Squash & Mascarpone Pasta with Crispy Kalettes

This creamy pasta makes for a satisfying one-bowl dinner. It’s the ultimate comfort food and has just a tingle of spice to keep you warm. The pasta is combined with a silky roasted butternut squash and mascarpone sauce before being topped with crispy kalettes (little kale sprouts) and fried sage. I can’t think of anything more perfect for a cosy night in.

Squash & Mascarpone Pasta with Crispy Kalettes

You can use any kind of pasta shape for this dish. I recommend one with ridges to catch the creamy sauce in all the nooks and crannies. I used tripoline but fusilli, cavatappi and conchiglie would all work well. I love all kinds of pasta but have always thought there’s something quite magical about long shapes that you can twirl around your fork. Maybe I’m just a sucker for playing with my food.

The recipe itself uses just a handful of ingredients to showcase the beautiful roasted squash and kale. You can easily veganise the sauce by swapping the mascarpone for your favourite vegan cream cheese. Top with grated dairy-free Cheddar or mozzarella for a final flourish of the good stuff.

Squash & Mascarpone Pasta with Crispy Kalettes

When it comes to pasta, I’m partial to a crispy, bubbly top. If you are too, you can sprinkle over some extra cheese and grill until leopard-spotted and gooey.

I ate this out of the pan as soon as I’d finished photographing it. No regrets.

Squash & Mascarpone Pasta with Crispy Kalettes

Most people would say this recipe serves 6 but in my house, it serves 4. Who am I to tell you how much pasta to eat? Use my pasta measurements as a guideline for the pasta:sauce ratio and enjoy every last bit of this one-bowl wonder!

Squash & Mascarpone Pasta with Crispy Kalettes

Squash & Mascarpone Pasta with Crispy Kalettes

Tripoline pasta combined with a silky roasted butternut squash and mascarpone sauce before being topped with crispy kalettes (little kale sprouts) and fried sage. I can’t think of anything more perfect for a cosy night in.

  • 250 g pasta ((I used tripoline))
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed ((about 1kg))
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil ((+ 1 tsp olive oil))
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1-2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 20 sage leaves
  • 160 g kalettes ((you can also use baby kale leaves))
  • 250 g mascarpone
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • Fresh parsley, to garnish ((optional))
  • Grated cheese, to garnish ((optional – I like Cheddar))
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F.
  2. First, fry the sage leaves in 2 tbsp olive oil until dark green and crispy. Remove from the oil and set aside on kitchen paper to cool and crisp up further. Keep the oil you used to cook them in — we’re going to coat the squash in this.
  3. Peel and cube the butternut squash. Toss with 1/2 tsp sea salt, fennel seeds and the olive oil used to cook the sage leaves. Place this in the oven to roast, about 30-35 minutes.
  4. Remove the squash and kale from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water, according to packet instructions.
  6. Blend together half of the squash, mascarpone and 60ml of the pasta cooking water. Be sure to include all that roasted garlic. Season with chilli flakes and 1 tsp salt.
  7. Drain the pasta and immediately toss the pasta with the sauce. Top with the crispy kalettes, remaining squash cubes and fried sage leaves. Garnish with chopped parsley and grated cheese, if desired. Serve piping hot.

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Squash & Mascarpone Pasta with Crispy Kalettes

Tripoline pasta combined with a silky roasted butternut squash and mascarpone sauce before being topped with crispy kalettes (little kale sprouts) and fried sage. I can’t think of anything more perfect for a cosy night in.




Vegan Crispy Chicken-less Burgers

Happy New Year, everyone! To all my longtime readers, thanks a million for all the support over the year. It’s been a wonderful journey. Can you believe this little blog will be 10 years old this year? To all my new readers — welcome! I have absolutely no new year’s resolutions. Same old me, taking each day as it comes and enjoying every moment. See, nothing new.

Wanna see something that is new?

Crispy Vegan Chicken-less Burger

Behold! The vegan burger dreams are made of. This giant panko-crusted vegan “chicken” fillet (or should I say chicken-less fillet) is the star of the show. Nestled between the folds of a squishy sesame bun, it’s joined by fresh avocado, lettuce, red onions, tomatoes and a spicy vegan mayo. Limp fast food veggie burgers can step aside, for there’s a new wave of vegan burgers hitting our plates, shops and restaurants. Soy, gluten, pea and bean-based burgers and other meat substitutes are all on the rise and non-meat eaters have more choice than ever. For me, a grilled mushroom between two buns has never hit the spot but thankfully, there’s so much more out there now. I’m not even sure why grilled ‘shrooms are classed as a burger patty.

Now let’s get straight to business. It’s full disclosure time. This is by no means a quick and easy recipe. It’s a labour of love and like with all good things, you must have patience and be prepared to wait. I think a burger this spectacularly juicy, fresh and nutritious is worth said wait. Although, I’ve found that if you break the steps down and tackle one bit at a time, it’s much easier. Making the vegan “chicken” is what takes the most time.

I’m a huge fan of chickwheat which is a high-protein wheat meat made with vital wheat gluten, tofu and white beans. Once a “dough” is made, it’s wrapped in foil, pressure cooked and left to rest. The result is a slab of textured, shreddy chickenless chicken that’s so flavoursome and versatile. I make big batches and freeze it so it’s always on hand for dishes like Vegan Seitan Butter “Chicken”, stir fries, tacos and Vegan Hariyali “Chicken” Drumsticks. I first heard about Chickwheat via The Seitan Appreciation Group on Facebook and Lacey Siomos of the Avocados and Ales blog. With vegan diets on the rise, seitan and other meat substitutes like this chickwheat are becoming widely recognised these days and vegan or not, I think it’s brilliant for those who’d like a varied choice. You were lucky to get a frozen bean burger when I was growing up in the 90s and 00s. Times are changing for the better when it comes to food options, culinary innovation and an open mindedness towards alternative diets.

Crispy Vegan Chicken-less Burger

As much as I like the convenience of shop bought, there’s nothing better than being able to customise your own flavours by making your own vegan meat subs at home. I order my vital wheat gluten online (Buy Whole Foods Online do a great one if you’re UK based – try Amazon if you’re not) and my chicken-style stock/seasoning of choice is Massel and Schwartz but you can use any. If you’re vegan or are cooking for vegans, read the ingredients to make sure the one you choose is suitable.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker for making the chicken, you can use a large saucepan with a lid and gently simmer (not boil) for 2 1/2 hours. An instant pot is also a great option – cook on high for 35 minutes. A stand mixer with a dough hook attachment is essential for this recipe. If the dough is not kneaded enough, you’ll end up with more of a spongy texture without the desired “pulled” effect. Knead the dough long and hard and keep an eye on your mixer to ensure it doesn’t wiggle across the countertop — they can shift fast! I wrap it tightly in foil to make sure the chicken doesn’t expand too much during the cooking process. We want it nice and compact. You could also use cheesecloth or muslin and string if you’re not keen on using foil, although it is a little messier. Be sure to wrap it tightly for a good shape and to stop the water leaking in. To sum up, It’s the long kneading, tight wrapping and long cooking that gives the chicken its perfect shreddy texture.

