The Allure of Ancient Jaffa in Tel Aviv

I’d not been to Tel Aviv before, so deciding which area to stay in required a bit of research. Friends had recommend a range of areas but in the end we opted for Jaffa, which is the southern and oldest part of Tel Aviv. It is an ancient port city that is steeped in history with a natural harbour that has been in use since the bronze age. It also offers great vistas of the whole of Tel Aviv as you can see.

The area is predominantly Muslim and home to winding alleys with shops and art galleries, as well as the lively Flea Market, which was a stones throw away from our apartment. The area is filled with cool eateries and hip bars and whilst our Airbnb apartment was in the thick of it, the noise level was low and we slept like logs.  We were also lucky to only be 5 minutes walk from the sea.

The stone staircase leading to the door of our apartment were the most ancient we had ever climbed; it really did feel as if we were stepping back in time with every step. You can see what I mean if you look on my instagram under my instatories under ‘Israel’.

The food in Jaffa is seriously good and a place to head for lunch if you are staying in Jaffa – or indeed another part of Tel Aviv – is Abu Hassan. It’s one of the oldest and most loved hummus restaurants located on Dolphin Street. It attracts locals – Jews and Arabs, as well as tourists and labourers. The concept is simple – there are four dishes (no written menu – only the dishes presented in writing on the wall) – hummus, masabacha, brown beans and labna. To accompany the dishes you are served warm pitas, fresh onions, chilli in lemon water and falafel. It is masabacha that I have tried to replicate in a recipe for you today.

The main difference between masabacha and hummus is the texture. Whilst hummus is smooth, masabacha keeps some of the chickpeas whole. It is also eaten warm – although it is also equally delicious eaten at room temperature. To top the masabacha some chickpeas are added on top in a little water and lemon juice with a little cumin powder or smoked paprika and some freshly chopped parsley. This is my recipe. It is pretty straightforward once you have soaked the chickpeas for 24 hours in cold water.

 

 Masabacha 

Serves 4

8 garlic cloves, unpeeled

255g dried chickpeas

1 tbsp baking powder

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80ml chickpea cooking water

3 tbsp chickpeas

125ml reserved chickpea stock

1/4 tsp cumin powder

4 tbsp tahini

125ml olive oil

5 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp salt

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chickpea juice

2 tbsp chickpea juice

3 tbsp tahini

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 garlic clove

1 pinch of salt

 

 

  1. Place the dried chickpeas in a bowl and cover with cold water. Add the baking soda and stir. Refrigerate the chickpeas overnight.
  2. Drain the chickpeas the following morning and place in a pan along with the unpeeled garlic cloves. Cover with fresh cold water so that it covers the chickpeas completely. Simmer for 40 minutes, by which time the chickpeas will have softened. Remove the scum that will form whilst cooking and add more water if it looks to be getting dry.
  3. Strain the chickpeas, keeping all the water and place to one side. Rinse the chickpeas thoroughly. Remove 3 tbsp of chickpeas and place to one side.
  4. Place the chickpeas, all the garlic (except one which you will use later) – with the skins now peeled, 80ml of reserved chickpea cooking water and cumin powder in a blender and whizz. Gradually add the olive oil and tahini so that you end up with a very creamy, smooth hummus. Add salt to taste. Place in a medium sized, shallow serving bowl.
  5. In a separate small bowl mix the chickpea juice ingredients.
  6. To serve make a slight well in the centre of the hummus and scatter the remaining whole chickpeas on top.  Spoon in the tahini-lemon mixture – you may find you won’t need to add it all so spoon it in gradually. Sprinkle with cumin and/or paprika powder and garnish the parsley. Serve with pita bread.

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After lunch it is worth spending time walking around the beautiful narrow streets of old Jaffa. Whilst it might be very hot, if you are visiting in summer, the narrow streets do offer some shade and being near to the sea a gentle breeze is a welcome respite.

A meander around the famous Jaffa Flea market is an absolute must – it sells a range of trinkets, bags from Afghanistan, evil eye pendents, jewellery and clothes, as well as a host of interesting antiques. Being so close to our apartment I spent a fair amount of time nosing around this market as you can imagine.

There are also a number of interesting shops surrounding the market and neighbouring streets. My favourite without a doubt was this little gem. Erez Zielinski Rozen Perfumery.

