Incredible Chickpea Curry

This curry is pretty simple but amazing.  Normally I use a Patak’s Rogan Josh paste for this instead of the whole spices, but really, using whole spices totally makes this dish more fragrant and complex and delicious…

In all, my rice took 25 minutes to cook, and it took the same time to prepare and cook the curry too.  The thing to remember with curries, is that if you have all the ingredients, it’s easy. If you don’t, the ingredients list can look daunting.  Always check out your local Indian food shop – the spices are cheaper than the supermarket and they usually have a great range.Image

You will need:

Some veg oil and a little knob of dairy free spread (Vitalite is nice and buttery)
I medium onion, chopped,
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black onion seeds
1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds
pinch of hing/asafoetida
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 tsp chilli powder (adjust according to your taste pref)
1/2 400g tin of chopped/plum tomatoes
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup stock
few lumps of frozen spinach, defrosted (in microwave)
pinch of dried fenugreek leaves
shake of shake o cini mushroom powder (optional!)
salt, sugar (agave nectar/maple syrup) to taste.
To serve: tomato relish can be great, but this went beautifully with a sweet, smokey aubergine pickle (from Waitrose).

How to:
1. Heat oil in the pan
2. Add cumin, black onion and mustard seeds and fry until sizzling. Add the dairy free spread.
3. Add hing/asafoetida, and stir.
4. Add onions and fry until they are good and soft and starting to brown.
5. Add the ground coriander, chilli and turmeric, stir and cook for 1 min.
6. Chuck in tinned tomatoes and stir.  cook for a few minutes (usually until you see the oil separating from the tomatoes).
7. Add tin of drained chickpeas and stock.
8. Put the spinach in also, stir in the dried fenugreek leaves.  Then season with salt, sweeten with syrup/sugar, add mushroom powder and let simmer until the stock has cooked down and you have a nice sauce.
9. Serve  – with brown basmati rice and pickle.

Potato stuffed dosa with veggie curry

The Dosa was a new discovery for me – I found a packet in the ‘Ethnic Foods Aisle’ at Tesco’s and picked it up, as I was intrigued.  For those that don’t know, it’s a lentil-flour based pancake type thing: In the pack is a powder which you mix with water, then fry in a pan until it goes slightly crunchy whilst still being bendy! It has a lovely subtle but warm flavour and interesting texture.  And the brand name is rather amusing ‘Gits’! tee hee!

Anyway, the filling I put in was based on an Aloo Masala for Dosa (Potato masala) found on Manjula’s kitchen website: The only difference was that I added onion for more flavour and cut down on the green chilli (as I’m a bit of a spice coward!). Oh and I pre-cooked the potatoes so it wouldn’t take so long.

The curry was a simply paste-and-veg jobbie (usually best when you’ve spent time on something else and are suddenly very hungry!).  Ingredients as follows:

Simple veggie curry: (use what you have in the fridge!)
1 onion,
1 Yellow pepper, chopped into largeish chunks
1 Red pepper, chopped into largeish chunks
A few mushrooms, sliced
Rogan Josh curry paste (Patak’s – but whatever flavour takes your fancy)
Tin of Chickpeas
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Chopped fresh coriander
Squeeze of lemon

Method:
1. Fry your onion in a little oil.
2. When softened, add curry paste (according to pack instructions) and fry for a short while.
3. Add the veg (start with the one that needs most cooking, like the peppers, and gradually add the others allowing each to cook a little before you add the next.
4. Add the chickpeas and tinned tomatoes
5. Cook until all veg is tender.
6. Squeeze over and stir in a little fresh lemon juice (optional, but gives it a lift) and garnish with coriander, unless your husband doesn’t like it!!


Tamarind Dal

Tamarind Dal with Rice

Why has it taken me sooo long to make a dal? Especially when they are so simple? And sooo tasty!

Inspired by the dal I had eaten at the Coco Diner (see post “Coco Delights“) I wanted to recreate it as closely as I could.  Though in the menu it said there was cream in the dal, I chose not to do this, wanting to avoid unnecessary dairy… Knowing the recipe had curry leaves, mustard seeds lentils and was a South Indian dish, I did some searches online, found some recipes and modified them to make my own.  Here’s what I did:

Ingredients:
1 cup red split lentils
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup tamarind water *
a few curry leaves (I used dried)
1 tsp turmeric
chilli powder (to your preference – I had just a sprinkle for a mild dal)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
good pinch of hing (asafoetida)
2 medium sized ripe tomatoes, chopped

Method:
1. Put the lentils in a pan with the water/tamarind water, turmeric, chilli powder and curry leaves.  Cook until lentils are soft (approx 30 mins, but may vary).  You may need to add more water if the lentils get dry, but don’t let them get too watery, as red lentils go all mushy, so it’d be hard to drain, off: you’d probably have to cook down.
2. Whilst the lentils are cooking, chop the onion very finely.  Heat some oil in a non-stick pan and fry the onion along with the hing and mustard seeds until the onion is thorougly softened, starting to go a little brown.  When nearly done, add the chopped tomatoes and cook these down until soft.
3. Once the lentils and the onion mixture is cooked, add everything in the frying pan into the lentils, stir, taste, season if necessary, then serve.

