Now, I’m not a vegan, I’m not a vegetarian. I love meat, and I also find I need it in my diet. When I was in my poorest years of university I rarely ate meat and it showed – I was tired, grumpy and I just didn’t function as well. That said, over the last year or so I’ve been pushing myself to cut out meat more. At least one meal a week is veggie, and I try my hardest not to eat meat for weekday breakfast and lunches (unless I’m taking leftovers in a lunchbox).
And do you know what? I’ve really enjoyed it. We’ve made some absolutely delicious recipes that have become firm favourites – and this is one of them. I’ve had it sitting in my drafts for a while (hence the slightly over-edited photos, shooting at 8pm in February wasn’t easy!) and yet I’m not sure why. It’s delicious! Creamy and hearty, whilst still being light and healthy.
If you want to up the vitamins even more, you could make with a tin a chopped tomatoes (or add some fresh ones) but for obvious reasons I don’t! It’s also good with sweet potatoes or butternut squash – in the photos here I added a small potato that needed using up. Of course, if you aren’t a vegetarian or vegan it would be delicious with meat. I’ve added some leftover roast chicken with great results! Non-vegans could also replace the coconut milk with a few spoons of natural yoghurt.
Ingredients (makes 4-5 good-sized servings – enough for a dinner and a few days lunches for the two of us, it freezes well too)
3 white onions
2 sticks celery
Ginger (around the size of your thumb, peeled)
1 red/yellow/orange pepper
6 cloves garlic (reduce if you’re not a huge fan!)
1 chilli (taste it to test how hot it is!)
Spices – I used 1 large tsp each of mustard seeds, cumin seeds, tumeric, garam masala, ground coriander, and ground fenugreek, but even a few spoons of curry powder will do!
2 tins of chickpeas
50g dried lentils
Any veg needing using up – sweet potatoes, squash etc.
500ml vegan-friendly stock
1 tin of coconut milk
1 small bag of spinach, chopped, or 5-6 cubes of frozen spinach (if using frozen spinach, be wary about freezing leftover portions!)
1 pack fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Roughly chop 2 of the onions, the celery, ginger, pepper, garlic and chilli. Fry in a little oil for 5 or so minutes until softened, then tip into a blender and blitz until smooth. Meanwhile finely slice the remaining onion and fry until starting to soften. Add the spices and fry for 2-3 minutes or until aromatic and toasted. Add the puree, along with the chickpeas, lentils, veg and stock before simmering for around 30 minutes. At this point, most of the stock should have evaporated, though if it’s starting to catch add a little more.
Stir through the coconut milk gradually (so it doesn’t split) and warm on a low heat for around 5 minutes. Add the spinach and most of the coriander. Continue cooking until the spinach is wilted, check seasoning, and then served garnish with the remaining coriander and some almonds, if liked.
Here I’ve served with cauliflower rice (simply whizz up some raw cauli in a mini-chopped, then fry with a little garlic for around 5 minutes or until cooked), but my favourite is to toss florets of cauliflower with a little oil and some tumeric, then roast for 20 minutes. Yum! If course, you could use normal rice too – and I can never say no to a good naan bread…
What’s your favourite curry recipe? What veggie meals do you recommend?
I love a good curry, but summer has me craving something lighter than a Indian – especially as I tend to be limited with a creamy Korma. Thai Curries are a good antidote to this, fragrant and spicy, a little creamy, a lot lighter and often packed with veg.
This one has slightly less veg than I’d like as it was a bit of a dreary, drizzly evening, but it hits the right balance between comforting and light. It’s fragrant aromatics are reminiscent of Thai foods, yet the spicing definitely has its Indian influences. Almost as good as a Massaman!
The great thing about Thai curries is that they are relatively easy to make completely from scratch. There’s no need for an excessive spice cupboard, and my recipe certainly doesn’t require a trip to eight different supermarkets. Timewise it’s pretty quick too and, even better, it freezes fabulously.
Very Lazy sent me over a few ingredients to try out, which I’ve used here, but you could just as easily substitute fresh versions.
