Vegetable Red Thai Curry

With winter approaching, tasty root vegetables like swede, pumpkin and squash are bang in season. With their firm, hearty texture these kinds of veg make a great centerpiece for meat-free curries. 

I’ve been making red thai curries for a while now and, whilst not necessarily 100% authentic, they’ve always gone down a treat with guests. Though I usually opt for pork, chicken or prawns in my curries I had a couple of vegetarian guests for dinner so thought I would have a crack at a tasty and suitably satisfying alternative.

Cost

You’re bound to have a lot of the ingredients in your pantry cupboard. The most expensive items are probably the squash and the aubergines. I receive a weekly veg box from Sussex-based Ashurst Organics, which is where I sourced these from – but in the shops you’d probably only be looking at a £3-4 for both. Approximate cost: £10

Serves 4

 

Ingredients

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For the curry paste:

  • 3 red chillis, de-seeded (unless you like it super spicy)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 bananas shallots
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass, outer layer removed
  • The zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce (optional – I found a recipe for vegan fish sauce if you want this to be strictly vegetarian, otherwise just omit it)
  • 2 Tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Handful of coriander stalks (optional – I love coriander but know a lot of people don’t!)

For the curry:

  • 2 medium aubergines/eggplants
  • About 500g of squash, peeled and choped into bitesize chunks
  • 8 – 10 chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • 3 handfuls of cashew nuts
  • Handful of coriander/cilantro
  • 6 or so baby sweetcorns
  • 2-3 handfuls of spinach

For the coriander Yogurt:

  • Pot of yogurt
  • Handful of coriander/cilantro

 

Method

  • Make the curry paste. Combine all the ingredients for the paste in a blender or food processor a few hours before you want to use it.
  • Aubergines can sometimes taste quite bitter. To prevent this, chop your aubergines into bitesized pieces and place in a colander a few hours before you want to make your curry. Sprinkle a very, very generous amount of salt so they are basically coated(don’t worry, you’ll rinse them later), place a plate on top of them and weigh down with heavy weights. Leave for a couple of hours – this extracts the bitter juices from the aubergines.
  • Rinse your aubergines and pat dry with kitchen towel or a (clean) tea-cloth. Heat about 3 tbsp of light oil (sunflower or vegetable) in a wok and fry the aubergine on both sides until they turn golden brown. Then remove from the oil.
  • Heat some oil in a wok and fry the curry paste for around 1 minute until fragrant, but keep it moving so it doesn’t catch and burn – then add the squash and the coconut milk. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add the mushrooms and the aubergines and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  • Add the baby sweetcorn, and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  • Add the cashews and spinach and stir until the spinach has wilted. Season to taste with soy sauce, black pepper and – if you want a slightly more sour hit – tamarind paste.
  • Combine the yogurt and coriander to form the coriander yogurt, then serve everything with some boiled rice and top with extra cashews and coriander for a decorative effect.
  • Enjoy!

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BBQ Idea: Mushroom and halloumi burger with tomato and coriander relish

It’s pretty unusual for me to make vegetarian food, but seeing as I had some halloumi in the fridge I thought I would get inventive and make something I could take to a beach BBQ.

To make life easier prepare the relish and slice up the cheese at home before venturing out. I was quite pleased with the end result of this, considering it was a bit of an improvisation – although it’s perhaps not the prettiest thing to look at!

Cost

The most expensive item was the halloumi at £2.50ish for a block followed by the houmous at £1.20 a pot – this is only to spread on the burger rolls, so you can void it if you wish. Approximate cost: £5.50

Serves 4

 

Ingredients

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For the relish:

  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 4 spring onions, finely sliced
  • Big handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Salt and pepper to season

For the Burger:

  • 1 block of halloumi (sliced into eight)
  • 4 large flat/portobello mushrooms
  • 8 dollops of houmous
  • Handful of spinach
  • 4 burger buns

 

Method

  • Prepare your relish at home. De-seed and chop the tomatoes into very small squares – keep the tomato seeds as you can use them in dishes like curried goat in addition to chopped tomatoes.
  • Mix the tomatoes, spring onions, garlic, cumin and olive oil in a bowl. Then add the coriander and lime juice.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • To give yourself less work during cooking, you can prepare the other ingredients by slicing the halloumi and spreading the houmous on the burger buns at home.
  • On a BBQ, cook the mushrooms for about 4 minutes each side. You may want to bring some oil along to baste them in during cooking to keep them moist and stop them sticking (I improvised and used cava).

