Monday, 24 March 2014

Bread anyone?

I can't believe my last post was in 2013! It really has been ages. And what have we been up to? We attended a big fat Indian wedding in Bombay which was super fun and the kids really had a great time dancing, eating and taking in all the colours and sounds of an Indian wedding. Then it was back to London and the usual running around headless, dropping and picking up kids, making dinner, doing laundry and organising my classes.

Besides the usual routine, my food adventures have expanded this year. I went for a bread making class in Notting Hill. The class was 3 hours of mixing, kneading, proving, stuffing then baking and finally the best part was of course eating! I gave a go at making a plaited roll, focaccia and stuffed Italian bread with pesto, olives and basil. It was so delicious. And I am proud to add that since that class, I haven't bought a store bread (except the time the kids wanted hot dogs for a last minute picnic). So my task three times a week is to practice improving my bread.

And today I started brushing up on my Indian bread, or roti skills. I don't know about you, but I just love bread, and with Indian food I tend to resort to rice because I don't have the patience to make rotis. But I really want to persevere with making rotis, especially for the kids! I have been dreaming of making them stuffed parathas with all sorts of delicious fillings. What about cheddar and coriander or minced lamb and mint or spinach and goats cheese? The list is really endless. With the power of the iPhone, Candice a mommy of two, and I FaceTimed this morning and did a variety of breads such as rotis, plain parathas and stuffed parathas. I put cheese in mine!

So today the kids had my hot rotis with dinner tonight. I had made keema (minced lamb) and rajma (kidney bean curry). My kids were most appreciative and I hope I can keep this up!

So here is the roti recipe that Candice shared with me. The dough that resulted was soft and very malleable which made rolling out the rotis very easy.

So for 15 rotis in the shape of a side plate:
2 mugs of atta ( I used Pillsbury wholemeal)
1/2 tspn salt
2 tspn oil
1/2 mug of hot tap water

1. Mix the dry ingredients and oil in a steel bowl.
2. Now slowly pour the water in bit by bit with one hand and with the other mix with your fingers.
3. Knead the dough till it springs back. If you do have time, let it rest with a damp cloth for 30-60 mins.
4. If you don't have time then take a small piece of the dough and roll into a golf ball size. Then flatten the ball in your palms.
5. Scatter some atta on to a plate and dip both sides of the flattened dough ball into the atta. Rub some on your rolling pin as well.
6. Roll out carefully and make a circular shape and keep moving the roti with your hand. Work out the edges.
7. Now place your tava or skillet onto a high heat and when it starts to smoke place your rolled out roti. After 30 seconds flip over and cook the other side for 30 seconds.
8. Now lower the heat and flip over the roti and press down with a wooden spoon and leave for 20 seconds. Flip again for another 20 seconds.
9. Remove and serve with a smudge of butter! (the best part!)

Classes wise, I have had a lot of demand for my evening mommy classes where we cook Indian food from 830-10. This week was the first of the four class set (runs all of March) and I had 5 wonderful moms. The menu was chickpea curry, lamb koftas and cumin rice. The moms got to know each other over a bottle of wine. It still amazes me how fantastic women are. Put a few together and straight away there was sharing and opening up over many personal things. Everyone was so supportive and generous with their feelings. So all in all, a fantastic evening of cooking and relaxing with each other.

My next set of Indian cooking will be after the Easter break, April 24th for day classes 11-1230 and the evening classes April 28th at 830 pm.

My next set of baby/toddler weaning classes is April 23rd at 10 am. More updates will be on my Facebook group page, Spices for my Sweets.

I hope to expand more days for my classes. Any London moms out there pls be in touch via Facebook else email me. I love your thoughts!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

No more milk please!

A few weeks ago my son, now 2.5 years old was struggling with a cold. Now that winter is upon us in London, I was prepared for the fever, coughing at night, runny nose and of course the crankiness that a cold brings on. This lasted a few days, and what he wanted to eat and found easy to eat was soft foods and his favourite tipple, warmed up milk. I was happy with him eating something rather than nothing, and drinking milk rather than being dehydrated. However, what this lead to was a serious case of constipation.

Some children go to the loo every other day, while some go even a couple of times a day. Both are considered healthy. But something was a miss when my little one didn't got for 4 days in a stretch. He also became exhausted and found it painful to go to the toilet. Eventually he did go after having lots of soft pear and syrup of figs. But this really was the worst case of constipation he had faced.

My daughter on the other hand has never, ever had this problem. And I realised that she doesn't favour milk the way my son does. They were being fed the same meals so what was the problem? This made me want to assess his diet. I knew his milk intake had to be lowered as he was definitely having close to 3 glasses of milk and often favoured milk over his food.

So I did a food diary for a week. The first day of the food diary looked something like this:

Weetabix with milk for breakfast
2 bites of banana
quarter bagel
rice and yoghurt (vegetables and lentils discarded)
half an orange
stir fry noodles with prawns (baby vegetables discarded)
2 glasses of milk

Not only was he having a lot of milk and mostly all carbohydrates, his portion size wasn't great. In fact if he was hungry he would fill himself with milk which meant no fiber to ease his bowels.

