curry

MADRAS PUMPKIN AND LENTIL SOUP



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MADRAS PUMPKIN AND LENTIL SOUP

When creating food plans for my clients I find myself repeating : Batch cook soups, add beans and lentils for protein, freeze them, take to work for lunch. It has become a mantra.
I think that soups should be the first thing a person learns to cook. They are incredibly easy, versatile and practical, especially since they keep, freeze and reheat very well. They are an easy way to get a variety of vegetables into those who don’t like eating many (pesky children…).

The most difficult process about this soups is cutting up the pumpkin, I don’t particularly enjoy cutting through the hard skin of the squash. Even my large chef’s knife seems to get stuck inside the cut. Sometimes I feel that hammer and chisel would be a much better tool than a knife. However after struggling through the first cut things get easier. Of course you can make your job even easier and use a butter nut squash. (Or as I often do enlist the help of another person, usually my husband)

Finding a good curry powder is essential for this soups flavour. I tend to get mine from an Indian supermarket or use Steenbergs organic blends. Spice blends sold in supermarkets tend to have rather strange things added - milk powder???!!! Noooo! Yes, if you don’t want any dairy in your diet you have to check curry powders too. Madness! Some of the commercial curry blends tend to have funny aftertaste that just spoils the taste of the finished dish.

You can blend to soup but I do like a bit of a texture - I do get bored with the sameness of a large bowl of blended soup at times. This soup lends itself for a variety of toppings, coriander leaves, lime wedges, sliced chillies, sourdough croutons, coriander and mint chutney… I like to eat mine with fresh chopped coriander and a big squeeze of lime. And of course this soups is ideal for freezing!

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MADRAS PUMPKIN AND LENTIL SOUP
Serves 4-6

ingredients
1 kaboocha or sweet mamma squash
2 tsp coconut oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped (or grated with microplane grater)
3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1 tbs madras spice mix (I used Steenbergs organic madras blend)
1/2 cup red lentils
6 cups vegetables stock
1 tin of coconut milk
lime
fresh coriander

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method
  • Using a heavy chef’s knife cut the pumpkin into wedges, remove the stringy inside with seeds.
  • Place onto a baking tray and bake at 200C for 30-40min till pumpkin flesh is soft and caramelised. Set aside and let cool.
  • When cool enough to handle remove the flesh from the skin (by the way the skin is edible too, use if you are planning to blend the soup smooth).
  • Heat the coconut oil in a large stock pot (this makes a big batch of soup) and add the onion. Saute till softened before adding the ginger and garlic and cook for another minutes stirring constantly taking care not to burn the ginger and garlic.
  • Add your curry spice and cook briefly for about 30 seconds.
  • Next add the pumpkin flesh, red lentils, 6 cups of vegetable stock and 1 tin of coconut milk.
  • Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat and cook for 30minuted until the soup is thick and lentils are cooked tender (falling apart into the soup).
  • I like to take a potato masher and mash any large pieces of pumpkin into the soup.
  • Add lime juice to taste and garnish with coriander leaves or any other toppings as suggested above.
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CHICKPEA AND COCONUT CURRY

CHICKPEA AND COCONUT CURRY

If you have never cooked your own chickpeas you simply have to. Yes, you need to plan and yes, they can take 60-90 min to cook but it is so worth it. My reasons for doing this:
  • The taste is far superior. Hummus from home cooked chickpeas is so much tastier than one made from tinned ones.
  • They are more digestible (tinned ones are not soaked properly and are more likely to cause digestive issues - i.e. excessive flatulence and bloating)
  • The cost! You will end up with about 4-5 tins worth of chickpeas from dry

How I do it:
  • Soak your chickpeas for 12-24hrs, the soaking not only reduces the cooking time but it reduces they phytic acid in chickpeas. This has a knock on effect in increasing the mineral absorption from your chickpeas. (this applies for all legumes )
  • Drain the water, put the chickpeas into a large stock pot with large amount of water, about 4x the volume.
  • Add couple inches of kombu seaweed, this is meant to further reduce the gas-producing properties of the legumes. Kombu is used in stock making in Japan and will add to the flavour of the cooking liqour and the chickpeas. I also add an onion (left whole as it is easier to remove) and couple of bay leaves. You can also add other herbs and vegetables like carrots and celery.
  • Bring to a boil and cook for 60min, check and cook longer if the chickpeas are not tender. Generally anywhere from 60-90min should do, the cooking time does depend on the age of the chickpeas.
  • Helpful tip: If you want to freeze the chickpeas freeze them in the liquor.

I always cook 500g pack of chickpeas all at one. I generally use a portion for soup or curry, and make hummus with the rest. You can easily make 3 dishes with this amount of chickpeas. This is one of my favourites; chickpea and coconut curry. I love it as a part of a larger Indian meal, next to a saucy creamy curry. It is also great for a midweek meal with an indian flat bread topped with soya or coconut yoghurt and mango chutney and Kuchumbar on the side for freshness.


