If spending Saturday night browsing dinner plates online with my bestie is a sign of a homewares obsession, then I plead guilty. Send in the troops, it’s time for an intervention. Just give me a minute to hide the boxes of crockery surreptitiously tucked into the corners of the garage behind the poor neglected bicycle and suitcase of winter clothes.
My friend and I, unsurprisingly, have different tastes in plate patterns were but we happily examined each other’s choices in detail. We debated over critical matters such as how much one should spend on daily use serveware and whether 23cm was a large enough diameter for a dinner plate. If you’ve made it this far without crying from boredom or seeking something more interesting like watching grass grow, then you too may share our penchant for all things kitchen. I personally blame my problem on food blogging and the food prop madness that goes with it all. I’m sure there’s a perfectly acceptable explanation for yours too.
if gazing longingly at homewares is indeed your idea of a good time, have a peek at the many good things over at UncommonGoods. They are a company that focuses on ethically made goods from artists and small manufacturers, and prides themselves on treating their employees with respect.
Also, they have lots of cool stuff. These Owl Mugs from here are so darn cute I wanna eat them up. Know a couple who have it all? Try the very funky customisable wedding gifts. After you’ve bought all your gifts, you just might accidentally stumble into this bit and pick out a little something for yourself like the ‘i eight sum pi dish’ that is pictured. Then, you’ll have no excuse not to make this pie, or this one. A business that operates ethically AND has a sense of humour. How scrumptious!
These are for the rushed ones. The breakfast-in-the-car eaters. The early-start- endurers. The I-don’t-have-time-for-breakfast-but-damm-I’m-hungry’ers.
They say you shouldn’t eat on the run. They say you should sit down, meal on a plate, focus completely on the food, chew each mouthful ten times. Swallow, then take a breath before your next bite.
They don’t know how funny they are.
Keep all your glass jars. The standard sized ones fit into your car cup holders and so are perfect for eating on the run without a food-in-car mishap. Take in mouthfuls during red lights. Sip between pathetic releases of the foot brake during the maddening shuffle of peak-hour traffic. It’ll keep you from mouthing expletives at the other drivers. A hunger cure and road-rage cure in one.
Once you are done, you can pop the lid on and deal with the smell later when you have to wash the thing after it’s been in the hot car all day. Keep all your glass jars and dedicate a shelf to them. Buy things in glass jars just so that you can finish it, wash it out and use it for meals on the run. The pasta sauces, the peanut butters, the honeys and the jams. Ask relatives for their glass jars. They’ll think you’re cuckoo and it’s mostly worth it.
Then make one or two of these options, either the night before or in the morning. A couple of these need a fancy-pants food processor, but some need very little equipment. Each recipe makes one serving, but you can easily double them to set yourself up nicely for the next 2 days. As you are rushing out the door, grab the jar of yum, grab a spoon and GO GO GO!
1/2 cup fresh or frozen mango flesh
1/2 cup milk of choice
1-2 scoops protein powder
Handful of baby spinach, washed
1/2 tsp vanilla powder or paste
Seeds of 2-3 cardamom pods or ¼ tsp cardamom powder (optional)
Place all ingredients in food processor bowl, blitz until homogenous mixture. Top with coconut, berries, nuts, seeds, chocolate or whatever tickles your fancy. To turn this into a smoothie, add a little more liquid (milk, coconut water, water).
Tip: Place the ingredients (apart from milk and avocado) in small snap-lock bags and freeze in single serves, ready for blitzing in the morning.
Thing 2: 1 Minute Pesto Eggs
1 tsp pesto of choice
Small handful baby spinach
Shredded cheese (optional)
Spray or brush the bottom of the jar with oil (optional, makes for easier cleaning). Place eggs and pesto in jar and whisk with a fork or small whisk. Fold through baby spinach leaves. With lid off, microwave on high for 40 seconds to start with, then another 20 seconds. Sprinkle a little shredded cheese over the top before the second microwaving session if desired.