So step one was omitting the milk at every other time of the day except at breakfast with his cereal. He was having yoghurt so this made up the 2 glasses of milk which toddlers should be having daily. He wasn't allowed milk any more but watered down juice and just plain water was happily accepted.

His appetite didn't change straight away but 10 days later it gradually grew and his appetite doubled! Cutting down his milk portion has made way for him to feel more adventurous with his food and hungry during meal times. His bowel movements have improved and so far no constipation. I also have to keep on top of offering more water throughout the day. I am now offering more fruits at snack times, and pear is still his favourite!

So to keep on top of your child's constipation:
offer plenty of water throughout the day
offer fiber (avoid bran), so fruit/lentils/veg
check your child's food intake- too much carbohydrates or dairy?
and finally offer syrup of figs or prune juice to help your child

Message me if you need any advice

January baby/toddler weaning classes begin 6th Jan for 5 weeks
Indian cooking classes for moms begin 8th Jan

Monday, 28 October 2013

New ventures in eating and cooking

The last 6 weeks has left me occupied with my two children and the business of settling each of them into school and nursery. My son went from having mama 24/7 to a few days of nursery away from me and his precious big sister. This was a significant change for him and I welcomed the balance of mama time and nursery time. He had much to look forward to such as the different stimulation varying from the cool music teacher with his guitar to eating together with the rest of the children on small tables and chairs and might I add, without any help! I was curious how this last task would pan out as my boy generally has ants in his pants. After several weeks into the process, I was happy to learn that he sat with the rest of his peers and was having seconds as well! And this has of course had an effect at home, as he is able to sit longer than usual.

My daughter is slowly settling in at reception (also known as kindergarten) and she has had some days where she has had school lunches and other days when she and I have lunched together. On the days that she is at home, her appetite has almost doubled and I am so pleased with this. As a baby she was a small eater and its only over the years that her desire for food has grown. And now it seems that being at school has only expanded her tummy!

So now I will start my classes once she has fully settled, and this will be towards the end of November and I will update my blog, Facebook page and website with dates.

In the mean time I have done some interesting talks, one has been for a local clinic specialising in alternative therapies. I spoke about the beneficial uses of spices and baby food and offered some pureed samples for clients to try, one of course was my favourite butternut squash puree with roasted cumin and steamed plums puree with star anise, black peppercorns, cinnamon and clove.

Then this weekend I did a cooking demo at a quaint shop that sells spices by the weight. It was a fantastic experience where I demonstrated how to cook tadka dal (tempered lentils) and Bombay aloo. I was so high on adrenalin after the class and got so much positive feedback. I hope to do some more classes here in the future!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Summer of Food and an Autumn of Cooking

I am feeling rather creaky after two months of not writing on my blog and I have to admit the break has been refreshing. The family and I were away in India over the summer months and it was a new adventure being in the motherland during the post monsoon, mosquito season. The children enjoyed all the Indian delights of paani puri, kulfi, and roasted corn with lemon and salt. The fruits in season were the succulent custard apples and sweet pomengranates and the children ate these both in fruit and ice cream form!

For me, it was a time off from cooking and I solely focused on indulging on food at any opportunity! I relished every bite of my grandma's cooking from the area of Sind, lollas with maaki for breakfast to sai bhaaji for lunch and gosht dubalroti for dinner.

Then there was the Goan food we tried which has strong Portugese influence, a couple of  that stuck out for me was the pork vindaloo which used sugar cane vinegar. I ate this with small bread rolls to mop up the vindaloo sauce. It was just wow! Then there was a seafood stew, with a mellow gravy and bits of prawn and crab floating in it. Again, very very nice. Then of course the street food, I had my sev puri and bhel puri. Indian food aside, there was also some fantastic Chinese meals, sushi and pizzas. But I have to say my all time favorite was eating sharing platters with cocktails amongst close friends. I think it was the best combination of good conversation and food!

Since coming back to London, we have been busy settling the children into both school and nursery. The much needed mommy-time is somewhere in the distance till they both settle and in the mean time its been non stop cooking (surprise surprise!). After Indian food overload, the children were happy to come back to a more balanced diet of pasta, stir fries and of course home cooked Indian food. I tried after ages, a moreish bean curry. To my delight, my daughter enjoyed it the first time so much that she demanded it again for lunch today! And with the cold weather setting in, its perfect!

So here is my recipe for a moreish bean curry. I used 2 cans of black eyed beans and 1 can of butter beans (or giant baked beans as I like to call them)

3 cans of beans
half a large onion
3 garlic cloves grated
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 tspn cumin powder
1 tspn coriander powder
1/2 tspn turmeric powder
1/2 tspn red chilli powder
salt to taste
handful of finely chopped coriander

1.  Sweat the onion on low heat along with the grated garlic and ginger in a tablespoon of oil.
2. After 7-8 mins, the onions will be translucent. Now add the dry spices and cook for a minute.
3. Add the can of tomatoes and finally the beans (you can discard the water).
4. Add two cups of water and simmer on low heat for 45 mins.
5. Add the coriander right at the end and stir through.

