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.

 

**********

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.

SaveSave


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.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave


Bengali Vegetable Curry with Lentil Kisses

IMG_2531

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.

IMG_2509

 

 

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.

IMG_2512

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

IMG_2530

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.

IMG_2517

 

 


Miso Aubergines and Harissa Asparagus – Vegan Feasting

IMG_0505

 

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

IMG_0217

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

IMG_9957

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

IMG_0097

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

IMG_0022

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.

IMG_9971

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

IMG_0113

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.

IMG_9946

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

IMG_0208

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.

IMG_0218

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.

IMG_0219

 

 

 


Speedy Homemade Hummus

IMG_1206

 Ok ok I know, I admit I’m on a bit of a chickpea roll at the moment. Apologies to readers out there who don’t share my enthusiasm on the humble chickpea. I always have tins in my store cupboard so am constantly thinking of new ways to use them. This recipe is certainly not a new one – in fact I was convinced I had popped it up on my blog a couple of years back, but I was thinking of my baba ganoush recipe – click here, which if you haven’t tried….shame on you. Seriously give it a go. You’ll thank me for it.

IMG_1196

Going back to the more ubiquitous hummus – or the more affectionate name that we call it in our house ‘whole mouse’….it is equally straightforward to make. The only unusual ingredient that you may not have come across, but that you can easily get hold of at any major supermarket, is ‘tahini’, which put simply is sesame paste. It’s most commonly used in North Africa, the Middle East and the Levant. You’ll find it sitting next to the peanut butter in most stores. In my opinion you do need this necessary ingredient to give your hummus a more authentic taste so please don’t leave it out.

IMG_1202

The other key ingredients are extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, lots of lovely garlic, salt and a little water. How easy!

Now you can jazz things up a bit, which I often like to do by adding one of the following: paprika, sumac, zataar, fried onions or shallots, fresh herbs, roasted beetroot, roasted carrots, cumin powder, black or green olives, turmeric, chilli flakes, sun dried tomatoes….the list is endless. Play around with flavours and find a new version to suit you. I’d love to hear from you if you find a new combination that’s a hit!

IMG_1213

 I’ve kept things simple for my one today by simply adding some fresh pomegranate seeds to give a ruby red jewel effect.  I like the fresh sweetness of the seeds with the hummus. It works really well and looks really pretty too. We eat with our eyes and nose as well as our stomachs after all.

IMG_1214

Homemade Hummus 

Serves – at least 6 (see bowl in photo)

2 tins of chickpeas

3 tbsp tahini

3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 lemon, juice only

8 tbsp olive oil (plus a little extra to drizzle at the end)

5 tbsp water

salt to taste

1. Strain the chickpeas and then add them to a blender along with all the ingredients except the olive oil.

2. Blend the ingredients adding the olive oil gradually until smooth.

3. Taste and add more salt/lemon if needed.

4. Place in a bowl and scatter the pomegranate seeds on top along with a drizzle of olive oil.


Kakrol Curry – for those who like to try new things

IMG_1156

For the next month or so if you happen to be living near or in an Asian neighboured, or passing by an Asian grocery store, you might just chance upon a wonderful Asian vegetable known in Bengal as kakrol, or you may have heard it referred to as kantola. Then again you may have never heard or seen this Asian vegetable before as it’s pretty unique and is it’s only in season for a month or two.

IMG_1105

It’s a type of Indian gourd that does not have a bitterness like it’s cousin the korola. It’s seriously delicious and actually reminds me pool, which I equally love. It’s in season NOW so seize this opportunity and seek it out. I love the bright vivid greenness of its skin. It’s so inviting it just wants to be eaten!

IMG_1109

You need to half it lengthways and then half it again and then quarter it. Similar to the ones that I have in the photo above. You do not need to peel the skin, simply cut off either end of the gourd.

IMG_1119

The brightness from the turmeric, Kashmiri chilli and the vegetable itself makes for some colourful cooking – just don’t wear a white shirt when cooking.

