Eggless Welsh Cakes

The first Easter following our move to England happened to coincide with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. This only meant one thing to us – extra holidays! So we set off on a camping trip to Wales where we encountered these yummy things called Welsh cakes. We also encountered some other interesting things like the guy who was into dressing up like Elvis and going to gatherings with other “Elvises” but that’s a story for another day.

What are “Welsh cakes” ? Really, they are a pancake more than a cake – made with flour, raisins/sultanas, spices such as cinnamon, butter,eggs and sugar. There isn’t really any baking time involved as you cook them on the stove in a fry pan. They are a lovely accompaniment to tea and go with any sort of fruit jam/preserve.

Do give it a go as it is incredibly easy to make and takes barely any time to put together. In addition, you can make it gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and sugar-free if you’d like.

The inside of a Welsh cake

The inside of a Welsh cake

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Bisi bele bhath or Hot vegetable and lentil rice

Bisi (pronounced : be+see) bele (pronounced : bay+lay) bhath (pronounced : bath) is an old stalwart in the Bangalorean/Kannada kitchen. Simply put, it is a one pot dish consisting of rice, yellow lentils (split pigeon peas or toor dal), assorted vegetables and optional dollops of ghee/butter. It is one of those dishes that will always be dear to my heart and my taste buds and I’m very glad my husband loves it too. My version has red-skinned peanuts in it which my mum would absolutely shun but hey, it’s MY version.

The last time I made this dish was while I was on holiday and was busy playing with my then recently acquired Nokia D200. The result was a somewhat burnt spice mix (shhh), lots of not-so-great pictures (that caused the burning) but a delicious bisi bele bhath for a rather late lunch / early dinner. I have given you the recipe for the spice mix as well as the dish itself. Hope you will give it a go!

Bisi bele bhath with greek yoghurt on the side

Bisi bele bhath with greek yoghurt on the side – It tastes better than in looks, I promise

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Bread, berry and cherry pudding

I seem to have taken a rather long summer holiday from my blog. In my defence, the English summer until 2 Thursdays ago was glorious. So glorious that we spent most of our time outdoors walking, running, kayaking and even swimming. While the weather was still wonderful (yes, that’s right, it is a think of the past now), our friends took us on a foraging expedition which turned up several boxes of blackberries (bramble) and cherries (small, wild, juicy and amazingly sweet).

Blackberries and cherries

Hand-picked blackberries and cherries : Juicy and delicious

We ate as many berries and cherries as we could on the day and the day after but we couldn’t eat them all. I then asked Mr Google what I could do with a whole lot of berries and cherries. Unsurprisingly, several options were presented to me. Of these, I chose two  – (1) a berry, cherry and almond milk smoothie (2) A blackberry and cherry, bread and butter (yup, a mouthful to say) pudding. This post is on the latter and is somewhat reminiscent of my one of my older recipes on Bread and Butter pudding.

Bread and butter pudding enthusiasts and connoisseurs beware – this recipe violates several basic principles. However, I can guarantee that the taste of the fresh berries and cherries made for quite a delightful dessert while we watched our current favourite TV show Treme.

Do try it and tell me what you think of it at canwehavesomerasam@gmail.com.

Bread, berry and cherry pudding

Bread, berry and cherry pudding

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Jerusalem, Moro and Ottolenghi and inspired dinner

I have recently become addicted to three cookbooks I acquired from Amazon and our local library. They are, in order of favouritism,

1. Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

2. Moro by Samuel and Samantha Clark

3. Ottolenghi also by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Why the addiction – well these books respect vegetables like I have been taught to respect them as a life time vegetarian. Growing up in a South Indian household, my mother and grandma had endless ways of making vegetables exciting and I try and continue this tradition till today. However, I’m also a little more adventurous that mum and grandma and I cannot eat the same/similar things day in and day out. This is something I did quite gladly did when I was still dependent on my parents, but ever since I’ve moved out on my own, my kitchen has been a bit of a playground, as is this blog I host.

Jerusalem, Moro and Ottolenghi, while laden with meat-based recipes are also quite generous with their coverage of vegetable/vegetarian dishes from Eastern Mediterranean regions, Israel, Palestine with influences from Italy, Spain and Northern Africa. Overall, these vegetables are prepared quite differently (most of the time) to how I’d prepare them as a person of South Indian upbringing and I find that really really exciting. Sometimes, I find some similarities and start thinking about the origins of certain food and how recipes might have travelled from one region to another in ancient time.

To summarize it is food, vegetarian food, exciting vegetarian food and I love it! Food to me is most satisfying when I’ve made it and others are enjoying it 🙂 An opportunity presented itself when we decided to host a dinner and board games evening at our place. While I usually cook Indian food, I decided that I’d try recipes from my recently acquired books instead. There was a deathly silence as everyone sat eating until one of our friends spoke up and said , “You know the food is good when everyone is too busy eating and cannot stop to speak”. I’m going to call it a successful experiment based on this !

