Archive | September, 2013

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

22 Sep

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

My new husband grabbed my hand and gently lead me out of the Bangkok shopping centre food court whilst I whimpered. I felt like a four year old.  But my hands were printed with Henna and every salesperson, tour guide or hotel staff would stop me to ask, sweetly , ‘honey moon?’
utterly  frustrated and despairingly famished, I was just too worn out to talk.  Or rather, complain.  We were on honeymoon and spent the day sight seeing, talking excitedly and traveling fair distances and had eventually landed up in a shopping centre where the shoes were the stuff of my dreams; very affordable, stylish and I gasped when I saw how small they were! I’m of course petite and wear size 3 shoes. I was delighted. Could it get any better? The morning had passed  hearing traders haggle whilst I bobbed up and down a teeny boat on the floating market.  I was inside that Jacobs advert.  I’d inhaled the sweet smells from mounds of saffron and stopped on the water to buy an oversized straw hat. And now, look…small shoes!
So time elapsed and once the thrills had lulled, our tummies shouted in plight.  The problem was that we couldn’t find any vegetarian food. The so-called-veggie dishes had oyster sauce in them or a fishy stock.  I’d been served some in a noodle bar and the taste sent me out of the shopping centre.
So we were on the restless main road; sky train rumbling above us, cars honking past us and traders yelling at us. It was hot, dusty and it was all just too much.  What we we in awe of just hours ago, was now simply draining.  Husband rang the hotel and they directed us to a restaurant they advised would actually serve proper veggie food.
It looked alright when we got there, but frankly I didn’t care anymore.  My plate arrived and it was green. The noodles I mean, not the plate itself.  I didn’t expect that; I was expecting coconut cream. It smelt like coriander and I almost wept. I told my husband about the time when my dad made mashed potatoes for my cousin, my brother and I when we were kids and he put coriander in it and we all gagged. My cousin held his breath and downed it because my dad bribed him with a giant bar of bounty. I looked down and my noodles and just wanted a bowl of tomato pasta. ‘Just eat it sweetheart, it is vegetarian and you haven’t eaten anything’.
I’d never tasted anything like it, it was like an Asian chutney on noodles.  Garlicky heat and coriander with Thai sweet basil totally lifted me and the aroma of sesame oil, it was phenomenal. So simple, so fresh, moist and quite powerful.  I asked for another portion as a take-away and I resolved to come home and make my own version.
I love this recipe because all of the fresh flavours that come through really decisively. They don’t over power each other and you can taste them all.  I’ve used fresh basil and ginger along with coriander and the juices are those you get carried away by.  This is perfect as a mid week meal because it is easy to do.  Please do use sesame oil, this dish wouldn’t taste the same without the perfume of nutty sesame seeds.  I’ve also added toasted cashews and peanuts on top which for me, compete the Asian feel on this pasta.  Don’t ruin it by adding cheese, you really don’t need it.
Ingredients to serve four
4 tbsp finely chopped coriander
4 cloves of garlic , minced
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp minced ginger
Salt to taste (I added 1tsp)
2 tsp fresh lime juice
4 tbsp finely chopped basil
500g fresh pasta
3 handfuls of cashew nuts and one handful of peanuts (shelled)
Method
1. Sauté the garlic and ginger in a splash of oil in a pan for 2-3 minutes and stir intermittently to avoid sticking.
2. In a grinder, combine the coriander, basil, sesame oil, garlic and ginger, salt and lime juice and blitz it until its a smooth pesto.
3.  Put the pasta on the boil and cook it per the packet instructions. Meanwhile, in a hot, non stick pan toast the nuts until they are golden brown
4. Once the pasta is drained, stir the pesto through it and top it with the nuts. We’ve warm. It’s best that way.

 

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Sweet and chilli Beetroot, masala potatoes, toasted almonds, green beans and goats cheese salad

18 Sep

Sweet and chilli beetroot, masala potatoes, green beans, goats cheese and toasted almond salad.