Thing 3: Choc, PB and Banana Smoothie (freezes well)
1 ripe banana
1 heaped dessert spoonful peanut butter
1 tbsp raw cacao or cocoa powder
1-2 scoops protein powder
¾ cup milk of choice
Place all ingredients in food processor bowl, blitz until homogenous mixture.
Tip: Peel and freeze and bananas that are in danger on over-ripening before they are eaten, to use in this recipe later.
Thing 4: Anne’s Overnight Oats
2 tablespoons of chia seeds (white or black)
½ cup rolled oats
One decent-sized ripe banana
¾ cup milk of choice
1/2 tsp cinnamon or vanilla (optional)
Honey or other syrup to serve (optional)
Fruit, seeds, nuts, shredded coconut, chocolate chips to garnish (optional)
Mash banana in jar. Add chia seeds, oats, milk and cinnamon/vanilla. Stir well. Store in fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Top with toppings of choice and sweetener. If using.
It’s the first night it’s been warm enough to sit out on the balcony. The city lights shimmer in the distance, a deceptively calm façade to the Friday night revelry within. To the right, the single red glow atop the harbour bridge winks in its rhythm, in conversation with its twin that adorns the tip of centre-point tower. To the left of the nightscape is the distinct neon green squiggle of the holiday inn, a fluorescent stairway to heaven that is another reference point. The lights merge into a softly shimmering veil on the water of the harbour, now still without even a moving boat to disturb its surface.
From across the road, a wall of jasmine sends tendrils of sweetness over the railing, a comforting reminder of spring. Below, a couple enjoy an evening stroll, elderly dog pottering on a lead before them. Diffuse puddles of light created by street lamps briefly illuminate the tops of their heads as they make their way down the street. Somewhere in the distance, base notes of dance music are scattered into the neighbourhood breeze from a house party. It’s loud enough to remind me that someone, somewhere is on a dance floor, but far enough away to leave me glad that it isn’t me.
There are worse ways to spend a Friday evening.
This dessert, if you get it right, is like scented silk. The recipe’s simplicity is almost deceptive, and it almost seems unfair that something so divine can be so easy. It is an Indian dessert, but one I didn’t grow up with so when it was first made for me, I was in awe. While it is simple to make, it does take a little planning due to the hanging of the curd, baking, and chilling before it is ready to serve. Its’ texture is not unlike pannacotta if you get the baking time right. If you over-bake it, it will be a little coarser and more reminiscent of a cheesecake, and still lovely.
Indian Sweet Baked Yoghurt with Cherry Vanilla Sauce
1 ½ cups full fat Greek yoghurt
1 tin sweetened condensed milk
¾ cup full-fat milk
Seeds of 6-8 cardamom pods, roughly powdered
Seeds of ½ a vanilla bean or ½ tsp vanilla paste
A few strands of saffron
Crushed nuts to serve
For the sauce:
200g pitted cherries, fresh or frozen
2 tbsp sugar
Squeeze of lemon juice
Seeds of ½ a vanilla bean or ½ tsp vanilla paste
Place the yoghurt in the centre of a piece of cheesecloth (for those in Australia, a clean Chux cloth works well). Tie the opposite corners together and suspend the curd from a low height where the whey can drip out. Try the faucet or a wooden spoon laid across the top of a bucket. Allow to hang for 1-2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 180 C.
If using saffron, warm a couple of tablespoons of the milk and add the saffron. Set aside for a few minutes. Place the thickened yoghurt, condensed milk, vanilla and cardamom in a large mixing bowl. Whisk or beat with an electric beater on low speed until combined. Add the milk and saffron milk (if using) and beat again until combined.
