Discovering annatto/achiote

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This is achiote (annatto) cod with a mango salsa thing. My cousin told me about achiote. I’d never heard of it before, but she said I should try and find it in London. I was searching for months for it and finally found it at Borough Market! Anyway, I wanted to use it, but I didn’t know how to. I haven’t even searched online about the spice, I want it to remain a mystery to me, so I can get my creative brain thinking. I sat down for ten minutes just smelling the spice, so I could figure out how to marry it with other flavours. This was a success! I wanted the mango to remain fresh and not overcomplicated, so I added lime juice, chilli, salt and pepper to it.

Now, what else shall I create with achiote?

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For my Mother…I may never get another chance.

I’m so fearful of the idea that one day you will leave me, that I often forget to live in the moment. Sometimes, I lie awake, just thinking about what life would be like, when you leave me. You are the first person to love me, before any other. Your sacrifices are endless. I remember when we had to live on banana sandwiches for a while, yet you made it feel like I was eating the best meal on Earth, everyday. I remember hardly seeing you, because you were working day and night, all for us. When Anna and Akka were out, figuring their own lives out, I saw your struggle. I remember your tears, I remember you wiping them away and I remember you smiling. I remember you always telling me to try. My success wasn’t important to you, it was the journey that you were most impressed with. That’s something I have always remembered.

No one puts up with my stupidity, as well as you do. You understand what I feel, without me having to say anything. You remember what it was like being my age and you never stop me from enjoying my youth. You allow me to express myself, without being judged. You give me so much freedom. You know when to give me space and when to smother me in love. You remind me of your mistakes, so that I know that my mistakes are human. You understand the way I look at the world, you understand it’s unconventional and very unlike the way you see it, and yet you never make me feel bad for it. You show your pride through the respect and love you have for me. I only hope to extend these amazing qualities, when (and if) I become a mother.

You’re my best friend. You are so much fun to be around. I am beyond proud to call you my Mother. I know I’m not very emotional, and sometimes I beat myself over how I don’t express my love for you. It’s unusually easier telling other people how much I love you, than telling you yourself. I think since Appa’s passing, I have grown more and more fearful of losing you. I guess I think that detaching myself from you will make that dreaded day easier on me. I know I’m wrong. Thank you for showing me what love means. You have given me a very comfortable life, through your struggle. I know I’m very hard to live with; I’m a minimalist and you’re very opposite. I like how you never give up your ways for me – it reminds me of how strong of a woman you are.

I know your old age has weathered our relationship. It has also brought us closer. It’s a constant reminder of how limited my time is with you. I know what you’re going to say: “I’m not old, I’m still a spring chicken.” The truth is, I don’t want to regret things unsaid. You will never understand how much I love you, Ma. I want to proclaim it to the world. My love for you is infinite. I will always love you, for the rest of my life. Please, never forget that. I don’t ever want you to leave me. I know one day you will, and that’s something I’m slowly growing to accept. I just hope you know that as emotionless as I am towards you, I love you hundred-fold more. You leaving me will, without a doubt, crush me, but I want to relish in the memories I have of you. I love how fun you are, your zeal for life and how adventurous you are. I love how nothing stops you. I love how unbelievably strong you are. More than anything, I love how you are just you.

As your memory fades, I just hope you remember this. God knows when I’ll be able to say it to your face. I know when you read this, tears will be streaming from my eyes. It’s from the bottom of my heart, Mum. I love you very much. You have no idea. You will never leave me, even when you physically do. My love for you will carry on, beyond graves and lifetimes.

Usually, before I sleep, I say two things out loud that I’m thankful for. The first is usually something that happened/I felt during the day. The second never changes:

Thank you, Universe, for my Mother.

South Indian pumpkin recipe – vegetarian and vegan friendly!

First and foremost, let’s establish the obvious: I’m a terrible blogger. It has been months and I am so sorry. I don’t think apologising every time is going to change anything, so I just hope you’ll understand that a potato kidnapped me and wouldn’t let me blog recipes. Moving on…

I recently found out that not many people have tried pumpkin before. Waaa? You’re crazy! Pumpkin is delicious! So, to expand your taste buds, I have a very simple South Indian pumpkin recipe that you’ll love. Yeah, you’ll love it, marry it and have pumpkin babies… *awkward silence*. This recipe is especially dedicated to my cousin, Khalyani, who is living a dream of a life in Nicaragua. More on that later, first: the recipe for this pumpkin…I-don’t-know-what-the-word-is. It’s not a ‘kootu’ (Tamil for ‘add’ – in essence it’s a dish that has lentils in it, that has less liquid than sambhar, but it’s not dry). It’s also not really a ‘poriyal’ (Tamil for a dish that has been shallow-fried). I guess it’s closer to being a pumpkin poriyal, but it’s not…this isn’t important. Now, where were we? Aha, the recipe!

