Tag Archives: vegetarian

Home-made Falooda ice cream (rose syrup, chia seed, and vermicelli)

7 Aug

Home-made Falooda ice cream (rose syrup, chia seed, and vermicelli)

They say you become like the people you surround yourself with.

Home-made Falooda Ice cream (rose syrup, chia seed, and vermicelli)  by Deena Kakaya

Home-made Falooda Ice cream (rose syrup, chia seed, and vermicelli) by Deena Kakaya

So, if you are around people who are athletic you will be more likely to use your gym membership or actually put on that swimming costume. If you spend time with folks who eat really healthy foods, you will consequently take inspiration and be eating gloriously green, blueberry chia and super food fuelled meals and if you find yourself with positive and happy people who tend to see the brighter side of life, you will inevitably think of challenges as stepping stones. If you immerse yourself in environments of intellectual dialogue, perhaps on politics or economics between ambitious and focused people, you will cultivate and progress your own mind and if your friends like money, cars and big houses…you may just find a way to achieve those same things.

If your mates are academic you will probably finish that post graduate qualification you’ve been thinking about for ages and if your pals wear cutting-edge make-up even to the supermarket or on a run, you will think twice before postponing that hair dressers appointment to cover up those grey hairs. If the banter around the dinner table on your Friday night get-together is about getting that next promotion or making partner, your energies too will flow that way. If you friends have found peace, love, God, family, children, simplicity…you may just find some time to do the same.

Intuitive isn’t it. I mean naturally. It’s one of the reasons parents worry about the company their children keep because we know that we can drive all our efforts to instil good values but the association that our children forge with groups of their choice will often have a very powerful influence on their own attitude and outlook. Why then have I not become more like my mother?

We stood at the Pani Puri stall in Wembley the other day and whilst I stood a little bit removed on the side, my mum plunged into the crowd and cheekily ordered a plate of dahi puri chaat and we could also that the anticipation was positively tickling her. I remarked to my dad that my mother hasn’t lost her inner child and he told me that it’s the way to hold onto the beauty of life.

Iridescent eyes and quivering excitement greeted us and of course a hand wafting around a plate bursting with cool, crisp, sour, sweet, tangy little filled puri. There is no pleasure like eating them with loved ones, outdoors, before they fall apart but nobody knows how to live a moment like my mother. Nobody would guess anything else about her.

As I had a little moan about the kitchen, the mess, the heavy earrings and stifling outfit, my hunger and of course the worries of nursery and work and oh! Life. My mother just chuckled and went upstairs in the cool of the late afternoon. She didn’t return for ages but I heard a loud snore as I went up the stairs thirty minutes later. When I told my dad, he said, ‘look, this is how peaceful people live life’.

Here’s to my mother. She wanted a falooda after her paratha, curry, Pani Puri and dahi puri on the street but couldn’t fit it in. Falooda are thick milkshakes perfumed with rose syrup, pumped with swelling chia seeds, and silky vermicelli and there is usually some sort of fruit and soaking in there too and perhaps even jelly but there is always ice cream floating on the top and it conveniently holds the umbrella. You get the picture. It is a treat for all but has that youthful, fun element to it-just like my mum. If she were a drink, I reckon she would be a falooda.

I would not be me if I did stretch the recipe a little…Rose milkshake was the remedy and bribe for many a parental challenge during my childhood. Don’t want to drink milk? OK have some rose milkshake. Don’t want to sit and watch that Bollywood movie? OK have some rose milkshake? Too much arguing with the cousins…yep. Rose Milkshake. It looks pretty and that aroma…mmm…You’ll find rose syrup in the ethnic aisle of large supermarkets like Tesco or in an Asian Store.

I have made an ice cream of it all. Ta-DA! The bright pink vermicelli? I soaked that in beetroot juice. I even have chocolate vermicelli in this version but the thing is, it’s an ice cream.

