Thursday, 27 August 2015

Indian Inspired Protein Truffles (Vegan)

This week's recipe is especially for all you sisters out there who this Raksha Bandhan have to cater to gym obsessed brothers - I feel your pain ladies. My own brother is currently on a training regime that allows no dessert or sweets as part of the process and at the same time he is always looking for a protein fix. While it's all for a good cause (he will be taking part in a mini triathalon to raise money for a brand new state of the art cancer treatment center at Guy's Hospital, London) it can get a teensy bit frustrating for the rest of us when it comes to birthdays, celebrations, and now Raksha Bandhan.

Luckily, making 'healthy' desserts is no new concept - people have been trying to think for better ways to sneak a little treat into their healthy lifestyles for years and the recipe I have today combines my Mum's traditional recipe for 'khajoor' or date roulade with the much newer trend of 'protein balls', of course with an entirely optional coating of dark chocolate.

These protein truffles are filled with dates, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, almonds, pistachios, coconut, and cacao so each one packs a punch of goodness. They are also gluten and dairy free, and can be eaten as part of a vegan or raw food diet. If you don't have any of the nuts or seeds to hand just substitute with a little extra of what you do have - the ingredients are really flexible.


200 g dates
3 tbsp grated or desiccated coconut
3 tbsp ground almonds
2 tbsp chopped/ground pistachios
2 tbsp ground flax seeds
2 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp hemp seeds
1 tbsp cacao powder (can use cocoa instead)
1/2 tsp cardamom
100 g good quality dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids

  •  Peel and pit the dates before adding them into a food processor.
  • Add all of the remaining ingredients apart from the dark chocolate and pulse to combine everything really well. You should end up with a kind of sticky dough. Your dough might be more or less sticky depending on your ingredients but if it feels too wet add some more coconut or ground almonds, and if it feels to dry add another date or two.
  • Tip the dough into a mixing bowl and knead lightly just to make sure everything has come together really well.
  • Take a tablespoon of the mixture in your hands and roll into a smooth ball - I find rolling the ball in a tablespoon sized rounded measure helps get the shape really smooth, and place on a tray or plate lined with greasproof paper.
  • Repeat with the remaining mixture, you should get around 16 - 20 balls.
  • If you wish to leave it here and not dip the truffles in chocolate just place them in the fridge to firm up and then transfer to an airtight container and keep refrigerated until required.
  • Otherwise place the tray in a freezer and allow the truffles to firm up for 30 mins - 1hr.
  • Once the truffles are nice and firm gently melt the dark chocolate either in a bain marie or in a microwave, whichever you prefer.
  • Use a fork to help you carefully dip each truffle into the melted chocolate, ensuring it is fully coated remove and transfer back to the lined tray.
  • The chocolate should start to set quite quickly as the truffles are cold from the freezer.
  • If you wish, once the chocolate has almost set but before it dries completely, roll the truffles in cacao/cocoa, ground pistachios, coconut or almonds for a decorative effect and added texture. Or you can leave them plain, either way once they have fully set at room temperature transfer them to an airtight container and keep refrigerated until required.
  • Wishing you a happy and healthy Raksha Bandhan! :)

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Indian Independence Day Tiranga Sandwich Pakoras

On August 15th 1947 India officially became independent of the British empire, the 'tiranga' (triple coloured) official flag of India was hoisted for the first time, and ever since that day the anniversary of India's independence has been celebrated with all the vibrance and gusto associated with Indian festivals. The day itself is a national holiday and marked with kite flying, patriotic singing and dancing, a gun salute, important speeches by the Prime Minister, parades, gatherings, and of course feasts. Most central to the festivities though is the flag - symbolic not only of patriotism but everything else that it's design stands for. The colours and the wheel in the middle represent different things to different people - some will say that the colours all together on one flag show the inclusiveness of the different faiths celebrated and respected within India, to others the colours stand for courage, peace, and faith. The wheel was originally a spinning wheel representing self reliance, but now is a chakra symbolising the circle of life, dharma, or karma.


The official description given for the flag was provided by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the second Prime Minister of India, who said: "Bhagwa or the saffron colour denotes renunciation or disinterestedness. Our leaders must be indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work. The white in the centre is light, the path of truth to guide our conduct. The green shows our relation to the soil, our relation to the plant life here, on which all other life depends. The "Ashoka Chakra" in the centre of the white is the wheel of the law of dharma. Truth or satya, dharma or virtue ought to be the controlling principle of those who work under this flag. Again, the wheel denotes motion. There is death in stagnation. There is life in movement. India should no more resist change, it must move and go forward. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change."

