My Favourite Recipe Books

I like to do a batch-cook once a month. I spend a weekend cooking as many main meals and lunches as I can fit in the freezer, and these are the recipe books I use most often.

Madhur Jaffrey

  • Curry Easy Vegetarian
  • The Madhur Jaffrey Cookbook
  • Curry Easy

Anjum Anand

  • Anjum’s Indian Vegetarian Feast
  • I (heart) Curry

Kaushy Patel

  • Prashad Indian Vegetarian Curry
  • Prashad at Home

Meera Sodha

  • Fresh India

Krishna Dutta

  • the Dal Cookbook

Mona Hamadeh

  • A Lebanese Feast of Vegetables, Pulses, Herbs and Spices

Salma Hage

  • The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook


Why? Because they are filled with recipes for tasty, nutritious vegetarian meals,which freeze and re-heat well. Because they use a combination of common (to white British people) and unfamiliar (to white British people) ingredients, which encourages me to eat a wider variety of foods and buy from a wider range of shops. I tend to use Jordan Valley on Nicolson Street and Bismillah Food Store on Nicolson Square, but Maqbool on Potterrow is good too. I like to support small, local businesses where I can. Jordan Valley is great for pulses and spices and huge jars of artichokes at good prices. Bismillah is good for spices, pulses and Asian vegetables. Which reminds me, I bought medlars and I need to see if they are bletted yet…

Another Couple of Veggie Recipes with Pulses

The first is toor dal with corn, and it’s from Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Easy book. The second is msa’aa, from the Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook by Salma Hage. Both are reproduced here with no permission at all, and of course I will delete them if asked to by the author or publisher.

Toor Dal with Corn

Serves 4-5

210g toor dal or similar, washed and drained
.25 tsp ground turmeric
1 fresh corn cob, cut crossways into 1″ pieces
1.25 tsp salt
.25-.75 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp olive oil, rapeseed oil or ghee
.125 tsp asafoetida
3 cloves
.5 tsp whole cumin seeds
.5 tsp brown mustard seeds
2 red dried chillis

Put the dal and 1 litre of water into a medium pan, bring to the boil and skim off the froth that rises to the top. Lower the heat and add the turmeric. Stir, cover partially, and simmer gently for 1 hour.
Add the corn, salt, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and sugar to the pan. Stir, cover partially again, and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Heat the oil in a small frying pan When it is very hot, add the asafoetida, cloves, cumin and mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds pop, pour the contents of the frying pan into the dal. Stir and serve.

I’m cooking the dal for this just now. I haven’t tried it before, but it looks great.



Serves: 4
Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200°C/Gas Mark 6.

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2-inch/5-cm chunks
2 courgettes, chopped into 1-inch/2.5-cm pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 aubergines, chopped into 1-2-inch/2.5-5-cm chunks
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1½-inch/4-cm chunks
2 onions, finely chopped
7 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Lebanese 7-Spice Seasoning (buy it ready made or find a recipe to grind your own)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 sprig thyme or rosemary
6 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 (14-oz/400-g) can chickpeas, drained
scant ½ cup (3½ fl oz/ 100 ml) vegetable broth (stock)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
sea salt and pepper
brown rice, to serve (optional)

Arrange the sweet potato and courgette chunks in a large roasting pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Toss well, then roast for 10 minutes.

Add the aubergine and bell pepper to the pan and roast, stirring occasionally, for another 15 minutes.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet or frying pan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic, and gently cook for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the spices and the thyme or rosemary and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, vegetable broth (stock), and balsamic vinegar and cook for 10 minutes.

Take the pan of roasted vegetables out of the oven and add the sauce from the pan. Stir to combine in the roasting pan. Wrap the top of the pan in aluminium foil. Return to the oven and roast for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to let the vegetables to soak up the sauce.

Remove the foil, stir, and return to the oven to cook for another 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven, stir again, and let cool for a few minutes. Remove the thyme or rosemary sprig and serve piled on top of hot brown rice, if desired.


I made Msa’aa for the first time yesterday and it is absolutely delicious.

And this is another Salma Hage recipe, from the same book. I’m going to make this as soon as I’ve done this post, so fingers crossed it’s as tasty as it looks.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Serves 4

120g red or mixed quinoa, rinsed
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 yellow pepper, seeded and diced
1 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or approx 115g dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked)
1 tsp ground cumin
4 red peppers, halved and seeded
handful chopped parsley leaves  :sick:
salt and pepper

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
100g tomato puree
1 tsp Lebanese 7-spice seasoning (buy it ready made or grind your own)
salt and pepper

Cook the quinoa in 250ml water for about 12 minutes or until the quinoa is tender and the water is all absorbed. Drain, rinse, squeeze, set aside in a large bowl
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and yellow pepper together for a few minutes. Add the chickpeas and cumin, and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then tip it all into the bowl with the quinoa and mix everything together.

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C/GM5.

Heat the oil in a saucepan, then add the onion and cook until slightly golden. Add the tomato puree and 800ml boiling water. Cook for 10 mins on a rolling boil, then add the 7-spice and salt and pepper. Pour the sauce into an ovenproof dish and set aside.

