potato salada



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Whenever I find myself feeling “homesick” for Japan and Japanese food, it’s not the niku jagas and shabu shabu’s I crave (although they do have their place) but more often than not it’s the Japanese versions of Western dishes, otherwise known asyoshuku“.

Dishes like hambaga, mentaiko pasta and potato salada (potato salad) – all reinvented and made wonderfully and uniquely Japanese.  These impressions of European food served alongside mounds of seasoned rice and fish in bento boxes saw me through many a train journey, emergency trip to the 7-11 and school lunch during the years I lived out there.

Japanese potato salad is more like a Russian salad with gently pickled vegetables folded in. I was recently sent a review copy of the excellent Japanese Soul Cooking (by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat) which has a whole chapter on Yoshuku recipes including ones for ebi gratin and saikoro steak, which I’m also looking forward to making.

Here’s their version of potato salada, the only adjustments I’ve made are a smidge of Dijon, a touch of sugar to balance and red onion instead of Spanish. Make sure you use proper Kewpie mayonnaise for this, it’s really not the same otherwise.

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serves 4

2 medium Maris Piper potatoes, (about 450g/1lb) peeled and coarsely chopped

1 tbsp. plus 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

115g (4 oz) cucumber, thinly sliced (if using Japanese or Persian cucumbers leave the skin on, otherwise peel and deseed)

1/2 medium carrot, (about 55g/2 oz) peeled, thinly sliced

1/4 medium Spanish onion (about 85g/3oz) peeled and thinly sliced

125ml (1/2) cup water

1 tbsp. vinegar

60ml Kewpie mayonnaise

method

- to cook the potatoes, fill a saucepan large enough to cover the potatoes with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Place over a high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook the potatoes for about 10 minutes or until a skewer goes through them easily. Drain and coarsely mash the potatoes, so small chunks are still visible. Set aside and allow the potatoes to come to room temperature.

- Add the cucumber, carrot, onion and 1 tsp. of the salt to a bowl. Use your hands to mix the ingredients, making sure they’re well coated with the salt. Allow the vegetables to cure for 5 minutes. Add the water and swirl the ingredients in the water to remove the salt. Squeeze the cured vegetables tightly with your hands to expel the liquid.

-Add the vegetables and potatoes to a large bowl and mix together well. Add the vinegar and mix to combine. Add the mayonnaise, pepper and the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt. Mix together well until the salad is smooth, and serve.

Variations- you can also add a couple of hard boiled eggs for extra richness and flavour. Mash the eggs and add them along with the potatoes and cured vegetables.

You can also riff on this recipe in a bunch of ways, to wit: Add 25g mentaiko, spicy marinated pollock roe. Or add 90g cooked hijiki. Or add 2 tbsp. of chopped shiso leaves or 1 tbsp. curry powder, or 2 tsp. karashi mustard or 1 tsp. shichimi togorashi or 2 tsp. wasabi or 1 tsp. red yuzu kosho.


Aloo saag pies


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Behold the traditional creamy Bengali aloo saag pie. Made by countless generations of Bengalis before me and whole lines of master bakers before them, passed down from generation to generation…well,ok maybe not. But you know who really cares, as long as they taste good? And these are pretty amazing. These delicate spiced vegetarian pies have become my latest default midweek treat. Basically, I’ll make the curry and have it with rice the night before and use any leftovers, (which have had the chance to rest and develop overnight) into these moreish little morsels the next day. I’m not sure exactly what it is that makes them quite so delicious, I think it’s something to do with the contrast of bold spices encased in something fragile and delicate (which is why samosas work so well). Perfect for impromptu picnics or just for coaxing a bit of greenery into fussy little mouths.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2-3  potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. garlic crushed, 1 tbsp. ginger grated
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp.chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1-2 tsp. salt plus a pinch of sugar
  • half a tin of tomatoes
  • 200ml water/stock
  • 1 or 2 finely sliced green chillies (maybe leave these out if you’re making for any little people)
  • (optional) a walnut-sized lump of tamarind
  • a couple of big handfuls of spinach leaves, finely shredded
  • 4-5 tbsp. finely chopped coriander
  • handful of frozen peas
  • equal quantities of puff pastry and shortcrust pastry
  • 1 tbsp. nigella seeds

METHOD

  • fry the onions and curry leaves with mustard seeds over a medium heat until the onions have taken on a brown tinge. Add the ginger, garlic and potatoes. Fry for about 15 minutes then add remaining spices and some salt.
  • Add the tomatoes, 200ml water/stock a pinch of sugar, plus the tamarind and chillies if using. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and you’re left with a thick tomatoey gravy. Stir in the spinach leaves and peas. Add a dollop of creme fraiche if you’re feeling fancy, or natural yoghurt. Sprinkle over the coriander and immediately eat a bowlful with rice or chapattis.
  • The next day, roll out the shortcrust pastry and line a muffin tin with circles. Bake blind for 15 minutes at 180C before filling with any leftover potato-spinach mixture (reheat with a splash of water and pad out with more vegetables, cooked lentils if necessary). Cover with circles of puff pastry which have been sprinkled with the nigella seeds, and bake for 15-20 minutes at 180C.

