Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

‘Masak Merah’ Vegetables

I promised I’d cook the Teen something spicy for dinner. When I looked at my recipes and on line, I knew I wanted to try something different – not the usual coriander-cumin mix or something with coconut milk. After much searching, I came up with a veganpic version of ‘Ayam Masak Merah’ – without the Ayam! Quite simply, it is a recipe with roasted vegetables served with a spiced tomato sauce from Malaysia.

This recipe is a milder version than the traditional ones. It is still not for the faint hearted! I decided to make the sauce in advance and let it stand so that the spice could cook out and come through more evenly. In keeping with the style of cooking the original chicken component, I roasted the vegetables before adding to the sauce. All of this was served up with boiled Jasmine rice.

I used whatever vegetables I found in the fridge and larder. I cut them into sizes so they would cook at the same time. Putting them in a large bowl, I drizzled them in enough sunflower to coat them lightly and seasoned with sea salt. Placing them on a pre-heated baking tray, I roasted them in an oven pre-heated to 180c for about 20 minutes. I give the selection I used plus I threw in some spinach at the end of the cooking time.

Serves 4

1 stick lemongrass, roughly chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 bulb garlic, chopped
3 hot chillies, chopped (with seeds in)
1½ inch, ginger, chopped finely
3 star anise
½ tsp, black cardamon seeds

3 tbsp., sunflower or vegetable oil
1 stick, cinnamon
1 tsp, turmeric
1 tsp, fennel seeds
1 tsp, ground coriander
1 tube, tomato puree
½ cup, tomato ketchup
3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tin, chopped tomatoes
6 kaffir leaves
1 tsp, sugar
1 tbsp., lime juice
Sea salt

Sunflower oil

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size cubes
2 large carrots, cut into batons
2 bell peppers
2 large handfuls of spinach (added 5 minutes before the end of cooking)

1. With a pestle and mortar, crush the star anise with the cardamon seeds
2. Put in the blender with the lemongrass, garlic, ginger, onion and chillies
3. Blitz into a rough paste
4. Heat the oil and fry the paste for 2-3 minutes
5. Add the cinnamon stick, fennel seeds, coriander and turmeric and cook for 2 minutes
6. Add in the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, tomato ketchup, sugar, kaffir leaves and lime juice
7. Bring to the boil and simmer at a low heat for 30 minutes
8. Season with salt to taste
9. Add the roasted vegetables, coat in the sauce and cook for another 15 minutes


Pickles, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Gone mad picklin’!

I’ve always loved pickles. When I was little, I would sneak a silver skin pickled onion off the drinks’ tray. And I would wince, sucking the vinegar out of the little onion. There wasonioin something thrilling about it to a small person!

Pickles from Poland were always my favourite. There was a sweetness to the pickles rather than the sharp, face wincing, pickling liquid I had first encountered. Pickles were something I bought, not something I thought of doing myself.

Until this summer…

I’ve been making jars of pickled red onions, cucumber and more recently, Kimchi. I was surprised not only at how delicious they are but also at how easy and cheap it is to make them. We opened the first jar of pickled onions, put them on some mature cheddar – heaven! We’ve used these in sandwiches, salads and curries and the cucumbers in salads.

Red onions
1 1/2 pint storage jar with clips

1lb red onions, sliced very thinly
1½ cups, white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon mixed peppercorns

1. Place the vinegar, sugar and salt in a pan
2. Heat slowly until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved and thenm remove from the heat
3. Pack about one third of the onions into the jar
4. Add a few peppercorns
5. Repeat process until jar is full
6. Press the onions down into the jar leaving about an inch from the top free
7. Pour in the warm vinegar mix
8. Allow to cool before sealing and put in the fridge
9. Store for a couple of days before using
10. When opened, store in fridge and it will keep for about 4 weeks

The process is similar to the one above and the result is equally delicious. The recipe makes 1 1/2 pint jar.

3 large cucumbers, sliced very thinly
1½ cups, white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt
2-3 small sprigs of dill

1. Place the vinegar, sugar and salt in a pan
2. Heat slowly until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved and then, remove from the hob
3. Pack a third of the sliced cucumbers into the jar
4. Add a sprig of dill
5. Repeat process until the jar is full, leaving about an inch from the top free
6. Pour in the warm vinegar mix
7. Allow to cool before sealing and put in the fridge
8. Store for a couple of days
9. When opened, store in fridge and it will keep for 4 weeks


Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Saag Aloo

Spinach arrived late into my life. I think I was in my early twenties before I tasted fresh spinach. Instantly, I knew what all the fuss was about and it has been a firm favouritespinach ever since – cooked or raw. Up until then, the only spinach I knew came in a tin or a frozen block – neither of which I found particularly palatable.

Saag Aloo is made regularly in this home. This is not my recipe, however, so thanks is due to another. I only which I knew who! It is yet another list of ingredients scribbled on a scrap of paper wedged in a cookery book. To whoever came up with it, we thank-you as we have enjoyed eating this many, many, many times!

This can be served as a side dish or as a main dish with naan bread or rice.

