Buttermilk Mushroom Biryani

Sometimes you get so wrapped up in your daily routine that you forget to reward yourself by doing the things that unfog your mind and bring joy to your soul.

At least that’s what I’ve felt these past few weeks.

Last time I blogged, I told you about my Trigeminal Neuralgia and how it shook up my world for a long time before I actually sought out a solution. Well, I’ve been on carbamazepine for some three months now and I’m finally starting to feel like a real human again. Hurray!

I had a beautiful week of rest and relaxation in Cancun with my husband recently and it was real bliss. If you’ve been following my Instagram stories, you’ll have seen I was being one of those annoying people who overshare holiday pictures. I loved it! Not only did we eat the freshest guacamole every day with breakfast, lunch and dinner, I also discovered how soul-warming and not to mention, perfectly perfumed fresh corn tortillas are. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go back to plastic-encased, shelf-stable supermarket corn tortillas again. I can only imagine what it must have been like growing up in Mexico, waiting for mum to finish making fresh corn tortillas, the air in the house thick with the sweet smell of toasted corn. It reminded me of the smell memories have, growing up as a first gen Brit, with an Indian heritage and ties to East Africa; it was the most delicious melting pot. Here are my top 5…

1. Fresh Gujarati Rotli. The softest, thinnest chappatis, doubled layered because they’d puff up on the steel plate heated with a roaring flame. “Hot air balloons”, my mum would call them, my eyes wide in awe as I’d think back to the hot air balloons we’d seen in Kenya. Spread with so much salted butter, it would glisten on the surface like mirror glaze on the finest French entremets.

2. Aubergines roasting over an open gas fire. In my opinion, the finest way to cook an aubergine is to char it all over until soft and velvet-like inside. This is how we always made Burnt Aubergine and Spinach Curry and it’s still one of my favourite dishes in the world, especially with the aforementioned rotli.

3. Steamed mohogo (cassava). I can’t describe it. The smell is like if you caramelised the most potato-like potatoes that ever existed and then condensed the smell into an essential oil for a sauna. Once cooked, we’d cover the steamed mohogo in chilli, lemon juice and salt. Nothing fancy but perfect to me.

4. Seeroh. Hot, sweet semolina that’s first crackled and toasted in ghee or butter, cooked with milk, sugar, saffron, almonds and cardamom. My mum always adds fresh orange juice and zest, along with vanilla bean extract. The smell of this dessert as it cooks makes me swoon! I posted my version of Hot Saffron and Lemon Seeroh with Pistachio Ice Cream a while back if you’d like to have a go yourself.

5. Vegetable biryani. Golden rice first boiled with cinnamon, cloves and cardamom and then layered with veggies, fried onions and rosewater. Packed up tightly with a dough seal and baked in the oven, biryani is one of my favourite ways to enjoy rice. The moment when you take the hot handi to the table, crack open the baked-shut lid and watch that first puff of steam escape is enough to make you weak at the knees. Aromas wafting about the kitchen as everyone digs in like crocs at feeding time (well, at least in my house). I imagine your establishment is much more civilised, although no matter if not.

Buttermilk Mushroom Biryani

I’ve made a few variations of biryani before and this has to be one of my favourites. A tonne of mixed mushrooms from baby button and chestnut, to shiitake and oyster. If you’re feeling fancy and the season is right, add morels or chanterelles for a sublime treat.

Mixed Mushrooms for Biryani

I cooked my mushrooms with lots of aromatics until rich, deep and dark and finished with buttermilk and fresh tarragon to lift the flavour with aniseed notes and just the right amount of creaminess.

The rice is long grain and soaked overnight. Sounds OTT but really, it takes less than 5 minutes to cook if you do this. I add cinnamon, cloves and cardamom to the cooking water at this stage and always boil the rice as if I was boiling pasta (in lots of water and then drain and cool). You only need to boil it until it’s 70% cooked.

Saffron Milk for Biryani

The gorgeous colour is created with good quality saffron infused with hot milk. The milk will turn the sunniest of yellows, verging on orange. It’s so pretty to watch, and this adds that iconic biryani flavour. For me, it’s not a biryani without saffron.

The rim of the pot is sealed with a simple dough made with flour and water. This ensures steam builds up inside the pot, plumps up the rice grains and infused them with the flavours of spiced buttermilk mushrooms, crispy onions (in the biryani layers) and saffron. Once cracked open, the ‘Dum’, translated as “warm breath” will escape from the pot and you’ll be ready to pile mounds of biryani on your plate.

Pomegranate Raita

Serve with cooling carrot and cucumber raita with lemon juice and fresh cumin, toasted and ground. Toasting cumin seeds and grinding them burning hot in a pestle and mortar creates the most magical smoke and fragrance. Smells like home.

Buttermilk Mushroom Biryani

Buttermilk Mushroom Biryani
Serves 4

For the Biryani:
450g mixed mushrooms
2 tbsp ghee
1 tsp cumin
5cm piece ginger, grated
2 hot green or red chillies
10-12 cashews
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1 red onion, sliced
10g tarragon (about a tablespoon chopped)
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
150ml buttermilk
Salt to taste
250g extra-long grain golden basmati rice, washed and soaked overnight
5cm cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods, cracked
4 cloves
Rosewater
1 onion, thinly sliced and fried in ghee until crispy
Large pinch saffron, soaked in 3 tbsp hot milk
Dried rose petals (optional)
Mint leaves and fresh coriander to garnish

For the dum (dough around rim of Dutch oven or handi):
150g flour
120ml cold water

For the Raita:
450g Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp mint, chopped
1 tbsp coriander, chopped
1 tbsp dill, chopped
1 large cucumber
1 large carrot, grated
1 lemon, juice and zest
80g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tsp cumin toasted and ground
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 pomegranate

Method

1. Wash the rice and soak in cold water overnight.

2. Drain the rice and place in a large saucepan. Add the cinnamon stick, cloves, cracked cardamom pods and a large pinch of salt. Cover the rice in plenty of water (as if you were boiling pasta) and bring to a boil. Because you soaked the rice it will take less than 5 minutes. Once the rice is 70% cooked, drain and set aside.