The symbolism of the flag is so important that people go to great lengths to include it as part of their celebrations - most commonly by making their favourite recipes in orange, white, and green especially for the day's feast. My favourite, ridiculously simple but extra celebratory, recipe to honour Indian independence day is this one for Sandwich Pakoras, taken from my Indian Afternoon Tea recipe ebook. The colours are vibrant, the flavours are wonderful and best of all, it's quick and easy to prepare! :)



For the Filling
6 slices of bread
A block of paneer, sliced
Tomato and garlic chutney
Spicy coriander and mint chutney

For the Batter
150 g gram flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp red chilli powder
1 tbsp yoghurt
100 ml water
Large pinch of finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
Sunflower oil for deep-frying
Chaat masala and date and tamarind chutney to serve


  • Start by laying three slices of bread down in front of you and spreading each with a spoon or two of tomato and garlic chutney.
  • Layer the paneer on top of the chutney – be as generous as you like.
  • Spread the coriander chutney on the remaining three slices of bread and press these on top of the paneer, chutney side down.
  • Carefully cut each sandwich into quarters and leave aside while you prepare the batter.
  • Mix the gram flour, salt, chilli powder, yoghurt, water, and coriander leaves together in a mixing bowl until smooth and with the consistency of thick cream.
  • Heat up oil for deep frying in a pan placed over a medium-high setting.
  • When the oil is suitably hot (drop in a breadcrumb and if it rises instantly you are good to go), slightly press down one of the sandwich triangles and dip it into the batter – be quick or the bread will turn soggy, but be thorough and ensure the sandwich is fully coated.
  • Carefully place the sandwich into the hot oil and fry until golden on all sides. Fry as many sandwiches at a time as you feel comfortable with, or as many as will fit in your pan.
  • Drain and transfer onto kitchen paper towels, sprinkle generously with chaat masala while the sandwich is still piping hot – this will ensure the masala sticks to the sandwich.
  • Repeat until all of the sandwiches are fried, you can then cut each triangle in half again if you like so that the alternating colours on the inside are displayed.
  • Serve hot with date and tamarind chutney.
For the full Indian Afternoon Tea Ebook please visit:

Friday, 7 August 2015

Daal Potli (Stuffed Daal Dhokli/Gujarati Dumpling Soup)

Naturally one of my favourite things about travelling is discovering local foods and flavours, and within that the most wondrous part to me is the similarities in various cuisines around the world. It never ceases to amaze me that although the ingredients and of course the tastes are so different, the techniques used to create dishes and the composition applied to them are so similar.

On a recent trip to Italy I had the pleasure of partaking in an Italian cookery class where I had the opportunity to make ravioli. Italian food is one of those crowd pleasing favourites, recognisable around the world, loved by literally everyone I know. The characteristic combination of sweet tomatoes, fragrant basil, olive oil, breads, cheeses, and pasta, with onions or garlic, and roasted vegetables is unmistakable however, stood there in this Mediterranean haven, kneading dough, rolling it out, filling it with delectable stuffing, and then dropping it into a pan of boiling water, I was transported right back home to my family and typical Gujarati meal times.


The number of times I have been sat around the table with my Grandmother, Mum, and Aunts making various stuffed pastries - sweet and savoury, is uncountable, but for some reason making ravioli took me back to the classic Gujarati comfort food, 'daal dhokli'. The daal in question is toover daal or split pigeon peas which although popular all around India, the preparations vary and are specific to each region. Most often in Gujarat the daal is cooked down to a smooth soup and served as part of a 'thaali' with other vegetables, rice and chapattis, but sometimes it is transformed into a soothing, comforting one pot meal with the addition of wheat and gram flour 'pasta'. There are two kinds of this comfort daal - 'daal dhokli' where the pasta dough is rolled flat and cut into large pieces, much like 'pappardelle' pasta sheets, and floated in the prepared daal just so. The second kind which I am addressing today, is 'daal potli' where the rolled pasta dough is filled with stuffing, normally potato based, gently wrapped up to form a dumpling, and then submerged into the prepared daal.

Although daal potli is more similar in composition to an Oriental dumpling soup, the ravioli I was preparing in class reminded me so much of it that the daal immediately became top of my list of 'home food' I wanted on return from holiday. Normally, the potli are formed exactly like dumplings - a small portion of dough is rolled into a circle, the filling is applied to the middle and the dough is wrapped up around the sides and rolled into a smooth ball. Having just returned from my Italian adventure however I am feeling much more artistic than that and have chosen to wrap my potli like ravioli, it isn't necessary, but it just looks really pretty! I have also decided to fill my potlis with a potato and fenugreek mixture as I love this flavour combination as well as the pop of green among the red, orange, and yellow hues of the daal and pastry. Feel free to play around with the stuffing - I'd love to hear any suggestions! However you choose to enjoy this daal - as it is, as daal dhokli, or as daal potli in any shape or form, its zingy flavours are guaranteed to leave you with a warm comforting glow and I'm sure you'll make it again.


