Mexican White Beans with Courgette and Tomato

How have you all been? I’ve been rather busy in the lockdown whirl and my blog has been taken a bit of a backseat recently. I wanted to rectify that with my fabulous speedy white beans recipe that is jammed packed full of flavour, takes about 15 minutes to whip together, is nutritious and super reasonable. Whilst everything is pretty readily available, there is one little caveat and that is Mexican arbol chillies. I often have a ready supply of Mexican chillies as they are great in so many dishes, adding a deep smokey and piquant edge to a dish. I often put an order into Mextrade who have a great selection of Mexican goods. Do go check them out.

The chilli arbol are often referred to a ‘birds beak chilli’ or a ‘rat’s tail chilli’ and look similar to a slightly larger  dried Thai red chilli. They are fiery and hot so you only need a couple in this dish. I soak them first in a bowl of boiling water for 10 minutes before finely chopping them for this recipe. You can decide whether you want to keep the seeds in or not.  Of course use any chilli you have to hand, but I like the smokiness that this Mexican chilli brings to the dish. One of my other favourite Mexican chillies is a chipotle, and they are perhaps easy to come by in supermarkets, so opt for that if you can’t find the arbol, although I would only add a couple as they are a lot larger to the arbol, although less fiery hot.

The other key ingredient here is the white beans. I am a huge believer that the white beans in the jars taste so much better than the tinned. The beans themselves are haricot beans and I always pick up jars of them when I see them. You can find them all over the place from Spanish and Italian delis to Turkish and Asian grocers so do look out for them.

This recipes is a great, speedy lunch or filling supper option and tone down or up the Mexican chillies depending on your audience. To serve I added a few Gosh Falefel on the side, which I am a huge fan of, although it is more than filling without them.

 

Mexican White Beans with Courgette and Tomato

serves 4

3 Mexican chilli arbol, soaked for 10 mins in boiling water and then finely chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

1 red onion, finely diced or sliced

1/2 tsp salt

2 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

2 bay leaves

1 courgettes, peeled and diced

pinch of freshly ground black pepper

5 medium tomatoes, finely chopped

1x vegetable stock cube + 100ml boiling water

1x 570g jar of white haricot beans, drained

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

200ml boiling water

 

  1. First cover the chilli arbol in boiling water and leave to soak for 10 minutes.
  2. Next heat the oil in a large, wide pan and then add the onions and salt. Allow to soften for 5 minutes before adding the garlic and bay leaves.
  3. Remove the chillies from the water and remove the stalks and finely chop. Remove the seeds if you like it less hot.
  4. Add them to the pan and then add the courgettes, black pepper. Allow the courgette to begin to bronze before adding the freshly chopped tomatoes. Allow to simmer gently.
  5. Now add the vegetable stock and boiling water and place a lid on the pan and increase the heat for a couple of minutes.
  6. Now add the white beans and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for a further few minutes and add more water to loosen if required. If you require the sauce to thicken then place a lid on the pan and increase the heat for a couple of minutes.
  7. Check the seasoning and add a little more salt if required.
  8. Ladle into bowls and serve.

 

 

 

 


Happy New Year and Toor Dal with Fresh Coconut and White Poppy Seeds

Happy New Year and a warm welcome to my new (and old of course!) followers who have recently signed up to this blog.

January is a funny old month. The revelries from Christmas and the New Year are well and truly over and we all look forward to making a fresh start in the new year. With goals, aims, hopes and plans whirling away in our heads, it’s like shedding a skin and growing a new one. Veganuary has gained a lot of momentum over the last few years, with increasing numbers introducing more vegan recipes into their diets and some even making the transition to become fully vegan. Whilst I have no plans to ‘do’ veganuary, I naturally eat a number of vegan meals throughout the year without even really thinking about it. Indian food is heavily focused on vegetables with the large majority in India having a vegetarian diet. On this blog I have a number of recipes which would work really well if you want to bring more vegetarian or vegan meals into your culinary repertoire. Here are just a few.