1 small onion
1/2 bulb of garlic
1 chilli (or more if you like it hot – I tend to just grate in more into my finish curry to adjust at the end)
1 tablespoon Very Lazy Ginger in oil
1 tablespoon Very Lazy Lemongrass
1 tablespoon Very Lazy Coriander
1 tablespoon curry powder – or teaspoons each of any or all of the following; ground coriander, cumin, tumeric
Ingredients (Curry, Two Servings)
1 full quantity of paste
250g chicken (or other meat)
100g potatoes, cubed chunkily
1 can coconut milk
Coriander, to garnish, if you like
To make the paste, first roast the onion and garlic. Don’t peel them, simply slice the top and bottom off the onion, throw onto some foil, drizzle with oil and create a ‘parcel’ – then bake at 180C for around 25 minutes. Let cool.
Once the onion and garlic is cool enough to handle, peel and throw into a small blender. Add the rest of the paste ingredients and whizz until it looks like a curry paste – adding more or less of ingredients as you fancy. I’m not the biggest fan of lemongrass and I love ginger, so my go-to doubles the ginger here.
Either use immediately, store in the fridge for up to 24 hours, or freeze (I use ice cube trays – easier as they cubes can be cooked from frozen).
To make the curry, heat a little oil in a pan then fry the paste until fragrant. Add the meat, fry until sealed, then lower the heat and add the potatoes and coconut milk. Simmer gently for around 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked and potatoes tender.
Stir through the cashew nuts and a little fresh coriander, and serve. It’s good with rice for a carb fest, though goes nicely with some lightly cooked green vegetables too. A lovely Yellow Curry, fragrant like a Thai yet as indulgent as an Indian. Lovely!
What’s your favourite curry? Do you make your own?
The perfect soup – filling and hearty. Easy to make. Warming. Slightly spicy. Goes equally well with bread as it does by the spoonful. It also helps that it uses up some of the 5kg of carrots inadvertently delivered by ASDA. I made this at the same time as some cupcakes, which ended disastrously for the first batch of cupcakes. I reckon the soup was fine though, it certainly tasted as it was meant to!
Now, this soup is spicy. That obviously depends on the strength of your chilli – so if in doubt, leave it out. Dried chilli flakes are a good alternative as it’s easy to control the spice level. I like spice, so I welcomed the strong kick this gave. I’m not sure my colleagues agreed, as this soup smells strongly of curry. As does the microwave at work having eaten this a few days in a row…oops. But this is so cheap, so filling, and perfect for anyone on a budget. If your purse doesn’t allow fresh aromatics, a few spoons of curry powder works absolutely fine. Trust me, I did this in my first year.
Ingredients – makes 6 big servings, but it freezes and reheats well (perfect for tight budgets!)
1-2 fresh red chillies
1″ piece of ginger
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon each of turmeric, ground coriander, and ground cumin
600g carrots – peel, top and tail around 700g of them
150g red lentils (dried)
1 litre of vegetable stock
1/2 tin of coconut milk
Fresh coriander, to serve
Heat a tablespoon of oil over a low heat, in a large pan. Fry the powdered spices until fragrant. Meanwhile, blitz the chillies, ginger, garlic and onion in a chopper, or dice finely. Add to the pan and sweat until soft.
Now, you want the carrot in small, small pieces. I used the food chopped again, or you could finely dice or grate. Up to you, but I definitely chose the easy option. Add the carrots to the pan, followed by the lentils and stock. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 20 minutes – until everything is soft.
Puree/blend until completely smooth. Return to a clean pan and stir through the coconut milk until heated through. Serve scattered with the fresh coriander.
This goes amazingly well with naan bread, but I served with homemade bread. Making bread has become a real passion in the last few weeks, and it’s agreeing with my tummy a lot more too! For surprisingly little effort, and very few pennies, I’m left with soft, fresh bread that doesn’t make me feel horribly bloated. A win all round!
I’ve posted a few soup recipes recently – do you have any other recipes you recommend? What’s your favourite soup?
The month of September marks four years since me and my boyfriend starting talking (we met at school, and spent evening after evening chatting on MSN – does that even exist anymore?!), and two years since we starting university and our long distance relationship. This year I’m out on placement and so we’ve had less of a summer than usual, and I’ve really been trying to make our visit weekends more special – nice food, funny films, romantic walks…so I was delighted when I was invited to review one of my now-local curry houses, Bombay Mela*. I’ve been itching to try some of the restaurants nearby, and what better way to do it than with my bestie and partner-in-crime?
