5-Veg curry

It’s been a while since I last blogged. Since starting a new job, I’ve had to get used to the rhythms of working life. My hours and overtime have clocked up against my motivation to cook and bake anything new.

But food will prevail, as it always does. On my last day off, I baked Aine Carlin’s fudgy brownies from her book Keep it Vegan, which were a hit. Later on, dinner was an easy improvised curry, a great one for leaving ticking on the cooker while you get on with other things.

The veg used here can easily be swapped for others, although cauliflower and potato are one of my all-time favourite combinations.

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To make this curry for two, you’ll need:

  • one large onion
  • one green chilli
  • half a thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • one clove of garlic
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 1/2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • half a head of cauliflower
  • 5 or 6 small potatoes
  • 100g green beans
  • 100g curly kale
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • naan bread (check for milk-free!) or brown rice (if you’ve not yet been able to find vegan naan).

Begin by roughly chopping the onion, and finely chopping the garlic and green chilli. Keep the seeds if desired. Scrape away the skin of the ginger with a teaspoon, before grating.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Fry the onions on a medium heat until they begin to brown. Add ginger, garlic, and chilli, and fry for one minute, moving around to prevent burning. Add the spices, cook for a minute, then add tomato puree and mix well.

Pour in the chopped tomatoes, and simmer for five minutes while you prepare the vegetables. Strip away the cauliflower leaves, chop in half, and break into florets. Cut the potatoes into small pieces (not too small – without the skin, they’ll turn to mush.)

Add the cauliflower and potato to the sauce with 200ml water. Put the lid on and cook for thirty minutes, until the veg begins to soften. Meanwhile, trim and halve the beans and wash the kale.

Put in the rest of the vegetables, with the juice of half a lemon, and season well. Cook for another ten minutes. When everything is tender, remove from the heat and serve with naan bread or rice. Enjoy!

 

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Cauliflower and two-potato curry

I’d place a fair wager that there’s something in the human genome which renders us forever partial to the humble potato. Hearty, satisfying, filling, there’s something about the potato which makes us put a complete and deep trust in it as the redeemer of our stomachs; like a loyal dog, it never fails us. Or, like proper home-baked bread, the potato has been a part of our diet for so long, and for so many is still a staple, that when eaten, it spreads a resounding comfort across both body and soul.

This revelation came to me as I tucked into a steaming plate of cauliflower and potato curry. It’s a dish I’ve made before, but I knew first time round that there was room for improvement, and here it is (thank you Jamie Oliver): the addition of sweet potato and chickpeas, along with removing the tomato and adjusting the spices.

Such a curry is the most perfect remedy for when you are really hungry – not when you’re only half-hungry, or you’re only eating because it’s dinner time, but when you could eat a metaphorical horse. It’s remarkably simple and quick to make. I sized up portions, seeing as I was ravenous, and that doing so was hardly going to make me put on weight.

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To serve 2, you’ll need:

  • one head of cauliflower (Jamie suggested one between four – which amounts to a measly three florets each)
  • 300g white potato, and 100g sweet potato
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • one red onion
  • one green or red chilli
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 2 tbsps butter (I left this out, to make it vegan)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp curry powder or garam masala
  • 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas (or cooked from dried, if you have the time)
  • 200g spinach
  • Alpro plain yogurt
  • 1 lime

Begin by chopping the cauliflower into florets, and boiling in salted water for five minutes. Drain, setting aside some of the water. Then slice the potatoes into chunks, and boil for ten minutes.

Meanwhile, finely slice the garlic, onion, and chilli. Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pan (it must be large, in order to fit everything in), and fry all gently until softened.

Add all of the spices, and stir to coat. Season, before adding the drained potatoes and cauliflower, along with the reserved water to loosen the curry up. Simmer for ten minutes, before adding the chickpeas and wilting in the spinach handful by handful.

Serve with lime wedges and yogurt.

There it is: my perfect potato curry. When all else fails, remember your roots and turn to the potato.

Vegetable biryani with spiced carrot salad

Although being home for the summer means that I no longer have full control of my own mealtimes and the contents of the fridge, there are numerous advantages: considerable savings in weekly food expenditure, plentiful Yorkshire tea, and the opportunity to cook big dinners for my family. I love cooking for groups: there’s something intrinsically satisfying about providing friends and family with good food. In my student house I rarely baked – not because I didn’t like my housemates, but when all of the housework was left to me, the expense and the time didn’t seem wholly attractive. So, as food is something I like to lavish upon those who I care about most, cooking and baking are even more rewarding at home.

Another plus of cooking here is the fact that I can invest more time and energy in bigger and more complicated dishes, as I’m serving a crowd; whereas I’d normally have to freeze up leftover portions, at home I don’t have to scale everything down to one. Labour-intensive recipes – curry, chilli, stews, lasagne – are infinitely more rewarding to cook than the average stir-fry or bowl of pasta I make for myself, and call for extra side dishes, salads, and garnishes.

I’ve been working my way through an issue of BBC GoodFood’s Vegetarian magazine, a collection of veggie and vegan recipes from previous editions. It’s packed full of dishes which are entirely to my liking, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone embarking on a veggie lifestyle looking for a bit of inspiration. Having never cooked a biryani before, I wanted to give this a go.