Salad

When I married my husband my kitchen inherited his eating habits. Naturally. We had a permanently colourful fridge tumbling with carrots and tomatoes that he ate raw; fantastic. Lots of fruit ; wonderful! There were requests for minestrone, lasagne and for stir fries. Sounds all very virtuous doesn’t it, it’s making me feel proud just reading it. Accompanying these very sensible, wholesome and fresh choices were some rather odd ones.

Light, fresh, delicate and sour crispy dosa were flattened and overpowered by the rude slathering of tomato ketchup. Wedges of apple were showered with salt and cumin powder. Crunchy and spicy Bombay mix was dunked to the soggy bottom of a mug of masala chai. Garlic chutney (literally just garlic and chilli powder) on cold Chappati comprised a long lingering breakfast.
The one I couldn’t dispute too much was the plate full of spicy, lightly crisped masala, peppery potatoes with lashings of natural yoghurt on top. Ironically, this carby dish is the food of fasts and it always throws me back to large family get togethers, nuts, saris and cold weather. All the lovely stuff.

Now it is of course wrong to change a man. Isn’t it. What of those women that alter the hobbies, eating, clothing, housing and everything else that makes the man. No. But…if all we are tweaking is banishing the hoodies and introducing a bit of colour to the plate…well that’s just helping and it is a contribution to the betterment of generations to come, isn’t it ?

So I have taken his beloved masala potatoes, changed it up a wee bit and sat them in a salad. Salad is a sort of catch-all, umbrella food term isn’t it. When I was a kid, Salad just meant cucumber, tomato, lettuce and sometimes sweetcorn. Salad cream was the dressing. Nowadays, a salad is a concoctive compilation of hot, cold, sweet, sour, crunchy or soft stuff with fruits or salad or both. Anything.

So back to my salad, or whatever we want to call it. Peppery potatoes in cumin and sesame seeds and a few simple spices that and punch. The beetroot is bathed in its own juices and some agave nectar and chilli. I used agave because it is low GI and won’t give me those sugar spikes that honey or sugar based products will. Toasted almonds are the crunchy and smoky bit and then I’ve got the juicy beans and salty and creamy cheese. This is a plate that plays with the senses and is pretty nutritious. No reason not to now is there?
Ingredients

600g of white potatoes
300g of beetroot with the juices
170g of green beans
30g flaked almonds
3tbsp agave nectar
3tbsp cooking oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds
A few blogs of goats cheese or feta

The spices; salt to taste, 1tsp chilli flakes, 1 tsp cumin seeds , 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp amchur powder (dried mango powder), 1/4 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Start by chopping the potatoes into wedges and boil them for about 7-8 minutes. Drain them and leave them to dry

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2. Whilst the potatoes are boiling, toast the almonds in a dry pan over a medium flame until they are golden brown.

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3. Next turn your attention to the beetroot. Chop it into chunks and simply dress it with the agave and chilli and leave it to a side.

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4. Now stir fry the potatoes by heating the oil in the pan and then stir in the potatoes. Add the sesame and cumin with the salt. Sprinkle in the pepper, paprika, oregano, mango powder and garam masala. Cook the potatoes until they attract a golden colour. This should taken ten minutes on a medium flame. Stir the potatoes intermittently to avoid them sticking.
5. Whilst the potatoes are cooking, boil or steam the green beans for about 7minutes or until tender.

Serve with the juices of the beetroot and sprinkle the almonds on top with the cheese.

Smoked Aubergine polenta with sweet and spicy tomatoes on top

16 Sep

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Smoked Aubergine polenta with sweet and spicy tomatoes on top

