Healthy Indian Cooking Classes with AirBnb experiences

2018 has started out as a exciting year of cooking, healthy food, getting into shape for the summer and I kicked off by launching my Healthy Indian Cooking Classes with AirBnb experiences.  I have had some fantastic people come and learn with me at my home in Notting Hill and it was been wonderful meeting people from all over the world including Japan, Russia, USA and Malta.

I am a passionate home cook and foodie who loves to cook using recipes handed down through my family but with a healthy twist.  I have been on my own journey to sort out my digestive health and I believe in connecting the gut and mind through cooking delicious and flavourful food, ensuring healthy food doesn’t have to be bland or boring.

In the heart of Notting Hill I teach how to cook authentic Indian food, look at how to build flavour using herbs and spices.  I ensure every ingredient I use has a benefit to the body from spices such as turmeric and cumin to other elements to create balance in the body.

If you want to sign up please check it out on Airbnb Experiences and have a look on the calendar for available dates.  If you don’t see a date you can do please get in touch and I will try to accommodate you. Lets get cooking!

 

 

Traditional Chicken Curry

This is amazing if you want a quick and easy chicken curry that will satisfy your family and friends.  It is one of my most requested dishes on my Healthy Indian Cooking Classes with AirBnb experiences.  I try to use organic chicken where possible not just for the fact that it won’t have any hormones or nasties in it but also when it cooks it doesn’t give out water which will make your sauce too runny.  We want a nice thick, tomato sauce and I find organic chicken gives the best result.  Good quality free range should also be fine if you want a cheaper alternative.

For the cooking oil I like to use grass fed ghee.  You can find this in most supermarkets now but you can also use coconut oil.  I personally don’t want any coconut flavour in my chicken curry (I prefer to use it in my South Indian Fish Curry recipe also on the blog) but it really is a personal choice.  It won’t make a difference to how you make the curry.  Ghee also has so many benefits compared to other cooking oils.  It strengthens your bones, promotes healthy weight loss, has a high smoke point and it is loaded with fat soluble vitamins.  if you want more information on all the health benefits check out Dr Axe’s post on Ghee vs. Butter

I also learnt a great tip from my Mother when cooking with meat.  In any sauce based meat curry dish, always add the spices onto the raw meat/chicken and let the meat/chicken seal with the spices.  This will ensure the meat/chicken retains the flavours of the spices which will add more depth to the overall dish.

If you want an additional hit of veggies I like to add spinach in as well.  You don’t really notice it to be honest and it just boosts the nutritional value of the dish.  I add this at the very end so as not to overcook it but you can also add kale or any other green leafy vegetable.  If you are using kale, add it about 5 mins before the end of the cooking time to give it time to soften but not overcook.  And my last tip is to add the lime juice once you have turned off the heat.  That way you preserve all the alkaline properties of the lime juice.  Cooking the lime juice alters its composition so you will notice in all my recipes I add it in once I have turned off the heat for maximum nutrition!

I like to serve this with rice (white or brown whatever you prefer), Cucumber Raita and my very traditional Tomato and Onion Salad.

This recipe is dairy and gluten free.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 tbsp. Grass Fed Ghee (or Coconut Oil)

4 Chicken breasts, diced

1 tsp Cumin seeds

1 Red Onion chopped finely

1 to 2 Green Chillies (depending on taste), finely chopped

1 tbsp. Turmeric powder

3 tbsp. Cumin/Coriander powder

1 tsp Garam Masala

300 ml Passata

100ml Chicken Stock

1 tbsp. Tomato Puree

Handful fresh coriander

Juice of half a lime

  1. Heat the oil over a medium heat and add the cumin seeds to the cold oil
  2. Once the seeds start to change colour and sizzle, add the onion and chilli and fry until the onion is soft
  3. Add the chicken and stir
  4. Add the spices – Turmeric, 2 tbsp of Cumin/Coriander powder, Garam Masala
  5. Cook the spices through for a few minutes and until the chicken is sealed on the outside
  6. Add the Passata, Chicken stock and tomato puree
  7. Stir well and bring to a simmer
  8. At this point add the 1 remaining tablespoon of Cumin/Coriander powder
  9. Season with salt and pepper and cook for another 20 minutes
  10. Once the sauce is has thickened turn off the heat and add the lime juice and fresh coriander

Serve with plain rice or for different options take a look at my post The Mystery of Rice.

