Squash & Mascarpone Pasta with Crispy Kalettes

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

Squash & Mascarpone Pasta with Crispy Kalettes

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

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

Squash & Mascarpone Pasta with Crispy Kalettes

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

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

Squash & Mascarpone Pasta with Crispy Kalettes

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

Squash & Mascarpone Pasta with Crispy Kalettes

Squash & Mascarpone Pasta with Crispy Kalettes

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

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

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Squash & Mascarpone Pasta with Crispy Kalettes

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




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




Sticky, Crispy Chilli Khichi (Gujarati Rice Flour Dumplings)

The pregnancy cravings are real, people. Indian savoury snacks are my weakness. They include, but aren’t limited to: Dhokra, samosas, khichi, muthiya, idli, chakri, upma and bhajia. Simple things I’ve never made too often at home, but in the last 5 months I’ve taken the time to satisfy my cravings with the proper home-cooked versions. And I’ve loved every minute of it.

Sticky, Crispy Chilli Khichi (Gujarati Rice Flour Dumplings)

Most of you will know that it’s been my long-term dream to have a surprise birthday tandoor at home. Well I still don’t have one. However, my parents bought me a ginormous and Indian-style stacking steamer for my 28th birthday and it’s the best! It’s not beautiful and fancy, it’s a commercial appliance that doesn’t quite fit in my kitchen cupboard unless it’s disassembled. But it’s quickly become my favourite thing. It has multiple layers, baskets and a tight-fitting lid that fluffs up dhokra, muthiya and khichi perfectly.

Khichi, khichu, khichiya and papdi no lot are all names for one iconic Gujarati savoury snack made with rice flour and a few very basic spices. It can be prepared and served in a number of different ways depending on the particular family style and recipe. My favourite way is to shape and steam the rice flour dough for perfect little pucks with a chewy dumpling texture. Other popular methods include cooking it in a pan from start to finish, pressure cooking or even microwaving it.

Sticky, Crispy Chilli Khichi (Gujarati Rice Flour Dumplings)

Traditionally, khichi or papdi no lot (which literally translates to “cooked dough” is served with a bowl of oil. No BS, a bowl of regular plant-based oil like groundnut, sunflower or vegetable oil. Not olive oil, not ghee, not butter. Just oil. I liken it to dipping bread in olive oil in the West, except the point is not to add flavour, but to transform the texture of the dish. The reason why it makes so much sense is because it completely changes the texture of the dish. A slick of oil on the khichi after steaming stops them sticking together and dipping them in oil whilst eating gives the chewy rice flour dumplings a soft, slippery texture that’s not entirely unlike the feeling of eating buttered noodles. Growing up with something as comforting as that gives the most intense cravings!

The combination of ingredients in khichi are always a simple mix so you can really taste the rice flour base. Usually it’s cumin, ginger, salt and chillies. Turmeric and garlic are optional extras. Fresh turmeric is option and adds a gorgeous raw mango flavour and intense colour. I add a little bicarbonate of soda to my khichi to lighten them up a little and ensure they’re not overly dense. They puff up a touch when they steam. Note that adding turmeric and bicarbonate of soda will give your khichi a slight orange hue. You could choose to skip the bicarbonate of soda and add turmeric for yellow khichi or leave both out and make white khichi. I’ve tried them all and prefer to add both. The recipe will work either way. The choice is yours.

Khichi. Little rice dumplings with chilli, cumin and coriander, steamed and ready to eat #GujaratiFood #vegetarian #london #vegan #veganfood #rice #glutenfree #snacks #veganfood #vegansofig #veganfoodshare #eeeeeats #forkyeah #foodpics #indianfood #eeeeeats #vegetariano

Here I’ve shared my recipe for both classic rice flour khichi or papdi no lot, as well as a more playful recipe for a dish I’ve called Sticky, Crispy Chilli Khichi which is perfect for using up leftover khichi. It’s a play on popular Indian restaurant dishes like Chilli Paneer, Chilli Mogo and Chilli Idli which use Chinese ingredients like soy sauce and 5-spice. Similar to the recipe for Sizzling Chilli Idli I posted a couple of years back.

Sticky, Crispy Chilli Khichi (Gujarati Rice Flour Dumplings)

The khichi are dusted in cornflour and fried until crispy on the outside. Right before serving they are tossed in an intense sticky chilli sauce with lots of veg. Don’t be put off by the amount of ginger, chillies and garlic – it’s a lot but necessary to stand up to the somewhat plain rice flour khichi. It’s a delicious starter and a new, creative take on a Gujarati classic. My recipe for Sticky, Crispy Chilli Khichi serves six hungry people.

