Tag Archives: Vegan

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.

Eggless, mushroom and quinoa vegetarian burger

6 Jan

My boy turns three soon and I have been racking my brain for where to take him on his birthday. In fact he will have two days out, one on his birthday with me and one we will all have as a family when his dad returns from Germany. The problem is that the bar is set quite high. Already at three he has had two international holidays and eats out most weekends. Our pre-nursery school days together have been filled with visits to the farm, aerodrome, and kids swimming centre, London markets, butterfly world and the zoo for which we have passes. He’s been to the space centre, IMAX, national history and science museums as well as the aquarium and let’s not touch on the topic of soft play centres or rainforest café-all done. I know there is an element of spoiling him here but the truth is that I am indulging myself in his childhood.

mushroom quinoa burger by Deena kakaya

Turning three is a big deal. It is the birthday before nursery school and now that he has his place we are frequently talking about how exciting that will be. After he is three he will have birthday parties too, with his friends in attendance. Up until now, I have steered away from hosting parties for him as I didn’t want to overshadow the special feelings with the complexities that grown-ups bring to parties. It will all be different next year.

The trouble is that these excursions aren’t cheap and are often sinful for the vegetarian tummy. These days I have been looking out for ideas like the RAF museum in Hendon, which in my opinion is little talked about but utterly impressive (I am not being paid or sponsored to write this). It is a little boy’s paradise with planes hanging off the ceiling and a few accessible for entranced exploration. There were old planes and newer planes and the whole place reminded me of that film, ‘a night at the museum’. We worked up an appetite walking around several buildings full of planes and at lunchtime I ordered from the on-site restaurant a vegetarian burger and some chips for the boy; something I said I would never do (before I had him). The problem was that there was no vegetarian alternative and normally I take his food with us, but it was post-Christmas. Anyway, my burger was a couple of baps with some grilled peppers and courgette tumbling out of it. I could spiral into a discussion about why restaurants don’t do vegetarian food so well, but that would be repetitive wouldn’t it.

The next day, we had another excursion planned with my boy’s cousin, to the national history museum in Tring. This time, I made burgers.

mushroom quinoa burger by Deena kakaya

Now, I have tried innumerate versions of the veggie burger but none have made it onto the blog. Is a burger, ‘special’ enough to blog about? Besides, many of the iterations felt either too; wet, or eggy, dry and crumbly, or just doughy. I simply wanted a burger that’s lean and an option for healthy vegetarian eating but I have been mindful about retaining the moisture and of course it has to have a crisp exterior. Otherwise what would be the point? I like colour and depth and succulence, as all burger lovers do. I am particularly pleased with recipe because I have managed to pack in some quinoa and even some iron-level boosting dried apricots. So, I am sharing with you this burger recipe because it really does the job.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Artichoke, two potato and peanut curry

2 Dec

The ritual moaning became a means for bonding, even though we didn’t know it. As we dropped into our workstations on the open floor within our head offices, we compared how horrifically tired we were; too stressed, kids woke up at night or of course the wretched international business travel that we really did not want to do.  Then of course there was the travesty that of the car parking availability and all related discussion around where we ended up parking and having to walk from the north pole of the cark park, in the hideous weather; why don’t we just live abroad.

Artichoke, two potato and peanut curry by Deena Kakaya

We moaned about being underpaid, difficult colleagues, grading systems, ineffective governance systems, oppressive hierarchy, pay differentials, emerging stress related acne, the food in the canteen, the queues at the in-house Starbucks, the lack of available meeting rooms, the air conditioning noise and it was always just too darn cold. The ergonomic chairs weren’t ergonomic enough and the team away day was not in the right location but look, the thing is that we had people to complain to, with.

We confided in each other about fertility issues, we held each other’s hands through tumultuous periods with children. We comforted each other when we worried about the deteriorating health of parents and through illness or even just an argument with a loved one. We gave each other understanding around the challenges of inter-cultural marriages and we saw each other grow and evolve, out of divorce and through to new chapters. From parenting lost children to flourishing ones or from fertility challenges to becoming seasoned parents.