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CHICKPEA AND COCONUT CURRY

Serves 4

2 tsp coconut oil
15 curry leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 chilli, finely chopped
1 inch piece of ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
3 cups of cooked chickpeas
3/4 cup (or more if needed) water
salt and pepper to taste
200g (half pound) of spinach
3 tablespoons unsweetened desiccated coconut

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  • In a large lidded sauté pan heat the olive oil and add the curry leaves and spices, let cook for about 1 minute or until the spices begin to pop. Take care not to burn the spices.
  • Next add the onion and cook till softened and golden brown.
  • Add the ginger, garlic and chilli. Cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute (when ginger is not cooked enough the whole curry can have a bitter undertone). Add the turmeric and cook further 30seconds.
  • Add in the tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes or till they soften.
  • Add the chickpeas, coat well in the spices and flavours.
  • Pour in the water, add salt and pepper, put the lid on and simmer for 30 minutes. Cook till most of the sauce has evaporated.
  • Next add in the spinach and let it wilt into the chickpeas.
  • Sprinkle in the coconut, stir it through and serve garnished with some fresh coriander.

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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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CURRIED ROOT VEGETABLE SOUP WITH COCONUT

CURRIED ROOT VEGETABLE SOUP WITH COCONUT

A recent study has reported that in 2012 the average price of more healthy foods was about three times higher – £7.49 for 1,000kcal compared to £2.50 for 1,000kcal of less healthy foods.
http://www.nhs.uk/news/2014/10October/Pages/Healthy-food-costs-you-more-claim.aspx

As the article pointed out this calorie comparison is controversial since healthy foods tend to be less calorie dense. Basing this research on calories only is very misleading. You would need to buy approximately 30 cucumbers to achieve 1000 calories whereas it only takes one packet (20 biscuits ) of ginger nut biscuits to do the same. Keeping this “logic” in mind, 1000 calories of cucumbers, 30 whole cucumbers (in today’s Tesco prices) would be £14.70. A packet of Tesco ginger nut biscuits cost a mere £ 0.39! This comparison doesn’t make a lot of sense. I bet if we compare a homemade lentil vegetable soup with ready made meals for 4, the soup would come on top.


Healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive. If you cut out the rubbish, look for seasonal produce and are prepared to improvise you can eat well on a budget. Recently I have noticed a lot of fruit and veg shops popping up, there is one called 5 a day not far from my house. Last week I drove by another advertising a bowl of produce for just one pound. These shops may not stock organic produce but any fruit and veg is better than none. I also love to get large bags of pulses or brown rice from Sweet Mart, a local ethnic food shop. Their herbs come in huge bunches and are much cheeper than supermarket ones. Their spices are also a bargain and make anything taste extraordinary.

I believe the problem is not the price, but the lack of cooking knowledge. So many people don’t know what to do with fresh produce (and many can’t be bothered). Any produce can be made into soups, stews, stir-fries, salads, veggie burgers. The wonderful Jack Monroe has proven just that in her successful blog A Girl Called Jack. Her blog is full of healthy recipes she creates for herself and her little boy for mere £10 a week.

My delicious soup comes to roughly £3.50, this includes a pack of curry spice mix and bunch of coriander, the latter can be omitted saving further £.74p. I buy my curry mixes at my favourite ethnic supermarket, the spice mixes are made in house and their taste is miles ahead of those sold in supermarkets. A sizeable bag (about 3 x supermarket pots worth) costs less than £80p. This is what I call a true bargain. I did find cheaper tinned carrot and parsnip soup (£2.30 for 2 tins ) in a super market but it had dairy and wheat flour and stabilisers added. And honestly can you really fill up 4 people with 2 tins of soup? You would probably need that pack of ginger nut biscuits for afters :)

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CURRIED ROOT VEGETABLE SOUP WITH COCONUT

ingredients
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 inch ginger, finely chopped
1 tbs curry powder mix (I used Bombay mix)
2 carrots, chopped
2 parsnips, chopped
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2-3 cups vegetable stock
1 tin coconut milk
lime juice to taste
fresh coriander, chopped

method
  • In 1/2 cup water (or vegetable stock) sauté the onion, garlic and ginger till soften.
  • When water has evaporated add the spices and stirring constantly cook for 30seconds.
  • Next add the vegetables, stock and coconut milk. Cook gently for 20-30min till the vegetables are tender.
  • Puree the soup in a blender (or with a stick blender) till smooth.
  • Add lime juice to taste and add coriander as a garnish.

Cooking up hot steamy soup
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ASIAN NOODLE SALAD WITH PEANUT DRESSING

ASIAN NOODLE SALAD WITH PEANUT DRESSING

We have been experiencing an incredible heatwave. I don’t think I have ever managed to wear all my summer clothes in one season in the UK. Don’t get me wrong we do get lovely weather here it but it just never seems to last very long.

Last week the intense heat made it very hard to revise for my college exam, I felt like falling asleep every time I picked up my study materials. I must say it is a relief that this college year is now behind me. At the same time I can’t wait to start my final one in September.

This week it has been lovely to have some study free time, my last three days have been spent catching up with housework (like the massive pile of ironing - I think my son has a t-shirt disorder!!!), friends (my lush 4 hour breakfast yesterday morning) and my son"s activities to mark his last year of junior school.

Two nights in a row my son’s year put on a production of The Pirated of Curry Bean so I had to make sure he had some food ready for a quick after school meal before I had to take him back to school to perform the role of a naughty monkey from the island of Lumbago (in the sea of Sciatica...). I am not quite sure how he survived wearing his monkey costume (a thick fleece hoody) in this heat!

