Tag Archives: vegetarian

Saag Paneer

For four as a side.

  • 300g paneer, cubed – the shop bought stuff is best
  • 300g tin of spinach, and by this I mean a tin that yields 300g drained
  • 1tbsp vegetable oil
  • 25g butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly diced
  • as much as chilli you fancy, 1tsp cumin seeds, 1 clove, 1 cardamom pod, salt, black pepper
  • as much grated ginger as you dare (fine to use the stuff in jars, in which case at least one tablespoon)

Not much to say. Bash up the spices in a mortar. Melt the butter in the oil in a large pan on a medium heat. Add the spices and fry for a minute. Add the garlic and fry for a minute. Add the paneer, and fry until lightly golden, stirring gently. Add the ginger and fry for another minute. Tip in the spinach, turn down the heat and stir until combined and the spinach is hot.

Don’t try and make your own paneer; too much pain. You could also brown a sliced up onion to the point of collapse before adding the paneer.  Tinned spinach won’t hurt, and will be more reminiscent of an English curry house, but you could obviously wilt down some fresh spinach on top of the fried paneer instead.


Spuds of Shame

These are a little naughty, and will have your guests licking their plates. To serve four people as a side dish you will need…

  • 1 kilo potatoes (any variety, I use baby potatoes)
  • 10g butter
  • 1tbsp vegetable oil
  • as much garlic as you dare (four very fat cloves or half a head, peeled and finely sliced or chopped)
  • as much chilli as you dare (2tsp chilli flakes)
  • 150mL cream (single, double, doesn’t matter)

…and then…

  1. Hack up the potatoes into pieces of roughly equal thickness, maybe an inch or so; peel them if they have thick skins. When I use baby potatoes I just halve them down the long axis.
  2. Pop the spuds into a steamer and, well, steam them, until they’re done, which will probably be around 20 minutes. Check that they’re tender when pierced with a sharp knife or skewer.
  3. Just as the spuds are finishing, melt the butter in a large pan, with the vegetable oil to stop it burning, and fry the garlic and chilli, until the garlic is translucent and golden.
  4. Tip in the potatoes and combine well, adding a generous sprinkle of salt and a thorough grind of black pepper. There’s no need to sauté the spuds.
  5. Finally, add the cream, combine well, wait for it to boil, and turn off the heat.

You could add more cream, more chilli and more garlic. Some finely chopped fresh basil leaves won’t hurt either, but don’t bother with dried for this dish.

Saag Aloo


A useful side dish, or weeknight main. The following quantities will produce sides for four people or mains for two.

  • 800g potato
  • one small onion
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • one tin spinach (yes! a tin!)
  • spices, namely
    • ½ tsp cumin seeds
    • ½ tsp mustard seeds
    • ½ tsp chilli flakes
    • 2 cloves, bashed
    • ½ tsp turmeric

Finely slice the onion and pop in a large heavy pan with a smear of vegetable oil, and a generous pinch of salt, on a low heat to colour. Don’t let it burn.

Meanwhile, peel and dice the potato, keeping an eye on the onion. Don’t let it burn. Peel and chop the garlic. Boil the kettle.

When you’ve finished the potato, the onion will be done, if not, be patient. Push the onion to one side, and fry the garlic, adding more oil as necessary. When it’s slightly translucent, shove it to one side, and add the spices, except for the turmeric. Toast them for a minute or so, and then add the potato and the turmeric, mixing everything up.

Finally, arrange the potato in a single layer, and pour over enough boiled water to almost cover. Bring the whole lot to the boil, and then reduce to a simmer.

The potatoes will cook in their own darned time, which will be around 25 minutes, and as they cook they will exude starch, thickening the liquid, which is also reducing. So. Don’t forget to stir occasionally and, if it starts to stick to the bottom, add a splash more water from the kettle.

Finally, when the spuds are done, add the tinned spinach (casually, but not exhaustively drained) and stir well, to combine. Another minute or so, and it’s ready to serve, although may need more salt.

Weeknight Dhal

Supper for two, or starter for four.

