Tag Archives: coconut

Keralan Vegetable and Coconut Sambar Recipe

2 Nov Keralan Vegetable Sambar

Kerala is right at the top of my list of places I want to visit. It is located on the Malabar coast of south-west India and is known for having some of the best and most delicious vegetarian food in the whole of India. That and its beautiful beaches, backwaters, tropical forests and luxury Ayurvedic retreats and you can see why I am so keen to get there.

Until that day arrives I am happy to continue on my culinary journey around my kitchen and be transported by the flavours and smells unique to that area. Sambar is a typical southern Indian vegetable stew made with lots of vegetables and pigeon peas (or lentils) in a tamarind broth. The sambar is the spice mix or paste which has variations from state to state in the south.

Coconuts grow along the coast in Kerala and most of their signature dishes feature it in some form. This Keralan Sambar powder  is made by toasting coconut along with the spices and grinding it to create a paste that is used to flavour the stew. The sambar is finished or tempered with a garnish of mustard seeds, chilli and spices cooked in coconut oil that is poured over just before serving.

In the original recipe the pigeon peas or lentils are cooked separately with some turmeric and chilli powder until soft and mushy. They are then added to the vegetables cooked in the tamarind & stock to thicken the stew towards the end. I used dried quick cooking yellow lentils that cook in the same amount of time as the vegetables so I cooked it all together. Less washing up too.

The vegetables I used are just what I had in the fridge. You could use pumpkin, carrots, potatoes, aubergine, courgettes, okra…..

Keralan Vegetable & Coconut Sambar Recipe

Serves 4 with rice. Vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from The Mistress of Spices & Sankeerthanam

  • 75-100 g dried yellow lentils
  • 300 g sweet potato, scrubbed & cut into 2 cm chunks
  • 300 g cauliflower florets
  • 300 g (1 very large) tomato, chopped
  • 200 g green beans, trimmed & halved
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • 1 or 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
  • salt
  • about 1 tsp jaggery/brown sugar or honey

For the tempering:

  •  2 tsp  coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 dried red chilli whole (I used fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • curry leaves (if you can get them)

Put the veg stock and tamarind in large pot with the turmeric, chilli flakes, lentils, sweet potato and cauliflower. Bring to the boil, season with salt then lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes until the potatoes & lentils are cooked. Meanwhile make the sambar paste.

For the sambar paste

  • 4 Tbsp grated coconut
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 dry red chilli (I used fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • salt

Toast everything in a dry frying pan until fragrant and toasty. The onions wont be cooked. Blend to a paste adding some salt and water as necessary.

Stir the sambar paste into the vegetable pot then add the softer vegetables, the beans and tomatoes. Bring to the boil again, lower the heat, cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or longer, until the lentils have broken down and you have a thicker stew consistency.  Add the jaggery/sugar or honey and taste for seasoning. Does it need more salt or sugar?

When ready to serve, heat the coconut oil in pan over a medium high heat and add the tempering spices, chilli and curry leaves (if using). When the seeds start to splutter tip the contents of the pan over the stew and serve with rice or flatbreads.

Things That Made Me Smile Today….

The oranges are coming. They are turning from green to a yellowy orange. Getting more orange every day. Which means it’s not long till Christmas.

Which means I need to get busy making Grandad’s Pickled Onions if I want them to be ready in time for Christmas. They need at least a month to mature into the spicy perfect beasts that everyone adores.

What Christmas treats are you planning to make this year?

Have a great weekend!

Martinique Sweet Potato Coconut Curry with Aubergine and Pineapple

29 Sep Martinique Sweet Potato Curry

The inspiration for this recipe came from watching a farmer harvesting his sweet potatoes. They look really beautiful coming out of the ground, their terracotta skin mirroring the colour of the soil, lying there baking in the warmth of the sun.

Martinique, an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, is part of the French Caribbean.  The first European to encounter the island was Christopher Columbus in 1502. Its official language is French, although many of its inhabitants also speak Créole Martiniquais. Continue reading

Date, Walnut and Coconut Energy “Truffles”

24 May Date & Walnut Energy Truffles

It’s normally at about 4pm that I get a sugar craving. It must be an English thing, something to do with afternoon tea maybe. Not that I ever have afternoon tea but I definitely feel the blood sugar levels crashing at about that time.

Apparently afternoon tea was invented in Victorian times when the ladies fashion was to wear very tight-fitting corsets and waist-cinching dresses. They would come over all faint in between lunch and dinner and had to be revived with a piece of cake and a dainty sandwich.

As you may know, I am currently following a detox, vegan, gluten and sugar-free diet so no cake or sandwiches allowed. I usually have an apple but that does get a bit boring all the time. I found this recipe for Date & Walnut Power Balls somewhere but I couldn’t print it out because the printer wasn’t working. I wrote the recipe out instead but forgot to write the name of the blog I found it on. So, if I stole these from you, thanks and let me know so I can give you some credit.

Because credit where credit is due, these are quick, easy and sweet enough to feel naughty but are so not. Vegan, gluten-free and refined sugar-free but delicious enough to serve with coffee after dinner. You can even do the whole Ferrero Rocher tower thing in a “really spoiling us” moment. It’s not compulsory though, I just couldn’t resist.

Date, Walnut & Coconut Energy Truffles

makes about 15 balls, vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free

(Thanks to Dzenana from The New Tastement for this recipe and for reminding me where I got it from!)

  • 1 cup (150 gr) stoned dates, preferably Medjool
  • 1 cup (100 gr) walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup (50 gr) desiccated coconut (unsweetened), plus extra for coating

Soak the dates in water for about an hour then roughly chop them. Blend everything together well so there are no big chunks and the mix comes together.  Tip some coconut onto a small plate. Take small amounts of the mix in your hands, squeeze it together and roll it into small balls. Then roll in the coconut. Store in an airtight container.

