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I have a new favourite hot beverage – milky chai masala –  which I urge you all to try when it starts getting really cold, wet and windy.  It may not win prizes for appearance, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in taste.  It’s the perfect drink when you’ve been out in the cold and need warming up on the inside. It requires a spice or coffee grinder – I use this one and really recommend it – maybe something for your Christmas list if you don’t have one.

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I was recently given this recipe from a friend who in turn received it from her Indian neighbour. Like Chinese whispers I have altered  it slightly to suit my tastes but the finished result is equally pleasing. Wafts of black pepper, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg come together to form a warming and comforting hot beverage that is guaranteed to please. Give it a try and let me know what you think by commenting below. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Chai Masala

milk

1 tsp sugar (or to taste)

1/2 tsp of chai masala spice mix (see above)

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Spice mix

4 inch long cinnamon stick

1 tbsp black pepper

2 tbsp of seeds from green cardamom

1 tsp cloves

1 level tsp ginger powder

1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

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1. Grind the cinnamon stick and black pepper in your spice grinder and then add the green cardamom seeds but not the husks, cloves, ginger powder and freshly grated nutmeg. Blend until all the parts have taken on a powder appearance.

2.  Store in an airtight container.

3. Gently heat the milk until it is boiling hot in a saucepan. When it is hot add half a teaspoon of chai masala spice mix and sugar to taste and continue to heat for another couple of minutes so that the spices infuse. If you think it needs a little more spice then add a little more of the spice mix.

4. Strain into cups immediately. The milky spice taste is so comforting that you won’t be able to resist another cupful.

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There is nothing more sublime than a spicy hot tomato soup to warm you up and give you that inner glow. If you are feeling under the weather with a cold or fever, which invariably many of us do at this time of year, this is a great way to blast your system with goodness and help pull you through. Rasam, as it is known in South India, translates to ‘juice’ or in Sanskrit rasa means ‘taste’. I think ‘tasty juice’ is the perfect way to describe this warming, fragrant and flavoursome soup. Traditionally it is made with tomatoes or tamarind with a host of spices and fresh curry leaves giving it a comforting aroma and taste.  Being totally addicted to tomatoes I tend to make my rasam with tomatoes as the base note.

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Traditionally it is eaten in India at the end of a meal, but I tend to serve it the opposite way round and kick a meal off with a warming cup of this thin spiced tomato soup to whet the taste buds. It is often served in a mug or cup or can be poured over a bowl of hot steaming basmati rice. It’s also the perfect drink after a long, cold and invariably wet winter walk. With a roaring fire going and a cup of rasam you will feel a state of happiness surround you. Seriously try it and you’ll know what I mean.

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The only tricky (ish) ingredient to source is fresh curry leaves. If you go to your local Asian grocer they are likely to have some, or at least will be able to point you in the right direction. So what are you waiting for – give it a go and leave and comment below to let me know how you get on.

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Indian Rasam – Spiced Tomato Soup

Serves 4

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1 heaped tsp of garlic paste/fresh garlic grated

1 heaped tsp of ginger paste/fresh ginger grated

2 large dried red chillies (1 if you prefer it with less of a kick)

12 fresh curry leaves

1/2 tsp of crushed black pepper

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

700g fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped

350ml water

a couple of sprigs of fresh coriander to garnish

black pepper to garnish

1. Warm the oil in a deep non-stick pan and when it is hot add the garlic, ginger, dried red chillies, fresh curry leaves and crushed black pepper and gently move around the pan so that the chillies darken and the ginger and garlic begin to bronze. Keep on a medium heat for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes, salt and sugar.

2. Move around the pan so that the tomatoes begin to soften and are completely covered in all of the ingredients. Then add the water and let it boil for a couple of minutes before lowering the heat and cover for 30 mins.

3. Using a hand blender blend the soup so that it is smooth and then pass through a sieve so that there are no pips or tomato skin and what remains is brilliant red, smooth thin rasam. Heat up the smooth rasam gently in the pan before serving.

4. Pour into cups and garnish with some fresh coriander and black pepper.

 

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It is bucketing down outside this afternoon and I am feeling rather cosy inside out of the rain. After taking the photos for this blog post I had a bowl full of this hot, delicately spiced warming soup. Seriously delicious and quite filling, owing to the yogurt, potatoes and mooli.  Now that Autumn is well and truly here this soup comes into its own and I urge you to try making yourself some.

