One of my favourite South East Asian dishes is Som Tum. Traditionally it is made with green papaya but here I made with kohl rabi and carrot. It is such a classic and if you get green papaya do try with it although kohl rabi works well too. The salad is slightly acidic, a little sweet from palm sugar, a little sour from tamarind contrasting the crunchy kohl rabi, green beans and peanuts.
One more recipe for sour dough discard! Even if you don’t have sour dough discard, you can still make this by adjusting the amounts of yeast used. You can use spinach instead of chard or silver beet. I used a Chinese cleaver to finely mince my silver beet but you can use a food processor for this.
I love making my own breads and feel so wonderful kneading the dough manually. I served it with a minestrone style soup – it is yummy on its own too.
For the dough
325g high grade flour
25g wholemeal flour
5g instant yeast (use 7g if no sour dough discard)
40g sour dough discard
120g silver beet finely chopped (see note above)
1 tablespoon olive oil
200ml tepid water
For the topping
3 – 4 sun dried tomatoes, chopped
5-6 olives, sliced or halved
Sea salt crystals
Olive oil as needed
1 -2 tablespoons water
Place all ingredients for the dough into a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon, combine the ingredients to form a dough mass.
You can use the dough hook on your stand mixer and knead for 10 minutes giving a 30 second break every 3-4 minutes of kneading. If you are like me and prefer to knead manually, tip dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10-12 minutes, resting it for 30 seconds every three minutes. Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a wet muslin cloth and leave in a warm place for an hour and a half to two hours to allow it to double in size.
Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper and drizzle with two tablespoons of oil. Spread oil around to grease the paper. Using the palm of your hand, flatten dough to a 20cm disc and place on prepared baking tray. Using your fingertips, press dough down, leaving fingertip impressions. Cover with a wet muslin cloth and leave to prove for half an hour.
Preheat oven to 230 degrees Celsius.
Stud the dough with sun dried tomato and olive pieces. Sprinkle the sea salt and make indentations with your fingertips. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle water. Bake in preheated oven for 12 -15 minutes.
Remove from oven and brush focaccia with olive oil. Place on a wire rack to cool for half an hour at least before slicing.
I have mentioned in some of my previous posts that I like to incorporate some protein element to my dishes to keep them nutritionally balanced. The logic is that if this is the only thing you are going to eat for that meal, you will feel satisfied and fuller for longer because of the fibre, protein and low glycaemic index of vegetables. Fennel is a versatile vegetable and you should try if you haven’t tried it before. You can roast it with beetroot for a roast salad or finely slice for a crisp coleslaw or is great in soup. Fennel also goes well with tomato and any white beans – you can make a soup out of tomato, fennel and cannellini beans.
My recipe uses your pantry staple lentils, leek and fennel. The trick to washing leeks well is to cut them in half longitudinal and wash the layers with running water. Fennel the vegetable is mild but it lets you know that it has been used. It is not in your face flavour but in the same token it is creamy when cooked and does take on more flavours. Do give this soup a try because every time I make it, the bowls are licked clean and it is a no fuss recipe with few ingredients!
1 leek, sliced thinly into half moons
1 large fennel or 2 medium sized (about 750g), chopped
I know this is very retro – I loved mushroom soup in the ‘90s and now too. It is a lovely soup for a cold night or served with crusty bread, makes a great starter for your dinner party.
The flavour for this soup is enhanced by mushroom powder. I make mushroom powder by blitzing dried shitake mushrooms in a small spice blender. The mushroom powder is not limited to this soup – I use it to inject flavour into pies and pasta sauces.
100g onion, finely chopped
3 garlic, finely chopped
800g white button mushrooms, any black bits brushed off
There is no typo here!! If you love mustard flavour as much as my family does, this is the ultimate taste explosion. Broccoli belongs to the mustard family (Brassica or Cruciferae) and so does cauliflower – initially thought it would not be balanced but let me reassure you that this was an instant hit and it’ll become your favourite way to serve. I used mustard oil – very distinct aroma of mustard and you can get in any Indian store. This recipe uses mustard oil, wholegrain mustard and hot English mustard plus broccoli and cauliflower.
I served this as a vegetarian first course / starter. Please do try as you will not be disappointed.
The word “shorba” is of Persian origin and almost a dozen variations of the word exist. It is traditionally prepared by simmering meat or vegetables in boiling water along with salt and flavored with aromatic curry spices and herbs.
My recipe is an oldie but a goodie from the Indian chef Sanjeev Kapoor who has been the celebrity chef on one of the longest running food shows of its kind Khana Khazana. (In fact the show has been running since 2010 and has over 500 million viewers.) I remember watching this show on my visits to India. I have simplified the recipe so it is easier and you don’t have so many dishes to wash up!
This is a great soup to serve as a starter for a dinner party and I assure you will have your guests wanting more and the recipe.
500g carrots, peeled and cut into 2 centimetre chunks
A few weeks back Eva Longoria posted her take on Bobby Flay’s recipe of Eggplant Milanese. I had to put my own signature on the dish and the result is spectacular even though I say so myself. There is textural as well as taste contrast and I would make it again in a heartbeat. Milanese style is a fancier way of saying crumbed!
My tip choose even shaped eggplants – shouldn’t be too narrow around the neck and bulbous at the bottom. You can cut eggplants lengthwise but I prefer the rounds.
