Vegan Saffron & Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

These toasted meringue cupcakes are fluffy, tender, moist and SO delicious! I’m sorry for using the “M” word. I’m told it’s okay when you’re talking about cake.

When it comes to baking, the more lemon that’s involved, the better as far as I’m concerned. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t go weak at the knees for a slice of lemon drizzle cake or three. Have you?

Saffron & Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

One of my favourite flavour combinations has to be lemon and saffron. The humble, sharp lemon against the heady fragrance of saffron is such a winner. Whether you’re cooking something sweet or savoury, the two ingredients together are the perfect marriage of colour, taste and aroma. Sweet is most certainly my preference because once baked, they mingle with the smell of toasty flour and fill the house with the most gorgeous baking scent. It’s pure and strong, unlike if you were making a savoury dish with 10 other spices.

In the past, I’ve successfully combined the two to make cheesecakes and seeroh (sweet semolina) which were both delicious. This time, I wanted to give a simple cupcake recipe a special makeover. They’re light, fluffy and so moreish.

Each fluffy sponge is filled with a golden-hued saffron lemon curd which I veganised with cornflour, coconut oil and coconut milk in place of eggs and butter. Use unrefined coconut oil to ensure the flavour of coconut doesn’t overpower the rest of the ingredients. It’s the saffron that gives it a pretty daffodil colour. If you have any leftover lemon curd, pop it in a jar and spread it on toast or scones for a special tea-time treat. It really is spectacular.

Saffron & Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

The cupcake recipe is a little riff on the Vanilla Birthday Cupcakes I posted a while back. It’s a straightforward one using almond buttermilk to give the cupcakes lift. If you have any questions about the cupcake baking process, check here for lots of detail (can you tell I could talk about baking forever?).

The meringue might seem daunting at first, but once you’ve got all your ingredients laid out in front of you, it’s very simple. You’ll need a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or robust electric hand beaters to get that meringue whipped up perfectly. Reducing the aquafaba and adding agar-agar will give it more stability and the cream of tartar and sugar will help it whip into a sweet cloud of fluffiness. I used a kitchen blowtorch to toast the tops but if you don’t have one, you can pop them under the grill for a 15-20 seconds — just be sure to remove the cupcakes from their paper cases first!

These are perfect for parties, bake sales and for when you just want to eat a cupcake or three, alone, on your kitchen floor.

Saffron & Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Vegan Saffron & Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Fluffy vegan cupcakes filled with a sharp, golden saffron lemon curd and topped with toasted aquafaba meringue. These cupcakes are little bites of heaven.

For the fluffy lemon cupcakes:

  • 225 g extra-fine self-raising cake flour
  • 160 g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp cornflour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp fine salt
  • 250 ml almond milk ((room temperature))
  • Zest of 1 large lemon
  • 30 ml lemon juice
  • 110 ml rapeseed oil ((or any flavourless oil of your choice))

For the vegan saffron lemon curd:

  • 50 ml lemon juice
  • Zest of 3 large lemons
  • 75 g icing sugar
  • 20 g cornflour
  • 30 g refined coconut oil
  • 50 ml full-fat coconut milk
  • Pinch of saffron

For the vegan aquafaba meringue:

  • 200 ml aquafaba, reduced to 100ml and chilled
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 25 ml water
  • 25 ml agave
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp agar-agar powder
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 175°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

  2. Line a 12-hole cupcake tin with paper cupcake cases.

For the vegan saffron lemon curd:

  1. To make the saffron lemon curd, combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and give everything a good whisk. Cook over a medium heat, whisking all the time until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of custard. The saffron will start to turn the lemon curd a beautiful shade of daffodil yellow. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

  2. Once the lemon curd has cooled for 10 minutes, directly cover the surface with cling film to stop a hard skin forming. Refrigerate until needed.

For the fluffy vegan cupcakes:

  1. Mix together the almond milk and lemon juice in a jug. Allow to stand for ten minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir in the oil.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cake flour, caster sugar, cornflour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest.

  3. Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and beat with a whisk for 1-2 minutes, until you have a smooth batter.

  4. Pour or scoop the batter into the paper cupcake cases, filling to about ¾ of the way up. Give the base of the tin a quick succession of taps on the work surface to remove any large air bubbles.

