Tag Archives: vegetarian curry

Hot and smoky aubergine curry

18 Feb

Hot and Smoky aubergine curry

 

My nose is tingling as I begin to tell you about what I experienced last week. I taught a cookery class that shifted me emotionally.

Hot and Smokey aubergine curry by Deena Kakaya

It was a community based cookery class, which means that it was for local Londoners and not for profit. I always, agreeably expect a mix people, from different worlds to join me in classes like this.  This time too, we had the world in our classroom; a lady, who spoke Spanish and then translated into English, used every opportunity to convey to me how it’s done in Spain. She spoke tenderly and her eyes were damp. I’m blushing when I admit, that a few years ago I might have considered this as decelerating the class but this time I felt calmly assured about this gentle lady. It turns out that she has an embolism on her lung and that she lived alone. She filled with tears as she expressed how much she looked forward to attending community classes and passionately, generously offered to sew some more of skilfully made aprons for the cookery school. She overflowed with love and told me that there are choices; show spirit and keeps busy, or not.

Hot and Smokey aubergine curry by Deena Kakaya

A gentleman who walked and talked unhurriedly made much conversation with me and as he filled in a technical term for me, which escaped my mind, I warmed to the way he spoke. I like intelligence.  It evolved with his telling me of his trekking in Africa and I told him about my mother’s family being expelled from Uganda. He told me about his brother, who despite having high-end cars and a focus on achievement hadn’t really lived.  As we surveyed spices and checked textures, he drew pictures in my mind of his sisters contrasting life in Italy, living on fresh produce from her garden and feeding many friends, around a laughing table. She has lived. He asked the question on why people should judge themselves or others, for simple choices in life when it is so short.

 

From a chirpy massage therapist to a man with no fixed abode, from a seasoned cook from Mauritius to someone who gave me the first smiles of acceptance after three cookery classes together. You know the interesting thing? Often in these classes there are light quips about the menu being entirely vegetarian or some vocalised disassociation with spice. There are sometimes questions, ‘so you aren’t from India then’, but in this class, there was simply overwhelming and unanimous praise, encouragement and enjoyment. There were no leftovers. There were empty plates. There were huddles around an iPad as they all perused my blog with intrigued eyebrows and sighs.

‘They really like you Deena, you’ve really given them something today, they loved the food too’, the cookery school manager stopped to tell me. It wasn’t all about the food I don’t always do good things. Sometimes I do darn silly things. But in that class, I took some lessons and I felt emotionally shifted.

 

One thing they did note is that it’s not all curry on the site, even though we did cook a couple during the class. These days, I’ve been hankering for something with a proper kick. I fancied a curry with attitude; a curry that isn’t weakly vegetarian as so often and unfortunately vegetarian curries are described to be. I have been visualizing thick, red gravy with some deep and juicy tones….you get the idea. For me, aubergines can go badly wrong if they are watery, understated and without garlic. Luckily this dish is none of those.  Where does the fusion come in? Well, as I served this dish the smell in Mexican but taste is Indian because I use Mexican guajillo chillies as well as chipotle to give smoky aromas and a total block red colour. This is not one for the faint hearted.  This is a bold curry, it’s alive.

 

Ingredients to serve 4-6

Two large aubergines

7 desert spoons of plain yoghurt

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

3 dried chipotle chillies

2 dried guajillo chillies

3 tbsp. cooking oil

¼ tsp. mustard seeds

One large onion, finely diced

2 bay leaves

6 green cardamom pods

6 cloves

6 cloves of garlic

Salt to taste

350ml water

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. smoked paprika

 

Method

  1. Cut the aubergines into large cubes and marinate them with the yoghurt, ground cumin and coriander. Leave them in the fridge for at least an hour.
  2. Take the chillies and gently heat them on a non-stick pan and let the aromas release before soaking them in the water for 30-40 minutes.
  3. Once the chillies have soaked, grind them to a paste with the garlic and then leave it to a side.
  4. Heat the oil and add the bay leaves, mustard seeds, cloves and cardamom pods. Allow the seeds to pop and then add the onion and salt then soften the onion until it is lightly golden.
  5. Add the chilli and garlic paste and fry for a minute until the oil surfaces.
  6. Now add the aubergine, with the marinade. Sprinkle in the paprika and lemon juice. Turn the flame to a low level and cook the aubergine for 5-8 minutes before adding the water.
  7. Now simmer the aubergine for 45-50 minutes until the aubergine is tender and the curry gravy is thick.