Ingredients

300ml whole milk

300ml double cream

7 tbsp. rose syrup

1 ½ tbsp. chia seeds

3 tbsp. finely broken vermicelli

25g cooked beetroot

One pink apple, cut into small cubes

4 tbsp. sugar

4 egg yolks

1 tsp. corn flour

Method

  1. If you are using an ice cream maker, ensure that your equipment is ready.
  2. Mix the milk, cream, Rose syrup and chia seeds together and chill them in the fridge for 3 hours.
  3. In the meantime puree the beetroot and soak the vermicelli in 50ml water.
  4. Once the milk has been chilled for the three hours, to allow the chia seeds to swell, make the custard. Combine the three egg yolks, sugar and corn flour in a large bowl and whip them until the sugar is no longer grainy and becomes a pale yellow colour and creamy in texture.
  5. Heat the milk and cream until it almost boils but do not let it boil.
  6. Add the milk and cream into the large bowl a little at a time, to avoid the eggs getting too hot and scrambling. Combine well and then turn it back into the saucepan that you heated the milk and cream in.
  7. Heat the custard on a very low flame and stir continuously. Do this until the back of the spatula can be covered and when you draw a line through the layer on the spatula, the line holds.
  8. Turn off the heat and mix in the vermicelli and apple and then allow the custard to cool to room temperature before leaving it in the fridge overnight. Now add the chocolate vermicelli if you are using it.
  9. Churn the custard in an ice cream maker or leave it in the freezer until it has set.

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

 

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.

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

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.

 

 

Jerk spiced paneer, soya chunks and button mushrooms

30 Apr

Jerk spiced paneer, soya chunks and button mushrooms

Jerk spiced paneer, soya chunks and button mushrooms

 

I know that it isn’t hot yet, but we have been eating outdoors a fair bit lately, and I’m not just talking sandwiches, obviously.

Yesterday we sat and ate vegetable dosa in what my 2 year old calls, ‘the tree house’. It is in fact the playhouse that sits above his slide and adjacent to the swings. I had my phone with me and as it pinged away, he raised his voice, ‘No, talk to me mumma, put it away!’ so I did.

I asked him what he wanted to talk about. ‘Hold my hand mumma, let me think about it’. So we looked up at the sky and we talked about how Venus was hiding behind the birds and that there is a man in the aeroplane that is going to Australia to get a kangaroo, but we weren’t sure whether he needed a rocket.

I felt enchanted, very blessed and actually I reflected on how much I am un-doing in my life. Most of my life I have concerned myself with the ‘doing’ part and sometimes it feels as though it is going against the grain. I was eating messily outdoors, somewhere where I shouldn’t really be eating. But it gave my boy joy. I am not the mother I thought I would be and I am not the mothers around me. Am I un-learning? Work-wise I am leaning towards what my instincts told me maybe 15 years ago. Sometimes un-doing is as, if not more forward-driving than doing.

Jerk spiced paneer, soya chunks and button mushrooms

So, in the spirit of eating outdoors and warmth of some kind…its jerk time. I am sharing this recipe with you because it is one of my better jerk mixes and I am excited by it. I am a fan of the sweet heat and deep aromas and colour of jerk. The key ingredient is the all spice berries and although I have seen versions using honey and syrup, probably to give it stickiness, I wouldn’t because brown sugar helps to bring out the depth in this one.

I know that jerk chicken is often barbequed or roasted but I don’t think it works so well with soya or vegetarian jerk chicken. I have cooked it in the pan and it tastes mighty fine this way.

