Tag Archives: spices

Zanzibar Pumpkin Pilau with wholemeal chapatis

17 Jan

Zanzibar is a group of islands in the Indian Ocean situated off the coast of East Africa. Known as The Spice Islands because of the many spice plantations the cuisine is an eclectic mix of African, Indian & Arab influences. Pilau, the famous spicy rice dish found in Zanzibar, was brought by Arabs or Persians and Biriani was brought by the Indian traders.  The original Zanzibar Pilau is a rice dish seasoned with lots of spices and traditionally made with meat & potatoes. This is my vegetarian interpretation of the dish made with pumpkin (it should be sweet potato but I couldn’t find any!) and beans (an African staple).

I used some mixed rice I found in Mercadona (a Spanish supermarket) that I think is new. It is a mix of white, red & wild rice and it worked really well in this dish. The nutty flavours from the wild & red rices gave it an extra dimension. If you live here in Spain I would definitely recommend it.  Or is just that I am a sucker for anything new…?

Zanzibar Pumpkin Pilau Recipe

serves 6, vegetarian

  • 4oo gr/2 cups uncooked rice  (a mix of wild, red & white if possible)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 3 cardamom pods, bashed to open
  • 7 cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 chilli finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced/grated ginger
  • 1 & 1/2 onions chopped
  • about 750 gr pumpkin/squash or sweet potato, washed well & cut into 2cm chunks
  • 880 ml (4 cups) veg stock
  • 450 ml (2 cups) boiling water
  • salt
  • a handful of whole almonds plus extra for garnish
  • 1 tsp tamarind (optional)
  • 2 tomatoes chopped
  • 3 or 4 tbsp tomato puree (tomate frito)
  • 2oo gr red beans (cooked) about 1/2 jar/ tin, drained & rinsed
  • about 200 gr fresh spinach
  • 1 lime or lemon
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped plus leaves to garnish

Combine the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorns, cloves & cardamom pods in a teacup & cover with warm water from the kettle, stir and set aside. (This softens the seeds & releases the flavours). Wash and drain the rice.

Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a deep pot over a medium high heat, add the onions & pumpkin and cook for about 10 minutes until softened and slightly browned. Heat the veg stock up to boiling in another pan. Add the garlic, ginger & chilli to the pumpkin and cook, stirring for another 2 minutes (don’t burn the garlic). Tip the contents of the pumpkin pan into a bowl and set aside. Add the rice to the emptied pan with the boiling veg stock & boiling water. Add the soaked spices and the powdered spices along with a good teaspoon of salt and stir to combine. Bring back to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, covered for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Now add the pumpkin mix back into the rice pot along with the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, beans, tamarind & almonds. Combine everything well, replace the lid and simmer over a low heat for about 15 – 20 minutes until the rice is cooked and all the liquid has been absorbed. Check on it occasionally to make sure it’s not sticking and add more hot water/stock if necessary. When all the liquid has been absorbed stir in the spinach & chopped coriander, season again with salt, taste and squeeze over some lime/lemon juice.

Serve in warmed bowls garnished with some almonds & coriander leaves and some extra wedges of lime on the side. The perfect accompaniments to this pilau are wholemeal chapatis and mango chutney….

Wholemeal Chapati Recipe

makes 4, vegetarian

  • 3oo gr wholemeal flour or a mix of 150 gr wholemeal 150 gr unbleached white flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or other oil)
  • about 110-120ml warm water

Combine the flours & salt in a large bowl. Add the oil, then trickle in the warm water a bit at a time stirring to combine with a wooden spoon.  When it has cohered into a ball of dough put it on a floured work surface and knead for 2 minutes, adding more flour if necessary to stop it sticking. Put the ball of dough back in the bowl cover with cling film or a clean tea towel & leave for 30 minutes or longer.

Cut the ball into quarters, flour your work surface and start rolling out one of the balls, turning it, clockwise to make a thin(about 2mm), round -ish/oval chapati. Heat your non stick frying pan to hot and cook the chapati for about 1 & 1/2  to 2 minutes on each side until they are golden with charred spots. Meanwhile roll out your next chapati so it its ready to go when the first one is done. Keep them warm under a tea towel or in a low oven while you cook the rest.

