Spicy carrot and red lentil soup

This soup is quite hot and spicy, but you can cut down on the chilli if you wish. The main flavours come from the use of Tunisian Tabil spice mix and from cumin seed. I got the spices from Seasoned Pioneers. There are a few variations that could be used. It could be vegan, you could add a seaweed stock instead of vegetable stock. If you stir in yoghurt, then it is still vegetarian, but not vegan. It is also good with a chicken stock. It also uses a lot of carrots, which is just as well, because I have grown very many. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 600g carrots, grated
  • 150g red lentils
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • a large thumb-sized nodule of ginger, chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp tabil spice blend
  • 2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 -3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp salt

METHOD:

  • Use a large saucepan. Heat the olive oil and cook the onions over a low to medium heat, stirring, until the onions start to turn translucent, around five minutes. 
  • Add the ginger, garlic and spices, stir together and continue to cook for another couple of minutes. 
  • Add the carrots and lentils, mix in well, and then add a litre of stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for around seven minutes
  • Use a soup wand or blender to blitz the soup until it is smooth. 

We served this with bread and yoghurt. 

Spaghetti with courgettes

This year has been a bit slow for growing vegetables, the lack of sun has not helped at all. I have now got a lot of carrots, some broad beans, we’ve had a couple of crops of mange tout peas as well. I headed up to Tagsa Community Gardens to get some chard to cook with the beans, and ended up coming away with a couple of delicious courgettes. 

I made this recipe from ‘Dear Francesca‘, a book of Italian recipes, along with stories of the family that runs Valvona and Crolla. They used double these quantities; this made a good meal for the two of us. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2-3 courgettes
  • 3 tbsp good olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • a sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 180g spaghetti or similar pasta
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Put a large pan of salted water on to boil, and then cook the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the courgettes.
  • Clean the courgettes, trip off the top and tail, and grate with a coarse grater
  • Warm the olive oil, and add the garlic, fry it gently until it just starts to colour brown, and then add  the courgettes. Turn the heat up a little and stir, cooking until the courgettes are beginning to brown a little at the edges. Add the rosemary and season with salt, and then cover, and turn the heat off. 
  • Drain the cooked pasta, and add to the frying pan with the courgettes, toss and mix everything together, and serve with black pepper. 

Mushroom and pea curry

The pea season is coming. The mange tout are already ready, and some of the peas are podding up nicely. I did a massive pick-through of the peas at Tagsa Horticulture, and made this curry based on one in ‘Curry Easy’ by Madhur Jaffrey

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped finely
  • half a can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 punnets of chestnut mushrooms, around 400 to 500g, chopped into chunks.
  • 300g peas, could be frozen, or mange tout, freshly picked and halved

METHOD:

  • Combine the dry spices in a bowl and add around 1 1/2 tbsp water to make a paste
  • Pour the oil into a medium pan, and heat to medium hot. Add the onion and start to stir and fry, until the onion is becoming a little browned at the edges. 
  • Add the spice paste, cook for a minute and then add the tomato, mixing and stirring. 
  • After about five minutes, when the tomato is hot and beginning to cook down, add 450ml boiling water and the salt. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes
  • Add the chunks of mushroom, bring back to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. 
  • Add the peas, bring back to a simmer and cook for a further 5 minutes. 

This was best served warm, rather than hot, with a flat bread such as a nan. 

Chinese potato stew

This is a delicious vegetarian stew, it reheats well, and is very forgiving with variations on the vegetables. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 slices of fresh ginger, peeled and crushed
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 4cm cubes
  • 1 pack of green beans, sliced into 4cm lengths
  • 2 carrots, cut into 4cm batons
  • 1 punnet of mushrooms, cut into 4cm chunks (or whole if you picked the right size at the shop)
  • 4 tbsp dark soy sauce (Chinese Soy Sauce)
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp dry sherry or shaohsing wine

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan, medium to high heat, and when it is hot, add the ginger and garlic, fry for around 15 seconds. 
  • Add the potatoes, beans and carrots, and stir for another minute.
  • Add the mushrooms, and fry for another minute.
  • Add around 500m boiling water, the soy sauce, sugar and wine, and bring back to the boil. Cover, turn the heat down low and simmer for around twenty minutes. 
  • Remove the cover and turn the heat up, boiling the sauce down, stirring gently as you go. You are aiming to get down to a thick gravy-like sauce which coats the vegetables. 
  • If you want to prep ahead and reheat for after work, leave a little more sauce, so that this boils down as you reheat it. 