And following the grey clouds of ambiguity that I experienced in recent years, my ex-colleagues, my friends came along to my cookery class yesterday. A couple of them came along to show support and encouragement and each time they caught me around them they would say, ‘Deena I just love this, I am so happy for you.’ ‘Deena this is brilliant, well done you’. It is at this point that I realised how much I had missed them all and missed being around wonderful, like-minded and warm people. I feel so grateful that even after these years, they brought not only this wonderful energy back into my heart but also brought plenty of hellos from other friends.

I felt mellow, easy and I smiled. Fitting with this is my gentle, kind and lightly spiced but very fragrant vegetarian curry of artichoke, two potatoes and peanuts.  As you lift the lid on this curry you smell cinnamon, don’t skip the cinnamon on this one. There are no overpowering flavours, it is subtle yet soothing. Creamy but not with cream; the peanuts add sweet thickness because a paste is added in. The artichoke delivers silky texture and the potatoes sweet depth. The sweet potatoes and potatoes are earthy fresh, smelling of fresh air and good living because that is what the team at Riverford always, always deliver to me.

For the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Deep and Smokey Mexican-Asian noodle soup

9 Feb

Keep the song

Deep and Smokey Mexican-Asian noodle soup

 

My parents fretted that I was a bit of a hermit as kid.  It was somewhat the opposite as a teen but as a child I would hear my dad express his qualms about whether he was dipping me into social activities enough. Often when he asked if I wanted to join him on one of his frequent but small shops, I would say no.  My brother would always go.  The reason I stayed behind was so that I could sing freely, loudly, expressively and privately. I would day dream lots. I laid out piles of books around the room and became utterly lost in them, gleaning and storing snippets of them in a pensive haze. I remember how captivated I was by them both; books and music. So much so that when anyone hollered for me I wouldn’t hear them.

I took singing lessons as a teen. I sang on the way to lessons at college and even to exams. In fact I even had, ‘exam songs’. I sang in the park with my friends, whilst cooking and always in the bath. People tell us all the time that we should learn from our elders. I have to tell you quite honestly and humbly that I am right now in my life, learning from my younger self.

For I had a focus that I am only proud of now and wish that I still had. I knew that with every song and with my own decidedness I got myself in the zone. I knew that singing made my heart flutter and gave me a rush of energy. So why then had I let the song out of my life in recent years?

The radio in the car played the same nursery rhymes. The kitchen was quiet. The TV played as background noise and social media was the go-to.

I went on a girl’s night on Friday. I met the girls on my NCT group and the three of us have seen each other through big, emotionally-overhauling life changes.  We have spoken to each about stuff we wouldn’t normally say, candidly, angrily, ecstatically and most of all we have been exhausted together. We talked about our most recent changes in life. One of us is having a new baby; another is going through a separation. Then there is me.

I drove home at nearly midnight, eyes sore from fatigue. As I turned into the driveway I heard a song that threw me back to my teenage years. I closed my eyes and I was with my books and the windows were open, net curtains billowing…I was crouched on the floor, face cupped in hand, and hair everywhere. The romantic potential unlocked and singing, smiling, lost and with swelling with a beat.

knew that the moment I walked in through the door I would become a mother, so when the song had stopped playing I found it on youtube and played it again, thrice.

To fit the deep and smoky mood, I made this Mexican-Asian noodle soup.  I was sent some wonderful Mexican ingredients by CoolChille Company and I knew that I had to do it. The black beans are deep and earthy and brought to a further earthiness with soy bean paste. Guajillo chillies are wonderfully rich in colour and smoky. I toasted, soaked and then blitzed them to a paste and this has really released immense richness. Avocado brings silky and creamy quality and it works superbly with the soup. I have up epazote which is a citrus-medicinal type Mexican herb and works fabulously with black beans.  This one works as a bowl of surprise and sumptuous taste.

Deep and Smokey Mexican-Asian noodle soup

 

Ingredients to serve 2-3

200g cooked black beans

6 baby onions, quartered

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

700ml water

2 tsp.

