So my brother has recently decided to pursue the vegan diet as have many people recently for various reasons. While I could never give up meat myself, I don’t like to eat it all the time and vegetarian and vegan dishes can be just as satisfying if not more so. So to give my brother some inspiration and to showcase how tasty vegan food is, I’m posting a vegan series of recipes that do not require strange substitutes or try to be a vegan version of meat but that are simple and delicious in their own right.
The first of these is Dal Khichdi. It is an Indian style lentil and rice casserole recipe, an ultimate comfort food and super simple.
½ Cup Rice
¼ Cup yellow dal
¼ Cup red dal
½ onion, chopped
1 medium size tomato, chopped
1 medium size potato cut into small cubes
2 – 3 cloves of garlic, grated
1 inch root ginger, grated
1 green chili, chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
salt to taste
1 tsp each coriander seeds, methi seeds, fennel seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chili power
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp ghee (oil if vegan)
½ onion, sliced
1 medium size tomato, finely chopped
2 – 3 sprig of coriander leaves roughly chopped
2 tbsp ghee (oil if vegan)
In a dry frying pan, gently toast the coriander, methi and fennel seeds over a medium heat until they just begin to crackle and smell nutty and aromatic. Remove from the heat and grind to a fine powder in a pestle and mortar. Set aside.
In a large cast iron pot, heat ghee over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and as the seeds turn light brown, add the garlic and ginger and sauté until light brown in colour.
Next add the chopped onion and green chili. Stir and sauté for few minutes over medium heat or until onion become soft and golden.
Add the chopped potato along with the freshly ground spices, cinnamon sticksalt, turmeric powder and red chili powder. Stir to combine.
Ass the lentils and rice, stir to combine and sauté for a few minutes.
Add approximately 500ml of stock along with tomato. Stir to combine and seal the lid. Let Dal Khichdi cook over medium heat for 25-30 minutes, stirring every so often. You may need more stock so keep checking. Turn off the heat.
While the Dal Khichdi is cooking. Heat 2 tbsp ghee in a frying pan over medium heat and fry the sliced onion until golden. Drain and keep aside.
Serve Dal Khichdi warm topped with the caramelized onion, chopped tomato and fresh coriander leaves along with raita (if not vegan), salad and poppadoms.
Kachoris are a traditional Gujarati snack, often filled with spiced dhal. I find that using green peas, instead of pulses, gives them a fresher, sweeter flavour that combines wonderfully with the warmth of the spices. I’ve used peanuts for a little added crunch too.
This version of kachori are filled with spicy pea filling and served with a cooling coriander and coconut chutney. Yummy! They will make a delicious starter to a curry night. Like most Indian snacks, traditional kachori get a deep-frying treatment but these beauties have been baked in the oven with excellent results.
Adding citric acid to the dough helps to keep the chapatti case crisp and adds a little citrus zing to balance the flavour but it is completely optional. You can omit it if you don’t have any.
150 g plain flour, sifted
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp / 15 ml of oil (I used olive oil)
about 75 ml / 5 tbsp of boiling water
½ tsp citric acid (if using)
300g frozen peas, defrosted
25g unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped
2 tsp of grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
½ tsp black mustard seeds
½ tsp garam masala
½ tsp hot chilli powder
½ tsp cinnamon powder
½ tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder
¾ tsp salt
1 tbsp oil, for sauteéing
about 1-2 tbsp / 15-30 ml of lemon juice
small bunch of mint, chopped
1 cup of fresh coriander
about ½ cup / 120 ml full fat coconut milk
lime juice to taste (I used ½ lime)
2 tsp grated ginger
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp garam masala
¼ tsp chilli powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large bowl, mix flour, citric acid and salt. Add oil and rub it into the flour with your hands. Now add 60 ml of hot water and start bringing the dough together. If it is too dry add another 1-2 tablespoons but do it gradually so that the dough doesn’t end up too wet. Knead for 5 minutes. Brush the surface of the dough with a tiny bit of oil and cover with a damp tea towel to prevent drying up.
