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Courgette bhaji with a spiced pea, ricotta and dill puree in a wrap-National Vegetarian Week

20 May

Courgette bhaji with a spiced pea, ricotta and dill puree in a wrap

Courgette bhaji with a spiced pea, ricotta and dill puree in a wrap

I took the 7.12 train into Euston today wearing tights and a business suit. I thought I would feel like the old me, but I didn’t.

I felt hot, but seasoned with plenty of protective products. My face didn’t sting in the heat in the way it used to because maybe I am less sensitive, but I did feel the pangs because I had left whilst my tot was asleep. This was a first for us. I fully anticipated that when I settled into that train, I would make no eye contact with my fellow passengers and as I looked around I wondered how proud, fulfilled, happy or self-assured these folk were.  The pretty lady with gorgeous nail colour; did she look happy?  That loud, on-an-important-call banker, every line he spoke sounded like a routine verse etched into my memory from my own experience. ‘Let’s touch base, see where we are at, I mean it is what it is, look I’m going to be honest… great to engage with you Kate’.  Was Kate rolling her eyes as I was? My mind whizzed with upbeat and self-coaching quotes about success and failure both being fleeting sensations. My emailed pinged with disappointment and polite bluntness. My physiology didn’t react, today.

Do you know what though? I spoke (not on any social media, I looked up long enough to really talk) to a friend (and ex-colleague) who told reminded me that even though it has been a few years, I would surprise myself today. I listened, but didn’t really accept it. She kept telling me that what I have learned is ingrained, inbuilt, unspoken, invaluable, and great. It hasn’t left me; it is just that I left myself. I now had to summon the confidence to do myself justice.

So, in my business suit, hairspray and make-up I made mildly inappropriate jokes, learned about people; their interests, direction, loves and losses. I read, I ate plentifully and I talked and gesticulated whilst doing so, in a natural accent and walking up and down, bouncing on a heel at times. I saw two men in the audience smile and raise eyes at each other approvingly and I knew. Do you know what? My friend was right. It was all there, it is all there. After three years there has been a turnaround in my own thinking. Three years. Three years of doubt, three whole years of submerged confidence. My friend was right, I am better than.

Here is what I ate afterwards. Crisp courgette bhaji (Indian spiced, gram flour coated courgette fritters) give way to juiciness and they are enveloped in a dill and ricotta soaked pea puree. fresh pea shoots add crisp freshness. I have used red oxtail as I was lucky enough to be given some from the London produce show. I felt comforted, cajoled, soothed and utterly satieted. Perfect for National vegetarian week, for picnics, for eating in the garden or eating out and about, on-the-go.

Courgette bhaji with a spiced pea, ricotta and dill puree in a wrap

Makes approximately 6-8 wraps

Ingredients

Oil for deep frying

100g watercress or pea shoots

6-8 plain flour tortilla

For the batter

140g gram flour

200ml water

One large courgette, thinly sliced into 1-2cm rounds

1 tsp. minced ginger

1 tsp. amchur powder (dried mango powder) or the juice of half a lemon

Salt to taste

½ tsp. chilli powder

For the pea, ricotta and dill puree

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

3 spring onions, finely chopped

1 tsp. cumin seeds

3 tbsp. freshly chopped dill

125g ricotta cheese

350g frozen peas, defrosted

Salt to taste

1 tsp. coriander powder

Method

  1. Heat the oil for deep frying.
  2. Prepare the batter by combining all of the ingredients and beat it to a smooth (not lumpy) consistency.
  3. Dip the courgette slices into the batter and quickly lay them into the oil to fry. Allow them to catch a golden colour before removing them onto kitchen paper.
  4. Heat the cooking oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, allowing them to sizzle before stirring in the spring onions. Sauté with the salt and then add the peas, ricotta cheese, chilli and coriander powder and then once it has simmered for 4-5 minutes on a low flame, blitz It to a chunky puree.
  5. Simply assemble the wraps with a couple of tablespoons of pea puree, watercress and courgette bhaji.

 

 

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.

