in my own mind, through maturity and transitioning through the various phases of my life. My mum just became a mum. I grew my career as did my husband. My mum had just learned to speak fluent English, let alone have a chance to work. My husband and I bought a house and did it up before we had my boy. I was born into a council flat. But look at this…my mum and dad worked tirelessly as a team, had multiple jobs, paid their mortgage and even my university fees and expenses.

The price my brave mum paid unfortunately, is the time with me. Funny thing is I had never heard her complain in all these years. I never sensed any resentment in her circumstances. She embraced it. We ate dinner together every day, she tucked me in, told me stories about her childhood in Africa and made me turmeric milk when I was sick. Some foods will always evoke emotional responses, whether it is turmeric milk, egg and chips or samosa in the rain. I’ve added noodle soup to that list of foods.

This one is unusual, because I use tahini (sesame paste) in the soup. The result is a nutty flavour with a smooth texture. I’ve used the chilli oil from my previous recipe as well as the sweet lychee and hot chilli sauce I made recently. If you don’t like tempeh or can’t get hold of this block of fermented soy beans, use tofu. This soup is warming, spicy, nutty, has bite and is soothing. My husband says it is in his top 3 noodle soups now.

Ingredients to serve 2-3

1 large red onion, sliced
2 tbsp chilli oil with 3 tsp of the chilli flakes or 2tbsp sesame oil and 2minced red chillies 
200g broccoli cut into bite sized florets
200g tempeh cut into bite sized chunks
1 litre vegetable stock
500ml water
3 cloves of galic
1 tsp schiuan peppercorns
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp tahini
3-4 tsp sweet chilli sauce 
100g udon noodles

Method

1. Mince together the garlic and schiuan peppercorns
2. Stir fry thr tempeh in 1 tbsp vegetable oil until it catches a golden brown colour
3. Heat the oil and chilies and then stir fry the onions until they soften before adding the garlic and peppercorns. Cook for anther two minutes before adding the broccoli, soy sauce, tahini and tempeh. Mix it well and then add the vegetable stock, water and sweet chilli sauce.
4. Bring the broth to a simmer before adding the noodles. Cook for 5 minutes before serving hot.

Za’atar aubergines and toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

2 Oct Za'atar aubergines and toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

Za’atar aubergines with toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

Za'atar aubergines and toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

Za’atar aubergines and toasted pine nuts on silky hummus

Great things can happen, both in life and food, completely by accident…or rather in an unplanned or coincidental fashion. For example, today whilst putting my boy to sleep I thought of my regular Chinese restaurant, then of Navratri (hindu festival which involves nine nights of dancing) following which I realised I hadn’t made one of the Gujarati classics that I’m pretty darn good at doing, in a while. All of these thoughts inspired the creation a weird but outrageously good new soup recipe which I will soon share.

Back to this recipe, which is also unpremeditated. My parents came to stay last week when my husband was in Moscow for work. They, besides enjoying time with my boy and I, were so helpful in the kitchen. My dad was my kitchen assistant.
They have a habit of overcooking and under eating. They have also started to use a tongue-swelling level of chilli in their cooking, which I can no longer endure. During my late pregnancy I developed intolerable reflux so I cut the chilli and since then I never really reintroduced it. Anyway, they’re a bit obsessed with aubergines, my folks. They cooked thick slithers of fresh and slippery Aubergine in oil, without water and lots of indian spices but no tomatoes. Such a simple and garlicky dish.

I don’t know why I was reluctant to try it, but when I did I actually really enjoyed it. But then the chilli kicked in and in the absence of cooling yoghurt I grabbed the hummus. And thats how this recipe happened.

Za’atar spice is a tangy and herbaceous spice blend with a thyme like flavour. The tanginess comes from sumac, which is made from dried fruits. The za’atar spice blend also contains nutty sesame seeds and aromatic cumin. It’s fairly delicate so I like to let it sing for itself rather than mix it in with other powerful flavours. Simple is best with spice blends like za’atar.

This is no word of an exaggeration, this hummus is probably the best I have made. Nothing sexy; it’s a simple, smooth and silky hummus. It’s really good though. This is why I’ve allowed for a batch for your fridge, it’ll keep for about 3 days.

