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!)

 

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!

Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani – simplified!

Fancy it up with some lemon and mint leaves!

So simple, yet full of flavour!

In the past, making biryani was a big no-no. Why? Because there is so much that usually goes in to it. The Mughal Emperor’s cooks created this dish for their men, as it had the meat, rice and spices that would be expected in a meal, but in one dish. Back then, it probably consisted more of mutton, but chicken was primarily adopted when the dish arrived in India. It is so versatile – you can have anything in it; fish, lamb, prawns, vegetables etc. It is such an underrated, beautiful dish that embodies such aromatic flavour. But nowadays, you can get it for as little as £2.00 a portion. I never had the time to make it properly; mainly because I didn’t have  the appropriate cooking equipment needed.  However, I do not need to! Why? Oh, you ask so many questions! I’ll tell you anyway – the recipe I’m about to tell you is so much more simplified without withdrawing from the flavour of a true biryani! Yes, you can find packet biryani mix out in Asian shops, but that’s not the real deal. This is.

Now, I would usually list the ingredients down first before explaining the method, but I’m not going to this time. I’m going to explain how to cook this deliciousness, together with what is need and how much of it. If I list the ingredients first, you’ll be overwhelmed. But once you see how simple it is, you’ll understand. Trust me on this one!

So, here we go:

First, you need to get a pan of water to the boil. Into this water, you need to add an Indian bouquet garni. What’s this? It’s simple, that’s what it is. All you need is a small cheese cloth/muslin cloth and place 3 black cardamoms, 6 green cardamoms, 10 cloves, pinch of around 7-10 peppercorns, 3 bay leaves and a stick of cinnamon. Tie it up and that is your Indian bouquet garni. Throw this into the water that you’re trying to bring up to a boil and also add 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds and 1 teaspoon of salt  into the water. Not into the bouquet garni.

Next, you need to soak some rice. Now, it is so important to use good quality rice. The rice is going to embody the full flavour of the marinated chicken, spices and herbs so it needs to be top-notch. I tend use some good basmati rice. Soak about 1 and a half cups of basmati rice in anything but hot water, for 20 minutes. Think of this as preparing the rice to capture those flavours!

Now we can marinate the chicken to make it succulent and yum! I normally use a whole chicken and cut it myself, but you might not want to do that yourself. You can find pre-cut chicken virtually anywhere – but make sure it’s with the bone, and not boneless. There is so much flavour to chicken on the bone and it almost has a stock-like effect on the biryani. If you can’t stomach chicken on the bone, you can opt for boneless chicken, but really try to buy it on the bone.

You want to place this chicken, along with the following ingredients, into a pan that can go on the stove. The pan needs to be large enough to contain all of the biryani in it; you’re going to cook the whole shabang in this pan. Now with this chicken in the pan, you need to add the following. It may seem like a lot, but it’s so worth it! Add in 2 tablespoons of ginger and garlic paste, 1 tablespoon of red chilli powder, salt according to your taste, 1 cup of thick yoghurt, 1 teaspoon of garam masala, 1 teaspoon of green cardamom powder, brown (fried and cooled) onions, 4 teaspoons of ghee, 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped coriander, 10-12 mint leaves and finally (!) 2 broken green chillies. A few things about the ingredients just listed – it is vital that the yoghurt is thick. It makes such a difference to the tenderness of the chicken. The onions – that’s optional, but it makes it yummy. Just fry some onions in any oil (except olive oil) until they are very brown. Drain away any excess oil and let it sit to cool down. All the spice powders can be found in most Asian shops. It also adds to the authenticity! Mix the chicken with the listed ingredients until it is well incorporated. Then add 1 teaspoon of turmeric and the juice of one lemon and mix again. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes.

The rest is easy now.

When the water starts boiling (not rapidly, but starting to), add the rice. Keep stirring the rice once you have added it in so it cooks evenly. We only want the rice to be cooked 3/4 of the way, not fully. If we cook it fully, then the biryani will be mushy and soggy. You can tell when the rice is 3/4 cooked by the way it feels. It almost crumbles in your hand when you try to squeeze it. Just take a few grains and see how it feels. Cooking is all about intuition 😉

Once the rice is 3/4 cooked, layer half of it onto the marinated chicken. Don’t worry too much about the water that sneaks in with the rice, it’ll only add moisture. Just try to get rid of as much as you can. On top of the rice, sprinkle coriander, mint, brown onions, garam masala powder, saffron soaked in milk, a little more ghee and green cardamom powder. Then add the rest of the rice on top. Straining the second batch of rice will probably help. You can throw away the bouquet garni; we’ve stolen all its flavour XD

Now put the pan on a medium flame. The lid needs to create an air-tight effect. If the lid of your chosen pan is a little loose, make a simple flour dough (flour and water) and stretch it around the top of your pan and close the lid tight. This should help build up steam and heat within, to add to the moisture of the biryani.

