Tag Archives: Vegetarian meals

Spinach, ricotta, saffron and fennel cakes

21 Feb

ricotta pancakes by Deena Kakaya

 

This week I’ve been on my own with the boy, again. His daddy was in the states for work and so our week went with the usual mayhem of arts and crafts tumbling onto forbidden zones, the boy insisting on only pooping in the bath, his cupping my face and saying, ‘I love you so much Mumma’, lying on the floor and insisting on going to soft play, refusing to let me cook whilst giggling, swinging from my legs and emptying my kitchen cupboard whist eating raw panko breadcrumbs and the emergence of a new fascination with breaking or disassembling anything including my favourite sunglasses. All those on top of delivering a commission for some recipes and well, you know, ‘ordinary life

ricotta pancakes by Deena Kakaya

So, my diminished appetite was satisfied whilst reviving my sleepy taste buds with very quick and easy, simple yet fragrant dishes like this one.

 

These bright green pancakes are light and moist with ricotta, fragrant with saffron and carry the fennel so well. The spinach stays silky; the mouthfuls are easy and soothing. They look pretty, they taste like they have been paired with affection and they are so, so easy to put together.

 

Ingredients to make six pancakes to serve 2-3

 

1/2 cup plain flour

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1 1/2 cup shredded spinach

2 small pinches of saffron

Salt to taste

1 tsp. fennel seeds

1 egg

1/2 cup of whole milk

A few teaspoons of ricotta to serve

 

Method

 

1. Mix the plain flour, salt, spinach and fennel seeds in a bowl, before adding the ricotta, egg, milk and mixing well.

2. Mix the saffron in a tablespoon of hot water and once it’s infused add that to the other ingredients and mix again.

3. On a non-stick pan add two tablespoons of cooking oil and once it’s heated add a heaped dessert spoon of the batter and cook until they are lightly golden on each side.

4. Serve hot with a little ricotta to top them.

 

Coriander, ginger and basil pesto pasta with toasted cashews and peanuts

22 Sep

Coriander, ginger and basil pesto pasta with toasted cashews and peanuts coriander, ginger and basil pesto pasta with toasted cashews and peanuts

My new husband grabbed my hand and gently led me out of the Bangkok shopping centre food court whilst I whimpered. I felt like a four-year old. But my hands were printed with Henna and every salesperson, tour guide or hotel staff would stop me to ask, sweetly , ‘honey moon?’

utterly frustrated and despairingly famished, I was just too worn out to talk. Or rather, complain. We were on honeymoon and spent the day sight-seeing, talking excitedly and traveling fair distances and had eventually landed up in a shopping centre where the shoes were the stuff of my dreams; very affordable, stylish and I gasped when I saw how small they were! I’m of course petite and wear size 3 shoes. I was delighted. Could it get any better? The morning had passed hearing traders haggle whilst I bobbed up and down a teeny boat on the floating market. I was inside that Jacobs advert. I’d inhaled the sweet smells from mounds of saffron and stopped on the water to buy an oversized straw hat. And now, look…small shoes!
So time elapsed and once the thrills had lulled, our tummies shouted in plight. The problem was that we couldn’t find any vegetarian food. The so-called-veggie dishes had oyster sauce in them or a fishy stock. I’d been served some in a noodle bar and the taste sent me out of the shopping centre.

So we were on the restless main road; sky train rumbling above us, cars honking past us and traders yelling at us. It was hot, dusty and it was all just too much. What we in awe of just hours ago, was now simply draining. Husband rang the hotel and they directed us to a restaurant they advised would actually serve proper veggie food.

It looked alright when we got there, but frankly I didn’t care anymore. My plate arrived and it was green. The noodles I mean, not the plate itself. I didn’t expect that; I was expecting coconut cream. It smelt like coriander and I almost wept. I told my husband about the time when my dad made mashed potatoes for my cousin, my brother and I when we were kids and he put coriander in it and we all gagged. My cousin held his breath and downed it because my dad bribed him with a giant bar of bounty. I looked down and my noodles and just wanted a bowl of tomato pasta. ‘Just eat it sweetheart, it is vegetarian and you haven’t eaten anything’.

I’d never tasted anything like it, it was like an Asian chutney on noodles. Garlicky heat and coriander with Thai sweet basil totally lifted me and the aroma of sesame oil, it was phenomenal. So simple, so fresh, moist and quite powerful. I asked for another portion as a take-away and I resolved to come home and make my own version.

