Monday, 21 November 2016

Christmas Brine Course and Christmas Feast at River Cottage Axminster

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A few weeks back when I saw an opportunity to visit River Cottage HQ Axminster, I jumped at the chance! Through Foodies 100, River Cottage kindly invited around 50+ food bloggers to the HQ for an exclusive bloggers' Christmas Dinner and I could not contain my excitement when I received the email. I composed a swift reply and hit the Send button without any further thought.

Since I started watching River Cottage cookery programme by Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall on Channel 4, I have tried many recipes over the years and also become quite a big fan of some of them such as Noodles and Peanut Salad and Parsley Walnut Pesto Pasta. My family love his vegetarian recipes, healthy and at the same time, delicious.

As soon as I knew that my place was confirmed to visit River Cottage, I booked my returned train tickets early as possible to avoid any disappointment later, Taxis and Nettle Bank B&B for one night stay, which is located in the breathtaking natural surrounding area of Uplyme, not far from River Cottage HQ.

So after double checking on everything, I did a bit of research on River Cottage and the surrounding area and found out that not only was I visiting the place where River Cottage is filmed but where you can take part in many different cookery courses.

So on the actual day, I arrived at the River Cottage HQ at 3:30 pm and what a spectacular and picturesque view from the top of the farm! I joined a bunch of like minded people and enjoyed a bumpy and fun ride in a tractor from the car park down to the hill to the River Cottage.

When we arrived, we were greeted with hot beverages, juice and vegetarian drop scones and had a chance to mingle with bloggers who travelled from all over. Before all the major activities started we had a chance to explore the gardens, the iconic farmhouse and kitchens. It started drizzling, so sadly I didn't get a chance to take many pictures.

The first session was seated in a converted barn, the Christmas Brining Course,  demonstrated by one of the senior chef Andy Tyrell, the session was about the brining, how to brine various meat for Christmas with basic natural ingredients at home without adding chemicals that no one can even pronounce!!  Being a vegetarian, this wasn't very helpful to me but as a enthusiastic learner and a foodie, it was something new for me explore. But chef Andy did not disappoint us vegetarians and told me that not only meat, fish or cheese can be brined, but vegetables work equally well too, such as radish, cauliflower, carrots and courgettes. After the brining session while non veg treated with Bresaola, we vegetarians were delighted to sample Roasted Carrot Hummus on Gluten free toasted bread, my taste buds were dancing. Obviously , I asked for the recipe and happy chappy Andy gave me the recipe for it. I will definitely going to make this this hummus very soon, watch this space!

After this informative session, we were divided into two groups for networking we had an opportunity to meet new bloggers, they did share the ideas and knowledge with us and also had chance to play a game in the yurt.

And after all that fun, it was time for a treat, we were treated with delicious Christmas feast, prepared by River Cottage chefs and catered for every dietary need, vegetarian, gluten free, non-vegetarian and sugar free.

While we were munching on our canapes and chit chatting, Sam, one of the chefs at River Cottage explained to us about our menu for that night. We were also told that at River Cottage create a menu on the same day depending on what is available to them locally and organically.

There were copious dishes and course served to all of us to whet our appetite, but let's see what an incredible vegetarian menu they created for me as my dietary need is bit awkward to explain. I am vegetarian, but do not eat eggs or fish. Oh boy, they delivered!

First, we were served Kingston Black Apple Brandy (I did not have any)

  • Roasted Carrot hummus on rye bread
  • Whipped Goat Cheese and Beetroot marinated in cider vinegar 
  • Little Cheese on toast bites with Piccalilli  
  • Baked and Fried Blue Cheese, mushroom and leek croquettes with date and green tomato chutney  
  • Merguez spiced romanesco with romanesco puree 
First Course - Starter 
  • Beetroot hummus with roasted red onions and beetroots with a tahini-based dressing topped with toasted seeds and fresh leaves from the garden.  

