Indian Roasted Cauliflower

indian_cauliflReceived in the morning, extensively bookmarked in the evening and put into practice – with a successful result – the following day: this is my idea of a well-chosen and highly promising cookery book. This is not the case of the majority of my buys, so I was thrilled when the recipe I tested barely 24 hours after opening Made in India: Cooked in Britain. Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen by Meera Sodha proved fantastic. Simple, quick and perfect as a weekday side-dish, this roasted cauliflower is exactly what I had expected from this book.

As usually, I have changed the ratio of ingredients and also slightly the procedure, so, if you want to read the original, I encourage you to buy Made in India, a beautifully illustrated book full of luscious-looking, but relatively easy – or seeming literally effortless – home dishes.

TIPS: If you often cook Indian dishes, I advise buying a very cheap coffee grinder (that I wouldn’t advise for coffee, by the way…). Freshly ground spices make a big difference in the final aromatic and taste results. Using mortar every time might be off-putting, especially if we are in a hurry.

If you you like coconut aroma, use coconut oil instead of normal oil. This is what I did and it made a big difference.

The author suggests blanching cauliflower before baking, but, as a lazy cook, I preferred to bake the raw florets. It’s up to you to choose.

I served it with grilled chicken breast and a yoghurt-based sauce, but I guess this cauliflower will go with many dishes, not only Indian.

Preparation: 40 minutes – 1 hour, depending on how soft you want your cauliflower to be

Ingredients (serves three-four as a side dish):

1 big cauliflower

2 tablespoons cumin seeds

1 heaped teaspoon powdered turmeric

2 tablespoons medium hot chilli powder (or a mixture of very hot and mild)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons coconut oil (or any other oil supporting high temperatures)

juice from one lemon (you can skip it if you don’t have lemons; even before the juice’s addition the cauliflower is irresistibly good)

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Roast the cumin seeds on a clean frying pan and grind them in a coffee/spice grinder or in a mortar. (You can of course buy powdered cumin, but this short roasting makes a big difference in taste).

Divide the cauliflower into bite-sized florets, cutting off the wider stalks.

Place the spices and the coconut oil in a big baking dish or tray (you should be able to spread the florets easily).

Put the cauliflower florets into the baking dish and dredge in the oil and spice mixture, using your hands (use gloves if you are afraid of turmeric stains on your fingers).

Bake for at least 30 minutes, turning once or twice.

I like my cauliflower very crunchy, so 30 minutes of baking was enough, but if you prefer it soft prepare yourself rather for fifty minutes – one hour.

Squeeze lemon juice over the cauliflower just before serving (if you have it).


Tzatziki with Fennel (Greek Yogurt, Cucumber and Fennel Dip)

tzatziki_fennel_I know most of us have been looking for warming, filling autumn dishes, but maybe, just like me, from time to time you need something fresh, something bringing back sunny summer memories… What about a new version of tzatziki? I found it while reading my latest buy: Food of the Greek Islands by Aglaia Kremezi and as a relatively recent fennel convert, I was thrilled to add it to my recipes’ list. It’s light, refreshing, crunchy and if you slice the fennel very finely (with a mandolin for example), I bet your fennel-hating guests will love it and some won’t even guess what they are eating. Serve it with grilled skewers, meats and vegetables, as a party dip or as a healthy bread spread. Most of all, hurry up before the fennel season ends!

As usually, I have modified the ingredients’ amounts and their ratio, so check Aglaia Kremezi’s original recipe. If you are interested in Greek food, I strongly advise her fascinating book, written with passion and deep knowledge of the culinary heritage and traditions of Greek islands, but most of all full of luscious-looking recipes.

TIP: If you use chilli pepper, black pepper is not necessary in my opinion.

Preparation: 10 minutes + cooling time


250 g (about 1/2 cup) Greek yogurt or any natural yogurt you have

1 small cucumber or 1/3 long cucumber

1 small fennel

salt, (ground black pepper)

juice from 1/2 lemon

1 garlic clove

(1 fresh small chilli pepper)

3 heaped tablespoons fresh chopped dill or fennel fronds

olive oil

Grate the cucumber (you can peel it or not, I prefer it unpeeled) and squash well to remove the juices.

Place in a bowl.

Slice the fennel very finely (the easiest way to obtain it is with a mandolin).

Place the fennel in the same bowl, add the crushed or grated garlic, the salt, the pepper (if using), the finely sliced chilli (if using), the lemon juice, the dill or fennel fronds and mix well. Refrigerate for at least two hours.

Sprinkle with olive oil just before serving.