Chatting with my friend over our rather long breakfast yesterday, she suggested making pasta salad for last nights dinner. Of course I had to put a bit of a spin on the theme and came up with the recipe below. It’s filling but light, and provides plenty of energy for any performer. My monkey had two bowls before his show and another when we got back home. Success! I think this could become a staple as it is perfect for lunch boxes, picnics or as a part of a cold buffet.

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ASIAN NOODLE SALAD WITH PEANUT DRESSING


Serves 4-6

ingredients
200g Asian noodles (rice, buckwheat, wheat...just not udon)
1 and 1/2 cups (or a punnet) sugar snap peas
2 medium carrots
1/2 cucumber
6 larger radishes
4-6 spring onions (depends on their size)
2 tsp sesame oil (optional)
juice of 1 lime
1/2 inch of ginger, chopped
3/4 cup organic smooth peanut butter
2-3 tsp vegan red curry paste
1/2 cup drinking coconut (or another dairy free) milk
2 tsp Bragg liquid aminos, tamari or shoyu
2 tbs black sesame seeds
fresh coriander to taste

method
  1. First cook your noodles according to packet instructions. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
  2. Steam the sugar snap peas for about 2 min until crisp tender, cool them down in a bowl of iced water or under a cold running tap.
  3. Coarsely grate the carrots and put them into a large (very large) bowl.
  4. Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, using a teaspoon scoop out the seeds and slice into lovely half moons.
  5. Halve the radishes (if large) and slice.
  6. Slice the spring onions on the diagonal.
  7. Add the cucumber, radishes, sugar snap peas and spring onions to the carrots.
  8. Add in the noodles and 2 tsp of sesame oil if using.
  9. Put the lime juice, chopped ginger, red curry paste, peanut butter, coconut milk and Bragg Liquid Aminos into a blender and process till smooth.
  10. Pour over the noodles, add the sesame seeds and mix well. Your hands are the best tool for this.
  11. Add the coriander just before serving.


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CURRY LAKSA WITH BABY AUBERGINES AND TOFU

CURRY LAKSA WITH BABY AUBERGINES AND TOFU

Today I met up with friends for lunch. They chose Wagamama, a pan Asian noodle place. I have eaten there a few times so had no worries.

First the waiter forgot my miso soup and pickles, he just brought my main dish straight away. I started to eat it and after getting through about a third I discovered an alien (to me) food. OK I admit I first thought this was an oyster mushroom but at a closer look I recognized from my distant memory this was indeed a good sized piece of chicken.

I returned the dish, expressing my disgust. They apologised and quickly made a new portion of my noodles. They also finally brought my (luke warm) miso soup and even offered a free dessert. I ended up paying only for my fresh blueberry apple and ginger juice. Still I felt disappointed.

Everybody makes mistakes we are only humans. However if this was a peanut in a dish of somebody who has severe nut allergy or some breadcrumbs in a coeliacs dinner we would call it serious. This could be a life and death situation. Of course I won’t suffer an anaphylactic shock should I put this piece of chicken in my mouth. I just like to receive what I ordered, I have a reason (actually reasons) why I am a veggie and I would like eateries to be more respectful. Not so long ago at Yo Sushi I saw a piece of breaded tofu being sliced on the same chopping board with the same knife as the breaded chicken. Is it carelessness or ignorance? Attention to detail makes a big difference.

no chicken in these noodles :)
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CURRY LAKSA WITH BABY AUBERGINES AND TOFU
This is my take on laksa. It is a lot thicker than laksa should be, but that can be remedied by adding a bit more water. Thicker sauce makes it very comforting and thats how I like it.

I was cautious and added just one chilli pepper but regretted it later, it could have done with at least 2. Of course it depends on the type of chillies you have and your "heat resistance".

serves 4

laksa paste
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ingredients:
paste
1/2cup macadamia nuts
2 stalks of lemongrass, outer leaves peeled, coarsely chopped
1-3 red chillies, coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, coarsely cut
1 bunch of coriander (about 2 cups)
1 inch of fresh turmeric root (or 1 tsp dried turmeric), peeled and sliced
1 inch ginger rood or galangal, peeled and sliced
2 large banana shallots

16-20 baby aubergines
1 1/2 tbs rapeseed or coconut oil
250g (9-100z) firm tofu, cut into bite size pieces
1 tin coconut milk
500ml (2 cups) of water
1 Tbs tamari
1 tsp coconut nectar sugar
10 kafir lime leaves
1-2 limes
fresh coriander for garnish
1 red chilli
250g (9oz) rice noodles,medium thickness.

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  1. First make the paste. Place all the ingredients into a blender or a food processor. Blend to a coarse paste. You will have to stop and scrape the sides few times. Set aside.
  2. Cut of the stalks of the baby aubergines, halve them and place into a roasting dish. Add 1 tbs of oil and mix well. If using coconut oil you should melt it first. Roast the aubergine in a 200C oven for 20 minutes.
  3. In a large wok heat the remaining 1/2tbs of oil. Add all the paste and cook gently for 2 minutes.
  4. Next add the coconut milk, water, tamari sauce, coconut sugar, kafir lime leaves and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile prepare the noodles. Soak them in just boiled water for 10minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  6. Next add the roasted aubergines, and tofu into the wok. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  7. Add the rice noodles into the wok and let just heat through.
  8. Add lime juice and salt to taste.
  9. Serve topped with coriander and sliced chillies and some lime wedges.