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

Juicy chaat masala mushrooms with goats cheese on toast

14 Sep

image imageJuicy chaat masala mushrooms with goats cheese on toast

The husband and I like to have special breakfasts at the weekends.  Something tremendous and indulgent.  Something voluptuous and pampering.   There is something quite dirty about a big, fat, yes-yes breakfast and I like it.
The tradition, as it now is, stems partly from the pre-baby practices of a lie-in on the weekends after loud and cheerful Friday nights.  We’d wake absolutely ravenous to TV in bed and before attacking a pre-jaunt ‘to do’ list, we’d eat liberally.  I think the tradition also stems from a love of hearty breakfast foods.  I adore a good fry up, as long as the the vegetarian sausages are home made.  I make home made ‘baked’ beans too.  You know what one of things I most looked forward to doing after I got married was?  I was popping with excitement about having a huge English breakfast in the hotel, after our wedding night. Even though we were, shortly afterwards, flying out to Thailand.  But listen, I didn’t get that slim/thin for the wedding on fried eggs and hash browns!
Oh, and pancakes soaked in lemon and sugar…heavenly. And what about my beloved Gujarati thepla (spicy chapatti with fenugreek)?  I always keep some Pathak’s hot and spicy pickle in the house so that I can eat it and the thepla and lashings of yoghurt.  My husband is quite fanciful of light and fluffy South Indian idli (steamed pillows of ground and fermented rice and lentils) with a fresh dhal. He also likes plentiful wraps and layered sarnies with proper beans such as black eyed beans in a fresh sauce, spinach and of course some crunchy potatoes. And cheese. Good cheese. Cheese good.
So, I bet you know where I’m going with this.  We are getting older and fatter.  Somehow, a hash brown doesn’t have the same appeal.  We aren’t as ravenous in the mornings and we don’t really want to burping beany-eggy-fried stuff the whole day.  But the tradition of wanting a large and loving, taste-powing and generally stupendous breakfast continues. My husband hasn’t traditionally been a lover of mushrooms but I have converted him and I owe the conversion to this mighty and fine recipe.
Have you ever eaten a chaat? The point is to tantalise the senses and the taste buds with a variety of textures; hot sour, crunchy and soft, cold and hot.  The spice that brings it all together is chaat masala. It’s a peppery and pungent mix with black salt in it.  Somehow it is just magical with exotic mushrooms.  The juices that release from the mushrooms and the masala, oh my goodness…I could drink it as a soup! Please don’t chuck it away when you cook this dish, let it soak through the bread.  This is a beautifully balanced and kind dish. You could have it as a light meal too. Go for it and let me know what you think.
Ingredients for two people
150g of exotic mushrooms.  I used yellow oysters, grey oysters and anis mushrooms
2 tsp of chaat masala
A few blobs of goats cheese on each slice of bread
2 spring onions washed and chopped into bite sized chunks
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp finely chopped, fresh thyme
2 fat cloves of garlic very finely chopped
2 tbsp of cooking oil (use butter if you wish)
Two splashes of lemon juice
I used jalapeño and corn bread from ‘your bakery’ at tesco. It’s soft and spicy.
Cooks tip; it’s probably most economical to get a pack of mixed exotic mushrooms. I bought the chaat masala from the ethnic aisle at a tesco megastore. Don’t add any extra salt to this dish as the chaat masala is salty, please be careful.
Easy-peasy Method
1. If your grey oysters are large, then chop them in half. Wash all of the mushrooms and leave them to a side.
2. Heat the oil in a pan and then add the cumin seeds.  Once they start to sizzle stir in the onions and garlic and sauté for a minute.
3. Place the bread in the toaster and Introduce the mushrooms to the onions and garlic and mix it all together.  Sprinkle in the chaat masala, stir and add the lemon juice and the thyme.  Simmer on a medium flame for about 3-4 minutes until the juices release and the mushrooms have relaxed.  Don’t let them shrink.  Exotic mushrooms aren’t tough so don’t need much cooking.
4. Plate the toast, then top with mushrooms and add a few blobs of goats cheese. Drizzle the stock onto the toast and serve immediately.