3. To make the buttermilk mushroom masala: wipe and slice your mixed mushrooms and set aside. Place the ghee in a large pan and allow to melt on a low heat. Add the cumin seeds, cashews, bay leaf and asafoetida. Once aromatic, add the ginger, chilli and onion. Sauté on a medium heat until the onion has caramelised. Add the tomatoes and cook until most of the water has evaporated.

4. Next, add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms have softened and reduced by half. Add the turmeric, season with salt. Cook for a further few minutes and then. Switch off the heat. Add the buttermilk and stir quickly to incorporate. Add the chopped tarragon and give the mushrooms a final stir.

5. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C.

6. Take a large, handi (you can also use a Dutch oven if you don’t have this). The most important thing is that it’s deep, ovenproof and has a lid. Grease with butter and place a layer of rice on top. (Note: I usually keep the cinnamon etc i boiled the rice with in and remove it before serving.) Cover the rice with a layer of mushroom mixture. Add another layer of rice and add some of the saffron milk, a drop of rose water and fried onions. Add a little more rice and repeat layering with mushrooms and rice until you run out. Finish with rice on top and repeat the saffron milk, rose water and fried onion layer.

7. Combine the flour and water and knead to make a firm dough. Roll the dough out into a long sausage shape and use it to line the rim of the biryani pot. Place the lid on top and bake for 35-40 minutes.

8. To make the raita: Slice the cucumber in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Grate and squeeze out any excess water. Place into a large bowl. Grate the carrot and squeeze out excess water. Add the chopped herbs, chopped spring onion, lemon juice, salt, sugar and yogurt. Stir to combine.

9. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry frying pan and coarsely grind in a pestle and mortar. Add to the raita and stir. Top the raita with pomegranate seeds. Chill until ready to serve.

10. Take everything to the table and open up the biryani there, breaking the dough seal. The fragrant steam will escape and you can serve just like that or pile on to a platter and garnish with fresh mint leaves, coriander, crispy onions and dried rose petals.

Buttermilk Mushroom Biryani

Serve the mushroom biryani in the middle of the table with bowls of cooling raita, your favourite Indian pickles/chutneys and crunchy poppadoms for everyone to share.

Love Sanjana




Indian Chilli-Cheese Churros

I have a massive soft spot for hot desserts: Chocolate lava cake, sticky toffee pudding, gulab jamun and ice cream, seeroh and cold cream and of course, churros and chocolate. Or churros and dulce de leche. Or churros and scented candle wax. Okay maybe not the last one but basically, I’ll eat churros with anything.

Like many others before me, I believe that there’s a separate stomach for dessert. You can eat all the empanadas, cassava fries and frijoles you like but in my book, the sensation of something sweet on your palate is always a welcome one.

Indian Chilli-Cheese Churros

And this second stomach rule doesn’t just extend to South American food and hot desserts – it could be palak paneer, naan and kulfi, or thai massaman curry, papaya salad and coconut sticky rice with mango. They’re all delicious and all made better with something sweet for the finale.

Churros are one of my favourites; the delicious coating, crispy outside, soft, semi-hollow inside and the gooey dip for controlled dunking. I love it all, and so much so that I want it for dessert and as a starter.

This double churros fantasy is possible come true with my recipe for Indian Chilli-Cheese Churros. They have all the delicious components of regular churros except the flavours are inspired by India. They include everyday favourites like ajwain seeds, cumin, dried fenugreek leaves and ground turmeric for the most beautiful golden colour you ever did see.

Indian Chilli-Cheese Churros

Instead of the satisfying crunch of granulated sugar on the outside, we have sharp Cheddar and crisp morsels of chilli and spring onion. I’ve tested this recipe a number of times, probably more times than I actually needed to – not because I was tweaking it hugely, but because it has been requested so many times. We’re talking like eight times since it was conceived of back in May.

As I pipe uneven, yet rustic bits of churro dough into hot oil, I wonder why it’s taken me this long to put Indian-inspired churros on the table when it makes such perfect sense.

The dip is a cooling combination of classic coriander, mint, zesty lime and sour cream. It cuts through the earthy spices and naughtiness of the churros. The finished dip makes the deep-fried churros feel saintly and not at all like that drunken visit to Chicken Cottage (for a veggie burger in my case) after a grimy night out.

This makes for a delicious party starter when you have friends coming over. You can make the dough a little ahead of time and keep it in the fridge but in order to get your lips around crispy churros, you’ll need to fry them just before serving. I promise you it’s worth it. Serve them in a platter or in paper cones for a more chilled out feel. Throw in a couple of fried chillies if you’re feeling fancy.

Indian Chilli-Cheese Churros

Indian Chilli-Cheese Churros
Serves 6

For the Churros Dough:
300g plain flour

425ml boiling water

65g ghee

2 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp dried fenugreek leaves
½ tsp ajwain seeds
2 tsp salt
1 tsp brown sugar

Oil to deep fry

For the Chilli-Cheese Coating:
120g medium strength Cheddar
2 spring onions, chopped finely
2 tbsp chopped coriander
1 tsp cumin seeds

For the Lime and Coriander Sour Cream Dip:
80g fresh coriander, including the stalks
40g fresh mint leaves
Juice and zest of 1 lime
2 green chillies (adjust according to your taste)
180g sour cream
1 tsp salt
3 tsp sugar

Method

1. To make the churros dough: In a stand mixer, combine the flour and dry spices.

2. Place the water and ghee in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for a minute, until all the ghee has completely melted and switch off the heat.

