Vegan, Vegetarian

Khoresh Bademjan (vegan)

Trying out new recipes was not top of my list during recent months. Work and keeping us all sane was the priority. Yesterday, while sporting my ‘Lockdown Grey’ hair, I decided to make something new. To draw from the selection of spices I have but not produce another dish with chili or curry as the dominant taste.

2While I haven’t that much knowledge of it, I have really enjoyed the Persian food I have had. I decided to put together a vegan version of Khoresh Bademjan. I substituted yellow split peas for the meat and it turned out quite delicious. I served it with plain Basmati rice but it would be equally nice served simply with flat breads.

My stash of Sumac was gone (now there’s something I never thought I would run out of!) so I used orange and lemon instead. It worked well and there are lovely citrus-y, garlic-y, flavours to this dish.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
1lb aubergines, chopped into bite size pieces
Olive oil
Table salt
2 medium sized onions, chopped finely
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped finely (adjusted according to taste)
1 medium sized orange
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Saffron threads soaked in 3 tsp water
1 cup dried split yellow peas, rinsed with cold water
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato puree
Sea salt and ground black pepper to season

Method
1. Place chopped aubergines in a colander and sprinkle liberally with table salt
2. Leave aside for 20-30 minutes
3. Zest and juice the orange. Place the zest in the juice and set aside
4. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C
5. Rinse the salt off the aubergines and dry the pieces
6. Place on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes
7. While the aubergines are roasting, heat about three tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy pan
8. Add the onions, cover and cook gently for 6-8 minutes until soft
9. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes
10. Add the cumin, paprika and cinnamon, cook for 1-2 minutes
11. Add the lemon and orange juices (including the orange zest) and combine with the onion mix
12. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, saffron (with water), the yellow split peas and a good grind of black pepper
13. Simmer for 10 minutes
14. Add the roasted aubergines and simmer gently for 30 minutes (stir occasionally and gently so that the aubergines stay in pieces)
15. Add salt to taste
16. Serve with plain Basmati rice or flat breads

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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!

Ingredients
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

Method
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

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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

Ingredients
Paste
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

Sauce
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

Vegetables
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)

Method
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

 

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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

Ingredients
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

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Cooking for the Unreasonable, Uncategorized

Cooking for the Unreasonable

“But you’re going on holiday the next day?” came the response when I said having people over to eat was simply impossible. I work full-time and yet, this couple insist on inviting themselves to dinner. I explain that I am simply too stressed and busy getting ready to leave but they are having none of it. “Ah sure, don’t you have to eat anyway…” There’s no arguing with that (even though we would ring for a take-away if simply left alone). In the end, I cave only to hear “Now you better impress us with this dinner.”

I have to admit that when I heard those words, I wanted to use my limited knife skills for something other than culinary pursuits. So in between packing, cancelling the milk order, newspaper order, washing floors, emptying the fridge, dealing with bin juice, giving keys to neighbours, ironing…I pick a menu and buy food. I need something which takes little preparation, reduces washing up and the leftovers can be frozen. With that, I prepare a pot of chilli which can bubble away while I get on with other tasks at hand. I throw – and I mean t-h-r-o-w – together a Pavlova as I don’t have to watch it and there is rarely any leftovers from that.

And so, they arrive. I transfer chilli, rice, cheese, sour cream into bowls, plonk them down on the table and encourage everyone to dig in. Disappointed faces. “It’s a bit casual…” says she. “I’m not mad about chilli myself…” says he, lip curled as he pushes kidney beans out of the sauce and over to the side of his plate. “Oh and Pavlova…that will see my allergies flare up,” she adds. And then they laugh “Next time, we’ll order in advance” as they proceed to hoover up every morsel of food that is in their vicinity. They guzzle cold beers I offer on top of a couple of bottles of wine. Their contribution to the evening? Their charming wit and repartee… Despite subtle reminders that we need to finish packing and get to the airport by 6am, they won’t be budged. Eventually, as the witching hour approaches, the two waddle off down the drive, mumbling ‘thanks’ and whispering about how grumpy I am…

‘Never again’, I grumble as I finish the final preparations for our trip.

Until the next year. And bang on cue, we are heading off on holidays and the two pipe up to say they are coming to dinner. I repeatedly say ‘No’, ‘It’s not suitable’, ‘Not this year’ but they are heading in our direction. This year, I make even less effort. I roast a chicken, stuffed with lemon wedges, garlic with butter and sea salt spread on the top. I pop in a tray of vegetables to roast. And to make a point that time is precious, I buy a Viennetta ice cream and a container of cheap, commercial, chocolate sauce. The teen is horrified but I figure, if this doesn’t give the hint that time is limited, nothing will.

And so they plonk themselves down at the table and start to graze. The chicken arrives out, crispy and delicious. The vegetables the same and while they complain that there is no gravy, they work like termites through the fare. I take the ice cream block out of the box, in front of them for full affect, and instead of utter disgust, they gasp with childish delight, exclaiming ‘How retro!’ ‘How kitsch!’ They help themselves to big wedges, much to the teen’s annoyance who is left with only a sliver, and happily drown the dessert in chocolate sauce. I watch aghast as they shovel it in, piece after piece, without sparing a thought for anyone else at the table.

They leave at midnight, delighted with themselves. “Best dinner ever”, they declare before waving back a reminder that they’ll see us next year.

A year passes. Pointing out how unsuitable having people for dinner the evening before holidays has fallen on deaf ears. Time for a change of track. Slyly, I book holidays a week early and true to form, the phone rings – same date, same time. But this year an unexpected response. “No, we’re not going on holiday,” I tell them a whopper of a white lie. Stunned silence greets the news. I fumble through the idea of us coming over to them in a week or so and listen as she hastens her retreat from the conversation rather than issue an invitation.

Sigh of relief and a smile to the teen as I relax in the taxi on the way to the airport. I think God will forgive me that little fib…just this once!

 

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