Serve like a soup with some crusty bread on the side, or with boiled rice and yoghurt.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Summer Highlights

So this Wednesday will be the last 'Spices for my Sweets' workshop for the summer. Its been such a fantastic last few months. The last set of workshops in particular was a real highlight for me. Not to say other classes haven't been as good, its just that the whole reason why I wanted to do these classes was finally achieved. After the block of 5 classes,  mothers confessed that the class had profoundly changed them- that they were more able, more confident and empowered to take charge of their family meals. They had moved from being nervous and shaky in the kitchen to planning menus and practising in the kitchen. Some moms emailed me pictures of the food they produced and their children eating it as well!
For me this was the heart of the matter for me- to touch one mother like that was more than enough! The five workshops had become a journey for many, and at the last class some were sad to say bye and even exchanged phone numbers. I hope the classes continue to give mothers this sense of achievement!

Some new movements have taken place, I did two home workshops with a couple of lovely mommies and their cheeky 6 months olds. Their diets were strictly vegetarian and over two classes, they learnt how to make 8 baby meals. Not only did the moms learn recipes, they also learnt many cooking tips and how to manage the business of cooking fresh food every day for their wee ones. A great experience for me, and I am happy to offer this service to other moms in their homes.

I will be taking a break now for some travel time, and will resume classes in October. Spices for my Sweets will as usual be on a Wednesday at 10 am at my home in North London, the first class will start 2nd October. The mothers only class, A Taste of Something Spicy will begin in October as well, this time on a Monday evening at 830 starting on the 7th. Once again you can email me on

Some new ventures will commence in the Autumn, including offering educational talks and cooking demonstrations and offering weaning classes in collaboration with other groups. Watch this space!

I wish everyone a wonderful summer!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Sweetcorn Chicken Soup

Loved especially by my hubby and my children, I would like to share with you an all time classic, a sweetcorn chicken soup recipe. My version has a few add ons, using sesame oil, slivers of ginger and spring onion.

I hope you enjoy it!

For a family of 4 and suitable for babies 12 months +

1 425 gms can of creamed corn
2 tablespoons of sesame oil
1/2 cup of finely chopped boneless chicken
1 tablespoon of light soya sauce
1 white of an egg
4-5 slivers of ginger
1/2 finely chopped spring onion to garnish
salt and pepper

1. In a pan, add a tablespoon of sesame oil, the ginger and the chicken and fry for a minute.
2. Now add the creamed corn and the same amount of water to the pan.
3. Next add the soya sauce and season with salt and black pepper.
4. Now take a fork and lift small forkfuls of egg white and drop into the pan. Continue till all the egg white has been dropped. Now mix with a spoon, the egg white will cook and you will see white threads.
5. Simmer for another 10 mins on medium heat. When serving add a tablespoon of sesame oil and chopped spring onion.

My 2 year old will be having this for lunch :)

Monday, 1 July 2013

Big School

Last week my husband and I met the staff at my daughter's school which she will be starting this September. I was sitting in the school hall, clutching a handful of papers and feeling so small amongst the other 100 parents. How will my tiny, barely 4 year old daughter  feel when she enters her new school? I felt anxious and excited at the same time, for both her and I. I can still remember the day she was born and her cry when she took her first breath and now my kitten was about to start reception. The time had crept up on us.

The school was aware of our worries, and I, like all the parents there was keen on getting my baby settled in a positive way. Amongst learning how to dress herself for PE and getting to school on time, my little one has to learn how to eat in a cafeteria amongst her class mates. She will have a choice of school lunches which would mean holding a tray and deciding what meal she would like, along with a choice of salad and dessert. It all seems like too many choices for a 4 year old and perhaps a little complicated? What if you like both the broccoli and cheese and the chicken pie? But then change your mind after seeing the fish fingers on your friend's plate? Could you skip lunch and just have dessert? Too many choices!

Now what has slightly stressed me is the readiness of my daughter and if I dwell deeper the readiness of me to let go of her. Suddenly on a very conscious level there is a deadline looming in September to make her able and ready to tackle the business of school. And what I find most difficult is her eating her meal. She is very good at finishing her plate and has a good appetite but she can, if left to her own devices, take over an hour. How will she be able to eat her meal at lunch time? I can just imagine her socialising and then remaining hungry for the rest of the afternoon! I know it's typical of a mom to worry about this and I guess I will be worrying about other things she will have to cope with (without mommy there to give her a helping hand) but I guess that's the whole point of school? It's about her falling down and getting up, dusting herself off and giving it another go. We do have a few more months (thank god!) before she starts and much growing up for both mommy and her to do.