Kiddy friendly tomato and roasted red pepper rice with sweetcorn

12 Sep

imageKiddy friendly tomato and roasted pepper rice with sweetcorn

Life is full of beautiful moments when there is a child around.  Before bedtime yesterday, my boy sat on my tummy whilst I lay on the bed and he demonstrated a brand new learning.  I love it when he surprises me like this.  I don’t drill things into him, I much prefer that his own curiosity and his own rhythm reach him to fresh learnings.  Anyway, his face was aglow with pensive excitement as he told me stuff that I knew all along but of course he told it like it was red-hot, novel  information, ‘mumma, I like helicopters,  I like cars, I like animals, I like sev mumra (puffed rice and gram flour straws), I like tumeta bhath (tomato rice).  I asked him what mumma likes and he said, ‘ummm..biscuits’.
Of course he’s pooped in the bath tub twice this week and I am somewhat less enchanted by that.
He then didn’t want to get off my tummy and kept climbing back on for cuddles and to tell me about more stuff that he likes. ‘I like Andy airplane, I like….’ But I was still stuck on the tomato rice bit.
So today, that’s what’s I gave him.  If you’ve been reading my tweets you know how insanely difficult my boy is to feed.  You know I’ve tried it all.  Each meal time starts with an internal prayer and Chant, ‘I flipping hope he eats this, I flipping hope he eats this’
So,  I had the colouring book out and a book about diggers, because he likes diggers.  I mounted a bright blue spoon with red rice, because he likes the colour blue and he’s just told me likes tomato rice, so I hoped. And guess what? ‘Mmm, yummy yummy.’
There must be something about this dish, I recall having experimented with it as a teenager and then finding my brother, scoffing it into his gob directly from the cooking pan.
You could just use tomatoes alone in this dish, but the peppers add great nutrition and flavour.  My boy also likes paprika and I know this because I bought  Ruffles paprika flavoured crisps recently and he kept pinching them from my hands.
Ingredients
3/4 cup of long grain rice, I used Tilda Basmati
One medium onion, finely chopped
Two medium sized roasted red peppers
2/3 can of chopped tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup of sweetcorn
The spices; 1/3tsp turmeric, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cumin seeds
1. Boil the rice in plenty of water for 8-10minutes on a medium flame and then wash it in cold water and leave to one side
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds.  Allow the seeds to sizzle before stirring in the onion and adding the turmeric.  Soften the onion fit a couple of minutes before adding the garlic.  Cook until the onion has softened.
3. Add the tomatoes and chop the red pepper into chunks before adding that.
4. Stir in the paprika and simmer for 4-5 minutes on a medium to low flame.  Turn the sauce into a food processor and blitz it to a smooth consistency.
5. Stir in the rice and add about 30ml of water with the sweetcorn ( defrost first if you are using frozen sweetcorn) and heat the mixture to a simmer again. Turn to a low flame and cook until the water has reduced, the rice is separated and cooked.  This should take 8-10minutes.
Serve with smiles and confidence.  I also served with vegetable wedges, because he likes it.

Sweet mini peppers stuffed with feta, spinach, edamame beans and gorgeous spices

10 Sep

Sweet mini peppers stuffed with feta, spinach, edamame beans and of course some gorgeous spices

