Tag Archives: spinach

Spicy beetroot and spinach Puri (fried breads)

4 Jun

Spicy beetroot and spinach Puri (fried breads)

We spent the day chasing bubbles on a sort-of man-made ‘beach’, with friends and giggles today. My boy and his friend ran around in bare legs, shining under their sun cream before washing our efforts into lake. We made, and resurrected sandcastles and settled quarrels over which colour spade belonged to which toddler, before washing gritty eyes out in the public toilets. As ‘I want’ and ‘pleaaaseee’ echoed through my mind, I realised that I had learned to let go a little.

Spicy beetroot and spinach puri by Deena Kakaya

Spicy beetroot and spinach puri by Deena Kakaya

Yes, the route to the park was unfamiliar and I had two loud toddlers in the bank demanding attention, but I made it. The toilets wreaked but it was OK, we washed the eye out. There was sand all over the clothes, but they can be washed and he had no interests in snacks but he would be fine. It’s OK. My phone buzzed but I didn’t check it, they could wait and I realised that I had returned those work emails for three days for the world wouldn’t collapse. We couldn’t get the toddlers out of there, naturally and so, we had two hungry little people who were busting for a wee the entire journey to a family friendly restaurant that I would never would have dined at before my boy was born, a whole hour and fifteen minutes late for lunch. But they ate. They ate cheese and tomato puree on cooked dough, but they ate. So for today, it’s OK.

I am really looking forward to the summer, even though I have this one challenge. On a day out to the zoo, or park or beach we usually take a vegetarian picnic. But we can’t take sandwiches for my toddler. My life would be so much simpler if my boy would eat a sandwich. I lament over the time I would save if he would just eat a sandwich. On our day out to an activity farm park for example (after which I had needed a nap) we took thepla (fenugreek chapatti), so I had been up until 11pm after returning from work the previous night at 10pm. You see my point?

This time, I made puri (Indian fried breads). Who can resist a fluffy, crisp balloon like puri? Not even my fussy toddler. At first he came into the kitchen and inhaled deeply, ‘thank you for making me puri, you are the best’. But at first when he saw them he declared that they would be for girls because they are hot pink. It didn’t take much persuasion for him to dig in; delicately sweet, slightly sour and gently warm with garlic…this is not a usual puri recipe but it really will hit the spot.

Recipe to make approximately 15 puri

Ingredients

1½ cup chapatti flour

½ cup finely chopped spinach

75g cooked beetroot, pureed

3 cloves of garlic, minced

Salt to taste

2 tbsp. plain, natural yoghurt

1 ½ tbsp. vegetable oil for the dough

Oil for deep frying

½ tsp. turmeric

You will need a large slotted spoon suitable for using when frying and some kitchen paper

Method

  1. Heat the oil for deep frying
  2. To make the dough, start by making in the middle of the flour within a large bowl. Then, using your fingers, blend the oil into the dough to ensure even and fine blending.
  3. Now add the turmeric and salt, again ensuring that it is evenly distributed.
  4. Now introduce the yoghurt, beetroot puree and garlic, together with the spinach. Form dough that is spongy, not sticky. If you need more water add it very little by little and if your dough is sticky then add flour, again little by little.
  5. Divide the dough into 15 equal portions and roll them out to approximately a palm size.
  6. Check that the oil is hot by placing a small amount of dough into the oil and if it rises immediately and begins to sizzle then place a single puri into the oil and gentle dab it with the slotted spoon. It should rise into a ball. Turn the puri around and cook it until it catches a light golden colour before removing it onto kitchen paper.

 

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.

Pea, spinach and brown rice patties (vegan and oil free)

17 Jan

Are you doing the healthy eating thing this month?

People around me are having salads at lunch time and my friend last week even had hers without the dressing. I know.  On instagram, more people are asking me about ‘how to’ on roasting veg or other healthy vegetarian stuff, not tips on creamy curries or frying pakora.

I am off to a good start this year. No, I haven’t cut out bread, cakes, and biscuits or curry (as evidenced on my instagram profile). I am off to a good start because you know how I told you, that every year New Year’s Eve for the last four years I have been filled with dread?  I felt anxious as the year turned over that I had not done enough or not moved enough. I created, shaped and grew a larger monster of my normally hushed down feelings of confusion and mislaid bits of identity since my boy has been born and my redundancy. Am I still clever? Can I still be successful? Could I still earn what I used to?