Khichi or Papdi no Lot (Gujarati Steamed Rice Flour Dumplings)

Makes 20 regular-sized khichi or 40 mini khichi

Ingredients
225g rice flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 green chillies, chopped
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
600ml water
1 tbsp oil

1/4 tsp ajwain
1 tsp cumin seeds

Method

1. Mix together the rice flour and salt. Set aside.

2. In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds and ajwain. Allow them to sizzle momentarily. Next, add the chopped chillies and ginger. Sauté until aromatic, about 30 seconds.

3. Add the water and tip in all of the rice flour mixture into the pan and beat with a wooden spoon. The mixture may seem lumpy at first but keep beating and it will come together as a soft dough. Cool for about a minute, beating vigorously all the time. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly.

4. Set up a large metal steamer that fits multiple baskets inside. You’ll need about 2L of hot water in the base and to grease the holed baskets with oil to stop the khichi sticking.

5. When the mixture is still very warm but cool enough to handle, grease your hands with a little oil and make golf ball-sized rounds with the dough. Flatten slightly and use your thumb to make a deep indentation in the middle of each disc. Repeat until you have used up all the dough. Arrange the khichi inside the baskets, leaving space around each one as they will inflate slightly.

6. Place the baskets inside the steamer and close with a tight-fitting lid. Cook on a high heat for 18 minutes exactly. Switch the steamer off and leave covered for 5 minutes.

7. Remove the lid and take the khichi out, placing them on a plate. Brush with oil to stop them sticking together.

8. Serve with oil for dipping.

Leftover khichi can be cut into bite-sized pieces used to make Crispy Chilli Khichi, a delicious starter dish we created and love at home.

Note: if making khichi to use for Chilli Khichi straight away, I like to make little ping pong ball-sized khichi (about half the size of the regular classic kind). If you do this, the recipe above will make approximately 40 small khichis which are perfectly bite-sized.

Sticky, Crispy Chilli Khichi (Gujarati Rice Flour Dumplings)

Sticky, Crispy Chilli Khichi

Serves 6

Ingredients
40 mini khichi
2 tbsp + 3 tsp cornflour
2-inch piece ginger, peeled and julienned
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
4 hot thin bird’s eye chillies
3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce (I use Mae Ploy Sweet Chilli Sauce)
4 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Sriracha
1/2 tsp paprika
2 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce (I use Mama Sita’s Vegetarian Oyster Sauce)
250ml hot water
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice
3 mixed peppers, chopped into bite-sized pieces
3 red onions, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 large tomato, choppef into bite-sized pieces
Oil to deep fry

Method

1. Heat enough oil in a heavy-bottomed pan to deep fry the khichi. The oil temperature should be 180C. Dust the mini khichi in 2 tbsp cornflour and fry in small batches until golden and crispy on the outside, about 5 minutes. Drain on a plate lined with a paper towel and set aside.

2. Heat a large wok until smoking hot. Don’t add any oil. In one go, add in the onions, peppers and tomatoes. Allow the veggies to char lightly and develop a smoky flavour, about 8 minutes. Stir only once or twice. Remove the veggies from the wok and set aside for later.

3. To make the sauce, add 2 tbsp oil to the wok and scatter in the sesame seeds, chillies, garlic and ginger. Sauté briefly. Add the soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce, vegetarian oyster sauce, sriracha, 5-spice, brown sugar, paprika, water and salt. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Mix 3 tsp cornflour with 1 tsp cold water and stir to create a smooth paste. Add to the simmering sauce and stir continually until thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.

5. Heat the sauce through and toss everything together immediately before serving. Garnish with chillies, ginger and sesame seeds.

Sticky, Crispy Chilli Khichi (Gujarati Rice Flour Dumplings)

100% approved by baby K.O!

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.




Eggless Malted Chocolate Whipped Ganache Cake

I have a soft spot for a hot drink before bed. Something sweet and milky usually does the trick. It has to be poured into a large mug and I need to be able to see gentle waves of steam dancing off the surface. I’m truly comforted if the steam is robust enough to reach my nostrils quickly, the familiar smell bringing instant comfort. When it’s warm enough to hold, I like to clutch the mug with both hands, tight enough to feel my arms tense up a bit, rather like embracing an old friend.

