Tag Archives: Vegan recipes

Garlic roasted cauliflower and red onion in za’atar and coriander, with chilli and toasted pine nuts

28 Dec

Garlic roasted cauliflower and red onion in za'atar and coriander, with chilli and toasted pine nuts  by Deena Kakaya

My belt is well and truly loosened and my pockets are emptier. My heart is fuller and my fridge now more revealing. The bins have flowed over and my insides feel a wee bit like them now. Ooof, it’s time to eat some natural, light and healthier meals.

I really can’t consume another roast potato or nibble on any more rich cheese. I will pass on the triple chocolate whats-it and close my eyes before being presented any fizzy drinks. I am ready to choose sleep over cold air blowing under my eyelids whilst shopping for presents or last minute ingredients. My husband has also signed up for the marathon, so let’s bring on some healthy foods.

Every time I tell my mum I’m having a salad as a meal, she starts her talk about how salad isn’t substantial enough, isn’t a meal as its not hot and isn’t balanced nutritionally. She has this image that I’m eating a lonely Greek salad for dinner. I love Greek salad, but there’s so much more to choose from.

My garlic roasted cauliflower and red onion is warm, lightly sweet and carries salty garlic through it. I’ve coated it in coriander and za’atar spices, topped it with a drizzle on rice wine vinegar, red chilli and toasted pine nuts. It’s immensely tasty, virtuous and really easy to throw together. Try it.

Ingredients

A medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets
A couple of glugs of rapeseed oil
One large red onion, sliced
A generous handful of coriander, washed an finely chopped
2 large red chilies, thinly sliced
A handful of pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 tsp salt
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp of white wine vinegar
4-5 tsp of za’atar spice mix

Method
1. Toss the minced garlic, cauliflower, red onion, salt and rapeseed oil together for even coverage and then pop it in the oven at 180degrees for approximately 25 minutes, or until it is lightly golden and soft enough to pierce through. It should still have a bite.image
2. Whilst the cauliflower is still warm and moist, toss it in the za’atar spice mix and coriander. Plate it up and then drizzle on the white wine vinegar and top with toasted pine nuts and the red chilli.image

I served this salad with hummus and flat bread. Magic.

Keep it kind and easy- Tomato, chilli, lemongrass, basil and rice noodle soup

17 Dec
Keep it kind and easy- Tomato, chilli, lemongrass, basil and rice noodle soup

Tomato, chilli, lemongrass, basil and rice noodle soup


Keep it kind and easy- Tomato, chilli, lemongrass, basil and rice noodle soup


 I’ve been running through tunnels of cotton wool this week. Glimpses of light and muffled noises permeate through pillows and tangles but nothing seems to make sense. I’m running and I’m tired. I’ve got handfuls of fluff though, good enough?

I spent three days down with a horrid tummy bug and couldn’t eat for those three days. I had the usual nausea, fever and no food I ate settled, so I went without for three days. Now, even though it is Christmas and I perhaps should be cooking up a festive frenzy, I feel like I need to treat my body kindly, tenderly and eat easy, simple and gentle foods.

There also something in eating to your mood right? I’m not talking about cravings for chips or chocolate cake. I’m talking about eating hot and fiery foods when feeling as such. Nibbling on creative and classy little canapés when feeling fanciful, or eating simply, deliciously and naturally like I am feeling I should do, now.

My soup is not full of heavy doses of any ingredient, neither is it punchy. It is clean and subtle. Lemongrass is perhaps an unusual ingredient to be paired with tomato but it works and is refreshing. There’s a little bit of spice, a small amount of zing and a whole lot of calm.

