Category Archives: food festivals

The month of new years

I know January 1st is when the new year starts in much of the Western world, but April marks the start of the new year for a number of eastern cultures. The Thai new year “Songkran” is from 13th – 15th April and any festivities that last more than a day is a winner for me ūüôā The Singhalese Buddhist as well as the Tamil & Keralan Hindu New Year is celebrated on 14th April and this is the date that my family celebrate our new year. Coincidentally, Sikhs celebrate ‘Vaisakh’ on the 14th too. Although this is not the Sikh new year, it is a celebration of¬†the founding of the Khalsa, the collective body of baptised Sikhs created in 1699. ¬†So basically it’s celebrations all round this month and a great way to #CookEatInspire ūüôā

 

COOK

So for the Thai New year I have my version of ¬†Thai Green Curry. ¬†This is my standard recipe that I have used for years but I don’t see any harm in using a good ready made paste from the shops if you just want to make this in a hurry. However I find most shop bought Thai Curry pastes don’t have enough of a spice kick and I often end up adding some spice anyway! So if you fancy using the Thai New Year to make this delicious curry here’s how it goes:

thai green curry PM

What you need:

  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 tbsp¬†Thai green curry paste (you can use shop bought paste which are generally good, but I find these are not hot enough and not the right quantity)
  • 100 grams mushrooms cut into the same size chunks as the Tofu (I use the chestnut variety)
  • 200g of a mixture of other veg e.g. aubergine, broccoli, courgette, babycorn, green beans, peas, carrots
  • 200g of firm tofu ‚Äď cut into bitesize chunks
  • 2 cups of coconut milk
  • A dash of light soy sauce
  • a handful of basil leaves (Thai basil leaves if you can get them but other varieties are fine too)
  • A few fresh green chilies (optional)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Salt

How to make it:

  1. Crush the garlic and slice the green chilies.
  2. Heat the oil in a deep pot. Add the crushed garlic and fry till it turns light golden.
  3. Now add the curry paste. Saute on a low flame till the raw smell disappears. Now add all your veg and fry for 2-3 minutes, increasing the flame. Add a pinch of salt and let the mushrooms cook a little until they have released moisture.
  4. Now reduce the flame add the coconut milk. Season the curry with salt, sugar and a dash of soy sauce. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes and add the tofu. Let the curry cook for a few minutes.
  5. Taste and adjust the flavours according to your taste. Add some more sliced green chilies if needed. Let the curry simmer till the mushrooms are completely cooked. Make sure not to boil the curry as the coconut milk may curdle. Turn off the heat and throw in the fresh basil leaves.

Serve over hot rice, quinoa or noodles. I find this curry also goes well with Lotus Root Fry.

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For Tamil New year it is traditional to make a sweet dish as part of the celebrations and this usually comes in the form of either a type of ‘Paayasam’ or other sweets or ‘Mithai’. Those who know me well know I am not at all a sweet tooth and so I came up with something that wasn’t too sweet or with lots of Ghee oozing out of it and infact uses natural sweetening agents. Date & Pistachio Ladoo’s are really easy to make but you will need a food processor/blender (but not imperative) if you want to make it super quick. A sweet celebration without the guilt! ūüôā

1 PM

 

This makes x16¬†bite size Burfi¬†balls or x8¬†bigger Burfi. (Yes I know there’s 15 in the photo, but there has to be a treat for the Chef you know!)

What you need:

  • 140g pitted dates
  • 30g pistachio nuts (other nuts can also be used like hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan)
  • 2 teaspoons Chia seeds (these can be omitted if you don‚Äôt have any to hand)
  • 2 to 3 Cardamom pods
  • 2 teaspoons Maple syrup (or you can also use honey if you are not Vegan)

How to make it:

  1. Put the nuts and Chia (if using) in the blender and blitz until you get the texture you want. I usually aim for a texture that’s not too fine and more coarse. (I sometimes take out some of the ground nuts at this point and use it for an extra coating at the end.)
  2. Then add the dates and maple syrup and blitz again until all ingredients are well combined. If the dates are really hard, you can soak them in hot water for about 30mins if you wish.
  3. Roll into your desired size balls.

You can also dip these in chocolate or dessicated coconut for a more decadent version!

3. Place the balls in individual cases if you have them. You don’t have to put them into cases but they look special if you do:-)

4. Place on a tray or plate and keep in the fridge to firm up a bit for about 15mins. You can also keep these in the fridge overnight or for a few days before you want to eat them. Just make sure you take them out about 30mins before serving so they aren’t too cold to eat.