Fill the red pepper halves with the stufffing and sink them into the sauce in the ovenproof dish. Any leftover stuffing can be added to the sauce to help it thicken. Cook in the oven for 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, add parsley and serve.

More Veggie Recipes

My cookbook collection is growing out of control. Several of the books, I might only use two or three recipes, so really I ought to photocopy them and sell or donate the books. My latest acquisitions are Prashad by Kaushy Patel (based on what she serves at Prashad), and The Dal Cookbook by Krishna Dutta, which enticed me because I’m always looking out for new tasty pulses recipes. All of the following recipes are copied here without permission and of course I will remove them if the authors or publishers ask.

Rasam with Gourd and Toor Lentils
2 tablespoons coconut oil or sesame oil
1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
1 onion, thinly sliced
thumb-sized piece of root ginger, pulverised into a paste
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
200g gourd or squash, cut into small cubes
250g toor dal
1 tablespoon tamarind puree
10-12 fresh or dried curry leaves
1 teaspoon dried crushed red chilli (optional)

Heat the oil in a pan, and when hot, throw in the mustard seeds. A few seconds later add the onion, ginger, garlic, turmeric and chilli powder. When they become creamy and translucent, add the dal with 500ml water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the dal is cooked. Stir in the gourd and the tamarind puree and simmer until the gourd is cooked (5-10 minutes). Add the curry leaves and crushed chilli near the end of the cooking time, cover the pan and take it off the heat. The consistency should be on the thick side, like baked beans. Serve hot with rice.

Green Banana Satay
100g red-skinned peanuts, finely chopped or blended
2 teaspoons chickpea flour, sieved
1.25 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2-4 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 handful fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
100ml sunflower oil
4 green unripe bananas, in their skins, washed and dried

3-5 fresh green chillies, seeds in
3-6 garlic cloves
4cm root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
pinch of salt

Crush the chillies, garlic and ginger together with a pinch of salt to make a fine masala paste.

Put the chopped peanuts and chickpea flour into a bowl and mix together well, using your fingertips. If you feel you might want to take your contact lenses out in the next couple of hours, [b]do it now[/b]. Add the masala paste, salt, sugar, coriander, cumin, fresh coriander, turmeric, cumin seeds and oil, and mix them into the flour and peanuts, using your hands. Work everything into a rich paste then set aside for 15 minutes.

Do not peel the bananas. Chop them into thirds, then cut each piece lengthways into quarters, leaving the last centimetre or so intact at one end to hold them together. Open the banana pieces and spread the cut surfaces with the paste. Place the pieces in a large frying pan, and scoop any leftover paste into the pan and dot between the banana pieces.  Place the pan over a high heat and cook for 1 minute. Pour 300ml warm water into the bowl, swill it around to loosen the last of the paste, and pour carefully into the pan. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and leave to cook for one minute. Reduce the heat to very low and leave to cook for 13-15 minutes, carefully turning the banana pieces every 3-5 minutes. Serve with paratha and tomato relish.

Chana Dal with Bottle Gourd

300g chana dal (Bengal gram, split skinned black chickpeas)
150ml sunflower oil, plus 1 teaspoon
4 dried red chillies
1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
2 teaspoons carom seeds
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1 medium bottle gourd, peeled and chopped into 1.5cm cubes
1 teaspoon turmeric
2-4 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 handful fresh coriander, finely chopped

2-6 fresh green chillies, seeds in
2-4 garlic cloves
3cm root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
pinch of salt

Rinse the chana dal 3 times in warm water then put it into a large pan with 1 litre of boiling water. Bring to the boil over a high heat and cook for a couple of minutes until it starts to foam. Skim the froth from the surface add the teaspoon of oil and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer, three-quarters covered, for about 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding another 250ml boiling water as and when needed to keep the dal covered. When the dal is soft and cooked through, drain and set aside.

Crush the chillies, garlic and ginger together with the pinch of salt to make a fine masala paste.

Heat the 150ml oil in a large pan for 30 seconds over a medium heat, then add the dried chillies. As soon as they start to brown, add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the carom seeds, asafoetida and gourd. Mix gently, then stir in the masala paste, turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, salt and sugar. Pour in 200ml boiling water, stir, turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer over a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick. Add another 100ml boiling water, cover the pan and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring every so often.

Add the dal to the bottle gourd mix, stir gently and cook for 2 minutes over a medium heat. Remove from the heat, stir in the garam masala sprinkle with the chopped coriander, and leave to rest, covered, for at least ten minutes. Reheat, serve with puri and rai marcha.

Moong Dal with Cauliflower

250g small split yellow moong dal (do not put them into soak the night before, you don’t need to)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chilli powder (optional)
1 medium cauliflower, divided into small florets
2 tablespoons ghee
4 small green cardamom pods
2 small cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon fresh root ginger, grated
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tablespoon fresh chopped coriander

Dry fry or toast the dal in a deep frying pan without oil until a nutty aroma rises and set aside for a couple of minutes. Pour 700ml warm water ino a heavy saucepan, add the dal and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, add the turmeric, cumin and chilli, put the lid on the pan and simmer for 20 minutes. Make sure it doesn’t dry out and add boiling water if necessary. Once teh dal is soft, add the cauliflower and cook for four more minutes. Set aside.