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It was Durga Puja last weekend – you can read up what goes on exactly at this Indian celebration in my posts from last year and the year before  see here and here. During the festivities at the Hindu temple prasad is often taken. Prasad is literally a religious offering or gift that comes in the form of a meal. Always vegetarian and gently spiced it allows families and friends to come together to share a meal that is blessed during this auspicious occasion. One of the curries we were served was this Gujarati Kadhi. I adored the delicately spiced yogurt soup so much so I was allowed to venture into the kitchens to see how it was being prepared. Huge caldrons of the soup were being constantly stirred over hot stoves before being taken out to hungry worshippers.

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I’ve made my own additions and twists but the taste is pretty similar to the one that I had last weekend. It is so different from any soup or dal I have tried before that it immediately appealed. All the ingredients are pretty easy to pick up at your local supermarket. I have seen gram flour in the big supermarkets here in the UK and I noticed that Waitrose was even selling fresh curry leaves the other day. Times are changing!  Mooli is harder to track down if you don’t live near an Asian grocers so just omit that part if you can’t find it. As with most of my recipes it is quick and easy so if you are feeling adventurous then give this fabulous dish a try.

 

 

Gujarati Kadhi

Serves 4-6

500g natural yogurt

2 tbsp gram flour (chickpea flour)

1/2 tsp green chilli paste

1/2 tsp ginger paste

700ml water

1 tsp salt

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1 tbsp ghee/butter

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

3 cloves

2 small cinnamon sticks

2 dried red chillies, broken into pieces

10 fresh curry leaves

pinch of asafoetida

75g mooli (also known as daikon or white radish)/, cut into thin matchsticks

1 small potato, cut into thin matchsticks

1 tsp jaggery/sugar

1. In a large bowl mix the yogurt, gram flour, green chilli and ginger paste, salt and water using a hand whisk.

2. In a deep saucepan add the ghee and when it is melted add the mustard and cumin seeds and after 30 seconds add the cloves, cinnamon sticks, dried red chillies, fresh curry leaves and asafoetida. This is known as tempering.

3. Add the mooli and potato matchsticks and stir into the spices for one minute.

4. Gently pour in the yogurt/gram flour mixture over the potato, mooli and tempering spices and stir continuously to prevent the yogurt from separating.

5. If you find the mixture too thick simply add a little more water.

6. Add the jaggery or sugar if you don’t have any jaggery to hand. Stir into the soup. Simmer for  around 15 minutes or until the potato and mooli matchsticks are softened.

Serve with basmati rice or simply on its own in a bowl.

 

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I’ve been rather intrigued to make kimchi for quite sometime now so when my brother’s ladylove suggested a trip to Korea Foods in New Malden I jumped at the chance to visit this destination supermarket, as well as stock up on supplies to make my very own kimchi.  For those who are unfamiliar with kimchi, it’s basically a Korean fermented cabbage side dish that is as ubiquitous in Korea as miso soup is in Japan. It has a fiery kick, a crunch and is terribly moreish.

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Korea Foods is a delight for anyone interested in food and especially Asian food. I could easily pass a couple of hours there given the opportunity. We gathered the necessary ingredients to make kimchi as well as the perfect pyrex container to store it in – see photos (very important as you do not want the smell to perfume your whole house or for the juices to escape). We could not resist buying a few more Asian supplies as well as some savoury snacks for lunch, which included a pot of their homemade kimchi as we felt it would be good to compare ours with those of the pros.

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We received a few gasps of astonishment when we mentioned we were making our own kimchi. It made me wonder what we were letting ourselves in for. Was it really that hard to ferment cabbage? Anyway with the necessary ingredients in our shopping trolleys, we headed home to conquer some kimchi making.

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 The initial slicing, dicing and mixing together is very straightforward. It then requires daily squelching to release the gases and submerge the cabbage. You need to store is in a cool place, out of direct sunlight, for up to 5 days before putting it in the fridge.

The whole resting and fermenting period takes around 2 weeks. You can try a little as the days roll by to see how it tastes. I have been having a little bit most days, with my lunch or on the side with my supper. I fed some to a friend who had lived for years in Japan – ok I know it is not Korea – but she gave it the definite thumbs up and reminisced how she would regularly eat it in Japan with a bowl of rice.

It’s certainly a labour of love, but one that motivated me to visit Korea Foods and explore the ingredients of Korea. Now I know the route to get there there will be no stopping me to return very soon.

You may also be interested to read a short article I wrote for Country and Town House Magazine online about the rise of Korean Food in London – read here.

For those brave enough to make their very own kimchi do let me know how you get on.