 

 

 

 

 

Curry for change recipe and video! Black eye bean pakora in coconut kadhi

18 Sep

This is a post that is different to the posts you may be accustomed to seeing from me. Yes there is a recipe, but there is something different.

I was asked a few months ago to share a recipe for the Curry for Change competition, held in conjunction with Natco for the Find your Feet charity. I, like many of you out there get a lot of emails each day but this one caught my attention and held it. I used to be one of those people that was so preoccupied with life that charitable stuff was scheduled in for particular times of the year yet always on the agenda. Since having my boy, my emotional equilibrium has, well, shifted. If you have followed my blog (I thank you once again if you have been) then you will know that during the past few years I have found myself quite lost, confused and in search of that, ‘lifeline’. I have gone without so many aspects of previous life that I felt had defined me, but I can not pretend to know what it is like for people who go without the basics of life; food.

The rawness of the truth for me is that I needed to feel that ‘I CAN’. That I can make a difference for myself, that I can be productive by myself, that I can voice myself once again. It has taken me a few years to find my feet again, and I am trying to imagine how someone who does not have the support, systems, means, facilities, access and options that I have, would find their feet.

So, my recipe was one of the winning recipes for this challenge, as selected by Vivek Singh and I am delighted to share it with you all today. The recipe is for black eye bean pakora in coconut kadhi. This is a sumptuous and soothing dish, filling and versatile and you can make the components ahead of a dinner party and then throw them together at the last minute. The pakora are deep and nutty and full of texture. The little gram flour fritters are lightly spiced and sit in a tangy, spicy and hot yogurt based soup/curry that is tempered with whole spices such as cloves, cinnamon, curry leaves, cumin seeds and ginger. I have used coconut powder to give it a light and fragrant touch. This is perfect for the season and easy to do.

pakora kadhi 1

When our own lives are filled with good food, it’s hard to imagine that one in eight people around the world will go to bed hungry tonight. 

The Find your Feet charity works to support families in Asia and Africa to not got hungry. Not by feeding them, but my helping them find their feet. They support and encourage families to innovate, using their own resources more productively, trying new seeds, making compost and diversifying their crops.

This means they can produce a variety of nutritious foods to eat throughout the year so that they never go hungry and to earn an income by selling the excess.

They provide them with training and support to start village saving and loan schemes so they can borrow a little capital to start a small business.

This allows them to sell their surplus vegetables or eggs or start a small local shop which enables them to become more self-reliant and provide a better future for their family.

They empower women so that they have the confidence to speak out and take a stand on issues that affect them, such as accessing better healthcare for their children or clean water for their village. This in turn enables them to demand what is rightfully theirs. 

Life is so short.

So, what can you do?

 

Well you could hold a curry event at your home or at a friends and ask each person to make a charitable contribution. You cook up a few dishes (you could use this recipe as one) and enjoy yourselves. For every penny your curry event raises, Nacto will match it. The person that raises the most will win a class with Atul Kochhar at his esteemed restaurant, Benares in Mayfair.

 

Here is my recipe and the video that I did, showing how to cook this recipe, for Curry for change.

 

 

Ingredients

For the pakora

60g black eyed beans, pre-soaked overnight

50g finely chopped fenugreek leaves

1 tsp. minced ginger

Salt to taste

½ tsp. chilli powder (or to taste)

