Sorry, No Sushi tonight!

Last night for iftari we ate Japanese. Anyone who knows me knows that I love sushi, however in order for my family to eat the meal the remit was that it should be sushi free!!! Obviously being Ramadan we all want and probably need a hot meal at the end of a long day.

I’ve often wandered past Wasabi and looked longingly at the steam escaping their cooked dishes and thought they looked very tempting. Sadly, none being gluten free I’ve never had the pleasure in trying their delights. It was quite challenge trying to firstly find dishes that were hot as a) I didn’t know the names b) the Japanese seem quite secretive about this angle of their cuisine c) there was a lot of fish, and sadly everyone isn’t as pro-fish as I am d) there was tons of pork!

Some of the dishes had to be altered significantly just to create an appropriate taste balance after all when omitting sake (rice brew), mirin (rice wine) etc I feel it is important to put something back into the dish otherwise you aren’t left with much. The end result might not be authentically Japanese but I feel that it tastes good and left me feeling as if I had eaten Japanese.

Our menu consisted of:
Prawn and Vegetable Tempura
Tsukure (minced chicken balls)
Rice Shapes
Ingen No Goma-ae (green beans in sesame dressing)
Beef Teriyaki
Berry Uire cake

Prawn and Vegetable Tempura
Tempura, in the modern world sounds very Japanese and indeed it is. However, looks can be deceptive and this was a coloniser import. The Portugese may have brought Tempura to Japan, however the Japanese have added their own twist to things making the batter lighter and crispier than other battered food that I have ever tried. The trick with Tempura is not to over mix the mix, don’t leave it to stand and only make it as you need it.

1 cup of plain gluten free flour (I used Doves Farm Plain Flour)
1 egg
Very cold or iced water to mix
Oil for frying (I used rapeseed oil)
Thinly sliced vegetables
Whole raw prawns / bite sizes pieces of fish

Place the flour and egg in to a bowl, gradually mix in enough very cold water/iced water to create a thin batter (thick enough to hold on your finger). Mix using a knife or chopsticks, this is so that the batter is not over mixed. If you have occasional small flour lumps in the batter this is ok!

Dip the vegetables and seafood in the batter and deep fry in hot oil until the seafood is cooked and batter is crispy.

Tsukure (minced chicken balls)
1 small chicken breast
1 clove garlic
1 piece of lemon peel (zest only) the size of your thumb

Slice the garlic thinly, slice the lemon peel in to thin slithers, chop the chicken. Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until the chicken is mince. Form into golf ball sized balls. Each chicken breast should produce approximately 4 balls. Grill or deep fry until cooked all the way through.

Rice Shapes
For the rice shapes, I used a ‘toy’ that I bought in Malaysia. It is absolutely fantastic, you place the hot rice in to the moulds, push on the lid and then push out the shaped rice. If you do not have a similar gadget, I would suggest placing the hot rice into a dish with an edge about an inch deep. Pack the rice in and either score squares out and remove or cut out into shapes using a biscuit cutter. Ideally you don’t want to use shapes that are too big, a mouthful size is ideal.

1 cup of rice that has a high starch content eg sushi rice (I used a supermarket ‘basics range’ long grain rice that has a very high starch content). Leave the rice to soak for about an hour in water. Then rinse only once. It is very important that the starch stays in the rice as this is what will hold the shapes together. Cook the rice using a method where the rice soaks in the water, rather than one where you pour the water off. Once the rice has cooked either use a mould or pack into a tray and then shape the rice.

Ingen No Goma-Ae (Green Beans in Sesame Dressing)
For the dressing
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon tamari sauce (naturally gluten free)
2/3 tablespoons of water

1.Toast the sesame seeds without oil in a heavy based pan until they are golden. Then transfer to a pestle and mortar and break down until they resemble breadcrumbs.
2.Blanche the green beans, and then spread the sesame seeds over them.
3.Mix the caster sugar, tamari sauce and water together then pour over the green beans.

Beef Teriyaki
Alhumdulilah we are very lucky that our butcher actually does know his cuts of beef. Most halal butches in London tend to have a slab of beef wrapped in plastic in a corner from which they cut slices upon request. If I ever asked what part of the animal the meat came from they would normally respond with a grunt. If you ask if it is suitable for steak they say yes, if you ask if it for stewing they say yes! How can it be both? If your butcher is like the aforementioned I suggest taking in an illustration of where the sirloin can be found.

