Tag Archives: vegetarian recipes

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki

15 Oct

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki

I am doing it again but must nip it in the bud. I am once again the hamster (on a wheel), the rat (slowly racing) and the chicken (very much headless). I am not quite the dog (I don’t eat other dogs and not just because I am vegetarian.) I am most definitely, absolutely the owl (night is when I work, not sleep). That is not because I enjoy being up late but because I want to be productive in a work sense, and also want my child to have his mother raising him and whilst my panda eyes lose focus now and again, my heart is not.

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki by Deena Kakaya

This time in life, I am looking back at the smaller steps I have made, and they are steps forward. I have so far been so fixated with big milestones for the future that I have neglected to be grateful and recognise for the smaller steps that I have made. The little things have lifted me, given me hope, encouraged me, kept my days rolling, stopped me thinking of wasteful things, buffered my falls, given me reason to channel energies, re-instilled confidence for me, pushed me to change, made me more humble, made me more me. The small things, the smaller steps. When I thought of how I would feel should I no longer have the teeny sized fruits of the small seeds I planted, then…well. It wasn’t a happy thought.


spinach tikki 2

This is why today, I share with you small tikki. I have taken inspiration from tikki that Indian street food sellers tantalise passers-by with; steaming hot patties that are crisp on the outside, fluffy and moist inside and full of peppery spice. Traditionally they would be made of chickpeas and potatoes and I am using deep black beans, silky spinach and a little oozy cheese. I have retained the influence of pungent and peppery chaat masala, which uses black salt.

Spinach, black bean and cheddar tikki by Deena Kakaya

Riverford sent me the silkiest perfect leaves of spinach, not punched with ominous looking holes. A huge bag of light green and juicy goodness, none of this limp stuff you often get. Spinach actually happens to be one of those refrigerator items that sometimes yield less love than we in our house can spread over the week, a bit like bananas. Now, experimental as I can be, I am not about to suggest pairing banana and spinach together today. Not today anyway, but the tikki, now those I ate a few straight off the pan, ah the little pleasures.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

 

Indo-Thai mango and coconut bhel

5 Oct

Indo-Thai mango and coconut bhel

Two fabulous things happened at the tail end of last week; my husband returned home for a couple of days, after eleven days of business related work in Australia and I found a Riverford fruit and veg box wrapped up and tucked behind my garden gate.

Indo-thai bhel1 by Deena Kakaya

 

Years ago, when my husband made the switch from his role in the pharmaceutical industry to make a living in the field he is so passionate about (magic) I would cry upon his departure for these clustered long-haul trips. After years of listening to him talk about making dreams manifest and how life is so short and it is not worth spending limited moments of breath and potential smiles doing something one is less than passionate about, there was a juxtaposition of,  ‘I want you to LIVE’ and ‘I don’t want to be alone’.

I didn’t like the quiet of the evenings or cooking for one. I didn’t like the ‘filling in’ activities. I didn’t like waking alone or going to sleep with just the telly for company. But look, years on. Who would have thought that I could become accustomed to waving goodbye with a young child on my hip and that the quiet of the evenings would become precious time to prepare for lectures or cookery classes and those textbooks have become me, once again?  Years ago I would find solace in those messages, ‘how are you coping on your own’ and now I see ambition and vision through how much courage I have mustered up in recent years. I have even considered spending a few years abroad.

So the contents of the Riverford fruit and veg box this week made me chuckle because they matched my thoughts of more exotic climes and the will to LIVE. Now, I am sure I have gone on, and on enough about how much of an alphonso fan I am but alas we can’t have these in the UK this year but I was tickled by the delivery of a large and firm mango. I spotted red chillies and red onions, salsa? I could have done yes, but I fancied something sensational and explosive. It is how I want to feel you see.

I am taking a deep breath before I tell you this. Macaroons and chaat. OK. Let me explain. These are the two foods that make my limbs turn to jelly with anticipation and heart skipping joy. Heart-leap-frogging.  I am a girl that does not need to be gifted shoes, give me macaroons and chaat. And if I haven’t told you before, chaat is Indian street food (vegetarian snack) of inordinate amounts of sensual pleasure. The trickles of tamarind chutney and chilli green lip-smacking chutney heighten a fine balance of sweet, sour, crisp, cool, soft and spicy textures. It pops every sense and leaves anyone and everyone hankering for more, more, more.

