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 🙂 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 🙂
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:
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 – 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
How to make it:
- Crush the garlic and slice the green chilies.
- Heat the oil in a deep pot. Add the crushed garlic and fry till it turns light golden.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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! 🙂
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’t 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:
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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 🙂
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! 🙂 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’.
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 🙂 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 🙂
I have explored plenty of other eateries in and around London so watch this space for more reviews and recommendations 🙂
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!
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 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 🙂
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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. 🙂 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.
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 🙂