Tag Archives: spices

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

Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

8 Apr

Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

I have never been one for going on a ‘diet’ or consuming trendy foods just because. I have always eaten what I wanted to yet in moderation, most of the time. I’ve always looked in the mirror and seen room for improvement, but I like bread, cheese and steaming hot pakora. But.

Just before I got married, during the run-up I had decided that I wanted to look every bit the blooming bride. I was only 23 and I wanted pictures to look back on, proudly, of me looking my finest on a glorious day. I wanted no pleats of belly-fat as I sat on the throne-like chair bearing my midriff and neither did I want wobbly arms fanning the guests as I took my vows in the Hindu manner. I didn’t want those shadows around my nose to show and I certainly did not want to reveal stained teeth. There needed to be classy cheek bones, not cute chubby cheeks.  I imagined gliding, slender and light whilst greeting and mingling with my guests. And so it started with eating lean salads at lunch time. I ruled out even miniature chocolates but at work, where celebratory birthday treats decorated communal cupboard tops daily, this was hard. When we were in our favourite Chinese restaurant we ordered stuff that wasn’t deep fried and a curry with salad instead of rice or noodles. I went to the gym every, single day.

I thought it was working. I was wearing white, sheer cotton tops and hot pants that summer.

But as I called my then fiancé into the room whilst trembling, I knew it had not worked. Every time I ran my hand through my hair a bunch fell out. It had worn out to a wispy and flyaway state. That’s what ‘dieting’ did.

After I had my boy I adhered to the dietary requirements stipulated by female elders and ancestors. I overdosed on fenugreek, millet flour, spinach, roasted aubergines and mung beans. I ruled out cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, spice, potatoes and many other items that lend to a balanced diet. I was borderline diabetic but consumed ghee, jaggery and nuts in the name of natural healing. And I do think that they are useful and nutritious, when they complement a balanced diet.

Again, the horror of losing fistfuls of hair in the bath was upon me. I wore a headband to disguise the thinning, especially around the temples. I was fearful of washing my hair but the greasy look didn’t do me any favours. I felt sluggish, heavy and I just wanted my hair back.

My recipe today offers carbohydrates and cheese and plenty of taste. Let us embrace them with our taste buds, hearts and tummies. I have used Chinese 5-spice in the stuffing and I know it does sound unusual, but really, truly. It’s good. I could the stuffing on its own as a salad, in fact…

Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping

Ingredients to serve 4

A pack of cannelloni tubes

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

3 red bell peppers

2 cloves of garlic, minced

Chilli flakes to taste

250ml water

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 large leeks cut into bite sized pieces

200g feta cheese

3 medium potatoes, cubed

1 ½ tbsp. soy sauce

3 tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Method

  1. Wash, cut and drizzle the peppers with oil and roast them until they brown lightly
  2. Head the vegetable oil in a pan and the cumin seeds and once they sizzle, stir in the garlic and sauté for a minute before pouring in the tomatoes and the roasted peppers. Sprinkle in the chilli and water and then cook for 5 minutes before blitzing it smooth.
  3. Boil the potatoes for 4-5 minutes and then drain then and allow them to cook
  4. Heat the sesame oil in a deep dish and then add the leeks and then once they start to soften, sprinkle in the Chinese 5 spice and soy sauce and then cook them for 4-5 minutes on a medium flame.
  5. Stir in the potatoes and then crumble in the feta and then remove the mixture from the heat. Chinese 5-spiced Potato, Leek and Feta cannelloni with a panko topping
  6. Pour some of the sauce into a deep dish, then turn your attention to stuffing the cannelloni evenly and then place each tube into the sauce. The sauce should almost cover the cannelloni tubes.
  7. Once the tubes are stuffed, sprinkle the top of the dish with panko breadcrumbs and then bake the cannelloni in the oven at 180 degrees until the topping is golden brown and the tubes can be pierced all the way through.

