Green Jackfruit Curry

 

Back in December, when I was in Kolkata, I was at a family gathering and was given a curry that tasted absolutely delicious. Deep in conversation I ate the curry, pausing after a few mouthfuls to ask what ‘meat’ it was as I couldn’t quite work it out and thought perhaps it was pork. The answer was ‘green jack fruit’. Somewhat surprised but delighted that such a fruit could taste so ‘meat-like’ in structure. It was substantial, filling and utterly delicious. In the photo below it is the curry bottom right.

Fast forward a few months and I’m down in Tooting taking some clients on a spice tour before heading back to my house to teach some Indian recipes. One of my shopkeeper friends – Rohit – delighted us all by giving us a plate of his delicious jackfruit curry that he had just made – it tasted divine and prompted one of my clients to immediately buy a fresh green jackfruit to take home to replicate the curry. I love enthusiastic foodies.

I returned a few days later to continue the conversation of his curry and how he made it exactly and to buy one myself so I can share it here with you. This is Rohit’s recipe and it works a treat. They are in season now (in India and Africa) so if you see one when you are next in your local Asian grocers be brave and pick one up and try making this recipe. Please note the yellow jackfruit is sweet and not used in savoury curries – you want to buy the green jackfruit.

An important point to note:

  1. Once you cut into the jackfruit – cut into rounds and then use a serrated knife to cut away the tough outer skin – it is VERY sticky. Place a little oil on your hand that will touch the jackfruit to prevent the stickiness from covering your hand.

 

If you are keen to join me on a spice tour of Tooting followed by an Indian cooking class at my house- send me an email chilliandmint@gmail.com for details.

 

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Jack Fruit Curry

kindly given to me by Rohit – my friendly Asian grocer in Tooting

2 tbsp vegetable oil (you can use mustard too)

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 dried red chilli, broken in two

5 fresh garlic, roughly chopped

2 inches of fresh ginger, skin removed and finely grated, chopped also fine

1/4 tsp asafoetida/hing

2 fresh green chillies, finely sliced

2 or 3 large white onions, finely chopped

salt, to taste

1tsp coriander powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1x 400g tin of tomatoes OR 3 or 4 large tomatoes diced

200ml water

1 small green jackfruit, cut into rounds and then skin removed and then cut into 2 inch pieces

1 tsp garam masala

 

  1. First cut and peel the jackfruit and then cut into 2 inch pieces and place in a pan of boiling water so that it covers the jackfruit completely. Allow to boil for 20 minutes so that the jackfruit softens. It will never be soft, like potato for example, but when you place a sharp knife into one piece it will go in easily. Drain and keep to one side.
  2. In a different pan, heat the oil and when it is hot add the black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and dried red chilli. Move around the pan for 20 seconds and then add the chopped garlic and ginger and move around the pan for a minute.
  3. Now add the asafoetida/hing and fresh green chillies. Stir.
  4. Add the chopped white onion and some salt (to speed up the cooking time for the onion)and move around the pan, mixing all the ingredients together. Allow the onions to pick up some colour – lightly bronzed. This will take 10-12 minutes.
  5. Add the coriander, cumin and turmeric powders and stir once again.
  6. Add the tomatoes and mix together before adding the cooked green jackfruit. Stir gently into the sauce and add the water. Add the garam masala and cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Checking the salt and add more if necessary.

Serve with spiced rice or Indian naan or flat breads.

Do YOU have any spectacular green jack fruit curries that you would like to share? Please do so in the comments box below.


Aloo Matar – Potato and Pea Curry

Increasingly I am eating more and more vegetarian dishes (and fish) throughout the week. Has anyone else found that their meat/veg ratio has changed quite a lot in the last couple of years? I do still eat meat, but certainly not every day. I find it immensely helpful to have a number of go-to vegetarian recipes up my sleeve, so thought I would share this one with you. It’s a good one for the whole family as it is spiced but not spicy. Invariably I always have potatoes, tomatoes and frozen peas in my house, so this recipes is an easy one to whip together at a moments notice. It’s very similar to a dish that I started cooking way back at university, and in many respects laid the foundation stones for my future Indian cooking exploits.

I know that potatoes seem not to be so in vogue as they once were, like bread, but I still love to eat both potatoes and bread – especially sourdough – in many different guises. Do you have a potato recipe they you always fall back on time and time again? Do let me and my readers know in the comments section below.

 

Also if you cook this dish please share it on instagram and tag me @chilliandmint so that I can see.