Whiz defrosted peas in a food processor with the mint until coarse chunks remain.
Warm up a tablespoon of oil over a medium heat in a pan. Add mustard seeds and wait until they start popping. Add ginger and garlic and stir-fry them briefly until the garlic has softened. Mix all the spices in a small bowl with a bit of water to make a paste. When you add them to the pan, this will prevent burning. Now add the spice paste, peas, peanuts and salt to the pan. Stir-fry for a few minutes but do not let the mixture dry up completely. Let the filling cool down.
Pinch a small amount of the dough and roll it into an 8 cm / 3” circle. Place a heaped teaspoon of dough in the middle and gather the dough around the filling so it looks like a little money bag and tear away/cut off excess dough. Roll the kachori in your hands to make it more circular in shape. Keep kachori ready under a damp kitchen towel.
Heat up the oven to 200° C. Place kachori on a baking tray and brush them with a bit of oil. Bake for about 40 minutes, until browned.
To make the chutney, blitz all the chutney ingredients (apart from lime, salt and pepper) in a blender. Season with salt, pepper and lime juice to taste.
A fragrant lamb kofta curry recipe that won’t need hours on the stove. Make it as mild or spicy as you like by adjusting the amount of chillies in the recipe. Sadly, my lack of photography and presentation skills does not do this justice but the taste is beautifully fragrant, aromatic and deep.
For the meatballs:
1 Tbsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
A few sprigs fresh mint, finel chopped
2 garlic cloves, grated
3cm fresh ginger, grated
1-2 green chillies, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
4 tbsp desiccated coconut
400g lamb mince
For the curry sauce:
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 Tbsp garam masala
1 tsp ground turmeric
400g tin cherry tomatoes
3 Tbsps natural coconut yogurt
Fresh coriander, to serve
Lime wedges to serve
Toast the fennel seeds and coriander seeds in a dry pan until fragrant. Grind in a pestle and mortar then add to a bowl with all the other meatball ingredients. Mix all the meatball ingredients together with your hands. Season and roll into balls then chill until needed.
In a little oil, fry the onion, fresh ginger, garlic, garam masala and ground turmeric for 5 minutes. Stir in the tin of tomatoes and a splash of water and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the meatballs, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir through the natural coconut yogurt and serve with coriander, lime wedges, steamed rice and extra yogurt.
I absolutely love rolling my sleeves up in the kitchen to undertake a big Indian feast. Nothing pleases me more than mixing the fresh spices, toasting and grinding them to create beautiful aromas and tastes. But sometimes, there isn’t always time in the day to get so hands on as less important tasks such as the day job get in the way. That doesn’t mean that a wonderful Indian meal is out of bounds though. With the help of a jar of curry paste, you can whip up a delicious curry in about 15 minutes.
I’d like to urge that this recipe uses a curry PASTE and not a curry SAUCE. Ready made curry sauces are full of sugar and additives and don’t taste anywhere near as good as a freshly prepared curry. Paste, on the other hand, is a perfectly selected blend of freshly ground spices with the addition of ginger and garlic which are immediately preserved in vegetable oil so that the air does not get to them and alter their flavour profile.
3 tablespoons oil
1 inch cube of ginger, peeled and finely grated
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons Rogan Josh curry paste (or your choice)
450g raw peeled prawns
50g creamed coconut, roughly chopped
150ml hot water
2 Tablespoons freshly chopped coriander
2 red chillies, seeded and finely chopped
2 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for 30 seconds. Add the curry paste and fry for a further 2 minutes until it looks like it is splitting from the oil.
Add the prawns to the pan and stir fry over a high heat for 3 minutes until pink. Add the creamed coconut and hot water and stir every now and then until the coconut had melted. Simmer for 1 minute.
Mix the coriander with the red chillies and spring onions. Stir into the prawns and serve immediately.
