chilles

LIGHT LENTIL, SPINACH AND POTATO CURRY

LIGHT LENTIL, SPINACH AND POTATO CURRY

You may think having a curry is not a good idea in the summery weather but I could argue that is always summer in India… This recipe is light, no heavy sauce or too much oil like you might get in your takeaway. The main ingredients are some of the favourite among the plant based folk; potatoes and lentils. Both are indeed very filling and satisfying.

Yesterday, we had few friends over for a mezze type eating feast. My Brazilian friend announced she was brining Brazilian potato salad. I didn’t want to rain on her thunder but I needed to let her know that I am also using potatoes. I was making a spiced Indian potato salad… To my delight she swept my worries away with a firm: “You can’t ever have enough potatoes!”

Lentils, unlike beans, are known to be easily cooked even without soaking. That may be a convenient feature but I still recommend soaking all pulses, even the very small red lentils. It takes a bit of planning, but if you know you will be making some delicious lentil curry or soup in the evening just start soaking your lentils in the morning (or indeed the evening before). Beans, I preferably soak for 24 hrs. The soaking degrades phytic acid that minerals in the pulses are bound to, thus soaking them will make the minerals easier to absorb.

Another good idea is to cook your pulses with a piece of kombu seaweed. The kombu softens and you can either munch on it (it is a bit slimy…) or blend it into a sauce or soup. Kombu is traditionally used in Japanese broths to add flavour but when cooked with beans or lentils it increases digestibility and reduces the notorious gassiness… Skimming the foam off the surface will also reduce the gas production later :)

In this recipe I have used lentils verte (Puy), these are not traditionally used in Indian cooking, but I wanted the texture of these European lentils. Indian dals tend to be more mushy and soupy ( and I do love them) but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to experiment a little. French - Indian fusion, this may just catch on...

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LIGHT LENTIL, SPINACH AND POTATO CURRY
serves 4

ingredients
250g dried lentils, I used lentils verte - Puy (or 2 tins of puy lentils) soaked for 12 hrs
1 - 1inch piece of kombu seeweed (optional)
2 tsp coconut oil
10 curry leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp nigella or black mustard seeds
2 tsp coconut oil
1 large red onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, grated or crushed
1 thumb piece of ginger, grated
1 green chilli, finely chopped (optional)
1/2-1tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (or other chilli powder)
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbs tomato puree
3 medium sized tomatoes, chopped and if you wish peeled and deseeded
1 and 1/2 - 2 cups water (this will depend on how juicy your tomatoes are)
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch dice
200g spinach
1tsp garam masala.

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method
  • First cook the lentils with the kombu in plenty of water for 20-30 minutes until they are just tender but still retaining shape. Drain and set aside
  • In a large sauté pan with a lid heat the coconut oil. Add the curry leaves, cumin and mustard (nigella) seeds. Heat till the mustard seeds start to pop and you can smell the aroma of spices. Take care not to burn.
  • Next add the onion and cook till soft and golden.
  • Add the ginger, onion, chopped green chilli (or add it whole with a slit down its side for less heat). Cook for 1 minute before adding the Kashmiri chilli powder and turmeric. Heat the spices for about 30 seconds.
  • Next step is to add tomato puree and chopped tomatoes, cover with a lid and cook gently for about 10 minutes of till the tomatoes start to soften.
  • When the tomatoes are soft and pulpy add 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups of water (can use vegetable stock for even more depth of flavour). Add the potatoes and cook for about 15 minuter or until potatoes are tender.
  • Finally add the lentils and cook very gently for another 10 min to allow the flavours to combine. Towards the end stir through the spinach and garam masala and check for seasoning. Cook briefly just to let the spinach wilt into the curry.
  • Serve with rice, Indian bread and Kachumbar.


Kachumbar recipe:
http://www.plantstrongliving.co.uk/blog_files/3b5e144dc81a7f3dcff107839b220c7c-107.html

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KALE WITH MISO AND CHILLI

KALE WITH MISO AND CHILLI

Recently my IBS went out of control. I was so happy not to have had a flair up since April and here it was with a vengeance. As if this IBS monster stored its evil energy and unleashed it all at once. For over 2 weeks I was in pain, had no appetite and had whole host of other symptoms. A hot bath was my only relief but you can only stay there for so long...

Thanks to Dr Google I could list a number of diseases I probably had. It was as if the rational and the irrational part of my brain were fighting for the spotlight. I was sure that it was IBS but at the same time I have never felt this bad before. It doesn’t help when people tell you: "WOW you lost weight!" I was getting a bit defensive, exclaiming rather firmly: "NO I DID NOT!"

Finally I went to see my GP. The first thing he said? You lost weight! GRRRR. I hopped on the scales and the result? No, I did not loose weight. We decided to run full blood screen. I think he was doing it for the peace of my mind. We ran antibody for coeliac disease too.

I went gluten free, I just need to take control of something. In the meantime (it takes a week for the blood tests to come back) I started to feel better. Finally (and I celebrated this) I started to feel hungry, my stomach was happily growling again. I feel so much better. Not 100% but so much better.

My blood test came back today. Yes, all came back perfectly healthy. No coeliac disease. Nothing out of place. Actually pretty much 99% of everything tested is slap bang in the middle. Even this doesn’t explain this IBS malarky but I do admit I am happy. Oh yeah and for all the plant based diet doubters,
my iron levels are perfect!!! Now I am going to hit the beast with slippery elm, glutamine, probiotics, digestive enzymes....and a clean plant based food of course.