Cauliflower & Halloumi in tomatoes, fennel stock and saffron

13 Feb

 Cauliflower and halloumi in tomatoes, fennel stock and saffron by Deena Kakaya

De-waste of time stuff

I took a walk with the boy the other day, before the storms.  I was a bit bleary eyed and I can blame only late nights and very good apple and pecan bread, oh and the cinnamon and raisin loaf.  We stopped to look at the blooming snowdrops and daffodils and I smiled that spring is almost here.   Lines of them fluttered for us and we had a little chat about the colour and how they need water and light to grow. My boy asked me, ‘like mumma and me’. I chuckled and said sort of, yes and that people need love and food too. Some groups of pre-teens walked past, in categories of pretty and flamboyant, comical and loud, and simply cheeky.  I, now feeling category-less, tried to reflect on what groupings I had grown through and what sort of company had influenced me, then decided that this was a pointless activity but you do become like the people you surround yourself with. We then stopped in the supermarket and a tot wanted to engage with me, I asked his mother how old he was, but she was tapping away at her phone and didn’t answer.  My phone buzzed away with messages about things that could have been more positive. My heart sank a few notches and I wondered why .

We talk about de-cluttering and detoxing in our family, quite a bit.  Clear the things or undertakings that are draining distractions or energy suckers. For example; omitting energy-draining foods, clearing unwanted magazines, removing damaged toys, halting diverting activities like too much time on Facebook that waste precious time, deleting fuzzy pictures on the laptop, giving away unused Christmas bits and bobs…and closing our eyes to the people that want to walk in our minds with their dirty feet.

I drank a lot of dill water when I was nursing.  I can’t admit to ever liking it but as a first time mother my protective maternal instinct was at lioness levels and I knew that the dill water helped to stimulate precious milk production and would help keep my new-born baby’s tummy clear and wind-free. That’s what inspired my recipe but do believe that this recipe is boring. Oh no.

What excites me about this recipe is that both cauliflower and Halloumi absorb flavours superbly. They are mellow in themselves and the cauliflower is a giver and receiver of flavour. The Halloumi softens politely and accepts the juices of this dish graciously. No longer chewy, the cheese becomes pleasurably oozy. The fennel stock is distinctly there, but not loudly. The saffron is absolutely showy in the colour and the delicate flavour, but not overpoweringly. The thyme, the lemon, the onion… all accents this dish subtly. There is nothing overwhelming about this recipe. But it is heart-warming. Do it.

Cauliflower and halloumi in tomatoes, fennel stock and saffron by Deena Kakaya

Ingredients to serve 4-6

One medium head of cauliflower, separated into large florets

One medium onion, sliced

1 ½ tbsp. fennel seeds

500ml boiling hot water

One can of chopped tomatoes

200g Halloumi cheese cut into thick fingers

A few springs of thyme

Half a lemon

A good pinch of saffron

Salt to taste

2 tbsp. mustard oil

Method

  1. Put the fennel seeds into a jug and pour in the boiling water. Let it settle for an hour or so and when the stock looks like its infused with the seeds, begin cooking.
  2. In a deep pan heat the oil and add the onion with the salt and sauté for a minute. Add the cauliflower and Halloumi and coat them well with the oil. Allow them to catch a light golden colour, before pouring in the chopped tomatoes and mix it well. Pour in the fennel stock, but not the seeds. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
  3. Add 1 tsp. of the fennel seeds and a good pinch of saffron and let them fuse with the stock.
  4. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add a few (4 or so) springs of thyme and simmer until the cauliflower is cooked.

 

Serve with pasta or rice or mop it up with bread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indo-Thai Cassava, mango and broccoli curry

20 Jan

Indo-Thai cassava, mango and broccoli curry
Finding strength

I don’t have many memories with my maternal grandmother because she lives in a different country, but the memories that I do have, affected me profoundly. The stories that my grandmother shared with me showed me how a woman can. A woman can grow from a cushioned girl to a lady who can walk gracefully among thorns so quickly, that tears don’t have time. These women are my very own mother and grandmother.