1 tsp. soy bean paste

2 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

Half an avocado, sliced

6-7 baby corn, thinly sliced

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 large guajillo chillies

2 tsp. epazote

2 tbsp. cooking oil

A few sprigs of coriander to garnish

A couple of slices of lime to garnish

Method

  1. Start by toasting the Guajillo chillies on a non-stick pan to release the flavour. You will notice that the chilli will soften and will release a wonderful heat. Toast for about a minute on each side and then let them cool to room temperaturechillies 1
  2. Soak the Guajillo chillies in hot water for about 15 minutes, before grinding them to a paste.
  3. In a deep pan, heat the oil and add the cumin seeds. When the seeds sizzle add the baby onions and fry them until they brown lightly. Then add the garlic and baby corn and sauté for another minute
  4. Pour in the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and the epazote and cook for another minute.
  5. Pour in the water and add the soy bean paste. Bring the soup to a simmer.
  6. Introduce the black beans and the guajillo chillies then add the noodles.
  7. Allow the soup to simmer for 3-4 minutes or until the noodles are cooked.
  8. Serve the soup and top with the slices of avocado, coriander and lime. The lime infuses beautifully with the soup.

18 Vegetarian recipes for Christmas, from me to you

21 Dec

Merry Christmas everyone. I wish you all smiles, peace and a heart full of love. I wish you all days where you wake up, looking forward to the day and I wish you nights where you will fall asleep smiling. I wish you all good, light and kind thoughts, you know the sort that shape your day to be just happy. I wish you joy without conditions and good health of the mind and body.

For the last three years, each New Year’s Eve, my husband and I watch the fireworks at midnight and he tells me, ‘this year will be your year’. This year I reminded him asked him if he will say this to me again, for the fourth time. Will he convince me about how this year really will be the one. Have I not had my year because I didn’t make it happen, or have they been mine but I’ve been too ungrateful to count my blessings.  This year, I hope I can release that pressure and just see how blessed I am. My loved ones are all alive and in reasonable shape. I have a beautiful, kind and smart boy now, a home and it’s all going to be…

Lets eat to that shall we? Here is a summary of foods that are special enough for Christmas.

18 Vegetarian recipes for Christmas, from me to you

Personalised Gifts

If you have left it too late to buy Christmas gifts or want I give something with a personal touch, why not try my Home made chilli oil with an Indian accent? It’s made with sesame oil to give a deeper, nuttier taste and smooth texture. It’s a hot oil with the aromas of cumin, fennel, cinnamon, cloves star anise. It’s definitely a special one.

Homemade chilli oil with an Indian accent

IMG_3928

If you prefer a sweeter texture, try my Hot Chilli and sweet lychee dipping sauce? It’s perfumed and sweet with a hot kick at the end. I use I with spring rolls, in sandwiches and even with chips.

 

Homemade sweet lychee and hot chilli dipping sauce

Homemade sweet lychee and hot chilli dipping sauce

Picky Pleasures

In our house we graze the day long..mouthfuls of crunchy or sweet nibbled are thrown into gobs whilst watching cheesy movies or playing board games together. I love these jaggery and spice crusted nuts so much. They ate smooth and crisp as well as sweet and aromatic with the cardamom.

Diwali and Christmas nuts-pecans in a crisp jaggery, cardamom and cinnamon shell

Christmas nuts-pecans in a crisp jaggery, cardamon and cinnamon shell
Christmas nuts-pecans in a crisp jaggery, cardamom and cinnamon shell

If you fancy something with a bit of a kick, try out my plantain chips with cranberries and nuts. Not only does it look pretty and festive, it’s quite moorish!

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

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

Sides, starters and party pieces

One of my favourites of this season has to be my smoked garlic, fennel, coconut, cumin and panko coated mushrooms. They taste crisp, exotic and nutty with a juicy and oozy mushroom inside. They’re magic.

Crispy Mushrooms in a smoked garlic, coconut, cumin, fennel and panko- is it Christmas yet?

