STRAWBERRY JAM

Store bought jams are a far cry from homemade jams. The strawberries I made jam with were farm fresh bursting with flavour and sweetness, so I was able to reduce the amount of sugar. This jam has only three ingredients – fruit, sugar and a couple of teaspoons of butter to set. A tip – don’t use overripe fruit.

Strawberries hulled and cut ready for jam

INGREDIENTS

1.5 kilograms strawberries (rinsed and hulled)

1 kilograms jam setting sugar

2 teaspoons (10g) butter

METHOD

Place a plate in the freezer for the set test.

Cut the large strawberries into halves or quarters. Coarsely crush with a potato masher.

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MYPICKS FOR EASY TO GROW VEGETABLES

I have been a gardener for as long as I remember. Growing up in India, we grew an extensive range of vegetables (eggplants, beans, gourds and greens), fruits (guava, banana, mango and lemon) and flowers (gerberas, jasmines, solidago, zinnia and sunflowers). It was basic back in those days but we maintained a compost heap, made our own oil cake and cow dung tonic for the plants.

The beauty of gardening is that with a little effort and some patience you will be rewarded for your handiwork. You need some basic equipment and the rest you can manage with whatever is available at home. You can upcycle if you have the skills or do what I do just repurpose everything. For example, I go to a tyre shop and ask for old tyres – line them up with lots of old newspaper and fill it with potting mix and you have yourself a good space to grow vegetables. Cardboard boxes are also good to grow annuals or herbs. Drill some holes into an unused bucket and you have a pot!

When the weather is conducive, go and get yourself some seed packets or seedling punnets along with some potting mix or compost. I find it is best to invest a bit more in organic because not only do they improve your existing soil but also provide nutrients that last more than one planting. The plants require less watering as the soil has better moisture retaining capability. You will also need a liquid fertilizer like a sea weed tonic.

TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL GROWING

Plant late evening so seedlings shock is reduced

Soak seedlings in seaweed tonic before transplanting – this makes them settle in faster in their new surrounds.

Spacing between plants is important – as a general rule of thumb, leave two hand spaces between plants.

Overcrowding causes plants to rot or they won’t have enough space to grow to full potential.

Prepare, Plant and Nourish!

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PROTEIN RICH SALAD

I am surprised how many people get stumped if they have to prepare a protein rich salad as a main for a vegan when the rest are having a barbecue. Very often it is just a standard green salad and if you are lucky maybe a vegan burger (store bought). There are a variety of beans and grains that offer high quality nutrition and personally think you can even make yummy vegan homemade burgers with a little planning.

This salad is colourful, fresh and absolutely delightful that eating a bowl won’t be that hard!

Protein Rich Salad

INGREDIENTS

1 x 400g tin of brown lentils, rinsed and drained well

½ cup sunflower kernels, toasted

1 medium zucchini, sliced thinly

3-4 small radish, sliced thinly

1 red pepper, cored and diced

6-7 spring onion greens, finely chopped

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OAT & MUNG FLOUR PANCAKES

I simply call these oat pancakes only because I couldn’t find a better name – they are really a cross between okonomiyaki, traditional South Indian dosa and vegetable pancakes you get on street corners in Korea.

Oat and mung flour pancakes

INGREDIENTS

2 cups of toasted oats powdered

1 cup split mung bean flour

100g onion finely chopped

300g cabbage finely chopped

2 green chillies or to taste, finely chopped

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PANETTONE FRENCH TOAST WITH GRILLED PEACHES

This is a decadent festive brunch dish to share with friends and family. AS this is twice cooked, you can do all the prep the night before and all you need to do is to finish in the morning leaving you time to relax. You can use a whole (900g) to feed 10-12 or use 600g to feed 6-8.

You will need two 16cms deep round cake tins and a deep baking tray that both these cake tins will fit in. This is to create a water bath for the cake tins.

Panettone French Toast with Grilled Peaches

INGREDIENTS

600g Panettone

8 eggs

250ml milk

300ml cream, divided

1 tablespoon sugar

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PAPRIKA CHICKEN

In the 90’s we lived in Hungary for three years. There was definitely a culture shock for me and things were just moving towards Western standards. One image of Budapest that is strongly imprinted in my brain is braided garlic and paprika peppers being sold everywhere. The smell of freshly baked bread at all metro entrances is so inviting. I was younger in my culinary journey and didn’t really appreciate the paprika nuances. How I would love to experience that again – sometimes you don’t get a second chance and you have to make the most of every experience for what it is at any point in time.

Paprika chicken is a classic and my version is slightly modified. Hungarians use lard in their cooking extensively. I substituted lard with butter. I used to make this when my children were younger as it was flavourful and mild. In this version, I used hot as well as sweet smoked paprika.

Paprika chicken

INGREDIENTS

400g boneless (skinless) chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces

100g onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 medium sized green pepper, cored and sliced thinly

100g tomato, deseeded and diced

50g butter

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GRILLED MISO EGGPLANT

As far as condiments and flavourings go, I love miso. I use it rather unconventionally in salad dressings and also in sauces/ marinades. The savouriness of miso lends well to eggplant. You could use the same technique with zucchini (cut it lengthways).

Grilled Miso Eggplant

INGREDIENTS

2 eggplants, cut into 2cm thick slices

2 -3 tablespoons of vegetable oil (like sunflower)

100g mozzarella, grated

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ALOO BAINGAN – EGGPLANT & POTATO STEW

I’ve seen this dish on the menu at several Indian restaurants. Ever since the potato was introduced by the Portuguese in early seventeenth century, Indians love for this vegetable has also grown. It is often added to most North Indian style vegetable dishes. What I find interesting is that the South was kind of far removed from foreign influences so much so that it took a long time for the so called “Western” vegetables to be incorporated into mainstream South Indian cooking. Sorry for my digression.

More to the point of aloo baingan – this is a lovely vegetarian dish that is not too chilli hot, yet very flavourful.

I roasted the eggplants for a bit so they retain their shape and don’t fall apart.

Aloo Baingan

INGREDIENTS

300g eggplant

250g potatoes

250g tomatoes

250g red onion, finely diced

4 plump cloves of garlic

2 green chillies, finely chopped

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MANGO PHIRNI

The history and origin of Phirni (sometimes spelt Firni) is not confirmed but often believed that the Mughals enjoyed rich milk based puddings. This milk pudding tradition is common in Persia so it is likely that the dish has origins there.

The main difference between phirni and kheer is that rice is ground in the former whereas kheer is rice pudding and you cook it whole.

Mango Phirni

INGREDIENTS

50g Basmati rice

2 tablespoons water

1 litre milk

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GRILLED HALLOUMI FLATBREADS

I guess this could easily pass for a Mediterranean version of a taco! You can serve with store bought flat breads or pita breads for convenience but my flat bread recipe is not cumbersome just takes a bit of planning. Don’t be daunted by the different elements – I guarantee this is very easy to make and you can serve this as a starter or on its own for a light lunch.

Grilled Halloumi flatbreads

INGREDIENTS

2 x 250g blocks Halloumi cheese

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons liquid honey

Sumac powder to garnish

For the avocado salsa

2 avocados, peeled, stoned and diced

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