Main Course

  • Parsnip and Potato rosti with shavings of goat cheese, carrot puree and savoy cabbage fried in butter and garlic. It was accompanied with smoky haricot beans cooked with fennel, onion and tomato.


  • Apple tart served with apple puree, apple crisp and apple treacle and rye crumble . 
Dinner was followed by coffee and two petit fours, there were a dark chocolate orange truffles and dark chocolate oat biscuits, just had enough time to sample these and in hurry had a tractor ride up the hill to car park, and headed back to my B&B with so many wonderful memories which once again were woven around food. 

Thank you to River Cottage for creating a truly magical evening, fabulous high-quality menu and hospitality, surely one day I would love to visit this wonderful place with my family. 

Thank you, Foodies 100 for arranging this event free for us, but travel and accommodation were paid by myself. I was not told or paid to write a positive review and all opinions are my own.

Because I was travelling all the way up to Devon, why wouldn't I take advantage of seeing some spectacular places in East Devon?! My B&B owner Sue helped me to plan my visit to Lyme Regis, a place that can be visited in all seasons. An ancient town on the Jurrasic coast which is a worlds heritage site and boasts breathtaking scenery.

It is quaint with history, housing the historic cobb and the harbour where the film 'The French lieutenant's wife' was filmed. I was so surprised to see a working watermill, reaching back 700 years in time! It is a must visit, and I'll take my family down there one day too!

 Thank you for stopping by and reading this post ! We hope to see you again soon :)

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Thai Style Squash and Sweet Potato Noodle Soup

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Thai style Squash and Sweet Potato Noodle Soup, easy and truly soul-warming and satisfying one that is good for the body and soul!!! This soup has a depth of flavour, warm and punchy with fragrant spices, and mellowed down with rich coconut milk.  This soup is superb on its own but also great with crusty bread or rolls too.

Nothing is more comforting than a bowl of warm soup in your hands once the weather starts getting cooler day by day, and the other most comforting thing is when your soup is made from scratch and every spoonful soup becomes blissful for you, soup gives you almost immediate gratification !

We make and enjoy a couple of types of new soup with new flavours every season, but soups made with Squash  always remains the top choice for everyone in the family.  Winter squash adds a bulkiness to the soup and makes the soup more filling. Thai Style Squash and Sweet Potato Noodle Soup is a new avatar of Thai Style Squash Soup, a couple of new ingredients made an entry in this soup such as Red Thai Curry Paste, Fresh lemon grass and Noodles.

You will need :-

  • 500 g any winter squash ( I used butternut Squash ) flesh cut into 2 cm chunks
  • 300 g sweet potato peeled and cut into 2 cm chunks
  • 50 -60 g Thai Red Curry paste - recipe here 
  • 500 ml vegetable stock
  • 100 g dried rice noodles
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 400 ml coconut milk
  • 2 lemon grass stalked bashed 
  • 1 and 1/2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 3 tbsp. Thai basil leaves
  • 1 red chilli sliced

Method :-
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 7.
Place squash and sweet potato chunks on the baking tray. drizzle some oil , salt and pepper.
Roast until done, it will take about 20-25 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook rice noodles according to packet instructions.
Heat oil in another pan, add curry paste and fry for a couple of minutes.
Add bashed lemon grass.
Add coconut milk and vegetable stock and soy sauce.
Let it simmer for 3-4 minutes.
Meanwhile whizz up roasted squash and sweet potato ( leave some for garnishing ) with couple of ladlefuls of the liquid ( Coconut milk and vegetable stock )
Add to the simmering soup and cook a further minute or so.
Then add the lime juice.
Divide the cooked rice noodles between the serving bowls, ladle over the soup and garnish it with the roasted squash and Thai basil leaves and red chillies.
Enjoy !

