Tag Archives: quick meals

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.

 

Blueberry and basil, papaya, spinach salad with a chilli and agave pistachio nut topping

8 Jan

Blueberry and basil, papaya, spinach salad with a chilli and agave pistachio nut topping

I feel too young for aches and pains and body complaints. My knee is creaky and my back is full of rocks; it is muscular tension. Sniffles and coughs, fatigue and sleep deprivation. It’s all self induced.

My uncle was, and still is, one of the patriarchs of our family. A strong and disciplined man, he is giving and loving and he was always firm and fair. Growing up, when he would visited us and was offered tea by my folks, he would always reply that he would drink it only if I made it. He was one of those that limited his food intake and I actually never saw him indulge.

He’s now deteriorated in his golden years and knowing this has provoked much thought on how I should be grateful and look after this one and only body I have. It is true that some things we simply can not control or avoid and chips taste very good. It is true that making time for exercise is tough and that eating well is sometimes expensive. But, life is short.

My blueberry basil, papaya and spinach salad with chilli and agave pistachio is good for the body, the eyes, the taste buds and is very easy to put together. Blueberries are often talked of a superfood and I eat them like sweeties. Spinach is fabulous and best raw I reckon and let’s talk about papaya. I ate loads of the stuff after giving birth to my boy, it’s said that it has healing properties. This fresh and easy salad will liven up any table at this time of heat and will encourage picking on fruit, not crisps.

Blueberry and basil, papaya, spinach salad with a chilli and agave pistachio nut topping

For the full recipe, head on over to great British chefs

Christmas leftovers of roast potatoes? Meet bubble and squeak’s sexy, Indian-spiced cousin.

26 Dec

Left over roast spuds? Meet bubble and squeak's sexy, Indian-spiced cousin.

Left over roast spuds? Meet bubble and squeak's sexy, Indian-spiced cousin.I love Christmas. I do wonder why people reserve the Christmas feeling for Christmas just for Christmas though. Arguably, there should be a special feel to the day.

I love that during Christmas, people are nice to each other. Even strangers smile and greet each other. Friends and relatives call each other and better still, see each other. Phones are put away, iPads go down and we play with children and talk to people instead. We eat well, laugh and watch movies that emphasise the true meaning of life; love, family, being well. Everyone seems happier in the run-up to Christmas; more excited. It’s fun to decorate with tinsel and planning trips to see Santa. It’s just lovely to sip hot drinks in the cold weather at a Christmas market. Board games, silly jumpers, cuddles and gifts. Why can’t it be like this every day?

I don’t really make New Year resolutions. I’m not suggesting that they aren’t a good idea, I just don’t. What I do try and resolve to, almost daily, is to hang onto ‘that’ feeling. The feeling of being good, feeling good and giving good..and I’m not just talking about the food.

This year I used marabel spuds for my Xmas table and they were mighty fine spuds! They are naturally a bit sweet and very fluffy. I roasted them with salt and smoked garlic and a few glugs of rapeseed oil. The only trouble is, I did way too many. I tend to have leftovers after Xmas but can’t cope with a repeat episode of the Xmas meal itself, so here’s a recipe for a fabulous facelift for the leftovers.

My recipe is a quick, aromatic and light mix of pasta, roast potatoes, savoy cabbage (you could use brussels sprouts ) and tomatoes. When you add indian spices to your veg, automatically, it becomes a tarted up version. I’ve used coconut oil to temper the cabbage and very light and mild spicing. I’ve used juicy plum tomatoes to freshen the dish up too. Try it, it feels light and fragrant…a welcome change after heavy and indulgent eating.