Crispy Vegan Chicken-less Burger

Panko are my coating of choice because I like the crunch you get with larger breadcrumb pieces. Switch in regular breadcrumbs if that’s what you have. You’ll need to dust the fillets in plain flour and batter of dairy-free yoghurt and chickpea flour first — this will help the breadcrumbs adhere well. It’s messy but fun and kids will love helping with this part! Feel free to customise the burger toppings to your taste; a slice of melty vegan cheese, wafer-thin pickles and a smidge of mustard or barbecue sauce is also a good idea. I’ve also been known to throw in a few jalapeños for a big chilli kick.

Crispy Vegan Chicken-less Burger

Vegan Chicken

This firm, textured vegan chicken is packed with protein and goodness. It’s made using tofu, beans and the magic ingredient… vital wheat gluten. Cube it, shred it and slice it for curries, stir fries, pasta, salad and wraps.

For the vegan seitan chicken

  • 300 g extra-firm tofu ((drained))
  • 1 400g tin haricot beans, inc. the liquid from the tin ((you can also use any other white beans, such as cannellini beans or butter beans))
  • 150 g vital wheat gluten ((I buy mine on Amazon))
  • 150 ml cold water
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp white miso paste ((you can also use 1 tsp MSG if you can tolerate it))
  • 1 tbsp vegan chicken-style boullion ((I use Massel))
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 3 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
  1. In a high-powered blender, combine the tofu, haricot beans in their liquid, miso paste (or msg), boullion, salt, nutritional yeast, oil and water until you have a smooth paste. 
  2. Add the vital wheat gluten to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the tofu mixture and mix on a low speed until the two come together in the form of a dough. 
  3. Switch the paddle attachment to a dough hook and mix on a medium/high speed for 10-12 minutes. Stay close by as the mixer may shuffle across the counter top as the dough is tough to work. You’ll also need to be very careful your mixer’s motor doesn’t burn out. This kneading of the dough is crucial in developing the gluten and proteins in the seitan and shouldn’t be skipped. The longer and harder you work it, the more fibrous and chicken-like the final product will be. I wouldn’t recommend doing it by hand as your arms might threaten to fall off. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger would struggle, seriously. Having said this, you can make it kneading by hand – it will not however, have a shreddable, “pulled” quality and you’ll finish up with a spongy end product instead. It’ll still taste good but probably won’t fool your meat-eating friends. 
  4. Once your dough has been kneaded long and hard, remove it from the mixer and wrap the “loaf” very tightly in 2-3 layers of heavy-duty foil or one piece of cheesecloth. Try to go for an oval shape. You want it to be nice and compact inside to stop it expanding inside as this will promote sponginess rather than the shreddable texture we’re after. The multiple layers of foil will also stop too much water getting inside. 
  5. Next, fill a pressure cooker with plenty of water (about 3/4 of the way full) and bring to a boil. Carefully drop your seitan into the cooker and put the lid on. Cook on a medium/high heat for 40 minutes. Once the time is up, switch off the heat and leave it to cool completely. 
  6. Once cool, remove the parcel from the cooker and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 48 hours. You can also freeze it for up to 6 months.
  7. Unwrap and check out that amazing texture when you pull it apart. Your chickenless chicken is now ready to cut into fillets for the burger.
  • You can freeze the chickenless chicken whole or in pieces in a ziplock-style bag for up to 6 months. Defrost at room temperature, keep refrigerated and use within 48 hours.

Crispy Vegan Chicken-less Burgers

Behold! The vegan burger dreams are made of. This giant panko-crusted vegan “chicken” fillet (or should I say chicken-less fillet) is the star of the show. Nestled between the folds of a squishy sesame bun, it’s joined by fresh avocado, lettuce, red onions, tomatoes and a spicy vegan mayo. 

For the crispy seitan chicken:

  • 1 recipe vegan chicken, rested and cold ((posted above))
  • 100 g plain flour
  • 200 g panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp vegan chicken seasoning ((I like garlic, chilli and thyme))
  • 150 g dairy-free yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp chickpea flour
  • 1 L rapeseed oil for deep frying

For the burger build:

  • 4 burger buns ((sliced in half))
  • 200 g gem lettuce leaves
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, finely sliced into rings
  • 1/2 vine tomato, finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp your favourite hot sauce ((I like sriracha))
  • 4 tbsp vegan mayo ((I like Follow Your Heart and Hellmans))
  1. Slice the cold seitan into fillet-like pieces. You might have a few odd pieces left over – don’t throw them away! I like to use them to make nuggets.
  2. Set up a breadcrumb station. Place the plain flour on a plate. Mix together the panko and chicken seasoning and spread this onto another plate. In a bowl, whisk together the dairy-free yoghurt and chickpea flour.
  3. In a wok or large, deep saucepan, heat the oil to 175°C/350°F.
  4. Dredge the chicken in the flour, dip it into the yogurt mixture and then into the breadcrumbs. Repeat the yoghurt and breadcrumb dip for a thicker coating but I found one dip in each was perfect for me. Ensure it’s evenly coated with panko. Repeat for all the fillets. Pop these in the freezer for 5 minutes to set the coating.
  5. Carefully fry two fillets at a time, turning gently in the oil to ensure even browning all over. They should be golden brown and crispy. Remove from the oil and drain on a plate lined with absorbent kitchen paper.
  6. Mix together the vegan mayo and hot sauce. Spread the buns with mayo, top with an assortment of the salad and finally, the crispy vegan chicken fillet. Serve immediately. I love these with French fries!
  • Add a slice of your favourite melty vegan cheese for extra deliciousness.
  • You can freeze the fried fillets in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Allow to cool completely before freezing. Cook them from frozen in the oven – 175°C/350°F, 25-30 minutes.
  • After carving your fillets, use any seitan scraps to make nuggets.

 

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Vegan Crispy Chicken-less Burgers




Easy Cereal Chevdo

Who stole the chevdo from the naasto jar? Sanjana stole the chevdo from the naasto jar.