Enjoy!

Greens, Greens, Greens

We all know that greens are an essential part of our diet. I know – yawn! Anyone wanting to get healthier needs to factor them in.  But oh dear, they are so boring. I never used to eat greens but when I started having digestive issues I realised I needed to eat more to keep my gut healthy and get the nutrients I need. But I had to find a way to make greens more palatable and interesting, otherwise I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep them as a regular feature in my diet! It goes with my entire aim of making healthy food tasty and delicious and hopefully after you try my recipes you will agree with me too!

My parents are Indian but born in East Africa. So whilst Indian food tends to have a lot of sauces, curries and dahls, the East African twist of my Mother’s cooking tends to mean vegetable dishes are more dry and don’t have much sauce. I personally love this because it means the dishes can accompany almost anything. I tend not to overpower the vegetables with too strong flavours from the spices, so you can serve this with other types of food not just Indian!

This dish is really quick and easy and you can substitute the green beans for any sturdy vegetable – broccoli, peas, asparagus, kale, cabbage –  it really is whatever you fancy!

A tip on tomato puree. It is always better to add this at the start of the cooking process to allow the tomato puree to cook properly. This removes any bitterness and will bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes in the paste.

Again this is vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free and vegetarian. Keeping those allergens in check 😉

Ingredients 

1.5 tsp Coconut Oil

200g Green beans, finely chopped

1 tsp Mustard Seeds

Fresh Green Chilies, finely chopped, to taste (I use 1 or 2 normally)

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp. Tomato Puree

1 tsp Turmeric

1 tsp. Cumin powder

1 tsp. Coriander Powder

Splash of water

Juice of half a lime or lemon

Handful of fresh coriander

Method

  1. Heat the coconut oil in the pan over a medium heat and add the mustard seeds
  2. Once they start to pop add in the chopped chillies and onions
  3. Once the onions are soft, add the green beans
  4. Stir fry for a minute and add the tomato paste and spices
  5. Cook for a few more minutes with the lid off, stirring frequently and then add a splash of water
  6. Cover the pan and let the steam fro the water cook the beans through, on a low heat for 5 to 10 minutes
  7. Once the green beans are cooked (I like to keep them slightly al dente), turn off the heat, add the lime juice and fresh coriander

You can serve this as a main dish with some steamed rice (variations on steamed rice can also be found in my post The Mystery of Rice) or as a side dish with chicken or fish.  Delicious!

The Mystery of Rice

It’s probably one of the things I hear the most – how do you make rice?  Well I have a foolproof way to make sure you get it right every time.  And also a few variations to keep things interesting.  This is the link to my recipe for Vegetable Pilaf Rice. 

First things first, I always use Basmati rice.  My method works every time with Basmati rice but other types of rice – risotto, long grain etc – will have different cooking methods.  I love the texture and consistency with the brand Amira Basmati Rice but any brand of Basmati rice should have the same result.

So the basic rule of thumb is one part rice to two parts liquid. Wash the rice thoroughly to remove some of the excess starch. Put the rice and water over a high heat, bring to the boil and then turn the heat on low, put the lid on and cook until the water is all absorbed.  That’s it! I promise you will get fluffy, perfectly cooked rice every time.

For any variations, as long as you keep the proportion of liquid to rice the same (ie 2:1) the result will be great.  In my Vegetable Pilaf Rice recipe, I only use 1.5 cups of water because the blended tomato mixture makes up the other 0.5 cups for 1 cup of rice.  So again, in total we are keeping the ratio the same.

Here are some other ideas to give keep things interesting, the method of cooking is the always the same.  As a general rule of thumb one cup of rice is enough for 3/4 people.