Ingredients

500g deep red tomatoes, skinned
2 chillies, finely chopped
One root of lemongrass either minced to a purée, or slit in half
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
1.2 litres of vegetable stock
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp palm sugar
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp coconut oil (I used coconut oil by the groovy food company)
30g basil, shredded
1 tbsp coriander, finely chopped for garnishing
125g rice noodles

Method
1. Start by immersing the tomatoes in hot water for a few minutes and them rinse them in cold water. The skin will slip off.
2. Heat the coconut oil in a deep pan, then add the mustard seeds, chilies and cumin seeds. Allow the seeds to sizzle before adding the the onions and lemon grass. Sauté for a minute.
3. Pour the vegetable stock in, then the rice wine vinegar and soy sauce with the palm sugar.
4. Bring the stock to a simmer and then add the tomatoes after roughly chopping them. Sprinkle in the basil and simmer for another 5 minutes.
5. Add the rice noodles and continue to cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

If you like noodle soups you may enjoy some of these

chilli tahini noodle soup-broccoli tempeh

a soup is not just for winter Deena’s emerald summer-soup with thai basil

It’ll be ok asian style sweetcorn soup chilli cumin coriander rice flour dumplings

chilli tamarind asian style cauliflower soup

 

Vegetarian Christmas recipe – open ravioli filled with a layer of mushroom masala, another layer of saffron and chilli spiced butternut squash and topped with coriander and parsley pesto

11 Dec

Vegetarian Christmas recipe - open ravioli filled with a layer of mushroom masala, another layer of saffron and chilli spiced butternut squash and topped with coriander and parsley pesto

Vegetarian Christmas recipe – open ravioli filled with a layer of mushroom masala, another layer of saffron and chilli spiced butternut squash and topped with coriander and parsley pesto



I have a fabulous new recipe for nut roast’, my friend told me yesterday. Apparently it is different and definitely not dry.

‘What shall I make for my in-laws’ my neighbour asked. ‘I’m planning a mushroom pie’.

‘Well, I suppose we could all have turkey and the vegetarian can have the vegetables and some vegetarian gravy’. Said one of the ladies emailing me this week.

‘I might just get something vegetarian from Marks and Spencer’s or Waitrose and I’m sure it’ll be lovely’ proposed another.

I’m not mocking the traditional nut roast that is rich and nutritious. It doesn’t have to taste like dehydrated sawdust, honestly it doesn’t. And mushroom pie? Nothing wrong with it. I am sure you know how I feel about mushroom risotto but mushroom pie I can eat…and then I feel a bit icky.

So, here’s a colourful option for Christmas that has a balance of spicy and creamy mushrooms, sweet and spicy butternut squash and a punchy and herby coriander and parsley pesto on top. Lovely slippery pasta, some toasted cashew…it just looks and tastes special and that is what is about at Christmas I reckon.

To serve 4

To make the mushroom masala
250g chestnut mushroom, sliced
125g ricotta cheese
Salt to taste
2 cloves of garlic
One red onion, finely diced
3/4 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp oil

To make the butternut squash filling
1/2 peeled and grated butternut squash
1 tsp chilli flakes
A good pinch of saffron
Salt to taste
1 tbsp cooking oil

To make the pesto
30g coriander, finely chopped
30g pesto
2 tbsp sesame oil
One chilli
Salt to taste

You will also need
A handful of toasted cashew nuts
Extra virgin oil for drizzling
6-8 large, fresh lasagne sheets

Method
1. To make the butternut squash filling, heat the oil in a pan and the add the butternut squash. Sauté for a minute then add the chilli flakes, salt and saffron. Cook until it is soft enough to squash between fingers, but it should not go mushy. It should take approximately 7-8minutes.
2. To make the mushroom masala, heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds. When they sizzle add the red onion, then salt and sauté for a couple of minutes. Stir in the coriander powder and then the mushrooms and garam masala. Sauté for two minutes before adding the ricotta. When the ricotta is bubbling, cook for 3 minutes.
3. To make the pesto, simply combine all the ingredients in a grinder and blitz it together until it is fairly smooth.
4. When you are ready to serve, boil the pasta sheets per packet instructions. Wash and drain the lasagne sheets and then again in hot water.
Cut the sheet in half, then half again so that you have 8squares. Layer each square with 1tbsp. Mushrooms masala, then place another square on top of that. Place 1tbsp. Of butternut squash filling on that layer and place one more layer and top it with a tsp of pesto. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of toasted cashew nuts.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients to serve 2-3