roasted Bengali tomato salad with mooli parathas

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Whenever I’m faced with a glut of tomatoes all I can think of is making a traditional Bengali bortha or a proper, garlicky roasted tomato salad. Here I’ve combined the two, to make an every day salad a bit more exciting and to add sweetness and depth to the Bengali classic. You can buy mustard oil in most Asian supermarkets or you can easily buy it online – a little goes a long way. This is fantastic with a simple bowl of dhal and some flaky, radish stuffed parathas to mop up all those garlic and chilli flecked juices.

ingredients

vine tomatoes, quartered

2-3 tsp. mustard oil

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 fresh chilli finely chopped

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

1 small bunch fresh coriander, chopped

walnut-sized lump of tamarind dissolved in a bit of boiling water, to taste

method

put the tomatoes in a roasting tin and drizzle with the mustard oil. Sprinkle over the sugar, salt, cumin, garlic and chilli. Roast at 180C for 30 minutes.

Let the tomatoes cool off a little, then toss with the red onion, coriander and tamarind. Add more salt and chilli to taste.

To make the parathas

500g each of chapatti and plain flour

1 tbsp. melted ghee

1-2 tsp. salt

1/2 daikon/mooli/big white radish peeled and grated

pinch of chilli powder

1 tsp. garam masala powder

method

mix the flours, ghee, salt and enough warm water to form a supple dough.

Set aside and grate the mooli. Mix with the chilli powder, garam masala and a pinch of salt.

Give the dough another knead and divide into lemon sized balls.

Roll one out into a disc, spread with a thin layer of the radish (being careful not to overstuff) and roll out another.

Top the first paratha with the second, pressing along the edges to seal and roll very very gently a couple of times.

Heat some oil in a frying pan/tawa. Carefully slide in the paratha and cook until golden.

Turn over and cook the other side. Serve hot.


coconut panch phoran sprouts

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Sprouts are possibly my least favourite of all vegetables. I’ve always been baffled by their time honoured spot on the table of otherwise deliciousness that makes up Christmas lunch.

So when an errant net of these toxic little brassicas turned up in my veg box I decided to do what I always do when faced with the unpalatable and give them a Bengali makeover.

Panch phoran, that magical Bengali five spice of fennel, fenugreek, cumin, mustard and nigella works really effectively here, namely because the fennel and mustard seeds temper and tame any sulphuric business. You do need to shred the sprouts quite finely and to patiently steam fry over a lowish heat until they’re properly caramelised and charred. A splash of coconut milk to mellow things out and a handful of prawns if you’ve got them make this a killer dish to have alongside a nice tomato, red onion and coriander salad and a stack of parathas to mop the lot up.

ingredients

brussel sprouts, trimmed and finely shredded
1 tbsp. oil
a pinch of turmeric
1-2 tsp. panch phoran (alternatively add fennel, cumin, mustard, nigella, fenugreek seeds)
1 onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. fresh finely shredded ginger
1 tsp. dried red chilli (or chilli powder)
salt
sugar
200ml coconut milk

method

  • heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and all the spices.
  • Tip in the sprouts, mix well and fry over a lowish heat, partially covered with a lid for about 15-20 minutes or until charred and caramelised.
  • Add the salt and sugar and adjust seasoning according to taste. Add the coconut milk and serve.

Bengali style courgette flowers

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Tricky, pretty things, courgette flowers. Fiddly to stuff and yet too good to chuck away. I’m a big fan of Helen’s brown shrimp and crab recipe and also this quesadilla one, by Homesick Texan. My mum likes to rake them through a lightly spiced batter before shallow frying. These are especially good with cucumber raita and a hot cup of tea.

ingredients

courgette flowers

2 tbsp. gram flour

2 tbsp. rice flour

1 shallot, grated

1 clove of garlic, crushed

2 tsp. grated ginger

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. powdered cumin

1 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. curry powder

1 tbsp. finely chopped coriander leaves

1 tsp. salt

cold water

method

  • Mix all the ingredients bar the flowers, adding enough water to form a thick paste.
  • remove the stamens from the flowers. Dredge each flower in the paste until fully coated.
  • shallow fry until crisp. Eat immediately.

Papeta Pur Eeda AKA Eggs on Potato

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I’m a truly rubbish Muslim. Seriously. I’ve been known to enjoy the odd half of snakebite, am married to a devout atheist; rarely buy halal anything and would never dream of circumcising my baby boy.  Despite this, I’m still a Muslim and am therefore incredibly excited about the UK’s first and indeed, the world’s largest halal food festival at the London ExCel from 27-29 September.  Let’s face it,  it’s about time “haloodies” were represented in a predominantly non-Islamic foodie ocean of white, middle class bacon munchers. As Islamophobia continues to spread its poisonous tentacles and as seemingly every government, power and faction has homicidal designs upon the people of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon; it’s good to see something positive for Muslims for a change, even if that something is as simple as a food festival.

