Tag Archives: vegetarian indian

Carrot halwa breakfast porridge with agave nectar

7 Jan

Carrot halwa breakfast porridge with agave nectar

Carrot halwa is the warm, sticky, juicy and fragrant indian dessert of festivities and joyous occasions. Not a belly goes without a sinking sigh when served a delicate mound of bright orange halwa flecked with cardamon, infused with saffron and decorated with pistachio. This might just be the best thing to happen with carrots and I’m not kidding.

I’m really excited about this recipe and I knew it would work and I was affirmative about it being phenomenal. Now, although carrot halwa is the darling of indian desserts, there’s nothing new about it. It’s perfect as it is and that’s that. I’ve used agave nectar rather than sugar, so it’s not as sinful as the traditional recipe.

Monday morning. Husband in Hong Kong and toddler on my hip. It’s cold, grey and very windy. Everyone is tweeting and Facebook updating about going back to work. I stand at the fridge, knowing that I need to stoke the internal flames but also need to stop getting fatter. Conundrum. I’m hungry and always crave sugar or cheese when I’m hungry. I think about lemon drizzle cake. It doesn’t work for breakfast. Sort of. I think of saffron. I think of all the tweets about savoury breakfast concoctions. I have carrots in the fridge and they are massive and juicy. They wold make perfect carrot cake or carrot halwa. But i can not get any fatter, I should eat porridge. Bingo.

And there we have it. Let me tell you that my mum said that this was the best porridge she’s ever had. EVER. I’m really excited about this recipe, did I tell you that? Try it. Love it. I’m sure you will.

Carrot halwa breakfast porridge with agave nectar
Ingredients to serve 2

2 large carrots, grated
1 tsp margarine
Agave nectar to taste, I used about 4 tbsp.
400ml milk
1/4 tsp ground cardamon
A small pinch of saffron strands
2 tbsp of shelled pistachio nuts, coarsely ground
3/4 cup porridge oats

Method
1. Heat the margarine until it melts in a deep pan, then add the grated carrots and and cardamon then sauté them on a medium flame for about 4-5minutes.
2. When the carrots have softened, add the milk and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the saffron with the agave nectar and allow them to infuse into the milk. Simmer for a further 4-5 minutes.
3. Add the porridge oats and then simmer for 3-4 minutes until the mixture has thickened.
4. Serve hot and steaming with a sprinkling of pistachios in top.

Trendy Kale, banana and red onion pakora

26 Nov

Trendy Kale, banana and red onion pakora

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

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

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

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

Tangy sweet spicy Christmas food gift tomato pineapple cucumber chutney

Halwa chutney butternut squash almond coconut chutney

Ingredients to serve 6-8

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

Method

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

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,

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

Aside

I can’t stop …

20 Sep

I can’t stop eating; join me for a spongy and spicy lentil, rice and vegetable muffin

I get really, very hungry these days.  I am tempted to reel off a load of synonyms for ‘hungry’ in order of growing desperation but that would be so…urgh.

I need you to understand how insatiable my appetite has been.  I am still holding my beautiful little darling responsible for this.  Apparently feeding him usurps loads of calories and he gets the goodness first and I get what is left over.  SO, it is only fitting that I must keep eating.  Tough stuff eh?  I’m eating right now, as I type with fingers flecked with goat’s cheese. It’s a beetroot bake with a bit of carrot in it.

Anyway, I am forever snacking, as you can imagine.  I mean, before I had my sugar-lump my friends advised me to keeps snacks such a cereal bar with me during feeds.  The health visitors of course suggest fruits.  But, it’s not enough!! I am at it all the time. I leave a trail of evidence in the form of stains on my clothes (what the heck, they get baby puke and milk on them anyway), crumbs in crevices (its true) and not-so-subtle aroma’s.   I know it’s not very glamorous but I wouldn’t be me if my finger nails weren’t stained with some sort of spice.  It’s usually turmeric. I slap a bit of nail paint over it. Sometimes.

The other day I was at a baby class.  The other mummies are so well behaved and introduce themselves as ‘Bo’s mum etc. They tumble in, smiling broadly and carry with them branded nappy bags and prams, sing the rhymes with raised eyebrows, feed the babies in break and sway during the goodbye song.  Now, I do get into it, but I also pull out whiffy treats wrapped in sandwich bags from my nappy bag.  Before you start conjuring up images of baby poo…stop! There is no poo in that bag of mine.