But, you know me. I can’t just leave it there. I saw this mango and thought Indo-Thai would be absolutely perfumery delight. The mango gives sweet-sharp balance to the aniseed Thai basil. I have used coconut and peanuts for the salty and nutty elements too. This is not an understated dish (I have stressed that enough haven’t I?) it is a full show. New potatoes ensure that you get a soft bite without soggy mess that an ordinary potato can bring and you can get the puffed rice from most supermarkets or Indian grocers. I have used chopped mint and coriander too for a real herby feel. I would definitely recommend getting hold of the chaat masala that is made of peppery black salt, it lifts the dish to a whole new level. Just try it.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Slow roasted tomato and pistachio pasta rotolo in a spiced butternut squash sauce

3 Oct

Slow roasted tomato and pistachio pasta rotolo in a spiced butternut squash sauce

 

I cook a lot of ‘welcome home’ meals these days.

Slow roasted tomato and pistachio pasta rotolo in a spiced butternut squash sauce

I have a husband who travels a lot for work and I’ve spent most of this month solo parenting, juggling lectures and cookery classes, recipe submissions and general life. Thank goodness for my awesome parents who have done their best, again, for me? Each time he goes away though, I feel like I grow.

Slow roasted tomato and pistachio pasta rotolo in a spiced butternut squash sauce

This time I have grown because I had to sort my repeated, month long car related mayhem out myself (although my brother helped significantly), I grew because I had to prepare lectures through till 2am and wake with my toddler at 7am and get him sorted without the 30mins of relief that his dad might otherwise give me in the morning.  I grew because I had to fix the printer ink issues out and get taxis at 10pm on my return from work that broke down whilst my phone battery died. I grew because when a relative told me that she is never left in the home alone by her family because she fears the silence and won’t go to toilet alone, i realised that i no longer dear the lonely evenings. I no longer feel sad when people see through social media that I am on my own but don’t take a couple of minutes to ask how I am, because you know, everyone is living their own challenge each day, in their own way. But most of all, I grew because life just carried on as normal.

So, after a couple of days with my folks I received a welcome home present from Riverford. A huge box of seasonal fruit and vegetables packaged in green, and tucked at the side of my home.  My toddler yelped, ‘yes, it’s the vegetables mumma, what did they send?’ The best of the season’s last tomatoes and a bulbous butternut squash amongst green goodness of autumn is what they sent.  I’m always so impressed by the perfect quality of the fruit and veg, there’s not a single bruise on them and they smell so sweet and earthy.  My tot almost instantly headed for a chair and asked to scrub the vegetables to reveal luminous oranges and red of sweet potatoes and peppers and we got the most perfectly quenching grapes.

 

I have to admit though; I’m not normally a butternut squash kind of person. I don’t like sweet soups and I can’t eat them boiled, I just can’t. But the colour of this one was just so rapturing that I needed to do something with it.

 

To me, a welcome home meal is one that is bubbling and simmering, thick and cajoling. A smile for home trickles through when the meal is nourishing and inviting, and full of the flavours of home. When my Husband arrived home from his last trip in Australia I made an Indian inspired feast of curries and dhal, vegetable and cheese raitha, Shrikhand and a stack of chapatti and vegetable rice. But this time, he returned from Mumbai and I knew he would have not only the finest Indian food but also some Chinese, Mexican and Italian food, so what to feed him this time?

 

This pistachio and slow roasted tomato rotolo is rousing in that the slow tomatoes tingle on the tongue with sharp sweetness and the pistachio and quark is a whack of aroma and colour which balances with the rich and thick spiced butternut squash sauce. A little goes a long way.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

Corn on the cob roasted in homemade hoisin sauce

23 Sep

Last weekend felt like a weekend from the yester-summers, with a few subtle differences.