Crispy Mushrooms in a smoked garlic, coconut, cumin, fennel and panko
Crispy Mushrooms in a smoked garlic, coconut, cumin, fennel and panko- is it Christmas yet?

Everyone loves a good fritter. For me they are the ultimate picky food. Whether they evoke memories of eating paneer pakora in the monsoon rain during holidays to India, or falafels being fried in huge quantities by friendly chefs who rolled them off their hands like balls of cotton wool. Whether they are eaten whilst sat under warm showers with smiles from beloved family, or nibbled whilst perched on a stool in a busy restaurant in Cairo. There is nothing like biting into a steaming hot and crispy shell to show bright green and moist beans tumble into the mouth.

Festive nibbles- broad bean and paneer fritters

Festive nibbles- broad bean and paneer fritters

How about my Trendy Kale, banana and red onion pakora? 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.

Trendy Kale, banana and red onion pakora

Trendy Kale, banana and red onion pakora

Brussels sprouts, the quintessential Christmas veg. How do mine look? pretty? tempting? These Brussels sprouts are treated tenderly, as they deserve to be but they aren’t your soggy or overcooked sprout. It’s a lively, lightly spiced and full of flavour, juicy sprout.

 

Crispy, Indo-Chinese style purple Brussels sprouts

Crispy, Indo-Chinese style purple Brussels sprouts
Crispy, Indo-Chinese style purple Brussels sprouts

For something lighter, healthier and simple why not try my Christmas coloured nibbles of balsamic, garlic and chilli roasted tomatoes with soybean and red onion dip. It’s red and green…Christmassy…get it? Alright, alright I know. It’s not exactly the whackiest idea for colours but it does look festive and it is fun. The tomatoes take on an intensely deep and sweet flavour when roasted and the garlic really comes through with a kick of chilli at the end. The dip left my husband in sigh’s of ‘mmm’s and he’s polished off the entire bowl of dip! I have to say that this nutty dip is really very good. The handy thing with this recipe is that it’s great warm or cold. I served with warm pitta and some smoked cheese.

Christmas coloured nibbles-balsamic, garlic and chilli roasted tomatoes and soybean and red onion dip

Christmas coloured nibbles-balsamic, garlic and chilli roasted tomatoes and soybean and red onion dip
Christmas coloured nibbles-balsamic, garlic and chilli roasted tomatoes and soybean and red onion dip

I can’t tell you how delighted I am at how popular my recipe for Goats cheese pakora in a spinach, sundried tomato, fennel, cumin and gram flour batter has been! I’m really excited by this one. It’s really quite special. When they are warm, the goats cheese is oozy and juicy and the case is fluffy, flecked with green spinach and sweet sun-dried tomatoes…does it get any better?

 

Christmas starters and sides-Goats cheese pakora in a spinach, sundried tomato, fennel, cumin and gram flour batter

Christmas starters and sides-Goats cheese pakora in a spinach, sundried tomato, fennel, cumin and gram flour batter
Christmas starters and sides-Goats cheese pakora in a spinach, sundried tomato, fennel, cumin and gram flour batter

Chutney makes it taste even better

If you find those veg a bit plain, here are a couple of chutneys to lift them to gorgeousness. My Kerala inspired tomato, pineapple and cucumber chutney has spruced up my sarnies lately and I’ve even had this chutney with roasted veg…just to test it out!

Tangy, sweet, spicy Christmas food gift-tomato, pineapple and cucumber chutney

Tangy, sweet, spicy Christmas food gift-tomato, pineapple and cucumber chutney
Tangy, sweet, spicy Christmas food gift-tomato, pineapple and cucumber chutney

 

From halwa to chutney- Butternut squash, almond and coconut chutney

I was also inspired by fond memories of halwa to make a butternut squash, almond and coconut chutney that is divine with bread and cheese, do try it.

halwa to chutney- Butternut squash, almond and coconut chutney

halwa to chutney- Butternut squash, almond and coconut chutney

 

The main event

It isn’t another nut roast, relax! I have nothing against a good, sumptuous and nutritious nut roast, but we can do better than that! How about my 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. For me, this sums up a vegetarian Christmas in three, simple layers.

