Tag Archives: tofu

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.

 

Curry of roasted sweet peppers filled with tofu and spinach, in a spiced cashew cream base

12 Sep

I think I need to eat less food.

roasted pepper curry 2+

Have I finally gone crazy? Maybe. My point is this; I think I generally eat pretty healthy foods not outrageously healthy foods, but I do eat lots of vegetables, plentiful grains like barley, faro and Quinoa, there are a few fruits, seeds, and nuts, dried apricots and some of the funky stuff like chia seeds, cacao, matcha and that sort of jazz. I consciously cut down the fruit sugar and increased the milk intake and when I am really good, I remember to take those iron pills. I don’t eat a lot of fried stuff or excessive amounts of sugar but my problem is this. I just eat way too much.

It is just as well that the lovely folk at Riverford have been sending me the season’s jewels. The sweet peppers in the vegbox from this week smell so sweet that I detected their untainted beauty before I even saw them as I rummaged through the picks of the week. I know I always get the most massive fresh leaves of spinach that aren’t gritty or punched with off-putting holes as many crops I get from the supermarket are. I have been eating the spinach raw and my husband even uses it in smoothies but I thought I would do more justice to the silky loveliness in this curry.

roasted pepper curry 1

So what I have been trying to do is satisfy my taste buds (the culprit of my excessive eating) with bold flavours. So bold and capturing that relatively little goes a long way. I have used homemade cashew cream in this curry rather than using double cream or coconut milk or coconut cream but for whatever reason my husband was convinced that I did use coconut. I have used tofu in the stuffing rather than paneer. It is all sounding good eh? It is bold without being heavy or overly spiced. In fact, there is very little of that, ‘I have just had a curry and I can really feel it’ aftermath. You know the one I mean don’t you?

Its sweet, its spicy, its creamy its oof. It did it for me.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Crispy Chaat masala tofu salad with tamarind chutney and yoghurt dip

29 May

Crispy Chaat masala tofu salad with tamarind chutney and yoghurt dip

Crispy Chaat masala tofu salad with tamarind chutney and yoghurt dip

I was 26, but came weeping childishly down the stairs of our new build home at that time, flaccid, tousled and seeking warmth and comfort and really, an escape. I discharged my strains in barely comprehensible trickles, “I don’t want to study any more I’m just too tired”.

I drooped into my husband’s embrace, “I don’t wanna do it, I don’t want to”. Working full time and taking three papers of my final post graduate exams was proving too much. My palms and arms were stained with the colours of inducing some sort of excitement through pens and my hair flopped in half greasy protest, threatening an invitation for pimples. I felt the cool of the house and it began to calm me, the heat escaped my forehead and cheeks and diffused some of the tension. I have this strange habit of keeping the fan heater close to me whilst I am studying you see, even when it isn’t that cold. Maybe it insulates me from external distraction.

I whimpered to my husband that I wanted to wear nice clothes, not these vests and tracksuit bottoms with thick cosy socks that are suited for hibernation. I told him that I wanted to socialize and have fun and go for dinner, not be tied to my books and notes. I told him that I did not want to fail…and the sound of fatigue escalated. He said all the right things, about it being temporary and that nothing worth having comes easily.

In the exam hall, my eyes were sore and head foggy. Emotional, depleted and almost without hope, I listened to my peers as they waited for the rest of the students to be seated. “I don’t even care anymore because I am so tired”, said one. “I just hope the stuff I want comes up”. All I wanted was a hot soak in the bath and cuddles. But you know what? I nailed that paper, because there is always room for a little bit more, if you want to find it.  

Crispy Chaat masala tofu salad with tamarind chutney and yoghurt dip

The reason I am telling you this story is because it is how I felt over the last week or so. I am very tired. Of course I am a bit older and wiser now, so I have more of a toolbox. I won’t lie, I did have a day or two of bubbling over but then, a lovely lady prompted me to find a little bit more. Lovely lady, I know you will read this. Thank you.