Our naasto (snack) jar is the equivalent of a cookie jar — one minute it’s full and the next only a few crumbs remain at the bottom. It’s most often filled with chakri (savoury rice sticks), gathia (spiced chickpea flour noodles) and chevdo (the spicy-sweet-sour mix of dreams). The moment when you sit down to masala chai and ‘naasto’ is when troubles fizzle away. The soothing, milky masala tea erases the furrows in your brow and the crunchy, savoury, sweet and spicy snacks are a welcome cuddle from the inside. It’s the kind of home comfort that becomes an occasion without even trying. Flawless.

Of course, there is no naasto time without chevdo.

Easy Cereal Chevdo

Chevdo is a crunchy, savoury Indian snack in which every ingredient is fried or baked to golden perfection before being tumbled together with salt, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, sugar and chilli. The ingredients vary from recipe to recipe but the essentials include: potato sticks, roasted moong daal, corn flakes, nuts, crispy curry leaves and sultanas. You’re probably thinking that this sounds similar to that notorious bar snack, Bombay mix? Let me assure you that it’s not the same.

Bombay mix is a form of chevdo in the sense that it’s a load of sweet, spicy, salty, crunchy ingredients but traditional chevdo isn’t made up of mainly chickpea flour noodles like Bombay Mix is. The flavours aren’t as complex in Bombay Mix which usually includes salt and chilli.

Easy Cereal Chevdo

I’ve created a quick, lightened up version of chevdo using a mix of unsweetened breakfast cereal and much less oil than the traditional recipe (which involves a lot of deep frying of everything). It includes all the usual spices for an explosion of flavour without all the deep frying.

The crispy curry leaves and spices are tempered in rapeseed oil and then mixed thoroughly with the cereal, nuts and potato sticks. My recipe makes 1.5kg — it sounds like a lot but in our home, it’s traditional to bag it up and share with friends and family, especially during special occasions.

Serve with masala chai or a cold beer for snacking that goes above and beyond your usual bag of nuts down the pub.

Easy Cereal Chevdo

Easy Cereal Chevdo

A lighter take on Indian trail mix with a surprising ingredient… breakfast cereal! Add a mix of nuts, spices, chilli and crispy curry leaves for a snack you simply can’t stop eating.

  • 375 g unsweetened cereal loops ((such as Cheerios))
  • 375 g unsweetened cornflakes
  • 500 g unsalted baked potato sticks or crisps
  • 150 g whole or halved cashews
  • 85 g whole almonds
  • 85 g whole peanuts
  • 70 ml rapeseed oil
  • 12 g curry leaves ((approx. 50 leaves))
  • 5 green chillies, chopped
  • 50 g sesame seeds
  • 30 g unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • 25 g raisins or sultanas
  • 30 g coriander leaves
  • 20 g whole fennel seeds
  • 10 g cinnamon ((approx. 1 stick, broken))
  • 2 g cloves ((approx. 15 cloves))
  • 6 g turmeric ((approx. 2 tsp))
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder ((optional))
  • 5 g citric acid
  • 12 g fine salt
  • 20 g sugar
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Place the nuts on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

  2. In a very large container (I used a big storage container), combine the cereals, potato sticks and cooled nuts.

  3. Heat the oil in a medium-sized pan. Add the curry leaves and coriander leaves. Sauté until crispy (about 3 minutes) and remove with a slotted spoon. Allow to cool on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Once cold and crispy, rub between your palms to crush into small flakes.

  4. To the remaining oil, add the green chillies, sesame seeds, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves (be careful – these can pop), raisins, coconut and turmeric. Sauté everything, stirring all the time. Cook for 5 minutes over a medium heat until everything is well combined and toasted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

  5. Add the seed and spice mix, the crispy curry leaves and coriander, salt, sugar and citric acid to the cereal and nut mixture. Use a large spoon (or clean hands) to mix everything together very well. Take your time over this to ensure everything gets well coated. I spent a good 15 minutes mixing.

  6. Cover the chevdo with a lid and allow to sit for 24 hours. You can give it a mix now and again to ensure all the cereal and spices mix well and infuse.

  • Don’t substitute lemon/lime juice in place of citric acid as they will add moisture and affect the shelf life of the chevdo.

 

  • You can also add toasted moong daal to the chevdo – I prefer it without though.

 

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Easy Cereal Chevdo

A lighter take on Indian trail mix with a surprising ingredient… breakfast cereal! Add a mix of nuts, spices, chilli and crispy curry leaves for a snack you simply can’t stop eating.




Vegan Cherry Bakewell Cake

Is there anything more Christmassy than the sweet smell of toasted almonds and cherries wafting through the house? It’s an aroma that transports me to my happy place. Were it a fragrance I could wear as perfume, I’d purchase bottles by the dozen. However, standing in front of the oven will have to do for now.

Vegan Cherry Bakewell Cake

If you love all things cherry bakewell, marzipan or frangipane, this is the cake for you. It’s a light and airy vegan sponge with nothing more than a dusting of icing sugar and a crown of fresh cherries. No buttercream, no fuss.

Serve it with masala chai for a hint of spice and all the cosy vibes.

My sponge is made with super fine self-raising cake flour, ground almonds and a little bit of cornflour to hold everything together without eggs. Almond milk, apple cider vinegar and almond oil give it lift and moisture.

Vegan Cherry Bakewell Cake

I’m a sucker for a glacé cherry and I think they work wonderfully in this recipe. Fresh cherries will also work but bear in mind they will seep juice as they bake and this could make the sponge a bit soggy. I recommend baking this cake a day in advance. The flavours and textures get better after 24 hours. You might find it a little claggy if you eat it straight away and the almond flavour won’t be as prominent.

I wrap the cake in cling film or non-stick foil as soon as it comes out of the oven (let it sit in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn it out and wrap). This keeps the outside of the cake nice and soft.

Vegan Cherry Bakewell Cake

Vegan Cherry Bakewell Cake

Light and airy vegan sponge, sweet almonds and juicy cherries make for the ultimate afternoon tea cake. No dairy, no eggs.

  • 340 g extra-fine self-raising flour
  • 300 g caster sugar
  • 40 g ground almonds
  • 30 g cornflour ((cornstarch))
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt
  • 480 ml almond milk, room temperature ((you can also use soy milk))
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 180 ml almond oil ((you can also use rapeseed, sunflower or any other flavourless oil))
  • 60 g glacé cherries ((tossed in 1 tbsp plain flour))
  • 2 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1 tbsp flaked almonds
  • 80 g fresh cherries ((to decorate))
  • 2 tsp icing sugar ((to dust))
  • Gold leaf ((to decorate, optional))
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C/320°F. Line the base and sides of a 6-inch x 3-inch cake tin with oil and non-stick baking paper.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, ground almonds, cornflour, sugar and salt.

