Vegan, Vegetarian

Butter Bean and Sweet Potato Curry

Ah, you can’t beat a summer in Ireland! While you might expect to be knee deep in salad beansingredients and all sorts of delicious fresh produce, wintry fare is often far more suitable. No surprise then that I cooked a Butter Bean and Sweet Potato Curry yesterday for the teen. A one pot dinner which suited the weather perfectly. She ate it while sitting at the window looking out at the lashings of rain!

½ lb dried butter beans soaked overnight or 2 tins of butter beans
1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size chunks
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into bite size chunks
5 tbsp, sunflower oil
1 onion, cut into thinly sliced rings
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1½ tbsp, fresh ginger grated finely
1 tsp, minced chilli from jar or 1-2 fresh chillis, chopped finely
1 tsp, turmeric
1 tsp, ground cumin
1 tsp, cumin seeds
1 tsp, garam masala
1 tsp, ground coriander
1 tsp, mango powder (optional)
1 tin, chopped tomatoes
2 tbsps, tomato puree
Cup of water
Sea salt
1 cube, vegetable stock
1 tbsp, lemon juice

1. If using dried butter beans – place in a saucepan, cover with plenty of water, add the stock cube and boil gently for 30-40 minutes until the beans are softening but still have a bit of a bite. Drain and set aside

While beans are cooking
2. Preheat the oven to 180C Fan
3. Toss the sweet potatoes and carrots in 3 tablespoons of oil and season with salt
4. Roast in the oven until carmelised but still have a slight bite (about 20-25 minutes)
5. Heat the remaining oil in a saucepan and fry the onion until soft – about 8 minutes
6. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 2 minutes
7. Add the chilli and cook for about a minute
8. Make a well in the onion mix and add the spices
9. Let these cook for a minute and then combine thoroughly and cook for a further 2 minutes
10. Add the tomato puree, tin of chopped tomatoes and lemon juice*
11. Cook for 10 minutes
12. Add the beans and roast vegetables
13. Add the water, if needed
14. Cook for another 5 minutes
15. Serve as it is, with green vegetables or some warm naan breads.

* The lemon juice is important as it cuts through the sweetness of the beans and roast vegetables

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


Bread and Butter Pudding

Aaaaahhhhh! “Womb Food”!

There comes a time in everybody’s week when they forgo the fancy food, healthy options and the spicy dishes and want to climb back into their youth.

Throughout my twenties, I had many moments like this. Surrounded by excellent Indian restaurants, Pizzerias, health food stores and amazing shops, I simply wanted my food to envelope me and make me feel all better after a long day at work.

I took to cooking such culinary delights as Chips, Beans and Sausages only to discover my flatmate eagerly ogling my plate so I cooked even more Chips, Beans and Sausages. Then the flat downstairs heard and they were in line to be fed. Our network of pals heard and people started calling by when I was cooking what affectionately became known as “Womb Food”.

The menu expanded to cope with growing need and visitors. Troughs of homemade Shepard’s Pie (always served with Baked Beans) were devoured by the masses. Piping hot bowls of Macaroni Cheese were also well received. Soft, fresh, batch bread filled with hot sausages (red sauce for the girls, brown sauce for the boys) was a Saturday morning favourite.

As the menu expanded, so too did a number of waist bands. Desserts started making an appearance. There was vanilla ice cream sprinkled with Flake chocolate. Viennetta drowned in shop bought chocolate sauce. Or my homemade Bread and Butter Pudding which I doubt every hit the sides of some people’s mouths, it was devoured so quickly.

When the visitors left, and we felt in need of extra culinary cuddles, myself and the flatmate would curl up in front of our nearly obsolete black and white television, PJs on with steaming hot mugs of Hot Chocolate and Cadbury Flakes to dip in.