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As teenagers my best friend and I went on our first holiday together, without family, to Bulgaria.  Not Ibiza, Sharm el sheikh or Tenerife, but Bansko, a town at the foot on the Pirin mountains.  We’d decided to deviate from the popular, bikini-cladded sun soaking and wild nights of clubbing and we’d also decided that we liked mountains.
We’d of course done no research.  Google wasn’t a word that existed in our lives back then and of course we didn’t buy travel books.  We just rocked up at the travel agent with about £300 as our budget and a clear ish view of what we wanted; no loud clubbers, beautiful mountain scenery, friendly people, a different culture and cheap.  I’d never contemplate contracting to a holiday under such exposed and ill-informed circumstances now, because obviously I’m not daring and old(er)
We really had no idea what we’d let ourselves in for.  Funnily enough, I’d kind of like to go back there.  There were no known brands being sold in the kiosks. There were no known fast food joints in the town.  Our guide wanted us to hang out with his daughter so that it would improve her English but of course we taught each other rude words in our respective languages.  Restaurants looked like huts and we sat on big timber tables.  Outdoor bands played in the moonlight as the residents of the town gathered.  Children climbed under the water features in the town and hollered at us saying, ‘look at the Spanish girls’ as they’d never seen an ethnically Indian person.  Donkeys walked with their owners through the streets and as we walked through the evening streets we were frightened as there was barely any street light, so we sang ‘nelly the elephant’ loudly.   As you may expect, I’m smiling as I write this.
I don’t even think we appreciated the scenery fully. We hiked with a guide and stopped to look at Viagra plants and beautiful rocky and vast mountains, cool whites, blues and greens. I remember the vastness and quietness of the mountains and the distant ringing of bells around the necks of cows. I remember drinking fresh spring water after crossing streams on logs.
I don’t think that the hotel we were staying at, or the restaurants that we ate in had encountered many vegetarians. They seemed baffled.  On the first couple of days we were served boiled veg.  We then negotiated a spaghetti dish with the non-English speaking chef, but it didn’t taste of much.  Once they realised that cheese was in fact an option for us they served us huge long peppers roasted with loads of moist and salty feta.  It tasted faintly of clay and we loved it.  The cheese was so fresh and spongy.  Oh and they served it with a beautifully simple and mellow bean soup served in a clay pot. Brilliant.
So this recipe isn’t as simple as the one I had in Bansko but it is absolutely uplifting and thoroughly sensual.   I picked up a 500g bag of mini sweet peppers from Tesco for £3 which I thought was good value for money. I’d eat the stuffing raw off a big serving spoon, but…
The colours of this dish are striking; sharp yellows and red against bright green.  The smell is a whole new thing…my kitchen smells gorgeously sweet and toasty right now as I’ve just made these peppers. I’ve used nutty edamame beans from the freezer, but if you can’t find them maybe use frozen broad beans instead? I’m putting these peppers on top of a salad, but you could put them on some cous cous, pasta or even vegetable rice.   I’ve used 1tsp of piri piri spices, but you could use more or less. Honestly, this is a fresh, juicy and toasty dish that I hope you will want to share.
Ingredients
Makes approximately 20 mini stuffed peppers
150g feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup finely shredded spinach (I put it in the food processor)
1 cup of edamame beans boiled for 3 minutes
About 20 mini sweet peppers, washed
Spices; 1 tsp cumin seeds toasted and lightly crushed, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1tsp piri piri spice
Method
1. Take a mixing bowl be crumble the feta into it.  Add the spinach and mix well before adding the edamame beans
2. Stir in spices and mix again
3. Place the mixture into a food processor and turn it into a coarse mix. We don’t need the edamame beans to be smooth,  chunky, is great.
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4. Remove the tops off thee peppers and place onto a lined baking tray
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5. With a teaspoon, fill the peppers generously and coat them lightly in oil. Roast the peppers on 180degrees for about 12-15minutes or until they look browned and you are able to pierce them.
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Indian spiced pea puree pasta

8 Sep

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This week I read about all this stuff to do with food for the  poor and Jamie Oliver’s thoughts around it.  Essentially he wants to show people how to eat better on a budget and he’s doing a TV show called, ‘Jamie’s money saving meals’ and he’s written a book called, ‘Save with Jamie’.
Now the controversy, if you want to call it that, is apparently because of the connections he’s made between a poor persons diet to productivity and comparisons made with poor folks in Italy who supposedly eat fresh pasta and veg and the alleged relative superior productivity of Eastern European people.

So it’s got me thinking. I do think that you can eat well on a budget;

– a simple chickpea curry costs under a pound to make when you use canned chickpeas
– good old sweetcorn soup with a few asian spices and crusty bread can also cost £2 for feed two people
– a lovely indian spiced mixed vegetable omelette is also inexpensive when using frozen vegetables
– have you seen my BBC Good Food recipe for parsnip pancakes? If you have gram flour in the house, you could make enough for two people and them in bread as a sarnie for under a couple of quid
– if you are using tinned tomatoes, a simple tomato and basil spaghetti dish can cost around £3 for four people

However, as far as I can see, whichever way you cut it, chips are cheap.  Cheaper than most healthier alternatives.  If you’re buying them, they are filling, you don’t need any gas to cook them or water to wash plates.  They are one of life’s little comforts and if everything else is looking grim, the smell of fresh chips and a cuddle can do something lovely for the soul, for a bit.