Recipe inspiration - Waitrose - Thai Style Squash Noodle Soup
Thank you for stopping by and reading this post ! We hope to see you again soon :)

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Veg Paneer Makkhanwala without Onion and Garlic - Mixed vegetables and Indian Cottage Cheese in Creamy Tomato Gravy

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Veg Paneer Makkhanwala without Onion and Garlic is as delicious and delectable as Veg Paneer Makkhanwala with onion and garlic. This rich, creamy and buttery dish can be prepared with medley of vegetables or paneer which is a popular choice for vegetarians in restaurants or any other occasions for the mains. Generally this curry is prepared using garlic and onion, somehow my daughter prefers without onion and garlic, also this variation gives me a choice to make this recipe on many religious occasions when I am restricted to use onion and garlic.

Many of you thinking so without onion and garlic how can you make this curry tasty and delicious ? here is the answer , Carefully chosen various kind of Whole spices and Masala compensate for onion and garlic and trust me you won't miss onion and garlic. After so many trials and error we settled on this recipe. Lightly sauteed vegetables and paneer in butter then simmered in creamy tomato gravy made using cashews nuts, cream and saffron.

Veg Paneer Makkhanwala without Onion and Garlic, is very easy to put together without any hassle.
This curry is paired with Naan, Roti or Ajwain Paratha and goes perfectly with Green Peas and Mint Rice Pilaf or Khada Masala Rice.

You will need :-

  • 1 cup steamed mixed vegetables ( cauliflower, carrot, french beans, green peas ) 
  • 3 tbsp. chopped capsicum or bell pepper 
  • 3/4 cup paneer cubes 
  • 3 tbsp. cashew paste
  • 75 ml cream ( I used single cream )
  • 1 cup tomato puree 
  • 3 tbsp. oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter 
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kasoori methi ( Dried fenugreek leaves ) 
  • Pinch saffron
  • 2 tbsp. whole spices ( Cinnamon, Clove, whole black pepper, cumin seeds. coriander seeds, green and black cardamom )
  • 1 bay leaf ( Tej patta )
  • 1 tsp. char magaz ( magaz tari na biya ) water melon seeds 

Method :-
Add saffron threads in cream and leave it in the fridge.
Heat 1/2 tsp. oil in a non stick pan, add all whole spices and roast for couple of minutes.
Remove it and let it cool.
Grind with char magaz in a grinder until you get fine powder.
In same pan , heat oil and butter, add bay leaf and ground spices and saute for few seconds.
Add cashew paste and mix well, keep stirring continuously for couple of minutes.
Add tomato puree, salt, red chilli powder and turmeric powder.
Bring it to boil and cook until you can see oil separating the sides of the pan.
Add cream ( reserve one tbsp.), kasoori methi and sugar.
Mix well and switch off the heat and leave it aside.
In couple of tablespoon water, add little red chilli powder and mi it well.
In another pan heat butter add red chilli water and bring it to boil.
Add chopped capsicum and cook minute or so, then add boiled vegetables and paneer and saute for couple of minutes.
Then add remaining cream and mix well.
Add cooked vegetables in to prepared gravy.
Turn on the heat and let the vegetables and paneer cook another couple of minutes.
Turn off the heat.
Garnish it with fresh chopped coriander.
Serve hot with roti, naan , paratha or rice.
Enjoy !

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Monday, 7 November 2016

Green Peas and Mint Rice - Pilaf - Pulao - Vatana Phudina Pulao

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Green Peas and Mint Rice, classic combination, a must try dish for everyone ! Prepare on any occasion, you won't go wrong.

Rice - ✓
Green peas - ✓
Mint - ✓
Whole spices - ✓

all the boxed ticks

I love everything about this recipe! Ingredients, method and the taste..everything is just right, this recipe is a no-brainer. This aromatic and healthy rice pairs well with robust and strong flavoured dishes like Daal Makhni, Chana Masala, Garlicky Daal and Gujarati Kadhi.  This rice recipe is versatile, have it with Daal or Curry or just have hot with Raita.