 

Aloo Matar (Potato and Pea curry)

serves 4 

3 tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely grated

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander powder

½ tsp turmeric powder

½ chilli powder

1 tsp salt

400ml water

3 medium/large potatoes, chopped into 1.5inch pieces (approx)

100g peas

½ tsp garam masala

2 tbsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek)

1 tbsp fresh coriander

  1. Place the tomatoes and ginger in a hand blender and blend to a smooth puree. Place to one side.
  2. Heat some oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, they will begin to sizzle almost immediately. After 15 seconds add the red onion.
  3. Gently saute for 5 minutes before adding the coriander, turmeric and chilli powders.
  4. After a minute, add the tomato and ginger puree followed by the potatoes and cover with the water.
  5. Place a lid on the pan and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potato has softened.
  6. Add the peas after 8 minutes.
  7. Just before serving scatter the kasoori methi and garam masala and fold into the potatoes.
  8. Serve with a sprinkling of fresh coriander.

 

 


Indian Spiced Okra

Have you tried okra before? As am sure you know, they are also called ‘ladies fingers’. Less well known is the vegetable called ‘gentleman’s toes’ – I kid you not! They are also known as ‘tindora’ or ‘ivy gourds’ – check out my recipe here if you interested – it’s actually super tasty. Anyway back to okra. I’ve been eating them a fair amount on my recent travels so thought I would continue to include them in our diet now that we are back home in London.

Thankfully I live near loads of Asian grocers so sourcing them is very easy. I had a lot of positive feedback on instagram about sharing the recipe with you when I put it onto my instastories.

 

My friend, Harriet aka @thenutritionalbean who is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, Nutritionist and Health Coach, based in Bruton, kindly shared some nutritional facts on okra with me that I thought you would benefit from reading too.

“Overall, okra appears to be a nutritional powerhouse and particularly useful for diabetics and those with digestive complaints. It delivers carotene (vitamin A), folate, vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6, C, E and K needed for our immune system, energy production and cardiovascular health, plus amino acids for growth and repair. Okra is packed with minerals and antioxidant-rich phytochemicals (the plant’s natural defence system that also help keep our cells protected from damage). Not only nutritionally replete, okra is used for its wide-ranging medicinal qualities. As you may know, once cooked, these ladies’ fingers become mucilaginous and for this reason are used, like marshmallow, for soothing an inflamed and irritated digestive tract. Okra may also stop Helicobacter Pylori, a wide-ranging and often nasty bacteria that can lead to ulcers, from adhering to the stomach lining. The specific fibre content is shown to help keep our blood sugar levels stable, keep inflammation in check and improve triglyceride and lipid profiles. Studies on Type 2 Diabetic rats are finding that their condition improves after eating okra.”

Makes you want to start including it in your diet fairly regularly right?

Some people are put off with the texture, but I find if you dry the okra properly after washing then the gooeyness is minimal. I have another similar recipe for okra here which uses less ingredients and has a slightly different taste. If you want to make the dish more Middle Eastern then try this one, which includes tomatoes and butterbeans.

 

Indian Spiced Okra

500g okra

2 tbsp vegetable oil

10 fresh curry leaves

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (optional)

2 small green chillies, sliced lengthways

5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tsp salt

  1. First wash the okra and then lay them out on a tea towel and cover with kitchen roll so that they become dry completely.
  2. Slice off the end of the okra and discard and then slice them, width ways, to one inch pieces, or you can slice on the diagonal, about three times per okra.
  3. In a deep frying pan or wok, add the oil and when it is hot add the mustard seeds and curry leaves for 20 seconds before adding the onion. Keep on a medium heat and move the onion around the pan for about 5 minutes, so that the onion begins to colour.
  4. Stir in the spices and then add the garlic, chilli, followed by the okra.
  5. Add the salt and gently fry for 10-15 minutes, moving the okra around the pan until it softens.
  6. This is a dry dish so do not expect there to be much of a sauce. The spices will coat the okra.

 

 


Baigan Bharta – Spiced Smokey Aubergine/Eggplant 

How’s everyone getting on? Not having the January blues I hope. It’s a bit cold and dreary back here in London and snow is  forecast, but I hope that this post will lift your heart and spirits and that you’ll see the world in colour once again. I thought you would be intrigued to see beautiful Jodhpur below. We recently spent a few days in this magnificent city, wandering the streets and soaking up the electric atmosphere.

I’ve been trying out some of the lovely recipes that I sampled in India in the comfort of my warm cosy kitchen this week. I’ll be sharing lots of them with you here on the blog over the coming weeks. Today I wanted to show you a wonderful aubergine dish – or eggplant as it is known to my US followers. It is similar to my baba ganoush, but with an Indian twist due to the spices.

