Tag Archives: modern vegetarian

Soy, galangal and star anise tofu & mango tacos

15 Jul

Soy, galangal and star anise tofu & mango tacos

Soy, galangal and star anise tofu & mango tacos

I took my toddler to the pool today and because I’m hanging on to every precious day and really feeling the countdown towards loosening the cord a little more, I was even more patient with him. He was even more ecstatic than usual. ‘I love you so much in the swimming pool’ he told me, and he also told me that he was going to ‘demonstrate’ his ‘swimming skills’. He is not even 2.5years old yet.

So here is the thing. Whilst he was shivering post-swim under my deep red towel and as we walked to find a large changing cubicle he chatted away to a member of the cleaning staff. He asked her about her favourite planet, car and animal. She asked him if he likes chocolate and he didn’t reply. He noticed that three of this softly spoken and calm looking staff’s colleagues kept walking by but nobody said hello to her. He asked me why? Well. What do you tell a not-yet-2.5 year old?

I had the same questions in my first job at the Bank of England. I had the same question in my last role at a household name-type brand. I thought it would be different in my new world. My new world is cluttered and tangled in a new way because it has emotion and passion factored in.

I was quite tempted to change the topic, but thought better. I told him that some people like to feel important, like a super hero. Some people like think Mars is better than Earth. Mars is amazing because it is red and Martians and they think they are cool because they don’t get dehydrated but people on Earth think they are cool if they are have lots and lots of stuff. ‘But that’s messy isn’t it’ he asked. ‘Yes’, I said. It certainly is.

So, here is a recipe that isn’t cluttered, it is simple. But you can get messy whilst eating it-if you fancy celebrating the glorious mess that one can be (me for a start). If you read my posts regularly (thank you if you do) then you will be familiar with how I love to balance contrasting senses. In tune with that, the (certainly not bland) tofu is salty, warm and bold. The mango is sweet and juicy. Then you’ve got spring onions. Who is celebrating a messy life with me?

The hubby recently bought Dhruv Baker’s book SPICE for me as a thank you. I have been instrumental in helping him (the husband) shed a few KG in weight with some of the lean recipes I have been cooking and in his book Dhruv cooks duck with some of the essences that I have used in the tofu. It works.

Ingredients to serve two

One block of firm tofu

2 tbsp. soy sauce

One medium sized mango, cut into thin strips or julienne

3 tbsp. kecap Manis

1 tsp. Chinese 5 spice powder

150ml water

3 star anise

8 taco shells

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp. cooking oil

1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 tsp. galangal paste

3-4 spring onions, finely chopped

Method

  1. Wrap the tofu in kitchen paper and leave it to stand until the excess moisture has been soaked up before cutting it into large chunks of roughly 3cm cubed.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and shallow fry the tofu until it is crisp and lightly golden.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes.
  4. Pour in the soy sauce, then the star anise and rice wine vinegar and mix through. Then add the 5 spice powder, galangal and kecap Manis and combine well.
  5. Pour in the water and reduce the heat to a medium to low flame and cook until the moisture has been absorbed and the tofu looks well coated and almost crisp.
  6. Compile the tacos by cooking the shells per packet instructions and adding the fillings as you like. Serve immediately whilst the tofu is still hot.

 

Spinach, spring onion and spice pancakes with lime and coriander crème fraîche

26 Sep

Spinach, spring onion and spice pancakes with lime and coriander crème fraîche
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We were in Dubai in June and my then 16month child lost a few hundred grams in weight over the first few days of our 10 day stay.

We were very lucky to be staying at the Atlantis, which is not only stunning with its in-house aquarium which felt as big as the London aquarium, beautiful clear views of the azure sea, towering heights and arches, shimmering lights; but it is architecturally astounding with its arabesque domes and spires. They couldn’t do enough for us and I lost count of the number of restaurants they had that served fresh and delicious foods from throughout the world. My favorite was the Lebanese restaurant; they served an entire table of vegetarian dishes at each course and I’m not kidding.
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So why, with such lovely and helpful staff and so much variety did my boy not eat? Why, when they made him whatever we asked for, either on or off the ‘menu for kids’, would he just not eat? The truth is, I don’t know. Could have been the heat, but then the hotel was air-conditioned. It could have been the time changes, but then we stuck to UK time for him. It could have been the fatigue of travelling, but surely that would settle after a couple of days. It could be because mumma didn’t make it. But come on.

So, as is typical of my assertive and self-proclaimed solutions-not-problems focused husband, he said, ‘babe, just go and speak to the chefs like you normally would and go into the kitchen and make what he will eat’. Normally I wouldn’t go and cook uninvited because that is so rude. But my baby wasn’t eating and this made me so sad that I felt like it was the only thing I could do.