Thin Serloin steak slices
Tamari sauce
1 clove garlic sliced
1 inch ginger sliced
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
5 Victoria plums (if you use other plums make sure they are small)
1 onion
1 red chilli

1.Boil the Victoria plums in enough water to cover the plums until they are cooked all the way through and their skins have come off. If the skins do not come off, remove them.
2. Place the sirloin steaks in to a container big enough to hold them.
3. Cover the steaks with enough tamari sauce so that they are covered in the sauce
4. Place the sliced ginger, slice garlic, rice vinegar, sugar and boiled plums into the container along with their juice.
5. Leave to marinate for approximately 3 hours
6. On a hot griddle pan, cook the steaks. Place them straight on to the pan and do not move until you are ready to change sides.
7. While the beef in cooking, put one thickly sliced onion in to a saucepan and place the marinade on top. Cook at a high heat for approximately 10 minutes to cook off any impurities that may have been in the meat. While you are doing this the mush the plums so that they come away from the stone and remove it.
8. Serve the beef teriyaki with the sauce on top of the meat and place the sliced chilli on top.

Berry Uire cake

To call Uire (pronounce ooo-ree) isn’t exactly truthful. Traditionally cakes are not eaten at the end of meal, instead the Japanese had accompaniments to the traditional tea ceremonies and this is one of those accompaniments. Considering the amount of sugar in this, this isn’t very sweet but it is a very tasty end to a meal. If you want a sugar rush I suggest replacing the fresh/frozen fruit with jam.

125g of ground rice
75g raw cane sugar
75g frozen mixed berries

1.Microwave the berries until they become soft and liquid starts to release (approximately 3 minutes)
2. In a separate microwave suitable flat container mix the ground rice and sugar with ½ cup of water. Then microwave for 3 minutes.
3. Remove from the microwave and mix in the berries, their juice and additional ¼ cup of water
4. Pack in firmly into the microwave container and microwave for 5 minutes (5-7 minutes) until it has puffed and cooked.

5. Allow to cool before cutting into squares or cutting with a biscuit cutter.

My apologies regarding the absence of photos for each item…I forgot!

Halva and Mini Pooris

When I was little my mum and dad would sometimes make Halva Poori on a Sunday morning, normally when they had their university friends over to visit. My mum would make the pooris and my dad would make the halva. He would start early in the morning and allow no one in the kitchen except for me. I’d sit up on the worktop next to the cooker (no health and safety issues back then!) and I’d watch him stirring and mixing, making a halva that would melt in your mouth.

Before I knew it he was gone, and so had the recipe. I had no one to ask how to make it, as no one was ever allowed into the kitchen. Any time anyone would make me halva it was not remotely like his halva. It would be oily, gritting, the wrong colour, lumpy, every negative adjective under the sun. I yearned for that halva.

Finally last year after tasting a particularly bad gluten free halva (halva is normally made with semolina) I set myself up with the challenge of making a halva which was both gluten free and met my memories.

50g Basin/ Ground Chickpea Flour
50g Fine Corn Meal
50g Juvela White Mix
50g Unsalted Butter
50g sugar
1 cardamom pod

1. Boil ½ pint of water with sugar until the sugar dissolves
2. Lower the heat
3. Strip the cardamom pod of its husk and place the seeds and butter into the sugar water
4. Allow the butter to melt
5. Mix the flours together in a bowl and slowly pour into the water
6. Whisk the flour and water with a whisk. Keep the flour moving.
7. Once the mix begins to go sticky, use a spatula to bring it together so that it starts to look more like a dough
8. Using the spatula keep moving the dough, flattening it, moving it to remove any remaining lumps. This process will cook out the flour. Do this for about 5 -7 mins until the halva in cooked
9. Place the halva in a bowl and use the spatula to smooth out the surface.
10. Serve with hot pooris

Mini Pooris
These pooris won’t fluff up like real gluten pooris, however they will have some air pockets making them the closest thing to a poori that I have had since being coeliac.

200g Doves Farm Plain Flour
2 tablespoons ispughul seeds with the husk removed

1. Mix the seeds and flour together
2. Slowly mix in some water until the flour forms a dough
3. Make golf ball sized balls from the dough
4. Roll out on a floured surface, using a clean rolling pin, I prefer to roll them all out at once as it makes it easier to fry. Don’t make them too thin.
5. Half fill a frying pan with oil and heat up the oil and then shallow fry the pooris in there. Cook for about 2-3 mins each side until or until crunchy.


Kaufteh are meatballs. Most cultures have meatballs and no doubt everyone will say that theirs are the best! To me meatballs are lovely, small enough to shape in the palm of your hand and just a perfect end to a long day.

Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you that my favourite food is kaufteh (meatballs from Pakistan). I just adore them. I love the whole process from the making of the meatballs, to peeling the potatoes (and that has to be the only time I love peeling potatoes). Making them gives me so much pleasure that it is abnormal.