Before I show you the recipe however, I wanted a moment to talk about chillies. I often get asked which chillies I use in my Indian cooking. When it comes to fresh green chillies I opt for the ones that are small and thin – but not the Thai birds eye, which are far hotter. The chillies I buy are slightly largely and longer, but still thin compared to the more bulbous ones.

In Kolkata I visited so many wonderful markets but the one above – Bow Bazaar – which is more of a wholesale fresh produce market, had a magnificent array of fresh produce. These chillies are similar to the ones I buy here in the UK.

So back to the recipe for this week. Please do give it a go and share the results on your social media outlets with the #chilliandmint and link me @chilliandmint.

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

 

Baigan Bharta – Spiced Smokey Aubergine/Eggplant 

serves 4-6 (served with some other dishes)

2 large aubergines

2 tbsp oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 small red onion, finely chopped

1 inch fresh ginger, finely grated

4 garlic cloves, finely sliced or chopped

1-2 fresh green chilli, finely sliced

1 tsp salt, to taste

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp coriander powder

4 medium sized tomatoes, cubed

 

  1. First you need to place the aubergines over a flame. If you have a gas hob then this works really well. If you do not you can place in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the flesh softens, although it won’t have the same smokiness as over an open flame. If you are smoking it over a flame/gas hob it will take around 8 minutes, but you need to use tongs to turn it over so that it is ‘burnt’. Once it is soft and the sides have shrivelled remove from the plan and place on a plate to cool.
  2. Remove the charred skin from the aubergine and run under water to remove any excess skin. Place in a bowl and mash using a fork or potato masher.
  3. In a non-stick pan add the oil on a medium/low heat and add the cumin seeds. Allow them to fizzle in the pan for 15 seconds or so before adding the red onion, fresh chilli, garlic and ginger. Move around the pan to soften for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the spice powders and salt and move around the pan.
  5. Add the tomatoes and aubergine and move around the pan for a further 3-5 minutes.
  6. Serve warm – you can add some fresh coriander on top or eat it as is.

You can serve this at room temperature, but personally I love it hot with a paratha or chapati.

 


Indian Scotch Eggs

On my first trip to Kolkata – 13 years ago – I was introduced to my new extended Indian family, going from home to home, meeting a bevy of smiles and warmth behind each door. Every household we visited offered food in great abundance – either a full meal or some delicious snacks. I struggled a little with the sweet treats, not having a sweet tooth, but the savoury snacks were something else.

As we normally saw three or four different families on average each day I had to be diplomatic when it came to eating. Not eating would be disrespectful, so I had to pace myself. One of life’s more pleasing conundrums. One snack that really stood out was Indian Scotch eggs, which were just so heavenly. Unlike your traditional Scotch egg which has sausage meat covering the egg, this one has spiced potato and has half a boiled egg per ball.

I have been trying to replicate the recipe ever since and I think I am pretty close so I wanted to share it with you all today.

 

Indian Scotch Eggs

makes 6 

5 medium potatoes, peel and boiled then mashed

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp garlic-ginger paste

1 tsp salt, to taste

2 small fresh green chillies, finely chopped

handful of fresh curry leaves, finely chopped – optional

4 eggs

breadcrumbs – either freshly made, panko or bought

4 tbsp sunflower/vegetable oil for frying

 

  1. First peel and boil the potatoes until they are soft. This usually take around 10-12 minutes. Drain and then mash until smooth. Do not add any butter or milk. They must not be too wet.
  2. Meanwhile boil 3 of the eggs by placing them in a pan of cold water and then once it is simmering, turn it down and leave to cook for a further 8 minutes so that they are completely hard. Once cooked drain and immediately put in a bowl with ice and cold water – this will allow you to peel the egg really easily. Leave the eggs to sit for a few minutes before peeling them and leaving them to rest on a plate
  3. Add the spices, garlic-ginger paste, chillies, fresh curry leaves if using, salt and mix in thoroughly. Allow to cool before handling the potato.
  4. In a shallow bowl add the remaining egg and whisk.
  5. In a separate bowl add some breadcrumbs.
  6. Halve the eggs, lengthwise. Take a small amount of spiced mashed potato into your hand and place the egg, yolk side down, onto the mashed potato. Gently cover the whole egg with the potato to create a ball. Place to one side whilst you do the same to the remaining eggs.
  7. Now take one potato ball at a time and gently roll it in the whisked egg followed by the breadcrumbs then place on a plate. Complete the rest.
  8. Heat the oil and when it is hot gently fry each potato ball, a couple at a time, turning at intervals so that the breadcrumb coat bronzes nicely. Place to one side, whilst you complete the rest.
  9. They are wonderful eaten hot, but equally you can serve them at room temperature – perhaps perfect for a train journey.