The festival will feature cooking demos from Cyrus Todiwala, Shelina Permaloo and Jean Christophe Novelli. I’m particularly excited about the  launch of Indian street food by Cinnamon Kitchen chefs “Joho Soho” and can’t wait to try their Bengali mutton and fenugreek chicken.  I’m also looking forward to feasting on Palestinian medjool dates, stuffed with organic fairtrade nuts and topped with rosebuds by The Datelatiers. Meanwhile here’s a recipe for Papeta pur eeda or “simply divine eggs on potato” from Cyrus Todiwala. Mashallah!

Cyrus’ PAPETA PUR EEDA

THIS IS QUITE SIMPLY DIVINE “EGGS ON POTATO”.

INGREDIENTS
POTATO One large, peeled and sliced to approximately 1/8th of aninch thick. If you have a mandolin you’ll get more even slices, otherwise do not fret.

one medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 small, finely chopped green chilli
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 heaped tbsp. finely chopped fresh coriander
4 eggs, organic if possible
salt, to taste

two to three tablespoons or half oil half butter (Cyrus prefers to add a healthy heap of butter once the cumin is coloured)

METHOD
Peel, slice the potato, wash and set aside.
Slit the onion into half and slice thinly.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the cumin seeds.
Allow them to sizzle for a minute or two over a medium flame.
Add the green chillies & garlic, saute for a further minute or two before adding the sliced onion. Saute for a minute or two until opaque and add the potato slices.
Saute for at least three to four minutes, sprinkle salt and level out the contents of the pan. Add enough water to just below the level of the contents, cover the pan and on a low flame cook until the potatoes are just tender, but still firm without being mushy.
At this stage Cyrus likes to add a small spring onion thinly sliced and sprinkled, but it is optional. Sprinkle over the coriander, check the seasoning, mix gently and level the contents of the pan again, ensuring the sides of the pan are clean.
Make four, well spaced indentations with an egg where you would like to have each egg. This should roughly be one and a half inches from the sides of the pan.
Break each egg taking care to drop the yolk into each cavity.
Cover the pan and cook over a very low flame.
The eggs will poach in the steam, however if the heat is too high the potatoes will burn.
When done to your liking, cut out into four segments and serve with mango chutney and warm baguettes.


double chilli beanburgers

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I   have quite the soft spot for the spicy beanburger. This has less to do with the weird, pappy texture and everything to do with the memory it evokes of errant teenage years. My first ever boyfriend was a very angry, very well read and very political vegetarian. He was also an excellent cook. Together we’d stomp around the mean streets of HA2 in our army surplus jackets, going halves on packets of Superkings and taking the proverbial out of all the posh kids from the hill. Our favourite past time was frittering away hours in charity shops and second hand record shops. The best one by far had to be Sellanby on Northolt Road. I once flogged my entire Throwing Muses and Mudhoney collection in there just to scrape together the necessary to make a pavlova. Any particularly good finds would be celebrated with a spicy beanburger from the Wimpy.

These, thankfully are nothing like the ones from the Wimpy. They’re much, much tastier, despite all the salt*.  A couple of points – you do need to char the hell out of them and they are pretty crumbly so make sure you cook them properly on each side to ensure a good crust.  Also, *you will need a ton of salt.  Plus a long list of other ingredients, including an entire jar of chipotle paste.  You absolutely must not leave the fresh green chilli out, and I urge you to add more if you feel the need. Oh, and you will need to soak your beans overnight and roast and grate some beetroot.  In short, they are a tremendous faff, but they are totally and utterly worth it. This makes enough for about 50 so once you’ve perfected your magenta mastermix you can just stash it away in the freezer forever.

ingredients

3 large whole beetroot

300g of your favourite dried beans (I went for a mixture of 100g each of aduki, black turtle and kidney) soaked overnight

100g brown rice

2 medium onions

5 cloves garlic

a fistful of coriander stalks, chopped finely

1 dried chipotle

2 heaped tsp. cumin seeds

olive oil

vegetable stock, about a litre

2 tbsp. cider vinegar

v.fine porridge oats (whizz fat ones in the blender if necessary)

2-3 tsp. Colmans mustard

2 tbsp. dark soy sauce

2 tbsp. dark miso paste

2 tsp. dried thyme

2 tsp. dried oregano

100g jar of chipotle paste

1 tbsp. smoked paprika

1-2 fresh green chillies, finely sliced

a lot of salt. Honestly, I must have used at least 2 tablespoons.

method

  • heat a splash of olive oil and add the cumin seeds, whole chipotle, one of the onions  and half the garlic.  Once browned add the coriander stalks and the soaked beans, plus enough vegetable stock to cover. Bring to the boil then simmer for an hour.
  • Wrap the beetroot in foil and roast at Gas mark 6 for an hour.  Add the brown rice to the beans and continue to simmer for another half an hour or until the beans are tender, the rice is cooked and the water has almost evaporated.
  • In a small frying pan, fry the remaining onion and garlic.  Once browned, splash in the cider vinegar to deglaze and set aside. Allow the beetroot to cool before grating into a bowl. Blitz the rice and bean mixture in a food processor and stir into the grated beetroot (you can either finely chop the whole chipotle or chuck it at this point), adding the fried onion and garlic mixture  and enough oats to form a moist mixture (a bit like the texture of mince).
  • Season with the mustard, smoked paprika, miso, soy sauce, salt, chipotle paste, thyme and oregano. Stir in the fresh green chilli.  Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours before forming into patties and then frying in a little olive oil, ensuring the burgers are well charred on both sides.