Put the ghee into a deep frying pan. When hot, crush the cardamom pods, split the cinnamon sticks, and toss them in. Add the crushed ginger with tomato puree and blend with a whisk. As the aroma rises, tip them into the pan of cooked dal and stir well. Turn the heat off. Sprinkle the coriander leaves on top and put the lid back on the pan. Serve with rice or parathas.

A Couple More Vegan Recipes

Both from Anjum Anand’s Indian Vegetarian Feast. Both reproduced here without any permission at all, but will happily remove if Ms Anand or her publisher requests it (emails to southside socialist at hotmail dot co dot uk).

Lemony Spinach & Vegetable Hotpot

Serves 5-6
20g root ginger, (peeled weight)
3 fat garlic cloves, peeled
4 large tomatoes, quartered
3 tablespoons     vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 rounded teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon   turmeric
1 rounded teaspoon garam masala
salt, to taste
1 large-ish carrot, peeled and chopped into 2 cm pieces
1/2 large aubergine, cut into 2 cm pieces
1 potato, peeled and cut into 2 cm pieces
4 tablespoons     bengal gram, soaked for two hours, or as long as possible
500g baby spinach, washed
15g     dill fronds, roughly chopped or 25g coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves, crumbled between your fingers
1-1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

Using a stick blender, blend together the ginger and garlic with a little water until smooth. Set aside. Again using the stick blender, blend the tomatoes until smooth. Set these aside as well.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan. Add the onion and cook until just soft. Add the blended ginger and garlic and cook until the liquid has dried up and the garlic turns lightly golden. Add the tomatoes, spices and salt and bring to the boil; simmer for five minutes.

Add the carrot, aubergine and potato and give the pan a good stir. Sprinkle over the drained lentils, but do not stir them in. Place the spinach, herbs and fenugreek on top and pour in 200 ml of water. Without stirring the pan, bring to the boil, then cover and simmer on a gentle flame until yieldingly soft, around 1–1¼ hours.

Uncover and, if you like, mash the vegetables and spinach together until homogeneous (this is how the authentic recipe is made; some prefer to leave the vegetables whole). Add the lemon juice to taste and adjust the seasoning. Simmer off any excess water as the stew cooks for another 15 minutes and becomes creamy, then serve.

Keralan Coconut Curry

Serves 4

400g sweet potatoes, peeled, in 3 cm chunks (or other starchy veg – I sometimes use butternut squash and/or carrot)
100g greens or spinach, washed and shredded
400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

4 tablespoons    vegetable oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 onion, finely chopped
3-5 green chillies, whole but pierced with the tip of a knife
25g    root ginger, finely chopped, (peeled weight)
5 fat garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 small tomatoes, chopped
salt, to taste
1/2-2/3 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander
3/4-1 teaspoon ground cumin
400ml creamy coconut milk
1/2-3/4 teaspoon tamarind paste, dissolved in a little hot water, to taste
3/4 teaspoon garam masala, or to taste
knob coconut cream
lots    freshly ground pepper

Put the sweet potatoes on to boil and cook until just done; it should take around 10 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan and add the mustard seeds. Once the popping diminishes, add the onion and green chillies and sauté for two to three minutes or until just softening, then add the ginger and garlic; sauté these gently for one minute. Add the tomatoes, salt, turmeric and ground coriander and cumin and keep sautéing for four to five minutes. Now taste; it should seem harmonious and the tomatoes should be soft but still retain their form.

Add the coconut milk and a splash of water. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for five to seven minutes. Add the greens and cook for a few minutes, then add the drained sweet potatoes, the chickpeas, most of the tamarind, the garam masala and coconut cream. Taste, adjust the seasoning, adding more tamarind to taste, and serve.

(Gluten free) Rich Chocolate Cake

This is a fantastic recipe for chocolate cake made with ground almonds instead of flour, so great for people who don’t eat gluten, but no good for people with nut allergies. It comes out a bit dense, but very rich (insert Boris Johnson joke here).

250g/9oz plain chocolate

175g/6oz butter or margarine (seriously? in a cake this good? use butter!)

125g/4oz caster sugar

200g/7oz ground almonds

4 eggs, separated

5 tbsp apricot conserve


Preheat oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Line base of 22cm/8.5″ cake tin and brush with melted butter.

Place 175g/6oz chocolate in a bowl, over pan of simmering water, and stir until melted Remove from heat.

Cream 125g/4oz butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Stir n ground almonds, egg yolks and melted chocolate. Beat together.

Whisk egg whites until stiff and fold into chocolate mixture. Pour into tin and bake for 50-55 mins until firm to touch.

Leave for a few minutes to cool, then turn onto wire rack and leave to cool. Coat top of cake with apricot conserve.

Cut remaining butter and chocolate into small pieces, and put into bowl over pan of simmering water. When melted, stir well and spread over top of cake.


Soup of the Evening, Beautiful Soup*

*bonus points to anyone who gets the literary reference

I like soup for a tasty, filling and nutritious workday lunch, especially because I can make two or three different ones at the weekend then freeze it in portion sizes, and then – ta-da! – I have a selection ready to take out of the freezer and take to work.

