Recipe: Vegan Chickpea & Coconut Curry

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).

 photo Vegan Curry_zpsvpescgd7.jpgAnd 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.

 photo Vegan Chickpea Curry 5_zpslc5mxyxl.jpgIngredients (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.

 photo Vegan Chickpea Curry 1_zpsrxlcuknv.jpgHere 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?

Review: Imli Street, Soho

After a long day at the zoo, myself and office team were booked in to Imli Street for an Indian feast. We were initially unimpressed by the set menu but fears were unfounded as they served dishes of everything up.

Imli Street Restaurant Review4 photo 0c2c2808-d19d-4811-b1ec-1aab52c06ec0_zps6fzrfyiq.jpgI was fine to eat all starters offered on the set menu, apparently. I’d argue the suitability of the samosa as I did have a mild reaction. However the lack of severity leads me to believe it could have just been a contamination issue in the fryer – still not great, I wouldn’t eat here without making sure I had plenty of allergy meds on me! The samosa was in a heavy pastry, filled with a vegetable filling. I wasn’t a huge fan of the pastry, but loved the yoghurt, mint sauce and tamarind jus it was served with. The second starter was delicious – chicken thighs marinated in a spicy green tikka-style sauce. Spicy, flavourful and so very tender.

When the set menu had initially been emailed over it was clear it was very tomato-based, but a quick call and I was assured I would be catered for off menu – very exciting! When all the mains were brought out I was told “don’t eat this”.The rest of my team dined on Lamb Rogan Josh, Chicken Tikka Masala, dhal and a paneer dish, along with the standard rice and naan. I was presented with an extreme amount of food…

Imli Street Restaurant Review3 photo cfcfb507-31df-4f94-8a37-279c0d391fcb_zpsduezg9iw.jpgFirst up was a fillet of sea bass, resting on a spiced potato cake. I love the fish, it was cooked to perfection with some mild spicing. Whilst I like the potato cake, I felt the chunks of fresh chilli added a raw hotness that wasn’t pleasant – it was a little too bold tasting in an otherwise delicate dish.

Imli Street Restaurant Review1 photo 762dcfbc-7449-4b49-9082-3c38673a8005_zpsjut49er5.jpgMy curried dish was a chicken saag. Quite possibly the greenest curry I’ve ever seen, I was worried this would taste predominately of spinach – I’ve not had a decent saag since developing my tomato allergy! Fears were again unfounded as somehow they’d managed to create a sauce of blended spices and spinach. Perfectly balanced, creamy in texture and not at all heavy. It’s a shame this is off menu as it was a stunning dish, and would definitely make a far more interesting addition to a menu as opposed to a standard spinach curry!

Imli Street Restaurant Review2 photo 815b3955-5647-460b-91e3-679d9f71f271_zpsm73nbiac.jpgI was also served with my own rice, a tomato-free dhal (unfortunately a little watery), and some potatoes. These were delicious – wonderfully flavoured, non-greasy, astoundingly savoury. I wanted to ask to take these home as I’d imagine they’d be perfect in a cold potato salad! Unfortunately most of the naan bread was placed down the opposite end of the table. I tried a bit of the peshwari naan, but I’m not a fan of the flavour at all – though the texture of the naan was impressive.

Desert was a rice pudding – an odd mushy and gritty texture, far too sweet. I wasn’t a fan! But all in all, a good Indian. I loved the atmosphere (unfinished walls, as is the trend these days). The cocktail menu looked amazing, though I plumped for wine and a refreshing iced tea muddle of lemongrass and pomegranate. The food was a mixed bag, though admittedly I was off menu. A little pricey, though for the area probably on par. The grill chef can clearly cook things perfectly, and the spicing was on the whole spot on – I’d definitely return if I could find more options to eat!

Are you a fan of Indian food? What’s your favourite curry?