Roasted carrot, red lentil and blood orange soup

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So the book’s been officially on sale for a week now, and amazingly has sold out not once, but twice already on Amazon, which has been pretty surreal to say the least.

It’s been a total honour to work with such an excellent team, and I’d like to give a massive great thanks to Rosemary Scoular, Wendy Millyard and everyone at Kyle. A huge thank you to Aaron Blecha and Nicky Collings who designed the book and also gave this blog its rather cracking makeover. A special shout out goes to the brilliant Chris Terry for the awesome photos and of course to Joe, for making me look vaguely human despite being 8 months up the duff in the photostories.

If you’re interested, here’s what the Metro had to say about it, and even the Mail online voted it their food book of the week which was unexpected. I had a chat with Robert Elms about it on BBC LDN, and to my enormous surprise made the ‘British Bangladeshi Power 100‘  list which left me completely gobsmacked and very happy indeed.

Blah blah blah blah me me me me. Just buy my book, ok?

Anyway here’s a nice recipe for some soup.

roasted carrot, red lentil and blood orange soup

750g carrots, peeled and chopped into big hunks

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp. cumin seeds

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

150g red lentils

500ml chicken or vegetable stock

salt

cheese rind (optional)

the juice and zest of 3 blood oranges,

a big fistful of chopped parsley

method

  • in a roasting dish, toss the carrots in half the shallots, 1 tsp salt and 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes at 160C.
  • Heat the remaining olive oil in a saucepan and sprinkle in the cumin seeds. Once they release their fragrance add the second shallot, garlic and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes.
  • Tip in the red lentils and stir well for a couple of minutes. Pour in the stock and cheese rind if using.
  • After about 30 minutes or when the lentils are tender add the roasted carrots and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  • Add the blood orange zest and juice and more salt if necessary. Remove the cheese rind an blend until smooth and stir in the parsley.

Za’atar Onion Rings

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One of the main reasons I could never move to the countryside is because I seriously couldn’t bear to be too far from the ethnic shops and grocers I’ve grown up with in the smoke. I’m constantly amazed at the comedy prices supermarkets slap onto exotic ingredients like those miniature packets of okra, tiny bags of rootless coriander leaves, pickled lemons and tahini. But then, I am lucky enough to live near a Moroccan butchers where I can scoop up big bottles of pomegranate molasses, decorative tins of harissa and home made packages of nutty, herb flecked za’tar at about an eighth of the price. It’s always nice when you can make dishes that don’t ultimately taste of rip off.

I wanted to try something more exciting with my za’atar than just dipping it in bread and these onion rings were the answer. Hot and crunchy with the fluffiest of fillings; we gingerly ate them dipped straight from the pan into cold, creamy yoghurt speckled with garlic, mint, cumin and salt.

serves 2

ingredients

1 large onion, sliced into rings and separated

100g rice flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

8 tbsp. za’atar

1 egg

250-300ml milk

a dinner plate sprinkled with panko breadcrumbs

oil for frying

parmesan cheese, finely grated

a wire rack placed over some foil/kitchen roll

method

  • heat the oil
  • mix the flour, baking powder, za’atar and salt in a small bowl and dip the onion rings in this mixture until well coated. Set aside.
  • Crack the egg and whisk the milk into the remaining flour mixture in the small bowl and dip the floured onion rings into the batter, coating well. Place on the wire rack to drain.
  • combine the panko crumbs and Parmesan in a shallow platter coat each ring thoroughly. Tap off any excess.
  • deep fry the rings in small batches for about 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle over a little more za’atar and serve immediately.

Spiced Glazed Walnuts

Those nice people at Maldon salt sent me their frankly brilliant Desert Island Dishes cookbook. If you’d like to win a copy, just leave a comment below outlining what your desert island dish might be.


roasted pumpkin mulligatawny

It seems that the whole world and his wife have been struck down by the sniffles. Everyone I talk to sounds a bit bunged up, slightly red around the eyes and just a little bit blue. After working our way through some pretty vile cold powders, mugs of hot honey, lemon and ginger and inhaling endless bowls of steaming Vicks; it was this comforting soup,  that finally put paid to monsieur lurgy. Sweet, spicy and ambrosial on the throat, this makes an immense tureen. Perfect for squirreling away freezer-friendly stashes ready for the next onslaught.