  5. Place the tin into the pre-heated oven and bake for 18 minutes, or until golden on top and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the aquafaba vegan meringue:

  1. To make the meringue, place the reduced and chilled aquafaba in a clean stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Add the cream of tartar and whisk on high speed for 3-4 minutes until frothy.

  2. Combine the water, sugar, agave, vanilla and agar-agar in a saucepan and mix until dissolved. Cook over a medium heat, stirring often to stop the syrup catching and burning at the base of the pan. Use a sugar thermometer to check the temperature of the syrup. Once the syrup reaches 120°C/250°F, remove it from the heat and quickly pour it into the still running bowl of the stand mixer. Whisk the mixture for 15 minutes until white and meringue-like in texture.

  3. Use a teaspoon or straw to remove the centres from the cooled cupcakes and pipe or spoon 2 teaspoons of the chilled lemon curd into the centre. Fill top of the plug with a few cake crumbs.

  4. Fill a piping bag fitted with a large, round tip with the meringue mixture. Pipe the meringue on to the cupcakes. I chose to do a simple pillowy blob but you can also use a star piping tip if you like. If you don’t have a piping bag, you can also spoon the meringue on top.

  5. For a toasted finish, use a kitchen blowtorch to toast the tops of the meringues before serving. I do not recommend placing the cupcakes under a grill when using paper cases. If you don’t have a kitchen blowtorch and would like to toast the meringue, remove the cupcakes from their paper cases before placing under a preheated grill for 15-20 seconds.

Storage: Keep these cupcakes covered, at room temperature for up to 24 hours. Storing them in the refrigerator may cause the meringue to weep liquid and deflate.

 

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Saffron & Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

 

Love Sanjana




Vegan Raspberry Jam Doughnuts with Cardamom Sugar

I have a soft spot for doughnuts. Doesn’t everyone? My allegiance lies with the pillowy, jam-filled variety with a light sugar coating. It has to be caster sugar as opposed to powdery icing sugar and the jam *must* be raspberry. It’s the law.

The smell of fresh doughnuts frying is like nothing else. If they bottled it, I’d wear it as perfume, leaving a faint whiff of “funfair” trailing behind me everywhere I’d go. You’d smell me coming a mile away and know I’d been around hours after I’d gone. From a purely practical point of view (and not at all a gluttonous one), this would also make me a very hard person to kidnap. I should probably stop watching so many Netflix true crime shows.

Vegan Raspberry Jam Doughnuts with Cardamom Sugar

Back to doughnuts.

My vegan doughnut dough has a stretchy-smooth quality, as well as a slight sweetness which I find hopelessly irresistible once fried. Despite being made up of flour, sugar and oil, each pillowy puff is lighter than air. A combination of almond milk, lemon, yeast and baking powder give them an ethereal weightlessness that you only get when you eat them hot, as soon as they’re made. I defy anyone to spot the lack of eggs and dairy in this recipe.

In my book, no variety of cakey baked doughnut comes close to the utterly fuzzy feeling you get from eating a yeasted, fried doughnut. It of course, involves hot oil and for you to set aside a bit of therapeutic baking time but there are moments you can break away to catch up on your favourite TV show, drink wine and/or have a power nap. The results are special and not at all cake like. The dough needs to be left to rise and this is when the magic happens. Keep it in a warm place like an airing cupboard or even in the oven with just the light left on inside.

Swap almond milk for soy milk or oat milk if you want to make a nut-free version of these doughnuts — both work beautifully. Over the years I’ve realised you can add most of the ingredients to the hot milk mixture with little to no compromise on results, which makes the dough-making process much easier. There’s no adding of butter in stages involved either. Reserve the salt and baking powder and add them to the flour mixture. Once the warm-ish milk hits the flour, all of those lovely raising agents join forces to work their magic as the gluten in the flour develops through the kneading process. You can use your hands to knead the dough if you have arms of steel and the stamina to do it for 25 minutes or so. I do not have such superpowers and my stand mixer is my friend.