Upma (a savoury breakfast semolina eaten in India)

Dale Bora (a delicious street snack from Kolkata)

Indian sprout and carrot curry

Beetroot curry

Cauliflower with dried fenugreek/methi

Black pepper tofu

Aubergine, peanut and tomato curry

Indian corn on the cob

Butternut, lemongrass, coconut and spinach curry

For my first recipe for 2020 however I thought I would show you a new dal recipe, which just happens to be vegan. I have loads on my blog – just pop the word ‘dal’ in the search box on the right when you go to my blog. Dals all taste so different that I could make a different one each day of the week and they would be completely unique.

This one uses the toor dal, which is also known as ‘pigeon pea’. It looks similar to the chana dal, which is a split chickpea. You don’t need to soak it but it does take around 50 minutes to soften sufficiently if you are using the stove top. When it is gently boiling away you will need to remove, with a spoon, the scum that will form whilst cooking. You may also need to add more water if it looks to become too dry. I never measure out the water and instead go more from sight and add a little more here and there when required.

Excuse the rather dark muted photos of the dal – I cooked it in the afternoon and when I was ready to photograph the light had gone so had to use the lights from my kitchen which give it a pretty awful glow. Anyway you get the gist. I ate it along with a butternut squash curry I made and a cabbage curry mopped up with some homemade luchi – which are also known as poori. Most delicious and all coincidentally vegan.

 Toor Dal with Poppy Seeds and Fresh Coconut

250g toor dal, washed through a couple of times with cold water

900ml water

2 tbsp rapeseed/sunflower oil

1 white onion, finely chopped

30g grated fresh coconut (or desiccated)

a small handful of fresh coriander

100ml water

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

2 tsp white poppy seeds

10 fresh curry leaves (you can freeze them – much better than dried which have lost their taste)

1 heaped tsp ginger-garlic paste

1 tomato, finely chopped

1 green chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1/2 fresh lemon, juice only

salt to taste

  1. First rinse the toor dal and then place it in a pan and cover completely with water. Start by adding 900ml water and you can add more later once the water has soaked up. It will take around 50 minutes to soften. Scum will form on the top so just remove this with a spoon and discard. You know the dal has softened when you can easily pinch one toor dal between your thumb and forefinger. Continue to add a little more water if it has all been soaked up.
  2. Meanwhile in a frying pan, add a tablespoon of oil and gently fry the onion and the fresh coconut so that they begin to lightly bronze. Remove from the pan and then blitz in a blender with some fresh coriander and then leave to one side.
  3. Using the same pan add the rest of the oil and add the cumin, mustard and poppy seeds. They will begin to sizzle almost immediately. Be careful of the spluttering.
  4. Add the fresh curry leaves and the ginger-garlic paste – fresh or store bought. Move around the pan and then add the tomato and fresh chilli.
  5. Return the blitzed onion-coconut-fresh coriander to the pan and stir so that all the ingredients are nicely mixed together.
  6. Now add the turmeric, coriander, Kashmiri chilli powder, lemon juice and salt.
  7. Once the dal has softened turn the contents of the frying pan into the dal and mix together. Check the salt levels.
  8. Leave to simmer for a few more minutes, then you are ready to serve.

 

 

 

 

 


Indian Sprout and Carrot Curry – perfect for this time of year

This recipe I posted way back in 2012 (yes my blog has been running for that long!), but unless you scroll my recipe library you are unlikely to know it is even there. Quite frankly, it’s fab and will win over even the non-sprout lover amongst us. Seriously. Basically, by adding a touch of spice, it elevates the humble sprout. We are beginning to see them in the shops so I urge you to give this recipe a whirl when you are next mulling over what to cook. Give it to your family, flat mates, friends and don’t tell them what it is and I can bet you they will love it and ask for more. Mention the word ‘sprout’ however and then they may not even give the dish a chance.

