Tag Archives: curry

Fiery Lentil Soup

So what are you up to for Bonfire Night? Baked spuds around the fire, sweets or messy toffee apples?

Personally, I’m a big fan of a flask of soup with some bread to keep the cold out, and I’ve got a recipe that is a guaranteed winter warmer. It’s good old-fashioned lentil soup, which is probably one of the easiest soups to make and I think by far and away one of the most satisfying.

I’ve recently been adding a lot more spices to my food, and that includes a lot more chilli. I’ve actually started to get quite experimental, and I can only apologise to everyone who has been surprised to find allspice cropping up in a range of dishes (albeit – no disasters so far!).

However, today is not an exercise in culinary risk-taking. Rather, it’s my “normal” lentil soup which has been fortified by a sharp twist of lemon juice at the end, and a swirl of chilli paste (in the form of sambal olek). The result is something that is robust, satisfying and packs rather a punch in the flavour department. However, if you’ve got folks around who perhaps prefer things a little milder, adding the chilli at the end avoids them running around looking for glasses of water to kill the heat.

So if you’re off to some Bonfire Night festivities, wrap up warm, keep your pets safe, and have a great evening!

For spicy lentil soup (serves 4, easy to double/triple):

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• knob of ginger, peeled and finely grated

• 3 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1 teaspoon mild curry powder
• 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
• 250g red lentils
• 1 stock cube
• 1 litre hot water
• salt and pepper, to taste
• lemon juice and chilli paste, to serve

1. Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onions and cook on a medium heat until translucent (five minutes).

2. Add the ginger and garlic, and cook for two minutes (don’t let them burn). If they get too brown or start to stick, add a dash of water.

3. Add the spices and cook for 30 seconds. If it seems too dry, add some water – this will form a thick paste, and as the water evaporates, it will become oily and cook the spices. Don’t be tempted to add more oil.

4. Add the lentils and carrots and cook briefly, then add the water.

5. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Add the stock cube, and keep simmering until the lentils are tender. Add more water if the soup is too thick, then add some salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, add a dash of chilli paste and a squeeze of lemon juice, erring on the side of caution!

Worth making? I think the addition of the chilli takes this from a good soup to a great soup. An excellent choice to keep the chill at bay this week!

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Lentil and Chick Pea Curry

If you’re a health nut (I am not, but still in the post-holiday-I-ate-too-much-and-need-to-get-back-in-shape phase), this is a great recipe. The only fat is from the oil you need to fry the onions, garlic and spices. It’s rich and seemingly creamy, but this comes form the lentils, which you cook long enough for them to soften and start to break up. It’s also super-easy to customise this. I’ve made it variously with cauliflower florets, chunks of butternut squash, peppers, potatoes (waxy sort), peas, string beans and cubes of paneer cheese. Another of those “what is in the cupboard” recipes that can be endlessly varied.

This is one of my favourite dishes. Provided you have lentils and the spices in the house, you can make it with virtually anything. Healthy, delicious and satisfying. Perfect for the early days of autumn as the leaves turn and it starts to get nippy…

To make the lentil and chick pea curry (serves 4):

• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1 onion, chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 knob of ginger, peeled and grated
• 3 celery sticks
• 2 teaspoons cumin powder
• 2 teaspoons mild curry powder
• 1 teaspoon coriander powder
• 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
• 200g lentils
• 500ml vegetable stock
• 1 tin chick peas, drained and rinsed
• 100g marinated tofu chunks

Heat the oil in a pot on a medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it is lightly brown (around 5 minutes). Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute. Add the celery and cook for another two minutes.

Add the spices to the pot and stir well. Cook for another minute, but if you find they are sticking or seem to be burning, then add a little water. Add the lentils, and cook for another minute, stirring all the time to prevent burning/sticking.

Add the stock, stir well, and then add the chick peas (or whatever other vegetables you are using). Cover the pot and cook on a low heat until the lentils are soft. Check from time to time, adding more water if necessary.

Check seasoning and adjust if you want to. Finally, add the marinated tofu chunks, cook for five minutes, and serve with rice or naan bread, plus a little raita and spicy chutney.

To make raita: grate a piece of cucumber, and squeeze of any excess liquid. Mix with yoghurt, a pinch of salt and some shredded mint, and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving. As for chutney – I buy mine in M&S.

Worth making? A very easy, quick, dependable dish. As you can play with the recipe quite a lot, it also makes a good choice when you have a lot of spare vegetables and no idea how to use them all up.

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Muttar Paneer

You may already have read about my liking for Indian food, and one of my favourite ingredients is paneer. This is an Indian cheese which is made from milk and lemon, and thus has the benefit of being 100% vegetarian, which just happens to feature in two Indian dishes that I absolutely love – palak paneer (cheese with spinach) and today’s feature, muttar paneer (cheese with peas).

I’ve eaten muttar paneer for years, and a few months ago decided to do it myself at home. “I assume you made your own paneer?” sniffed Fashpolitico at the time. “It’s terribly easy“. Well, yes, while I could have made my own paneer had I had a spare afternoon and the inclination, to be honest, noting beats the convenience of the 200g block that is stocked in my local shop. I’ll get round to making it one day, so another one for the list…

What you’ll notice about making paneer is just how simple it is – milk is soured, the whey drained off, and the curds washed and compressed. This yields a high-protein food, but also something that could lead to a very bland final result. So what to do? Well, the usual solution to any food that seems less than jiggy – cook it with lots of spice! Paneer is best in all manner of well-seasoned, fragrant dishes. I used it recently as a starter – marinated in curry and oil, and then lightly fried on both sides and served with a simple fresh coriander sauce. I suppose you could see this as a more substantial version of tofu, with the final result really being influences on just how you cook it.