So they kind of sneak peeks at me, feeding myself Handvo muffins (recipe below) during the break and playing with the baby, of course.   Look; healthy mum, healthy baby is what I say.

Life evolves and sometimes it is pretty sad letting-go, but I remind myself that there is a lot more to look forward to.  Until my baby was a still wearing ‘up to three months’ clothing I was satisfying the hunger pangs with nibbles of lemon drizzle cake or banana cake or something that the me and girls from the NCT group had half-hoovered up together during our weekly get-together’s.  We have all evolved and part of it has been letting go of the cake.

I am sharing a recipe with you for Spongy and Spicy; Lentil, Rice and Vegetable Muffins, or Handvo/Onwo muffins.  Traditionally these savoury, moist and fluffy mouthfuls are made in a rectangular cake shape and are full of tangy vegetables.  The spongy element comes from fermented rice and lentils, a bit like south Indian idli, or Guajarati dhokla. They provide an awesome, comforting and filling snack and some goodness too. The muffin shape and crunchy, sesame coated topping seems to encourage children to give them a go too…result!

Spongy and Spicy; Lentil, Rice and Vegetable Muffins

Makes 12 Muffins

Ingredients

1 cup long grain rice

¼ cup channa daal (Bengal gram)

¼ cup oily Toor Daal

¼ cup Urud Daal (split black gram)

4-5 green chillies, finely chopped

1 cup plain, natural yogurt

1 ½ tsp. minced ginger

1½ tsp. minced garlic

1 cup grated courgette

½ cup grated carrot

5 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 ½ tsp. Eno fruit salts or soda bicarbonate

The spices; 1 tsp. cumin seeds, a couple of pinches of asafoetida, 1 tsp. mustard seeds, 6-7 curry leaves, 1 tsp. ajwain, salt to taste, a pinch of asafoetida, sesame seeds for sprinkling on top of muffins, ½ tsp. chilli powder, ½ tsp. turmeric powder, salt to taste, 1 tsp. sugar

Cook’s note: you will find the lentils in all good Asian Supermarkets and they are often found in standard supermarkets. They are all split lentils for this dish.

Method

  1. Soak all of the rice and lentils for 4-6 hours, preferably overnight
  2. Drain the water from the lentils and the rice and grind to a coarse paste-like consistency. You should still see small grains, but it should be a thick paste.
  3. Mix in the yogurt and vegetables together, before adding the ginger, sugar, salt, garlic, ajwain and two of the chillies.
  4. Heat two of the tablespoons of oil, add one pinch of asafoetida, mustard seeds, turmeric and allow the seeds to pop before adding the chilli powder. Pour this tempering into the batter and mix through.
  5. Leave the batter to soak for another 4-6 hours. When it’s ready, add 1 tbsp. of water to loosen it. When it’s ready, it will smell tangy and spicy in all the right ways.
  6. To make the second tempering, heat the remaining oil, asafoetida, cumin seeds, curry leaves and allow the seeds to crackle. Pour the batter equally into each of the muffin trays and coat with a little of the tempering and a generous sprinkle of sesame seeds
  7. Cover the muffin trays with tin foil and bake in the oven at 180degrees for approximately 40 minutes. You will find the browned muffins crispy all around the outside and spongy in the centre. I’d suggest you use a skewer to check on the insides.
  8. Devour.

I blow raspberries at spinach curry

8 Jul

So it’s been a while. That’s a cheesy introduction isn’t it?  There is so much that I want to tell you, my fingers are furiously typing and unable to keep up with my baby-brain.  (Seriously, I have been wearing clothes inside-out and even walked out of baby classes without my shoes on, in the rain).

There is a lot of post-partum food related stuff I want to rant about, but I can’t pack it into one post.  I fear that the next few posts may become part of the rant-chronicles. Please bear with me.  As with life, there is a lot that I have learned through eating my way post-partum and there is a lot I want to share with you.

