Monday 31 March 2014

New Blog - Food Mela

I've moved! My new blog is called Food Mela - you'll find all my usual kinds of posts over on Food Mela - baking, Cambridge reviews and now more Indian recipes. I'm quite excited about this refresh and I've got lots of inspiration so there will be lots of posts in the next few weeks.

You'll need to add my new blog address - - to your feed reader (Feedly for example) if you use one, then you'll continue to be updated when I post a new blog. You can also sign up for email updates on my new blog.

Thank you!

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Sunday 9 February 2014

North China Dumpling, Cambridge

The Mr is my Cambridge spy, as he works in the city, and he mentioned on Friday 'that dumpling place has opened on Regent Street' - feeling like we needed something to shake the damp feeling this weather is giving us, we went along for dumplings on Saturday.

It's where the Otto Cafe used to be, a small place with about 8 tables and a tiny kitchen. They serve up steamed dumplings with pork, beef, lamb, chicken, fish or vegetable/tofu fillings. There are a few extras too like hot and sour cucumber salad, char sui pork with rice and pickled vegetables. It's a very simple menu and extremely good value too - 12 dumplings are £6 and sides about £3/4. They also do sweet steamed buns, with black sesame or peanut fillings.

I went for the pork dumplings with kimchi served in a hot and sour soup, Mr opted for the tofu and chive dumplings. The service is a little slow and confused here, but they have only been open a week or so, but the staff are really friendly, I'm sure this will improve with experience.

The food however is great, it's fresh and packed with flavour. The vegetarian dumplings were filled with crispy tofu and stuffed with lots of chives, and the surrounding pastry was light. The pork dumplings were similarly good, tender on the inside with lots of ginger and kimchi, and the hot and sour broth had a really good chilli kick.

We spent £19 on 2 servings of dumplings, soup (an extra £1.50) and two cokes. The cheapest lunch I've had in Cambridge for a long time! We'll definitely be back, we had no room for pudding but I will on my next visit.

North China Dumpling,
57 Regent Street

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Saturday 8 February 2014

Aloo Tikki Style Celeriac Cakes - Using Up Sunday Leftovers

Following on from my last post about a Baked Celeriac Sunday roast, here is a quick recipe for using up the leftovers! I had about 1/4 of celeriac left so I combined this with some mashed potato (if you have roast potatoes left these work too) and lots of spices to create an aloo tikki style cake, which made for a simple Monday dinner.

I served the cakes with a tomato and fenugreek sauce, also made from some leftover tomato soup from Saturday evening dinner. I simmered it for about 20 minutes til it reduced before adding in turmeric, chilli, dried fenugreek (also called methi or kasoori methi) and grated ginger.

Apologies in advance for the worse than usual photography, let's give it the excuse that I was hungry and wanted to eat them up...

Spicy Celeriac & Potato Cakes
makes 4, enough for 2 

1/2 onion
1 clove of garlic
150g leftover cooked celeriac, mashed
150g potatoes, this can be leftover roasties too, mashed
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric
sunflower or groundnut oil

Fry the onion in a large deep frying pan, until soft with a little bit of colour, for about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and fry for another 1 minute stirring often. Add this to a large bowl with your potato and celeriac, and then add in all the spices, plus salt.

Mix and then form with your hands in to patties. If they aren't feeling substantial enough, pop them in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up.

Heat some groundnut or sunflower oil in your large deep frying pan, and once hot add in your cakes. Fry on a medium high heat for 4 minutes on each side, try not to move them otherwise you won't get crispiness. Flip over and fry on the other side for another 4 minutes.

Serve with your tomato sauce and a side of veggies.

This post is part of Sainsbury's Love your Leftovers Campaign - thank you to Sainsbury's for sending me vouchers to use for this challenge :)

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Monday 3 February 2014

Vegetarian Sunday Roast - Baked Celeriac & Mushroom Gravy

The thing I miss the most about Mr going veggie is the roast dinners. I love putting lots of herbs and butter on a chicken and roasting it for a while before adding all the necessary trimmings. Poussin is not the same before you ask.

Sainsbury's got in touch to ask if I wanted to take part in their 'Love your Leftovers' campaign, and come up with a dish to use up Sunday Lunch leftovers. Thinking that I wanted to change up our usual sad poussin plus a few baked mushrooms I took up the challenge to think up a robust vegetarian Sunday roast that would also provide leftovers for Monday.

Inspired by the fantastic celeriac Mr had at Morston Hall I decided to bake a whole one, with lots of garlic, sage and butter (olive in the week, butter at the weekend!) and serve it with roast potatoes, green veg and a killer vegetarian gravy (gravy is important).

It really couldn't be simpler to prep, much like a slow roasted piece of pork or lamb, but without the basting. You wrap it in foil, and leave it in the oven for 2 hours, and for the last hour make your spuds and get your gravy on.

Baked Celeriac - serves 2 with leftovers 
adapted from BBC Good Food

1 medium celeriac, approx 500g
3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed with a knife, but with skin on.
large bunch of sage
2 knobs of butter

Preheat your oven to 160c fan / 180c electric. Wash your celeriac, and if it comes with any frondy bits (technical term) trim those off. Prick with a knife, around 1cm in to ensure it cooks, and the flavour gets into the celeriac. Place a large piece of foil on to a baking tray and pop your celeriac on and tuck the herbs, garlic cloves and butter around, season and wrap in 3 layers of foil.

Bake for 2 hours, check about 2/3 way through to see if it is cooking through. When you're ready to serve simply cut into wedges, and keep the garlic to serve on the side. Depending on your celeriac, you can eat the skin if it isn't too tough.

Mushroom Gravy, enough for 2
adapted from Food 52

I made this gravy at Christmas, to serve alongside a vegetarian wellington, it's made with dried mushrooms, shallots and a secret ingredient, soy sauce. The soy gives the deep savoury flavour that you'd otherwise get from meat.

2 shallots, finely diced
knob of butter
1 tbsp flour
50g of dried mushrooms
1 stock cube dissolved in 250ml of water.
sage or thyme, small handful chopped.
1 tbsp dark soy sauce

1. Fry your shallots in a small pan with the butter til they are translucent.
2. Soak your mushrooms in a jug, in 75ml of boiling water.
3. Once your onions are soft add in the flour and stir quickly on a medium heat.
4. Drain your mushrooms and add the mushroom stock to your vegetable stock. Pour this into your onion roux and whisk to combine and thicken.
5. Add in the herbs and let the whole thing simmer gently, stirring regularly, til it starts to thicken up.
6. Add in your soy sauce, and check for seasoning.

You can now serve your gravy, or if you want it to be smooth pass through a sieve and warm up again when you're ready to eat.

Thanks to Sainsbury's for sending me vouchers for our Sunday Roast challenge! Coming up next, how to use the leftovers - Celeriac & Potato Cakes, Aloo Tikki style. 

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Sunday 2 February 2014

Indian Supperclub - a 3 course feast - date announced!

I've announced a date for my supperclub, and booking is open! It's been a long time in the planning and I'm so pleased to be able to bring you a taste of authentic Gujarati cuisine.

If you've not eaten for a while I suggest you get a snack as this post will make you hungry.

My first supperclub is on Saturday 22nd February in a beautiful spot just outside Cambridge, I'll be cooking a very traditional Gujarati meal - crisp samosas spiced with cumin and chilli to start, a range of veggie curries with rotli (chapati), rice and accompaniments finishing with a sweet tooth's dream of a dessert. The menu...

Mela Supperclub, 22nd February

Welcome Drink: Nimbu Pani (sweet lime drink)

Starter: Pea & Potato Samosas with green chilli chutney

Mains: Chana Masala, Toor Daal, Venghan Bateta (Potato & Aubergine)

Rotli, Rice, Kadhi (spiced yoghurt sauce), Raita and Pickle

Dessert: Gulab Jambu (doughnut like dumplings in cardamom syrup) 

with Jack's Mango Sorbet & Cumin Gelato

Masala Chai & Cardamom Shortbread

Places are limited, I've still a few spots left - email me to book a place.
£32 pp and you can BYOB, there will also be plenty of nimbu pani to go around plus water and juice.

Read more here, and get a little sneak peek into my new blog: 

See you there, come with an empty stomach! :)

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Friday 31 January 2014

Lemon Polenta Biscuits

Well we made it to February, well done everyone! What got me through the last week of January was these fabulous lemon cookies, made a on exceedingly dreary Sunday afternoon. Once they were cooled we curled up on the sofa with steaming cups of tea and dunked these sunshiney cookies (well I did, I'm the dunker of this household). For the next few days they provided a lovely accompaniment to our after work cups of tea.

I spotted the lovely Emma's tweet about her lemon polenta biscuit recipe, and immediately got up and surveyed the kitchen cupboards to see if we had the right ingredients in. Everything except the almonds, so I did a bit of searching and came up with this recipe, halfway between Emma's and this one on

These are forgiving biscuits, quick to make and if your dough starts to get a bit soft, pop in the fridge for a bit and then bring it back out again to separate into balls.

Lemon Polenta Biscuits
makes 12 - 15

100g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
grated zest of 2 lemons, plus juice of 1/2 lemon
150g plain flour
75g polenta

1. Put your butter and sugar in a large bowl, and cream together. Or if you are fancypants (me) pop them both in your stand mixer and mix for a couple of minutes with the beater.
2. Add in an egg yolk at a time and keep beating.
3. Add in the lemon zest and juice, flour and polenta. Mix with a spoon (if you're using a mixer it's best to switch to a spoon now), and then knead with your hands briefly to allow it to come together.
4. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes, then separate the dough into 12 - 15 balls around the size of a walnut. Preheat your oven to 200c
5. Arrange on a lined baking tray, and then squish with a wet fork to flatten.
6. Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly brown on the edges
7. Leave to cool and then remove from your tray, and into your mouth.

They keep for about 5 days in an airtight container.

News! I'm holding another food event. My long awaited Gujarati Supperclub is on the 22nd February in Cambridgeshire. Find out more and book one of the last few spaces here: 

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Monday 27 January 2014

Restaurant Review - Red Onion Essex & Indian Food in the UK

I was recently contacted by a new Indian restaurant in Saffron Walden (Essex / Cambridgeshire border), Red Onion, to try out their menu. This post is two things really, a review of the restaurant and some ponderings about Indian food in the UK.

First, the Red Onion. It is a curry house based just around the corner from Saffron Walden Common, which opened last year.

For starters we had onion bhaji and Aloo Chaat. The onion bhaji was pretty textbook, they were crispy and quite big and not too oily- and served with that random salad that no one ever eats. My aloo chaat, was just a plain potato curry - what I had hoped for is spicy potatoes with crispy sev (chickpea noodles) or fried chapati with yoghurt and tamarind, that is what chaat normally consists of - it's about textures. This was unfortunately a potato curry with cucumber in it, bizarrely. It was good to see it on the menu but unfortunately it wasn't an aloo chaat.

For mains I ordered a lamb achari - the lamb was nice and tender and the sauce was tomato based with good heat and a lemony kick. Mr had a vegetable bhuna - a nice tomatoey sauce with good heat, but the vegetables seemed to be from those frozen 'vegetable mixes' you get in big bags. We also ordered muttar paneer, usually cooked with onions and a little tomato with plenty of chilli, and peas of course, our dish was coconut based, which I like with paneer, but unfortunately it was cloyingly sweet. I wouldn't have minded a little chilli powder!

We decided to try out some different breads - garlic naan, roti and chapati. The naan was really nice, fluffy inside and crispy on the bottom. The chapati was good, nice and soft and mopped up the curry well. The roti, I think it differs from the chapati as it is cooked on a tandoor, was nice too, possibly a bit too crispy.

To finish we decided not to go for the oddly presented kulfis (in coconut shells, plastic pineapple shells etc) that you always find in curry houses, but for a cup of masala chai each. Like the aloo chaat it was nice to see it on the menu, the tea was good although, I think, made from a spiced tea bag rather than brewed with a masala mix, meaning it wasn't as strong as it should be.

Overall it was a nice meal, and if you're after a 'British Curry' then that is what it will offer you. We really liked the breads and the sauces in each of our curries were good. The starters could use some work and the paneer was a little bizarre.

I think food in general has improved tenfold UK over the past 10 years, British food is better than ever, but I feel understanding about what Indian food, and probably that of other countries, is seriously lagging behind. A curry house will tell you that you are eating authentic Indian food when you're tucking into a chicken korma, dipping plain poppadoms into mango chutney, and that strange thin yoghurt sauce. When you're eating orange pilau rice and fighting your way through an oil soaked onion bhaji.

For me a curry house curry is a bit of a guilty pleasure, a bit like MacDonald's or a fish finger sandwich. It's mostly not authentic (a lot of Indian restaurants dishes are actually based on Bangladeshi cooking with Anglicised additions) but it is comforting in a way.

I think curry houses can give Indian food a bad rep. Indian food is different in each region you visit - and it is not always as unhealthy as it has a reputation for - yes we like our samosas and sugary snacks, and ghee is used - but everyday Indian food is fresh and nourishing. Lentils, fresh vegetables, wholewheat chapatis and pickles. It's not just cubed meat in a sauce served with a naan or rice.

This article in the Guardian about 'how to eat curry' is great - it explains what to look out for (south Indian food, pure vegetarian food) and what to order. Searching out restaurants like this is nearly always a good idea - you'll find plenty of them in Leicester, parts of Birmingham, Southall, Wembley and Ilford. South Indian restaurants will offer you a thali (plate) filled with different dishes, or a crispy dosa stuffed with homemade paneer or spicy potato. Pure vegetarian restaurants, which are often Gujarati (like me!) will serve chilli paneer, the best daal, chaat and sometimes gulab jamun for pudding.

Thanks to the Red Onion, Saffron Walden for inviting us for dinner. You can find out more about them here.

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