All posts by Raks


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.



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


  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

Maneesh – Middle Eastern flatbread


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


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)



  • 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


  • 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!


Mixed vegetable curry

Mixed vegetable curry(2)
I haven’t posted recently and am sorry about this…been so busy with the garden and other things which took priority.  Anyway, here is a simple mixed veg curry you could rustle up with any vegetable you have available.  I had a medium size aubergine (which believe it or not was half rotten so only used the good half), potatoes of course, and some frozen spinach which I put together to make this super delicious curry.


1 medium onion, sliced
3 tablespoons oil
3 tomatoes, or 2 large tablespoons tomato puree
3 medium potatoes, diced
1 medium aubergine, cut into chunks
100-150 grams spinach, about 3 handfuls fresh or frozen leaf spinach
4 cloves garlic, finely minced or chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, finely minced or chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt to taste


  • Fry onion in oil until pale golden
  • Add spices, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and a little salt
  • Fry on low/medium heat for 2 minutes, cover and cook on low for 10 minutes – add small splash of water if required
  • Add vegetables and about 300ml of water, bring to boil, lower heat and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are cooked and the sauce is thick

Brown rice, Puy lentils & French beans

Brown rice green beans(4)

Rushing off to Cornwall for a long weekend so no time to write much about this except that it is simple and very quick to put together.  The flash fry cherry tomatoes make a perfect addition and complete the meal.


300 grams brown Basmati rice
100 grams Puy lentils
200 grams French green beans, cut in two
2 medium onions, sliced (I used red onions)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 inch stick cinnamon
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
700ml water
Approx. 300 grams cherry or baby plum tomatoes, cut in half
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fruit vinegar (I used Bickerton’s Blackberry fruit vinegar)
2 tablespoons Aspall’s White Wine Vinegar
OR if you don’t have wine and fruit vinegar, you could substitute with 2 tablespoons of Balsamic vinegar
Handful of fresh mint leaves, torn (or 1 teaspoon dried mint)


  • In a large, wide saucepan, fry the onions and cinnamon stick in oil for about 5 minutes until translucent and the edges just turning brown
  • Add turmeric and beans and fry for a minute or so

Brown rice green beans

  • Add rice, Puy lentils, salt and 700ml water

Brown rice green beans(3)

  • Bring to boil on high, lower heat and cover and simmer for approximately 20-25 minutes, stirring a couple of times to ensure it doesn’t stick to the pan


  • Heat oil in a frying pan and add tomatoes
  • Fry for 2 minutes on high, add white wine vinegar and fruit vinegar and mint
  • Give it a stir or two and serve with rice

Semolina Nut Crunch

Semolina Nut bars(2)

I don’t do sweets and chocolates much! but I do like a small piece of something sweet after dinner….just one little morsel. Usually it’s chocolate but the other day I was reminded of this semolina nut crunch my great aunt used to do!! I never really got the recipe from her – too young to be bothered with recipes and far more interested in munching – but I think this is the closest I will get to the original, and it turned out crunchy and nutty and not overly sweet which suits me just fine.

I have used golden syrup although I am pretty sure my great aunt made her own sugar syrup, but golden syrup works and it is simpler.  I love almonds and pistachios and as she used these nuts so have I, but you can choose your favourite nuts to substitute.


150 grams semolina
2 tablespoons oil
2 cardamom pods
3 heaped tablespoons golden syrup mixed with 3 tablespoons of hot water
25 grams almonds , coarsely chopped or partially ground
25 grams pistachios, coarsely chopped or partially ground (substitute with whichever nuts you prefer)


  • Heat the oil in a pan and add semolina
  • On low heat saute the semolina, stirring all the time until a pale golden – this will take about 5 minutes. Be careful as semolina burns easily so keep stirring with a wooden spoon
  • Remove from heat and immediately add nuts and golden syrup mixed with hot water and stir until mixed thoroughly
  • Put in a small shallow dish (mine is approximately 5 x 7 inches) and press down with the back of a wooden spoon or use your fingers to press it down firmly

Semolina Nut bars

  • Give it 20 minutes to cool a little and using a very sharp knife lightly score into squares or rectangles – don’t cut, just score
  • After a couple of hours cut through the squares making sure you use a sharp, pointed knife

Note: Store in an air tight tin in a cool place – will last for a couple of weeks without any problem but I doubt if there will be any left to store for 2 weeks! I find the texture is better the next day, chewier.