3. Turn the stand mixer on low and quickly pour in all of the water and ghee mixture. Increase the mixer speed and beat for about a minute, until the mixture is smooth.

4. Switch the mixer off.

5. Fit a large piping bag with a star-tipped nozzle (I use Wilton #22 – large open star tip) The disposable piping bags are great for this as you can just throw it away after use – good news for your next batch of icing.

6. Place the churros dough into the piping bag and ensure there aren’t any air bubbles in there. Close the top of the bag up and allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

7. In the meantime, grate the cheese on the fine side of a grated and place it on a plate. Add the chopped chilli, coriander and spring onions. Next, place the cumin seeds in a dry pan and toast on a medium heat until aromatic. Give them a quick bash in the pestle and mortar and add these to the cheese mixture too. Combine and set aside.

8. Heat a large, deep-bottomed pan or wok with sunflower oil to 190C. Ensure the oil is at least 5-inches deep to make sure the churros have plenty of space to move around and cook evenly.

9. Line a plate with kitchen paper to drain the churros after they’ve been fried.

10. Keep a pair of clean scissors handy.

11. Now your workstation is ready and your oil is heated, you can start piping the churros.

12. Take the piping bag of rested dough from the fridge and carefully pipe it into the hot oil, snipping the dough with the scissors as it reaches the desired size and allowing it to gently drop into the hot oil. I love the crazy, craggy look of uneven churros – I find it more interesting to look at and eat but you can also go for straight churros sticks or any other shape you like.

13. Fry 4-5 churros at a time to ensure they cook evenly and the temperature of the oil doesn’t drop too much.

14. Don’t move them around in the oil for the first minute of cooking and then gently move them with a spider to make sure they brown evenly. All in all, they should be in the oil for about 2 minutes.

15. Remove from the oil, draining any excess oil and then transfer them to the paper towel-lined plate. They’ll become crispier as they cool here.

16. After a minute or so, place the cooked churros into the plate of chilli cheese, tossing them in the cheese. Place them onto another tray and repeat this process until you’ve used up all the churros dough.

Note: It’s important you toss the churros in the cheese mixture while they’re still super hot so it sticks to them properly.

Note: Also, if you’re going to fry some chillies to serve alongside the churros, make some holes in them first. Nobody likes hot oil and exploding chillies.

Method for the Dip:

1. To make the Coriander and Lime Sour Cream: Combine all the ingredients except the sour cream in a blender. I use my NutriBullet. Add a splash of water too. Blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl and add half the sour cream. Stir to combine.

2. Before serving, place the remainder if the sour cream into a bowl and add in the coriander mixture. Stir gently for a sour cream swirl effect.

Indian Chilli-Cheese Churros

Love Sanjana




Rum-Soaked Kala Jamun (Cardamom and Rum Doughnuts)

I figured that as everyone seems to have totally lost their minds this year, I’d follow suit in my own crazy way. You might have noticed a Facebook and Instagram post I wrote, earlier this month. It was a big deal for me, having dedicated a huge amount of myself to this blog. In case you missed it, it served as a reminder to myself that if we pursue our passions with our whole selves, we must not forget to extract every last bit of love it gives back to us. Anyway, enough of that soppy stuff… it’s rum time!

I have a love/hate relationship with gulab jamun (or gulab jambu as we call them at home). I mean this in the sense that I love to eat them but hate that I can never just have one. 

These sweet, saffron, rose and cardamom-soaked milk doughnuts are one of the most well-known Indian desserts, and the chances are, they’re on your local Indian restaurant’s menu.

Rum-Soaked Kala Jamun (Cardamom and Rum Syrup-Soaked Doughnuts)

Kala jamuns are the lesser-known big sister of gulab jamun. At first, the most obvious difference is in the colour difference between brown gulab jamun and black kala jamun (hence, the name – ‘kala’ meaning black). The texture of kala jamuns is also very different to regular gulab jamuns. They have a chewier exterior, that’s almost squeaky and the inside is a little grainier. You could say they’re the heartier of the two. Another key difference is in the serving style. Gulab jamuns are usually served in their syrup, whereas kala jamun are served without their soaking syrup, often rolled in desiccated coconut. When I was little I’d love coconut coated kala jamun split down the middle and filled with Shrikhand, but that’s another story for another day.

This grown-up version of traditional kala jamun is easy to make, since I use milk powder and just a touch of khoya (also known as mawa) for added texture. Khoya is made by simmering full-fat milk in a pan for several hours, until almost all the water has evaporated, leaving just the milk solids behind. Khoya is widely used in South Asian cuisine, across India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan, to name a few places. You can find khoya sold in vacuum-packed blocks in the chiller section of your local South Asian supermarket. Hint: Look near the paneer section, it’s usually there.

Rum-Soaked Kala Jamun (Cardamom and Rum Syrup-Soaked Doughnuts)

I’m a huge fan of anything soaked in rum, so when the opportunity to make kala jamun presented itself, I know that making a spiced rum syrup was the way to go. The combination of dark rum, cardamom, saffron, rosewater and vanilla is my idea of bliss and it works so perfectly in the recipe. It’s sweet and beautifully aromatic with just a hint of bittersweet flavour from the caramelised jamuns.

