Tag Archives: wholesome

Deena’s No-Rice, Comforting Vegetable Khichdi

7 Nov

As the nights draw in and the brisk chill hits, as many of us emerge from work, it feels like it’s been evening just all day long. I love the scene of the streets in the evening; smoky and poetically aglow with fog misted street-light. With Christmas decorations and jingly background signatures already making an appearance, it’s starting to feel like a Dickensian Yuletide already. As I walk hurriedly, hugging myself under layers of wool and faux fur, I’m careful not to slip on the glistening paths that will lead me home to the sweet welcome of comfort food.

Comfort foods are gentle, nurturing and soothing. For me they are also foods that throw me back with duvet-soft smiles to good times; to times of being cajoled by my parents to protein-and-carb-up when I was an unwell girl, or times when I had been making beautiful memories whilst on dream-like holidays, cherishing birthday celebrations with family and friends, or those cosy nights in together – just my husband and I. It is times like these, that I want to be cuddled by the warmth of my home and soak up the gentle kisses of one of my all-time favourite comfort foods; Khichdi.

Khichdi is a buttery light blend of soft and smooth lentils and rice. I see Khichdi as one of the kings of traditional home-cooked food and unsurprisingly, it was popular with the great mughals. The magic of Khichdi is widely appreciated across Pakistan, northern India, eastern India and Bangladesh. The dish can also be found simmering away inside the kitchens of many Indian states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Bengal (where it is called Bengali: খিচুড়ী khichuri). In Bengali tradition it is customary to cook Kichuri on rainy days.

Hugging a bowl of vegetable khichdi in the comfort of your home and listening to the patters, splashes and roars as the heavens unleash is incredibly soothing as we know, but as someone on a low GI diet I was dismayed to hear that Khichdi is not the way forward. The reason for traditional khichdi being a low GI diet faux-pas is much the same as why mashed potato would be so wrong, and that is that the rice in khichdi is cooked down to a mushy consistency which increases the GI level. When you love a food enough, there is usually a way to enjoy it in a healthier way so I have found a delicious solution using bulgur wheat that will definitely press all the right sensory buttons, perhaps leave you feeling a little virtuous and won’t make you feel sluggish!

My recipe includes vegetables, so you get a nutritious meal in a bowl. Now, for those of you already familiar with khichdi please don’t let your memories of eating stodgy and bland versions put you off this recipe. My dear friend did that very thing this weekend when I suggested making this dish, which I proclaimed I could eat all day long. ‘No…’ she stressed. ‘I won’t like it; it just doesn’t taste of anything’. I made it regardless as I do love a good challenge, but also I was certain that this recipe, spiked with warming ginger, garlic, whole spices and full of vegetables, could evoke an enchanted sigh from her.

Deena’s No-Rice, Comforting Vegetable Khichdi

Ingredients

300g of split green moong dhal

180g of Bulgur wheat

½ head of a small/medium cauliflower, cut into bite size florets

One small/medium potato, peeled and cubed

A large onion, diced

1/3 cup of green beans

1/3 cup of sweet corn kernels

A handful of green beans, chopped into bite size pieces

2 large and fat cloves of garlic, minced 1 tsp of minced ginger

3 tbsp of rapeseed oil

2-3 green chillies, finely chopped

The spices A pinch of asafoetida, ½ tsp turmeric, 3 cloves, 4-5 curry leaves, salt to taste, 1 tsp cumin seeds, ½ mustard seeds, ½ tsp coriander seeds ¼ tsp black pepper

Method

1. Set the mung dhal to boil for 20-25 minutes. It should turn to a mushy consistency, but not be completely smooth.

2. Soak the bulgur wheat in boiling water, filling the level to just a couple of centimetres above the bulgur wheat

3. In a large and deep bottomed pan, heat the oil and then add the asafoetida, turmeric, curry leaves, cloves, coriander seeds and mustard seeds. Allow the mustard seeds to pop, and then add the chillies and sauté for a minute on a low flame. Stir in the diced onion and sauté until they start to soften. Then add in the minced ginger and garlic and continue to sauté until the onions are transparent.

4. Mix in the cauliflower, potatoes and green beans and then add the salt and black pepper. Allow them to cook for 7-8 minutes, or until the potato is soft enough to pierce through.

5. Gently stir in the mung dhal and the bulgur wheat, with two cups of warm water and simmer on a medium to low flame for a further 7-8 minutes. The khichdi should not become solid, but remain a smooth consistency.  If it starts to turn solid, add more water, until it is smooth in texture.

Go on, Hug a bowl of this delcious stuff.

HOW TO MAKE TOFU TASTE GOOD

4 Aug

Most of my friends turn their noses up at the mention of Tofu. ‘Bland‘, ‘tasteless’ and ‘feels like a sponge.’  I’ve heard people complain about its plain appearance. ‘Oh’, my impassioned cried start off, ’the best bit about it is that it is like a sponge’.  Protein packed tofu is absorbute. It soaks up and retains juices and flavours and is illuminous with all with the colours of the concoctions you cook it in. It brings dishes to life with every mouthful, when all of the intended flavours of a dish burst out of the tofu.  I get quite romantic when describing tofu.  It’s the plain canvas, waiting to be touched with emotion and imagination.  Tofu is the bride, waiting to be adorned!  Maybe I should curtail the romantic descriptions!

A block of Tofu

Japanese, chinese, Indian or Italian; I use it in a myriad of dishes, but here are a few of my favourites.  I could eat these scrumptious items every week!

