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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Red lentil, spinach, and green bean curry

I’ve mentioned previously my love for a well-flavoured daal, specifically those cooked with coconut milk, for a delicious balance of earthy spice.  A week on from my last batch cook of this godly stuff, I had the dahl cravings again, but decided to satiate them in a novel way: red lentil curry.

In another note, I come from a multicultural town where you can often smell south Asian cuisine as you wander the streets at dinner time; and the strongest of these scents I’ve finally identified, after using it in my own food. Fenugreek is potent stuff, seeming to cling to the very air the morning after you’ve cooked with it. But it adds another taste to curries, one which is hard to describe; suffice to say its powerful smell is easy to tolerate once you’ve tasted the outcome.

Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert at all in any culture of cooking. I just like to play about with different flavours and foods – and while this recipe may fall short of a more ‘authentic’ version, it did the job for me – hearty, healthy, and flavourful.

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For two generous portions, you’ll need:

  • one onion
  • two cloves of garlic
  • thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • one red chilli
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 each tsp ground cumin and ground coriander
  • 1/3 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 120g dried red lentils
  • 100g green beans
  • 100g baby spinach
  • tin of chopped tomatoes

Begin by rinsing the lentils well, and setting to cook for half an hour while you prepare the curry base.

Finely chop the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli. Fry the onion gently in oil for five – ten minutes, or until softened. Put the mustard seeds in a dry frying pan on a medium heat, and cook until you hear them begin to pop. Add garlic, ginger, and chilli to the onions and fry for another minute, adding more oil if needed. Then, tip in all the spices and cook for a minute, stirring well.

Pour in the chopped tomatoes with 50ml of water, stir, and leave to simmer fairly vigorously for around twenty-five minutes. Meanwhile, get a pan of brown rice boiling. Trim and halve the green beans before adding to the rice and cooking for eight minutes, before setting aside. Drain the lentils.

Shortly before the rice is cooked, begin adding the spinach to the curry in handfuls. Afterwards, stir through the beans and the lentils, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Serve the curry with the rice and enjoy.

Chickpea and spinach curry

Although it’s June, British weather keeps us forever in thrall of its impetuous decision-making and rash promises. On days like today, when it’s rained consistently for hours on end, a hot bowl of curry provides a dose of relief from the glum skies and damp pavements. Here, chickpeas pack a double-dose of heartiness to a big pile of happy-inducing rice, and the warm flavours almost make the rain disappear. This recipe is relatively simple to make, and is fantastic for batch cooking for busy weeknight dinners.

To serve two, you’ll need:

  • One red onion
  • Three cloves of garlic
  • One red chilli
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 3/4 tsp each ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek
  • One tin / carton of chickpeas (soaked and cooked from scratch, or use an organic variety if you’re able to, for plumper and softer pulses)
  • One tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 150g fresh spinach, or around eight frozen lumps
  • A handful of coriander

 

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Begin by finely chopping the onion and leaving to cook gently for ten minutes on a low heat. Finely chop garlic, ginger, and chilli before adding to the pan and frying for one minute. Add the spices and fry briefly before tipping in the tomatoes. Stir everything well and simmer for fifteen minutes.

Add the coconut milk (please choose full-fat – it tastes so much better) and the rinsed chickpeas. Season, and leave to simmer for another ten to fifteen minutes.

Put on your choice of rice to cook (I will always choose the texture and nutritious benefit of brown), and if using frozen spinach, pop this into a steamer. After ten minutes or so, press down on the cooked spinach to squeeze out excess liquid. Tip the spinach into the sauce, and use your spatula or spoon and a fork to separate the clumps of spinach out.

Serve the curry over rice, garnishing with a handful of coriander. Enjoy!

Aubergine & spinach curry with turmeric roasted potatoes 

When it comes to curry, aubergine is one of my favourite ingredients. It’s got a fantastic ability to soak up flavour, and when cooked through, it’s lovely and tender. From time to time, I used to make an aubergine curry I’d seen made by an Indian lady on YouTube, which satisfied my desire for authenticity; now I just cobble together my own, requiring less effort. This recipe is easily thrown together on a weekday evening, and tastes even better on re-heating. It can be served as I ate it, with potatoes, or with rice.

 

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To serve two, you’ll need:

  • One aubergine
  • 100g spinach
  • One red onion
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • One green chilli (or less, if you’re not keen on too much spice)
  • Half a tsp each ground cumin and coriander
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • A few medium-sized white potatoes per person
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes

Begin by preheating the oven to gas mark 7. Wash and chop the potatoes into medium sized chunks. Drizzle with olive oil, dust with half a tsp of turmeric and cayenne pepper, season, and mix well to incorporate. Tip onto a baking tray, and roast for 45-60 minutes, turning halfway; you want a nice golden crisp by the end of the cooking time.

Roughly chop the red onion, and cook gently for ten minutes over a low heat. Finely chop the garlic, chilli, and ginger, then add to the pan. Adding a little more oil to the pan if needed, fry for a minute before adding the ground cumin, coriander, and turmeric, before frying for another minute.

Add the aubergine, chopped into smallish chunks, and mix well to coat in the spice mixture. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and a little water before leaving to simmer for around 35 minutes, or until tender. Add more water if needed.

Meanwhile, check on the potatoes, and turn them over. When both the aubergines and the potatoes are cooked through, stir through the spinach in handfuls. Season with salt and pepper if needed.

Serve the curry over the potatoes, and enjoy!

Thai green vegetable curry

After the Pad Thai I made recently, I’ve been curious to try more Thai food. I’ve never eaten at a Thai restaurant before, but from the little of the cuisine that I’ve tried, it’s in a whole different sphere – a balance of sweet and savoury, coming together so well on the plate.

It seems like there’s also plenty of room for being veggie in Thai cuisine, too. Although seafood and fish sauce are common ingredients, they’re not always needed, and tofu also makes an appearance. This recipe for Thai green curry is Jamie Oliver’s, taken from his Home Cooking site – aimed at youngsters, but fantastic in delivering illustrated step-by-step guides to the basics, and the more difficult. This curry is so, so flavoursome, relatively easy to prepare, and packed full of nutrients. If you’ve not had a Thai green curry before, don’t reach for that pre-prepared tin – try this instead.

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Although the original serves four, it can be halved, if you have ideas as to what to do with the remaining squash (roast whole, roast in cubes, put in salads…). The list of ingredients may seem rather long, but for the paste, it’s only a case of peeling and throwing into a food processor. I had no green chilli, which was fine, but definitely include it if you have a good spice tolerance. The lime leaves may be a bit tricky to come by – I used dried Kaffir lime leaves from M&S, but I assure you, the investment is worth it. Also, don’t waste the remainder of the can of coconut milk – you could freeze it in a separate container, as I did, or use it another dish.

Although it’s not necessary to peel the squash, if you prefer to, then a fairly easy way to do so is to stand the squash upright, and use a large serrated knife (bread knife will do) to remove the skin. Use a large sharp knife to cut it in half, before scooping out the seeds. Chop into cubes. Finally, don’t substitute the red pepper for a green, orange, or a yellow: any other colour just doesn’t have the right kind of sweetness.

I’d love ideas on what to try next!

 

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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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