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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Village-Style Gujarati Khichdi

Village-Style Gujarati Khichdi (Buttery Rice & Lentils)

The clattering of pots, pans and spoons in my kitchen is a sound that fills me with comfort and joy. It’s the first dish I crave after a long trip away and the hug in a bowl I need when autumn sets in. At the first whiff of mellow rice and lentils emanating from my cooker, there’s only one thing that matters; I’m home. I’m making Khichdi, Gujarati style, like how they eat it on the farm in my ancestral home of Porbandar. It’s served with Gujarati Lasan ni Chutney, a blow-your-socks-off garlic and chilli preserve, and a cold glass of Chaas (salted buttermilk with roasted cumin). This is the comfort food every Gujarati has precious memories of growing up. The porridge-like consistency of a ghee-beaten rice and lentil mishmash was usually the first solid food we ever ate as toothless babies and our fondness for it stayed with us right through to adulthood. It became a familiar and nostalgic comfort blanket for the belly. Loaded with hearty goodness and family tradition, Khichdi was and …

Vegan Hariyali Chicken Drumsticks

Vegan Hariyali “Chicken” Drumsticks

Along with tofu and soya chunks, one of my favourite vegan sources of protein is seitan. Made from white beans, tofu and vital wheat gluten, my recipe transforms a handful of simple ingredients into the most delicious vegan “chicken”. It has the perfect “shredded chicken” texture and it can be used to make all kinds of vegan dishes from curries and stews, to salads and tandoori-style dishes. I’ve used it to make Vegan Seitan Butter Chicken, Biryani and now these Hariyali “Chicken” Drumsticks. “Hariyali” refers to the beautiful shamrock green colour of the marinade. My recipe puts a glut of coriander and mint to good use and the tandoori-style drumsticks pair perfectly with salad and freshly-made Indian flatbreads like naan, paratha and chapattis. Even though the marinade is packed full of big, punchy flavours, the spicing is simple using lots of ginger, chillies and garlic. Cashews and coconut yoghurt give the super green marinade body so that it clings on the the “chicken” drumsticks with ease. Both vegetarians and meat eaters will be able to …

Gujarati Lasan ni Chutney (Garlic Chutney)

Gujarati Lasan ni Chutney (No-Cook Garlic Chutney)

Gujarati Lasan ni Chutney is the condiment to rule all condiments. It’s made with a tonne of crushed raw garlic, chilli, lemon, fresh coriander, salt and oil. That’s it. No cooking and no fancy spices. This is simple Kathiyawadi village fare from the heart of Gujarat. Kathiyawad is a peninsula off the western coast of India, in the region of Saurashtra and it’s where my family come from. Made up of several districts including Porbandar, Junagadh and Jamnagar, many people who live there have farming in their blood and an appetite for simply cooked but flavour-rich fare. Serve Gujarati Lasan ni Chutney as an accompaniment to any curry (aubergines work particularly well and are traditional fare), Indian breads like millet chapattis (Bajra na Rotla), wheat chapattis both thin and thick (Rotli and Bhakhri) and fenugreek chapattis (Thepla) are the ultimate pairing. It also livens up a bowl of warm, comforting lentil and rice stew (Khichdi). For a less traditional but equally delicious use for Gujarati Lasan ni Chutney, stir it into warm vegetables, pasta sauces, …

Kadai Tofu and Vegetables

Vegan Kadai Tofu & Vegetables

I get such a sense of satisfaction from emptying the fridge of the last of the vegetables. Knowing we’ve used up every last bit of fresh food without throwing anything out fills me with all the good feelings. A rogue carrot, a handful of mushrooms and a glut of peppers bought two weeks ago, they all have their uses. Food waste is such a huge problem today and it makes no sense because there are also so many people struggling to feed themselves and their families. Along with supermarkets and food manufacturers, we’re all responsible for ensuring we do what we can to cut down on the amount of food we toss in the bin just because it’s a few days past the date printed on the packet. Tesco have recently announced they will stop printing Best Before dates on some fruit and veg products which is a great start. Having worked on a number of food TV shows in the past, I’ve seen an immense amount of (perfectly good) food being thrown in the …

