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




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




Village-Style Gujarati Khichdi (Buttery Rice & Lentils)

The clattering of pots, pans and spoons in my kitchen is a sound that fills me with comfort and joy. It’s the first dish I crave after a long trip away and the hug in a bowl I need when autumn sets in. At the first whiff of mellow rice and lentils emanating from my cooker, there’s only one thing that matters; I’m home.

Village-Style Gujarati Khichdi

I’m making Khichdi, Gujarati style, like how they eat it on the farm in my ancestral home of Porbandar. It’s served with Gujarati Lasan ni Chutney, a blow-your-socks-off garlic and chilli preserve, and a cold glass of Chaas (salted buttermilk with roasted cumin). This is the comfort food every Gujarati has precious memories of growing up. The porridge-like consistency of a ghee-beaten rice and lentil mishmash was usually the first solid food we ever ate as toothless babies and our fondness for it stayed with us right through to adulthood. It became a familiar and nostalgic comfort blanket for the belly.

Loaded with hearty goodness and family tradition, Khichdi was and (still is) regarded as being every doting Gujarati mother’s nourishment of choice for her child.

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

Village-Style Gujarati Khichdi (Buttery Rice & Lentils)

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

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

Village-Style Gujarati Khichdi

Village-Style Gujarati Khichdi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Village-Style Gujarati Khichdi




Vegan Hariyali “Chicken” Drumsticks

Along with tofu and soya chunks, one of my favourite vegan sources of protein is seitan. Made from white beans, tofu and vital wheat gluten, my recipe transforms a handful of simple ingredients into the most delicious vegan “chicken”. It has the perfect “shredded chicken” texture and it can be used to make all kinds of vegan dishes from curries and stews, to salads and tandoori-style dishes. I’ve used it to make Vegan Seitan Butter Chicken, Biryani and now these Hariyali “Chicken” Drumsticks.

Vegan Hariyali Chicken Drumsticks

“Hariyali” refers to the beautiful shamrock green colour of the marinade. My recipe puts a glut of coriander and mint to good use and the tandoori-style drumsticks pair perfectly with salad and freshly-made Indian flatbreads like naan, paratha and chapattis.

Even though the marinade is packed full of big, punchy flavours, the spicing is simple using lots of ginger, chillies and garlic. Cashews and coconut yoghurt give the super green marinade body so that it clings on the the “chicken” drumsticks with ease. Both vegetarians and meat eaters will be able to dig in to these party-ready vegan drumsticks so they’re a great option for big gatherings.

Vegan Hariyali Chicken Drumsticks

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

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

Vegan Hariyali Chicken Drumsticks

Vegan Hariyali “Chicken” Drumsticks

Made from white beans, tofu and vital wheat gluten, my recipe transforms a handful of simple ingredients into the most delicious vegan “chicken”. Hariyali refers to the beautiful shamrock green colour of the marinade. My recipe puts a glut of coriander and mint to good use and the tandoori-style drumsticks pair perfectly with salad and freshly-made Indian flatbreads like naan, paratha and chapattis.

For the vegan “chicken” drumsticks:

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

You will also need:

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

For the hariyali marinade paste:

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

To serve:

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

For the vegan “chicken” drumsticks:

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

For the vegan hariyali “chicken” drumsticks:

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

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Vegan Hariyali Chicken Drumsticks




Sprouted Mung Bean Breakfast Noodles

Mung beans, plus water, plus 72 hours is my kind of maths. Watching the process of mung beans cracking and sprouting over three days has fascinated me since the age of seven and it still fascinates me now I’m 30.

The shrill pitter patter of the mung beans being poured into a bowl and the swoosh and clatter of them being washed and rinsed reminds me of waves lapping the shore at Bamburi Beach, Mombasa. It’s a place where I’ve had a bucket load of happy food memories.

Sprouted Mung Bean Breakfast Noodles

First the mung beans bloom; They’re fat and full of water. Next, their sage skins crack and reveal the creamy white of the inside, rather like Japanese Kintsugi. After a few days and minimal TLC the mung beans begin to sprout delicate tendrils which get longer over the span of 24 hours. Full of goodness and earthy crunch, the mung beans are ready to eat.

Make your own sprouted mung beans by washing them and soaking for 24 hours. Once they’re plump, drain the water from them and scatter them into a colander lined with kitchen paper. Cover with another piece of kitchen paper and leave them for 48 hours, trickling a little water on the top piece of kitchen paper after the first 24 hours. Keep them on the countertop at room temperature. After 72 hours, they will be ready to eat. You can store them in the fridge for 24 hours.

Sprouted Mung Bean Breakfast Noodles

You can pack the sprouted mung beans into lunchboxes, toss them through salads, stir-fry them with spices or eat them straight up with a spoon. I like to pack some protein into my breakfasts and my go-to ingredients to do this are sprouted mung beans, tofu, cheese and edamame. This dish puts sprouted mung beans to good use.

My lightly stir-fried vermicelli noodles are tossed with sprouted mung beans, crackled mustard seeds, curry leaves, chillies and turmeric for a big, punchy breakfast number you’ll cook again and again. Transform it into a filling lunch or dinner with the addition of pan-fried tofu.

Sprouted Mung Bean Breakfast Noodles

Sprouted Mung Bean Breakfast Noodles

My lightly stir-fried vermicelli noodles are tossed with sprouted mung beans, crackled mustard seeds, curry leaves, chillies and turmeric for a big, punchy breakfast number you’ll cook again and again. Transform it into a filling lunch or dinner with the addition of pan-fried tofu.