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

850g pumpkin, hacked into chunks

270g parsnip, peeled and chopped into chunks

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp. curry powder

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tbsp. olive oil

35g butter

1 tsp. salt

1 large onion, finely chopped

75g ginger, peeled and finely chopped

150g brown basmati rice

145g/2 medium carrots, diced

110g celery sticks, diced

250g eating apples

4 green cardamom pods

1 tsp. turmeric

500ml chicken stock

400ml coconut milk

400g tinned tomatoes

2 tbsp. mango chutney

2 tbsp. fresh coriander

A big squeeze of lemon juice

black pepper

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180C. In a shallow roasting tray toss the pumpkin and parsnip chunks with the garlic, curry powder, cumin, salt and half the olive oil. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until tender and charred in places.
  • In a large saucepan heat the butter and remaining oil. Fry the onion and ginger for about 10 minutes over a low heat. Add the rice, carrots, celery, apple, cardamom and turmeric and continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes or until everything is well cooked.
  • Mash in the roasted pumpkin and parsnip along with the tempered oil from the roasting pan.
  • Pour in the stock, coconut milk, tinned tomatoes and adjust seasoning to taste. Simmer until the rice is tender.
  • Stir in the chutney and lemon juice. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle with the fresh coriander and lots of black pepper.

piccalilli

In need of some Christmas gift inspiration? Want something that looks and tastes like way more effort than is actually involved? Look no further than home made piccalilli. Your lucky recipient will think you’ve injected literally hours of love and care – the reality is an inexpensive crowdpleaser that once you’ve salted your veg, you can whip up in less than half an hour.

I absolutely cannot get enough of the stuff. I might even keep all these jars for myself.

The hardest bit is chopping and salting a small mountain of your favourite vegetables. As with most things, your own version is always going to be interplanetary light years away from anything you’ve bought from the shops. The best thing is, you can experiment with whatever combination of crunchy vegetables, variety of honey and flavoured vinegar you like (I’m currently waiting for a batch of stunningly vibrant beetroot, carrot and smoked garlic to develop). These take a good six weeks to mature, but I’ve had a sneaky taste the next day and still been pretty damn wowwed.

ingredients

5 x 500ml kilner jars
1.5kg mixture of yr favourite crunchy veg chopped into bite-sized chunks  (I used 1 small cauliflower, 4 bulbs of garlic, 2 heads of broccoli, 3 small leeks, 1 red onion, 3 courgettes)
80g sea salt
60g rice flour
20g turmeric
20g mustard powder
1 tbsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp  grated nutmeg
2 tsp. nigella seeds
2 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
2 tsp. coriander seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, finely chopped
500ml cider vinegar
500ml red wine vinegar
300g caster sugar
100g honey
method
  • sterilise your jars by rinsing well in hot soapy water and then drying in the oven at 180C for 20 minutes.
  • toss the vegetables thoroughly in the salt and leave in the fridge overnight in a colander with a bowl underneath.
  • The next day, mix the rice flour, turmeric, mustard powder, mustard seeds, nutmeg, nigella, cumin and coriander together in a bowl. Mix the vinegars together and add enough to the turmeric mixture to form a runny paste. Stir in the fresh ginger.
  • Heat the sugar, honey and remaining vinegar in a saucepan and bring to the boil. You might want to open a window at this point.
  • Scrape in the turmeric mixture and boil for about 5 minutes.Stir well.
  • Fold the hot vinegar mixture into the vegetables and load up the hot jars. Leave for 6 weeks. (If you can)

health nut balls

There’s a special place in my kitchen cupboard dedicated to all those crazy life-enhancing ‘restorative’ health foods I’ve purchased in a guilty haze after overdoing it or when I’m feeling under the weather. Zip lock bags of spirulina powder, maca powder, wheatgrass and wheatgerm all shoved to the back ready and waiting to anoint a bowl of porridge or salad. Endlessly waiting because of course, this is something I never, ever do.

Back in the day when I had actual time and evenings I could call my own, I would sometimes attend hot yoga classes where they would sell these little balls made of spirulina, ginseng, raw cacao and all manner of other crazy ‘superfoods’, for an extortionate amount of money. Full of ‘healthy’ protein, they’re supposed to be the perfect energy bombs in portable snack form. I’m not sure how good for you spirulina and maca powder really are, I know they’ve been called ‘superfood superheroes’ but personally, I don’t really buy into the whole superfoods thing. I just remember them tasting incredibly delicious.
Desperate to decimate the junk in my cupboards, I wondered how hard it might be to make my own. Not hard at all as it turns out. Don’t worry if you don’t have all of these ingredients, the key thing is to bind your oats and powders with the apple juice, so use whatever you have lurking around. Muesli and almond butter rolled in flakes of dried coconut is another delicious combination (in retrospect I wish I’d left the wheatgrass out as it truly is disgusting stuff). These handy little balls are the ideal thing for stashing in your bag and quelling those on the go late-afternoon munchies, perfect for us busy types who don’t always want to nibble on rubbish.
makes 8 balls

ingredients

2 tbsp.oats
2 tbsp. wheatgerm
2 tbsp. spriulina powder
2 tbsp. wheatgrass powder

2 tbsp. maca powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp. vanilla extract

