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.


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.


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:

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:


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:


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 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!

Fusion food. Never complain.


Lemon rice and salmon sambal. What? Lemon rice is literally that, with dried red chillies and spices. It’s a rice dish from South India. Salmon sambal is not typically made in Malaysia (where the dish is from); you find chicken and shrimp usually. Salmon sambal is a family recipe, made with tomatoes, onions and a particular type of red chilli, and I adore it! No one ever mixes the two together…except me. Student life – students never complain! And why would I complain when I have this deliciousness in front of me?

Recipe: Chicken Lollipops…how unfortunately named.

*pop* Hello! I finally have a recipe to share with you that I think you’ll like. But it has a weird name…or maybe it’s just me? I think Chicken Lollipops just sounds weird, but it tastes good and that’s all that matters. Personally, if it were up to me, I would have called it Bobble Chicken. Hmm, maybe not.

I’ve tried this recipe twice and it turned out bombsauce on both occasions, so you have to love it. You’ll make me cry, otherwise. Also, I took pictures step-by-step, so you can see exactly what I did and how it turned out at the end. You know, eat with your eyes and whatnot. Oh, before I begin, I’d like to thank my sister and brother-in-law for allowing me to use them as guinea pigs. Muahahaha…ha.

Okay, so here we start. Like my Chicken Hyderabadi Biriyani recipe, I’m going to talk through all the steps required to make this awesomeness. You’ll find out what ingredients are used along the way.

So in this metal bowl thing I have about 11 chicken wings. I recently learnt that this isn’t actually the wing, but it’s the niblet. But here in the UK, everyone calls it the wing. However, some butchers do call it niblets, so double-check. This recipe can accommodate 8-12 wings. Make sure before you start, you wash the chicken with salt. Salt?! Yes, salt. It’s meant to be good and, to be honest, I don’t really know the reason behind it. My family does it, so I do as well. I’m aware of this debate about washing chicken. On the pro side, people say that it’s good to get rid of any unwanted residues that may be on the chicken itself, however people also say washing chicken can cause cross-contamination (bacteria gets around your sink, etc). In my opinion, if you have good kitchen hygiene, there is no reason to not wash chicken. But, if you really don’t like it, you don’t have to. (Yes you do, do it).

The concept of the Chicken “Lollipop” just lies in the way you cut it. The aim is to cut around the thinner end of the wing/niblet, like I have done so below. Make sure you have a sharp knife.



Once you have cut around the thinner end of the wing/niblet, stand it up so the cut end is at the top. If you try to make it stand up without holding it, you’re a genius. Push the chicken (not the bone…) down towards the fatter end. What you should end up with is something that literally looks like a lollipop, hence its unfortunate name.



Continue these steps until you have done it to all of your chicken wings/niblets. Now it’s the fun part! (…I live a sad life). Add the following ingredients:

Turmeric – 1/3 of a teaspoon.

Salt – depending on your taste. I have used 1/2 a teaspoon since I washed the chicken with salt already.

Coarse black pepper – a level teaspoonful. If you don’t have coarse black pepper, you can use powdered black pepper. I’d only add 1/2 a teaspoon in this case. I wouldn’t suggest adding white pepper powder.

Cornflour – 1 and a half tablespoonful.

All-purpose flour – 1 level tablespoonful.

Red chilli powder – 1 teaspoonful. You can substitute this with paprika powder, using the same amount. If you’re using Kashmiri chilli powder, use more! Add less if you’re scared.

Ginger and Garlic paste – 1 and a half heaped teaspoonful!

Dark soy sauce – 1 tablespoonful. You can choose to use either light or dark. Dark soy sauce is less saltier than light soy sauce, however it has more of that umami flavour. Also, it’s used to deepen the colour of foods. If you don’t have dark soy sauce, use light. I have heard of all-purpose soy sauce; I’ve never used it myself but I don’t think it’s going to be harmful to this dish. If it is, let me know. I’ll send you an oops card.

Coriander powder – 1 level tablespoonful. This cannot be substituted. No, no exceptions. Coriander powder makes this dish what it is. It’s like taking Jesus out of Christmas. You do remember what Christmas is about, right…?