*Tamarind water: It can be hard to get real tamarind pods but you can find tamarind paste in quite a lot of supermarkets now. Because I work for them, Blue Dragon tamarind paste was on hand.  You just mix a teaspoon of paste with hot water to get 100ml of tamarind water. Easy as pie!

Okra Curry, mushroom and peas served with cumin roasted carrots

So, with Indian meals I’m really getting into cooking more than one curry dish to keep my palate interested.  So far a great way to keep a meal fresh is to prepare a kachumber, but this time, I opted for something else, as I had none of the ingredients!

Okra Curry, Mushroom and Peas curry and roasted carrots with cumin

Okra Curry, Mushroom and Peas curry and roasted carrots with cumin

The recipes for this I found elsewhere on the internet, so instead of taking credit I will provide links to the relevant sites.  The first site I recommend is “Manjula’s kitchen” – brilliant for vegetarians that love Indian Food because that’s what it is all about, and to make it easy to follow Manjula has filmed herself cooking and talking through the recipes.  She’s not as charismatic as Ainsley Harriet, but that makes her much more watchable!
Mushrooms and peas was her idea: Manjula’s mushroom and peas
This recipe was has the tasty addition of Kasoori Methi (dried fenugreek leaves) – really worth getting into for that genuine Indian flavour (although it makes your clothes stink!).

The Okra (otherwise known as ‘bhindi’) Curry recipe is to be found here. This is the first time I cooked okra – a friend warned me not to be put off by any oozing the okra might do – it didn’t ooze but was very slightly slimy in the main dish, but I didn’t let that put me off.  It tastes very ‘green’ and fresh – I quite enjoyed it.  I added a yellow pepper instead of a green one to this recipe, which in retrospect, I think was a good thing to do, as it might have tasted all a bit too green for me.  The sweetness of the pepper tempered the greenness of the okra, if you get what I mean?

The carrots were so simple: just clean and slice in half lengthways some small carrots, place in an oven dish and poor over some oil, then sprinkle on some cumin seeds and roast for about half an hour or so at 200degrees.

Butternut Squash Bhuna served with Kachumber(wamba!)

Butternut Squash Bhuna served with Kachumber, rice and peshwari naan.

This was so nice I couldn’t stop eating it – I went up for seconds!  The curry is easy to make and the kachumber, which is also easy as pie (easier, actually) makes a great addition to add freshness and zing to the plate.
With the veg in this recipe, I won’t give quanities – just have as much as you fancy, no need for measurements!

Curry:
Ingredients
1 onion, chopped
couple of tablespoons of curry paste (I used Patak’s Bhuna)
some butternut squash, cut into 1.5cm cubes
some courgettes, sliced about 75mm thick(!)
some mushrooms sliced thickly
Three fresh, ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped (you can use tinned)
a little water

Method:
1. Fry your onions in a little oil until very soft, or even starting to brown
2. Add your curry paste and fry for 2 minutes, stirring
3. Add your chopped tomatoes and cook until they start to soften (and you can see the oil from the spice mix separate)
4. Add the butternut squash, and then pour in some water (to just cover the squash chunks)
5. When some of the water has cooked off, add your courgettes and mushrooms.
6. Just keep cooking until your veg is tender, but not mushy, and the sauce is thick.  You may need to keep adding small amounts of water to stop it drying out, as you go.  Serve.

Kachumber
Ingredients:

4 ripe tomatoes, chopped finely (I removed the seeds by cutting them in half and scooping out with a teaspoon)
1/3 of a cucumber, chopped finely
1/2 red onion, chopped finely
1/2 red or green chilli, chopped finely
1-2tbsp coriander
squeeze of lemon juice
salt

Method:
1. Mix all the ingredients together and taste!  You may need to add more salt – I find this needed a fairly generous salting for optimum taste!

I cooked some rice (just plain this time!) and shared 1/2 a peshwari naan with my hubby, and served these with the curry and kachumber.  I know it sounds a bit Nigella-ish, but…Devine!

Chickpea and mushroom curry & cauliflower and pea side dish

chickpea and mushroom curry with cauliflower sideThere was too much food on my plate and there is too much food in my belly, but when it tastes this good, you can’t blame me, surely?!