Ingredients to serve four

One large Aubergine, cut into 2 inch slithers
4-5 shallots,sliced
1 1/2 tbsp za’atar spice
3 tsp lemon juice
A handful of pine nuts, dry toasted on a non-stick pan
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

For the hummus

2 cans of cooked chickpeas
4 tbsp lemon juice
7 tbsp of ice cold water
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup tahini
1 1/2 tsp salt

Method.

1. Heat 3 tbsp of cooking oil in a non stick pan and add the onions and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes
2. Add the aubergines and mix well. Stir in the za’atar spice blend and the lemon juice. Turn the heat to a very low flame and cook for about 20minutes or until the Aubergine is soft enough to pierce through, but not until they lose shape or become squashed.
3. To make the hummus put the chickpeas into a food processor and blitz until they are a coarse paste.image
4. Add the tahini, garlic, salt and lemon juice and then blitz again.
5. Whilst the food processor is doing its thing, slowly pour in the water and it should loosen up to a lovely consistency.

To serve, top the hummus with the cooked Aubergine whilst they are still warm and when the pine nuts. Serve with flatbread or pitta bread. Don’t forget to tell me how you enjoyed this recipe!

Beetroot, chipotle and feta fritters with Asian style cucumber salad

29 Sep

Beetroot, chipotle and feta fritters

Beetroot, chipotle and feta fritters

Our taxi driver confidently lead us down a shabby lane in Cairo. It was such a hot and dusty day and the atmosphere around the roads was subdued. We dodged the rocks and stones that had dislodged from the road and buildings and skipped over small mounds of stinking rubbish. I shot huffy expressions towards my explorative and overly-polite husband who simply adjusted the cap on his head, mopped his face and said, ‘come on babe, lets just see’.

Lets just see? What did he mean? What if something happened to us? I’m a natural worrier and this, together with having had regretful holiday experiences in the past, had fired off dozens of atrocious images in my mind from being food poisoned to being shot.

I reassured myself that our driver was in fact a lovely, pious man. He had gelled quite well with my husband and he told us lots of stories to pass the journey times during out holiday. Whilst we stumbled and hopped along the path he was leading us along, towards this supposedly acclaimed restaurant, he was telling us why men in his hometown wore a bruised forehead. Apparently it demonstrated their religious devotion and credited them to be god following people because you could see that they bowed down for prayer regularly.

So, we weren’t shot. We arrived at the restaurant and it had a feel of the rainforest cafe in London. The roofs were leafy and crowded in a fun sort of way. Fake birds bobbed up and down above us, but they added to the rainforest feel. Fish swam beside us and whilst we settled ourselves at our table and my inner child was tickled. As you can imagine, I was smiling and that unrequited, ‘I told you so’ naturally blurted at me.

So I wondered off to watch this giant man rub his hands a couple of times and produce perfect falafels into the biggest wok I had ever seen. It was bubbling with steaming hot oil and none of the chickpeas escaped. Perfumes of tahini and parsley dominated the smoke above him. But then I saw his hands appear blood stained. Flutters of panic seared through me..he wasn’t cooking with meat was he? Was I right all along?

It was beetroot. He was stuffing grated beetroot into the falafels. He was watching my expression and then he and his big toothy grin handed one to me on a plate.

It was sweet, nutty and slightly spicy. Probably the way I’d describe my favourite friends and oh my goodness they were crispy and addictive. I wanted more. I couldn’t believe how fluffy they were, so light. They taste a bit like little burgers, I’d happily stick them in some pitta with dollops of hummus.

So I came back and I created these beauties. You know I like spice so I’ve whacked in some beautiful smokey chipotle, it makes the whole combination more sensual. I’ve got salty feta in there too and it works in harmony with sweet beetroot. I love these because they are moist without being pasty. I don’t add plain flour because it gives it that texture that sticks to the roof of the mouth. Instead I have used gram flour and chickpeas to give that nuttiness. Whether you eat these with salad or as a burger, you’ll find them easy to make and freezer friendly.

