Tamarind is ace. It imparts a deep, rich and sweet flavour to curries. Buy a block and put it in your fridge, it keeps for months, and you can hack a piece off and chuck it in your curry just like that. That's what I did in this lovely chana (chickpea) curry.
Note that the block sort-of dissolves as it cooks, and leaves behind inedible pips. If you prefer not to spit out pips then you could put the tamarind in a paper teabag perhaps, so you can fish it out afterwards.
You can change the veg choices in here - the red pepper is a nice bright contrasting flavour - but in particular the baby aubergines do this great thing of going gooey and helping to create the sauce. Full-sized aubergines don't seem to do that, in my experience. It's the tamarind and the aubergine that go to add body to the sauce, I think - I don't add any tomato or anything like that, and yet the sauce is flavoursome and thickened.
- 1 tbsp veg oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 cloves
- 1 onion, chopped fine-ish
- 1 red chilli, sliced (reduce amount if you want less heat)
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 red pepper, chopped into slices/dices
- 4 baby aubergines, chopped into 2cm chunks
- 1 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 packet of cooked beetroot, drained and quartered (you can add the drained beetroot juices to the pot later)
- About 2cm cubed of tamarind block
- Black pepper
- 1 bunch coriander leaves, rinsed and roughly chopped
Heat the oil in a largeish deep pan which has a lid, on quite a hot frying heat. Add the spice seeds and the cloves - you might like to put the lid half-on at this point because as the seeds fry and pop they'll jump around and may jump out at you.
After 30 secs or so with the seeds, add the onion, then the chilli and the powdered spices. Give it a good stir round. Let the onion fry for a minute or two before adding the red pepper and the aubergines. Fry this all for another couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the chickpeas, the beetroot with its juices, the tamarind block, and maybe 1 cup of boiling water (don't add too much water - not enough to cover the mixture). Give this a good stir, then put the lid on, turn the heat down to its lowest, and let it bubble for 30 minutes or so. It can be longer or shorter, I'd say 20 minutes is an absolute minimum. No need to stir now, you can go and do something else, as long as you're sure it's not going to bubble over!
When the curry is nearly ready, take the lid off, turn the heat up to thicken the liquid if needed, and give it all a stir.
Give it a good twist of black pepper, then serve it up in bowls, with coriander leaf sprinkled on top. Serve it with bread (eg naan or roti).
A nice fresh pea soup can be great sometimes, and also a good thing to do with leftovers. This worked well for me when I had some leftover spring onions, creme fraiche and wasabi. You can of course leave out the wasabi, or swap the creme fraiche for cream or a dab of milk, or you could add watercress perhaps.
- A small knob of butter
- 4 spring onions
- 3-4 handfuls frozen peas (no need to defrost them!)
- A dab of wasabi paste
- About 75ml creme fraiche
- Black pepper
Boil a kettle.
In a smallish pan melt the butter. Chop the spring onions, and fry the white bits gently to soften them, about 4 minutes. Then add the green bits of the spring onions, as well as the peas and the tiny dab of wasabi.
Turn up the heat and also add the boiling water, just enough to cover things. Once you've brought the pan to the boil you can turn it right down low, put a lid on it, and let it bubble gently for approx 10 minutes, no need for more.
Take the pan off the heat, and with a hand blender you can whizz up the pan's contents to blend it to a smooth soup. Add the black pepper and creme fraiche and stir it through.
This was gorgeous. I hadn't realised that the sweet butternut and the salty halloumi would play so well off each other.
Serves 2, takes 45 minutes overall but with a big gap in the middle.
- 1/2 a butternut squash
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 2 cloves garlic
- olive oil
- a generous handful of pine nuts
- 1 block of halloumi
- 6 stalks of fresh asparagus
- Half a lemon
First get the oven pre-heated to 180 C. While it's warming get the butternut ready to go in the oven. Chop it into bitesize pieces, roughly the size of 2cm cubes but no need to be exact. Then put the pieces in a roasting tin. Take the tines of rosemary off the stalk, chop them up and sprinkle them over the squash, then drizzle generously with olive oil. Chop the garlic into two pieces (no need to skin them - we're not eating them, just using them to add flavour) and place the pieces strategically among the squash. Then put this all into the oven, to roast for maybe 40 minutes.
When there's about 10 minutes left, heat up a griddle pan and a frying pan on the hob. Don't add any oil to either of the pans.
Take the asparagus stalks, toss them in olive oil and lay them on the griddle. Don't move them about.
Put the pine nuts into the hot dry frying pan. You'll want to shuffle these about for the next few minutes, watching them carefully - they need to get a bit toasty but not burn. While you're doing that you can cut the halloumi into bitesize pieces, about 2cm cube size. Turn the asparagus over to cook the other side and add the halloumi to the pan too. (I hope they fit in the pan with the asparagus...) After a couple of minutes you can turn the halloumi over.
Get the tin out of the oven a couple of minutes before you serve it. Find and discard the garlic.
To serve, place the asparagus on each plate, then next to it you put the squash and the halloumi. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the squash and halloumi. Finally sprinkle a squeeze of lemon over.
It's asparagus season, plus I have a half-used packet of ready-cooked chestnuts. Wait a moment - maybe those flavours can come together over a risotto. Yes they can.
Note: I would have started with some leek or onion to help get things going - if I'd had some.
Quantities are to serve 1, but scale it as you like. Took about 30 mins.
- 1 big cupful of risotto rice
- 1 bunch fresh asparagus
- Stock (I used veg stock as well as a dash of mushroom ketchup)
- 1 glass white wine
- 1 handful cooked chestnuts, halved
- 1 bunch parsley
- Black pepper
- 2 knobs butter
- Parmesan cheese
Rinse the asparagus, snip off the hardest end bits and chop the rest into bite-size pieces (about half an inch).