Malted Chocolate Whipped Ganache Cake

That goes back to the days I’d refuse to go to bed until I’d had a mug of saffron, cardamom and almond milk. Yorkshire diva. It was a treat reserved for special occasions or following on from particularly terrifying nightmares. I’d watch my mum preparing it, her skilled hands flaking each almond, one at a time. She’d then use a brass pestle and mortar to bash a cardamom pod with the satisfying clang, not unlike the sound of a temple bell ringing after arti. The Spanish saffron strands would stain the warm milk a sort of daffodil yellow, making it appear rich and luxurious, like clotted jersey cream. Once simmered together, the kitchen would be filled with the sweetest smell which in itself was soothing enough to send me to the land of nod, even before it reached my lips.

Another hot drink I fell in love with at a young age was that old classic, Milo. I had my first taste aged four in Mombasa, Kenya. All us cousins would have hot Milo made for us at breakfast and before bed and Milo time was my favourite time of the day. Some of us were such fans that the granules were good enough to be munched straight up, by the spoonful.  And when I say some of us, I mean me.

Malted Chocolate Whipped Ganache Cake

That faux choco malt flavour tastes like all the comforts of home. It’s sweet but not overly so and somehow you feel like you’re replenishing your body’s energy stores with it. Just as well too because we used to spend a hell of a lot of time running around the agasi (roof terrace), throwing things down below and shouting for the man from the shop across the road to fetch us the bubblegum that had stickers under the wrapper.

But I had to grow up from being that Milo-drinking, bubblegum-chewing kid from the roof one day. Now I’m preparing to welcome a fresh new little person into the world and quite soon I’ll be the one preparing those warm bedtime beverages.

Malted Chocolate Whipped Ganache Cake

So this post is an ode to the old times of being comforted and feeling loved throughout my entire childhood. I’m ready to pay it forward to someone else now. And what better way to celebrate them than with a cake that has all the flavours of Milo?

Baby K.O. Due April 2018.

Malted Chocolate Whipped Ganache Cake

“Balle Balle” topper for the ultimate celebration cake.

Eggless Malted Chocolate Whipped Ganache Cake
Makes one 3-layer, 10-inch cake

Ingredients:

700g plain flour
510g caster sugar
150g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
180ml buttermilk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
6 tbsp Horlicks (malted bedtime drink) dissolved in 320ml hot water
300ml sunflower oil
1 tsp salt

For the whipped ganache:
450g dark chocolate, chopped
450g double cream
3 tbsp malt extract
Pinch of salt

Dark and white chocolate curls, to decorate

Method:

1. For the chocolate cake, preheat oven to 160C and butter and line three 20cm diameter cake tins with baking paper. Whisk together all the dry ingredients. Combine all the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry. Whisk until smooth. Divide among prepared tins, bake until a skewer inserted comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool in the tins for 10 minutes, loosen around the edges with a knife and turn onto wire racks to cool completely.

2. For the whipped ganache frosting, heat the cream in a saucepan until hot but not boiling. Add the malt extract and chopped chocolate. Stir gently until melted and smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature and then cover and refrigerate until it has thickened slightly but is still soft. Beat with an electric whisk until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. It will become paler in colour, too. Use immediately.

3. Trim the cakes if the tops have domed a little. Sandwich each layer with the whipped ganache frosting. Spread the frosting on the outside and smooth out. I used a Wilton 1M open star tip for the ruffled swirls on top. Decorate with chocolate curls.

Love Sanjana + bump




Curry Leaf Cream of Tomato Soup & Twisted Naan Knots

Curry Leaf Cream of Tomato Soup and Twisted Naan Knots

“Indian soup again?! Urgh!” I said as my mum prepared a weeknight meal of Indian-style tomato soup to be eaten with buttered rolls. As a hungry eight year old I wondered why we couldn’t just be like a “normal” family and eat cream of tomato straight from the can, with not a speck of masala in sight. I didn’t realise it at the time but deep down, what I was really asking for was the soup my “normal” non-immigrant white friends had for tea. I thought we weren’t normal and most worryingly of all, I thought normal was good.

I grew up in a small village in West Yorkshire. We were one of three Asian families living there and until I reached my first decade I never felt too different to anyone else. My brother and I were the only Hindus of Indian and African descent at our school and sometimes our customs would get poked fun at by the other kids, but never in a way that made us feel embarrassed. The rakhis I tied on my brother’s wrist every August on Rakshabandhan were cajoled for being girly bracelets when in fact, they were a symbol of my love, to bond us as siblings, and offer him protection for the year ahead. At that age nobody ever said anything to my face. I was blissfully unaware. But that all changed when I hit my teens.