I prefer to make the kaufteh in a big batch, then I fry the meatballs, and then freeze them, meaning I can have meatballs without so much work later on.

As always I suggest making your own meatballs and playing around with them until you find a flavour combination which works for you. Kaufteh normally contain finely sliced onion, ginger, garlic, chillies and spices along with herbs mint and coriander. Egg is the only binding agent, there is no need to add flour whatsoever. Kaufteh should be the size of a golf ball. Fry off the meatballs and set aside or freeze and then make the sauce.

Kaufteh sauce
Ingredients – to serve 4
1 small onion
4 cloves garlic ground
2 cm of ginger peeled and chopped and ground
½ a tin of tomatoes
Red chilli flakes to taste
1 green chilli
¼ teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon of ground coriander
¼ teaspoon of tumeric
¼ teaspoon of cumin
1/4teaspoon of black pepper corns
¼ teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of cinnamon or a small cinnamon stick
1 slightly squashed cardom
Salt to taste

Also required
Approximately 12 meatballs
Approximately ½ the amount of potatoes to meatballs
4 hard boiled eggs – peeled

1. Chop the onion, brown the onions in oil so that they become soft
2. add the ginger and garlic and the tumeric, red chillies flakes, then add the whole spices and add the tomatoes
3. On a medium heat cook the spices off, so that when you move a spoon through the tomatoes the oil is visible as a clear line.
4. Then add the kaufteh, heat them in the paste add enough water to cover the kaufteh and allow to boil.
5. Bring to a simmer and add the potatoes and simmer
6. When a knife goes through the potatoes add the peeled eggs.
7. Allow the eggs to heat through in the sauce for a while so that also absorb the spices add the chopped green chilli.
8. Finally top with coriander and serve with freshly cooked rice.

Laksa, Two Ways

Laksa is a noodle soup of Malaysian origin, a mix of the Chinese and Malay food culture and there, my friends, endth the lesson!

My laksa is unconventional. I chose not to make it as soupy as normal simply because soup for iftari when you aren’t used to a soup can be a bit hard to deal with (mentally I mean), so it is more saucy than soupy. I’ve made other changes too in the laksa paste, but I assure you this works. It is just as tasty. It is both spicy and zingy, it hits all the buttons.

While it may seem strange to chop in a food processor AND use a mortar and pestle there is method in my madness. The food processor will simply chop the spices into fine pieces however a mortar and pestle will break down those fine pieces changing them from individual ingredients into the laksa paste. Doing both reduces the amount of pounding.

In the ingredients I’ve listed two tins of coconut milk, simply because there is nothing worse than sitting down to a meal which is too hot. Use one tin, see how you feel and without a second of a doubt if you find it too hot add more coconut milk as this will reduce the heat. For children who are not used to hot food, it might be an idea to split the laksa into two pans, one for adults (as it is) and one for the children (with more coconut milk in).

One final point when I photographed the prawn laksa it was photographed as a single portion and the lamb laksa was photographed in the serving dish.

Serve in bowls, eat with spoons and forks with plenty of napkins at hand and perhaps a cooling melon to put out the heat!

Lamb Laksa
Serves 6

500g of lamb chops
2 limes
200g of flat rice noodles (Banh Pho or Pad Thai)
2 spring onions
1 red pepper
1 small aubergine
2 tins of coconut milk ( I used ¾ of a tin)
Rapeseed oil

For the Laksa paste
4 – 5 long red chillies
8 shallots
3cm piece of ginger
3cm piece of galangal
4 cloves garlic
25g of walnuts

1 teaspoon dry lemongrass
½ lime juice
½ teaspoon of tumeric powder
2 teaspoons of tamarind paste
1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon sugar

1. Juice 1 lime and pour over the lamb, mix well and leave to tenderise for at least 1 hour preferably in a fridge.
2. Peel and chop the shallots, galangal, ginger, garlic.
3. Chop the chillies
4. Place the : shallots, galangal, ginger, garlic, chillies, walnuts, for the laksa paste into a chopper until very fine, then remove
5. Place the fine ingredients into a pestle and mortar, then add the coarse sea salt, tamarind paste, lime juice and pound for around 3mins.
6. Heat up 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pan, pour in the laksa paste, then add in the lamb and any remaining marinating lime juice and cook the meat in the paste. The paste will cook off while the meat browns.
7. After about 5 mins of cooking add in the coconut milk and continue to cook for a further 20 mins making sure the laksa does not stick. Remember to stir from time to time.
8. Chop the aubergine into cubes and add to the laksa. Cook for another 20 mins.
9. Chop up the pepper and 1 spring onion and add to the laksa.
10. Boil a kettle and pour the kettle hot water on to the rice noodles and cover with a lid. Leave for approximately 5-7 mins but do check the noodle packet for details. When the noodles are ready drain and set aside.
11. At this stage check the lamb it should be tender. Taste the laksa and add sugar to taste, also check the heat the level.
12. To serve, place the noodles in a serving bowl, and place the laksa on top. Chop the remaining spring onion and ½ lime and place on top of the laksa.