  • 150 g sprouted mung beans
  • 350 g dried vermicelli noodles
  • 2 medium carrots ((peeled into ribbons with a vegetable peeler))
  • 2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 10-12 curry leaves
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida
  • 2-3 dried red chillies
  • 3-4 fresh green chillies ((slit))
  • 1 medium onion ((diced))
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp fresh coriander ((chopped))
  1. Cook the vermicelli according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, non-stick pan. Add the mustard seeds and allow them to crackle. Add in the asafoetida, curry leaves (stand back, they will splutter), fresh and dried chillies. Sauté momentarily and then add the onion and ginger. Cook the onion until translucent.
  3. Next, add in the sprouted mung beans, carrots, turmeric and salt. Stir-fry for 4-5 minutes.
  4. Finally, add in the cooked vermicelli noodles and toss to combine. Garnish with fresh coriander.

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Sprouted Mung Bean Breakfast Noodles




Indian-Inspired Rocky Road

When special occasions are fast approaching and I’ve run out of time to whip up something sweet, it’s Indian-inspired Rocky Road to the rescue! It’s truffle-like chocolate studded with pistachios, almonds, dried mango, crystallised ginger, Turkish delight, mini marshmallows and spiced shortbread biscuits. Dried rose petals top the Rocky Road off beautifully.

I’ve been known to leave things to the last minute at Diwali time when it’s customary to gift Indian sweets to your nearest and dearest. This recipe is a quick and easy raid-the-cupboard workaround that hits the spot when Pendas, Jalebis, Gulab Jamuns and Burfis are all too time consuming to make. It’s also great for people who aren’t too keen on Indian sweets.

Rocky Raasto (Indian-Inspired Rocky Road)

I’ve added all the things I love to this (namely pistachios, Nankhatai from the wonderful Chins’ Kitchen and Turkish delight) but you can swap any of these for what you like best. Other delicious mix-ins would be candied pineapple, coconut cookies and chopped dates. If you’re after a more authentic Indian sweet taste, add 1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom or cinnamon. This is your sweet treat to customise.

Freeze the Turkish delight pieces and mini marshmallows for about 2 hours before you start making these. This will help them keep their shape so you’ll get beautiful pink and white- studded pieces when you cut the Rocky Road.

This Indian-inspired Rocky Road looks stunning when boxed up for gifting and even make a great after-dinner treat when you feel like dessert but are short of time. Store them in an airtight container in the fridge and they’ll keep well for up to 10 days, although I doubt they’ll last that long.

After receiving a tonne of requests for Indian sweets through my latest Instagram Q&A session, I have a handful of Indian-style sweet recipes lined up, all in time for Diwali. I hold these Q&As regularly so make sure you’re following my Instagram Stories to tell me what you’d like to see next.

Indian-Inspired Rocky Road

Truffle-like chocolate studded with pistachios, almonds, dried mango, crystallised ginger, Turkish delight, mini marshmallows and spiced shortbread biscuits. Dried rose petals top this Rocky Road off beautifully.

  • 300 g milk chocolate
  • 300 g 70% dark chocolate
  • 140 g unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup or agave
  • 100 g Turkish delight ((cut into 2cm pieces))
  • 100 g Nankhatai, broken ((I use orange & ginger from Chins’ Kitchen))
  • 60 g gelatine-free mini marshmallows ((I use Freedom Mallows))
  • 40 g pistachio nibs ((toasted, plus more for sprinkling on top))
  • 20 g flaked almonds ((toasted))
  • 20 g dried mango ((cut into 2cm pieces))
  • 20 g crystallised ginger ((cut into 2cm pieces))
  • 2 tbsp dried rose petals
  1. In a freezer-safe container, freeze the Turkish delight pieces and mini marshmallows. This will help them keep their shape for pretty slices.
  2. Place the chocolate, golden syrup and butter in a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water. Give it a gentle stir every 5 minutes until melted and well combined. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Add the broken Nankhatai, Turkish delight, nuts, dried mango, crystallised ginger and mini marshmallows. Combine to coat.
  4. Spread the mixture into a 9” x 6” brownie tin lined with greaseproof paper. Flatten the top and scatter with extra pistachios and dried rose petals.
  5. Cover and allow to set in the fridge for 6-8 hours.
  6. Slice however you like (big, small, bars, squares) and serve with masala coffee.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days.

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Indian-Inspired Rocky Road

Truffle-like chocolate studded with pistachios, almonds, dried mango, crystallised ginger, Turkish delight, mini marshmallows and spiced shortbread biscuits. Dried rose petals top the Rocky Road off beautifully.




Sanjana’s Fluffy Eggless Vanilla Cupcakes

“Ping!” My ears pricked up like those of a famished fox on bin day. That was the sound of the oven telling us our quick eggless sponge cake was ready. I was seven years old and obsessed with baking with my mum in the little kitchen above our corner shop. It was our home for the first ten years of my life and the place where I first fell in love with food and the idea of cooking.

Cakes eluded me as I never indulged in them at friends’ birthday parties. Like many Gujarati Hindus, we are a family of lacto-vegetarians so don’t eat eggs. My mum never wanted us to miss out so she would test recipes for the perfect fluffy eggless sponge cakes for us at home. A hundred iterations of cakes made with everything from condensed milk and sour cream, to custard powder and buttermilk. I’d watch intently the whole time, soaking up the baking smells and tips. We baked them in the oven and cooked them in the microwave, in silicone liners and traditional tins. No stone was left unturned in the eggless cake department. Of course, each experiment came with its own set of unique results; Sometimes they were good, sometimes they were a total flop. The fun part was always in the time we spent with one another rather than in getting the recipe totally right. For a kid my age, any cake was good cake. Weighing out the ingredients, mixing the batter and sitting in front of the oven waiting for it to “ping” was just one part of the mother-daughter bonding experience. We’d talk about all things food and she’d tell me about her childhood, learnings and lessons for life. We still do this now, almost 25 years and hundreds of cakes later.