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
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

If you fancy a curry for the big day with a festive feel, try my Malaysian inspired curry of Brussels sprouts, tofu and potatoes. 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. The other good thing about a curry for Christmas is that you can make it before your guests arrive and then relax and spend some quality time with them.

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

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

Sweet Stuff

I give the traditional apple crumble recipe an exotic and spiced twist. The juices burst through the top of the crumble and are a mix of the fruits and spices; it’s so good that I could drink it. It’s really good, try it.

Apple, Lychee and blackberry (coconut)crumble with rose, cinnamon, cardamon and star anise

Spiced Apple, Lychee and blackberry crumble

Spiced Apple, Lychee and blackberry crumble

The iced cold weather and then warming up with spices and central heating. The colours the charm, the music…and that’s what I have tried to capture in my recipe today. The icy yoghurt has a lightly sour tang, because its yoghurt. It’s sweet with pineapple and sweetener. The chilli adds a perplexing heat and I’ve added a touch of cinnamon, so the fragrance is festively sweet.

A scoop of Christmas – pineapple, cinnamon and red chilli frozen yoghurt

pineapple, cinnamon and red chilli frozen yoghurt

pineapple, cinnamon and red chilli frozen yoghurt

 

Now let’s have a drink

When the party is over, I get thirsty as heck. I want something soothing, fragrant , sweet and cold. I want the gola man from India to come and make me one whilst I have a foot massage (not from the gola man, let’s not get any ideas). I need a good soak in the bath with flowery fragrances. I fancied enacting one of those scenes from period films where the queen bathes in a pool of rose petals and warm water, with people passing her towels and drinks. Alas, I’m no queen but this cool, fruity, floral and fragrant cooler is a spa for the mind.

Dance, sing and drink a rose, pomegranate and lime cooler

 

Rose, pomegranate and lime cooler

Rose, pomegranate and lime cooler

 

Om shanti Om- pineapple, rose, ginger and cinnamon lassi

Pineapple, rose, cinnamon and ginger lassi

Pineapple, rose, cinnamon and ginger lassi

 

 

 

 

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.

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

13 Nov

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients for two gift containers

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

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

Allow the mixture to cool completely before packaging it.

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

 

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

Tangy, sweet, spicy Christmas food gift-tomato, pineapple and cucumber chutney

9 Nov
Tangy, sweet, spicy Christmas food gift-tomato, pineapple and cucumber chutney

Tangy, sweet, spicy Christmas food gift-tomato, pineapple and cucumber chutney

On our houseboat in Kerala we had chef with us, as part of the deal. It was during one of my birthdays and what a way to spend it; lying on a mahogany hammock on the boat looking out at the lush green backwaters and watching birds swoop. I don’t often feel utterly relaxed, but that was a time where I did. I find that when I feel too absorbed in the microscopic elements of life, seeing life from a different angle makes me feel more alive, more grateful and more free.

Kerela house boat
Hammock
Scenary

I could see fluorescent green rice paddies in the distance. I watched small children take a boat, run past a tiny white-painted church so they could get to school. I watched fishermen and people looked happy. I thought about my own social circles, how different people are.

In the morning chef made stacks of hot, fluffy idli (sour steamed little cakes made of fermented rice and lentils) and puri. As a snack he would make banana fritters and steaming hot cardamom tea and just thinking of the dinner makes me feel satiated. I’d ask him to make just a small amount of vegetable rice and maybe one curry…but no. You know what he made? Okra curry, a red lentil dhal, a mixed vegetable Avial, salad, potato fritters and a mango milkshake. I’m not kidding. For two of us. He served us so eagerly and affectionately that the result was, totally truthfully, that my husband and I had to sit up for several hours in bed because we were too full to lie down.

Chef made a spectacular tomato chutney which had some almost-raw bottle gourd in it (dud hi). I scooped excessive amounts of it on my idli in the morning and he smiled at me as I did so. He very kindly taught me how to make it I. The kitchen of the house boat and I gained new admiration for him. The kitchen was small as you’d expect, but it moved! This guy is genius.