Pointed Sweet Peppers stuffed with spiced tofu

I do love sweet peppers. I adore the smell that permeates the kitchen. I could soak it up all day long.  The colours make me smile and these peppers are a joy to unravel and find more flavour packed inside.

Ingredients

2 pointed sweet peppers
A pack of firm Tofu, with the excess water removed and then scrambled
one medium onion
4-5 mushrooms, finely chopped (small pieces)
3-4 curry leaves

Spices: 1 tsp curry powder, 1 tsp tomato puree, salt to taste, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1tsp cumin seeds, ¼ tsp mustard seeds, 2 chilies finely chopped ¼ tsp black pepper

Tip: scramble the tofu by crushing it in your hands. It should break easily to give a scrambled-egg like appearance.

Method

1) Heat the oil in a non-stick pan before adding the mustard, curry leaves, chilies, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and allow them to crackle
2) stir in the onion and shallow fry until softened and transparent
3) Introduce the scrambled tofu and then mix thoroughly
4) Add the black pepper, curry powder, salt, coriander powder and cook for 3-4 minutes
5) stir in the tomato puree before turning off the heat

6) ) Make a slit pepper lengthways and then deseed the pepper.  Stuff the pepper with the tofu and then roast in the oven until its slightly blackened and roasted. don’t roast it enough so that it falls apart.  you will find that ten minutes is enough

Chick-pea and Tofu Curry

Curry juices burst out of the tofu when pressed with a hot buttery chappati and yellows and oranges enlighten the tofu. 

Ingredients

one can of chickpeas
A pack of  firm Tofu
2 firm red tomatoesChick Peas
5-7 g of ginger, peeled and finely grated or minced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
one onion, finely diced
1 tsp lemon juice
Spices: 1 tsp paprika, 2 cloves, 2cm piece of cinnamon, a bay leaf, 2 green chilies, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, ¼ tsp black pepper,  1 tsp cumin seeds, ¼ tsp of turmeric powder, a pinch of asafoetida,

Method

1) Heat the oil in a non-stick pan before adding the mustard and asafoetida, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, chilies, cumin and bay leaf.  allow the seeds to crackle.
2) Stir in the onion and saute for a couple of minutes to soften, before adding in the garlic and saute until both the onions and garlic are soft, but don’t let them brown
3) Mix in the chickpeas, before introducing the spices and salt to taste.
4) add ¼ cup of water and the tomatoes, simmer until the tomatoes have softened.  Do not simmer for more than 5 minutes.
5) Meanwhile, in a separate pan shallow fry the cubes of tofu until they are golden, before removing them onto kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil
6) Mix together the tofu and the curry and simmer for a further 2-3 minutes
7) garnish with the coriander and serve with lots rice or chappati.

serve with vegetables of your choice or rice.

Tofu Bhurji

Ingredients

One pack of firm Tofu
3-4 spring onions
¼ cup of peas, boiled for 3-4 minutes
1 red pepper, diced
one firm tomato, sliced horizontally into
¼ of sweetcorn kernels
¼ tsp of garam masala
¼ tsp of black pepper
¼ lemon, squeezed

Spices: 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp toasted cumin seeds, ¼ tsp mustard seeds, ½ tsp turmeric powder,  1 bay leaf, 2 green chilies (finely chopped),  ¼ tsp garam masala

Method

1) Drain the tofu and wrap it kitchen paper until all of the excess water has been absorbed.
2) Heat the oil on a non-stick pan and then add the cumin seeds, turmeric, mustard seeds, bay leaf and chilies and allow the seeds to crackle before adding in the onions
3) fry the onions for a couple of minutes, until they have softened.  Stir in the diced pepper and sweetcorn kernels and then the salt, coriander powder, cumin powder, paprika and then let the peppers soften until they can be pierced.
4) Crumble the tofu with your hands and aim to achieve a scrambled egg like texture and then combine with the vegetables and spices.  Turn the heat down to a very low flame, before squeezing in the lemon juice and sprinkling in the garam masala.  Cook gently for a further 3-4 minutes.

Tofu Tips

If you  like your tofu to have a bit of bite and pull then a great way to achieve that is to drain it, cube it and then shallow fry it before freezing it. When you want to use them, just defrost in the microwave.

Drain, cube and marinade the tofu in 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tbsp of olive oil, black pepper and 5g ginger, 1 tsp of lemon juice.  Leave it for a couple of hours in the fridge and then shallow fry it or use it in a stir fry.  It really lifts the tofu.

Tart up the tofu by giving it a glaze.  If you marinade in a little soy sauce, then give it a honey and chili glaze before crisping it up either in a pan, or in the oven, you’ll be bountiful with little gems to scatter into your salad.

Replace Paneer with Tofu in curries for a lower fat alternative that responds well to curry bases and gravies.  For example, in palak paneer (spinach and paneer) curry, add shallow fried tofu.  Do the same with mutur (peas) paneer or even a mixed vegetable and tofu curry.

Stir fry crumbled tofu, or even silken tofu with pak choi, bean sprouts and spring onion with garlic and a little soy sauce and bundle them into wontons and then steam.  I love these as a starter or light meal.

Use up cooked rice, by shallow frying a large onion, 1 tsp of lemon juice, cloves, 2 chilies, cinnamon, star anise and a bay leaf and some crumbled tofu.  Add salt to taste.  sprinkle in ¼ tsp of black pepper.  This side dish is fabulous with a hot bowl of dhal.

Fry up the tofu with bell peppers, sliced onions and Cajun spices and then blanket them in tortilla wraps for a fun and tasty lunch.

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