So, I’m not sharing a recipe for the poor.  This is not a recipe that is labelled in any such way.  I’m sharing an absolutely scrummy, lightly tangy and pea-sweet, luminous, moorish and easy to cook recipe that happens to be pretty inexpensive to cook. Bonus
A lot of my mummy peers have come out of their previous careers, or have taken reduced hours.  It doesn’t mean our tastes have changed,  we still like to eat well; as well as we always have and perhaps even better now that little mouths want to copy us.  Saving a few quid along the way is a bonus though isn’t it?

When I was a teen people ate pasta on a diet, for the relatively low fat content.  I remember watching Oprah discussing her huge weight loss saying that she could eat pasta every day of the week and that her chef would do something completely different with pasta every day.  I think this is what I love about pasta.  I still haven’t fallen out of love with it and am not yet bored of it.  Funnily enough though, I spoke to a relative who was cooking pasta as we spoke.  I asked her what sort of sauce she was making and she said, ‘the normal one’.  This made me chuckle. The default pasta sauce is of course some sort of tomato sauce…come on, do something different today.

Ingredients

One medium onion, finely diced
2 fat cloves of garlic, finely diced
2cups petite pois, defrosted
200g creme Fraiche
2-3 tsp vegetable oil
100ml water
400g pasta
Some shavings of vegetarian hard cheese

The spices; 1tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp ajwain (carom) seeds, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/4 tsp turmeric, salt to taste, 1 1/2 tsp coriander powder

Method

1 . Put the pasta on the boil in salted water, per packet instructions. Don’t forget to wash it in plenty of cold water when it is cooked
2. Heat the oil and then add the cumin seeds and carom seeds together with the turmeric and allow the seeds to sizzle before stirring in the onions and salt. Soften the onions for a couple of minutes and then add the garlic and soften until the onions are transparent.
3. Add the peas and stir in the coriander powder, coat the peas and then add the water. Bring the peas to a simmer and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Then stir in the creme Fraiche and the back pepper and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
4. Pour the peas into a food processor and blitz it until its almost smooth.  It’s lovely with some texture in there, so don’t try and get it completely smooth
5. Place the pea purée into the cooking pan again and stir in the pasta
6. Serve and garnish with the shavings of cheese

I am submitting my recipe to this month’s Pasta Please, a monthly event by Jacqueline over at Tinned Tomatoes. This month’s host is Johanna over at Green Gourmet Giraffe and the topic is long pasta.

pasta please

Gram flour pasta in a spicy tomato and veg base

5 Sep

Gram Flour pasta in a Indian spiced tomato and vegetable base

pasta final

A few weeks before I fell pregnant with my baby boy, we did a tour around India.  I wasn’t overly enthusiastic at the prospect of being guided around historical monuments I’d already seen a couple of times, that too in the sweltering orange and dusty heat.  My husband had never done it though and he was really keen.  So, I looked up some contacts and I cooked with chefs throughout our journey; aloo wadiya and kulcha in Amritsar, kofta in Udaipur, mughlai dishes in Delhi, juicy paneer in Agra, chaat in Mumbai…It was so much fun.  The passion and skill in the chefs was moving.  The chefs and I nattered for hours, perched on the edge of our comfy chairs, about their ancestry, their feelings about food, how their family regard their chosen path.  It was so exhilarating  to be around people who love what they do.  We’d slump back in our chairs in smiling consideration.
To close our bustling and rousing trip we headed over to Gujarat to see family and get it touch with our religious roots.
So we arrived at one of Porabander’s best hotels really late into the night.  The bed had blue neon lights around it.  I don’t think I need to say any more.  As l stood there whispering WTF, familiar fishy smells of this seemingly standstill coastal town overwhelmed me. It didn’t feel any different to how it did 20 years ago.  Now I’m the sort of person that enjoys foods from around the world, it thrills me.  The experience of new senses in my mouth makes me giddily happy.  I love Italian, Indian, Lebanese, Chinese, Malaysian, Moroccan, Thai, Spanish…but.  After all of that, the cuisine that cajoles me into my natural rhythm is Gujarati food.  After being separated from my native food for over two weeks, I was restless with hankerings.  I was looking forward to Dhokla, Thepla, okra curry, gram flour straws in spicy tomato.
So I asked my husband to ring reception to see what sort of Gujarati food we could get so late and how we could get a thali the next day.  You know what they told us? No Gujarati food in the hotel. That’s right.  Noodles or a sandwich were offered to me. I was aghast.
My recipe today is inspired by Gujarati Dhokli, which is effectively gram flour pasta.  Traditionally it is simmered in dhal, but my recipe is quicker and just different, as it is in a spicy tomato and vegetable base.  It’s a filling and comforting dish that is pretty simple to make. You’ll sleep we’ll on this one.
Gram flour pasta in a spicy tomato and vegetable base
Ingredients