Divide the mixture between 6 ramekins or glasses. Place these in a deep oven dish and pour water into the dish and around the glasses so that the water level is ½ to ¾ to the level of yoghurt mixture. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the yoghurts are set but still wobbly. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
To make the cherry sauce, place the sauce ingredients into a thick-bottomed saucepan with the vanilla bean husk if you used a bean. Add a splash of water (about ¼ cup). Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer on low heat for about half an hour, or until the cherries are easy to break down. Allow to cool, then discard the vanilla bean and blitz the mixture in a food processor until it is a rough puree. Spoon the mixture into the glasses on top of the chilled baked yoghurt. Top with crushed nuts just before serving.
I’ve been dabbling in a spot of scuba diving. A surprise to myself as well as those who know me. Being painfully un-athletic and colossally uncoordinated (who put that wall there?!), I never saw myself in a wetsuit, 20-something metres underwater, breathing from a tank and incredibly, not freaking out!
Being a serial over-thinker is something I’ve had to push aside. Because really, if I allowed myself the luxury of thinking about it……………..I am underwater, people!! Breathing from a tank!! With compressed air in my lungs!! Air that can diffuse into my bloodstream and form painful bubbles if I come to the surface too quickly!! This is not natural!! Humans were not supposed to breathe underwater!! What was I thinking?? Why would I jump out of a perfectly good boat or walk off a perfectly good shore to breathe through a tank underwater?!?!
So as you can see, my usual over-thinking habit has no place here. Instead, I am learning to quiet my mind and enjoy the peace and beauty of the underwater world. The stillness and slowness and floatiness of it all makes it a beautiful, almost a meditative experience.
If I’m lucky, I’ll see something awesome to distract me when my mind wanders to unwanted places. A gorgeous school of fish, zebra-striped with fluorescent green dorsal fins, engaged in a perfectly coordinated dance. An underwater flash mob. Or will it be a baby shark, hiding under a soft coral, biding its time until it is big enough to survive the big bad ocean?
Raita has nothing to do with scuba diving. Nothing whatsoever. There is nothing unnatural about this refreshing yoghurt dish, a standard side in every Indian restaurant. It is the cooling element to any Indian meal. This is the way I like it, with a base of smooth yoghurt, sans cream and sugar which seem to feature in many restaurant versions. Ginger and some light spices give it depth but keep it light and refreshing. Finally, tempered cumin seeds add a crunch that makes you want to interpose them between your front teeth just to enjoy it.
2 cups loose/watery plain yoghurt OR 1 1/2 cups yoghurt and 1/2 cup water
2-3 cm ginger, finely grated
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp mild paprika (optional)
Salt to taste
1 telegraph cucumber or 2 small lebanese cucumbers, finely diced (peeled or unpeeled)
1/2 small red onion, finely diced (omit this if you dislike raw onion)
For the Tempering:
1 1/2 tsp vegetable/canola/sunflower oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 or 5 curry leaves
2 dried red chillies
Small handful coriander, roughly chopped
Place yoghurt (or yoghurt + water) in a large bowl with ginger, cumin powder, coriander powder, paprika and 1/2 tsp salt. Stir with a whisk until well combined and smooth. Taste and add more salt if needed- the mixture should only be salty enough to neutralise the tartness of the yoghurt. The mixture should be no thicker than a pancake batter, so add a little more water and stir through if needed.
Add cucumber and onion and stir through gently.
In a small non-stick pan, heat the oil. Turn the heat down to low-medium and add the cumin seeds. Once they have popped, add curry leaves and dried chillies. Fry for a minute or two until the leaves are crisp. If using fresh leaves, you may need to step back or use a lid to protect yourself from oil splutter (see my post on tempering here). Add the oil mixture to the Raita and stir through.
It’s been almost a decade since I last lived on my own, in a poky little flat above a veterinary clinic in North-West London. It was furnished with mismatched, tired looking pieces, and in the kitchen was a washing machine which I initially thought was cactus. One day, a couple of kicks and a few expletives later, it miraculously came back to life and worked surprisingly well from then onwards.