IMG_1143

I tend to accompany mine with some dal such as red split lentil or cholar and serve it with some freshly prepared chapatis. It’s absolute heaven and the perfect vegetarian/vegan meal. If you do manage to find them and cook this please let me know as I love to hear feedback from readers.

Have a lovely weekend.

Kakrol and Potato Curry

2 tbsp groundnut/olive oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 potatoes, halved lengthways and then quartered

5 kakrol/kantola, halved lengthways and then quartered (see photographs above)

1 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp of Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp salt

a few tbsp of water to help soften the kakrol

1/2 tsp garam masala

1 tbsp ghee

1. Heat the oil in the pan and when it is hot add the cumin seeds and move them around the pan for 20 seconds before adding the chopped potato pieces. Turn the heat down and let the potatoes begin to bronze slightly. This will take around 4/5 minutes.

2. Add the kakrol along with the turmeric, chilli powder, salt, cumin powder and coriander powder. Use a spoon to cover the kakrol and potato in the spices.

3. You may need to add a little water to begin with to help the kakrol to soften. Place a lid on the pan to help steam and soften it. Turn gently at intervals and add a little more water if necessary. Cook on a low heat for 25-30 minutes, by which time the kakrol and potato will both be softened.

4. Before serving add the ghee and garam masala, stir into the curry and serve with hot chapatis or other Indian flat bread.

IMG_1165


Umami Rich Portabella Mushrooms, Sun Dried Tomato and Black Garlic Pesto

IMG_0891

Recently I was asked to create my own version of one of the vegan dishes offered on the menus of ‘The Wynn Resort‘ in Las Vegas. The hotel has recently teamed up with famous vegan chef Tal Ronnen so I was eager to bring my own twist to the menu.

IMG_0888

I decided to alter his version of ‘royal trumpet mushrooms with a soy reduction’ at the Lakeside Restaurant and create my own umami rich mushroom dish. Mushrooms, tomatoes and black garlic are all ingredients that are bursting with umami. I wrote an article for Country & Townhouse Magazine on umami which you can read here. My ingredient that brings depth of flavour and an interesting twist though is black garlic – see another article here. It is now becoming increasingly easy to get hold of and can be sourced at some of the large supermarkets here in the UK. I can only imagine the same can be said for the US. If not there is a business opportunity out there for someone as this is a seriously magic ingredient.

IMG_0874

It is so straight forward and quick to prepare and bake that these can be easily rustled up in no time at all. I find them hugely satisfying and perfect if you want a vegetarian flavoursome meal.

IMG_0880

I like to sit the mushrooms on a bed of steamed spinach with a sprinkling of dried chilli flakes and a splash of lemon juice. So Tal if you are reading this how about adding this to the menu? Do let me know if you do.

IMG_0895

Portabella Mushrooms, Sun Dried Tomato and Black Garlic Pesto and Steamed Spinach

Serves 2

2-4 large portabella mushrooms (depending how hungry you are)

70g sun dried tomatoes

3 black garlic bulbs

20ml sun dried tomato oil

200g fresh spinach

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

fresh lemon, quartered to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Cut the stork of the mushroom if it is protruding and place in a hand blender. Add the sun dried tomatoes, black garlic bulbs and sun dried tomato oil. Blitz so that it forms a pesto like consistency.

3. Spoon the tomato pesto onto the mushrooms evenly and place in an oven proof dish. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes.

4. Steam the spinach or simply place the spinach in a pan with 1 tsp of cold water which will make it wilt. Move it around the pan for a minute so that it is all wilted. Add the chilli flakes and serve on to a plate.

5. Place the hot stuffed mushrooms onto the spinach and serve with fresh lemon on the side.

Please note you will not need to add any salt to this dish as the umami flavours more than make up for flavour and depth. 


Spiced Aubergine, Cavolo Nero and Mushroom Spring Rolls

IMG_8913

It’s the Easter holidays so my daughters have some wonderful leisured weeks ahead of them. They love to cook too so we decided to make these spiced aubergine, cavolo nero and mushroom spring rolls together. Rolling spring rolls is a great communal activity and actually rather calming and therapeutic. It is very satisfying to make a tightly rolled and neat spring roll – seriously you’ll know what I mean when you give this recipe a go.