When my baby boy was born he filled my life and my heart with more love than I can ever imagine.  My heart swells and overflows like nature intended.  Funnily enough, I had always heard people tell me how hard it is…why do people do that? What is ‘easy’ in life…besides of course lying on a beach on holiday blah blah…Anyway, for the first 3.5months I kept pinching myself…could it really be this perfect?  I was joyfully singing baby rhymes in the shower and swinging from one sensory/music/dah-dah class to the next mums-and-baby lunch.

After the 3.5 months…no it’s not what you may be guessing. Nothing to do with my little bubba suddenly becoming a brat. He is still utterly and deliciously lovely (albeit a wee bit naughty). No. I was exhausted despite my baby being a good sleeper. I had headaches, nausea, dizziness…all of that.  I started to look unwell and feel it even more so.  I went to the doctor five times. Five.  The response always traced back to something to do with breast-feeding. Fobbed off?

It’s at that point that I started to analyse my food intake after having had my baby and I have a few opinions.  I will keep them flowing over the posts…

So, I followed this Indian post-baby diet thing.  In the days after I had my boyI adhered to it. Of course when people tell you that it’s best for the baby, you do it. It’s been proven over generations hasn’t it?  Certain parts of it make sense, some of it makes me angry till now, and parts of just perplex me.

I ate loads of fenugreek. That makes sense; apparently it encourages the milk come in and flow.  Actually if you take it within the first two weeks it has most benefit. I ate loads of aubergines. As a vegetarian I often get served aubergines.  I don’t get the aubergine thing.  Maybe because it’s a neutral, non-offensive vegetable insofar as its ability to cause tummy upsets or reflux is concerned. I was given more than enough of those and I don’t want to eat them for quite a long time now!

Unlike the villainous broccoli, cauliflower, potato, tomatoes I had to give up.  Oh and cabbage…anything that’s ‘windy’. Even my beloved lentils and pulses, my darling proteins, went into hibernation.  I gave up citrus and chillies. And even milk. Most people gain a lot of their dietary Iron from breakfast cereals, so this didn’t do me any favours when I later learned about my very low iron levels.

I didn’t even eat chapatti; I ate millet flour bread, which I don’t like. But apparently, even bread is a source of Iron?

I ate ghee and jaggery. When do I ever eat that? I think this stuff has got to suit your body.  This one I find remarkable, given that so many Indian people have a family history of diabetes.

I drank oceans of dill water. Now that one is thought-provoking, because when I smelt gripe water, that’s what it smelt like because the main ingredient is dill water (and sugar I think).  It clears the baby’s tummy. Well. So, by drinking it myself, I was keeping my baby’s tummy clear. Clever.

I ate mountains of spinach, but in a curry. Apparently, spinach has something in it that makes it harder for the body to process the iron. Also, I ate it in a cooked down curry and you know that depletes the level of iron I get from it.

The thing is, I didn’t maintain a balanced diet.  There was no orange juice in my diet (the logic was to avoid exacerbating the baby’s reflux problems) so that didn’t help the iron being absorbed. What happened to salads or watercress (high in iron), beetroot, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots and beanshoots?…The rainbow in my diet had disappeared.  Now, I am bringing back the rainbow and I will be sharing some more balanced recipes with you.  In the meantime, here’s a finger up at those ingredients that temporarily repulsed me (but a tastier take on them). I am sticking my tongue out as I post this…no actually let me blow a raspberry; I am good at that now.

Spinach, Sliced Aubergine and Spiced Tofu Filo Logs

Serves 4-6

12 sheets of filo pastry

400g of firm tofu

2 tbsp. vegetable oil for stir frying and some more for drizzling over the aubergine slices

1 medium sized aubergine, sliced into 1 cm rounds

6-7 curry leaves

200g spinach, wilted

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

2-3 green chillies, coarsely chopped

The spices; ½ tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. cumin seeds, ½ tsp. fenugreek seeds, salt to taste, ½ tsp. black pepper, 1 tsp. paprika, ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

Method

1. Firstly sweat the aubergines by salting them and leaving them to stand for about ten minutes. Dab them gently to remove the excess water before roasting them (coated lightly in oil) for about 8-10 minutes on 180 degrees.

2. Whilst the aubergines are roasting, bring the tofu to life. To do this, start by heating a non-stick pan and adding the oil. When it’s hot, sprinkle in the asafoetida, turmeric, chillies, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and cumin seeds and watch it sizzle, when the mustard seeds pop, add in the curry leaves, shallots, salt and garlic and then sauté until the onions have softened and lightly browned.