Corn on the cob roasted in homemade hoisin sauce  by Deena Kakaya

We attended a wedding near where we live and I do love a wedding.  As my husband and I fussed with car parking botches before our arrival at the wedding, thanks to faulty ticket machines and lengthy queues of cars filled with sari’s and gifts and then of course a toddler who unquestionably did not agree on how handsome he looked in the suit jacket and smart shirt, I sighed and smiled that this is all part of the happy mayhem with the background tune of, “I can’t like these clothes mumma, I don’t look brilliant.”

As we entered the wedding venue soft romantic music played to a quietly seated and orderly congregation of guests, not like the chattering sprawl my aunts and mum mingled between during my childhood. The priest spoke in soothing, professional and gentle tones, rather than the more directive and stressed tone I remembered from back in the day. The couple looked lovingly at each other, not tensed or fatigued. My cousins and I, who used to chase each other and chatter on in weddings as kids now we entertained our own in the corridors so as not to disturb the silence of the audience. We attempted to orchestrate pictures of the kids but alas, they just wanted to run, as we had once done. Luckily for the collective team of under 5’s the wedding was over in a couple of hours whereas in our day, they were full day affairs that rarely ran to time.

After the wedding my cousins, a few of our parents and of course all the kiddies came back to ours and we had a spray of happy chaos. A crawling baby, toddlers tugging over toys, grandfathers on strawberry picking special-assignments with little super-heroes and squeals on slides and swings. We had pasta and Khichdi and even roasted potatoes all over the house mingling with crisps and grapes. Nappies, spoons and splishing drinks generating curious scents and sounds and a few of us admitted that feeding tired and excitable kiddies was something we were dreading today.

Nobody wanted the Khichdi, or the vegetables, or the pasta or the potatoes but there is one vegetable that everyone agreed on (and this, amidst happy pandemonium is relief). That is corn.

http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/community/corn-roasted-hoisin-sauce-recipe

I am not sure whether it’s the independence element of grabbing corn and just going at the juicy kernels or the cave person freedom. Is it the juicy sweetness or just the easy pleasure? I don’t know but what I do know is that Riverford sent me the freshest and most untainted corn this week in my vegbox and not a single kernel of corn was bruised or damaged. Utterly in season, fresh and golden juicy gorgeousness was in my box and I wanted to do it justice.

Fresh and good quality corn like the stuff I received is sweet and loudly so. To balance the sweetness I whipped up some homemade hoisin sauce which includes salty soy sauce and nutty peanut butter, a bit of chilli and garlic…so you see all the flavours balance so well and it’s such a joy to eat corn sticky and bold in flavour. Go on, be happy.

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine

30 Aug

The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine

Sometimes, we need the reminders that a rainy day brings.

The sweet Greek salad - with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine

The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine by Deena Kakaya

Every day my toddler asks me, ‘what sort of tata are we going to today mumma’. Tata is the Gujarati baby word for ‘excursion’. I told him today that it is raining all day and we would get totally soaked. So we took a few moments to cuddle and listen to the crackles of thunder and look out at the hailstones patter against the window. ‘I don’t want to get wet mumma’.

I had a lot to do today. It is a Sunday but you know, the way my life works at the moment is that there is no traditional pattern of a 5-day working week. There were two recipes for a magazine to test and write up as well as two recipes for an upcoming cookery class and my head was still bulging with the images that a chat between a friends and I had, following a surprise bumping-into whilst shopping.

We had not seen each other in almost a decade. We were neighbours. We took the same bus home from work each day, from our completely different careers and we came back to very different lives, but we had connected on some level. We would hungrily talk about food on our entire journey home and I would moan about my post graduate studies. Her concerns were more grown up than mine for she returned to a toddler daughter who would wait at the door for her mummy whilst bobbing around in her grandmother’s arms and then she would bounce down the path to greet her mummy. I enjoyed playing with this sparky little girl who was sociable. Now she is preparing for secondary school. Now things aren’t as I had planned and now they are removed from the ideal. But now I have the toddler. Now I am on the other side of the lecture theatre. Now I am with different focus.

But as my husband and I prepared for the busy weeks ahead with engraved masala tins stacked up high and recipe writing and testing in between playing with my little sweetie, we felt happy.

