Zaika is a rare thing in our household. It’s a cookbook bought by Kate. She was after more ideas for dishes she could cook and we found this one while browsing the Waterstones by Exeter Cathedral. The vibrant illustration of the cover drew us in, the elegant photos of simple-looking food convinced us. So Zaika came home with us.
Kate made the first recipe: we loved Sweet and Sour Tofu, which she pairs with the Jeera Rice. It’s one of a handful of recipes in the book for Chinese food by way of Bengal. An amazing fusion of flavours and the tofu here absorbs all the best of them. This has become a firm favourite although Kate adds more ketchup to make it a little saucier. We’ve only stopped eating it so much recently because it’s hard to get hold of the good tofu.
I meanwhile went towards the bread section and tried out these Nigella Seed Naans. I adore Naan bread. These ones are especially lovely with the generous amount of Nigella in them. We’ve eaten them alongside curry, used them for sandwiches. They’re lovely.
As we got further into the lockdown two things happened: I ran out of flour, and I wanted to combine the cans I had sitting in the cupboard with the fresh vegetables I did have to make something filling, different, and exciting. So one night I served up a tin of jackfruit, some tomatoes and some pre-made roti as Jackfruit Sabzi. The whole thing is cooked quickly on a high heat so in no more than twenty minutes you get an intensely flavoured dish. It’s also really hot which is only a problem in that the description for this one is ‘mild’. Other dishes described as hot we’ve found to be mild. If that has the potential to ruin a meal for you you’ll need to use your own judgement.
When flour finally came back into our lives I wanted to make something elaborate but first I had to make Potato and Pea Samosas. Okay so they look a bit of a state but that’s my fault. My cooking skills have always been a bit lacking in the presentation department. You’ll have to trust me however that the taste was perfect. From the pea and potato stuffing to the ajwain in the pastry.
Then I had to make the spicy chickpeas. These turned out to be the runaway hit out of all the fabulous things we’ve made. They take six minutes to make out of nothing but pantry ingredients and the taste is mind-blowing. They’re the best chickpeas either of us have ever had and they cook in six minutes.
The reason I had to make the samosas and the chickpeas was that they’re both component parts of that elaborate dish I wanted to make, combined with two chutneys, vegan yogurt, pomegranate seeds, aloo bhujia and some coriander for fun. It was a lot of effort but worth it for the fabulous combination of flavours and textures. It’s an amazing dish.
I wholeheartedly recommend you get yourself a copy of Zaika. It’s the perfect cookbook for any vegan who wants to work more Indian food into their repertoire. If you’re like me and have more than a few Indian cookbooks this one is still worth a buy. Its focus on fresh ingredients, the fact that it’s entirely vegan and that chickpea recipe make it stand out from the crowd.