  3. In a separate jug or glass, mix together the almond milk, almond extract and apple cider vinegar. Set aside for 5 minutes, undisturbed. After 5 minutes, give it a brief whisk.

  4. Add the oil and milk mixture to the dry ingredients and gently whisk for 40-60 seconds until smooth. Don’t overbeat the cake batter or you could end up with a tough cake.

  5. At the last minute, fold in the flour-coated glacé cherries with a spatula. Be gentle and swift.

  6. Pour the batter into the cake tin. 

  7. Bake the cake in the centre of the oven for 70 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of a cake comes out clean. The cakw should be springy to the touch.

  8. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the tin for 5 minutes. Carefully turn the cake out and wrap in foil or cling film. Allow to rest overnight at room temperature.

  9. Decorate with fresh cherries, a dusting of icing sugar and the optional gold leaf.

 

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Vegan Cherry Bakewell Cake




Double Coconut, Lime & Cardamom Cheesecake

So I ate a lot over the festive Diwali period. The kitchen was practically overflowing with mithai boxes and tubs of chakri, chevdo and gathiya. It was bloody brilliant but I’m glad to be back to my everyday Gujarati daal, bhaat, shaak and rotli (daal, curry, rice and chapattis). I definitely need a bit of normality in my life before Christmas feasting commences.

Double Coconut, Lime & Cardamom Cheesecake

A new dessert I made this year was this coconut, lime and cardamom cheesecake with exotic flavours galore. It’s a bit of a play on the traditional Diwali favourite, Coconut Barfi or Kopra Pak. Coconut is one of my favourite flavours in a dessert and there’s nothing quite like freshly-grated coconut in cakes, cookies and cheesecakes. I’ve used it as a topping and in the biscuit base for a double coconut hit.

This is an eggless baked cheesecake and the filling is made with a combination of ricotta, cream cheese and lime. It’s gloriously decadent with a hint of sharpness to cut through the richness of the coconutty cream. The edges of the cheesecake caramelise beautifully and the centre rises and falls just a little for a melt-in-the-mouth dessert that’s best served cold.

Double Coconut, Lime & Cardamom Cheesecake

Start making this cheesecake at least a day ahead to give it time to cool and set properly. You can make it up to three days in advance and keep refrigerated (the base may lose some crunch though) or make and freeze in an airtight container for up to three months.

Double Coconut, Lime & Cardamom Cheesecake

This is the ultimate dream of an eggless cheesecake for coconut lovers. With fresh lime and cardamom, it ticks all the boxes when it comes to exotic indulgence.

For the base:

  • 200 g coconut biscuits ((I use NICE biscuits))
  • 60 g sweetened desiccated coconut
  • 85 g unsalted butter ((melted))

For the cheesecake filling:

  • 500 g full-fat cream cheese
  • 500 g ricotta
  • 300 g caster sugar
  • 80 ml freshly-squeezed lime juice
  • 300 ml double cream
  • 2 tbsp cornflour ((cornstarch))
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 green cardamom pods ((seeds removed and crushed))
  • 150 g fresh toasted coconut, to decorate

For the base:

  1. Combine the crushed biscuits, desiccated coconut and melted butter and firmly pat it into the bottom of a 24cm springform tin. Make sure it’s even and tightly compacted. Cover and refrigerate.

For the cheesecake filling:

  1. In a large bowl, beat together all of the ingredients until it becomes thick like softly-whipped cream. Don’t overmix.

  2. Spoon the mixture on top of the chilled biscuit base. Smooth the top down.

  3. Place this in a preheated oven at 160°C/320°F for 90 minutes, until golden. Don’t open the oven door at any point during cooking. It will drop the oven temperature and the cause the cheesecake to sink or crack. Once the cooking time is up, switch the oven off and leave the oven door closed until it is cold. The cheesecake will still be very wobbly at this stage. Just leave it in the oven.

  4. Once the cheesecake has cooled down completely (8+ hours), top with the fresh coconut and cover with cling film. Next, cover and refrigerate the whole cheesecake for 8-10 hours before cutting and serving.

  • Keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.

 

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Double Coconut, Lime & Cardamom Cheesecake




Restaurant-Style Chilli Paneer

I was introduced to Indo-Chinese food in the late 90s when “fusion cooking” wasn’t a dirty phrase and British curry houses were no longer the only “Indian” option when eating out in the UK. Korma? What was that? Balti, Bhuna and Phall? I’d never heard of them. Growing up in a Gujarati household meant that I was accustomed to Bhaji nu Shaak (spinach cooked with garlic), Oroh (burnt aubergine curry), Guvar (cluster beans) and Bhinda ni Kadhi (okra in buttermilk soup). I’d nod and smile as my friends raved about the dishes they relished during their weekend visit to the local Indian restaurant and I had no idea what half of the dishes were. I felt like a fraud. Bombay Potatoes? Was that like the Bateta nu Shaak my mum made at home?

We rarely ate out at Indian restaurants in those days. The vegetarian options were limited to side dishes of random “mixed vegetables” swimming in generic curry sauces and quite frankly, homemade was better.

Restaurant-Style Chilli Paneer

As the millennium approached, more and more options bubbled up, beginning with areas populated with a high density of Indian residents. Leicester, Wembley and Southall were all on the radar and we visited often. It was in Leicester that I first read the words “Indo-Chinese fusion dishes” on a restaurant menu and this immediately grabbed my attention. I wanted to know more. A whole list of dishes to choose from and I made it my mission to try them all. Chilli Paneer, Gobi Manchurian, Hakka Noodles, Spring Rolls, Mixed Rice & Noodle Sizzler and even Szechuan Dosa were options. I ordered as much as I could manage and that was the day I fell in love with Chilli Paneer.

I later learned that Indo-Chinese food, also known as Desi Chinese was a cuisine developed by the Chinese community of Kolkata, West Bengal. It became a lifelong dream of mine to visit Kolkata’s Chinatown and enjoy Hakka-Indian food in its original birthplace. Just as my grandparents and thousands of other families brought Indian cuisine to East Africa and the British embraced Indian curry, this small community of Hakka settlers shared the gift of their ancestral cuisine with Kolkata. Little did they know that it would lead to the creation of a truly exquisite Indian-Chinese food culture that’s now internationally sought after. Food travels regardless of borders. This is pure comfort food which is why it’s such a treat when eating out. It’s spicy, garlicky, smoky and umami-rich with a liberal attitude towards rivers of soy sauce and the addition of MSG (ajinomoto) in most dishes. It’s not a style of cooking that shys away from battering and deep frying either. Green chilli, spring onions, ginger, garlic, tomato ketchup, soy sauce, chilli sauce, vinegar, turmeric, black pepper and sugar are all widely-used ingredients in Indo-Chinese dishes. A smoking hot cast iron wok is essential for the highly coveted wok hei caramelisation and aromas.

