Tag Archives: curry

Keralan Vegetable and Coconut Sambar Recipe

2 Nov Keralan Vegetable Sambar

Kerala is right at the top of my list of places I want to visit. It is located on the Malabar coast of south-west India and is known for having some of the best and most delicious vegetarian food in the whole of India. That and its beautiful beaches, backwaters, tropical forests and luxury Ayurvedic retreats and you can see why I am so keen to get there.

Until that day arrives I am happy to continue on my culinary journey around my kitchen and be transported by the flavours and smells unique to that area. Sambar is a typical southern Indian vegetable stew made with lots of vegetables and pigeon peas (or lentils) in a tamarind broth. The sambar is the spice mix or paste which has variations from state to state in the south.

Coconuts grow along the coast in Kerala and most of their signature dishes feature it in some form. This Keralan Sambar powder  is made by toasting coconut along with the spices and grinding it to create a paste that is used to flavour the stew. The sambar is finished or tempered with a garnish of mustard seeds, chilli and spices cooked in coconut oil that is poured over just before serving.

In the original recipe the pigeon peas or lentils are cooked separately with some turmeric and chilli powder until soft and mushy. They are then added to the vegetables cooked in the tamarind & stock to thicken the stew towards the end. I used dried quick cooking yellow lentils that cook in the same amount of time as the vegetables so I cooked it all together. Less washing up too.

The vegetables I used are just what I had in the fridge. You could use pumpkin, carrots, potatoes, aubergine, courgettes, okra…..

Keralan Vegetable & Coconut Sambar Recipe

Serves 4 with rice. Vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from The Mistress of Spices & Sankeerthanam

  • 75-100 g dried yellow lentils
  • 300 g sweet potato, scrubbed & cut into 2 cm chunks
  • 300 g cauliflower florets
  • 300 g (1 very large) tomato, chopped
  • 200 g green beans, trimmed & halved
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • 1 or 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
  • salt
  • about 1 tsp jaggery/brown sugar or honey

For the tempering:

  •  2 tsp  coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 dried red chilli whole (I used fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • curry leaves (if you can get them)

Put the veg stock and tamarind in large pot with the turmeric, chilli flakes, lentils, sweet potato and cauliflower. Bring to the boil, season with salt then lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes until the potatoes & lentils are cooked. Meanwhile make the sambar paste.

For the sambar paste

  • 4 Tbsp grated coconut
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 dry red chilli (I used fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • salt

Toast everything in a dry frying pan until fragrant and toasty. The onions wont be cooked. Blend to a paste adding some salt and water as necessary.

Stir the sambar paste into the vegetable pot then add the softer vegetables, the beans and tomatoes. Bring to the boil again, lower the heat, cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or longer, until the lentils have broken down and you have a thicker stew consistency.  Add the jaggery/sugar or honey and taste for seasoning. Does it need more salt or sugar?

When ready to serve, heat the coconut oil in pan over a medium high heat and add the tempering spices, chilli and curry leaves (if using). When the seeds start to splutter tip the contents of the pan over the stew and serve with rice or flatbreads.

Things That Made Me Smile Today….

The oranges are coming. They are turning from green to a yellowy orange. Getting more orange every day. Which means it’s not long till Christmas.

Which means I need to get busy making Grandad’s Pickled Onions if I want them to be ready in time for Christmas. They need at least a month to mature into the spicy perfect beasts that everyone adores.

What Christmas treats are you planning to make this year?

Have a great weekend!

Indochine Melon Coconut Curry, Lemongrass, Coriander, Rice Noodles

26 Mar Indochine Melon Curry

This was one of the five different vegetarian curries we had the pleasure of trying at Indochine restaurant on the Delaire Graff Wine Estate. The whole experience was out of this world but this curry was the best I have ever had. And I’ve had a lot. I’d even go so far as to say it is one of the best dishes I have ever tried from anywhere in the world.

It’s unusual, elegant, fragrant, well-balanced, exotic, beautiful and totally delicious. It’s not actually on the menu, the chef on the evening that we were there, Virgil prepared a special selection of vegetarian curries for us to try. If anyone is listening from Indochine, you should definitely put it on your menu. It is really fantastic.

The drive up to the Delaire Graff Wine Estate has stunning views of the surrounding mountains and when you drive up through the shady tree-lined drive to see the well-manicured lawns and row upon row of parallel vines, you know you have arrived somewhere special.