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  • When you turn over the mushrooms, put the halloumi on the BBQ and cook for two minutes on each side.
  • Construct your burger by placing the mushroom and two bits of halloumi within the houmous-slathered burger bun – then top with the relish and a few leaves of spinach.

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Dinnertime: Curried Goat, Roti, Rice & Beans with Coriander Yogurt

Goat is an underused but fabulous meat. It’s good value for money and has a delicious, rich flavour. There are a variety of curried goat recipes out there, this one is adapted from Patrick Willams’ recipe for Jamaican Curried Goat. I serve it with rice and beans, roti and coriander yogurt.

I like spice, but unfortunately spice doesn’t really like me – so this has a nice kick but isn’t too hot, as you remove the whole scotch bonnets at the end of cooking. It’s worth saying that mine is in no way a traditional curried goat, I’ve bastardised it to buggery. I find its best to cook the curry the day before you want it.

Cost

The most expensive thing was the goat at £6.15 for 700g (on the bone). Next would probably be all the spices, which cost one or two quid a pop but were already in my spice cupboard. Approximate cost: £12

Serves 6

Ingredients

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For the curried goat:

  • 700g shoulder of Goat (bone in), diced
  • 3 heaped Tbsp West Indian curry powder
  • 1 tbsp fresh or dried thyme
  • 2 tsp ground pimento seeds
  • 2 and a half tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
  • 140ml/5fl oz vegetable oil
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 onions, finely diced
  • 2 scotch bonnets, whole
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Water or stock
  • One bag of spinach

For the roti:

  • 225g self-raising flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing and frying

For the rice, peas and beans:

  • 2 cups of rice
  • 1 tin of Caribbean peas & beans

For the coriander yogurt:

  • 500ml natural yogurt
  • Massive bunch of coriander

Method

Curried Goat

  •  The night before you want to cook the curry, mix the curry powder, thyme, pimento, black pepper and coriander seeds together and then pour into a plastic bag containing the goat. Make sure you rub them into the goat meat and then leave overnight in the fridge.
  • The next day, preheat the oven to 140°C.
  • Heat the oil in a pan and fry the goat pieces until golden brown. Do this in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan – or the goat will start to stew instead of fry. Set your browned meat aside in a casserole dish.

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  • In the same frying pan you did the goat in, soften your tomatoes, onions, peppers and garlic in some olive oil. Be gentle with the peppers, if they split the curry will be very hot! Then pour this over the goat in the casserole dish.
  • Submerge the ingredients in double their quantity of stock (what stock depends on how rich you’d like the curry to be – lamb stock will make it even richer, or alternatively use chicken or vegetable stock). Bring to the boil.
  • Pop the lid on and place in the oven for at least 2 – 2 and a half hours – the rule is generally the longer you cook it, the better it is but I would say cap this at 3 and a half hours so the goat meat doesn’t get so tender it completely disintegrates.
  • When it’s ready remove the goat and the scotch bonnets from the pan. Discard the scotch bonnets. Curried goat is traditionally served on the bone however if you are catering for someone who’s not a fan you can cool the goat meat slightly on a plate and then pick the bones out. The meat should be so tender it slides off the bones and keeps it’s shape.
  • Back to the casserole dish. You will be left with a sauce, which needs to be thickened depending on how long you’ve cooked it for. Simply simmer the sauce until it is reduced to a thick, lush sauce.
  • Pop your goat back in, then add the spinach and fold it in so it wilts.

