I made this as part of a vegan Indian feast for my brother who has an insatiable appetite and a shit recipe repertoire. This results in some gigantic mounds of instant mash flavoured with various dehydrated soup sachets or if you’re lucky, gravy granules. The fact that he was sat tucking into something I’d rather grout tiles with didn’t sit right with me so I took over his kitchen one day to show him how easy and delicious actual cooking can be. This recipe was by far both of our favourites and if you try it, I’m sure it will be yours too.
Baby aubergines are stuffed with a coconut and peanut spice mix and simmered slowly in a velvety sauce in a pan until meltingly soft. It is worth making the effort to seek out baby aubergines from an Indian grocers as they take less time to cook and you get a good ratio of filling to aubergine.
10-12 baby aubergines
60g desiccated or freshly grated coconut
120g roasted unsalted peanuts
40g fresh coriander
8 cloves garlic
1 green chili
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp coriander seeds, roasted and ground
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp oil
1 large onion, chopped
½ – 1 carton passata
Cut each aubergine in half lengthways, but don’t cut through the stem. Roll each one over and cut lengthways again, still keeping the stem intact.
Put a large lidded frying pan over a medium heat and, when hot, toast the coconut and peanuts for 2-3 minutes, until the coconut is starting to brown. Tip into a bowl and leave to cool. Put the coriander, garlic, green chilli, tomato puree, coriander, turmeric and salt into a food processor, along with the cooled peanuts and coconut. Pulse until coarsely ground to a grainy paste. Add a little peanut butter to help it bind if you need but not too much.
Open each aubergine out like a flower and fill with the coconut mixture, using your hands. Roll the aubergine over, open and stuff again then press closed. Save any leftover stuffing to add it to the pan later when you cook the aubergines.
Next, put the oil into the frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the onion and fry until golden and soft. Add the remaining filling and ½ a carton of passata. Stir to combine and allow the sauce to bubble for a few minutes. Add the aubergines and a splash of water, turn the heat up high and cook for a couple of minutes, then put the lid on and turn the heat down. Cook for 10 minutes, then gently turn the aubergines and add a splash of water if they’re looking dry. Cook for a further 20 minutes, or until nice and tender. Serve with cucumber and mint raita, or with a salad, some yogurt and chapattis.
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.
A good moussaka is a joy to behold with cinnamon spiced lamb mingling with aubergines and a delicious creamy sauce. It is something I’ve always wanted to make but never have until my friends and I decided to have a Greek night. Perfect chance. I don’t know why I’ve not made one before. It’s extremely comforting and flavourful and well worth the effort.
2 large aubergines, cut into ¼” / ¾ cm thick slices
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, grated
500 g lamb mince
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp plain flour
400g tinned plum tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato puree
1 cup chicken or lamb broth/stock, or water + 1 stock cube
1 tsp dried mint
2 tsp dried oregano
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp allspice (optional)
Lemon zest and juice (optional)
4 tbsp butter
5 tbsp plain flour
3 cups milk
¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
⅓ cup panko or fresh breadcrumbs
Sprinkle the aubergines with salt and place them (stacked) in a large colander. Leave to sweat for 30 minutes, then brush off excess salt and pat dry with a paper towel.
Preheat oven to 200C. Lay the aubergine onto 2 large baking trays, brush with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes or until just softened. Remove and set aside to cool.
Heat olive oil in a pan over medium high heat then cook the garlic and onion for 3 minutes. Add the lamb and cook, using the wooden spoon to break up the mince as you go. Add the flour and herbs and stir. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer, then cover, lower heat to medium low and cook for 15 minutes.
Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add flour and cook for 1 minute, using a whisk to keep it moving.
Add 1 cup of milk and whisk to combine. It will thicken quite quickly. Add the remaining milk. Whisk until smooth then cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until it thickens so that it thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon.
Remove from the stove and whisk in cheese. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then whisk the eggs in.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat oven to 180C.