  1. Coconut rice:  1 cup of rice, 1 cup of coconut milk, 1 cup of water
  2. Cumin rice:  1 cup of rice, 2 cups of water – add 1 tsp of cumin seeds along with the water
  3. Jasmine Rice:  1 cup of rice, 2 cups of water.  Before you start cooking take one cup of boiling water and add 2 Jasmin teabags to it and let brew for 5 mins.  Remove the teabags and add this tea as well as 1 plain cup of water to the rice and cook as normal.
  4. Tomato rice (great for kids):  1 Cup of rice, 1.5 cups of water, 0.5 cup of blended fresh tomatoes
  5. Green rice:  For a great vegetable hit blend together spinach and water to give you 2 cups worth of liquid and use that to cook 1 cup of rice.

I hope this gives you a few ideas on how to jazz up rice and means you will get perfect rice every time…Let me know how you get long!

 

Vegetarian Delights: Cauliflower and Peas Keema

Lamb Keema is probably my favourite dish of all time. Whenever I have been away from home and I go to see my Mother it is always the dish I request to come home to.  It’s the ultimate comfort food for me.  However I wanted to come up with a vegetarian version that would give that same comfort food feel but suitable for vegetarians.  This is another hit with my vegetarian and non-vegetarian students on my Healthy Indian Cooking Classes with AirBnb experiences.

As we normally serve Lamb Keema with rice I started with the idea of cauliflower rice which, has been become so popular in recent years and then added some fresh tomatoes, spices, ginger and garlic to enrich it, along with peas.  You can also add other vegetables if you want some variety – carrots, sweetcorn, green beans, broccoli – pretty much any sturdy vegetable will work.  Leafy greens don’t work so well as they make the dish a little soggy and watery.  With regards to the tomatoes, spices, ginger, garlic etc you don’t need to worry about chopping these finely or perfectly as once they are cooked we are going to blend them into a smooth paste.

In order to get the feel of Lamb Keema in this version I like to chop the vegetables really finely.  The easiest way to do this with cauliflower is in an electric blender but you can also grate it as well (although this a little more labour intensive).  If you decide to use any other vegetables try to chop them as finely as you can and all the same size so you get a lovely consistency and texture in the final dish.  Be careful not to overcook the veggies, you want them to keep their shape and not be too soft and soggy.

This is a great vegan dish, diary and gluten free too.

Ingredients

1 Cauliflower head, finely chopped

1 cup peas (you can use frozen)

2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 Medium onions, roughly chopped 

1 tsp Turmeric

2 tsp Ghee or Coconut Oil

1 inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 tsp Cumin seeds

1 tbsp water

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh Coriander to garnish

Lime Juice (from half a lime)

 

Method:

  1. Heat 1 tsp of oil over a medium heat and add the cumin seeds
  2. Once the cumin seeds change colour, add the onion and fry until soft
  3. Add the spices, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, salt and pepper and fry until the tomatoes soften
  4. Let the mixture cool slightly and then place into a blender and blend until smooth
  5. Heat the other tsp. of oil and fry the cauliflower for a few minutes until tender, but don’t overcook.  If you are using other harder vegetables such as carrots add them in as well.
  6. Adds the peas and tomato mixture and cook until the oil separates
  7. Season, turn off the heat and squeeze a little lime juice over the top and stir through
  8. Garnish with coriander and serve

 

My Grandfather’s favourite: Tomato and Onion Relish

This is an incredibly traditional salad but so so simple.  My Mother used to say that  my Grandfather would not sit at the table to eat unless this simple salad was served with the food. This goes fantastically with my Traditional Chicken Curry but will also work with any curry based dish. You might also think “how can anyone eat raw onions” but I promise you once you have let it marinade in the lime juice you won’t feel like you are eating raw onions. It is also best with red onions or shallots as they have a sweeter flavour to being with. I usually make it before I start cooking so it has the maximum amount of time to marinade but don’t make it too far in advance as the tomatoes can get soggy.

This has been the surprise hit with my students who come along for the my Healthy Indian Cooking Classes with AirBnb experiences and I am sure you will love it too.  Go easy on the chilli powder but, of course, you can adjust it to your taste!

I have a note on nightshades in another blog post so you should avoid this dish if you are trying to cut down on nightshades because of the raw tomatoes.

This recipe is raw vegan, gluten free and dairy free!

 

Ingredients (serves 4)

2 large ripe tomatoes (I like to use large tomatoes on the vine)

1 Shallot or red onion

Juice of 2 limes

1 to 2 tsp of Pink Himalayan Sea Salt

1 to 2 tsp of Chilli Powder

Method

  1. Very finely chop the tomatoes and onion
  2. Add the lime juice, salt and chilli and let marinade for at least 30 mins.