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FIERY PARSNIP CURRY

FIERY PARSNIP CURRY

Parsnips. I have to admit I have not tasted a parsnip before moving to the UK. It is not a vegetable you find on the Czech table. I do admit there are many vegetables I would rather eat than parsnips. I don’t hate them but they do not excite me very much. If you put and aubergine and parsnip in front of me I know which one I would choose.

This is where my vegetable box comes to its force, I don’t get much of a choice what is delivered. And as I like to eat seasonally I do have to give even parsnips a chance. They sure deserve it, these roots are rich in fibre, Vitamin C, folate, vitamin B6 and B1, they do contain good amounts of minerals such as iron, calcium, copper, potassium, manganese and phosphorus. This sure make parsnips much more interesting.

What is the best way to cook them? I love them roasted (see I said love!!!), with spices and some maple syrup. This definitely brings out their natural sweetness. I am not keen on a parsnip mash, but a soup can be delicious, especially with plenty of warming curry spices thrown in.

Last time we found ourselves in Sweet Mart supermarket we decided to buy some gorgeous Indian savoury snacks. My husband bought a portion of fiery parsnips, not something I was drawn to. I made an aubergine curry that night and we had the parsnips on the side. Beyond all expectations I must admit we were hooked instantly, the tender sweet parsnips went so well with the heat of the chili and the acidity of the tomatoes. Delicious!

No surprise that as soon as I found myself with a few parsnips, I had to try to recreate this amazing dish. I only had a Scotch Bonnet pepper in the fridge which is not a typical Indian ingredient. It worked really well, lending the dish not only its fiery heat but also its lovely fruity flavour. My husband called it a close match. When he had the leftovers next day he than admitted it was a
very close match. Rested for a day and being gently reheated the sauce got even better, stickier and more intense. Parsnips have never tasted this good!

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FIERY PARSNIP CURRY

Serves 4

ingredients
1 Tbs rapeseed (canola oil)
1 tsp nigella (kalonji) seed
15 curry leaves
1 onion, sliced
1 inch ginger, grated
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 Scotch bonnet (Habanero chilli), left whole and slit with a knife. (chop up finely for an extra spicy curry)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
5 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into chunky batons
375 ml water
fresh coriander

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method
  1. In a large saute pan heat the oil. Add the nigella seeds and curry leaves. Wait for the seeds to start popping. Take care not to burn them.
  2. Add the onions and cook them on medium heat till they are soft and brown.
  3. Next add the ginger, garlic and the Scotch Bonnet pepper. Cook for a minute.
  4. Add the spices, cook for about 30seconds.
  5. Next add the tomatoes, cover and cook for about 5min.
  6. While the tomatoes are cooking prepare the parsnips.
  7. Add the parsnips to the tomato together with water.
  8. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down. Cook gently for about 30min until the sauce it reduced and parsnips are very tender.
  9. Uncover the dish and turn up the heat for about 5 min. You should end up with a very reduced, sticky sauce.
  10. Serve with some fresh coriander and rice. Yum!

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CAULIFLOWER, SWEETCORN AND POTATO CURRY

CAULIFLOWER, SWEETCORN AND POTATO CURRY

It is freezing outside, snow is on the way according to the forecast. An actual weather warning has been issued for our area. I do hope for quite a thick blanket of snow for the kids and dogs to play in, enough to build a substantial snowman and maybe get the sledge out. We have to grab every opportunity here in England, the snow rarely last more than 2 days.

There is nothing better than a bowl of steaming hot soup, stew or indeed a curry after playing in the snow. I may just make this one again. I got the idea of pairing up cauliflower with sweetcorn from Madhur Jaffrey, the queen of Indian cookery. Aloo gobi (cauliflower and potato) is one of my favourite traditional Indian combinations. Spuds had to go into my new creation too. Tomatoes, spices... and a new curry is born!

Speaking of aloo gobi, I found another great variation on the theme, an aloo gobi ball, that I bought in my favourite veggie supermarket Wild Oats. It was delicious but rather fiery, causing me to hiccup during the whole car journey home. We have since renamed it to Burn Your Gobi Ball.

My son is getting into his curries, but doesn’t quite enjoy too much heat hence leaving the green chilli whole, that way you get the flavour without too much heat. Feel free to chop it up or indeed add another one if you like it even hotter! Do search for fresh or frozen curry leaves, I buy them fresh from my other favourite shop Sweet Mart and keep them it the freezer. Cook them from frozen, nice and easy.

A lot of my recipes are oil free, but I have yet to take the plunge with curries. However in comparison with traditional Indian cooking I use far less oil. You get a great result with just half a tablespoon. I think that hitting the whole spices and leaves with hot oil creates amazing flavour base for you curry. I use rapeseed oil but I am sure coconut oil would be great too if that is your preferred medium for frying.

Keep an eye on the cauliflower, it shouldn’t fall apart but needs to be tender. Melt in your mouth potatoes are an imperative too. If you prefer you can add the tomatoes in the last few minutes of cooking to get a fresher tomato taste, I like them cooked well. Enjoy with rice or an Indian flat bread and top with some fresh coriander if you happen to have some in the fridge. Leftovers are great heated up in a tortilla - quesadilla style!


