Tag Archives: vegetarian food

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

20 Jun

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

I wonder if you share my terrible habit and guilty pleasure. It is so irresistibly wrong yet so right that I convince myself that it is worth it, between remorseful moments.

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

 

My justification? Well it starts a little something like this. This is of course not an excuse. I’m busy, so busy that it is hard to think sometimes and thinking is important, isn’t it? I need a quick fix, especially when I am out and can’t stop, after all, what would happen if I totally ran out of steam? That would be dangerous, wouldn’t it? Sometimes I feel sore inside and I need a pick-me-up…I think about it a lot. In the bath, on the train and even in the park with squealing children around…well, with all that commotion, I deserve it don’t I.  And then at the end of the day, when I slump into my spot on the sofa, my body throbs with fatigue, I need it. I need a treat, I deserve one don’t I?  And it is summer! We are making memories at the zoo, picnics in the park, lounging in the garden with friends or by frolicking by the sea and what happens.

Yes, out comes the sugar and we don’t even notice it. I think it’s addictive and in this season of parties and picnics I find it harder to say no…well, everyone is doing it aren’t they?

I come from a family of diabetics and I really should know better. My body needed less sugar when I had my boy and it showed, very much. So I really should know better.

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

 

And here is what I am taking to the next picnic in the sun that we are currently enjoying. Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins. I adore slow roasted cherry tomatoes, the flavour is tongue tingling, sensationally rousing. I am hooked on that feeling of popping something into my mouth and having an intense flavour burst that revives me. Often I think of sugar for that instant hit, but it really doesn’t have to be that one. These tomatoes with their sweet zing and spicy kick really do hit the spot.

Now for the green stuff; mellow spinach adds texture to these muffins whilst the salad fennel adds peppery notes and there is a bit of cheese going in there too, it releases a really alluring aroma as the cheese bakes. ‘ahhh’ factor right here.

Ingredients

300g self-raising flour

2 eggs

2 tsp. piri piri spices

Salt

A couple of glugs of olive oil for roasting the tomatoes

2 handfuls of red Leicester cheese

A handful of pine nuts

200g spinach, finely chopped

300ml milk

90g melted butter

30g salad fennel

225g good quality cherry tomatoes

Method

  1. You will need to pre-prepare the tomatoes. Do this by slicing them in half and placing them cut sized up on a baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil and the piri piri spice mix. Roast them in the oven at 140degrees for about an hour. Allow them to cool.
  2. To make the muffins combine the flour, salt (I used about 1 tsp.) and the cheese, salad fennel and spinach and mix thoroughly before adding the tomatoes and mix again.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees and grease the muffin trays.
  4. In a measuring jug combine the milk, butter and eggs and whisk it all until it is smooth.
  5. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix it all to a batter.
  6. Evenly distribute the batter and then bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Slow-roasted piri piri spiced tomatoes with spinach in savoury muffins

Courgette bhaji with a spiced pea, ricotta and dill puree in a wrap-National Vegetarian Week

20 May

Courgette bhaji with a spiced pea, ricotta and dill puree in a wrap

Courgette bhaji with a spiced pea, ricotta and dill puree in a wrap

I took the 7.12 train into Euston today wearing tights and a business suit. I thought I would feel like the old me, but I didn’t.

I felt hot, but seasoned with plenty of protective products. My face didn’t sting in the heat in the way it used to because maybe I am less sensitive, but I did feel the pangs because I had left whilst my tot was asleep. This was a first for us. I fully anticipated that when I settled into that train, I would make no eye contact with my fellow passengers and as I looked around I wondered how proud, fulfilled, happy or self-assured these folk were.  The pretty lady with gorgeous nail colour; did she look happy?  That loud, on-an-important-call banker, every line he spoke sounded like a routine verse etched into my memory from my own experience. ‘Let’s touch base, see where we are at, I mean it is what it is, look I’m going to be honest… great to engage with you Kate’.  Was Kate rolling her eyes as I was? My mind whizzed with upbeat and self-coaching quotes about success and failure both being fleeting sensations. My emailed pinged with disappointment and polite bluntness. My physiology didn’t react, today.