 

I hope you enjoy this recipe and let please let me know what you think! 🙂

 

 

Vegetable Pilau Rice

This is a great dish on it’s own or with a curry.  Students often come to me saying they don’t know how to cook rice. When using Basmati rice it couldn’t be simpler – 1 part rice to 2 parts water. Bring it to the boil, reduce the heat and put the lid on and it will be cooked when all the water is absorbed.  It works every time.  For more details and different options for rice check out my post dedicated to The Mystery of Rice!

You can also use brown rice with this dish.  I would recommend cooking the brown rice separately and in the recipe skip steps 8 to 10.  Make sure the vegetables are cooked and then simply stir through the cooked brown rice and serve.

Feel free to use any vegetables you like with this recipe. My favourite combination is peas, sweetcorn and green beans but the options are endless and its great to be able to switch things up to keep it interesting.  Leafy vegetables also work but here is a great tip. Add them on top, towards the end of the cooking, so they steam through but don’t go soggy and get overcooked.  When you overcook vegetables they lose their nutritional value and we want to keep these dishes as mineral and vitamin rich as possible.

As always with fresh chillies it depends who much heat you can handle!  My family likes things spicy, so for 4 people I would use 3 to 4 Thai green chillies but it is totally up to you.  I have a blog post on chillies but generally I prefer to use green chillies as they have more health benefits. Green chillies are richer in beta carotenes, antioxidants and endorphins while research into red chillies has linked them as a cause of peptic ulcers.

This is a really flavourful dish ideal for vegans (use coconut oil) and vegetarians – gluten and dairy free too! Enjoy x

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 cup Basmati Rice, washed

1.5 cups water 

1 vegetable stock cube

1 Onion, roughly chopped

1 inch piece of ginger

3/4 garlic cloves

1 Tomato chopped

1 -2 teaspoons Grass Fed Ghee (or coconut oil for vegans)

1 Teaspoon Cumin seeds

Fresh Green Chilli to taste, chopped finely

½ Cup Frozen peas

½ Cup Frozen sweetcorn

½ Green beans, finely chopped

Handful of fresh spinach (you can use any vegetables you like)

1 Teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon Cumin/Coriander powder

Handful fresh coriander

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Wash the rice and let soak for at least 30 mins to an hour if you can – this isn’t an essential step but will help the rice be extra fluffy
  2. Blend together the tomatoes, onion, ginger and garlic
  3. Gently heat the ghee and add the cumin seeds
  4. Once the cumin seeds change colour, add chillies if using and cook for a few mins but do not burn
  5. Add the blended tomato mixture and stir
  6. Add all the vegetables, spices and cook for a minute or so
  7. Season to taste
  8. Add the rice and stir through
  9. Add the water, one vegetable stock cube and bring to the boil
  10. Once bubbling, turn the heat to low, put the lid on and cook until all the water has been absorbed
  11. About 5 minutes before the rice is cooked add the spinach and let it wilt on top
  12. Garnish with coriander and serve

Creating Balance with food: Cooling Raita

Where there is heat there should always be something cooling.  The Chinese believe in Yin and Yang and in Ayurveda we believe in the same principle.  So we always try to serve cooling dishes to accompany flavourful dishes that use different spices.  Some of the spices we use also have anti-inflammatory properties and you can find information on that in my post the benefits of spices.

This raita is incredibly simple.  Using Yogurt and Cucumber, it combines two incredibly cooling ingredients.  I like to use mini-cucumbers which you can get in out supermarkets as they are sweeter and less watery.  Try not to substitute for the fresh coriander for dried – the taste won’t be the same.

This recipe is vegetarian and gluten free.

Ingredients

200g Plain or Greek-Style yogurt

1/2 Teaspoon Cumin Powder

Pinch of salt to taste

Handful of Fresh Coriander

 

Method

Mix all the ingredients together and stir well.  Garnish with a few pieces of fresh coriander to serve.

You can use this as a dip with crudités or to accompany any of the Healthy Indian recipes on my blog.