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CAULIFLOWER, SWEETCORN AND POTATO CURRY

Serves 4

ingredients
1/2-1Tbs rapeseed oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium to large onion, chopped
1 medium cauliflower, separated into florets
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
1 green chilli pepper, slit in the middle (or chopped if you prefer a spicier curry)
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled, grated
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp turmeric
black pepper
2 tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
1 cup of sweetcorn (frozen is fine)
500ml water
salt to taste
fresh coriander


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method
  1. In a large saute pan heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and cumin seeds. Heat till they start to pop.
  2. Add the cauliflower and onion, fry for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes and chilli fry for 1 minute.
  4. Next add the garlic, ginger paste, turmeric and black pepper together with tomatoes. Fry for 1 min.
  5. Add the sweetcorn and water. Cook till potatoes are soft and the sauce has thickened, about 20min.
  6. Season and garnish with fresh coriander if you wish. Serve with rice or Indian breads.

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COOKING FOR ONE: BRUSSEL SPROUT AND NOODLE BOWL

COOKING FOR ONE: BRUSSEL SPROUT AND NOODLE BOWL

This week I was catching up on my post Christmas ironing, two back breaking sessions each lasting two hours! To make my job easier I watched some cookery shows on TV. Watching Nigella made me realised how much we have in common. No I do not indulge in pigs ears, deep fry bounty bars or have an obsession for alliteration.

Like Nigella, however, I am obsessed with food. I am obsessed with eating it, cooking it, writing about it, talking about it. I love discovering new flavours and ingredients (like the yellow carrots I bought today). Most of all, like Nigella, I love cooking for myself.

You won’t see me grabbing a quick sandwich or couple of Ryvitas for lunch. I believe it is not a waste of time to cook or prepare something delicious just for one. This is my me time, I love it. Of course not everybody has the time, that’s where batch cooking comes to its force, freezer full of stews and soups can ensure you have a nutritious meal when pressed for time. Even salads can be made ahead. Some keep really well even for a few days. Just don’t try to store tender leaves that have a dressing on.

Lunch for one can be a brilliant way to use up odds and ends from your fridge or pantry. Got some leftover rice, one lonely noodle nest or half a pepper in the fridge? Bits and bobs get my cooking mind going! Yesterday I found that lonely nest of noodles, some Brussel sprouts and a recipe idea was born. Delicious it was too! If you want, double it, triple it.... just maybe go easy on multiplying the curry paste, you don’t want it to blow your head off. I did fancy some edamame beans or just regular green beans, but my freezer was bare.... hence the peas. Can’t complain, they did taste great.

brussels-sprout-noodles

BRUSSEL SPROUT AND NOODLE BOWL
Beware that Thai red curry paste very often contains dried shrimp or fish sauce, if like me you want to avoid those, read the ingredients!

For 1

ingredients
1/2 cup of light vegetable stock
1 small onion, thinly sliced
80g of flat Asian noodles (rice, wheat or buckwheat, whatever you have)
1-2 tsp vegan red curry paste (they very in heat)
1 cup of Kara coconut or other non dairy milk (not coconut milk from a can)
12 Brussel sprouts
couple handfuls of frozen peas, green beans or edamame
1 Tbs smooth peanut butter
juice of half a lime
handful of fresh coriander (cilantro)

method
  1. In a medium sauce pan heat the veg stock, add the onions and simmer till soften.
  2. In another medium sauce pan cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Rinse with cold water.
  3. While the onions are sauteing prepare your Brussels sprouts. Peel off any unappealing leaves of the sprouts, cut of the stalk end bit and halve them lengthways.
  4. Add the curry paste and coconut milk to the onions together with the Brussels sprouts.
  5. If using green beans or edamame add them now too.
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook about 5 min or until the Brussels sprouts are tender.
  7. Now add the peas and peanut butter. Heat up together, the peanut butter should melt into the sauce.
  8. Add the cooked noodles, just heat them up.
  9. Turn off the heat and add the lime juice.
  10. Serve generously garnished with chopped coriander and an extra lime wedge.



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AUBERGINE AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH CURRY

AUBERGINE AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH CURRY

Thanks to the brilliant Vegan Dad (look up his blog) I found this article about... actually I am not sure what it is about. The title promises to enlighten the reader about vegetarian health, exploring 7 unhealthy foods vegetarians eat. Turns out the article is a bit vegetarian bashing... apparently it is a myth (a big one) that vegetarians eat vegetables. Generalising are we? Or am I an exception? I know for fact that I am not.

Quote from Shannon Kadlovski, a nutritionist:
"Vegetarian simply means someone who does not consume animal protein, but does not indicate that this person is otherwise consuming a healthy, balanced diet." I am sorry but as somebody who does not consume animal protein I would never make a sweeping statement about meat eaters, because I do believe that there can be healthy meat eaters just as unhealthy vegans or vegetarians.

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/09/20/7-unhealthy-foods-vegetarians-eat_n_1897146.html#slide=1543414

So lets have a look at the seven deadly sins, I mean unhealthy foods vegetarians eat:

1.
Tofu - Kadlovski says tofu is high in oestrogen causing hormonal imbalances if eaten in excess. First we should say that phytoestrogens not oestrogens are present in soya products. The science is divided on effects of phytoeostrogens but for example according to Cornell University phytoestrogens may actually help to lower oestrogens. My view on tofu? It has been eaten for centuries in Japan and China and their breast cancer rates have always been marginal in comparison with the west. Nor have I ever heard of problems with male fertility due to tofu in these countries. As for oestrogen: animal products, fat in the diet and body (obesity) all increase levels of oestrogen. So yes I am a vegetarian that eats tofu, maybe once or twice a week and no I don’t think it is unhealthy.