Daal Potli (serves 5)

Ingredients for the potli/'pasta' dough:

100 g chapatti flour/wholewheat flour
25 g gram flour
1 tsp carom seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sunflower oil
100 ml warm water

  • Measure both of the flours into a mixing bowl and add all of the seasoning.
  • Rub the oil into the flour mixture and then adding a little of the warm water at a time bind into a stiff but smooth dough (you may need more or less water but the dough should be smooth without being too wet or soft).
  • Knead the dough for around 5 minutes before leaving it aside to rest at room temperature for 1 hour while you prepare the filling and the daal.

Ingredients for the filling:

3 medium potatoes
A large handful of methi/fenugreek leaves
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp methi/fenugreek seeds
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp coriander and cumin powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
Salt to taste

  • Start by peeling and dicing the potatoes, and chopping the methi up fairly finely.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy based pan and when it becomes hot add the cumin and methi seeds, allowing them to fizz in the oil.
  • Add the garlic and sate for a few moments before adding the potatoes to the pan.
  • Toss the potatoes in the oil before sprinkling in the coriander and cumin powder, turmeric powder, and chilli powder.
  • Add salt to taste, stir, cover the pan and allow the potatoes to cook, stirring occasionally until they just begin to soften - around 10 minutes.
  • Stir the chopped methi leaves into the pan and continue to cook until the potatoes are completely tender.
  • Leave aside to cool completely.

Ingredients for daal:

100 g dried toover daal/split pigeon peas
400 ml water
Salt to taste
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
A pinch of asafoetida
7 curry leaves
2 cloves
3 cm piece of cinnamon bark, broken up
150 ml liquidised tomatoes (tinned or fresh)
2 'kokum' (dried mangosteen skin, can be substituted with 2 tsp tamarind concentrate or equivalent)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 1/2 tsp coriander and cumin powder
2 tsp lemon juice
A small handful of plain peanuts
Jaggery or sugar as required

  • Wash the daal thoroughly and then leave to soak for 45 - 60 minutes in hot water.
  • After soaking drain the water, place the daal in a pressure cooker if you have one, and add the 400 ml water, a pinch of salt and boil for around 20 minutes or until the daal is completely tender - if you do not have a pressure cooker you can boil the daal loose but it will take longer and you will need to add more water.
  • Once the daal is completely tender leave it aside to cool slightly whilst you continue in another pan.
  • Heat the oil in a large, wide pan.
  • When the oil is hot add the mustard seeds, asafoetida, curry leaves, cloves and cinnamon - they should immediately begin to sizzle and release their aromas.
  • After sautéing the dry spices for about 30 seconds turn down the heat and carefully add the liquidised tomatoes to the pan - they are likely to splutter so take extra care when doing this.
  • Stir in the kokum, turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander and cumin powder, and lemon juice. Allow these to cook in the tomatoes until the tomatoes begin to dry out slightly and separate from the oil in the pan.
  • Returning to the daal, use a hand blender or whisk to liquidise it until smooth, alternatively you can pass it through a sieve and mash out any lumps.
  • Add the smooth daal to the spicy tomato mixture and stir to combine.
  • Add the peanuts and season the daal with salt.
  • Now is the time to taste the daal - it will be really tart at this point so you will need to add some jaggery or sugar to balance it to your taste.
  • The daal needs to be watery at this stage - similar to a broth as it will thicken as it boils and even more so once the dumplings are added so if you feel you need to add some water, add it now and then slowly let the daal come to a boil over a medium heat.
  • Reduce the heat to as low as possible whilst you assemble the potli.


  • To make the ravioli style potli as I have done take a quarter of the dough and pass it through a pasta machine up until grade 4 - you should achieve a long strip of dough through which you can see your fingers (if you do not have a pasta machine roll the dough with a rolling pin until you can see your fingers through it).
  • Lay the rolled dough on a  flat surface (preferably wooden as this will prevent it from sticking) and place teaspoon sized balls of the filling all along the dough, flattening them slightly and leaving two finger spaces between each one.
  • Wet your index finger with water and carefully dampen the spaces around each ball of fingers - this will allow the top layer of dough to stick down.
  • Roll another quarter of the dough to the same thickness as before and gently place this over the ravioli.
  • Gently press the dough down around each circle of filling, try to ensure that no air is left inside between the filling and the dough.
  • Use a small fluted cookie cutter to cut each ravioli out from the dough and leave aside.
  • Repeat until you have used all the dough and filling.
  • Returning to the daal carefully place the prepared dumplings into the daal, at first they will sink and then slowly they will begin to rise to the surface - contrary to making pasta, this does not mean they are cooked!
  • When the dumplings rise you will notice that the colour has faded slightly and they look dull. Continue to cook the dumplings in the daal until the colour becomes strong again - this is when you know they are done. If unsure take out a dumpling and break it open, if the pastry is not cook through return to the pan and continue to cook.
  • Serve this daal hot, as it is or with some rice and/or poppadum for extra texture.