My mother-in-law originally taught me this many years ago and now it’s a firm favourite in my Indian culinary repertoire.  If you cook it alongside a dal it makes a perfect vegan meal. I suggest my go to ‘Bengali Red Split Lentil Dal’ would be the perfect accompaniment. Both dishes can be prepared and cooked within 30 mins and  are very affordable, healthy and tasty. It’s a win win win.

Indian Sprout and Carrot Curry

Serves 4

325g sprouts, finely sliced

300g carrots, grated

1 green chilli, finely sliced (optional)

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 level tsp turmeric

1 tsp nigella seeds (kalo jeera)

1 tsp salt

100ml water

1. Finely slice the sprouts, grate the carrots and, if using, finely chop the chilli. I tend to leave the seeds in, but to make it less spicy just remove the seeds.

2. Heat a pan with oil and add the nigella seeds. After 10 seconds add the chilli and turmeric and stir in together for a further 10 seconds.

3. Add the sprouts and carrots and stir well with the other ingredients. Continue to stir continuously on a medium heat so that the carrots and sprouts soften and do not burn. Use a wooden spoon to press down on the ingredients as you gently stir.

4. After a few minutes of stirring add 50ml of water and stir into the curry. You may find that you do not need to use the remaining 50ml of water if the sprouts and carrots are sufficiently softened. Add the salt to taste. Continue stirring for a further 5-7 minutes and the dish will be done.

Nigella seeds (above)


Roasted Fennel with Orange and Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Friends from California came and stayed at the weekend and gave me the Gjelina cookbook, which I have been cooking from ever since. My goodness it is good. Having received it on Saturday I have since cooked 4 recipes:

garlic confit

roasted yams/butternut squash with honey, red pepper flakes and lime yoghurt

roasted cauliflower with garlic, parsley and vinegar

roasted fennel with orange and crushed red pepper flakes)

I plan to cook a 5th (grilled squash with mint-pomegranate pesto, which is on the front cover below) tonight, so I guess you could say I’m rather smitten with the book.

For those of you in the dark, Gjelina just so happens to be one of my favourite restaurants in LA. As it says in the book cover: “In Southern California, there’s no restaurant that better expresses the energy and cool excitement of Venice Beach than Gjelina” and I couldn’t agree more. It epitomises grain and vegetable centric, globally inspired cuisine, which suits me down to the ground. It has echo’s of Ottolenghi’s tomes – think za’atar and pomegranate molasses infused dishes – but the thing I automatically liked about it is that the recipes are those you actually want to cook and share with friends and family, also they are dead easy and if you don’t have an ingredient you can ad lib and make your own additions. The photos and props are also definitely the style that I love.

I have a large pot of garlic confit sitting in my fridge now, like the one above. I can’t wait to make their version of mushroom toast – I mean how divine does it look?. This would definitely appeal to my father who also has a deep fondness to mushrooms, like myself.

So last night I made the ‘roasted fennel with orange and crushed red pepper flakes’. I couldn’t find any blood oranges so I used a regular orange. I also played around with the measurements here and there to suit me. The final dish was delicious and is perfect with a roast chicken, fish or perhaps some other vegetable dishes. Great for summer gatherings. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think.

 

Roasted Fennel with Orange & Crushed Red Pepper Flakes 

2 fennel bulbs, cut into wedges and the stem into thin slices, reserve the fronds

1 large orange, peeled and cut into segments

60ml extra-virgin olive oil

flaked sea salt

80ml fresh orange juice

30ml masala wine (they use 60ml of white wine but I none to hand)

60ml of vegetable stock (I used my homemade poussin stock which is so flavoursome)

pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

freshly ground black pepper

  1. Prepare the fennel bulbs and then in a large frying pan warm the olive oil. When it is hot add the fennel wedges so that the cut sides are against the bottom of the pan to get a good sear.
  2. Cook until the fennel is caramelised, which takes about 3 minutes. Turn over, using tongs, and caramelise the other side for a further 3 minutes.
  3. Season with salt and toss in the fennel stems and continue to cook for another 2 minutes so the stems are well-browned.
  4. Now add the orange juice, wine and stock and let reduce do that the sauce thickens and the fennel is seared and starting to softened – this should only take a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Pour onto a serving platter and garnish with the fennel fronds, orange segments.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Super easy and super delicious. I hope you agree.

