In Which We Make Paneer Shashlik

Enjoy with beer and Indian nibbles

So this is one of the fiancé’s recipe: his take on the paneer shashlik we usually order from the local take-away (which, thankfully, still delivers to our new flat). It’s not a proper shashlik, which is usually cooked on skewers (I’m pretty sure ‘shashlik’ means skewer or cooked on a skewer), as we just bake everything in the oven.

This is a very simple recipe – cut everything up, chuck in a deep baking tray with spices, then bake. A one-pot dish, if you like that kinda thing. He also whipped up a super-garlicky tzatziki twist on the usual mint sauce, which was amaze-balls! We had it with some pre-made Indian nibbles (bhajis, pakoras and samosas – these aren’t GF, BTW), but you could have this on its own or with rice or naan. (Fun fact: ‘naan’ means ‘bread’, so when you say ‘naan bread’ you’re really saying ‘bread bread’.)

Paneer Shashlik

Serves 2 on its own or 4 as a part of a meal

For the paneer
2 large red peppers, cut into chunks
2 large tomatoes, halved
1 white onion, quartered
6 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
2 packets paneer, thickly sliced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon hot chilli power
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
coriander (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For the mint tzatziki
1/2 cucumber
4 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons garlic purée
juice of 1/2 lemon
handful of mint, leaves picked
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 200˚C (180˚C fan).

Put all the vegetables and the paneer into a deep baking tray, scatter over the spices, drizzle over the oil and season with plenty of salt. Mix everything together well with your hands (hand are best, but if you’re squeamish about the mess, you could instead use a large spoon ). Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Check the paneer is nice and crispy on the outside but not burnt. Give it an extra 15 minutes, if needed.

Meanwhile, prepare the tzatziki. Grate or julienne the cucumber and squeeze out as much excess juice as possible. (Julienne means ‘cut into short, thin strips’; you can do this using a julienne peeler – so much easier than cutting by hand.) In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice and half the mint leaves, then season to taste. Stir in the cucumber, then scatter over the remaining mint leaves.

Dish up the paneer and roasted veggies and season generously with freshly ground pepper (I like a mix of red, green and black peppercorns, but whatever rocks your boat). Scatter over some fresh coriander (if that’s your jam – the fiancé loves it but I think it’s incredibly disgusting and ruins any dish, so the photo above is his plate.) Serve alongside the cooked paneer shashlik, and any nibbles or sides you want.

In Which I Make Pancakes…Again

So, this morning I went to make breakfast to discover that I had no milk to have granola and no eggs to make pancakes (and no bread for even any toast). Short of venturing out into the buckets of rain that suddenly decided to fall this morning, I was stumped. Until I spied a browning, slightly manky banana that I couldn’t bring myself to eat, it having just gone past bearable for me two days before.

I decided to try making a banana pancake instead and this is what I came up with. They’re much less solid than egg-based pancakes, probably because the bananas are thicker and don’t ‘dry out’ like eggs do when they cook, but it makes for a moister pancake.

I’m cutting out added sugars at the moment, so just heated up some frozen fruits for a topping instead.

Vegan banana pancakes

Banana Pancakes with Fruits and Nut Butter

Serves 1 / Makes 3–4 pancakes

1 very ripe banana
5 tablespoons flour (I use a mix of almond and plain)
1 tablespoon mixed ground seeds (use more flour if you don’t have these)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon oil or vegan butter

To serve
Nut butter
Frozen or fresh fruits

Mash the banana thoroughly with a fork – it will look pretty gross and soupy, but the smoother it is the easier it will be to mix everything together.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together until it all combines. The mixture should be quite thick but thin enough that you can scoop it out into the pan with the fork. You can add a little water to loosen it up if you prefer, but ensure you don’t add too much or the mixture will be difficult to flip.

Heat a small pan over a medium heat and then add about a quarter of the mixture. I don’t use any fat to fry my pancakes, but you can use a little oil. I recommend you use a really good-quality non-stick pan if you’re not using any fat to fry the pancakes.

Fry for about 2 minutes or so on each side. You want to wait for bubbles to appear on the surface before you flip.

Repeat for the rest of the mixture until you have 3–4 pancakes, spreading a little nut butter between each layer.

Meanwhile, heat some frozen fruit in a separate pan or the microwave for a few minutes until they start to break down and the juices begin to thicken. Let it sit for a few minutes before serving (the fruit can get super hot). Tip on top of the mini pancake stack and enjoy.

In Which I Talk About Recipes

So, I’ve been pretty quiet lately for a few different reasons. Namely moving home… and career (more on that in another post, possibly). As a result of this, and the fact that we now have an entirely new set of crockery (whoop whoop), I have been experimenting with new recipes. I recently bought Rita Serano’s Vegan in 7, which is an amazing book (though I’m pretty biased as I worked on it) – vegan recipes all using only 7 ingredients or less. This week alone I made her courgette noodle salad and lentil ragu (which I’m pretty sure could have convinced any meat-eaters, so sumptuous were the flavours). I’ll probably be posting a few more recipes on here as I discover new ones and adapt some of my own. For now, I’ll leave you with a couple photos of what I’ve been making recently, most which have already made their debut on my Instagram page (please excuse the shoddy camera work – I am not a photographer).

This was one of the first meals we cooked with the new crockery, cooking courtesy of the SO. We have spicy mushrooms, fried tenderstem broccoli, white rice and peanut satay sauce.