Cumin powder – 1 teaspoonful.

Egg – 1 medium-sized.

Optional: Sri Lankan curry powder – 1 teaspoon. You can find this at most Sri Lankan/Indian shops. However, I know it’s not widely available and there are certain brands I think are legit and some which are not, so don’t worry if you can’t find this. I tried this recipe with and without Sri Lankan curry powder and it turned out delicious both times. Trust me on this one.


Once you have all these ingredients in the bowl, mix it nicely. Make sure the chicken is coated well. If your mixture is too dry, add some water. If it’s too wet, don’t worry, it should be OK. If you’re not convinced, add a bit more all-purpose flour.The two pictures below are of the same batch of marinated chicken lollipops – they’re taken in two different lights – in case you freak out because yours doesn’t look the same as mine. Ninja, the unfreaking-out…er. *sigh* don’t judge me.



Next, wrap it in cling film and leave it in the fridge for a minimum of 20 minutes. Overnight would be ideal. Once it has marinated, fry it in small batches until it is golden brown, with a tinge of red.


In the picture below, I’ve fried some green chillies, shallots and curry leaves to adorn the dish. You know, make it look nice and stuff. Like chicken makeup.


There you have it! Chicken Lollipops. If you have a better name for it, let me know!

If you would like to find out more about some of the spices used in this recipe, check out my previous post. Also, if you have any feedback or anything you’d like me to post, send an email to and I will definitely get back to you.

Hope you enjoy! *pop*

Know your spices!


Hey, you! Yeah, you. Why do you do it? You know what I’m on about. Why do you put turmeric in your chicken noodle soup? Or cumin on your pork chops? Wait, you don’t? Oh…well you should!

For thousands of years, humans have been using natural resources for many reasons. From lighting a fire to cooking food. When it comes to spices, the world is full of flavour. Our ancestors have given us an amazing palate; they have introduced so many bombsauce flavours into our lives. So, this is post is to them. If only they knew what this was…

Around 2000BC, spices were traded in the Middle East, Eastern and Southern Asia, predominantly trading cinnamon, pepper and herbs. This wasn’t bought nor used purely for cooking, however. Spices were used for a range of other procedures, including embalming. However, eventually someone decided it belongs in food and the rest is history. NOT. Ok, it is. NOT. I’ll stop now.

I’m going to give you the load-down on a few of my favourite spices/flavours and tell you why they are so special. I may update this in the near future with my other favourites, but for now – here we go.



I have a problem with turmeric. I can’t stop using it; there is nothing like it. It’s like a mound of pure gold, in my eyes. Turmeric has a warming, peppery, earthy essence to it. Due to its vibrant golden colour, not only is it used to flavour food, but it is also used to colour food, naturally. Raw turmeric comes from a plant called Curcuma longa and it’s related to the ginger family. Before it was used in food preparation, it was recognised for its medicinal purposes. Ayurveda, an Indian practice of traditional medicine, hailed the use of turmeric for a range of infections and diseases – including shingles, eczema, gastrointestinal disease and liver disorders. More recent studies have discovered that a substance in turmeric, called curcumin, has shown evidence of protecting colon cells from free radicals which can damage cellular DNA, particularly important as the colon has a rapid cell turnover.

Growing up, I have always watched my Mum and Grandmother wash fish and meat in turmeric. My Mother told me that turmeric was antimicrobial, but I never believed her. How wrong was I? There have been so many studies proving the antimicrobial activity of turmeric/Curcuma longa/curcumin. So, next time, try a little turmeric in your food. Not only will you benefit from a gorgeous ray of yellow colouring, but apparently it’s not that bad for you either.

Selecting and storing: The colour of turmeric is not a criterion for its quality. Different plants in different regions will produce different colours. Turmeric powder should be kept in an airtight container, however fresh turmeric rhizome should be kept in the refrigerator.

By the way, turmeric stains. If you end up with yellow hands and find a yellow stain on your clothes, don’t blame me. You should have worn an apron. Your hands will wash off, don’t worry.