My grandmother told me about the comfort she lived in during her life in Uganda. She wore jewellery, was pretty and had long tresses which she put fresh flowers in. She had the support of hired help who worked with them and shared the busy tasks of looking after three little ladies; my mother and her three sisters.
As a child I found it strange for her to draw on memories of having a large dining table, big fridges containing bounties of sugary drinks and not having to go to work. She talked about the lovely fresh fruits, cassava curry and crickets singing them to sleep.

They were expelled from their homeland and my apparently stern and stubborn great-grandmother chose to go to India, because it would be too cold in England. My grandmother told me stories of flushing money down the toilet in case the army would find them and covering her daughters under blankets in a jeep, just in case the army would steal them. I wonder if they knew that they were actually going to a life much more humble and restricted by a small income, far smaller than what they had known.

I only ever saw my grandmother’s Indian home, the one bedroom, basic residence. She cooked on the floor and I saw mice run around the courtyard once or twice. She made the best khichdi ever and I loved scooping it up with spring onions. Her room was grey, two small beds and you could see the kitchen from the beds. The front door no longer lead out to leafy green fruit trees, but a dusty side street filled with children playing and the occasional vegetable seller.

My grandfather died soon after arriving in India, when my mum was a teen. They say that depression due to the transition massively affected him. My grandmother raised her three daughters and married them all off to suitors in the UK, so that they could have better lives, like the life she had before being expelled from Uganda.
My mother was the first one, married at 19. She counts her blessings that she met a person that loves her and her every smile, every day.

So, when I dwell upon my own transitions in life, from an academic, focused ambitious and day dreaming achiever, to a corporate career-focused and travelling young achiever, to lost and smiling mum. How can I not find strength from thinking about the women in my life who so gracefully took responsibility of the changes in their life and simply made it better.

I can never eat cassava without thinking of my mothers childhood, my grandmother’s struggles. My recipe is thick, steaming and nutty like there’s would have been, full of comfort and colour. The difference is that my recipe includes some of my heritage, well some that I learned from my beloved london, a Thai influence. I’ve used galangal, palm sugar, soy sauce, tamarind, mango, and coconut. On the other hand, I’ve used cloves, cardamon, broccoli and tomatoes. It works so well, I felt flutters of excitement when I tasted it. Join in.

Ingredients

600g frozen cassava chops
Half tin of chopped tomatoes
4 green cardamon pods
3 cloves
A stick of cinnamon
3 green chillies, finely chopped
100g coarsely ground toasted peanuts.
150g mango chunks, (from a firm mango)
150g broccoli florets
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp minced galangal
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp mace
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp tamarind juice
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
1200 millilitres of water
3/4 cup of desiccated coconut

Method
1. Boil the cassava chips in plenty of hot water until they are tender, but not mushy. When they are cooked, drain the water and cut the cassava into one inch pieces.
2. In a deep pan heat the vegetable oil and then add the cumin, coriander, Turmeric, chilies, cloves, cardamon, cinnamon. Allow the seeds to sizzle before adding the onion, mace and nutmeg with the salt. Sauté the onion for a couple of minutes before adding in the garlic and galangal. Sauté for another minute or two.
3. Add the tomatoes and stir well before adding the palm sugar, soy sauce, tamarind juice and ground peanuts. You’ll find it’s a thick and nutty mixture now that smells absolutely wonderful.
4. Introduce the cassava, desiccated coconut, mango chunks and water and then simmer the curry for ten minutes.
5. Stir in the broccoli and simmer for a further 5 minutes.

Serve hot, I ate it just as it is.

Christmas food gifts-plantain chips, cashews & dried cranberries in coconut, chilli and cinnamon

13 Nov

 

 

Christmas food gifts-plantain chips, cashews & dried cranberries in coconut, chilli and cinnamon

Christmas food gifts-plantain chips, cashews & dried cranberries in coconut, chilli and cinnamon

My lovely neighbour gave me a bag full of plantain today; fresh and green. I racked my brain for ways to use it. I thought of the spiced plantain mash I had at ‘mama’s roadside kitchen’ in st.Lucia or the indian curry my mum would make when we were kids, using her experience of living in Uganda as a child. I asked my friends on twitter and they suggested cake. I didn’t fancy any of these lovely recipes today, for some reason.