Roti

  • I would start these after you put your goat in the oven, as some resting time is required.
  • Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Sprinkle over the oil, and add enough water to make a soft, but not sticky, dough (about 140ml/4½fl oz) – add a little more flour or water if needed. Knead gently until smooth. Cover and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.
  • Divide the dough into six equal pieces and roll each one into a thin circle about the thickness of a 20 pence coin (2mm/1/16 in), using a rolling pin.
  • Brush the bottom third of one of the roti with oil using a pastry brush, and fold the oiled third towards the middle. Repeat with the top third, fold inwards, then turn the roti a quarter turn clockwise and repeat this process with the top and bottom third. Repeat with the remaining five rotis. Leave to rest again.
  • Heat a little oil in a heavy-based pan. Roll one of the roti thinly into a round with a rolling pin, and fry on one side until it puffs up and is speckled brown on the underside. Turn it over and fry on the other side for a few minutes, until it too is puffed and speckled brown. Remove from the pan.
  • Cook the remaining roti in the same way and serve warm.

Rice & Beans

  • You can start this around 15 minutes before serving.
  • Place the rice in a saucepan and cover with 4 cups of cold water and a little oil. Bring to the boil.
  • Turn the heat right down and cover the pan with a lid, simmer gently for 12 minutes.
  • Drain the rice to get rid of any excess water, then put back in the saucepan with a hearty knob of butter. Drain the tin of beans & peas and stir into the rice.
  • Heat gently so everything’s nice and hot.

Coriander Yogurt

  • Tear some coriander leaves and mix with yogurt.
  • Top with a few whole coriander sprigs.

 

Serve the goat, rice and yogurt dressing on top of a roti for a deliciously rich, if slightly adapted, taste of the Caribbean. Decorate with more coriander leaves. For the full Caribbean experience pair with my take on a rum punch.

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Lemon Drizzle Cake with Candied Lemon Peel

I’m not massively into baking, but for an upcoming cake sale at work in aid of St Peter & St James Hospice I thought I’d try my hand at one of my favourites, lemon drizzle cake. 

To give it a bit more flare visually I had a pop at doing candied lemon peel to decorate it with. I foolishly thought doing both the night before the cake sale would be fine but realistically the lemon peel takes ages to prepare and make, so I would highly suggest doing this the day before you want to bake the cake if possible. My recipe for the lemon drizzle came from a Hairy Biker’s cookbook my mum bought me called Mum’s Know Best (of course) and the candied lemon peel recipe I got from the BBC Good Food website.

Time: Candied lemon peel takes about 2 and a half hours to prep and cook so best to do it in advance. Cake takes about 20 minutes to prep and ad additional 45 to bake and do the drizzling.

Cost: The most expensive purchase was a bag of unwaxed lemons at £1.50 – everything else was in the pantry. TOTAL COST: Approximately £2.

Serves 10

Ingredients

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For the candied lemon peel:

  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • Bag of granulated sugar

For the lemon drizzle cake:

  • 2 small unwaxed lemons, well scrubbed
  • 275g granulated sugar
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 large free-range eggs (I used 4 medium ones)

Method

  • Start by preparing the candied lemon peel, preferably the day before making the cake (so it gives the peels time to dry out properly). Cut the fruit into 8 wedges, then cut out the flesh, leaving about 5mm thickness of peel and pith. Cut each wedge into 3-4 strips.

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  • Put the peel in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 mins. Drain, return to the pan and re-cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 30 mins.
  • Set a sieve over a bowl and drain the peel, reserving the cooking water. Add 100g sugar to each 100ml water you have. Pour into a pan and gently heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  • Add the peel and simmer for 30 mins until the peel is translucent and soft. Something a bit odd happened with mine where the sugar started to boil and puff up like the early stages of making honeycomb. If this happens just reduce the temperature and keep an eye on it.
  • Leave to cool in the syrup, then remove with a slotted spoon and arrange in 1 layer on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Put in the oven at the lowest setting for 30 mins to dry.
  • Sprinkle a layer of sugar over a sheet of baking parchment. Toss the strips of peel in the sugar, a few at a time, then spread out and leave for 1 hr or so to air-dry.
  • And bang, your lovely little candied lemon peels are done. They will keep for 6 – 8 weeks in an airtight container when stored in a cool, dry place.
  • Now for your lemon drizzle – preheat the oven to 180oC/fan 160oC/Gas 4. Line the base of a 900g (2lb) non-stick loaf tin with baking parchment and butter the tin well. Finely grate the zest of the lemons.
  • Put 175g of the sugar in a food processor with the butter, flour, baking powder, eggs and lemon zest and blend on the pulse setting until the mixture is just combined and has a thick, smooth texture (just FYI I used a wooden spoon instead here and the world didn’t end, so don’t worry if you don’t have a processor).
  • Spoon the cake batter into the prepared tin and level the surface. Bake for 35 minutes or until well risen and pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 5 minutes.
  • Squeeze one of the lemons to get about 3 tablespoons of juice and mix this with the remaining 100g of granulated sugar.
  • Turn the cake out onto a wire rack set about a tray or plate. Remove the baking parchment and gently turn the cake the right way up. Make about 50 deep holes in the top of the cake with a skewer. (I didn’t have a skewed so I improvised and used a parcel tag – is that even what they’re called?!?)
  • Slowly and gradually, spoon over half the lemon sugar, allowing it to thoroughly coat the top of the cake and drizzle down the sides. Leave the cake to stand for 5 minutes, then do the same with the remaining lemon sugar.
  • Leave to set for at least an hour or until the sugar and lemon has crystallised. Then decorate with your candied lemon peel as you like – I did a little criss-cross thing but you could always chop up the lemon peel and do a casual sprinkle.

