It’s been ages since I’ve been out for Indian, and this was some of the tastiest, freshest and most interesting Indian food I’ve had in a long time: masala dosa, sambar, chutney, homemade paneer, peshwari naan and some new discoveries such as masala vada and khadi. (Rachel Demuth’s blog has a full recap of the evening with some amazing recipes).
One of the meal’s highlights came at the very end, and made me feel super glad I saved room to enjoy dessert: mango chilli sorbet. Tart, refreshing and with just a touch of heat from the chilli, this type of dessert is my favourite way to end a meal.
I’ve tried making mango sorbet at home but have never managed to make it taste like the mango sorbets and ice creams you get in Indian restaurants. So I picked Helen’s brain after the supper club, and she told me her secret: Kesar mangos! This yellowish variety of mango is popular in India and is what gives the mango-sorbet-of-my-dreams its characteristic flavour.
Fresh Kesar mangos are not easy to find in the UK, but tinned Kesar mangos are. And so, Helen’s parting gift to me was a big ol’ tin of pureed Kesar Mangos, offered on the condition that I make mango sorbet at home and write about it. So here I am.
The tinned Kesar mangos did not disappoint. They’re already sweetened (ingredients: mango, sugar, citric acid – nothing scary), so all I needed to do was blitz it in the Vitamix with some lime juice and ginger juice, mix in a finely diced red chilli, then churn in the ice cream maker. Pretty awesome.
The result was everything I hoped for. Arguably, I could have chopped my chillies a tad finer as they were detectable as “bits” in the sorbet, but this effect sort of grew on me – I liked the texture, and the sensation, like little pockets of heat encased in frozen mango awesomeness.
A refreshing sorbet, recipe courtesy of Helen Lawrence from The Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath. Kesar mangoes are the best in this, but if you can’t find fresh ones, use tinned (omit the honey and sugar if the tinned mangoes are sweetened). To make ginger juice, grate fresh ginger and then use your hands to squeeze squeeze out the juice.
85g light soft brown sugar
2 ripe mangoes, peeled & stoned (or 1 850g tin of sweetened Kesar Mangos)
3 tablespoons ginger juice
1 red chilli, deseeded & chopped
Place the mangoes, ginger juice, chilli, lime juice and honey into a blender (I use a Froothie Optimum 9200) and puree until absolutely smooth. Add the sugar and buzz again until mixed.
Transfer the puree into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturers instructions. Freeze.
When ready to eat, take the sorbet out of the freezer about ten minutes or so before you’re ready to eat it – this will make it much easier to scoop!
This week’s Riverford vegbox contained two rare treasures: sweet potatoes and jalapeños, two foods that form the basis for one of my all time favorite veggie chili recipes: sweet potato and black bean chilli.
This recipe is a total blast from the past. My friend Abby made it for her boyfriend (now husband) and I on a cold snowy winter’s evening in Milwaukee several years ago. We’d spent the day cross country skiing in the bitter cold. It was amazing, but very hard work (it was my first time skiing ever!), and coming home to a big pot of piping hot chilli (and a few bottles of VERY cold beers) was hugely rewarding.
I haven’t changed the recipe much from the original – Abby herself said she likes to “play around with the spices”, so I did that, too, adding a bit of cinnamon and Mexican oregano (Abby likes to add Herbs de Provence).
Such is the awesomeness of veggie chili. It’s hugely adaptable and it’s hard to go wrong. But one thing you do need is good ingredients, and on this particular occasion I felt very grateful for having beautiful organic sweet potatoes to work with. Their flavor really came through against the cocoa and cinnamon, making for some serious comfort food that feels very much needed as the weather turns truly autumnal.
I like to serve this chili with loads of garnishes: fresh cilantro, lime, raw onion, my homemade pickled jalapeños and lots of avocado. You could also add cheese or sour cream if you’d like, or a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds for a bit of crunch. And to really make it special, serve with a big wedge of cornbread and a bottle of good beer (I recommend Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale) on the side.
Abby’s Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 to 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
Zest and juice of 1 lime
2 tins diced tomatoes
3 tins black beans, drained
1 jalapeno chili pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp brown sugar (or more to taste)
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves, washed and dried
Warm the oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the onion, red pepper, green pepper, carrots, garlic, and salt. Saute until soft, about 4 minutes.
Add the sweet potato and lime zest, and cook 10 to 15 minutes more, continuing to stir occasionally.
Add the jalapeno, cumin, chill powder, cinnamon, cocoa and oregano, stir and cook for a minute or two.