They’ll make a show stopping alternative Christmas dessert, served in a tower and covered in gold leaf. Sprinkle over some pistachios or toasted coconut if you like.

Rum-Soaked Kala Jamun (Cardamom and Rum Syrup-Soaked Doughnuts)

Rum-Soaked Kala Jamun (Cardamom and Rum Syrup-Soaked Doughnuts)
Makes 24 kala jamuns

For the kala jamun:
600g milk powder
430ml warm milk
50g khoya, grated
3 tbsp icing sugar
150g self-raising flour
2 tsp coarse semolina
½ tsp crushed green cardamom
Pinch of saffron
Pinch of salt
Sunflower oil, for deep frying

For the cardamom and rum syrup:
800g sugar
950ml water
400ml dark rum
1 vanilla pod, split and scraped
Juice of 2 limes
2 tbsp rosewater

Gold leaf, to decorate

Method
1. To make the kala jamun: In a large bowl, mix together the milk powder, self raising flour, khoya, semolina, salt, sugar, saffron and cardamom.

2. Gradually add the milk, stirring gently. The ingredients will come together to form a dough. Knead the dough for a few minutes until smooth. Cover with a damp tea towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

3. To make the sugar syrup: Place all the ingredients, including the vanilla pod in a pan. Give it a quick stir and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer until it reaches the thread stage on a sugar thermometer (110-115C) and then switch the heat off. It’s important you don’t stir it during the cooking period. If you notice the sugar starting to crystallise around the sides of the pan, run a wet pastry brush around the sides of the pan so that water runs into the crystals and dissolves them.

4. In a large, deep pan (I use a wok), heat enough sunflower oil to deep fry the jamuns. Use a cooking thermometer to bring the oil to 150C.

5. Make small balls with the dough, about 2cm in diameter. This might seem a little small but they will expand in the oil. It’s really important to roll them firmly between your hands to ensure there are no cracks. Do this for all the jamuns – you should have around 24.

6. Deep fry 6-8 jamuns at a time, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Allow the jamuns to cook for 3-4 minutes. They are ready when they turn really dark brown/almost, but not quite black all over. The jamuns will swell slightly in the oil, making them a little larger than the balls you rolled.

7. Drain the jamuns on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Allow to cool and test one to ensure the middle is cooked through. Repeat the frying process for the remaining jamuns.

8. Allow all the jamuns to cool for 20 minutes and then place them in the sugar syrup, making sure they’re fully submerged. Leave covered for 24 hours and serve the following day. Decorate with gold leaf if you’re feeling fancy.

I love to eat my kala jamuns hot with vanilla ice cream.

Note: If you’re serving them hot by reheating them in the microwave, make sure you add the gold leaf after they’ve been warmed.

Storing: Keep the jamuns in their syrup and store in an airtight container in the fridge. They will last two weeks… unless you eat them all before then!

Click the image above to Pin this recipe for later.

Click the image above to Pin this recipe for later.




Vegetarian Tandoori Momos

Every year, ask me what I want for my birthday and you’ll get the same response each time. It’s not an expensive pair of shoes and it’s not perfume, it definitely isn’t a designer handbag or clothes. I don’t really care about those things. What I really want is my own tandoor.

The idea of having a raging-hot pit of fiery coals in my kitchen makes me go weak at the knees. Install a beautiful granite countertop and leave just enough space for a cavernous drop into a heat-proof cylinder. Pop in a clay oven and watch me go nuts with recipes galore. I’ll pretend I’m Sanjeev Kapoor or Cyrus Todiwala, reaching in with my gigantic asbestos hands. I’ll be making fresh, homemade naan with charred edges and chewy middles, kebabs of all shapes and sizes and the best baked potatoes of your life. I’d be ALL over it.

Vegetarian Tandoori Momos

One thing I’d definitely be making are proper Tandoori Momos, the hottest Indian street food trend of the minute. Classic Nepali dumplings, slathered in Tandoori marinade and cooked under intense heat for that heavenly charcoal smokiness we all know and love.

Well, my 28th birthday just went and sadly, I didn’t get my own tandoor. I did however, have the most wonderful birthday cake baked for me by my lovely Mr. It was the first cake he’d ever baked and he totally nailed it. That was breakfast sorted for an entire week. Here’s a sneak peek.

Spr

I’m hoping one day someone will take me up on my request for a tandoor but in the meantime, I’m getting my tandoori food fix using the trusty oven. Whack it up as high as it will go and when it’s smoking hot, stow your food inside, closing the door swiftly. I do naans like this all the time and it works a charm.

Folding dumplings is one of the most cathartic things you can do. Little parcels, half moons, gyoza-style or tortellini style, the possibilities are endless. I love nothing more than a ‪Saturday afternoon in with a cup of chai, a good movie and a marathon dumpling-making session. So after a long week at work, I did just that. Except I didn’t make just any dumplings, I made Momos. The most delicious Indian-style dumplings filled with veggies, paneer, ginger and soy sauce.

Vegetarian Tandoori Momos

Traditionally, Momos are served with hot tomato chutney but instead, I made my own tandoori marinade (the one I use for making my Tandoori Paneer Samosas) and covered the Momos in it before popping them into the sweltering pit of fire, a.k.a, the oven.

The pastry is of course, homemade – why not when it’s just three ingredients: flour, hot water and salt. It’s worth making your own, and so much easier when it comes to folding the Momos. You can make them any shape you like but I thought the simple half moon was pretty. Check out YouTube for tips on how to fold dumplings.

You can by all means skip the Tandoori paste part entirely and just straight up fry and steam them like Japanese gyozas – but where’s the fun in that? No, I’m kidding, they’re absolutely delicious steamed too. Serve them with hot tomato and chilli chutney, adding a glug of sesame oil for good measure.