I have previously added 2 tablespoons of Horlicks too to give these ladoo’s malty taste and I reduce the amount of Maple syrup to balance the sweetness in the Horlicks. Do try any other flavour combo’s that you think will work with these ūüôā

2 PM

 

 

EAT

I have been dying to tell you all about an amazing Supperclub that I went to recently!!!!!! (the silly number of exclamation marks show how excited I am!) It’s run by the lovely ladies at London Chai Party and they have been making delicious food together for a number of years now. Their latest Supperclub is called ‘The Big Bong Lunch‘ and is a humongous 7 course Bengali feast. Yes indeed. You did read that correctly. SEVEN COURSES! I could hardly walk after consuming this amazing feast, but it was worth it and I recommend you go to this Supperclub with a completely empty stomach and an ability to pace yourself during this gastronomic party. The dishes are from West Bengal and Suchi explained that they would typically be eaten during a big celebration like a wedding.

 

One of my favourite dishes was ‘Shukto’ which reminded me of the South Indian ‘Avial’ but of course was very distinct as the spices were very different to Avial but was very light and comprised of delicately cooked vegetables. I could have eaten a whole plateful of it! ūüôā But of course I couldn’t because that would mean I missed out on the rest of the courses – no way! I would love to tell you about all the other courses but you really must try if for yourself and any further descriptions on my part would definitely spoil it. But take my word for it that you will not be disappointed. Each course has been cleverly thought out by the talented Suchi, Gayathri and Nisha and Suchi’s passion and love for her Bengali roots definitely comes through in the food. I really can’t wait for the next Supperclub by this amazing trio and their wonderful team!

If I have got you interested and drooling for more..then click on these links for their next exciting food events: The South Indian Brunch on Sunday 24th April and The Big bong Lunch (the next date TBC) and not forgetting the yummy delights at the Chai Party (sign up for future dates). And if you are in the Sutton Area the London Chai party team will be at the Pop Up Market there on these dates:

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Thanks to a dear friend of mine, I learnt a few weeks ago was that there is a vegan & vegetarian PUB in central london! I know ! My eyebrows lifted quite high too when my lovely friend told me about it! So one rainy day in Soho, my friend took me to this quaint pub called The Coach and Horses which was easy to find at the end of Greek Street in Soho. The restaurant has a weird entrance inside the middle of the pub, but once you are upstairs you can’t hear the ruckus downstairs and you enter a serene ‘living room-like’ restaurant. It has quirky interior decor which makes it even more endearing and my friend and I eye-up the vegan cakes as we are taken to our seats (i am so going there for afternoon tea!).

Apologies for the poor quality photos below, but it was taken with my phone in dim lighting.

The menu is seasonal apparently, but all I needed was comfort from life that evening so I shared a delicous French onion soup with my friend and then delved into some wholesome ‘Tofush & Chips’.

Delicious French Onion Soup

Tofush and Chips

The Tofush and Chips which I haven’t eaten before was quite satisfying but I felt it did lack seasoning and I think next time I’ll try out the Celeriac, Chesnut & Parsnip Sausages that my wise friend ordered ūüôā ¬†Deeeelish!!!!

With our tummies full but still yearning for that sweet kick at the end of our meal, we ordered the Chocolate and Walnut Brownie with Vanilla Ice cream and Chocolate sauce. Wow, it definitely hit the spot and I would highly recommend it! I loved the mixture of soft and crunchy and it was impressive to hear that they make their own ice cream ..nom nom nom.

It’s commendable that they mixture of both vegan and veggie choices on this menu, but for fans of Tea & Coffee, I’m afraid they don’t serve hot drinks for dinner. I was SO disappointed to say the least. No hot drinks for dinner? What is that about?!?!? When I questioned this, our waitress said that they turn off their big water heater after tea time and it takes too long to turn on again. Haa ha haaa!! Haven’t they heard of kettles? I hope they really change this restriction as there is nothing like a hot cuppa after a satisfying meal. But I am definitely coming back to sample more of this menu and especially the vegan cakes (AND TEA!) that I couldn’t fit in during this first visit ūüôā

I have explored plenty of other eateries in and around London so watch this space for more reviews and recommendations ūüôā

 

INSPIRE

Something that has inspired me this last month is a beautiful food blog by the very talented Rekha Shivakumar. Resh Kitchen has a variety of delicious vegetarian recipes and contains very easy to follow instructions and needless to say, lots of droolworthy photos! I think the great thing about Rekha’s recipes are that they are kept simple – nothing crazy or over-the-top. It is simply, delicious ingredients cooked to perfection for her love of food! Having grown up in a Tamil Brahmin family, she has the richness of this culture in her dishes¬†and her recipes are also taken from all around India as well as other parts of the world. You can tell she cooks from the heart and do sign up to her blog to ensure you don’t miss her yummy recipes and she’s also on Twitter , Pinterest¬†and is so popular on Instagram too! ¬†Do check out her latest reviews and recipes!

rekha

I am lucky to know Rekha and I often explore restaurants and pop-ups¬†around London with her, the very talented¬†Nessy¬†(follow her for the release of¬†STUNNING photos in her upcoming portfolio!) and other foodie friends. Recently we went to Borough Market in London Bridge and check out Rekha’s post on our visit to Pulia¬†.