And if you thought that the exterior was beautiful you have to see the interior to believe it.  The entrance lobby is flooded with light and filled with huge exotic flower arrangements. Bronze sculptures and water features punctuate the space, creating a modern African glass jungle.

Contributing to the theme, the lounge areas are decorated with gold and ebony pieces that transport you the colonial luxury lodge of your dreams. Or is it just me? I could definitely get used to this.

The restaurant has floor to ceiling glass doors opening out onto a terrace that takes full advantage of those spectacular views.  The copper and blue theme mirrors the red earth and blue sky of the surroundings bringing the outdoors in.

The curved banquette seating, facing the view is perfect for an intimate dinner for two.

A lovely detail, they have little pots of microherbs on the tables. Should you need a little more coriander.

Let’s get onto the food. First a bamboo basket arrived filled with pickled cucumber, black rice crackers (amazing), sweet potato crisps and a trio of sauces to go with them. Passionfruit, cucumber and pineapple & chilli. We chose a bottle of the Delaire Sauvignon Blanc as recommended by our excellent waiter. It had a hint of passionfruit which made it the perfect wine pairing with the spicy, fragrant dishes to come.

The amuse bouche was a little mouthful of tofu, mushroom, edamame and coconut sauce. Beautifully presented on a piece of slate. You may have noticed that I am plating some of my food on a slate tile at the moment. This is where the inspiration came from.

Our starter was an Indian Spiced Makhani Tofu Croquette, cinnamon confit tomatoes, pickled root vegetables, raita, beet leaves and tomato chutney. Presented on a slate tile again. You can see how all the colours stand out so beautifully.

We also ordered a Green Mango Salad with lime juice, chilli, ginger, coriander, mint. This classic Asian dish is refreshing, light, crisp and fresh. It makes a great side dish because of the contrast in textures. The cold crunch of the unripe mango with the hot spicy sauces of the curries. You can see why it is a classic all over Asia.

We were then presented with a palate cleanser. Apple and Ginger Sorbet with a sake shot. Oh alright then.

The sous chef Virgil came out with our main courses to explain the selection of curries he had made for us.

Tapioca Pearls with Curried Squash and Tofu Tom Yam, never has tapioca tasted so good or looked so beautiful.

Thai Green Pak Choi Curry with broccoli, sugar snaps, edamame, spring onions, light, fragrant and spicy

Melon Coconut Curry with lemongrass, ginger, coriander, chilli and fresh mint. Mind blowing honestly.

Lychee Red Curry with pickled cabbage, coconut, ginger and sprouts. This fruit in curry thing is going to catch on.

Burmese Aubergine Curry, tomato, garlic, cumin, coriander and turmeric. Aromatic and spicy.

For dessert we ordered the Trio of Creme Brulee because why wouldn’t you?

White Chocolate & Chilli, Ginger & Lime, Coconut. Heaven on a plate.

This restaurant has some of the best food I have ever tasted. It is daring, exquisite and mouth-wateringly good. If you live in SA and you haven’t been, you need to go. Exceptional food and service in luxurious surroundings.  Go on, treat yourself you know you want to. For more details and menus check out their website here.

For those of you that don’t live in South Africa, you need to try this recipe. And if you’re saying “Eww melon in curry, that’s gross” you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. The cool sweetness with the spicy, aromatic sauce is an unbelieveable combination that deserves some recognition. Do it.

You will have to make your own curry paste and coriander puree but don’t let that put you off it is not difficult and it is so worth it. You will also need to get a melon baller if you haven’t already got one leftover from the Seventies. You can serve it with plain rice or some thick rice (stick) noodles like I did.

Indochine Melon Coconut Curry with Rice Noodles

Serves 4, Vegan, Gluten-free. Adapted from the Indochine recipe

Prep time: 25 mins Cooking time: 20 mins

For the curry paste:

  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 5 white peppercorns
  • 1 pinch grated nutmeg
  • 4 small green chillies, deseeded and chopped (depending on the chilli)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped/minced lemongrass
  • 1/2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic (about 3 cloves) finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp lime/lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped coriander stalks
  • a big pinch of salt

Blend everything together in a mortar and pestle or food processor until you get a smooth- ish paste. Set aside.