2.
Processed cheese I do agree a lot of lacto/ovo vegetarians do heavily rely on cheese as their protein source but why the emphasis on processed cheese? Even when I ate cheese it was never the processed kind... it was organic.

3.
Vegetarian hot dogs. Again I agree, not healthy, but the same goes for meat (pink slime) hot dogs. Products like veggie hot dogs are great for the transition to a veggie diet but I doubt that many vegetarians/vegans rely on these. I can’t remember last time I had a veggie hotdog myself.

Protein powders. I have never used these. Actually the only person I personally know that uses whey powder is my meat eating friend who I am convinced gets way too much protein from his diet already.

5.-7.
White pasta, white rice, white bread. I can only speak for myself here but 90% of pasta, rice and bread me and my family eat is certainly not white. Surely we don’t believe that the non vegetarians all eat whole versions of these?

Can we all agree that even though some vegetarians choose to eat all or some of the above, most meat eaters include most the above items in their diets too. Vegetarians and vegans are still a minority (unless you live in India) and considering the health crisis (heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancers...) criticising vegetarians makes for bad politics. Everybody despite their dietary choices should be making healthier decisions , mainly including more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and cutting out the junk.

aubergine-curry

AUBERGINE AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH CURRY

This dish freezes very well. Make it as hot and mild as you wish by adding or omitting the chililes. This is a huge portion but great when you have friends over. Tastes even better the next day. I like to eat leftovers wrapped in a large tortilla wrap with some mango chutney.

You can use cashew nut cream instead of coconut milk.

enough to serve 8

ingredients

First blend to paste:
3 large onion
1-2 chillies
2 inch ginger
6 cloves garlic

Curry:
1 Tbs oil
3 aubergines cut into 2 inch (5cm) pieces
1 Tbs oil
2 tsp nigella seeds
10 curry leaves
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp jaggery (optional)
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2 inch (5 cm) pieces
1 tin coconut milk (can be light)
250ml water
1 cup of peas
fresh coriander (cilantro)

aubergine-curry-detail

method
  1. In a large nonstick saucepan heat the oil and add the aubergine. Gently fry just till starting to brown, sprinkle with salt and cover with a lid and cook till soft. Stir often make sure they don't stick. Remove the aubergine pieces and set aside.
  2. Add 1 cup of the onion paste into the pan and cook slowly until it starts to change colour and all moisture has evaporated, no rushing here or the curry will be bitter. (Traditionally quite a bit of oil is used and mixture is cooked till the oil separates from the paste)
  3. When the onion mixture is cooked out add  2 tsp nigella seeds, 10 curry leaves. The seeds should start to pop.
  4. Add rest of the spices: (cumin, coriander and turmeric) cook these for about 30 seconds.
  5. Next add 1 tin of tomatoes and 1 tsp of jaggery (palm sugar) or brown sugar (you can omit this).
  6. Let it cook for 5 min till tomatoes soften.
  7. Put in the butternut squash together with the coconut milk and water and simmer till butternut is soft. Season with salt.
  8. Add in the aubergine and peas, cook for just a couple of minutes or till the aubergine is heated up and peas cooked or defrosted.
  9. Last stir in some fresh coriander.
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VIETNAMESE STYLE CURRY

VIETNAMESE STYLE CURRY

Vietnamese cuisine is not something I am very familiar with, actually I think the only Vietnamese food I have ever had was a starter of rice paper rolls in a pan Asian restaurant. When I was growing up, a group of young Vietnamese people came to my home town for a work experience. My Dad (who at that time worked for the same company) found himself in the dorms where the group was staying. He came home telling us about one of the lads who showed him how to make rice noodles. This was rather exciting, as I have never heard of rice noodles before. Those times (we are talking around 25 years ago) there were no Asian ingredients in the small Czech town where I grew up, so making your own rice noodles must have been a much appreciated skill.

The other day I was looking through one of my cookbooks and found a Vietnamese chicken curry. I though I would give it a go (minus the chicken of course). I didn’t settle for following the recipe, I did more researching and concocting until I came up with my version. Next time I may even try making my own Vietnamese curry powder.

There is a similarity with other Asian curries; like many Indian curries the Vietnamese version is based on dry spices. The addition of lemon grass is characteristic for Thai cooking and so is the use of Thai basil. The curry is thinner than the Indian version which makes it perfect to accommodate rice noodles; this is rather reminiscent of a Malaysian laksa. Using potatoes is definitely the result of French influences. The French introduced many ingredients to Vietnam such as coffee, tarragon and even baguettes. What an amazing melting pot!

vietnamesestylecurry

VIETNAMESE STYLE CURRY
I must admit I used regular basil because I didn’t get around to going to an Asian shop to buy Thai (Holly) basil. It still tasted great. I used extra turmeric to enhance the colour of the curry as my curry powder didn’t have quite enough and the curry was looking a bit insipid. The extra teaspoon made a lot of difference, we eat with our eyes after all :)