This is great served with rice and chapatis and even more fresh coriander.
This isn’t really a recipe but is really lovely served as a fresh and vibrant side for any curry. It’s great slathered on poppadoms as a starter or a snack and provides a welcome break from the rich heaviness of many curries.
1 tomato, diced
½ red onion, diced
3 thick slices of cucumber, diced
Small handful of fresh coriander, chopped
A few mint leaves, chopped
A pinch of cumin and chilli powder
A squeeze of lime juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Season to taste.
Tip: Season with salt when ready to serve as the salt will draw the moisture from the chopped veggies.
Saag paneer is a classic Indian dish of cooked spinach studded with cubes of fried paneer cheese. Thickened with cream, yoghurt or coconut milk, it’s a hearty and filling vegetarian meal.
Serves 2 as a main -4 as a side
8oz fresh spinach leaves, washed
1 inch piece ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
7fl oz water
1 Tbsp oil
2 bay leaves
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp methi (fenugreek) seeds, ground
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chilli powder
3 Tbsp natural yoghurt
200g paneer, cut into cubes
Cook the wet spinach leaves in a tightly covered pan for 5 minutes. Squeeze out the excess water and roughly chop the spinach. Add the chopped spinach, ginger, garlic and chilli with a little of the measured water into a bowl and mix. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy pan, add the bay leaves and pepper and fry for 2 minutes. Stir in the onion and fry for 6-8 minutes or until the onion has browned.
Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Stir in the curry powder, methi seeds, salt and chilli powder. Cook for 2 minutes over a medium heat, stirring a couple of times. Add the Spinach mix and the remaining water. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the yoghurt a tablespoon at a time and simmer for 5 minutes more.
Add the paneer to a frying pan over medium heat and cook until beginning to brown then turn the cheese cubes and repeat on all or most sides. Add the browned paneer to the sauce and stir to coat. Serve with chapatti or paratha to dunk into the lovely sauce.
To skin the tomatoes, score a cross in the tops, place in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave this for about 5 minutes, drain and the skins will be easy to peel away. You can leave them on but the sauce will have hard chewy strands in it and this step is definitely worthwhile for a velvet smooth sauce.
Addictive and comforting, this lentil soup is rich and creamy, yet still manages to be light and delicate, if that makes any sense at all. It also uses puy lentils. They become tender in a relatively short amount of time but don’t lose their shape, unlike most other lentil varieties.
Make this soup for a crowd and I guarantee you everyone will be scratching their heads, wondering what is in it that makes it taste so special. Also, as is the case with practically all soups, this one tastes even better on day two or three.
The use of ghee and gently frying the spices really intensifies their flavour while adding rich, buttery goodness.
As shown in the pictures, you can vary the amount of stock and coconut milk added and have this dish as a dahl served with paratha or as a soup. I made a big batch and added more stock and coconut milk to one half. Best of both worlds!
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
500ml-1.5 L (6 cups) chicken (or vegetable) broth
1 and 1/2 cups Lentilles de Puy (French green lentils), rinsed and picked over
2 tablespoons ghee or unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of ground nutmeg
fresh black pepper
1/2 cup-1 cup full-fat canned coconut milk
Heat the unsalted butter in a large soup pot. Add the diced onion and garlic, and saute over medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are very soft and translucent. They will reduce in volume significantly.
Add the fresh thyme and turmeric, and continue to saute for an additional 7-8 minutes, until the mixture is very soft and fragrant.
Add the stock and the lentils and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender (yet still hold their shape).
In a small saucepan, heat the ghee (or clarified butter or unsalted butter) over low heat. Add the spices and fresh black pepper, and saute, stirring constantly for 2 minutes or so, until the butter is fragrant. Watch the pan carefully, as it can easily go from fragrant to burned quite quickly.
Add the butter-spice mixture to the soil. Pour in the coconut milk, and heat soup over medium heat for 15 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.