I thought about what it is that actually makes me happy. Not what I think I should achieve, work for or do. I took a social media break. I baked a cake in my new oven. I stopped talking to people that inspired doubt. I livened up my sense with chaat.

Chaat is a combination of ingredients and flavors that tantalizes the senses. It is a mix of cool, warm, crisp and soft. The chaat masala itself is peppery, pungent and spiky. There is no food better at livening up the senses. Chaat masala is readily available in supermarkets in the Indian section, or in Indian stores. The tamarind chutney is ready bought and offers sweet and sour tastes without the sharpness. I have mixed it with the yogurt to give cool tang. You have vegetarian salad with a bit of naughtiness here, go on…life is short.

Ingredients

200g Asparagus boiled or steamed until barely tender

150g radish, thinly sliced

250g firm tofu, cut into 3-4 cm cubes

8 heaped tablespoons of corn flour

2 tbsp. chaat masala

Oil for deep frying

4 dessert spoons of plain natural yoghurt

2 dessert spoons of tamarind chutney

Method

  1. Heat the oil for frying and in the meantime, drain the tofu and envelop it between sheets of kitchen paper to drain off excess moisture
  2. Mix together the corn flour and Chaat masala.
  3. Gently roll the tofu in the corn flour to coat it and then drop them into the oil when it is hot enough and fry until the cubes are golden and crisp. Place them onto some kitchen paper to drain off any excess moisture.
  4. Make the dip by mixing together the tamarind chutney and yoghurt
  5. Assemble the salad and serve it whilst the tofu is still hot. You will feel your mouth tingle!

 