Sanjana’s Fluffy Eggless Vanilla Cupcakes

You’ll be pleased to know that after years of testing and more cake fails than I can count, we did finally nail the perfect eggless vanilla cake recipe. Here it is, in cupcake form, ready to see in my 30th birthday this month. Yep, I’m T-H-I-R-T-Y now. And a mum to the most lovely little boy. How times have changed since starting this blog as a carefree, party-loving twenty year-old student.

My eggless vanilla birthday cupcakes are light, white, fluffy and super moist with lots of vanilla flavour. I’ve baked sprinkles into the sponge because there’s nothing more exciting than funfetti. It just screams, “Happy Birthday!” and I’d have freaked for these cakes when I was a kid. The best thing is that the recipe uses simple, easy-to-obtain ingredients rather than commercial egg-replacers (I have tried every egg replacer under the sun and none of them produce a better cake than this recipe, regardless of how expensive they are). You don’t need a fancy mixer either. Use a bowl, a regular whisk and a spatula for the recipe for the best results.

Sanjana’s Fluffy Eggless Vanilla CupcakesThe frosting is a simple, American-style crusting buttercream which is easy to pipe/spread and sets up beautifully. I kept it a plain ivory colour but you can colour it to your favourite shade if you like. I recommend using gel or paste food colours such as Wilton, Sugarflair or Americolor. These will ensure the frosting doesn’t become too slack which can be a problem with liquid food colours.

Watch the recipe video to see exactly how I make these at home. The recipe has been tried and tested dozens of times and I always get perfect results. You’re going to love them!

I get so many eggless baking questions through the blog and my cake business, Maharani Cakery. Here are some of my best learnings from baking a million eggless cakes over the years for both weddings and just for the family at home. I’ve tried to answer as many as I can here but if you can’t see the answer to a question you have, drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

Sanjana’s Fluffy Eggless Vanilla Cupcakes

Q. Is there a single egg replacer that works for all baking recipes?
A. There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer as the techniques and make-up of different bakes all require different approaches and ingredients. E.g. Mashed banana, flax eggs  and applesauce are fine for eggless bakes like banana cake, dense muffins and crumb cake but they don’t work so well in vanilla cakes. The eggless cake would end up tasting of those ingredients rather than having the light, white, fluffy texture we all want in a good vanilla cake. I also tend to stay away from using these in vanilla cake baking because the results can be a bit too unpredictable.

Q. Can I swap the sugar in the recipe for honey/coconut sugar/agave/sweetener? Can I reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe?
A. No. Sugar helps proteins bind and form a good structure in cakes. In the absence of eggs, sugar plays a vital role in binding proteins, forming a good crumb and holding the cake together. Using liquid-based ingredients like honey will change the texture of final cake. Coconut sugar and sweetener have a different make-up to regular sugar too and swapping them in place of sugar will also change the final result of the eggless cake.

Q. My eggless cake is tough. Where did I go wrong?
A. Overworked batter can produce a dense, tough cake. This is the case with all cakes, not just the eggless kind. If you overbeat a cake, the in the flour gluten develops to unwanted levels and this will result in tough, stodgy eggless cakes.

Q. Can I swap the white cake flour for wholemeal flour?
A. Technically yes, you could. Having said this, your eggless cake will be darker in colour and heavier than if you were to use a refined white flour. I’ve found that extra-fine self-raising sponge flour produces the best results by a country mile if you’re looking for a fluffy, white eggless cake.

Sanjana’s Fluffy Eggless Vanilla Cupcakes

Q. Why do you use full-fat milk powder?
A. Sugar bonds with proteins to give the cake batter a strong structure. Milk powder contains protein which will bind with the sugar to give the eggless cake a strong, fine crumb, helping it rise in the oven and most importantly, hold its shape. The cornflour and raising agents also help these along.

Q. Can I veganise your eggless cake recipe?
A. Yes, you can but again, the texture and flavour of the finished cake may vary slightly. Increase the flour by 1 tbsp, switch the milk for unsweetened almond milk (at room temperature), and use 2 tbsp aquafaba (reduced from 4 tbsp and chilled) in place of milk powder. If you’re making this funfetti vanilla cake recipe, please ensure your sprinkles are suitable for vegans. The butter in the frosting can be swapped with your favourite vegan spread (the soft kind in a tub, not a block). Swap the milk in the frosting for unsweetened almond milk at room temperature.

Q. My cakes are dry. Where did I go wrong?
A. They are overbaked. Ensure you’re baking them for the stated time at the correct temperature. Most domestic ovens tend to be a few degrees out but an internal oven thermometer can help ensure your oven is set at the right temperature. If you don’t have an internal oven thermometer you could also increase or reduce the cooking time depending on whether your cakes are overbaking or underbaking.

Q. Can I use condensed milk in place of sugar and milk in this recipe?
A. I wouldn’t. I’ve baked so many cakes with condensed milk before and whilst they smell amazing in the oven, they are caramelising in the oven and produce dark brown crusts and sponges that are pretty unpleasant to eat. They’re often dense and heavy too (fine for some cakes but not if you want fluffy white eggless cakes).

Q. Can I add cocoa powder to make this a chocolate cake?
A. The make-up of eggless vanilla cakes and eggless chocolate cakes are super different and although some ingredients may be the same, the proportions are not. I’d recommend using a chocolate cake recipe, such as this Eggless Malted Chocolate Whipped Ganache Cake if you want to make a chocolate cake. Adding cocoa powder (as it is a dry ingredient) to this recipe will change the texture and you would then have to adjust the liquid ingredients to make up for the increased quantity of dry ingredients.

