Saturday 12 November 2011

something different with tuna

Littl'Un has been unwell this week, and this has resulted in us having even less time on our hands, also we had more leftovers last week when she was obviously going down with whatever bug it was as she was eating far less, and we had a couple of unplanned outings where food was provided, so we didn't eat all the meals we planned, so we actually had more food than I really knew what to do with! By Thursday, I did a very quick pasta for Big'Un, Papa and myself, using a Glorious! pasta sauce pot which had been on offer and stashed in the 'fridge for just such an occasion. But then I realised we had tuna pasta planned for Friday, which just made me feel a tad bored. Then I remembered we had not used the baby news I'd had planned for a different meal, and I had 3/4 of an organic cabbage in the crisper, so I decided to try something different and perhaps a little unorthodox. I boiled the baby news, and steamed the shredded cabbage above them, (ok, so far so normal). Meanwhile, I opened a couple of tins of tuna and smushed them down in a bowl with some crushed wet garlic, finely chopped organic cucumber, mayo and green tabasco. A grinding each of black pepper and sea salt and this was done.

A good dollop of this tuna concoction on a plate with the spuds and greens, the creamy dressing mingling with the simply cooked side dishes, and I was really satisfied, and that's saying something, as breastfeeding Tiny creates a HUNGER I can barely ever sate, and I don't want to fall into real diabetes by constantly snacking on sweet/richer foods between meals. Actually, I'm snacking between snacks, but we'd best not get into that now.

Another thing I've decided, as I'm receiving Healthy Start vouchers, which are not accepted by my milk man, nor by Ocado nor Abel & Cole, I shall treat myself to bags of pre-prepared veg when I can which Papa can pick up on his workdays, which will save even more time, and make sure we all eat more veg in our 5 a day, rather than snacking on fruit, which is how we've been winging it recently. I do love my Abel & Cole box, but preparing veg takes more time than I always have, so we too often go without, or have frozen or a bagged salad, and then only get the Abe & Cole when there are more people on the weekend who can help out. It may be more expensive and less healthful than organic unprepared, but it's definitely more healthful than not enough! And as the government is giving me £3 a week to help me eat more veg, it would be churlish not to!

Saturday 5 November 2011

a new daal

When I am feeling unwell, I often revert to the comfort foods of my childhood. One of these is "khichdi" which is a lentil/rice dish, which is said to be the origins of the British breakfast dish, kedgeree. Different regions in India cook this dish differently, often based upon the more commonly used lentil in the region. As my mother is Bengali and my father is Sindhi, opposite sides of the original country, the 2 types of khichdi I grew up eating are very different.

Bengali khichdi for me is yellow and quite substantial and has onions and potatoes and ginger cooked in, and is something I eat with fried egg, plenty of butter and enjoy on a wet day especially. This uses the yellow split mung daal.

Sindhi khichdi is a breakfast dish or lunch dish which we would eat with roasted poppadum, butter and home made lemon pickle. This uses the split but still husked green mung daal, the lentil which when whole is sprouted to make beansprouts as eaten in chinese cuisine. It is also much simpler and less of a meal on it's own than the yellow Bengali one.

So, a while back, I bought a pack of each lentil, but found I more tend to make the yellow khichdi, and as my usual daal dinner is made with masoor red lentils, which I know everyone likes, the bag of split green mung was sitting neglected.

Well, my mother has always told me that breastfeeding women should avoid red lentils as they are used in India to dry up a milk supply, and since I do not wish to risk my milk supply (there is a similar prohibition of sage and parsley in western cultures) I realised I had to find a new daal to cook regularly, and seeing the neglected pack, I decided to google for a recipe, and was delighted to find a Sindhi recipe! As the Sindhis are a displaced people, and I don't have a lot of knowledge of Sindhi culture, I was happy to learn this dish. My only amusing problem is I didn't at all understand one reference in the Indian recipe, which is to cook the lentils in the pressure cooker for a number of whistles, instead of for a set amount of time. I tried doing a similar time as I do for masoor, and it was perfect, but some subsequent research showed that there is a different type of pressure cooker used in India which is more affordable than the western available ones, and it uses a variable pressure regulator which whistles, as opposed to a constant pressure regulator which just hisses. Therefore, the cooking times don't translate directly, but on average it works out to about 3 minutes per "whistle" if you happen to stumble across one of these recipes.
As a bag of lentils is very cheap especially a large bag from an Indian shop, this is definitely a frugal meal, and was very delicious, and everyone was remarked upon how it tastes exactly like my dad's secret poppadom recipe, in daal form!

Saayi Daal

1 cup split green mung lentils
2 tomatoes
2 or more green chillies
1" piece of ginger
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste
for the tadka:
4 cloves of garlic
5-6 curry leaves
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp oil

Wash and soak lentils for about half an hour. You will find some of the skins of the lentils come off, you may discard or use them as you prefer.
Put the lentils, chopped tomatoes, chopped chillies, chopped or grated ginger, salt and turmeric into a pressure cooker and add about 3 cups of water.
Bring up to pressure adn cook for 7-9 minutes. Alternatively, cook in a saucepan for 20-25 minutes.
Mash lightly if needed.

Meanwhile, heat the spoonful of oil in a small pan, add crushed garlic, curry leaves and cumin seeds - in that order. Let the cumin brown, then immediately pour into pan of daal.

Cook for a further 5 mins in pressure cooker or simmer for 15 more mins in pan to allow the flavours to mingle.

Serve with boiled rice.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Mini meatballs & halogen oven love

In Sainsbury's one day this summer, the promotion was tied into a recipe in their Everyday Easy booklet, and there were little meatballs on cocktail sticks made by mixing mince with a premade tagine sauce. The demonstrator was cooking these in an halogen oven, and I was really impressed with the gadget, even more so than with the meatballs, and they really were yummy.

Recently I saw an amazing offer on one of the halogen ovens most highly regarded by reviews, and so I decided to give it a go.

I can't say I'm sorry! I've used it a few times each week since I got it, and it means I can keep an eye on all 3 kids while I cook if I use it in the sitting room, or if I set it up in the kitchen, it cooks very quickly so I don't have to leave the kids for as long as if I'd used a different way of cooking.
Also, it gives a very particular texture of crisp crunchiness which I've never achieved in other methods of cooking, and it's very pleasing.

We picked up a yellow-stickered Ambrosia chocolate pudding with chocolate custard which needed to be heated in an oved for 15 minutes, and using the halogen gave a really beautiful crust while leaving a decent gooey custard still.

And of course it wasn't long before I tried the meatballs, though I didn't buy any marinade paste or sauce, I just mixed up some cumin, cinnamon, garam masala, Marigold, salt and pepper, left it to marinade, then rolled it into little balls, which I stabbed with presoaked cocktail sticks, and then cooked these on the rack for about 10 minutes.
Served with pitta breads, yoghurt & salad, it was a filling and tasty meal.

I've since made banana muffins, cheese muffins, potato wedges, sausages, toast, sweet potato chips and roasted root veg & roast new potatoes in it... All utterly delicious and definitely better than done with other methods.