I like to eat them with a chutney. My tamarind and date chutney works really well.

 

 

 


Toasted sourdough with goats cheese, broad beans, watercress and radish and a simple leek and potato soup

Here in the UK we’ve been enjoying blissfully balmy weather this October. To date, I have yet to don my winter coat, which would have been unheard of in past years. As such we’ve not been craving heavier stews and curries, but instead continuing to enjoy lighter food that we would eat in the summer months. So when my friend Vritti, the founder of Binge Magazine (have you bought your copy yet? I took a couple of the photos, including the front cover and one of the articles – you can buy your copy here), made a whirlwind visit to London from Dublin, I wanted to cook something fuss free, light and delicious for lunch.

I adore sourdough bread, so opted to make toasted sour dough with goats cheese, radish, watercress, lemon zest and pink peppercorns with a honey, lemon dressing. Lots of colours, textures and flavours each complementing one another.

On the side I cooked a simple leek and potato soup that was both light and flavoursome.  I garnished with a dollop of creme fraiche and fresh chives adding another layer of flavours. Both dish are relatively quick to rustle up and can be made a little in advance as the toasted sourdough is best eaten at room temperature and the soup can be heated upon the arrival of your guests.

 

Toasted sourdough with goats cheese, broad beans, watercress and radish

serves 4

150g broad beans (frozen or fresh), boiled and skins removed

6 large pieces of fresh sour dough

2 cloves of garlic

150g smooth goats cheese

3 handfuls of fresh watercress (you could also use rocket)

4 pink radishes, finely sliced (I find a mandolin great for doing this, but be careful about your fingers!)

1 tsp pink peppercorns, roughly ground

1 lemon, zest only

salt (optional – I find you don’t need any due to the goats cheese)

 

dressing

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp running honey or agave

juice from 1 small lemon

  1. First boil the broad beans for 4 minutes and when cool de-pod them and place to one side.
  2. Next make the dressing, taste to test the balance is right for you. If it is too acidic then add a little more honey.
  3. Place the sour dough under a grill and when it is delicately bronzed turn over and repeat. Be warned it burns easily so really monitor this process.
  4. Remove the toasted sour dough from the oven and rub the garlic cloves over each piece so that a hint of garlic lingers on each piece.
  5. Spread a generous amount of goats cheese on each piece of toasted sourdough. Layer up all the other ingredients: broad beans, watercress, radishes. Sprinkle with lemon zest, pink peppercorns and salt if using.
  6. Finally sprinkle, using a teaspoon, the dressing over all the pieces. Cut each piece of sour dough in half and plate up.

 


Leek and Potato Soup

50g butter

3 leeks, sliced

1 onion, finely chopped

2 bay leaves

2 large potatoes, diced

1 vegetable stock cube

water to cover the vegetables

100ml milk

pepper and salt to taste

to serve

creme fraiche and finely chopped fresh chives to serve

 

  1. In a large deep pan heat the butter and once melted add the leeks, onion, potato and bay leaves.
  2. Move around the pan for 5 minutes before adding the stock cube, water and milk to cover the ingredients. I have purposely not given a precise amount of water to be added as I find some people prefer a thicker soup than others. I tend to opt more for the slightly thinner soup.
  3. Leave to simmer for 10-15 minutes, by which time the potato will be soft. Remove the bay leaves and then blend, using a hand blender, until smooth. Add more water if you want to thin out the soup.
  4. When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and add a dollop of creme fraiche and some finely chopped chives.

A great combination that looks colourful and healthy and is packed with lots of fresh flavours.

 

 

 


Shakshuka and Visiting the Dead Sea area of Israel

Our final leg of our Israel trip was to visit the Dead Sea. You can do a day trip from Jerusalem, but we felt it deserved more than a passing glance, besides there was quite a lot to see in the area.

We stayed on the Ein Gedi Kibbutz, which is located on the western shore of the Dead Sea, at the edge of the Judean desert. It was founded in 1953 with its primary focus on agriculture and tourism. The kibbutz is all lush and green owing to a natural water source that runs under it, but the neighbouring area is barren and desolate. There is a hotel within the kibbutz – but we stayed in an apartment at the top of Zahava’s house, who has lived on the kibbutz, with her husband, for over 30 years.