Q. Why do you add oil instead of butter?
A. In eggless cakes, an oil-based batter will result in a moist, fluffy cake. I’ve found that using butter results in a much firmer cake with a larger crumb.

Q. Why does the milk need to be at room temperature?
A. Room temperature milk will ensure the milk and vinegar mixture curdles quickly and adequately. If you’re short of time, microwave cold milk from the fridge on high power in 15 second intervals for a total of 30 seconds, stirring in between.

Q. Why add the additional baking powder if you’re using self-raising flour?
A. After a lot of testing, I’ve found the extra leavening from the baking powder gives the eggless cakes an extra lift for a super fluffy result.

This recipe makes 12 standard-sized cupcakes or 9 if you’re using muffin cases).

Sanjana's Fluffy Eggless Vanilla Cupcakes

My eggless vanilla birthday cupcakes are light, white, fluffy and super moist with lots of vanilla flavour. I’ve baked sprinkles into the sponge because there’s nothing more exciting than funfetti. 

For the fluffy eggless vanilla cupcakes:

  • 170 g extra-fine self-raising cake flour
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp whole milk powder
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp fine salt
  • 240 ml whole milk ((room temperature))
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 90 ml sunflower oil ((or any flavourless oil of your choice))
  • 2 1/2 tbsp colourful sprinkles ((not nonpareils – I use Classic Rainbow Crunchy Jimmies by Fancy Sprinkles))

For the vanilla frosting:

  • 150 g unsalted butter ((cubed, room temperature))
  • 300 g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp whole milk ((room temperature))
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt

For the fluffy eggless vanilla cupcakes:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/340°F. Line a 12-holds cupcake tin with 12 paper cupcake cases or 9 muffin cases.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, milk powder, cornflour, sugar and salt. 

  3. In a separate jug or glass, mix together the milk, vanilla 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 tough cakes.

  5. At the last minute, fold in the sprinkles with a spatula. Be gentle and swift. Too much mixing will cause the colour from the sprinkles to bleed into the batter. 

  6. Pour the batter into the paper cases, about 3/4 of the way full. Bake the cupcakes for 18-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of a cake comes out clean. They should be springy to the touch and not too brown on top.

  7. Remove from the oven and allow the eggless cupcakes to cool in the tin.

For the vanilla frosting:

  1. To make the frosting, beat butter until pale. Add the icing sugar and beat until fluffy and pale, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla extract, salt and milk. Beat for a further 5 minutes until thick, light and creamy.

  2. Frost the cooled cupcakes however you like. I love using the Wilton 1M tip fitted in a piping bag for cute, simple ruffles and rosettes. You could also just spread the frosting on using a spatula if you like. Top with extra sprinkles (as many as you like). Candles are optional, but make any cake infinitely more fun. 

  • If you’re eating the cakes on the same day, know that frosting is the best way to preserve your cakes and keep them from going stale. If you’re keeping them for the another day, store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Remove from the fridge an hour before serving to soften the cakes and frosting.

 

  • Alternatively, you can bake this cake in a greased and lined 6” round tin (3” deep) at 160°C/320°F for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in to the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then flip it out onto a wire rack to cool before decorating.

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Sanjana’s Fluffy Eggless Vanilla Cupcakes




Restaurant-Style Tandoori Paneer Tikka

One of my most favourite meals in the world is the iconic Punjabi dish, Tandoori Paneer Tikka. When this street food gem is served alongside lemon wedges, salad and mint and coriander chutney, nothing else comes close. The beauty of simple ingredients, very few spices and fiery cooking method ensures this dish is world famous for its leopard-spotted char and smoky flavours.

I’ve been working on this recipe for the ultimate Restaurant-Style Tandoori Paneer Tikka made without a tandoor or barbecue for SO long. You’ll notice my dreams of installing a big, badass tandoor in my garden still haven’t come to fruition. Don’t worry though, I’ve found a great workaround. It’s a recipe that gives you restaurant or street-style flavours at home with minimal effort. Spoiler: there’s no grill or oven involved either.

Restaurant-Style Tandoori Paneer Tikka

Juicy chunks of paneer marinated in a punchy hot and sour tandoori masala are skewered up with onion petals and pieces of pepper. The loaded skewers are then grilled on a wire rack directly over the gas cooker to infuse deep, smoky flavours into the paneer and veg. The ghee and oil combo in the marinade ensures the outside becomes freckled with the familiar scorch marks you’d expect from a restaurant or street-style tandoori dish. Serve it up with a pool of coriander and mint chutney, fresh salad leaves and lemon wedges. You can also toss in raw red onion slices and serve with butter naan or garlic naan for a true Punjabi-style feast.

Restaurant-Style Tandoori Paneer Tikka

A few tips and notes before you start.

  • Marinate the paneer, peppers and onions for a minimum of 30 minutes to give the ingredients time to get acquainted. If you have time, you can pop the paneer and veg in the tandoori marinade the night before. Be sure to keep it covered in the fridge.
  • Being your resident paneer fangirl, you’ll know I’m always going on about soaking shop-bought paneer for a fresh, homemade texture and taste. You can find out how I do this in the recipe below. The basic idea is to rehydrate the paneer in boiling water to soften it up and give a brilliant-white colour that’s just like homemade. If you want to make your own paneer at home, you can find my recipe here: Homemade Paneer.
  • Ensure the wire rack you use on top of the cooker is sturdy and can handle the heat.
  • Open all the windows in your house for good ventilation. The cooking process will create smoke which will need to escape. If you have an extractor fan, switch it on. It will make your house smell like a restaurant kitchen. Glorious!
  • If you don’t fancy cooking this over a flame, you can also place the skewers on a wire rack and cook them in an oven until charred. Make sure it’s pre-heated to the highest temperature possible. Traditional tandoors average 400°C heat so it needs to be hot! You can also place these on a griddle pan or on the barbecue.
  • I used flat metal skewers (be careful when turning as the handles can get really hot) but you can also use wooden skewers. Be sure to soak them in cold water for an hour before you need to use them. This will stop them burning during the cooking process.
  • Most restaurants and street vendors add red food colour to their marinade for the iconic and eye-popping crimson colour. I’m no food snob and am not opposed to food colours in cooking but I just don’t find it necessary in this dish. Kashmiri chilli powder will give you a gorgeous natural red colour with very little heat. If you can’t get hold of it, use equal parts of smoked paprika and regular chilli powder in its place. I often use tomato paste for colour and tang which isn’t authentic but works a treat.