Next time I think I’ll use something slightly thicker to make the holes in the cake so the lemon sugar can really soak deep into the cake. That said, it sold out very quickly at the bake sale so I was pretty pleased given I don’t bake an awful lot!

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Lush Packed Lunches: Thai Pork Stir Fry

Tired of the midday poverty cheese sandwich at work? Try this quick and tasty Thai stir fry that works with most meats – I did it with pork chops (bone removed) but chicken, beef and even whole fish are brought to life with this marinade.

When I brought some pork chops for half price at Waitrose I wanted to cook something that would reheat well the next day for lunch at work.

Time: About 20 minutes to prepare (with at least 60 minutes for the meat to marinate).

Cost: The most expensive thing was the pork at £1.20 for two pork chops, followed by the cashews at £1 for a little bag. Pretty much everything else was in the pantry cupboard. TOTAL COST: Approx £3.

Serves 2 

Ingredients

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  • 3 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • Thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, outer layer removed and finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 large spring onions
  • 2 pork chops, bone removed
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 1 cup of rice

Method

  • Combine the soy sauce, honey, tamarind paste, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, fish sauce and half the chilli in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Allow to cool.
  • Cut the pork into strips and cover with the sauce. Marinate for at least 60 minutes.
  • For the rice place 1 cup of rice in a saucepan per two people, covered with double the amount of cold water and a knob of butter. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and cover with a lid for 12 minutes.
  • While that’s cooking heat some vegetable oil in a wok. Take the pork out from the marinade (leaving the rest of the liquid in the bowl) and add it to the pan. Keep it moving with a wooden spoon (so it doesn’t stick and burn) and cook until the pork starts to turn golden brown.
  • Add the broccoli and the other half of the chilli. Cook for another 5 minutes, then add the reminder of the marinade.
  • Cook for a further 2 minutes, then add a generous helping of the fresh coriander to finish.
  • Serve with rice and top with a sprinkling of chopped cashews and more fresh coriander.

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Dinnertime: Fried Plaice, Crispy Capers, Sweet Potato Chips.

Plaice is stonking value for money and packs a stronger fishy flavour than it’s more expensive alternatives (I’m looking at you cod). For my Tuesday night dinner I’ve paired it with another favourite – sweet potato chips. 

I first encountered crispy capers last year when I visited The Basement in Padstow and the texture of the capers was like tiny bits of dissolvable popcorn having a party on your tongue. It’s a great way to use up any hanging around in the fridge and is perfect for topping most fish.

Time: About 10 minutes to prepare your ingredients, 30 minutes cooking time.