 

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For the biryani (serving eight), you’ll need:

  • 400g basmati rice
  • pinch of saffron threads (optional – I didn’t use them)
  • two tbsp vegetable oil
  • a cauliflower
  • two potatoes
  • 100g red lentils
  • 100g French beans
  • handful curry leaves (these can be hard to come by – I omitted them)
  • two handfuls of frozen peas
  • small bunch of coriander
  • 50g roasted cashew nuts

For the paste:

  • a large onion
  • large piece of ginger
  • five garlic cloves
  • two tsp curry powder
  • tsp ground cumin
  • two tbsp vegetable oil
  • a small green chilli (use two, if you prefer more heat)

For the carrot salad:

  • four carrots
  • pinch of golden caster sugar
  • juice of a lemon
  • handful of cashew nuts
  • handful coriander leaves
  • thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • tsp of cumin seeds

 

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Begin by making the paste. Roughly chop the onion and the larger piece of ginger, remove the outside covering of the garlic, and chop off the top of the chilli(s). Place everything in a food processor with two tbsp vegetable oil, two tsp curry powder, and one tsp ground cumin. Put the lid on and blitz to a paste.

Chop the cauliflower into small florets, and the potatoes into chunks. Trim and halve the beans. Roughly chop the leaves of the coriander.

Heat the oil in a large lidded pan, and spoon in the paste; tip in the cauliflower and potatoes, and stir so that everything is covered. Add the lentils and beans, and cover with 400ml water. Drop in the curry leaves, season with a little salt, and cover to simmer for twenty minutes, or until tender. The peas can be added towards the end to defrost.

Meanwhile, cook the rice. The recipe calls to soak for thirty minutes, before rinsing several times, covering with 1cm of water, and bringing to the boil before turning off the heat and leaving to stand with a lid on. Prepare your rice however you prefer to do it.

For the carrot salad, begin by toasting a tsp of cumin seeds in a dry saucepan until fragrant. Shred (I grated) the ginger. Using a vegetable peeler, reduce the carrots to ribbons – using a bit of muscle, this won’t take long. In a large serving bowl, sprinkle with a pinch of sugar and toss with the cumin, ginger, a handful of the coriander and nuts, and squeeze over the lemon.

When cooked, serve the biryani with the rice and salad, with bowls of coriander leaves and chopped cashews to garnish. Offer naan breads and poppadoms if desired; a little plain yogurt won’t go amiss, either.

Spicy and healthy, this curry calls for any vegetables lurking at the back of the fridge: it’s very versatile. I served five (with a large leftover portion) using two small cauliflower, 150g French beans, a sweet potato, and a bag of spinach. The salad was lovely – sweet, spicy, and aromatic. Vegetarian dishes like these are my absolute dream, proving that a diet without meat lacks nothing – bursting with nutrients, delicious, and filling.

 

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Cauliflower, potato, and spinach curry

The cauliflower is a neglected vegetable. Underneath its extensive leafy wrappings, it’s small, mild, and delicate: so why is it so often over-looked? Often inseparable from the memory of bland school-dinner cauliflower cheese, or an over-boiled, tasteless mess, cauliflower has suffered harshly in our hands.

So I decided to breathe some fresh life into my own use of this plant. As it has no particularly distinct flavour of its own, I thought the cauliflower would lend itself well to a curry: and this one from BBC GoodFood appealed to me with its range of spices. I added a few fistfuls of fresh spinach, and used plum tomatoes in place of tinned, to use up the sad-looking remnants of last week’s shop. Parboiling the potato and cauliflower beforehand significantly reduced the cooking time.

The overall result was a satisfying and healthy dinner. The lemon gave the ginger and chilli sauce a lift, and the combination of cauliflower and potato left me feeling happily full.

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To serve one, you’ll need:

  • a third of a stripped cauliflower, in florets
  • a small baking potato, or a few handfuls of small potatoes
  •  half a tin of chopped tomatoes / seven or eight plum or cherry tomatoes / two salad tomatoes
  • spinach
  • third of a small red onion
  • a clove of garlic
  • a small piece of ginger
  • half a green chilli
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • juice of a lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • natural yoghurt and coriander, to serve

 

Unclothe the cauliflower (how else can I put this?), and chop the inner vegetable in half. Roughly dice the potato. Blanch the two together for five minutes in boiling water.

Finely chop the onion, garlic, chilli, and ginger. Heat a lug of oil in a pan, and gently cook the onions until soft. Add the spices all together and fry while you roughly chop the tomatoes, before putting in the pan with the drained cauliflower and potato.

Stir well to incorporate the vegetables, season with salt and pepper, then pop a lid on to simmer for around twenty-five minutes, or until the potato is soft.

Squeeze in a generous amount of lemon juice before dishing up: serve with coriander and natural yoghurt.

I’d love to know how this can be improved in terms of flavour: the potato and cauliflower, being a tad bland, are blank canvases to taste. It’s a dry curry, but perhaps a little sauce would add some real richness of flavour.