If you’re looking for a vegan tandoori option, check out my Tandoori Tofu Tikka recipe. The marinade for that recipe packs a huge punch to really infuse the tofu with plenty of flavour. If you prefer a milder tikka, you can easily veganize this recipe. Switch the paneer for tofu, tempeh or seitan, use all oil instead of ghee and sub in coconut yoghurt in both the tikka marinade and chutney recipes.

Restaurant-Style Tandoori Paneer Tikka

Juicy chunks of paneer marinated in a punchy hot and sour tandoori masala are skewered up with onion petals and pieces of pepper. The loaded skewers are then grilled on a wire rack directly over the gas cooker to infuse deep, smoky flavours into the paneer and veg. 

  • 450 g paneer ((3cm cubes))
  • 1 large onion ((cut into wedges or petals))
  • 1 red pepper ((cut into 3cm squares))
  • 1 green pepper ((cut into 3cm squares))
  • Salad leaves ((to serve))
  • Lemon wedges ((to serve))

For the tandoori marinade:

  • 200 g natural yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil ((or any other flavourless oil))
  • 3 cloves garlic ((peeled))
  • 2 inch piece ginger ((peeled))
  • 1 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder ((this gives the dish an amazing colour))
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp kasoori methi
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves ((chopped))
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint leaves ((chopped))

For the coriander and mint chutney:

  • 180 g fresh coriander ((including stalks))
  • 30 g fresh mint leaves
  • 1 clove garlic ((peeled))
  • 3 hot green chillies ((stalks removed))
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp natural yoghurt

For the Coriander and Mint Chutney:

  1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth. You might need to add a little water to ensure even blending. Stir in the yoghurt at the end. If you add the yoghurt to the blender the chutney will become super runny so it’s best to stir it in at the end for good body and texture. Refrigerate. 

For the Restaurant-Style Tandoori Paneer Tikka:

  1. Place the paneer pieces in a large bowl and cover them with boiling water from the kettle. Ensure they’re completely submerged. Set aside while you make the tandoori marinade.

  2. Place all the ingredients for the marinade (excluding the yoghurt, ghee and oil) in a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth.

  3. Put the yoghurt in a large bowl and add the blended marinade. Stir to combine.

  4. Heat the ghee and oil in a small pan until smoking hot. Carefully pour this into the yoghurt marinade and stir it in quickly and thoroughly.

  5. Drain the paneer, add the onions and peppers and toss in the marinade. Your hands are the perfect tool for this.

  6. Skewer the paneer and veg, alternating ingredients according to your preference.

  7. Place a strong, sturdy metal rack over the burner of your gas cooker. Arrange the skewers on top. I cooked two at a time to ensure even cooking. Switch on the flame and cook the skewers, rotating and adjusting their position until speckled and charred all over. Repeat for all the skewers.

  8. Serve immediately with salad, lemon wedges and coriander and mint chutney.

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Restaurant-Style Tandoori Paneer Tikka




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

What are your favourite food smells? For me, you can’t get any better than veggies roasting over an open fire. The flavours of corn, aubergines, peppers and okra and onions are all heightened when you introduce them to flames. I have such precious memories of holidaying in Mombasa, melting away in the smell of fire-roasted maize on the cob, mohogo and sweet potatoes. These, combined with the lingering smell of hot coals, gasoline and frying potatoes in the salty, coastal air transports me to a happy place that’s almost as comforting as the welcoming warmth of my bed at home.

Makai Paka & Maraghwe Bhajiya

I’m lucky enough to have grown up with three cultures; British, Indian and Kenyan. I grew up in the 90s, lived in an all-white area and was forever told that my house/packed lunch/hair always “smells like curry” by my peers. If that wasn’t odd enough, I was also the only vegetarian at school (remember this was before “plant-based” and “vegan” diets were mainstream and instafamous). When my lunches weren’t cucumber sandwiches and crisps, they were eyeballed with a mixture of curiosity and fear. Ghee-cooked thepla, bateta nu shaak, dahi and samosas. Those lunches were always the most delicious. By the time I got to 15, I stopped giving a toss about what others thought, cooked shaak-rotli in my home ec classes and often came home empty handed because my friends had eaten it all. My parents were flabbergasted.

The self-conscious episodes of my youth have made me incredibly proud of my triple-cultured upbringing. Being a British Indian with East African roots is what’s made me who I am today. We ate the best, most varied meals and connected over food in the most wonderful way. Each meal was a talking point; it had a story and there were facts, techniques and anecdotes behind it. Even now, we talk about our favourite family dishes daily.

Makai Paka & Maraghwe Bhajiya

British sweetcorn is abundant at this time of year and we’ve eaten it in so many different ways over the past two weeks. Now although I could snaffle an entire cob of buttery, roasted corn every evening, I wanted to share something special with you.