My life. I have black pepper on everything. If I could put it on my cereal, I would. Black pepper is an amazing spice, it has such a strong, robust, definitive flavour. Native to the Western Ghats of Kerala (India), black pepper was distributed to Southeast Asia through Hindu colonists, migrating from India to Indonesia and other countries. Being one of the most traded commodities of the spice trade, it has the longest history of export – dating back at least 4000 years! Traditional medicine limited the medicinal properties of black pepper to only digestive disorders, however we’re in the cool era and modern medicine has shown its benefits to not only digestion, but also to help with cigarette withdrawal, sore throats, diabetes, blood circulation, vertigo and gastrointestinal diseases. Do you see why I love it so much? I can’t contain my excitement *throws whale at window*.

Selecting and storing: Freshly ground pepper is always a must. Grind it yourself, if you can. You’ll enjoy it much more. Whole peppercorns kept in an airtight container will keep forever. Powdered black pepper will keep for about 3 months. Organically grown black pepper is never irradiated, therefore it retains its natural levels of vitamin C.

(no animals were harmed during the writing of this post…)



I never really appreciated cinnamon until very recently. I now can’t have french toast without homemade cinnamon sugar. The Egyptians used cinnamon (and a related spice called cassia) to perfume embalming projects. It can’t have been too bad smelling of cinnamon rolls. Cinnamon is even mentioned in the Old Testament as an ingredient in anointing oil. Arab traders brought the spice to Europe and it was a hit amongst the wealthy. Also, according to legends, Roman emperor Nero burned as much cinnamon as he could find on the funeral pyre of his second wife to atone his role in her death. Tut tut, bad Nero. You can’t kill someone and then burn some cinnamon to make yourself feel better. Silly Nero.

Today, we are showcased two types of cinnamon – Ceylon and cassia cinnamon (also known as Chinese cinnamon). Cassia cinnamon is predominantly found in Indonesia and it has a stronger flavour than Ceylon cinnamon, however it is the cheaper cinnamon out of the two. This is typically what you will find at your local supermarket. Ceylon cinnamon, which is mostly produced in Sri Lanka, has a sweeter flavour and is used in baking and hot drinks. But why is cinnamon so fantastic? It has unique healing properties which are found in its essential oils, when in bark form. The active components of these oils are cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate and cinnamyl alcohol. These substances are very beneficial in its anti-clotting and anti-microbial properties, as well as helping control diabetes and improving brain function. Bet you want some soft French toast now. With cinnamon sugar. Yes you do, don’t lie. I’m psychic, I know. It’s all that cinnamon I’ve been eating.

Selecting and storing: The more “red” in colour the cinnamon stick is, the stronger the flavour will be. When I say red, I don’t mean McDonalds red, nor do I mean blood red. If it looks more like a darker brown, than a light dusty brown, then it’s probably worth a buy. If you store both the sticks and powder in airtight containers, they will last you years! Cinnamon powder will last up to 3 years and cinnamon sticks can last up to 4 years. If either fades in colour, dispose of them. They’ve lost its flavour and, well, it’s just a waste of money.



Cumin is nice. The end. JUST KIDDING! Cumin is a deliciously nutty spice. Though it was originally cultivated in Iran and other Mediterranean countries, archaeological sites have shown its presence in ancient Egyptian sites. Today, it is grown in China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Mexico, Chile and India. It, as many spices do, has a mass of benefits; immune system regularity, cancer prevention (it’s an anti-carcinogenic) and good digestion – to name a few.

Selecting and storing: It’s best to buy whole cumin seeds and grind them yourself, rather than buy the powder. Cumin powder loses its flavour quickly so you’re just sprinkling mildy-flavoured dust really. Does dust taste nice? Does it?

If you have any concerns over spices, talk to it. It listens and sometimes it’ll behave. Just kidding! If you do have any concerns, speak to your doctor or pharmacist. Please do not eat something and say ninjaeatsfood told you to do so. Though natural foods shouldn’t disturb your body, allergies do exist. So that’s my precaution to you. Get tested, speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you want to, and get in the kitchen! Not because you’re a woman…I’m a woman and I wouldn’t say…*sigh* I’ll stop.

Have fun cooking!

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!