Tag Archives: quick meal

Post Diwali Paneer, black bean, chilli French toasties with fig raitha

5 Nov

IMG_4135Post Diwali Paneer, black bean, chilli French toasties with fig raitha
Diwali is over; the fairy lights are off and diya’s have been packed up. We don’t really receive cards anymore otherwise they’d be down too I suppose. The Diwali snacks tubs are still out, but the excitement for them has waned given the over indulgence on them over the last few days. The phones are now quiet and the pretty and bright indian clothes are back in their zip covers and packed up. The skies now sleep in the dark, instead of popping and banging. The hardest bit will be that I will miss my family, the liveliness and the cheerful Diwali banter. The husband goes back to work too. We are back to normal.

So this is where I stop being sad that the festive period is over and take gratitude in the reality, which is a blessing. I was listening to friends and family talk over the past few days and as I grow, the more I realise that it’s so important to keep things in life simple.

We are always chasing. We are always doing. We are always thinking, dreaming, planning and aspiring. All good things, I suppose. If they make you truly happy. Now and in the future. I just often wonder what the point is. The simple things make most people I know happy. Spending time with loved ones, walking, laughing, watching a good movie, eating out, reading a great book, having a soak in the bath. Whatever it is that makes you happy now, do that. Our brains have been conditioned to believe that anger, jealousy, competition are all natural parts of life. But they aren’t. They become parts of our thinking right.

So when I came back from the Diwali celebrations, tired and happy, I flicked on the heaters, stood in front of the fridge and announced that I need a light and tasty meal. It’s part of my gentle recovery from all the feasting over Diwali. I still need something that’s packed with punch, dense but light. If that makes sense. Going straight for the salads feels like a step too far right now. So this is what I concocted. A flavour and texture delight of paneer, black beans, chilli French toasties with a fruity and sweet fig Raitha.

My wonderful sister-in-law is such a light in our lives. She’s an advocate of keeping things simple and the best ideas come to those who keep the clutter away. My sister-in-law is a genius ball of ideas. Honestly, sometimes she will just burst out, ‘ wouldn’t it be good if they invented…’

So amidst my child’s eating refusal, she suggested eggy bread. It’s crunchy and easy eat and taste great. It’s nutritious for a little one too. Of course me being me, I can’t just stop at eggy bread…and my little one loves spice. So I gave him this sarnie without the chillies!

Ingredients for four sandwiches

100g grated paneer
100g black beans
2 green chillies, finely chopped
One red onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 tsp chaat masala
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
2 tbsp butter
A little oil to loosen the butter
8 slices of bread

For the Raitha

75ml plain natural yoghurt
3 fresh figs, peeled.
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp coriander powder

Method
1. Combine the grated paneer, black beans, red onion, chaat masala, cumin seeds, coriander powder and green chilies in a bowl and mix well.
2. Combine the eggs and milk in a separate bowl, whisk and keep to aside.
3. Heat half a tablespoon of butter in a non-stick pan and add a little oil to loosen and make sure the butter doesn’t burn. Make a sandwich by placing some of the mixture inside and then cut it half. Hold it to close and dip into the batter. Place it on the pan and let it catch a golden colour before turning it over.
4. To make the raitha, simply combine the yoghurt with the flesh of three figs. Fork it down to a pulpy texture and them add a little coriander powder and a pinch of salt.

Serve immediately and wait for sighs.

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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!

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.

Deena’s Stuffed Okra

27 Nov

As a child I used to diligently peel back the layers in quarter-sections lengthways, and then nibble at them one by one. Only then, with a scoop of chapatti, would I eat the stuffing of that individual okra, with a warm, smug glow of self satisfaction. And then repeat the process. My tailored technique did slow down mealtimes, but personally I think my parents were just pleased that I was eating something green: and that okra too! We didn’t know many other kids who would eat them, at least not as happily as I did. In fact I remember one of my cousin’s being close to tears when encouraged to be sensible and eat their portion….”Deena does?” This made me feel like a very sophisticated little kid – did I have good taste or was it just that I was more willing to try? I revelled in my mother’s cheerful flaunting of this fact to my aunts as well as her friends. “She eats okra you know! In fact it’s one of her favourite meals and she even eats an extra chappati when we have this particular curry”. Parents! Kids! In fact, I think stuffed okra was indeed one of my favourite curries. Sometimes I would just roll it whole in the middle of a chapatti and then have a mighty mouthful. They’re quite a fun vegetable to eat you know. Why is this exquisite curry not served in restaurants?
 
It was, and still is, especially important to me that they sit in a mild, but pretty garlicky curry base. Not watery, but thick and happy. A luscious coating shall we say. Enough to add a tang of tomato, but I don’t want them drenched; no that would be awful. And I certainly can’t have them sticky-that’s neglectfully tragic. Simmer gently on a light flame, don’t rush.

I adore the way they are stacked in the Indian grocers, mounds and mounds of ladies fingers. I’ve always found that name so off-putting. Long green bullets being bent and scraped by scanning, analytical grocery shoppers. I’m always amused by the conversations around okra stands…people run their fingers like pensive ploughs over and through them, tutting and clicking their tongues; a distinct sign that they are unimpressed. Not woody, not browned. Green and slender, that’s how they should be…that’s what they’re discussing, scattered amongst talk of daughter-in-laws and mother-in-laws.
 
I’ve experienced okra diversely, cooked in soups, Gujarati yogurt soups (kadhi), African stews, American-style breaded and fried, stir fried with sugar and then there’s the shredded and fried variety as found in Mumbai. I’ve tasted them in a ratatouille and also stir fried in soy sauce and chili. Nevertheless, one of the okra recipes that sits closest to my heart is this one.
 
Although the traditional recipe calls for the stuffing being bound with oil, I simply can’t bring myself to do it. My father and I have regular enthused discussions about this. He buys into the idea and will go along with it, but pushes my version of this stuffing, which is slightly stickier, in my direction… “You do it”. So here is how I do it;

Stuffed Okra Curry by Deena Kakaya

Ingredients

250g of okra
6 tbsp of gram flour
2 tbsp of corriander powder and 1 tsp of cumin powder
salt to taste
3 tsp of lemon juice
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp of vegetable oil
2tbsp of water for the stuffing and 1/2 cup hot water for the curry base.
Chili powder to taste, I use about 2 tsp
1/2 can of plum peeled tomatoes
1-2 chilies
2-3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
 
Method
 
1. Wash the okra and dry them individually with kitchen paper and then leave the to stand and dry completely.  This will help to avoid that gunky texture.
2. Toast the gram flour gently for about 1-2 minutes, but dont let the gram flour burn
3. Combine the gram flour, cumin powder, corriander powder, salt and turmeric and mix thoroughly
4. Add the oil, lemon juice and water to the spices mix and form a dough.
5. When the okra are dry, create a slit vertically from top to tail in the centre of the okra but avoid touching the bottom and top tips. 
6. Stuff them each generously and close them firmly.
7. In a deep set pan, heat a splash of oil and add the mustard seeds and allow them to pop.  Stir in the chopped garlic and chili and saute until golden, before mixing in the tomato and salt. Bring this to a simmer and then place the okra in gently.
8. Coat the okra with the mixture gently and simmer on a low flame for about 5 minutes before adding 1/2 cup of hot water.  Bring to a simmer again and cook on a medium flame until the okra are soft enough to pierce all the way through.  This should take about 15 minutes.
 
I suggest devouring these okra with lots of natural yogurt of raitha and hot buttery chappati’s or naan bread. 

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