This week’s recipe take’s it inspiration from India and delivers some real spice flavours as well as a big chilli hit! It uses a really healthy ingredient as it’s base, chickpeas, which are low in fat, high in fibre, protein and are even one of your 5-a-day. The inspiration came from Anjum Anand, so if you’re intrigued by Indian food and want to learn to cook it authentically, check her out.
As this week is X, I’ve used eXtra chilli in the recipe and in the chicken I served with this, but if you’re not a heat fan, feel free to reduce the chilli quantity. There are so many other spices in this dish that you won’t miss the chilli hit if it’s not your thing.
I’ve served my curry with chilli-basted chicken, but if you want to make the recipe completely vegetarian, chickpeas go really well with wholemeal pitta breads and a slather of butter.
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Add a tablespoon of oil to half of the chopped chillies and rub over the chicken breast, then place in a small baking dish. Put in the oven and leave to bake for 40 minutes whilst you’re completing the rest of the recipe.
Put the garlic, tomatoes (chopped into quarters) and ginger into a mini-blender with a tablespoon of water and blitz into a paste.
In a large frying pan, heat the oil over a high heat. Once the surface begins to the shimmer it will be hot enough (this does not take that long, so keen an eye on it!) Add the cloves, cardamon pods, cinnamon and half the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle away for a couple of minutes and allow their aromas to fill the kitchen. Add the chopped chillies, onions and leave to fry until the onion starts to go brown.
Then add the blitzed tomato paste, turmeric, ground coriander, chilli powder and a pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to medium and leave to cook for 4-5 minutes.
Tip in the chickpeas, 500ml of water, garam masala, tamarind paste and remaining cumin seeds. Allow to come to a boil and leave to simmer away for 15 minutes until the liquid has halved in volume.
Once the chicken is cooked (give a small stab to make sure the juices run clear), serve the chickpea curry with it and a sprinkling of chopped, fresh coriander.
I realised that I’ve not been particularly vegetarian-friendly in the blog thus far, and as a fan of some veggie food, I felt the need to correct this. The weather has started to get cooler as Autumn draws in, so I’m craving more warming, hearty meals. So this week, we have my take on a nut roast. Depending on how hungry you are it serves up to 6 people, with a side of steamed veg, roast potatoes (is there a better way to cook potatoes?) and freshly made tomato-based sauce.
Preparation time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, grated
2 beetroot (pre-cooked from a vac-pac on the veg aisle) grated
1 clove garlic – finely chopped
115g chestnut mushrooms – finely sliced
175g cooked brown rice
115g brown breadcrumbs
55g finely chopped almonds
55g finely chopped Brazil nuts
115g grated Cheddar cheese
2 medium eggs
1tbsp fresh oregano
Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a large loaf tin or another deep baking dish.
In a large frying pan, melt a knob of butter of drizzle with a dribble of oil (sunflower will do – nothing fancy) to stop the butter burning. Gently fry the onion, garlic, carrots, beetroot for 5 minutes until everything is softened. Then add the mushrooms and continue to fry on a medium heat for another 10 minutes or so until the mushrooms have reduced in size and softened.
Whilst the veg are frying, boil the brown rice in a large pan until cooked (usually takes about 15 minutes). Drain the rice and then stir in the onion and veg mix to the pan along with the breadcrumbs, ground nuts, cheddar, eggs, oregano, basil, salt and pepper.
Transfer the mixture to the greased baking dish and cook for 45 minutes – 1 hour until well cooked on top.
I picked up this recipe nearly 3 years ago and since then it’s been one of those great go-to recipes that I can tweak to whatever vegetables I have in. It contains at least 2 portions of your 5-a-day, is low in fat and is very tasty!
Preparation time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
200g yellow lentils (washed)
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp tamarind paste
2 tbsp desiccated coconut (optional)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 tsp sesame seeds
2 dried red chilis
12 curry leaves
2 small onions, finely sliced
6 tomatoes (cut into quarters)
1½ tsp ground corriander
1 medium sweet potato – cut into ½inch cubes
a handful of green beans
200g paneer cheese – cut into small pieces
a pinch of salt
Put the lentils in 1litre of water in a large pan and bring to the boil. Spoon away any scum, then turn down the heat to a simmer. Add the turmeric and sweet potato and leave to soften for 20 minutes.
The next stage is to make the tarka. Heat the oil in a frying pan, then add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, 1 tsp of sesame seeds, cloves and dried chillies.
Once the mustard seeds have started popping, add the curry leaves and onion and a pinch of salt and leave for a few minutes until the onion has softened.