Restaurant-Style Chilli Paneer

Indo-Chinese food is all about taking an abundance of fresh veg, protein and Indian spices and pairing them with sticky, umami-rich cornflour-thickened sauces. These sauces are unlike anything you get in traditional Indian cooking. If you’re a fan of Singapore Noodles, Laksa and Nasi Goreng, it’s worth giving Indo-Chinese food go.

My Instagram family have recently made their love of Chilli Paneer very clear. After a poll, they voted Leicester restaurants Indigo, Chai Paani and Tangoe as the best places to eat the famous dish. Special mention for Sakonis which isn’t in Leicester (they have restaurants in Wembley and Hatch End) but still do a delicious Chilli Paneer. Luckily, I’ve tried them all (several times over) and did my best to recreate the best version in my kitchen at home. The criteria was as follows: The paneer needed to be juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside, the peppers needed some crunch, the sauce had to be loaded with garlic, no tomatoes, lots of green chillies, soy sauce-rich and slightly sweet. Well my friends, I think I may have nailed it but I’ll let you have the final say on that. If you’ve never tried Indo-Chinese food before, Chilli Paneer is one fusion dish worth trying.

Restaurant-Style Chilli Paneer

An Indo-Chinese restaurant favourite made with juicy cubes of paneer, spring onions and peppers cooked in a chilli and garlic sauce. This dish packs a punch.

  • 450 g paneer ((cut into 2cm cubes))
  • 2 tbsp cornflour ((cornstarch))
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp sunflower or rapeseed oil
  • 10 spring onions, white and green parts ((sliced on the bias))
  • 3 red and green peppers ((sliced into 3cm strips))
  • 8 large cloves garlic ((peeled and crushed))
  • 3-4 green chillies ((sliced on the bias))
  • 3 tbsp light soy sauce ((you can use dark soy sauce for a darker colour))
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp freshly-chopped coriander ((to garnish))
  • 100 g shredded lettuce leaves ((to serve))
  1. Place the paneer cubes in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Drain leaving some of the moisture behind.
  2. Add the cornflour, salt and ground white pepper. Toss the paneer and cornflour mixture together until the paneer is well coated. Some of the reserved moisture from the water will help the cornflour stick to the paneer.
  3. In a large cast iron wok, heat the oil. Add the paneer cubes and shallow fry until lightly golden, no longer than a minute or they will go hard. Keep the paneer moving with the help of a wooden spoon. Remove the paneer with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on a plate lined with absorbent kitchen towel.
  4. If you need to, remove some of the oil from the wok so you’re left with around 2 tbsp. Heat the wok up until it’s smoking hot. Add the garlic and chillies and cook for 30 seconds. Next, add the spring onions (reserve a handful for garnishing) and peppers and stir-fry for a minute.
  5. Add in the soy sauce, sugar and paneer pieces. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes and then finally add the coriander. Give it all a good mix and serve immediately with shredded lettuce leaves and the reserved spring onions.
  • Use dark soy sauce for a darker colour if that’s what you prefer.
  • I like my Chilli Paneer without a thick sauce but if you’d like to make one, add 100ml water to the wok after the peppers and onions have cooked. Make a slurry of 1 tbsp cornflour well dissolved in 2 tbsp cold water and add it to the cooked peppers and onions. Keep stirring over a high heat for a thick sauce.

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Restaurant-Style Chilli Paneer

Love Sanjana




17 Christmas Gifts for the Indian Food Lover in Your Life

The sheer joy of unwrapping a Christmas present from someone who knows you to your very core is for me, one of the most exciting feelings ever. Give the Indian food lover in your life a gift they’ll treasure this year with a little help from this guide to the ultimate vegetarian and vegan presents for spice lovers. I’ve handpicked some of my favourite ingredients, kitchen equipment, Indian treats and more to inspire you this festive season. Gift them to family, friends or to yourself and spread the love like melting butter on garam roti.

Edible Treats

1. Vegan Orange Lassi Blonde Chocolate – Coco Caravan, £2.99

Nibble your way through a bar of orange chocolate inspired by India’s favourite cold drink, Lassi. With notes of cardamom and coconut, this zesty slab of blonde chocolate is raw, vegan and free from refined sugar. I’ll take three, please.

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2. Christmas Stocking Spice Sprinkles – Cheeky Food Company, £12.00

 

spice sprinkles

Forget rainbow sprinkles, these aromatic superfood spice sprinkles are a must-have stocking filler for all Indian food lovers. Scatter them over the likes of cheese on toast, salads, stir-fries, scrambled tofu and whatever else takes your fancy. They come in four varieties: Pecky Peanut, Hot Chilli Hot, Silly Sesame and Nutter Coconut. There’s a recipe book with lots of ideas included, too.

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3. No. 2 Rosy Chai – Daisy & Mallow, £5.50

rosy chai

Tea lovers rejoice! This beautiful blend of black tea, rose petals, cinnamon, cardamom, pink peppercorns, ginger and vanilla is enough to make the masala chai lover in your life weak at the knees (and possibly buckle over with joy). Now put the kettle on, we’re about to enjoy a sweet, floral, warming and uplifting cup.

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4. Kashmiri Chilli Powder – Sous Chef, £2.95

kashmiri chilli powder

One of my favourite ingredients for curries, daals and Indian savouries is Kashmiri Chilli Powder. This magical crimson dust imparts a mellow chilli flavour with a delicate fruitiness whilst giving a dish the most wonderful colour. It’s perfect for recipes like Matar Paneer and Gujarati Lasan ni Chutney.

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5. Nankhatai Gift Set – Chins’ Kitchen, £45

Swap your usual box of chocolates for this beautifully-packaged Nankhatai Gift Set this year. Chintal’s buttery, crumbly shortbread-like Nankhatai are delightful. Each flavour is true to its name with the Rose and Cardamom box being full of sweet floral notes and the Orange and Ginger packing a zesty, gingery hit. Other flavours include Cocoa Vanilla, Cinnamon, Coconut and more. If you’re feeling fancy, pop a packet of Kenyan Chai Masala into your basket to sip alongside these luxurious biscuits.

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6. Aloo Paratha Print (Unframed) – Kushiya Designs, £9.45

I’m currently obsessing over this quirky Aloo Paratha Chalkboard-Effect Print. The North Indian treasure of a dish is such a family staple, why not have a recipe reminder on the kitchen wall at all times? Nani would be most pleased, beta.