Furikake (Rice Seasoning) with Chilli and Prune

ts_furikakeFurikake is one of the – still not famous enough – wonders of the Japanese cuisine. It’s usually translated as “seasoning” or “topping”, but to be precise it comes from the verb “furikakeru”, which means “to sprinkle” and is supposed to be sprinkled just before eating, usually on rice. If you don’t like the taste of pure white rice and are fed up with soaking it in soy sauce (so many of us, Westerners, do it…), furikake is your friend. Japanese supermarkets carry dozens of different furikake kinds, so most people never prepare them at home. Most brands add preservatives, MSG or tons of salt, but if you go to a small shop selling its own mixtures or those from smaller producers, you might discover delicious unique creations and soon get addicted to them.

Last year I bought several different furikake bags from a small high-quality grocery shop in Tokyo and loved all of them. I even managed to copy (more or less…) my favourite of them all (see the recipe here) and it was the beginning of my homemade furikake adventures. Nowadays I constantly have at least two kinds of furikake in my kitchen and cannot imagine running out of them.

The story behind this second furikake is a bit different since I haven’t tasted the original, basing my recipe on the description and ingredients’ list found on Food Sake Tokyo. The furikake called “taberu togarashi”, bought by Yukari (the author of the blog) at the famous Tokyo fish market seemed so fabulous, I  started to work on my own copy straight away. (In the meantime I have put down “Karaimonoya” (からいもの屋, meaning “spicy food shop”), the name of the shop where Yukari bought it, for my next trip to Tokyo). I had to work out my own ratio of the ingredients and replaced dried apricot with prune, but the result was a stunning explosion of flavours. Apart from the typical furikake products (dried bonito flakes, sesame seeds or seaweed), this one gets a mighty kick from chilli powder, a sour touch from yukari (see the TIPS), while the sweet and tangy prune adds to the complexity of flavours and makes it simply addictive. You can use it on rice, noodles, omelettes, meat, fish… the possibilities are endless, but I always prefer steamed white rice.

Food Sake Tokyo is one of the best sources – if not the best one –  to find gourmet and unique eating, food shopping or drinking spots in Tokyo, with a big part dedicated to Tsukiji fish market. Yukari (the author) has also written a Tokyo food guide and organises Tokyo food tours, so make sure you visit her blog. If you don’t plan trips to Japan, she will at least make you dream.

TIPS: Some of you might not be familiar with “yukari”, one of the ingredients of this furikake. Yukari is a very dark furikake made from salt and red shiso/perilla leftover from Japanese plum pickling process. You can find it in every Japanese grocery shop (at least here), but if you don’t have access to it, replace it with sumac which is also sour and then maybe adjust the salt content.

This particular furikake is dry, so it can be made in big amounts, stored at room temperature and also easily carried to work, on trips or family visits (now you know it: I am one of those crazy people who travel with their own spices and seasoning).

-Obtaining ground dried fruit
The preparation of this furikake is very quick, apart from the ground prunes (or apricots, if you want to be closer to the original recipe), which are crucial here. In order to obtain this form you must dry the already dried fruit in the oven (lowest temperature) until it toughens a bit (don’t burn it!). You can also leave it in a dry warm spot in the kitchen and wait several days until it dries enough to be ground. Then you can reduce it into powder with a spice or coffee grinder or a food processor. The “powder” will be slightly chunky and slightly soft. I haven ever tried grinding very soft dried fruit, so I cannot say if it works without an additional drying stage. Another method to obtain the ground dried fruit is to mix it in a food processor and then dry for some time. After that, you can reduce it into powder in a coffee or spice grinder.

Since I have invented the ingredients’ ratio on my own, feel free to modify it and adapt to your taste.

Preparation: about 10 minutes if you have already dried the fruit enough to be ground


1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

1 big sheet of nori (the seaweed used to make maki sushi)

2 heaped tablespoons ground dried prunes or apricots (see the TIPS above)

1 heaped tablespoon medium hot chilli powder or flakes (I have used Korean chilli)

1 tablespoon yukari (slightly sour, red shiso and salt-based seasoning; can be replaced with sumac, see the TIPS above)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), smaller bits or big ones mixed in a grinder

Cut the nori sheet into pieces and grind them in a coffee or spice grinder.

Combine all the ingredients. Taste and adjust the amounts.

Store in a closed jar at room temperature (it will keep for a very long time).