 

I am inspired especially by those who are wonderful¬†food photographers and I can tell you more about these fab people in my next posts…I hope you will be amazed as I am by their talent!

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Another read that has inspired me is the new FREE food mag! It’s called ‘Foodism‘ (I totally love the name!) and has lots of fab articles about restaurants, the latest food fad, great chef’s and not forgetting the amazing pop-up’s that are taking London by storm. ¬†You can sign up to find out when exactly the magazine is published but at the moment it’s going to be every other month. And you don’t have to be in London to read it (brilliant!), you just register your details on line and you can read it digitally. Very environmentally friendly!

I got my copy! Have you??

I picked my copy up on the way back from London last week and I loved reading about Tomasina Mier’s new venture, a yummy Apple Tatin recipe, some intriguing restaurants and there’s lots of competitions too. And this is just a fraction of what’s in it! I still can’t quite believe it’s free and I’m looking forward to what’s in store in the next issue ūüôā

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Finally, to finish my post I wanted to bring you to the attention to this hilarious #tambrahm website called We Are Tambrahm. ūüôā For those of you new to the term #tambrahm, it’s short for ‘Tamil Brahmin’ – a tamil person who has been born into the caste of ‘Barhmin’s’ originating from Tamil Nadu. Now many disagree with using this term at all in this current time, but you cannot deny the amazing FOOD that is attached to this label. ¬†This type of food is what I grew up with and that has inspired my blog and love of food and it’s part of my identity.

wearetambrahm

The ‘We Are Tambrahm’ Instagram page

So this forum We Are Tambrahm is a great site for typical #tambrahm quotes, sayings, traditions and of course…food! ¬†You have to read it to get what I am saying and there are some great writers out there who contribute to this community blog. They are also on Twitter , Facebook¬†and Instagram…yeyyy! ¬†Look forward to reading more and I am sure lots of TamBrahms out there are already preparing their Paayasams and Vadai’s for the “Puthaandu” (New Year) celebrations this week!

¬†So..here’s wishing a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR to all those who are celebrating and watch this space for more #CookEatInspire posts ūüôā

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Filed under Food, food festivals, TamBrahm, tamil, Uncategorized, vegan, vegetarian

The 9 day Festival and more

Hello All! I haven’t posted in a long while,but ¬†I can finally fill you in on some, let’s say, pious activities from my end. ¬†ūüôā My family and I have recently finished celebrating the 9 day religious festival of Navarathri. For those of you not familiar with this Hindu festival, it celebrates the Mother and the 3 Goddesses: Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi. The 9 days are split into equal days to celebrate each of the 3 Goddesses and the 10th Day is known as Vijayadasami or Dussera. ¬†Within the Tamil population from India and Sri Lanka, and especially in the’ TamBrahm’ communities, it is custom to have decorative steps in the house. These are adorned with small idols, flowers, lights, ornaments, dolls and sometimes toys which celebrate the different aspects of beings on earth and the Gods, but showing essentially that the Almighty resides in all. ¬†Well that’s what I believe is the interpretation, but I am sure there are other aspects and more knowledgeable people about this tradition will be able to give more detail on its significance. ¬†In the Tamil language the decorated steps are called a “Golu” and here is our one:

Golu

During this festival, like most, there are particular food that are linked to it. ¬†There is always a different food offering, which is called “Neivedhyam” in tamil, for each day of Navarathri. This offering is blessed during the pooja each day and then distributed to those who have attended the ceremony. There is a neivedhyam theme of “Sundal” which is a dry, savoury dish that is essentially some kind of pulse or bean with tempered spices and grated coconut. ¬†The spices can vary but it’s a very healthy dish if it has the¬†least amount of oil used and enables the natural flavours of the pulses and beans to come through. ¬†There are also sweets and “payasam” that can be offered during the religious ceremonies or just made as part of the celebration. ¬†Here’s my¬†“Sundal” recipe which can be modified with your favourite pulse or bean and many people enjoy eating this on other days, as well as Navarathri, for a healthy and satisfying snack.

Beans sundal 2

Although Navarathri is over for this year, it’s exciting to know that Diwali, or “Deepavali” as we call it in Tamil, is just a few days away now. ¬†This is of course a huge occasion among most Hindus and it’s a dream of mine to experience this vibrant festival in India. So again there are very special treats involved in Diwali, but as a child I used to hate the sickly Indian sweets that we were given. ¬†I am not a sweet tooth so I have a recipe for a delicious sweet to make for Diwali which is less in sugar than most Indian Mithai/sweets but also healthy! It involves no cane sugar and can be made in a minutes if you have some kind of food processor/mixie. ¬†I kid you not! Here is the recipe for my Diwali Dates Burfi.