The flat shared an entry with the clinic’s waiting room, and so I would often find myself sidling past curious wet noses who would sniff eagerly at my bags of groceries on the way in or garbage on the way out. The bathroom was adorned in lustrous, cracked maroon tiles with gold accents that may have had its’ glory days in the 1970’s. Entertainment was provided intermittently by the patrons of the Irish pub next door and by another neighbour who would regularly and loudly assure the entire neighbourhood that ‘Jesus would save them!’ at convenient times such as four o’clock in the morning. The apartment was what the kinder of us would call ‘full of character’, an apt introduction to the colourful place that is London.
At the time, I bought myself a book called Live Alone and Like it by Marjorie Hillis, whose cover declared it to be ‘A 1935 Bestseller’. The quirk in me couldn’t resist as not only was it on the ‘3 for 2’ table at Borders, but it boasted chapters titled A Lady and Her Liquor, Pleasures of a Single Bed and the intriguing You’d Better Skip This One.
Ms Hillis’ advice, although many decades old, is strangely still relevant. She advises against self-pity at being alone, warning that “Not only will you soon actually be all alone; you will also be the outstanding example of the super-bore”. She doles out practical advice on the merits of saving money, for example, and cautions that “…..eventually, if no husband has turned up and no obliging relative has died, there comes a horrid conviction that putting aside a little something for a rainy day is not such a bad idea.” In a chapter delightfully headed When A Lady Needs a Friend, Marge gets straight to the point with “….the truth is that if you’re interesting, you’ll have plenty of friends and if you’re not, you won’t- unless you’re very, very rich”. Truest of all are her words on furnishing and decor, “This is your house, and it’s probably the only place in the world where you can have things exactly as you please.”
And the discovery that I could do just what I wanted in my space was a delightfully liberating one. Bake cookies at midnight! Paint the wall bright blue! Accumulate framed art that I never hang! Walk around without pants on! (Close the blinds first!!)
Oh…..and chocolate cake for dinner!
I want to equip you with this recipe, for those times when nothing but chocolate cake will do. This is a recipe for chocolate cake for one, made in the Tefal Cook4Me electric pressure cooker (which I have gushed about previously in my last post), so that it’s nice and moist. If you are interesting enough to have a friend or a chocolate-loving date over, then just double the recipe and divide it into two ramekins. It is gluten free, can be easily made vegan, and is (gasp!) even nourishing, with its healthy fats and proteins. Most importantly, it is quick to make and fuss free.
Oh! Oh! Oh!! I also have some gorgeous Tefal 17cm Santoku knives to give away to you, my dear readers! To enter, drop me a comment here. What I want to know is, what do you enjoy doing when you have the house to yourself? Please keep it clean, obviously! I will pick a couple of my favourite revelations to send these gorgeous, soft-handled knives to. I can only send to Australian addresses, and you can enter as many times as you want with separate comments.
So tell me, what is your favourite home-alone activity or indulgence?
*Cook4Me and Santoku knives were kindly provided by Tefal, however all opinions are my own.
Pressure Cooker Chocolate Cake for One
1/3 cup almond meal
1 tbsp buckwheat flour
½ tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa powder or raw cocoa
2-3 tsp brown sugar
¼ tsp vanilla paste or powder
Tiny pinch salt
2 tsp milk (use non-dairy milk for vegan option)
1 tsp coconut oil, melted
1 tsp full-fat youghurt or aquafaba (for vegan option)
1 1/2 cups water
Place all the ingredients apart from the water in a small mixing bowl and mix until just combined. Place in a ramekin.
Remove the steamer basket from the Tefal Cook4Me. Pour 1 1/2 cups of water in the bottom of the main pot. Place the ramekin in the main pot. The water should come up to about halfway up the outside of the ramekin.
Close and lock the lid of the Tefal Cook4Me. Choose recipes, then choose the ‘Chocolate Sponge Pudding’ setting. Press enter through all the steps and then accept the cooking time.
