31Jul/15

Yogurt & gram flour curry

Kadhi with pakoras

Kadhi or yogurt & gram flour curry is something we don’t find in our usual curry restaurants and this is perhaps because it is assumed by restaurateurs that it is something which wouldn’t sit too well with the European palate and is more an acquired taste.

However, if you have ever had an Indian vegetarian thali, served with a variety of dainty little bowls containing different vegetable dishes, it is very possible that kadhi formed part of this medley.  You could say it is a little like being served with a bowl of miso in a Japanese restaurant but usually in India and Pakistan it is eaten with rice or kichdi, which is rice and lentil dish cooked together.

Generally, we would add some gram flour pakoras (click here for recipe) to the kadhi but some people add a few vegetables – you could happily eat this as a very satisfying soup!

Ingredients

2 tablespoons gram flour
2 tablespoons natural unsweetened soya yogurt (I used Sojade which is available at As Nature Intended or Wholefoods)
2 tablespoons oil
1 heaped teaspoon panchporan (a mix of black mustard seed, fenugreek seed, fennel seed, cumin seed, black onion seed, available at Asian stores or online here)
1 level teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon curry powder
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 inch piece ginger, finely minced
2 tomatoes, chopped
Few curry leaves (optional but worth stocking up – you can buy these dry from Tescos & Asian stores)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt to taste
Some chopped fresh coriander

Method

  • Mix the gram flour and yogurt with a little water into a smooth paste. Add about 1 litre of water and set aside
  • Heat oil in a deep pan and add panchporan; give it a minute or two until the seeds begin to pop
  • Add spices, garlic, ginger. salt and curry leaves, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes until tomatoes are soft
  • Add the gram flour and yogurt mixture and bring to boil. Be careful as it will boil over very easily.

Kadhi with pakoras(2)

  • As soon as it comes to the boil, lower heat and leave to simmer (do not cover), stirring intermittently, for about 45 minutes or until it is thickish, but not too thick. Consistency depends on how you like it – some people like it very thin and runny, whereas others prefer it thicker
  • Add lemon juice and give it a stir, now add the onion pakoras, sprinkle with coriander leaves and serve (see picture above)

Note: Instead of pakoras, you could add some vegetables like carrots, peas, sweet potato, butternut squash or green beans and cook for a further 15 minutes until vegetables are cooked

31Jul/15

Onion Pakoras

Pakoras with onions(3)

Most of us are familiar with onion bhaji – big balls of gram flour with onions and spices deep fried and served as a starter in most Indian restaurants.  

Onion bhaji, as we know it is a tad dense and compact, whereas onion pakoras, which is how we would prepare them at home are lighter, fluffier, and for me, far superior in taste and texture to the onion bhaji we inevitably order when out for a curry night!

Feel free to add green peppers, cooked peas, or even cooked chopped green beans to this mixture with the onions. Alternatively, dip thin slices of uncooked potatoes, spinach, kale or thinly sliced aubergine in the batter and fry until golden and the vegetables cooked through – this would be the Asian alternative to Japanese tempuras, but spicier!

Ingredients

1 cup gram flour (basan) available at all Asian stores and good supermarkets
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon chilli powder or flakes (optional)
¼ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, chopped
Few chopped fresh coriander leaves
Oil to fry

Method

  • Mix all the dry ingredients with some water, starting with a little and then adding more, to make a thickish batter – it should slip off the spoon easily

Pakoras with onions

  • Add the chopped onions and fresh coriander
  • Heat some oil in a small wok – about half inch of oil if you prefer not to deep fry – as you can see below, mine are not deep fried

Pakoras with onions(2)

  • Drop dessert spoonfuls of batter in the hot oil and fry on each side for about 2 minutes on low/medium heat until golden!
31Jul/15

Spicy aubergine bhaji

Aubergine bhaji(3)

Apart from potatoes, aubergines are second on my list of most used vegetables.  You can curry them, stuff them or dip in flour and fry them – I have even used aubergines in my vegetable biryani with very good results and of course aubergine pickled in vinegar with garlic and a some mint is delicious.