 

 

 


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.


Sea Beet and Potato Curry

Recently I went on a lovely coastal walk on Mersea Island, which is off the Essex coast (it’s reached by a tidal causeway). I hadn’t planned to go foraging but when I came across sea beet growing in large clusters, it made sense to gather up two large handfuls to take home and cook into something interesting.

I do love to forage from time to time – not mushrooms mind you as they can be tricky to identify unless you are with an expert. Somethings are easier to recognise and sea beet is one of those. Disclaimer: If you are going to try to find some yourself please consult the internet for other sources to check on identification. John Wright’s book ‘Edible Seashore’ may also be a good book to take on your walks to help identify. It’s best to check with a few sources to be sure.

I thought the sea beet would lend itself well to a ‘sag aloo’ type dish (spinach and potato curry). It’s more robust than spinach and has a lovely earthy taste to it. It is in fact the wild ancestor to the beetroot, sugar beet and swiss chard and is called a host of names including sea beet, sea spinach, wild beet and wild spinach. In ancient times, the leaves and root of the sea beet were used to treat several diseases, particularly tumours. The juice is even good for treating ulcers apparently!

When you forage you need to wash and clean your ‘treasure’ properly in cold water. I rinsed the leaves three times to be on the safe side. I then roughly chopped the leaves and prepared the potatoes. This curry is a lovely way to include sea beet into your diet, but if you are not going near any coastal areas you can always use spinach instead.

I would love to hear from any of you who may have used this ingredient before? How did you cook it? Leave a comment in the comment box below.

Sea Beet and Potato Curry

1 tbsp oil

2 dried red chilli

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

pinch of asafoetida/hing (optional)

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut roughly into 2 inch cubes

1 tsp salt to taste

2 large handfuls of foraged sea beet or around 260g of fresh spinach

2 tbsp water

  1. Heat the oil and then add the dried red chillies. Move around the pan for 10 seconds before adding the cumin seeds. Let the seeds begin to fizzle and then add the turmeric powder and asafoetida (if using).
  2. Add the potatoes and cover them in seeds and spices and cook gently on a medium to low heat, stirring every now and then. Add the salt.
  3. After about 8-10 minutes, add the washed sea beet and fold in gently to the potatoes.
  4. Add 1 tbsp of water and allow the sea beet to wilt and the potato to soften completely. To check the potato has soften stick a sharp knife into it, if it goes in easily then they are ready. You may need to place a lid on the pan to help steam it, if the potato needs more time to soften,  which will speed up the softening. Add the remaining water if need.

Serve immediately with a dollop of yogurt and a wedge of lemon on the side. It also works really well if you cook my chana dal to eat along side it.

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Cambodia, VB6 and a review of “My Vegan Travels” by Jackie Kearney

Sunset in Kep, Cambodia

Happy New Year everyone. As you’ve probably gathered from my lack of posts I have been off the grid for a few weeks, which has been bliss – although I was still posting on instagram so do check out my feed if you are interested. My family decided to cheat winter for a few weeks and headed off to Cambodia to see the ancient ruins, visit the capital and then head south to laidback Kep – which was once where the Cambodian royals and wealthy would head to relax and enjoy themselves; before the Khmer Rouge destroyed much of the town.

Angkor Wat Temple complex

Back in London and it has all been a bit of a shock with the cold, blistery weather and getting dark so early in the day. I reluctantly packed away my flip flops and got out my winter boots. January is a funny old month. We all start with such good intentions.