When cooked, carefully remove the hot ramekin from the cooker and eat the cake straight out of the ramekin with a dollop of cream, ice-cream or Greek yoghurt. Feel free to enjoy for dinner without judgement or disapproving eyes.
Aquafaba is the liquid from a can of chick peas or beans, or the cooking liquid from the same. It is full of protein and a great vegan egg replacer.
I’m the first to admit that I have control issues in the kitchen. The stove is a ship and I, its captain. This makes it near intolerable for anyone who dares to help me put together a meal. It also makes it very difficult for any sophisticated appliances to be truly useful in my kitchen. My need for control means that I must stir the pot myself, pottering between that and chopping of the next ingredient to be added, while simultaneously shooing out anyone who ventures in.
When Tefal asked me to trial their Cook4Me Electric Pressure Cooker, I have to admit I was sceptical. I am a stovetop pressure cooker user from way back, refusing to be swayed even by an exploding-dhal-from prematurely-opened-cooker incident a few years ago. Would I still be ‘hard core’ with an electric pressure cooker, I wondered?
I don’t know exactly when I officially joined the Tefal Cook4Me camp. Was it the heart-achingly moist, buttery fish fillets I made using the ‘Sweet Chilli Salmon’ recipe? Or the realisation that I didn’t have to pay attention and count the whistles from a stovetop cooker in order to ensure my lentils were cooked but not pureed? Whatever the trigger, the result is that I now use my Tefal Cook4Me almost every day.
You guys, this thing not only cooks things to perfection, retaining moisture and flavour, but it also tells you how to do it!! It is programmed with loads of gorgeous recipes that take you through the cooking process, step by step, for 2, 4 or 6 people. Even an intuitive cook like me is quite happy to minimise the firing of neurons at the end of the day and still end up with a delicious, healthy meal. Also, this thing is one sexy looking machine! I know, I know……I saved the most important bit till last.
A lot of things are supposed to change your life these days…..appliances, cars, cosmetics. The Tefal Cook4Me may not change your entire life, but it sure will transform the way you cook, especially if you like quick, healthy, simple meals that are easy to clean up afterwards and so, so good to eat.
Oosli, or Spiced Black Chickpeas with Coconut, is a traditional South Indian Dish, popular during festival times but made throughout the year. It is a protein rich dish, perfect for those who rely on non-meat sources of protein, but also delicious as a filling workday lunch. The earthiness of the legume is offset by the freshness of coconut and a subtle-but-definitely-there hint of lemon. If you can’t find black chick peas, you can also use regular chick peas.
Tefal Cook4Me was kindly provided by Tefal Australia, however all opinions are my own. Cook4Me images are from Tefal.
Spiced Chickpeas and Coconut (Oosli)
Serves 2-4 as a side dish
1 cup dried small black chick peas, soaked overnight
2 tsp coconut or vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
½ to 1 hot green chilli, split down the middle
2 dried red chillies broken into large pieces
8-10 curry leaves
3 tbsp fresh or fresh frozen (thawed) grated coconut
Small handful coriander, roughly chopped
Tefal Cook4Me Electric Pressure Cooker
Drain and rinse the soaked chickpeas. Place in the Cook4Me pot with plenty of the water (chick peas should be completely submerged with about 1 cm of water above them). Choose manual on the Cook4Me panel and reduce the time using the dial to 2 minutes. Press ok to start. Once your Cook4Me beeps to indicate that it is finished cooking, allow the pressure to dissipate (about 5-10 minutes). Open the lid of the Cook4Me and remove the pot to drain the water from the chick peas. The chick peas should be cooked through but firm.
