Tag Archives: spice

Christmas spring rolls made with paneer, butternut squash, puy lentils and beetroot

22 Nov

During Christmas my family and I eat throughout the day, you know to keep the energy up! There are no rules around the 5/7 a day or consideration of portion controls during the festive season and indulgence is high up on the agenda. The table is laid with abundance and variety and as we chat, chase children and chuckle we consume copious canapés like these pretty, seasonal and utterly Moorish spring rolls. They are filled with soft pillows of homemade paneer, sweet beetroot and butternut squash, nutty lentils and spice. The surprise ingredient is a hint of orange, because it’s Christmas.

Christmas spring rolls made with paneer, butternut squash, puy lentils and beetroot by Deena Kakaya

I made these spring rolls for demonstration at the Taste of London festival, at the tobacco docks.  I was on the busy and bustling a2Milk stand as part of the Great British Chefs team and wow, what an experience!  a2 Milk™, was used to make the paneer for this recipe. Regular cows’ milk contains A1 and A2 proteins and for some, the A1 protein causes side effects such as nausea, bloating and mucus build up. A2 carefully select dairy cows that naturally produce the A2 protein and not the A1 protein. If you have had trouble digesting regular milk, a2 Milk could be for you.

Makes approximately 24 spring rolls

Ingredients

For the paneer cheese (makes approximately 150g)

1 litre of full fat A2 milk

2-2 ½ tbsp. lemon juice

For the spring rolls

35og butternut squash (peeled) and cut into 2 cm cubes

70g puy lentils, cooked per packet instructions

130g cooked beetroot, cut into 2cm cubes

The zest of one medium orange

The juice of one orange

2 ½ tbsp. desiccated coconut

Finely chopped green chillies to your taste (I used 4)

5-6 curry leaves

2 tbsp. vegetable oil for the tempering

Vegetable oil for deep frying the spring rolls

½ tsp. ground turmeric

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Salt to taste

12 spring roll sheets

 

You will also need

Tightly woven fabric such as muslin or handkerchief material for making the paneer

Keep a finger bowl of water ready, this will be used when binding the spring rolls

Method

  1. Start by making the paneer. I would suggest making the paneer the night before you make the spring rolls, to allow the paneer enough time to set. It is important to use full fat milk, as any other milk will not contain enough fat. In a non-stick pan, heat the A2 milk until it starts to boil. Turn the milk down to a simmer and then add the lemon juice. You will see that the milk starts to curdle and large clumps that look like cottage cheese appear. Turn the heat off and allow the acidic reaction to fully separate the curds and whey; give it about ten minutes. In the meantime, line a colander with muslin in an empty sink. Pour the paneer cheese into the muslin and then tie the muslin and remove any excess liquid. You keep the whey and use it to thicken curry bases. Put some weight (like a saucepan) on the paneer and allow it to set. Once set, cut the paneer into 2-3cm cubes.
  2. Line a baking tray with baking paper and then coat the butternut squash with a light layer of oil. Roast the butternut squash at 190 degrees for approximately 30-40 minutes or until the squash is lightly crisp and soft enough to pierce.
  3. In a large bowl combine the (cooked) puy lentils, beetroot, orange zest, butternut squash, paneer (cut into 2cm cubes), orange juice, desiccated coconut, salt and toss all of the ingredients together.
  4. For the tempering, heat a non-stick pan and add the oil before introducing the cumin seeds, curry leaves, chillies and turmeric. Allow the seeds to sizzle and then add the tempering to the spring roll mixture and then toss to ensure even coverage.
  5. Cut the spring rolls in half to create two rectangles. Leaving approximately 3cm centimetres space at the bottom and sides, place a dessert spoonful of the filling towards the bottom. Fold the sides inwards, close the bottom panel and fold the spring tightly in a cigar shape. Seal the end panel with a little water.
  6. Allow the spring rolls time to settle and the let the sealed panel dry before frying the spring rolls in hot oil. Fry them until they are lightly brown and golden and then use a slotted spoon to remove them from the frying pan, placing them onto kitchen paper

 