It was the mid 90s, the Spice Girls were at the top of the charts and you weren’t cool unless you wore mini skirts and jelly shoes. Multiculturalism wasn’t as prevalent as it is now and knowledge of Indian culture beyond that red dot we sometimes have on our foreheads was about as advanced as it got. Truth be told, we lived in a small village surrounded by wonderful people, but it also happened to be a place where samosas were thought to be a type of exotic food us Hindus ate at “Ramadam”.

My family and I would go to Pakistani shops to seek out aubergines for Burnt Aubergine and Spinach Curry and unearthing a bunch of coriander in the local supermarket was unheard of. Going to Asian shops and bumping in to a friend from school in the area scared the living hell out of me. A million thoughts would blitz through my head like a tornado. “Would they think we were weird going to ‘ethnic’ shops?”, “Would they bring it up at school on Monday in front of everyone?”, “Would I be shunned for being different?” When really my questions should have been, “Why are they so afraid of something different? Wait, why am I so afraid?” and “Why do I care so much?” It was a childish, irrational fear that felt absolutely rational at the time. But then I was a child.

Looking back, I’m ashamed to admit that those sorts of thoughts troubled me. I should have been out learning to ride a bike, or choreographing my own Kathak routines, but I never learned to do either of those things. The same thoughts ran through my mind when we went to the “Asian part of town”, or dressed up in (beautiful) lenghas to go to a family wedding, and sadly, when we spoke Gujarati in front of people that weren’t part of our family.

Twisted Garlic Naan Knots

The funny thing is that when we got home I relished the fresh vegetables, paneer, spice blends and bunches of herbs like coriander and dill my parents picked up from the aforementioned shops I’d previously tarnished with my ugly mindfarts. I was in my element browsing those aisles learning about picking the best coconuts and papayas, yet on edge throughout thinking I’d get caught indulging my alien heritage by a popular kid from school. It’s sad to think that I believed that just being me, a British Indian-African Hindu would somehow undo the “Britishness” I’d feigned in trying to fit in with my white friends. At the time, embracing my roots didn’t feel like an option and looking back on it as an adult, that breaks my heart.

My husband’s story is the polar opposite of mine. He grew up in Leicester, a city famed for its Golden Mile, curry houses and massive immigrant population. There were Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Kashmiri families on every street. Some streets comprised of only immigrants and his entire school year was made up of 95% Asians, half of which were Gujarati like him. Going to the Indian shop was a mundane chore. He’d probably bump in to 5 or 6 kids from school there and he’d most likely wave, ask how they were and swap some football stickers. Thinking about that makes my soul burn a little bit; with embarrassment, with envy, of feelings of being cheated, I don’t quite know.

Part of me wishes I had it a bit easier growing up but I also appreciate that perhaps I wouldn’t have eventually embraced Indian customs, traditions and cuisine quite as much as I had, if it wasn’t for knowing I was different – the kids at school certainly knew it. I was a running joke during the weekly P.E lesson; the 10 year old Indian girl with dark hairs on her legs. She developed early and has to use the teacher’s bathroom. Whispers as we got changed in to our yellow and black polo shirts and short-shorts, girls and boys together in the same room except I was the only one who wore a bra and had downy baby hair on my lower back. It was brutal and would be for any young woman. The advice I’d give to my younger self and every young lady out there is this: Love yourself because YOU MATTER. You’re unique and beautiful and one day the kids pointing and muttering will feel like idiots for making you feel isolated and sad. The boys will remain ignorant for some time. The girls will realise how stupid they were when they experience puberty for themselves. I wish I’d have known this back then. Be fearless, realise your potential and the impact you have on your own life as well as the lives of others. Be kind because people don’t remember what you say, they remember how you make them feel.

My parents always made my brother and I feel special, never let us feel like we missed out on things. We were allowed to hang out with our friends, go to school discos and dress however we liked. Mum even bought me two pairs of jelly shoes in both purple and pink. They always wanted us to be fully integrated and immersed within our peer groups, and never outcasted or made to feel strange because of the colour of our skin or for listening to Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan on our iPod Minis. There was always a handful of kids (and parents) who saw us differently but that’s inevitable. Looking back on it now I realise how easy we probably had it in comparison to other families who have experienced horrendous racism throughout their lives. I also appreciate everything my parents did to help us feel like part of the crowd, yet never let our cultural values slip away.