Ingredients

1/2 head of Savoy cabbage, shredded into ribbons
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
Juice of half lemon
1/2 tsp turmeric seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
Salt to taste
The equivalent of 3 medium potatoes worth of potatoes
2 handfuls of plum tomatoes, halved
250g pasta
4-5 curry leaves

Method
1. Boil the pasta per packet instructions and heat the oven to heat and crisp the potatoes up again.
2. In a deep pan heat the coconut oil and then add the turmeric, curry leaves, cumin and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds sizzle and pop add the the cabbage and stir fry with salt, lemon juice and chilli powder for 7-8minutes on a medium flame, or until the cabbage is cooked enough to bite through easily.
3. When the pasta is cooked, wash and drain it. Mix it with the cabbage and potatoes before introducing the chopped tomatoes. And tossing it all together.

Serve the dish immediately, whilst still hot.

Garlic and cumin roasted cauliflower in parsley and chilli pesto pasta (plus giveaway)

29 Oct
Garlic and Cumin roasted cauliflower in parsley and chilli pesto pasta

Garlic and Cumin roasted cauliflower in parsley and chilli pesto pasta

It’s funny how tastes change as grow up.

Back in the day, a weekend in Skegness with chips, rides, candy floss, sand castles and good company was the making of exhilarating times. The smell of fried onions, the smacking of the sea, the sun in our hair and on our backs. Wearing shorts, but skies, seagulls. When my husband and I were a relatively new couple we escaped the pressures of the festive season by going to Scotland. We we young. We stopped by Blackpool of all places and it was so windy, I couldn’t walk in a straight line. I remember mr.bean on a tiny TV with a long aerial in our modest lodging for the night. The simple things.

Then for my 30th we were in an island just off Mauritius that we could walk around within 20mins. The waters were so shallow and still, you could just walk from one end to another. Quiet and scorching, still and stunning. They weren’t wrong when they said, ‘welcome to paradise’. I wasn’t one to stop and stare, I like to keep busy. But on an island as movingly beautiful, it was just instinctive to stop and admire…for a long time. I had flutters in my tummy, it was thrilling. I was making the memories I had imagined for so long.

I remember watching one of my uncles grilling full cloves of garlic on top of toast on one of those old school cookers where the flames would dance on the grill. I remember being utterly repulsed; how DID he eat THAT. I listened to him telling my dad how he ate it every day and how raw garlic was good for the heart, blah blah. They drank karela juice and ate raw mung bean sprouts. What was wrong with my family…surely everyone else’s family ate pizza and certainly not raw garlic?

And now? I’ve tweeted excitedly about roasted garlic with salt and sighing with smiles at the same time. It’s incredibly smooth, sweet and creamy. I love roasting whole bulbs and then squeezing the individual cloves out of their skins. It’s art. It’s so pretty. Surely simple food like this had to be sensual, or is that just taking it too far?

As you may have noticed from my posts, I’m rather fond of pasta. Who doesn’t love it? One of my favourite things about pasta is the versatility; there are just so, so many varieties. This recipe is fresh, garlicky, smooth and easy. I want to know what you think of this recipe and I want to hear about your favourite variety f pasta.

Leave me a comment with your thoughts on this recipe and your fave recipe and be in with a chance of receiving one of these JML twist n choppers which has made my life in the kitchen tidier. closing date 17th November.

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Ingredients

One large head f cauliflower cut into 1 inch florets
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed
1 tsp cumin
Salt to taste
1/4 cup of oil
1tbsp chilli oil or sesame oil and one chilli
75g parsley
2tsp lemon juice
400g pasta

1. Mix the oil, cauliflower, salt and cumin seeds in a large bowl and ensure the cauliflower is well coated
2. Roast the cauliflower in the oven at 180degrees for about 20mins or until it is has browned lightly.
3. In the meantime, cook the packet instructions and make the pesto by grinding together the parsley, chilli oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Add 1tbp water if you struggle to get a smooth pesto.
4. When the cauliflower and pasta are cooked, drain the pasta and mix wth the pasta. Toss the cauliflower into the bowl and ensure they are evenly distributed. Don’t stir it in, just toss it gently,

Serve hot and crisp.

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.

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

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.

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.
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