You will need :-

  • 250 g good quality basmati rice ( I used Tilda Basmati)
  • 150 g frozen green peas or fresh shelled blanched peas
  • 3 tbsp. fresh chopped mint
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp. whole spices ( green cardamom, black cardamom, clove, cinnamon bark, bay leaves and whole black pepper )
  • Salt to taste.
Method :- 
Wash and soak basmati rice for 30-40 minutes.
Heat oil in a wide pan or kadai, add cumin seeds and whole spices.
Once it crackles turn the heat very low and add 3/4 cup water ( depends on the quality of rice )
Add salt and bring the water to boil.
Discard water from the soaked rice, gently tip in the rice.
Keep heat high for 5-7 minutes without covering the pan.
Add green peas.
Now turn the heat very low and cover the pan and let the rice cook. 
It will take another 8-9 minutes.
Check the rice, it should not be mushy.
Add chopped mint ( reserve couple of leaves for garnishing ) and switch off the heat.
Let the rice cook in it's own steam.
After 10-12 minutes, with fork separate every grain.
Serve piping hot with daal, curry or raita.
Enjoy ! 

I am sharing this recipe with Eat Your Greens co-hosted by Shaheen and The Veg Hog .

 Thank you for stopping by and reading this post ! We hope to see you again soon :)

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Daal Bafla - Bafla Baati with Daal - Steamed and Deep Fried Flaky Doughnut with Spicy lentil broth

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Daal Bafla, a true classic and lip smacking  combination,  a delicacy that is hugely popular amongst the people of Malwa region in Madhya Pradesh, India. Daal Bafla, is almost the same recipe as Daal Baati which hails from Rajasthan, generally Baati made in Rajastahan is baked direct on firewood although here I bake it in the oven.  Bafla is steamed or boiled in water first then deep fried and both are commonly served with Ghee, spicy lentils and garlic chutney.

Daal Bafla is an ultimate comfort food for this autumn season, steaming bowl of creamy and spicy daal loaded with favourite ingredients which you can enjoy with steamed and deep fried savoury flaky bread (Bafla) Being connected to Rajsthani roots, we always had Rajsthani food and it's colourful culture influences in our life and I still do carry that here too in my own home. So now and then when we feel like to have extra spicy food, couple of our favourite Rajsthani dishes appears on the dining table.

Felt so good after all rich and delicious Diwali binge eating :)

Notes :- 
This Bafla Baati can be boiled in a water for 25-30 minutes before deep frying.
VEGAN , can omit Ghee. 

You will need :- Bafla

  • 1/2 cup chapatti flour ( I used wholemeal chapatti flour thus my Bafla are more darker in colour )
  • 1/2 cup coarse chapatti flour ( Bhakhri lot )
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ajwain ( carom seeds )
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp. whole coriander seeds lightly crushed 
  • 3 tbsp. oil for moin 
  • Pinch bi co soda
  • Water as needed 
  • Oil for deep frying
You will need :- Spicy Daal 
  • 1 cup boiled dhuli urad and Yellow Moong ( mogar) Daal 
  • 2-3 tbsp. Oil 
  • 2 tbsp. whole spices ( clove, cinnamon whole black pepper powder, star anise, bay leaves  )
  • Pinch hing
  • 2-3 dried red chillies
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp. garlic-ginger paste 
  • 2-3 green chillies finely chopped 
  • 2 medium onion finely chopped 
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp. red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garam masala
  • 2 tbsp. ground cumin and coriander 
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • water
  • 2 tbsp. fresh coriander to garnish

Method :- Bafla Baati
To prepare Bafla Baatis , place all the Bafla ingredients in wide plate except oil for deep frying.
Knead the stiff dough using water.
Divide the dough into equal portions and make balls , slightly flatten them and make a hole. you will have a doughnut.
Steam over water about 25-30 minutes.
Remove it from the steamer, let it cool a little.
Heat oil in a kadai and deep fry until little golden.
Remove it from the kadai and serve them with ghee, garlic chutney and daal.