The head chef came out to meet my boy. The restaurant manager came to meet him. The sous chef took the head chefs instructions and then I went in to tell them how he likes it. My boy doesn’t even know lucky he is. We made him what he has at home, a spinach uttapam. I make this south Indian style crispy pancake with fermented and ground lentils and rice, loads of spinach. My little monster guzzled it down and the whole team was happy, especially me. Naturally.

The thing is though, that I don’t always have fermented rice and lentils to hand when he asks for the pancake and I know that instant versions are available in a packet and that too at the major supermarkets, but I worry about the amount of salt in them. So, I created this recipe that my whole family enjoy…even my fussy old man (my dad) loved them. My chappati-loving mum let out high-pitched praise. My Italian and Caribbean neighbors loved them (I’ve trialed this recipe out a couple of times so needed mouths) and best of all, my boy loves them. For a kids version skip the chili and salt if this is your normal practice given your child’s age. My boy is young so that’s what I’ve done.

These pancakes are really well-balanced in terms of spice and depth, they are smooth and really light and fluffy. Herby and moorish, they are so easy to make and even easier to eat.

Ingredients to serve 3-4

225g fresh spinach, finely chopped in a food processor
75g spring onions finely chopped
2 green chilies finely chopped (leave them out for kids or cut the amount of chili if you don’t like it hot)
One whole egg
One egg white, beaten until you get soft white peaks
150g self-raising flour
150ml milk
50g butter
Salt to taste (I used 1tsp)
1 tbsp baking powder

The spices; 1 tsp toasted cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp dried mango powder (amchur powder)

For the lime and coriander crème fraîche

250g crème fraîche
The zest of one lime
1 tbsp very finely chopped fresh coriander
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Method

1. In a large bowl mix the spinach with the cumin, salt, garam masala, mango powder, spring onions and chilies and mix it well.
2. With a fork, mix in the flour and then add the milk, butter and egg. Whisk it all together, add the baking powder and whisk again.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg until the egg whites are soft white peaks and then gently fold into the pancake batter.
4. To make the crème fraîche, add the zest of the lime into a bowl and add the coriander, salt and pepper. Mix it in gently with the crème fraîche and leave it in the fridge until you serve the pancakes.
5. To make the pancakes heat a non stick pan and grease it with a couple of tablespoons of oil. Pour a couple of tablespoons of batter onto the pan and ensure that the height is about 1 cm. Cook them until they are golden brown on one side before flipping over.

Serve the pancakes hot and with a dollop of the crème fraîche.

Indian spiced exotic mushroom, cauliflower and pea pie

24 Sep

Indian spiced exotic mushroom, cauliflower and pea pie
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For years I’d stopped eating pies. I’d happily bolt past the pasty stand at kings cross station, without a single hankering. I’d swiftly flick past the recipes for pies in the magazines and didn’t stop to consider the modern day varieties. My mind deleted the pie entries in restaurants and I certainly never made one at Christmas, just because we are vegetarians.

I think I stopped eating them because I found them boring, simple as that. Maybe there was a health factor too; after all, I was going to fitness classes 3-4 times a week. After a class of body attack, I didn’t want a pie. I just don’t fancy a load of mushrooms in pastry. We used to have one with samosa mix inside and cheese which was pretty scrummy, but even then…no.

Funnily enough, I became reacquainted with pies because I picked up some exotic mushrooms in Tesco and I was making a vegetable and cheese sauce for my tot. Exotic mushrooms are, for want of a better description, really mushroomy. They are delicate too and don’t need a lot of cooking. They are light and feathery and go so, so well with a crispy ad puffy pastry top. Also, the folks are staying this week whilst the husband is in Moscow. It is quite enlightening, seeing parents age and almost regress to behaviours such as a lack of patience, the emotional sensitivity and the need to be heard, a lot.

As you can imagine, juggling food preferences is no picnic. The boy likes spinach and tofu curry, dad won’t eat tofu. Dad wants a chip butty, the boy won’t eat bread. Mum can’t cope without chappati, I need variety. Dad likes lots of chilli and salt, I can’t cope with either. I want a herb pesto, dad thinks it is too fussy. I want gnocchi and he wants a jacket potato. You see where I’m going with this. So I made pie (right up his street) but my way. Guess who ate half the pie? (I’m not kidding, he really did).

This recipe does justice to mild and distinct flavours as well as being fragrantly spiced and sunny coloured. I’ve only got a pastry top on it, rather than the stuffing being encased in pastry. The stuffing is the star of the dish, gently but mature. Colourful and developed. Don’t get me wrong, there are some serious flavours in this pie, but it isn’t the spices.