Firstly, you want to grab a pan, heat it up and to this pan, add gingelly oil. Gingelly oil is pretty much the same as sesame oil, except it has a touch of jaggery (pure, unrefined cane sugar) in it. If you can’t find gingelly oil, you can use normal light sesame oil. To the oil, you want to add half a tsp of mustard seeds, 1 tsp of cumin seeds, 1 tsp of fennel seeds and a tsp of toor dal (optional). If you do use gingelly oil, you’ll notice that it froths, as soon as you add the seeds and dal to it. This is normal, don’t worry. It’s just to do with the melting and heating temperatures of the jaggery in the sesame oil.

As soon as it starts frothing and doing its thing, add 1 tsp of turmeric powder and mix for a literal few seconds. Then, add in the pumpkin. I’ve cut up half a small blue/green pumpkin into small, inch cubes. The pumpkin I used, I believe, is a Queensland blue pumpkin; its skin is a blue/green colour, but the inside is a beautiful orange.

To the pumpkin, add salt to your taste and mix gently. You’ll see that the pumpkin starts to pick up the turmeric and the beautiful orange colour intensifies.

Next, add some crushed red chilli flakes. I added about three-quarters of a tbsp, but obviously this is dependent on your spice intake. Add more or less, that’s all up to you! Give it a good, gentle mix once you have added it.

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After you have mixed the crushed red chilli flakes in, add three-quarters of a cup of cold water and half a tsp of cinnamon powder. Give it a gentle fold. You will most likely notice that the consistency has become a little thick, perhaps a little mushy as well. Typically, this is eaten with some sort of flatbread, so the pumpkin has to be soft. By folding it gently, you will be retaining most of the pumpkin in its normal shape. Once you have folded the cinnamon in, put a lid on the pan and let it simmer for a good ten minutes. Make sure you fold it gently, every so often. The water will reduce and the dish will become less mushy and more dry.

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After ten minutes, it’s done! I really like eating couscous with this – probably not a normal combination, but it is so yum!

There you have it! If you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment below. I hope you all start eating more pumpkin, you’re really missing out. Pumpkin pie doesn’t count!

Continuing from before, Khalyani and Rafał write a brilliant blog about their adventures in Nicaragua, and other parts of Central America. They gave up their consultancy jobs, in Europe, and are now living over there with two languages between them – very brave! Find out more about their ventures and the people they have met during their amazing travels: www.trailwinds.me.

Until next time! (I won’t get kidnapped by a potato, again!)

 

Potato and optional aubergine – it’s not really a curry, but it kind of is.

I have a new recipe! Actually, it’s a recipe that was requested by the lovely Monksfist. His request was something utilising potatoes, so here it is!

Now, I tried to take a picture of ALL the ingredients needed first, but I forgot the spices for the aubergine. Below is nearly everything you need for this recipe. As always, I’ll list ingredients and measurements as I go through it.

Firstly, you will have to cube 4 medium sized potatoes to the size of a garlic clove. What is that, 1 inch? Maybe, here’s a picture:

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Okay, so maybe not the exact same size, but you know what I mean. When you have cubed all four potatoes, put them in a bowl until it nearly overflows and set them aside:

The aubergine in this recipe is completely optional. I put it in because I had it, but you don’t have to. If you don’t want to put it in, then skip this step. If you have a big aubergine, like I did, then only use half of it. If your aubergine is small, you can use the whole thing. Slice the aubergine into 2 inch thin strips. Remember, the aubergine will shrivel up slightly when it’s cooked, so don’t slice it too thin. Once you have done this, set this aside as well:

Now, in a wok (or something that looks like a wok), you’re going to fry the potatoes very lightly in sunflower oil, on a medium-low flame. You shouldn’t fry it until it’s brown, but fry it a little bit so it retains its firmness. I did this step in level-layered batches, to make sure all the cubes of potatoes had equal amounts of fun splashing around in the oil. Those party goers… Also, I lowered the potatoes into the oil using a spoon. I’m notoriously known for burning myself with oil:

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Whilst the potatoes are having fun frying, season the aubergines with a little bit of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon of red chilli powder. Only if you want the aubergines in it. If you don’t, then this step is pointless and now that aubergine you’ve seasoned will have to be used. I tricked you! Maybe…

The potatoes should be fried until they are firm, not until they are brown. They can be brown on the edges, but not everywhere. Take them out and let them sit on a kitchen towel:

In the same oil used for the potatoes, fry the aubergines until they’re brown. Very brown, like me! Whilst they are frying, slice 1 onion, until you cry a bucket of tears:

Now, reducing the amount of oil in the wok to about 2 tablespoons, add 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds, 3/4 teaspoon of cumin seeds, 5 dried red chillies (optional/you can change the amount), a little stick of cinnamon and 2 stalks of curry leaves. WARNING: curry leaves pop violently when you fry them, as if you’ve shown them all the bad things they have done in their past and they want to take out full revenge on you. Be careful! Stir this for about 10 seconds and then add the sliced onion. Fry until the onions brown a little. In this time, chop 4 green chillies diagonally (amount can be changed) and slice six cloves of garlic. Yes, I said six. Trust me on this:

Tip: To get rid of that garlic smell from your hands, wash it with a lemon or rub your hands on a stainless steel spoon. You can come back and thank me. When the onions turn brown, add the garlic, stir, then add the green chillies and stir again:

Now, you can add the spices! Add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, 1 and 1/2 teaspoon of red chilli powder and salt to your taste. I adjusted the salt a few times. Once added, stir everything well until all the ingredients are well coated with the spices:

Add about 1/3 of a tin of chopped tomatoes. I don’t know if it’s me, but in the picture I took below, the tomatoes look pink. It wasn’t pink in real life, I guess it’s just the lighting. If it was pink, I’d be very worried. But it wasn’t! Or was it… Mix the tomatoes in well, then add 3 tablespoons of water and mix again until everything is well incorporated:

Make sure the spices are cooked out and it’s not too sharp in the mixture. This should take about 5 minutes of simmering. Keep an eye on it. Once the 5 minutes are up, add the potatoes and stir well. Add the juice of 1/2 a lime and cover it with a lid, so the water can reduce. Keep the flame low and cook until the potatoes are soft and cooked through:

When the potatoes are cooked through and the water is reduced out, the dish is done! Add the aubergines, as a garnish, and voila:

Hope you guys enjoy this, it really does taste bombsauce! If you have any recipe requests, send them to ninjaeatsfood@gmail.com and I’ll get back to you 🙂

Don’t dream about dinosaurs balancing potatoes on their heads. They can’t and it upsets them a lot. This dream happened. Okay, bye!

20 things university has taught me & 1 thing I’m grateful for

Here are 20 things I learnt at university (other than what I actually went there for) and out of everything, the one thing I am most grateful for:

1) The friends you make within the first month of university most likely won’t be the same friends you’ll hang out with in final year.

2) Laundry can be heavy if not done regularly.

3) It is absolutely acceptable to drink cheap wine as a student.

4) When sharing a cab with five people, paying anything more than £1.50 each is unacceptable.

5) If you can’t sleep in your friend’s rooms whilst they are not there, if you can’t steal their food and if you can’t wear their clothes and not return it for months – they’re not true friends.

6) Give everything you absolutely do not need to charity…bringing everything back home is a pain in the baguette.

7) Four years can go by fast. Don’t waste time.

8) Never buy textbooks. If you have a good library, they will have everything you need.

9) Saving money for a rainy day is an absolute must.

10) It is possible to make a meal out of anything!

11) Don’t trust people too easily. It may backfire on you.

12) Use the “but I’m a student” card a lot! It will save you a lot of money.

13) Four pints of milk will only last a day and a half, in a flat with five girls…especially if they are avid tea drinkers and one of them likes their tea with lots of milk and sugar (wonder who that could be).

14) Family and your best friends will give you the best advice and will always love you unconditionally.

15) Take pictures of everything.

16) Christelle hates hugs and may punch/tickle you if you hug her out of nowhere. 

17) Charleen is the only person who will put on an Indian accent and pretend to be an old Tamil lady with you. “Ah, you know that Kamala son? He always with those nasty girls, that too in his mother’s car! Chiiii.”

18) Holly is an English rose, a proper lady, who can now make an authentic curry – wife material!

19) Shavel will offer everyone tea and when you say you would like one, she will say she “didn’t hear you.”

20) If you randomly make animal noises, crawl on the floor, dress up like a vagabond, put on strange accents and you still have good friends – you’re very lucky. If you find friends who do the same – you are blessed.

 

The one thing I am most grateful for and something I will always remember university for, is how it taught me that my passion and talents lie in cooking. I should have done a food-related degree or gone to culinary school, but if I didn’t go to university, I may have never found my true calling.

Now…I officially miss uni!

Bubble tea – the alternative person’s drink

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Two years ago, I tried bubble tea for the first time. I ordered the mango fruit tea with tapioca, which I thought would taste nice but I didn’t like it. I think the tapioca put me off. It was squidgy and rubber-like. I then decided to give it another shot, but at a different vendor. Moocha gives you the option of having popping bubbles with your bubble tea, in an assortment of flavours; mango, passion fruit, cherry and lychee. So then I ordered the mango fruit tea with these popping bubbles – life changing!

When I first heard of popping bubbles, I thought it was going to be fizzy, and I’m not very keen on fizzy drinks. As apprehensive as I was, I decided to try it out anyway and I’m so glad I did. When you bite into a popping bubble, it’s like a burst of juice on your taste buds! So refreshing, especially on a summer’s day. If you ever want to try out bubble tea, definitely try it with popping bubbles if you have the option.

I introduced my friend to bubble tea over the weekend. The picture above is what we ordered; I always get the mango, but she tried the lychee. She agrees with me – bubble tea is life changing!

Breakfast for dinner – Nutella banana pancakes

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I had three very ripe bananas but didn’t know what to do with them. I was going to use one as part of my DIY hair conditioning recipe, but then my stomach rumbled so pancakes happened.

I added oats to the mixture as well, for extra goodness and fibre…don’t forget to love your colon! The pancakes turned out really soft, and there were no lumpy bits because the bananas had softened the oats in the mixture.

And then Nutella happened. Everything ends up being amazing after Nutella.

Breakfast for dinner is the way forward!