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Archive for the tag “Meera Sodha”

Cooking for the soul in Covid isolation

It’s 4.30pm on Saturday. Earlier, we waved goodbye to all our children and grandchildren after a truly brilliant week together. The first time we’ve gathered as a full group in two years.

Beds stripped, sheets and towels on the washing conveyor belt, broken Lego binned and forgotten drawings and toys gathered up. However, our true focus is the final prep for our annual Open Garden day – it’s on Sunday: tomorrow.

There are 17 gardens around Berwick opening to raise funds to support the beautifying and upkeep of our local parks here. It’s a great occasion – all the more so because we couldn’t do it last year – full of socialising and gardening knowledge-sharing.

I get a text. Not a Love Island text calling me to the firepit – although, when I read it, it feels a bit like we’re about to go up in smoke. We’ve been exposed to coronavirus. We’re back home from the local walk-through PCR testing station by 5.30pm. I’m beginning to feel a bit coldy and achy. The Husband says he’s fine, but I think that sniff of his is suspicious.

We have cakes defrosting, the makings of 40 bacon rolls, a friend’s jam and more cakes arriving on the Sunday morning. The garden’s not perfect (it’s been a bit neglected by us and rampaged by the grandchildren in the very best of ways!) but it’s still looking good. But what if we have coronavirus?

Our garden in July – before it was wonderfully overrun with grandchildren

I take the decision to pull out of Open Gardens.

Our PCR tests come back positive on Sunday morning. We take stock of the mountain of cakes and bacon. We slump in front of the telly all day, catching up on Love Island, watching people stroll past our window in the sunshine clutching Open Gardens trail maps. We’re groggy, fluey and lethargic – and a tad sorry for ourselves. We eat cake and bacon rolls.

By Tuesday I’m not sure I can eat another piece of cake or another bacon roll (The Husband’s not so sure!). I flick listlessly through Guardian Feast Issue No.188, even though I honestly cba to keep up with my ridiculous plan to cook at least one recipe from each issue of Feast during 2021.

However Meera Sodha – angel Meera – catches my eye with her fennel and courgette pistou soup. It looks so green and healing. Just thinking about spooning it into my body makes me feel better. Plus I have courgettes growing in the garden and a total abundance of basil. Okay, so we don’t have fennel. And we can’t nip out and get any. I never quite got round to sorting home delivery from any of our local supermarkets. At the beginning of Lockdown 1 it was impossible to register, let alone place an actual order, so I gave up. I find some sad celery in the bottom of the fridge and fennel seeds in the cupboard which I decide will do.

The abundance of fridge, cupboard and garden. No fennel, but all that basil made for a delicious pistou!

I use our ‘compost bag’ plus a shrivelled carrot to make veg stock. I’m not going to say that my compromises delivered the perfect solution. Fennel is clearly a signature ingredient in this soup. Hey-ho – as I so often say – sometimes you just have to use what’s on offer.

Whatever I lacked in my store cupboard, Meera’s soup made up for in healing benevolence. The perfect food for feeding the coronavirus-ridden body and soothing the angst-ridden soul. As we slurped it down, The Husband and I gave grateful thanks that we are both double vaxed and that we are not suffering the full and awful impact of the illness that so many around the world have had to endure.

Stay safe and well. x

Original recipe:

Meera Sodha – Fennel and courgette pistou soup

Too mochi, we like it!

Not a full blogpost this one but a nod to joyful unexpected visits from family and how food makes everything even better!

London Daughter turned up this weekend in Berwick. Wonderful.

As well as a wild Saturday night scoffing spag bol and playing Monopoly Deal we (London Daughter) cooked up Meera Sodha’s vegan sweet potato yaki mochi with black sesame sauce from Issue No.181 of Guardian Feast.

London Daughter fancied sweet mochi but we had two sweet potatoes along with the bag of glutinous rice flour left from creating Ottolenghi’s chocolate and coconut mochi roulade a while back. So, Meera’s savoury sweet potato yaki mochi trumped Tim Anderson’s strawberry and red bean paste mochi dumplings from his marvellous book Nanban.

London Daughter’s version of Meera Sodha’s sweet potato yaki mochi with black sesame sauce

These fab crispy-chewy, stretchy-springy orange patties of delight are like a cross between pancakes and hash browns. The black sesame sauce is the perfect accompaniment – except my blender refused to grind the sesame to the glistening smoothness of Meera’s. At least not without melting its engine.

We served our yaki mochi with a salad of broad beans and courgettes from the garden – blanched, doused in lemon juice and a splash of olive oil, fresh chilli, salt and pepper. It turned out to be the perfect accompaniment.