The sweet Greek salad - with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine by Deena Kakaya

The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine by Deena Kakaya

I sang along to my favourite tunes interrupted by songs about planets and phonics. I twizzled my baby around and listened to rapturous giggles as his teeny hand cupped his mouth at the hilarity of mumma wiggling her bum. I felt blessed that my project is my husband’s project as he treaded, cautiously but willingly on culinary ground. We all got involved in making this salad and my boy eagerly described how the vegetables for it arrived in a massive box from a chap called Gary from Riverford. I see my reflection in him now and its capturing. He washed the glossy and ripe tomatoes and after a few impatient nibbles of the cucumber, he did a good job with that too. I have to admit, my husband did a darn good job with executing much of this salad including marinating the feta in those toasted spices. It’s a rarity, so I am cherishing this memory.

The sweet Greek salad - with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine  by Deena Kakaya

The sweet Greek salad – with spiced feta, roasted sweet potato and aubergine by Deena Kakaya

for the full recipe head over to great british chefs

 

I am linking this post to Lisa’s kitchen and Tinned tomatoes for the no croutons food bloggers challenge

Two potato and sweet corn soup with three different garnishes

19 Aug

Two potato and sweet corn soup with three different garnishes

Two potato and sweet corn soup with three different garnishes

I’m sitting amongst the chaos of toys and emails whilst I write this, with my thick cosy socks wrapping my feet and a blanket draped on my legs. I have always felt older than my years you know, always. Eyes a bit bleary and dates a-muddle, it all feels a bit disorderly.

In full sleeved attire and legs well and truly covered I felt a bit of chill as we walked to the pool this morning. I looked forward to sitting in the warm and shallow kid’s pool, albeit with bedlam of squeals and splashing children swishing down the slide that sits in the pool. The pool is not large, so I chuckled that we sat in our costumes relatively close to each other and cooed at our own toddlers and infants but barely exchanged polite greetings towards each other. But it was nice to see so much love in that pool. My boy was happy, ‘you not working in cookery class today, daddy’s not here, but you’re with ME’. I asked him if he was happy, ‘yes, I love you mum, you stay with me’.

Amongst all the disarray of the last three and half years, this has happened. There is colour and some peace. And it tastes good.

Two potato and sweet corn soup with three different garnishes

I held a cookery class on Saturday and one on Sunday and my goodness they were at full capacity, in a gorgeous school in the city that I love (London, of course) and we had people frying, rolling spring rolls, making cashew nut cream…and we had smiles and fun. Can I tell you what I really came away with? A lady told me she was really proud of herself and she thought her curry was better than restaurant quality. Two women hugged and exchanged contact details as they left because they had connected so well. A couple fed each other and held hands because the class was their quality time together. A young pair of people flirted mildly (yes I noticed and sorry if you are reading this, but it was very sweet). A lady who was scared of frying made the best fusion style pakora. Everything ran to time. I was sent emails afterwards with thanks and professionals emailed me telling me that the class is ‘exceptionally good’. I had a lady who had not cooked because her mother and sister were the queens of the kitchen but now she felt like she had dishes to serve her little boy and husband. A young man came away saying, ‘now I can impress my mum’.

Things are beginning to make some sense.

My soup today tells this story. This recipe is inspired by a Columbian recipe for ajiaco and a harmony of deep, Autumnal soothing potatoes (both sweet and fluffy) in a stew-like soup with the promise of brightness with a fresh tomato salsa with coriander, light crème fraiche, and creamy green avocado. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t spice it up a bit so I have included fennel seeds, cumin seeds and guajillo chillies for a smoky touch. I have also included some mock chicken but you could use tofu. All in all this becomes a healthful and balanced meal. I didn’t need bread on the side; the soup is really filling, fresh and nourishing. With promise.