Most friends seem to be attempting a “dry January” and “veganuary” has now been thrown into the mix. Read more about it here if the term is new to you.

Sacred prays in Angkor Wat complex

I can get my head around being more vegetarian, or at least a diet which has a heavy vegetable focus, but vegan……now that involves a lot of thought and planning. Whilst I was pondering veganuary, I read about a rather interesting “diet” or let’s just say “way of life” which, in my view, seemed more attainable and realistic. There is a lot of chat about it in the media at the moment. It is called the VB6 diet. Now don’t get me wrong I do not follow diets and have never been on one, but this VB6 caught my attention.

Lotus flower arrangement in Siem Reap

The diet was given life by New York Times’ lead food writer Mark Bittman and literally means “Vegan Before 6pm”. I am increasingly convinced we all need to eat more vegetables and fruit and less meat and fish. Like Mark however, I am not going to become vegan anytime soon, but a swing of the pendulum towards more of a plant based diet is definitely attractive on many levels. I would prefer to eat meat and fish less often but the quality of what I eat to be high and ultimately know exactly where the produce has come from. By eating it less frequently does allow us to buy better quality meat and fish when we do actually buy it.

Drying out fish on the shores of Tonle Sap – the 4th largest freshwater source of fish in the world

The VB6 diet came about when Mark was told by his doctor that he was overweight, his cholesterol and blood sugar were too high and that intervention by surgery was one possible option. He discussed these findings with another doctor who suggested that becoming vegan was another way that could help him. Knowing that becoming a true vegan was out of the question he decided to adapt and become vegan throughout the day but in the evening from 6pm he could eat what he wanted. It made a lot of sense as he could be sociable in the evening with friends and eat how he always has done. He is also really realistic that sometimes he may deviates from the plan and he readily admits he has milk in his coffee in the morning, but for the most part he continues to be vegan in the day time.

A shrine in Phnom Penh

So has it worked?

Absolutely. He has lost a good amount of weight – 36 pounds then gained a little to plateau to around losing 26 pounds. The diet seems sensible and also not really very restrictive in the grand scheme of things. He talks to the Huffington Post here about the diet. Have a read, it’s really interesting. I definitely plan to pick up a copy of his book and see what he has to say in more detail. You can order it here if you are interested.

Buddhist shrine in Angkor Wat

Which brings me to a rather lovely book that was recently sent to me, called “My Vegan Travels – Comfort Food Inspired by Adventure” by Jackie Kearney. I don’t own a vegan cookery book so was not too sure on what to expect. What I discovered is a hugely informative book with recipes that actually sound and look (if the five photos below are anything to go by) delicious.

Photography credit above: Clare Winfield, published by Ryland Peters & Small

At first glance there did seem to be quite a number of ingredients in each recipe but that has never phased me. If you are someone who likes 5 ingredients, then this book is probably not for you. For anyone who has a keen interest in cooking and a willingness to try something new then you will love it. The chapters are slit into “No Place Like Home”, “European Summers”, “Asian Comfort” and “Americana”. I obviously gravitated to the “Asian Comfort”.

I think that to become full-time vegan does involve a commitment to actually stock your pantry/cupboard/fridge very differently. Leafing though the pages I found a couple of Cambodian recipes. Again I never come across Cambodian recipes so both of them really appealed to me. I opted on one though which I think is a real January mood-pick-me-up. It’s called “Num Banh Chok” – a Cambodian yellow curry with rice noodles and I cannot tell you how AWESOME this recipe is. I gave it to my father-in-law who has been recovering from a bout of flue and he couldn’t stop saying how delicious it was. It is now firmly part of my culinary arsenal and I will be cooking it again and again hence forth. I LOVED it.

I thought that the recipe tied in so well with this post and me having just come back from beautiful Cambodia, as well as the VB6 article, which I had been mulling over.