If you like brands like Aesop and Le Labo then this is really going to appeal. The good news is that the price tag does not equal the other two brands, thankfully. The smells were divine and the packaging and branding were elegant and understated. You can’t buy it in the UK so it feels deliciously unique and original. A few bottles of perfume and hand made soap may have found their way home in my luggage.

If a food market is what you are after then a short taxi ride (I think the taxi drivers were the nicest I’ve experienced – not trying to rip you off and pleasant to talk to) will deliver you to the Carmel Market (in Hebrew it is known as ‘Shuk HaCarmel’ so use that name if riding in a cab).

First opened in 1920, 11 years after the establishment of the city, the market or ‘shuk’ occupies one street, which runs south from the junction of King George Street, Allenby, and Sheinkin Street to the Carmelit Bus depot in the south. The lower part of the market (nearer the sea) is the place to head where food stalls and fresh produce are on offer.

If you are feeling peckish, then head to THIS guy below.

…..he is located on the right hand side – if the sea is behind you – in the food section of the market –  for an egg, potato or a mix of both, or lamb burika.  He is a real entertainer and is pretty mesmerising to watch as he prepares his tasty treats. Burika is basically a paper thin pastry dough that is smeared with herbed mashed potato that is folded and dunked in boiling oil, then an egg is wrapped in it. It comes out crisp and is then popped into a pita bread along with hot sauce (harissa I guess), fresh tomatoes, cabbage, onion and then presented in a little paper bag. Order one to share as they are filling.

Whilst munching on your burika you can stroll through the market taking in the smells, sounds and general buzz of the market.

As the sun sets head back to the harbour by Jaffa to watch the setting sun.

Then grab a pew and wait to be entertained by the whirling dervish waiters at ‘Old Man and the Sea’ 

Sit outside and soak up the ambiance of the locals and tourists promenading around the harbour, whilst you devour your feast. 

 

 


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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Smoked Mackerel Pate with Fresh Dill and Chives

I recently popped the photo above up on my instastories on instagram and a number of you asked for the recipe for the smoked mackerel pate. It is wonderfully versatile and can be used as a ‘dip’ with drinks or as a ‘starter; either way it’s a good option all year through. My mother used to make it a lot when I was a child, a recipe she originally found in ‘The Cooking Canon’ cookbook. Anyone else remember those retro little pocket recipe books? Anyway this is my version of smoked mackerel pate, it’s super easy and you can get as creative with it as you like. Perhaps alternate with different fresh herbs or sprinkle cayenne pepper on the top instead of chives, but personally I love it with fresh dill and a scattering of chives.

 

Smoked Mackerel Pate

1 pack/310g peppered mackerel fillets, skin removed

3 heaped tbsp creme fraiche

1-2 tsp horseradish sauce

1 handful of fresh dill, finely chopped

zest and juice of half a lemon

pinch of salt

1 tbsp chives, finely chopped

  1. In a blender add all the ingredients (except the chives), breaking up the mackerel as you place it in the blender. Blitz it briefly so you get a creamy pate. Add more creme fraiche/horseradish if it needs to be loosened up a little. Add more lemon if needed.
  2. Serve with chives scattered on top with the option of melba toast – I love these – and purple endive.

 

HAPPY DAYS

 


Simple Egg Curry

Oh boy it’s hot in the UK (whole of Europe in fact). I am literally melting.  It’s giving me good practice however, for when I go to the Dead Sea in a few weeks and temperatures there are in the 40’s. I seem to be downing gallons of my delicately spiced watermelon gazpacho – and fresh cold salads, but cold food aside, I do love to eat hot food too and my egg curry is the perfect simple dish to make for an evening meal. I have a couple of other egg curries on my blog – a Bengali egg curry – very similar to this one but with less spices, and a Sri Lankan egg curry. I adore egg and probably eat one most days, either for breakfast or lunch. This is a nice alternative paired with some rice or flat bread.

Whilst I was staying with friends in the countryside last week I cooked them an Indian vegetarian supper and the egg curry went down a treat. I accompanied it with marrow dal, Sri Lankan beetroot curry and a potato and cabbage curry – something similar to this.

Right I’m off for an iced coffee. Stay cool folks, factor up and wear a large hat.