Two potato and sweet corn soup with three different garnishes

Ingredients to serve 4

For the soup

250g marabel potatoes (or other floury potato suitable for baking or mashing)

250g sweet potato

200g sweet corn (I used tinned)

One large leek, chopped into chunks

2 bay leaves

200g mock chicken/vegetarian chicken/soya chunks/tofu

1 ½ litres of good quality vegetable stock

3 spring onions

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 tsp. fennel seeds

2 guajillo chillies

2 green chillies

2 tbsp. olive oil or butter

For the coriander and tomato salsa

200g ripe red tomatoes, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 spring onions cut into bite sized chunks

50g coriander, finely chopped

You will also need;

One large ripe avocado cut into slim wedges

4-8 tbsp. crème fraiche

Method

  1. Lightly heat the olive oil or butter and then add the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, bay leaves and green chillies and once the seeds have started to sizzle stir in the marabel potatoes, garlic and spring onions and cook for a minute
  2. Pour in the vegetable stock and rice wine vinegar and bring the soup to a simmer before adding the guajillo chillies
  3. Simmer the soup for ten minutes before adding the leek, sweet corn and sweet potatoes and then cook for a further ten minutes.
  4. In the meantime, prepare the salsa by combining the tomatoes, coriander, spring onions and garlic.
  5. Ladle the soup into bowls and dress them with the garnishes or let the diners do it themselves for added fun.

I am sharing this recipe with Lavendar and Lovage for the cooking with herbs challenge

lavenderandlovage_cooking2

 

 

Roasted sweet potato, fig and goats cheese salad dressed with Thai basil, chilli and green garlic

16 Jul

Roasted sweet potato, fig and goats cheese salad dressed with Thai basil, chilli and green garlic

Initially I thought this salad too simple to share the recipe for, but it’s so frigging good.

Roasted sweet potato, fig and goats cheese salad dressed with Thai basil, chilli and green garlic

Now, I am sure you know about how I have been simplifying my life recently. I have been spending weekends with less fretting about where this is all going and more time discussing the best parks and gastro pubs. The grand plan is less frequently referring to the clutter of attainments and more the sequence of activities the coordination of multiple children around the zoo. My Google searches aren’t so vocation oriented and are more about reincarnation, the key characters of the Mahabharata and people who are evidence of ‘devolution’.

This healthy vegetarian salad does not have anything to do with the feeling I got when I looked at the mirror this morning and the immediate bolt of, ‘oh goodness I look like one of those mothers’. It doesn’t relate to the inner sigh I experienced when I was writing this and felt my thighs cling together unfashionably. It certainly isn’t about wanting to fit into all those pre-career break professional clothes. OK, it is. BUT, it tastes SO frigging good.

Now, green garlic sounds exotic and exciting. It is pretty but it is essentially immature garlic before it separates into cloves and intensifies in flavour. Green, or spring garlic has a mellow and verdant flavour and works perfectly for this salad so don’t be put off by the idea of figs and garlic. The blend of sweet potatoes, aniseed-type flavoured Thai basil, creamy goat’s cheese and fleshy figs, there is even an even amount of lime to bring it all together…it’s almost too pleasurable. I am actually not kidding. I’m not…

Roasted sweet potato, fig and goats cheese salad dressed with Thai basil, chilli and green garlic

Ingredients

800g sweet potato, peeled cut into wedges

The juice of two limes

Half a bulb of green garlic

One large chilli, finely chopped

Salt to taste

Oil for roasting the potatoes

4 fresh figs cut into wedges, roughly 6 pieces per fig

65g of goat’s cheese

1 tbsp. sesame oil

25g Thai basil, shredded

Method

  1. Coat the wedges lightly in oil and roast them at 200 degrees for 25-30 minutes until they are crisp but definitely soft on the inside.
  2. To make the dressing heat the sesame oil and then add the chilli and garlic and sauté just until the garlic softens but don’t let it brown. Turn off the heat and add the lime juice and salt.
  3. Combine the roasted sweet potatoes, shredded basil and the dressing with the figs and dots of the goat’s cheese.
  4. Serve immediately.

I am sharing this recipe with Lavendar and Lovage for the cooking with herbs challenge

lavenderandlovage_cooking2

Coconut milk, coriander and jalapeno marinated Halloumi with figs

9 Jul

Coconut milk, coriander and jalapeno marinated Halloumi with figs

Coconut milk, coriander and jalapeno marinated Halloumi with figs

I have had a fuzzy couple of weeks, but bizarrely there has been some good to come out of this fog.

I have been in limbo between throat infection and glandular fever. I, the immunity hero who only suffered a single bout of flu in 5 years (it ended up being swine flu) have been down with more illnesses in the last two years than in the first entire lifetime. I blame serious exhaustion.