My menu and links to the recipes are presented below. I managed to take a lot of pictures for the first few dishes and then ran out of time and my guests arrived so I couldn’t keep clicking any more. Hope you try some of the recipes and like them !

Menu for board games night

Menu for board games night

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Asparagus and potato bake

It is amazing what one can find in a fridge if one looks hard enough. I have been on a mission to empty the contents of my fridge ever since my return from a conference trip. This task seems never ending and the more I take out, the more there seems to be. Since Sunday the 5th of May Friday the 10th of May, I have made (1) brie and chive biscuits (2) gouda, chilli and rosemary biscuits (3) a banana raspberry cake (4) a flan aux speculoos (gingerbread flan) (5) fresh yoghurt (6) a yoghurt based curry with spinach (7) eggplant with miso glaze (8) chickpea bread (9) asparagus and potato bake (10) sautéed okra and the fridge is still not empty. You must imagine that I am a veritable fatty eating all this food but I’m not doing too badly….right now at least. In my defence, I shared pretty much all the snack-like/sweet things with friends and colleagues.

Where does the asparagus and potato bake come into this ? Well as you might have guess, I had asparagus and potato – check! On Tuesday night, I went to a friend’s for dinner and she made this amazing eggplant parmigiana with a beautiful tomato sauce (http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2876664/roast-aubergine-parmigiana). I also had mozzarella that needed to be used soon. So I decided to put all these things together and make an asparagus-potato “parmigiana” if you will. I then wondered what I’d like to eat it with and bread seemed an ideal candidate. Since our local Sainsbury’s (and most English supermarkets) stock nothing but crap bread, I decided I’d make my own. For bread recipes, I trust a fellow-blogger  Silvia (http://silviascucina.net/) where I came across an interesting take on bread involving chickpea (http://silviascucina.net/2011/10/08/chickpea-garbanzo-beans-bread/). I took it one step further and made it with some chickpea flour and fine cornmeal. The overall result was quite exciting. I was quite pleased with myself before the realisation hit me that there was no way I could eat 2 small loaves of bread and a baking dish full of “parmigiana”. So off it went to the neighbours and they thought it was decent so here I am talking about it.

Do give this recipe a try and tell me what you think! I still can’t get over the fact that everything I put in this dish was in my fridge/pantry/herb garden 🙂

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Asparagus-potato-bake-with-chickpea-bread

Ingredients (Picture 1 below):

15-20 spears of baby asparagus

1/2 a large potato , sliced into 3mm thick slices

400 gms (1 can) of chopped Roma or cherry tomatoes

125 gm ball of mozzarella, halved and then cut into 3mm thick slices

5 pieces of sun-dried tomato, finely chopped

1/2 cup of grated smoked cheddar or grated parmesan

1/2 cup of stuffing mix (I used a toasted chestnut, roasted hazelnut and thyme one)

1 tablespoon of honey

2 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 hot red chilli, finely chopped (optional)

1 tablespoon of thyme, finely chopped

a handful of mint, coarsely chopped (substituted for basil so use basil if you have some)

2 tablespoons of oil

salt to suit your taste

pepper to suit your taste

Method:

1. Grease a baking dish with oil/butter and preheat the oven to 180ºC.

2. Heat the oil in a deep pot and when hot, throw in the asparagus spears. Cook the spears until you see a bit of brown blistering on their skin.

3. Remove the asparagus from the pot and arrange them to cover the bottom of the baking dish. Grind some sea salt over them (Picture 2).

4. Add the potato the the same pot, add a pinch of salt and cook until the pieces of potato start to blister and go brown (Picture 3).

5. Remove the potato slices from the pot and arrange them on top of the asparagus (Picture 4).

6. Sprinkle the potato with the chopped mint and some freshly ground pepper (Picture 4).

7. Top the pot with a tablespoon of oil if required and add the thyme, chilli and garlic to the pot (Picture 5). Cook them until the raw smell of garlic no longer lingers. Don’t let the chilli burn or you will go into a coughing fit.

8. To the chilli/garlic mixture, add the canned tomatoes, chopped sun-dried tomatoes and honey. Season with enough salt to suit your taste (Picture 6).

9. Bring the sauce to a boil and take the sauce off the heat.

10. Arrange pieces of mozzarella on top of the potato layer in the baking dish. Sprinkle half the cheddar/parmesan on top of the mozzarella and grind some more pepper onto the cheese (Picture 7).

11. Pour the tomato sauce on the cheese layer and spread it so that it covers the entire dish (Picture 8).

12. Cover the dish with silver foil and bake for 30-40 mins in the oven (Picture 9).

13. During this time, mix the remaining cheddar/parmesan with the stuffing mix to use as a crunchy topping (Pictures 10 & 11).