Add the tomatoes, black beans, lime juice and sugar. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20-40 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are very soft.
This is a new juicy creation I just had to share. It’s all about the tart grapefruit and spicy hot jalapeno chilli (be brave, folks). The juice is almost creamy and the concentrated flavour saturates your mouth – it’s incredibly satisfying, a breakfast in itself. The jalapeno is as good a wake-up call as coffee (really!) – you can use other chillies, red or green, to suit what’s available.
Consequentially, this juice is also great for hangovers.
Grapefruit, Beetroot and Chilli Juice
1 grapefruit, peeled
1in slice of beetroot
1 small carrot
1/2 lime, peeled
1/2 zucchini (or cucumber)
1 stalk of celery
1/2 jalapeno (or more depending on your taste and the spiciness of your chillis)
Put the lot through your juicer, pour into a glass (over ice if you like), and enjoy!
This was a very simple, one-pot (er, one-wok) meal. A few people on Instagram asked about it, so I thought I’d share it here, thus rekindling my long neglected daily food diary. I think it’s time to start it up again!
Here’s how I made the braised carrots and cabbage with tofu…
First I heated some oil in the wok on medium-high heat. I then added thin strips of firm tofu to the pan and sauteed until they were golden brown on each side. I sprinkled some salt and pepper on the tofu, mixed it all up in the pan, then removed the tofu from the pan and set aside.
In the same wok, I turned down the heat a bit, added a couple teaspoons of grapeseed oil, quickly followed by a clove’s worth of minced garlic and some carrots (they were small, young sweet and delicious; with larger carrots, I would have cut them into long spears; I would have added ginger, too, if I had it around!).
I sautéed the carrots and garlic until the carrots started to colour, and then added water to just cover the carrots, along with a few glugs of soy sauce (about 1 Tbsp or so). I then added the cabbage (big leaves from a young spring cabbage), mixed it up with the carrots and turned up the heat so everything simmered gently. I let it simmer until most of the water was evaporated, and then check the carrots and cabbage for done-ness. They were still a little firm so I covered the pan and let everything steam for a bit.
When everything was cooked, I put the cabbage and carrots on a plate, topped with the tofu and garnished with sliced spring onion, chopped coriander, sliced red chilli, toasted sesame seeds and fresh lime.
My friend Gloria makes this amazing rhubarb ketchup. She gave me a jar a while back – it didn’t last long, because it’s basically good with everything (and I was in a particularly intense veggie burger stage during that time).
A few weeks ago I came into possession of a large quantity of rhubarb so decided to try making Gloria’s rhubarb ketchup myself. Upon reading the recipe, I noticed the inclusion of two small dried red chillies, and my mind immediately turned to my massive chilli stash courtesy of Cool Chile Co. Brain wave. I decided to get creative.
Cool Chile Co suggested I try ancho chilli in the recipe: “the fruitiness of the ancho would work well with the rhubarb”. They weren’t wrong.
Add ancho puree to the resulting ketchup to taste (I added the puree of 4 anchos to about 1/4 of Gloria’s recipe – I advise making lots of ancho puree; any extra can be saved for adding to other things like chilli, scrambled eggs, whatever!)
The ancho puree transformed the rhubarb ketchup into more of a BBQ sauce than a ketchup. It’s my new favourite condiment! I’ve been using it in place of Sriracha, usually with a few sliced green chillies for extra heat (Anchos are very low in the Scoville heat scale – they have a lot of flavour, but very little spicy heat).
Here was lunch today: cauliflower fried “rice” with a fried egg and ancho rhubarb ketchup. Superb! Except for my choice of serving implement – fried egg is not easy to eat with chopsticks.
How to make Ancho Puree: Dry toast some ancho chillies in a large heavy skillet, turning every so often until they darken slightly and become fragrant. Remove the chillies from the pan and put them in a bowl. Cover with boiling water. After about 20 minutes, remove the chillies and save the soaking water. De-stem and de-seed the chillies. Add the chillies to a blender and blitz, adding just enough water so that they blend into a thick puree.
A couple weeks ago I wrote about making salsa macha with guajillo and chipotle chillies, a happy result of my having won a goodie bag from Cool Chile Company, which included masa harina among its dried chilli bonanza. Around the same time, I had an email from my friend, Patrick, suggesting he and our crew gather at Orchard Cottage for a Good Friday Easter feast.