Original recipe:

Meera Sodha – sweet potato yaki mochi with black sesame sauce

Soothing kiss of kitchari

There’s something in the air in Berwickland. It’s been hot for weeks. Our weekends have tumbled into our weekdays as muggy days roll into languid dreamy evenings. We’ve overdone it – working, gardening and, yes, eating and drinking.

Dreamy cooling evenings: moon, bridge and swans in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland

So, Yotam Ottolenghi’s watermelon with pomegranate and mint sugar may sound cooling and seasonally appropriate, but it is the simple healing balm of Meera Sodha’s vegan tomato and turmeric kitchari that calls ‘eat me’ to us in Guardian Feast Issue No.183.

Kitchari is the perfect food for a Sunday soul slightly troubled by the memory of overindulgence the night before. And the fuel for a body wearied by hours of penitential garden strimming. Everything Meera says about this blend of rice, lentils, tomatoes, turmeric and cinnamon is spot on: cooking times, yoghurt and lime pickle accompaniments, suitable for all tastebuds.

At least a session of penitential gardening has a good impact on the garden!

Original recipe

Meera Sodha – kitchari with tomato and turmeric

Addendum

The Sunday vegan memo was one The Husband missed. Just as the rice was having its 10-minute-rest, he rushed into the kitchen announcing he’d bought some fish that needed eating. So…

Meera’s kitchari with added fish

Garlic focaccia: easy like a Sunday morning

Sunday morning. A wee bit over-tired after a lovely lazy meal with friends on a hot summer Saturday night. What better way to fumble into the day than to mooch around in my nightie baking Meera Sodha-style vegan garlic foccacia as featured in Guardian Feast Issue No.182?

It’s win-win: you’ve faced a potentially lost day, achieved a loaf to sigh for and gained a garlic aura that no vampire will breach

Undemanding and therapeutic, bread-making – with its blend of mixing, kneading and resting – has a way of easing you into a daunting or unpromising Sunday. Plus, there’s the certainty of a comforting fresh-from-the-oven loaf to look forward to for brunch.

I’m not going to warble on about the process of making Meera’s ten-garlic-clove focaccia: take your time, follow the instructions, leave time for the proving (during which you do something undemanding like, say, clean your teeth, have a shower, read the paper, or sit quietly in a cool, dark corner), and enjoy pressing oil dimples into the bouncy dough with your fingertips when the time comes.

It’s win-win: you’ve faced a potentially lost day, achieved a loaf to sigh for and gained a garlic aura that no vampire will breach.

Original recipe

Meera Sodha – ten-garlic-clove focaccia

The Husband embraces superhero tofu

Tofu is not universally celebrated in our house. The Husband considers it ‘blandness incarnate’. In some ways I guess he’s right. A bit like bread, rice, potatoes and pasta, tofu’s basically a vessel for flavour. But just look at the miraculous flavours and textures you can create using these superhero vessels.

If you are ambivalent about tofu, read on.

Our favourite tofu dish to date has been the ridiculously easy to prepare chilled tofu with soy sauce, ginger and katsuobushi (dried fermented tuna flakes) from Tim Anderson’s inspiring JapanEasy. In his introduction to the dish, Tim concedes that the dish sounds unprepossessing. However, he also says it’s a cracking dish. He’s right: it’s lipsmackingly delicious. A perfect introduction to bean curd for the tofu sceptic.

Tim Anderson’s chilled tofu with ginger and soy sauce (no katsuobushi – so vegan)

However, it’s time we branched out. London Daughter and I agree that Meera Sodha’s dry-fried beans with minced tofu sounds both straightforward and intriguing – a good weekend supper dish. Confession time: it was the mention of Sichuan peppercorns that caught my eye. I’d bought a sackload of them when London Daughter took on Ixta Belfrage’s (from Ottolenghi Kitchen) biang biang noodles with numbing oil and tahini soy sauce.

London Daughter's take on biang biang noodles using Sichuan peppercorns.
London Daughter’s version of biang biang noodles

That was from Guardian Feast back in November 2020 before my self-imposed challenge to cook at least one recipe from each issue of Guardian Feast in 2021 began. And so to Issue No.180 and week 25 of the challenge.

Bring on Meera Sodha’s vegan dish: dry-fried beans with minced tofu

London Daughter and I both decide to cook Meera’s plateful. We head out for ingredients – me in Northumberland, her in North London.

I manage a pack of green beans from our Saturday market and pressed tofu and dried shiitake from our local organic gem the Green Shop. I receive a WhatsApp from London Daughter: ‘Got fresh shiitake but no green beans šŸ˜‚. Only in Crouch End!’

Got fresh shiitake but no green beans šŸ˜‚. Only in Crouch End!

London Daughter

London Daughter cooks her version of Meera’s beans and tofu the night before I do. From the pics, I’d say she makes a better job of the dish than me. I rather overdo the burning of the beans but hers look just right.