3. Crumble in the tofu with your hands, to a scrambled eggs texture. Then sprinkle in the paprika and black pepper and give it a good stir. Cook for 4-5 minutes before turning off the heat

4. Wilt the spinach by stirring it into boiling hot water for a couple of minutes. Drain and remove the water, give it a good squeeze and sprinkle in the nutmeg.

5. To make the rolls, spoon in equally divided amounts of tofu, aubergine onto the near-end of the pastry sheet. Roll along twice and tuck in the sides, so the mixture doesn’t escape. Stuff in the spinach and keep rolling to form a log, with the sides tucked in.

6. Bake in the oven on 180 degrees, for approximately ten minutes, or until the filo logs are golden and crisp, but not overly browned (you brown them too much you’ll taste a lot of bitterness). Make sure you serve them before they soften and wilt. Perky and crisp is a much better look (and taste, of course).

MMM Mushroom Manchurian

5 Mar

MMM Mushroom Manchurian

I was a hungry and inquisitive teenager when there was an unexpected eruption of Indian pubs popping open around me; ripe time for new flavours and surroundings. I mean pubs that served Indian Food. On the menu was a whole, liberated jumble of deep-fried breads, dosa’s (probably with cheese) pizza’s (of course with chilli and maybe even paneer) and then chips that had been doused in chilli sauce (I inhale deeply and regretfully at the memory of that tart chilli) and most notably Indo-Chinese Food. All this colourful food whacked sporadically in the middle of a wobbly, red coated table.

I believe this cuisine originates from the Chinese community in Calcutta and is pretty widespread in the big cities of India. Neither Indian, nor Chinese in origin, this variety of food teases with a dance on the tongue and the mind where the routine is actually, oddly familiar but not quite known. Overflowing with flavour and curious modernity, I can see why this type of bite is popular in pubs because it is strong and punchy and ideal with drinks-a-flowing!

Loud and impactful throws of garlic and ginger, cumin and coriander, hot chilli but then wait…5-spice and soy sauce? Don’t worry, the essences collide and then embrace passionately. They’ll intoxicate you into heady state and don’t be surprised if you’re doddering out of the pub afterwards.

Confusing as it is, it’s addictive. It’s the sort of food that hits the spot when you’re famished. Crispy and sweet, spongy and tangy, spicy and…more, more, more…So much so, that even though you are suave, polished and worldly now and even though you eat foods of the world that are cooked for you by a super-chef and presented beautifully in Michelin style…you still come home to Indo-Chinese food, now and again. Like when you were 17 and eating Hakka noodles with your friends.

As always, let me know how you go…

Recipe

Ingredients

250g Mushrooms (I used chestnut mushrooms)

Oil for deep frying

Ingredients for the batter

150g of plain flour

6 tbsp. corn flour

3 cloves garlic, 5g knob of ginger and 1 large red chilli minced together

Salt to taste

1 tsp. of Chinese 5 spice powder

200ml water

Ingredients for the sauce

3 tbsp. soy sauce

4 tbsp. tomato ketchup (Groan. I know, but it’s necessary in this recipe)

1 tbsp. caster sugar

1 ½ tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 large red pepper, sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 green chillies, finely chopped

4-5 spring onions, chopped horizontally

1 tsp. Chinese 5-spice

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

Method

  1. Heat some oil, in preparation of letting the mushrooms sizzle and swim in it- and that too dressed
  2. Wash and chop the mushrooms into bite sized chunks and set aside
  3. To make the batter, combine the ingredients and whisk together, we don’t want any lumps but it should be pretty thick.
  4. Coat the mushrooms with the batter and drop them, individually into the oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan or else they’ll stick together-that’s not nice. When the mushrooms have achieved a golden brown colour, drain them on to kitchen paper to remove the excess oil.
  5. To make the sauce, heat 2 tbsp. oil in a pan and then add the garlic, spring onions, green chillies and red pepper and stir-fry until the peppers have softened a little; this should take 3-4 minutes. Then add the soy sauce, ketchup, 5-spice, vinegar, sugar and stir through and bring to a gentle simmer, before mixing in thoroughly the mushrooms. Serve immediately to ensure that the mushrooms stay nice and crispy. Try and share, I know it’s hard.