Well, guess what? For the first time in four years, I didn’t feel it. I thought a little bit, my heart was still and my mind was sleepy. That my friends, is a healthy start to 2015. I have grown.

Pea, spinach and brown rice patties (vegan and oil free) by Deena Kakaya

So, with a healthier mind, I share with you green freshness and goodness. The pea, spinach and brown rice patties are oil free and vegan friendly. I am myself surprised that they have held so well and they are so moist on the inside. The oats and breadcrumb give a crisp exterior and even after freezing a batch and cooking them the other day, they are still moist inside. Even my two year old enjoyed them.

Pea, spinach and brown rice patties (vegan and oil free) by Deena Kakaya

Ingredients to make 12 patties

300g frozen peas, boiled for 3 minutes and then cooled

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1-2 green chillies

125g baby leaf spinach, shredded in a food processor

1 tsp. cumin powder

1 tsp. coriander powder

1 tsp. chaat masala

65g brown rice, cooked per packet instructions and then cooled

50g jumbo oats

80g breadcrumbs

  1. Combine the peas, garlic, spices and seasonings into the food processor and blitz them into a lightly lumpy paste. Then add the spinach and blitz again.
  2. Turn the pea paste into a large bowl and then add the oats, breadcrumbs and cooled, cooked brown rice and form it all into dough.
  3. Put the patty mix into the fridge for 15 minutes and then bring it out to form equal sized patties, placing them onto baking paper.
  4. Place the patties back into the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  5. Once the patties have set to a more firm shape, bake them in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until they are lightly golden on the outside.

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki

15 Oct

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki

I am doing it again but must nip it in the bud. I am once again the hamster (on a wheel), the rat (slowly racing) and the chicken (very much headless). I am not quite the dog (I don’t eat other dogs and not just because I am vegetarian.) I am most definitely, absolutely the owl (night is when I work, not sleep). That is not because I enjoy being up late but because I want to be productive in a work sense, and also want my child to have his mother raising him and whilst my panda eyes lose focus now and again, my heart is not.

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki by Deena Kakaya

This time in life, I am looking back at the smaller steps I have made, and they are steps forward. I have so far been so fixated with big milestones for the future that I have neglected to be grateful and recognise for the smaller steps that I have made. The little things have lifted me, given me hope, encouraged me, kept my days rolling, stopped me thinking of wasteful things, buffered my falls, given me reason to channel energies, re-instilled confidence for me, pushed me to change, made me more humble, made me more me. The small things, the smaller steps. When I thought of how I would feel should I no longer have the teeny sized fruits of the small seeds I planted, then…well. It wasn’t a happy thought.


spinach tikki 2

This is why today, I share with you small tikki. I have taken inspiration from tikki that Indian street food sellers tantalise passers-by with; steaming hot patties that are crisp on the outside, fluffy and moist inside and full of peppery spice. Traditionally they would be made of chickpeas and potatoes and I am using deep black beans, silky spinach and a little oozy cheese. I have retained the influence of pungent and peppery chaat masala, which uses black salt.

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki by Deena Kakaya

Riverford sent me the silkiest perfect leaves of spinach, not punched with ominous looking holes. A huge bag of light green and juicy goodness, none of this limp stuff you often get. Spinach actually happens to be one of those refrigerator items that sometimes yield less love than we in our house can spread over the week, a bit like bananas. Now, experimental as I can be, I am not about to suggest pairing banana and spinach together today. Not today anyway, but the tikki, now those I ate a few straight off the pan, ah the little pleasures.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

 

Aromatic curry of fenugreek, spinach and tofu

14 Oct

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For a long time fenugreek was synonymous with breast milk production for me. I had it in spicy chapatis, in millet flour fritters, and in a curry with aubergines. My house was constantly circulating the fresh aroma of curries, because that is what fenugreek (methi) smells like. Curry. It certainly isn’t subtle, like spinach and when it’s cooked it becomes even more delightfully powerful.