Once these are out of the oven, you’ll find yourself waiting to frantically get one into your mouth.

Don’t do that. If you’ve ever eaten a hot apple pie from McDonald’s and felt the sensation of the skin on the roof of your mouth being seared like a steak, you’ll know why.

Be patient. Tumble them onto a platter or plate, cover them with sliced red onions, lemon wedges, cooling yoghurt and fresh coriander. Think Samosa Chaat sans the chickpeas and with Momos. What’s also amazing is brushing them with butter as soon as the come out of the oven. Watch them glisten as you try your best not to go all Tasmanian Devil on them.

Serve immediately and watch them disappear faster than you can say ‘Sanjana, here’s your very own birthday tandoor.’

I can only dream.

Vegetarian Tandoori Momos

Vegetable and Paneer Tandoori Momos  
Makes 20 Momos

For the dough:
200g plain flour
½ tsp salt
120ml boiling water (just enough to bind to a firm, smooth dough)

For the filling:
25g salted butter
1 large onion, finely diced
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 hot red birds eye chillies, chopped finely
60g white cabbage, finely shredded
2 carrots, grated
30g frozen peas
30g green beans, chopped finely
180g paneer, crumbled or grated
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 spring onions, chopped finely
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp light brown sugar
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, ground
1 tsp toasted fennel seeds, ground
Salt to taste
1 tsp cornflour, dissolved in cold water

For the tandoori paste:
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
8 black peppercorns
2 dried Kashmiri chillies
2 inches cinnamon
1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
1 star anise
4 cloves
Seeds of 4 green cardamom pods
1 black cardamom
1 tsp fennel seeds

You’ll also need:
1 tbsp concentrated tomato puree
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tbsp yoghurt
2 tsp dark brown sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp crushed garlic

Momos toppings:
Fresh coriander, chopped
Plain yoghurt
Sliced red onions



Method

1. 
First, make the tandoori paste. Toast all the spices in a dry pan until aromatic. Grind them in a coffee grinder until super fine. Put half the ground spices in a jar and stow away for another day.

2. With the remaining half of the masala, mix in the tomato puree, lemon juice, yoghurt, brown sugar, salt, ginger and garlic. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

3. To make the filling, heat the butter in a non-stick pan. Add the chopped onion and sauté until translucent but not browned. Add in ginger, garlic and chillies, cook for a moment and then add in the rest of the ingredients, apart from the cornflour.

4. Once the veggies and paneer have cooked down, about 10 minutes, add the cornflour and mix vigorously. The mixture should bind together. Turn out onto a plate to cool.

5. Meanwhile, make the dough. In a bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Little by little, add in the boiling water, mixing with a spoon. Once you’ve added in almost all the water, leave it for a few moments until cool enough to handle. Try to bind, checking if the rest of the water is required. Add more water if you need to. Bind to a smooth dough, kneading for around 8 minutes.

6. Allow to rest, covered for 10 minutes.

7. Line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper.

8. Take a grape-sized piece of dough and roll it out, 3 inches in diameter. A thin as you can. Take about 2 tsp cooled filling and place into the middle of the dough. Use your fingers to pull the dough together and pleat one side to the other, using your fingers to seal.

9. There are lots of handy YouTube video around to help show you how to fold dumplings if you’re not sure. There are so many pays to do it and you don’t have to be a pro to make amazing ones. Just make sure the filling is totally sealed in. The shape is up to you.

10. Repeat this process for all the dumplings. Put a movie on, make a cup of tea, enjoy the process.

11. Once you have a tray or two of finished dumplings, you’re ready to cook.

12. Pre-heat the oven to 220C. Boil the kettle.

13. Heat a large, flat bottomed pan (one that has a lid). Add 2 tsp oil. Arrange the dumplings in the pan – you may need to do this in batches. Allow for them to sizzle for a minute. Now very quickly and extremely carefully add hot water from the kettle to the pan – just a splash or two. Put the lid on and allow to steam for 3 minutes on a low heat.

14. Remove the lid and place the momos back onto a baking tray. Brush them with the tandoori paste you made earlier.

15. Place them in the oven for 10 minutes or until charred in places and looking delicious.

16. Tumble onto a platter and garnish with chopped coriander, sliced red onion and plain yoghurt. Serve immediately.

Vegetarian Tandoori Momos

Love Sanjana

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Palak Paneer Snails

Palak Paneer SnailsOur favourite paneer dish has just undergone an epic makeover. Don’t freak out. The snails in the pastry refer to their shape rather than the contents. These filo coils are packed with the Indian restaurant favourite, Palak Paneer. Fresh, green spinach with creamy paneer, ginger, chillies and garlic is a combo I’d eat every day if I could get away with it.

To demonstrate how easy this is, I’ve pulled together a short video where you can see how it’s rolled and coiled for that awesome shape. As much as I love this, it wouldn’t be half as amazing to eat if it wasn’t for the epic Carrot and Cucumber Mustard Salad. It’s loaded with hot and sour flavours which cuts right through the richness of the pie.

Palak Paneer Snails

I glazed these pies with a combination of melted butter and turmeric for as a cheeky replacement for egg wash. Nobody will ever know.

Palak Paneer Snails 2

This is perfect for serving up when you have friends over for dinner, taking along to picnics and stowing away in the freezer prior to baking for a quick meal.

Watch the video, read the recipe, make it for your friends and family and let me know how it goes. I love seeing the pictures of what you create at home so keep ‘em coming. BTW, I get to say hello to you again today!