1 tsp. amchur powder or the juice of ½ lemon

100ml water

100g gram flour

One medium onion, diced

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Oil for deep frying

For the coconut kadhi

400g plain, natural yoghurt

100g coconut milk powder

650ml water

2 tbsp. gram flour

Salt to taste

2-3 green chillies slit open

1 small stick of cinnamon

2-3 cloves

5-6 curry leaves

1 tsp. minced ginger

2 tbsp. cooking oil

Method

  1. You will need to pre-cook the black eyed beans for about 25=30 minutes until they are tender, then drain any liquid
  2. Heat the oil for deep frying whilst you make the batter for the pakora
  3. To make the pakora firstly lightly mash the black eyed beans. Don’t puree them but with your fingers give them a tender squeeze. The reason for this is to avoid them rolling out of the batter and popping in the oil on their own.
  4. Combine the lightly mashed black eyed beans. Then add the onions, fenugreek leaves and all the dry ingredients and mix them all well before adding all the wet ingredients and mix it all again.
  5. Drop a small amount of batter into the oil to check if the batter sizzles and rises. If it does, then drop in small amounts (roughly 3-4cm sized pieces) into the oil and deep fry until they are crispy and golden brown. Remove them with a slotted spoon, releasing any excess oil, onto kitchen paper.
  6. Turn your attention to making the Kadhi. Mix the coconut milk powder, yoghurt and gram flour to a smooth paste and leave it to side whilst you make the tempering.
  7. In a deep pan, heat the oil and then add the cumin seeds, chillies, curry leaves, cloves and cinnamon. Let them sizzle and then add the minced ginger before you sauté for under a minute, but don’t let the Kadhi brown.
  8. Pour in the yoghurt mixture and the water and bring it all to a simmer before adding salt.
  9. Cook the Kadhi for 7-8 minutes, and then add the pakora and cook for a further 2-3 minutes before serving with hot and steaming rice.

black eyed bean pakora in coconut kadhi

Chimichurri and feta spiked mung bean sprouts in a baked, jumbo spring roll

1 Jun

Chimichurri and feta spiked mung bean sprouts in a baked, jumbo spring roll

Chimichurri and feta spiked mung bean sprouts in a baked, jumbo spring roll

I expended most of this weekend searching for a replacement car after mine was written off a couple of weeks ago. A van rammed into the back of my car at some traffic lights (I had stopped already) crushing the entire boot. I had a few moments of breathless hysteria because my little one was in the back, but fortunately, we are ok. A bit of whiplash, but blessed to be ok.

So, instead of visits to the zoo or park this weekend, we have been from car sales cosmos to showroom underworlds. Can you tell that I don’t enjoy shopping for cars? But it is an interesting world.

As I stood eyeing up a Seat Leon, two broad and bald men chuckled to each other that it is the poor man’s Audi. I smiled silently as I was thrown back to sitting/being squished in the back of the car of someone boasting to my mother about their impending purchase of a brand new Mercedes. Back then car sharing to weddings was common practise and London felt like planets away from Leicester, where I grew up. Of course back then I had no idea that London would become my home. It is where I started my married life, working life and built treasured friendships.

Anyway, I remember clearly sensing the inferiority that this lady wanted my mother to feel. She went on to describe their family business and property and how I looked awkward and that my face didn’t fit well on my body, but even though I was probably just 12 I knew that actually, she was without the basics in life of love and respect. I looked at my attractive mother who was adorned in a new sari and jewellery that my dad had chosen for her. Then I looked at the other lady, who was lacking.

The car is something of, ‘what do you do for a living’ or ‘where do you live’, isn’t it? Except it doesn’t grow does it? I once worked with a chap who did very well professionally and lived in an area brimming with upmarket delicatessens, fancy florists, and tiny Thai restaurants and of course fabulous schools, but drove a moving skip, as he called it. I learned a lot from him on many levels.

That said I know how I feel when I put on a nice dress, good perfume, make-up and a few simple but lovely accessories. I am sure my stance changes, my attitude might change too.

Head in a thorough spin, I decided to call it the end to a hot and bothersome level of thinking and head to the garden for some running under the sprinkler with the boy after the swings and slide. I needed refreshing with some zesty, summery, zingy, nutty, salty, juicy food with crunch and crisp thrown in. See where we are going with this?

I love mung bean sprouts; they are silky and nutty, cook quickly and I love the feeling of their little tails. They work fabulously well with chimichurri dressing but I have a confession; I cheated and used some Thai basil with the parsley and guess what? It gives the most fantastic, lasting herbiness. It is actually all pretty gorgeous, a healthy vegetarian recipe and I served the mung bean sprout spring rolls (baked for added bonus) with Za’atar sweet potato fries, because you know, it’s all about balance.