Now a couple of things to note. I made one change –  I added fried tofu instead of banana flower. I do love banana flower but it is tricky to find, certainly if you live outside London or not near any Vietnamese grocers. I thought it wasn’t very realistic for others to find if I found it tricky. Secondly, the vegetable with holes in it is called “lotus root”. I admit lotus root is also not that easy to find. My usual Asian grocers did not have it so they sent me off to a Chinese grocers that did. So folks aim for Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese/Japanese grocers near you. It is not stocked in your local supermarket. You can buy it online at places like Amazon and Fresh Oriental – here. You can also buy it frozen, but fresh is best if you can locate it. Galangal is not as hard to find, but again you may need to head to your South East Asian grocer.

Once you have the ingredients the recipe is a piece of cake to make. Do try it and let me know. If this recipe is anything to go by I can’t wait to try making the other Cambodian recipe “Khmer croquettes” (photo below) very soon. Don’t they look temptingly moreish.

Photography credit above: Clare Winfield, published by Ryland Peters & Small

Cambodian Yellow Curry with Rice Noodles

adapted from “My Vegan Travels” by Jackie Kearney, published by Ryland, Peters & Small

Serves 4

(1/2= half)

To make the Spice Paste

2 6cm/2 inch thumbs of fresh turmeric (or 1 1/2 tsp powdered)

1/2 tsp paprika

4 garlic cloves

5cm/2 inch thumb of ginger

5cm/2 inch thumb of galangal

4-6 dried red chillies, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes

1 small red onion

2 lemongrass stalks, ends trimmed and outer layer removed

10 kaffir lime leaves

 

To make the curry

2 tbs coconut/vegetable oil

900ml/4 cups vegetable stock or water, plus extra if needed

2-3 tbs vegan fish sauce or light soy sauce

1 tbs agave syrup or brown sugar

200g/7oz lotus root, peeled and cut into thick slices (or use cauliflower florets(

1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

150g green or runner beans, trimmed

400ml/14 oz can of coconut milk

1-2 rock salt, to taste

100g/3 1/2oz Chinese leaf, roughly torn ( I used choi sum, but chard, beet leaves also works)

100g fried tofu cubes (I picked this up at Hoo Hing)

 

To serve

1 packet of thin rice thread noodles, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes

drizzle of chilli oil/chilli (optional)

50g/1/2 cup of roasted peanuts, roughly chopped (optional)

 

  1. First place your rice noodles in a bowl and cover with hot water and leave whilst you get on with making the dish.
  2. New place all the spice paste ingredients in a blender/food processor and blitz until smooth. Easy hey.
  3. In a large non stick pan/wok, heat the oil and fry the curry paste.
  4. Add the stock/water, vegan fish sauce/light soy sauce and agave nectar/brown sugar and bring to the boil then add the lotus root and squash and simmer for around 8 minutes.
  5. Then add the green/runner beans and simmer for another couple of minutes before adding the coconut milk and more stock if needed; it should be a soupy consistency.
  6. Salt to taste and bring back to the boil. Make sure the butternut squash is soft. The lotus root will not be as soft!
  7. Stir in the choi sum and then remove from the heat, allowing it to wilt completely.
  8. Drain the rice noodles from the water. They should be soft and ready to eat.
  9. Place in a bowl and ladle the curry broth on top. Sprinkle with peanuts and chilli oil if necessary.

More instalments from Cambodia next week.

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Bengali Vegetable Curry with Lentil Kisses

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Lentil kisses, known as bori, are little sun dried lentil nuggets that have often been handmade and left to dry in the hot, warming Indian sun. My mother-in-law often brings me back a jar upon visiting her beloved  home city of Kolkata. They remind me of a lentil version of Hershey’s chocolate kisses – the type that visitors from the US often used to bring me and my siblings when we were young. Making bori yourself is not too tricky – there is a lovely recipe here if you are keen – if you live in a country where you can rely on warm, glowing hot sun, but as the weather in the UK is at best erratic when it comes to sunshine, it would probably be rather tricky.