In a good-sized saucepan heat up 1 knob of butter. When it's melted add the rice and the asparagus and give it a good stir. Let it cook for a minute or so before you add a small cup-worth of stock and/or wine. Stir the rice gently as it absorbs the liquid. Eventually when pretty much all is absorbed add more liquid, and continue stirring. Continue this way for about 20 minutes, until all the liquid is added and the rice is approaching being nicely soft.
In a small frying pan heat up a big knob of butter. When it's melted and ready to sizzle add the halved chestnuts. Stir-fry them around for 3-5 minutes until coloured and smelling nice, then add the chestnuts and the butter to the risotto, stirring them in. Chop the parsley finely and add that too, stirring.
You'll want the chestnuts to spend about 5 minutes in the risotto to meld the flavours together. Then add a good twist of pepper, stir, and serve with plenty of shaved parmesan on top.
This is a good hearty Sunday lunch for a vegetarian. One thing I'm missing as I increase my vegetarian-ness is something that's a proper centrepiece for a Sunday roast - those "nut roast" things which are fairly common are OK but I don't think I've had one that could outshine the roast potatoes on a plate. Anyway toad to the rescue. Of course you can do toad-in-the-hole with veggy sausages, but this here is great and not pretending to be anything it isn't!
Serves 2. Takes about 90 minutes in total, including a lot of oven-time where you can do other things.
I recommend you serve this with onion and red wine gravy (takes about 30 mins in a gentle pan), and have some raspberry vinegar available to sprinkle on the pud.
- 1/2 a butternut squash (easiest to use the top half for this one)
- 75 ml milk
- 75 ml water
- 65 g plain flour
- 1/2 tsp mustard
- 1 egg
With a whisk or a fork, mix the milk, water and egg. Whisk the flour in, beating out any lumps. Now let this batter stand for a little while, e.g. 15 minutes, though it can easily rest for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 210 C.
Peel the squash and cut it into big thick fingers, like oversized chunky chips. (This is easiest if you're using the top of the squash and not the lower half with the seeds.)
Brush a roasting tray with oil (olive or vegetable) and then spread the squash pieces out on it. Drizzle over some more oil then roast the squash in the oven for about 40 minutes. They're going to get a bit more cooking after this, so they don't need to be "done" - they need to be at the point where they're just starting to soften and to get some darkening caramelisation at the edges.
While the squash is roasting, prepare the roasting tin in which you'll cook the toad. This needs to be at least 1 inch deep. Put a good glug of vegetable oil in, and then put this in the oven alongside the other stuff, so the tin and the oil can pre-heat to a good hot heat.
Take the squash out of the oven. If you leave them out a couple of minutes, they'll cool a bit so they're easier to handle in the next step.
Next is assembling the toad. It has to be done quickly! So that everything's hot in the hot tin. Quickly get the hot tin from the oven, pour the batter into it, then place the squash pieces one-by-one into the middle of the batter with a bit of space between them - and immediately return this to the hot oven and shut the door. This then cooks for 20-25 minutes until the batter is risen and crusty, the squash is nicely cooked and getting a nice roast colour.
If you have more pieces of squash than you can accommodate in the tin, simply put them back on the roasting tray and continue to roast them. You can serve them alongside.
Inspired by Nigel Slater's recipe I made a great and simple vegetarian stew (vegan, in fact), using my black bean chorizo to help add depth of flavour. (If you haven't got any of that, you could probably do something similar just with a blob of black bean sauce, even though the flavour is different?)
Serves 1 (fairly big portion), takes 25 mins.
- 125g ready-to-eat puy lentils
- 1 onion
- 1 tbsp black bean chorizo
- 1/4 tsp ground paprika
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- Optional: a few mangetouts
- A few leaves of fresh parsley
- Optional: a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
In a deep pan which has a lid, heat up about 1 tbsp vegetable oil, while you chop the onion. You want to chop about three-quarters of the onion into whatever size pieces, and the remaining one-quarter of the onion slice it into nice rings, about half a centimetre thick.
The misc pieces of onion, put them in the pan and give them a good fry to get them softened. Add the three spices and stir around. Then add the chorizo - not too much, it's mainly for flavour. Let this cook for two minutes or so.
Then add the lentils and stir, then add enough boiling water to only-just-cover. Put a lid on, turn the heat right down, and let this bubble for 15 minutes.
In the final five minutes, heat about 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a frying pan. Make sure the onion rings are separated into circles, and put them in the pan to fry briskly for 5 minutes, turning halfway. While these are getting a little crispy, chop the mangetouts roughly into maybe 3 pieces each and chuck them into the stew, and also add the bits of parsley and the lemon juice.
When the onion rings are ready, simply put the stew in a bowl and sprinkle the onion rings on top.
I love a lamb tagine, so I'd like to make a vegetarian tagine that competes with it for the fullness of flavour. Here's my best one so far, making it deep and main-coursey by having large chunks of aubergine flavoured with cinnamon to take centre stage, and bitterness from fried …
After a tip-off from a friend, I've had a couple of different attempts at doing a nice simple meal with courgette fritters. This one is working well so far. I keep the courgettes in pieces (rather than grating them) which maintains the nice structure with the squishy middle bit, and …
"Nisk" is a kurdish soup. I don't know much about it but I've modified it with a pack of beetroot to make a simple storecupboard thing that's a lovely warming and hearty soup. Takes 20 mins, serves 1 as a main or 2 otherwise:
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2cm ginger …
Kale and rosemary flatbread. What I particularly like about this flatbread is that the kale baked in the oven goes crispy like fried seaweed. I had it as a main course with a bit of rocket and some manchego cheese. It could also be a good accompaniment, maybe an accompaniment …