For the Coriander Puree:

  • a bunch of fresh coriander leaves(or a mix of coriander & basil), roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 1 bowl of iced water

Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the bicarb. Plunge the coriander into the hot water and leave until the water starts to turn green. Drain off most of the water and blend to a smooth puree in a measuring jug. Cool down by putting the measuring jug in the iced water.

For the Curry:

You can use which ever melon is available, two different colours is nice.

  • about 500 gr (rind on weight) watermelon
  • about 500 gr (rind on weight) green melon
  • 2 cans coconut milk (do not shake before opening), I used low-fat
  • 2 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • coriander puree (see above) I used about 2 or 3 tbsp
  • salt
  • thick rice (stick) noodles for 4 people (or rice)
  • fresh mint leaves, rolled up & finely shredded for garnish
  • toasted coconut for garnish
  • vermicelli rice noodles deep-fried for garnish (optional)

Scoop out balls of melon flesh with the melon baller but leave the excess on the rind. Scrape out the excess flesh into a food processor and blend to a smooth puree.

To a large pan over a medium high heat, add the tops of the coconut milk (the thick cream bit) and cook until bubbling and starting to reduce. Add the curry paste and stir for 3 minutes until fragrant. Add the rest of the tins of coconut milk, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Stirring occasionally.

Cook the rice noodles according to the instructions on the packet.

Add the palm sugar, lemon juice and salt to the sauce then stir in the coriander puree and melon puree and taste. Adjust salt, lemon juice as required. Then add the melon balls, stirring to coat them in the sauce and heat through.

To make the vermicelli garnish, heat some oil in deep-frying pan until it sizzles when you test it with a dried noodle. Carefully drop a bunch of the dried rice vermicelli into the oil , it will puff up straight away. Remove immediately with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on kitchen paper.

Serve the curry over rice noodles, garnished with the shredded mint leaves, toasted coconut and fried vermicelli (if using).

Thanks Indochine for a fabulous evening and for introducing us to the genius of fruit in curry. I am desperate to try the lychee one next…

Cape Malay Sweet Potato Samosas, Spiced Apple Chutney, Curried Mayonnaise

14 Mar Sweet Potato Samosas

This recipe is inspired by a meal we had at Apprentice in Stellenbosch. Apprentice is a restaurant owned by the Institute of Culinary Arts. All the staff, kitchen and front of house, are students from the institute serving a six month placement.

The Head Chef Hylton is a former graduate from the institute and he trains and watches over the trainees. Two of the chefs in the Top Ten restaurants of South Africa are graduates of this scheme including the winner of the award for best chef 2011/2012 Peter Tempelhoff.

We went for lunch and ordered the Tapas plate, the Greek Salad and the Roasted Vegetable Wrap. Every dish was full of flavour and well executed. Hylton was very keen to inform us that the evening menu is far more “fine dining” so he bought us an example of that menu. The Beetroot Tart came with a dukkah spiced goat’s cheese and honeycomb crumble. Really lovely. The lunch menu is more casual but no less enjoyable. They also open in the morning with a very popular breakfast menu.

Part of the tapas plate was a delicious sweet potato samosa that I was very keen to recreate at home. They make their own Cape Malay curry powder which makes a real difference to the flavour. I managed to get the recipe for both the samosas and the curry powder so now I have always got some to add to any vegetable curry or chutney that I make. I recommend that you have a go at it too.

I used a double layer of filo pastry cut into 9/10 cm strips (above) to make these. You could also use spring roll wrappers, see my tutorial here. I brushed them with olive oil and baked them rather than deep-frying but it’s up to you. The apple chutney is sweet and sticky like a spicy jam and I also made a curry mayonnaise (the yellow stripe) to go with it, made with the Cape Malay curry powder.

Sweet Potato Samosas with Apple Chutney & Curry Mayonnaise

Makes 12-15 depending size, vegetarian. Adapted from The Apprentice recipe

For the Cape Malay Curry Powder:

  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 18 curry leaves (optional)

Roast the whole spices in a dry pan for a minute until fragrant. Grind to a fine powder then add the powdered spices and curry leaves if using. Store in an airtight container.