It took me until I was about 18 years old to realise I didn’t care what others thought and that my real friends would stick around for the whole me. They would come over for Indian dinners and not think pomegranates in yoghurt were weird, or that fresh, homemade cheese in creamy spinach curry was gag inducing. We’d feast on Biryani, Raita, Mutter Paneer, Homemade Naan and Channa Masala until we were ready to burst. Hell, we’d even watch Zee TV and dance around the living room together. By the time I reached university I was back to being that girl who wasn’t afraid of admitting she was at her happiest singing Bollywood songs in the car with dad, Jalebi in one hand, Fafda in the other, middle finger ready to be flipped to anyone waiting to judge. It’s sad that it took that long for reality to kick in but I don’t regret anything. I’m stronger for it.

I’ll take that soul-warming bowl of Masala-spiced tomato soup now. It really is delicious.

This is one of the most soul-warming dinners. The curry leaves are crackled in hot ghee along with cumin seeds for the most fragrant finish. Perfect for dunking the buttery naan knots.

Curry Leaf Cream of Tomato Soup and Twisted Naan Knots

Curry Leaf Cream of Tomato Soup and Twisted Naan Knots
Serves 4

Ingredients

For the soup:
900g passata
4 tbsp melted ghee
2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp asafoetida
2-inch piece ginger, grated
1 large onion, diced finely
1 large red chilli, finely chopped
60ml double cream
10-12 curry leaves
3 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 stock vegetable cube dissolved in 600ml hot water

For the naan knots:
310g strong, white bread flour
1 teaspoon dried fast action yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
140ml warm water
2 teaspoons sour yoghurt

For the garlic and coriander butter:
100g salted butter
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh coriander, chopped

Method

1. To make the dough for the twisted naan knots: In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt and nigella seeds. Make a well in the centre and add the oil, yoghurt and water. Using your hands, bring the dough together. If the dough feels sticky, oil your hands and knead for 15 minutes.

2. Grease the bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave the dough to prove in a warm place for one hour.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan and add the finely sliced garlic. Allow to fry until aromatic. Add the chopped coriander and set aside until needed.

4. Pre-heat the oven to 160C.

4. To make the twisted naan knots, take a ping pong-sized ball of dough and roll using the photos below as a guide.

Twisted Naan Knots

5. If you’re short on time, grease a baking dish and make little dough balls to nestle into the dish. Bake at 160C for 20-25 minutes until golden. Cover with foil to keep warm and brush with the garlic butter before serving.

6. To make the soup, heat 2 tbsp ghee in a large pan and add the onions and brown sugar. Sauté until deep golden brown and caramelised. At the last minute, add the chopped chilli and ginger and stir briefly. Place into a blender along with the passata. Blend for a minute until smooth and creamy.

7. Heat another 2 tbsp ghee in the pan and add the cumin seeds. When the cumin starts to sizzle, add the curry leaves and asafoetida. Add the tomato mixture and vegetable stock. Add the salt and stir. Bring to a gentle simmer and cover. Cook for 10 minutes. Uncover, switch the heat off and allow to cool slightly. Stir the cream through. Serve with the twisted naan knots.

Curry Leaf Cream of Tomato Soup and Twisted Naan Knots

Love Sanjana




Fluffy Vegan Aquafaba Pancakes with Vanilla-Cardamom Poached Pears

I like my pancakes fluffy, stacked high and drenched in syrup. If they just so happen to come with a side of spiced pears, I wouldn’t turn my nose up.

Aquafaba, or chickpea brine is the magical egg white alternative rocking the vegan food world. From Vegan Macarons, to Pavlova, Meringue Nests, Meringue Kisses and even vegan cheese, the discovery of aquafaba by Goose Wohlt opens up a whole lot of possibilities for eating the foods you love and sticking to a vegan diet.

As many of you already know, I love playing around with this ingredient, conjuring up my own takes on dishes I adore, and all the while veganizing them for my family, friends and you fantastic people.

Fluffy Vegan Aquafaba Pancakes with Vanilla and Cardamom Poached Pears

My favourite Sunday morning ritual when I have friends or family over is to start on a big batch of pancakes while everyone’s still asleep. Not only does it make the entire house smell like the inside of a bakery that just had a massive vanilla cake eruption, it also ensures I get a huge smile and hug from everyone when they come downstairs. And I love a good cuddle, me.

With the pears, these pancakes become extra special. The light, fluffy, crispy pancakes soak up all that vanilla and cardamom-spiced syrup like little sponge frisbees you’ll want to play with all day long. The pears offer a very welcome fresh, tender, and juicy texture that’s perfect for balancing out the fluffy richness of the pancakes.

This is my basic vegan aquafaba pancake recipe for sweet pancakes. If poached pears aren’t your thing, you could add blueberries, raspberries or chocolate chips (pop them on top of each scoop of pancake batter before the pancake has a chance to cook through on the pan).