Do you know what though? I spoke (not on any social media, I looked up long enough to really talk) to a friend (and ex-colleague) who told reminded me that even though it has been a few years, I would surprise myself today. I listened, but didn’t really accept it. She kept telling me that what I have learned is ingrained, inbuilt, unspoken, invaluable, and great. It hasn’t left me; it is just that I left myself. I now had to summon the confidence to do myself justice.

So, in my business suit, hairspray and make-up I made mildly inappropriate jokes, learned about people; their interests, direction, loves and losses. I read, I ate plentifully and I talked and gesticulated whilst doing so, in a natural accent and walking up and down, bouncing on a heel at times. I saw two men in the audience smile and raise eyes at each other approvingly and I knew. Do you know what? My friend was right. It was all there, it is all there. After three years there has been a turnaround in my own thinking. Three years. Three years of doubt, three whole years of submerged confidence. My friend was right, I am better than.

Here is what I ate afterwards. Crisp courgette bhaji (Indian spiced, gram flour coated courgette fritters) give way to juiciness and they are enveloped in a dill and ricotta soaked pea puree. fresh pea shoots add crisp freshness. I have used red oxtail as I was lucky enough to be given some from the London produce show. I felt comforted, cajoled, soothed and utterly satieted. Perfect for National vegetarian week, for picnics, for eating in the garden or eating out and about, on-the-go.

Courgette bhaji with a spiced pea, ricotta and dill puree in a wrap

Makes approximately 6-8 wraps

Ingredients

Oil for deep frying

100g watercress or pea shoots

6-8 plain flour tortilla

For the batter

140g gram flour

200ml water

One large courgette, thinly sliced into 1-2cm rounds

1 tsp. minced ginger

1 tsp. amchur powder (dried mango powder) or the juice of half a lemon

Salt to taste

½ tsp. chilli powder

For the pea, ricotta and dill puree

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

3 spring onions, finely chopped

1 tsp. cumin seeds

3 tbsp. freshly chopped dill

125g ricotta cheese

350g frozen peas, defrosted

Salt to taste

1 tsp. coriander powder

Method

  1. Heat the oil for deep frying.
  2. Prepare the batter by combining all of the ingredients and beat it to a smooth (not lumpy) consistency.
  3. Dip the courgette slices into the batter and quickly lay them into the oil to fry. Allow them to catch a golden colour before removing them onto kitchen paper.
  4. Heat the cooking oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, allowing them to sizzle before stirring in the spring onions. Sauté with the salt and then add the peas, ricotta cheese, chilli and coriander powder and then once it has simmered for 4-5 minutes on a low flame, blitz It to a chunky puree.
  5. Simply assemble the wraps with a couple of tablespoons of pea puree, watercress and courgette bhaji.

 

 

Curry of steamed spinach and courgette dumplings in a spiced, roasted red pepper base

8 May

Curry of steamed spinach and courgette dumplings in a spiced, roasted red pepper base

Curry of steamed spinach and courgette in a spiced roasted red pepper base

I woke today feeling disoriented, I picked up my phone to check the time. Of course I don’t have a clock in my room. In fact I don’t have any clocks at all in the house at all. The tick-tock feels bothersome and the passing of time and constant reminder, it just isn’t positive is it.

Oodles of notifications welcome me through bleary eyes. Emails to answer, reminders of things to do. ‘Mamma! Mamma!’ I send my well wishes out to friends via Facebook whilst in the bathroom. My apologies to those who didn’t know, but it is unglamorously true. Happy anniversary, happy birthday, congratulations on your new baby, well done on…I think of my cousin’s words, ‘I just do my likes all in one go’.