For the samosas:

Prep time: 45 mins Cooking Time: 15 mins

  • 1 large sweet potato (about 350 gr), peeled & cut into 1/2-1 cm cubes
  • 1 tsp Cape Malay curry powder (see above)
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cardamom pod, bashed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 pack filo pastry sheets, defrosted
  • 1 egg & a splash milk, beaten, to stick samosas
  • olive oil for brushing

Preheat oven to 200 C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Mix all of the ingredients apart from the fresh coriander together and spread out in one layer on the baking tray. Bake until soft about 10-15 minutes. Leave to cool. Remove bay leaf, cardamom pod and taste. Stir through the fresh coriander. Mash slightly to create a chunky mass.

Unroll the filo, remove two layers and cover the rest with a tea towel to stop it drying out. Cut the double layer into 9 or 10 cm strips.

Take a heaped teaspoon of the sweet potato mix and lay it in a triangle shape at the bottom of the strip on the right hand side. See the pictures above. Brush the edges with the egg wash then fold the left hand side of the pastry over the filling to create the triangle.

Brush around the edges with egg wash again and fold the whole triangle up along the long edge. Brush with egg wash again and fold the triangle over to the left. Keep folding until you have reached the top and run out of pastry.

Put the folded samosa on a lined baking tray, brush the top with olive oil and continue to make samosas until you run out of filling.

Bake at 200 C for 10-15 minutes until golden and crispy.

For the Spiced Apple Chutney:

Prep time: 10 mins Cooking time: 25 mins

  • 1 large apple, (200 gr) peeled, cored & chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 25 gr sultanas/raisins
  • 1/2 orange, zested & juiced
  • 50 gr brown (or raw) sugar
  • 1 tsp Cape Malay curry powder (see above)
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 50 ml cider vinegar

Add all the ingredients except the apples to a large frying pan, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until the onions are tender. Add in the apples and cook for another 20 minutes or the apples are soft and the mix has reduced and thickened and is sticky.

Blend it with a stick blender until jammy but still a bit chunky.

For the Curried Mayonnaise:

  • 2 tbsp Cape Malay curry powder (see above)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise

In a bowl, mix together the curry powder and olive oil to a paste. Add the mayonnaise and mix vigorously until combined. If it splits add more mayo. Season with a pinch of salt & taste.

Serve the hot samosas with the apple chutney, some curry mayo and sprinkle with some more fresh coriander.

At the Institute of Culinary Arts they cultivate chefs who breathe inspiration and innovation into the culinary world. The hospitality industry is experiencing record growth and South Africa is leading the way. Food is being taken a lot more seriously and there is also a growing public interest in quality ingredients and local flavours and cuisines. The concept of giving young chefs the opportunity to learn and grow in a business enviromment is obviously a very succesful one. For more information visit their website here.

Indian Spinach Koftas with Creamy Tomato and Cashew Nut Sauce

19 Jan Spinach Koftas

Any excuse to get more spinach in my diet and I’m there. It’s not all about the iron you know, here are just some of the health benefits of eating this wonderful green leaf. Popeye wasn’t as stupid as he looked….

One cup of spinach has nearly 20% of the RDA of dietary fibre which aids in digestion, maintains low blood sugar, and curbs overeating.

Flavonoids — a phytonutrient with anti-cancer properties abundant in spinach have been shown to slow down the growth of stomach and skin cancer cells. Furthermore, spinach has shown significant protection against the occurrence of aggressive prostate cancer.

The vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, beta-carotene, manganese, zinc and selenium present in spinach all serve as powerful antioxidants that combat the onset of osteoporosis and high blood pressure.

Both antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin are especially plentiful in spinach and protect the eye from cataracts and age-related eyesight degeneration.

One cup of spinach contains over 337% of the RDA of vitamin A that not only protects and strengthens “entry points” into the human body, such as mucous membranes, respiratory, urinary and intestinal tracts, but is also a key component of white blood cells that fight infection.

The high amount of vitamin A in spinach also promotes healthy skin by allowing for proper moisture retention in the epidermis, thus fighting psoriasis, acne and even wrinkles.

This information is taken from healthdiaries. com

Some friends of ours, Nik & Stacey bought us a new cook book called I Love Curry by Anjum Anand on their last trip back to the UK.  On the first flick through this was the recipe that stood out for me, the one that I wanted to make straight away.

The blended cashew nuts in the sauce give it a creamy texture and flavour that is perfect with the light and fluffy spinach koftas. The koftas are made in a similar way to spinach and ricotta gnocchi and then fried. I used goat’s ricotta which gives a very mild goat’s cheese flavour and is so much better for you than cow’s milk. I served it with a spiced turmeric pilaf rice.

