Tag Archives: pilaf

Indian Spinach Koftas with Creamy Tomato and Cashew Nut Sauce

19 Jan

Any excuse to get more spinach in my diet and I’m there. It’s not all about the iron you know, here are just some of the health benefits of eating this wonderful green leaf. Popeye wasn’t as stupid as he looked….

One cup of spinach has nearly 20% of the RDA of dietary fibre which aids in digestion, maintains low blood sugar, and curbs overeating.

Flavonoids — a phytonutrient with anti-cancer properties abundant in spinach have been shown to slow down the growth of stomach and skin cancer cells. Furthermore, spinach has shown significant protection against the occurrence of aggressive prostate cancer.

The vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, beta-carotene, manganese, zinc and selenium present in spinach all serve as powerful antioxidants that combat the onset of osteoporosis and high blood pressure.

Both antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin are especially plentiful in spinach and protect the eye from cataracts and age-related eyesight degeneration.

One cup of spinach contains over 337% of the RDA of vitamin A that not only protects and strengthens “entry points” into the human body, such as mucous membranes, respiratory, urinary and intestinal tracts, but is also a key component of white blood cells that fight infection.

The high amount of vitamin A in spinach also promotes healthy skin by allowing for proper moisture retention in the epidermis, thus fighting psoriasis, acne and even wrinkles.

This information is taken from healthdiaries. com

Some friends of ours, Nik & Stacey bought us a new cook book called I Love Curry by Anjum Anand on their last trip back to the UK.  On the first flick through this was the recipe that stood out for me, the one that I wanted to make straight away.

The blended cashew nuts in the sauce give it a creamy texture and flavour that is perfect with the light and fluffy spinach koftas. The koftas are made in a similar way to spinach and ricotta gnocchi and then fried. I used goat’s ricotta which gives a very mild goat’s cheese flavour and is so much better for you than cow’s milk. I served it with a spiced turmeric pilaf rice.

Indian Spinach Koftas with Creamy Tomato & Cashew Nut Sauce

Serves 3-4, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from I Love Curry by Anjun Ananad

For the sauce:

  • 2 large tomatoes, quartered & deseeded
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 or 2 tbsp coconut oil (or other vegetable oil)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 50 gr cashew nuts
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 500 ml veg stock (or water)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • a dash of Worcestershire sauce (vegetarian)
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • a handful of fresh coriander leaves, to serve

For the koftas:

  • 200 gr fresh spinach, washed
  • 2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 200 gr ricotta cheese (I used goat’s ricotta)
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying

For the Turmeric Pilaf:

  • 220 gr basmati rice, well washed
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil (or butter or ghee)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Blend the tomatoes, garlic and ginger to a paste with a little water to get it going. Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and cook the onion for about 5 minutes until lightly browned.

Add in the blended tomatoes, cashew nuts, spices, salt & pepper. Cook over a medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Blend until smooth with a little water if necessary then pour it back into the pan, add the stock (or water), tomato puree, sugar and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes until it is the consistency of single cream.

Meanwhile make the dumplings. Wilt the spinach in a pan with a tbsp water, a pinch salt and 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg. When cool enough to handle squeeze out the excess water (in a clean tea towel) and blend to a puree with a stick blender. Then add the cornflour and ricotta and mix together well. Taste and season with salt & black pepper as required.

Heat about 5cm vegetable oil in a deep frying pan or wok over a medium high heat. To test if the oil is hot enough drop a tiny amount of the spinach mix into the oil, it should sizzle immediately but not brown straight away.

Drop heaped teaspoons full of the spinach mix into the oil. You will need to do it in batches. I got 16 out of this mixture.

Cook the koftas, turning occasionally with a metal spoon, so they cook evenly. They should take 2-3 minutes per side until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

To serve, add a squeeze of lemon to the sauce. You can add the koftas into the sauce to reheat them or serve them straight way with the hot sauce poured over and some fresh coriander leaves to garnish.

For the Rice Pilaf:

Tip the rice into a large bowl, cover with water and leave to soak. Heat the coconut oil/ghee in a saucepan over a medium heat then add the cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, cardamom pods and cloves and leave to sizzle and pop for about 20 seconds. Add the onion and cook for about 4 minutes until turning golden.

Drain the rice and add it to the pan with the turmeric, salt & black pepper and cook, stirring for a minute. Add 400 ml water, taste the water and add more salt if necessary.

Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to its lowest setting, cover and leave to cook for 12-13 minutes without stirring. Check the rice it should be cooked. Remove from the heat and serve when ready.

Things That Made Me Smile Today…………..

Today we visited the Alcazaba (Moorish fortress) in Malaga. It’s the first time we’ve been and I was really surprised at how beautiful it is. Everyone goes to the Alhambra but I doubt many people even know there is a smaller much less touristy version in Malaga. It’s practically deserted. Apart from the robins that is….

I have obviously taken a whole load more photographs that I will share with you over the next few posts, this is just a teaser….