Then I sent my best friend a message on whatSapp, to see how she’s coping with the sleep deprivation. I must remember to message my dear pal to enquire about her health stuff. There is tugging on my trouser leg. I proceed to tell the postman off for blocking the drive; I am especially annoyed because I had to holler repeatedly for his attention whilst he was leaned back in his seat with feet up. Did he not know how many phone calls I need to make whilst my boy sleeps and clearly he is oblivious to the toilet roll that my toddler unfolded all over the kitchen floor and the four bananas he mashed into it whilst I was in the toilet. Going to the toilet is an offense in the tick-tock of the day.

My hairdresser came over that evening, I have known her for years.  I always learn something new from her and it’s rarely about hair. I talk about travels and food, she talks about her friends and family and how she only measures herself by her own smiles. She is just 27 so her revelation stunned me; she has no laptop, no ipad and has only recently been given a smart work by her employers. She doesn’t use any form of social media.

We fixed a date for seeing my best friend, I decided which film to see with my husband (it’s been a very long time). My boy cupped my face and said, ‘do you want to play?’ and when I said yes, he leaped around the room grabbing his cars. I asked him if he wanted to cook and he said, ‘yes, it’s like art and crafts’.

So we made this healthy and colourful dish together. The dumplings are a bit like vegetarian pakora, or perhaps spinach kofta but they aren’t crisp, they are silky in texture and carry similar flavours. They are juicy with moist courgette and spinach. The roasted red pepper is bold, sweet and smells fabulously sexy. It is way easier to put together than it looks, this is a qick and easy recipe that you can prepare in advance. This is a simple dish, but just look at it. No, just taste it.

Curry of steamed spinach and courgette in a spiced roasted red pepper base

Ingredients

For the dumplings

1 medium sized courgette, finely grated

One medium onion, finely diced

Salt to taste

1 tsp. coriander powder

200g gram flour

250g spinach leaves, finely shredded in the food processor

½ tsp. garam masala

1 tsp. cumin seeds

½ tsp. chilli powder

For the red pepper base

3 red peppers, roasted

½ can of tomatoes

2-3 green chillies

4-5 curry leaves

1 ½ tsp. paprika

250ml water

½ tsp. garam masala

2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tbsp. cooking oil

Salt to taste

Method

  1. Start by combining the shredded spinach, onion and grated courgette and sprinkling in the cumin seeds, chilli powder, salt, coriander powder and garam masala and combine well.
  2. Add the gram flour gradually until the batter thickens to a loose, cake-mix type consistency. Use a single teaspoon full to transfer them into a steamer and then allow them to steam for approximately 20 minutes. Check that they are cooked by piercing them with a knife, when you remove the knife there should be no wet batter.
  3. Leave the dumplings to a side to cool whilst you prepare the red pepper base
  4. Blitz the roasted red pepper and tomatoes to a smooth consistency.
  5. Heat the oil in a pan and add the chillies, cumin and curry leaves and allow them to sizzle before adding the garlic. Sauté the garlic until it softens and then add the roasted red pepper and tomato sauce
  6. Add the salt, garam masala and bring it to a simmer. Gently drop in the dumplings and heat them through before serving.

 

 

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.

He asked for jacket potato and beans-so I gave him black beans, smoked Aubergine, pineapple and feta on a jacket

30 Nov

sJacket potato with black beans, smokey Aubergine, pineapple and feta

I asked my husband what he wanted for dinner the other day and he said jacket potato with cheese and beans. Now, call me a food snob if you like but I don’t like the tomato sauce in the tins of baked beans. I know, I know, lots of people say that with a bit of chilli sauce or pepper they’re great with lovely melting cheese. I’m just not very keen on them and it seems like my little one isn’t either. He will eat black beans or kidney beans in a curry, but he won’t eat baked beans.

But who can blame the man for wanting a steaming hot jacket potato with a crisp and crunchy skin, fluffy clouds of soothing spud on the inside with oozy and juicy fillings? Is there anyone out there that isn’t drooling at the thought?

I know they are convenient and have some nutritional benefits, but no. I just can’t. So, following twitter conversations with Monica Shaw and Nazima Pathan I thought of a very gorgeous, balanced and flavour packed alternative. My jacket spud filling is far from boring or ordinary. It is deep with black beans, smoky with roasted Aubergine and smoked paprika, sweet with pineapple and has a kick of chilli and a tang from rice wine vinegar…lets not forget the Thai basil or salty feta on top. It’s a sigh-worthy comfort meal.