Indian Spinach Koftas with Creamy Tomato & Cashew Nut Sauce

Serves 3-4, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from I Love Curry by Anjun Ananad

For the sauce:

  • 2 large tomatoes, quartered & deseeded
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 or 2 tbsp coconut oil (or other vegetable oil)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 50 gr cashew nuts
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 500 ml veg stock (or water)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • a dash of Worcestershire sauce (vegetarian)
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • a handful of fresh coriander leaves, to serve

For the koftas:

  • 200 gr fresh spinach, washed
  • 2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 200 gr ricotta cheese (I used goat’s ricotta)
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying

For the Turmeric Pilaf:

  • 220 gr basmati rice, well washed
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil (or butter or ghee)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Blend the tomatoes, garlic and ginger to a paste with a little water to get it going. Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and cook the onion for about 5 minutes until lightly browned.

Add in the blended tomatoes, cashew nuts, spices, salt & pepper. Cook over a medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Blend until smooth with a little water if necessary then pour it back into the pan, add the stock (or water), tomato puree, sugar and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes until it is the consistency of single cream.

Meanwhile make the dumplings. Wilt the spinach in a pan with a tbsp water, a pinch salt and 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg. When cool enough to handle squeeze out the excess water (in a clean tea towel) and blend to a puree with a stick blender. Then add the cornflour and ricotta and mix together well. Taste and season with salt & black pepper as required.

Heat about 5cm vegetable oil in a deep frying pan or wok over a medium high heat. To test if the oil is hot enough drop a tiny amount of the spinach mix into the oil, it should sizzle immediately but not brown straight away.

Drop heaped teaspoons full of the spinach mix into the oil. You will need to do it in batches. I got 16 out of this mixture.

Cook the koftas, turning occasionally with a metal spoon, so they cook evenly. They should take 2-3 minutes per side until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

To serve, add a squeeze of lemon to the sauce. You can add the koftas into the sauce to reheat them or serve them straight way with the hot sauce poured over and some fresh coriander leaves to garnish.

For the Rice Pilaf:

Tip the rice into a large bowl, cover with water and leave to soak. Heat the coconut oil/ghee in a saucepan over a medium heat then add the cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, cardamom pods and cloves and leave to sizzle and pop for about 20 seconds. Add the onion and cook for about 4 minutes until turning golden.

Drain the rice and add it to the pan with the turmeric, salt & black pepper and cook, stirring for a minute. Add 400 ml water, taste the water and add more salt if necessary.

Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to its lowest setting, cover and leave to cook for 12-13 minutes without stirring. Check the rice it should be cooked. Remove from the heat and serve when ready.

Things That Made Me Smile Today…………..

Today we visited the Alcazaba (Moorish fortress) in Malaga. It’s the first time we’ve been and I was really surprised at how beautiful it is. Everyone goes to the Alhambra but I doubt many people even know there is a smaller much less touristy version in Malaga. It’s practically deserted. Apart from the robins that is….

I have obviously taken a whole load more photographs that I will share with you over the next few posts, this is just a teaser….

Sweet Potato and Lentil Dhal

18 Dec Sweet Potato Dhal

So here it is, as promised, the recipe for my Sweet Potato Dhal that makes the perfect accompaniment to the crunchy Spiced Red Cabbage that I posted yesterday.

This is actually a combination of two of the very first recipes that I posted on this blog about a year ago, Sweet Potato Curry  and Indian Dhal Soup with Potato Stuffed Parathas. I love both of these dishes so much that I couldn’t choose which one to cook which is why I decided to combine them. Continue reading

Martinique Sweet Potato Coconut Curry with Aubergine and Pineapple

29 Sep Martinique Sweet Potato Curry

The inspiration for this recipe came from watching a farmer harvesting his sweet potatoes. They look really beautiful coming out of the ground, their terracotta skin mirroring the colour of the soil, lying there baking in the warmth of the sun.

Martinique, an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, is part of the French Caribbean.  The first European to encounter the island was Christopher Columbus in 1502. Its official language is French, although many of its inhabitants also speak Créole Martiniquais. Continue reading

Green Bean, Lentil and Potato Curry with Green Chilli and Mint

23 Sep Green Bean & Lentil Curry

Watching these green beans growing in the fields where I walk the dog made me think about using them in a dish as the main ingredient. We eat quite a lot of green beans but always as a side vegetable. I wanted to give them the chance to be the star.