Ingredients to make 6 large rolls

For the sauce

350g mung bean shoots

One red onion, finely diced

3 cloves of garlic

The juice of one lemon

A large bunch of parsley

Salt to taste

1 tsp. chilli flakes or more if you like it hot

1 tsp. oregano, dried or fresh

A small bunch of Thai basil, finely chopped

2 tbsp. olive oil

Other ingredients

200g feta cheese, cut into small cubes

12 sheets of spring roll pastry, defrosted

Oil for coating the rolls

½ tsp. turmeric

Method

  1. Blitz together all of the ingredients for the sauce and leave to a side
  2. Heat a pan and add a splash of oil and then add the turmeric and mung bean shoots. Sauté for 2-3 minutes and then add the chimichurri sauce
  3. Cook the mung bean shoots for approximately 4-5 minutes longer before turning off the heat and allowing the mixture to cool and then add the feta cheese
  4. Take two sheets of spring roll pastry and leave a 3-4 cm gap from the bottom and sides and place 3-4 dessert spoons in a line and tightly roll into a cylinder shape and leave it to the side
  5. Place the rolls in an oven after greasing them lightly and bake them at 200 degrees until they are lightly golden.

 

 

 

 

 

Broccoli and Chinese leaf curry in a miso base

6 May

Broccoli and Chinese leaf curry in a miso base

Broccoli and Chinese leaf curry in a miso base

Broccoli and Chinese leaf curry in a miso base

It’s only now that I can see chapters in my life. As ceaseless as each one may feel, they do. I wasn’t there on the day of my father’s bypass because I had an exam the next day and I didn’t cry at my wedding, not even a damp eye. I cried the entire day at work when I failed the first and only (postgraduate) exam of my life. There was a time when I would curl my eyelashes post clear mascara every day and have regular facials. At a point in my life all I could see was the next level up. I wasn’t sure if I would cry at the birth of my child. Look at me now.

In the same way, not every curry needs to have a tomato base…or a coconut one. Mellow it out now and again with some umami. Earthy. I’m not sure I like that word much. Anyway, I put this curry together very quickly because Chinese leaf and broccoli need barely any time at all and the japanese miso is soothingly easy to eat as well as prepare. A healthy and light bite in the broccoli and some gentle spices…aah.
If you like miso, head over to my friend Kellie’s site where you will find some fabulously creative and definitely delicious concoctions that will leave you glowing with health. One of my favourite of her miso-inclusive recipes is her Honey-miso roasted broccoli and wholegrains salad

Broccoli and Chinese leaf curry in a miso base

Ingredients
200g broccoli, cut into medium sized florets
1 tsp. soy bean paste
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. amchur powder
500ml warm water
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 kaffir lime leaves
2-3 green chillies slit open
½ tsp. turmeric powder
1/3 tsp. garam masala
200g Chinese leaf, shredded
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. minced ginger
One medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. coriander powder
Salt to taste
1 tbsp. corn flour
2 tbsp. cooking oil
Method
1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, turmeric and chillies. Allow the seeds to sizzle before stirring in the onions and garlic.
2. Mix the corn flour with the warm water.
3. Sauté the onions and add the amchur powder and coriander powder, cook until the onions soften before adding the broccoli and water.
4. Stir in the soy bean paste, soy sauce, and kaffir lime leaves and ginger before bringing the base to a simmer. Cook for 2-3 minutes before mixing in the Chinese leaf and then cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

Cauliflower, fenugreek and mint curry

25 Apr

Cauliflower, fenugreek and mint curry

Cauliflower, fenugreek and mint curry

I like to peel back the layers of stuffed okra and nibble on them. I have a bit on an obsession with black head removal and I have never drunk a cup of tea or coffee, not a full one anyway. I never dance, not at parties not in the house and I like reading about reincarnation and have books on Dr. Stevenson’s work on the subject, documenting case studies. I never went to clubs in my university days and I actually enjoyed childbirth. It is true. Go on, say it if you haven’t already…I know, I must be weird.

Cauliflower, fenugreek and mint curry

I am weird, aren’t you? But now, I love sharing my unusual recipes with you. This one emerged from a visit to the Indian grocers.  My toddler and I chat about each of the ingredients. He went over and picked some fresh dill and told me that it smells yummy. We looked at parsley and it didn’t do anything scent-wise but the aromas of the fenugreek and mint wafted the most impactful smack of green freshness and as I got a good whiff of them together, I thought, actually…they work pretty well together. I have never had these two ingredients cooked together in this way, but let me tell you…It is strong. It is also pretty healthy and nutritious as far as curry goes.