I fell asleep on the sofa today, before lunchtime, for an entire 13 minutes.  I know some of you are thinking, ‘I wish I could have a quick nap in the middle of the day’ but wait.  I have been known to knock out when I am not supposed to. I have done in lectures, even the postgraduate ones that were being paid for by the workplace at the risk of it being fed back to my employers, but I blame Saturday lectures for that. I have fallen asleep in meetings at work, especially the ones about the IT infrastructure, even when it concerned my pricing policies, but I blame the dimly lit rooms for that. I have fallen asleep in the toilets at work (I closed the lid first) and have  been late for meetings. Not much that I can blame for that one. It goes without saying that I have fallen asleep on the trains but surprisingly I have never missed my station.

But none of these badly-timed snoozing incidences have caused the chaos that 13 minutes in front of the telly, in my own living room caused today.

In the 13 minutes (with cartoons on the TV) my Tasmanian devil drew one the wall next to the bay window, tore up my recipe notes, emptied an entire kitchen cupboard onto the floor, filled up the tall kitchen bin with items that it certainly did not want to eat, unraveled two toilet rolls onto the cloakroom floor and every single toy car that my boy owns was strewn around the living room floor.

Stay awake. Stay awake. Stay awake. Stay awake.

Coconut is refreshing and quenching and smells so lifting and holiday like. I need a holiday, wonder if that will happen this lifetime? Coriander, green and renewing and with the jalapeno, it is so balanced. The fleshy figs are gentle and some say they are an aphrodisiac but clearly the mess-clearing isn’t, see…balance. If there is ever a ‘wake-up’ dish, it’s this one.

Coconut milk, coriander and jalapeno marinated Halloumi with figs

Ingredients to serve 2

A can of coconut milk

30g coriander, coarsely chopped

2 tbsp. chopped jalapeno peppers

1 tsp. galangal puree

2 figs, sliced

About 200g Halloumi, cut into 8 slices

Method

  1. Blitz the coriander and jalapenos together and mix the puree with the coconut milk and the galangal
  2. Combine the spiced coconut milk with the sliced Halloumi and keep it in the fridge for a couple of hours
  3. Once marinated, place the Halloumi on a hot non-stick pan with roughly half the coconut milk mixture and cook until the juices have dried and the Halloumi has browned. Then flip the Halloumi over, add the other half of the spiced coconut milk and brown again
  4. Serve hot with the figs and some of the left over coconut milk paste as a dressing.

I am sharing this recipe with Lavendar and Lovage for the cooking with herbs challenge

lavenderandlovage_cooking2

 

Gruyere and buttermilk polenta topped with chaat mushrooms and new potatoes- Switzerland inspired recipe for World Cup 2014

4 Jul

Gruyere and buttermilk polenta topped with chaat mushrooms and new potatoes

It was a toss between a silky Swiss cheese fondue inside a small and round harlequin squash, or cheesy, creamy polenta. Just imagine; creamy, oozing and salty cheese mingling with sweet and light squash that has become so tender that you could scoop it out with a spoon and slip in into your mouth for taste bud ecstasy! OR it’s the creamy, smooth, golden polenta with a light sour note from the buttermilk that’s in perfect harmony with the even and perfectly pronounced Gruyere.  Then this dreamy polenta is topped with light, peppery, spiked, lemony, cumin spiced exotic mushrooms.  It’s a tough life isn’t it, when you have such hard choices to make.

Gruyere and buttermilk polenta topped with chaat mushrooms and new potatoes

When I was asked to prepare a Switzerland inspired recipe as part of the world cup 2014 excitement my mind raced between potatoes, cheese, chocolate and bircher muesli. After visiting three supermarkets in search of the squash (which proved a fun adventure for my two year old, who reminded me of that questionable adventure based TV show- ‘The crystal maze’) there was none of the squash. At the same time I thought I had better not tarnish the efforts I have been making to eat leaner foods this summer and it is probably wise to limit myself on the cheese. To be honest, a little gruyere goes a long way, so you won’t feel that you are missing out by eating cheese and cream for dinner.