More ideas: You can switch the cardamom sugar for cinnamon sugar and fill these with your favourite thick vegan custard instead of jam. Or better yet, fill them with both jam and custard. I’ve done this before and I don’t want to say everyone liked me more that week, but they definitely did. Vegan lemon curd is also a noble choice of filling and it works particularly well with cardamom sugar. I have also successfully steeped my warm milk with saffron strands for a saffron flavoured doughnut and it was dreamy, like the best marriage of Indian mithai and a classic funfair doughnut. Be creative and report back with your results. I’d love to hear from you.

Vegan Raspberry Jam Doughnuts with Cardamom Sugar

These lighter-than-air vegan doughnuts are oozing with raspberry jam and coated with a delicate cardamom sugar.

  • 500 g strong white bread flour ((plus 20g extra for rolling out))
  • 12 g fast-action dried yeast
  • 40 g caster sugar
  • 100 g vegan butter
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 250 ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 L rapeseed oil, for deep frying

For the filling:

  • 200 g your favourite raspberry jam ((seedless))

For the cardamom sugar:

  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 4 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed
  1. Place the flour, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment.

  2. Next, add the milk, butter, sugar and vanilla to a saucepan and heat over a low heat until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool at room temperature to about 38°C or just warm. Add the lemon juice and yeast and stir. Set aside for ten minutes.

  3. Add the milk mixture to the stand mixer and switch it on to slow. Once the mixture has come together, knead on medium-high speed for 15 minutes. Keep an eye on your mixer to ensure it doesn’t overheat or climb its way across the worktop (I speak from experience here). Once the dough is soft and smooth, the dough is ready to proof.

  4. Remove the dough from the bowl and grease the sides of the bowl with a tablespoon of oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with a clean, damp tea towel. Allow to rest in a warm place for 60 minutes, until it has doubled in size.

  5. Knock the risen dough back to remove large air bubbles but do not knead it again. Dust your work surface with flour and roll the dough out until it’s about 2cm in thickness. Use a round cookie cutter to stamp out circles of dough and arrange on a tray lined with parchment paper. Leave some space between them, as you don’t want them to stick together while they prove again.

  6. Cover loosely with cling film and leave in a warm place for for 30 minutes.

  7. To make the cardamom sugar, mix together the sugar and ground cardamom in a bowl.

  8. Fill a heavy-based saucepan halfway with oil. Heat the oil to 175°C.

  9. When the oil is heated, carefully slide the doughnuts from the tray using a floured spatula. Taking care not to deflate them, put them into the oil. Do 2-3 per batch, depending on the size of your pan. Don’t overcrowd the pan. I did 2 at a time.

  10. Fry for 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. They will puff up and float to the top of the oil, so you will need to gently move them around the pan to ensure they colour evenly.

  11. Remove the doughnuts from the fryer and place them on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.

  12. Place the jam in a bowl and microwave on high power for 20 seconds. Stir well to loosen slightly.

  13. Fit a piping bag with a medium, round tip. Using a straw, make a small hole in the side of each doughnut, about halfway until it reaches the centre. Fill the doughnut with the warm raspberry jam through this hole, about two teaspoons of jam per piece. Repeat for the remaining doughnuts.

  14. Gently roll the doughnuts in the cardamom sugar until evenly coated. Serve warm.

Store the doughnuts covered and at room temperature. Best consumed within 24 hours. Will they all be eaten before then? Definitely.

 

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Vegan Raspberry Jam Doughnuts with Cardamom Sugar

Love Sanjana




Air Fryer Sesame Mogo Toasts

I was chatting with a friend the other day and he told me he’s trying out the Keto diet. I immediately thought back to my low carb days and about all the bread he wouldn’t be eating. I’m all about enjoying things in moderation. That’s where my trusty air fryer comes in handy. It crisps food up to perfection without the need for loading things up with oil or deep frying. I couldn’t be more excited to share my little creation of Vegan Air Fryer Sesame Mogo Toasts with you. These golden triangles are the perfect thing to make in the air fryer. The heat circulates around the bread so it crisps up evenly on all sides.

Air Fryer Sesame Mogo Toast

I like to butter the base for a super toasty finish without it getting too dry (I use soft vegan butter from a tub or you can use regular butter if you’re not vegan). These vegan sesame toasts are loosely based on the much-loved Sesame Prawn Toasts or Shrimp Toasts you get in Chinese restaurants.