Jerk Roasted Squash with Fruit and Nut Rice Pilaf

21 Sep

I made some of this Jerk marinade/sauce to use up some of the hundreds of scotch bonnet chilli peppers I have at the moment. The plant/bush has actually flowered again and is now producing even more.

I also made another batch of my Scotch Bonnet Hot Pepper Sauce …..

The first thing I made with the jerk marinade was Jerk Baked Feta. I don’t have any pictures of it because I made it at night and we ate it all, sorry (not sorry really), but I will definitely do it again, it tasted amazing.

All you do is put the 200 gr block of Feta onto a large rectangle of foil, spoon over 3 or 4 tbsp of the jerk marinade and coat it well. Wrap up the feta in a foil packet and bake it for 10-15 minutes at 180 C. Unwrap your fragrant cheesy parcel and dive in with some  good pita or roti bread.

A customer at the restaurant, Norman, gave us a bag full of these beautiful squash. In my new guise as “Jerk Addict” I knew I was going to give it the jerk treatment. The sweet butteryness of the squash is enhanced by the spicy, zingy jerk marinade, they are made for each other, seriously.

I served this with a Fruit & Nut Rice Pilaf I found in my new Caribbean cookbook. Spice It Up by Levi Roots and drizzled it with some of my Scotch Bonnet Hot Pepper Sauce mixed with some Greek yoghurt to tone it down slightly.

Jerk Roasted Squash with Fruit & Nut Rice Pilaf

serves 3, vegan, gluten-free

For the jerk roasted squash:

  • 1 bunch/handful fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, then crushed
  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns, then crushed
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 tsp allspice berries, then crushed
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 6 scotch bonnet chillies (mine are small) use 4 large deseeded
  • 2 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 limes, zest of 1, juice of 2
  • 140 ml olive oil
  • 1 medium squash

Put all the ingredients for the jerk marinade (not the squash) in a processor and blend to a smooth paste. Transfer to a sterilised jar and seal. Refrigerate until needed. This makes about 200 ml.

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Wash the squash and slice off  a little of the top and bottom. Leave the skin on. Slice the narrow end into 1-2cm discs (see picture above). Then cut the fatter end in half lengthways, scrape out the seeds and slice each half into 1-2 cm half moons.

Line 2 baking sheets with foil and place the squash circles on one tray and the half moons on the other. Drop about a teaspoon of the jerk marinade onto each disc and swirl it around to coat the top. Turn the disc over and do the same on the other side. Do the same with the half moons. Drizzle both sets of squash with a little olive oil and put both trays in the oven. The discs on the top shelf and the half moons on the middle shelf.

Cook for 30 -40 minutes depending on the thickness of your slices. The half moons will be ready before the discs. You want them to be really soft when you test them with a knife.

Serve hot or at room temperature with the Fruit & Nut Rice Pilaf.

For the Fruit & Nut Rice Pilaf:

Serves 3, vegan, gluten free. Adapted from Spice it Up by Levi Roots

  • 150 gr long grain rice, I used a wild rice mix
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 50 gr sultanas (or dried tropical fruit mix)
  • 25 gr almonds, roughly chopped
  • 350 ml veg stock
  • the juice of 1/2 lime or orange
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt & black pepper

Rinse the rice in a sieve until the water runs clear and leave to drain. Heat the olive oil in a large pan with a lid over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until softened then add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring for another 2 minutes.

Next add the rice to the pan, stir to coat in the oil and spices then add the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Season well with salt & black pepper and boil hard for a minute. Then reduce the heat to very low and cover with a lid. Leave to cook for about 15 minutes until tender, try not to stir but make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Check seasoning and serve immediately garnished with some fresh thyme.

Serve the dish drizzled with some Scotch Bonnet Hot Pepper Sauce if you like it fiery. Or mix it with some greek yoghurt for a more manageable heat.

This jerk marinade is amazing. You can use it for chicken, fish or pork but try the foil baked feta and squash too. You may surprise even the most stubborn carnivores with this recipe.

I also used it as a salad dressing with some more olive oil and lime juice. I used some of the leftover roasted squash, chopped up with some chickpeas and mixed it into a salad with the jerk dressing and a splash of hot pepper sauce. Really good lunch dish..

Things That Made Me Smile Today……..

 The Eucalyptus trees are starting to shed their bark, covering the ground with cinnamon- like curls….

It reminds me of a programme I saw about the cinnamon producers in Sri Lanka. Strips of  bark from the cinnamon tree are layered together, one curl inside another and then it is expertly rolled into the cinnamon sticks we buy and use for cooking. Amazing to watch….

It is one of the few signs of autumn we get here, and the first nod towards the changing season…..

Hello Autumn!

West African Jollof Rice

5 Jun

This is another one of the recipes  that I first made while watching the World Cup last summer. The other being my Brazilian Bean Patties. I decided to make a dish from one of the countries playing in each match. This recipe was from when England played Ghana. There are many different variations on Jollof rice from all over West Africa but nearly all are tomato based with whatever vegetables you have, or are in season, added.