For the vegetable balls

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

Ingredients for the butternut squash sauce

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

You’ll need about 150g of spaghetti

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

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

Trendy Kale, banana and red onion pakora

26 Nov

Trendy Kale, banana and red onion pakora

My mum had never tasted Kale until today, or so she thought. She asked me what sort of bhajhi (green) it was and what seed it grows from. So I said, ‘mum, you know when we go to Chinese restaurants and we sometimes eat crispy seaweed? Well it’s often this stuff.’

‘Ohhhh, but why are you making pakora out of this stuff’. I explained how potent kale is; it’s rich in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C and calcium. I also told my mum how trendy kale is. She wasn’t so impressed with that bit, how can a vegetable be trendy after all. It is a bit ridiculous, isn’t it. People do use certain ingredients to express trendiness or snobbery don’t they. When I worked in the city I knew people who ate sushi or drank herbal tea without enjoyment. I know that secretly one or two of the women I knew would hold their breath when eating goji berries and heave whilst nibbling kimchi. What’s the point. I don’t even like mince pies or Christmas pudding, what does that say about me.

Kale is one of those leafy items that can taste bitter or rubbery if it is not cooked right but when sautéed, steamed, or fried, it is one of those favours that lasts with you and urges you back for more. A few of the twitter foodies had great ideas such as Gujarati girlie who suggested putting them in a paratha and having shared with her and fuss free helen and Monica shaw some lovely ideas…I got the hankering. Then yesterday whilst using kale in a master lass with Signe from scandalicious, I had to do it.

These pakora have some of that ‘seaweed’ essence and are a bit bitter sweet in a glorious way because of the banana and onion. These gorgeous and fluffy bites make great party snacks and are best devoured when crispy and hot. I’d suggest serving them with any of these chutneys.

Tangy sweet spicy Christmas food gift tomato pineapple cucumber chutney

Halwa chutney butternut squash almond coconut chutney

Ingredients to serve 6-8

100g ribbons of kale
3 cups of gram flour
400ml water
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
3/4 tsp ajwain or carom seeds
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp turmeric
3/4 tsp garam masala
2 banana, chopped Ito 3-4cm bites
One large red onion, diced
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 green chilies, chopped

Method

1. Heat oil for deep-frying
2. In a large mixing bowl, start with the kale, onion, chillies and banana pieces and then add the dry spices and seasonings. Mix it well.
3. Sprinkle in the gram flour and then mix it all again. Pour in the water and lemon juice and stir it all to a batter consistency.
4. Put a drop of batter into the oil and if it rises and sizzles then the oil is hot enough. Take small balls of about 5cm and fry them until they are golden brown.
5. Place the pakora onto kitchen paper and serve hot with chutneys.

Chilli and tamarind, Asian style cauliflower soup recipe

23 Nov
Chilli and tamarind, Asian style cauliflower soup

Chilli and tamarind, Asian style cauliflower soup

Ladies, when you have a night off with your friends do you leave your partner to make his own dinner because he really can or should be able to, or are you utterly and perhaps overly kind like me and leave a proper meal ready and waiting. Gentlemen, when you are doing whatever it is you do and you won’t be with your wonderful lady, do you leave dinner made with love?

Now, I’m sure some people reading this may think…goodness here’s another woman from the dark ages. They may just roll their eyes reading this and think…how utterly submissive, maybe nothing better to do or even just of the mentality that I need to serve my husband.

None of the above, relax. I just can’t let go. When I’m away, my husband will eat a toasted sandwich or order pizza. He will eat pasta with ketchup and cheese or…the one that makes me cringe…he will eat cereal. That’s right, cereal for dinner.

Can you imagine how that frustrates me. Not only is cereal for dinner cold, it’s nutritionally inappropriate for more than one meal a day and its well..it’s cereal. So the reason I leave a dinner is that I can relax and have fun in the knowledge that it won’t be cereal.