So what replaces the shrimp?

I spent ages thinking about what could replace the sticky shrimp that tops the bread before it gets dipped in a sea of creamy-coloured sesame seeds. Mogo (also known as cassava) was the winning answer! The rich texture of mashed mogo (pronounced Muhogo in Swahili to those from East Africa) is the perfect natural glue to capture hundreds of tiny sesame seeds. It also has a neutral flavour so you can spice up the mixture however you like. I went for a bit of a Desi Chinese/Indo Chinese mix, using ginger, spring onions, chillies, coriander, lemon juice and soy sauce. You can also add a pinch of garam masala or Chinese 5-spice if you like. After slathering sliced white bread (or brown bread if you prefer that) with the spiced mogo mash, I pressed it face-down in a sea of sesame so it stuck to it like beads to glue. It reminded me so much of doing arts and crafts at school! Of course, you can use any bread you like, as long as it’s thin or medium thick slices from a loaf. Super chunky rolls might throw the bread:filling:sesame ratio off.

The beauty of these golden toast triangles is that they’re not deep fried like conventional sesame toast from takeaways and restaurants. I popped them right into the basket of my air fryer for a crazy-crispy finish without all the grease. They’re light, buttery and so perfect as a party starter or just with chai. If I was throwing a vegetarian Indo-Chinese dinner, I’d make these Air Fryer Mogo Toasts alongside Chilli Paneer, Vegetable Momos, Garlic Mogo, and Tofu Noodles.

It’s such a simple recipe to make.

I start by boiling frozen mogo (cassava) in salted water until very tender, then drain and mash immediately using a potato masher. You can use fresh, peeled mogo if you have access to that. If not, pick up a bag in the frozen section of your local supermarket. It is sometimes labelled Yuca too. The reason why you need to mash it straight away is because as it cools, the starches in the mogo get to work, making it difficult to mash effectively. I don’t recommend using a food processor because it will become glue-like in consistency. Just go in with a potato masher and remember that a few small lumps are fine.

Next, I add the following ingredients: finely chopped spring onions (white and green parts), chopped chillies, grated ginger, lemon juice, chopped fresh coriander, light soy sauce and a little bit of salt if required. Taste the mixture to see if it needs the salt before you add it as the soy sauce is salty. Like potatoes, mogo calls for a generous amount of seasoning. You can also add a pinch or two of garam masala or Chinese 5-spice if you like but it’s great without if you don’t have it. I personally like to make it without. Give everything a good mix.

Now, take a slice of bread and butter one side with softened butter. I use softened vegan butter from a tub but you can also use regular butter if you’re not vegan. This buttered side will be the base of the toast. Place it on a plate, buttered side down (some of the butter might come off onto the plate a little but don’t worry about that). Spread the naked (unbuttered) side with 2-3 tablespoons of the spice mogo mash and use a knife or the back of a spoon to spread it out evenly. Be sure to take it right to the edges of the bread.

Pour out some sesame seeds on to a separate plate and place the bread, mogo face down right on top of the seeds to encrust the entire surface. Pick the bread up and make sure all the seeds are pressed in (be gentle!). Set aside and repeat for the remaining bread slices. My recipe should make 6 full slices of toast (to be cut into triangles later) but it will depend on the size of your bread slices. In any case, the recipe should feed 4-6 people as a starter/appetizer.

Pre-heat your air fryer to 200ºC for 3 minutes to get it nice and hot and place your first slice directly into the basket, sesame side up. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until nicely golden all over. You can remove it halfway to dab some extra butter on top for extra toasty sesame seeds but that’s a personal choice. Remove from the air fryer using a large flat spatula and with a sharp knife, slice into four even triangles. Repeat this process for the remaining toasts. You can keep the toasts warm in a low oven while you make the rest. Serve immediately, garnished with extra chopped spring onion greens.

Don’t have an air fryer? Cook the toasts in a conventional oven at 200ºC. Just place the slices on an oven-safe wire rack with a baking tray underneath. This will ensure the heat circulates around the toast evenly, preventing a soggy base.

Ready for the recipe? Let’s go!