Cauliflower, fenugreek and mint curry

Ingredients

One medium head of cauliflower cut into florets

One medium onion, thinly sliced

200g fenugreek, leaves (or one bunch) removed

50g fresh mint leaves

2 tsp. tomato puree

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 cloves of garlic

¾ tsp. garam masala

½ lemon, squeezed

Salt to taste

2 green chillies slit open and halved

1 tsp. coriander powder

¼ tsp. mustard seeds

1 tsp. cumin powder

½ tsp. ground turmeric

2 tbsp. cooking oil

Method

  1. Finely chop the mint and fenugreek leaves together or use a food processor for a finer texture.
  2. Heat the oil in a deep pan and add the cumin, chillies and mustard seeds, then allow them to sizzle.
  3. Add onion, salt and turmeric and then sauté the onion until it starts to soften before adding the garlic. Cook for a further minute before introducing the cauliflower, fenugreek leaves and mint leaves.
  4. Sprinkle in the salt, garam masala and the coriander and cumin powders. Mix the curry well and then squeeze in the lemon juice and then incorporate the tomato puree.
  5. Cover and cook the curry until the cauliflower is soft enough to pierce.
  6. Serve hot and steaming with chapatti and lashings of cool yoghurt.

Asparagus, Halloumi & potato curry in roasted garlic, chilli and pomegranate

3 Apr

My mind was a Bollywood movie when I was growing up.  A gentle breeze blew tenderly through my long fuzzy hair, never mind the split ends. I smiled demurely, raising the fine (but visible) hairs on my upper lip with me. Long eye lashes fluttered, wistfully, behind black-framed glasses.  When I rested my face on my palm, to day dream of course, I thought of the huge hoops that should sit on my cheeks, though I wore unpretentious studs.  As I hurried from class to class, I imagined swaying and flowing thin fabric skirts and slim legs under them. Instead my jeans hung off my under-developed bottom and skinny legs.  There was forever a song on my fruity-lip-balm smothered lips and a colourful dance sequence in my head to match, even in exams. Hazy eyes had no kohl on them, but inside them were plentiful, romantic and ambitious dreams.   I carried innocence, but quiet the realities of an average existence.   In my mind I had the conviction of any of those actresses, but the will and smarts to fly.

 

I wasn’t even conscious of that upper lip hair until my cousin pointed it out whilst we stood chatting under the light.  I don’t think I knew that spilt ends meant damage until I was a teenager; I had glossy and dark locks as a young child and then somehow it ended up light and fuzzy. I went from skinny child to full figured teenager and I didn’t even notice. Some of my friends talked about my colour one day and I went home to check it out, and in fact introduce myself to this bright complexion with rosy cheeks that they spoke about.

Asparagus, Halloumi & potato curry in roasted garlic, chilli and pomegranate

I was 16.   There was a boy who blushed when he made small talk with me. He slipped a few notes into my English A-level texts. I cut my hair and it now bounced, it was the ‘Rachel cut’ from friends.  The length of my tops shrunk from long and wafting to short and embracing. There was a chap that took the same bus home as me, so we could talk. He then detoured back to his home.  My face became smooth and free from overgrown eyebrows or whiskers beneath my nose.  I remember another young fellow who asked sent me inviting notes in a fast food café. I remember taking an interest in fashion and the re-emergence of 70’s clothing, the platform shoes, and the loud prints on skinny trousers to wafting ones, oh and even the hair. That’s when the gifts started coming in…from bags to earrings.

I am waiting to blossom again. To bloom. I did as a teenager, then as a mother and now I am waiting on the next phase of finding myself.

Asparagus, Halloumi & potato curry in roasted garlic, chilli and pomegranate

Meanwhile, here is a recipe that is something of an awakening. If you liked my paneer curry in roasted tomatoes and basil, I have to say that I think this one is even better. Someone wrote to me saying they thought I had out-done myself on that last curry, I actually think this one outdoes the last.

I love this one with sweet and deep heat, mellow yet fragrant garlic without its pungency sings through the curry and then you get a tang from the fruity molasses. The potatoes thicken the curry and the Halloumi..oof the Halloumi. Its saltiness balances well with the other senses and soaks up the curry juices with its light chewiness. You’ve got to do this one. Really.