As already stated, it can sometimes be difficult for vegetarians and vegans to get different sources of protein in their diet. Pulse-based soups are fantastic for easy protein, so here are a few of my favourites.

Black bean & carrot soup (from New Covent Garden Soup Company’s Soup and Beyond)

Serves 6-8

  • 250g/9oz dried black beans, soaked overnight
  • 110g/4oz butter
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 500g/1lb2oz carrots
  • 25ml/1fl oz jalapeno tabasco sauce, or 1 tablespoon chopped jalapeno chillies, or one green chilli, chopped
  • 150ml/1/4 pint sherry or fortified wine (I don’t like sherry, but it’s fine in this, and I use the rest of the bottle instead of wine in risotto)
  • 75g/3oz tomato purée
  • salt and pepper
  • 1.2 litres/2 pints water

Boil the soaked black beans in water rapidly for 15 minutes then simmer them while you make the rest of the soup. Melt the butter and sauté the onions, garlic and bay leaves in a large saucepan until the onions are soft. Add the carrots and jalapeno sauce/chillies, cover the pan and let sweat for 5 minutes. Pour in the sherry and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the drained beans, tomato purée and seasoning, cover with the quantity of water, bring to the boil and simmer for one hour. Remove from the heat, remove the bay leaves, and purée in a liquidiser. Reheat, serve garnished with grated cheddar.

Bengal Lancers’ Soup (from New Covent Garden Soup Company’s Soup and Beyond)

Serves 4

  • 225g/8oz red lentiils, rinsed well
  • 3 tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 1 large red and 1 large green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 15g/1/2oz fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon each ground coriander, cumin and turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 275ml/1/2 pint stock (recipe says chicken, I use vegetable)
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 100ml/4fl oz coconut cream
  • 1 dessertspoon salt
  • 1 dessertspoon tamarind purée
  • 15g/1/2oz fresh coriander, chopped

Put the lentils into a saucepan and pour in water to cover by 4cm. Bring to the boil and simmer fairly rapidly for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time and skimming off any scum from the surface. Remove from the heat, cover tightly and set aside.

While the lentils are cooking, heat the oil and fry the onions over a moderate heat, stirring, for about 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Reduce the heat and stir in the chillies, ginger and garlic. Cook gently, covered, for 3 minutes. Stir in the ground spices and black pepper, and cook gently for 2 minutes, stirring. Add the stock, lentils, tomatoes, coconut cream, salt and tamarind purée and stir well. Increase the heat and bring almost but not quite to the boil. Cool a little, then blend in a liquidiser until the soup is almost but not quite entirely unlike tea. Sorry, until the soup is fairly, but not completely, smooth. Reheat the soup, stirring, until almost at boiling point. Remove from the heat and stir in the coriander, and garnish with a spoonful of natural yogurt.

Brown ale, mushroom and lentil soup (from New Covent Garden Soup Company’s Soup and Beyond)

Serves 4

  • vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 50g/2oz brown lentils, well washed
  • 110g/4oz chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
  • 110g/4oz flat mushrooms, finely sliced
  • 15g/1/2oz dried cepe or porcini mushrooms, soaked in 200ml/1/3 pint warm water for 20 minutes, drained (reserving soaking liquor), roughly chopped
  • 275ml/1/2 pint brown ale

Heat the oil and cook the onion over a moderate heat until beginning to brown. Reduce the heat, add the garlic and cook gently for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato purée and lentils, then the flat and chestnut mushrooms. Increase the heat and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the brown ale and 850ml/1.5pints stock. Cover, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Add the reconstituted mushrooms and their soaking liquor to the pan, bring back to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce if liked, season and serve.

Moroccan chickpea and spinach soup (from New Covent Garden Soup Company’s Book of Soups) – this is one of the nicest soups I have ever eaten

Serves 6

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 150g/5oz dried apricots, chopped
  • finely grated rind of half a lemon
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1.5 litres/2.5 pints vegetable stock
  • 250g/9oz cooked chickpeas – the drained weight of a 400g tin is 240g, so I just use one of those
  • 200g/7oz fresh spinach, shredded
  • salt and pepper

Heat the oil and cook the onions gently for 5 minutes in a covered saucepan, without colouring. Add the garlic and spices, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomato purée and cook for 3 minutes. Add the apricots, lemon rind and juice, stock and chickpeas. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes until the chickpeas are tender. Cool a little, then purée in a liquidiser. Return to a clean saucepan, stir in the spinach and simmer for a further 5 minutes until the spinach is wilted. Season to taste and serve garnished with a swirl of natural yogurt.

Black-eyed bean soup with oregano (from New Covent Garden Soup Company’s Book of Soups)

Serves 6

  • 350g/12oz black-eyed beans, washed and soaked overnight
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 stick celery, roughly chopped (I leave it out because celery is the devil’s penis and not in a good way)
  • 1.4 litres/2.5 pints vegetable stock
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 3 teaspoons Mexican chilli paste (or, 3 red or green chillies, whole, with slits cut in them)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano

Place the drained beans, onion, carrots and celery (NO!) in a large pan with the stock, garlic, tomato purée and chilli paste/whole chillis. Cover, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 2 hours or until the beans are tender, adding the salt and oregano 10-15 minutes before the beans are completely cooked. Purée half of the soup in a liquidiser, mix with the other half in the saucepan, reheat and serve.