Air Fryer Sesame Mogo Toasts

These vegan sesame toasts are loosely based on the much-loved Sesame Shrimp Toasts available in Chinese restaurants. I’ve found that mashed, spiced mogo (cassava) is the perfect carrier for hundreds of sesame seeds which turn deliciously golden after toasting up. 

  • 6 large slices white or brown bread
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter, softened ((or use regular butter))
  • 40 g white sesame seeds
  • 250 g frozen mogo (cassava)
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped ((plus more for garnishing))
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 chillies, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt ((or to taste))
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  1. 1. Boil the mogo in salted water until tender. Drain and mash whilst hot (it won’t mash if it’s cold). You’re after a puréed texture but some small lumps are fine. A potato masher is the best tool for this – don’t use a food processor or it will become like wallpaper paste.

  2. 2. Add the spring onions, chilli, ginger, lemon juice, coriander, soy sauce and salt. Mix thoroughly.

  3. 3. Spread one side of a bread slice with butter. Flip it over and spread 2-3 tbsp of the mashed mogo mixture on top, right to the edges. Repeat for all of the bread slices. Remember, the buttered side should be on the base.

  4. 4. Place the sesame seeds on a plate and place the cassava side of the bread face down, directly into the sesame seeds to encrust the entire surface. Pick the slice up and keep aside on a tray whilst you repeat for the remaining slices.

  5. 5. Place the toast in the air fryer at 200°C/400°F for 4-5 minutes until golden brown. I had to cook one at a time due to the space limitations in my air fryer. You can also cook in a pre-heated oven at 200°C/400°F for 10-12 minutes or until crispy.

  6. Slice into triangles and serve sprinkled with extra spring onion greens. I love these with chai but they also make for a delicious starter for parties.

The toasts may lose their crispiness after sitting out for a while. To regain this, just place them back in the air fryer or oven for a few minutes.

Love Sanjana

 

 




Melt-in-the-Mouth Butter Pau Bhaji

“Tak-tak-tak-tak-tak” went the metal potato masher against the tyre-sized pan. The fire beneath it was roaring and the smell of kerosine in the air was only making the lava-like Pau Bhaji smell more delicious. The skilled street vendor was hand pounding the spicy vegetable curry within an inch of it’s life whilst juggling another giant cooking vessel to his left. On top of the second pan was foaming butter, ready to become one with the fluffy white rolls, known locally as Ladipav. After a few seconds, they would be sporting a crisp, golden crust ready to be served with yet more butter, finely-diced onions, tomatoes and coriander. A wedge of lemon would complete the dish. I was about to dive in to my first Pau Bhaji on the streets of Old Town, Mombasa. With the bustling crowds and honking horns of oncoming traffic, I could have easily been in a buzzing Mumbai back street.

Melt-in-the-Mouth Butter Pau Bhaji

For me, the Indian food of East Africa is some of the most delicious food that exists. There’s no shying away from scorching hot chillies and the tang of lemon. This combo seasons everything you eat, wherever you go and whatever you order. From raw mangos on the beach, to fire-roasted maize and fried cassava chips on the salty-aired streets, it’s the typical seasoning Kenya’s rustic coastal towns. I hope to visit India to enjoy street-style Pau Bhaji in its birthplace of Maharashtra, India, but my first experience of eating this iconic street dish was in Kenya, the home of my Indian immigrant grandparents.

Pau Bhaji is a great dish to make for big get-togethers. It’s easy to scale the recipe up to feed more, since the rolls (pav) are almost always shop-bought and making more curry (bhaji) simply requires doubling up the veggies and sliding in some more masala.

Melt-in-the-Mouth Butter Pau Bhaji

My Pau Bhaji masala is magic dust. Not only is it a beautiful blend for this buttery vegetable dish, it also makes daal more delicious and peps up any Pulao (Indian fried rice). I often make up a triple batch of the masala recipe below and store it in an airtight container for using in other dishes. For this recipe, just work with the measurements below and use it all in the Bhaji recipe. It might look excessive but trust me, your buttery veggies are crying out for some spice.