Chaat masala is pungent Indian spice and definitely not from Switzerland, but then I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mix it up a bit, right?  It is a masala that is peppery, salty and spiky as it contains black salt. The smell isn’t so endearing but don’t let that put you off, it lifts the mushrooms to a whole new level. You will find it in most Asian Grocers and even some larger supermarkets.

Gruyere and buttermilk polenta topped with chaat mushrooms and new potatoes

for the full recipe head over to Great British chefs

Tofu stuffed with toasted sesame, almonds, sorrel and chili

1 Jul

Tofu stuffed with toasted sesame, almonds, sorrel and chili

I taught a cookery class the other day and after I had introduced the dishes a gentleman who told me knew the general drill asked, “So where is the protein”. As I explained where the protein was and how in a vegetarian diet that is varied and borrows recipe from the world, there is plenty of delicious and nutritious variety…look at the pulses, tofu, lentils…

You know what followed don’t you? Yes, there was an upheaval of the ‘tofu is dull and sanctimonious’ debate.

Tofu stuffed with toasted sesame, almonds, sorrel and chili
1. Tofu is bland
a. A blank canvas more like! Is a potato bland? Well of course it is if you just boil it and eat it on its own. Tofu is inviting you to soak it, marinade it, dress it, bake it, fry it, scramble it; for goodness sake just do something to it. Nobody is asking you to eat naked slivers of spongy pointlessness as your main meal. Have you ever put it in a curry? It soaks up the juices and then releases them in succulent and generous bursts in each mouthful. Have you ever marinated it? It catches essences like a long-lost embrace. Have you scrambled it with some spices and veg-you won’t miss the egg!
2. Tofu is expensive
a. Is a block of tofu more expensive than a steak or chicken for a family dinner?
3. Tofu mushes up too quickly
a. Wrap it up in kitchen paper and leave it to stand for a 15 minutes if you are using firm tofu to shallow fry or in a curry and if you are using silken tofu then add them into a stock rather than when stir-frying vegetables.
4. I can just eat meat for the protein
a. Yes of course. Tofu is an protein source for a) those want to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet b) those who cutting down on meat to enjoy health benefits c) those who want to address food shortages in the developing world d) those who want to positively influence the environment
5. I don’t like the texture of tofu
a. Not sure I would be if I just ate it as it is. I like it shallow fried and then spiced and doused with soy, rice wine vinegar and chili. When I have friends over I sometimes deep fry it and they became crisp with a lovely chewiness inside and I add them to noodle soups and sometimes we assemble our own. I make, Vietnamese spring rolls where I use tofu in a slippery bite, and then there are kofta, which are spongy and juicy. Do you like scrambled eggs? Then you will like spiced and scrambled tofu in a pitta or wrap.

Funnily enough when I asked for feedback half the group asked for another class demonstrating different techniques on preparing and cooking tofu. Well…

You could use this recipe on your next barbecue and here a few of my other recipes for tofu if you haven’t already seen them

crispy chaat masala tofu salad with tamarind chutney and yogurt dip

tandoori tofu and cauliflower tacos

hot and spicy tofu, alfalfa sprouts and asparagus Vietnamese spring rolls

soy-masala tofu, quinoa, avocado and mozzarella salad

Ingredients
One block of firm tofu (I used the cauldron pack)
20g sesame seeds
60g almonds
2 tbsp. agave nectar
One large red chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp. sesame oil
Salt to taste
A few dashes of your favorite chili sauce
40g sorrel leaves
For the dressing
5 tbsp. light soy sauce
2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 tsp. chili oil
Method
1. Wrap the tofu in kitchen paper and rest it until the excess moisture has been soaked up.
2. Toast the almonds and sesame seeds until they lightly brown and the seeds begin to pop before taking them off the heat.
3. Place the sesame seeds, almonds, sorrel, agave, oil, chili, salt, chili sauce all in a food processor and grind it to a paste.
4. Slit the tofu open by making 4-5 lines across the tofu and then fill them as deeply as possible without breaking the tofu block but try and hit the bottom.
5. Lightly grease a non-stick pan and then place the tofu and cook until browned, a little charring is quite pleasant so don’t worry.
6. When once side is browned, flip it over and repeat. I usually start with the un-slit side first
7. Drizzle over some of the dressing and serve immediately- you will get the best effects when the tofu is still hot.

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