There are two dishes here, a chickpea and mushroom based curry, which I made up, and a cauliflower and pea side dish, the recipe for which I took from Meena Pathak’s “Flavours of India” cookbook (which has mostly meat based recipes).  The chickpea and mushroom curry is delicious and I’ll give you a basic ingredients list, but there are some optional extras that turn many curries from something ordinary into something much more special: Go to the end of the recipe to read more about these.

Chickpea curry
Ingredients – serves approx 2
1tsp vegetable oil
1tsp cumin seeds (optional)
pinch of asafoetida (hing) (optional)
1 Onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed (optional)
1 red chilli, chopped (optional)
1tsp ginger (I used some from a jar – much quicker!) (optional)
2-3tbsp curry paste of your choice (I used Patak’s Rogan Josh)
diced red/yellow pepper (1/3 of each)
large handful of chopped mushrooms
1 tin chickpeas, drained
1 tin tomatoes
2 tsbp lemon (optional)
1/3 pot dairy free yoghurt (optional)

Method (basic version)
1. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan, and when hot, add onions and cook until soft.
2. Add your curry paste and cook for 1-2 mins
3. Add peppers and fry for 2 mins.
4. Add mushrooms and fry for 2 more mins.
5. Add chickpeas and tin of tomatoes, stir and cook until the peppers are softish and the sauce has thickened to your liking.  (10mins should do – but this curry keeps warm on a low ring whilst cooking the rice and your side dish). Serve.

Longer (& tastier) method
1. Heat oil, then add 1tsp cumin seeds and a pinch of hing (asafeotida). Fry for 30 seconds (do not allow to burn), then add onion.  Cook until onion is at least soft, but the Indians like their onion to be browner, I’m told.
2. Add ginger, garlic and chilli and fry for 30 seconds.
2. Add curry paste and fry for 1-2 mins.
3. 3. Add peppers and fry for 2 mins.
4. Add mushrooms and fry for 2 more mins.
5. Add chickpeas and tin of tomatoes, stir and cook until the peppers are softish and the sauce has thickened to your liking.  (10mins should do – but this curry keeps warm on a low ring whilst cooking the rice and your side dish).
6. Stir in lemon juicee.
7. Add dairy free yoghurt and stir.
8. Serve onto plates.
9. Garnish with a generous sprinkle of garam masala (see below) and some fried onion salad topping.

Curry tips:
1. Squeeze lemon juice into your curry at the end of cooking.  This will lift your curry and give it a subtle freshness and make it more aromatic.
2. Keep some garam masala power to sprinkle onto your curry almost like seasoning after you’ve served it on the plate.  I make my own powder by buying ready mixed whole garam masala mix (ie unground, so there are whole seeds and bits of bay and cinammon in it), dry fry it in a pan until it smells nice, then pop it into my coffee/spice grinder (you can also pestle and mortar it, of course, but more patience is required).  I keep it in an airtight container ready for days like today!
3. Some curries, like this one, work really well with crispy friend onions sprinkled ontop – in fact, this can be amazing: it also makes my nase gorengs deee-lish.  You can buy these at the supermarket – so far the best ones I have had are by Go-tan, but they’re pretty hard to find (http://www.raanthai.co.uk/retail/info_4484.html) so just look in the salad section at the supermarket, where you might find them next to dried bacon sprinkles…. awesome!
4.Dairy free yoghurt – this is also a good way of add a lovely, tangy, rounded flavour to a tomato based curry.
5. Coriander – I would have added fresh coriander to this recipe, but I forgot to buy it!  This dish was complete without it, however, and it can be tempting to put coriander into every Indian and Oriental dish you cook, so it’s nice to have a break!
I probably went overboard with some of the flavours, but me and my hubby thoroughly enjoyed this curry.  I think the thing is, to experiment with these flavours and see what you like best: see what you have and haven’t got in your cupboards – this can either limit or inspire your creativity when it comes to pulling together curried anything!

Curried Cauliflower and Peas
Ingredients – serves approx 2
Vegetable oil for frying
Half a head of cauliflower
Big handful of frozen peas, defrosted
1 chilli, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp minced ginger
1 generous tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
pinch of salt
garam masala

Method
1. Heat small amount of oil in pan and add ginger, chilli and garlic. Fry for 30 seconds
2. Add turmeric and cumin – stir and fry for a few seconds.
3. Add cauliflower, peas, a sprinkle of water and a pinch of salt.
4. Stir well, cover with a tight fitting-lid: the cauliflower cooks through steaming. You’ll need to check regularly and add a little more water if it starts to dry out too much. (but this is a dry curry- this is just to prevent the contents of the pan burning and sticking).
Then serve and sprinkle with garam masala.
(note – this recipe calls for fresh coriander to be stirred in just before serving – I recommend it this time!)

I served this meal with plain boiled basmatic rice and a peshwari naan bread (cooked in the toaster!).
The leftovers made a very substantial lunch for the next day – along with the spare naan bread….