100ml apple juice
3 tbsp. peanut butter

1 tbsp. honey

6 tbsp. tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

method

  • In a mixing bowl, combine the oats, wheatgerm, spirulina powder, maca powder and wheatgrass powder. Add the salt and sprinkle over the vanilla extract.
  • Mash in the peanut butter and honey and gradually drip in the apple juice until you’re left with a soft, slightly sticky play-doh like dough.
  • Adjust the salt and honey to taste.
  •  Using a scrap of cling film shape tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls and dip in the sesame seeds
  • Leave in the fridge for an hour or so to set before wrapping in cling film ready for the next time you need to snack on something insanely healthy.

tea spiced chickpeas with puffy spelt bread

“ahm joony faareigner ja git me yeah? Nooo. Naaaaah Jimmy I’ve nae idea wha’ ure sayin’” slurs the wild-eyed Asian guy with the Celtic scarf and hair like Jesus. The table of young office workers look shocked and slightly scared. I hold my head in my hands. It’s 2003 and I’m in The Cock with my mate Hermeet. We’ve just been working on the John Peel show and my Glaswegian Sikh colleague is pissed again. (Un?)fortunately nobody understands a word he’s saying. Earlier that day I watch him cheerfully trowel a good inch of butter onto his parathas. “Nobody does comfort food like us Punjabis” he tells me, or at least I think he does. He introduces me to the ambrosial delight that is chole bhature – or chickpea curry mopped up with deep fried bread. It’s basically the north Indian equivalent of beans on toast. Fast forward to now and it’s all I want to eat because it’s parky and I’m coming down with a treacherous cold.

Pairing up tangy, cumin-flecked legumes with crisp, puffy bhature equals pure magic. Traditionally these yeasty, slightly spongy orbs are deep fried. I prefer to cut down on the cholesterol overload by shallow frying, and I’ve made mine with spelt flour over plain, and with yeast over baking soda. So not really bhature in the sense your average North Indian might recognise, but still pretty damned tasty. You can of course make the curry beforehand, but it’s important to dish up the bread as you fry it, perhaps with a nice cool raita alongside, for that triple texture-taste delight.

Boiling the chickpeas with Assam or Darjeeling teabags, really encourages an authentic street-vendor mahogany hue. You could just chuck in tinned, but for me, nothing beats the nutty bite of raw to soaked and it’s hardly that much of a faff. With a bit of forward planning you’re looking at an unbelievably cheap eat with tons leftover to freeze.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

For the chickpeas

250g dried chickpeas

3 teabags

3 large onions, finely chopped/blitzed in a processor

30g fresh ginger, finely chopped/blitzed

6-8 cloves garlic finely chopped/blitzed

1 ½ tsp. cumin seeds

1 black cardamom (use a couple of green if you don’t have any black ones)

6 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves

20 black peppercorns, tied in some muslin/a baby sock

1 tsp. turmeric powder

½ tsp. black salt powder (‘kala namak’ is available in asian shops, use 1 tsp. standard white salt if not)

A fat slice of butter

1 tsp. curry powder

Lots of freshly ground black pepper

½ -1 tsp. chilli powder

1 tsp. dried fenugreek powder

1 tsp. coriander powder

250g fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped

2-3 tbsp. finely chopped fresh coriander

Lemon wedges and v.finely sliced red onion to serve

For the spelt bhature

300g spelt flour

150g plain flour

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. nigella seeds

½  tsp. dried yeast

1 tsp. salt

150ml natural yoghurt

1 tsp. vegetable oil

Approx 300ml warm water

Oil for shallow/deep frying

Method

  • One or two nights before you want to eat this, soak the chickpeas in at least double the volume of water.
  • Anywhere between 1-6 hours before cooking, (you could also start this the night before) get your bhature dough on by mixing the flours, sugar, nigella seeds, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together the water, oil and yoghurt in a jug. Gradually add to the flour mixture until you have a smooth dough. Knead for 10 minutes until nice and elastic and then leave in the bowl somewhere warm covered with a damp cloth.
  • tip the contents of the chickpea bowl into a large saucepan, adding more water if necessary until you have at least double the volume of water to chickpeas. Add the teabags, 1/3 of the onion, 1/3 of the garlic, ½ the cumin, the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves, 20 peppercorns and the turmeric. Cover and simmer for an hour over a gentle heat and then drain and toss with the salt. Fish out the tea, cardamom, cinnamon, peppercorns and bay but reserve the liquid.
  • In another pan, heat the butter and add a splash of oil. Gently brown the remaining onion, garlic and ginger for a good half an hour.
  • Stir in the curry, pepper, chilli, fenugreek and coriander powders along with the remaining cumin. After a few minutes add the fresh tomato and the chickpeas and cook for a minute or two.
  • Add the cooking/soaking water and simmer until tender. Check seasoning and sprinkle in lots of fresh coriander.
  • To make the bread, heat the oil to deep/shallow-frying temperature. Knock back the dough and tear off lemon-sized pieces. Roll each one out to the size of a small dinner plate and cover with damp kitchen roll.
  • Gently slide the bhature into the hot fat, allow to brown, while pressing continuously down into the centre of the bread with a slotted spoon for about 45 seconds-this should cause it to puff up magnificently if you’re deep frying and more languidly if shallow. Flip over and brown the other side before draining on plenty of kitchen paper-lined plates.
  • Serve hot with a well chilled cucumber raita, the chickpeas, red onion slices and lemon wedges.