I found a Madhur Jaffrey recipe for Green Lentils with Green Beans & Fresh Coriander in another magazine clipping The Washer Up’s dad, Jim had sent to me. I used that as a base to work from and added a lot more spices and some of my homegrown green chillis.

I had some new potatoes in my fridge so I added those and I used mint instead of coriander because that was what I had. The mint works really well with the beans and the potatoes and gives the whole dish a lovely freshness as well as being a cool partner to the fiery chilli.

This is surprisingly delicious, by that I mean that humble everyday ingredients can be brought together with a bit of spice and chilli heat to create something really special. And you don’t need to serve anything with it, so less washing up!

Green Bean Lentil & Potato Curry with Green Chilli & Mint

Serves 3-4 vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Curry Easy by Madhur Jaffrey

  • 250 gr green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 200 gr dried lentils
  • 750 ml water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 425 gr new potatoes, quartered
  • 1 tsp Punchpooran (An Indian whole spice mix that includes: cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, black mustard seeds and onion seeds) Available from East End Foods.
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, then crushed in a mortar & pestle
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves, garlic
  • 2 green chillis, finely chopped (deseeded if you like it milder)
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 500 ml veg stock (maybe more)
  • 1 tin (400 gr) chopped tomatoes
  • salt & black pepper
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • a handful of fresh mint leaves, (about 15) finely chopped plus some sprigs for garnish

Put the lentils and water in a medium pan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered for about 20 minutes until the lentils are nearly cooked and most of the water has been absorbed. Then season with salt & black pepper.

Meanwhile heat the olive oil in a large pan that has a lid over a medium heat. Add the punchpooran, cumin, mustard and crushed coriander seeds and cook until they start to pop. Add the onion cook for about 5 minutes until softened then add the garlic, ginger, chillies and cook for 2 minutes more.

Add in the quartered potatoes, turmeric and garam masala and season well with salt & pepper. Stir to coat the potatoes in the spices then add the stock and tinned tomatoes and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Next add in the beans and cook for another 5 minutes with the lid on (If it is dry you may want to add some more stock). Then add in the cooked lentils and cook for a further 5 minutes. By this time the potatoes should be cooked, if not add a bit more stock and give them another 5 minutes.

Squeeze over the lemon and stir in the chopped mint. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Serve in warmed bowls garnished with the mint sprigs.

This is actually really good served cold/room temperature as a salad for lunch the next day too.

Have a great weekend…

Curried Aubergine with Tomato and Chickpeas

29 Jul DCIM100MEDIA

The first of the seasons aubergines are starting to peek out from inside their pretty lilac flowers in the fields where I walk the dog.

I have lots of aubergine recipes saved from Spain to China that will make even the most stubborn aubergine haters out there succumb to its deeply, dark and delicious charms.

I can say that because I used to be one of them – a hater I mean, not an aubergine obviously. If they are cooked incorrectly, which they generally are, they can be a spongy, chewy, watery, bland and disgusting disaster. Which is why there are so many haters out there.

The first recipe from my aubergine collection that I am going to share with you is a curry. I chose the curry because my chillis on the roof terrace are turning for green to red very quickly right now and every morning there is a fresh crop of jewel-like peppers twinkling at me from the bush. 

These chillis are just asking to be used, and there are lots of them.

So expect lot of chilli recipes in the next few weeks including: my homemade Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce and some spicy Chickpea Tikka Masala Burgers. It’s going to be a long, hot summer.

This curry is delicious, the aubergine is meltingly soft and the sauce well reduced to create an intensely rich and flavourful dish.

It’s from Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey. You can’t go wrong with Rick, he knows good curry. I just added the chickpeas so it was a one pot dish and I didn’t have to make any rice to go with it. Some flatbreads would be nice to scoop it up though.

Rick Stein has a new series about Spain on the BBC at the moment. I saw it for the first time last night and he mentioned that next week he would be in Andalucia. I’m really interested to see where he goes and what he eats. It’s definitely worth watching if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s called Rick Stein’s Spain.

