Sunday, 22 February 2015

Chai flavoured Barley Pancakes

If you follow me on instagram (if you aren't, why not dude??) then you may have picked up on my enjoyment of big breakfasts on the weekend. During the working week, I don't always find the time for breakfast, especially during these winter days when I am forced to awaken when it's still dark outside, but on the weekend I like to have fun with my breakfasts. I wasn't always this way though. Once upon a time, I used to find breakfast a boring chore and was stuck in a grey world of weetabix and cornflakes. But something changed in me about two years ago. I'm not sure what exactly changed. But I think it might have had something to do with finding ways not to study or write an essay...

Anywho, to mark my last day off work today, I decided to try out something new with the bag of barley flour sitting in my kitchen. I don't make pancakes very often, but they make a great breakfast treat when you have those extra few minutes in the morning. There are all sorts of variations these days of more healthy versions of pancakes that don't use regular white flour. I have previously tried making them using my own oat flour but I wasn't too much of a fan of the taste and I much prefer the taste of these barley flour pancakes. Whilst barley may not gluten free, as I mentioned in my Barley tea recipe, there still remain many health benefits associated with this grain.

I smeared my pancakes with raw honey and topped them with banana, pomegranates and pistachio nuts. My recipe yielded three big pancakes, but if you were making them a smaller size you should be able to get at least double the number. I'm also pretty rubbish at flipping pancakes to be honest, so I used a small frying pan and filled the whole pan with the batter. Once I saw little bubbles forming on the top of the pancake, (thanks Nigella for that tip) I used a regular butter knife to help me flip the pancake over.

The ground cinnamon and cardamom in this recipe is purely optional. However, I thought it was a fun way to spice up the pancakes, and my Bengali-ness just couldn't resist adding spices at any opportunity.

Friday, 20 February 2015

DIY Organic Coconut and Rosehip Seed Butter

DIY Organic Coconut and Rosehip Seed Butter

The first time I ever saw or even heard of coconut oil was when I was in Bangladesh well over a decade ago. Despite the sweltering heat of the summer, girls over there would lovingly apply coconut oil to their hair as a conditioning treatment. Of course, due to the high temperatures, the coconut oil would always stay in its liquid form.

Flash forward a few years to me in the UK where coconut oil had become a lot more mainstream and readily available. Yet, as much as I wanted to appreciate the benefits of coconut oil for my hair and skin there was just one frustrating thing that held me back from using it more regularly. You see, the UK is notoriously known for its often cold and wet weather and short lived summers. As such, most of the year, rather than flowing through my hands like a liquid elixir, I handled coconut oil in its solid form as rather cold chunks that I would helplessly try to melt between my hands. You might be thinking, well Abida, all you have to do is wait a few seconds, why are you making such a big deal? But alas, I am such a low maintenance person when it comes to these health and beauty things that if its not something quick and immediate I will just not bother at all. So if the choice is between waiting a few extra seconds to enjoy moisturised hair and skin or being lazy and have dry and cracked skin, I'll go for the lazy option. Every. Single. Time.

DIY Organic Coconut and Rosehip Seed Butter

But then I discovered this rather extraordinary process whereby using a simple kitchen utensil had the ability to transform hard chunks of cocnut oil into a silky, buttery texture. Gone were the days of waiting for coconut oil to melt, instead, as I was frantically getting ready for work, I could grab my jar of coconut butter and slather it on. It was a game changer. 

Sunday, 15 February 2015


Though South Asian desserts aren't always as well known as our curries and savoury foods, rasmalai, (or roshmalai as many of us Bangladeshis call it) is probably one of the most popular sweets both in South Asia and beyond. It is a milk based dessert, with soft dumplings served in a slightly thickened milk sauce.

For us Bangladeshis, it is a staple dessert both to serve to guests on special occasions and to take for your host when you are invited to their home. Going to someone's house for the first time? Take some rasmalai. Congratulating a family on the birth of a new child? Take some rasmalai. Going to meet your potential in laws? Yep, you guessed it. Take some rasmalai. 

Rasmalai is my favourite Asian dessert. As it is such a traditional dish that we often have for big events such as Eid, there is a certain kind of nostalgia associated with it for me as well.  I don't profess to have the biggest sweet tooth in the world but the milky sweetness of rasmalai is light and delicate. The milk dumplings are soft and fluffy, and are contrasted with the slight crunch of the pistachio. 

Despite the popularity of this dish, it is common practice these days to buy your rasmalai. These days, you can find small boxes of this sweet by brands such as Ambala and Royal in your local supermarket and dedicated sweet or mithai shops continue to sell it by the kilo in large bucket containers. Yet, as we all know, shop bought items don't always have the same charm or love that is found in homemade cooking. And on top of all that, homemade rasmalai just tastes so much better than the shop bought variety. 

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Strawberry and Almond Thumbprint Cookies

Strawberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies

I think I am starting to enjoy baking. This is a real turning point for someone like me, because you see, for so long, I have associated baking with stress, tears and wanting to pull out my hair in frustration. 

These strawberry and almond cookies (or biscuits as we call them over here in Britain) however were a delight to make. Perhaps it's because I am, dare I say it, slightly improving in the baking arena, or perhaps it is simply because these cookies were so darned simple to make. Whatever the case, these cookies were a huge hit with my family. I made them this weekend and actually had to refrain from eating too many to ration the remaining cookies.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Meat and Potato Curry

I am really not a Monday person. Last night, I was trying to make the most of the final hours of the weekend and curled up on my bed with my iPad. At some point however, I must have zonked out fully dressed, contacts lenses in and lights still switched on. I awakened some time later with a jolt and with a furtive glance at the clock was seized with the panic that I was late for work. I flew out of my bed then and ran to the bathroom and attempted to brush my teeth and shower in lightening fast time. Then I returned to my room in a manner befitting only a headless chicken and glanced at the clock again to check how I was doing for time... only to find it reading 12.40am. You see, in my haste I had totally mixed up the big hand and the little hand. It was a real groan out loud moment, I won't lie. So yeah, I'm really, really, really not a Monday person at all.

But embarrassing stories aside, let's move on to today's blog post! This is my standard recipe to use when cooking any kind of meat curry or bhuna. Like my simple chicken curry recipe, it can easily be adapted and you can substitute the potato for other vegetables. 

I have used mutton for this recipe which is the go to meat in our family for traditional cooking rather than lamb. For dishes like curry which involve a lot of stewing, mutton is an ideal choice and actually has a lot more flavour than lamb. This is probably my favourite curry to make, namely because you can actually throw everything into one pot and leave it alone to simmer away.

This a very traditional and homely dish that you would find in a lot of Bangladeshi homes over the week. The meat is juicy with a rich gravy and is contrasted well with the softness of the potato.