We booked through Airbnb, so it’s easy to find if you fancy going. She and her husband were wonderful hosts, who made us feel right at home. As it was an B&B, Zahava would arrive each morning with a huge tray of delicious food that set us up for the day. We ate on the veranda before the weather got too hot, overlooking the dead sea and Masada in the distance.

As we were based on the Kibbutz we also had all the facilities available to us – pools, tennis courts, running track, supermarket, as well as a restaurant in the hotel. (Its important to note that the Ein Gedi spa by the edge of the Dead Sea – is not located in the Ein Gedi Kibbutz or hotel, but nearby) One evening we also ate in the kibbutz part of the complex, which you would not be able to do if you were simply staying in the hotel. The calm rhythm of the kibbutz dictated out days. In the morning we would head out and explore and then come back and relax in the afternoon before a late afternoon hike in a wadi. The kibbutz is within the En Gedi Nature Reserve, where there are some truly phenomenal hikes.

It’s super hot here as it is the lowest part of the earth, so as well as carrying a lot of water, I also carry an umbrella and wear a swimming costume so that I can soak in every waterfall and pool we pass. Walking in 40 degrees, requires soaking in cold water as often as possible.

The wildlife is also pretty special here. There are a some venomous snakes – I only saw one at night on the perimeter of the Kibbutz, so it’s advisable to wear covered shoes when you are on the hikes.

We also saw lots of Nubian ibex – desert dwelling goats – clambering around precariously upon the slopes of the wadi. You need to be aware of sudden rock fall if they are climbing above you.

Historically the area is fascinating with huge swaths of tourists visiting spectacular Masada. Herod the Great built a large fortress on the plateau as a refuge for himself in the event of a revolt. He erected two palaces there between 37 and 31 BCE. According to Jewish Roman historian – Josephus, the siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire, at the end of the First Jewish–Roman War, ended in the mass suicide of 960 people (the Sicarii rebels and their families) hiding there.

The fortress is huge and had impressive ways of redirecting and saving fresh water at the fort, along with swimming pools, cold pools and spas. The mosaics found by archeologist are beautifully intact.

To reach this city you can either take the snake path before sunrise or else use the cable car. It’s one of Israel’s most popular sights but as we were in one of the first cable cars of the morning we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

The other great magnet of the area is the Dead Sea itself due to its medicinal qualities. Sadly the sea has dramatically shrunk in recent years causing great concern. You can read more about this here.

When you go to the Ein Gedi spa you now have to get on a little train pulled by a tractor from the spa to the waters edge. In the 1980’s the water was right up by the spa itself.  Despite the notion that it is impossible to drown in the dead sea, this is a myth and there have been cases of people drowning. You need to keep on your back, not your front, and don’t attempt to swim.

Due to the high salinity, the water feels very heavy, kind of like bathing in salty olive oil,  so if you are on your front you can find it hard to turn on your back. It feels oily and you want to make sure you don’t get any water in your eyes or mouths. Thankfully the showers are in on the edge of the sea so that you can immediately wash the salty water off you as you get out. The medical qualities of the dead sea mud are also well known so make sure you slather yourself in mud (this is back at the spa itself) and then wait for it to dry before showering if off. Your skin will be glowing and you will be feeling pretty radiant.

The other must-see in the area is over in the West Bank – The Dead Sea Scrolls or the Qumran Cave Scrolls. It’s about 30 minutes from Ein Gedi Reserve and a good place to stop on your way back to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. There is an interesting museum there and you can hike all over the area, although those we saw hiking here had ropes and proper equipment so perhaps only for serious climbers.  The scrolls, which are ancient religious writings, were found by a shepherd in the 1940’s in 11 caves near the site of Qumram. You can see some of the caves in the photograph above.

 

I am going to leave you with a classic Israeli dish that is found throughout the Levant. Shakshuka is a delicious breakfast dish – although of course you can eat it at any time of day. It is basically poached eggs in a spiced tomato sauce with crumbled feta and parsley or coriander sprinkled on top. Everyone has their version but this is mine. It’s a big hit in my house and is super straight forward and easy to execute. Perfect for a filling breakfast before school/work as it takes 15 minutes to make from start to finish.