If you would like to make your own mango chutney see my Mango & Tomato Chutney Recipe.

There is so much flavour in this dish from all the whole spices this definitely won’t be the last time I cook an East African recipe. The cuisine mixes all the best flavours from India & Arabia with the indigenous African recipes creating stunning food that makes you want to try more. Why not give it a go…….

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Mulligatawny Barley Risotto

30 Nov

Mulligatawny soup is one of those old-fashioned dishes that sounds quite exotic, but you don’t really know what it is.  Mulligatawny means “pepper broth” in Tamil. It became popular with the British stationed in India during colonial times and when they returned home they brought the recipe back home with them.

This Anglo-Indian curried soup has many variations using different vegetables & spices and it is often thickened with rice. Freshly ground toasted spices are used to give it a distinctive warming flavour and aroma.

A spicy soup is just the thing at this time of year when you come home from a very long walk. Today we walked all the way down into the Barranco Blanco valley. At the bottom of this beautiful valley they started to build another golf resort/hotel and then stopped when they didn’t get permission. So not only is it a blot on the landscape, it is also abandoned & unfinished.

This is the view from the top, yes we walked all the way down & then back up again! The lake is in the grounds of a beautiful house and you can see on the left the unfinished hotel/resort. It would almost be better for them to finish it rather than just leave it like that, but if its built illegally then no one will touch it and the money just isn’t here anymore.

This is another beautiful property we saw on the way back up. I think that might just be the garage…I’ll just live there if you don’t mind, great view!!

The rumour goes that this “Hidden Valley” is where Franco hid a lot of Hitler’s generals after the war. Might explain the enormous houses and this eerie looking watchtower…

Anyway back to the soup. The recipe I had added cooked rice to the soup at the end. I decided to throw in some barley to cook in the soup towards the end of cooking as I didn’t have any cooked rice and my dad always used to put barley in his soups when I was young. Maybe I went a bit mad with the barley because it turned out like a spicy barley risotto rather than a soup, but it was all the better for it. It has all the ribsticking goodness of a risotto but no stirring! The freshly ground spices really make a difference to the flavour of the dish, don’t miss this part out if you can help it…You can use whatever vegetables you have in your fridge, that’s what I did.

Mulligatawny Barley Risotto

adapted from a Delia Smith recipe

serves 4 vegetarian

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 medium courgette 1 cm diced
  • 1/2 cauliflower in florets
  • 1 medium potato, 1cm cubed (or some halved baby new potatoes)
  • 1 large tomato chopped
  • 25 gr butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large cardamom pod (seeds only)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 litre veg stock (or more if you want it soupy)
  • 125 gr barley
  • salt & black pepper
  • fresh coriander chopped

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large pan then add the onions and cook over a medium heat until they are a golden brown colour (About 10 minutes). Now put the cardamom, cumin, fennel & coriander seeds in a small pan with the chilli flakes and dry fry them over a medium heat for about 2 or 3 minutes until they start to splutter & jump. Tip them into a mortar & pestle and crush them finely. (You can also crush them with the end of a rolling-pin in a small cup). Add the spices to the onions, stir to combine then add the vegetables. Season generously with salt & black pepper, cook for 1 minute then add the veg stock and the barley. Put the lid on and cook gently for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

You can serve it like this with some fresh coriander stirred through or for a smoother, thicker consistency ladle out just under half of the soup into a large bowl and blend it carefully (hot soup!) until smooth. Add this puree back into the soup, stir in the coriander and reheat gently. Add more stock to thin it out if you want to. Taste for seasoning and serve in warmed bowls with Anglo crusty bread or Indian parathas.

This really is a delicious soup dish, just perfect for those cold winter nights when you are chilled to the bone and miserable. The comforting warmth of the barley mixed with the aromatic spices is a heavenly combination.

This is one of those old-fashioned recipes that should not be forgotten. If this is where the British love affair with Indian cuisine started then I, for one, am really grateful. I’m bringing Mulligatawny back, you should try it too….