miso courgette tart

aaah miso-cream cheese. My new addiction; this happy, happy accident has proved incredible on toast, in smoked fish sarnies, smeared over celery sticks and of course, straight from the spoon. It’s absolutely killer in this super-speedy tart. This has become the mid-week go-to dinner in our flat, when all I have to do is grab a pack of those ‘on-offer-due-to–massive-glut-season’ courgettes and some puff pastry. I find myself repeatedly turning to it on those afternoons when I have no idea what day it is let alone what the hell we’re going to eat.  Such a lifesaver in pastry form, It ought to come with it’s own little fluorescent yellow security jacket. Although that would be a bit weird.

serves 2 with a salad

Ingredients.

2 courgettes, sliced into thin discs

2-3 tbsp. grated Parmesan

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 medium onion, sliced thinly

1 tbsp.olive oil

1 pack all butter puff pastry

100g full fat cream cheese.

1 dessertspoon miso paste (I like barley miso)

Method 

  • preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/GM6
  • in a large bowl mix the courgette slices, half the Parmesan, half the garlic, all the onion and the olive oil.
  • roll out the pastry into a big rectangle. Score an inner-rectangle ‘crust’ around the margin.
  • In a small bowl combine the cream cheese, the other half of the garlic and the miso paste really well. Resist the urge to eat this on its own.
  • Spread the miso-fromage over the inner rectangle of pastry. Overlap the courgette slices in layers over the top and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan (this  shouldn’t be any more than a couple of layers deep, you don’t want soggy pastry or raw courgette).
  • Stick in the oven for about 20 mins. Remember that it’s Thursday.

wafu doresshingu

 

AKA Japanese salad dressing. I used to buy bottles of this stuff ready-made before I realised just how easy it is to knock up at home (except for the bit where you have to grate the raw onion – wearing shades helps).  Just the thing for when you definitely don’t want to turn the cooker on.

serves 4

ingredients

(optional) dried seaweed salad mix, which you can buy online here

1/4 small onion, finely grated including juice

2  tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. sesame oil

1 tbsp. grated ginger

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp. rice vinegar

2 tsp. sugar

2 tbsp. roasted white sesame seed, lightly pulverised in a pestle and mortar

grated carrot, radish, batons of cucumber, tomato, etc.

method

soak the seaweed salad if using in cold water

combine the dressing ingredients.

Drain the seaweed, mix together all salad ingredients and pour over the dressing

*(apols for the blurry photo-taken while holding a very wriggly 12 week old)

 


Paneer, spinach and pea makhani

 

Hello, it’s been a while. Don’t worry, this isn’t another one of those “sorry I haven’t blogged in ages” posts because I don’t really see the point of those. Personally, I blame the year round availability of unseasonal fruit in our supermarkets – people just think they can have what they want when they want it all the time. Perhaps it might help if you just think of me as an organic greengage, or something.

Anyway. Aren’t peas brilliant? I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve podded and ploughed my way through a fresh bag fully intending to use them in a meal but with absolutely nada to show at the end. I had to exercise a lot of self restraint for this dish, but am super pleased I did because it’s bloody sensational.

At about 4am last Tuesday I had a proper  hankering for mutter paneer, palak paneer and  also for makhani paneer (think butter chicken but with paneer instead of poultry). You might say I really, really wanted paneer.

This was the result – a glorious mash up of all three. Packed with sweet fresh* peas and spinach for all those crucial vits plus sour cream (SO authentic, I know) butter and cashews for a healthy dose of hedonic richness. A win-win dish if ever there was one.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 large onions

4-5 cloves garlic

2 inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped

60g roasted cashew nuts

A little blitzing water

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. curry powder

salt to taste (I used a teaspoon)

¼ – ½  tsp. chilli powder

½ – 1 tsp. dried fenugreek (methi) leaves

1 tsp. coriander powder

½  tsp. turmeric powder

1 tbsp. tomato puree

2-3 tbsp. sour cream (coconut milk would be lush)

1 tbsp. lemon juice

2 green chillies chopped finely

2 tbsp. coriander stems, chopped finely

1 tbsp. sunflower oil

A large knob of  butter

2 tsp. cumin seeds

227g   paneer cubed

300ml veg. stock

chopped fresh tomatoes (250g-ish)

200g spinach leaves-wilted in a colander with boiling water from the kettle then chopped

145g shelled peas (*you can of course use frozen if you don’t have fresh)

coriander leaves chopped fine to garnish

A few extra whole toasted cashews to serve

method

  • Blitz onion, cashews, garlic and ginger to a rough paste in a blender with a little water.
  • Mix sugar, curry powder, salt, chilli powder, fenugreek leaves, coriander powder, turmeric and tomato puree in a bowl. Add the cream and lemon juice, green chilli and coriander stems
  • Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add oil. Once it’s hot add the butter and cumin seeds and wait for them to splutter.
  • Add the onion mix and fry until it turns a sort of frazzled beige colour (this took about 20 minutes over a low heat, giving any excess water the chance to evaporate). Add the paneer cubes and cook until everything is well crusted and golden.
  • Stir in the stock, spiced cream and fresh tomatoes. Cook for 10 mins on a low heat.
  • Finally, add  the peas and spinach. Adjust seasoning to taste, scatter over the toasted cashews and coriander leaves. Serve with hot plain rice.