Palak Paneer Snails
Serves 6

Ingredients 

700g leaf spinach
250g paneer, crumbled into large pieces
250g ricotta
1 tbsp ground fennel seeds
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp coarse semolina
1 medium red onion, chopped finely
1 tbsp grated ginger
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp garam masala
4 green chillies, chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
Salt to taste
16 sheets filo pastry (approx. 12″ x 22″)
200g butter, melted
Pinch or turmeric
Sesame and nigella seeds

For the Cucumber and Carrot Mustard Salad

2 large cucumbers
5 carrots
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp English mustard
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar (optional)
Juice 2 lemons
Fried green chillies (optional)

Method

1. To make the pies, heat the sunflower oil in a pan and add the cumin. Allow to sizzle before adding the red onions. Sauté for a moment and add the ginger, garlic, chillies, garam masala and salt. Cook for 5 minutes and set aside.

2. Place the spinach in a colander (you might have to do it in batches) and pour boiling water from the kettle on top. Rinse with cold water and squeeze out all the excess water. Repeat for all the spinach.

3. Pile the spinach into a large bowl, add the paneer, onion mixture, ground fennel seeds, semolina and ricotta. Combine thoroughly.

4. To assemble, place one sheet of filo pastry on a work surface. Brush it generously with butter before adding your next sheet. Repeat the layering process until you have 4 filo layers.

5. Along the longest edge of the pastry, make a line of filling. Roll it up as tightly as you can without breaking it. Roll it 1 ½ times over itself. If you have excess pastry, trim it with a pizza cutter.

6. Once you have a pastry snake, brush it with more butter, and then take one edge to start rolling it into a coil shape.

7. Take some additional butter and mix it with the turmeric. Brush this all over the top of the coil. Sprinkle with nigella and sesame seeds.

8. Repeat for the next three snails.

9. Place your four palak paneer snails onto a baking tray and wrap with cling film. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Bake for 45 minutes at 160C.

Palak Paneer Snails

To make the Cucumber and Carrot Mustard Salad

1. Make the salad a couple of hours before for best results. Chop one of the carrots with a crinkle cutter or slice them thinly. Using a peeler, ribbon the other cucumber all the way around. Don’t include too many of the seeds as they’ll make the salad watery. Save them for a snack later. Ribbon the carrots in the same ways as the cucumber.

2. To make the dressing, heat the oil in a saucepan and add the mustard seeds. Wait for the mustard seeds to pop and crackle, and then add the mustard, lemon juice, salt and the optional sugar. Mix this all together and then turn off the heat. Pour the dressing over the cucumber and carrot and mix together. Allow it to stand for around 30 minutes. Lots of water will come out of the salad. With clean hands, squeeze the salad removing excess water. You’ll be left with firm vegetables and slightly pickled flavour. So good.

Cucumber Carrot and Mustard Salad

Love Sanjana




Spiced Butternut and Cauliflower Cheese Pithiviers

One of my favourite classic comfort foods has to be cauliflower cheese. A chilly autumnal weeknight calls for nothing more than simple oven-baked cauliflower cheese, sometimes with a tumble of broccoli florets added in, other times with belly-pleasing macaroni. One thing they all have in common is delicious, sharp Cheddar and a crunchy golden top.

Spiced Butternut and Cauliflower Cheese Pithiviers

Here, I’ve combined all those glorious elements into another comfort food favourite – the pithivier. These traditional French pies are usually made with a frangipane filling but can also be savoury. I’ve opted to fill my discs of puff pastry with cauliflower cheese, butternut squash and a delicious blend of spices. In place of egg wash, they’re glazed with a thyme and honey brown butter which provides a gorgeously-golden finish.

The combination of butternut squash and a homemade gratin spice blend will give you all the autumnal feels you crave after a long day at work. If you don’t have butternut, you can use pumpkin or acorn squash instead. The gratin spice blend is unbelievable in everything from dauphinoise potatoes to mac and cheese. Make a big batch and stow it away in an airtight jar to give your oven-baked dinners an instant flavour boost.

These pithiviers can be made with puff or rough puff pastry, either homemade or shop-bought. If you’re in a hurry, shop-bought puff pastry is ideal.

The most important element here is to ensure the filling is completely cold before you encase it in the pastry. This will ensure the pastry bottom stays crispy. You can even assemble these a day ahead, cover in cling film and refrigerate – or freeze for another time.

Serve with a leafy green salad and follow up with a hot chocolate pudding.

Spiced Butternut and Cauliflower Cheese Pithiviers 3

Spiced Butternut and Cauliflower Cheese Pithiviers
Makes 6

Ingredients

700g puff pastry – shop bought or homemade

For the filling:
320g butternut squash, diced (2cm squares), cooked
300g cauliflower florets, chopped finely, cooked but not completely
1 tbsp olive oil
50g butter
50g flour
320ml whole milk
1 1/2 tsp gratin spice mix
120g sharp Cheddar, grated
1/2 tsp dried English mustard
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
2 green chillies, finely sliced
1 fat clove garlic, crushed
Salt and black pepper, to taste
2 sprigs of thyme, stripped

For the thyme and honey brown butter glaze:
60g unsalted butter
3 sprigs of thyme, stripped
1 tbsp honey
Small pinch turmeric

For the gratin spice mix:
1 tbsp cloves
3 tbsp whole coriander seeds
2 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp mace
2 tbsp cardamom seeds
1 tbsp sesame seeds
4 dried red chillies
8 star anise

2 dried bay leaves

3-inch piece cinnamon, broken

Method

1. To make the spice blend: Toast the spices in a dry pan until aromatic. Allow to cool, then grind in a spice grinder or coffee grinder. Pass through a fine-hold sieve and store in an airtight jar.