Lentil and Lemon Soup (from New Covent Garden Soup Company’s Book of Soups)

Serves 6

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 150g/5oz red lentils, washed
  • 570ml/1 pint vegetable stock
  • 1 400g/14oz tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons tomato purée
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of half a lemon, or to taste

Heat the oil and cook the onion and garlic gently for 10 minutes without colouring. Ad the lentils and stir to coat well in the oil. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Skim off any scum. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato purée and 3/4 of the thyme. Bring back to the boil and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning, add the remaining thyme, add the lemon juice and serve garnished with thyme sprigs.


It’s nearly Bonfire Night, and as a woman who was Yorkshire-bred if not Yorkshire-born, that means it’s time for parkin. Make it this weekend, wrap it up in greaseproof paper, and by Bonfire Night it will be just right. This is how you do it:

4ozs lard/butter or margarine
4ozs golden syrup
4ozs black treacle
4ozs soft brown sugar
8ozs plain flour
8ozs medium oatmeal
pinch of salt

4 teasp. ground ginger
2 teasp. ground cinnamon
1 teasp. bicarb. of soda
1 egg  – beaten
1 teaspoon dark rum (optional)

Heat the oven to 150C or gas mark 1.

Melt the fat. Add the syrup, treacle and sugar and warm over a very low heat till the sugar begins to dissolve. Avoid overheating the mixture, keeping the saucepan warm rather than hot.
Sieve the dry ingredients, make a well in the centre and gradually beat in the liquid from the saucepan & the beaten egg. -(taste and add dark rum if wanted). Mix to a soft consistency, adding a little milk if required.
Pour into a greased flat tin (lined with grease proof paper) so that the mixture is 1 inch in depth.
Bake for 1 hour in a cool oven on bottom shelf  (300 degrees,or mark 1) – check during cooking and if necessary add 5-10 minutes (if browning too quickly add foil and then take off during last 10 minutes). Partly cool it in the tin, then turn out to finish cooling.

Serve the parkin cut into squares. Serve with stewed gooseberries, if you have any, but it’s fine without.

Christmas Cake recipe

This is my mum’s Christmas cake recipe, and it really is the nicest Christmas cake I’ve ever tasted. She’s given the recipe out to people many many times, and on several occasions people have said to her “I must give you my Christmas cake recipe that my friend gave me years ago, it’s lovely”  – only to hand her a photocopy of her own handwritten recipe!

10 oz butter (softened)
10 oz finely chopped mixed fruit peel
10 oz sultanas
8 oz currants
5 oz seedless raisins
4 oz glace cherries, halved
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 oz chopped angelica
8 oz plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 oz soft brown sugar
6 oz ground almonds
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons brandy

Preheat the oven to gas mark 2/150C/310F. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8″ round cake tin with 1 oz of the softened butter, using a pastry brush. Grease one side of a 20″ strip of greaseproof paper with 1 oz of butter and fit the paper, greased side up, inside the tin.

Put the fruit (peel, sultanas, currants, raisins, cherries and angelica) into a large bowl. Sprinkle it with 2 oz of the flour, tossing it about with a spoon to coat the pieces evenly. Set aside. Sift the rest of the flour with the baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Cream the rest of the butter with the sugar in another large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the ground almonds and beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour and baking powder mix, about 6 tablespoons at a time, beating well. Beat the fruit mixture into the batter. Finally, add the brandy, mix well, pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hr 45 minutes, then lower the heat to gas mark 1/100C/290F and bake for a further 2 hours 15 minutes until a fine skewer inserted comes out cleanly.

Let the cake cool for 30 minutes before removing the sides of the tin, then slip it off the bottom of the tin and onto a cake rack to cool completely. Once completely cool, remove the paper. Several times before the cake is marzipanned and iced, sprinkle two or three tablespoons of brandy over the cake.


I strongly dislike strawberry tarts

I like pastry, I like cream, I love strawberries. But I do not like strawberry tarts. Mainly I don’t like them because they have horrible shiny goo poured all over them, but also I find that very often the strawberries are tasteless imported ones, the cream is cheap and nasty and the pastry is heavy and tough. But even freshly made ones with perfectly ripe local strawberries are still covered in the horrible shiny goo. So those are the main reasons I don’t like strawberry tarts – they’re nasty, and the horrible shiny goo is very nasty.

The other reason though, is a bit more abstract. I feel that strawberry tarts are lacking some fundamental coherent tartiness. Something about them never feels like they’re a proper tart – they’re just pastry, cream, and a couple of strawberries plonked on top (and then covered with horrible shiny goo). Nothing about them makes me feel that the component parts have been brought together into a new, coherent creation. They’re just disparate things next to each other with no essential tartiness in their being. And always the horrible shiny goo.

Some tasty vegetarian recipes

A couple of weeks ago I was reading a post on someone else’s blog and the conversation turned to the importance of vegetarians who exercise getting enough protein in their diet, and I mentioned that I have some nice recipes for meals based around pulses. I said I would post them here and then forgot all about it. But now I have remembered, so here are some of my favourite vegetarian recipes.