That said, I will definitely opt for a quick and easy option to extend my kindness and concern. I need time to get ready and I need to stop for fuel. So here’s what I put together in 20minutes; a hot and sour soup of chilli and tamarind with cauliflower floating happily in Asian style juices. It will definitely hit the spot. It’s one that will help you feel all your senses again in this weather and the cauliflower delicately mingles and shares its essence with the soup. Aah, relax.

Ingredients to serve 4 bowls

500g cauliflower cut into 3-4 cm florets
1 litre vegetable stock
2 tbsp corn flour mixed with a little warm water
2 cloves of garlic, minced
5 cm piece of ginger, minced
2 red chillies, halved
4-5 spring onions, chopped into bite sized pieces
3tbsp tamarind concentrate mixed with 400ml water
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp smoked paprika

Method
1. Heat the oil in a deep pan and very quickly add the onions, ginger, garlic and chilies. Sauté for a couple of minutes until the onion browns lightly before adding the cauliflower. Sprinkle in the paprika and mix well.
2. Pour in the soy sauce, mix again and then add the vegetable stock and tamarind juice. Blend in the corn flour with water. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for 7minutes or until the cauliflower is cooked.

Festive salad of Sweet potato and kiwi fruit in a parsley, Beetroot, Indian spice and mint pesto

21 Nov

Festive salad of Sweet potato and kiwi fruit in a parsley, Beetroot, Indian spice and mint pesto

The simple things

We had friends over for dinner today. For a couple of hours, according to my husband, I was like the old me. I chatted, I fed people and I smiled lots. I put my phone away and the house was warm. I had Mickey Mouse ears on and my boy dragged me the playroom. He took his little friends hand and they ran around the living room together.

My boy ran up to the other day and sighed, ‘mumma, I missed you…I love you mumma’. He’s been getting up at night because he misses me and wants to sleep next to his mumma.

My husband and I reminisced about travelling to Brighton one winter, when we were crazy young fools. The winds bashed against the sea and the jar wobbled in defence. We were parked outside a chip shop, the aroma seeped inside us and our frozen ears detected banter. The skies were deep grey and we had Robbin Williams playing on the car radio. We returned to the car, watched the waves threaten the pier and ate steaming hot chips off wooden forks.

Life’s most joyful moments are in the simplest ones. We all know that. It’s as complicated as we make it, isn’t it?

My salad is simple. It has few ingredients but they are fresh and invigorating. The kiwi fruit and mint add a juicy vibrancy and the parsley and sweet potato give the salad sweet depth. The salty and pungent chaat masala is not to be compromised on and the Beetroot gives fabulous colour. This is an unusual salad, but then I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t share an unusual recipe. What I really love about this salad is that the juice of the kiwi fruit blends with the chaat masala and the peppercorns an sits on the sweet potato too. This one is a real quencher, do it.

Ingredients

300g sweet potato,peeled and cubed into 3-4cm chunks
4 kiwi fruits, peeled and cut into 8 pieces
50g Beetroot
40g flat leaf parsley
40g coriander
2 tsp chaat masala
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground black and red peppercorns

Method
1. Boil the sweet potato for about 7cm or until the potato is soft enough to pierce through.
2. In the meantime, make the pesto by blitzing together the parsley, mint, chaat masala, beetroot, black pepper and lemon juice. Stop when it is almost smooth in texture.
3. When the sweet potato is cooked, drain and cool until the cubes are dry.
4. Combine the potato, kiwi and the pesto gently until there is even coverage.

I served this with halloumi cheese and some lovely flatbreads and it was magic.

Cooking with Herbs

Udon and veg in a miso, sweet potato and herb soup: dinner at Deena’s and a giveaway

6 Nov
Udon and veg in a miso, sweet potato and herb soup: dinner at Deena's and a giveaway

Udon and veg in a miso, sweet potato and herb soup: dinner at Deena’s and a giveaway

U-don with Diwali? I know, really cheesy. After all good festive periods, my tummy is bloated, my skin is still greasy from oily snacks and I have a cold coming on, probably nurtured by exhaustion. I’m missing my family and all the banter and so the way I cope with post-festivity blues is to have dates in the diary with good friends and to laugh, be happy and sleep. I’m still working on the last one.