This is a spicy aubergine bhaji where I have used a mix of whole spices generally known as Panchporan – it is a mix of black mustard seed, fenugreek seed, fennel seed, cumin seed and black onion seed and is available in most Asian stores, some large supermarkets like Tescos or buy it online – click here)

Ingredients

1 large aubergine, cut into large cubes
3 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons panchporan (a mix of black mustard seed, fenugreek seed, fennel seed, cumin seed, black onion seed, available at Asian stores or online here)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon curry powder
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 inch piece ginger, chopped finely
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
½ tablespoon tomato puree

Method

  • Heat oil and add panchporan
  • Let the spices brown for a minute or so until the seeds begin to pop – add all the other ingredients except aubergines

Aubergine bhaji

  • Cover and cook tomatoes on low heat for about 15 minutes – you shouldn’t need water, but if you do add a small splash
  • Add aubergines, cover and cook for another 15 minutes

Aubergine bhaji(2)

  • Serve with rice and dal or eat with any flat bread!
24Jul/15

Crispy potato based rice

Rice with roast potatoes

Rice with roast potatoes(2)

This is a variation of one of many Iranian rice dishes and this crispy potato based rice is simple to prepare and delicious with salad or a light curry.

So we just boil the rice as usual, pop it on a layer of sliced potatoes and steam to create a fabulous dish of crunchy and moist potatoes with rice – a simple, appetising dish of rich to be served with either a salad or a light curry – we had it with aubergine with chana dal cooked with soya mince and it was a huge success!  Click here for the aubergine recipe

Aubergine, chana dal & mince

4 good servings

Ingredients

300 grams Basmati rice, soaked for 1 hour at least
4 large waxy potatoes, sliced
1 cup frozen peas
3 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon salt

Method

  • Rinse rice, add salt and boil in a large deep pan with lots of water
  • Good quality basmati rice will take about 3 minutes from boiling to cook – keep it al dente
  • Strain rice in colander and add the peas and gently stir to mix
  • In the same pan, put the oil and 4 tablespoons of water
  • Layer the potatoes on the base of the pan
  • Top it with rice, cover the lid with a clean tea cloth and steam on med/high for 5 minutes, reduce heat to low and steam for further 15 minutes.
  • To loosen the potatoes, place the saucepan in an inch of cold water in the sink for 3 minutes
24Jul/15

Aubergine with chana dal and soya mince

Aubergine, chana dal & mince

Mince and chana dal (split peas) cooked in a rich tomato sauce and whole dried lime, split in two is a very popular dish in Iran.  Dried lime can be bought at Middle Eastern or Asian stores or online, click here.   I have successfully added aubergines to this dish as aubergines go very well with soya mince and tomatoes.  Served with plain boiled rice or flat bread this makes a very satisfying and healthy meal to serve to the family! 

I tend to add a pinch of baking soda when cooking any tough legume or bean as this hastens the cooking time – a trick I learnt from my dear Laxmi, who was a loving and gentle second mother to me and my family.

Ingredients

Half cup chana dal, preferably soaked for an hour but not absolutely essential
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 large aubergine, cut into large cubes
1 cup frozen soya mince (you could use dried soya mince too, click here to buy online)
1 medium onion, sliced
3 tablespoons oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 inch piece ginger, finely chopped
1 level teaspoon turmeric
3-4 tomatoes, chopped (or 1 tin of tomatoes)
½ teaspoon salt
1 dried lime, split in two (optional, click here to buy online) 

Method

  • Rinse and cook chana dal with a quarter teaspoon of baking powder – baking powder will expedite the cooking process! Be careful you don’t overcook the chana dal and keep it whole, strain and set aside
  • Fry onions in oil until golden
  • Add tomatoes, turmeric, garlic, ginger and salt
  • Aubergine, chana dal & mince(2)
  • Cover and cook on low with a small splash of water until tomatoes are softened, about 20-25 minutes
  • Add aubergine, soya mince, cooked chana dal and dried lime.  Add a cup of water, cover and cook on low heat for a further 20 minutes until the stew is thick and aubergines cooked
  • Serve with boiled rice or flat bread – why not try this Maneesh I made the other day!