 

 

Indian Egg Curry

9 boiled eggs, shells removed

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 white onion, blended into a puree

1 tbsp garlic ginger paste

4 large tomatoes, blended into a puree (or you can use pasata/blended tinned tomatoes)

2 bay leaves

4 cloves

1 piece of cinnamon bark

3 green cardamom

1/2 (half) tsp turmeric powder

1/2 garam masala

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

50ml water

1 tsp salt, to taste

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

 

  1. Using a hand blender, first blend the onion into a smooth puree and then place in a bowl. Repeat with the tomatoes placing in a separate bowl.
  2. In a pan, add a little oil, and gently bronze the hard boiled eggs then place to one side. Be careful that the oil does not spit. Keep on a low heat.
  3. In the pan that the eggs were in add a little more oil if needed and bronze the onion puree. This takes about 10 minutes. Move it around the pan from time to time so that it does not burn.
  4. Once the onion has bronzed, make a little space, add a little more oil and add the garlic ginger paste. Move around the pan and then add the cloves, green cardamom, bay leaves, turmeric powder and cinnamon bark.
  5. Add the puree tomato and some of the water to create more of a sauce and allow to simmer away for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the garam masala and Kashmiri powder and more water if needed – I like to have a more saucy sauce.
  7. Add the salt and taste to check the balance is right.
  8. Gently add in the eggs and cover in the sauce. Simmer for a further couple of minutes.
  9. To serve add some fresh coriander.

 

You can make this in advance and keep it in the fridge. When ready to eat,  take out of the fridge and bring to room temperature and then gently heat in a pan. I have made it with 9 eggs so that we can have leftovers for another day. The quantities for everything else stays the same.

 


Smoked Salmon and Soba Noodle Bowl From Kelli Foster’s NEW book “Buddha Bowls”

I adore meals that can be eaten in a bowl, that are packed full of goodness and flavour. Going through my kitchen cupboards you will find all manner of bowls of different sizes and depths depending on what’s going in them. You can therefore imagine my delight when I came across Kelli Foster’s, new book “Buddha Bowls – 100 nourshing one-bowl meals”. Kelli is a food writer and editor for the daily food magazine on the web called ‘The Kitchn’ based in New York.  Buddha bowls are nothing new and the term has been banded around now for many years, along with “bliss bowls’, “nourish bowls” or “power bowls” but Kelli’s book is wonderfully original, with so many great sounding recipes that you actually want to cook. Turmeric-ginger cauliflower and lentil bowls, Moroccan-spiced chickpea bowl, chipotle sweet potato bowls, chicken kofta bowls, harissa chicken bowls, spinach and mushroom pesto breakfast bowl the list goes on. Making a decision on which to cook first is hard.

I opted to show you all the ‘smoked salmon and soba noodle bowls’ recipe as it is exactly the sort of thing that I make for myself and the family for lunch in the holidays or weekends. All the ingredients I already had in my pantry and fridge and it really is very straightforward to make. It’s super healthy and flavoursome so a win win.

At the beginning of the book Kelli has included a wide range of sauces to go with the various buddha bowls – for example chimichurri, creamy feta, essential pesto sauce with any herb of leafy greens, miso-ginger, tahini. The book is then split into chapters: breakfast bowls, fish and seafood bowls, chicken and turkey bowls, vegetable bowls, fruit bowls.

Photograph by Maria Siriano in the book Buddha Bowls by Kelli Foster published by The Harvard Common Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group

The recipes are all inventive, sound delicious and beautifully photographed. The ‘green goddess quinoa bowls with crispy tofu’ looked very appetising and will definitely be on the menu over the summer holidays for my family.

Photograph by Maria Siriano in the book Buddha Bowls by Kelli Foster published by The Harvard Common Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group

For those with a sweeter palate then the ‘blackberry millet breakfast bowls’ are perfect in the coming months when blackberry season is in full swing. I love overnight oats for breakfast so this will be a good one to try.

Photograph by Maria Siriano in the book Buddha Bowls by Kelli Foster published by The Harvard Common Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group

I also love the idea of the ‘quinoa and chicken taco bowls with cilantro (coriander to us Brits)- lime dressing. How divine sounding hey!

This book is bursting with ideas that the hardest thing you will find is actually deciding on which to opt for. It’s priced at £14.99 and $22.99 in the US and $29.99 in Canada but on one certain retailer you can pick up a copy for under £10 – click here.

I am running a competition until Sunday 5th August on my instagram where you can WIN a copy of the book by simply doing three simple things:

  1. follow me on instagram
  2. like my post with the salmon noodle bowl photo
  3. tag 2 friends who might be keen to win the book.

There will only be one winner and they need to be based in the UK. Good luck.