These are perfect for that mid-afternoon pick-me-up, as an energy boost pre or post exercise, as well as an after dinner treat. You can change-up the nuts and dried fruit for whatever you like, just make sure you soak the dried fruit first.

What time is it? I’m feeling a bit faint…..

Things That made Me Smile Today

Our first hibiscus flower of the year came out this morning….

Pale pink camelias looking like the perfect bridal bouquet….

Desert Island Banana and Coconut Breakfast Muffins

14 Mar

This is the perfect pick me up after all this rain. I wanted something tropical to remind me of the sun that seems to have disappeared for good. Banana and coconut, such a classic combination that takes me back to Caribbean holidays when I was younger. One holiday to Antigua in particular springs to mind. I had the amazing banana bread for breakfast every day for three weeks, it was that good. I’ve never found a banana bread to match it since. That might be something to do with waking up to a view of the turquoise sea and pinky white sandy beach though, it makes everything taste better.

So if muffins grew on palm trees this is what they would taste like. Banana, coconut & honey. So, go with me on this one and imagine yourself stranded on a desert island and all you have to eat are muffins that grow on trees. It wouldn’t be so bad would it? And if the rain is throwing your fantasy off just imagine it’s a tropical thunder-storm, they only last for an hour and it means you can shelter in the bar with an over-garnished tacky cocktail. Or is that just me? Oh yes, this desert island has a bar and a hammock. Well, it’s my fantasy I can have what I like…..

These delicious little fantasy muffins are made with wholemeal flour and olive oil rather than butter. So you can eat as many as you like. In fantasy world that is…..

Desert Island Banana & Coconut Breakfast Muffins

makes 12, vegetarian

  • 250 gr self-raising wholemeal flour
  • 175 gr brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • a pinch of salt
  • 100 ml milk (I used goat’s milk)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 ripe bananas, quartered lengthways and chopped
  • 50 gr toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 50 gr desiccated coconut
  • about 12 tsp honey (a squeezy bottle is easiest)

Preheat oven to 180 C. Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl, mix in the sugar, cinnamon & nutmeg and make a well in the centre. Mix together the egg, milk & oil in a jug and pour into the well in the flour. Mix together with a wooden spoon until just incorporated. Don’t over mix or your muffins will be tough. Then carefully fold in the banana, walnuts & coconut.

Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases and spoon (or use and ice cream scoop) the mixture into the paper cases about 2/3 full.  Make a hole in the top of the muffins with the back of a teaspoon and squeeze in about a teaspoon of honey (see photo above) don’t worry if it overflows.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown & cooked. Remove from the muffin tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

You could add whatever you like to these muffins, some dates would be nice and follow on from the palm tree theme. Or maybe some chopped apples would be good with the cinnamon & nutmeg.

Just keep the fantasy going by imagining yourself on that tropical beach somewhere. You know what, I think the sun might be coming out!  That’s the power of positive thinking for you. I’d better take the dog out before it starts raining again……

Jamaican Lentil and Coconut Soup

14 Dec

This recipe started off as a Jamaican lentil stew that I wanted to turn into a soup for a Caribbean meal I made on Friday night.  The basic recipe was kind of plain & rustic, I thought it needed the volume turning up, as Ina Garten would say. So I added a lot more Caribbean spices, scotch bonnet chillis, thyme and coconut and some fresh mandarin juice for sweetness. I also blended the soup to a smooth puree rather than leaving it as a chunky stew. The result was a spicy, sweet and aromatic flavour with a smooth & creamy texture. Just the thing to warm the soul and transport you to a Caribbean island on a cold winter’s night…..

Jamaican Lentil & Coconut Soup Recipe

serves 4-6 vegetarian

  • 1 cup uncooked brown lentils about 2oo gr
  • 1 cup veg stock 225ml
  • 2 cups water 550 ml
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  •  1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 1 big spanish spring onion (or about 4 scallions)
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 scotch bonnet chilli, chopped (you can use any fresh chilli or 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes)
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
  • 45 gr sultanas
  • 50 ml tomato puree
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1/2 tin coconut milk about 200 ml
  • about 3oo ml veg stock to get desired consistency
  • the juice of 1 mandarin
  • fresh coriander, chopped for garnish
  • greek yoghurt to swirl on top (or mango & coriander yoghurt chutney see recipe here)

Rinse the lentils well and put them in a large sauce pan with the water & veg stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add the carrot, celery & half the ginger, cover and simmer for about 20- 30 minutes, until the lentils are cooked.

Meanwhile in a small frying pan dry toast the curry powder & spices over a low heat until fragrant, don’t let it burn. Tip this into a small bowl and set aside. In the same pan heat the butter or oil over a medium heat, add the spring onions, the rest of the ginger, garlic, chilli, vinegar & raisins. Cook for 2 minutes stirring constantly then add the tomato puree and cook for another minute.  Add the toasted spices to the tomato mixture along with the thyme & oregano, mix well and add this to the simmering lentils along with the coconut milk and season generously with salt & black pepper.

Simmer this uncovered for about 20 minutes or so then take off the heat and carefully blitz with a stick blender until you have a smooth puree. Put the lentil puree back in the pan and on the heat. Add more stock (if you wish) until you reach your desired consistency (I like it thick but still soupy).  Add in the mandarin juice and check for seasoning.

Serve the soup in warmed bowls topped with a swirl of  Greek yoghurt or Mango & Coriander Yoghurt Chutney and some freshly chopped coriander. I served some Roti Bread alongside the soup see the recipe here.

Enjoy…!

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