Maneesh(2)

11Jul/15

Spicy roast cauliflower

Roast cauliflower

Here’s a cauliflower roast to spice up your meal.  It is easy, just mix ingredients into thickish batter, coat cauli and bake – done.

Ingredients

Small cauliflower
2 heaped tablespoons gram flour (basan)
1 tablespoon Nutritional Yeast (optional)
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon ground fennel seeds
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon oil in batter
2 tablespoons oil in roasting pan

Method

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients above up to 1 tablespoon oil and add a little water to make a smooth, thickish paste – enough to coat the cauli but not run off! If too thin, add a little more gram flour
  2. Put an inch of water in pan and par boil whole cauliflower for 5 minutes only
  3. Remove the cauliflower, allow to cool a little, then coat with batter
  4. Put 2 tablespoons oil in a roasting pan and roast cauliflower in preheated oven at 200C, 400F, gas mark 6 for 20 minutes
11Jul/15

Cauliflower & peas

Cauliflower & peas

Cauliflower and peas, another quickie to eat with either flatbread or with rice and dal.

Ingredients

1 small cauliflower
1 large cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
Little chilli powder (optional)
Salt to taste
Few curry leaves (optional if you don’t have it but they do add a lovely flavour. It is easier to find these days, I have seen some in Tescos in the veg section and also Schwartz do one in a little bottle – well worth adding to your cupboard)

Method

  • Cut the cauliflower into small florets and leave in a bowl covered with water
  • Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds
  • As soon as they begin to pop and they do! take off heat and add all the spices including salt
  • Add a tiny splash of water and gently fry spices for a couple of minutes
  • Add cauliflower and peas, cover tightly and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring intermittently to ensure it doesn’t stick to the pan
  • You may need to add a small splash of water but if the cauli is soaked in water, you shouldn’t need any
11Jul/15

Jiffy chickpeas

Chickpeas easy(2)

A jiffy chickpeas recipe for quick lunch which you could take to work or have with pitta bread.

Ingredients

1 tin chickpeas, drained
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cumin powder
Good pinch chilli powder (optional, use sweet paprika if you don’t like it hot!)
A little salt to taste
Few curry leaves  (optional if you don’t have it but they do add a lovely flavour. It is easier to find these days, I have seen some in Tescos in the veg section and also Schwartz do one in a little bottle – well worth adding to your cupboard)

Method

  1. Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds
  2. When the seeds turn brown (1 minute), take off heat and add all the spices, tomatoes & curry leaves
  3. Cover and cook for 10 minutes on low heat until tomatoes are softened
  4. Add chickpeas, cook for a further 3-4 minutes and serve
06Jul/15

Jiffy Fava Beans

Fava beans

If you’ve not tried Fava beans you’ve missed out big time!  I usually just buy Egyptian, Lebanese or Saudi style fava beans in tins as these are so quick and easy for lunch or as a side dish with some veg.  The other day it occurred to me that I had never actually tried buying plain fava beans in a tin and popping in some of my own flavours….this has now been remedied and here we are, fava beans in a jiffy and you can add whichever herb(s) you wish; thyme, marjoram, oregano, mint, parsley or coriander as I have in this recipe.

Goes well with the Maneesh (click here for the recipe) I also made the other day or cold with a green salad.