Ingredients

225g Halloumi cheese, cut into bite sized chunks

100g fine asparagus tips

350g potatoes

½ tin of chopped tomatoes

1 ½ tbsp. of pomegranate molasses

1 ½ full bulbs of garlic

4-6 mild and thick chillies (suitable for salsa or stir fries) minced

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. coriander powder

1 tsp. cumin powder

3-4 cardamom pods

Salt to taste

½ tsp. turmeric

3 tbsp. cooking oil

One medium sized red onion, thinly sliced

225ml water

Cook’s note: I am not using the thin red chillies for this dish. What we want to achieve is that bright red colour and sweet and gentle heat. Please use the thick, but short red chillies that are used for stir fries and salsa.

Method

  1. Start by roasting the 2 bulbs of garlic. Drizzle them lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap them in baking paper and put them in the oven at 180degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until they are soft enough to pop out of their skins.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and add the cumin seeds with the turmeric and allow the seeds to sizzle before adding the onion, salt and turmeric. Soften the onion before adding the minced chillies and stir fry for 30 seconds on a medium to low heat.
  3. Stir in the potatoes, coat them in the tempering and then add the tomatoes and water. Bring the curry to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked but firm.
  4. Add the asparagus and the cumin and coriander powders and then the pomegranate molasses. Pop the cloves of garlic out of their skins (use approximately one and a half bulbs). Mash them lightly to release the flavours.  Mix well and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  5.  Mix in the Halloumi and cook on a low flame for 2-3 minutes.

Serve immediately with rice.

Roasted tomato, basil and paneer curry

18 Mar

 Roasted tomato, basil and paneer curry

The natural rhythm

There’s this park that has become a piece of my history. I can’t say that it’s anything spectacular, unusual or impressive and neither do I harbour much residual excitement for it or even love. But it’s there. Not here.

As a child it was the making of a special day out. The reason to gather cousins and friends, balls and bats and eat ice cream and thepla (spicy fenugreek chapatti because no picnic was ever complete without them). It was a reason to run fast and free, get wet and exhausted. The park felt enormous, an oasis in a city beating with samosa and cheese. It was a proper day out, from pet’s corner, café, boat riding to walking along the oriental bridge.

As teenagers my best friend and I, whom I met when we were just four, would take walks of distraction through the park. It felt much smaller now, as we walked fast to burn off those empty calories we had consumed during exam preparation with the drizzle on our faces. We would laugh and crack ridiculous jokes to ease the pressures and discharge the studious tones of the day. We would normally end up in the café, which looked like it had frozen in time a few decades ago. The counter revealed tray bakes with hundreds and thousands on them and sloppy icing. We giggled.

In our late teens my friends and I bonded on the bench that overlooked the boating lake. We had a hidden spot, or so we thought. I had overheard my mum and her friends talk about one of their colleagues who had an affair with a bloke and they would secretly meet on the same bench.

So we talked and shared. The more we shared the closer we felt and this was important at that age. Aspirations, family life, crushes, university, where we would like to live. Possibilities, opportunities, prospects and potentials; it was all open and we chattered about all the reactions surrounding this openness. Except now we weren’t beaming when squirrels came to greet us because we were busy scowling at glaring teenage boys and eventually we stopped frequenting that spot when we saw enormous rats scuffle along the trees behind the bench. Had they always been there?

In our early twenties, my now husband and I would find space in the park. Space to hold hands, to talk or to have it out about our frustrations. I had graduated but was in a London-Leicester limbo and he was working and missing me. We didn’t have a home of our own and when everyone else’s talking or eyes descended, we averted by walking in the park.

We took my boy and my niece to the park the other day when I was visiting the family. I could see the factories beyond the walls and hear the busses and cars swooshing past. My boy wanted to run free and fast.  The kiddies held hands as we showed them the ducks and the bridge looked small. The café wasn’t heaving with squeals or smiles but still sold sloppy looking tray bakes and chips with cheese on them. The faces were unfamiliar and there were fewer flowers. The rabbits were sleepy and fat. Had my rhythm changed, or is the past just the past.