My Makai Paka & Maharagwe Bhajiya is a stew-like dish of sweetcorn cooked in coconut milk with crispy, spicy kidney bean fritters on top. The bhajiya soak up some of the coconut milk like dumplings, yet still have a crispy, cragginess I adore. If you like Gujarati-style Kidney Beans & Sweetcorn nu Shaak, you will love this dish.

Makai Paka is a Kenyan speciality, most popular amongst the South Asian community but enjoyed by families all over and in restaurants. Other non-vegetarian varieties exist in the form of Kuku Paka (chicken) and Machli Paka (fish). The Makai Paka is vegan and usually incorporates large pieces of corn on the cob simmered in coconut milk but I wanted to create a version you need only a bowl and spoon to enjoy. Also, stripping the corn kernels off the cob after its been roasted is such a satisfying process.

The spices in this dish are simple, as with all East African dishes. Traditionally, you should let the ingredients do the talking and use spices sparingly to enhance them. The only rule is to balance sweet, salty, hot and sour, as is also the case with traditional Gujarati cooking.

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

Makai Paka is a Kenyan speciality, most popular amongst the South Asian community but enjoyed by families all over. Other non-vegetarian varieties exist in the form of Kuku Paka (chicken) and Machli Paka (fish). My Makai Paka & Maharagwe Bhajiya is a stew-like dish of sweetcorn cooked in coconut milk with crispy, spicy kidney bean fritters on top.

For the Makai Paka:

  • 3 large whole sweetcorn ((you can also use 600g tinned or frozen corn))
  • 1 medium potato ((cubed into 1cm pieces))
  • 400 ml full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 green chillies ((chopped))
  • 2 cloves garlic ((crushed))
  • 350 ml water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt ((or to taste))

For the Maharaghwe Bhajiya:

  • 400 g cooked kidney beans, drained and washed ((I use tinned))
  • 140 g chickpea flour
  • 2 tbsp rice flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 green chilli ((chopped))
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder ((optional))
  • 2 cloves garlic ((crushed))
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Vegetable or sunflower oil for deep frying

For the Makai Paka:

  1. Roast the sweetcorn over a flame on your gas cooker. You can also place it under the grill or on a barbecue until it has black spots all over. If you’re using tinned or frozen corn, dry roast them in a smoking-hot non-stick pan. Allow to cool.
  2. Strip the kernels from the cob and set aside.
  3. In a large pan, add the water, coconut milk, chillies, garlic, turmeric and salt. Bring to a boil and add the potatoes and corn. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice and coriander and remove from the heat.

For the Maharaghwe Bhajiya:

  1. Heat a wok or deep pan with oil to 160°C/320°F. Use a teaspoon to carefully drop small portions of the batter into the oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes until golden and crispy.
  2. Serve the Makai Paka in bowls and top with the Maharagwe Bhajiya.

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




Paneer Kofta & Greens Coconut Milk Curry

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen that I’ve recently been posting about the joys of my pregnancy so far. We’ve managed to finish up the nursery, pack the hospital bags (so they’re ready to go when we need to) and found out that the baby is measuring up well. She or he (we are keeping the gender a surprise for all our friends and family) is a proper night owl, spinning, hiccuping and fidgeting at the most unsociable hours. Sounds a lot like my Mr if you ask me…

Paneer Kofta & Greens Coconut Milk Curry

Three weeks ago I also found out that I have gestational diabetes (GD). Sitting in that hospital for over 2 hours for my glucose tolerance test, I had a feeling deep down that it wouldn’t go so well. We have a family history of type 2 diabetes and being Asian meant I ticked two of the three boxes on the high risk checklist. Still, that didn’t mean that the news wasn’t a shock. I was at work when I found out and I had an absolute meltdown. I was devastated because I thought I had brought it on myself – that it was because of something that I had done. And that made me feel like a failure.

For those of you who don’t know, GD is a fairly common issue with pregnancy which usually disappears after the baby is born but once detected, it is to be taken very seriously and treated appropriately. I don’t want to go into a lot of detail here, but this is what the NHS website says about it if you’d like to know more.

Ultimately, it means that I must check my blood sugar levels 4 times per day and ensure they are not too high. In order to control them, I need to balance everything I eat for the next 9 weeks or so. The basic premise is to treat it like a sugar and carbohydrate intolerance. That’s not to say that all carbs are off limits – we all need carbohydrates to stay fit and healthy. Cutting them out completely is a bad move. Having said this, it’s low GI carbs you need, and less of them than I would normally eat at a single meal. Now, each meal consists of a slow release carb such as brown basmati, wholemeal pasta or wholegrain bread, LOTS of protein like tofu, paneer and soy-based products, good fats like natural yoghurt, nuts and seeds and as many leafy green veggies as I like. Together, they are the perfect balance of goodness for me and for baby. It’s a good job we ADORE vegetables.

Paneer Kofta & Greens Coconut Milk Curry

I’ve been doing this diet for almost a month and now that I’ve done my reading and am informed, it’s not so scary anymore. After I found out, my midwife said to me that knowledge is power and she’s absolutely right. I no longer feel like it’s my fault because it absolutely isn’t. The same goes for millions of other women who get diagnosed with GD every day. Knowing that it’s there and being informed of the risks allows us to adapt our lifestyles for our little ones and gives them the best start in life.

Paneer Kofta & Greens Coconut Milk Curry

For the next few weeks and beyond, I’ll be sharing some of the recipes I’ve been cooking on this diet – they’re delicious everyday meals that are full of goodness and you can enjoy them whether you’re on a GD diet or not. I must say that we’re all different in the way our bodies process different foods so please check your tolerance to different things and find a balance that works for YOU. What keeps one person’s sugar levels stable can make another person’s rocket. For anyone who has GD, know that you are amazing, your body is busy creating a little miracle and it’s all going to be worth it in the end!