2 large eggplants, cut into ½ to 1 cm thick rounds
A classic Mumbai street food that has become very popular all over the sub-continent. You see food carts with a big griddle of the spicy ragda (spicy pea stew) on one side, already cooked and being kept warm and on the other side are the pattices or potato patties. I don’t know why pattice is spelt this way – I just wanted to put it out there just in case you think I didn’t spell check!!
This is the lockdown version as I couldn’t get to an Indian store to get the garnishes. Normally garnished with Sev (crunchy, fried noodles), green coriander chutney, I subbed these for crushed corn chips and lightly pickled red onion.
For the pea stew, you can use tinned chick peas I suppose or even split chick peas could work. I used dried white peas you get in an Indian store.
FOR THE RAGDA
200 grams dried white peas (safed vatana)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
6-8 curry leaves
A pinch of asafoetida (hing)
3cms ginger, peeled and chopped
1-2 green chillies, chopped
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt to taste
Soak the dried white peas overnight. Discard the soaking liquid, rinse. If you are using a pressure cooker, put the peas in the pressure cooker, add two cups water and cook for 15 minutes on low heat after the first whistle.
If you are using stove top method, put the peas in a heavy bottomed saucepan and pour 3 cups of water. Bring it up to the boil and allow to simmer and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.
Using a mortar and pestle, mash the ginger and green chilli to form a fine paste.
Take a clean pot, heat oil on medium heat. Add the mustard seeds. Mix and cover with lid until you hear them pop. Remove lid, add the asafoetida along with curry leaves. Stir in the ginger – green chilli paste along with the cooked peas. Mix in the salt and turmeric powder.
Allow to cook for five minutes. Check seasoning and set aside with the lid on until ready to assemble.
FOR THE PATTICE
400g boiled potatoes, finely grated
½ teaspoon hot chilli powder
½ teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons corn flour
Salt to taste
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil to pan fry
Combine all ingredients for pattice and knead a little to make a smooth mixture. Divide potato mixture into 12 equal portions. Shape into patties about 6 centimetres in diameter. Rest patties in refrigerator for half an hour.
Heat a fry pan and working in batches, fry the patties a few at a time. Keep warm.
FOR THE CHILLI CHUTNEY
¼ cup tomato ketchup
¼ cup Sriracha sauce
1-2 tablespoons malt vinegar
Mix all ingredients for the chilli chutney. Taste and adjust according to personal preference.
FOR THE TAMARIND SAUCE
3 tablespoons store bought tamarind puree
2 tablespoon date puree
5 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon hot chilli powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
Salt to taste
Put all ingredients except salt in a saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil. Add salt and simmer for five minutes. Taste to adjust seasoning.
FOR THE PICKLED ONIONS
125g red onion, peeled and finely diced
½ teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
Salt to taste
In a bowl, salt the red onion and rest on an incline for half an hour. If any water collects, strain out the liquid. Sprinkle chilli powder and ready to serve.
20 or 25 corn chips, placed in a snap lock bag, wrapped in a tea towel and use a rolling pin to crush lightly
ASSEMBLE IN INDIVIDUAL BOWLS
In a shallow bowl, spoon the ragda. Arrange the potato patties. Toss some of the crushed corn chips. Spoon the tamarind and chilli chutney. Sprinkle some of the onions and serve. Serves 4.
A lot of people say they don’t like tofu. Ten years back that was me. The thing about tofu is that it has no flavour of its own and happily take on whatever flavour you throw at it. There are several types of tofu – silken, soft, firm, extra firm, marinated, etc.
For this dish, I took inspiration from Adam Liaw’s recipe. This is simple, easy and you can put it together in ten minutes.
300g silken tofu
75g onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic finely chopped
3tbsps vegetable oil
1tsp sesame oil
2tsps soy sauce
Pinch of sugar
Finely chopped spring onion for garnish
Invert the silken tofu onto two or three layers of kitchen paper while you work on the next step.
Put the vegetable oil on medium low heat in a small saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and fry on medium heat for 10 minutes until lightly browned. Mix in the soy sauce and pinch of sugar along with the sesame oil.
Discard the kitchen paper and unmould by inverting the silken tofu onto a serving platter. Spoon the onion mixture on top of the tofu and drizzle the liquid evenly onto the tofu. Garnish with the spring onions and serve at room temperature.
I don’t have much of a sweet tooth – I prefer savoury stuff any day and these are perfect with a cup of coffee and great to take on a picnic.
You can use pesto or Branston pickles instead of tomato relish.
400g strong bread flour
7g instant dry yeast (contents of one packet)
15g olive oil
Additional flour for dusting
5-6 tbsps tomato relish
150g tasty or any sharp tasting cheese, grated
Extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
Place flour, salt, yeast and oil in a large bowl and mix together. Add the water and using a wooden spoon, combine to form a dough mass. Tip dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 -15 minutes, resting it for 1 minute every 2-3 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for approximately 45 minutes, until almost double in size.
Tip dough onto the work surface and gently deflate by folding it a few times. Return it to the bowl, cover and let rest again for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 220 degrees C. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Tip one portion onto a well-floured work surface and roll out to about 30cm x 25cm.
Spread the tomato relish up to half way through your rolled out dough. Sprinkle the cheese to cover the relish. Gently roll the dough like you would roll a carpet. Using a sharp knife, cut cross-ways about 3 centimetre wide scrolls. You should get between 8 -10 scrolls. Lay them on the baking tray and cover with the kitchen towel. Let them prove for another 30 minutes. Repeat with the other portion.
Bake for 15-18 minutes. Remove from the oven, brush immediately with olive oil and place on a wire rack to cool.