Deena Kakaya at Taste of London Deena Making paneer

Creole spiced wild rice with carrots, edamame bean and tofu

18 Oct

One of the high-spirited (and what I call) ‘professional mums’ at my boy’s school exhales animated banter full of expletives and honesty in the mornings. I tell her that her dose of reality is like a second breakfast for me.  She comically exudes what most of us are thinking; the temper inducing traffic, the unpalatable lack of child-gratitude for what mum does, the fading of an identity of our own amongst school commitments, after school activities, cooking, driving etc., in-laws and the constant challenge of remaining healthy. Oh, it is all quite draining isn’t it?

creole spiced wild rice with carrots, edamame bean and tofu by Deena Kakaya

So I have made a few changes recently, some are embarrassingly simple but my goodness they have helped. In the mornings we sing rhymes together, the boy and I.  We sing them all through the traffic and when the car is still, I use my hands too- you know to count the ducks and to identify ‘peter pointer’. As we get closer to the school, we turn loudly into Bollywood pop music and we belt out a few tunes and park up in thumping and throbbing car. Maybe I shouldn’t but out bounds a dancing toddler who then wants to run with his friends. It’s better than having to cajole him and then peel him off my body at the entrance isn’t it?

When I am cooking the lunch and dinner at 7am each morning and finishing off the cooking at 5pm, it is usually to the tune of ‘muuuum, muuum, mumma, I need to ask you a question’. Or ‘mum, can you play with me’. ‘Mumma come and have a look at this, mum, pleeeeaase, I said please so I’m a good boy, please can you do it now’.  I really don’t like to tell him off for just wanting my time, so this week, the music went on. The floor piano has been rolled out onto the kitchen floor and equipped with instruments we have a little band playing whilst fresh chappati disco into the plate.

At bedtime I don’t like the silence. Especially when I am on my own. Usually the TV goes on and I fall asleep to some mindless soap starring beautiful actresses with questionable acting performances but the TV flickers on and I’m not sure how relaxing this is for my mind. My glasses stay on too, and these days my husband hasn’t been around to gently remove them. This week I took my glasses off, kept the lamp on and let Ravi Shankar’s music ease me into sleep.

The simple things. The healthy ways. The generous ways. The nourishing things. The happy things. The beautiful ways the smiling things. The spicy and colourful things like this vegetarian stir fry of wild rice, carrot and edamame beans.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

1 ½ cups of wild rice

3 large carrots, julienned

1 ½ cups of edamame beans

5-6 tsp. of creole spice mix (see below)

3-4 spring onions, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, sliced

The juice of one lime

200g of firm tofu, cut into bite sized pieces

2 tbsp. sesame seeds

2 tbsp. sesame oil

Salt to taste

 

For the creole spice mix;

1 tbsp. smoked paprika

2 tbsp. paprika

1 tbsp. hot paprika

1 tbsp. dried oregano

½ tbsp. dried thyme

1 tbsp. garlic powder

1 tbsp. onion powder

1 tsp. ground pepper

Combine all of these ingredients together.

 

Method

  1. Wash and then boil the rice for approximately 15 mins before rinsing well and removing the water.
  2. In a non- tick pan heat a couple of tbsp. of vegetable oil and cook the tofu until it is crisp and lightly browned.
  3. Heat the oil in a deep pan heat the sesame oil and add the sesame seeds, onion and garlic and sauté for a minute before adding the carrots.
  4. Sprinkle in the creole spice mix and lime juice before adding the tofu and the wild rice.
  5. Boil the edamame beans for 2-3 minutes and then drain them and add them to the stir fry.

I served this dish with hot and crisp Gyoza, with lots of chatter with my pal who visited this week.

 

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine and spinach

13 May

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine and spinach

 

Baharat roasted potatoes with aubergine spinach

The lines between ‘going back’ and going on holiday have blurred now, after this many visits to the UAE.  My three year old has made three trips out there and now has a collection of memories and a definite sense of identification with some of our regular haunts.  Neither me nor my husband are from the UAE or have family there but to be honest almost all of the people I talk to in Dubai are ex-pats.

Whilst in Oman, Muscat I reminisced about our honeymoon in Thailand because the mountainous back group and still waters evoked those entire serene and tranquil honeymoon images in my mind. Except this time, the people we made passing conversation with were a whole world away. We met an Australian family in the kid’s club and I remarked to my husband that it was they, not a nanny with their two young daughters. Most of the other children in the kids club were accompanied by a nanny that had joined their family to the resort. Australian dad now worked in Qatar and Australian mum was fond of truffles. She emphatically told me about the school her daughters attended and how her children didn’t see race or colour because their friends were of all origins; Indian, French, Japanese. She told me several times over, which I found curious.