The combo of minced tofu and mushrooms gives an almost meaty chew to the dish and both the daughter and I opt to chuck in a few extra red chillies on top of the crushed Sichuan peppercorns as suggested by Meera.

London Daughter declared the dish ‘salty and crunchy, quite different’. For The Husband it ‘makes tofu interesting – no small achievement!’.

Meera’s dish ‘makes tofu interesting – no small achievement!’

The Husband

Praise indeed for this underrated superhero of vegan food.

Erchen Chang’s dan dan tofu noodles

Clearly at a loose end, London Daughter decides to use up her block of pressed tofu on another dish in Issue No.180 of Feast: Erchen Chang’s dan dan tofu noodles. I suggest she might like to blog about it for me. She sends pics and comments instead:

Erchen describes the noodles as a ‘simple, savoury dish’. London Daughter describes it as:

Sweet, salty, tangy, hot-hot-hot. Complete SULA… sweaty upper lip alert!

London Daughter

London Daughter couldn’t lay her hands on any black vinegar and used balsamic instead. In the taste test she judged it as having ‘lots of oil, not much veg, but it’s very tasty’. She thought the heat might defeat her, but slurped down the whole bowl. She says I should definitely cook it.

Rachel Roddy – gateau au yaourt

We were completely beguiled by Rachel Roddy’s wonderful tale from an Italian kitchen this week which involves an elderly gentleman, yoghurt and a careless supermarket trolley driver. The Husband, London Daughter and I agree it would make the youngest daughter weep. We discovered through lockdown that anything involving elderly men and vulnerability (in films, cartoons, stories) will for some reason set her off.

London Daughter was so beguiled by Rachel’s story that she cooked the yoghurt cake of the tale. In the end, she was a little underwhelmed by it. She wondered if it was to do with ingredient quantities: the cake rose magnificently but remained rather dense and a ‘a bit bland’. Fortunately the youngest daughter is on her way to London to visit her sister and loves an olive oil cake (and she’s always hungry!).

I’ll sign off this week with three cheers for two superheroes of the kitchen: tofu (and its sidekicks heat, rice and noodles) and London Daughter.

Original recipes:

Tim Anderson – chilled tofu with soy sauce, ginger and katsuobushi

Ixta Belfrage (for Ottolonghi) – biang biang noodles with numbing oil and tahini soy sauce

Meera Sodha – dry-fried beans with minced tofu

Erchen Chang – dan dan tofu noodles

Rachel Roddy – gateau au yaourt (yoghurt cake)

London Daughter’s beautiful version of Meera Sodha’s dry-fried beans with minced tofu

We’re fools for Meera’s aubergine

The kind of dish that makes me think being a vegetarian might be possible

The Husband

Praise indeed for Meera Sodha’s fabulously easy walnut-stuffed aubergines. A super vegan supper dish from Guardian Feast Issue No.175. Couple it with Felicity Cloake’s masterclass fruit fool from the following week’s Issue No.176 and you’ve practically got a party on your hands!

First the aubergine. I was relieved to read that Meera doesn’t advocate salting aubergine. Personally, I don’t find salting removes any ‘bitterness’ but does give you salty aubergine. I was also comforted to learn that aubergine doesn’t need ‘drenching in oil to cook’. As with mushrooms and other oil guzzlers, it’s always tempting to go over the top with oil and end up with something bordering on greasy rather than unctuous.

With the cumin, cinnamon, paprika and walnuts, there’s something of a Lebanese riff with this dish. And Meera says she’s loosely based the stuffing around the Levantine dip muhammara.

We served our aubergine and its perfect blend of textures and balance of flavours with asparagus and Meera’s suggested salad. It was wonderful.

With no children in our household currently, the cooking with kids special was a bit of a challenge. But hurrah for Felicity Cloake and her masterclass fruit fool. We have a glorious crop of rhubarb in the garden and are total fool addicts. I was delighted to follow Felicity’s instructions which totally mirror my own approach to fools.

Straining the rhubarb to create a pot of bright, clear pinkness to pour over your fool is almost my favourite element. However, the addition of orange zest, syrup from stem ginger and garnish of chopped stem ginger turns this pinkly happy summery pud into a more grown-up treat.

Cheers to children’s week in Guardian Feast – particularly when there are no children around to snaffle all the fruit fools! And we could easily have made this meal totally vegan, by replacing the cream I used with a vegan alternative.

Original recipes

Meera Sodha – walnut-stuffed aubergines

Felicity Cloake – masterclass fruit fool

Greens and rice: super nice.

This week’s recipe from Guardian Feast Issue No.172 is a moreish fab Japanese-ish vegan rice and greens dish from Meera Sodha. This bright, clean, fresh dish packs an umami lip-smacking punch way above the sum of its ingredients. It’s fragrant and crunchy with pings of salt, a tang of sake and green sweetness from the peas.