Curried Aubergine with Tomato & Chickpeas

Serves 2-3, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey

  • 1 large aubergine
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 or 2 red chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp freshly ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tin, 400 gr chopped tomatoes
  • 200 gr (1/2 a jar/tin) cooked chickpeas, rinsed & drained
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped plus leaves for garnish
  • 10 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • lemon wedges to serve

Cut the aubergine in half across the middle then cut each half in half lengthways. Cut each piece, lengthways into 6 or 8 wedges, place them in a colander, sprinkle over 1/2 tsp salt and toss to coat. Place the colander in the sink to drain for 10 minutes. This draws out some of the water out of the aubergines.

Meanwhile prepare your onions, garlic, ginger and chillies. Heat a large frying pan over a medium high heat without any oil. Pour the olive oil into a shallow dish and brush the aubergine wedges on all sides with the oil. Put them in the frying pan a few at a time and cook for 2 or 3 minutes on each side until well browned. This helps to stop the aubergines absorbing too much oil. Set aside in a heatproof bowl and continue cooking the rest.

Put the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli into a processor or blender with 2 or 3 tbsp water and process to a smooth paste. Heat 2 tbsp of the remaining olive oil in the frying pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and fennel seeds wait until they start to pop then add the onion paste and fry for about 2 minutes. Add the ground coriander and turmeric and fry for a further minute then add the tomatoes, salt, pepper and 3 tbsp water.

 Lower the heat, cover and leave to simmer for about 8 minutes until sauce has reduced and thickened. Add the aubergine wedges back into the pan along with the chickpeas and stir well to coat in the sauce. Simmer for a further 5 minutes until the aubergines are meltingly tender then stir in the fresh coriander & mint. Taste to check seasoning.

Serve garnished with coriander leaves and a wedge of lemon.

Please try this even if you hate aubergine and let me know if you’ve been converted. I was!

Things That made me Smile Today…..

Beautiful squash flowers…

And green baby pumpkins nestled in their shady bed….

A sure sign that autumn is not too far away and along with it relief from this crazy heat!

Sri Lankan Green Bean, Potato and Cashew Nut Curry

16 May DCIM100MEDIA

I saw Rick Stein making this curry on his Far Eastern Odyssey series. I watched every episode because he visited all the places I’d love to go; India, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam. Him eating his way around Asia just reinforced my desire. Even though he doesn’t cook much vegetarian food it still transports you there.

You know when you are watching a food programme and someone makes a dish that you just have to cook straight away. That’s what happened when I saw this dish. It’s like the planets align and you simultaneously have all the ingredients in the house and the perfect recipe. I love it when that happens……

The original recipe doesn’t have potatoes in it but calls for 300 gr cashew nuts. I didn’t have 300 gr of cashew nuts (who does?) so I padded it out with some baby new potatoes. The potatoes are great  because it means that you don’t have to make rice to go with it. It’s a one pot dish, which is always a bonus, less washing up.

It may seem like a lot of fuss to make you own Sri Lankan curry powder but it makes such a difference. You just toast the whole spices and then grind them in a spice grinder, coffee grinder or mortar & pestle. I did mine in a battery operated pepper mill, it took a while and it wasn’t really a powder but hey, afterwards you have a little jar of your own  Sri Lankan curry powder that you can bust out whenever you need a quick and delicious dinner.

Cinnamon has been cultivated in Sri Lanka for a very long time. About 90% of the world’s cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka making it a very important part of the history of the island.  It is made from fine curls of the inner bark of the cinnamon tree. Not surprisingly cinnamon plays an important part in the cuisine of Sri Lanka and, along with coconut, is found in nearly every dish.

Sri Lankan Green Bean, Potato & Cashew Nut Curry

Serves 2, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey

For the curry powder

I halved the original recipe feel free to double it again.

  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tbsp black mustard seeds
  • 3 green cardamoms
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  •  1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp rice

Toast all the spices in a dry pan for a few minutes until they release their aromas and start to pop. Cool them slightly and then grind in a spice grinder, coffee grinder or mortar & pestle. Tip into an airtight jar and store in a cool dry place.