Shakshuka

serves 4-5

2 tbsp oil

1 white onion, finely diced

1 garlic clove, finely diced

1 sweet red pepper (these are the long ones, but bell peppers are also good), sliced lengthways and then finely sliced crossways

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp smoked paprika powder

1 tsp salt

1x 400g tin of plum tomatoes, chopped in the pan

3 large fresh tomatoes, finely diced

50ml water

4 eggs (or 5/6 depending on how many you are feeding)

To serve

1 handful of crumbles feta

1 handful of fresh coriander

 

  1. Heat a deep frying pan and add the oil.
  2. When hot, add the onions followed by the garlic and gently heat. After a couple of minutes, add the pepper, salt and spices. Move around the pan to soften for a further couple of minutes.
  3. Add both the tinned and fresh tomatoes and stir in well.
  4. Add the water and simmer to allow all the ingredients to soften and infuse. Leave for 8 minutes so that it thickens.
  5. Make a hole in the mixture and break an egg into this hole. Repeat, leaving a good gap between each egg.
  6. Place a lid on the pan and leave to simmer on a moderate-low heat for 3-5 minutes, by which time the eggs should be cooked but still soft. Leave for longer and increase the heat if they have not cooked sufficiently.
  7. Just before serving, scatter the feta cheese and fresh coriander. Spoon onto plates with some flatbread or sourdough to mop.

 

 

 

 

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Oven Baked Aubergines with Tahini and Tomatoes in Acre, Israel

It’s been a while, but I am excited to be back. Israel was the most INCREDIBLE adventure where we were treated warmly by all those we met. I have been pondering on how best to break up the blog posts as I know that some of my blog readers (or social media followers) have trips planned and others that are thinking about going in the future. As not everyone is interested in the travel aspect I will incorporate every Israel blog post with a recipe that was inspired from my trip – therefore hopefully appealing to all readers.

The order of our trip (which maybe useful if you are thinking on going yourself) was as follows:

Tel Aviv (stayed in Jaffa – highly recommend)

Acre (also known as Akko/Akka) – which I will talk about today

Sea of Galilee – and explored all the northern region – Golan Heights

Jerusalem  – mind blowing – absolutely loved the city.

Dead Sea – stayed on the Kibbutz part of Ein Gedi (more on that in another post)

First up I wanted to tell you about the old Crusader city of Acre, which is also known as Akko/Akka. In Israel most places have two or three names – just to keep us on our toes. Acre was recognised in 2001 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is an absolute must if you are visiting Israel. The old city is mainly Muslim, although Jewish and Christians can be found living and working together within its walls.  It is an ancient port city and was the gateway to the holy land. The present day city is 300 years old, but beneath it lies amazing ruins of a 900 year old Crusader city, which as a tourist you can see first hand for yourself, thanks to careful preservation.

The place itself is wonderfully peaceful, a living museum, that was not overrun with tourists when we visited. As an aside the city reminded me of Galle in Sri Lanka – probably because of its ancient stone wall surrounding the city and its walkable size.

As we wanted to experience all that Acre had to offer we bought a combined ticket which allowed us to visit: The Knights Hall, The Hospitaller Fortress,Turkish Bath, Templars’ Tunnel and the Okashi Art Museum. You are given an interactive headset, which really helps bring the city to life, especially when you are in the old city under the present day old city. The exhibitions and sites were really impressively curated and filled a large part of our day. You can find details of all the sites here. I highly recommend embracing all these museums. They are fun and perfect for all ages.

Taking a step back however, I will never forget our arrival through the labyrinth of streets, little changed for hundreds of years, at the boutique Arabesque Hotel, which is a beautiful Ottoman building that has been recently restored and renovated to a high standard. It has three bedrooms, however, in the next couple of months a further four rooms will be available at another equally beautiful building across from Arabesque. The hotel is an oasis of calm and tranquility and the perfect place to rest after a days touring of the city, which is very easy to do on foot.

It is also a few minutes walk away from the old market (suk) where you will find a little shop selling all manner of baklava and the BEST kanafeh I had in the whole of Israel. It is a traditional Arab dessert made with thin noodle-like pastry, or alternatively fine semolina dough, soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup, and typically layered with cheese, or with other ingredients such as clotted cream or nuts, depending on the region. It tastes amazing and I urge you to see out this cake shop.

It comes hot, which surprised us, but it utterly addictive; it became our daily tea-time treat whilst we were there. You will recognise the shop as you go down a couple of stairs and all the baklava and kanafeh are on the right, even in the entrance, and the seating is on the left. It’s so close to Arabesque, you can’t miss it.