Ingredients to serve 3-4

4 medium baking potatoes
One tin of black beans
3 large tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
3 medium aubergines
150g ripe pineapple
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp minced Thai basil
1.5tbsp rice wine vinegar
1-2 red chillies, minced
2tbsp cooking oil
Feta for crumbling on top
Salt to taste.

Method
1. Wash the potatoes and dry them thoroughly with a cloth. Leave them to dry completely before drizzling them with olive oil and baking them in an oven at 180 degrees for 1.5hours. Ovens vary of course.
2. Wash and dry the aubergines and cover them in oil. Roast them until they shrivel and can be pierced all the way through. It should take 30-40minutes. Remove the Aubergine and leave them to cool. Once cool, remove the skin from the aubergines and mash the pulp to a soother consistency.
3. Skin the tomatoes by immersing them in boiling water until the skins start to split. Wash them in cold water before whipping the skin off. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and leave them to a side.
4. Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic, chilli and paprika and sauté for a minute. Then add the tomatoes, aubergine, pineapple and salt.
5. Stir in the Thai basil, rice wine vinegar and mix it all through. Cook on a low to medium flame for 8-10 minutes.
6. Once the potatoes are cooked, slit them open and top with the bean Michael and crumble feta on top.

For more comfort food recipes, check out my;

Kale, banana and red onion pakora

Asian style sweetcorn soup with chilli, cumin and coriander rice flour dumplings

Easy entertaining portobello mushrooms stuffed with creamy, spiced smoky Aubergine pulp and Beetroot.

My food onesie; ‘samosa filling’ macaroni and cheese

You can follow me on Pinterest and Google+ now

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

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

7 Nov
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?

One of the many brilliant things about being British and Hindu by religion is that when you feel sad that Diwali is over, you have Christmas to look forward to! I love both festive periods and I am so lucky I am in a place to embrace both. Admittedly the Christmases of my childhood did contain a few samosa and some pav bhajhi. and the pies always had an Indian spiced stuffing, but we did make visits to Santa, sing carols, adorn a tree and watched the queens speech. Most importantly, we spent time together talking and arguing over which Christmas movie to watch.

I was in the supermarket the other day with my boy and as soon as we entered my boy pointed to the ceiling and gasped, ‘where’s the spider gone, where’s the bat gone, mumma where’s the pumpkin…oh no!!’ He was of course referring to the Halloween decorations which had been removed down since our last visit. Whilst I explained that Halloween was over and the bat had flown away and the spider was sleeping, I turned into a Christmas aisle. Already?

Later that day, I saw people posting Christmas coffee holders from popular vendors and my sister-in-law texted me, ‘we need to plan for Christmas’. For real? Are you thinking about Christmas? Are you menu planning…are you counting the days, are you gift shopping and tell the truth, are you dieting?

So here’s one for a special day. These are beautiful crisp, nutty, spicy, a little sweet and they smell wonderfully like spicy and crisp bread. Of course the inside is juicy and moist and have an oozy bite. Don’t substitute the panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) they are fluffier and give much better favour and texture to these beauties. They are pretty impressive, especially when served with my lychee and chilli dipping sauce.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

2 cups of panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
1.5 tsp cumin seeds
1.5 tsp fennel seeds
Salt to taste
Oil for deep-frying
3 tsp smoked garlic powder ( I used one by seasoned pioneers and I found it in the speciality foods section of Sainsbury’s)
200g baby button mushrooms, washed and dried

Method

1. In a shallow bowl or tray combine the panko breadcrumbs, desiccated coconut, smoked garlic granules, cumin, salt and fennel seeds
2. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs lightly and leave to a side until you are ready to use them
3. When the oil is hot, dip the mushrooms in the eggs, shake off the exceeds a d roll them into the crumbly mix and fry them all until they are golden brown.
4. Remove onto kitchen paper and serve hot and crispy.