Place half the filling in the bottom of a baking dish then half of the aubergine in a layer on top. Repeat the process with the remaining filling and aubergine.
Pour over the béchamel sauce, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and a little extra grated cheese and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until golden brown.
Allow to stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.
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.
Lamb is one of my absolute favourite meats. It is so full of flavour! It can be slow cooked for hours on end or flash fried in seconds. It is a very versatile meat and very underused in my opinion. It can be bought in many forms that lend themselves to particular types of cooking like many other meats however, lamb does have a tendency to be fatty (which is partly where the amazing flavour comes from). An alternative version of a classic recipe with the calories, salt and fat slashed. Still rich in flavour, this creamy lamb curry is big on fibre, vitamin C, iron and folate – what’s not to love?
How I made it healthier: To cut down on the fat and saturated fat, I swapped half the mince for lentils – which also increased the 5-a-day. I reduced the amount of salt but boosted the flavour with a variety of spices and other flavourings. I used rapeseed oil for frying (only a small amount) and only half a can of coconut milk with water for added liquid to reduce the fat content.
I have a little confession though; in this particular recipe, I didn’t have any fresh coriander or any herbs in the house for that matter so I used a teaspoon of mint sauce from a jar in the kofta mix and it actually tasted amazing!
For the meatballs:
270g packet puy lentils
250g lamb mince (20% Fat)
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp chilli flakes
¼ tsp medium or hot chilli powder
1 small onion, very finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
2½ cm/1in piece ginger, grated
3 tbsp chopped coriander
For the sauce:
2 tsp rapeseed oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3-4cm/1 ¼-1 ½ in piece ginger, finely chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp medium to hot chilli powder
8 dried curry leaves
1 cinnamon stick, halved
1 plump green chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced
2 large tomatoes (about 200g/7oz), roughly chopped
2 tsp tomato purée
200ml reduced-fat coconut milk
1 tbsp chopped coriander, plus extra to serve
garam masala, for sprinkling
Line a baking tray with a sheet of baking parchment. Tip two-thirds of the lentils into a medium bowl and mash them (the mashed lentils will help bind, the whole ones will add texture). Mix in the whole lentils, lamb, the spices, onion, garlic, ginger, coriander, a good grind of black pepper and a pinch of salt, taking care not to overwork the mixture.
Using slightly damp hands, shape into 18-20 meatballs. Lay the meatballs on the prepared tray, cover with cling film and chill while you prepare the sauce. Can be chilled overnight to develop extra flavour, if you like.
Heat oven to 190C/170C fan. To make the sauce, heat the oil in a non-stick frying or sauté pan, and fry the onion and cumin seeds over a medium heat for 6-8 mins until the onion is softened, stirring occasionally. Raise the heat slightly to start to brown the onion and stir in the garlic, ginger, ground coriander, turmeric, chilli powder and curry leaves, stir-frying for a few mins. As the onion browns, stir in the cinnamon stick, green chilli, tomatoes and purée, briefly stirring to soften the tomatoes. Pour in 100ml of the coconut milk, scraping the bottom of the pan to gather up any brown sticky bits, and let it bubble briefly and thicken. Pour in 250ml water, bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover and gently simmer for 15-20 mins to thicken very slightly – but keep checking so it doesn’t reduce too much (add a splash of water if needed). Season with pepper.
While the sauce simmers, uncover the meatballs and cook in the oven for 20 mins until cooked through and starting to brown on top – there is no need to turn them. Remove and pat down with kitchen paper to drain off any excess fat.
Stir the remaining coconut milk into the sauce over a low heat then add the chopped coriander. Sit the meatballs in the sauce and cook for 5 mins on a very gentle simmer to warm through and blend the flavours, then remove the cinnamon stick.
Tip the meatballs into a serving dish or divide between bowls, sprinkle over a little garam masala and the coriander, and serve with rice and/or flatbreads/naans/paratha.