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Whilst I realise not everyone has a Benglai mother-law-in who can magic up bori at a whim, you can get hold of bori in London at any good Asian grocers. In Kolkata, bori is also cooked with fish dishes or with greens, but today I wanted to show you a simple recipe that uses up vegetables that you are likely to have in your fridge. It makes for a very satisfying and enjoyable vegetable meal that is perfect eaten on it’s own or accompanied with some dal, rice or flat breads.

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Good luck in your quest for lentil kisses. They are seriously not that hard to seek out. Let me know how you get on.

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Vegetable Curry with Lentil Kisses

1 large handful of bori (lentil kisses)

2 tbsp groundnut oil

2 small dried red chillies

1 tsp panch phoron

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp chilli powder, optional

2 carrots, cut into bite sized chunks

3 medium sized potatoes, quartered

1/4 of an aubergine, cut into bite sized chunks

2 tomatoes, finely diced

1 tsp salt

to serve

1 handful of fresh coriander

  1. Heat a tablespoon of oil (or thereabouts) in a pan and when it is hot add the dried chillies and allow them to blacken a little, this will take no longer than a minute, but may make you cough a little so beware!
  2. Add the panch phoron which will begin to fizzle almost instantly. Then add the turmeric and chilli powder (if using the latter) and add the chopped carrots and potatoes. Move around the pan, lower the heat add a couple of tablespoons of water and place a lid on the pan and leave for 15 minutes, stirring at intervals.
  3. Meanwhile in a separate pan add another tablespoon of oil and when it is hot add the bori/lentil kisses so that they bronze slightly in colour. This will only take a few minutes, if you keep moving them around the pan. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a plate with kitchen roll.
  4. In the main pan now add the aubergine, salt and fresh tomatoes and stir into the other ingredients. Add a little more water to help soften the ingredients, but not too much as you do not want the sauce to become too runny. Place a lid on the pan and leave for another 10 minutes.
  5. After 5 minutes check to see if the potatoes and carrots are softening. Add the bronzed bori and gently stir into the vegetables. Place the lid on the pan and leave for a further 5 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots have softened sufficiently.
  6. To serve add freshly chopped coriander.

It is wonderful to accompany with some dal and rice or Indian flat breads.

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Miso Aubergines and Harissa Asparagus – Vegan Feasting

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I really hadn’t planned for this to be a blog post. There is only this one photo that was taken in a hurry, with my iPhone and not my usual food photography camera.  I hadn’t given much thought as to food presentation or back boards or table cloths. It was very much in the moment, what my family were eating one evening. The feedback I had from this photo on Instagram however convinced me that I ought to share the recipes.

Whilst I added my own twist to the recipes both are from two wonderful cookbooks that are worth investing in, if you haven’t already got them. The plate on the left with the aubergines comes from a similar recipe by Anna Jones’s book ‘ A Modern Way to Cook‘. It is one of my favourite vegetarian cookbooks and  one which I regularly dip into it. The asparagus on the right is from Sabrina Ghayour’s ‘Persiana’ cookbook, which is equally fabulous and worth purchasing.

Dark Miso and Honey Aubergines

Adapted from ‘A Modern Way to Cook’ by Anna Jones

Serves 4 (if served with other dishes)

1 large aubergine (or 2 smaller aubergines), halved and then cut into 1 inch slices

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 tbsp dark miso (I get mine from Korea Foods)

2 tbsp runny honey

2 tbsp mirin/rice wine

pinch of Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tbsp white sesame seeds

  1. First wash and then half the aubergine and cut into slices lengthways – approx 1 inch thickness and cut slice marks across the flesh (not the purple skin).
  2. Place on a lined baking tray.
  3. Meanwhile mix the dark miso, runny honey, mirin (you can get this from all large supermarkets, as well as Asian specialist shops) and a pinch of Kashmiri chilli powder.
  4. Heat the coconut oil in a pan if it is solidified and then gently brush the flesh of the aubergines.
  5. Place in a grill for 5 minutes before turning over for another 5 minutes.
  6. Using a spoon spread the miso honey paste over the aubergines equally and place into an oven at 180 degrees for 15 minutes.
  7. Scatter with white sesame seeds and serve.