Smoked Salmon and Soba Noodle Bowls

serves 4 (gluten free)

4 tbsp (60ml) tamari (similar to soy sauce but contains little to no wheat)

1 tbsp (15ml) rice vinegar

1 tbsp (6g) freshly grated ginger

1 tsp (5mo) toasted sesame oil

1/2 (half) tsp honey

200g dry buckwheat soba noodles

1 cup (120g) shelled edamame

4 ounces (115g) thinly slices smoked salmon

1 medium seedless cucumber, peeled and julienned

1 avocado, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced

shredded nori (seaweed)

red pepper flakes

  1. First make the dressing by whisking the tamarind, rice vinegar, ginger, sesame oil and honey together in a small bowl; set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the soba noodles according to the package instructions and then drain them and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Boil the edamame for 5-7 minutes until cooked, strain and rinse under cold water.
  3. Stir the sauce together once more and toss the noodles with 1 tablespoon (15mp) of sauce.
  4. To serve, divide the soba noodles among bowls. Top with edamame, smoked salmon, cucumber and avocado. Drizzle with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with nori and red pepper flakes. (I forgot the latter until after I had taken the photos!)

Absolutely delicious and super quick to rustle up. Enjoy.

NOTE: chilliandmint kindly received a copy of Buddha Bowls. All views and opinions are her own.

First Print copy of Binge Magazine launches this August

Some of you may know that for the past couple of years I have written some food articles for the online food journal, ‘Binge Magazine’. This August the first print issue will launch, initially in India, followed by the UK and Ireland in September. It’s all very exciting so I wanted to share this with you here on my blog so that you can get the chance to preorder a copy and support this independent magazine. I absolutely adore print magazines and now that I have seen the amount of time, effort and planning that goes into putting together a copy I have yet more respect for all the independent magazines out there. I have written one article and you will also see a few of my photographs within the magazine. A number of other food writers have contributed including: former Guardian journalist, Nick Johnstone, Times nightlife critic, Deepali Gupta, Edinburgh Fringe playwright Evelina Anissimova, Food anthropologist and member of the Guild of Food Writers, UK, Bee Farrell amongst a number of others. I also particularly love the illustrations that you will find in the magazine created by talented  @pulakbhatnagar and @kshirajakrishnan

 

I’ve ordered my copy – you can pre-order yours to be sent directly to you too  – click HERE

There will also be a handful of London stockists – the full list will be available on the @binge.mag feed.

Thank you all in advance for your support.

 

 


Cod, Potato and Spinach Curry

 

 

With the weather being pretty amazing here at the moment in the UK I like to cook quick speedy meals that are packed full of flavour and are not too laborious to make. I had a kilo of cod in my freezer, which I defrosted, so thought that a fish curry was called for, eaten in the garden. Bliss.

I love a good fish curry and have lots on my blog that I would recommend (not biased or anything!): Mild Indian cod currySri Lankan tuna curry, speedy salmon curry (excuse the dodgy photos on this one – it’s when I first started my blog), Bengali mustard fish curry.

The one I want to show you today takes 15 mins max – in fact most fish curries take no time at all. I used cod, but you could use any firm fish – pollock, salmon, trout, bhetki, tuna, monkfish. My cod was filleted and then I simply removed the skin and then cut it into slightly larger than bite size pieces. It will be in a red gravy and this is not because of tomatoes – there are none in it – instead from the paprika and Kashmiri chilli powder, the latter is not spicy hot, instead adds great colour to a dish. Do not be put off.

 

Cod, Potato and Spinach Curry

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp coriander powder

1 tbsp garam masala powder

1 heaped tsp turmeric powder

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 inches of ginger, skin removed and finely grated

4 fresh green chillies, sliced in half length ways (add less if you prefer less heat)

1 tbsp plain flour

1 tsp salt, to taste

1 heaped tsp paprika

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp mango/amchur powder

1 tsp sesame seeds

1 large potato, chopped into 1 inch cubes

250ml water

1 kg cod, filleted, skinned and cut into large bite size pieces

2 large handfuls of fresh spinach

1 tsp jaggery/brown sugar

 