The wheels began turning on a bit of Shaw family history: when I was younger, my Aunt Sue always hosted Easter with her husband Augie, whose family is from Mexico. The parties were some of the best of childhood memory because they brought together a weird combination of Lithuanian, Polish and Mexican tradition, including piñata-bashing to go with the requisite Easter egg hunt. Though we didn’t have tamales at our Easter parties, Sue often talked about her holiday tamale-making adventures with Augie’s side of the family, and on a few occasions she even gave me some leftover tamales to take home.
Sue probably didn’t realise how much I coveted these tamales, and they’ve always led to a weird longing for a tamale-making party of my own. So with life’s recent masa harina injection paired with Patrick’s Easter party suggestion, I decided to start my own tamale-inspired holiday tradition.
Tamales are usually made with lard and filled with meat like carnitas. I decided to take inspiration from last year’s Mexican Supperclub at The Vegetarian Cookery School, where I had some of the best Mexican food of my life – which is saying a lot given that I used to live in Austin, Texas! Among the dishes were Tamales Rellenos de Calabacin, aka tamales with butternut squash and feta, which she served with the most delicious mole sauce.
We ended up making two fillings: (1) butternut squash with goats cheese and (2) grilled red pepper, red onion, sweetcorn and feta. The tamales were surprisingly easy to make. The masa harina mixture is a simple dough of masa harina, butter (instead of lard), salt, baking powder, milk and vegetable stock.
The most fiddly part was rolling the individual tamales, but even this didn’t take very long, especially when you involve other people in the rolling. There are several schools of thought on rolling tamales – Jo and Rachel at The Vegetarian Cookery School seem to have a knack for making them extra pretty. I ended up using the technique shown in this allrecipes.com video, just because it made the most sense to me.
To serve with the tamales, I made mole poblano sauce – an epic adventure and worthy of a blog post in its own right (someday maybe?). I made it a few days ahead, with yet more of those Cool Chile Company chillies, using Thomasina Miers recipe from Mexican Food Made Simple (thanks to Charlotte Pike from Go Free for introducing me to that one).
Mole poblano is incredible stuff, containing about 20 ingredients, including dried mulatto, pasilla and ancho chillies, plantain, almonds, sesame seeds, prunes, raisins and not as much chocolate as you’d think. The result is an amazingly rich, deep, sorta sweet, sorta smoky sauce. I can’t imagine a better sauce for the butternut squash tamales. The richness of the chilli chocolate sauce seems ideal for the sweetness of the squash and corn masa, all rounded off by creamy goat cheese.
The number of tamales you get will depend on how big you make your tamales. I erred on the small side, which made about 16 tamales.
16 dried corn husks
For the masa
200g masa harina
50g butter, softened
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
100ml vegetable stock
For the filling
100g goat cheese
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced into small cubes
1 chopped fresh red chilli
4 cloves garlic, whole with the skin on
A few sprigs of thyme
Juice of half a lime
Roast the squash in a hot oven (180C / 350F) with the garlic, chilli, thyme, and olive oil until it is soft. This should take about 30-40 minutes. When cooked, remove the garlic from its skin, mush it up with the spatula and stir it through the squash. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir through some chopped coriander and lime juice.
Soak the corn husks in hot water for 30 minutes. When they are soft rinse them under running water as you separate them. Lay them flat on a plate and keep them covered with a damp cloth.
To prepare the masa, beat the softened butter in a mixing bowl, until soft and fluffy.
Mix the masa harina with the salt and baking powder.
Beat some of the dry mixture into the butter and then add a little milk then some more dry mix, then some stock until everything is combined.
The masa should be the consistency of scone dough, soft and pliable, if too dry and a little more milk, if too wet a little more masa harina.
To assemble the tamales, lay a husk on the table with the fat end away from you. Place a sausage of masa (30g) in the middle of the husk, starting at 1cm from the fat end press the masa down leaving a border down each side, big enough so that the husk can wrap over the filling. Press the masa down to about ⅔rds down the husk and flatten the sausage.
Top the masa with a little bit of roasted squash and smear on some goat cheese. Roll the corn husk with one end open and the other end like a burrito so that the filling gets sealed by the masa (this video is helpful).
Tear a thin strip off a long husk and tie around the open end of the tamale to seal it all together.
Steam the tamales in a vegetables steamer for 45- 60 minutes. You can tell when they are done because the masa will be soft and sponge like.
Serve them as soon as possible with mole and salsa.
The chutney was an afterthought – the apricot was a bit tart and I felt like this needed some sweetness. Not sure if lime was the right citrus here. But all in all it was very satisfying. Fruit and avocado are really nice together, especially when paired with a little texture and crunch from toasted sunflower seeds.