Celery and bean soup

Delicious, cheap, easy, vegan, quick, filling. Not much more to say. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 small onions
  • 1 head of celery
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Olive oil for serving (best quality that you can get)
  • 1 400g borlotti beans, drained (this can be substituted, but I love borlotti beans)
  • 1 litre stock
  • salt and black pepper, freshly ground

METHOD:

  • Chop the onions and celery, and fry in olive oil in a large pan over a low heat, until soft; don’t brown the vegetables
  • Add the other ingredients, bring to the boil, and then cover to simmer for 20 minutes
  • Season, and roughly blend with a soup wand. Add a little water if the soup is too thick. 

Serve with a swirl of posh olive oil to each bowl, and a slice of brown bread on the side. 

Caribbean roasted vegetable curry

There are lots of delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes on Original Flava, introduced to me by my daughter’s mother-in-law. Some of the ingredients used are not readily available locally, but there are some substitutions and good options still. I have ordered some scotch bonnet paste online, and for the rest, I’ve stuck to recipes that I can adapt to local ingredients. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 200g butternut squash, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 200g sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 200g small potatoes, with the skin on
  • Olive oil
  • 2 onions (preferably one red onion, one white onion)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • A 2cm piece of ginger root, peeled and chopped
  • 3 spring onions
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp curry powder (you can buy West Indian curry powder online at Seasoned Pioneers
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 100ml coconut milk
  • 100ml vegetable stock
  • A good handful of spinach or homegrown Japanese kale
  • 1/4 tsp scotch bonnet paste
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Heat the oven to 180C
  • Cut the vegetables to 3 cm chunks. You don’t need to peel anything, but I’m not a fan of butternut squash rind. Onion squash rind is softer and is a good alternative. Put the vegetables onto a baking tray, and add about 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for at least 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. 
  • Heat another tbsp oil in a pan, and gently fry the onions, garlic, ginger, spring onions and chopped tomatoes until they are soft.
  • Add a pinch of salt, 2 tsp ground black pepper, curry powder and paprika. Mix together and cook for a minute, and then stir in the coconut milk so that you have a thick paste. 
  • Take the roasted vegetables, and add these to the pan, along with the stock, thyme, spinach and scotch bonnet. Bring to a simmer, check for seasoning, and then keep simmering until the spinach is cooked. 

 

Ital rundown – Hebridean style

I’ve been given a book on Caribbean cookery, full of ideas and new ingredients. The limitation is on which ones I can purchase locally – not a lot of cho-cho or okra or scotch bonnet peppers. I tried this recipe, leaving out the cho-cho, and using some fresh garden kale, and it was really good, tasty and filling. This makes a lot of vegetable stew, to be served with rice, or perhaps alongside a chicken dish, or on its own. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp scotch bonnet pepper sauce or 1 scotch bonnet pepper (available online) (or use red chillies from the co-op – use a lot; this is meant to be very spicy)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger root, peeled and chopped, or half a teaspoonful of dried ginger
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 large corn cob, chopped into 5 segments 
  • 200ml marigold stock
  • 3 bell peppers, mixed colours, sliced
  • 100g Japanese kale, or spinach
  • 200ml coconut milk (half a can)

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a large casserole pan, and fry the onions and garlic, until softening. 
  • Add the scotch bonnet sauce, black pepper, thyme, ginger, all-spice, turmeric, and stir in, before adding the sweet potato, squash, corn and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. 
  • Add the kale, peppers and coconut milk, adjust seasoning. Simmer for another five minutes or so until the kale is cooked. 