In the morning, by boy and I went shopping for women’s undergarments. My normally chatty and excitable child completely freaked out and sobbed loudly in the fitting cubicle and insisted, ‘put a jumper and jacket on mumma, put the clothes on mumma’. He’s not yet two but here we go. So I took him for a walk and stopped at the dried fruits and nuts section which looked festive but blue. Why blue? Anyway, that’s when it struck me.

But I did have a brief period of confusion; which is a more festive nut…the cashew or almond? Cashews are more expensive. Does that make it more special? I do recall my mum sending food parcels of special stuff for my grandmother in India when friends or relatives visited. Mum sent cashews, always. She also sent saffron and chocolate. Now I think back, it’s such a lovely thing to do.

But then, almonds are pretty special also. When we were in st.Lucia we stayed between the majestic pitons, hidden away. We were staying at a resort where the beach sat in a calm little cove and one of the paths along the beach was layer in almond shells. I loves cracking them open to find smooth almonds. It’s lovely that nature can create such a perfect little nut.

I’m actually rather excited about this simple yet addictive recipe. It’s really good. This tropical looking mix is crunchy, sweet, aromatic and there’s a lovely hint of chilli right at the end. It’s delightful. I’ve used agave nectar to sweeten the mix so, healthier than loads of sugar. You have to try it.

Ingredients for two gift containers

One large green plantain
4 tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp chilli flakes
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3-4 tbsp desiccated coconut
A generous handful of dried cranberries
200g cashew nuts
Oil for frying plantain chips

1 . Heat the oil in a deep pan and in the meantime, take the green skin off the plantain and cut the plantain into 1 cm thick circles with a knife of mandolin.
2. Fry the chips until they are crisp and deepened in colour. You will feel that they are tougher and crisp when you move them with a slotted spoon.
3. Remove the chips onto a kitchen paper and leave them to cool.
4. In a non stick pan, toast the cashew nuts until they are lightly golden before adding the cinnamon and the plantain chips. Mix well.
5. Stir in the chilli flakes, mix again. Then add the agave nectar and the desiccated coconut. Thoroughly mix it all together to make sure the spices and coconut are evenly distributed.
6. Toss in the dried cranberries and mix again.

Allow the mixture to cool completely before packaging it.

This has also been entered into Feel Good Food Challenge hosted by Jibberjabberuk and Victoria at A Kick At The Pantry Door

 

This week I would like to link this to Mark of Javelin Warrior’s Cookin’ W/ Luv Made With Love Mondays,

Homemade chilli oil with an Indian accent

23 Oct

IMG_3928

When we go to our favourite Chinese restaurant the first (of many) things we over eat on is vegetarian crackers with loads of chilli oil. Our tummies flare away after a few mouthfuls as do our tongues, but we keep going. We always joke that our Indian heritage is revealing itself here; not everyone hoovers up chilli in this way, surely?

My love for chilies isn’t just based on the heat. The flavour of chilies is something else. Sometimes sweet, sometimes smokey, sometimes tangy. I love the way they get into the nose and cheeks as soon as a they’re bitten.

I’m sure every Asian person has an aunt that carries chilli sauce in their handbag, I know I have a couple at least! In my last corporate role the IT department was filled with people from Calcutta and Bangalore. They and I would queue for the microwaves in the canteen and they would heat up their stacks of Chappati, curry and rice separately whilst I would be tapping my single tub of daal and rice with forced patience and a smile masking my hunger and nervousness about making that meeting.

Anyway, those of the IT people that didn’t bring a packed lunch feast would buy something like chips and guess what they would pull out?

It’s engrained. On pizza, on cheese on toast, on chips, on jacket potatoes…chilli. So I thought, why not? Why don’t I make a chilli oil with an Indian accent, like my ex colleagues from Bangalore and my auntie and my mummy.

Do you know how easy it is to make chilli oil? I wasn’t even sure it warranted a recipe or a post on my site until I spoke to a few of my friends and they said they loved the stuff and asked me about the best place to buy it. So here we are.