So tonight my lovely friend Heena and her husband Ash came over for dinner. Heena is lactose intolerant, chilli intolerant and is not eating fattening stuff right now. Oh and we are all vegetarian. Whilst I was sifting through my mind for exciting ideas that fit this criteria, I thought poo. I wanted to try out a new paneer recipe…no. What about that angel hair pasta with ricotta and my secret ingredient…no. I have a very busy monkey that likes to play, ‘I found it’ in my kitchen cupboards empty the contents of an entire cupboard onto the floor. So, the obvious choice of Dhokla, dhal, curry, chappati and rice was not happening. I had 45 minutes to make this meal!

 

In the spirit of the colder season and seeking comfort in cozy socks and friends, I share with you my seasonal warmer that will snuggle you better than a slanket. I am using miso to give an earthy November feel instead of vegetable stock for the soup and using seasonal sweet potato to give the soup sweetness and depth. I have packed the soup with corn cobs, pak choi, oyster mushrooms, green beans and silky noodles. It’s filling, it’s different and it’s actually herby. I’ve added coriander and Thai basil. This one is a joy.

Some great news to share with you! I’m on the tesco finest stage at the BBC Good Food show in London on Saturday 16th November. I will be talking to Lotte Duncan and I’m very excited! The Team have given me a pair of tickets to give away to you and here’s what you have to do. Just post a comment, tell me what you think of this recipe and what your favourite one pot dish is and you could win a pair of tickets to the show! Simple. More details below this recipe.

Print
Ingredients to serve four

4 tbsp miso paste
3tbsp finely chopped Thai basil
30g finely chopped coriander
Two whole cobs of corn chopped into quarters
100g green beans
100g oyster mushrooms, gently torn
A litre of water (use as much water from the sweetcorn)
250g sweet potato, peeled and chopped into cubes
2 pak choi
4 spring onions, chopped into bite sized chunks
125g Udon noodles
2 kaffir lime leaves
(Optional, two red chilies. I didn’t use them today, but I will in future)
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

Method

1. Prepare the sweet potatoes by boiling them for 8-10 minutes and then blend together after removing the water until it looks like baby food. Leave it to a side.
2. Heat the oil in a deep pain and add the chillies (if you are using them) with the coriander and lime leaves. Sauté for a minute and then add the miso paste, Thai basil, sweet potato. Mix it all well and then then add water.
3. Bring the soup to a simmer and then add all the vegetables and cook for 7-8 minutes.
4. In a separate bowl, cook the udon noodles per the packet instructions and then combine them with the soup.

Serve immediately.

BBC Good Food Show London, Olympia, London, 15 – 17 November 2013

The BBC Good Food Show London is running from 15-17 November at the Olympia in London. To celebrate we have teamed up with the organisers to offer you …. general admission tickets as a fantastic prize! See some of the nation’s favourite TV Shows brought to life with The Great British Bake Off sessions featuring Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, MasterChef cook offs featuring John Torode and Gregg Wallace and Saturday Kitchen Live sessions featuring James Martin, plus Michel Roux Jr is back live on the Supertheatre and Deena Kakaya on the interview stage sponsored by Tesco finest. Shop from hundreds of exhibitors in the Producers Village and The Great British Bake Off Village and make sure to visit the Pop-Up Restaurant and Street Food Experience to savour some of the best food London has to offer.

Not a winner? To book tickets and for more information on the BBC Good Food Show London please visit bbcgoodfoodshowlondon.com or call 0844 581 1364

Cooking with Herbs

fsf-autumn
Four Seasons Food hosted by Delicieux and Eat Your Veg

Curry of banana stuffed with spices, coconut and tamarind

10 Oct
Banana curry stuffed with spices, coconut and tamarind

Banana curry stuffed with spices, coconut and tamarind

Sometimes it is difficult to decipher what the important things are in life. For me anyway. I have friends at various stages of life. This week I’ve been talking to friends and there’s a spectrum of belief systems, coming from people with similar backgrounds and listening to them has provoked much thought and discussion.