I’ve adapted his recipe to Include pineapple for sweetness, and cucumber and not bottle gourd to give a crunchy texture and I’ve kept the tomatoes t give a sweetness and tangy. All in all, this is another sensory play that works fantastically with cheese and bread so you can whip it out for Christmas or dish them out as gusts, as I am doing.

Ingredients to make 4 jars of 150ml size

600g tomatoes skinned
400g pineapple chunks
280ml rice wine vinegar
2 tsp black onion seeds
2 tsp chilli flakes
5-6 curry leaves
1/4 tsp cinnamon
100g caster sugar
One large red onion
2 tbsp oil
2 tsp minced ginger
Salt to taste
Half a large cucumber, cut into bite sized chunks

Cooks tip; to skin the tomatoes pour boiling water into a pan with the tomatoes in. When the skin starts to split, drain the water and wash them in cold water before slipping the skin off.

Tomatoes

 

Method
1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion seeds and curry leaves and when the onion seeds crackle add the onions and salt. Sauté the onion for a minute before adding the ginger. Cook until the onion has softened.
2. Pour in the vinegar and sugar and stir it and simmer until the sugar has dissolved.

Simmering

3. Pour the tomatoes, cinnamon and pineapple in and lower the heat and simmer until the juices have dried and the mixture is tacky. It should take about 30minutes.
4. Add the cucumber and cook for a further 4minutes before turning of the heat.

Make sure the jars have been sterilised before you our the cooled chutney in.

Family friendly, hot pink rice and quinoa (Beetroot, butternut squash and Indian spices)

8 Nov

Family friendly, hot pink rice and quinoa (Beetroot, butternut squash and Indian spices)

We all know that there is a relationship between bright and deep coloured food and how alluring we find them and this seems as, if not more true with little people. I showed my toddler some Beetroot other day and thankfully he only had a vest on at the time. ‘Oooh, what’s that mumma’.

I’d caught his interest, clearly. I willed him to bite into a chunk as I let him mess about with it. I recalled a magazine editor telling me that her fussy eater showed no interest in food until he went fishing and caught a fish which he then wanted to eat as he was involved from catching it, to cooking it. Maybe this messy Beetroot was my boys fish?

He did bite into it, but he didn’t ingest any, it ended up in my palm. Great. But it did get me thinking about how I could get him to eat beetroot given that he liked colour. I thought about my visits to Mumbai and being surprised at the inclusion of Beetroot in so many dishes. ‘I thought beetroot is a western vegetable’, I questioned. You can imagine what they thought of that!

There was beetroot in masala sarnies (freaking awesome), beetroot in dosa, beet in chaat, beet in gram flour fritters even. I didn’t see any Beetroot in curries…why haven’t I made one yet? It transpired that Beetroot works pretty well with masala and everyone loves rice don’t they, especially kids.

My recipe today is deep, sweet, spicy and alluring. That just sounded a big like one of those dating adverts didn’t it? Or a blind date catch line. Jokes aside, it’s light, packed, juicy and beautiful.

Ingredients

250g cooked Beetroot, cut into chunks
200g basmati rice, washed
200g butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 tbsp ground nut oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
One red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
One red onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste d
250g red and white quinoa (I used the merchant gourmet ready to eat pack)
200g basmati

Method
1. Par boil the rice, for about 8minutes until the rice has swelled and needs the starch removed. Wash the rice and drain the water and leave it to a side.
2. Boil the butternut squash until it is soft enough to piece all the way through. Drain and leave it to a side.
3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, turmeric and chilli. Allow the seeds to crackle and then add the onion and salt. Sauté until the onions are soft and lightly browned.
4. Stir in the Beetroot and butternut squash and then add the black pepper.
5. Blend the butternut squash and Beetroot smooth and turn the heat down to a flicker.
6. Introduce the rice and the quinoa and gently blend it all together. Cook for a further 6-7 minutes on a low flame until the rice is cooked.

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

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