Sweet and creamy coconut, chickpea and vegetable curry

I am not a vegetarian but I really do like vegetarian food. I think that we probably eat a vegetarian main meal at least three times a week, sometimes more. Eating a vegetarian diet is linked with better health and it is usually much cheaper. I’d like to say that a vegetarian meal will have a much lower carbon footprint but I guess that depends on where your veggies come from. Apparently this week is National Vegetarian Week, so in honour of that, here is one of my most recent dinners.

I was inspired by this recipe at Attic 24, having used it quite a lot. I wanted an easy going meal, i.e. no last minute trip to the shops. Rummaging in my cupboard, fridge and freezer I found the following ingredients:

IMG_71171 large Red pepper (capsicum)

1 Courgette (zucchini)

4 Spring onions (scallions)

1 Tin of Chick peas

1 Tin of Coconut milk,

1teaspoon Ground Coriander

1teaspoon Ground Cumin

1teaspoon Garam Masala

About a 2cm ‘squeeze’ of Garlic Puree

1 Vegetable Stock Cube

1 tablespoon of mango chutney

1 tablespoon of coriander leaf (frozen)

As you can see, I chopped up the veg, ready to fry it gently, in a large pan, with the lid on. I think this is what cheffy types call ‘sweating off’. I also added the garlic and spices at this point. If you like your dinners a bit hotter, you could add your preferred amount of chilli at this point. If I was making this for just me and The Husband I would probably add about a teaspoon of mild chilli powder and about a quarter to a half a teaspoon of hot chilli powder. I think using both types gives depth of flavour and a bit of ‘kick’.

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When the vegetables were softened and the spices had released some flavour, I added the tinned chickpeas and coconut milk. I also added a vegetable stock cube and allowed everything to simmer for a while. Adding the mango chutney was an afterthought really that I remembered from the Attic 24 recipe. I just felt that more sweetness was needed. The last thing I added was the frozen, chopped coriander leaf. By the time that had defrosted I was ready to dish up.

I served it with boiled rice and steamed cauliflower. Again, if this had been a grown-ups only meal I would probably have added the cauliflower florets with the chickpeas and coconut milk but not all my children like them. I wish they did. We are experiencing a cauliflower glut at the moment. You can see them going to seed in the picture below.

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A word about rice. I only ever use easy cook rice – 1 cupful of rice to 2 cupfuls of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer until done. I have never had success when cooking basmati but if you want to try there are tips to be found here and here.

The thing is, a store cupboard recipe like this can be endlessly adapted. You can change the balance of spices for a subtly different flavour or add your own favourites. The vegetables you use will depend on what you’ve got to hand. I’ve used regular onion, spinach, butternut squash and aubergine for example. You could use a different kind of bean or lentil to provide the protein. It is also a good way to use up left-over meat if vegetarianism is not your thing. Finally, I think this qualifies as both vegetarian and vegan, being dairy free if you fry in a suitable oil, rather than butter.

So, happy National Vegetarian Week everyone!

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Tomatoes in November

The pumpkin soup was a hit. We had it today with some ‘roman bread’ (spelt and honey). The weather was horrible so it felt like a good, warm, comforting lunch.Last night, whilst I was busy making the soup, I was also (finally) getting to grips with our tomato harvest. It seems strange to be dealing with tomatoes in November. Considering the terrible summer we’ve had, our tomatoes have done quite well. I think we had six plants. Three were in a mini greenhouse and three were outside. All were against a south facing wall so they got as much sunlight and warmth as they could

This picture must have been taken back in September. As you can see, there was plenty of fruit but not much of it was ripe. We left it as long as we could but finally picked everything about two weeks ago. We were also trying to stay ahead of Babykins. He liked picking tomatoes (enough said I think).I really hadn’t expected the green fruits to ripen up but they did. We kept them all together in a big bowl in a sunny place and gradually they started to turn. Of course they have to be preserved sooner or later or they just rot. When I weighed what remained of the crop there were 3.5kg of ripe tomatoes. I was torn between making passata, chutney or dried tomatoes to preserve in oil. My kilner jars still have gooseberries in them so passata was out, I have tons of rhubarb chutney already, so the latter option won. I preserved tomatoes like this a couple of years ago and they were delicious. As usual, I used my trusty River Cottage Preserves book. There isn’t much to the process…

First chop up your tomatoes and remove the seeds.Add a little salt and sugar, allow to rest for a while and then turn the tomatoes over. Cook them on wire racks in a very cool oven for about 6 to 10 hours.