Turmeric, Garlic and Chilli Chicken Rub

baked_thighs_Some of you might remember how enthusiastic I was to discover Rick Stein’s India, bought after seeing his fascinating culinary tv series set in India. Apart from opening my eyes to the world of Indian fish and seafood cuisine, both the tv program and the book made me stop using the curry powder after long years of mistaking it for a traditional spice mixture. Apparently it is considered by many – or maybe all ? – Indian cooks as a Western attempt to make a false shortcut to their rich culinary heritage and a disgrace to their cuisine. This information was enough to make me throw the stuff away.

Before, curry powder was a staple, especially as a part of rub for baked or grilled chicken. Nowadays I simply combine individual spices on my own, ending up with mixtures which are composed of Indian spices, but I never pretend they are genuine or/and traditional. I enjoy this new approach and find the flavours somehow clearer and brighter. This simplest four-ingredient rub has quickly become my basic favourite for all the baked chicken cuts, eaten both warm and cold (in sandwiches, wraps, spring rolls or salads). I think I use this spice mixture on average once a week, so I couldn’t imagine not sharing it with you. The below recipe is for baked skinless thighs, but you an easily adapt it to any chicken cut you want, skinless or not.

TIPS: I do not recommend using fresh garlic here (unless you stuff the meat with it) because it will burn during the baking/grilling process. Dried ground garlic can be bought probably everywhere, but I encourage you to make your own. It takes only a while and the final result is noticeably better than the one you used to buy. Here is my easy recipe for Homemade Dried Garlic.

If you don’t like hot dishes, replace chilli powder with sweet pepper powder.

If you don’t use turmeric often, beware: it’s very easy to overdose and make your chicken bitter.

Preparation: 20 minutes – 1 hour depending on the method and the cuts (grilling chicken breasts will take about 20 minutes, while baking legs might take up to one hour, including the oven preheating time)

Ingredients (serves two):

2 chicken thighs (skinned or not) or other chicken cuts of your choice

oil to brush on skinless cuts


1 teaspoon dried powdered garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons powdered chilli or powdered sweet pepper 

Rub the spices into the chicken, starting with salt.

Brush with oil on top if you use skinless cuts.

Preheat the oven, if baking or broiling.

Put the seasoned chicken legs into a baking dish.

Bake or broil or grill until the meat is golden. (If you grill or broil, you need to turn the cuts of course; if you bake, you don’t need to do it).




Filo Rolls with Bok Choy Leaves and Feta

bokchoyrolls_Bok choy (or pak choy) is one of the rare autumn and winter vegetables I always look forward to. As much as I love its stir-fried crisp stalks, I have never liked the texture of warm limp leaves, so if my bok choy had abundant leafy part (sometimes half of its height), I used to cut off about 3/4 of the leaves and throw it away. I hate wasting food, so I kept on experimenting with this unwanted part until I found a dish where its softness would be more than welcome. It worked perfectly as the spinach replacement in the famous Greek Spanakopita filling I have been making for some time according to Katerina’s excellent recipe. The result is equally delicious, though of course not  strictly Greek…

Instead of a whole pie I have made individual filo rolls, the form I prefer and find easier. I have slightly modified Katerina’s Spanakopita recipe, mainly adding garlic, so make sure you check her original recipe on Culinary Flavors where you will also find homemade filo pastry instructions.

TIPS: If you have less bok choy or less feta, feel free to change the ratio. I think that increasing the bok choy’s amount is less risky (feta is very salty).

The chopped dill is not obligatory here. If you use it, either use it fresh or frozen (not dried).

Preparation: about 1 hour

Ingredients (makes 6 rolls):

6 sheets of filo pastry

150 g feta cheese, crumbled

1 egg

3 big handfuls of chopped bok choy leaves

1 big clove garlic, crushed

(2 heaped tablespoons fresh chopped dill)

1 flat tablespoon cracked wheat (you can use semolina instead, but I prefer cracked wheat)

black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Put the chopped leaves into a bowl and squash them with your hands until the volume is reduced. Crumble the drained feta into a bowl. Add the chopped leaves, dill (if using), cracked wheat and some ground black pepper, stir well and with a spoon divide into 6 equal portions (this will make the filo sheets’ filling process much easier).

Spread one filo sheet on a big chopping board.

Place horizontally, about 2,5 cm/1 in. from the filo sheet’s shorter edge which is closest to you, a portion of feta and bok choy mixture.

Roll tightly but delicately, starting from the edge which is closest to you, folding the two lateral edges into the roll, so that the filling doesn’t leak during the baking process (I have folded here about 3 cm/about 1,2 inch on each side).

Proceed in the same way with the remaining rolls.

Brush the top of the rolls with some oil or melted butter, place on a baking tray or baking paper and bake in the oven until slightly golden (about 30 minutes in mine). Watch them often as they tend to burn quite quickly.