Jerk spiced paneer, soya chunks and button mushrooms

Ingredients

150g paneer chunks

150g soya chunks

200g button mushrooms

2 tbsp. cooking oil

One medium onion, thickly sliced

For the jerk seasoning

2 tbsp. fresh thyme

The juice of one lime

2 tbsp. soft brown sugar

1 tbsp. ground all spice

½ tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground nutmeg

½ tsp. ground black pepper

3-4 scotch bonnets, finely chopped

2 tbsp. agave nectar

Salt to taste

3 spring onions, chopped

2 tbsp. soy sauce

Method

  1. To make the jerk seasoning paste blitz all of the ingredients together in the food processor, getting it as close to puree as possible.
  2. Shallow fry the paneer and soya chunks in a non-stick pan and allow it to crisp up before letting it cool down
  3. Take a bowl and pour the seasoning over the paneer and soya chunks and let them chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  4. When you are ready to cook the paneer and soya chunks, remove them from the fridge and then heat the remaining oil and sauté the onion and mushrooms for 2-3 minutes before adding the paneer and soya chunks.
  5. Cook for 7-8 minutes before serving hot and steaming. I served this dish with orzo pasta but you could use rice instead.

 

Lychee and toasted coconut frozen yoghurt with rose and cardamom

23 Apr

Lychee and toasted coconut frozen yoghurt with rose and cardamom

Lychee and toasted coconut frozen yoghurt with rose and cardamom

 

The lychee is a ‘happy fruit’ don’t you think? I mean one associated with luscious and smiling memories. Not like the banana.

When I worked in the city I harried to work much earlier (than my husband) in the morning, dashing to the train station under pressure and I returned much later than my husband, carrying the smells of the underground and compressed with the worries of the day. Each morning I would wake early to cook dinner, so that I could go to the gym after work. I would chop fast, scoop spices pensively and go through presentations in my mind whilst doing so. In my husband’s own way, he would help by popping some nuts, apricots and a banana into my bag. Maybe a packet of crisps. All the way to work I would smell that banana and I imagined it bruising and softening. I would eat it as I trawled through emails and often I had a bit of a lump in my throat. I don’t eat bananas so much now.

All the other kid’s loved thepla when I was growing up. Spicy, fenugreek chapatti that are well oiled for extra softness and my mother willed me to love them as they are convenient; they contain some nutritious fenugreek and are easy to transport. They are perfect for picnics, keep well for a couple of days and make for great packed lunches. I just didn’t take to them. I had eaten them once at my dad’s barbers shop with my brother. We sat waiting, legs swinging and bashing against peeling black, faux-leather chairs and pulling thepla out of my pink, ‘My Little Pony’ lunchbox.  We had been waiting so long for my dad’s turn and I was sure that it felt lengthier because the wide-jawed and white mopped fellow talked at length with each of his customers about their line of business, how life was much better when they lived in Africa and the price of petrol. I looked up and around the orange walls at the black and white pictures of Indian cars, Ganesh (the elephant headed God who would of course bestow prosperity to this shop), and sunny Indian plains.  I think I could taste hair in my thepla. It’s what put me off for many years. Until I was pregnant that is. From my second trimester onwards I ate thepla, yogurt and pickle for breakfast every single day.

Fresh coconut takes a long time to chew doesn’t it? It’s the fruit of religious festivities isn’t it? Please let’s not get into whether it’s a fruit or something else. When large, stainless steel bowls in the temple were used to offer coconut and nuts, I would always go for the coconut. That burst of juicy, fleshy coconut then lingered for ages and gave me a light ache on the side of my head but it was something to do whilst being jostled about by hordes of worshippers waiting in line to behold the idols of the Gods being celebrated that day, or the Prasad (blessed food offering) that day.  I grew more aggravated as I grew older. I whined to my mother about why we couldn’t just go home and eat and why people didn’t just queue in an on orderly fashion, why must they push and shove. Apparently Prasad tastes infinitely better than food cooked at home and not everyone knew what a queue is. Nonetheless, coconut IS the fruit of celebration. It formed a thick layer of freshness on my 30th birthday cake, in Mauritius. A layer of fresh cocoa, locally sourced coconut and light airy sponge made for memories that will glisten in the warm waters of my mind forever.