Cost: I got the fillet of plaice reduced from Morrisons for an outrageous 49p, the usual cost would be around £1.30. The sweet potato was 56p and actually made two portions of chips (but as predicted I scoffed all of them). All of the other ingredients are found in most people’s pantry cupboards. TOTAL COST: £1.05 (add another £1.50-£2.50 if you need a buy a jar of capers)

Serves 1

Ingredients

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For the sweet potato chips:

  • 1 sweet potato
  • Generous glug of vegetable/sunflower oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Seasoning of your choice – I used about 1 tbsp of thyme and 2 tbsp of oregano
  • Salt and pepper

For the rest:

  • 1 fillet plaice
  • 50g flour
  • About 2 tbsp capers
  • One portion frozen peas
  • Two generous knobs of butter
  • Salt and cayenne pepper

Method

  • Turn the oven on to 200 degrees Celsius.
  • Prepare the sweet potato. Wash and chop into chip-sized batons – you can peel them if you wish but I think they turn out better with the skins on.
  • Arrange your chips in a roasting tray – try not to overcrowd the tray. Sprinkle on the garlic, thyme and oregano. You can choose different seasonings if you wish – cumin also works very well with the sweet potato. Drown in a generous amount of oil, then season with salt and pepper. Bang them in the oven for 30 minutes, until they go golden brown and start to crisp up.
  • About 15 minutes into the cooking of the sweet potatoes, take them out and give the roasting tray a shake so the chips turn around a bit. Put them back in the oven.
  • 10 minutes before your chips are done, season the flour with salt and cayenne pepper and dust the plaice with it.
  • Place a frying pan over a high heat with 2 tbsp of oil. When the oil is really hot put the fish skin-side down in the pan. Don’t touch it or move it around for a minute or so.
  • After 2 minutes flip the fish over. Cook for 1 minute.
  • Flip the fish back to being skin-side down and add your generous knobs of butter to the pan. Baste the fish with the melted butter for about 30 seconds. Then remove the fish from the pan and leave to rest.
  • Put your peas in a steamer and cook for 4 minutes. At the same time fill the bottom of a small saucepan with vegetable oil and put over a high heat. When the oil gets really hot, add your capers. They are done when they darken in colour and start to ‘flower’ out (like popcorn does).
  • Add a knob of butter to your peas and serve everything on a plate with wedges of lemon. Enjoy with a nice chilled glass of white wine – as it was a school night I behaved myself and had it with a soda & lemon.

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Dinnertime: Braised Pig Cheeks

I really love slow cooking things, especially casserole-esque goodies that can be kept and easily heated up at work for lunch the next day. When I was out and about this afternoon I saw some pig cheeks, which although fairly unusual in supermarkets I know for a fact are delicious when treated with some tender loving care. 

To cook my dinner I followed (or attempted to) this recipe for braised pig cheeks from  James Martin. I have a bugbear about buying a whole packet of something just for the sake of using one unit of it for a particular recipe, so instead of a banana shallot I used half a medium onion, and instead of a bouquet garni I used a tablespoon of thyme and oregano plus a couple of bay leaves.

Time: Takes about 30 minutes to prepare plus another 2 – 2 and a half hours cooking time.

Cost: The most expensive ingredient was the pig cheeks, which were were £3.73 altogether from Morrisons. Next was probably the wine at £5 per bottle – you use 200ml (equating to £1.30), with the rest to swig on as you cook or with your lovely dinner later on. TOTAL COST: £10.50

Feeds four hungry people, working out at a cost per head of just over £2.60.

Ingredients

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For the braised pig cheeks:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 12 pig cheeks, trimmed
  • 1 large banana shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 200ml/7fl oz red wine
  • 400ml/14fl oz veal jus or beef stock
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 100g/3½oz unsalted butter, diced

Mr Martin suggests serving this with a creamy mash, sweet carrots, Bramley apple sauce and buttery kale. I did it with some squeaky green beans and mustard mash but I did make his apple sauce – the ingredients of which are below:

  • 2 Bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 50g/1¾oz butter
  • 2-4 tbsp caster sugar, to taste

And for my mustard mash you’ll need:

  • About 1Kg of potatoes (King Edwards or Maris Pipers preferably)
  • 3 tablespoons of wholegrain mustard
  • A big splash of whole milk or double cream
  • A quite massive block of butter (however much you want, but really, the more the better)
  • Salt and white pepper, to season

 

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 150C/130C Fan/Gas 2.

  • Heat a large ovenproof dish on the hob (I used a John Lewis cast iron casserole dish that I got from Homesense for £40 a couple of years back), once hot add the olive oil. Fry the pig cheeks in batches (I did them in sets of four) until they are golden-brown in colour. Make sure when you first put them in the pan you don’t touch them for a minute or so, that way they get a chance to caramalise and colour up nicely. Then set them aside.