The Husband and I enjoyed it so much that we pretty much polished off the quantity for four (and, yes, with 350g of rice, there was plenty for four) between the two of us.

All set up to create Meera Sodha’s green tea rice with sake vegetables

As regular readers will know, Iā€™m celebrating my love of the food columns and supplements in The Guardian by trying to cook at least one recipe from each issue of Guardian Feast in 2021. Find out a bit more about that here.

Along with the garlic, spring onions, sake and soy sauce, Meera steams pak choi, mange tout and frozen peas. I couldn’t lay my hands on mange tout so used some French beans instead – they worked just fine.

I don’t think I’ve ever cooked Jasmine rice before (available in Berwick from The Green Shop on Bridge Street) and felt a bit sceptical about infusing it with teabags. Oh me of little faith! Meera gives precise instructions about cooking the rice which deliver perfect fluffy, fragrant results. I appreciate these exact directions. For something so ‘easy’, rice is often the thing that goes wrong.

Just a brief word of caution: don’t do what I did and leave the green teabag strings dangling down the side of the pan. A gas hob will ignite the paper tabs!

Original recipe:

Meera Sodha – green tea rice with sake and vegetables

Rhubarb? Go on, force me!

We found a dustbin without a bottom in the garden when we moved to Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland. There were all sorts of quirky upcycled and useful repurposed things left for us around the house and garden, so I figured the bin must have a purpose.

I stuck it behind a bush until I decided what that might be. Several years later I realised it was for forcing rhubarb. Out it came and up came the treasured pink branches of delight. Eat your heart out Wakefield triangle!

I love rhubarb – as does the eldest daughter – stewed, crumbled, pickled: we’ll eat the lot. I think of forced rhubarb as very cheffy. Stylists and chefs can’t get enough of the vibrant stalks, they just love to showcase its pink, tart gorgeousness.

Meera’s vegan tart is superb. I think it may be the nicest tart I’ve ever eaten.

The chef contributors to Guardian Feast are no exception. As regular readers will know, Iā€™m celebrating my love of the food columns and supplements in The Guardian by trying to cook at least one recipe from each issue of Guardian Feast in 2021. Find out a bit more about that here.

Lockdown lunches (or any workaday lunch) can become a bit samey. Of course, you can wrap a wrap or slice a cheese sandwich many ways but, even so, it’s nice to inject a thrilling new element every now and then. Enter Yotam Ottolenghi’s rhubarb, chipotle and lime jam (in a cheese toastie) from March Feast Issue No.164 – which I have not cooked from yet.

The jam is quick and easy – although mine is more the consistency of a sauce (fine by me!) than a jam. Hibiscus tea bags aren’t something we have kicking around so I omit (Yotam says that’s okay!). The making of the sarnies falls to The Husband who positively quivers at the idea of frying slices of sourdough filled with grated cheddar and taleggio (we didn’t have gruyere) slathered in mayo – ON BOTH SIDES!!!

The jam is sensational. Smoky, sweet, sour, smooth with pings of salt – it’s got the lot. I thought the colour of my beautiful forced rhubarb would be lost in the process, but take a look at it oozing out of that sarnie above. Gorgeous.

Rhubarb really is the gift that keeps on giving, forced or not. Meera Sodha’s rhubarb and pistachio tart was calling out to me. It’s in much-loved Feast Issue No.162 (we’ve cooked five recipes from that Issue – Felicity Cloake’s the perfect keema twice!).

Meera’s vegan tart is superb. Seriously, I think it may be the nicest tart I’ve ever eaten. Three harmonising elements: the crumbly, crunchy, melty pastry; the orangey, cardamommy, nutty, gooey frangipane; and the sparkling, tangy rhubarb topping. We loved it.

It’s also super-easy to make. Although, I’m no pastry queen and you’ll see the flaws in my method if you look closely at the pics. I love how Meera talks you through the helpful practical stuff like pricking the pastry with a fork before blind baking and scrunching up the sheet of greaseproof paper before you line the case – it makes the paper sit better (why have I never known this trick before???).

I got sucked in by the idea of tessellating the rhubarb. Hands-up, I am a chuck-it-all-in sort of gal and I wasn’t about to get out a protractor to ensure accurate angles on my rhubarb cuttings. Even so, I’m pretty pleased with my approximation of tessellation. I’ll be making Meera’s tart again – due to popular demand.

My version of Meera Sodha’s rhubarb and pistachio tart – photo credit: the youngest daughter

Original recipes:

Yotam Ottolenghi – rhubarb, chipotle and lime jam (in a cheese toastie)

Meera Sodha – rhubarb and pistachio tart

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