Then add the tomatoes and ground coriander, give it a stir and leave for another 5minutes until the tomatoes have soften and the flavours are well combined.
Add the tarka to the lentil and sweet potato mix (which should be nicely soft by now). Then add the tamarind paste, coconut if using, green beans and ocra and leave to simmer for a final 5 minutes.
Meanwhile in frying pan you used for the tarka, fry the paneer in a little oil, sprinkling over the remaining sesame seeds. It should take a couple of minutes on each side for this hard cheese to take some colour. Add to the curry and it’s ready to eat.
So I admit that there’s only a small ingredient in this recipe beginning with J (Jerk sauce). However the recipe this week is particularly appealing for several reasons: it’s hearty and warming, requires minimal effort AND there is only one pan for washing up. You can’t ask for better than that. It’s also vegetarian friendly.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 Scotch Bonnet chilli
125g yellow split peas, rinsed and drained
2 tsp chopped thyme, plus extra to sprinkle (dried will suffice if thats all you have in).
800ml vegetable stock
1 can (160ml) coconut cream
400g sweet potato, scrubbed and cut into 1cm diced pieces
2 tsp Jerk paste
In a large saucepan gently fry the chopped onion for 5 minutes or so to soften. Add a pinch of salt to reduce the chances of it burning. Add the chopped garlic and fry for 2 minutes.
Make a slit in the chilli (to allow some of the heat and flavour to escape) and add to the pan with the split peas, thyme and stock. Be careful to wash your hands after handling the Scotch Bonnet – it’s hot!
Bring the pan to a simmer, cover and cook very gently for 35 minutes or until the peas are very tender (you should be able to mash them against the side of the pan).
Lift out the chilli and discard. Blend the soup using a stick blender or in a food processor until smooth.
Reserve 2 tbsp of the coconut cream and then add the rest to the pan with the sweetcorn, sweet potato and jerk paste. Cook over a low-medium, covered with a lid, for a further 20 minutes until the sweet potato is tender.
To serve, ladle into bowls, drizzle with the reserved coconut and scatter with extra thyme.
So after some deliberation, for the letter ‘A’ I’ve chosen asparagus and cheddar tart with an apple & apricot salad. Asparagus is in season and I was lucky enough to find some fresh apricots in my local supermarket. Goats cheese or feta works equally well in this recipe in place of the cheddar (or a mix), so use whichever you’ve got in the fridge.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
For the tart
100ml single cream
150g cheddar cheese – cut into 1cm squares
1 x 250g block of shortcrust pastry
a handful of freshly chopped chives
For the salad
1 apple (cut into thin sticks)
2 fresh apricots (halved and then sliced)
2 hearts of chicory
a handful of walnuts
2 sticks of celery (finely sliced)
Extra virgin olive oil
White wine vinegar
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
Flour a clean working surface and roll out the shortcrust pastry to just under half a centimetre thickness. Roll back over the rolling pin and gently place into into a round flan tin (ideally one with a loose bottom). The tin should be approx. 23cm in diameter, but if it’s a little smaller you’ll need to add a few more minutes more cooking time.
Trim off any excess pastry, prick with a fork and set aside into the fridge, whilst you prepare the other ingredients.
Trim the asparagus and steam for 4 minutes. The asparagus should still have plenty of bite as it will be cooked again in the tart.
Drain the asparagus and pat dry.
In a bowl whisk the eggs together with the cream and add the chives.
Take the pastry out the fridge, arrange the asparagus inside the pastry and scatter over the pieces of cheddar. Pour over the egg mixture and place in the oven for 30minutes or until golden on top.
Whilst the tart is doing its magic in the oven, there’s plenty of time to prepare the salad. Pull apart the chicory leaves and cut the larger ones in half.
Add the sliced apple, apricots, celery and the walnuts. Dress with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of white wine vinegar and give the salad a good mix together.
Once the tart is ready, take out the oven and leave to cool for 10minutes before slicing and serving.
Before making this recipe, I misplaced my fluted flan tin, so I used a similar one, with slightly higher sides. This means that mine has that extra proportion of pastry – but as I’m a big fan of it, I’ll forgive myself.
Asparagus and cheddar tart
I had leftover mini roasted potatoes and couldn’t let them go to waste obviously, so they’ve made their way into the photo below. They are totally optional, but as with most dishes, a side of roasties is a good enhancement.
Asparagus and cheddar tart with apple and apricot salad
Next week I’m onto B, and my initial thoughts are for beef wellington. Leave a comment if you’ve got any other ideas, please let me know. Else if you’ve got feedback for the blog so far (on the recipes, cutlery, somewhat dodgy photography skills or anything else), let me know.