 

Smoky courgette ribboned quesadilla

2 Jul

ImageImageSmoky courgette ribboned quesadilla

I haven’t got time to cook. That’s what a lot of us say isn’t it?
Too tired, too busy, too active, too much work, too much kiddy mayhem, too fat so need to go the gym, too single so what’s the point, too expensive so what’s the point, too boring, too hot outside, too cold outside, too reliant on my mum…what have i missed?
I have to agree…kind of. The other day for example, I made onion and spinach bhajia for breakfast because my 16month old refused to eat anything else.  For lunch I made us mixed veg in dhal with rice and for dinner my little indian villager had a spinach, pepper and cheese dosa whilst the grown ups had full on salad with my beloved chargrilled artichokes amongst other gems like gentle mozzarella, sweet plum tomatoes and roasted red peppers.
Now, I love cooking..but if you team that up with the cleaning up that results, I could really have more time on my side.  Lets remember that the clearing up includes food chucked about and squashed into the highchair.
There is this kind of romantic and augmented nostalgia that repeats in the summers of my mind, you know the one where you’ve been running in and out of the kitchen for what seems like hours as a child..playing various ball games or hide and seek…and the whole time there’s something gorgeous smelling, bubbling away at the cooker or there’s some kind of chaos on the table that looks colourful and utterly edible.  Bits of cauliflower fall on he floor, grated carrots spread and flecks of turmeric threaten immediate stains.
But of course, that’s all too knackering.  I want to call our infrequent cleaner whilst just thinking about it. So here is a minimal cooking recipe.  It’s brilliant because courgette ribbons taste best when they are practically raw.  The spices are simple and few. The taste is, well delectably ‘ pow’.  I don’t even like that word, but you know what I mean.  These quesadilla taste smoky, spicy and crunchy..good huh? Not much to do really…have a go.
Ingredients for 4-5 quesadilla
2 courgettes with the skin peeled and then use the peeler to make ribbons
2 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
1 tsp smoked paprika
Salt to taste
A generous squeeze of lemon
One red onion, slices
1 tsp cumin seeds
Chipotle paste.  I’ve used 2 tsp because, of course, I like it hot.
4 handfuls of grated cheese
4-5 plain flour tortilla
Method
1. Heat a 3 tbsp of oil add the cumin seeds allow them to sizzle before adding the onion to shallow fry until the onion browns.
2. Add salt to taste, the paprika, garlic and lemon juice and stir well.
3. Add the courgette and chipotle paste and stir and cook for 2-3 minutes before removing from the heat.
4. Spread a thin layer of oil onto a non stick frying pan. Take a plain flour tortilla and on one half spread some cheese, then a 3-4 tbsp of the courgette mixture, then some cheese again.  Fold the tortilla in half and then place onto the pan.  Cook for a few minutes and gentle lift it with a spatula to see if it has Browned.   Once browned, gently turn it over and brown the other side before removing from the heat.
See, told you it is easy.

Spice it Up-Vegetarian Indian LOVE foods

1 Apr

Love Food StrawberryMmmmmm….the tantalising taste, the smooth fleshy feel, or the velvety texture…the arousing aroma, the suggestive shapes, or the evocation of pure luxury…There are many factors at play that tout a food for being an aphrodisiac. Some are more obvious than others; most of us consider the undisputed kings of aphrodisiacs to be chocolate and strawberries. Chocolate has been used to stoke the flames of passion for centuries and I’ve read that Casanova, ‘the greatest lover in the world’ would top-up on it before entering the boudoir. But surely, amore is not just for Valentine’s Day and strawberries dipped in warm chocolate, as sensually satisfying as they may be, don’t make a meal.