A photo posted by SANJANA • K.O RASOI (@sanjanamodha) on

I’ve even adapted this recipe (skipped the sugar and vanilla) to make savoury pancakes with chillies, vegan cheese and corn. Weirdly, I like to top those with a drizzle of golden syrup, too. If you have a soft spot for sweet and salty combinations, I recommend it!

Fluffy Vegan Aquafaba Pancakes with Vanilla-Cardamom Poached Pears
Serves 4

For the vegan aquafaba pancakes:
275g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp fine salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
325ml almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
100ml water from a can of chickpeas
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp groundnut oil, plus extra for the pan

For the pears:
4 Williams pears, slightly underripe
600ml water
200g golden syrup
100g golden caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise and scraped
6 whole cardamom pods, roughly crushed (leave the pod on)

Method

1. To make the poached pears: Place the sugar, golden syrup and water in a deep saucepan. Bring to the boil and add the cardamom pods and vanilla bean paste.

2. Peel the pears, keeping the stalk attached and slice them down the middle. Remove the pear cores.

3. Place the pears in the saucepan and ensure they’re completely submerged. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the pears to cool completely in the syrup.

4. Once the pears have had a chance to cool completely, remove them from the syrup and bring the syrup back to the boil. Allow to simmer until it has reduced by half and is sticky and syrupy.

5. To make the vegan aquafaba pancakes: Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.

6. Mix together the almond milk, apple cider vinegar, sugar, vanilla, and groundnut oil. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes and then whisk briefly.

7. In a large, clean bowl of a stand mixer, whip the chickpea liquid until stiff peaks form. You could also use an electric beater.

8. Add the wet almond milk mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until just combined. It’s important not to over mix this.

9. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the whipped chickpea meringue into the batter until you have a light, foamy batter. Try your best not to deflate the mixture by mixing too much.

10. Heat up a large non-stick pan greased with groundnut oil. You want a low-medium heat. Not too high or the pancakes will burn before they get a chance to cook through.

11. Use an ice cream scoop to dollop the pancake batter on to the pan so that you get even-sized pancakes. Ensure you leave some space around each pancake as the mixture will spread slightly.

12. Allow to cook until small bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake and the edges lose their raw shine, about 40 seconds.

13. Flip and cook briefly on the other side. Remove from the heat. Repeat to make the rest of the pancakes.

Serve with the poached pears and pour the extra syrup into a jug for drizzling over the pancakes like glorious waterfall. Dive in quickly and with purpose.

Fluffy Vegan Aquafaba Pancakes with Vanilla and Cardamom Poached Pears

What are your favourite pancake add-ins and toppings? Let me know in the comments below and let’s see if we can re-create some of them here.

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




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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Dhai Ke Kebab Lettuce Wraps with Sweet Onion Drizzle

I’ll always be a fan of a really good veggie burger but when it’s hot outside and I’m feeling too lazy to cook, lettuce wraps with something a little bit different inside are the like a dream. I love using lettuce to wrap up spicy noodles, quinoa salad, tandoori tofu and these totally delicious Dhai Ke Kebabs.

Dhai Ke Kebab Lettuce Wraps

These kebabs are made with thick, creamy yogurt that’s been hung for 24 hours, paneer, fresh mint, coriander, ginger and chilli – hardly health food but when a lettuce-wrapped kebab with crunchy veggies and sweet onion sauce tastes this fresh, you won’t care. I promise.

The Dhai Ke Kebabs themselves have a golden, crunchy exterior from a combination of breadcrumbs and semolina – the audible ‘crunch’ when you bite into it is SO satisfying. The inside is soft, surprisingly light and lemony with the freshness of mint, coriander and a touch of ginger. The delicate combo of flavours will dance on your palate as if you were partaking in a groom’s dhol procession at an Indian wedding, midsummer.

Dhai Ke Kebab Lettuce Wraps

Inspired by the rich, spicy Mughlai feasts of kings and queens in Medieval India, this alternative take on Dhai Ke Kebabs is definitely a far cry from how they would have been eaten in ornate palaces. They would have probably made up part of a larger feast of biryani, slow-cooked curries laden with dried fruits and cream and fluffy tandoor-cooked bread – all served on a lavish dining table decked with the finest gold dinnerware.

Dhai Ke Kebab Lettuce Wraps

Well I’m no Mughlai rani.

While the essence of indulgence remains with the Dhai Ke Kebabs, the rest of the dish is light, fresh, crunchy and colourful. Perfect for modern-day feasting and our busy lifestyles.