My doctor asked me whether I want to treat it or manage it. I want to manage it, no pills please. Impressed I was when he suggested enteric coated peppermint tablets (that's what my lecturer recommended too!). Adding them to the above list. They apparently work as well as the usually prescribed antispasmodics.

So after several weeks of plain unexciting foods (in minute portions) I am excited about foods again. I can add some spice and imagination to my dinners. I was craving beans, lentils and curries, little bit of spice, but knew my stomach couldn’t cope. All good now. I cooked curry on Monday, and kale with chilli and miso today. It is good to be back!

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KALE WITH MISO AND CHILLI
Serves 4 as a side dish.

ingredients
350g (12oz) curly kale
1tsp of coconut oil or 3Tbs of water
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
2 Tbs yellow miso (I use live miso)
1 Tbs Braggs Liquid Aminos or Tamari

method
  1. First pull the kale leaves of the thick stalks, wash and rip into bite size pieces.
  2. In a large wok heat the coconut oil or water, add the garlic and chilli and saute for 1 min.
  3. Next add the kale leaves and saute for couple minutes.
  4. Add 2 Tbs of water, cover with a lid and cook for about 5 min (or as tender as you like it). Add more water if needed but the kale will release moisture.
  5. In a medium bowl mix the miso and braggs. Add in the kale and stir well.
  6. Serve immediately.

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FIERY BLACK BEANS

FIERY BLACK BEANS

We don’t tend to include beans in the list of superfoods, but they certainly are worthy of the name. I do think the word superfood is misused for marketing and shameless profiteering. Even the health food industry is governed by money and you are more likely to profit from the latest miracle seed or berry from the South American rainforest than something so ordinary as a bean. In my view all vegetables, beans, fruits, grains, nuts and seeds are all superfoods.

Beans offer a great nutritional value for money. Especially if you buy them dried, just as I did to make my fiery black bean recipe. A half a kilo pack of black beans will easily serve 8 people. Black beans are packed with protein and don’t be fooled by being told beans are not a high quality protein, black beans do contain all the essential amino acids. They are a great source of iron and calcium, 2 of the minerals people think you can’t obtain from a vegan diet in adequate amounts (I get tired of hearing this). Beans are also full of fibre, one nutrient most people aren’t getting enough. They are not only cholesterol free but have been shown to help reduce cholesterol, balance blood sugar and even have cancer fighting phytonutrients.

Many people get intimidated by cooking beans from their dried state. Cooking some types of beans can indeed be a bit frustrating. My Achilles heel is cooking dried Egyptian broad beans, I have now given up on them and buy these in a tin. Most beans are however more straight forward. First soak soak soak. Soak the beans over night (not longer than 24hrs) and drain the water. If you forgot to soak your beans it or simply don’t have the time, place the beans in a large pot with about 2- 3 x the volume of water. Bring to a vigorous boil for 10min, turn them off and let the whole thing stand for at least couple of hours. Now you can proceed as you would with the beans that had their long overnight bath. The first method results in more nutritious beans as the soaking makes minerals and vitamins more available.

Cooking times have to been taken lightly, they will vary due to size or freshness of the beans. I go by taste, my personal preference. And I will disagree with the TV chef Gino D’Campo, beans really shouldn’t be al dente, they should be cooked through. Even if this means that some of your beans fall apart during the cooking process. I like to use a piece of kombu seaweed in my beans, this is said to make the beans easier to digest (less flatulence), it also adds to the flavours. Other flavourings I often use are: bay leaf, thyme, parsley, rosemary, onions, leeks, carrots, celery, garlic. These are best fished out and discarded when your beans are finished. Last time I cooked my black beans I searched for the kombu but it had melted into the beans. One way to add iodine to your diet :) In many recipes you can use the cooking liquor (i.e. stews, soups, dips), it is usually full of flavor. I have used my cooking liquor in my fiery black bean recipe below.

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FIERY BLACK BEANS
We had these with some chipotle spiced tomato sauce, guacamole, salad, tomatillo salsa, corn tortillas and even baba ghanouj. You can also just serve them with rice and fruity salsa. Add some stock and a bit of lime juice to any leftovers for a quick fiery soup.

Serves 8

500g (17oz) of dried black beans
piece of kombu seawead (I used 2x 1cm strips cut from a large sheet)
2 bay leaves
1 Tbs rapeseed (canola) oil or 80 ml (1/3 cup water)
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped into small dice
2 cloves garlic, finely choppped
1 red Cayenne chilli pepper (deseed for a less fiery meal), finely chopped
1 chipotle chilli (soaked in boiling water for 30 min), finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp oregano
salt to taste

  1. Soak the beans overnight and drain. (or use quick cook method described above)
  2. Add the beans, kombu, bay leaf and water to cover the beans with 2x volume of water, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and gook gently till beans are soft (about 40-60min).
  3. In a large casserole heat the oil (or water) and add the onion, pepper and garlic. Cook till softened. Add the chillies and cook for further 2 minutes.
  4. Next add all the spices and cook for further minute.
  5. Using a slotted spoon remove the beans from cooking liquor and transfer to the casserole dish. Add about 1 cup of the liquor together with some salt and pepper.
  6. Simmer gently for about 30-60min, add some more of the cooking liquor if the beans start drying out and stick to the bottom of your casserole.
  7. To serve in tortillas make sure all the liquid has cooked out but beans are still moist. If you serving these with rice you want a bit more liquid in your beans that will serve as a sauce.

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