These pretty little jars make excellent Christmas gifts that are handmade and special. My husband is away this week on business and I’ve been handing these little jars out to my friends and family who have come to keep me company and they’ve gone down beautifully.

I have used sesame oil and olive oil in my recipe because sesame oil makes the whole mix gorgeously nutty. I’ve used lots of whole spices that are used in garam masala and they all add aroma and gentle heat with some sweetness. Cinnamon and star anise smell sweet and floral respectively. All you need to do is heat it up to aid the infusion, but don’t burn the chilies by boiling the oil. Just be gentle. Remember that the infusion gets stronger over weeks. I would shake the oil once a week and keep it in a cool and dry place. Let me know what you think of this one!

Ingredients

225ml sesame oil
225ml olive oil
20g dried flaked chilies
5-7 whole dried chilies
3 medium sized sticks of cinnamon
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 star anise
5-6 cloves

Method

1. Sterilise the jars and dry them thoroughly.
2. Pour the oil into a deep bottomed non-stick pan and add the chilies and whole spices.
3. Heat the oil until you see gentle bubbles and turn down the heat. Don’t boil the oil or burn the chilies.IMG_3925
4. Keep the oil on the flame for 4-5 minutes to add the infusion, but on a low flame.
5. Let the chili oil cool and then pour the oil into the jars, try to distribute the while spices evenly.

Store the jars in a cook dry place and shake them once a week.

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!

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.

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. 

Vegetarian Indian Meal Ideas For Students

13 Jul

Cooking may be the last thing on many (uni) students’ minds.  The fresher’s culture in particular provides ample persuasion in the form of £1 drinks, 7-stop bar crawls, clubbing, house parties and of course sleeping all of that off, in preference of freshly cooked food.  It probably doesn’t help that campus supermarkets are often expensive and probably not the best stocked (least so for Indian groceries).  Some students may just not know how to cook.

There are so many reasons why cooking vegetarian Indian food at home is the way forwards

• You may find yourself homesick.  Although you may have been bursting to get away from home, being at home does have its virtues; at least you get a good home cooked meal.

• If you live of junk food, you will gain weight!

• You may find the vegetarian options limiting, depending on where you have gone to university or you may simply yearn for Indian food which is perhaps harder to source, depending on where you are.

• A diet that’s poor in nutritional value will leave you feeling tired and lacking lustre, you may find it hard to stay awake and concentrate in those lectures.  Then of course there are the spots and greasy hair that may come as a result of a bad diet

• Cooking vegetarian Indian food in your student home will be a great way to impress people and make friends.  The very first meal I cooked for my now husband was when I was a fresher; channa masala (and I used tinned chickpeas).

Here I give you 12 delectable, really easy and speedy recipe ideas for vegetarian Indian dishes.  Whether you are a student or a concerned parent, these ideas are real winners.  I will also give you an idea of the basic spices to keep in the cupboard (don’t worry; they have quite a long shelf life!)

 

Curry out of a can

Tinned Legumes and pulses can be stored in the cupboard and it’s really easy to whip up a curry with them.  Try Butterbeans ; fry off onions , garlic, cumin, and a sprig of curry leaves in a couple of tablespoons of oil, add turmeric and salt, add chilli powder, turmeric, coriander and cumin powder, ½ tsp garam masala and half a can of coconut milk.  Then grate in 10g of ginger.  Mop it up with some bread…its heart-warming.

Sweet corn curry is a popular favourite.  Using the same spices as the butterbean curry, but this time, minus the coconut milk and add a couple of dark red chopped tomatoes and a handful of ground nuts to the mix.  It’s very Moorish.  You can create more or less gravy simply by adding water.  I like it quite dry with some yogurt.

Chickpea curry is a classic.  I like to add a few twists to it, like spinach wilted in at just before I take it off the heat, or maybe some shallow fried tofu, or soya mince.  I like to add a couple of teaspoons of dried fenugreek leave to chickpea curries; some people recognise this as a general curry aroma.  If you want to avoid any of the spice-adding decisions, you can buy channa masala spices in a box from Indian grocers.