This is one of those dishes that was made for sharing. Crown your table with all the different components; Dhai Ke Kebabs, lettuce leaves, sliced carrots, cucumbers, sweet onion drizzle, toasted cashews, pomegranate, mint leaves, coriander and a few bottles of cold beer and you’re good to go. Assemble as you eat. That way, you can add more or less of whatever you like. The only problem you might have is fitting everything into the one lettuce wrap.

Word of advice… Eat with your hands – cutlery will only slow you down.

This is one of the most mouth watering dishes you can cook when you’re craving something fresh, inspired and just that little bit different from the usual veggie burgers or falafel.

Dhai Ke Kebab Lettuce Wraps

Dhai Ke Kebab Lettuce Wraps with Sweet Onion Drizzle
Serves 6-8

For the Dhai Ke Kebabs:

350g hung yoghurt (try using Greek yoghurt, hung in a cheesecloth for 24 hours)
220g crumbled paneer
100g fresh breadcrumbs
4 fresh chillies, chopped finely
2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsp dry-roasted chickpeas, ground (daria)
1 tsp cracked black pepper
½ tsp ground coriander seeds
Juice ½ lemon
Salt to taste

For the kebab coating:
100ml milk
100g fresh breadcrumbs
30g coarse semolina

Oil to deep fry

To serve:
2 heads Cos lettuce, leaves separated
Pomegranate seeds
1 cucumber, sliced finely
4 carrots, sliced finely
Handful toasted cashews
Fresh coriander
Fresh mint

For the sweet onion drizzle:
180g brown sugar
80ml apple cider vinegar
1 red onion, chopped finely
2 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp sesame oil
2 red chillies
1 tsp English mustard
1 tsp ground fennel seeds
½ tsp salt
2 tsp cornflour dissolved in 2 tbsp cold water

Method

1. First, make the sweet onion drizzle. Combine all the ingredients except the fennel seeds and cornflour in a pan. Stir to combine and bring to the boil. Simmer, stirring often for 20 minutes until slightly thick and syrupy. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Return to the head and stir in the ground fennel seeds and cornflour. Stir until thick, adding a little bit of water if necessary. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. You should have a sticky-sweet and spicy sauce.

2. To make the kebabs, combine all the ingredients apart from the coating ingredients in a large bowl and combine. You should have a dough-like consistency. Knead it for a minute.

3. Make golf ball-sized balls and shape the kebabs as you wish – you can do little slider-type tikki shapes or longer kofta-style kebabs. I did both just to mix it up a bit. Place onto baking sheets.

4. Combine the breadcrumbs and semolina for the coating. Roll each kebab into the coating and arrange on the baking tray. Once you’ve done them all, briefly dip each one into a bowl of milk and back into the coating mix. This will ensure your coating is substantial for a crispy outside.

5. Arrange each one on a baking tray and place in the freezer for 20 minutes.

6. Fill a pan with enough oil to deep fry the kebabs. Heat to 160C. You could bake them with a spray of oil but they won’t be as crispy, evenly brown or delicious. Deep fry them – I promise you it’s worth it.

7. Remove the kebabs from the freezer and fry three or four at a time, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Overcrowding the pan will result in the temperature of the oil dropping. Nobody wants greasy kebabs.

8. Fry until golden all over. Drain the kebabs on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Serve immediately or keep warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. You could also freeze them for baking later.

9. Place all the filling ingredients on a platter and serve in the middle of the table, allowing everybody to dig in and build their own lettuce wraps.

Dhai Ke Kebab Lettuce Wraps

 

Enjoy watching everyone fight over the Dhai Ke Kebabs.

Love Sanjana




Alphonso Mango Pavlova Cheesecake (Eggless Recipe)

‘Tis the season to eat mangoes! I had my annual fix of Indian Alphonso mango this weekend and they were flawless, as always.

Alphonso Mango Pavlova Cheesecake (Eggless and No-Bake Recipe)

I was so desperate to get my mitts on them, I immediately went on a mango hunt after leaving work on Friday. Stepping into the Indian shop closest to my London train station, my eyes darted from shelf to shelf. There were rows upon rows of lentils, spices and green vegetables, but alas, there was not a mango in sight. My heart sank.

As I meandered through the tiny, yet unfathomably packed shop, my nostrils filled with the smell of ajwain, dried turmeric, fenugreek… and then finally, the sweetest scent of fresh mango. There they were, a pile of mango boxes lying in wait like treasure in Aladdin’s cave, except better.