  1. Use a large, wide, deep pan ideally. Heat the oil and when hot add the cumin seeds. They will sizzle almost immediately. After 10 seconds add the onion and move around the pan for a further couple of minutes before adding the coriander powder, turmeric and garam masala powder. Turn the heat down to prevent any of the spices burning. Move around the pan and then add the garlic and ginger.
  2. After about a minute or two add the flour, which will gently thicken the curry, and move around the pan. Add the paprika and Kashmiri chilli powder and then add the cubed potato.
  3. After a further minute add some water so that it covers the potato. Add the fish and coat in the masala. Add a little more water, to cover the fish and place a lid on the pan and cover for 5 minutes.
  4. Gently move the fish, without breaking it up, around the pan and add the mango powder, sugar and sesame seeds. Return the lid on the pan and simmer away for a further 3 minutes.
  5. Add the fresh spinach and continue to cook for a further 3 minutes or until the potato has softened. Add more water if you prefer a more saucy curry. Check on the taste and add more salt/sugar if necessary.
  6. Keep the lid on the pan to keep in the heat before serving. It works well with rice or Indian breads.

 

 

 

 


‘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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Lunching in East Dulwich at TART

If you are ever wondering on where in south east London might be good to meet a friend for bunch or lunch, I have just the place for you.

Recently I went to check out the newly opened bakery cafe in East Dulwich called TART, that focuses on, you guessed it, tarts – not the sweet variety mind you, although there are a few options, but the savoury. Tart (not to be confused with the food columnists) opened earlier this year in East Dulwich following the success of their Clapham Common cafe. It’s nestled on Lordship Lane at number 65.

From the outside it looks like any other chic neighbourhood cafe, but step inside and you will find all the original tiling from David Greig the grocers. The building is in fact grade II listed for its authentic 19th-century interior and is full of character. It’s the perfect place for a coffee, breakfast or a tart or two for lunch.

The doorway on the far right in the photo above leads out to a beautiful, light conservatory which we, along with every other diner, opted for as the sun was shining.  The menu, which is a one pager (menu’s should never be too long – alarm bells always go off in my head if they are) is split into ‘brunches’, ‘terribly tasty tarts’, ‘scrumptious salads’ and ‘mmmm sweet heaven’. The drinks menu had a number of wonderfully sounding juices and smoothies, as well as coffees and teas. My dining companion and I opted for a red and green juice, packed with fresh fruits of their reciprocal colours. I can honestly say they were the tastiest fresh juices I have had in ages – full of natural flavours and wonderful thirst quenching in this hot weather; we ordered two more they were that good. There is the option of brunch cocktails, but I’ll have to try them another time.

As for the food, we debated on what to try as it all sounded so appealing.  In the end we opted for the following:

Sautéed mushrooms on cornbread, a poached egg, rocket, pine nuts, garlic herb crème fraîche and truffle oil

Royale: poached eggs, smoked salmon, spinach, capers/gherkins & hollandaise in a short-crust pastry case

Butternut squash, kale, sage, walnut and stilton tart and two salads – roast carrot, lentil and rocket salad with a tahini dressing, and a sweet potato, spinach, chilli, pumpkin seeds and a masala yoghurt. The combinations sounded so good, and thankfully tasted equally so.

The portions were generous and the pastry on the tart was baked to perfection. If you ever buy a tart/quiche from a supermarket, these tarts at TART were way superior. The menu is also reasonably priced – with a tart and two salads coming in at just under £10. The brunch options were also well thought through and my sautéed mushrooms on cornbread hit the spot. The staff were friendly and accommodating, being attentive without being intrusive.

As an aside – for those who are potentially interested in investing in a food business –  Tart are currently raising capital to open a third bakery as well as supply tarts to the wholesale London market. If you are interested you can find out more information on the Seedrs website.

It was a spoiling lunch with fresh tasting, healthy choices and highly memorable tarts that had a great selection of fillings and light, crumbly pastry. Check it out if you are in either East Dulwich or Clapham Common.

Tart: 65 Lordship Lane, London SE22 8EP, no booking necessary, dogs welcome.

 

I was a guest of Tart Bakery and all views and opinions are my own.

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Homemade Elderflower Cordial and a Walk on the North Downs

Elderflower is having its moment right now both in the real world and on instagram, where everyone seems to be making elderflower cordial. From the end of May until mid-July you can find it all over the place, both in the city and in the countryside, although you want to gather it away from roads and above hip height for obvious reasons.

It’s very easy to identify and the scent is heavenly – the only thing that you could mistake it for is cow parsley, but once you know the difference its easy to tell the two apart. Each elderflower head is called an “umbel” – such a cool little word don’t you think? The weather was so beautiful last weekend we thought we would head out of town for the day, which also gave me the opportunity to gather some.