Fresh quickie Curries

Yes, fresh Indian ingredients can be hard to source, but that doesn’t mean to say we can’t use widely available vegetables to make a curry.  Here is a great one for detox; spinach, dill and fenugreek curry.  It’s so aromatic and easy on the tummy.  It contains Iron and fibre. All you do is chop then up, fry off a large onion and couple of spring onions in cumin, mustard seeds and a little garlic and then and all of your ingredients with a couple of chopped tomatoes.   Spice with coriander powder, cumin powder, chilli powder and turmeric.  Cook in on a low flame for about 15mins and then sprinkle ½ tsp of garam masala at the end.

Here is another cheat, inspired by a traditional Gujarati recipe.  Potato curry in thick, rich gravy.  Take a mixing bowl; add one can of chopped tomatoes, 70g of coarsely ground unsalted peanuts,  ½ cup of gram flour, then add ¼ tsp turmeric, salt and chilli powder to taste, 1 tsp each of coriander powder and cumin powder and ½ tsp of garam masala and 1 ½ tsp of dried fenugreek leaves.  The next bit is magic, all you do, is fry off an onion in some cumin and a sprig of curry leaves and then add a couple of cloves of garlic.  Then add about 700g of baby new potatoes and coat them in the oil.  Then add the mixture of tomatoes, gram, peanuts and spices.  Add water to cover, and cook until the potatoes can be pierced easily.

There are other simple ideas that can be made from readily available vegetables, such as cauliflower curry (don’t add any water), aubergine, cabbage (again, no water), or a simple avial which is made with julienned vegetables with desiccated coconut and curry leaves.  Although many recipes call for traditional vegetables like tindori, you can make this with carrots, courgettes, baby corn.

I love the versatility of aubergines.  I have three varieties in my fridge at the moment and I got them all from my local supermarket (not an Indian one!).  With the largest aubergine, I’m going to roast it, scoop out the flesh and mash it a little with a fork. I’m then going to fry off onions, garlic, green chillies and a then soften a couple of fresh tomatoes and add in just salt and turmeric and a squeeze of lemon.  With the Japanese style aubergines, I’m just going to make two slits opposite directions upwards from the base and then use the thick potato recipe with the aubergines, just with a nice helping of coriander.  With the baby aubergines, I am going to half and then roast them and then submerge them in spicy tomato gravy.

Using Pasta

Pasta is also really versatile and you can stock up on it. I’ve heard many people say that they could eat pasta every day of the week…but for that, you’d need lots of inspiration…including some Indian inspiration I reckon.

One of our family favourites is what I call ‘samosa filling pasta’.   A couple of medium potatoes chopped, ½  cup of peas, a small carrot, maybe ½ cup of sweet corn kernels and a very large onion make the basis of the mix, spiced in chilli powder, turmeric, curry leaves and cumin seeds and a squeeze of lemon.  Simply add in your pasta and there you have a meal for at least 2-3.  Sometimes, I add cheese on top, and funnily enough, it works.

You could try shallow frying some vegetables like ½ head of a small cauliflower, some sweet potato and a cup of peas and then adding a gram flour and yogurt mix (400g of yogurt and 2 tbsp of gram flour). Just add some curry powder and that’s how easy it is.

Indian Sandwich Ideas

One of my favourite sandwich recipes requires investing in some chat masala. It’s not hot, but it’s punchy and brings life to salads and sandwiches.  I really recommend a 3 layer sandwich.  Peel a potato and then slice it thickly.  Boil until cooked, drain and cool.  Then use ingredients like a little chilli sauce, cheese, cucumber, tomatoes.  If you have some coriander, grind together a couple of handfuls with a couple of chillies, a little lemon and salt and a tbsp of water.  Spread this on the bread…it’s amazing.  This sandwich throws my mind to the streets of Mumbai…anyway…Layer the vegetables on toasted bread, sprinkling chat masala gently.

I’d love to know how you get on with these user-friendly recipes.  I’d love to hear what you think.

Warmest wishes

Deena Kakaya

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