This is a very filling, hearty stew, brightening up a winter’s evening. 

Courgette and Tomato Gratin

Although the ingredients for this recipe appear simple, it requires careful cooking to get it right. If you do not cook the ingredients down properly, it can be slightly bitter and watery. Done well, it is amazing, more than the sum of its parts.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 70g butter
  • 800-900g courgettes
  • 1 tin organic chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • Wholemeal breadcrumbs

METHOD:

  • Use a peeler to peel the courgettes lengthwise. Do not peel completely, leaving a few strips of the green skin. Then slice them into thin rounds about half a centimetre thick.
  • Put the sliced courgettes in a colander and salt them, and leave them to drain for at least half an hour. Put a plate on top of them to press them down.
  • Put the chopped tomatoes, 10g of butter, chopped parsley and the garlic in a medium pan with salt and pepper and simmer very slowly to make a very thick paste.
  • In the meantime, put the sliced courgettes onto a tea-towel and mop up all the surface water, getting them as dry as possible.
  • Cook about half of the sliced courgettes in 20g of the butter. Start by gently melting the butter; do not let it colour brown. Add the courgettes and cook on a low heat until they are transparent. Repeat for the rest of the courgettes and another third of the butter. Doing them in two separate batches allows you to cook all of the courgettes properly.
  • Amalgamate the tomatoes and the courgettes, and put the mixture into an oven ready dish. Smooth down the top and strew with breadcrumbs, just a light layer. Dab a little more butter over the surface. Put the dish in the top of a hot oven (around 190C) for 25 minutes and serve very hot when the surface is a deep golden brown.

This would be a good accompaniment for pork or lamb, or served as a light meal with a baked potato .

Spicy fried potatoes

I think of these as tiny square spicy chips – they should be crispy and flavoursome. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • Around 700g potatoes, diced to around 1cm cubes
  • 5 tbsp veg oil, such as rapeseed or sunflower oil
  • 1/8th tsp asafoetida
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli powder, such as Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat, and add the asafoetida, mustard seeds and cumin seeds, and let them sizzle for a minute, so that the mustard seeds pop. 
  • Add the potatoes, stir and sprinkle in the turmeric. 
  • When the potatoes start to brown, add the coriander, cumin, chilli and salt and turn the heat up to hot. Fry for another couple of minutes so the potatoes are crispy on the outside. 

A great side-dish, or serve with a fried egg on top. 

Carrots with dill and hot green chillies

I must have first tried this recipe in the 1980s, it is hand-written in an old jotter that I used to copy out some recipes clipped from newspapers. I remember collecting recipes from the Sunday Times; they ran a series by Madhur Jaffrey about regional recipes around the Indian subcontinent. 

I have some very large carrots still to harvest this year. I grew a yellow variety that has a very firm flesh ideal for adding to stews, and for this dish. There’ll be more carrot-based dishes to come. Most spices are available in local shops. I bought some of them from Seasoned Pioneers, who retail spices online. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500g carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cm ginger root (or 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/8 tsp asafoetida
  • 2 hot green chillies
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 20g chopped dill leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt

METHOD:

  • Peel and slice the carrots, peel and finely chop the ginger
  • Heat the oil in a karhai or wok over a medium heat. When it is hot, add in sequence the cumin seeds, asafoetida, ginger and whole chillies, stirring between each addition. 
  • As the ginger begins to brown, add the sliced carrots, coriander and turmeric. Stir and fry for a couple of minutes
  • Add the dill and salt, turn the heat to low and cover with a lid. Cook for another couple of minutes, until the carrots are cooked. 
  • Remove the carrots from the oil and drain away most of the oil. 

This is delicious as a side dish, with rice and a range of other curries. Last night I was just on my own so I had it with a little bit of nan and yoghurt.