The old indian aunties prescribe a certain way of eating after the delivery of a baby. It helps the mother to heal and produce milk. The diet has many exclusions, such as cabbage and cauliflower (too windy) onions and chilli (acidic and hot) tomatoes and citrus fruit for being acidic and frankly too many other things to remember. My generation of women tend not to follow any of it and just carry on as normal, be it with baked beans or omelette. Their generation gossip about the unruly ways of our generation and how we will regret not listening when our babies puke or our stitches don’t heal. My generation gossips about the pushiness of their generation. I followed it. For way too long. I probably wouldn’t again, but I would take the good out of it.

My view is, that our diets, much like life, should be in balance. I did look into the merits of fenugreek for new mums though, and after frenzied calls to my lactation consultant (yes I did use one) at a ridiculous hour, she sent me to a site for foods that increase milk production. Guess what was there?

Punchy and powerful fenugreek also reminds me of eating in villages and road side cafes in India. I have beautiful and fond memories of the simple, buttery and nourishing food in humble and welcoming eateries. The food is always fresh, constructed in a simple and unfussy way, moderately spiced and not laced with flavourings, cream or colours. Just good, hearty, indian food. My grandmother told me that fenugreek was food that farmers ate with millet flour chapatis and that they were energy foods that were rich and satisfying.

My recipe isn’t traditional, its my concoction of strong and mild flavours with tofu to soak up those I incredible flavours and released the juicy flavours back again. This is a very good curry, it’s as simple as that. P.s. no chilli powder in this curry.

Ingredients to serve 4

100g of fenugreek leaves, washed
300g spinach leaves
1 cup of tinned chopped tomatoes
One red onion, diced
One pack of firm tofu
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp ground nut
1/2 cup water

The spices; salt to taste, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1/4 tsp black pepper

Method

1. Start by draining the tofu between sheets of kitchen paper. Draining the water leaves it able to mingle with the spices well.
2. Put the spinach and the fenugreek leaves in a food processor and whizz together until they are finely chopped. You could of course do it by hand.
3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, turmeric, and sizzle. Then stir in the onion and salt and sauté until the onion has softened. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for a minute before adding in the tofu. Stir the tofu well and then add the cumin powder, coriander powder, pepper and coat well. Cook on a medium to low heat for 4-5 minutes.
4. Add the spinach and fenugreek with the garam masala, tomatoes and water, mix gently not to break the tofu and then cover and simmer for ten minutes.

Serve with lashings of yoghurt.

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.

Sweet mini peppers stuffed with feta, spinach, edamame beans and gorgeous spices

10 Sep

Sweet mini peppers stuffed with feta, spinach, edamame beans and of course some gorgeous spices