Muttar paneer is well worth trying. It is one of those really simply cook-it-together-in-one-pan recipes, it is also great when you don’t have much in the store cupboard. You can play fast and loose with the spices, vary how much garlic and ginger you use, go for all fresh or all tinned tomatoes. Provided you have the paneer and some frozen peas, you’re sorted. Just make sure you get the spices right – I was always a little scared of putting in too much, but recently I’d been adding more and more, such that I will routinely double or triple the amount in a recipe. If you like it spicy, don’t be scared to be bold.

For serving, this is great with a little plain boiled rice, whole-wheat naan or chappatis and a little yoghurt raita, or go for a posh canapé and serve small portions on Chinese soup spoons.

For the muttar paneer:

• Vegetable oil
• 200g paneer
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger (peeled and finely chopped)
• 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
• 1 teaspoon turmeric
• 3 teaspoons curry powder
• 2 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

• 1 teaspoon nigella seeds
• 1 teaspoon sambal sauce
• 1/2 stock cube
• 100g fresh tomatoes, chopped
• 400g tin chopped tomatoes
• 3 tablespoons tomato paste, mixed with a little water
• 50ml double cream
• 200g petit pois (frozen is fine, fresh if you want)

Cut the paneer into chunks (as you prefer, I aim for 1 cm cubes). Heat one tablespoon of oil in a frying pan, and cook the paneer until golden all over. It will hiss and crackle with a tendency to jump up and make a bolt for freedom, so keep an eye on it.

Once the paneer is cooked, put on a plate and allow to cool. In the same pan, add another tablespoon of oil plus the onion and ginger, and fry gently until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, cumin seeds and the nigella seeds. Cook gently for a few minutes, being careful not to let the garlic get too dark.

Now add another two tablespoons of oil and the ground spices. Fry the spices for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Add a glass of water, and the mixture will form a loose paste. Cook on a medium heat until the water in the mixture evaporates and the mixture becomes thicker and oily. At this stage, add the chopped fresh tomatoes, and cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes become soft.

Now add the stock cube, the tinned tomatoes, the tomato paste and the cream, and stir well. On a low heat, allow the mixture to cook until the sauce thickens (around 30 minutes – check from time to time and season as preferred with salt and pepper). You can, of course, cook at a higher heat and the sauce will be ready sooner, but the slower cooking will allow the flavours to develop and mingle. Around half-way through the cooking process, add the frozen peas. Add the paneer a few minutes before serving – you only need to warm it through.

Serve hot with rice, bread, raita and chutney.

Worth making? I really like this recipe and it always works well. It can also be made ahead of time, and in my view, benefits from being allowed to sit so that the flavours can develop (just don’t add the peas too early – we want them fresh and green, not brown). Also, a word on the spices – really, go with what you want. If you like it spicy or very hot, then feel free to add more than the quantities I have given here. If it does end up too hot, just make sure there is enough cooling raita to solve the problem! You can also substitute sambal sauce with your favourite hotsauce (or omit if you don’t like it too spicy).

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Easter Lunch with an Indian theme

Lunch with friends at home on Easter Sunday – obviously time for, eh, curry. However, this time I am not the chef, nor is this (yet another) “on location” special.

Today is exciting as Fashpolitico is appearing as a guest chef. We were round at her house at the weekend, and she did a star turn with a colourful selection of spicy Asian goodies. Spicy Indian cream tomato soup with bhajis to start, then squash in tomato and coconut milk, dahl, coconut green beans with mint, saffron and spiced rice and cucumber raita, all followed by an orange and cardamom cake. And all absolutely delicious.

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Parsnip and Curry Soup

Still cold in London’s glamourous N16, so another soup recipe. This time it’s out of necessity – I had a few parsnips that looked less than fresh and someone in the living room complaining of hunger and that their need to study meant they could not even think of getting food for themselves.

If I’m cooking parsnips, then I reach for the curry every time. Parsnips and curry are a great combination. I like parsnips, but their sweetness and perfume can be a bit much in a savoury dish, so the curry helps and makes this a great winter warmer. Be heavy handed with the curry powder – you want it to have quite a bit of heat to it. This combination also had the desired effect of silencing the demands for food from the living room, which can only be a positive sign.


HOW TO MAKE IT

This one could not be simpler and takes about 15 minutes (plus cooking):

• 2 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
• 1 large potato,
peeled and chopped
• 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
• 3 tablespoons of olive oil
• knob of butter
• 3 teaspoons curry powder
• salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 liter vegetable stock
• yoghurt or creme fraiche

Cook the onion for 5 minutes with the oil and butter over a gentle heat. Add the parsnips and potato, and cook for a further 5 minutes. You will need to stir frequently as the parsnips start to caramelise and will burn easily if left too long. Add the salt, pepper and curry powder and stir well. Cook for another couple of minutes, then add a liter of vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Once the vegetables are tender, liquidise the lot and serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or yoghut and black pepper.

THE VERDICT

Another favourite (as mentioned, this effectively dealt with the cries for food from the sofa). One tip would be about the curry – if in doubt, add more curry. A perfect way to use up those less-than-photogenic root veggie and good when you’re not in the mood to measure carefully.

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