People like to guess where you are from when on holiday don’t they? Most of the time people assume that I am from Arabic origin, in fact this happened to me at college and university too but it’s only in the UAE that people never assume that. The entertainer in the kids club remarked on my Indian eyes and English accent and asked if I was a full time mum, for again, I was the only mum in attendance there. An Indian (as in, from India) dad dropped his two smartly dressed children who were also decorated in 24ct gold jewellery, with entertaining lady and after he left she told me that he holds a very high position in the hotel and has since moved to LA to head up operations there. She herself is from a family of 7 sisters and 1 brother in the Philippines.

My little boy likes trains, unsurprisingly and the ones in Dubai are much less congested so this made for fervent and endearing conversation. Indian chap quipped that he should be on YouTube, not the head of a leading bank like he was. My boy replied, ‘maybe when I am 17 I will.’

So, as we stood at the floor to wall screens leading into the aquarium, for shark and stingray viewing my boy patted the screen guardedly inviting the sometimes smiling and sometimes frowning creatures to swim past him. Whilst he pressed his forehead against the cold glass and chattered away about what the fish must be doing, thinking, eating and travelling from a very pink, vivacious blonde haired little girl grabbed the arm of ‘Shanti’ as she explained where she saw similar looking coral. Shanti had a really peaceful demeanour and very smooth and very dark skin on a red-green-gold simple sari so I wondered if she was from southern India. Blonde mummy tried to join in the conversation but those wide eyes were mirroring only Shanti’s imperturbable smile. I wondered if this is what happens if you get caught up in the mode of, ‘because I can have hired help I will’. Or was shanti a friend? Was she the nanny?

‘Come…’ called Shanti and held the little blond girl close as she scooped her up, posing and prompting the parents to take pictures. I don’t know if Shanti heard, but I certainly did when they said, ‘just get her in there on her own, and hold it, that’s it…’

I picked up some freshly ground Baharat spice mix at the same supermarket that I go to each time that I am in Dubai and I know there must be more authentic places but you know, it was there in a big and inviting mound of freshness. A Lebanese lady next to me told me that she uses it in rice dishes and I wondered which other medley of dishes I could use them because the key ingredients are; cardamom, cassia bark, cloves, coriander, nutmeg, all spice, peppercorns, chilies or paprika. For whatever reasons the smoky aubergine, crisp potato and smooth spinach all work with this spice for a healthy vegetarian meal. Although I picked the blend up from Dubai with lasting effect in the suitcase, the spice blend is available in UK supermarkets too.

Ingredients to serve two

3 medium potatoes suitable for roasting

1 tbsp. rapeseed oil

Two medium aubergines

One tin of chopped tomatoes

4 dessert spoons of finely chopped spinach

One large red chilli

Salt to taste

2 tsp. Za’atar spice

3 tsp.  Baharat spice

150g fresh mozzarella cheese

 

A handful of cherry or plum tomatoes, quartered

Method

  1. Cut the potatoes into even sized cubes and boil them for 7-8 minutes before draining them and letting them dry completely. Then toss them in salt and the oil before roasting them in the oven at 190 degrees for approximately 25 minutes.
  2. Roast the aubergines whole at 180 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until the inside is soft and then allow them to cool before scraping away the skins.
  3. Mix the tinned tomatoes with the chopped chilli, salt, pinch of pepper and spread them onto an oven proof dish.
  4. Combine the aubergine pulp with the Za’atar spice and a pinch of salt.
  5. Now layer on the spinach and the roasted aubergine on top of the tinned tomatoes.
  6. Once the potatoes have caught a golden colour, toss them in the Baharat spice mix before adding them on top of the spinach and aubergine.
  7. Tear the aubergine and add them to the top with the tomatoes before returning the tray to the oven for approximately ten minutes.