This is a proper tasty curry. It’s probably not the most authentic given the baking in the oven and the thickening of the sauce with cornflour but it is damn delicious and the oven spell tenderises the meat beautifully.
Lamb leg is an excellent choice for curry as it contains enough fat, which when slowly cooked becomes deliciously tender without being too unhealthy or gristly like some other cuts.
3 Tbsp garam masala
1 Tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder
1 Tbsp turmeric
5kg lamb leg, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 Tbsps ghee, butter or vegetable oil
3 onions, finely chopped,
3 cardamon pods, split
2 cinnamon sticks or cassia bark
7 cloves garlic, grated
A knob of ginger, grated
2 fresh green chillies, deseeded for a milder flavour and split lengthways
Cornflour roux (optional)
250g baby spinach
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place half of the garam masala, chilli powder and turmeric in a large bowl with a generous amount of salt and pepper and stir in the lamb chunks to coat. Set aside.
Heat the butter or oil in a large oven proof casserole dish over a medium heat. Add the onions and stir regularly for about 10 minutes until meltingly soft and coloured.
Add the cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, garlic and ginger, increase the heat a little and fry for a further 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the remaining ground spices and the green chillies. Increase the heat to maximum and tip in the marinated meat, scraping in any spice left in the bowl. Fry and stir constantly. Pour in 500ml water, stirring as you add. Bring the liquid to the boil before covering and placing the curry in the oven pre-heated to 180C for 1-1 ½ hours until the lamb is meltingly tender.
Add a little cornflour roux (2 tsp cornflour mixed with a little water) to the curry if a thicker consistency is desired. The curry will be quite thin at this point. Put the casserole dish on the hob and thicken the curry. Add the spinach and the curry is ready as soon as the spinach has wilted.
These vegetarian samosas are a great way to get 3 of the 5-a-day into your family as well as a huge burst of flavours. They’re also rich in fibre, folate, vitamin C, calcium and iron. They are not fried like traditional samosas but baked in the oven with minimal oil.
You can play around with whatever you like in the filling. Spinach is fantastic in these but at the time of making, I didn’t have any or I would have added it instead of peas.
They are great served hot and crispy from the oven but can also be eaten warm or cold as a snack for the next day – if they last that long.
Makes 6 large samosas.
2 large sweet potatoes (about 500g), peeled and cut into small pieces
1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing
1 red onion, chopped
thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 tsp each medium curry powder, garam masala, turmeric
small bunch coriander or mint, finely chopped
1 tbsp curry paste (I used madras)
1 tsp black onion (nigella) seeds
200g frozen peas
270g pack filo pastry (6 sheets)
Put the sweet potatoes in a large bowl, cover with cling film and microwave on full power for 5-8 minutes or until soft.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan, add the chopped onion and cook for a few mins to soften. Stir in the ginger, garlic and coriander/mint, stirring for a couple of minutes more until fragrant. Add the curry paste, spices and the black onion seeds to the pan, stir for 30 seconds or so until fragrant then add the frozen peas. Season well and mash everything together with the back of a spoon, leaving some chunky bits of potato. Leave to cool completely.
Unroll the pastry and pull out two sheets to work with – keep the rest covered with a tea towel to prevent it from drying out. Brush both sheets with a little oil. Put the other sheet on top. With the shortest side facing you, cut down the centre to make two long strips. Scoop a sixth of the sweet potato mixture onto the top right-hand corner of the filo in a rough triangle shape. Fold the pastry over on an angle, continuing down the length of the pastry until you reach the bottom and have a neat triangle encasing the filling. Trim off any excess pastry with a knife. Repeat to make six samosas. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan.
Put the samosas on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Brush with a little more oil and sprinkle over some extra black onion seeds or cumin seeds if desired. Bake for 20-30 mins or until deep golden brown. Cover with foil if the corners begin to burn before the base is browned.