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!

 

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!

Smoky sweet potato rounds

A friend of mine recently accused me of potato snobbery. “You look down on the potato,” she told me, as I extolled the virtues of the sweet over that of the white. Later on, I reflected on my nutritional-ism of sorts, and then that weekend bought a bag of organic new potatoes. They tasted good, boiled and vegan-buttered with a little salt. But, nevertheless, I still hold its sweet cousin as the superior of the two.

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with liquid smoke – a sauce flavoured with hickory, molasses, and vinegar. It’s very American-BBQ-esque, and bears both the range of meats it can accompany, and the emblem ‘Suitable for Vegans’. I love it in baked beans and in tofu marinades; here I’ve used it to season my sweet potato, cut into rounds for a more efficient cooking time.

 

 

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You’ll need:

  • one medium sweet potato
  • tbsp olive oil
  • tsp liquid smoke (I got mine from Tesco; a barbecue sauce could, potentially, be substituted)
  • tsp smoked paprika
  • tsp cayenne pepper
  • tsp onion powder / granules
  • pinch of brown sugar / agave syrup
  • salt and pepper

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7. Slice the sweet potato(es) into rounds, and place in a bowl. Drizzle / sprinkle / scatter over seasonings, and use your hands to coat well.

Transfer to a baking dish and roast for forty minutes. Serve with steamed veg and peas, and a veggie sausage or two. Delicious!

Smoky baked beans

Once in a blue moon, I have a beans-on-toast craving. There’s something eternally reassuring about slices of soggy toasted bread, bearing a burden of sweet beans. They bring to mind childhood lunches on cold afternoons in the school holidays, and for many they’re a go-to in times of emergency, idleness, or self-pitying illness.

I won’t dispute the institution that is baked beans on toast: but I will offer a slightly fancier version, for times when Heinz won’t cut it (and there are such times – I’m sorry, these beans are on a whole new level.) I’ve used liquid smoke here, although a good barbecue sauce will do the trick.

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To serve two, you’ll need:

  • a can of cannellini beans, mixed beans, or haricot beans
  • a tin of chopped tomatoes
  • one small brown onion
  • two cloves of garlic
  • half a small red chilli
  • tomato puree
  • a tsp each of cayenne pepper, chilli powder, smoked paprika, and cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • tbsp liquid smoke (I bought mine from Tesco)
  • 1/2 tbsp agave syrup, or 1 tsp brown sugar
  • tsp balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper.

Begin by finely chopping the onion, and gently cooking until softened. Add finely chopped garlic and chilli, and cook for two minutes, before adding the spices and frying for another minute.

Squirt in a tbsp of tomato puree, and stir well to incorporate. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, drained beans, liquid smoke, syrup, and vinegar, before leaving to simmer for half an hour, stirring regularly – you want a thick consistency.

Serve with potatoes and steamed veg – or, to pay homage to its roots, pile on top of crispy ciabatta and sprinkle with parsley and nutritional yeast. Now that’s beans on toast.

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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.

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.

 

 

Lemon chicken and potato traybake

As the end of term approaches, I plan my meals around using up all my fresh food, as well as my frozen meat, fish, and bread. So imagine my recent surprise as I rummaged through the freezer, and clapped eyes on a bundle of frozen chicken breasts I’d completely forgotten about. Three of them, carefully sealed in freezer bags, sat buried underneath my substantial supply of frozen peas. Thinking I had none left, and not being inclined to stock up with only a few weeks left, chicken hadn’t been on the menu for quite a while. Pleasantly surprised, I dug one piece out to defrost, and set to browsing the web for chicken recipes.

The first to appear on my screen seemed to tick all the boxes, through a providential gift of fate. Lemon and chicken isn’t a combination I had previously tried, but one I could taste clearly beforehand; and I do love the heartiness of roast chicken and potatoes (clearly missing my regular Sunday dinners.) The recipe is here, but I’ll post it as I made it myself.

 

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You’ll need (to serve one hungry student):

  • one skinless, boneless chicken breast (you can use chicken thigh – in which case I’d recommend leaving the skin on, as it is delicious)
  • a large baking potato
  • half a lemon
  • a clove of garlic
  • 1tsp dried rosemary
  • 1tsp dried oregano
  • cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil
  • vegetables to serve: I added a sliced, slightly withered green pepper to the tray, but anything would compliment nicely: courgette, green beans, peas, carrots…

 

The method is brilliantly simple. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and line a roasting tray with tin foil – believe me, when you see the state of the foil after you’ve removed the cooked potato and chicken, you’ll appreciate this foresight.

In a small mug, make the dressing. Mince the garlic, and mix with a good splash of olive oil, the juice of the lemon, a pinch of salt, pepper, dried herbs, and cayenne pepper to your liking. Incorporate well.