Wash 200g of split red lentils, and pop into a small saucepan with 500mL water, and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, peel and thinly slice a small onion, and place in another slightly larger saucepan with 10mL vegetable oil, on a medium heat. Stir regularly until the onion has gone translucent and soft, and then reduce the heat as low as you can, so it’s barely sizzling. The onion needs to be browned, but not burnt, which will take about half an hour.

Coincidentally, after half an hour, the lentils will have gone a pleasing shade of yellow, and all but collapsed. You may need to add a splash of water from time to time if they threaten to solidify. The cooking liquid will become creamy as the starch oozes out.

Into the other saucepan, add a pinch of chilli flakes, a teaspoon of cumin seeds, a teaspoon of mustard seeds, and two whole cloves, roughly crushed. Stir these as they fry for a minute, and then add the entire contents of the other saucepan, stirring to combine.  Add a teaspoon of turmeric, and allow the whole lot to simmer for a few more minutes before dishing up.

Korma Chameleon

A quintessentially English dish, which comes from some hastily scribbled notes made in the mid nineties. Make this with skinless chicken breasts, or pork fillets. You could also use some diced lamb leg. If you’re doing a vegetable version, some hacked up butternut squash and broccoli would be good.

This isn’t a quick fix meal, as you need to make the marinade, do the marinating, and then bake the results, but, with a bit of planning this can be really handy, as you can make the marinade in advance, marinate during the day when you’re at work, and then simply bung it in the oven in the evening.

I liquidise the marinade by shoving the hand blender into the saucepan, which is a lot less washing up than transferring everything to the food processor. If that doesn’t appeal, then just make sure you chop everything finely.

You’ll need:

  • 25g butter (or ghee, or vegetable oil, but not olive oil as it would taste really, really wrong here)
  • 200mL natural (“Greek”) yoghurt – the important thing here is that it needs to be live
  • 150mL cream, either cow or coconut (vary the ratio of yoghurt to cream depending on your tastes)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, more if you fancy
  • enough chilli to add excitement (maybe a level teaspoon chilli flakes, one small vicious chilli, or a couple of larger mild ones)
  • 1 large onion
  • 50g ground almonds (or cashews or both)
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds
  • a bunch of coriander (both leaves and stalks)
    …oh, and…
  • 500g meat with the fat removed, and chopped up into 1 inch pieces, or about 500g of vegetables

Using a small saucepan, fry the (peeled, chopped) onion in the butter for about 10 minutes. You’re looking for a deep golden colour, so don’t be timid. Don’t be so bold you burn them.

Add the (peeled, sliced) garlic and chilli, frying until the garlic is translucent. Add the turmeric, ginger and cardamom. Fry for another half a minute, then add the coriander stalks, and almonds. Turn off the heat and add the cream and yoghurt. It will smell quite disgusting, but don’t lose heart, it just needs to cook.

You could refrigerate or freeze this mixture. Or even make it in bulk.

Place meat/veg and the sauce in an oven proof dish, and cover with enough marinade to coat everything, but not drown it. Any leftover marinade can go in the freezer for another time. Marinate for one, preferably two, hours at room temperature or all day in the fridge.

Assuming you’re using chicken, about 30 minutes in the oven at 180ºC should do. Veg might need a little longer to soften up, and I think lamb would benefit from longer at a lower temperature. Anyway, check periodically after 20 minutes just to make sure.

Once it’s done, stir in as much of the chopped up coriander leaves as you feel necessary, and maybe garnish with some toasted almonds, and a squirt of lemon juice. Rice or naan.

And cold, cold beer, of course.

You could also thread the pieces of meat onto skewers and barbecue them instead.

As I said, quite an English dish. For some proper kormas, and many other wonderful things, take a look at 50 Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi, which is an intelligent and accessible overview of Indian cuisine. (The second edition apparently corrects some of the woeful typos in the first.)

Asparagus Season

The Great British Asparagus Season is upon us. Joy. The asparagus from my local fruit and veg shop is £2.50 a bunch, but fantastic, the stuff from the supermarket is £1.30 a bunch, and a bit woody.