Ingredients

350g puff pastry sheet, thawed if frozen (per packet instructions)
50g plain flour
300ml vegetable stock
400ml milk
A large nob of butter and a drizzle of oil
175g mixed exotic mushrooms. I’ve used pink oysters, yellow oysters and shiitake mushrooms
50g cheese
Half a head of a medium sized cauliflower
100g peas
2 cloves of garlic
One large onion, sliced

The spices; salt to taste, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp chilli powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp cumin seeds

Method

1. Start by making the stuffing. Heat a couple of tbsp of oil a d add the cumin seeds. Allow them to sizzle before adding the onion and garlic, sauté for a coupe of minutes.
2. In the meantime, boil the cauliflower and the peas for 3-4 minutes. Wen they are el dente remove from the heat and drain.
3. Stir in the mushrooms with the onions and garlic and sauté for about 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the cauliflower and peas to the mushrooms and add the salt, garam masala, turmeric and chilli powder. Mix well before turning off the heat.
5. To make the sauce, heat the butter and soften it with a drizzle of oil. Then add the plain flour and make a paste. Stir in the milk gently whilst whisking to avoid lumps. Add the vegetable sauce and on a medium flame, keep whisking until the lumps have dissolved and the sauce starts to thicken, before adding the cheese. Continue to stir until the sauce thickens, when you should turn off the heat.
6. Combine the sauce and the vegetables before pouring them into a circular oven proof dish. Mine is about 20cm diameter.
7. Top the pie with 3-4 long strips of pastry and dong forget to make s small steam hole in the top and bake in the oven at 180degrees for about 30minutes or until golden brown and crispy on top.

Smoky courgette ribboned quesadilla

2 Jul

ImageImageSmoky courgette ribboned quesadilla

I haven’t got time to cook. That’s what a lot of us say isn’t it?
Too tired, too busy, too active, too much work, too much kiddy mayhem, too fat so need to go the gym, too single so what’s the point, too expensive so what’s the point, too boring, too hot outside, too cold outside, too reliant on my mum…what have i missed?
I have to agree…kind of. The other day for example, I made onion and spinach bhajia for breakfast because my 16month old refused to eat anything else.  For lunch I made us mixed veg in dhal with rice and for dinner my little indian villager had a spinach, pepper and cheese dosa whilst the grown ups had full on salad with my beloved chargrilled artichokes amongst other gems like gentle mozzarella, sweet plum tomatoes and roasted red peppers.
Now, I love cooking..but if you team that up with the cleaning up that results, I could really have more time on my side.  Lets remember that the clearing up includes food chucked about and squashed into the highchair.
There is this kind of romantic and augmented nostalgia that repeats in the summers of my mind, you know the one where you’ve been running in and out of the kitchen for what seems like hours as a child..playing various ball games or hide and seek…and the whole time there’s something gorgeous smelling, bubbling away at the cooker or there’s some kind of chaos on the table that looks colourful and utterly edible.  Bits of cauliflower fall on he floor, grated carrots spread and flecks of turmeric threaten immediate stains.
But of course, that’s all too knackering.  I want to call our infrequent cleaner whilst just thinking about it. So here is a minimal cooking recipe.  It’s brilliant because courgette ribbons taste best when they are practically raw.  The spices are simple and few. The taste is, well delectably ‘ pow’.  I don’t even like that word, but you know what I mean.  These quesadilla taste smoky, spicy and crunchy..good huh? Not much to do really…have a go.
Ingredients for 4-5 quesadilla
2 courgettes with the skin peeled and then use the peeler to make ribbons
2 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
1 tsp smoked paprika
Salt to taste
A generous squeeze of lemon
One red onion, slices
1 tsp cumin seeds
Chipotle paste.  I’ve used 2 tsp because, of course, I like it hot.
4 handfuls of grated cheese
4-5 plain flour tortilla
Method
1. Heat a 3 tbsp of oil add the cumin seeds allow them to sizzle before adding the onion to shallow fry until the onion browns.
2. Add salt to taste, the paprika, garlic and lemon juice and stir well.
3. Add the courgette and chipotle paste and stir and cook for 2-3 minutes before removing from the heat.
4. Spread a thin layer of oil onto a non stick frying pan. Take a plain flour tortilla and on one half spread some cheese, then a 3-4 tbsp of the courgette mixture, then some cheese again.  Fold the tortilla in half and then place onto the pan.  Cook for a few minutes and gentle lift it with a spatula to see if it has Browned.   Once browned, gently turn it over and brown the other side before removing from the heat.
See, told you it is easy.
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