Shepherdess Pie

Shepherdess Pie(2)

This version of shepherdess pie is slightly different in that I have used some tomato puree and oregano to flavour the plant based mince and instead of mashing the potatoes, I sliced them thinly and arranged a double layer on top of the mince.

Normally I would add maybe some mushrooms and do a more traditional version, but I found the tomato puree (use tomatoes if you wish) and the oregano give it a more summery flavour and the sliced potatoes don’t absorb the gravy as much as mash and the result is altogether very scrumptious indeed.

Shepherdess Pie(4)

2 large, 4 small servings


1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons oil
1 large carrot, sliced
2 large sticks celery, sliced
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups of frozen vegan mince
7-8 medium potatoes, thinly sliced and coated in 1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 teaspoon Marmite OR 1 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos OR 1 tablespoon soya sauce
2 teaspoons Biona Worcester sauce
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon oregano
600ml water
1 tablespoon corn flour mixed with a little cold water


  • Fry onions and garlic in oil until translucent
  • Add celery and carrots and fry for a further 2-3 minutes
  • Add all other ingredients and approximately 600mls of water, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes
  • Add corn flour paste and simmer for a further 2-3 minutes, stirring to keep it from sticking – take the bay leaves out now and check for seasoning; you shouldn’t need any salt

Shepherdess Pie(3)

  • Put the sliced potatoes in a bowl and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon olive oil and mix well
  • Layer the potatoes on the mince, cover tightly with lid or foil and bake in oven at 200C, 400F or gas mark 6 for 45 minutes until potatoes are cooked
  • Remove cover and pop under hot grill for 10 minutes to brown the potatoes

Puy lentils with spinach

Green lentils spinach(2)

I love lentils and beans for obvious reasons and cook them very often, in one form or another because they are so versatile.  For those who don’t, do please try specially if you are vegan; they are a source of vital nutrition, vitamins, protein and fibre, specially if you use the lentils with the skins on, like green or brown lentils. Add a handful of spinach and voila! complete delicious meal served with steamed rice (link for rice) and a helping of your favourite salad.

I used French green lentils (smaller and speckled known as Puy) but you could use the usual slightly larger, lighter green lentils too.  Here is a link briefly explaining green lentils.  Puy lentils with spinach is so quick and simple; another reason to make it a regular feature on your menu.


150 grams Puy lentils (no need to soak)
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch piece ginger, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
Little chilli powder (optional, I didn’t use any)
100 grams fresh or frozen spinach
½ teaspoon dried oregano
2-3 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds


  • Wash and cook the dal with all the spices and salt in 700ml water – about 30-35 minutes
  • When the lentils are cooked and the dal is thickish, add the spinach and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  • Adjust the consistency of the dal when you add the spinach – if you like it thinner, add a little more water
  • For tadka: Heat the oil and add cumin seeds. Give it 30 seconds and add onions and fry until golden
  • Pour fried onions and cumin on the dal and serve with rice – I made some aloo gobi too and dinner was served, with a flourish!

Aloo gobi dinner



Aloo gobi

Aloo gobi(2)

Here’s the way I do my aloo gobi…you know the one we inevitably order when we go for a curry…. The sauce is very basic with tomatoes but the trick is to first add the potatoes and then 10 minutes later pop in the florets – keeps them nice and crisp and perfectly cooked – add them all together at your peril….potatoes take longer to cook and poor cauli suffers the “squidgy mush” syndrome.

I also tend to use a few of the stalks provided they are nice and fresh….why waste? And they add flavour and texture so do give it a go.

Aloo gobi dinner

Serves 4


1 small cauliflower (my florets weighed about 350-400 grams)
Few cauliflower stems and leaves if fresh, roughly chopped
3 medium potatoes (about 500 grams), cut into 4 each
1 medium onion, sliced
3 tablespoons oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
1½ inch piece of ginger, minced or chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 heaped teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
2-3 medium tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato puree (or add more tomatoes)
Salt to taste
A little fresh coriander for garnish


  • Fry the onions in oil until golden
  • Add all the spices, tomatoes, tomato puree and salt

Aloo gobi

  • Cover and cook gently until tomatoes are cooked and mushy – add a small splash of water if required

Aloo gobi(3)

  • Add potatoes and cauliflower stems (if using) and 150ml water and cook for 10 minutes

Aloo gobi(4)

  • Now add the cauliflower and cook for a further 15 minutes
  • Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve with rice or chapatti

Courgette (zucchini) with chilli flakes

Courgettes with chillies(2)

Here is a simple and easy courgette (zucchini) recipe with chilli flakes which takes no time to prepare and can be used in a wrap to take to work for lunch or as a side dish with rice and lentils!  Make it as hot as you like or alternatively use one of the milder chilli varieties – your choice!