Method :- Daal
To prepare creamy and spicy Daal, prepare for tadka .
In a kadai or non stick pan heat oil, add all the whole spices and cumin seeds.
Add hing and dried red chillies.
Once they crackle add ginger-garlic paste and saute for few seconds.
Then add green chillies and chopped onion.
Fry the mixture until onion turns little pink and oil starts leaving the sides of the pan.
Now add all the masala and cook for couple of minutes.
Add couple of spoon water, so masala doesn't stick to the pan.
Add boiled daal and salt, add more water if daal is too thick.
Bring it to boil and simmer daal for 15-20 minutes.
Add garam masala and lemon juice.
Turn off the heat, garnish the daal with fresh coriander.
Serve piping hot daal with Bafla, ghee and garlic chutney.

 Thank you for stopping by and reading this post ! We hope to see you again soon :)

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Vegan Kesar Badam Katri / Katli - Vegan Saffron Almond Thins / Diamonds #Diwalispecial #Diwalisweets

Vegan Kesar Badam Katri / Katli , so simple yet elegant and graceful looking thins with subtle saffron flavouring just to die for. Temptingly thin slice of Almond saffron flavoured marzipan that melts in your mouth, moderately sweet without any intense flavours with a scrumptious taste of almonds. This sweet makes a fabulous gift, even if it's only to yourself !!!

The most anticipated time of the year is here, can't believe Diwali is just couple of days away.  Diwali is the festival that I wait for all year around. For many generation we have been indulging with sweets on this festival in abundance, also we have been taught that a clean house, beaming inside with Diya ( clay lamps ) will help Goddess Laxmi to find her way into our house, and she would bless us with Health, Wealth and Happiness.

A Diya ( Clay lamp ) plays an important role during Festival of Diwali, diya is the synonymous to the festival of Diwali.

The Diwali or Deepavali "The festival of Lights" derives its name from the rows or array of diyas, which creates a peaceful ambience of light driving away the darkness of the night. Diyas are lighted up and used adorn every corner of the house on this auspicious day of Diwali. Lighting up the diya signifies triumph of good over evil.

The lightening Diya is a way to honouring God for the attainment of peace, health and happiness and shows one's gratitude, which can be a symbol of a person's own illumination. Diya doesn't merely represent a decorative item but holds a greater spiritual significance which remind us that one must attempt to remove negativity from within themselves instead of trying to change the outer world, which is just reflection.

The sun does not shine there, nor do the moon and the stars, nor do lightning shine, All the lights of the world cannot be compared even to a ray of the inner light of the self. Merge yourself in this light of lights ! Shubh Diwali ....

On the occasion of Diwali, mostly every Indian house is full of umpteen numbers of sweet delicacies, but these luscious silver sweet Kaju Katri ( Cashew Thin ) always grab the most attention. Which one will be your favourite ? silver or gold ? It's hard to choose right ?

Notes :-
I have used store bought almond meal ( Ground almond ).
Not vegan  use normal dairy products.
Instead of almonds , cashew nuts can be used for making this.

You will need :-

  • 1 cup + 4 tbsp. almond meal ( Ground almond )
  • 1/2 cup sugar ( use can use less too )
  • Big Pinch saffron threads 
  • 5 tbsp. almond milk 
  • 1 tbsp. flavourless oil or vegan margarine 
  • Grease proof paper
  • Silver or gold edible foil ( Varq ) 

Method :-
Soak saffron in lukewarm almond milk for at least couple of hours.
In a wide non stick pan mix water and sugar, heat it on a medium heat.
You will see small bubbles appear on the surface, stir gently and let it come to rolling boil. Lower the heat and check the sugar syrup consistency, it should be 1 thread or string . 
Once you achieve that, add saffron milk and turn the heat high.
Cook saffron milk for couple of minutes.
Add almond powder and keep stirring to avoid any lumps.
In 2-3 minutes you'll be able to see that cashew mixture is getting thicker.
To check the right consistency, take a very small pinch of mixture in your hand and see if you are able to shape a little ball with your fingers. ( you should be able to mould it like play dough ).