 

 

He asked for jacket potato and beans-so I gave him black beans, smoked Aubergine, pineapple and feta on a jacket

30 Nov

sJacket potato with black beans, smokey Aubergine, pineapple and feta

I asked my husband what he wanted for dinner the other day and he said jacket potato with cheese and beans. Now, call me a food snob if you like but I don’t like the tomato sauce in the tins of baked beans. I know, I know, lots of people say that with a bit of chilli sauce or pepper they’re great with lovely melting cheese. I’m just not very keen on them and it seems like my little one isn’t either. He will eat black beans or kidney beans in a curry, but he won’t eat baked beans.

But who can blame the man for wanting a steaming hot jacket potato with a crisp and crunchy skin, fluffy clouds of soothing spud on the inside with oozy and juicy fillings? Is there anyone out there that isn’t drooling at the thought?

I know they are convenient and have some nutritional benefits, but no. I just can’t. So, following twitter conversations with Monica Shaw and Nazima Pathan I thought of a very gorgeous, balanced and flavour packed alternative. My jacket spud filling is far from boring or ordinary. It is deep with black beans, smoky with roasted Aubergine and smoked paprika, sweet with pineapple and has a kick of chilli and a tang from rice wine vinegar…lets not forget the Thai basil or salty feta on top. It’s a sigh-worthy comfort meal.

Ingredients to serve 3-4

4 medium baking potatoes
One tin of black beans
3 large tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
3 medium aubergines
150g ripe pineapple
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp minced Thai basil
1.5tbsp rice wine vinegar
1-2 red chillies, minced
2tbsp cooking oil
Feta for crumbling on top
Salt to taste.

Method
1. Wash the potatoes and dry them thoroughly with a cloth. Leave them to dry completely before drizzling them with olive oil and baking them in an oven at 180 degrees for 1.5hours. Ovens vary of course.
2. Wash and dry the aubergines and cover them in oil. Roast them until they shrivel and can be pierced all the way through. It should take 30-40minutes. Remove the Aubergine and leave them to cool. Once cool, remove the skin from the aubergines and mash the pulp to a soother consistency.
3. Skin the tomatoes by immersing them in boiling water until the skins start to split. Wash them in cold water before whipping the skin off. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and leave them to a side.
4. Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic, chilli and paprika and sauté for a minute. Then add the tomatoes, aubergine, pineapple and salt.
5. Stir in the Thai basil, rice wine vinegar and mix it all through. Cook on a low to medium flame for 8-10 minutes.
6. Once the potatoes are cooked, slit them open and top with the bean Michael and crumble feta on top.

For more comfort food recipes, check out my;

Kale, banana and red onion pakora

Asian style sweetcorn soup with chilli, cumin and coriander rice flour dumplings

Easy entertaining portobello mushrooms stuffed with creamy, spiced smoky Aubergine pulp and Beetroot.

My food onesie; ‘samosa filling’ macaroni and cheese

You can follow me on Pinterest and Google+ now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients to serve 2-3

For the vegetable balls

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

Ingredients for the butternut squash sauce

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

You’ll need about 150g of spaghetti

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

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

A Diwali breakfast of courgette and butternut squash savoury gram flour pancakes with a honey and mustard yoghurt dressing – recipes vegetarian

2 Nov

Start the day as you mean to go on.

A Diwali breakfast of courgette and butternut squash gram flour pancakes with a honey and mustard yoghurt dressing

So, I start my day as I mean to go on and a savoury Diwali breakfast is more important that the day before. The whole of the festive period is spent eating. Mithai (indian sweets) , fried samosa, sweet dumplings in a crispy flour case, or pakora or crunchy rice and lentil wheels. So then, it doesn’t make sense to have cereal or toast for breakfast, does it. Have something special and utterly full of flavour  and filling for breakfast on Diwali, of course it should be spicy.I started to think about things that I was grateful for. My good health, my loving family, I’m reasonably smart, I have talents. There were lots of good things that I had seen, experienced and achieved in my life and for that I was grateful. Now, when I wake up and I’m confused about my thoughts…I bring myself to the here and now and think of good things.

Now I’m not a huge fan of butternut squash. I’m not keen on very sweet vegetables. But in this dish it adds moisture and a little sweetness without it being overwhelming. Don’t worry if the pancakes feel very moist inside when to first bite them; that’s all part of the charm. They’re spicy, they’re fluffy, they are moist, deep and lasting. Go on…

If Diwali makes you happy, if talking, smiling, eating, being around loved ones makes you happy…the keep doing it.