There’s no other way to start an Indian meal, you have to have Popadoms. Preferably with mango chutney, though I enjoyed the mint-yoghurt type sauce we were served here too. Coupled with Mango Lassis (which are, by the way, delicious and I’m craving another) this was a great start to the meal – they were obviously fresh too, hot and with a great snap. I’ve been served slightly stale popadoms far too often! Minor niggle – I would have like the chutney pots to be bigger, we were scraping them out at the end!
We went all out and ordered starters – three of them. No word of a lie, portions at Bombay Mela are big! Four massive Onion Bharjis were the best I’ve ever had – they included potato, spinach and sweetcorn, were crisp, and amazingly light. Well flavoured too, not spicy but with plenty of aromatics in there. And served with a lovely dip that worked well, although was a little sweet for my taste.
Garlic & Pepper Calamari was specially made to exclude tomatoes. The menu version may be different, but this was outrageously spicy – both of us really struggled to stomach it and definitely avoided the peppers it came with! That said the squid was wonderfully cooked, soft and springy, it melted in the mouth. I’d love to try more seafood cooked by this chef!
Finally my boyfriend picked Shami Kebab (new, and not on the online menu) – this was two giant balls of lamb mince, well spiced. It was lovely in flavour, though for me a tad too dry and crumbly. W clearly enjoyed it though as is disappeared pretty quickly! He says; “a tad too dry, but adding the accompanying sauce made it come together quite nicely – the pickled veg was some of the nicest I’ve eaten.”
Thankfully we had a pretty big gap between starters and mains, as I was already feeling pretty stuffed! I took the chance to inspect the loos (as you do) and the rest of the restaurant – they have a pretty cosy looking Shisha garden which looks lovely, although that isn’t really my thing. They also have a large room at the back that can be hired to parties, a 1st Birthday Party was in full swing when I was there, so this would be a great place to hold a gathering. As for the loos, can’t say I was too impressed – they are a little dated compared to the rest of the restaurant, and I would strongly suggest they purchased some new bins/brushes (and got rid of the giant eight-legged beast in the ladies, thank you very much!). Mains then arrived, so I dutifully snapped away before tucking in.
I’d ordered the only tomato-free item on the menu, the Korma. I do wish I’d been offered more of a choice, or perhaps an adapted dish, as I’m actually a lover of spice and Korma is just a bit bland for me. This is one of the better ones with a good background flavour, and the king prawns were again amazingly well cooked – juicy and sweet. However the sauce was too thick, and so a little cloying. I definitely needed rice and naan bread with this!
My boyfriend went for the 3-chilli Lal Mass, along with Aloo Gobi. Greedy boy! Both of his dishes contained tomato, so you’ll have to take his word. His main was very nice, not as spicy as expected but with a lot of warmth. He says his side was nice, although he gives a carb warning as he was struggling with the amount of food by this point!
As for sides – we shared a Pulao Rice (a good decision, we didn’t finish it between us) and had a naan each. Garlic for me, defeating the point of a date night as garlicky it was indeed! Bombay Mela win the title of the best naan I’ve had, and coming from Leicester (and having eaten a lot of curry) that means a lot. It’s thin, chewy and crispy, and charred just to right side of the burnt line. Simply yummy. W had a Peshwari naan. Now, I don’t like this stuff, it’s far too sweet for my liking and this naan was no different. But his view? “It was very good, although with the rest of my food I really didn’t need a naan as well. It needs a robust spicy curry, or it would be too sweet.” Another minor niggle is that I would have served different types of naan bread in different baskets – mine took on a little of the sweet flavour which I wasn’t too enamoured with. But minor, because the naan bread are so, so good!
We were completely stuffed by this point, and after resorting to some playful funny places hoped we could quietly crawl out clutching our bellies. No such luck, we were presented by this stunning dish and (thankfully) two spoons. Inside was some of the yummiest frozen goodness I’ve had in a restaurant, and hands down the best sweet I’ve ever had at an Indian. From examining the menu we *think* it was Matka Kulfi – either way it was delicious. Creamy but not heavy, slightly fruity, slightly sweet, but just nicely balanced. Surprisingly it really settled out full stomachs and actually made us feel better – we appreciated it!
