Tag Archives: winter food

Moroccan Harira meets vegan cottage pie

11 Dec

Moroccan Harira meets vegan cottage pie

They say that travel broadens the mind, but what does that actually mean?

Moroccan style vegan cottage pie by Deena Kakaya

Does it mean that we learn about other cultures and ways of life, new languages, different cuisines or perhaps unfamiliar landscapes and explore intriguing wildlife or flora? Does it mean that we speak to people that we wouldn’t ordinarily speak with and feel their joys, anguishes and reasons for fatigue? Or does it mean that we push ourselves out of a comfort zone and this in itself grows us?

I suppose it depends on not only where you go, but how you travel. Did lying languidly on a Mauritian beach a few years ago broaden my mind in an educational sense? Listening to an ex-prisoner on Robben Island telling us about the rationally differentiated ration card and cutting sun-reflecting limestone in the sun however, left me wondering how forgiving a person I am?

I spent 9 days in Dubai last week. It was my fourth visit and my husband travels frequently for work. In fact, we went to the same resort as we had visited last year when my boy was just a year old. We had decided many years ago that we would never visit the same destination twice, but many things change when you have children.

Moroccan style vegan cottage pie by Deena Kakaya

Dubai is packed full of ex-pats and a myriad of cultures, plethora of cuisines, a whole haze of languages and my eyes blur with the multiple construction sites. It is hot, it is growing and it is has promise. So, what did I learn during my recent travels?

Well, I had a few moments to think whilst my husband fed my boy falafel and green rice in our favourite Lebanese restaurant within the resort. I had just watched, and admired a belly dancer whilst considering whether her body had been augmented and was now listening to the live singer whilst scooping up the most wonderful garlic and herb hummus with fresh balloon bread. My mind wandered off and that I do learn when I am away is that the jurisdictions of possibility are all in my head. Look at the people around me. I made a point of trying to learn the story of as many people I came across in Dubai as I could. The waiter from India who has doubled his salary by moving, didn’t stop at other’s notions of what is inconceivable, the female taxi driver who had escaped a harmful relationship and gained independence had not put limitations on herself either.  The people who yearned for sunlight and sand between their toes, or even just safety…they didn’t stop moving did they?

So from sipping Harira to wanting healthy comfort food at home, here are those two worlds on a plate. Harira is a fragrant with cinnamon and saffron and kind soup that is deep with lentils and gently spiced. This is an oil free recipe and vegan too. I haven’t even used any cheese because it is not needed with those Moroccan essences. I have used the finest sweet potatoes sent to me by Riverford and some of their massive shiny leeks that enhance the light sweetness of this dish.

for the full recipe head over to great British chefs

Roasted tomato, orange and chilli soup

4 Jan

Tomato, Orange and Chilli soup by Deena KakayaEverything halts, doesn’t it? Play dates get cancelled and kids stay at home, away from nursery or school. Grown-ups either martyr on without thanks or, ‘work from home’. Dinners out with friends get postponed and any outdoor activity is null and void and substituted with snuggling under a blanket and intermittently catching daytime TV between uncomfortable snoozes. Yes, it is the season of sickness.

We have been fortunate in our house to have escaped many of the rounds that the bugs have done, so far. We all generally have pretty robust immune systems and I like to think that in part, this is due to what we eat, although though the festive indulgence did get the better of me. Not only did I suffer from horrid food poisoning, I spent a good couple of weeks popping heavy, greasy, cheesy or chocolaty concoctions into my mouth like they were air-filled. I felt queasy, bloated, heavy and sore in the tummy. I felt lethargic and constantly sick and clearly, my body is meant to eat clean, natural, colourful and light

for the full recipe, head over to great British chefs

Deena’s Vegetable Dumplings Stewed in a Yogurt Soup/Curry (Kadhi)

16 Nov

I am, like many of you, really into comfort food in this season. I like being comfortable, comforted and ‘nice’.  I console and pamper myself from the elements of this season with long swaying sweaters, ear-soothing hats and blanket trousers – and oh, most definitely the secret snug of tights – and lots of them.  I nestle myself in front of the open hearth of our home, lulled to sleep by the glowing of coal and watching the mesmerising crackles and pops, which snap my attention back to the rice crispies adverts from years gone by but then I’m caught craving chocolate coated cornflakes. And then my mind wanders to open city streets and the smell of roasting chestnuts, despite never enjoying the taste as a child. I think it was just the idea of a sweet nut. Toes playing with fluffy layers of rug, elbow nestled in cushion and nose under the blanket that now inhabits the sofa. Even I get a wee bit lazier in the winter, but I can’t apologise for that? Where there is a (albeit lazy) will, there is a recipe from me!
 
You may find yourself trying to make the weekly shop last longer-particularly those of us that can’t forget being snowed in earlier this year! You may find that when the evenings are darker and colder you just can’t bear to creep out from the wallowing warmth of indoors, for extra food supplies. You may find that you always have leftovers of the big squash, cabbages, potatoes and onions because you just don’t get through it all.  Hopefully it’s not because you’ve been ordering too many take-a ways!
 