Tofu sambal with curried okra, faro and coconut yoghurt

25 Mar

Tofu sambal with curried and Faro and coconut yoghurt

Tofu sambal with curried and Faro and coconut yoghurt I was a difficult eater as a child. My parents regurgitated their experiences of having to travel in search of a specific type of tinned ham (I turned vegetarian later, when I was a pre-teen) because it was amongst the very restricted variety of foods I would willingly eat. They wanted me to understand the pains they went through to nourish me. I remember sitting on an indoor swing, as a toddler with my parents singing to postman pat on the TV and sneaking a scoop potato curry, rice and yoghurt into my mouth at any reasonable opportunity. They would reminisce amongst themselves at the same time, about how they would get excited over every ounce of milk they would cajole me into drinking as a baby. I sensed the heart-swelling joy they felt when I was satiated and growing. I detected the worry, ‘when will she just eat’. The break-through in my eating came when I was about four. I remember attending an Indian function with my dad. I was a shy and quiet child with a silky mop of hair and a generous fringe which I sometimes tucked my eyes behind. I recall frowning at the party of swishing saris and singing aunties. I gripped my dad’s hand in silent protest each time someone tugged my cheek (it hurt) and remarked on my slight frame. My mum would always sigh, ‘yes, she doesn’t eat well’ and my dad would tell her to be quiet. The smell of samosa was overwhelming and I needed them, but I refused repeated offers.  On the way home I asked my dad for samosa. He laughed and bought them from an Indian café. I ate four.  I learned to follow my taste buds and my nose. I loved going to collect a Chinese take-away with my dad. I adored the aroma of sesame oil and the smokes that grew from the massive pans. I adored the look of slippery noodles being chucked around and crisp vegetables mingling their way between rice, egg and noodles. I was much more sensitive to the delicate juices that beansprouts oozed out and I also really fancied their chips. Luckily, this take-away made the stuff of dreams; a tin foil container with everything in it; veg, noodles, rice, and chips. The take-away made its way into my very limited repertoire of stuff I would eat. It eventually grew into non-child-like tastes, like stuffed okra curry. I watched my boy on a video call with his grandfather the other day. The same frown appeared from his very long fringe, it sits under his nose now. Head tilted forwards and eyes full of energy. He was talking about what he saw at the zoo. Most of the time he is asked what he ate and he quickly brushes over the topic, he isn’t bothered about food and he doesn’t know what pains I have been through over the last couple of years to nourish him. Even as a 4 month old, he wasn’t interested in feeding, he wanted to look around at the world and babble. He didn’t want to wean until he was 8months old and he wouldn’t eat a boiled carrot or a sandwich. My child eats pav bhajhi, paratha and quesadilla. My mum laughed out loud in the background of the call, ‘he’s just like his mum’.  The breakthrough for him came with Kadhi, a yoghurt and gram flour soup, but I added spinach. The other day we were driving home from the zoo. We asked him what he would like for dinner. My 25 month old said, ‘I want to eat Chinese food mumma, I want Chinese toast and Chinese rice and SOYA’.  My recipe today is an ode to all those favourites. The spongy tofu is cooked in a fresh, spicy, herby and lively Malaysian style sambal. It is probably one of the best sambal recipes I have made in a while, so I urge you to try it; this tofu is certainly not bland. The faro is nutty and light and is in a mix of curried yoghurt and like every good spicy meal, this is served with plenty of coconut yoghurt.  Ingredients 250g pack firm tofu 100g faro 200g okra, trimmed, washed and cut into bite sized pieces A few tablespoons of coconut yoghurt to serve (I used Rachel’s yoghurt) 1 tbsp. vegetable oil for the tofu 2 tbsp. vegetable oil for the okra 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped for the okra For the okra: Salt to taste, ½ tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. cumin powder, 1 tsp. coriander powder, chilli powder to taste For the sambal 30g chopped coriander 2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped 3 tbsp. palm sugar (use soft brown sugar if you really can’t get hold of palm sugar) The juice of one lime 4 green chillies Salt to taste ½ tsp. turmeric 3.5 tbsp. tamarind concentrate or pomegranate molasses 4 cloves of garlic 3 inch nob of ginger 5 shallots, diced 1-2 tbsp. of sesame oil Method 1.	Wrap the tofu in some kitchen paper to remove any excess water before cutting it into cubes. In the meantime, boil the faro per the packet ingredients 2.	To make the sambal blitz together the ingredients to a smooth paste. 3.	On a non-stick pan heat the 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil and stir fry the tofu until it catches a lightly golden colour and then stir in the sambal paste and cook for 7 minutes.  4.	Once the faro is cooked, heat the remaining vegetable oil in a non-stick pan and add the okra and garlic and sauté on a medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Don’t add the spices because any moisture will make the okra sticky. 5.	Add the salt, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric and chilli powder and sauté for a further minute before adding the faro. Mix it all well and then turn off the heat. 6.	You can either serve the tofu on top or alongside the faro, but this all tastes fabulous with some cool and sweet coconut yoghurt.

I was a difficult eater as a child. My parents regurgitated their experiences of having to travel in search of a specific type of tinned ham (I turned vegetarian later, when I was a pre-teen) because it was amongst the very restricted variety of foods I would willingly eat. They wanted me to understand the pains they went through to nourish me. I remember sitting on an indoor swing, as a toddler with my parents singing to postman pat on the TV and sneaking a scoop potato curry, rice and yoghurt into my mouth at any reasonable opportunity. They would reminisce amongst themselves at the same time, about how they would get excited over every ounce of milk they would cajole me into drinking as a baby. I sensed the heart-swelling joy they felt when I was satiated and growing. I detected the worry, ‘when will she just eat’.

The break-through in my eating came when I was about four. I remember attending an Indian function with my dad. I was a shy and quiet child with a silky mop of hair and a generous fringe which I sometimes tucked my eyes behind. I recall frowning at the party of swishing saris and singing aunties. I gripped my dad’s hand in silent protest each time someone tugged my cheek (it hurt) and remarked on my slight frame. My mum would always sigh, ‘yes, she doesn’t eat well’ and my dad would tell her to be quiet. The smell of samosa was overwhelming and I needed them, but I refused repeated offers.