Recipe: Curried Carrot & Lentil Soup

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!

 photo 73f0c241-104b-423f-89ff-c6f8975916e8_zps8f71671d.jpgNow, 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.

 photo c2002620-4d2b-4b6c-adef-3ce63b56b2da_zpsd69a60fa.jpgIngredients – 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 onion
  • 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

 photo 971a2598-bd4d-4913-b8fd-79e11ef08150_zps9ca3a51d.jpgHeat 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.

 photo 03f3a9c7-d60f-4f53-adc4-695983ebbe8d_zpsbceebd31.jpg photo aa8089d5-44a8-4087-90b0-34fe9f5680dd_zps91d9a3b8.jpgNow, 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.

 photo 2bc6545c-72c7-4a44-beed-31abbcb73a69_zps42b62950.jpgPuree/blend until completely smooth. Return to a clean pan and stir through the coconut milk until heated through. Serve scattered with the fresh coriander.

 photo 0cea28c0-6af4-4339-bf6f-f8484a8b5a01_zps7073e9f8.jpgThis 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?

Lifestyle: Date Night at Bombay Mela, Redhill

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?

 photo 7a59aa17-0cc5-4090-9353-6c972eddb89a_zps40b10a9e.jpg photo 4b8343ee-c4bb-4714-9dda-422731b93615_zpsadc0c83c.jpgThere’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!

 photo 2014-09-06185423_zpsb3daca29.jpgWe 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.

 photo 2014-09-06185430_zpsaf1b2550.jpgGarlic & 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!

 photo b39c5e2a-1cbf-4c22-a581-cfa85f0339ae_zpsc61b80d8.jpgFinally 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.

 photo b605c9a7-bbe9-4ba8-95d1-319fce954bf2_zps9aa1adcb.jpgI’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!

 photo adcfcdd9-724b-45b0-98ed-63e33ac88890_zps35f545d6.jpg photo b83681b0-0eef-4b85-b87d-2534a5bd751f_zps730531cd.jpgMy 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!

 photo 7830138a-272c-486a-9af8-b90a3779d918_zpsf958127d.jpg photo 7122cc9d-6b19-42bf-a4a0-4f6d6c11c325_zps3248ac51.jpgAs 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!

 photo 2014-09-06201357_zpseb8c5bfb.jpg photo 4baa5f68-e171-41e5-aa77-6e39c33ded12_zpsbeee48c7.jpgWe 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!

 photo 0ff5770b-e305-4ad3-8312-a63c587d79f0_zps51a5d6f1.jpgOur 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…

Do you like Indian food?

Recipe: Fried Pea Sandwich (a.k.a. A Cheat’s Samosa)

2014-01-19 13.53.49

My boyfriend’s dad is currently taking part in an Indian cookery class, and luckily for me I was able to sample some of the things he made before I left for university. One of last week’s goodies was what I can only describe as a fried sandwich with a filling of spicy peas. I loved it – it was spicy, fresh, crunchy and warming with an almost summery hint coming from the peas. And of course I asked for the recipe.

Reading the recipe I came across a big problem. I’d never even heard of some of the spices (hing anyone?!) and I definitely knew that most students’ budget wouldn’t cover them. Mine definitely didn’t! So I decided to improvise. This recipe is what I came up with, and for about 10 minutes of work and some very cheap ingredients it was damn tasty! It makes a perfect snack or light lunch, so give it a go as something different!

I’m just going to go straight into it and give you the recipe, its so simple you don’t even need an ingredients list…

In the morning, get a handful of peas out to defrost. Get your bread out too – you want it slightly stale for this as it will go crispier.

2014-01-19 13.28.15Get some spicy out on a small plate. I used curry powder, cumin, tumeric and crushed chillies, but even just curry powder would do!

2014-01-19 13.32.44Tip your peas onto the spices, and crush with a fork. The original recipe said they should go like breadcrumbs, mine didn’t look that way! As long as they aren’t whole and they aren’t mush they should be fine…

2014-01-19 13.35.57Press the pea mixture into a slice of bread. Try and press it down as much as possible as this will prevent the sandwich from falling apart.

2014-01-19 13.39.23Top with the second slice of bread (pressing down well!) and then fry in a preheated oiled pan for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden and crispy.

2014-01-19 13.48.37This is delicious served on its own, but I’m thinking it will be even better with a cucumber-yoghurt dip. Watch this space!

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I never would have thought to try making a ‘samosa’ from a fried sandwich, but this really works. Let me know if you give it a go!

EDIT: by request, I’m adding this to Deena Kakaya’s Fabulous Fushion Food Challenge – a challenge which to be honest is right up my street! There’s already some great entries for this month, so please do have a look at them!