For the Curry

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (or coconut oil)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 stick lemongrass, bruised & finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Sri Lankan curry powder (see above)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tin 400 ml coconut milk (I used low-fat)
  • about 400 ml veg stock
  • a handful of curry leaves (if you can find them)
  • 2oo gr green beans, trimmed & cut into thirds
  • 350 gr baby new potatoes, quartered
  • 150 gr cashew nuts, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1 lime, 1/2 juiced 1/2 cut into wedges
  • salt
  • 1 tsp cornflour, to thicken if necessary

Heat the oil in a large pan or wok over a medium heat. Add in the cinnamon, garlic, ginger, chilli, lemongrass, turmeric and the Sri Lankan curry powder. Fry until the aromas develop but don’t let it burn. Add the coconut milk then fill up the coconut milk tin with veg stock and add that too, mix well.

Stir in the potatoes, green beans, curry leaves and cashew nuts (save some for garnish).  Bring to the boil, season well with salt then add the sugar & lime juice. Lower the heat and simmer for 25 – 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender.

If it seems a bit too liquidy. Stir a teaspoon of cornflour into a few tablespoons of water until dissolved, add this to the pan and stir. Cook for a few more minutes until thickened.

Serve in warm bowls topped with more toasted cashew nuts and the lime wedges.

Enjoy!!

Things That Made Me Smile Today

Dandelions……..

Daisies…….

Rufus in a daisy chain….

Make a daisy chain if you see some. It’s like being a kid again…..

Laos Style Aubergine, Mushroom and Lemongrass Curry Rice Bowl

21 Apr DCIM100MEDIA

Laos is in South East Asia bordered by Northeast Thailand, Viet Nam, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia & China. It is another place on my list of must visit countries that keeps growing by the day. I found the link to this recipe on Tes at Home. Tes grew up in Northeast Thailand but now lives in India. This recipe is my vegetarian version of her childhood memories of  a dish called Or Lam that she found on Eating Asia.  I took ingredients and techniques from both recipes and cooked the rice in the same pot but it would normally be served with sticky rice on the side. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any fresh dill for this dish so I replaced it with fresh coriander. Feel free to substitute the dill back in or a mixture of both would be nice.

You start by making a curry paste with shallots, garlic, chilli, lemongrass, lime leaves, coriander stalks and salt.  This is fried off then veg stock is added before adding the vegetables. The idea is to cook the aubergine until it is very soft and thickens the stew. I used my metal tea infuser to flavour the dish with Sichuan peppercorns and black peppercorns. This way you get some of the aromatic heat from the peppercorns but not the full on numb lips experience. I used 15 of each in the tea infuser. You could also use a  piece of muslin tied at the top with string). Or crush a smaller amount of each to add to the dish, say five of each.

Laos Style Aubergine, Mushroom & Lemongrass Curry Rice Bowl

serves 2, vegan, gluten-free

  • 1 large aubergine, quartered lengthways then cut into 2 cm chunks
  • 100 gr mushrooms, cleaned & sliced
  • 100 gr green beans, trimmed & halved
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped( I used 2 garlic & 1 spring garlic)
  • 6 shallots (I used 1/2 spring onions), roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, roughly sliced
  • 3 lime leaves, sliced
  •  1 red or green chilli, roughly chopped
  • a handful of coriander stalks
  • 1 tsp salt (or 1 tbsp fish sauce)
  • about 500 ml veg stock
  • 15 Sichuan peppercorns
  • 15 black peppercorns
  • 150 gr wholegrain rice
  • 2 big handfuls of fresh spinach
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped plus leaves for garnish

Put the shallots, garlic, chilli, lemongrass, lime leaves, coriander stalks and salt (or fish sauce) into a bowl or food processor and blend to a smoothish paste. Heat about 1 tbsp oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add in the paste and stir fry for a minute. Add in the veg stock and put both sets of peppercorns in the tea infuser(or muslin bag) and hang it  over the side of the pan so it is submerged in the liquid (or throw in the muslin bag).  Bring to the boil.

Add in the mushrooms, aubergine and rice, season with salt and boil for another minute. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered for about another 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the aubergine is soft and melting into the stock. If you like you can take out a ladle full of the stew and blend until smooth before adding back into the pot.

Add in the green beans and spinach, stir, cover and cook for another 3 – 5 minutes until the beans are cooked. Stir in the chopped coriander and taste for seasoning.

Ladle into warmed bowls and garnish with extra coriander leaves.

Imagine yourself on the banks of the Mekong river watching the boats go by or strolling through a colourful food market selling exotic, unknown foods, listening to the strange language and trying to recognise the unfamiliar smells. I will get there.. one day….

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