Baby K.O is a massive fan of this one. It is loaded with green goodness, golden paneer kofta and with a salad of fresh cucumber slices, red onions, mint and coriander, it’s the ultimate veggie curry. Enjoy it with brown basmati rice, straight from a bowl to save on washing up.

Paneer Kofta & Greens Coconut Milk Curry

A fresh, nourishing bowl of greens for when you’re craving comfort food.

For the paneer kofta:

  • 225 g paneer
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 small red chilli
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • Oil for coating the kofta

For the curry:

  • 1 head savoy cabbage, finely shredded
  • 75 g frozen peas
  • 200 g broccoli, broken into small florets
  • 150 g fresh baby spinach
  • 6 spring onions, quartered
  • 12 fresh curry leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 thin green chillies
  • 10 skinless almonds, blanched
  • 400 ml full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

To garnish:

  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 red chilli, chopped (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350°F.

  2. Place all the ingredients for the kofta in a blender and pulse until the mixture comes together in a ball.

  3. Divide the paneer into 15 small balls, rolling between your hands to ensure there are as few cracks as possible. Place onto a lined baking tray, coat each one in a little oil and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden on the outside. Remove from the oven and set aside.

  4. Place the cabbage, broccoli and spring onions in a large roasting tray, season with 1/2 tsp salt and bake in the oven, around 15 minutes. The edges of the broccoli and onions should brown a little and the cabbage should crisp up.

  5. To make the curry, blend together the curry leaves, almonds (along with 60ml of the soaking water), garlic and chillies, along with a handful of the spinach leaves until you have a smooth, green paste. Add extra water if needed.

  6. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and allow them to crackle. Pour in the green paste and cook for 10 minutes until the oil separates from the paste and leaves the sides of the pan. Next, stir in the coconut milk. Bring to a boil and then add the roasted veggies, frozen peas, remaining spinach and golden paneer kofta. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

  7. Garnish with fresh coriander, mint and chillies (optional).

Serve with brown rice, onions and cucumber.

 
Click the image below to Pin and save to your Pinterest board for later!

Paneer Kofta & Greens Coconut Milk Curry

Love Sanjana + baby K.O (any gender guesses from you? Let me know!)




20-Minute Channa Bateta (Kenyan Chickpeas and Potatoes in Coconut Broth)

I had five new recipes lined up, ready to photograph and post but last week when I shared a photo of my dad’s signature Channa Bateta, I was inundated with requests on Facebook and Instagram for the recipe. This made me super nostalgic, thinking back to the days when I’d come home from school and my dad would proudly say, “Jo, Ravi, Sanju, I’ve made Channa Bateta for you all.” A large pot of simmering golden liquid would puff up steam that filled the kitchen and my nostrils with the aroma of fresh green chillies and turmeric. It was heaven. I’d be first in line, queuing up with my bowl to ladle in the potato and chickpea broth and subsequently hit up all the extra toppings laid out like a burger bar. The recipe here includes a range of topping options but how you customise your bowl is all down to your personal taste. I’ve often only topped this with coriander and crisps. If you only have the time and energy to pick one topping, choose the crisps. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

20-Minute Channa Bateta (Kenyan Chickpeas and Potatoes in Coconut Broth)

Channa Bateta (or CBs as we called it as kids) was the simplest of dishes using very few ingredients, but dad would put his heart and soul into it. He’s always been a well-seasoned cook and one that adds a fistful of this, a splash of that and a pinch of something else… and he makes cooking East African classics like Channa Bateta look so easy he could be doing it with his eyes shut. The son of two brilliant cooks, he acts as cool as cucumber raita about his mad skills and he nails flavour-packed East African dishes, chutneys and chaats every time. He’s got “chatpata” (hot, sour and sweet) flavours down. What I owe him greatly for is his wonderful encouragement and support over the years with my cooking. I started out as a curious toddler with a taste for Doodh and Khichri (stewed rice and lentils with milk). It was my equivalent of porridge and I’d wolf it down as I watched my Mum roll rotlis, thinking I wanted to be just like her when I was big enough to reach the stove. She’d give me pieces of dough to practice rolling and I’d sit on the floor cross legged in the tiny kitchen above our shop and roll rotlis using my coveted kids chapatti set from Popat’s, an Indian homeware store in Wembley. Needless to say, my rotlis totally sucked. They weren’t soft round, they were chunky frisbees of play-doh which my mum would still pop on to the tawa and cook into a biscuitty puck. And it was dad who would eat them up and tell me how delicious they were. Everything I know is down to those “map-of-Britain” monstrosities that were only fit for the bin. If he hadn’t have eaten them and told me they were great, I’d probably never have fallen in love with cooking and trying my absolute best in sharing that passion with others. So thank you Dad, you’re the source of my motivation, determination and self belief.

20-Minute Channa Bateta (Kenyan Chickpeas and Potatoes in Coconut Broth)

At home, if ever a bag of Seabrook Ready Salted crisps, Kenya Chevdo (a kind of potato-based trail mix) and lemon wedges were on the counter top and I instantly knew Channa Bateta was for dinner. You see, this dish is traditionally served with a crispy topping that comes in the form of said crisps, chevdo or even cassava crisps. A squeeze of lemon brings the whole thing together so what you’re left with is an orchestra of tender potatoes and chickpeas, a spicy chilli-laced coconut broth, fresh and fragrant coriander, a crunchy potato chip topping and sour raw mango chutney that brings the entire thing to life. It’s so balanced, filling and flavoursome… and all without trying too hard.