On the way home I asked my dad for samosa. He laughed and bought them from an Indian café. I ate four.

I learned to follow my taste buds and my nose. I loved going to collect a Chinese take-away with my dad. I adored the aroma of sesame oil and the smokes that grew from the massive pans. I adored the look of slippery noodles being chucked around and crisp vegetables mingling their way between rice, egg and noodles. I was much more sensitive to the delicate juices that beansprouts oozed out and I also really fancied their chips. Luckily, this take-away made the stuff of dreams; a tin foil container with everything in it; veg, noodles, rice, and chips. The take-away made its way into my very limited repertoire of stuff I would eat. It eventually grew into non-child-like tastes, like stuffed okra curry.

I watched my boy on a video call with his grandfather the other day. The same frown appeared from his very long fringe, it sits under his nose now. Head tilted forwards and eyes full of energy. He was talking about what he saw at the zoo. Most of the time he is asked what he ate and he quickly brushes over the topic, he isn’t bothered about food and he doesn’t know what pains I have been through over the last couple of years to nourish him. Even as a 4 month old, he wasn’t interested in feeding, he wanted to look around at the world and babble. He didn’t want to wean until he was 8months old and he wouldn’t eat a boiled carrot or a sandwich. My child eats pav bhajhi, paratha and quesadilla. My mum laughed out loud in the background of the call, ‘he’s just like his mum’.

The breakthrough for him came with Kadhi, a yoghurt and gram flour soup, but I added spinach. The other day we were driving home from the zoo. We asked him what he would like for dinner. My 25 month old said, ‘I want to eat Chinese food mumma, I want Chinese toast and Chinese rice and SOYA’.

My recipe today is an ode to all those favourites. The spongy tofu is cooked in a fresh, spicy, herby and lively Malaysian style sambal. It is probably one of the best sambal recipes I have made in a while, so I urge you to try it; this tofu is certainly not bland. The faro is nutty and light and is in a mix of curried yoghurt and like every good spicy meal, this is served with plenty of coconut yoghurt.

v

Ingredients

250g pack firm tofu

100g faro

200g okra, trimmed, washed and cut into bite sized pieces

A few tablespoons of coconut yoghurt to serve (I used Rachel’s yoghurt)

1 tbsp. vegetable oil for the tofu

2 tbsp. vegetable oil for the okra

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped for the okra

For the okra: Salt to taste, ½ tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. cumin powder, 1 tsp. coriander powder, chilli powder to taste

For the sambal

30g chopped coriander

2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped

3 tbsp. palm sugar (use soft brown sugar if you really can’t get hold of palm sugar)

The juice of one lime

4 green chillies

Salt to taste

½ tsp. turmeric

3.5 tbsp. tamarind concentrate or pomegranate molasses

4 cloves of garlic

3 inch nob of ginger

5 shallots, diced

1-2 tbsp. of sesame oil

Method

  1. Wrap the tofu in some kitchen paper to remove any excess water before cutting it into cubes. In the meantime, boil the faro per the packet ingredients
  2. To make the sambal blitz together the ingredients to a smooth paste.
  3. On a non-stick pan heat the 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil and stir fry the tofu until it catches a lightly golden colour and then stir in the sambal paste and cook for 7 minutes.
  4. Once the faro is cooked, heat the remaining vegetable oil in a non-stick pan and add the okra and garlic and sauté on a medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Don’t add the spices because any moisture will make the okra sticky.
  5. Add the salt, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric and chilli powder and sauté for a further minute before adding the faro. Mix it all well and then turn off the heat.
  6. You can either serve the tofu on top or alongside the faro, but this all tastes fabulous with some cool and sweet coconut yoghurt.