Replace the empty pot into the Cook4Me and use the manual option to choose the ‘Browning’ setting. With the lid now left open, heat the oil in the Cook4Me pot. Add the mustard seeds. Once they have popped, add turmeric, asafoetida, red chillies and green chilli. Cook, stirring gently for 1-2 mins. Add 4-5 curry leaves (they will splutter so step back or momentarily lower the lid). Once the curry leaves have crisped, remove the green chilli and discard.
Drain the cooked chick peas and add to the pot. Add 1/2 tsp salt to start with. Stir and leave to cook, with the lid lowered (but not latched), for a couple of minutes. Add the coconut and remaining curry leaves, toss through. Taste and add more salt if needed. Stir again.
Turn off the Cook4Me and add 1 tsp lemon juice. Toss through, taste and add a little more lemon juice to taste. The dish should be a little lemony but this shouldn’t be a dominant flavour.
Sprinkle with coriander just before serving. Serve as a side dish or as a vegan protein-rich main dish with flatbreads.
All the ingredients should be available in Indian grocery stores.
With age comes wisdom, independence and a reduced tolerance for all things annoying. Also, a slower metabolism and a reduced ability to go out for big greasy meals without feeling like a garbage dump for the next few hours. More and more, I am favouring restaurant meals that leave me feeling light and nourished, not clogged up and overly full.
Asian food, especially Vietnamese fare is often a winner. I’m slightly obsessed with the quirky ambiance of the tiny corner establishment Madame Nhu. Their fresh tasting pho leaves me feeling positively angelic, that is until I find my legs taking me up the road to have the best gelato I’ve ever tasted at Gelato Rivareno. Other fabulous pics in the area are Xage, Yullis and Miss Chu, which serves a knockout frozen crushie besides the flavoursome food. If you go to Yullis, you really must leave room for dessert. Further into the city lights is Home Thai, which offers cheap, fast and no-nonsense Thai street-food.
If you don’t want to find that elusive empty parking spot in the city, Saigon Bowl offers good, authentic suburban Vietnamese fare. I won’t order the dumplings anywhere except New Shanghai, where you can watch them being made and really taste the quality ingredients in the fillings. I have daydreams about their prawn wontons that are served in a divine peanut and sesame sauce.
Bamiyan, also suburban, offers Afghani cuisine, which feels a bit like a lighter version of Indian cuisine. As a bonus, you will probably be able to park right outside, a real luxury in Sydney.
Being an Italophile, I seek my fix at La Disfida, also a suburban gem. Again, order dessert here or I will have to seriously reconsider our friendship. Sven Viking Pizza has been a pleasant surprise. I had no idea the Vikings made pizza but gosh they do it well! My most recent mouth-watering discovery is Soffrito, where they make handmade pastas that melt in the mouth. I dined here with two friends and each of our meals were flawless.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of indulgence however and the Chicken Institute will sort you out for all of your fried chicken needs. You’ve ruined the diet anyway so you may as well follow up by gorging on some Turkish ice cream at Hakiki.
For some more dining recommendations, have a peek at Stay.com’s new travel app.
This post was sponsored by the super clever people at Stay.com but all opinions and recommendations are my own.
My first long haul flight was when I was just over the threshold of eight years of age. I’m afraid my memories of it are scant, the strongest one being that I had the special job of carrying the mantapa, the small Hindu altar that my great-grandfather had carved out of rosewood. A close second is the memory of the confusing emotions that each of us, myself and my parents, carried with us. A healthy scoop of excitement stirred through a pinch of sadness and a heaped tablespoon of apprehension at the thought of starting a new chapter at our destination, Australia.
I had no appreciation of how brave my parents were then, leaping into a new life in a country they had never even visited. Approaching with a few thousand rupees, a weak currency against the dollar even then, and a pocketful of hope, we were Sydney-bound with very little idea of what to expect. As a family, we learnt our way around not only the Sydney streets, but also the Australian culture and vernacular. We learnt fairly quickly that “How ya going?” invited an answer of “Good thanks!” or “Not bad!”, and not the reply “By bus!”. It was a hard lesson when we realised that ‘Bring a plate’ meant a prepared dish, not what the phrase implies in a literal sense.