Crispy Aloo Chaat Potato Skins

Crispy Aloo Chaat Potato Skins

Hot, sour, sweet, salty and spicy are the famous characteristics of perfect Aloo Chaat. As well as having what’s known as “chatpata” flavour, the potatoes must be crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. It’s the law. Aloo Chaat is a spud-packed street food dish that’s traditionally served in a bowl and enjoyed on the go, right? Not today. I’ve got a fun little treat for you and it constists of swapping the traditional plastic or banana leaf chaat bowl for a crispy potato skin bowl you can devour along with the mouth-watering aloo chaat inside. This Aloo Chaat Potato Skin platter is a sharing feast that will be a hit at parties and celebration meals alike. Create an explosion of flavours with just a handful of spices and fresh herbs, topped off with sweet pomegranate seeds and a cooling yoghurt drizzle. The best thing is that it’s a great make-ahead dish you can prep the day before if you like. I like to cook the potatoes fully and keep them covered in …

Birthday Cake Burfi

Birthday Cake Burfi

I’m thrilled to have received so many success stories from you all about the Eggless Birthday Cupcake recipe I posted a few weeks ago. You’ve shared them across Facebook, Instagram and via email and like a proud mum, I fill up with joy every time I see your recipe remakes. Today is my 30th birthday and I’ve been sharing recipes here for 10 years. Can you believe it?! With each year, I’ve grown as a person, learning more about myself than I ever thought I would through a medium as lighthearted as a recipe blog. Exploring my cultural heritage through food has helped me get to grips with my own personal identity. With this I’ve understood and embraced what “home” really means to me. It’s where my family are; My husband, my son, my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, and their children, all sitting around a dinner table eating great food and just being… well, a family. Many of you know that I was born in Britain, the daughter of immigrants with Indian and East …

Sprouted Mung Bean Breakfast Noodles

Mung beans, plus water, plus 72 hours is my kind of maths. Watching the process of mung beans cracking and sprouting over three days has fascinated me since the age of seven and it still fascinates me now I’m 30. The shrill pitter patter of the mung beans being poured into a bowl and the swoosh and clatter of them being washed and rinsed reminds me of waves lapping the shore at Bamburi Beach, Mombasa. It’s a place where I’ve had a bucket load of happy food memories. First the mung beans bloom; They’re fat and full of water. Next, their sage skins crack and reveal the creamy white of the inside, rather like Japanese Kintsugi. After a few days and minimal TLC the mung beans begin to sprout delicate tendrils which get longer over the span of 24 hours. Full of goodness and earthy crunch, the mung beans are ready to eat. Make your own sprouted mung beans by washing them and soaking for 24 hours. Once they’re plump, drain the water from them …

Easy, Creamy Palak Paneer

Easy, Creamy Palak Paneer

I will always order Palak Paneer if it’s on the menu in a restaurant. It’s the law. I could forgo rice and bread and quite simply eat a bowl of Palak Paneer with a spoon. You can tell a good Indian restaurant from a bad one by the quality of their Palak Paneer. Have they bothered to blend the sauce for a rich, luxurious finish? If it’s left chunky with tomatoes, lots of turmeric and far too many spices, it’s probably the base for another dish on the menu doubled up to be used for Palak Paneer too. It also shouldn’t be labelled Saag Paneer on the menu. Saag Paneer is an entirely different dish made with delicious, peppery mustard greens and shouldn’t be confused with the milder-tasting Palak Paneer made with spinach. It’s delightful when restaurant Palak Paneer turns out to have a smooth and creamy blended spinach sauce with a bright green colour. You can tell it’s been made with care and attention. simple flavoured sauce paired with a big, bold and spicy …