 

 

Soy-Masala tofu, Quinoa, avocado and mozzarella salad

26 Feb

I remember that as children, my cousins and I knew broadly the menu we would be served at any family wedding, before even the wedding invitation arrived and each summer we would receive a collection of them.
Steamed, fluffy, lightly sour and spiced gram flour dhokla, potatoes in thick and rich curry gravy, black chickpeas perhaps or a curry of Val (field beans) and lots of fried puri breads. We knew there would probably be flaky samosa and multi-coloured mini poppadum’s that we would use to scoop up Kadhi-doused biryani. We would grab a compartmentalised plastic plate from the buffet and perch ourselves on a chair where we could find one and sometimes eat standing and giggling away.

Soy-Masala tofu, Quinoa, avocado and mozzarella salad

Weddings would always be in the hottest part of summer back then and we would look forward to seeing our lists of cousins and enjoying the banter between loud music and many guests. We would turn our chairs towards each other and admire one another’s colourful and detailed clothes, an arm full of bangles, glistening bindi and very often back then, weddings were held in school halls, where the walls evidenced children’s activities and the guests spilled over onto the green fields. Everyone attended you see. As young children we would run around the hall giggling and playing as the many parts of the ceremony carried on whilst our parents mingled.

Things have changed so much. Nowadays weddings are in hotels or stately homes and so there aren’t scores of guests spilling over, maybe because the venue is so hard to find. Cousins aren’t in lists, but in treasured few numbers. You won’t see kids running around; maybe they aren’t allowed at the ‘event’. Sometimes silence is observed during the abbreviated ceremony, sometimes it’s just quiet. Maybe that’s because not everyone goes, people are busy these days, aren’t they. Sometimes they aren’t invited, invitations nowadays are at the couple’s discretion and friends are the new family.

Soy-Masala tofu, Quinoa, avocado and mozzarella salad
People don’t always wear bindi or bangles, but certainly not an armful. Sometimes it’s just not fashionable to look overly celebratory, subtly or nonchalant, I am not sure. There are seating arrangements and food comes to the table and is kept warm. Gone are the days of Val bean curry or multi-coloured poppadum’s and established are the days of carrot halwa with ice cream and whatever else the couple fancies; from indo-Chinese and robustly spiced paneer to sweet corn curry in a mellow cashew nut gravy.

So I got thinking about some of the modern stuff served at celebrations these days and the cult recipe of chilli paneer came to mind. Doused with soy, ginger, garlic, chillies and ketchup this recipe seems to be an obvious option on most local Indian restaurant menus. Without doubt, and someone secretly, I admit..it tastes good.
BUT, that doesn’t mean I would make a meal of it or cook it up at home. It’s become to…well, ‘been there done that’. Taking healthy inspiration from of it, I have created this recipe for soy-masala tofu (healthier and protein fuelled) salad with Quinoa, avocado and mozzarella. I don’t know if you use mozzarella as a sponge in your dishes but it soaks up juices beautifully. Use fluffy clouds please, not the tough stuff.

Ingredients
250g cooked Quinoa
1 400g pack of firm tofu
One ripe avocado
200g mozzarella, torn into bite sized chunks
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. ketchup
1-2 tbsp. chilli sauce
1 tbsp. tomato puree
4 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. ginger, minced
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tbsp. sesame oil
1-2 green chillies chopped (optional)
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. coriander powder
¼ tsp. turmeric

Method
1. Wrap the tofu in kitchen paper to soak up any excess water. When it is dry, cube it.
2. Heat the sesame oil in a non-stick pan and add the chillies, cumin seeds and tofu. Stir fry until the tofu is golden before adding the onion, garlic, ginger, spring onions and turmeric. Cook for 3-4 minutes before pouring in the soy sauce, ketchup, coriander powder, chilli sauce, and tomato puree and rice wine vinegar.
3. Cook the tofu for a further 3-4 minutes before turning off the heat.chilli tofu
4. In a large bowl mix the cooked Quinoa, avocado, mozzarella and then stir in the tofu whilst warm and serve immediately with lovely flatbread.

Indian spiced crispy bean curd skin, ung choi and carrot pancake wraps

5 Feb

 

 Indian spiced crispy bean curd skin, ung choi and carrot pancake wraps

Why don’t you just eat duck?