I love this recipe because all of the fresh flavours that come through really decisively. They don’t over power each other and you can taste them all. I’ve used fresh basil and ginger along with coriander and the juices are those you get carried away by. This is perfect as a mid-week meal because it is easy to do. Please do use sesame oil, this dish wouldn’t taste the same without the perfume of nutty sesame seeds. I’ve also added toasted cashews and peanuts on top which for me, compete the Asian feel on this pasta. Don’t ruin it by adding cheese, you really don’t need it.

Ingredients to serve four

4 tbsp finely chopped coriander
4 cloves of garlic , minced
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp minced ginger
Salt to taste (I added 1tsp)
2 tsp fresh lime juice
4 tbsp finely chopped basil
500g fresh pasta

3 handfuls of cashew nuts and one handful of peanuts (shelled)

Method

1. Sauté the garlic and ginger in a splash of oil in a pan for 2-3 minutes and stir intermittently to avoid sticking.
2. In a grinder, combine the coriander, basil, sesame oil, garlic and ginger, salt and lime juice and blitz it until it’s a smooth pesto.
3. Put the pasta on the boil and cook it per the packet instructions. Meanwhile, in a hot, non stick pan toast the nuts until they are golden brown
4. Once the pasta is drained, stir the pesto through it and top it with the nuts. We’ve warm. It’s best that way.

Cooking with Herbs

Smoked Aubergine polenta with sweet and spicy tomatoes on top

16 Sep

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Smoked Aubergine polenta with sweet and spicy tomatoes on top

How do you get mosquito bitten in summery Milan? I counted 38 and I am not kidding.  And how do you get lost in Milan? Both of those unfortunate and grossly inconvenient situations lead us to walking around the streets utterly famished and wearily confused.
So we, (my dear friend and I) ended up in a quiet street that was lit dimly. In blue.  My friend is rubbish in the heat.   she, who is normally composed and upbeat, moans incessantly in the heat. She moans about walking, about her feet, about being thirsty, about stupid signs and idiotic drivers and about people who walk towards her.
So I stood over her, exasperated but coaxing her into telling me what we she wants to eat. I thought she’d give me her same-old line, ‘i don’t know, I don’t care, you decide’. But you know what she told me as I was being visciously attacked by Mosquitos sent back from hell? She told me she was in love.  With a man from Manchester.
And with this, I grabbed her arm, smiled and walked into the first reasonable looking place that was wasn’t lit in blue.  This is where the polenta comes in.  Hang in there.
So we were greeted by a middle aged guy that flirted outrageously and unprofessionally with my friend.  Before he even asked us what we would like to drink, he asked if she was married.  We were clearly in no mood for this. Remember, we are irritated, hungry and we need to talk about love.
So, I ask him what is there to eat that is vegetarian. He sings to me that the meat is gorgeous and how could I not…blah blah. So I repeat the question. Sternly. And you guessed it, polenta. So, with tummies rumbling, that’s what we ordered. It was the smoothest, most light and creamy polenta ever. Really silky, airy and just addictive.
Normally polenta is cooked in water, but as you will notice, my polenta is lighter in colour and that is because it is cooked in milk.  It works because it gives it a lighter, creamier texture.  I could suck the stuff off a spoon. I’ve added smoky roasted aubergines to the polenta and it is still delicate with the cumin and coriander. Beautiful.
I do find potatoes quite heavy, and although I love mashed potatoes they make me sleepy.  Polenta won’t do that, which is another great reason to use polenta.
This dish works harmoniously with sweet tomatoes on top.  The wonderful thing about this dish is the simplicity.   A few, quality ingredients make a darn good meal.
Ingredients to serve 3-4
For the tomato topping
100g of tomatoes, I’ve used red and yellow tomatoes and washed, then halved them
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
A handful of basil leaves, shredded
Salt to taste
3/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sugar
Chilli flakes to Taste
1/3rd tsp black pepper
A couple of tablespoons of cooking oil
For the polenta
1 litre of milk
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander powder
Salt to taste
75g fine polenta
2 medium roasted Aubergines with the pulp removed and then mashed
Method
1. Start by preparing the tomato topping.  Heat the oil in a pan and shallow fry the garlic for a couple of minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes and the salt, turn them to a slow simmer.  Sprinkle in the paprika, sugar, chilli and black pepper, toss it and cook them until they turn pulpy.  It should take 3-4minutes.
3. Sprinkle in the basil, toss again, cook for a minute before turning off the heat.
4. To make the polenta, heat the milk in a large non stick pan, with the toasted cumin seeds, coriander powder, Aubergine pulp, and salt then bring it to a simmer. Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and then in a slow and steady stream pour in the polenta, whilst whisking it gently.  Give it a couple of minutes before removing it from the heat.
Serve immediately with a few shavings of cheese if you like.
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