I do mine in the stockpot, tied up, and stood upright. They only need about an inch of water, boiling gently, for about five minutes. The boiling water sorts out the stems and, as the lid is on, the resulting steam does the delicate tips.

I serve them with aïoli.

Cunning trick. If you tie them up, and find they won’t balance, hold them in place with the tongs for about thirty seconds. The boiling water will soften the stalks enough that you can then take the bunch to one side and slice half an inch off the bottoms easily.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

An impromptu dinner party this evening, and not a lot on hand. But, as Jill Dupleix says, “having stock in your freezer is the very definition of social security,” and there is some vegetable stock in the freezer, and a butternut squash in the cupboard. Since it’s unlikely that I’ll need to turn the squash into a coach for an incognito appearance at the Prince’s Ball, I decided to make risotto instead.

Firstly, the squash gets cut in half, seeds scooped out, and then scored deeply, but not so deeply as to break the skin. Some salt, pepper and a few pieces of butter, and into the oven at 180C for an hour.

Now, after half an hour, I checked and ooops, I’d put too much butter on, and it was starting to escape the baking tray. I poured some off, but since there was still plenty in the hollows, so I popped a gently squished clove of garlic in each, and returned to the oven.

Check whether it’s done by prodding with a skewer and making sure all the bits are soft. Don’t worry if there are a few burnt bits. Place the squash to one side, and allow to cool. This can be done earlier in the day, if convenient.

The risotto is a standard, by-the-numbers affair. One onion, 250g Arborio rice, butter, olive oil, stock, yada yada yada. I’ll write detailed instructions later on, if only to assuage the anxieties of Julian Barnes.

Whilst you’re doing the risotto, peel the cold roasted squash, and cut into half inch chunks. It will practically fall to pieces anyway, along the lines you scored earlier. The skin should slip off, but might need coaxing here and there. You can do this earlier if you don’t believe you can leave a risotto unattended for more than thirty seconds. (You can, but never leave the room.)

Once the risotto is at the resting phase, pop the squash in, pop the lid back on and leave for five minutes. Then stir very gently, so as not to break up the squash. There will inevitably be a few casualties, but they’ll just ooze some orange juice into the dish, which looks nice.

Pass the Parmesan.

The profiterôles afterwards were bought from the shop, but the chocolate and Armagnac sauce was homemade. No, I can’t remember precisely how I did it; I was drunk at the time. (Don’t try that yourself.)

Parmigiana di Melanzane

Another gloomy day, so something from the Med is required to cheer it up. This is a hybrid of quite a few recipes – purists will doubtless shudder – but I’ll get my supper earlier.

  • two large aubergines
  • a litre of Tomato Goop (see earlier notes – I’ve added a teaspoon of dried oregano and half a teaspoon of dried basil)
  • 250g grated cows’ mozzarella
  • parmesan to taste (I’m a noted Parmesan Pig, so won’t embarrass myself by revealing the actual quantities)

This is what you do.

  1. Slice the aubergines lengthways into 5mm slices, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt, and then put under a hot grill, ’til slightly brown and sizzling
  2. layer the aubergines, cheese and sauce in a baking dish – try and plan it so you end up with about two or three layers (note that the aubergine slices will shrink when you grill them)
  3. bake for around an three quaters of an hour at 160C, and put a layer of grated Parmesan on top about ten minutes before the end
  4. serve with more Parmesan



A few things to note.

  • you don’t need to peel the aubergines
  • you don’t need to salt the aubergines
  • aubergines are oil hungry – you will need to use a brush – and rapidly at that – in order to get the oil onto them
  • some recipes tell you to flour and deep fry the aubergine slices – I think this just results in the final product absolutely swimming in oil
  • you could make a very simple tomato sauce just using tinned tomatoes, garlic and onions, plus a few favourite herbs – some Italian delis will make this stuff in bulk on the premises and sell it in little tubs
  • don’t use fancy buffalo mozzarella, what you want is the hard mozzarella made from cows’ milk: if it comes pre grated in a plastic bag, all the better – you can just pop the remains in the freezer


The following ingredients will add joy and happiness.