Our bill came to just shy of £54 – slightly on the expensive side for a curry in my opinion, but we’d never order that much if (or when!) we go back. Starters aren’t really necessary (maybe the Bhajis to share, as they are amazing), and lassis, although gorgeous, probably should be treated as more of a desert. Service was excellent – very friendly, but not over the top or too attentive, there’s nothing worse than being asked if something is wrong the second you put your cutlery down for a breather. Yes, we were there for a complimentary restaurant for this blog (and as always my opinions are 100% honest) and yes, they knew who we were, but having observed other tables I’m pretty sure service would be just as good another time. And there will be another time – it was a really yummy dinner! I’m definitely tempted by ordering a takeaway over the coming winter months…
If you’re ever in Redhill, I’d highly recommend a trip to Bombay Mela. Whether its worth a journey, I’m not quite convinced mainly as it’s the down curry house down South I’ve tried – but it definitely rivals some of my old favourites from home. And I’ll be back, I’m already craving bhajis and naan…
You may remember from my Spicy Pea Toasted Sandwich (which I hope you try, by the way, as its an amazing recipe!) that my boyfriends dad has been taking an Indian Cookery class in Northampton run by Rashmita Shah (I believe she is hosting these workshops this year). Being away at university I’ve yet to sample any other dishes he’s learnt, but he did send me down this recipe, along with a spice mix from Rashmita herself (which I’m amazingly grateful for – so thank you to John and Rashmita – its getting a lot of use!). I was also sent an amended (to remove the evil tomatoes) recipe, which I generally follow to the letter. In fact my only deviations are to add extra veg, generally spinach, and use garlic granules if I don’t have any fresh! I also generally don’t include fresh coriander, simply because I have bought two plants since starting university in 2012, and killed both…
The spice mix I am using is made up of hing, whole cumin seeds, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala, salt and low sugar. I’ve no idea whether this would work with other spice mixes (and please don’t go and buy generic curry powder…at the very least buy a few separate spices and experiment). I’ve really enjoyed being able to enjoy a curry that isn’t Thai, or a korma – I’ve felt really limited due to my tomato allergy before now! Lets get cooking…
Ingredients (scaled down for one person)
1 portion of chicken
2-3 tablespoons of oil
2-3 garlic cloves
1/2 inch ginger
1.5 tsp spice mix
A splash of boiling water
Small handful fresh coriander, if you have greener fingers than me!
Start by chopping your onion, garlic and ginger together, as finely as possible. Rashmita suggested grating these ingredients, though I cheated and used an electric chopper. Fry in the oil, which you have heated to a high heat. You want to stir-fry these at a continuous high heat, stirring very frequently, until they are soft and turning golden brown.
Then add your spice mix to the pan, and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly.
Then add your chicken, and continue stir-frying over the high heat until completely sealed and virtually cooking through.
Turn the pan down a little, and add the boiling water slowly, still stirring constantly. Continue cooking until the chicken is cooked and the sauce is as thick/thin as you like it. I add my spinach just before it is done. Then serve, garnishing with coriander if you have it.
And that’s it! I was shocked at how simple this recipe was, as I always assumed most Indian recipes were complicated and used a long list of ingredients. Okay, I’m using a spice mix, but even that isn’t overly complex! This is a quite and easy recipe, that’s well spiced with a complex flavour. It takes around 20 minutes to make, and for me the difficult part is cooking rice on an electric hob (any tips, please pass them on!).
This isn’t going to be a regular series (you all know from my Fortnightly Finds that I can’t keep that up!) but I thought it would be nice to do. I like to map how my tastes change over time, but I also like to keep a note of things I really like just in case I win the lottery. So here goes with my first wishlist!
I’ve become a massive fan of Revlon’s lip products by reading various blogs, and I want their new stains/balms in pretty much all colours. I’m trying to resist the temptation but one has already accidentally made its way home with me! I’m going to have to resist though as I had some large and unexpected expenditure to deal with this week – so no pennies left for treats!