The Bread and Butter Pudding was always a big hit. I never got why. I was simply replicating a taste from my youth but everyone said that there was a bit of a twist to it. Must have been the grated lemon rind I sprinkled in between the layers…


Bread and Butter Pudding from Number 29

12-14 slices of white bread (day old is better)
Oodles of soft butter (margarine is a poor substitute!)
4 large eggs
1 pint full fat milk (or can use ¾ pint milk and ¼ cream)
3 ounces sugar
2 ounces good quality sultanas (either use dry or soaked in a little apple juice beforehand)
Grated rind of large lemon

1. Use an oval Pyrex dish about 12 inches by 8 inches
2. Place all ingredients and a damp cloth on the counter beside you because this gets mighty messy!
3. Butter the inside of the dish.
4. Cut the crusts off the bread. Cut the slices into triangles and butter each side
5. Cover the bottom of the dish with these bread triangles
6. Sprinkle with some sultanas and a pinch of lemon rind
7. Add another layer of triangles, sprinkle with more sultanas and lemon rind, etc.
8. On the top layer, arrange the pieces in a nice pattern. Some like to sprinkle sultanas on the top but I think they simply get burnt so I keep all the fruit under cover
9. Now wipe clean your buttery hands in that damp cloth!
10. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and sugar together until the mix is frothy and the sugar dissolved
11. Pour this mixture liberally over the bread to ensure it is fully immersed in the liquid
12. Place in the fridge for about an hour to allow it to absorb. It can be left longer if you want to prepare it in advance
13. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
14. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for about 30 minutes until the top is brown and there is no visible liquid
15. At the 15 minute mark, I sometimes take it out and sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on the top
16. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Daal, Vegetarian

Falling back in love with cooking…

photo (3)

I haven’t been ‘round these parts lately. I could say it was because I had a technical problem with my Blog (true but not the reason). I could say it was because I was swamped with work (true but not the reason). The real truth is – I fell a little out of love with cooking.


I love cooking – reading recipes, designing my own, building up my spice and herb collection in anticipation of a new dish. I am a cooking nerd. While I often listened empathetically to women who say they hate cooking or would happily live on a diet of dried food and vitamin pills, I simply couldn’t get it.


Now I do.


With all the work, planning meals became a burden. I began to resent cooking. It became a necessity rather than an activity. I like to make everything from scratch but those days, reaching for a menu for what we affectionately refer to as ‘The Man with the Van’ became all too tempting. You order, it’s delivered, you eat, you feel guilty – what a pattern! The freezer was stocked and the veg drawer was laden with goodies but the notion of cooking made me feel so ‘meh!’


In the midst of this culinary downturn, I invited the girlies to my home for a long overdue lunch. When I set about thinking of cooking for others, I fell back in love with food all over again. For me, that notion of sharing with others remains at the heart of all my cooking. After seeing cooking as a temporary burden, I am even more appreciative of what motivates me now.


As there was a mix of vegetarians and meat eaters, I opted for Indian food which they all love. I made my list of dishes but the Teen swapped them around! Instead of chicken, she replaced it with a beef curry dish she loves and she added her all time comfort food to the list – Daal. The other dishes were Saag Aloo and Aloo Ghobi. The girlies happily feasted on all the dishes, drank some wine and chatted. Happy days!


The Daal I make is a mix of a number of recipes I’ve tried over the years – keeping the nicest bits from each. The Teen has declared this to be the winner!



1 chilli, deseeded and chopped finely
Handful of ripe cherry tomatoes
1 cup finely chopped red onion
5 ounces split pea lentils, washed
5 ounces red lentils, washed
1 ounce unsalted butter (omit if vegan)
2 tablespoons sunflower oil (increase to 3 tablespoons if omitting the butter)
Piece of ginger (about the size of an adult thumb), peeled and chopped finely
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped finely
1 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
1½ teaspoon ground coriander
Salt and pepper
Cayenne pepper, optional
Fresh coriander, chopped
Natural yoghurt, optional


1. Cover the lentils with water and simmer for 30 minutes with the lid on (may need to add water as they cook)
2. Melt the butter with the oil (or heat only oil) and fry the cumin seeds for about a minute
3. Add onion, chopped chilli and ginger cooking until onion is soft
4. Add the rest of the spices and cook for about a minute
5. Add the chopped tomatoes and garlic
6. Cook this mixture for about 10 minutes
7. Add to the cooked lentils
8. Add salt and pepper
9. If prefer a spicier taste, add a pinch of Cayenne Pepper
10. This can be served immediately with some freshly chopped coriander

We prefer to let it sit for a while so the spices settle in the lentils and then reheat before serving, adding water as necessary

This can be served as a side dish or in a bowl. Or it can be eaten with a dollop of natural yoghurt and a naan bread which is just how I like it!