Deena’s Stuffed Okra

27 Nov

As a child I used to diligently peel back the layers in quarter-sections lengthways, and then nibble at them one by one. Only then, with a scoop of chapatti, would I eat the stuffing of that individual okra, with a warm, smug glow of self satisfaction. And then repeat the process. My tailored technique did slow down mealtimes, but personally I think my parents were just pleased that I was eating something green: and that okra too! We didn’t know many other kids who would eat them, at least not as happily as I did. In fact I remember one of my cousin’s being close to tears when encouraged to be sensible and eat their portion….”Deena does?” This made me feel like a very sophisticated little kid – did I have good taste or was it just that I was more willing to try? I revelled in my mother’s cheerful flaunting of this fact to my aunts as well as her friends. “She eats okra you know! In fact it’s one of her favourite meals and she even eats an extra chappati when we have this particular curry”. Parents! Kids! In fact, I think stuffed okra was indeed one of my favourite curries. Sometimes I would just roll it whole in the middle of a chapatti and then have a mighty mouthful. They’re quite a fun vegetable to eat you know. Why is this exquisite curry not served in restaurants?
 
It was, and still is, especially important to me that they sit in a mild, but pretty garlicky curry base. Not watery, but thick and happy. A luscious coating shall we say. Enough to add a tang of tomato, but I don’t want them drenched; no that would be awful. And I certainly can’t have them sticky-that’s neglectfully tragic. Simmer gently on a light flame, don’t rush.

I adore the way they are stacked in the Indian grocers, mounds and mounds of ladies fingers. I’ve always found that name so off-putting. Long green bullets being bent and scraped by scanning, analytical grocery shoppers. I’m always amused by the conversations around okra stands…people run their fingers like pensive ploughs over and through them, tutting and clicking their tongues; a distinct sign that they are unimpressed. Not woody, not browned. Green and slender, that’s how they should be…that’s what they’re discussing, scattered amongst talk of daughter-in-laws and mother-in-laws.
 
I’ve experienced okra diversely, cooked in soups, Gujarati yogurt soups (kadhi), African stews, American-style breaded and fried, stir fried with sugar and then there’s the shredded and fried variety as found in Mumbai. I’ve tasted them in a ratatouille and also stir fried in soy sauce and chili. Nevertheless, one of the okra recipes that sits closest to my heart is this one.
 
Although the traditional recipe calls for the stuffing being bound with oil, I simply can’t bring myself to do it. My father and I have regular enthused discussions about this. He buys into the idea and will go along with it, but pushes my version of this stuffing, which is slightly stickier, in my direction… “You do it”. So here is how I do it;

Stuffed Okra Curry by Deena Kakaya

Ingredients

250g of okra
6 tbsp of gram flour
2 tbsp of corriander powder and 1 tsp of cumin powder
salt to taste
3 tsp of lemon juice
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp of vegetable oil
2tbsp of water for the stuffing and 1/2 cup hot water for the curry base.
Chili powder to taste, I use about 2 tsp
1/2 can of plum peeled tomatoes
1-2 chilies
2-3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
 
Method
 
1. Wash the okra and dry them individually with kitchen paper and then leave the to stand and dry completely.  This will help to avoid that gunky texture.
2. Toast the gram flour gently for about 1-2 minutes, but dont let the gram flour burn
3. Combine the gram flour, cumin powder, corriander powder, salt and turmeric and mix thoroughly
4. Add the oil, lemon juice and water to the spices mix and form a dough.
5. When the okra are dry, create a slit vertically from top to tail in the centre of the okra but avoid touching the bottom and top tips. 
6. Stuff them each generously and close them firmly.
7. In a deep set pan, heat a splash of oil and add the mustard seeds and allow them to pop.  Stir in the chopped garlic and chili and saute until golden, before mixing in the tomato and salt. Bring this to a simmer and then place the okra in gently.
8. Coat the okra with the mixture gently and simmer on a low flame for about 5 minutes before adding 1/2 cup of hot water.  Bring to a simmer again and cook on a medium flame until the okra are soft enough to pierce all the way through.  This should take about 15 minutes.
 
I suggest devouring these okra with lots of natural yogurt of raitha and hot buttery chappati’s or naan bread. 

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