2 medium onions, chopped
3 tbsp, sunflower oil
½ tsp, coriander seeds
½ tsp, cumin seeds
¼ tsp, cayenne pepper
½ tsp, ground coriander
2lb, spinach, washed and roughly shredded
1lb potatoes, peeled and cute into bite size cubes
½ tsp, salt
2 tsp,  ground fenugreek
Tin, chopped tomatoes

1. Parboil the potatoes
2. Heat the oil and gently fry the onions for about 8 minutes until soft
3. Add the cumin seeds and coriander seeds and cook for 1-2 minutes
4. Add the potatoes, cayenne pepper, coriander power, salt, fenugreek and tomatoes
5. Cook over a low heat for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked
6. Add the spinach, cover and allow stand for 5 minutes until the spinach has wilted


Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Roasted Cauliflower Curry

Fresh cauliflower in the supermarket makes me love when vegetables are in season.  With the Teen working flat out at the moment, I promised her something tasty for dinner. With the cauliflower, I thought I’d make my usual Aloo Gobi but when I went to prepare it, I decided I wanted to do something new. So off I searched for a new recipe. As always, I came across a lot I liked but none I loved. Time to mix and match.

I love the idea of roasting vegetables instead of cooking them simply in the sauce. While this can all be cooked at the same time, I decided to cook it in stages. This was partly due to the way my day was structured and partly because I wanted the sauce to be as deepcauliflower and as rich as it could be. So I made the sauce and left it aside for a few hours and I prepped the vegetables so it could all be put together later. I also combined the vegetables with the spices rather than simply sprinkling over and left to stand while the oven was heating. This worked very well as the flavour was even throughout.

And it all worked so well. Hands up, I am not too keen on Aloo Gobi as I find the cauliflower can often be bitter but with this recipe, it tasted delicious. We ate it with homemade flatbread and it was ‘a hug in a bowl’ as the cliché goes. This will be the recipe I use going forward as a main meal or as a side dish.

Makes 4 servings

I small cauliflower
1/2 lb potatoes, peeled
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 chilli, chopped finely
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1/2 lemon, juiced
6 dried curry leaves
4 tbsp, sunflower oil
1 dessertspoon cumin seeds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp sugar

1. Cut potatoes into chunks and break cauliflower into small florets
2. Crush the cumin, coriander and caraway seeds together with a pestle and mortar if possible
3. Add these to the other spices and combine with half the oil
4. Coat the potatoes and cauliflower completely in this spice mix and leave to stand while the oven heats to 180c (fan)
5. Heat the other half of the oil in a pan
6. Cook the onions until soft
7. Add garlic, chilli and curry leaves and cook for another two minutes
8. Add tomatoes, lemon juice, sugar and tomato puree and cook on a low heat for 30 minutes
9. While this is cooking, heat a tray in the oven
10. Place the spiced vegetables on the tray and cook for 30-40 minutes
11. Combine with tomato mix
12. Serve with flatbread or rice

Mashed Potatoes, Vegetables

Mash, mash and…eh…more mash!

photo 2 (2)

Mashed potato? The food of the Gods. I could eat it, drink it, bathe in it, wash my face in it and when it hardens, exfoliate with it, I love it that much. To say the Teen loathes it is an understatement. She detests it – the texture, the taste, the feel. When it comes to mash, we are very much at opposite ends of the potato field.

This causes a problem. Continuously, I opt for cooking food she adores but now and again, I want food for me. Shepherd’s pie with a delicious topping of mash is one of the ultimate comfort foods but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I see the sullen look on her face or listening to her whinge about it. Alright already! I get it! You don’t like mash but there has to be some compromise.

I’ve tried cheese and mash toppings – no joy. I tried a mash made of sweet potato and even typing that makes me wince at the memory. I’ve used Champ – deliciously made with milk, butter and chopped scallions – but it didn’t tantalise the Teen’s taste buds. Eventually, I had a Eureka moment! Leave the carrots out of the meat mixture and instead mash them into the potato with finely minced onion, some hot milk and a guilty dollop of butter. The Teen approved and all is well with the world again!


The perfect mash…?
The perfect mash is the one that tastes best to you. There is no magic formula but there are a few tips.

For me, the potatoes have to be of the fluffiest variety – for example, Golden Wonders, Roosters, Kerr Pinks. Start by peeling the potatoes and running under cold water to ensure all starch is gone.

The less water left after cooking the better. I favour steaming as this leaves them ready for mashing. By steaming rather than boiling, you don’t risk them disintegrating into mush in the pan. If I do boil them, I drain the potatoes completely. I return them to the now off hob, place a lid on them and let them dry out (mind they don’t stick!).

Whichever way I cook them, I put them into a warm saucepan on a low heat. I put in enough milk to cover the bottom of the pan, a generous portion of butter, salt and pepper. And then the mashing commences. I favour an old fashioned masher – a potato ricer can be used but it just seems unnatural to me. Giving the potatoes a good battering is a good way to relieve stress! To know if potatoes are properly mashed, run a (clean) finger along a scoop to see if there are lumps present. If lumps are present, mash on! Add salt and pepper and always taste to see if it suits your taste buds.

Here are some measurements and variations…

Basic recipe
2½ lbs potatoes
2-4 ounces butter
Warm milk (enough to cover the bottom of saucepan or 7-8 tablespoons)
Salt and pepper to season

Add 3-4 ounces of finely chopped scallions to the basic recipe. Traditionally, scallions (spring onions) are added to the mix. Finely chopped onion can be substituted.

9 ounces Kale cabbage, shredded and steamed (washed thoroughly and stalks removed)
2 tablespoons of pouring cream
Small onion, chopped finely.

Add these to the basic recipe omitting the milk. Traditionally, Kale cabbage is used but not everyone is wowed by the taste. The Teen loves the stuff and would happily chomp on Colcannon if it was mainly Kale with only a hint of potato. I’m not a fan – so I substitute white or Savoy cabbage as these have a milder flavour and smoother texture. She calls me a wimp; I prefer to say my palate is more cultured! 🙂