 

My first ‘proper’ job was at the Bank of England when I was 21, in research. It was my first proper job because it was the first structured and full time role I had taken. I was so proud. I’ve long since forgotten that particular feeling of executive pride and I am sighing and smiling wisely as I write this.

I loved that black suited and focused people walked carefully on their heels, echoing their esteemed selves to somewhere clearly, very important to aid decision-making for the economy of our great country.  Tiny mice made intermittent visits around the history of the building and one of my ‘down time’ favourite activities was mooching around economic papers in the vast and superior library within the Bank in the vault, near where old money was you know…it was hot there.

 

We had rule books on how to structure charts for publications.  On one occasion whilst discussing it during drinks with some colleagues he asked me whom I would support if India and England were playing a cricket match. I said that I didn’t follow cricket, I’m not into sport. ‘But if you were, lets say’. You see  I didn’t understand all this, I was a feisty, ambitious and focused young lady but in hindsight, naive. I wasn’t used to being made aware of race. I’ve never actually really thought about it.  My now-husband accompanied me to work on the tube for the first couple of days when I started work, because I was a tube virgin. He took pictures of me outside the Bank.

 

Then the questions followed at work, ‘do you wear a headscarf at home?’ No, I’m Hindu. ‘Do you make samosas?’ I’m 21; I go out with my friends. ‘Are you having an arranged marriage?’ I’ve got a boyfriend.

 

One of the questions I often get asked is whether I am vegetarian for religious reasons. No. No.

Indian spiced crispy bean curd skin, ung choi and carrot pancake wraps

One of the things I learned over the years is that the people around you, your own mind-set and your own actions make something special happen. Not a place, hierarchy, status, or a title or any other outwardly definition, for those just doesn’t last. Really and truly, they don’t.  I used to read words like this and dismiss them. As much as we would will it to be progressively checking the milestones we plan, Life isn’t a freaking chart, is it.

 

In that must lay some strength. As I pick up the fragments I’m not piecing them together, I’m visualising new things. My heart isn’t as heavy as I thought it would be. In fact I’m even more able to give good wishes and love. As a youngster I didn’t experience failure but they always said it’s important to fail. I never understood why. Nobody ever said.

Failing is a process that allows a person to develop coping skills, growing skills, maturity, humility, grit, resilience. These shouldn’t just be words you bang out in the opening statement of the CV.  If we don’t fail at the smaller hurdles in life, when the bigger stuff hits (and it will, it does) then we don’t know what to do with ourselves. And the older we grow, often there are fewer hands to walk us to shore.

 

I tell my boy that he should be kind, clever, and brave and always love his mumma.

 

I don’t eat duck. I eat things that taste good without having quacked. Bean curd skins are a good source of protein and have bite. The wraps contain ung choi, which is a bit like spinach and it wilts quickly, but it’s a bit more peppery. I picked my latest batch up from Tesco.  This wrap is peppery, silky, slightly sweet, has bite and they’re easy to eat. Easy is good, isn’t it.

 

Ingredients to make 15 pancake wraps

 

250g of Ung choi, washed and sliced

One large carrot, grated

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp. fennel seeds

¾ tsp. cumin seeds

1 ½ tbsp. soy sauce

¼ tsp. turmeric

1 tbsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. coriander powder

½ tsp. garam masala

75g of bean curd skins (the sticks, they are available at oriental supermarkets)

Oil for deep frying the skins

 

For the pancakes

300g bread flour

100ml boiling water

75ml cold water

2 tsp. sesame oil

 

Method

1.     Soak the bean curd skins (use the sticks) in plenty of warm water for about two hours. They will swell. Drain the water, and then slice them into 3-4 cm rounds. Leave them to dry.