Aphrodisacs chocolate

A flirt with powerful tasting Indian Vegetarian Foods may prove a novel experience for you and your partner, so here I give you some luring suggestions. Serve hot and leave your partner lusting for more!
Kesar Badam Milk

saffron

It only dawned on me how packed full of aphrodisiac ingredients this hot and aromatic milk is, when I started researching this topic. I couldn’t believe how well crafted this delicious love-potion actually is.
One of the key ingredients is almonds, which are associated with passion and fertility. The aroma of almonds is alleged to excite women and is therefore a common ingredient in creams and soaps. Well, I never. The other prime ingredient is saffron. Now, decadent saffron not only looks stunning when infused into milk, but apparently some studies suggest that it contains properties that stimulate libido and the erogenous zones.

It only gets better and better. This drink is sweetened with honey, known as Aphrodite’s (the Greek mythological goddess of love, beauty and sexual rapture) nectar. This liquid gold is even mentioned in the Kama Sutra and the Perfumed Garden, where it is said that honey spiced with nutmeg (funnily enough another ingredient in this milk) is said to heighten orgasm.

Lastly, exotic scented cardamom is added to the drink. So now I understand why I’ve seen (in Indian movies) this drink being served on wedding nights and confusingly perhaps is why this drink is served at engagements…hmmmm….

Anjeer (fig) halwaFig
This sumptuous sweet dish is bursting with fleshy figs. In some Southern European countries wedding guests throw figs (instead of rice) at the newlyweds, as a sign of fertility and I learned recently that since Adam and Eve adorned themselves with fig leaves, they have become a symbol of fertility. Maybe its aphrodisiac claims are based on its appearance? With this in mind, I would adapt the traditional recipe for fig halwa, which calls for the figs to be almost pureed, to leave into a mushy consistency with some larger chunks.
Fig halwa is made by 200g of figs, 3tbsp ghee, ½ cup of blanched almonds (blanched, peeled and powdered), 1/3 cup milk powder, 4tbsp of sugar, ¼ tsp cardamom powder. It’s so simple to make; just boil the figs in water for about 5 minute and then process to a mash, don’t forget to leave some chunky bits in there. Heat the ghee and then add the powdered almonds and the cardamom, sauté for a couple of minutes before adding the figs, milk powder, sugar and ½ cup of water. Serve steaming hot.

Bananas
Phallic illusions aside, bananas have a lot to offer the world of romance. They are pumped with nutrients essential to sexual hormone production. In many cultures across the world, the banana is considered to be the fruit symbolising fertility. Why not couple your banana up with one more, sexy ingredient?
I suggest banana and pomegranate raitha. The sparkly red seeds of pomegranate are also said to have aphrodisiac properties in themselves, so this cooling yogurt based condiment is a real treat. Peel and slice a banana, take a handful of the ruby red jewels and douse them in about 450g of natural plain yogurt. Add some chopped coriander leaves, a little chilli powder and a sprinkling of cumin powder and paprika. Sensational.

If you are in the mood for something more fiery, a spicy mock-chicken and banana curry may just hit the spot; this curry will really play on the tongue with its sweet-hot-soft-firm textures.

  • In some hot oil fry some cumin and then as it crackles, add a sliced red onion, a couple of cloves of garlic a small stick of cinnamon and a couple of cloves.
  • Stir in a couple of red chillies, turmeric and a bay leaf and sauté.
  • Add about 250g of vegetarian chicken pieces and then mix in some salt, ground coriander (1tsp) and (1/2 tsp) cumin and ½ tsp of garam masala.
  •  Add the two chopped tomatoes cook for about 7 minutes before adding a chopped banana (firm).
  •  Grate about 10g of ginger and cook a further 5-6minutes. Serve this impactful dish with steaming hot rice.

Tomatoes; the ‘Love Apple’?Tomatoes sexy
This narcotic red fruit has been proven in some studies to prevent sperm from dying off, but most of us would doubt the sexiness of a bowl of tomato soup. So perhaps piercing the skin of a sun-warmed and ripe freshly picked tomato is more of a sensual experience? Makes sense then, that some call it the ‘other’ forbidden fruit.
In terms of Indian inspiration for tomato recipes, let’s start with the obvious; yes, tomato curry.