20-Minute Channa Bateta (Kenyan Chickpeas and Potatoes in Coconut Broth)

I posted a recipe for Mombasa-Style Kachri Bateta before which is a similar kind of thing but uses sour tamarind as the broth base. Channa Bateta is quicker and the heartier of the two. Filling carbs like potatoes, cassava and ugali are the essential sources of energy in East Africa. People work long hours, often have multiple jobs and of course, it’s damn hot. Usually what’s needed is a hearty, energy-rich bowl of stew or savoury porridge to keep bodies fuelled throughout the day.

I use tinned chickpeas because life is too short when you’re just home from work and are in need of a quick-fix meal (and that’s what this is). If you follow this recipe, it should take no longer than 20 minutes from start to finish. And that’s not including time to do the washing up which, if you were really smart, you’d enlist a minion to do for you. You should then put your feet up and wait for this to bubble away, filling your home with the smell of the simplest Indian-African dish there ever was.

20-Minute Channa Bateta (Kenyan Chickpeas and Potatoes in Coconut Broth)

Dad’s 20-Minute Channa Bateta (Kenyan Chickpeas and Potatoes in Coconut Broth)

Serves 4

Ingredients
1kg baby new potatoes, steamed and peeled
2 x 400g tins chickpeas (drained weight 480g in total)
8-10 curry leaves
400ml full-fat coconut milk
800ml hot water
2 tsp turmeric
Juice of 1 lemon
2 chillies, chopped (adjust to your taste)
1/2 raw green mango, peeled and grated
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

For the Channa Bateta toppings bar
1 red onion, finely diced
2 tbsp chopped coriander
4 packs of salted crisps/potato chips, crushed (you could also use cassava chips)
4 tbsp Kenyan Chevdo and/or Jinni Sev (trail mix), optional – you can buy these in many Asian supermarkets
Green chutney, to taste (recipe below)
Tamarind chutney, optional
Daal vada, optional
Red chilli powder, optional

For the Raw Mango and Coconut Chutney
1/2 raw green mango, grated
1 whole fresh coconut, shelled, peeled and grated (the coconut water is the chef’s treat)
100g fresh coriander
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
240ml cold water

Method

1. Pour the coconut milk and water into a large pan. Add the curry leaves, chopped chilli, turmeric, green mango, salt and sugar. Bring to the boil.

2. Add in the chickpeas and potatoes, along with the lemon juice.

3. Simmer on a medium/low heat for 15 minutes with the lid on.

4. Ladle into a bowl and customise with all your favourite toppings. Serve immediately.

5. To make the Raw Mango and Coconut Chutney: Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until you have a semi-coarse, bright green chutney.

20-Minute Channa Bateta (Kenyan Chickpeas and Potatoes in Coconut Broth)

Love Sanjana




Eggless Pistachio-Rose Macaroons

Hand me a rose-flavoured dessert over a bouquet of roses any day. I’m a sucker for rose-flavoured everything. It all started back when I was around seven years old when my dad would take our family to our favourite Indian restaurants. Even before looking at the menu I’d know what I wanted to drink – classic Falooda. A sweet rose milkshake with basil seeds, grass jelly and vermicelli noodles. Some may argue that it’s a dessert and not a drink you’d have with a full three-course meal but that never stopped me. My dad would laugh and always made sure I got one, even ensuring it came with cocktail umbrellas for added pizzazz. I still love an ice cold falooda to this day but I can no longer get away with ordering one with my dinner.

Eggless Pistachio-Rose Macaroons

These days I love to add rose to lots of dishes from sweet to savoury, but mostly sweet. I’ve got a tonne of rose recipes on the blog, some of my favourites being Strawberry Cheesecake Falooda, Eggless Rose Custard Creams, Pistachio and Rose Bombay Halwa, Cardamom Wreath with Rose Drizzle and Candied Lemon Peel. A dash of rose water also doesn’t go amiss in biryani, ice cream and of course, cake.

Eggless Pistachio-Rose Macaroons

Here I’ve dunked chewy toasted coconut macaroons in a simple rose icing made with icing sugar and rose syrup – the bright pink kind you find in Indian shops. One of my pregnancy cravings has been rose milk reminiscent of my falooda-crazy days. I add a dash to cold milk and stir for a strawberry pink milkshake that’s so refreshing without the faff of having to make a true falooda.

Eggless Pistachio-Rose Macaroons

The macaroons are eggless, switching in a trusty can of sweetened condensed milk instead of egg whites. The result is a delicious, toasty coconut cookie with a coconut ice-like centre. After they’ve cooled, the bottoms get dunked in the rose icing and chopped toasted pistachios. Pistachio and rose are a flavour combo I’d like to eat every day for the rest of my life – I’m obsessed.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy 6-ingredient cookie that’s both egg and gluten free, this one’s for you.

Dust with icing sugar for a pretty snow-topped peak. So pretty!

Eggless Pistachio-Rose Macaroons

Eggless Pistachio-Rose Macaroons
Makes 25 macaroons

For the macaroons:
1 x 397g tin sweetened condensed milk
300g sweetened desiccated coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the rose icing:
140g icing sugar
4 tbsp rose syrup

Icing sugar to dust, optional

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/320°F. It’s really important you do this. The oven needs to be HOT or the cookies will melt into flat puddles. Grease and line 2 large baking trays with greaseproof paper and butter.

2. In a large bowl, combine the coconut, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and bicarbonate of soda until you have a thick pliable mixture.

3. Divide the mixture into 25 equal balls and shape each one into a teardrop shape. Arrange on the pre-lined baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden and toasted on the outside. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

4. To make the icing, mix the icing sugar and rose syrup until you have a thick, drippy pink icing. Dip the bottom of the cooled macaroons in the icing and then into the chopped pistachios. Sit them back onto a lined baking tray. Allow to set at room temperature for a few hours.

5. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Eggless Pistachio-Rose Macaroons

The macaroons will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a week. Although I doubt they’ll last that long.