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

Tomato and veg base

200g green beans trimmed and cut into bit size 2cm chunks

150g baby corn, trimmed and cut into 2cm bites

2 medium new potatoes cut into small cubes

4 shallots, finely chopped

3 gloves of garlic, finely chopped

3 green chilies chopped

1400ml warm water

1 ½ tin of tomatoes

The spices; 1 tsp. cumin seeds, 1 tsp. fenugreek seeds, ½ tsp. mustard seeds, 6-7 curry leaves, salt to taste, 3 cloves, a pinch of asafoetida, ½ tsp. black pepper, ½ tsp. garam masala

The Gram Flour Pasta

¾ cup gram flour

1 cup finely milled whole wheat flour

1.5 tbsp Vegetable oil

The spices; 3/4 tsp. ajwain, 1 tsp. red chilli powder, ½ tsp. turmeric powder and salt to taste

150ml warm water

Method

  1. Start by making the pasta dough by mix all of the dry ingredients and spices.  Make a well in the middle and pour into the middle.   With your fingers massage the oil into the flour, creating a lightly crumbly texture and then with your fingers mix together the water, little by little, together with the flour and spices to form a ball. Coat the ball with vegetable oil and wrap in Clingfilm and rest it whilst you continue to prepare vegetables.pasta 1.1
  2. Roll out the dough to one centimeter thickness and cut into rectangles of between 4cm by 3cm. Once they are all rolled and cut out place them onto a dish and dust the pieces lightly.  If your kitchen is very warm, put the pasta in the fridge, so that the pieces do not stick togetherpasta 1
  3. To make the tomato and veg  base, heat 2 tbsp. oil and add the asafoetida, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, turmeric powder, mustard seeds, chilies and cloves before allowing the seeds to pop.
  4. Stir in the onions and salt, then sauté for a couple of minutes before stirring in the garlic.   Soften both before adding in the potatoes, green beans and the baby corn and mixing through thoroughly. Add the black pepper
  5. Stir in the tomatoes, water and bring to a simmer before cooking for 4-5 minutes
  6. Drop in the pasta simmer for 10-12 minutes before sprinkling in the garam masala and serving lashings of it.

Kiddy friendly, baked paneer and courgette spring rolls

3 Sep

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Kiddy friendly, baked paneer and courgette spring rolls