If it does remove pan straight away from the heat. If not cook further one minute or so.
After removing from the heat pour the mixture into a another clean wide plate.
Let it cool little, apply little oil on your palms and knead the dough for 3-4 minutes till become less grainy, glossy and smooth.
On the rolling board place a greaseproof paper and put the mixture on it.
Now place another paper, sandwiching the mixture between two paper.
Roll out with rolling pin into 1/4 inch thick sheet, stick the silver foil and press gently and cut diamond shape pieces with cookie or pizza cutter.
Gather all the end pieces knead again and repeat the process.
If you can't find silver foil , you can prinkle edible glitter on the diamonds or leave it plain. 
Let it cool completely and store in a airtight container.
It can stay fresh at room temperature up to 6-7 days.
Enjoy !

 Thank you for stopping by and reading this post ! We hope to see you again soon :)

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Kesar, Badam and Elychi Balushahi / Badusha - Indian style Spiced Crispy Doughnut Dunked in sugar syrup #Diwalispecial

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Kesar, Badam and Elychi Balushai / Badusha a delicacy you must prepare on Diwali, A crispy melt in your mouth delicacy with a soft flaky saffron and cardamom centre, a unique taste you won't forget in a hurry because every mouthful is a truly pleasurable and memorable experience !

Diwali is a time for nostalgia and traditions, for family gatherings and for remembering moments in time and Diwali magic fills your hearts with joy but the sounds, images and the smell make it even more significant.

Decorations, upbeat music and aromatic feasts are setting up festive moods in every corner of my house. The change in decorations reinforces the sense that something special is going on. From the kitchen wafting aroma of pure ghee,  make it impossible to forget the big day that's coming, unique flavoured spices such as cardamom and saffron, creating welcoming, warm and fragrant atmosphere. Sweets and Mithai adorned with rich nuts, gold and silver leaf, fill my senses with festive smell and spirits.

And amidst the festive atmosphere, I have prepared Kesar, Badam and Elychi Balushai, a slight variation compared to traditional Balushahi. The original Balushai recipe does not have kesar, badam and elychi, but I took the risk to give it a try and it ended up tasting even better. So let's see the recipe...

Notes :-
If you prefer plain Balushahi, omit saffron, cardamom and almond meal.
Do not knead dough too much.
Fry balushahi on a very low heat to make sure they get well cooked inside.
Sugar syrup must to stay on one to one and half string consistency.

You will need :- Dough

  • 1  cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup almond meal 
  • 4 tbsp. ghee melted 
  • 3 tbsp. yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp.soda 
  • Big pinch saffron
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom powder
  • 2-3 tbsp. Chilled water 
  • Oil for deep frying
  • Pistachio slivers and silver foil ( Varq ) for garnishing

You will need :-

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Few drops lemon juice
  • Pinch saffron
  • Pinch cardamom powder

Method :-

  • Sieve the flour with soda in a big and wide plate.
  • Add saffron, cardamom and almond meal.
  • Mix well.
  • Add melted ghee and yogurt ,  mix the flour with your fingers and rub til you get crumbly mixture. 
  • Add very little water and make a soft and pliable dough.
  • Cover the dough with clean kitchen towel and rest it for 30-40 minutes.
  • Meanwhile make sugar syrup ( chasni ) by mixing sugar and water .
  • Bring it to boil and prepare 1 to one and half string consistency.
  • Add lemon juice, cardamom and saffron.
  • Turn off the heat, but leave the syrup pan near stove.
  • Now divide the dough in equal size balls and slightly make depression in the centre using thumb.
  • Heat oil in a kadai over medium heat.
  • Gently slip 3-4 balushahi in hot oil, keep heat very low at this step and fry it until golden brown. ( One batch should take at least 7-8 minutes to fry ) 
  • Once cooked , remove it from the oil and add them in the sugar syrup. 
  • Leave it for couple of minutes and remove.
  • Place them on the butter paper.
  • Garnish it with pistachio slivers and silver foil.
  • Once cooled completely store in a air tight container.
  • Enjoy !   

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