  • about a dozen anchovy fillets
  • a handful of chopped up black olives

Jane Grigson says not to even bother with grilling the aubergine – merely blanch the slices for two minutes in boiling water. (Her Vegetable Book lists some interesting regional variations as well.)

Mrs Grigson also very sensibly points out that once layered in the baking dish, this can be popped into the freezer instead of the oven, and brought out on another date.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

The pumpkins you get in England tend to be oversized, fibrous, tasteless things, suitable for making Jack-o-Lanterns; but very little else. The more modestly sized butternut squash contains a lot more flavour. Your mileage may vary in other countries: I’ve had perfectly edible pumpkin just across the channel, as well as across the Atlantic, so it can’t be all that bad. I could make the soup simply by peeling, chopping up and simmering the squash, but I don’t think that brings out the flavour the way roasting does. (And besides, the flat is cold.)

  1. Get the oven going at 200C
  2. Cut up a butternut squash lengthways into wedges – you will need a sharp heavy knife, and the vegetable is a slippery treacherous one – so take care when doing this – my 600g pumpkin yields 11 wedges, but I could have just chopped it up into six pieces
  3. Put the wedges into a roasting tin, rub them in olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt – you could also add a grind of pepper and consider some tough woody herbs
  4. It’ll need about 40 – 60 minutes, so do the washing up or something – they’ll be done when they’ve gone dark, are singing to themselves and smelling rather good
  5. Chop an onion finely and fry with a little butter in a saucepan or pot big enough to hold the finished product, along with some of the following (tonight I’m adding options 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
    • a knob of ginger, grated
    • a couple of cloves of garlic
    • a dried bay leaf
    • four cloves
    • a vigorous grinding of black pepper
    • some sage leaves (if you must)
    • chilli flakes or paprika
    • half a teaspoon of Thai red curry paste (Mae Ploy brand is good)
    • half a teaspoon of curry powder
  6. Pour over a litre of stock and bring to a simmer (I’m using a frozen tupper of some veg stock I made a few weeks ago, which is why there’s an iceberg in the saucepan)
    …but melting quickly…
  7. Resuce the roasted squash from the oven and allow to cool enough for you to remove the seeds and skin, and then bung the flesh into the saucepan
  8. Simmer for a bit (if you’re doing the Thai thing, you could add a couple of Kaffir lime leaves)
  9. Use either a hand held blender, potato masher or spoon, to bring to the right consistency (if you’re blending, fish out any cloves, bay leaves etc first)
  10. Maybe some crème fraîche? (Yeah, I know, every second post mentions it, but I’ve got a pot on the go, alright?)



A former flatmate of mine reacted in absolute horror when he realised I’d made the homous myself. You’d have thought, from the expression on his face, that it involved hand mincing camels’ armpits after a hard day’s raiding the desert. Nothing could be further from the truth.

You will need:

  • a tin of chickpeas (the own brand tin from my local yielded 240 grams of them, when drained) – but reserve the liquid from the tin
  • a jar of Tahini (you won’t use it all, but it seems to keep forever)
  • one or two lemons
  • some olive oil (use your posh stuff)
  • garlic – about two plump cloves

Do this:

  1. put the chickpeas into the blender
  2. crush and add the garlic
  3. add the juice of one of the lemons, a glug of olive oil, a glug of the reserved liquid from the tin, and a pinch of salt
  4. start the blender – if it doesn’t purée easily, an extra splash of lemon juice or water will help
  5. add 100g (a couple of big spoons) of tahini – and keep blending – if you added the tahini upfront the whole thing would turn into a ball of concrete
  6. keep tasting, and adding more salt, lemon juice, or oil, until it’s how you like it

If it seems a bit on the runny side, you could thicken it by adding more tahini, but the easiest solution is simply to pop it in the fridge overnight, and let the starch from the chickpeas do its work. The overnight stay will also mellow the bite of the garlic.

The only bit you won’t enjoy is cleaning the blender.

Oh, and my flatmate ate it all.


You can get dried chickpeas, soak and cook them yourself. This makes it taste a little better, but not enough to warrant the effort.

Some people like to add paprika, and other spices.