More than twenty-five years later, we are about as Australian as the average Australian. We make pakoras on Christmas day, party on New Year’s Eve and go to the temple for Hindu new years. When asked about our background we identify as Indian but while travelling outside Australia we are fiercely proud to declare ourselves Aussie. We wear saris and bindis at Diwali to exchange gifts of new clothes, and gorge on chocolate eggs at Easter. Rather than barbeques laden with meat and onions on Sunday afternoons, we spread dosa (south Indian rice crepes) onto hot pans and dunk them in chutney and sambhar. On Australia day, we have the added celebration of Indian Republic day, an interesting coincidence. Some years, to be honest, it’s simply rest-day or spring-cleaning day!
The mantapa now inhabits my spare room, enclosing my small shrine. It is where I pray before I go forth to conquer the day and before I sit down to a meal, whether Indian, Italian, Thai or Australian. Like me, it is Indian-manufactured and Australian-developed, it’s wood as solid and un-weathered as my cultural identity.
There are days when I feel not Indian enough and a few cents short of Aussie enough. And other days when I know I am standing comfortably in the middle of the see-saw, perfectly balanced. I am more a True-Brown Indian-Australian than a True-Blue Aussie, and this seems to work just fine.
Mangoes and coconuts are well-loved ingredients in both India and Australia and the Mango-Macadamia combination is a popular on in my adopted country. These truffles pack all the flavour of mangoes, with the textural elements of coconut and macadamia butter. They are vegan and free of refined sugar and gluten.
Happy Australia Day and Indian Republic day folks!
MMC (Mango, Macadamia and Coconut) Truffles
100g dried mango, soaked in water for 1-2 hours
1/3 cup macadamia butter
2 tbsp coconut sugar
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
3 tbsp protein powder
1 tbsp flaxseed meal
2 tbsp quinoa flour (or another 2 tbsp protein powder)
1/4 cup shredded coconut + more for coating
Coconut oil (optional)
Drain the water from the soaked mango. Pulse the mango with all the ingredients, except for the extra shredded coconut and the coconut oil, in a high-speed food processor, until a smooth mixture forms. Roll into tbsp sized balls, adding a little coconut oil if the mixture is too firm. Toss the truffles in the extra shredded coconut and refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours.
“This is myyyyyy version of sticky tofu!” said my cousin Murali, brandishing a wooden spoon excitedly and channelling Kylie Kwong. Heart surgeon by day, cuisine clinician by night, his eyes light up equally brightly for a new way to bake bread as they do for a pioneering technique for salvaging failing heart muscle.
A pleasant side effect of starting my food blog was that it has prompted people in my life to share recipes or volunteer to teach me how to make things. As far as food blogger occupational perks go, this is a good one. From this has come great things like my cousin Chai’s Ivy Gourd and Coconut Stir Fry and my mum’s Green Mango Rice.
So on a recent whirlwind trip to India, I managed to squeeze in an eight-and-a-half minute cooking lesson with another cousin in the enormous granite kitchen that I have known since before I was tall enough to see over the counter-tops. While Indian pickle and soy sauce mingled in the air and tofu sizzled in the pan, I tried to attribute measures to Murali’s “Little bit ” of this and “Put some” of that.
I have waxed lyrical here about the confusing, delightful and piquant experience that is Aachar (Indian pickle). Here, the gravy of it is in cahoots with soy and tomato sauces. Together they form a sticky, flavourful coating over plump cubes of tofu and whatever vegetables are chosen to assist in the operation. I have added my own touches such as fresh ginger, garlic and chilli. I assure you, they are not a make-or-break so not having them shouldn’t stop you from trying this dish. The vegetables are interchangeable, amounts are approximate and depend on taste. Snow peas, broccoli and just about anything else you like should work well. Unlike heart surgery, this dish is anything but an exact science.