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As teenagers my best friend and I went on our first holiday together, without family, to Bulgaria.  Not Ibiza, Sharm el sheikh or Tenerife, but Bansko, a town at the foot on the Pirin mountains.  We’d decided to deviate from the popular, bikini-cladded sun soaking and wild nights of clubbing and we’d also decided that we liked mountains.
We’d of course done no research.  Google wasn’t a word that existed in our lives back then and of course we didn’t buy travel books.  We just rocked up at the travel agent with about £300 as our budget and a clear ish view of what we wanted; no loud clubbers, beautiful mountain scenery, friendly people, a different culture and cheap.  I’d never contemplate contracting to a holiday under such exposed and ill-informed circumstances now, because obviously I’m not daring and old(er)
We really had no idea what we’d let ourselves in for.  Funnily enough, I’d kind of like to go back there.  There were no known brands being sold in the kiosks. There were no known fast food joints in the town.  Our guide wanted us to hang out with his daughter so that it would improve her English but of course we taught each other rude words in our respective languages.  Restaurants looked like huts and we sat on big timber tables.  Outdoor bands played in the moonlight as the residents of the town gathered.  Children climbed under the water features in the town and hollered at us saying, ‘look at the Spanish girls’ as they’d never seen an ethnically Indian person.  Donkeys walked with their owners through the streets and as we walked through the evening streets we were frightened as there was barely any street light, so we sang ‘nelly the elephant’ loudly.   As you may expect, I’m smiling as I write this.
I don’t even think we appreciated the scenery fully. We hiked with a guide and stopped to look at Viagra plants and beautiful rocky and vast mountains, cool whites, blues and greens. I remember the vastness and quietness of the mountains and the distant ringing of bells around the necks of cows. I remember drinking fresh spring water after crossing streams on logs.
I don’t think that the hotel we were staying at, or the restaurants that we ate in had encountered many vegetarians. They seemed baffled.  On the first couple of days we were served boiled veg.  We then negotiated a spaghetti dish with the non-English speaking chef, but it didn’t taste of much.  Once they realised that cheese was in fact an option for us they served us huge long peppers roasted with loads of moist and salty feta.  It tasted faintly of clay and we loved it.  The cheese was so fresh and spongy.  Oh and they served it with a beautifully simple and mellow bean soup served in a clay pot. Brilliant.
So this recipe isn’t as simple as the one I had in Bansko but it is absolutely uplifting and thoroughly sensual.   I picked up a 500g bag of mini sweet peppers from Tesco for £3 which I thought was good value for money. I’d eat the stuffing raw off a big serving spoon, but…
The colours of this dish are striking; sharp yellows and red against bright green.  The smell is a whole new thing…my kitchen smells gorgeously sweet and toasty right now as I’ve just made these peppers. I’ve used nutty edamame beans from the freezer, but if you can’t find them maybe use frozen broad beans instead? I’m putting these peppers on top of a salad, but you could put them on some cous cous, pasta or even vegetable rice.   I’ve used 1tsp of piri piri spices, but you could use more or less. Honestly, this is a fresh, juicy and toasty dish that I hope you will want to share.
Ingredients
Makes approximately 20 mini stuffed peppers
150g feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup finely shredded spinach (I put it in the food processor)
1 cup of edamame beans boiled for 3 minutes
About 20 mini sweet peppers, washed
Spices; 1 tsp cumin seeds toasted and lightly crushed, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1tsp piri piri spice
Method
1. Take a mixing bowl be crumble the feta into it.  Add the spinach and mix well before adding the edamame beans
2. Stir in spices and mix again
3. Place the mixture into a food processor and turn it into a coarse mix. We don’t need the edamame beans to be smooth,  chunky, is great.
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4. Remove the tops off thee peppers and place onto a lined baking tray
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5. With a teaspoon, fill the peppers generously and coat them lightly in oil. Roast the peppers on 180degrees for about 12-15minutes or until they look browned and you are able to pierce them.
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I blow raspberries at spinach curry

8 Jul

So it’s been a while. That’s a cheesy introduction isn’t it?  There is so much that I want to tell you, my fingers are furiously typing and unable to keep up with my baby-brain.  (Seriously, I have been wearing clothes inside-out and even walked out of baby classes without my shoes on, in the rain).

There is a lot of post-partum food related stuff I want to rant about, but I can’t pack it into one post.  I fear that the next few posts may become part of the rant-chronicles. Please bear with me.  As with life, there is a lot that I have learned through eating my way post-partum and there is a lot I want to share with you.

When my baby boy was born he filled my life and my heart with more love than I can ever imagine.  My heart swells and overflows like nature intended.  Funnily enough, I had always heard people tell me how hard it is…why do people do that? What is ‘easy’ in life…besides of course lying on a beach on holiday blah blah…Anyway, for the first 3.5months I kept pinching myself…could it really be this perfect?  I was joyfully singing baby rhymes in the shower and swinging from one sensory/music/dah-dah class to the next mums-and-baby lunch.

After the 3.5 months…no it’s not what you may be guessing. Nothing to do with my little bubba suddenly becoming a brat. He is still utterly and deliciously lovely (albeit a wee bit naughty). No. I was exhausted despite my baby being a good sleeper. I had headaches, nausea, dizziness…all of that.  I started to look unwell and feel it even more so.  I went to the doctor five times. Five.  The response always traced back to something to do with breast-feeding. Fobbed off?

It’s at that point that I started to analyse my food intake after having had my baby and I have a few opinions.  I will keep them flowing over the posts…

So, I followed this Indian post-baby diet thing.  In the days after I had my boyI adhered to it. Of course when people tell you that it’s best for the baby, you do it. It’s been proven over generations hasn’t it?  Certain parts of it make sense, some of it makes me angry till now, and parts of just perplex me.