IMG_8940

I hope that it gets a big thumbs up from all my vegetarian and vegan followers. The filling is deliciously tasty and even if you do like your meat I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how tasty these little spring rolls actually are.

IMG_8881

Once the filling has been prepared  and roasted the actually filling of the spring rolls is relatively quick. You can make them ahead of time and then leave them in the fridge until you are ready to fry them. Equally you could freeze them to use in the future – they are pretty versatile. IMG_8886

I adore cavolo nero and added to the aubergine, mushrooms and the spiced sauce, it makes for a very tasty filling.

IMG_8901

The trick to rolling spring rolls is to keep the rolls tight and well folded so that none of the filling escapes when frying. Don’t overfill or you may find the rolls cannot be rolled tight enough – I know it’s tempting but do restrain yourself ;o)

IMG_8912

Frying takes a couple of minutes and I tend to do a few at a time. Once they have bronzed, remove from the oil and place on some kitchen roll to cool and to soak up any excess fat. Diving in too quickly will burn your mouth, so let them rest for a short while before feasting. I like to dip them in tamarind chutney or some chilli sauce – the recipe for the former is noted below.

IMG_8925

Spiced Aubergine, Cavolo Nero and Mushroom Spring Rolls

Inspired by a similar recipe from Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me by Denis Cotter

Makes 22 rolls

1 aubergine (weighing 300g), diced

200g cavolo nero (black kale), chopped  and stalks removed

100g mushrooms, roughly chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp tomato puree

2 tsp light soy sauce

1/2 tsp caster sugar

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

1/2 large red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced

1 tbsp coriander seeds

4 cloves

pinch of fresh nutmeg

22 spring roll pastry sheets

vegetable/sunflower oil for frying

1. In a roasting tray layout the aubergine and mushrooms and scatter with a little olive oil. Roast in oven for 15 minutes, tossing at intervals so that all the ingredients cook and soften.

2. Whilst the aubergine and mushroom are roasting, heat a pan of boiling water and submerge the cavolo nero within it. Cook for 1 minute before straining under cold water and squeezing out the excess water from the cavolo nero. Place to one side on some kitchen paper to dry out thoroughly.

3. Mix the soy sauce, light soy sauce and caster sugar together and when the aubergine and mushrooms are sufficiently cooked transfer them to a bowl and mix in the sauce using a spoon.

4. Using a spice mix or pestle and mortar grind the coriander seeds and cloves together and add the nutmeg. Transfer these and the sliced spring onions and finely sliced red chilli also to the bowl along with the now dry cavolo nero.

5. Lay out a spring role pastry sheet and using your finger or a brush lightly wet the sides of the square. Add a tablespoonful of the aubergine, mushroom and cavolo nero mix towards the bottom of the sheet and then fold over tightly once and then fold in both ends   so that the roll is tightly packaged and then roll until the sheet has been used up. The water that you place on the end will sufficiently hold the spring roll together when cooking.

6. Once all the filling has been used up, heat a deep pan with sunflower/vegetable oil and when it is hot (drop a pinch of flour into it and if it fizzles it is ready) add a couple of the spring rolls at a time. They should take around 2 minutes each to cook. Once they have lightly bronzed place on a plate with kitchen roll to soak up any excess oil.

*************

Tamarind Chutney

Makes half a ramekin full

1 tsp roasted cumin seeds, ground

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp tamarind concentrate

500ml boiling water

45g palm sugar

1 tsp salt

1. In a pan dry roast the cumin seeds for 30 seconds so that the aromas are released. Place in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder and grind to a powder.

2. In a deep pan add the oil and when it is hot add the ground cumin and move around the pan.

3. Add the tamarind concentrate and boiling water and stir so that the concentrate is dissolved. Keep on a medium heat.

3. Add the palm sugar and salt and allow to dissolve into the liquid.

4. Simmer for 25 minutes by which time the liquid will have thickened, although it will still be relatively runny. As it cools it will begin to harden.

5. Store in the fridge in a sealed container for up to two weeks if not consuming immediately.