Of course I have been telling you about how I am taking better care of my body these days. This frozen yoghurt recipe is of course made from low fat yoghurt and it contains no sugar. I have used agave nectar to sweeten the yoghurt and it fits better with my low GI eating. Win-win.

Lychee and toasted coconut frozen yoghurt with rose and cardamom

Ingredients

750g plain natural yoghurt

2 tbsp. rose water

¾ tsp. ground cardamom

3/4 cup of desiccated coconut

125ml agave nectar

200g lychees (tinned is fine, as long as you drain the liquid)

Method

  1. Blitz the lychees until they are pulpy.
  2. Mix the lychees together with the rose water and cardamom
  3. Pour the yoghurt into the lychee mixture and then turn it into your ice cream maker. Churn the yoghurt until it reaches a creamy and smooth texture.
  4. If you do not have an ice cream maker then place the yoghurt into a plastic container and allow it to freeze. Once ice crystals appear, beat the yoghurt with a fork to remove the ice granules and freeze it again. You may have to repeat this couple of times.
  5. Whilst the yoghurt is churning or before you’ve beaten it, you will need to add the toasted coconut. To toast the coconut, use a non-stick pan. Heat the pan and then sprinkle in the coconut and toast it gently and stir intermittently. Allow it to catch a sunny and golden colour.
  6. Once the coconut has cooled and whilst the yoghurt is thick but not quite ready, add it to the ice-cream machine. If you do not have an ice cream maker then add the coconut when you are beating out the ice granules.

 

Deep and Smokey Mexican-Asian noodle soup

9 Feb

Keep the song

Deep and Smokey Mexican-Asian noodle soup

 

My parents fretted that I was a bit of a hermit as kid.  It was somewhat the opposite as a teen but as a child I would hear my dad express his qualms about whether he was dipping me into social activities enough. Often when he asked if I wanted to join him on one of his frequent but small shops, I would say no.  My brother would always go.  The reason I stayed behind was so that I could sing freely, loudly, expressively and privately. I would day dream lots. I laid out piles of books around the room and became utterly lost in them, gleaning and storing snippets of them in a pensive haze. I remember how captivated I was by them both; books and music. So much so that when anyone hollered for me I wouldn’t hear them.

I took singing lessons as a teen. I sang on the way to lessons at college and even to exams. In fact I even had, ‘exam songs’. I sang in the park with my friends, whilst cooking and always in the bath. People tell us all the time that we should learn from our elders. I have to tell you quite honestly and humbly that I am right now in my life, learning from my younger self.

For I had a focus that I am only proud of now and wish that I still had. I knew that with every song and with my own decidedness I got myself in the zone. I knew that singing made my heart flutter and gave me a rush of energy. So why then had I let the song out of my life in recent years?

The radio in the car played the same nursery rhymes. The kitchen was quiet. The TV played as background noise and social media was the go-to.

I went on a girl’s night on Friday. I met the girls on my NCT group and the three of us have seen each other through big, emotionally-overhauling life changes.  We have spoken to each about stuff we wouldn’t normally say, candidly, angrily, ecstatically and most of all we have been exhausted together. We talked about our most recent changes in life. One of us is having a new baby; another is going through a separation. Then there is me.

I drove home at nearly midnight, eyes sore from fatigue. As I turned into the driveway I heard a song that threw me back to my teenage years. I closed my eyes and I was with my books and the windows were open, net curtains billowing…I was crouched on the floor, face cupped in hand, and hair everywhere. The romantic potential unlocked and singing, smiling, lost and with swelling with a beat.

knew that the moment I walked in through the door I would become a mother, so when the song had stopped playing I found it on youtube and played it again, thrice.

To fit the deep and smoky mood, I made this Mexican-Asian noodle soup.  I was sent some wonderful Mexican ingredients by CoolChille Company and I knew that I had to do it. The black beans are deep and earthy and brought to a further earthiness with soy bean paste. Guajillo chillies are wonderfully rich in colour and smoky. I toasted, soaked and then blitzed them to a paste and this has really released immense richness. Avocado brings silky and creamy quality and it works superbly with the soup. I have up epazote which is a citrus-medicinal type Mexican herb and works fabulously with black beans.  This one works as a bowl of surprise and sumptuous taste.