Movie night! All homemade except the tortilla chips – guacamole, the SO’s trademark salsa (which I actually don’t like as I hate coriander!), garlicy yogurt dip and nacho cheese, recipe from Fifteen Spatulas:

And, to finish, Courgette Noodle Salad from Vegan in 7, will lots and lots of pine nut ‘Parmesan’, which is super versatile.

In Which I Announce Myself to the World … Again

I have had two blogs in the past, both which have fallen by the wayside. My first, called Blogger’s Block, reads pretty disappointingly. It starts with the hopes and dreams of a twenty-something English Lit and Creative Writing university student trying to find her way back to the love of writing that essays and deadlines had overborne. It was witty, with footnotes, and signing off with ‘Toodle pip’. I wrote once a month or so for over a year. Then I finished my Master’s Degree, decided I needed to ‘find myself’ and went to Australia for a month. In November. It was 40 degrees. In ‘new-year-new-you’ January I resumed blogging, writing about discovering publishing as a wondrous career option, and getting a post-graduate piece published on The Independent online (which I totally forgot about until I just re-read my last post – how did I forget that?), and then it stopped.

I’d begun another blog of book reviews called Behind the Words (recognise the name?). I got my own webspace and URL, personalised a blog template and tapped away bi-monthly reviews as I finished books (13, to be exact). I was doing work experience in the rights department of a non-traditional publishing company where I could get my hands on books from all over the world and my reading portfolio was expanding. I went to London Bookfair and proudly asked interesting stands if I could take photos ‘for my blog’, sharing the link enthusiastically and networking. Then I got a job. I saved the full website (with much help of my SO) in case I ever wanted to start it up again and let the URL go.

A year or so ago I rediscovered Blogger’s Block, which I’d managed to completely forget about, re-wrote the About Me section, explaining how I was going to try to start writing again and how the blog would be the place where ‘only you and I will discover if I fail or succeed.’ The last post is still February 2012. I failed.

But failure is a part of life, so I’m not going to pretend like this shiny new blog is going to be the savior of my creativity or the start of something long-lasting. It will probably not last very long at all, but if it does I’m not going to pretend like it was my first try. We all fail. We try again. We fail again. Then we try again. If we didn’t, we likely wouldn’t have many impressive inventions such as antibiotics, mobile phones and the internet (disclaimer: I have not looked this up, but it sounds legit). That’s why I’ve not deleted my old blog and have linked to it here – I’m not ashamed of having tried. I’d have kept the book review blog online, too, if it hadn’t cost money to host and I was earning near minimum wage in my first job.

I don’t know what this blog will be (if it comes to anything). I asked my SO what I should write about – writing again? (Because that worked out so well last time.) Cooking? Book reviews? He asked why I couldn’t write on them all, or anything else that I wanted, and he had a good point; it is my blog after all. So that’s my plan – I’ll write whatever I fancy writing about. Perhaps I’ll recycle my old reviews, too. If no one reads it, then that’s fine, because this isn’t a writing portfolio, or a blog I’m using to get a job (let’s face it – that’s why I started the book review blog and then stopped when I got a job), it’s a blog for me. (How cliché.)

Review: The Demon’s Watch by Conrad Mason

Publisher: David Fickling Books (ebook published by RHCB Digital)
Published: 2012
Format: ebook
Rating: 4/5

Captain Newton and his men keep watch over Port Fayt, where humans live in peace alongside trolls, elves and fairies. They’ve always kept the town safe from pirates and smugglers. But now Fayt is under threat from a much more powerful enemy – the League of the Light, who have sworn to destroy all non-humans. And to make matters worse, a dangerous witch has just arrived in town…

Half-goblin boy Joseph Grubb works in his uncle’s tavern, the Legless Mermaid, and has only ever heard stories of the Demon’s Watch. But when he runs away from his uncle and finds himself deep in a criminal underworld, Grubb might be the one person who could help the watchmen save Port Fayt.

This debut novel from Conrad Mason reaches into the perspective of several characters, but primarily follows the story of Grubb, an orphan half-goblin raised by his racist uncle who escapes into an increasingly perilous world. I often have reservations about this technique, but I enjoyed the multidimensional quality and insights into characters’ motives. It’s like you’re being given a private viewing behind the scenes of the story. Mason never gives too much away and you engage with each character’s history as you gradually piece their intertwining storylines together.

The story sometimes reads as a thriller or mystery. Mason succeeds in the art of drip feeding information and leaving you wanting more. As soon as you discover the truth, every passing detail or seemingly unimportant fact slots together in a satisfying discovery.

One of my favourite things about this book is the humour. Some children’s authors try too hard to inject humour into their stories and it falls flat. Not here. Mason’s style is subtle and driven by the characters. Almost every character’s inner thoughts got a laugh. Quips like “He’s a podgy old soak, with a crazy left eye and not much use for baths,” are the kind of phrases that make children’s books universally enjoyable. But the thing that makes The Demon’s Watch a good book, rather than an average one, is the delicate balance between light heartedness and serious suspense. Mason is definitely one to watch.

A review of The Demon’s Watch can’t go without a mention of the ominous League of the Light. Though not an individual character, the League is so well developed it becomes its own entity. The faceless organisation looms over the relative peace of Port Fayt. Mason feeds rumours and passing statements about the League into the story, keeping it ever present in your mind. I eagerly anticipate the next instalment where I hope to discover more about this mysterious organisation.