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7. Nag Champa Handmade Soy Wax Candle – LucyFurr BrightStar, £4

Move over cinnamon and cranberries! Fill your home with the scent of magnolia and sandalwood this festive season. Run a bath and light up this candle to enjoy the fresh, woody and exotic aromas of Nag Champa. I’ve been using Nag Champa incense in my home for years and it’s hands down one of my favourite scents (after the smell of biryani, of course!).

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8. Himalayan Salt Pestle and Mortar – Salt House & Peppermongers, £17.99

Not only is this pestle and mortar set a stunning piece of kitchenware, it also adds a hint of Himalayan Pink Salt to your freshly-ground spices and hand-pounded masala blends. Marble ain’t got nothing on this blush coral beauty. Leave it as a decorative piece on the countertop and soak up the wave of “Ohhs” and “Ahhs” from guests.

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9. Coconut Shell Bowl & Spoon Set – Three by One, £16

Specialists in ethically and sustainability sourced coconut products, Three by One ensure only organic coconut items are on your kitchen table. Each item is sourced from small scale farms in Sri Lanka. This unique coconut bowl and spoon set is made from leftover coconut shells destined to be burned as waste. Each one is cleaned, sanded and polished (using coconut oil) by hand. You can also buy them in sets of four.

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10. Indian Spice Tin with 10 Spices – Spice Kitchen UK, £31.95

Spice tins (or masala dabhas) are a store cupboard staple for all Indian households. The beauty of having one is that all your frequently used spices are all in one place, ready to go. I don’t know what I’d do without mine. This jam-packed tin will ensure your fellow spice lover is never short of masalas to sprinkle into Indian breakfasts, lunches and dinners. You can even choose to have it wrapped in pretty sari-style fabric for an elegant gift.

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11. Steel Tawa – Sous Chef, £9.95

Tawa

Okay, so admittedly this isn’t the most beautiful gift but it’s an absolute must-have if your passion is Indian breads like chapattis and parathas. You can also use them for cooking dosas and dry curries. When heated over a gas flame, the carbon steel plate imparts the most wonderful, smokey char to food. I use one almost every day when I make Homemade Chapattis – Gujarati Rotli.

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12. Aubergine Dish – Bordallo Pinheiro, £59.50

aubergine dish

In the words of Nina Wadia in the 90s TV wonder that was Goodness Gracious Me, “All I need is a smaaall aubergine.” This deep purple beauty will forever remind me of that comedy sketch. If you know an aubergine fanatic or lover of Baingan Bhartha, this Portuguese-made ceramic aubergine dish is the gift for them.

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13. Non-Stick Appam/Paniyaram Pan – Popat Stores, £11.99

This clever little pan is great for making all kinds of things, both Indian and beyond. Traditionally it’s used to cook South Indian Paniyaram, a rice flour breakfast dish often made with leftover fermented dosa batter but you can use it for so much more. Prepare Vitumbua – Tanzanian Breakfast Doughnuts or Æbleskiver (Danish Pancake Puffs) in this too.

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Clothing

14. Little Doodh Kids’ Lightweight Hoodie – The Playful Indian, £14.99

little doodh hoodie

Keep little ones snug this festive season with this adorable hoodie. It has a super-soft feel and colourful illustration featuring a bottle of milk (“doodh” is the Hindi word for “milk”). Quite frankly that little pint of doodh looks cooler than Bollywood royalty, Amitabh Bachan in the 1978 version of Don.

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15. Samosa N’ Chutney Socks – Halal Socks, £9.99

samosa socks

Many of you are familiar with my love of samosas. Fill them, fry them and serve them with a chilli-laced chutney and I’ll be like putty in your hands. Know someone who feels the same way about these pastry-wrapped pyramids of happiness? Buy them these socks.

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Experiences

16. Indian Cookery Masterclass Vouchers – The Spice Club, from £69

spice club vouchers

Give the gift of learning this Christmas with vouchers for an Indian cookery masterclass at The Spice Club. Based in Manchester and Birmingham, these cookery school classes are run by the ultra-talented Monica and her mum, Anita. Each dish is designed with passion and cooked with love. Think it’s time to learn how to cook regional Indian dishes from the masters? Grab your vouchers now.

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17. Six-Course Vegan Tasting Menu – Indian Accent London, £80

indian accent

Indulge in inventive vegan Indian food at London’s Indian Accent restaurant. With dishes like Jerusalem Artichoke Tikki Chaat and Spice Pear Tatin, Chef Manish Mehrotra reinterprets nostalgic Indian dishes with an openness towards global techniques and influences.

Find out more

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17 Perfect Christmas Gifts for the Indian Food Lover in Your Life

Love Sanjana




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.

Village-Style Gujarati Khichdi

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 (still is) regarded as being every doting Gujarati mother’s nourishment of choice for her child.

My recipe uses salt but feel free to omit it or reduce the amount for weaning. Just a few weeks ago, I prepared a salt-free version for my 6-month old and he gobbled it up with gusto. It was his first real taste of food, as it was mine 29 years ago.

Village-Style Gujarati Khichdi (Buttery Rice & Lentils)

Unlike other regional variations of the dish, Gujarati Khichdi is subtle and gently spiced but still creamy with ghee or butter. It’s not pilau or biryani and traditionally, Khichdi is not loved for its long, separate grains you strive to achieve with other rice dishes. Think risotto. It’s a stodgy, filling rice and lentil porridge with or without a blend of spices depending on the regional style and interpretation you choose.

I like to use dried, split mung beans with the husks on (mung daal chilla) but you can also use the skinned yellow variety of mung daal if you prefer. As far as spices go, turmeric, asafoetida and black pepper are all that’s needed.

Village-Style Gujarati Khichdi

Village-Style Gujarati Khichdi

Buttery rice and lentils simmered with turmeric and black pepper. The ultimate hug-in-a-bowl dish for cold nights.

  • 125 g basmati rice
  • 125 g dried, split mung beans ((the kind with the husks left on, also known as mung daal chilla))
  • 600 ml hot water
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/8 tsp asafoetida
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 100 g butter or ghee (plus more for serving)
  • 1 tsp freshly-ground black peppercorns
  1. Combine the rice and dried split mung beans. Wash them in cold water several times and then place them in a pan that has a tight-fitting lid.

  2. Add the water, turmeric, asafoetida and salt. Stir and bring to the boil. Place the lid on the pan and reduce the burner to low. Cook for 25 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed and the khichdi is tender.

  3. Next, add in the butter and black pepper and beat the khichdi with a wooden spoon for a minute until creamy and porridge-like in consistency.

