Author: Sanjana

About Sanjana

Food photographer, digital producer and dreamer of all things delicious. This blog on Indian and East African vegetarian food is my place of reflection and retreat.

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Vegan 'Butter' Cauliflower and Perfect Jeera Pilau

Vegan ‘Butter’ Cauliflower and Perfect Jeera Pilau

Bring me a head of cauliflower over a bunch of flowers any day. Yep, I’ve always been this easy to please. My first memories of cooking with cauliflower began at the supermarket where mum trained me in how to pick the freshest veggies for our homemade vegetarian feasts – all reliant on the senses. Think Karate Kid but with more legumes and fewer spinning leg kicks. “Look for the slimmest aubergines – they contain the fewest seeds”, “Always feel for the firmest okra – they’re the freshest”, “Shake the coconut and listen to hear if there’s water inside – the flesh will be more tender”. 20 years on and I remember these and hundreds more tips every time I pick fresh fruit and veg. I’m talking Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind but with zero algebra and loads of brassicas. My lesson on picking the perfect cauliflower? The florets should be firm, pure white and the leaves enveloped around the cauliflower head. Bonus points for a lack of baby caterpillars. When I was growing up …

Eggless/Vegan Vanilla Jasmine Macarons

Eggless and Vegan Vanilla and Jasmine Macarons

The code has been well and truly cracked. People all over the place are making gorgeous French macarons sans eggs and it’s downright remarkable. It’ll come as no surprise that the secret ingredient in these eggless/vegan macarons is aquafaba – the vegan chickpea water that replaces egg whites in meringues, pavlovas and rich vegan chocolate mousse. I’ve tried to nail the perfect eggless/vegan macaron for years and as soon as aquafaba came along, it was like all my baking prayers had been answered. It was the magic ingredient needed to form the basis of hundreds of recipes I’d always wanted to recreate without eggs. I’ve tried making macarons with both French meringue and Italian meringue and each time, the French meringue would look so promising and the end results were a total disaster – they’d puncture in the oven and ooze even though they had been rested for hours, were dry to the touch and baking at a low temperature. It had to be a problem with the stability of the aquafaba French meringue. I …

Dhai Ke Kebab Lettuce Wraps

Dhai Ke Kebab Lettuce Wraps with Sweet Onion Drizzle

I’ll always be a fan of a really good veggie burger but when it’s hot outside and I’m feeling too lazy to cook, lettuce wraps with something a little bit different inside are the like a dream. I love using lettuce to wrap up spicy noodles, quinoa salad, tandoori tofu and these totally delicious Dhai Ke Kebabs. These kebabs are made with thick, creamy yogurt that’s been hung for 24 hours, paneer, fresh mint, coriander, ginger and chilli – hardly health food but when a lettuce-wrapped kebab with crunchy veggies and sweet onion sauce tastes this fresh, you won’t care. I promise. The Dhai Ke Kebabs themselves have a golden, crunchy exterior from a combination of breadcrumbs and semolina – the audible ‘crunch’ when you bite into it is SO satisfying. The inside is soft, surprisingly light and lemony with the freshness of mint, coriander and a touch of ginger. The delicate combo of flavours will dance on your palate as if you were partaking in a groom’s dhol procession at an Indian wedding, midsummer. …

Sweet and Salty Chocolate Chip Chevdo Cookies

Sweet and Salty Chevdo Chocolate Chip Cookies

At first, I thought this might be it; the moment I’d officially lost the plot. I was ready to bring two of my favourite things closer than they’ve ever been. Turns out I haven’t gone insane. It worked. So, I united chevdo and chocolate chip cookies and their baby turned out to be a goddamn champion. Imagine this – the perfect balance of sweet, salty, spicy, crunchy and chewy in one little disc of happiness. The edges are slightly crisp, while the middle is soft, chewy and studded with chocolate chips, peanuts, potato chips, corn flakes, puffed rice and crispy lentils. If you love salted caramel or chocolate with chilli or sea salt, you’re going to go doolally for these egg-free cookies. The moment when you sit down to masala chai and ‘naasto’ (snacks) is the instant your troubles and stresses fizzle away. The soothing, milky masala tea erases the furrows in your brow and the crunchy, savoury, sweet and spicy snacks fill you with the feeling of home comforts. It’s a simple pursuit that inadvertently becomes …