2. To make the filling: Melt the butter in a pan, add the olive oil and garlic. Next, add in the flour and stir to make a roux. Allow to cook gently, stirring all the time until very lightly golden. Whisk in the whole milk, a little at a time until fully incorporated. Add a little bit of the spice mix and keep whisking until hot but not boiling.

3. Next, add in the cheese, two kinds of mustard, chilli and keep whisking until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the thyme. Fold in the cooked squash and cauliflower. Set aside until cold.

4. To make the glaze: Melt the butter in a small saucepan and cook until very lightly golden brown. Add the thyme leaves and set aside to cool. When warm, stir in the honey.

5. Roll out just under half of the pastry on a lightly floured surface to 5mm thick. Cut out six 12 inch-diameter rounds. Take remaining pastry and roll to 5mm thick. Cut out six 14 inch-diameter rounds. Divide cold filling mixture among half the 12-inch pastry rounds, mounding up in centre and leaving a 1 inch border. Brush the edges with water and top with the larger pastry rounds, removing any air around the mixture and pressing edges to seal – I used the back of a spoon to seal them up properly. Brush tops with the glaze and score a scalloped pattern on the top of each with the back of a knife. Place on an oven tray lined with baking paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

6. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Bake the pithiviers for 25-30 minutes until completely puffed up and golden all over.

Spiced Butternut and Cauliflower Cheese Pithiviers

Serve with a leafy green salad, then go make yourself a hot chocolate before bed.




Stuffed and Baked Baby Kolhapuri Aubergines

If you’re a fan of vegetarian Indian main courses that pack enough punch to trounce any meaty curry, look no further. These gorgeous aubergines might be small but the smooth-as-velvet sauce and filling make it an unforgettable veggie curry you’ll want to make over and over again.

Toasted Coconut and Pistachio

Stuffed with rich coconut, pistachios and paneer before being baked in a tomato masala containing no fewer than eleven incredible spices (important: in small amounts) to create a beautifully balanced, aromatic aubergine experience.

Stuffed and Baked Baby Kolhapuri Aubergines

You’ve probably worked out by now that I’m a total aubergine fiend, always thinking about where my next fix is coming from. Whether it’s Slow Cooker Aubergine Makhani or the love of my life, Burnt Aubergine and Spinach Curry, I’m obsessed.

Pistachio Masala Stuffed Baby Aubergines

Kolhapuri Vegetables and Kolhapuri Chicken are popular dishes from, you guessed it, Kolhapur, Maharashtra in India. These curries are notoriously spicy and almost always contain a killer combo of crimson Kashmiri chillies, black pepper and poppy seeds.

Stuffed and Baked Baby Kolhapuri Aubergines Masala Plate

I’ve played about with the masala recipe to come up with my own blend, which I think lends the ultimate kick to vegetarian dishes. Meat eaters won’t even complain. The masala recipe makes double the amount you’ll need for this recipe but I like to keep some in an airtight container in the fridge for later. It’s amazing sprinkled into pasta sauce, over crispy fries and in spicy soups.

Skillet-Baked Kohlapuri Aubergines Masala

If you don’t have baby aubergines, you can omit the stuffing part and roast regular, cubed aubergines before adding to the sauce and simmering for 20 minutes. The sauce base is also delicious with regular white chickpeas (serve with Masala Poori), potatoes or mixed mushrooms and sweetcorn.

Be creative and play around with it until you find your favourite combinations. This one is mine.

Pistachio-Stuffed Baby Aubergines

Stuffed and Baked Baby Kolhapuri Aubergines
(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients

16 long baby aubergines, washed and dried

For the Kolhapuri masala:

3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp unsweetened desiccated coconut
2 tsp red Kashmiri chilli powder
2 tbsp white poppy seeds or sesame seeds
4 curry leaves
1 tbsp fennel seeds
½ tsp nigella seeds
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp salt

For the Pistachio and Coconut filling:

100g unsweetened desiccated coconut
30g unsalted pistachios
100g paneer, grated (replace with an additional 70g unsweetened desiccated coconut and 30g unsalted pistachios if vegan)
1 tsp amchur (dried mango powder)
1 tsp white pepper
¼ tsp salt

For the Sauce:

2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 large onions, finely sliced
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
4 tbsp Kolhapuri masala
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar

Fresh coriander and sliced red chillies, to garnish
Paratha and optional plain yoghurt to serve

Method

1. Begin by making the filling. Toast the pistachios and desiccated coconut in a dry non-stick pan until golden and aromatic. Transfer to a food processor and pulse to a crumb-like texture. Transfer to a bowl and add the grated paneer, amchur, white pepper and salt. Stir to combine well. Set aside.

2. To make the Kolhapuri masala, blend all of the ingredients together in a coffee grinder or food processor until fine. Set aside. This will make twice as much masala as you’ll need for this recipe but I love to stash it away in the fridge in a sealed container to sprinkle over fries (guilty pleasure alert!)

3. Next, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan and add the sliced onions. Allow to soften, about 8 minutes. Don’t let them get too brown. Add the tomatoes, 4 tablespoons of Kolhapuri masala, salt and sugar. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook on a low heat for 20-30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, slit the aubergines lengthways not slicing all the way through. Stuff each aubergine with the pistachio and coconut masala.

5. Make yourself a cup of tea and pre-heat the oven to 190C.

6. Take four cast iron skillets or any deep, large baking dish and pour in the sauce. Arrange the aubergines on top of the sauce and bake for 60 minutes until the aubgerines are tender all the way through.