Chickpea, watermelon & feta salad

In a large bowl, toss together drained tinned chickpeas, chunks of peeled watermelon, and some watercress sprigs. In a smaller bowl whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, chopped mint and a little honey. Toss the salad with the dressing and top with crumbled feta.

Aubergine & chickpea tagine (this is a Gillian McKeith recipe but it’s delicious)

Serves 4.

1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, peeled & chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed & sliced (I use courgette instead because celery is the devil’s penis)
1 small leek, washed, trimmed & sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled & finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cinnamon
400g chopped tomatoes (I use 2 tins as I find one is too dry)
1 large aubergine, diced into 2 cm pieces
2 small red peppers, deseeded & diced
2 small yellow peppers, deseeded & diced
1 tbsp vegetable bouillon powder
410 g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 300g dried ones soaked overnight then boiled for an hour)
1 handful fresh basil
1 handful fresh coriander

Place the oil in a tagine or covered casserole dish and warm gently over a low heat. Add the onions, celery, leek and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add all the spices, tomatoes and vegetables and cook for a further 3 minutes. Mix the bouillon with 2 tablespoons of boiling water and add to the tagine. Lower the heat and simmer for 40-50 minutes. Add the chickpeas and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the fresh herbs and serve from the dish with brown rice.

Lentil stew. (again Gillian McKeith, again I use courgette instead of celery)

Serves 4.

225g brown lentils
2 onions, peeled & finely chopped
1 vegetable stock cube
4 carrots, trimmed, peeled and chopped
1/2 a butternut squash, peeled, deseeded & chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled & diced
4 small white potatoes, peeled & diced
1 celery stalk, trimmed & chopped
50g fresh garden peas (or frozen)
100g watercress
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 tsp tamari sauce

Soak the lentils in cold water for 20 minutes, then rinse thoroughly and drain. Place the onions and stock cube in a saucepan with 750ml water and bring to the boil. Add the lentils, carrots, sweet potato, squash and white potatoes. Bring back to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the celery and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Add the peas, watercress, dill and tamari and serve.

You can add extra water and stock and bung it in the blender to turn it into soup.

Pumpkin & Goat’s Cheese Lasagne (I generally use butternut squash instead of pumpkin)

Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
25g/1oz butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1.6kg/3.5lb pumpkin, peeled, seeded, diced – this leaves you with approx 1.1kg/1.5lb pumpkin flesh
1 large garlic clove, peeled and crushed
salt and pepper
150-175g/5-6oz lasagne sheets
1 quantity of bechamel sauce or tomato sauce
200g/7oz goat’s cheese log, sliced into thin rounds

Bechamel sauce
50g/2oz butter
40g/1.5oz flour
600ml/1 pint milk
1 bay leaf
fresh parsley
slice of onion
a little extra milk
60-120ml/4-8 tablespoons cream (optional)
salt and pepper
freshly grated nutmeg

Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. When it froths, stir in half the milk and beat well over the heat until it thickens. Add the rest of the milk and keep stirring vigorously, still over the heat, until the sauce is thick and smooth. Add the bay leaf, parsley, and slice of onion then leave the sauce over a very low heat for 10 minutes. Thin the sauce by stirring in a little extra milk if necessary. If you are making the sauce well in advance, do not stir in the extra milk but pour it over the top of the sauce and leave it, to prevent a skin forming. When you are ready to use the sauce, stir it, remove the bay leaf, parsley and onion, add the cream and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Tomato sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 x 400g/14oz tins tomatoes or 900g/2lb fresh tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion. Cover and cook gently for about 10 minutes until tender but not brown. Add the garlic, stir well and cook for 1-2 minutes longer. Stir in the tomatoes and bash them about a bit to break them up. Bring to the boil, then let simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the liquid has disappeared and the sauce is thick. Season with salt and pepper.

Set the oven to 200C/400F/GM6. Grease a lasagne dish approx 20x30cm/8×12″ and at least 6cm/2.5″ deep.

Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan and fry the onion gently for 5 minutes with a lid on the pan. Then add the pumpkin and garlic and mix so that the pumpkin is covered in the butter and oil. Cover the pan and cook slowly for 15-20 mins until the pumpkin is tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Rinse the lasagne sheets under the cold tap and then arrange some in the base of the dish to cover it. On top of this, add a layer of bechamel or tomato sauce, then half the pumpkin. Add another layer of lasagne, more bechamel or tomato sauce, a layer of half the goat’s cheese and the rest of the pumpkin. Then one more layer of lasagne, then the remainder of the bechamel or tomato sauce and the rest of the goat’s cheese.

Bake for 35-40 mins until the pasta is tender and the top is golden brown.

Chickpea, Chilli and Coriander Soup (this is a Delia recipe)

8 oz (225 g) chickpeas, soaked overnight in twice their volume of cold water
2 small red chillies, halved, de-seeded and chopped
1 level tablespoon coriander seeds
1 x 15 g pack (or ½ oz) fresh coriander, leaves and stalks separated
1 level tablespoon cumin seeds
2 oz (50 g) butter
6 fat cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 level teaspoon ground turmeric
grated zest 1 lemon
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 x 200 ml tub crème fraîche
salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the garnish:
1 mild fat red or green chilli, de-seeded and cut into very fine hair-like shreds

You will also need a large saucepan of 6 pint (3.5 litre) capacity.