  • Simply fry off, in some cumin, a couple of green chillies, a small stick of cinnamon, a sprig of curry leaves and 2 cloves of garlic and roughly 3 spring onions.
  •  Add about 5-6 chopped tomatoes and then season with salt, 1 tsp of coriander powder, 1 tsp of turmeric powder, ¼ tsp of turmeric, and ½ tsp of garam masala.
  • Simmer for a couple of minutes before adding ½ cup of peas.
  • Simmer until the tomatoes have reduced to a pulpy consistency, before garnishing with coriander.

Keeping in mind the potential effects of keeping the tomatoes untainted (therefore uncooked) how does a smooth tomato salad tickle your fancy? I use baby plum tomatoes, a handful of freshly chopped coriander, toasted cashew nuts, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of cumin powder.
I will leave you with my last offering; stuffed tomatoes.

  • Take 8 tomatoes, halve them then scoop out the pulp. Make a stuffing using ½ cup coarsely mashed boiled peas, 2 potatoes (mashed) 1 cup of crumbly paneer (freshly made Indian Cheese.
  • Alternatively, grate some shop-bought paneer). Spice the mix with dried mango powder, ½ tsp garam masala, 1 tsp of aniseed, 2-3 chopped green chillies, and coriander leaves.
  • Mix it all together really and then bake in a hot oven until the tomatoes are tender.

Food is all about a mind-body connection, so with a little planning and a touch of skill, I hope you get elevation you are looking for.

Vegetarian Indian Meal Ideas For Students

13 Jul

Cooking may be the last thing on many (uni) students’ minds.  The fresher’s culture in particular provides ample persuasion in the form of £1 drinks, 7-stop bar crawls, clubbing, house parties and of course sleeping all of that off, in preference of freshly cooked food.  It probably doesn’t help that campus supermarkets are often expensive and probably not the best stocked (least so for Indian groceries).  Some students may just not know how to cook.

There are so many reasons why cooking vegetarian Indian food at home is the way forwards

• You may find yourself homesick.  Although you may have been bursting to get away from home, being at home does have its virtues; at least you get a good home cooked meal.

• If you live of junk food, you will gain weight!

• You may find the vegetarian options limiting, depending on where you have gone to university or you may simply yearn for Indian food which is perhaps harder to source, depending on where you are.

• A diet that’s poor in nutritional value will leave you feeling tired and lacking lustre, you may find it hard to stay awake and concentrate in those lectures.  Then of course there are the spots and greasy hair that may come as a result of a bad diet

• Cooking vegetarian Indian food in your student home will be a great way to impress people and make friends.  The very first meal I cooked for my now husband was when I was a fresher; channa masala (and I used tinned chickpeas).

Here I give you 12 delectable, really easy and speedy recipe ideas for vegetarian Indian dishes.  Whether you are a student or a concerned parent, these ideas are real winners.  I will also give you an idea of the basic spices to keep in the cupboard (don’t worry; they have quite a long shelf life!)

 

Curry out of a can

Tinned Legumes and pulses can be stored in the cupboard and it’s really easy to whip up a curry with them.  Try Butterbeans ; fry off onions , garlic, cumin, and a sprig of curry leaves in a couple of tablespoons of oil, add turmeric and salt, add chilli powder, turmeric, coriander and cumin powder, ½ tsp garam masala and half a can of coconut milk.  Then grate in 10g of ginger.  Mop it up with some bread…its heart-warming.

Sweet corn curry is a popular favourite.  Using the same spices as the butterbean curry, but this time, minus the coconut milk and add a couple of dark red chopped tomatoes and a handful of ground nuts to the mix.  It’s very Moorish.  You can create more or less gravy simply by adding water.  I like it quite dry with some yogurt.

Chickpea curry is a classic.  I like to add a few twists to it, like spinach wilted in at just before I take it off the heat, or maybe some shallow fried tofu, or soya mince.  I like to add a couple of teaspoons of dried fenugreek leave to chickpea curries; some people recognise this as a general curry aroma.  If you want to avoid any of the spice-adding decisions, you can buy channa masala spices in a box from Indian grocers.