Indian-Inspired Rocky Road

Indian-Inspired Rocky Road

When special occasions are fast approaching and I’ve run out of time to whip up something sweet, it’s Indian-inspired Rocky Road to the rescue! It’s truffle-like chocolate studded with pistachios, almonds, dried mango, crystallised ginger, Turkish delight, mini marshmallows and spiced shortbread biscuits. Dried rose petals top the Rocky Road off beautifully. I’ve been known to leave things to the last minute at Diwali time when it’s customary to gift Indian sweets to your nearest and dearest. This recipe is a quick and easy raid-the-cupboard workaround that hits the spot when Pendas, Jalebis, Gulab Jamuns and Burfis are all too time consuming to make. It’s also great for people who aren’t too keen on Indian sweets. I’ve added all the things I love to this (namely pistachios, Nankhatai from the wonderful Chins’ Kitchen and Turkish delight) but you can swap any of these for what you like best. Other delicious mix-ins would be candied pineapple, coconut cookies and chopped dates. If you’re after a more authentic Indian sweet taste, add 1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom …

Sanjana’s Fluffy Eggless Vanilla Cupcakes

Sanjana’s Fluffy Eggless Vanilla Cupcakes

“Ping!” My ears pricked up like those of a famished fox on bin day. That was the sound of the oven telling us our quick eggless sponge cake was ready. I was seven years old and obsessed with baking with my mum in the little kitchen above our corner shop. It was our home for the first ten years of my life and the place where I first fell in love with food and the idea of cooking. Cakes eluded me as I never indulged in them at friends’ birthday parties. Like many Gujarati Hindus, we are a family of lacto-vegetarians so don’t eat eggs. My mum never wanted us to miss out so she would test recipes for the perfect fluffy eggless sponge cakes for us at home. A hundred iterations of cakes made with everything from condensed milk and sour cream, to custard powder and buttermilk. I’d watch intently the whole time, soaking up the baking smells and tips. We baked them in the oven and cooked them in the microwave, in silicone liners and …

Restaurant-Style Tandoori Paneer Tikka

Restaurant-Style Tandoori Paneer Tikka

One of my most favourite meals in the world is the iconic Punjabi dish, Tandoori Paneer Tikka. When this street food gem is served alongside lemon wedges, salad and mint and coriander chutney, nothing else comes close. The beauty of simple ingredients, very few spices and fiery cooking method ensures this dish is world famous for its leopard-spotted char and smoky flavours. I’ve been working on this recipe for the ultimate Restaurant-Style Tandoori Paneer Tikka made without a tandoor or barbecue for SO long. You’ll notice my dreams of installing a big, badass tandoor in my garden still haven’t come to fruition. Don’t worry though, I’ve found a great workaround. It’s a recipe that gives you restaurant or street-style flavours at home with minimal effort. Spoiler: there’s no grill or oven involved either. Juicy chunks of paneer marinated in a punchy hot and sour tandoori masala are skewered up with onion petals and pieces of pepper. The loaded skewers are then grilled on a wire rack directly over the gas cooker to infuse deep, smoky …

Makai Paka & Maharagwe Bhajiya (Sweetcorn in Coconut Milk Topped with Crispy Bean Fritters)

Makai Paka & Maharagwe Bhajiya (Sweetcorn in Coconut Milk with Bean Fritters)

What are your favourite food smells? For me, you can’t get any better than veggies roasting over an open fire. The flavours of corn, aubergines, peppers and okra and onions are all heightened when you introduce them to flames. I have such precious memories of holidaying in Mombasa, melting away in the smell of fire-roasted maize on the cob, mohogo and sweet potatoes. These, combined with the lingering smell of hot coals, gasoline and frying potatoes in the salty, coastal air transports me to a happy place that’s almost as comforting as the welcoming warmth of my bed at home. I’m lucky enough to have grown up with three cultures; British, Indian and Kenyan. I grew up in the 90s, lived in an all-white area and was forever told that my house/packed lunch/hair always “smells like curry” by my peers. If that wasn’t odd enough, I was also the only vegetarian at school (remember this was before “plant-based” and “vegan” diets were mainstream and instafamous). When my lunches weren’t cucumber sandwiches and crisps, they were …