  4. Serve with more butter or ghee and Gujarati Lasan ni Chutney (optional but delicious).

  • You can also cook the khichdi in a pressure cooker. Follow the same method and cook for 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before opening the cooker and beating in the butter and black pepper.

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Village-Style Gujarati Khichdi




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.

Vegan 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 dig in to these party-ready vegan drumsticks so they’re a great option for big gatherings.

Vegan Hariyali Chicken Drumsticks

I like to keep batches of vegan seitan chicken in the freezer. I make shreds, pieces, loaves and drumsticks so I can quickly whip some out and marinate them or pop them straight into curries, stir fries and noodles.

Traditionally, Hariyali Chicken is a mouth-watering appetiser which is popular in Northern India and is best enjoyed with red onions or kachumber (a mix of red onions and tomatoes) and chutneys. I like to top them with a handful of juicy pomegranate seeds for a burst of freshness.

Vegan Hariyali Chicken Drumsticks

Vegan Hariyali “Chicken” Drumsticks

Made from white beans, tofu and vital wheat gluten, my recipe transforms a handful of simple ingredients into the most delicious vegan “chicken”. 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.

For the vegan “chicken” drumsticks:

  • 300 g extra-firm tofu (drained)
  • 1 x 400 g tin haricot beans, including the liquid from the tin (you can also use any other white beans such as cannellini beans or butter beans)
  • 150 g vital wheat gluten (I buy mine on Amazon)
  • 150 ml cold water
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp white miso paste
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 3 tbsp sunflower or rapeseed oil

You will also need:

  • 10-12 flat wooden lollipop sticks
  • Kitchen foil
  • A pressure cooker

For the hariyali marinade paste:

  • 120 g fresh coriander (including stalks)
  • 50 g fresh mint leaves
  • 2 thin green chillies
  • 3 tbsp coconut yoghurt
  • 8-10 cashews
  • 1 inch piece ginger, peeled
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tbsp sunflower or rapeseed oil
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp agave nectar

To serve:

  • 80 g pomegranate seeds (to garnish)
  • 1 small red onion, cut into rings (to garnish)
  • 2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves (to garnish)

For the vegan “chicken” drumsticks:

  1. In a blender, combine the tofu, haricot beans in their liquid, miso paste, soy sauce, salt, nutritional yeast, oil and water until you have a smooth paste.Add the vital wheat gluten to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the tofu mixture and mix on a low speed until the two come together in the form of a dough.
  2. Switch the paddle attachment to a dough hook and mix on a medium/high speed for 10-12 minutes. Stay close by as the mixer may shuffle across the counter top as the dough is tough to work. You’ll also need to be very careful your mixer’s motor doesn’t burn out. This kneading of the dough is crucial in developing the gluten and proteins in the seitan and shouldn’t be skipped. The longer and harder you work it, the more fibrous and chicken-like the final product will be. I wouldn’t recommend doing it by hand as your arms might threaten to fall off. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger would struggle, seriously. Having said this, you can create seitan kneading by hand – it will not however, have a shreddable, “pulled” quality and you’ll finish up with a spongy end product instead. It’ll still taste good but probably won’t fool your meat-eating friends.
  3. Once your seitan has been kneaded long and hard, remove it from the mixer and divide it into 10 equal pieces. Wrap each piece around a wooden lollipop stick into a drumstick-like shape. Next, wrap each “drumstick” very tightly in 2-3 layers of heavy-duty foil, trying to maintain the shape as well as possible. You want it to be nice and compact inside to stop it expanding inside as this will promote sponginess rather than the shreddable texture we’re after. The multiple layers of foil will also stop water getting inside.
  4. Next, fill a pressure cooker with plenty of water (about 3/4 of the way full) and bring to a boil. Carefully drop your drumsticks into the cooker and put the lid on. Cook on a medium/high heat for 45 minutes. Once the time is up, switch off the heat and leave it to cool completely. If your pressure cooker is too small to hold all 10 drumsticks, you’ll need to cook them in two batches. In any case, keep the cooking time the same.
  5. Once cool, remove the seitan drumsticks from the cooker and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 48 hours.
  6. Unwrap and check out that amazing texture when you pull it apart. Your vegan “chicken” is now ready to marinate.

For the vegan hariyali “chicken” drumsticks:

  1. To make the marinade, combine all the ingredients except the coconut yoghurt in a blender and blend until completely smooth.
  2. Transfer to a large bowl and stir the coconut yoghurt in. This will ensure the marinade doesn’t become too runny.
  3. Add the cold vegan chicken drumsticks and carefully coat each one in the marinade.
  4. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. You can also prepare this 24 hours in advance.
  5. Heat a griddle pan until smoking hot. Place the vegan chicken drumsticks on the griddle pan and cook each side until you have charred grill marks all over. Serve with red onion rings and scatter with pomegranate seeds and more coriander.
  • Grilling gives the vegan hariyali “chicken” drumsticks that delicious Indian restaurant-style flavour but you could also bake these in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 10-12 minutes if you prefer. They’re also delicious when cooked on the barbecue.
  • You can prepare the recipe up to stage 7 in the recipe and then pop into a freezer-safe container for later if you want to get ahead on the recipe or make the dish another day.
  • My frozen vegan “chicken” keeps well in the deep freeze for up to 3 months.

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Vegan Hariyali Chicken Drumsticks




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, stews and soups. Another thing that I like to do is to fold some into mashed sweet potatoes with a little butter. It is truly brilliant when you need instant garlic and chillies when making lazy curries – just dollop a spoonful in to your tempered spices and sauté. You could even beat it with plain yoghurt for a speedy drizzle or dip for chaat, mixed vegetable pulao and even fries!

Gujarati Lasan ni Chutney is something that’s often made fresh every day, our busy schedules often don’t permit us to pound fresh garlic chutney each day so I have a workaround. I make a big batch of Gujarati Lasan ni Chutney, pile it into a clean, sterilised jar and then each time we use it, I top it off with a layer of oil to ensure it stays fresh in the fridge. The oil and salt in the chutney itself help to preserve the fresh ingredients so it lasts absolutely ages. You only need a small amount of chutney to add big flavour to a meal so it’s worth making it in batches.

This is good old-fashioned farmer food so leave the blender in the cupboard and make it by hand. I like to use a garlic crusher and then mix all the ingredients together but you could also pound it all in a pestle and mortar for a coarse and deliciously-garlicky accompaniment to any traditional Gujarati thali.

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. 