Alphonso Mango Pavlova Cheesecake (Eggless and No-Bake Recipe)

Alphonso Mango Pavlova Cheesecake (Eggless Recipe)

‘Tis the season to eat mangoes! I had my annual fix of Indian Alphonso mango this weekend and they were flawless, as always. I was so desperate to get my mitts on them, I immediately went on a mango hunt after leaving work on Friday. Stepping into the Indian shop closest to my London train station, my eyes darted from shelf to shelf. There were rows upon rows of lentils, spices and green vegetables, but alas, there was not a mango in sight. My heart sank. As I meandered through the tiny, yet unfathomably packed shop, my nostrils filled with the smell of ajwain, dried turmeric, fenugreek… and then finally, the sweetest scent of fresh mango. There they were, a pile of mango boxes lying in wait like treasure in Aladdin’s cave, except better. I pounced on them faster than Shere Khan on Mowgli, the man child in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. As usual, the two mango varieties were Alphonso and Kesar. When given the choice, I get Alphonso. They have more fragrance and a …

Palak Paneer Snails

Palak Paneer Snails

Our favourite paneer dish has just undergone an epic makeover. Don’t freak out. The snails in the pastry refer to their shape rather than the contents. These filo coils are packed with the Indian restaurant favourite, Palak Paneer. Fresh, green spinach with creamy paneer, ginger, chillies and garlic is a combo I’d eat every day if I could get away with it. To demonstrate how easy this is, I’ve pulled together a short video where you can see how it’s rolled and coiled for that awesome shape. As much as I love this, it wouldn’t be half as amazing to eat if it wasn’t for the epic Carrot and Cucumber Mustard Salad. It’s loaded with hot and sour flavours which cuts right through the richness of the pie. I glazed these pies with a combination of melted butter and turmeric for as a cheeky replacement for egg wash. Nobody will ever know. This is perfect for serving up when you have friends over for dinner, taking along to picnics and stowing away in the freezer …

Chilli-Garlic Tofu Noodle Bowls with Crispy Fried Okra

Chilli-Garlic Tofu Noodle Bowls with Crispy Okra

One of my favourite weeknight dinners is stir-fried tofu with colourful veggies, noodles and heaps of chilli. This is a twist on Chilli Paneer – that Indian vegetarian restaurant favourite that has found its way onto wedding menus and dinner tables at home. As much as I love paneer, I find it a little too heavy to have with noodles or rice – this is where tofu noodle bowls come to the rescue. They might look quite ordinary but the sauce packs a real punch, seasoning the golden tofu and noodles perfectly. It’s made using large red chillies, garlic, spring onions, soy sauce, star anise and brown sugar. A combo of ingredients I always have in the house. I throw in any vegetables I have in the fridge – usually a mix of broccoli, mushrooms, beansprouts, mange tout or French beans. My special touch to these is to add crispy okra strips and fried Thai basil leaves. They add the most beautiful crunch and are a delicious way of getting your okra fix as part of …

Tandoori Tofu Tikka Masala (Vegan)

Tandoori Tofu Tikka Masala (Vegan)

In my book, anything served on a stick is a winner. It seals the deal if what’s on the stick is smothered in a charred tandoori paste, restaurant style. Here’s my take on a British-‘Indian’ dish. It’s loaded with homemade tandoori spices, garlic, lemon, ground almonds and coconut cream. The best thing about it is that it’s 100% vegan. That’s got to get me extra brownie points, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it’s not an ‘authentic Indian recipe’ and have heard far too many times, ‘Ask any Indian what tikka masala is and they won’t know.’ To this I say, ‘Whatevs’. For me, this started out as a guilty pleasure dish I’ve grown to love and adapt to my own tastes, incorporating my love for tandoori dishes. I’ve gotten over it and I promise once you’ve tried it yourself, you will too! I’ve been obsessed with tofu puffs for as long as I can remember. I like to think of them as sailboats for any sauce or spice you add. They soak in flavours …

