Sunday 23 October 2011

What's in a name?

I am sure you wouldn't remember but one of my favourite advertising campaigns ever, was when "Mr Dog" changed it's name to "Caesar".  Mr Dog was a dog food for "small dogs" and not a brand that I was familiar with, since I have never had a small dog. I don't even think many small dog owners were particularly familiar with the brand either, since they probably fed their dogs on dog food which was suitable for all dogs, regardless of size.  So to have an advertising campaign for a dog food, you had never heard of, changing it's name, just seemed bizarre.  Why bother?  Was this the brain child of some top advertising company?   Did they think that re-naming a dog food "Caesar" was somehow going to catapult this product from obscurity into the best-selling dog food list? And after the initial "Why?" which sprang to mind every time they ran this advert, came an even more strong sentiment of "So what? Who cares? So what if Mr Dog is now called Caesar?". 

So when I tell you that, as you may or probably more likely may not have noticed, that my blog has changed name, as a result of a complete crisis at sometime around 3.00am in the middle of the night a few day ago, when I decided somewhat over-dramatically, as one does at that time of night, that Urban Ethnic cooking could not go on any more,  I do expect you to exclaim - who cares?  Well I do!  Urban ethnic cooking was just a bit pretentious and long winded for me and I am much happier now to be witting under a somewhat less profound and ostentatious identity.  And, so why Checky's Kitchen? - well, my nickname is Checky and I spend most of my life in the kitchen!   

So, without no more to-do, this weeks blog.... I  have been making a lot of Samosas recently.  They are just perfect as a snack and I thought they might even be nice to serve up for friends on bomb fire night.  I have made them with sweet potato, pumpkin and butternut squash but I do think that the recipe below works best.  I have to admit that I have been using ready made pastry which you can buy from all good Asian shops.  You will find it in the freezer and it may well be called Spring Roll Pastry, which is the same thing.  It comes in all sorts of sizes.  I usually buy the largest unless I am making canapés.  They are a good time saver to making your own pastry but not as good as the real thing so I will be giving the pastry a go next week and I will let you know how I get on.    

Finally another favourite snack at the moment, Crispy Roast Chickpeas.  You can have lot of fun with flavours and I much prefer them to the savoury flavoured pop-corn trend. Chickpeas are used in so many world cuisines I am actually finding it hard to find a country that doesn't eat them, although not everybody calls them the same thing.  Half the world knows them as Garbanzo Beans.  I can just hear it - "Chickpeas have changed their name to Garbanzo Beans". No, I won't start that again.

Vegetable Samosas

I have been giving a lot of thought to good fats recently and I am always questioning what is the best fat to use when cooking? It is a bit of a minefield out there of information at the moment. When I was growing up they told us butter was bad and margarine was best. Now there has been a complete reversal of opinion apart from, rather worryingly, the NHS.
This time it was a tossup between butter and coconut oil. Olive oil, my usual oil of choice, was not appropriate for samosas and I am very anti-vegetable oil. Health wise, butter and coconut oil are both in a similar boat. Once considered bad boys for their high content of saturated fat, (coconut oil has a much higher ration of saturated fat to butter) opinion seems to have changed. It is now considered that it is more important that they are low in omega 6, compared to vegetable oils which are very high. Our bodies need Omega 6 and Omega 3 but in equal ratios. Unfortunately, we are consuming far too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3 and vegetable oil is the main culprit. I now try and use primarily olive oil (high in omega 3), then butter (grass fed cows are also a good source of Omega 3) and finally coconut oil which contains no Omega 3, but neither does it contain Omega 6 and it can withstand high heats and adds a great flavour. Just use them in small amounts!
Taking all this into consideration, I decided to use Coconut oil for flavour BUT to bake my samosas instead of frying, to dramatically reduce the amount of oil I was using.
Finally, a note on frozen peas. I know I shouldn’t be telling all you seasonal veg enthusiasts, striving to eat fresh and local produce but to me, a samosa needs peas, even in the winter. But you can add any vegetables you like.
Vegetable Samosas
If cooking for the kids, omit the chilli. To avoid any bad fats, you might want to make your own pastry.
Coconut oil
400 g Maris Piper (or similar floury) potatoes
250 g cauliflower
125 g frozen peas
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
Large knob of fresh ginger
1 fresh green chilli
2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
½ a lemon, juice from
Bunch of fresh coriander
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peel and chop the potatoes into rough 1cm chunks. Break the cauliflower into similar sized florets as the potato. Add the potatoes to a large pan of salted water and bring to the boil. When nearly cooked, about 8 minutes, add the, adding the cauliflower and after a further 3 minutes add the peas. Bring back to the boil and cook for a final minute, then drain.
Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the onion. Peel the garlic and grate finely. Scrape the skin off the the ginger and finely grate. Deseed and finely chop the chilli. Heat some coconut oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, and add the onion. Cook for 5 minutes or so until translucent and pale. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and the spices and a teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Cook for a minute or two more and add the drained vegetables. Squeeze in the lemon juice and season to taste. Stir in the chopped coriander. Taste again. Add more spices or chilli to taste.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Lightly grease a large baking tray with oil.
Lay out the filo pastry and cut it in half lengthways. Take your first sheet and brush with some melted coconut oil. Spoon in the filling right down one end and fold over in triangular turns until you reach the other end. (Please see youtube link.) Finally brush with a little more coconut oil and place on a lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven for around 25-30 minutes, or until golden and piping hot through. Serve straightaway if possible.

Crispy Roasted Chickpeas

I'm really love these with all sorts of seasoning but anything with chilli lends itself particually well.  Check out Seasoned Pioneers for some of their spice mixes such as Caj
un or Creole Spice Blend Thai Seasoning Blend, Fahita Seasoning or Baharat or Ras-el-Hanout.  

One 15-ounce can chickpeas
2 tablespoons olive oil
Spice blend of your choice

Preheat oven to 180C.
Drain the can of chickpeas in a strainer and rinse with water for a few seconds to clean. Shake the strainer to rid of excess water. Lay paper towl on a baking sheet, and spread the chickpeas over. Use another paper towel to gently press and absorb the excess water. Roll around with the paper towel to also remove the thin skin where possible.
Drizzle the olive oil over the beans and coat. Roast for 30-40 minutes until the chickpeas are a deep golden brown and crunchy. Make sure that they do not burn.
Season with salt and spice blend whilst still warm.


  1. chick peas changed their name? What a mad world we live in! The roasted chick peas look delicious, going to have to try them this week.

  2. Oh yum! I've not made samosa before but this inspires me to try... and as for the roasted chickpeas....I think they are a must to serve with drinks on our balcony! :-)


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