 

Cabbage Kimchi

adapted from Emily Ho’s recipe on The Kitchn

1 napa cabbage, halved lengthways and then quartered  (core removed)

70g sea salt

water for soaking

1 tsp of fresh ginger, grated

5 cloves of fresh garlic, grated

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp salted shrimp (see 2nd photo from the top)

3 tbsp Korean red pepper flakes known as gochugaru

250g daikon, cut into 1 inch match sticks

5 spring onions cut into 1 inch matchsticks

1. First quarter the cabbage lengthways and then cut into 2 inch strips and place in a large bowl with the salt. Work the salt into the cabbage for a minute so that it softens and then add enough water so that it covers the cabbage. Cover the cabbage with a plate and press down using a heavy object. Leave to stand for 1 hour.

2. Drain the cabbage thoroughly under cold water a few times so the salt has been washed away. Leave to drain thoroughly.

3. Meanwhile prepare the paste by mixing the ginger, garlic, sugar, fish sauce and salted shrimp together, followed by the Korean red pepper flakes. Using your hands (I used washing up gloves) gently massage the paste into the daikon, spring onions and the now fully drained cabbage so that they are fully covered.

4. Transfer the kimchi into your pyrex jar and press down firmly so that the cabbage and vegetables are packed tightly.

5. Leave to stand out of direct sunlight for up to 5 days. Each day you need to complete the ritual of pressing down firmly so that the vegetables are submerged under the brine. Very pungent odours are released during this period of fermentation. Do not be put off as the end result will taste great. After the 5 days transfer to the fridge. If you leave it for another week or two in the fridge it will taste even better, but equally you can try some after the first 5 days.

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Having afternoon tea is very much a British thing to do. Granted we may not always sit down to tea and scones every afternoon, but given half the chance then we probably would. Copious amounts of tea is drunk throughout the day, but at tea time – around the hour of 4pm, a little sweet treat or savoury dainty might make an appearance if you are lucky.

 

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It wasn’t always the case. In fact it was Charles II wife, Catherine of Braganza from Portugal, who started the trend of tea drinking in the seventeenth century. From the English royal court it spread to London’s coffee houses and from there into the homes where civilised tea parties would take place.

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If you want a no fuss cake that is easy to whip up, moist and produces delicious baking smells when cooking then look no further. This banana, cinnamon and nutmeg loaf won’t win prizes for appearance in ‘The Great British Bake Off’ but what it lacks in appearance it makes up for in taste.

 

 

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So put on the kettle, pour yourself a cup of tea in your favourite fine bone china teacup and sit back and relax with a slice or two of this moist banana, cinnamon and nutmeg loaf.

 

Happy Days.

 

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Banana, Cinnamon and Nutmeg Loaf

2 eggs, beaten

90g butter

150g light Muscovado sugar

4 bananas, mashed

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg

250g self-raising flour

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

2. In a large bowl mix the eggs, butter (which has been at room temperature) and sugar together and when it is smooth add the mashed banana, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour. Stir in throughly. I use a hand whisk but arm power works equally well if you do not have one.

3. Grease your non-stick loaf tin. I don’t tend to line my tin as I find that the loaf easily comes out of the tin when cooked.

4. Place in the oven for 45 minutes. It is done when you place a sharp knife into the centre of the cake and it comes out clean.

5. Place on a rack to cool slightly.

It is lovely to serve warm but equally lasts well for a few days.

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Corn on the cob is one of those things that represents the beginning of Autumn for me, although this year we seem to be having a late Indian summer, which is a little bit surreal as the conkers are already falling from the horse chestnut trees. After the rains of last night the air remains warm and humid, the birds are singing and it almost feels like Asia. Whilst I love the traditional way of eating corn on the cob – with lots of butter and maybe a pinch of paprika and a squeeze of lime, I do rather like my Indian version, which makes a refreshing change.

 

 

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If you are using fresh corn on the cob it is hard, but not impossible, to cut through the cob to make 3 or 4 smaller pieces. Use a sharp knife and press down firmly. Once you have made an inroad into cutting it you will find that you can simply break off the section. Equally if you want to cook this dish all year round – which I do – you can use frozen sweetcorn which you can buy already chopped up into smaller pieces, which makes it a lot easier and even quicker.

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If you are having an Indian feast why not cook this dish alongside my laal maas or bengali chicken curry or perhaps bengali mustard fish curry or aubergine, peanut and tomato curry as well as a satisfying dal and perhaps some Indian greens. Equally if you are wanting a quick and light supper then this dish and a dal or vegetable curry would be perfect.