Stuffed Brussels sprouts curry

4 Dec

This is my dad’s recipe and it is unconventional in way, but then that’s normal isn’t it.

http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/community/stuffed-brussels-sprouts-curry-recipe by Deena Kakaya

I remember my ‘aunties’ (relatives and family friends and of my mum’s generation, not just actually related aunties) would vociferously express how lucky my mum was because my dad could, and would cook. The words were complimentary, the tone and body language almost mocking and most definitely harsh. In those days, it was just less common for men of my dad’s age to cook and if they did, it was pretty limited to a liberally spiced, hefty chicken dish perhaps because it was an adventure or because the wife was vegetarian.

My dad though, just cooked. He cooked Indo-Chinese food, samosa-mix lasagna, curry-pies and just curries. He cooked adventurous fusion curries and humble dhal and my mum’s favorite okra Kadhi, knowing her cravings without her saying. All the curious recipes came with lashings of passion and a sprinkle of smugness. Even the neighbour bellowed to my scurrying mum as she returned from work, ‘your husband has been cooking for you, you are so lucky’, but she would only lift the lid on the pans when my mum was there.

She is lucky isn’t she, my mum. She has a husband who is a team mate. Though I do think that in those days, the definition of being lucky might have been to swing on a garden hammock in the hot climates that her friends had married within and grown old and fat into, with a maid oiling her hair and another sweeping the floors. Perhaps an afternoon’s nap, as is the norm over there and a few kids running around. The sexism of those days was to see how lucky my smiling and hardworking mum was, but not to see the fact that she was also standing shoulder to shoulder with her husband. Unconventional at the time but now, in hindsight I see that even I was pretty lucky.

This is my dad’s vegetarian (and this is relevant) recipe for stuffed Brussels sprouts curry and it is pretty much one of the very few ways in which I will eat Brussels sprouts. The stuffing is easy to make and the only slightly fiddly bit is stuffing the sprouts but it is pretty quick to do. The little layers of the sprouts soak up the spices from the stuffing and the gravy and the gram flour in the stuffing makes the curry gravy thick and nutty. Just don’t overcook the sprouts and they are gorgeously giving.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs 

http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/community/stuffed-brussels-sprouts-curry-recipe by Deena Kakaya

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class with Natco Foods

28 Oct

Oh my goodness. I am still smiling; the busy London kitchen got hot and steamy. Puffs of clouds lifted and carries the aroma of spices. Banter and laughter mixed with the sounds of sizzling pakora, bubbling curries and tinkles of pots and pans. 

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking classes www.deenakakaya.com

A fabulous bunch of people joined us for a cookery class that fused the world together on one vegetarian plate. Each of the recipes was introduced by a demonstration and people worked together to cook up dishes like kale, red onion and banana pakora. We even made cashew cream in the class to use in a curry.

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class www.deenakakaya.com

Some people came in pairs and some came alone. Either way, as the exotic drinks flowed, the group bonded and friendships grew.

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking classes www.deenakakaya.com

We ate a lot too. Attendees ate their own cooking, they ate each other’s cooking and of course I had to taste-test too!

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking classes www.deenakakaya.com

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class www.deenakakaya.com

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class www.deenakakaya.com

This class was heaving with spice. We sniffed them, tasted them, broke them and ground them. We talked about the health impacts of each of the spices and I shared some personal experiences such as dill water to increase breast milk supply! On the less shocking side we talked about fennel and it helping to clear the tummy, cloves to soothe toothaches and turmeric to fight a cold. All of the spices were fresh and those who came along were able to take some gram flour or spices away with them thanks to our sponsors, Natco

Deena Kakaya vegetarian cooking class www.deenakakaya.com

My favorite bits of every class? Has to be the pride when attendees cook a dish that works, to their own surprise. I enjoy seeing people overcoming fears, such as frying. I delight in the camaraderie that spreads through the room and especially so when people walk out in groups exchanging contact details. I revel in the comments like, ‘I am definitely going to cook this at home’, ‘I am going to treat my friends to this recipe when I host the next dinner party’ and even, ‘I could use this method with other ingredients that I like’.

If you would like to join us for a, hands on, fun and valuable vegetarian cookery class in London then please look out for the next dates on the site or click here

You will walk away with recipes, containers full of food and some experience that you can use in different ways. I am really looking forward to seeing you at a future class. x

Book onto my next class by clicking here

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

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. 

%d bloggers like this: