Cape Gooseberry, Labneh & Lemon Verbena Tart

I wanted something with an emphatic tang rather than a delicate flavour of the cape gooseberries and this beauty is the newest addition to my repertoire. It is not dauntingly difficult, the flavours are anything but subtle and the colour, might I add, is splendidly celebratory.

What you will need – (for 1 x 9 inch tart)

For crust:

  • Oat flour – 1 1/2 cup 
  • Almond meal – 1/2 cup almond meal (sub with whole wheat/millet flour)
  • Baking powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Salt – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Butter – 60g (sub with 45ml light Olive oil)
  • Brown Sugar – 2 tablespoon
  • Water – 1-2 tablespoon

For filling:

  • Cape gooseberries – 300g (approx 3 cups), dehusked
  • Castor sugar – 1/3 cup (sub with golden or granulated sugar)
  • Fresh Lemon Verbena – 6 leaves, if using dried ones, use 12-14 leaves (sub with 1 tbsp lemon zest)
  • Lemon juice – 3 tablespoon
  • Salt – 1/4 teaspoon
  • Cornstarch – 1 tablespoon, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
  • Labneh – 500g (sub with greek or plant-based yoghurt)

For topping: (optional)

  • Fresh Cape Gooseberries – 10-15
  • Lime slices
  • A handful of fresh Cranberries
Method –
  • Preheat oven to 180°C.
  • To make the crust, add oat flour, almond meal, baking powder, salt, brown sugar and olive oil to a food processor. Pulse for 5-6 seconds. Now add 1 tablespoon water and pulse again. The mixture will be moist and have a coarse rubble-like texture. Use your hands to bring it together into a malleable soft ball. Add more water if needed.
  • Grease a tart tin with oil, place the dough in the centre. Firmly press into the bottom and up the sides of tart tin. Make sure its evenly spread out and the walls are the same thickness throughout.
  • Bake for 18-20 mins or until the edges are lightly golden. Do NOT over-bake. Gluten-free crusts do not signal doneness by turning a gorgeous golden. I wouldn’t recommend baking the crust for longer than 25 mins.
  • Rest on a cooling rack.
  • In a large, heavy saucepan, add cape gooseberries, lemon verbena leaves, sugar, lemon juice and salt. Cook on medium heat for 5 mins. Once the berries soften, use a wooden spoon or spatula to lightly crush them. Add cornflour slurry and cook for another 3 mins or until lightly thickened.
  • Set aside to cool slightly.
  • Add the mix to a blender and make a fine puree.
  • Whisk labneh until soft and fluffy, add in the prepared fruit puree and fold to combine.
  • Pour the mixture into the tart shell and smooth the surface. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
  • Once the tart is set, top with fresh berries, few mint leaves or mustard microgreens and serve.

Storage notes –

Keeps well in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

If you make this recipe, you know the drill: Let me know!

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Gluten-free Amaranth Crackers

These pseudo-cheesy pseudocereal crackers with their crumbly texture and a delectable eathy-nutty flavour are surprisingly easy to make. Crackers strike me as the type of pantry project that is seemingly way more high-effort than it actually is. I suppose it’s because picking up a pack at the grocery store feels easier than everything else.

You will be able to make these with untroubled ease even if you’ve never baked anything in your life. Unlike other pastries, this one does not intimidate. The dough is mixed up in the processor and rolls effortlessly. And I re-squidge and re-roll to the bitter end. A fork can be used to make quaint dotted perforations on the crackers and very satisfying work it is, too. But should you want to skip it, they will turn out just as good.

What you will need – (for 24-26 crackers )
  • Amaranth flour – 120 g (1 cup)
  • Olive oil – 3 tablespoon (45 ml)
  • Baking powder – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Garlic powder – 1 teaspoon (or use 2-3 fresh cloves, grated)
  • Onion powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Fresh Rosemary – 2 sprigs (about 1 tablespoon leaves), roughly chopped
  • Fresh Thyme – 3-4 sprigs, picked
  • Salt – 1/2 teaspoon or to taste
  • Nutritional yeast – 1 tablespoon (optional)
  • Water – 3 tablespoon
Method –
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and pulse to combine. The mix will be clumpy and will likely not come together into a ball. Take the mixture out and knead gently for 2-3 mins. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Add a little more flour if needed.
  3. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to roughly 0.5cm thick, use a sharp knife or a cookie cutter to cut out the crackers. This dough, unlike all other pastry doughs, does not change characteristics once rolled. So resquidge and re-roll till the wee end. Waste nothing.
  4. Prick lightly with a fork to prevent them from puffing up.
    (You might be able to tell from the photograph that I completely forgot to do this, but the puffy ones tasted just as good)
  5. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 12-14 mins or until lightly golden around the edges.
  6. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container.

Storage notes –

Store in an airtight container for up to a week. (They’ll be eaten way before that)

If you make this recipe, you know the drill: Let me know!

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Vegan Mushroom & Rice Soup

This is a very laissez-faire recipe actually: the aromatic broth can be made days ahead and can be frozen too. Packed full of flavour, it offers a cornucopia of delectation and does so persuasively that I use it as the base for many recipes.

If you can’t get bok choy, don’t be put off making this; baby spinach, napa cabbage, red cabbage, celery, sorrel or mustard greens could be substituted. Similarly, replace rice with other cooked grain or millets. And this recipe is worth bearing in mind even when your starting point is not meat: if you were to bung in some prawns or leftover chicken at the end, this would make for a fabulous dinner for omnivores.

What you will need – (for 4 servings)

For the broth:

  1. Shiitake mushrooms – 6-7 dried (roughly 80g)
  2. Peanut oil – 2 tablespoon
  3. Red onion – 1 medium (roughly 60g), quartered
  4. Carrot – 2 medium (roughly 120g), chopped in large chunks
  5. Lemongrass stalks – 2, bashed with the back of a knife and trimmed to 1 inch pieces
  6. Galangal root – 2 inch, sliced thick
  7. Garlic cloves – 5-6, unpeeled, smashed
  8. Bird’s eye chillies – 3-4 (1 gram), slit
  9. Kaffir lime leaves – 4-5, torn
  10. Water – 5 cups or as needed
  11. Spring onion – 2 stalks, white parts removed
  12. Soy Sauce – 3 tablespoon
  13. Rice Wine Vinegar – 3 tablespoon
  14. Coconut Sugar – 1 tablespoon
  15. Black peppercorns – 6-7, roughly crushed
  16. Star anise – 3
  17. Sea Salt flakes – 1/2 teaspoon

For add on:

  1. Rice – 1/3 cup, uncooked (I use unpolished sonamasoori, but any brown rice should work just as well)
  2. White button mushrooms – 7-8, sliced (roughly 80 g)
  3. Shiitake mushroom tops – 6-7 (reserved from the broth)
  4. Carrot – 1 small, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  5. Baby Bok choy – 1, stems and leaves chopped into 1 inch chunks
  6. A few sprigs of fresh coriander and some chopped spring onion
  7. Chilli oil and toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Method –
  1. Soak Shiitake mushrooms in 1 cup hot water for atleast an hour. Once rehydrated, separate stalks from the tops and reserve everything, soaking liquid included.
  2. Heat oil in a heavy pan on medium heat and add quartered onions. Leave untouched for 2 mins or till the onions are lightly browned. This golden carapace helps build flavour, careful not to burn it to a blackened crisp.
  3. Now add garlic, lemongrass, galangal root and carrots. Sauté for 5 mins.
  4. Once the carrots have lightly brown edges, add in soaking liquid and stalks from the shiitake mushrooms, kaffir lime leaves, chillies, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, coconut sugar, black peppercorns, star anise, spring onion and sea salt. Top with 5 cups water or more, enough to cover everything.
  5. Bring to a boil on medium high heat, then reduce to low and simmer for 1 hour.
  6. Meanwhile, cook the rice, sauté white button mushrooms and bok choy stems. Set aside.
  7. Once the broth is done, strain with a fine mesh strainer.
  8. Add to a bowl and top with add ons as desired. I prefer to add 1/4 cup cooked rice per serving and lots of bok choy.
  9. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, chilli oil and serve

Storage notes –

Broth can be made and kept for 4-5 days in the fridge or frozen for up to a month.

If you make this recipe, you know the drill: Let me know!

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Passionfruit Orange Tart

This is my disc of winter sunshine on a plate, and it tastes like it too. The uncompromisingly tart flavour of passionfruit shines bright with the nutty curry leaf crust perfectly countering its intense fragrance. And the cranberry topping turns it into an absolute dazzler. I know the flavours sound rather bold here but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And here’s the deal: if pastry making or rolling scares you in the slightest, or like me, you’re too lazy to do it, this tart is for you. There is pitifully little work to be done to make this tart crust that meets all contemporary culinary strictures. This soft pliable dough is to be pressed into the tin using your fingers and takes the rolling out of question.

What you will need – (for 1 x 9 inch tart)

For crust:

  • Oat flour – 1 1/2 cup 
  • Almond meal – 1/2 cup almond meal
  • Baking powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Salt – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Light Olive oil – 3 tablespoon (45ml)
  • Brown Sugar – 2 tablespoon
  • Curry Leaf – 8-10, stalks removed
  • Water – 1-2 tablespoon

For filling:

  • Passionfruit pulp – 1 1/2 cup, (about 12-15 passionfruits) 
  • Orange juice – 1/2 cup, (approx 1 whole orange)
  • Zest of 1 whole orange (approx 2 tablespoon)
  • Maple syrup/honey – 60ml (1/4 cup), adjust to taste
  • Coconut Cream – 220 ml (a little over 1 cup)
  • Agar agar powder – 3 teaspoon

For topping:

  • Cranberries – 100g (fresh or frozen)
  • Sugar – 2 tablespoon
  • Lime juice – 1 tablespoon
  • Salt – 1/4 teaspoon
  • Cornstarch – 1.5 teaspoon, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
Method –
  • Preheat oven to 180°C.
  • To make the crust, grind curry leaves to a powder like consistency in a spice grinder. (If using a normal grinder, blitz with sugar to help incorporate evenly). Add oat flour, almond meal, baking powder, salt, brown sugar, curry leaf powder and olive oil to a food processor. Pulse for 5-6 seconds. Now add 1 tablespoon water and pulse again. The mixture will be moist and have a coarse rubble-like texture. Use your hands to bring it together into a malleable soft ball. Add more water if needed.
  • Grease a tart tin with oil, place the dough in the centre. Firmly press into the bottom and up the sides of tart tin. Make sure its evenly spread out and the walls are the same thickness throughout.
  • Bake for 18-20 mins or until the edges are lightly golden.
  • Rest on a cooling rack.
  • Meanwhile, to prepare the filling, add passion fruit pulp into a blender and blitz for no more than 8-10 seconds. Rest a fine mesh sieve over a small bowl and pour the passion fruit into the sieve. Use a spatula to press all the juice out.
  • In a saucepan, add passionfruit juice, orange juice, orange zest and coconut cream to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 6 mins, stirring constantly. Add agar-agar powder, stir until completely dissolved, about 2-3 mins. Now add honey/maple syrup, stir to combine. Taste the filling and adjust sweetness if needed. Turn off the heat and allow mixture to cool slightly.
  • Pour mixture into the tart crust and set in the fridge to set for at least 5 hours.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the cranberry topping by adding cranberries, sugar, lime juice and salt into a pan on medium heat. As the sugar begins to liquify, use a wooden spoon or spatula to lightly squish the berries. After 2 mins, add cornstarch slurry to this, stir and reduce heat to low. Cook for another 2 mins till the mix has thickened to a jammy consistency.
  • Once the tart is set, spoon over the cranberry topping, garnish with toasted coconut (optional) and serve.

Storage notes –

Keeps well in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

If you make this recipe, you know the drill: Let me know!

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Afghan Borani Banjan

I love these meaty aubergine slices topped with a warmly-spiced pepper and tomato sauce, served with garlicky yoghurt. Every bite just belts out flavour! And it smells so wonderfully festive as it cooks.⁣

Though the traditional version requires deep frying the aubergines, I pore over this contemporary adaptation with undimmed enthusiasm. In fact, my appreciation is all the greater; it’s vibrant and true to the flavours and yet so utterly easy to execute. ⁣

What you will need – (for 4 servings)

For baked aubergines:

  • Aubergines⁣ – 2 large (approx 350-400 g each)
  • Olive oil⁣ – 1/4 cup
  • Garlic cloves ⁣- 7-8, finely chopped
  • Paprika⁣ – 1 teaspoon
  • Cumin⁣ – 2 teaspoon
  • Tomato sauce⁣ – 1 cup
  • Red bell pepper ⁣- 1 medium (approx 150-180 g), finely chopped
  • Chilli flakes⁣ – 1 teaspoon
  • Salt and Pepper⁣

For yogurt sauce:

  • Yogurt – 150 g
  • Fresh Dill – 2 tablespoon, finely chopped
  • Mint leaves – 8-10, finely chopped
  • Garlic clove – 1-2, grated
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

For Garnish (optional) :

  • A handful of pomegranate seeds and a tablespoon of pomegranate molasses
Method –

✣ First slice the aubergines into discs, roughly 2 cm thick. Generously sprinkle salt on both sides and sit them on a rack or in a colander. Allow them to sweat for at least 40 mins to an hour. They might begin to brown a little bit, that’s okay.

✣ Then gently rinse them under water and pat each piece dry. ⁣Ensure you dry them well or there will be too much water once you begin to bake them.

✣ Preheat oven to 200°C.

✣ Meanwhile, heat a pan on medium flame, add oil, garlic, paprika and cumin. Once the spices bloom, add tomato sauce, peppers, chilli flakes, salt and chopped bell pepper. Lower the heat and cook for 10 mins. ⁣

✣ In a baking tray, layer the sauce and the eggplant slices like you would a lasagna. Bake covered for 30-35 mins or till the aubergines are cooked through. ⁣

✣ To make the sauce, add yogurt to a mixing bowl and whisk gently for 1 min. Now add grated garlic clove, finely chopped dill and mint. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. ⁣

✣ Drizzle all over baked aubergines and enjoy.

Storage notes –

Best eaten the same day.

If you make this recipe, you know the drill: Let me know!

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Sweet Sunshine Soup

If you are looking for food to feel cheered, this would be the answer. And if the sprightly, mood-boosting yellowness of it is not enough of a clincher, it might help to know it’s a doddle to make. The silkiness comes from the pumpkin and carrots which are quickly blitzed in a hot oven, then blended with some coconut milk. There’s nothing more to it, given that you can excuse the tweeness of the title and it’s a soup to banish the blues.

I tend to always have a stash of roasted veggies in the fridge and that’s certainly a case of cracking convenience. But even if you were to roast the vegetables to order, you need to do nothing else while they’re in the oven, and not much after.

I like this velvety smooth with a scattering of seeds though you can make it as liquidized or as rough as you please. And if you’re poutily pursuing protein, you should obviously take the legume route.

What you will need – (for 4 servings)

  • Pumpkin – 100 g, seeds removed
  • Carrots – 600g (about 6 medium sized), slit in half lengthwise
  • Garlic cloves – 4-5 lightly bashed
  • Cumin powder – 1/2 teaspoon 
  • Paprika/Chilli flakes – 1/2 teaspoon (adjust to taste)
  • Chilli powder – 1/4 teaspoon 
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon
  • Pepper – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Fresh thyme – 3-4 sprigs
  • Olive oil – 2 tablespoon
  • Coconut milk – 400 ml (approx 2 cups), or use veggie broth for a thinner consistency
  • For Garnish: Fresh herbs, microgreens, sundried tomatoes, nuts or seeds (optional)
Method –
  1. Preheat oven to 200°C.
  2. In a small bowl mix together cumin, paprika, chilli powder, salt and pepper.
  3. Drizzle sliced pumpkin and carrots with olive oil (I leave the pumpkin skin on while roasting because I find it easier to remove once baked; if you want to peel it before, please do). Sprinkle the spice mix, bashed garlic cloves and thyme. Toss so everything is well coated. Arrange on a baking sheet and roast for 30-35 mins. The edges will have lightly browned. Once done, take the sheet out and allow to cool for 10 mins.
  4. Remove thyme sprigs and add the rest to a blender.
  5. Top with coconut milk and pulse to achieve a smooth consistency.
  6. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.
  7. Garnish with microgreens or seeds and a little drizzle of coconut milk or olive oil and serve.

Storage notes –

Keeps well in the fridge for up to 4 days

If you make this recipe, you know the drill: Let me know!

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Gondhoraj Lebu Granola

Ever since I got my hands on a Gondhoraj Lebu, I haven’t been able to stop myself squeezing it on everything, calling aloud to anyone in the room (mostly to myself, I’m afraid) about its luscious brightness. Contrary to the pervasive notion, the fruit is not a very juicy one. Strength is often required to extract its juice, however, the tiniest drop can pep up the dullest, most insipid food.

This granola has a delicate flavour; it is scented with limes rather than tingling with it. I would highly recommend pairing it with a mango smoothie, but I’m aware the season is over and in that case, passion fruit or pineapple should work incredibly well too.

What you will need – (To fill a 2 litre jar)
  • Rolled oats⁣ – 3 cups
  • Cashews⁣ – 1 cup, chopped
  • Almonds or Walnuts – 1 cup⁣, chopped
  • Creamy Peanut butter – 1/2 cup
  • Honey – 1/2 cup
  • Gondhoraj Lebu juice – 1/4 cup (sub with lime juice)
  • Gondhoraj Lebu zest – 1 tablespoon (sub with lime zest)
  • Sea salt⁣ – 1/2 teaspoon
Method –
  • Preheat oven to 150°C
  • Mix oats and nuts in a large bowl, set aside.
  • In another bowl, combine peanut butter, honey, salt, gondhoraj lebu juice and zest. Whisk together to make a smooth, runny concoction.
  • Add this to the bowl of oats and nuts, use a wooden spoon or spatula to coat everything evenly.
  • Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and bake for 30-35 mins, stirring once midway.
  • Once crunchy golden, take the sheet out of the oven and allow to cool completely.

Storage notes –

Store in an airtight container for 3-4 weeks

If you make this recipe, you know the drill: Let me know!

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Passionfruit Curd

I thought I was going to exhaust the culinary possibilities of passion fruit but turns out I have great capacity for eating greedy, grateful spoonfuls of it; slurping away at the cuppy shells, sucking even the last droplet of juice left; I even licked a few of them if I may embarrassingly add.

The last few went into this gorgeous curd which is wonderful slathered on fresh bread (yes, even the ones with a hint of garlic). It is also exceptional dolloped over crumpets and pancakes or added to oat cups. The addition of brown sugar makes it duller in colour, but it is much more vibrant in flavour. If you want, by all mean, use caster sugar.

If you don’t have a passionfruit Santa in your life or can’t get hold of them, there’s nothing to stop you making this with grapefruit or lemon or orange.

What you will need – (for approx 300-350 ml curd)
  • Passionfruit – 10 + 1
  • Eggs – 2 large
  • Butter – 70 grams (cultured butter preferred)
  • Brown sugar – 60 grams (sub with caster sugar)
  • Cornstarch – 1.5 tablespoon (mix with 30 ml water)
Method –
  1. Add the pulp of 10 of the passionfruit into a processor and blitz for no more than 4-5 seconds, just enough to loosen the seeds. You don’t want to crazily blend them to mush. Strain into a bowl and set aside.
  2. In a bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together.
  3. In a heavy pan, melt the butter over a low flame. When melted, stir in the sugar-egg mixture, the passionfruit juice and cornstarch slurry.
  4. Keep cooking gently; stirring constantly. Don’t be tempted to increase the heat unless you want sweet scrambled eggs. until thickened.
  5. In about 6-8 mins the mixture will thicken into a curd like consistency. When it does, off the heat, whisk in the pulp – seeds and all – of the remaining passionfruit.
  6. Let cool completely, pour into an airtight glass jar and refrigerate.

Storage notes –

Keeps in the fridge for a week.

If you make this recipe, you know the drill: Let me know!

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Kidney Bean Burgers

This is possibly the easiest route to a quick, all-inclusive and yet proper and filling dinner. And if this isn’t enough of a come-on, think again. They’re bursting with herby flavours, hearty texture, and oodles of plant-based protein.

While these patties are good enough to be relished alone, I am mad for these sandwiched in pitas or chapatis, smeared with guacamole and a crunchy green salad. You could always add a little lemony-minty chutney if you’re in the mood.

I’ve used cilantro for the recipe but feel free to swap or supplement with sorrel, spinach or fenugreek leaves for fun variations.

What you will need – (for 4 burger sized patties)
  • Red kidney beans – 3 cups (approx 1 cup dry)
  • Cooked Foxtail millet – 1 cup (sub with equal quantity of cooked quinoa)
  • Flax seed – 2 tablespoon, powdered + 3 tablespoons water
  • Red onion – 1 medium, chopped (50g or 1/3 cup)
  • Garlic Powder – 2 teaspoon (sub with roughly 20 g freshly minced cloves)
  • Dried Oregano/Italian seasoning – 1 teaspoon
  • Cayenne Pepper – 1/2 teaspoon (adjust to your heat preference)
  • Nutritional yeast – 2 teaspoon (optional)
  • Cilantro – 1/4 cup, finely chopped
  • Salt and Black pepper to taste
  • Olive oil for cooking – 3 tablespoon
Method –
  1. Combine flax seed powder with water and set aside for 10 mins.
  2. In a bowl, roughly crush kidney beans with a fork. Uniform mush is not what we’re after here, texture is key.
  3. Add all the other ingredients into the bowl and use a spoon to combine.
  4. Shape the mixture int 4 large burger patties or 6 small ones (or many smaller ones)
  5. Heat olive oil in a skillet or grill pan on medium heat. Gently fry each patty for 5 mins on each side or until lightly browned.
  6. Serve on burger buns toppings or add ons as desired – mine are cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and diced orange with home made purple cabbage sauerkraut and guacamole.

Storage notes –

The mixture can be prepared a day in advance, but once cooked, these are best eaten on the same day.

If you make this recipe, you know the drill: Let me know!

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Aana’s Jewelled Soda Bread

When someone asked me for an easy bread recipe a few days ago, I picked up a dusty old journal of my mum’s – an assortment of recipes she unfailingly enjoyed. A cursory glance at my grandma’s soda bread recipe sent my eyes a-twinkling. I was transported back to the time when I would hurriedly run down the stairs, following the fruity fragrance of this bread emanating from the kitchen as my mum baked, often in the middle of the nights. I’d stare at the oven; cupping my hands around my face over, the oven door to catch a better view and then impatiently tear through the bread as soon as it was ready. All just to eat that first slice, warm, with a generous slathering of butter.

I must admit, though, this bread had almost completely evaporated from my memory.

And to rectify that I just had to make it.

Aana’s Jewelled Soda Bread Recipe

Storage notes –

Store in an airtight container for upto 4 days.

If you make this recipe, you know the drill: Let me know!

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