  • 3 large bulbs fresh garlic, peeled and crushed ((I use a garlic crusher))
  • 400 g Kashmiri red chilli powder
  • 120 g fresh coriander ((finely chopped))
  • 270 ml sunflower or rapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • Juice of 2 large lemons
  1. Use a wooden spoon to mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. I don’t recommend using a blender as that will dramatically change the texture. A coarse finish is what’s traditional and it’s perfect. You could also crush it using a pestle and mortar.

  2. Pile the mixture into a large sterilised jar, packing it down as tightly as you can.

  3. Top with a coating of oil to preserve it and remember to to this every time you use it. Store in the refrigerator and consume within 2 months.

Makes enough to fill a 0.5L clip top jar.

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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.




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.

Kadai Tofu and Vegetables

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 bin for the sake of time and storage and it’s just a very sad thing to see.

Kadai Tofu and Vegetables

Along with Pau Bhaji and Biryani, my other raid-the-fridge dinnertime favourite is this Kadai Tofu and Vegetables. You can make it with pretty much any veggies you have leftover in the fridge and it tastes like a restaurant-quality Kadai dish. All the flavour comes from the coriander seed, fennel seed and black peppercorn Kadai masala which is the star of the show. I raided the fridge and found tofu, mixed peppers, mushrooms, spring onions and red onions so that’s what I used but you could also use squash, cauliflower, potatoes, asparagus or mixed root vegetables if you like.

Kadai Tofu and Vegetables

For a vegetarian but non-vegan option, you could swap the tofu for paneer or even halloumi if that’s what you have. It will work with any non-melting cheese. I’ve also tried it with soya chunks and it turned out great. Adding all the veggies at the same time and cooking them very briefly on a high heat ensures they stay deliciously crunchy but with that smoky, charred flavour you’d expect from a restaurant-style Kadai dish. If you prefer your veggies tender, you can cook them a little longer. I add my chillies whole so I can pop them in my plate but the rest of the family can avoid them if they don’t want theirs too hot.

Serve this dish hot with soft chapattis/phulkas, jalebi paratha or simply with jeera rice, salad and a cooling cucumber raita.

Kadai Tofu and Vegetables

Vegan Kadai Tofu and Vegetables

The Indian restaurant favourite, Kadai Paneer gets a vegan makeover with this smokey and fragrant tofu and vegetable version. Leave the veggies crunchy for a burst of freshness. Serve with hot chapattis or paratha.

For the kadai masala:

  • 2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • 2 tsp kasoori methi

For the curry:

  • 300 g firm tofu, drained, patted dry and cut into cubes
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 3 tbsp sunflower or rapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 whole green chillies
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 2 large red onions, cut into wedges
  • 3 peppers, cut into wedges
  • 5 spring onions, trimmed and quartered
  • 100 g button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • A few sprigs of fresh mint, to garnish
  1. To make the kadai masala, toast all the whole spices in a dry pan. Once they’re very light brown and aromatic, transfer to a pestle and mortar and coarsely grind. Set aside.

  2. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a non-stick pan. Toss the tofu cubes in the cornflour and add them to the hot oil. Cook on all sides until golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.

  3. Heat the remaining 1 tbsp of oil in the same pan used to cook the tofu and add the cumin seeds. Allow the cumin to sizzle and then add the ginger and chillies. Cook for 30 seconds and then add all the vegetables, 3/4 of the kadai masala, garam masala, turmeric and salt. Cook on a very high heat for 5 minutes, allowing some of the veggies to scorch.

  4. Add the tofu and give it a mix, taking care not to break up the tofu pieces. Cook for a further 3 minutes. Serve immediately, sprinkling over the remaining kadai masala and mint sprigs.

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Kadai Tofu and Vegetables




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.

Crispy Aloo Chaat Potato Skins

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.

Crispy Aloo Chaat Potato Skins

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 the fridge so they’re nice and firm when it comes to cutting the flesh and prepping the skins. You can also make the yoghurt, prep the pomegranate seeds, chop all the herbs, onions, ginger and chillies, keeping them all covered in bowls in the fridge. The next day all you need to do is fry the potatoes and assemble right before serving. The only rule is that this must be eaten hot, as soon as it’s ready.

I pick the biggest potatoes I can find for generous potato skin portions in which I can fill lots of crispy aloo and flavoursome toppings. I’m just greedy like that. You could also make cocktail-sized Aloo Chaat Potato Skins this serve as canapés.

Crispy Aloo Chaat Potato Skins

Crispy Aloo Chaat Potato Skins

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. 

  • 4 large baking potatoes ((such as Maris Piper or King Edward))
  • 1 medium red onion ((finely diced))
  • 1-2 green chillies ((finely chopped))
  • 50 g fresh pomegranate seeds
  • 1 tsp chaat masala
  • 2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves ((chopped))
  • 1-inch piece ginger ((peeled and julienned))
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds ((toasted and ground))
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds ((toasted and ground))
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp gram flour sev, to serve ((optional))

For the masala yoghurt:

  • 150 g plain natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds ((toasted and coarsely ground))
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds ((toasted and coarsely ground))
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  1. First, the potatoes need to be cooked. I recommend either microwaving or baking them. To microwave, pierce the potato several times all over, place on a microwave-safe plate and cook on High power for 10-12 minutes. To bake, individually wrap the potatoes in foil and bake at 200C for 1 hour. In both cases, allow the potatoes to cool completely.

  2. In the meantime, combine all the ingredients for the yoghurt, cover and refrigerate.

  3. Once the potatoes are completely cold, cut them in half lengthways. Use a spoon to scoop out the middles, leaving a 2cm border around the potato to keep the skins sturdy for filling later. Try not to break the flesh of the potato too much. The skins need to remain whole and 2cm thick as these will be cooked again and then filled.

  4. Set the skins aside and cut the flesh of the potato into 2cm cubes. They don’t have to be perfectly shaped as the craggy ones will crisp up beautifully once fried.

  5. Fill a large, deep pan or wok with sunflower oil. Once the oil reaches 200°C, fry the potato skins over a medium-high flame until crispy and golden. Set aside to drain on a tray lined with absorbent kitchen paper.

  6. Next, the potato cubes until golden and crispy. Set aside to drain on a tray lined with absorbent kitchen paper.

  7. Toss the fried potato cubes with the toasted cumin and coriander seeds, ginger juliennes, chopped fresh chilli, chopped onions, lime juice, chaat masala, pomegranate seeds, Kashmiri chilli powder, freshly chopped coriander and salt.

  8. Fill the crunchy potato skins with the hot, sour and spicy aloo chaat. Serve with the masala yoghurt and sprinkle over the sev if using.

Optional: You can garnish the yoghurt with a pinch of Kashmiri chilli powder, ground toasted cumin and fresh coriander leaves.

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Crispy Aloo Chaat Potato Skins