As you know from this post a few weeks ago, I love Massaman curry. I’m craving it again, but I can’t afford the paste, fish sauce and tamarind that I know it needs…I’m going to start picking up ingredients gradually over the next few weeks to spread out the cost!
It’s getting very cold at night, and rather than turn the heating up (and raise the bills!) I’ve been relying on blankets to keep cosy. I love this one from Muji (which happens to be one of my favourite shops at the moment!).
Valentine’s is coming up, and everything seems to be turning red/pink and heart-covered. I’m normally not a fan of this, but I’ve taken a shine to this notebook from Paperchase. I really am a stationary lover, though already have far too many notebooks!
Since receiving Naked 3 for Christmas I’ve been on the lookout for a good eye-primer to really enhance the shadows. The Artdeco one is something I really want to try at some point.
You probably all know that I’m a fan of Filofaxes – whilst I love mine I think this Osterley would be the perfect compliment to it. Having said that, the new release Filofaxes should be published around now, so I’m looking forward to seeing what will be available to buy this year.
Finally, I really fell in love with this shirt dress in Dorothy Perkins today. I love shirt dresses as they tend to fit me perfectly, and I love the pattern and colours of this. So pretty!
I’m heading home this weekend (well to my hometown, but admittedly most of the weekend will be spend at my boyfriend’s and not my home!) so I don’t have many meals to plan, and I also haven’t been shopping this week. This meal plan is full of meals made up from store cupboard bits and pieces, and whatever I have left! Its also likely to change, as I’m sure some ingredients will start to get past their best so I’ll move things around to avoid waste. Anyway…
Wednesday – Steak Pie, Mash & Veg
Bit of a comfort meal this one! I really love a good shop-bought steak pie, but I’m quite limited to the ones I can eat as a lot include tomato paste, so I’m looking forward to trying this.
Thursday – Thai Green Vegetable Curry
This is just an excuse to play with a new toy – a much awaited Julienne peeler!
Friday – Leftover Curry/Soup
I’m not getting the train til relatively late, but I’ll still only have about 30 minutes to change and eat, so I watered down the leftovers from Thursday with stock, and ate with a Naan bread.
I first came across this dish as a ready meal. I know, I know, I hate ready meals and think they are awful value, but this was (1) from Waitrose, (2) very nice and (3) reduced. Clearly it didn’t suit the tastes of regular ready meal consumers though, as I’ve never seen it since. I craved this dish for months, then ordered a beef version in a Thai Restaurant in Northampton (if you’re in the area, do give the Thai Emerald a go – one of the best meals I’ve had in the town!) and again loved it. I’m not sure why I waited so long before making my own!
One of the things I love most about this curry is that it tastes pretty Indian, so helps that craving (I really struggle to find a spicy and tomato free Indian curry that’s actually good), but still is fresh and fragrant like the more typical Thai curries. Its creamy, nutty, spicy, and full of interesting textures. Maybe not the healthiest dish in the world, but it is damn good and tasty. Just what I want from a Saturday night curry.
Note: I bought a Massaman curry paste. It is actually one of the most complex curry pastes to make, and the extensive ingredients list (most of which did not reside in my cupboards!) really put me off. So I bought in. I’d love to make up a paste at some point in the future, but spices are expensive, and although I’m slowly building up my collection I’m having to do it one spice at a time, spreading the cost out. Remember, if you are allergic to tomatoes, check the label of any paste you buy. Thai pastes are generally tomato-free, but always check!
You will need:
Chicken breast – one per person
1 potato (I’d maybe up this to 2 next time, as this was my favourite part)
Half a pot (3-4 tablespoons) of massaman curry paste
4 cardamon pods
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 cans of coconut milk
To taste (I have added the amount I used as a guide) – 1 teaspoon of tamarind paste, 1 teaspoon of fish sauce, a squeeze of lime juice, and two handfuls of raw peanuts (ie not the salted snack version)
And to create a delicious curry:
Prepare: chop the chicken into chunks, peel and dice the potato (around 1cm cubes), slice the onion and crush the cardamom pods.
Then fry the curry paste (with a little oil if it looks dry) along with the crushed cardamom and cinnamon for a minute.
Then fry the chicken in the pan until completely sealed, adding the onion and potato part-way through. When sealed, add the coconut milk (I only needed just over 1.5 cans, so add the second slowly).