The beauty of Pau Bhaji is that you can use any vegetables you like, since they’re all getting mashed like crazy anyway. The most common ones are potatoes, cauliflower, peas and carrots. This also happens to be my favourite combination but feel free to add red peppers, aubergine and green beans if you like those. I typically add in some sweet potatoes for colour and sweetness without having to add sugar or food colouring. It’s very common for some street vendors to add red food colouring to their Bhaji for a rich appearance. I find a combination of tomato passata (sieved tomatoes), sweet potatoes, turmeric and Kashmiri chilli powder do a great job of giving my bhaji a deliciously-deep colour without having to do that. Use your judgment and add it if you like though.

This is one of those dishes where the garnishes are as important as the main component of the food itself. Don’t skip the lemon wedges, finely diced red onions, tomatoes and coriander topping. And don’t skip the extra butter on top either. It adds the special, indulgent touch that separates good Pau Bhaji from average Pau Bhaji. Nobody likes average Pau Bhaji.

Lastly, the bread must be soft, white and most importantly, cheap rolls. Don’t get fancy with artisan rolls from a French bakery. The rolls are going to get bathed in salty butter anyway (the best kind of bath, IMO). In the end, they’re a crispy carrier for spicy, melt-in-the-mouth vegetable lava and erm… even more butter.

Melt-in-the-Mouth Butter Pau Bhaji

Melt-in-the-Mouth Butter Pau Bhaji

Flavour-rich mashed vegetable curry with toasted fluffy buns. This Indian street food favourite is so comforting and my version is cooked with plenty of salted butter.

For the vegetables (Bhaji):

  • 250 g cooked potatoes ((peeled and roughly cubed))
  • 200 g cauliflower ((stalks removed and florets chopped))
  • 150 g cooked sweet potato ((peeled and roughly cubed))
  • 100 g carrots ((peeled and finely diced))
  • 100 g peas ((fresh or frozen))
  • 500 g tomato passata
  • 100 g salted butter ((+ 50g for mashing in once cooked))
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 large red onion ((finely diced))
  • 4 cloves garlic ((crushed))
  • 500 ml water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp sea salt

For the Pau Bhaji masala:

  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 green cardamom pods ((husks removed and seeds crushed))

To garnish and serve:

  • 1 red onion ((finely diced))
  • 2 large vine tomatoes ((finely diced))
  • 50 g fresh coriander ((chopped))
  • 50 g salted butter ((cubed))
  • Lemon wedges
  • Chopped red or green chillies ((optional))

For the bread rolls (Pau):

  • 12 soft white bread rolls
  • 100 g salted butter ((softened))

For the Pau Bhaji masala:

  1. In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the pau bhaji masala. It will look like a lot but you will need to use it all, trust me.

For the vegetables (Bhaji):

  1. Melt the 100g butter in a large, heavy-based pan. Add the onions, bay leaves and salt and sauté until slightly browned, about 10 minutes. The salt will draw out moisture from the onions and help them to brown quickly.

  2. Add the garlic and sauté briefly, about 30 seconds. Next, add in the passata, cauliflower, cooked potatoes, cooked sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, pau bhaji masala and water. Give everything a good stir and cover with a lid. Cook over a medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. If it starts to dry out, add more water and continue to cook until everything is very tender.

  3. Switch the heat off and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Now, add the reserved 50g of butter, grab a potato masher and give everything a good mash until it resembles a coarse purée. Adjust the consistency by adding more water if necessary. It should be slightly runny, like lava. Add salt and lemon juice and continue to mash until well incorporated.

  4. Return the pan to the heat with the lid on and simmer over a low heat for 15-20 minutes.

To prepare the bread rolls (Pau):

  1. Slather both sides of the rolls with butter and toast in a frying pan until golden all over.

To serve:

  1. Sprinkle the onions, tomatoes and coriander over the top of the pau bhaji. Serve with more onion, tomato and coriander, as well as extra butter, lemon wedges and the toasted pau. Chilli lovers can also top with chopped fresh chillies if they dare.

Melt-in-the-Mouth Butter Pau Bhaji

Love Sanjana




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 Seitan 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 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. 

  4. Once your seitan 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 seitan 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 seitan is now ready to cut into fillets for the burger.

  • You can freeze the seitan 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 seitan 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 seitan 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.

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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