Serves 4

ingredients
1 Tbs rapeseed oil (or 2 Tbs of water)
8 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 stalks of lemon grass, tough leaves removed, finely chopped
1-2 red chillies, finely chopped
2 Tbs mild curry powder (or Vietnamese curry powder)
1 tsp turmeric
2 medium potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
500ml (2 cups) vegetable stock
1 tin of coconut milk ( I used light)
250g (about 1/2lb) green beans, topped and tailed, cut into halves
250g tofu ( I used firm), cut into bite size dice
I pack of rice noodles ( I used thick noodles)
Thai basil and red chillies for decoration

method
  1. In a large saute pan heat the oil and add the shallots and lemon grass, cook on gentle heat until softened. Add the garlic and chillies and cooke further minute to soften.
  2. Next add the curry powder and stir around for about 30seconds taking care not to burn the spices.
  3. Add the potatoes and stir around just to coat with spices.
  4. Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock, bring to a boil, turn the heat down and cook for 10min.
  5. Next add the green beans and cook for another 10 min or until potatoes and beans are tender.
  6. While the curry is cooking soak your rice noodles according to the instructions on the packet.
  7. Just before serving add the tofu and noodles to the curry and heat through.
  8. Serve topped with basil and extra thinly sliced chillies.

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CURRIED CHICKPEA BURGERS

CURRIED CHICKPEA BURGERS

You know the drill. It has been a long day you don’t fancy cooking and the take way menus are calling to you. You order more than you need, spend more than you should, wait nearly an hour, eat more than you intended, fall onto the sofa and complain about being stuffed. At that precise moment you make the ground breaking decision that you won’t ever make the same mistake again. Until....

Couple weeks ago I decided that we treat ourselves to an Indian take-way, we were in the vicinity of a greatly popular Indian restaurant so we popped in to get some curries to accompany our Saturday movie. When we got home and opened the bag I noticed that at the bottom of the take-way bag was roughly a centimetre of oil. It must have leaked out of the containers and looked extremely unappetising. I was glad the curry came in a very sturdy plastic carried bag.

It does amaze me how many people eat take-aways several times a week. Kebabs, pizzas, burgers, curries and the UK’s most popular Chinese take away is a big business. Instead of dialling the number or getting into your car to get to the nearest take-away restaurant we have to put on our aprons and start cooking healthy delicious meals at home. We have to involve kids in food preparation too, this recipe is brilliant for that. My fusion curried burgers are much better for you than any take-away.

curryburger

CURRIED CHICKPEA BURGERS

If you don’t want to end up with a large piece of garlic or ginger in your burger make sure you chop the garlic and ginger before putting them into the food processor.

No oils added.

Makes 6 burgers

ingredients
85g (1/2 cup) brown rice
1 red onion, roughly chopped
1 tin chickpeas
1 red chilli
1 inch ginger, peeled, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
pinch of asofetida
salt
2 Tbs mango chutney
1 Tbs tomato paste
handful of fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
1/2 cup cashews, roughly chopped
25 g (1 oz) of breadcrumbs
Whole wheat burger buns or pitta pockets


method

  1. Cook rice according to the package instructions, let it cool down.
  2. Put the following ingredients into your food processor: chickpeas, onion, red chilli, ginger, garlic, spices, mango chutney and tomato paste.
  3. Process together until well chopped but not smooth.
  4. Add the rice and pulse together few times till mixed through.
  5. Put the mixture into a large bowl, add the coriander, cashews and breadcrumbs.
  6. Shape the mixture into 6 burgers. The mixture is rather wet but if you wet your hands between each burger they do come together very well.
  7. Place the burgers onto a greaseproof paper lined baking sheet.
  8. Chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.
  9. Bake for 25-30 min in a 180 oven, turning the burgers halfway through.
  10. Serve in a bun or a pitta pocket (I enjoyed mine wrapped in lettuce leaves). Garnish with your favourite sauces and toppings.

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STUFFED BABY AUBERGINE AND CASHEW CURRY

STUFFED BABY AUBERGINE AND CASHEW CURRY

baby-aubergines

My kids are addicted to the Australian Junior Masterchef. After our holidays we have a few episodes to catch up with. Yesterday we watched the kids cooking some fab looking curries. That and my trip to a supermarket in an area where lots of ethnicities come together made me think of curry. I stocked up on some wonderful ingredients like fresh curry leaves, coriander with the root intact, baby aubergines, Japanese horseradish, Polish pickled gherkings and Mexican chipotles. Don’t worry I am not putting all of this into my curry, that would be just plain mad.

Since living in the UK I can hardly imagine a week without having a curry. Without claiming any authenticity I think I can make a good home made one. I like to be able to control the amount of oil and the level of spice and of course it gives me a free hand in choosing the vegetables. I know there is something addictive about Indian take aways and restaurants, but the amount of oil on the top of each dish is a bit scary. Even the American chef Bobby Chinn (Bobby Chinn Cooks Asia) was a bit surprise by the amount of oil the Indians use in their cooking. My today’s curry is made with 1 Tbs of oil only and as it serves 4-6 it amounts to a very small amount per person.

There is nothing worse than badly cooked aubergine. I have had many dining experiences ruined by undercooked aubergines making me very cautious when dining out. Indian restaurants cook them well, but of course this is because they tend to be fried in lots of oil. Aubergines are like sponges soaking up any amount of oil they are introduced to. I decided to steam them first, to ensure the “dissolve in your mouth” sensation I so love. The baby ones look great on a plate making this a fab dinner party dish. Enjoy.

STUFFED BABY AUBERGINE AND CASHEW CURRY
I was thinking 4 aubergines per person, but if served as a part of an Indian themed meals it should serve 6. I have ground the cashews quite course I like the bite but you can grind them fine to create a smoother sauce.