Whilst staying at the hotel, which offers B&B, we were fed this wonderful offering at breakfast (see above). So much so that I wanted to show you all how to make. Simple to prepare and yet it tastes SO good. I have cooked it quite a number of times since returning home, although I have mainly eaten it for lunch of supper, along with a couple of other dishes. All it requires is a couple of aubergines, tahini – which you can pick up at any supermarket these days, although I did managed to purchase the one below in Acre itself, as the guys at the hotel said it was the ‘best’, – tomatoes, flat leaf parsley, spring onions and a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Tahini, for those who are unfamiliar with it, is a sesame seed paste, which is added to hummus in fact. The flavour combinations and textures work really well and I think you will be equally impressed.

 

 

Here is my version of this dish.

Not bad hey! I had some heritage tomatoes in my fridge hence the rainbow coloured tomatoes. Here is a close up.

Oven Baked Aubergine with Tahini and Tomatoes

Serves 4

2 aubergines, cut in half lengthways

2 tbsp olive oil

270g tomatoes, cut into bit sized pieces

1 spring onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, roughy chopped

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat an oven to 260C (I use a fan oven) –  basically you want the oven really hot.
  2. Place the aubergines on an oven proof dish and score the top of the flesh along the top like a lattice (see the photo below)
  3. Evenly distribute the olive oil over the flesh.
  4. Place in the oven for 20-30 minutes so that the flesh has turned dark brown – to the point that it has almost blackened.
  5. Meanwhile in a bowl prepare the tomatoes, spring onion and flat leaf parsley.
  6. When the aubergine is cooked you can either allow the aubergine to cool down completely or serve it hot with a dollop of tahini on each aubergine half, followed by the tomato mix and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Two other suggestions when you go to Acre are:

  1. Go and have drinks on the roof of the beautiful Efendi Boutique Hotel. It would also be another wonderful place to stay in Acre. The sunset views from the roof are pretty special.

2. Book a table at Uri Buri – the food at this restaurant was exceptional and the owner, the award-winning head chef  – Uri Jermia , is a larger than life, ‘Father Christmas’ looking culinary wizard. It was tricky to photograph all the food due to the light, but you can see them on my instastories under ‘Israel’ if you are interested. We opted for a tasting menu where they bought out dish upon dish of beautifully presented (and tasting) Mediterranean fish and seafood. This is not your typical Levant restaurant – it is more fine dining, but in a relaxed setting, overlooking the sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


‘Masala Mamas’ Dill Stew

I feel it’s been a while since I posted any Indian recipes. That is not to say I’ve not been cooking any Indian food at home. For those who have been following me for a while, or have read my bio, will know my husband is Indian so cooking Indian food is part of our regular diet – but some of the recipes I’ve been cooking are already on my blog. These are always family favourites that I have been cooking:

DalsBengali red split lentil dal, channa dal, toor dal

CurriesBengali chicken, speedy salmon, Bengali prawn, Laal Maas (when I want a seriously hot one!) or Chettinad Chicken, 

Sri Lankan tuna curry, mild cod curry

Vegetarian curries  – cauliflower with fenugreek, ginger and turmeric okra, chickpea curry, butternut squash and lemongrass (more Asian influenced than Indian, but a great recipe)

Not so long I was contacted by a Elana Sztokman, an anthropologist and award-winning writer specialising in women from traditional societies. She has written an Indian cookbook, which tells the inspiring story of a group of sixteen Indian women from the Kalwa slum in Mumbai, changing their communities through food and love. The slum is home to over 200,000 people where clean water and electricity are hard to find. These harsh conditions often prevent children going to school, with many being sent out to work to make a few rupees so that they will have something to eat.

These women are changing all this by making sure the children eat and learn, and consequently changing their otherwise inevitable destiny. Each morning the women rise early to prepare a host of delicious, nutritious vegetarian food for the children. In one year alone they cook 257,400 meals. They deliver the food to the Love2Learn school, run by the the NGO Gabriel Project Mumbai, where the children know that if they show up to learn, they will eat. It’s a win win. The children learn, have nutritious food and thus begin to end the cycle of poverty they are trapped in. The women feel inspired and thrive and thus the children and communities thrive around them.

The book that Elana has sent to me – ‘Masala Mamas’ incorporates recipes and stories from all these Indian women. It’s a joy to read, hearing about the rural villages the women have originally come from and how they came to the sprawling metropolis of Mumbai in the hope of giving their children an education, which most of them lacked. The group has provided kinship, connections and a purpose, which is motivating them every day. All the proceeds from the sale of the cookbook go directly to the women of the Masala Mamas cooperative. You can order a copy for yourself here.