Most versions also contain chicken, which I have obviously left out. If you want to add the chicken just fry off some chicken pieces first to colour them then remove them from the pan, continue with the rest of the recipe and then add the chicken pieces back in when you add the stock.

The Washer Up pointed out that it is very similar to Paella and I had to agree. I think this would have something to do with the fact that Paella came to Spain during the Moorish occupation. It is believed to be a derivation of a Pilaf or Pilau and you can see that in the name.  The Arabs were also in West Africa for a long time controlling the slave trade in that area so obviously would have had an influence on their cuisine also. It makes sense doesn’t it. So Pilau, Paella, Pilaf  and Jollof could all have started out as one dish that over the centuries has been adapted by many different cultures and adopted as part of their own food heritage.

West African Jollof Rice Recipe

serves 4, vegan, gluten-free

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 chilli, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 – 1 litre (2 – 4 cups) veg stock
  • 2  ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 small green pepper, diced
  • 1oo gr cooked kidney beans, rinsed & drained
  • 50 gr frozen peas (I used a peas & sweetcorn mix)
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 400 gr (2 cups) wholegrain rice
  • 150 ml tomate frito/tomato passata/puree
  • fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onions, herbs, spices, salt & black pepper and cook until the onions have softened (about 5 minutes). Then add the garlic, fresh chilli & ginger and cook for another minute.

Next add in the chopped vegetables and tomatoes and cook until the vegetables are partly cooked(5 -8 minutes).

Stir in the rice then add the tomato puree and stir over a low heat to coat the rice. Next add 1/2 litre of stock, season with salt & black pepper and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer, over a low heat, covered until the rice and vegetables are cooked and all the stock has been absorbed. (About 25 minutes). Stir occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and add more veg stock if necessary, a cup at a time, to stop it becoming dry before the rice is cooked.

Check for seasoning and serve garnished with fresh parsley.

Things that made me smile today…

Giant Dandelions…?

Make a wish Rufus….!

Green Bean Pilaf with Toasted Almonds, Pine Nuts and Raisins

8 Apr

I’ve decided to go on a detox diet for a month to see if I can lose some weight. It means no meat (obviously), eggs, dairy, wheat, sugar or alcohol for a month. My friend has lent me a Carol Vorderman detox book that has some good recipes in it that I am using as a base to work from. They are all quite basic in the flavour department so I will be amping up the spices to make sure every dish is delicious and full of flavour as well as healthy. I don’t want it to feel like I am on a diet or that I am being deprived and I definitely don’t want the food to be boring in any way.

I started about a week ago and I am definitely noticing a difference. I feel less bloated, lighter and less hungry, which is surprising. This is my breakfast smoothie that I am having every day. It is one or two crushed ice cubes blended with 1 banana, 5 or 6 strawberries, a big slice of pineapple, the juice of half an orange and a handful of oats. It is a lovely way to start the day and keeps me full until lunchtime which is great because I walk/jog 4.5km every morning with the dog.

This was my first vegan gluten-free meal, as you can see there is a little bit of crumbled Feta on the top, but that was the last of it I promise… Well I’m not promising anything really. That’s too much pressure and there is an amazing vegetarian “Scotch Egg” & piccalilli recipe that I am desperate to try. The only thing I am promising is that there will never be a boring, tasteless, bland recipe on this blog so don’t worry. I have plenty of exciting South American, South East Asian, Middle Eastern and Indian recipes up my sleeve that you wouldn’t even know were detox, so here we go…

Green Bean Pilaf with Almonds, Pine Nuts & Raisins

serves 4, vegan & gluten-free without the Feta. Adapted from Carol Vorderman’s Detox Recipes

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, sliced in half lengthways, rinsed & finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 300 gr wholegrain (brown) rice
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • 225 gr green beans, trimmed & halved
  • 30 gr pine nuts
  • 30 gr flaked almonds
  • 50 gr raisins (I used moscatel they are bigger & juicier)
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped plus leaves for garnish
  • a handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
  • salt & black pepper
  • greek feta (optional)

Toast the pine nuts and almonds in a dry frying pan, shaking occasionally until browned. Don’t take your eyes off of them or they will burn. Set aside to cool.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, leeks and a pinch of salt and cook for about 5 minutes until softened but not browned then add in the garlic and cook for a minute more.

Add the coriander, cumin and rice and cook, stirring for a minute until the grains are glossy. Add the veg stock and the raisins and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the liquid is almost absorbed and the rice is nearly cooked. Add the green beans, salt, pepper,stir, cover and cook for a further 5 minutes until the beans and rice are cooked. Stir through the chopped herbs, taste and serve sprinkled with the toasted almonds, pine nuts, a few parsley leaves and some crumbled feta (if using).

Wholegrain rice provides fibre, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B1 and iron that white rice does not. Leeks and onions are rich in allyl sulphides which are protective against heart disease and cancer as well as providing folate and vitamin C. Pine nuts & almonds provide protein & calcium and are super-rich in heart healthy vitamin E and monounsaturated oils.

All that and it tastes great too, enjoy!!

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