I ate loads of fenugreek. That makes sense; apparently it encourages the milk come in and flow.  Actually if you take it within the first two weeks it has most benefit. I ate loads of aubergines. As a vegetarian I often get served aubergines.  I don’t get the aubergine thing.  Maybe because it’s a neutral, non-offensive vegetable insofar as its ability to cause tummy upsets or reflux is concerned. I was given more than enough of those and I don’t want to eat them for quite a long time now!

Unlike the villainous broccoli, cauliflower, potato, tomatoes I had to give up.  Oh and cabbage…anything that’s ‘windy’. Even my beloved lentils and pulses, my darling proteins, went into hibernation.  I gave up citrus and chillies. And even milk. Most people gain a lot of their dietary Iron from breakfast cereals, so this didn’t do me any favours when I later learned about my very low iron levels.

I didn’t even eat chapatti; I ate millet flour bread, which I don’t like. But apparently, even bread is a source of Iron?

I ate ghee and jaggery. When do I ever eat that? I think this stuff has got to suit your body.  This one I find remarkable, given that so many Indian people have a family history of diabetes.

I drank oceans of dill water. Now that one is thought-provoking, because when I smelt gripe water, that’s what it smelt like because the main ingredient is dill water (and sugar I think).  It clears the baby’s tummy. Well. So, by drinking it myself, I was keeping my baby’s tummy clear. Clever.

I ate mountains of spinach, but in a curry. Apparently, spinach has something in it that makes it harder for the body to process the iron. Also, I ate it in a cooked down curry and you know that depletes the level of iron I get from it.

The thing is, I didn’t maintain a balanced diet.  There was no orange juice in my diet (the logic was to avoid exacerbating the baby’s reflux problems) so that didn’t help the iron being absorbed. What happened to salads or watercress (high in iron), beetroot, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots and beanshoots?…The rainbow in my diet had disappeared.  Now, I am bringing back the rainbow and I will be sharing some more balanced recipes with you.  In the meantime, here’s a finger up at those ingredients that temporarily repulsed me (but a tastier take on them). I am sticking my tongue out as I post this…no actually let me blow a raspberry; I am good at that now.

Spinach, Sliced Aubergine and Spiced Tofu Filo Logs

Serves 4-6

12 sheets of filo pastry

400g of firm tofu

2 tbsp. vegetable oil for stir frying and some more for drizzling over the aubergine slices

1 medium sized aubergine, sliced into 1 cm rounds

6-7 curry leaves

200g spinach, wilted

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

2-3 green chillies, coarsely chopped

The spices; ½ tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. cumin seeds, ½ tsp. fenugreek seeds, salt to taste, ½ tsp. black pepper, 1 tsp. paprika, ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

Method

1. Firstly sweat the aubergines by salting them and leaving them to stand for about ten minutes. Dab them gently to remove the excess water before roasting them (coated lightly in oil) for about 8-10 minutes on 180 degrees.

2. Whilst the aubergines are roasting, bring the tofu to life. To do this, start by heating a non-stick pan and adding the oil. When it’s hot, sprinkle in the asafoetida, turmeric, chillies, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and cumin seeds and watch it sizzle, when the mustard seeds pop, add in the curry leaves, shallots, salt and garlic and then sauté until the onions have softened and lightly browned.

3. Crumble in the tofu with your hands, to a scrambled eggs texture. Then sprinkle in the paprika and black pepper and give it a good stir. Cook for 4-5 minutes before turning off the heat

4. Wilt the spinach by stirring it into boiling hot water for a couple of minutes. Drain and remove the water, give it a good squeeze and sprinkle in the nutmeg.

5. To make the rolls, spoon in equally divided amounts of tofu, aubergine onto the near-end of the pastry sheet. Roll along twice and tuck in the sides, so the mixture doesn’t escape. Stuff in the spinach and keep rolling to form a log, with the sides tucked in.

6. Bake in the oven on 180 degrees, for approximately ten minutes, or until the filo logs are golden and crisp, but not overly browned (you brown them too much you’ll taste a lot of bitterness). Make sure you serve them before they soften and wilt. Perky and crisp is a much better look (and taste, of course).

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