Maneesh(2)

Ingredients

1 tin of fava beans
1 medium onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons oil
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cumin powder
A little chopped fresh coriander
Lemon juice

Method

  1. Fry the onion and garlic in the oil until golden
  2. Add turmeric and cumin powder and on low heat give it a quick stir or two
  3. Drain the beans and add to the onion mixture
  4. On low heat, stir the beans to blend with the spices for 3-4 minutes
  5. Sprinkle some fresh coriander and lemon juice
06Jul/15

Maneesh – Middle Eastern flatbread

Maneesh(2)

So here we are….Maneesh done and dusted and to clinch the deal, it is simple. Always wanted to try this but for me trying a new bread recipe is inevitably daunting. The thing to do is take the plunge and see what happens….never fails to surprise me…either a total failure, a tad stodgy, not like the last loaf I made etc etc, or simply perfect, and this Maneesh was an unqualified success; trust me, follow the recipe, don’t worry about the dough being a little sloppy or sticky, see it rise and blow up, pat it into disks and pop it into the oven.

I have followed Paul Hollywood’s basic recipe with a little tweaking. For example, I found 300ml of water was sufficient, the dough is quite sticky and soft but that is how it is meant to be.  Use olive oil on the work surface or pastry board while kneading, you may need to do this a few times.  Using a rolling pin to roll the dough didn’t work for me as it stuck to the dough so just pat it with your hands and push it outwards with your fingers to form a respectable disk – that’s simple and works; the result is what you see in the picture.

For garnish I have used Zaatar which is a mix of powdered dried herbs and spices used lavishly in the Middle East, Egypt and Lebanon.  There are various recipes for Zaatar but the basic is thyme, sesame seeds, sumak and a little salt; if you can’t lay your hands on sumak, just leave it out or add a tiny bit of citric acid powder.  Here is a link if you wish to buy Zaatar online – it is a delicious and fragrant mix which can be sprinkled on toast, salads, soups and stews.

Another thing I noticed about Maneesh was that when it came out of the oven, smelling heavenly of course, it was quite crusty, however, the top softens somewhat when cool. In this batch we are going to make 3 loaves of Maneesh – I put a couple in the fridge and the next day I warmed these in the oven for 3-4 minutes and it was beautifully crusty again! It is fine to freeze and easy to take to work with a slice of vegan cheese or whatever you fancy.  By the way, I also tried a piece with some damson jam….divine! 

Makes 3 loaves

Ingredients

500 grams strong white flour
2 level teaspoons salt
25 grams/2 level tablespoons caster sugar
10g fast action yeast
1½ tablespoon olive oil plus some for kneading and rolling
300ml lukewarm water 

Topping – mix ingredients and set aside
3 heaped tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons Zaatar
3 tablespoons olive oil (you may need a little more to make a spreadable paste)

Maneesh(3)

 Method 

  • In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, sugar and yeast
  • Add olive oil and two-thirds of the water and mix
  • Add more water and continue to bring the flour together into a ball – this will be quite sticky but that’s fine
  • Oil a pastry board or work surface and knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes (click here for kneading video). You may need to coat the board with more oil if the dough sticks and it will!
  • The dough should now be smooth and soft but could still be a little sticky, no worries
  • Form into a ball, place in a clean bowl and cover with clean teacloth and leave to rise in a warm place for about 90 minutes – it should double, if not give it a little more time

Maneesh(1)

  • Turn it over on the board and flatten it by folding it back on itself a few times – it will be quite springy!
  • Divide into 3 portions and flatten each portion out with the palm of your hands; use your fingers to make an approximate circle and push the dough gently away from you as you do this. Rolling pin didn’t work for me as the dough is very bouncy!
  • Place on 3 oiled trays, cover loosely with cling film and let it rest for 20 minutes
  • Gently brush the Zaatar and sesame seed paste on to the Maneesh – I used a blunt knife
  • Pop into a pre-heated oven at 230C/450F or gas mark 8. My oven only goes up to 220 so that is what I had to settle for and it worked
  • The cooking time will vary from oven to oven, which rack the bread is on in the oven and the temperature. The one on the top shelf in my oven was done in 15 minutes; the other two on the lower shelf took almost 20 minutes so eyeballing is essential
  • Cool on a wire rack if you’re strong….I tore a piece out almost immediately off my first loaf as you can see in the picture if you look real hard!

Now sit back and admire your handiwork….artisan bread you can be rightly proud of!