I was persuaded by The Husband that I could do this over night. I put them in the oven at about 10.30 and turned it off at about 5 am, when Babykins woke me up. Alas, they were a bit too well done. Think tomato crisps, rather than shrivelled but still slightly plump. I probably could have gone on with the next stage in the process, which involves vinegar, oil and sterilised jars but they are very tasty just as they are. They would probably keep for quite a long time in an air-tight jar.However we will be playing host to some friends tomorrow night so I don’t think they’ll last that long. These tomato ‘crisps’ will be really tasty with some creamy, yoghurty dip.

I still have some green tomatoes to process so perhaps some chutney is in order as well. You can never have too much.

In the interests of not completely stealing someone else’s recipe, you may note that I have kept the instructions for how to dry tomatoes very brief. If you want to do this yourself, I suggest getting a proper recipe that might point out the pitfalls (other than leaving them in the oven too long of course).

 

 

 

Easy vegetarian chilli

I was feeling a bit ropey last week so my meals were of the very lazy variety. The children had oven chips three nights on the trot (bad mother). One night I didn’t get my act together in time and poor Husband went off to play a game of hockey without having had his supper. There was very little fresh food left in the house because I hadn’t been shopping but I had to make something, I was hungry too! By the time he came back I had managed to concoct this chilli. I think we were eating it at about 10pm, that’s how behind I was.

This is a very adaptable recipe but in it’s basic form it is a staple, store cupboard standby. What is more, if you ever have a dinner guest who is a coeliac vegan, you will be able to feed them cheaply and easily.

The most important bit of kitchen equipment you need to make this is a tin opener, that’s how easy it is. This recipe was given to me at least 20 years ago by someone who said they had discovered it during their student days. I can’t say I’m surprised really.

Here are the very basic ingredients:

1 tbsp veg oil

1 onion, sliced or diced

1 tsp mild chilli powder or more chilli to taste

1/2 tsp chilli flakes (optional – I like this combination of mild chilli for flavour and the flakes for a bit of ‘kick’)

1 to 2 cloves of garlic or a squirt of garlic puree

1 tin red kidney beans

1 tin chickpeas

1 tin baked beans

1 tin chopped tomatoes

vegetable stock cube (check if your guest really is a coeliac, some stock cubes contain wheat)

Method

Heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan and fry the onion gently.

When it has softened a little, add the chilli and garlic and fry for  a few minutes.

Now open all the tins of beans and tomatoes and add them to the pan.

Sprinkle the stock cube into the mixture and add a splash of boiling water

Allow the combined ingredients to heat through.

Serve with rice/baked potato/fajita wrap

Optional Extras….

Right, that was the very basic bare bones of this recipe. I almost always add other things. Here are some examples:

A splash of red wine after frying the onions and spice.

Extra vegetables, for example diced carrot, celery, peppers or courgette.

You can substitute or add any tinned beans, though I think the baked beans give the sauce a nice richness.

Sometimes I add some mixed herbs but what I like the most is fresh coriander. In the days when I was organised, I used to buy fresh coriander and chop and freeze any left over in ice cubes. Nowadays I just buy it ready frozen. It’s a very handy thing to have available.

When serving up, all the usual mexican style accompaniments are appropriate; sour cream, salsa etc. If we are eating this meal, the chances are the cupboards are bare so fancy additions are also unavailable. In this case we usually just add a sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese on top.

Enjoy.

P.S. It freezes well and can actually be eaten just on it’s own as a bean casserole, I tend to thin it down a little with stock in that case.