Just beyond Croydon – literally 5 miles south – you suddenly hit countryside and rolling hills and wheat fields. Off the main roads, you wind down narrow lanes where passing traffic gradually changes from cars to horses. We headed to the “White Bear” at Fickleshole – even the name of the place sounds enchanting – where we left our car in the car park. On the Inn’s website there are a few recommended walks so we opted for route twoa circular walk over the North Downs. ‘Downs’ is from the old English word ‘dun’, which means hills. I grew up near the South Downs, which pretty much runs parallel to the North Downs, but with a good 31 miles (50km) between them. I don’t know the latter at all, so felt it was a good opportunity to stretch the legs and explore the beautiful countryside.

I had printed off the instructions and we headed off on what was to be a beautiful 8 mile walk down ancient pathways, rolling fields, Saltbox Hill nature reserve and Biggin Hill airstrip. There were a couple of brief times when we had to walk down a lane/road, one time was a little scary as there was no pathway so it was a case of running at breakneck speed about 100m to get to the pathway, which was on a severe bend. Nothing like a little bit of adrenaline to get the heart racing.

We almost missed this sign, so thought I would take a photo of it if you plan on doing the walk yourselves. It’s on Downe Road as you head towards Holwood Farm Shop. You cross the road and then walk down a little pathway that comes out into a large field with crops growing and a clear pathway leading through them and a couple of unsightly large pylons in the field (just ignore that bit).

I adore circular walks that I have not been on before as there is so much so see and take in. At one stage we walked alongside Biggin Hill airstrip, which has private planes landing and taking off at intervals and we even managed to see an old spitfire fly above us. We passed a church on our travels, which had a baptism going on when we poked our heads round the door.

The North Downs, like it’s sister counterpart, are made up of chalk and flint. The latter you can see being used as part of the facade on the local houses – rather pretty I thought!

We seem to come across a lot of horses on the footpaths (in fields). This beauty below was rather special. Just shortly after walking along the top edge of the field we came to ‘Saltbox Hill Nature Reserve’ a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. Each Sunday, during the summer months, there are guided nature walks through the reserve.

The walk was not particularly demanding, although there were some inclines from time to time and we did keep a close eye on the instructions so as not to get lost.

Back at the White Bear we drank some ginger beer before ordering lunch. In hindsight a picnic on the walk itself may have been more preferable as the walk took a little longer than expected.

The pub is very atmospheric, with cosy corners, black and white photos of owners long gone and a ghost or two apparently. It’s a great place for a drink, although the menu let it down – far too long and the quality of the food was not memorable for us, which was a shame.  It did provide, however, the perfect place to set off on our adventure.

With a bag full of elderflower umbels I left them to rest back at home for a while so that any creepy crawlies could escape. Do not wash them as this can spoil the flavour.

One very important ingredient you need for elderflower cordial, if you want it to last for a long period, is citric acid, which you can easily pick up from your local pharmacy.

Other than that it is very straightforward. You do add 1 kg of granulated sugar – this sounds a huge amount, but you need to remember that the cordial is concentrated so will be used sparingly and added to sparkling water or perhaps a gin cocktail or with some prosecco. The amount I made will easily last for quite a number of months.

The reason I have not been precise on the number of umbel heads required is because the size of the umbel differs from umbel to umbel so it really isn’t an exact science hence I have not given a specific amount.

 

Elderflower Cordial

makes around 2 litres of cordial

1 kg granulated sugar

2 litres of boiling water

4 unwaxed lemons, grated and sliced

50g citric acid (can be found at your pharmacy)

20-30 elderflower umbels (heads)

4 x 500ml glass bottle – sterilised

 

  1. Place the sugar in a large bowl or pan and cover with boiling water. Stir gently to help the sugar dissolve.
  2. Add the citric acid and stir into the water.
  3. Add the grated and sliced lemon.
  4. When the water has cooled add the umbels and submerge them as much as possible.
  5. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a cool place for 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
  6. Sterilise your glass bottles by throughly washing them and then placing them in an oven (on the lowest temperature) for 10 minutes and then remove them from the oven to cool completely.
  7. Use a muslin/clean tea towel over a large bowl/jug and pour the contents of your original bowl into the muslin. Gently squeeze so that all the juice comes through.
  8. Seal and use as and when you want a refreshing summer drink or cocktail. Keep in a cool place and once opened store in the fridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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