Slow-Cooker Channa Masala and Fluffy Bhatura

Slow-Cooker Channa Masala and Fluffy Bhatura

Happy New Year! Firstly, I’d like to say I’m sorry I’ve been AWOL for some time now. I promise I have a good reason. We did it; we finally bought our first house! It has a small kitchen, huge amounts of natural light and wait for it… room for a photography studio! I can’t believe I have a space fully dedicated to my passion. 8 years ago, I started out with this blog, no camera and no clue. Now I have actual shelves just for props. I hope I’m able to produce more delicious recipes to share with you this year, all from my little studio in my little house. Totally overjoyed. So I’ve been spending the last few months working out what we need to furnish it, upcyling old furniture (which I am loving, btw) and spending my life on Pinterest. Although we’ve still got a fair way to go with getting the house finished, I’m in a good spot to get back on track with blogging. I kid you not, I have a …

Spiced Butternut and Cauliflower Cheese Pithiviers 4

Spiced Butternut and Cauliflower Cheese Pithiviers

One of my favourite classic comfort foods has to be cauliflower cheese. A chilly autumnal weeknight calls for nothing more than simple oven-baked cauliflower cheese, sometimes with a tumble of broccoli florets added in, other times with belly-pleasing macaroni. One thing they all have in common is delicious, sharp Cheddar and a crunchy golden top. Here, I’ve combined all those glorious elements into another comfort food favourite – the pithivier. These traditional French pies are usually made with a frangipane filling but can also be savoury. I’ve opted to fill my discs of puff pastry with cauliflower cheese, butternut squash and a delicious blend of spices. In place of egg wash, they’re glazed with a thyme and honey brown butter which provides a gorgeously-golden finish. The combination of butternut squash and a homemade gratin spice blend will give you all the autumnal feels you crave after a long day at work. If you don’t have butternut, you can use pumpkin or acorn squash instead. The gratin spice blend is unbelievable in everything from dauphinoise potatoes to mac and …

Lime and Dark Chocolate Melting Moments

Lime and Dark Chocolate Melting Moments

I’ll never forget my year five primary school teacher. She was the kind of person you should have aspired to be like one day, over and above Ginger Spice who was probably the most popular choice at that age. Along with all the fair qualities and graces you’d expect from somebody who had mastered the art of being patient with a bunch of little cretins, this particular teacher was a master of bribery. And said bribery always involved sweets. Chocolate Limes to be precise. She had a stash of these retro classics stowed away in her top drawer for when you answered a question correctly, or were simply doing something that was out of your comfort zone. Even though it was a single sweet you probably wouldn’t have given a toss about if your nan had offered one up at the weekend, it was the status, power and sense of achievement that came with that limey shell and chocolate middle. It made you feel like you had truly taken a step forward that day. Don’t even get me started on …

Pull-Apart Samosa Bread

Pull-Apart Samosa Bread

Today’s the day I finally get to say hello to you all! I’ve spent this sunny Saturday filming my third YouTube video and it’s the first time I’m actually in it, albeit for just a few moments before you get to the best bit – the recipe. Can you believe I’ve been sharing my favourite recipes with you for seven whole years?! Neither can I. This pull-apart/tear ‘n’ share/whatever you want to call it bread has a little secret. It’s not harbouring cheese and garlic like you’d expect. It’s packed with spicy samosa filling instead. If you’re craving those ever-popular Indian snacks, but want something a little out of the box for your next party, this is the recipe for you. Rustle up two trays, put them into the middle of the table and watch them disappear in the blink of an eye. You can serve them hot, as they are or with individual pots of garlic butter for each guest. Either way, I promise everyone will be smiling with a belly full of samosa …