Red Leicester and Nigella seed biscuits

Poor camera phone filming. Poor sound. Nice biscuits.


Panch Phoran Paneer, Coconut and Roasted Pumpkin Salad

When Miss Marmite Lover invited me to host a curry stall at her forthcoming underground food rave, I decided I’d offer dishes that were a little bit different alongside the same old traditional curries. Chaal kumro bhaja is a classic Bengali fried pumpkin dish, which involves panch phoran (Bengali five spice), fresh coconut and chilli. This roasted panch phoran pumpkin salad is my modern version. Fat chunks of the orange flesh are lightly coated in mustard oil, salt and garlic before roasting to fudgy tenderness. Cubes of paneer, raw cashews, fresh coconut, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are browned in panch phoran and chilli tempered oil before everything is tossed with a pinch of sugar, salt, fresh coriander, lemon juice and pomegranate seeds. A drizzle of chillified yoghurt and the contrast of crisp, spicy cheese, nuts and seeds with soft garlicky gourd is pretty unbeatable.

I’ll be serving this on Saturday 5th November, along with a more old school mutton kosha mangsho (slow cooked Bengali mutton and potato curry), saag and pea paneer (with home made paneer), spicy sausage rolls (both veggie and meat), potato and pea shingaras (Bengali samosas with nigella seed pastry) lentil doughnuts in raita (dahi vadai), organic, free-range chicken curry, vegetable biryani, masoor dal and smoked aubergine and tomato borthas (fresh Bengali salsas).

For more details click here and for tickets click here

Serves 2- 3 as a main course and 6 as a starter/side dish

Ingredients

1/2 medium pumpkin or 1 small one, halved, deseeded and lopped into chunks

1 tbsp mustard oil plus extra for drizzling

1-2 cloves garlic

1 tsp salt

½ block paneer, cubed

1 handful raw cashews

½ fresh coconut, sliced thinly

1 tbsp each of sunflower and pumpkin seeds

1 tsp each of fenugreek, asafoetida, cumin, mustard and nigella seeds

1 fresh chilli sliced or ½ teaspoon hot chilli sauce

Fresh coriander roughly chopped

Fresh lemon juice

½ fresh pomegranate, deseeded

2 tbsp natural yoghurt mixed with 3-4 tsp chilli sauce

Method

  • Place the pumpkin chunks in a baking tray and anoint liberally with the garlic, salt and a little of the mustard oil. Roast at 150C for around 30-40 minutes, or until slightly charred and very soft.
  • In a frying pan, heat the remaining mustard oil and when hot, add the mustard and nigella seeds. Lightly crush the fennel, asafoetida and cumin and add to the oil, which should be spit and crackle.
  • Add the paneer and coat well in the spices. Add the fresh chilli or chilli sauce and stir in the pumpkin and sunflower seeds, the cashews and the coconut. Mix thoroughly and continue to cook until everything is toasted and golden brown.
  • Tip the contents of the frying pan over the roasted pumpkin, add a teaspoon each of salt and sugar and mix well. Strew with the coriander, pomegranate and a generous squeeze of lemon juice and drizzle with the chilli yoghurt dressing. Serve warm.

Bombay toast with peach and tomato salsa

Creamy, oozing with comfort and addictive little stabs of chilli this savoury French toast with an Indian twist is just the dish to take refuge in whenever you’re feeling hungry, tired, skint or all three. It’s a proper serotonin-raiser, whether we’re talking a decadent breakfast in bed gesture or a midweek, post-work-pre-flicks/plonked on the sofa type affair. The peach and tomato salsa is bright, punchy and the perfect accompaniment (it’s basically my Bengali tomato salsa recipe plus a couple of very ripe peaches), although a hefty blob of ketchup is just fine if you really can’t be bothered. My aunt in Rochdale makes hers using cheap white sliced bread but for me it’s all about the nuttiness of wholemeal.

INGREDIENTS

Serves 2

1-2 tbsp single cream

A large pinch of curry powder

4 of the finest eggs money can buy

slices of bread

½ Fresh green finger chilli sliced (or more if you like your heat)

1-2 tbsp finely chopped coriander

1 shallot, finely chopped/spring onion

Salt and pepper

Tomato bortha/Bengali tomato salsa with a couple of ripe peaches roughly chopped and crushed in.

METHOD

  • Beat together the eggs and add the curry powder, cream, chilli, coriander, shallot and salt and pepper.
  • Place a slice of bread in the mixture and leave for about 5 minutes then turn over, until well saturated with the egg mixture.
  • Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and when sizzling carefully add the bread. Brown on both sides.
  • Repeat until all the egg has been used up and serve hot with plenty of salsa/ketchup.

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