Sticky Tofu Achari
2 tsp Olive Oil
A few drops Sesame Oil (optional)
1 medium clove garlic, crushed
2 cm ginger, finely grated
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 1/2 tsp uncooked urad dhal (white lentils)
1 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
250g firm Tofu, cubed in 1-2 cm pieces
1/3 cup Tomato Sauce (I used sauce with no added sugar)
1 tbsp Lime Pickle Gravy
1 tbsp Soy Sauce, then more to taste
1/ tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp vinegar, then more to taste
8-10 spears of Baby Corn, fresh or tinned, sliced into 1cm pieces
Small red capsicum, chopped
1 1/2 cups Mushrooms (button, king or oyster), chopped
Heat the oils in a large wok, then add mustard seeds and dhal. Once the seeds have popped and dhal has slightly browned, turn the heat down to medium. Add ginger, garlic and chilli, and fry for a minute or so. Add asofoetida and turmeric and stir, then add tofu and toss until coated. If using fresh baby corn, add this at the same time. Cover and lower heat, cook for 2-3 minutes. Add cinnamon, pickle gravy and sauces, and about 1/4 cup water. Stir, cover and cook. Check every 2 minutes or so, adding a little more water if needed, until the corn is cooked through. Add the other vegetables, including the baby corn if you are using the tinned version. Add a little water if needed, stir, cover and leave to cook for 2-4 minutes.
Add the vinegar and stir through. Taste and add more soy sauce or vinegar if needed.
Serve with rice or flatbreads, or toss through some noodles.
I spend an unnatural amount of time thinking about things like how exactly chick-pea water works as an alternative to eggs (it couldn’t….could it…??). Or what the exact reaction is that happens when you whip butter and sugar together. Or why 180 degrees celsius in two different ovens is never the same. I guess it’s what comes with the territory when you are both a scientist and a food blogger. A double occupational hazard of sorts.
Lately my neurons have been firing about incorporating vegetables and legumes into sweet baked goods like cake and brownies. Throw stones at me if you will, but I have to say, I’m not convinced.
From the point of view of adding moisture without adding fat, I suppose I get it. Sort of. But for the purpose of ‘hiding’ veggies to boost one’s veggie intake? Unconvinced. I for one would rather beetroot roasted and tossed with chunks of salty fetta and baby spinach, the whole thing doused with a squeeze of lemon juice, than lurking sneakily in a cookie. If I soak a batch of white beans, it’ll be to toss them with parsley, chilly and olive oil, not conceal them cleverly in a mudcake.
So here are my brownies. Gluten free and moist with coconut oil which will make your skin shine. They sing with cardamom notes and are brought gently down to earth with the richness of dark chocolate and pistachios. Like most of the baked goods on this site, the sweetness is subdued so feel free to add a little more sugar if you like things a little sweeter. And not a vegetable or legume in (or out of) sight .
Dark Chocolate, Cardamom and Pistachio Brownies
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
Seeds scraped from 1/2 a large vanilla bean, or 2 tsp vanilla paste
Seeds from 6 cardamom pods, roughly powdered
1/2 tsp cinnamon
120g good quality 70% dark chocolate, melted
3/4 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp gluten free baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius. Grease and line a shallow oven tray with grease-proof paper
In a large mixing bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. Add sugar, vanilla, cardamom and cinnamon and beat with an electric mixer until a smooth mixture forms.
In a separate bowl, melt the chocolate either in a bain marie or in 20 to 30 second bursts in the microwave. Stir through coconut oil, also melted. Stir this mixture into the egg mixture until a smooth mixture forms.
Gently stir through the almond meal, salt and baking powder, followed by the pistachios.
Pour the mixture into the pan and bake on the top shelf for 18-22 mins. Remove from the oven when the middle of the slab is still a bit undercooked, and leave in the tray to cool. Slice and serve!