Don’t forget to check out the fantastic November Round -Up of YBR (Your Best Recipe) hosted by Nancy at Spicie Foodie. Click on the badge below to see an amazing variety of delicious dishes with beautiful photos. A real feast for the senses…

Mini Indian Sweet Potato Puffs

31 Oct

These gorgeous little pasties formed part of my mezze with the honey spiced aubergines from yesterday’s blogpost. They are light, sweet, spicy and very moreish. They would be great as part of a buffet instead of the sausage rolls or as little canapes with drinks, or even with afternoon tea. You will need to defrost the puff pastry in the fridge overnight so the pastry is cold when you roll it out and make the filling earlier in the day and leave it to cool.

Indian Spiced Sweet Potato Puffs Recipe

makes 8 (easily doubled) vegetarian

adapted from Flavour by Vicky Bhogal

  • 1 sweet potato, scrubbed well & baked in its skin (or microwaved)
  • 1 tbsp veg oil
  •  1 tsp panch pooran
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds (or onion seeds)
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  •  1/2 tsp turmeric
  • salt & pepper
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  •  a handful of chopped coriander
  • 1/2 a 375 gr pack of puff pastry (defrosted in the fridge overnight)
  •  1/2 tsp toasted cumin seeds
  • 1 egg beaten

*Punch pooran is a whole spice mix made up from cumin, fennel, fenugreek, black mustard & onion seeds. It gives a great rounded flavour to any indian dishes & is available from East End Foods.

Bake the scrubbed sweet potato in its skin in a 200 degree oven for 40 mins to 1 hour or microwave for 7 to 10 mins depending on the size. Leave until cool enough to handle and roughly chop into about 1 cm cubes.

Heat the veg oil in a frying pan on a medium low heat and add the punch pooran & mustard/onion seeds. Fry until they start to pop and sizzle then add the onion & garlic and cook for a few minutes until softened. Stir in the chilli & turmeric, add the chopped sweet potato and stir to mix well with the spices. Cook for few more minutes then put the mixture in a bowl and add the salt, pepper, lemon juice & fresh coriander. Leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Take the block or sheet of puff pastry on a floured surface and roll it out to about 3mm thick. Sprinkle the cumin seeds evenly over the pastry and roll over them to press them into the pastry. Using a round cutter or small glass about 8 cm diameter cut out about 16 discs. You should get about 10 to start with then roll up the leftovers into a ball and roll out again cut out again and repeat as necessary until you have 16 discs.

Mix the beaten egg with a little water and brush around the edge of each disc. Carefully place about a heaped teaspoon of the mixture into the centre of eight discs then take the remaining discs and place them on top of the filling. Push the edges together with your fingers then seal round crimping with a fork to create a border.

 Lift them carefully onto greased baking paper on a baking tray, brush them with egg wash and bake for about 12 – 15 minutes until risen & golden.

Serve as part of a mezze with a yoghurt & mint dip or a spicy tomato sauce. Or for afternoon tea on a rainy day…..

And remember to invite a friend or you will eat them all yourself, they are so addictive!!

Arabian Fig Jam Recipe

10 Oct

Gorgeous Figs

We have so many figs at the moment I think I have tried every recipe there is but this has to be the easiest and it’s great on toast, with goat’s cheese or even in little fig jam tarts!

The flavour of figs lends itself perfectly to the middle eastern spices creating a heady perfume with rose water and orange blossom water that transports you to 1001 warm nights in exotic palaces….

Arabian Fig Jam Recipe

Makes 1 Jam Jar Vegetarian

  • 500gr fresh figs chopped
  • 110 gr sugar
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp rose water
  • 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
  • a splash of white wine
  • 2 tbsp water
  1. Put the figs, sugar, lemon juice, spices and flower waters in a bowl and leave them for about 30 mins.
  2. Pour the mix into a saucepan, add the wine & water and bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring constantly.
  3. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 15 mins until the jam is thick.
  4. Transfer the jam while hot to a glass jar that has been sterilized with hot water. Don’t fill it right to the top and put the lid on.
  5. Leave to cool, then store in the fridge.

Arabian Fig Jam

If you don’t have all the spices etc, don’t worry it will still be delicious!

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