Deep and Smokey Mexican-Asian noodle soup

 

Ingredients to serve 2-3

200g cooked black beans

6 baby onions, quartered

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

700ml water

2 tsp.

1 tsp. soy bean paste

2 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

Half an avocado, sliced

6-7 baby corn, thinly sliced

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 large guajillo chillies

2 tsp. epazote

2 tbsp. cooking oil

A few sprigs of coriander to garnish

A couple of slices of lime to garnish

Method

  1. Start by toasting the Guajillo chillies on a non-stick pan to release the flavour. You will notice that the chilli will soften and will release a wonderful heat. Toast for about a minute on each side and then let them cool to room temperaturechillies 1
  2. Soak the Guajillo chillies in hot water for about 15 minutes, before grinding them to a paste.
  3. In a deep pan, heat the oil and add the cumin seeds. When the seeds sizzle add the baby onions and fry them until they brown lightly. Then add the garlic and baby corn and sauté for another minute
  4. Pour in the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and the epazote and cook for another minute.
  5. Pour in the water and add the soy bean paste. Bring the soup to a simmer.
  6. Introduce the black beans and the guajillo chillies then add the noodles.
  7. Allow the soup to simmer for 3-4 minutes or until the noodles are cooked.
  8. Serve the soup and top with the slices of avocado, coriander and lime. The lime infuses beautifully with the soup.

Asian influenced savoury breakfast porridge-broth with tofu, sundried tomatoes, edamame beans

22 Jan

Asian influenced savoury breakfast porridge-broth with tofu, sundried tomatoes, edamame beans and cucumber

Never say never

A few weeks ago I was remarking on salt-inclusive   breakfast porridge of a fellow foodie. It was a very pretty looking stewed pinky fruit number with salt. Artistic and tempting, class and containing salt. Salt, in breakfast porridge, no way!

That said, my cauldron seems some wickedly unusual combinations at any time of the day, not least at breakfast. It was during one of these experimental moments that Zoe, the spice scribe suggested that Danny, the Food Urchin and I perhaps try a savoury porridge.

‘Eh’, ‘what’s the point of that’ , ‘ew’ , ‘why’ , ‘but that’s not a breakfast is it’.

Is that what you are thinking? That’s certainly what I was thinking, but not one to ever dismiss a suggestion by the very lovely and food-smart Zoe and not one to dismiss an opportunity to experiment in an otherwise little explored area, I thought…why not. Besides, the charming and talented Mr.Food Urchin was game, this is going to be fun folks.

So I thought about what I like to eat what’s good for breakfast. Protein, oats, a bit of immune boosting (and frankly tasty) chilli. Let me tell you, I surprised myself. It’s good. It’s nutritious. It’s a bit weird at first, but it’s filling and tastes like a thick soup. Go on, you have to try it….

Ingredients to serve 4

500ml vegetable stock
50g Amoy flour vermicelli
Half a block of firm tofu, cut into bite sized pieces
75g edamame beans, defrosted
50g sundried tomatoes, chopped into thin strips
2 spring onions, chopped
300ml water
3/4 cup porridge oats
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 1/2 tsp soy bean paste
100g thin strips of cucumber
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
15g basil, finely chopped

Method

1. Heat the sesame oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, then allow them to sizzle, before introducing the tofu. Sauté the tofu lightly until it starts to catch some colour then add the spring onion. Sauté until the tofu is lightly golden.
2. Add the vegetable stock with the edamame beans, cucumber and sundried tomatoes, rice wine vinegar and chilli flakes before bringing the pot to a simmer.
3. Add the porridge oats and vermicelli, basil and stir well. Add the water simmer for 4-5 minutes

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