Ingredients

For the pancakes

100g grated butternut squash
75g grated courgette
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
salt to taste
2 tsp baking powder
One green chilli, chopped finely
One small red onion, finely diced
100g gram flour
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
200ml water
3-4 tbsp oil for frying

For the dressing

1 tbsp sesame oil
5 curry leaves
One tsp minced ginger
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
250g whipped Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp honey
1 green chilli

Method.

1. To make the dressing, heat the oil in a non-stick pan and cook the curry leaves and mustard seeds for 1 min. Stir in the chilli, turmeric and ginger, then cook on a low heat for 2-3 mins. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely. Stir the cooled spice mix into the whipped yogurt along with the honey, then chill until you are ready to serve the meal. Can be made a day ahead.
2. To make the pancakes, combine the courgette, butternut squash, ginger, garlic, chilli, salt and spices together with onion and mix well. Add the gram flour and mix thoroughly before adding the water and combine until the gram flour lumps are removed.
3. On a non stick pan, heat 1-2 tsp oil and add 1/3 cup per pancake and fry until golden brown and then flip it over and repeat.

Serve hot and fresh.

I am joining in with Credit Crunch Munch, hosted this month at Dinner With Crayons  thanks to Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food 4 All

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A scoop of Diwali – pineapple, cinnamon and red chilli frozen yoghurt

31 Oct
pineapple, cinnamon and red chilli frozen yoghurt

pineapple, cinnamon and red chilli frozen yoghurt

 

It’s Diwali. Flickering, gentle lights and decorated candles, bright colours and brighter smiles. Plentiful food and swelling cheer and seeing cute little kids over excited about fireworks and men displaying firework related bravado. Excitable aunties make a big deal of cleaning and men semi-snooze away. There’s always way too much sugar on display.

Impractical heels and frozen toes, pretty sari’s but now trending to flowing indian dresses. Visiting home to home of various relatives and receiving hugs and sweets. Everyone talks in raised sing-song tones, there’s something special in the air. And what about all those Diwali functions…dinner and dances and the parties? Are you going to any of those?

What’s my favourite thing about Diwali? I love that people are, even for just a couple of days, in really good spirits and that they are nice to each other. They take the time and effort to give good wishes and say positive and warm things. I also love that I get to see family members whom I don’t see on a regular basis. I love standing in a bustling and cold street filled with Asian shops and restaurants and eating steaming hot samosa or chilli chips with my friends and family. I love impromptu meals out and huge frothy ice cream milkshakes.

Although the open door policy does have its downfalls. When I was a kid one of our neighbours had become mentally very unstable. On Diwali day, our front door was flung open as aunts and uncles came in and out. I walked into the living room to find her just sitting there. She told my mum, utterly calmly that be had come to stay the night and would like her to vacate her bedroom.

Diwali is a real feast of the senses. The iced cold weather and then warming up with spices and central heating. The colours the charm, the music…and that’s what I have tried to capture in my recipe today. The icy yoghurt has a lightly sour tang, because its yoghurt. It’s sweet with pineapple and sweetener. The chilli adds a perplexing heat and I’ve added a touch of cinnamon, so the fragrance is festively sweet. Give it a go, it’s an impressive Diwali treat.

Ingredients

One medium pineapple, peeled and cut into chunks
5-6 tbsp caster sugar
3-4 tbsp agave nectar
One red chilli, finely diced or minced
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
700ml plain natural yoghurt
300ml whole milk
2 tsp lemon juice

Method

1. Put the pineapple, chilli and sugar with the cinnamon into a non stick pan and heat on a medium flame until its pulpy. Turn it off the heat and blitz it to a grainy texture in a food processor until its cool.
2. Whisk the yoghurt, lemon juice and milk until its smooth, then add the pineapple mixture. Turn it into an ice cream maker and churn it until it looks creamy and smooth. Either serve the frozen yoghurt immediately or freeze it for later
3. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, freeze the yoghurt mixture for a couple of hours, then whisk it to break up the crystals. Do this every 2-3 hours until its frozen.

I am entering this into Made With Love Mondays hosted by Javelin Warrior

 

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