Prawn laksa

500g of black raw prawns
½ quantity Laksa paste as above
2 Spring Onions
2 tins coconut milk (again adjust to taste, start with one tin and if find it too hot add some more coconut milk)

1. Remove the shell and de-vein the prawns (remove the intestine visible along the spine and underneath)
2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the laksa paste and cook off the paste for a couple of minutes.
3. Add in the prawns and coat well in the paste before adding the coconut milk and leaving to simmer gently until the prawns are cooked. The prawns will look pinker won’t be so dull.
4. To assemble the dish, place the noodles in a bowl and top with the prawn laksa, top with spring onions and wedges of lime.

Uzbek Palov

When I first came across a recipe of Uzbek Palov (or Plov) I have to confess that I was a tad if not entirely dubious of its merits. After all the first recipes I found were pretty much meat, onions and carrots. There seemed to be a total lack of warm fragrance that would waft from the similarly named plau that I had grown up with. None the less I rolled up my sleeves and got surfing the internet with the belief that there had to be more to this than meat, onions and carrots. Happily I can inform you that there is, however if you are not careful you can end up with all and sundry in this and some things not for the better – and that is what the Uzbeks say ! I don’t claim that this is a definitive version of Uzbekistan’s national pride, but this palov contains an authentic combination of ingredients that taste sensational.

Dried apricot paste, adds a tangy sweetness to the dish that just blends in with the spices. If you are unable to obtain this then dried apricots will do, however their flavours will be localised and it won’t blend with the rest of the spices.

This dish does take some work however, as a form of Ramadan preparation I would suggest doing stages 1 to 9 in advance and freezing before the final ingredients. Once the base has been defrosted the only time required is to soak the rice and then to cook the rice.

As an accompaniment a simple side salad of cucumber, tomato and onion is all that is required. This dish is substantial enough to not require anything else.

Ingredients – Serves 6
½ a kilo of lamb shoulder meat chopped in to small pieces with bones (ask your butcher to do this)
1 cup of basmati rice
3 onions – peeled and sliced
4 carrots
1 tin of chickpeas
4 inch strip of apricot dried paste or 4 dried apricots
2 teaspoons of whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of pepper corns
1 teaspoon of garlic paste
1 teaspoon of salt
1 whole head of garlic – unpeeled and washed
Sunflower/rapeseed oil
A handful of chopped parsley

1. Wash the rice until the water runs clear, then leave it to soak with approximately 2cms of water covering the rice
2. Place about 2cms of oil in a heavy based casserole pan and heat the oil until it begins to smoke. Then gently place the meat into the pan and brown the meat. Add in 1 teaspoon of garlic paste, 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds and continue to brown.
3. Once the meat is browned and crispy add the onions, lower the heat and allow them to gently cook until the onions have broken down and are very soft and mushy.
4. Just as the onions begin to caramelise, lower the heat and slowly add in a little water to deglaze the pan. Make sure to rub the caramelised bits off the pan so that they start to form a darker broth.
5. Pour in enough water to completely cover the meat and then add in 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper corns, 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, and the dried apricot paste/ dried apricots.
6. Increase the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes.
7. Pierce each clove of garlic (leaving the head intact) with a knife to allow the flavour to escape, and then place the garlic head into the pan.
8. Allow the meat to simmer for an hour or until the meat is tender, checking to see if the water needs topping up (the water should fully cover the meat).
9. If preparing in advance, the meat and liquid can now be frozen after leaving to cool. Defrost fully and heat before using and resume at stage 10.
10. Reduce the heat to low. Drain and wash a tin of chickpeas and add to the pan. Add the julienned carrots.
11. Drain the rice and add to the pan.
12. Bring the pan to the boil and bring the heat down to low again. Place the lid on to the pan and cook for 20 mins or until the rice is soft and the liquid has evaporated. Try not to open the lid as the steam will escape. Once the rice is cooked do not stir the rice, gently comb a fork through it.
13. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve with the meat and garlic on top with a final sprinkle of parsley on top.
14. Serve with a cucumber, tomato and onion salad. Dress simply with salt, pepper, oil and vinegar.

For a meal en famille serve directly from the pot. With guests, place the rice at the bottom, and then lay the meat on top of the soft bed of carrots. Place the whole head of garlic on top of the meat and sprinkle with parsley.