It was good to be home. The house looked cleaner than I remembered leaving it and I wanted something to revive me from the fatigue and sleepy memories. Tomatoes are more intense and deep coloured when roasted, with more sweetness and that’s what got me started. There is no pairing like tomatoes and basil and a curry cajoles me into my natural rhythm, always. It was meant to be. This curry is unusual, but you know it will work, don’t you.

Roasted tomato, basil and paneer curry

Ingredients to serve 3-4ss

250g paneer cut into 2cm cubes

6 deep red tomatoes

4 cloves of garlic

2 cardamom pods

1 tsp. cumin seeds

¼ tsp. mustard seeds

2 cloves

1 small stick of cinnamon

200ml water

75g basil, very finely chopped (I used a food processor)

1 tsp. paprika

¾ tsp. paprika

Salt to taste

4 spring onions, trimmed and chopped

2 green chillies, slit and halved

½ tsp. turmeric

2 tbsp. oil for the curry and 1 tbsp. for shallow frying the paneer

Method

  1. Cut the tomatoes and in half and drizzle them with oil. Sit them on some baking paper with the cut side upwards and roast them in the oven at 150degrees until they look lightly brown and intense. Whilst the tomatoes are roasting, mid-way add 4 cloves of garlic in their shell and let them roast too.
  2. Heat a non-stick pan and add 1 tbsp. oil to shallow fry the paneer until it is lightly golden. Remove onto some kitchen paper and drain off the excess oil.
  3. Once the tomatoes and garlic are roasted, lightly blitz them together so that you have a chunky sauce.
  4. Heat 2 tbsp. in the non-stick pan add the cumin seeds, turmeric, chillies, cardamom pods, cloves and cinnamon and allow the seeds to sizzle before stirring in the onions and salt. Sauté for a couple of minutes.
  5. Pour in the tomato and garlic sauce and bring the mixture to a simmer before sprinkling in the paprika and garam masala and then the paneer with water.
  6. Simmer for 7-8 minutes before mixing in the basil and then simmer for a further two minutes.
  7. Serve hot with chapatti or rice.

Cauliflower keema curry with capers and potatoes

13 Jan

cauliflower kheema curry with capers and potatoesThe comfort zone

Have I just said a dirty word. I’m familiar with that semi-laugh and the quiet roll of the eyes, ‘she’s in the comfort zone’. I heard it when I said I didn’t want a more senior role at work a few years ago and when I didn’t want to move out of london. It’s a dirty phrase.

Apparently people don’t grow when they don’t push themselves out of their comfort zone. If you do what you have always done, you will be and keep getting what you always have. People don’t have jobs for life anymore and  honestly, I think people who stand still for too long somehow attract  less admiration than those who keep moving. Change is the only constant, it appears.

We must live in different places and make new friends, it broadens the mind and ensures we don’t get too bogged down it seems. We should change our hairstyles and our clothing style. Holiday in new places, rather than the same ones and we should definitely learn a new language.

Must we? Should we? Need we? Why.

Growing and developing has been important to me for many years in my life. Having said that, I wonder what is so wrong if people are happy in the comfort zone, especially if the zone is a pretty pleasant one. Why not feel grateful in the blessings of the calm and reassured and general peace that comes with a happy constant? What’s wrong with standing still and soaking in the goodness that you enjoy and the rays of easiness that today brings?

Today is a day that I am finding my comfort. A few crisps, chatting with loved ones, playing with my boy, TV junk and a blanket. Tastiest of all, a cauliflower keema with an unusual introduction of capers.

My cauliflower is grated, but I put it in the food processor so was readywithin a few blinks. Cauliflower is lovely this way, it mingles so well with the curry gravy. Often people add peas but today I wanted a zing and a kick of sourness. I needed it, it had been one of those days.

Ingredients to serve four

One large cauliflower, grated (or in a food processor)
2 tomatoes, chopped
3-4 curry leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
One large green chilli, chopped
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp minced ginger
One onion, diced finely
Salt to taste
1 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
A pinch of asafoetida
4-5 new potatoes
4 tbsp capers
2 tbsp cooking oil
1/2 tsp garam masala

Method
1. Boil the potatoes for 5-6minutes and then drain them in cool water.
2.Heat the oil in a pan and add the asafoetida. Let It sizzle then add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, curry leaves, turmeric and allow the seeds to sizzle and pop.
3. Stir in the onion and salt and sauté for a couple of minutes. Then add the ginger and sauté until the onion has softened. Add the coriander powder and then the tomatoes. Soften the tomatoes and add the garam masala as they soften.
4. Add the grated cauliflower, capers and potatoes and cook for approximately ten minutes.