My recipe for Indian vegetable dumplings stewed in a gently spiced and thickened yogurt soup/curry (kadhi) hits all the magic comfort buttons, uses up leftovers and also it tastes flippin’ fantastic.  It’s a simple, humble recipe. No coulis. No jus. No precision, or layering to perfect angles on plates. It just is, in all its tastiness, a hearty and delicious meal in one bowl of sunny yellows and oranges.  As this recipe simmers away in the kitchen, you will find that the homely and calm aromas are capturing.

I grew up with variations of this recipe; it looks a little like vegetable sausages stewed in a sunny curry. Some people cook them with more flour than vegetables, for a firmer bite. I like mine soft and sweetened from root vegetables.  Some people use millet flour to help bind the dough, but I find that a little bitter.  Traditionally, I think people bind the dough with oil, but I really can’t bring myself to do that.  Some people use less gravy; I like a good slathering of ginger-spiked soupiness. Some people use very traditional vegetables like bottled gourd (tastes like courgette).  I like to use gourd sometimes, especially as it is so easily available in supermarkets, but more often I will use any of my root vegetable leftovers. If you are using leftovers, this recipe will taste like taste like you’ve gone to a lot of effort!

Deena’s Vegetable Dumplings Stewed in a Yogurt Soup/Curry (Kadhi)

Ingredients

1 cup cooked and cooled rice (that’s aproximately 1/2 cup when uncooked)

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 small/medium potato, grated

100g sweet potato, grated

125g of finely shredded cabbage

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1-2 green chillies, minced and 1-2 green chillies chopped

1 tsp ginger minced

400g yogurt

Gram flour; 3 tbsp for the kadhi and 1 ½ cup for the dumplings

1 cup chapatti flour

4-5 curry leaves

A handful of chopped coriander leaves

The spices ½ tsp ajwain/Carom seeds, 2 tsp cumin seeds (1 of which is toasted lightly), salt to taste, ½ tsp turmeric, pinch of asafoetida, ½ tsp mustard seeds, stick of cinnamon, 2 cloves.

Method

  1. In a very big bowl, combine the cooked rice, cabbage, onion, sweet potato, potato, minced garlic, 1tsp of toasted cumin seeds, carom seeds, salt to taste, ½ tsp turmeric and the minced chillies and mix thoroughly to ensure the spices coat all of the vegetables.  Don’t drain away the water from the vegetables, but allow the wetness to come through and this will help in bind the dough.
  2. Mix together the yogurt and the 3 tbsp of gram flour until smooth and there are no lumps
  3. Heat 2-3 tbsp of oil in a big, heavy bottomed and deep pan and add the asafoetida, chopped chilli (es), curry leaves, minced ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cumin seeds and mustard seeds and allow the mustard seeds to pop before adding the gram flour and yogurt mix and some salt. Add 11 cups of water and bring to a simmer on a medium heat.
  4. Then add the chapatti flour and 1 ½ cups of gram flour to the rice and vegetables, add 2tbsp of vegetable oil and 2tbp of water and mix thoroughly to make a dough.
  5. Grease your palms and make tight sausages no longer than the width of your palm and drop them into the kadhi that is simmering in the deep bottomed pan. When they are all in, simmer for approximately 20 minutes, stirring intermittently to avoid the dumplings sticking to the bottom of the pan. You will know when they are done as you wont see the grains of rice so much and the inside looks meaty, rather than floury.
  6. Sprinkle over the coriander leaves and serve hot!

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.

Spice it Up-Vegetarian Indian LOVE foods

1 Apr

Love Food StrawberryMmmmmm….the tantalising taste, the smooth fleshy feel, or the velvety texture…the arousing aroma, the suggestive shapes, or the evocation of pure luxury…There are many factors at play that tout a food for being an aphrodisiac. Some are more obvious than others; most of us consider the undisputed kings of aphrodisiacs to be chocolate and strawberries. Chocolate has been used to stoke the flames of passion for centuries and I’ve read that Casanova, ‘the greatest lover in the world’ would top-up on it before entering the boudoir. But surely, amore is not just for Valentine’s Day and strawberries dipped in warm chocolate, as sensually satisfying as they may be, don’t make a meal.

Aphrodisacs chocolate

A flirt with powerful tasting Indian Vegetarian Foods may prove a novel experience for you and your partner, so here I give you some luring suggestions. Serve hot and leave your partner lusting for more!
Kesar Badam Milk

saffron

It only dawned on me how packed full of aphrodisiac ingredients this hot and aromatic milk is, when I started researching this topic. I couldn’t believe how well crafted this delicious love-potion actually is.
One of the key ingredients is almonds, which are associated with passion and fertility. The aroma of almonds is alleged to excite women and is therefore a common ingredient in creams and soaps. Well, I never. The other prime ingredient is saffron. Now, decadent saffron not only looks stunning when infused into milk, but apparently some studies suggest that it contains properties that stimulate libido and the erogenous zones.