Don’t be tempted to add water or you will end up with a very mushy plate of courgettes…..simply cover and cook on low as there is enough moisture in the courgettes. If you like them really crunchy, cut the courgettes into strips rather than rounds!


3 medium courgettes, sliced
1 large onion, sliced (don’t skimp with the onions! they go very well with courgettes)
1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon red chilli flakes (use the mild variety if you don’t like it hot – for example, Ancho Poblano is a mild chilli. You can buy chillies from Amazon or South Devon Chilli Farm)
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons oil


  • Heat oil and add cumin seeds, give it 30 seconds and add onions
  • Fry gently until translucent and edges begin to turn brown
  • Add the rest of the ingredients, cover and cook on low for about 10-12 minutes, stirring to ensure the courgettes don’t stick to the pan. If you prefer the courgettes crunchy, reduce the cooking time
  • Serve with any flat bread, chapatti, or wrap



Lentil nuggets and curry sauce

Urad dal pakoras(3)

Not enough can be said to extol the virtues of lentils specially in a vegan/vegetarian diet.  They are full of nutrition and a source of protein and should be the mainstay of any vegan or vegetarian diet – they are so versatile and you lose out big time if you don’t get to know them intimately. There is a huge variety of lentils available and yet most of us don’t venture beyond orange lentils or mung beans.  Did you know that lentils without the skin taste completely different to lentils with the skin – for example, take the ubiquitous orange lentil – have you tried the very same with the skin? a very different story ……

Lentil nuggets are deliciously crunchy and so easy to make and yet for some reason had slipped off my repertoire – some things do and then one day it just appears on the radar, triggered by some unknown thought or action….who knows! Anyway, the other day I opened the cupboard to get my usual orange lentils out and spotted the jar of urad dal which I admit doesn’t get as much attention from me as the other lentils….and that is how it came to be.

Urad dal pakoras(2)

I forgot to soak the lentils overnight but 4 hours in luke warm water is enough and does the trick. As I was doing the nuggets as part of our evening meal, I decided to make a curry sauce with floating nuggets and you can see for yourself that it was a huge success – lentil nuggets are back on the menu!  For this curry sauce I used yogurt instead of tomatoes but there is nothing to stop you from adding a tablespoon or so of tomato puree.

Urad dal pakoras(6)

Urad dal is a sticky lentil so if you add a little to your regular orange lentil, it will give it a slightly gloopy texture – try it.  Lentil nuggets can be made with just urad dal or a 50/50 combination of urad and mung dal but I have used just urad for this recipe. Give it a go and you’ll see what I mean – it is so simple and the texture of the nuggets is firm and crunchy unlike pakoras made with gram flour (basan).

Makes about 15-16 nuggets


200 grams skinless urad dal (soak overnight in cold water or for 4 hours in warm water)
1 teaspoon onion granules
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon paprika
½ level teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Handful of chopped fresh coriander
Oil to fry
Little chopped fresh coriander for garnish


  • Rinse the soaked dal and grind in blender to a coarse, thick paste
  • Add all the ingredients and mix well

Urad dal pakoras

  • Gently form into small, golf size balls – the balls will be soft but that’s fine
  • Heat some oil in a small wok – about ¼ inch of oil
  • Fry the nuggets for 10 minutes, turning to brown all sides. Using 2 forks to turn them over works well for me
  • Serve with a sweet chutney or in a curry sauce (see below) and eat with rice

Curry sauce

Urad dal pakoras(5)


1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
1½ inch piece ginger, minced or finely chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (available at all Asian stores or online – buy small packet as it goes a long way)
½ teaspoon paprika (for colour)
Little salt
100ml unsweetened natural yogurt (I used Sojade)


  • Fry the onion in oil until golden
  • Mix all the spices with the yogurt and a little water and add to the onions
  • Fry the spices for about 6-7 minutes, adding small splashes of water if required
  • Add about 400ml of water and let the curry sauce simmer on low for about 20 minutes
  • Check the sauce for preferred consistency and add the urad dal nuggets and simmer for a further 5 minutes
  • Sprinkle the chopped coriander and serve with boiled rice