After about 15 minutes, you should see steam escape from the top. This means it’s ready! Once you see this steam, lower the flame and keep it on for another 5-8 minutes.

Ta da! All done. I know, it seems like a lot. But when you actually get to trying it out for yourself, you’ll see how easy it really is!

Until next time, have an awesomesauce day!

I’m vegetarian for another few months. Uh oh…

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I recently turned vegetarian. I know, I know, I feel your sympathies, but do not fear! It’s only for a few months. Why you ask? Let me explain.

My Mother brought us up to follow a Hindu custom; be vegetarian for two days in the week (Tuesdays and Fridays) to detox your body from all the meat that you consume. That didn’t work with me. I am a 100% happy carnivore. Or was shall I say? I read in Steve Jones’ book, In The Blood: God, Genes and Destiny, that blood group was once thought to hold personality traits, in Ancient Japan. I’m an O+, which apparently goes well with large amounts of protein. Who would have guessed? But that all changed.

I have a few issues with religion in itself – don’t get me wrong, I believe in God completely. I just get frustrated when people can’t justify “religious” things that they do. I have asked many Hindus if they know the reason behind their vegetarianism on certain days; 99% do not know. They just do it because their parents told them to. As a result from my understanding and perception of religion, I only become vegetarian when I want to. Not because it’s Tuesday or Friday or whatever other day. Because I feel the need to detox my body, to cleanse it from the “negative karma”, if you will, and be that one step closer to Godliness. But only when my heart (or soul, who knows!) wants, and feels, it is time to. And that’s exactly what’s happening now. I was vegetarian for a month back in August – and that went well…except for my intense craving for Nandos after about a week! However, when I decided to become vegetarian this time around, it felt a lot more different. I didn’t have that aching crave for hot wings, Nandos or my Mum’s mutton curry. I felt lighter, happier and so much more emotionally and physically better. My skin was looking good, I lost quite a bit of weight. It was amazing. Until I saw my Mum make her mutton curry again. It all went down the pan from there.

I don’t know what came over me. I had all these visions of me eating just the curry, and not the actual mutton. It. Was. Crazy. That’s when I realised the real reason behind this vegetarianism. Self-control. I always thought I had enormous amounts of self-control, but evidently I do not. So this is my challenge now, it’s taken a whole different spin. Forget cleansing my body and mind. It’s Mind Vs Body! My body will crave, stomach will rumble – but it’s up to my mind to not give in.

There is another upside to this. I’ve eaten different varieties of food, which I wouldn’t normally eat. I’ve grown to like broccoli (five-year old me is crying right now), and I even enjoy eating kidney beans – only if they’re mixed with something else. But still, baby steps forward.

If I do cave in, don’t worry, you’ll hear about it. Probably followed up by a rant about how vegetarianism is horrible etc. It really isn’t. It’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be. And I’m not going to pretend, I still get huge cravings…but the mind is winning so far.

How will it end? Only time will tell.

Have you got any vegetarian recipes I could try? Comment below, and I’ll give them a go! (ooh that rhymed!)

Until next time, have an awesomesauce day!

Student’s Cheat: Brownie-in-a-mug

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It’s always a sad time for a student, when the loan doesn’t come through and you find yourself eating tinned food. I do have to admit, this isn’t my own recipe, but it’s definitely worth sharing! No more blue student days.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

2 tbsps cocoa

Pinch of salt

3 tbsps of 100% Natural Spring Water (I used normal bottled water…student, remember?)

2 tbsps olive oil

Ice-cream (optional)

Method:

Add all the dry ingredients (i.e. flour, sugar, salt and cocoa) into a mug. Add in the olive oil and water, and mix until the ingredients are well combined. Put it in the microwave and cook for 1 minute and 40 seconds…and voila! Add ice-cream, if you would like, and enjoy your warm, quick brownie!

Have you tried this recipe? Let us know what you made of it, or how you changed it around to make it your own!

Until next time…have an awesomesauce day!

Here it begins…

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Welcome to my page! I’m Ninja – of course not my real name, but rather a play on it. The genius behind it was my Dad; he often called me Ninja Turtle *insert Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle theme tune*.

My extreme love of food and all of life’s quirks has driven me to start my own blog. My life isn’t anything extraordinary, but I come across the most fascinating people/situations. I can’t keep it all to myself! Also, being a keen foodie, I will also post recipes, cooking tips and tricks, as well as my own reviews on places I have been to eat!

N.B. I am not an official food critic. Everything I post on this blog is purely my own opinion and it will not be influenced in any way. My opinions should not be considered as a form of personal/commercial attack. 

I hope you enjoy reading my posts, and feel free to comment on anything!