It only gets better and better. This drink is sweetened with honey, known as Aphrodite’s (the Greek mythological goddess of love, beauty and sexual rapture) nectar. This liquid gold is even mentioned in the Kama Sutra and the Perfumed Garden, where it is said that honey spiced with nutmeg (funnily enough another ingredient in this milk) is said to heighten orgasm.

Lastly, exotic scented cardamom is added to the drink. So now I understand why I’ve seen (in Indian movies) this drink being served on wedding nights and confusingly perhaps is why this drink is served at engagements…hmmmm….

Anjeer (fig) halwaFig
This sumptuous sweet dish is bursting with fleshy figs. In some Southern European countries wedding guests throw figs (instead of rice) at the newlyweds, as a sign of fertility and I learned recently that since Adam and Eve adorned themselves with fig leaves, they have become a symbol of fertility. Maybe its aphrodisiac claims are based on its appearance? With this in mind, I would adapt the traditional recipe for fig halwa, which calls for the figs to be almost pureed, to leave into a mushy consistency with some larger chunks.
Fig halwa is made by 200g of figs, 3tbsp ghee, ½ cup of blanched almonds (blanched, peeled and powdered), 1/3 cup milk powder, 4tbsp of sugar, ¼ tsp cardamom powder. It’s so simple to make; just boil the figs in water for about 5 minute and then process to a mash, don’t forget to leave some chunky bits in there. Heat the ghee and then add the powdered almonds and the cardamom, sauté for a couple of minutes before adding the figs, milk powder, sugar and ½ cup of water. Serve steaming hot.

Bananas
Phallic illusions aside, bananas have a lot to offer the world of romance. They are pumped with nutrients essential to sexual hormone production. In many cultures across the world, the banana is considered to be the fruit symbolising fertility. Why not couple your banana up with one more, sexy ingredient?
I suggest banana and pomegranate raitha. The sparkly red seeds of pomegranate are also said to have aphrodisiac properties in themselves, so this cooling yogurt based condiment is a real treat. Peel and slice a banana, take a handful of the ruby red jewels and douse them in about 450g of natural plain yogurt. Add some chopped coriander leaves, a little chilli powder and a sprinkling of cumin powder and paprika. Sensational.

If you are in the mood for something more fiery, a spicy mock-chicken and banana curry may just hit the spot; this curry will really play on the tongue with its sweet-hot-soft-firm textures.

  • In some hot oil fry some cumin and then as it crackles, add a sliced red onion, a couple of cloves of garlic a small stick of cinnamon and a couple of cloves.
  • Stir in a couple of red chillies, turmeric and a bay leaf and sauté.
  • Add about 250g of vegetarian chicken pieces and then mix in some salt, ground coriander (1tsp) and (1/2 tsp) cumin and ½ tsp of garam masala.
  •  Add the two chopped tomatoes cook for about 7 minutes before adding a chopped banana (firm).
  •  Grate about 10g of ginger and cook a further 5-6minutes. Serve this impactful dish with steaming hot rice.

Tomatoes; the ‘Love Apple’?Tomatoes sexy
This narcotic red fruit has been proven in some studies to prevent sperm from dying off, but most of us would doubt the sexiness of a bowl of tomato soup. So perhaps piercing the skin of a sun-warmed and ripe freshly picked tomato is more of a sensual experience? Makes sense then, that some call it the ‘other’ forbidden fruit.
In terms of Indian inspiration for tomato recipes, let’s start with the obvious; yes, tomato curry.

  • Simply fry off, in some cumin, a couple of green chillies, a small stick of cinnamon, a sprig of curry leaves and 2 cloves of garlic and roughly 3 spring onions.
  •  Add about 5-6 chopped tomatoes and then season with salt, 1 tsp of coriander powder, 1 tsp of turmeric powder, ¼ tsp of turmeric, and ½ tsp of garam masala.
  • Simmer for a couple of minutes before adding ½ cup of peas.
  • Simmer until the tomatoes have reduced to a pulpy consistency, before garnishing with coriander.

Keeping in mind the potential effects of keeping the tomatoes untainted (therefore uncooked) how does a smooth tomato salad tickle your fancy? I use baby plum tomatoes, a handful of freshly chopped coriander, toasted cashew nuts, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of cumin powder.
I will leave you with my last offering; stuffed tomatoes.

  • Take 8 tomatoes, halve them then scoop out the pulp. Make a stuffing using ½ cup coarsely mashed boiled peas, 2 potatoes (mashed) 1 cup of crumbly paneer (freshly made Indian Cheese.
  • Alternatively, grate some shop-bought paneer). Spice the mix with dried mango powder, ½ tsp garam masala, 1 tsp of aniseed, 2-3 chopped green chillies, and coriander leaves.
  • Mix it all together really and then bake in a hot oven until the tomatoes are tender.

Food is all about a mind-body connection, so with a little planning and a touch of skill, I hope you get elevation you are looking for.

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