7. Serve with flaky paratha, a bowl of cold natural yoghurt and nothing more.

Stuffed and Baked Baby Kolhapuri Aubergines

Love Sanjana




Vegan Saffron, Strawberry and Lime Meringue Nests

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been fascinated by meringues. There’s something so magical about those white, fluffy clouds of sweet vanilla. The chewy goodness of pavlovas, with their marshmallow-like middles and cratered tops that are begging to be dolloped with whipped cream and crowned with berries.

So beautiful, yet nigh on impossible without egg whites which somehow, when whipped up, have more volume than Claudia Schiffer’s barnet in a L’Oréal Elnett ad.

Well that’s what I always thought… until now.

Vegan Saffron Strawberry and Lime Meringue Nests

The protein in egg whites allows the air bubbles created by lots of whipping to be held. Sugar dissolves into these proteins and bonds with them. The water in sugar helps increases their strength and elasticity, allowing even more air to be trapped and held sturdy. There’s nothing quite like a stiff peak.

Vegan Saffron Meringue Kisses

Without the strong proteins present in egg whites to kick the meringue process off, all you’re left with is sugar. What can vegans and those who abstain from eating eggs use instead? Fear not, we no longer need to be oblivious to the sheer joy desserts like Eton Mess, French Macarons and Pavlova can bring.

Want to know the most frustrating thing about all of this? The answer has been staring us in the face the whole time.

The secret to replacing egg whites is chickpea water. Nope, I haven’t lost the plot. It really is the water we throw down the drain when we’re making our Channa Masala and Falafel. I almost slapped myself across the face when I found out. Mind. Blown.

Vegan Saffron Strawberry and Lime Meringue Nests Chickpeas

I stumbled upon the chickpea water trick through my awesome, creative mum and later, the aquafaba website which was created off the back of a development group of very clever vegans on Facebook. It’s taken the vegan world by storm. From Lemon Meringue Pie to Baked Alaska, this makes almost every meringue-based dessert possible and I can’t wait to try more recipes with it. And share them with you, of course.

BTW, you can’t taste chickpeas in the finished dessert AT ALL. Not one bit.

My first flavour experiments led me to create these very simple Vegan Saffron, Strawberry and Lime Meringue Nests. They’re beautifully-crisp on the outside, slightly spongy and marshmallowy in the middle and they totally melt in your mouth.

Vegan Saffron Strawberry and Lime Meringue Nests

The chickpea water is whipped with cream of tartar, saffron and sugar until stiff and glossy. This takes about 8 minutes in a stand mixer. So quick.

Many meringue recipes call for vinegar, lemon juice, or cream of tartar to increase the foam’s acidity, which promotes the growth and stability of a meringue. You can use any of them.

These are then piped onto a baking sheet and baked in a very low oven for a few hours until they’re totally dry and peel away from the paper easily. The key here is patience. Give these beauties time.

While they were baking, I macerated strawberries in lime juice, zest and a touch of icing sugar. To assemble, I filled them with whipped coconut cream and topped with the strawberries. I love strawberry mojitos and these are like a gorgeously-tall glass of iced strawberry mojito in dessert form.

Vegan Saffron Strawberry and Lime Meringue Nests

You can use this recipe to make a large pavlova too – just add a teaspoon of cornflour to the meringue mixture and bake for 90 minutes longer.

Watch my YouTube tutorial for how to make these right here. Don’t forget to subscribe!

Vegan Saffron, Strawberry and Lime Meringue Nests
(Makes 18 nests or one super large pavlova)

Ingredients

For the Vegan Meringue:
1 x 400g tin chickpeas in water –not brine or salted water (you can also use other white beans – butter beans also worked for me)
140g icing sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 large pinch of saffron
½ tsp vanilla extract (make sure it’s not oil based!)
Yellow gel food colour (optional) 

For the Strawberries:
600g strawberries
1 lime, juice and zest
1 tbsp icing sugar

For the Whipped Coconut Cream:
2 x 400ml full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
2 tbsp icing sugar

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 100C. Line three large baking trays with greaseproof paper.

2. Drain the chickpeas and reserve the water. Put the chickpeas in a container and use it to make Channa Masala or Hummus later.

3. Pour the chickpea water into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the balloon whisk attachment. Make sure your bowl is really clean and grease free. Any oil could cause your meringue to deflate.

4. Whisk on a high speed for 4 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat. During this time, add the cream of tartar, vanilla and saffron. Once your meringues have reached a really stiff glossy peak stage, add a little bit of yellow food colour if you like. Whip until evenly incorporated.

5. Fit a piping bag with a large star-tipped nozzle and spoon in your meringue. You might have to do it in batches if it doesn’t fit. Shake to remove any large air pockets.

6. Pipe into nests by piping a 3-inch round spiral base, then pipe two to three circles on top of the outer edge of the base, spiraling upwards to create a ‘nest effect’ on the edge of the meringue.

7. Bake at 100C for 2 ½ hours, then switch the oven off and leave for a further hour. Remove from the oven and gently peel the meringues away from the greaseproof paper. They should be totally dry underneath. Remember, the larger the meringues, the longer they will take to bake.

8. Meanwhile, chop the strawberries any which way you like. Add the lime juice, zest and sugar. Mix and cover with cling film. Chill until later.

9. Open the tins of coconut milk (don’t shake them first) and remove the thick cream from the top. Place it in the bowl of your stand mixer and whip along with the sugar until smooth. Reserve the water for a smoothie tomorrow morning.

10. Assemble the nests with a spoonful of coconut cream, top with strawberries and lime zest. Serve immediately.

The plain meringue nests will keep in an airtight container for 3-4 days.

Vegan Saffron Strawberry and Lime Meringue Nests 3

Dig in.

Love Sanjana x