Fresh quickie Curries

Yes, fresh Indian ingredients can be hard to source, but that doesn’t mean to say we can’t use widely available vegetables to make a curry.  Here is a great one for detox; spinach, dill and fenugreek curry.  It’s so aromatic and easy on the tummy.  It contains Iron and fibre. All you do is chop then up, fry off a large onion and couple of spring onions in cumin, mustard seeds and a little garlic and then and all of your ingredients with a couple of chopped tomatoes.   Spice with coriander powder, cumin powder, chilli powder and turmeric.  Cook in on a low flame for about 15mins and then sprinkle ½ tsp of garam masala at the end.

Here is another cheat, inspired by a traditional Gujarati recipe.  Potato curry in thick, rich gravy.  Take a mixing bowl; add one can of chopped tomatoes, 70g of coarsely ground unsalted peanuts,  ½ cup of gram flour, then add ¼ tsp turmeric, salt and chilli powder to taste, 1 tsp each of coriander powder and cumin powder and ½ tsp of garam masala and 1 ½ tsp of dried fenugreek leaves.  The next bit is magic, all you do, is fry off an onion in some cumin and a sprig of curry leaves and then add a couple of cloves of garlic.  Then add about 700g of baby new potatoes and coat them in the oil.  Then add the mixture of tomatoes, gram, peanuts and spices.  Add water to cover, and cook until the potatoes can be pierced easily.

There are other simple ideas that can be made from readily available vegetables, such as cauliflower curry (don’t add any water), aubergine, cabbage (again, no water), or a simple avial which is made with julienned vegetables with desiccated coconut and curry leaves.  Although many recipes call for traditional vegetables like tindori, you can make this with carrots, courgettes, baby corn.

I love the versatility of aubergines.  I have three varieties in my fridge at the moment and I got them all from my local supermarket (not an Indian one!).  With the largest aubergine, I’m going to roast it, scoop out the flesh and mash it a little with a fork. I’m then going to fry off onions, garlic, green chillies and a then soften a couple of fresh tomatoes and add in just salt and turmeric and a squeeze of lemon.  With the Japanese style aubergines, I’m just going to make two slits opposite directions upwards from the base and then use the thick potato recipe with the aubergines, just with a nice helping of coriander.  With the baby aubergines, I am going to half and then roast them and then submerge them in spicy tomato gravy.

Using Pasta

Pasta is also really versatile and you can stock up on it. I’ve heard many people say that they could eat pasta every day of the week…but for that, you’d need lots of inspiration…including some Indian inspiration I reckon.

One of our family favourites is what I call ‘samosa filling pasta’.   A couple of medium potatoes chopped, ½  cup of peas, a small carrot, maybe ½ cup of sweet corn kernels and a very large onion make the basis of the mix, spiced in chilli powder, turmeric, curry leaves and cumin seeds and a squeeze of lemon.  Simply add in your pasta and there you have a meal for at least 2-3.  Sometimes, I add cheese on top, and funnily enough, it works.

You could try shallow frying some vegetables like ½ head of a small cauliflower, some sweet potato and a cup of peas and then adding a gram flour and yogurt mix (400g of yogurt and 2 tbsp of gram flour). Just add some curry powder and that’s how easy it is.

Indian Sandwich Ideas

One of my favourite sandwich recipes requires investing in some chat masala. It’s not hot, but it’s punchy and brings life to salads and sandwiches.  I really recommend a 3 layer sandwich.  Peel a potato and then slice it thickly.  Boil until cooked, drain and cool.  Then use ingredients like a little chilli sauce, cheese, cucumber, tomatoes.  If you have some coriander, grind together a couple of handfuls with a couple of chillies, a little lemon and salt and a tbsp of water.  Spread this on the bread…it’s amazing.  This sandwich throws my mind to the streets of Mumbai…anyway…Layer the vegetables on toasted bread, sprinkling chat masala gently.

I’d love to know how you get on with these user-friendly recipes.  I’d love to hear what you think.

Warmest wishes

Deena Kakaya

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