I pounced on them faster than Shere Khan on Mowgli, the man child in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. As usual, the two mango varieties were Alphonso and Kesar. When given the choice, I get Alphonso. They have more fragrance and a super-lush orange colour.

They were only sold in boxes of twelve so I got the whole lot. The only glitch was that I had to carry the entire box back home. The entire train carriage was filled with the heavenly scent of fresh mango – a welcome change from the stench of somebody’s hot Burger King dinner *shudder*. You’re welcome, fellow commuters. You’re welcome.

After eating three of twelve mangoes, I figured I better whip up one of my favourite desserts before they all disappear. This egg-free Alphonso Mango Pavlova Cheesecake is a true showstopper.

It’s a malted milk biscuit base, sweet mango and vanilla mascarpone cheesecake filling topped with eggless pavlova, fresh cream and all your favourite fruit. This pavlova cheesecake is rich, decadent and unashamedly two of the most awesome desserts ever stacked to make one epic masterpiece.

If you’re a lover of Indian Alphonso mango, this is a glorious way of celebrating it.

Here’s how I did it.

Alphonso Mango Pavlova Cheesecake (Eggless and No-Bake Recipe)

Alphonso Mango Pavlova Cheesecake (Eggless Recipe)
Serves 12-14

Ingredients

For the pavlova layer:
1 x 400g tin chickpeas in water (left in the fridge overnight)
280g golden caster sugar
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
½ tsp arrowroot or cornflour
3 tsp vanilla extract

For the cheesecake base:
260g malted milk biscuits (you could use ginger biscuits or NICE biscuits too)
100g unsalted butter, melted

For the Alphonso mango cheesecake filling:
500g mascarpone cheese
300g full fat cream cheese (I used Philadelphia)
200ml double cream + 100ml extra
450g icing sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tsp vanilla extract
300g Alphonso mango, blended (this was approx. 3 mangos for me)
2 tbsp agar agar powder

For the decoration:
Whipped cream
Mixed fruits of your choice (I used more mango, kiwi, strawberries, grapes, physalis, blackberries and figs)

You will also need a 24cm spring form tin.

Method

1. First, you’ll need to make the pavlova. Preheat the oven to 120C.

2. Take a piece of non-stick baking parchment and draw a circle on it, using the removable base from your cake tin. Flip the paper over and place it on a large baking tray. You now have the perfect outline for your pavlova.

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

4. Pour the chickpea water and vinegar 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.

5. Whisk on a high speed for 4 minutes. Mix together the sugar and cornflour. Gradually add the sugar mixture a tablespoon at a time and continue to beat until you have stiff glossy peaks. Congratulations, you’ve just made your own vegan marshmallow fluff! But right now, we’re making pavlova.

6. Dollop the meringue mixture onto the piece of baking paper, staying inside the circle you traced. Even it out using the back of a spoon, creating a little crater in the middle for your cream and fruit later. I like to keep it looking craggy and rustic so don’t fuss over it looking too perfect.

7. Place into the middle shelf of the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 100C. Bake for 2 hours 30 minutes. Once this time is up, crack the oven door open a little and leave it to cool completely. You’ll then be able to peel it away from the non-stick paper.

8. Next, make the cheesecake base. Blitz the biscuits in a food processor until they resemble the texture of sand. Stir in the melted butter. Press into the base of the tin, making sure it’s even and packed tightly. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

9. To make the cheesecake filling, beat together the mascarpone, cream cheese, 200ml double cream, vanilla, icing sugar and lemon juice. Don’t overwork it.

10. Place the agar agar in a small bowl. Add 2 tbsp cold water and stir to dissolve. In a small saucepan, combine the agar agar and 100ml double cream. Heat gently, stirring all the time until the mixture comes to a boil. You will notice it will begin to thicken. Boil for a minute or so and then switch off the heat. Add the mango pulp and stir to combine. This will lower the temperature of the cream mixture.

11. Add the mango mixture to the cream cheese mixture and whip until fully combined. It should thicken very slightly.

12. Pile the cheesecake filling onto the cooled biscuit base and smooth out the top.

13. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

14. To serve, run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake and remove the sides of the tin. Place onto a cake plate or stand and place the pavlova on top. Fill the crater in the middle with whipped cream and fresh fruit. I recommend more mango, obviously.

Devour immediately.

Note: Wrap your cooled pavlova in foil overnight to ensure it stays crisp for serving the next day.

Alphonso Mango Pavlova Cheesecake (Eggless and No-Bake Recipe)

Love Sanjana




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