Harissa, Lemon and Honeyed Asparagus

Serves 4 (if served with other dishes)

Adapted from ‘Persiana’ by Sabrina Ghayour

1 large handful of fresh asparagus, trim the ends

2 tsp harissa

2 tbsp runny honey

1 lemon, rind and juice

pinch of salt

  1. Trim the ends of the asparagus so that the rough ends are removed.
  2. In a bowl add the harissa, lemon rind and juice, honey and salt. Mix together then add the asparagus so that all the stalks are coated.
  3. Heat a heavy based griddle pan and when it is hot add the asparagus and allow to soften and form black ridges from the griddle pan. Turn over at intervals. The asparagus will be cooked within 10 minutes.
  4. Place on a serving plate and pour over any remaining juice from the marinade.

 

With these dishes I also served steam basmati rice and pak choi. To cook the pak choi I added a little coconut oil to a pan and then added the pak choi leaves. After a minute the leaves will soften so add a splash of soy sauce or tamari and a tablespoon of yuzu or lime juice and allow to wilt a little further for a couple of minutes.

Let me know how you get on. There is so much flavour coming from all the citric, spicy and cleansing notes and I like the way how the rice balances it all out nicely.

 

 

 

 

 


Indian Inspired Cucumber, Apple and Red Onion Salad

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I’ve just returned from 10 glorious days in the Schwarzwald – or German Black Forest to you and me.

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Days were spent hiking through dense forests where gentle streams turned into ferocious waterfalls.

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 We climbed many a hill and marvelled at all the spruce and pine trees peppering the landscape. Dramatic scenery at every turn.

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Picnic lunch stops afforded us spectacular vistas, stretching for miles and the best thing was that we were completely alone – over the time we were there we passed only a couple of other walkers, one of which was a nun from the local nunnery. We live in such a frenetic, fast paced world that taking time out and spending time with nature away from the crowds is wonderfully cleansing for the mind and soul.

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Upon returning to our gasthof we would often treat ourselves to the local speciality…….Black Forest Gateaux,  because when in Rome…..

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After resting our weary limbs we prepared for serious dining in the evening. The food was exquisite, refined and yet hearty – the lemongrass creme brule and the wild garlic soup being highlights.

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Upon returning back in the UK however, I was ready to have a vegetarian spell. I began to crave green vegetables (I eat a lot of spinach) and fruit with a spice injection and simple Asian food. In fact the first thing I cooked for myself when we returned to Blighty was this.

With the bambinos having just returned to school and the sun giving us a lovely, welcome dose of vitamin c – check out the blossom and blue skies

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I wanted to eat a lovely salad that I was given recently when I was in Kerala. It’s lovely on it’s own or eaten to accompany all manner of Indian, meat, fish or veg curries – see my recipe library. The crunch from all the different textures and the flavours sing sweet notes as you dive into this salad. Give it a whirl and let me know if you agree.

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Indian Inspired Cucumber, Apple and Red Onion Salad

Serves 4 with another dish or 2 on it’s own

2 crunchy green apples, cored, skin removed, quartered and chopped into 3

1 cucumber, skin removed, halved and chopped into half moons

1 red onion, finely sliced

1 handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp agave nectar/honey

  1. Skin, slice and cut the ingredients as specified above and mix altogether along with the honey and salt. Simple and utterly delicious.

This salad would also be perfect with meat, fish or vegetables off the BBQ.

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