Drain the chickpeas in a colander, rinse them under the cold tap then place them in the saucepan with 2¾ pints (1.75 litres) of boiling unsalted water. Then bring them up to simmering point, put a lid on and cook them very gently for about 1 hour or until the chickpeas are absolutely tender and squashy.

While they’re cooking, prepare the rest of the soup ingredients. The coriander and cumin seeds should be dry roasted in a small pre-heated pan for 2-3 minutes, then crushed in a pestle and mortar. After that, melt the butter in the pan, add the crushed spices along with the chopped garlic and chillies and cook over a low heat for about 5 minutes. Now add the turmeric, stir and heat that gently before removing the pan from the heat.

As soon as the chickpeas are tender, drain them in a colander placed over a bowl to reserve the cooking water. Transfer the chickpeas to a liquidiser together with a couple of ladles of cooking water and purée them until fine and smooth. Now add the lemon zest, coriander stalks and spices from the pan along with another ladleful of cooking water and blend once more until fine and smooth.

Next, the whole lot needs to go back into the saucepan with the rest of the reserved cooking water. Bring it all up to a gentle simmer, give it a good stir, season, then simmer gently for a further 30 minutes. All this can be done in advance, then, when you’re ready to serve the soup, re-heat very gently without letting it come to the boil. Stir in half the crème fraîche and the lemon juice, taste to check the seasoning, then serve in hot soup bowls with the rest of the crème fraîche swirled in.

Scatter with shredded chilli and coriander leaves as a garnish.

Potato & aubergine curry (This is a Linda McCartney recipe. I make it quite often and freeze it. I love it. I never put the burgers in it)

1-2 tsp chilli powder (depending how hot you like it)
½ tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin (or to taste)
1 tsp ground coriander or to taste
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp tomato paste
60g vegetable oil
450g aubergines, sliced
1-2 tsp cumin seeds
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 fresh hot green chilli, seeded and finely chopped
450g canned crushed tomatoes, with juice, or peeled and chopped fresh tomatoes
4 medium potatoes, cut in cubes and steamed til tender
170g Linda McCartney vegetarian burgers, cooked and cubed (optional)
Fresh coriander for garnish

Mix the spices, salt and tomato paste with 1 tbsp of the oil in a small bowl. Spread the spice mixture over the cut sides of the aubergine slices. Cut the slices into strips. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and fry the cumin seeds until they begin to pop. Add the aubergine strips and grated ginger and turn the heat down. Cover and cook for 8 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add the chilli, tomatoes and potatoes with 3-4 tbsp water and simmer, covered tightly, for 15-20 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the browned vegetarian burger pieces, and mix well. Serve garnished with the coriander leaves.

Aubergines in a north-south sauce (this is a Madhur Jaffrey recipe)

4 tablespoons olive or rapeseed oil
1/8 teaspoon ground asafoetida
1/2 teaspoon skinned urad dal or yellow split peas
1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds (kalonji) if available
1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
675g/1 1/2 lb aubergine cut into 2/5cm/1″ chunks
2 medium tomatoes, grated
250ml/8fl oz chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Pour the oil into a very large frying pan  and set over a medium-high heat. When hot, put in the asafoetida and the urad dal. As soon as the dal turns a shade darker, add the mustard, cumin, nigella and fennel seeds in that order. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the onion. Stir and fry for 1 minute. Add the garlic and the aubergines. Stir and fry for 4/5 minutes or until the onions are lightly browned. Add the tomatoes, stock, salt and cayenne pepper. Stir to mix, and bring to the boil. Cover, lower the heat and cook gently for about 20 minutes, or until the aubergines are tender, stirring now and then.

Green lentils with green beans and fresh coriander (a Madhur Jaffrey recipe)
Serves 4-6

250g/9oz green lentils
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
115g/4oz green beans, cut into 2cm/3/4″ segments
60g/2oz finely chopped fresh coriander
3 tablespoons olive oil or rapeseed oil
1/8 teaspoon ground asafoetida
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 medium shallot, peeled and sliced into fine slivers
lemon wedges (optional)

Put the lentils into a medium saucepan with 950ml/34 fl oz water and bring to the boil. Cover partially, lower the heat and simmer very gently for 20 minutes. Add the salt, cayenne pepper, green beans and coriander. Stir to mix, bring back to the boil, cover partially and simmer very gently for a further 20 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Pour the oil into a small frying pan and set over a medium high heat. When hot, put in the asafoetida and cumin. Let the seeds sizzle for 10 seconds. Add the shallot. Stir and fry over a medium heat until it turns reddish. Pour the entire contents of the frying pan into the pan with the lentils. Stir to mix. Serve with lemon wedges if desired.