Feeding my little one is obscenely challenging.  I am not over reacting.  Here are some of the useless and aggravating comments made by people who think that they know better.
1. Leave him.  This is on the top of my list for a very good reason! Yes, tried that.  An entire day can pass but if the food doesn’t do it for him, it’s not going into that little tummy.  He will, if slept, take an interest in foods that he wants to take an interest in.  He touches everything to his lips.  Even if it has been hours and hours since he last ate, it has to pass that taste and texture test!
2. Let him play with and explore the food.  Yes, of course I’ve tried that..come on.  My child is very good at throwing; ask my walls, floors and the ants that he attracts.  He’s also very good at squashing, squashed courgette pakora make interesting patterns on white clothes, I’ve learned.
3. Give him a sandwich.  My child is the reincarnation of an indian villager.  He will eat a spinach curry in a chappati but he won’t eat a sandwich.
4. Give him what he likes.  Should I just laugh at this one?
5.  Turn the telly on.  Even with help of special agent OSO, Ra Ra the noisy little lion, Curious George, or my personal favourite of Charlie and Lola, he still knows what he wants and doesn’t want.
6. He won’t starve, he has stores.  Sigh. Yes, but if we can get through the day without hunger strikes and some down time (naps happen when tummies are full ish) I could see fields of green, skies that are blue, red roses too…
7. He will probably never be an eater.  This is what a health visitor said to me. It was like being back at school when that horrid teacher decided to publicly announced his predictions of each class members GCSE grades and their future careers.  I remember internally screeching, ‘don’t tell me what I’m going to be! I will carve that out!’
So I composed myself, shut down the expletives that were exploding in my mind and said, as calmly as I could, ‘my parents tell me that I was absolutely worse than him, but look at me now’
Are you sensing the exhaustion? Do you have it too?
All of the above said, I do have to set some boundaries.  We don’t spend infinite amounts of time in the high chair.  There is no forcing.  I don’t wedge his mouth open amidst screams and shovel food in.  He does not get a bag of crisps to replace a meal, just because he likes it.  We just move on, smile and hope for better the next time around.  I want my little monster to see food in the way I do; pleasure-giving and satisfying.  I want him to explore his senses and creativity through food. It’s so uplifting isn’t it?
I don’t think I have ever been so tested as a food writer.  My son, without doubt, is definitely the toughest person ever to please.  I’ve devised an array of recipes that have been super hits…but alas, phases pass so I keep creating! I will share them with you however, in case you find yourself flopped on the chair asking your little one, ‘so what will you eat eh?’.
I learn as we grow together, my boy and I. Things that may seem obvious to the more experienced mum, I just learn…gradually. For example, my boy never took to purees.  Of all the babies that I had come across, I’d never seen a baby that wouldn’t eat a purée.
Anyway, after a good couple of months of trying, someone said to me, ‘well he’s been tasting what you’ve been eating since he could taste in your tummy till now, why would he want to eat boring bland stuff’. I mean, isn’t it obvious? Why didn’t I think of that? So I did a mild, salt-free dhal. Bingo.
My boy then wouldn’t accept a spoon. Not accept a spoon, who does this?! So I gave him breadsticks, melon, green beans..and he would chomp on it.  But this felt like diet food, just  like the mush they call baby food in the supermarket aisles.  No butter, no cheese…so I have him bread with soft cheese it or buttered chappati.  As you can imagine, he quickly grew bored.
Amusingly, when we would eat out as a family, my boy would go for the onion fritters, samosa, Chinese rice, pasta, spicy chappati…anything that tasted flavoursome.  I think it can be a misconception that little mouths like plain and simple food…so many kids I know love garlic bread, that’s hardly a subtle taste is it?
So, the challenge was to make foods that my little one could hold and that contained something valuable to his growth and then just let him do his thing, calmly.   Here’s one that seems to be working really well at the moment.  My little one loves crunchy textures and spices and you can change the filling to suit what your child likes.  You could of course make a few grown up spring rolls just by adding salt to your own stuffing, so that you can all enjoy rating the same food together,
Kiddy friendly, baked paneer and courgette spring rolls
Makes 20 rolls
Ingredients
One small red onion, finely diced
One medium courgette, grated
Quarter tin of chopped tomatoes
A knob of unsalted butter for frying
 10 sheets of spring roll pastry
125g paneer, grated
1tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
Method
1. Heat the butter and add cumin seeds for a minute, then the onion and soften until transparent
2. Stir in the paneer and the courgette and then the spices and seasonings.  Mix well, then add the tomatoes.  Cook until the courgette has softened enough for you to break between your fingers.
3. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature and then blitz it together into a coarse texture.
4. Cut a spring roll sheet in half and then place about half a tablespoon of stuffing at the bottom of the sheet, leaving an inch of space. Fold in the sides by. 2-3cm and simply roll
5. Lightly coat the spring rolls in oil and then bake until they are crispy and lightly golden.