Ingredients

300g cooked beetroot, grated
75g breadcrumbs
100g chickpeas, squashed
2tbsp finely chopped parsley
1tbsp finely chopped chives
1/2 tbsp chipotle paste
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 egg lightly beaten
3 tbsp gram flour
50g feta cheese, crumbled
2 spring onions finely chopped
Oil for shallow frying
Salt to taste
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds
Salt to taste

Method

1. Squeeze as much if the juice out of beetroot as possible
2. Add the onion, feta, spices, herbs and add the chickpeas by imagesquishing them between your fingers. Use the salt carefully because feta is salty.

3. Add the chipotle paste, gram flour and the egg. Mix it all together before adding the breadcrumbs. If you feel that the mixture is too wet add a bit more gram flour
4. Form golf sized balls before dropping them into the warmed oil. Shallow fry them until they are golden brown on each side and serve with an Asian style cucumber salad.

Beetroot, feta, chipotle, chickpeas

Frying golf ball sized parities of Beetroot, feta and chipotle with chickpeas for nuttiness

For the cucumber salad

Peel one whole cucumber and stir it together with

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp sesame oil

Sweet and chilli Beetroot, masala potatoes, toasted almonds, green beans and goats cheese salad

18 Sep

Sweet and chilli beetroot, masala potatoes, green beans, goats cheese and toasted almond salad.

Salad

When I married my husband my kitchen inherited his eating habits. Naturally. We had a permanently colourful fridge tumbling with carrots and tomatoes that he ate raw; fantastic. Lots of fruit ; wonderful! There were requests for minestrone, lasagne and for stir fries. Sounds all very virtuous doesn’t it, it’s making me feel proud just reading it. Accompanying these very sensible, wholesome and fresh choices were some rather odd ones.

Light, fresh, delicate and sour crispy dosa were flattened and overpowered by the rude slathering of tomato ketchup. Wedges of apple were showered with salt and cumin powder. Crunchy and spicy Bombay mix was dunked to the soggy bottom of a mug of masala chai. Garlic chutney (literally just garlic and chilli powder) on cold Chappati comprised a long lingering breakfast.
The one I couldn’t dispute too much was the plate full of spicy, lightly crisped masala, peppery potatoes with lashings of natural yoghurt on top. Ironically, this carby dish is the food of fasts and it always throws me back to large family get togethers, nuts, saris and cold weather. All the lovely stuff.

Now it is of course wrong to change a man. Isn’t it. What of those women that alter the hobbies, eating, clothing, housing and everything else that makes the man. No. But…if all we are tweaking is banishing the hoodies and introducing a bit of colour to the plate…well that’s just helping and it is a contribution to the betterment of generations to come, isn’t it ?

So I have taken his beloved masala potatoes, changed it up a wee bit and sat them in a salad. Salad is a sort of catch-all, umbrella food term isn’t it. When I was a kid, Salad just meant cucumber, tomato, lettuce and sometimes sweetcorn. Salad cream was the dressing. Nowadays, a salad is a concoctive compilation of hot, cold, sweet, sour, crunchy or soft stuff with fruits or salad or both. Anything.

So back to my salad, or whatever we want to call it. Peppery potatoes in cumin and sesame seeds and a few simple spices that and punch. The beetroot is bathed in its own juices and some agave nectar and chilli. I used agave because it is low GI and won’t give me those sugar spikes that honey or sugar based products will. Toasted almonds are the crunchy and smoky bit and then I’ve got the juicy beans and salty and creamy cheese. This is a plate that plays with the senses and is pretty nutritious. No reason not to now is there?
Ingredients

600g of white potatoes
300g of beetroot with the juices
170g of green beans
30g flaked almonds
3tbsp agave nectar
3tbsp cooking oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds
A few blogs of goats cheese or feta

The spices; salt to taste, 1tsp chilli flakes, 1 tsp cumin seeds , 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp amchur powder (dried mango powder), 1/4 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Start by chopping the potatoes into wedges and boil them for about 7-8 minutes. Drain them and leave them to dry

image
2. Whilst the potatoes are boiling, toast the almonds in a dry pan over a medium flame until they are golden brown.

image
3. Next turn your attention to the beetroot. Chop it into chunks and simply dress it with the agave and chilli and leave it to a side.

image
4. Now stir fry the potatoes by heating the oil in the pan and then stir in the potatoes. Add the sesame and cumin with the salt. Sprinkle in the pepper, paprika, oregano, mango powder and garam masala. Cook the potatoes until they attract a golden colour. This should taken ten minutes on a medium flame. Stir the potatoes intermittently to avoid them sticking.
5. Whilst the potatoes are cooking, boil or steam the green beans for about 7minutes or until tender.