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Coconut Infused Corn on the Cob with Cumin and Black Mustard Seeds

Serves 4

1kg frozen mini corn cobs or fresh corn on the cob chopped into smaller pieces

160ml coconut milk

1 tsp salt

2 dried red chillies, broken into smaller pieces

1 tbsp sunflower oil

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

1 fresh green chilli

1/2 juice of fresh lime

1 handful of freshly chopped coriander/cilantro leaves

1. On a medium heat place the sweet corn pieces, coconut milk, salt and dried red chillies in a large pan and place the lid on. If you are using frozen sweetcorn cook for 3 minutes and if you are using fresh cook for 10 minutes. Stir at intervals so that the sweetcorn pieces are nicely covered with coconut milk.

2. Meanwhile in a separate pan heat the oil and then add the cumin and black mustard seeds. Once they begin to pop after 20 seconds add the contents of the pan to the larger pan with the sweetcorn. Stir well.

3. Add the fresh green chilli, fresh coriander and lime juice and let simmer for a further 4 minutes with the lid off so that the coconut milk reduces slightly.

4. Serve immediately and pour the remaining liquid over the cob pieces so they soak up all the delicious flavours.

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There are some plates of food that when presented in front of you you are a little bit sceptical that the dish will actually taste good. This dish, being predominately grey and black with only a splattering of green and white from the spring onions and the delicate pink from the salmon, is a case in point. You are going to have to trust me on this one when I say that this meal is seriously delicious. It also ridiculously quick (I know I know I say that with most of the dishes I put up on my blog) – it takes the amount of time that you cook your salmon in the oven – 15 minutes.

 

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Black sesame seeds may require a bit of effort to hunt down – I found mine at my local Asian grocers, but other than that you should be able to get hold of the rest of the ingredients pretty easily. If you don’t have tamari, just use soy sauce – they are very similar.

 

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I ate mine with a hot cup of fresh lemon verbena tea, which I have become rather addicted to since I was sweetly given a bag full of the stuff last weekend. Have you tried it before? Does anyone grow it in their gardens? Is it easy to maintain? I’d love to know as lemon verbena has a wonderful aroma and taste.

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I hope you get to try this dish very soon. I adore buckwheat soba noodles – I tend to buy the Clearspring variety – they look like this. They’re wheat free noodles, low in fat and a great source of protein and fibre. Go on give this dish a go and leave me a comment below.

 

Black Sesame Paste Soba Noodles with Salmon and Spring Onions

Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s ‘Super Natural Everyday’ – Black Sesame Otsu

Serves 4

black sesame seed paste

1 tsp sunflower seeds

1 tsp pine nuts

60g black sesame seeds

1 1/2 tbsp demerara sugar

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 1/2 tbsp tamari/soy sauce

2 tbsp brown rice vinegar

pinch of cayenne pepper

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350g buckwheat soba noodles

4 salmon fillets – skin removed (optional)

3 spring onions, finely sliced

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

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1. Preheat your oven (I use a fan oven – if you are not increase the temperature by 10 degrees) to 180 degrees. Equally you can steam the salmon if you prefer. Using a cooking brush gently wipe each salmon fillet with sesame oil. Place in a non stick dish and cook for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a frying pan dry roast, on a low heat, the pine nuts and sunflower seeds for a couple of minutes so they begin to bronze. You will need to keep moving the pan to prevent burning. As the pine nuts begin to bronze add the black sesame seeds and move them around the pan for a minute. Transfer to a spice grinder (or pestle and mortar).

3. After whizzing the ingredients for 10-15 seconds so that they are properly blended, transfer the paste into a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients to make the black sesame paste. Place to one side.

4. Place the soba noodles in a pan of boiling water and cook according to instructions – should be around 5 minutes on a low heat. Before draining save 100ml of the noodle water and leave in a jug. Drain the soba noodles and run under cold water to prevent further cooking. Before adding the soba noodles to the black sesame paste, remove 1/4 of the paste and place in a separate cup. Add the soba noodles to the large mixing bowl with the remaining black sesame paste, the 100ml of noodle water, extra virgin olive oil and almost all of the spring onions and gently stir into the paste.

5. Serve a generous portion of noodles to each bowl or plate and place the salmon fillet on top along with a dollop of remaining black sesame paste which you have reserved and a scattering of spring onions.

It can be eaten at warm, room temperature or cold. You can replace the salmon with trout or even with tofu gently fried. It would in fact make an original and tasty lunch box alternative.

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