Serve hot with lashings of Raitha and chappati. Sleep well.

Mung bean sprouts and paneer curry

18 Oct
Mung bean sprouts and paneer curry

Mung bean sprouts and paneer curry

We recently met a health conscious family where the elderly matriarch walked for miles each day, the parents played sports daily and even the kids were athletic both in lifestyle and body structure. There was no ghee, jaggery or samosa in sight within their Gujarati kitchen.

They told us that they started each day with steamed sprouts, karela or vegetable juices and seeds. Now, I am not stereotyping, but….it’s not often I see people of Indian ethnicity omitting gulab jamuns, rasmalai or jalebbi sweets. And what about the pakora, puri’s and cassava chips? What about paneer pizza and chilli cheese chips?

The thing that I find most impressive with the mentioned family is the constant awareness is that we are not immortal. We get damaged if we neglect ourselves. Hair falls, eyes weaken , teeth chip, break fall or rot and ears deafen. Skin shrivels and organs deteriorate. I know it sounds miserable, but life is quite fragile.

14 weeks after having had my baby I was having a brief period of relaxation during the weekend, soaking in a hot bath tub whilst the baby was sleeping and husband was tidying. I wash washing my hair to the tunes of 1970’s Bollywood music and experiencing a bit of escapism. Then I slid my hand through my hair and a found lumps of hair on my hand. It just kept coming away. I called for my husband with blurry eyed confusion and heart racing, I thought I had some sort of illness, my poor baby.

Husband frantically googled away. It turns out (after a visit to the docs) it was postpartum hair loss and I was anaemic. I had no warning or preparation about this post-baby hair loss stuff, but it seems that it just happens. The reason is that hair is dormant in pregnancy and doesn’t go through the natural growth and shedding cycle, so a few months after pregnancy it sheds.

Anyway, I focused quite heavily on eating foods that were rich in iron and had growth properties (protein). I ate dried apricots, kale, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, soy beans, kidney beans and tofu…amongst other stuff. I, like the healthy family, ate mung bean sprouts which are a good source of protein and vitamin B6, but particularly good for vitamin K and C, as well as good source of fibre and folate. For a while I stayed diligent and I think it helped. Nature is forgiving and the body does recover.

I’m not so diligent now, I kind of swing back into eating whatever I fancy and whatever tastes good, but I chipped a tooth today so I think for the next few weeks I want to look after myself. I’m using paneer because it tastes great and gives the dish a contrasting texture to the crunchy and filling mung bean shoots and we all need some fat don’t we. It’s a source of protein too.

Nutritious food tasting brilliant, that sounds like a good deal to me. This curry is dense, has a bite, is a lovely and juicy. The contrasting textures play well with the sense and you know that I enjoy that. I bought the mung bean shoots during a visit to the indian grocers, in fact my toddler picked them out. You can make them at home by soaking them in water overnight until they swell and then draining the water and leaving them covered, in sunlight until the they shoot. It normally takes a day in the summer, but seeing as we don’t have much day light now, I just bought them. Easy, I like easy…do you?

Ingredients

400g mung bean sprouts
200g paneer
One red onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red chilli, finely diced
3/4 cup chopped tinned tomatoes
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp ground nut oil
1/2 cup water

The spices; 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder, 3/4 tsp garam masala, salt to taste (go easy, soy sauce is salty), 1/4 tsp, brown mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Method

1. Grate the paneer and leave it to a side for a couple of minutes
2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard and cumin seeds. Once they sizzle add the onion and sauté with the salt and turmeric for a couple of minutes. Introduce the garlic and sauté for another couple of minutes
3. Stir in the paneer and add the cumin powder, coriander powder and black pepper.
4. Mix the spices and the paneer together and then mix in the mung bean sprouts. Add the lemon juice, garam masala, soy sauce and tomatoes. Mix again before adding the water and cook on a low to medium flame for about 12 minutes.

Serve with hot chappatis and yoghurt. Don’t forget the salad!

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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