Chop up the potato into small chunks, and arrange in the tray. (The smaller the pieces, the quicker they’ll roast.) Slice the vegetables and place to one side. With your hands, coat the potatoes with half of the dressing. Slide the tray into the oven for ten minutes.

Remove the tray, and place the chicken breast beside the potatoes. If roasting vegetables, slot them into any available space. Coat the chicken and veg with the roast of the marinade.

In with the tray for another half and hour; half way through, turn everything round.

When the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes crispy on the outside, but soft in the centre, plate up and serve with a little natural yoghurt, and a wedge of lemon, if you like.

The herbs, cayenne, and lemon make a great combination, and add a lot of flavour. I do like my food spicy, so went for a generous amount of cayenne; the yoghurt provided a nice cooling-off. This recipe is easy to bulk up for additional people, and makes for a satisfying Sunday dinner.

 

 

Patatas bravas and harissa roasted vegetables

I have a forever-expanding folder brimming with recipes I’ve cut out from magazines and newspapers. I excitedly anticipate the weekend food supplement in our newspaper, and the monthly magazines from supermarkets, and I’ll happily sit with a pair of scissors and extract whatever I want.

The result is my very own personalised cookbook, organised into categories including vegetables, curry, and chicken. (Don’t ask me where I would put a recipe for a chicken and vegetable curry – I must revise the efficiency of my system.)

When I need some cooking inspiration, I whip out my folder and skim through it. Earlier this week, I found two recipes which seemed to complement each other quite well: patatas bravas (something I’ve been wanting to attempt, since eating tapas), and roasted vegetables with harissa.

Previously, I’d never tried harissa, and knew it only for its hefty price tag of £2 for a small pot. However, I would now highly recommend it: it gives food a smoky taste, like paprika, with a good chilli kick. It’s made from roasted red peppers and chilli peppers, and a little goes a long way.

I’ll start with the vegetables, which can be roasted as you make the patatas bravas. This recipe is from The Times magazine, which does a weekly ‘The Only Four Recipes You’ll Ever Need’ page; this one featured ‘A Jar of Harissa’.

You’ll need (to serve 4):

  • 2 red peppers, sliced
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • olive oil
  • a jar of harissa
  • a small handful of mint

I was serving five (three of whom have quite large appetites), so I adjusted the recipe by adding two courgettes.

Start by slicing up the peppers and courgettes, and spread into two roasting tins. Cut the grassy tops off the fennel, discard the outer layer and chop into small pieces, then add them to the trays.

Mix three tablespoons of olive oil with three tablespoons of harissa, and drizzle over the vegetables. Stir to coat, and grind over some salt and pepper.

Roast for forty minutes until charred. The recipe then went on to add cooked quinoa and scattering over mint, but I didn’t think the mint would particularly complement the tomatoey potatoes, so left it out. That being said, if I made the veg with quinoa, I’d give the mint a go – it would complement nicely the fennel.

Next, the patatas bravas, a Spanish tapa consisting of fried potatoes in a spicy sauce. I used a recipe also cut out from The Times magazine, which in turn had been extracted from The Tomato Basket, a cookbook. Again, I altered the recipe for my family.

You’ll need (to serve six):

  • 1kg waxy potatoes
  • one onion
  • three garlic cloves
  • chilli flakes
  • sherry vinegar (I didn’t have this, so used red wine vinegar)
  • two 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
  • hot smoked paprika
  • basil

Boil the potatoes until tender. (The recipe wanted me to peel them beforehand, but as I had a bag of baby potatoes, I decided to spare myself this additional labour.) Drain the potatoes off.

Peel and chop the onion and garlic. Heat some olive oil in a deep bottomed pan, then fry for two minutes until fragrant.

Add in two tablespoons of red wine vinegar, cook for a minute, then pour in the tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, chilli flakes, and paprika. (In the cupboard, my mum had a little box of something Spanish called pimenton. It smelled like paprika, so on a creative whim, I added a generous amount of this instead. Upon later Googling what this mysterious pimenton was, I was disappointed to find that it’s actually just the Spanish for paprika, and it wasn’t of the hot smoked variety. So, I am less of a culinary innovator than I thought.)

Bring to the boil, and cook uncovered, stirring often, for ten to fifteen minutes until thickened.

In another frying pan, heat two tablespoons of olive oil, and add the potatoes to fry until browned. If you’re using the same quantity of potatoes as I did, you’ll want to do this in two batches. Make sure to season with salt.

Once the potatoes are brown, add them to the sauce, and mix them together.

Serve with the roasted vegetables and some basil.

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The tomato sauce was really delicious; I’m not sure what difference using sherry vinegar would have made, but the red wine vinegar gave it such a rich flavour. Leaving the skin on the potatoes proved to be an inspired bit of laziness, as they added crispiness. I really enjoyed this combination, and hope that you will too!