Serve with the juices of the beetroot and sprinkle the almonds on top with the cheese.

Smoked Aubergine polenta with sweet and spicy tomatoes on top

16 Sep

image

Smoked Aubergine polenta with sweet and spicy tomatoes on top

How do you get mosquito bitten in summery Milan? I counted 38 and I am not kidding.  And how do you get lost in Milan? Both of those unfortunate and grossly inconvenient situations lead us to walking around the streets utterly famished and wearily confused.
So we, (my dear friend and I) ended up in a quiet street that was lit dimly. In blue.  My friend is rubbish in the heat.   she, who is normally composed and upbeat, moans incessantly in the heat. She moans about walking, about her feet, about being thirsty, about stupid signs and idiotic drivers and about people who walk towards her.
So I stood over her, exasperated but coaxing her into telling me what we she wants to eat. I thought she’d give me her same-old line, ‘i don’t know, I don’t care, you decide’. But you know what she told me as I was being visciously attacked by Mosquitos sent back from hell? She told me she was in love.  With a man from Manchester.
And with this, I grabbed her arm, smiled and walked into the first reasonable looking place that was wasn’t lit in blue.  This is where the polenta comes in.  Hang in there.
So we were greeted by a middle aged guy that flirted outrageously and unprofessionally with my friend.  Before he even asked us what we would like to drink, he asked if she was married.  We were clearly in no mood for this. Remember, we are irritated, hungry and we need to talk about love.
So, I ask him what is there to eat that is vegetarian. He sings to me that the meat is gorgeous and how could I not…blah blah. So I repeat the question. Sternly. And you guessed it, polenta. So, with tummies rumbling, that’s what we ordered. It was the smoothest, most light and creamy polenta ever. Really silky, airy and just addictive.
Normally polenta is cooked in water, but as you will notice, my polenta is lighter in colour and that is because it is cooked in milk.  It works because it gives it a lighter, creamier texture.  I could suck the stuff off a spoon. I’ve added smoky roasted aubergines to the polenta and it is still delicate with the cumin and coriander. Beautiful.
I do find potatoes quite heavy, and although I love mashed potatoes they make me sleepy.  Polenta won’t do that, which is another great reason to use polenta.
This dish works harmoniously with sweet tomatoes on top.  The wonderful thing about this dish is the simplicity.   A few, quality ingredients make a darn good meal.
Ingredients to serve 3-4
For the tomato topping
100g of tomatoes, I’ve used red and yellow tomatoes and washed, then halved them
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
A handful of basil leaves, shredded
Salt to taste
3/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sugar
Chilli flakes to Taste
1/3rd tsp black pepper
A couple of tablespoons of cooking oil
For the polenta
1 litre of milk
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander powder
Salt to taste
75g fine polenta
2 medium roasted Aubergines with the pulp removed and then mashed
Method
1. Start by preparing the tomato topping.  Heat the oil in a pan and shallow fry the garlic for a couple of minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes and the salt, turn them to a slow simmer.  Sprinkle in the paprika, sugar, chilli and black pepper, toss it and cook them until they turn pulpy.  It should take 3-4minutes.
3. Sprinkle in the basil, toss again, cook for a minute before turning off the heat.
4. To make the polenta, heat the milk in a large non stick pan, with the toasted cumin seeds, coriander powder, Aubergine pulp, and salt then bring it to a simmer. Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and then in a slow and steady stream pour in the polenta, whilst whisking it gently.  Give it a couple of minutes before removing it from the heat.
Serve immediately with a few shavings of cheese if you like.
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