14. After 30-40 minutes, remove the silver foil from the dish and check that the potatoes are soft and your knife/skewer should go right through it.

15. Sprinkle the cheddar-stuffing mixture on top of the tomato sauce and bake for another 10-12 minutes until the cheese has melted into a golden brown colour (Picture 12).

16. Serve while warm with some fresh bread (Pictures 13-15) or couscous (Picture 16 and main picture above).

Tips:

1. I find stuffing a more exciting substitute for a breadcrumb topping. Keep a box of it in your pantry and stock up after Christmas when it is usually on sale 🙂

2. After all that, I don’t think I liked the asparagus in the dish so much. I would make it again just with the potato or some other vegetable.

3. If you want to make it a vegan dish, leave the cheese out and use a mixture of breadcrumbs, herbs and olive-spread to make the crunchy topping.

Pictures:

Method for asparagus-potato bake

Method for asparagus-potato bake

Chilli Paneer/Paneer Manchurian or Spicy Saucy Indian Cottage Cheese

Any food with soy sauce, vinegar, chilli sauce, ginger and garlic is considered “Chinese” food in India. This combination of ingredients has given rise to a whole genre of food in the Indian subcontinent called “Indo-Chinese” food. Needless to say, the People’s Republic of China have never heard of most of the things that fall into the “Indo-Chinese” category of food. So, what I’m trying to say is that it is a made up style of  “Chinese” food in India much like the made up “Indian” food here in England  except for the teeny-tiny fact that the former is actually quite tasty (pa dam pum tshhhh!).

While Indo-Chinese food is a pretend food, it is very very popular in streets and restaurants all over India. In Bangalore, where I grew up, it is not unusual to see a guy vending these yummy delights out of the back of a covered auto-rickshaw or tuk-tuk. He usually has an array of finely chopped vegetables all neatly arranged in boxes and a huge wok on a portable stove in which he cooks them. Funnily enough, they tend to be exclusively vegetarian, with only the most adventurous ones treading into the fungus world by sporting mushrooms alongside the array of vegetables. (Note: Some orthodox Hindu members of my mum’s extended family will not eat mushrooms as they think its neither a vegetable nor an animal so best to stay away from it.)

Coming back to the main story, these street vendors and several established restaurants have the following popular Indo-chinese dishes on their menu – Gobi Manchurian (cauliflower from Manchuria clearly), Paneer Manchurian (cottage cheese instead of cauliflower), Vegetable Manchurian, Babycorn manchurian, Vegetable friend rice, Vegetable fried noodles and so on. My fondest memories of Indo-Chinese food are from the months of the monsoon rains in Bangalore. Family friends of ours would pick up some of these saucy, spicy delights and bring them over to our house to share. We’d spend the evening in the warm indoors getting even warmer with every little bite of spicy, “Chinese” vegetable.

Paneer is one of the very few cheeses made in India. It a fresh cheese and is the Indian form of cottage cheese. The main difference is that paneer is drained to remove much of its moisture content and  is compacted into a hard block that can be cut into cubes and added into various curries.

Chilli paneer is an Indo-Chinese dish and I use the name interchangeably with Paneer Machurian. It is cubes of paneer sauteed (or fried) in oil and then tossed in a stirfry made with soy, vinegar, tomato sauce, ginger, garlic, chillies, capsicum (green peppers) and onions. It can be enjoyed on its own as an evening snack with your favourite pint or shot of spirits. Alternatively, it can be consumed with any form of flat bread. If you add water to it to make it more liquid-y, it can even be eaten with rice.

Here is my take on Chilli Paneer/Dry Paneer Manchurian. Remember – the spicier, the better. Hope you like it!

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Chilli paneer served with soft tortilla

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Summer holiday series: 3. Summer spaghetti with zucchini and cherry tomatoes

Having polished off the Red Capsicum-Tomato dip and walnut bread very quickly, we got to work on the main and dessert. This recipe for summer spaghetti is one I made up as I went. My partner and his mum physically put this together so I won’t take credit for it. My contributions were the the roasting of the vegetables and calling out the ingredients off the top of my head while beating egg whites for dessert. It was a lot of fun working together in the lovely kitchen and the end result was yummy!

While one would typically grate/shave parmesan over spaghetti, we thought we’d use the local cheeses Cabecou and Rocamadour instead.They are little, round, lovely sheep and goat’s milk cheeses. Easy to digest and very very tasty – better still, we bought it straight from the “Fermier” or farmer at the local market. You can have it on your sandwich, in an omlette, over pasta or just on its own. I’ll have to go on a hunt for some in England – Maybe Ocado will have it !

I’ll stop my banter now and give you the recipe. Hope you try it and if you like it, do let me know at canwehavesomerasam@gmail.com 🙂

Summer spaghetti…

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