DIwali Burfi1 PM

 

So for those who celebrate this upcoming festival, here’s wishing you a VERY HAPPY DIWALI! ¬† Suji x

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Filed under Food, food festivals, indian, recipe, south indian, Uncategorized, vegan, vegetarian

The food chemistry behind the Alchemy festival

So I sit here after a couple of days after this years experience of the Alchemy festival, not just with content after eating the delicious food, but with great inspiration and in awe that this might be the best food festival at the Southbank so far! I mean, how are they going to beat this next year?! Kerb’s¬†return to the Southbank has definitely started with a bang! It’s a wonderful spicy adventure with street food and drink from India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and is running until the 25th May 2015. ¬†If you haven’t been before, you are truly missing a delight for your taste buds! For me, as a frequent visitor of this festival, the fusion of music and food comes hand in hand. Delicious food for my tummy and melodious music to soothe my soul. However it has been a new experience for me behind one of the stalls this time and I have a new appreciation for the hard work that is involved in making each food stall a success. Hats off to you all! It’s a tough, tough job but you would never know it from all the big smiles that exude from the traders on these stalls and the friendly chat and absolute pleasure they display when making the food that they are all passionate about. All the street food traders are obviously passionate about food but I have had a privileged first hand experience in learning how much hard work is involved in bringing fresh, high quality ingredients to the customers at this festival. Papi’s Pickles¬†celebrates the rich heritage of both South Indian and Srilankan food and their dishes and pickles use not only seasonal produce but also local, organic and Fairtrade ingredients for street food markets, events as well as pop ups. And that’s not the end of their passion! They are also a social enterprise seeking to work with unemployed Srilankan and South Indian women, and they really have achieved so much considering they have only been running for about a year. ¬†Abi, the founder of Papi’s Pickles is a truly inspirational lady and entrepreneur along with the rest of the team who have developed the enterprise¬†to get this far in such a short period of time. It has been an absolute pleasure working with the ladies at Papi’s Pickles ¬†and you really do have to visit their stall to here their inspiring stories and taste the yummy dishes¬†they have bought to this years festival. Definitely one organisation to keep an eye on¬†ūüėČ ¬†They have a unique menu¬†including¬†pick-your-own-filling Uthappam’s, Kichdi with Srilankan Wambatu Moju and not forgetting their “to die for” Kulfi!

Abi from Papi's Pickles

Papi's Pickles

Papi’s Pickles

Delicious Uthappam by Papi's Pickles!

Delicious Uthappam by Papi’s Pickles!

Kothu Kothu¬†brings the very famous “Kothu Roti” which is made with theatrical flare in front of your eyes!¬†It was a pleasure speaking to Dharani who tells of her inspiration to start her own business and her determination to make a mark¬†on the street food scene with her tasty dishes. And what a delicious mark she has made! I was very impressed with the vegetarian kothu roti I ate, which also comes with the traditional lime wedge and of course, extra chilli ūüôā

20150517_171714

Kothu Kothu

Beaming smiles and lovely chat were served alongside the most delicious food¬†from the team at Jaffrey’s Indian streetfood. The pakora’s are one of the crispiest I have ever eaten and I was particularly intrigued by the pureed aubergine sauce and chilli sauce which were refreshing and flavour-packed condiments served with the pakoras. Yum yum yum! ¬†Perfect with a cup of hot chai which you can also get in a couple of the stalls there.

20150517_172649

Jaffrey’s Indian streetfood

Jaffreys indian streetfood

Or perhaps you may prefer one of the asian-inspired cocktails served at the Bar there. Some great flavour combinations which you can see in my photo below. Another little gem I discovered was the Ice Kitchen corner stall – the pistachio and rose ice lolly was out of this world! They have really fresh and clever flavour combinations that I haven’t come across with your usual ice lollies¬†and I can’t wait to get a copy of their¬†recipe book. 20150517_171147

This festival is like the “Mecca” for London foodies and for me it was a great pleasure this year to have met some fellow foodies Nessy Sam, Trishna Shah and Mallika Basu who I had previously connected with on social media. Along with the new stalls at the Alchemy festival this year there are also some familiar faces including Dosa Deli, The Peckish Peacock and Horn Ok Please. ¬†You really are spoilt for choice and I am definitely not missing the chance¬†to go again¬†to try the rest of the food and drink¬†before the end of the festival (and attempt to grow a second stomach too!). I am already thinking about what other dishes I am going to try out on my next visit and unashamedly drooling while doing so. I know…but you will understand the greediness I experience if you have already been to the festival ūüôā I really am no alchemist, but I’m sure¬†some of this is pure food ‘magic’!

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