Serves 4-6

stuffedaubergines

ingredients
the stuffed aubergines:
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled, cut into few pieces
2 large cloves of garlic
1 red or green chilli, halved
3 Tbs fresh coriander (include roots if you can find them)
1/2 tsp salt
16 baby aubergines

cashew and tomato sauce
1 onion
1 inch piece of ginger
2 large cloves of garlic
1 chilli pepper
1 Tbs of rapeseed oil
8 curry leaves
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp asofetida (optional)
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
500ml (2 cups of water)
1 tsp sweet freedom syrup (or palm sugar, agave, brown sugar)
130g (1 cup ) of cashew nuts
1 tsp garam masala
fresh coriander

babystuffedaubergines2

method
  1. In a small food processor (or mortar and pestle) finely chop together the ginger, garlic, chilli and coriander. Add salt.
  2. Slit the aubergines lengthways into quarters, do not cut through the stalk to keep the aubergine intact. (see picture)
  3. Put some of the ginger mixture inside each aubergines. Fingers are the best tool for this, just remember you are handling chillies so do not rub your eyes!
  4. Place the aubergines into a steamer basket and steam for about 10-15 min until tender, set aside.
  5. To make the sauce in a small food processor (or mortar and pestle) process the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli into a paste. If using a food processor add a tablespoon of water to help it along.
  6. In a large wide saucepan (with a lid) heat up the oil. Add the paste, be careful it will splatter. Cook on medium heat until all the water had evaporated and the paste darkens slightly (about 5-7 min).
  7. Add the curry leaves and spices, cook for half a minute, take care not to burn the spices.
  8. Next add the chopped tomatoes, turn the heat up and cook for five minutes till. Squish any big pieces of tomato.
  9. Add the sweet freedom syrup, salt and water.
  10. Put the aubergines into the sauce and simmer for about 20-30 minutes.
  11. In the meantime process the cashews to your preferred texture (see note above).
  12. Add the cashews into the sauce, this will thicken it.
  13. Next add the garam masala and the fresh coriander.
  14. Serve with Indian breads and rice.
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CARIBBEAN STYLE GREEN BANANA CURRY

CARIBBEAN STYLE GREEN BANANA CURRY

greenbanana
This week’s Riverford organic vegetable boxes contained free green bananas from the Dominican Republic. I am not talking the under ripe bananas you can get in shops, these were ultra green, alien kind of fruit. In the Dominican Republic, as I found out from Riverford video, these are cooked down, mashed and served topped with sliced red onions. Riverford also suggested deep frying them for spicy chips.

Time for another experiment in my kitchen, I wasn’t too enthused to start deep frying, that is not the plant strong way. The idea that came to me was a banana curry. I planned going down the more familiar Indian route, but when I stopped at the shop to pick up some green chili peppers I spotted the Caribbean staple, the almighty Scotch Bonnet pepper. That made me rethink my curry’s country of origin. Reggae started to sound in my head.

The green bananas are rather hard to peel, cut of the ends, slit the skin lengthways and proceed to peel. Don’t expect one neat intact peel as from a ripe banana. When cooked the banana pieces hold their shapes extremely well and taste more like a starchy vegetable. I added some pineapple to freshen and lighten up the taste, the fruity zing goes well with the starchiness of the green banana. Few cashews add texture and protein to the dish.

The Scotch Bonnet boasts with 9 rating on the Scoville Chile Heat Chart, it packs a spicy punch, however it also brings wonderful fruity flavour to dishes. If you just slit the pepper and add it whole to your curry, you will get heat and flavour, but it will not be too spicy. If you do like it very hot, by all means chop the pepper up (just don’t touch your eyes afterwards).

Roti would be the perfect flat bread to go with this curry, but a chapati or indeed a tortilla wrap will do well here too. Rice or quinoa would work well too.

If you can’t get green bananas try making this curry with plantains.

CARIBBEAN STYLE GREEN BANANA CURRY
serves 2
caribcurryspice

ingredients

1 star anise
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
3 all spice berries
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp thyme
50 (1/2cup) cashews
1/2 -1 Tbs rapeseed oil
1 tsp ginger, chopped finely
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, make a slit in the side with a knife
4 green bananas, peeled and sliced (1/4inch slices)
1 tsp palm or brown sugar
375ml (1 and 1/2 cup water)
150g (heaped cup) fresh pineapple pieces (about 1 inch thick slices from a large pineapple)
salt to taste
lemon juice to taste
2 Tbs coriander leaves, chopped

method
  1. First make the spice mix. Heat a frying pan add the whole spices (star anise, coriander, cumin, mustard and all spice berries). Heat until fragrant, take care not to burn.
  2. Next toast the cashews, set aside.
  3. In a mortar and pestle, pound the spices (I removed the star anise, I was worried about not being able to pound it small enough and didn’t want sharp pieces in my curry). Add the cardamom and thyme and mix together.
  4. In a wok heat the oil, add ginger and cook 30 seconds, add the green bananas, the chili pepper and the spices (don’t forget the star anise), cook about 30 seconds.
  5. Add the water and palm sugar, cover and cook for 15min.
  6. After 15min add the pineapple pieces, cook further 10 min, until the bananas soften and sauce is very thick (there won’t be a lot of sauce left).
  7. Stir in the cashews, season with salt and lime juice.
  8. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with you chosen side.

bananacurry
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