I thought it would be interesting for you to see a typical menu for the children:

On Mondays the children eat poha – rice flakes with vegetables.
On Tuesdays –  dal khichdi – lentil and rice stew.
On Wednesdays – chana dal – black bean curry.
On Thursdays – veg pulav – a pilaf made with mixed vegetables.
On Fridays – soya pulav – a stew made from soya chunks, an affordable and simple source of protein.

And on Saturdays, as a special treat, the children eat sheet – a kind of sweet semolina pudding that they particularly love.
And for special occasions and holidays, the women prepare special holiday fare like shankarpali and modaks.

After a lot of pondering on which recipe to show you  I ended up gravitating towards the ‘Dill Stew’ or ‘Shepu Bhaju’ by Jayshree Chavdry. It’s basically a dal, and you know how much I adore dals and could quite happily eat a different one every day. I also liked the fact that it contained dill, a herb that I do not usually associate with Indian food. It’s also super straightforward, requires no unfamiliar ingredients and is perfect for a light meal on a summers day. The result – it tasted really really good and I will now be including it in my Indian culinary arsenal for sure. Give it a go and if you are on instagram, don’t forget to tag me #chilliandmint so that I can see how you got on.

 

Dill Stew

1 cup/240ml yellow moong dahl (lentils)

1 tbsp/15ml oil

1 tsp/5ml mustard seeds

1/2 (half) tsp/2.5ml cumin seeds

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 small green chillies, finely chopped

1 tsp/5ml turmeric powder

2 cups/1/2 litre water

1 cup/240ml finely chopped dill

3 cloves garlic, crushed

salt to taste

  1. Soak the dahl in water for 20-30 minutes. Then rinse well.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan on a medium heat and add the mustard seeds. They will begin to crackle almost immediately. Add the cumin seeds followed by the onions. Mix well and let them cook for 2 minutes before adding the chillies and cooking for a further 2 minutes.
  3. Drain and rinse the presoaked moong dal and add to the pan along with the turmeric powder. Add the water and mix well together. Cover and allow the dal to cook for 10-15 minutes or until it is fully cooked and softened. Be careful not to burn the dal and add more water if necessary.
  4. Add the dill, garlic and salt to taste. Cook covered for another 5-10 minutes
  5. Serve hot with rice or puris/lunchi or simple in a bowl on its own. Divine.

If you are making it earlier in the day to eat later you may find you need to add a little water when reheating it. 

 

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Wild Garlic Scones

Continuing with the wild garlic theme for another week, (I hope you are not bored yet!) I thought you might like my recipe for wild garlic scones, which are wonderful slathered with a little butter and a cup of tea. Scones are ridiculously easy to make and are great to freeze and then reheat when you want to eat one of two. All my family love this delicious snack, and as you can freeze them, are perfect all year round. A taste of spring even in the winter!

Unlike my wild garlic pesto you actually need no more than a handful of wild garlic but will still get the wonderful flavour resonating through the warm scone. If you have more of a sweet tooth then you might want to see my sweetened scone recipe here.

To make and cook these little beauties takes no more than 30 minutes, so are quick to prepare a batch. My girls always love to get involved in the kitchen and making scones is very straightforward so fun activity to do together.

 

Wild Garlic Scones

Makes around 22 scones

350g self-raising flour

pinch of salt

1 tsp baking powder

85g softened unsalted butter, cut into cubes

125g mature cheddar cheese, grated

1 handful of wild garlic, washed and finely chopped

2 eggs

1 tsp fennel seeds

175ml milk, gently warmed

1 egg, beaten to glaze

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7 and line a baking tray.
  2. In a large bowl sieve the flour and then add all the ingredients*, aside from the milk and the final egg to glaze.
  3. Mix together gently using your hands and slowly add the warmed milk to bind. Add a little more flour if it remains a little sticky.
  4. Flour your hands and the work surface and move the dough onto the surface. Flatten it with your hands and fold it over a few times. Use a rolling pin to flatten it to a thickness of about 3cm. Use the top of a small glass or a cutter to cut out the scones evenly.
  5. Place the scones at intervals on the lined baking tray so they do not touch. Brush the tops with the beaten egg.
  6. Once you have used up all the dough, place in the oven for 11 minutes exactly. Remove from oven and then either leave to cool completely and then freeze or eat immediately with some butter. YUM.

Note: *If the butter cubes are not super soft then add these first with the flour and baking powder and using your finger tips mix with the flour to create a crumbly mixture. Then add all the ingredients. 

If freezing, when you want to eat them simply defrost completely then heat in a very low oven for 2/3 minutes to rewarm the scones.

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