Simmer on a very low heat (don’t boil or the coconut milk might split) for around 25-40 minutes until thickened, glossy and the chicken and potato are cooked through. Meanwhile cook any rice or other accompaniments you feel like.
Stir in the seasonings – fish sauce, tamarind paste and lime juice. The fish sauce should serve as the salt in this recipe. I will warn you – these parts of vital towards the taste. The dish truly wouldn’t be the same without them.
Serve into warmed bowls, spooning the sauce over the meat/potatoes. I took the last few photos before adding the sauce, hence it might look a little odd! When we ate this the bowls were almost full of the most deliciously thick and savoury sauce.
I really would urge you to try this curry, its a great introduction to Thai food, and is simply one of my favourites.
This was another recipe I made on a whim that turned out pretty damn amazing, even if I do say so myself. This time, luckily for you, I did decide to take photographs of the process, and so can share the recipe far more easily with you (rather than with this noodle recipe!).
I found this to be quite quick (definitely around the half an hour mark, and that was with taking photographs and trying to keep things tidy!), really filling (you definitely don’t need the rice with it, but I had a microwaveable packet that needed using up), and healthy. If I was organised I would potentially cook some lentils up the day before and add these, but it isn’t necessary, and would only serve to bulk it up a bit more. Mine tasted pretty much exactly like a takeaway bombay potatoes, and I’m definitely cooking it again. It’s cheap and healthy, where can you go wrong?
Again, I will try and work out costings for you, but I reckon off the top of my head this will be pretty damn cheap!
Making Tomato Free (with the help of Marks & Spencers)
I’ve always had a big issue with finding tomato free curry pastes. I don’t really want to make curries from scratch all the time, as I find the ingredients are expensive, and they are so time consuming. Sometimes I want the convenience of a paste. Thai curries, and Malaysian ones (I love, love, love Massaman curry, and really want to try making one at some point – does anyone have any recommend recipes?), always tend to be safe for my tomato allergy, but when you are craving an Indian style curry, only that will do! Marks & Spencer came to my rescue on this occasion – at the time of writing (please ALWAYS check the label yourself!) their Tandoori and Balti pastes were both free from tomatoes. I prefer their Tandoori one, as I find the extra oil means it keeps better once opened, but both are good and well worth the slightly extra pennies you have to spend for M&S products! If anyone has any other tomato-free pastes or products they recommend, feel free to leave a comment.
Ingredients & Costings
Curry paste (discussed above) – you can get a decent one for under £2, and you use less than 1/4 of a jar (50p)
I used a new discovery for me – tinned new potatoes. I initially turn my nose up at things like this, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. And at 15p for a big tin (which served me for two meals) from Aldi, you can’t go wrong (8p)
Half an onion – I buy four big onions from Aldi for 59p, but the average price for this amount of onion would not be more than 10p
Half a pepper – probably around 20p
Some oil (price negligible)
Half a bag of spinach (around 50p)
Optional – some dry spices, and lemon juice (around 10p, if that)
To serve – a naan bread. I buy 6 for £1, but average price maybe 20p
Price for the recipe: approx £1.70. I reckon you could easily make this for under £1.50 per serving though, by shopping around for curry pastes, and not using extra spices.
Chop up your onions, and fry off in some oil, until softened. You don’t want crunchy onions here – they’ll take around 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, drain and wash your potatoes (to get rid of any brine-y water).
Chop your peppers and add to the pan – cook for around another five minutes. Keep stirring the pan occasionally (I should have mentioned this before!) to prevent sticking and burning).
Choose your dry spices. I used these:
Add your dry spices to the pan, and fry whilst stirring constantly for around 2 minutes until fragrant. This cooks them out and stops the finished tests from tasting powdery.
Add your curry paste, and stir round.
Throw in your potatoes, and mush up with spoon as they heat to make the consistency you want. Make sure they are heated through properly too – I recommend cooking for five or so minutes.
I ended up with mine looking a little like this…
Throw in your spinach and your lemon juice, and let it wilt, around 2 minutes maximum.
Serve up with naan bread, and rice if feeling greedy, and enjoy your homemade takeaway!
Does anyone have any yummy curry recipes?