One of my friends is holding off from baby stuff until the promotion; I did that. Another has taken a career turn and a big pay cut in order to spend time with her girls; I relate to that. One has moved abroad and declared she’s not settling down; I admire her will, clarity and honesty to herself. Another friend has quit work and decided to be a full time mum for the foreseeable future; I’m full of respect for the devotion. She’s fortunate that her husband earns well and they are able to make this choice, but it is a lovely, challenging choice to devote all your time to your little people.

It’s like people put conditions on their happiness. ‘I will be happy if and when I get that job’, ‘I will relax when I earn this much’. ‘I will be so happy if I get pregnant’, ‘I’m going to be so excited if I get that house’

Nothing is forever. I have had the promotions and the holidays and the horrible bosses and horrendous jobs. I’ve done the slim body and had the bigger body. I’ve had lots of hair and then it fell out. Here today, gone tomorrow. One of the things I’ve only just recently learned is that it’s important to be happy now. Just because and just for the sake of it. Because we are only here for a short time. You may expect me to now say do what you love etc, which is great…but most of us have mortgages and bills to pay. Never have I more appreciated how important it is to have hobbies, friends, to laugh and to live.

Most of my friends work very hard at whatever they do and it’s a struggle to keep those flickers of excitement burning when you are constantly tired, pressurised and stressed. Maybe that’s why they holiday frequently.

One of my most memorable, holidays was in Mauritius. The boxes were being ticked and I was celebrating. I was happy because the conditions for my happiness were being met. I’d hit the grade at work that I thought I could chill at for a few years. I’d been working hard at the gym and the body looked ok. The renovations to the house were done. It was all good and I was in Mauritius. It was all temporary stuff. Stuff that came before a few stretch marks, redundancy and a life full to the brim of unconditional love.

We were sick of continental hotel food so ventured down the road at the back of our hotel. It was dark and quiet but we felt safe amongst the banana trees and signing crickets. A local restaurant, for locals shone brightly with fairy lights and , Mosquitos bounced off the white walls. The menu was minimalist but I picked the strangest vegetarian food I could. I like to be educated.

One of the dishes was mashed and curried plantain. The restaurant was run by Indians, so I kind of expected this. It was cooked in tomatoes and curry spices and was sweet and sour. This is what I’ve tried to achieve with this curry and you know what? The sweet banana tastes Mingle in with the tomato curry base so well, that they become one. The nutty stuffing is slightly sour and spicy and works in harmony with the bananas. You’ve got to try this one. It’s a dish full of unexpected flavours and textures. The banana doesn’t go squishy, just soft and aromatic.

Ingredients

6 ripe but firm bananas
1 cup of gram flour
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
Salt to taste (I’ve used 1tsp)
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
3tbsp tamarind sauce
1/3rd cup water
1/2 can of tomatoes
5-6curry leaves
A large red onion, sliced
2tsp vegetable oil
1 Tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric

Method

1. To make the stuffing, put the gram flour in a mixing bowl and add the coriander, cumin and turmeric powder with the salt and Chilli. Mix it well and then add the desiccated coconut, mix again and then add the tamarind sauce and oil with the water and make a dough.image
2. Cut the banana into 4equal pieces and then make a slit in the top of each piece of banana, lengthways. Take pinches of the stuffing and put it into the slit of the banana. Stuff all the sections and leave them to a side.image
3. Heat one tablespoon of oil and add the cumin seeds and curry leaves. Let the seeds sizzle and then add the tomatoes and salt to taste.
4. Sit the banana sections Into the tomato base and then add enough warm water to hit the top of the banana. Cook for 6-7minutes or until the banana is soft enough to pierce through the skin
5. Serve hot with rice or chappati

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