2.     Heat oil in a deep pan and then deep fry the bean curd skins until the fluff up and catch a golden colour

3.     Make the dough by first pouring the boiling water into the flour and mix it well. Then pour in the cold water and form dough, kneed it well and then rest the dough for 15 minutes, before dividing it into 15 equal portions. Roll out the pancakes into thin chapatti before toasting them on a non-stick panpancake 1jpeg

4.     In another pan, heat the oil and add the cumin and fennel seeds and when the sizzle, stir in the garlic. Sauté for a minute, then add the ung choi and carrot and stir it well. Sprinkle in the turmeric, coriander powder, garam masala and stir well. Sauté for a minute before drizzling in the soy sauce and introducing pieces of fried bean curd skins. Cook the vegetables for another 3 minutes before turning off the heat.

5.     Finally, assemble the wraps by putting a little filling in the centre of the pancake, wrap it, and eat it.

 

Christmas curry? Malaysian inspired curry of Brussels sprouts, tofu and potatoes

2 Dec

Christmas curry? Malaysian inspired curry of Brussels sprouts, tofu and potatoes

On Christmas Day, one of the things I most enjoy eating is a good, crisp, roasted potato that is a fluffy and moist cloud on the inside. The subtle sweetness just takes me away to a land between the chippie of my childhood and a really good gastro pub that makes juicy and delicious vegetable sausages with steaming hot onion gravy.
I think I kind of enjoy the roastie banter too. My dad thinks he makes the best ones though, naturally. He does this funny thing of squashing them just before they are ready.

The sprouts though. Some of us love them (like me) and some won’t even give them a friendly prod at Christmas. As a result, we always have loads of them knocking around in the bottom drawer of the fridge. I love the Brussel sprout with its many layers, pretty like a flower. I love that they are silky, they soak up juices between those layers and I love that they are in season.

This curry is one of those that warms the tummy and keeps it flickering and teases the taste buds. It’s a glowing bowl of aroma and an utterly balanced dish for the senses. It looks mor complicated than it is…once you’ve made the curry paste, it’s very, very straightforward. What you get is a heat, sweetness and zing. You get the perfumes from star anise, kaffir lime leaves and some wonderful lemongrass. The great thing is that the potatoes, Brussel sprouts and tofu soak up all these juices.

It’s a Malaysian inspired dish. There are so many varieties of a Malaysian curry, even the term Laksa refers to plentiful variety. This is my way…give it a go.

Ingredients

One pack of firm tofu, drained and cubed into 3cm chunks
3 tbsp ground nut oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 star anise
1 stick of cinnamon
2 medium potatoes, cut into 3-4cm chunks
200g Brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 can of coconut milk
2-3 kafir lime leaves
300ml water
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
Salt to taste
1 tbsp lime juice

For the paste

5-6 small shallots
2 red chilies
1.5 inch galangal
2 cloves of garlic
2 sticks of lemongrass
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground nut oil

Method

1. Shallow fry the tofu in 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick pan until they are lightly golden. Remove onto kitchen paper.
2. Make a paste by grinding together the ingredients for the paste, it should be smooth.
3. Heat 2tbsp oil in a pan and add the cumin, coriander, star anise cinnamon and lime leaves and heat through for a minute.
4. Stir in the curry paste and on a low flame, cook for 4-5minutes until the oil is absorbed into the paste.
5. Introduce the potatoes, sprouts and tofu and mix gently.
6. Add the coconut milk and water as well as the lime juice.

Serve hot with rice.

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.

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).

HOW TO MAKE TOFU TASTE GOOD (via Deena kakaya’s Blog)

8 Aug

HOW TO MAKE TOFU TASTE GOOD Most of my friends turn their noses up at the mention of Tofu. ‘Bland‘, ‘tasteless’ and ‘feels like a sponge.’  I’ve heard people complain about its plain appearance. ‘Oh’, my impassioned cried start off, ’the best bit about it is that it is like a sponge’.  Protein packed tofu is absorbute. It soaks up and retains juices and flavours and is illuminous with all with the colours of the concoctions you cook it in. It brings dishes to life with ever … Read More

via Deena kakaya’s Blog

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