Spinach with black-eyed beans  (recipe says serves 4 but I think more like 3, recipe by Anjun Anand)

3 tbsp vegetable oil
rounded 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
2-4 dried red chillies
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated to a paste
14 fresh curry leaves
250g whole leaf spinach, shredded, or baby leaf spinach, well washed
salt, to taste
lots of freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1 rounded tsp ground cumin
400g can of black-eyed beans, drained well and rinsed
1 1/2 – 2 tsp tamarind paste (I tried three or four places but found it in the Bismillah shop on Nicolson Square)
good handful of roasted salted peanuts

Heat the oil in a non-stick saucepan. Add the mustard, fenugreek seeds and chillies. Once the mustard seeds have spluttered, add the garlic and curry leaves and cook gently until the garlic is just starting to turn golden. Add the spinach, seasoning and a splash of water, mix well and cover. Cook for 5-7 minutes until the spinach is well wilted, stirring occasionally. Add the coriander and cumin, half the black-eyed beans and a splash of water. Cover and cook for 5-6 minutes. Take out one-third of the mix and blend to a fine puree. Return to the pan with the remaining beans. Stir in the tamarind paste and peanuts. Boil off any excess water until you are left with a thick creamy mass. Taste, adjust the seasoning, add more tamarind paste if you want more tang, and serve.

Pilau rice – serves 4 (Anjun Anand recipe)

220g basmati rice, well washed
2 good tbsp ghee, or 1 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 rounded tsp cumin seeds
10cm cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
4 green cardomom pods
4 cloves
1 smallish onion, sliced
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt, to taste

Tip the rice into a large bowl, cover with water and leave to soak. Heat the ghee in a saucepan. Add the cumin, coriander, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, cloves, and cardamom and allow to sizzle for 10-15 seconds or until the cumin is aromatic. Add the onion and cook until it’s turning golden at the edges.

Add the drained rice, turmeric and salt and cook for a minute, stirring. Add 400ml water, taste the water and adjust for salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to its lowest setting and cook undisturbed for 12-13 minutes. Check a grain – it should be cooked. Turn off the heat and serve when you are ready to eat.

Panchmael daal (five lentils mix) (this is from a book I have called I Heart Curry. I usually dislike daal but this is delicious. I usually halve the ghee and salt though)

2 heaped tablespoons split green lentils/moong dal
2 heaped tablespoons split yellow lentils/toor dal
2 heaped tablespoons split gram lentils/chana dal
2 heaped tablespoons split and husked black lentils/urad dal
2 tablespoons split red lentils/masoor dal
1.5 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons ghee
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground garam masala
1 tomato, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves
squeeze of lemon juice

1 tablespoon ghee
1 dried red chilli
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 cloves
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Mix all the lentils together, wash under running water. Leave to soak in cold water to cover for about 20 minutes.

Put the lentils in a saucepan with 600ml/1 pint water, 1 tsp salt and half the turmeric. Bring to the boil, skimming off the white scum from the surface as necessary. Cover and simmer on a low heat from 20-25 minutes or until all the lentils (except the chana dal) are very soft and broken down.

Meanwhile heat the ghee in a frying pan and whe hot, add the onion and cook until golden brown. Add the remaining salt and turmeric, the chilli powder and garam masala and sauté for a minute, then add the tomato and cook until soft.

Pour the onion and tomato mixture over the lentils and bring to the boil. If the lentils begin to thicken too much, add some boiling water and keep stirring to ensure that they don’t stick to the pan. Finish with the fresh coriander and lemon juice. Remove from the heat and keep hot.

For the tempering, heat the ghee in a large ladle or small saucepan until smoking. Add the whole red chilli, cumin seeds, cloves and garlic in that order and in quick succession. As the garlic begins to turn golden, pour the contents of the ladle over the lentils and cover the pan with a lid. Leave covered for 2 minutes to allow the smoke and flavours to be absorbed by the lentils. Stir well and serve immediately.

Tangy chickpea curry (I think this is Anjun Anand)

Serves 4-5

12g fresh root ginger, peeled weight
4 fat garlic cloves
2 largish tomatoes, quartered
5-6 tbsp vegetable oil
4 cloves
4 green cardamom pods
1 black cardamom pod
2 large shards cinnamon
2 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 green chillies, whole but pierced
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/4-1/2 tsp chilli powder
salt, to taste
2 x 400g chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 1/4 tsp garam masala
1/2-2/3 tsp tamarind paste or dried pomegranate powder, or to taste
handful of finely chopped fresh coriander

Blend together the ginger, garlic and tomatoes with a little water until smooth. Set aside.

Roast half the cumin seeds in a small dry pan for about 40 seconds, stirring constantly, until they have darkened quite a bit. Grind to a fine powder. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the cloves, cardamom pods,  cinnamon and half the cumin seeds and cook until they release their aroma and start to crackle. Add the green chillies and onion and cook until the onion is well browned. Add the tomato paste with the turmeric, ground coriander, chilli powder and salt, and cook over a moderate to high heat until the oil comes out at the sides (around 15 minutes), stirring often.

Add the roasted cumin powder to the pot.

Add the chickpeas and 500ml water. Bring to a boil, then simmer over a medium heat for 7 or 8 minutes. Stir in the garam masala and tamarind paste. Mash a few of the chickpeas on the side of the pan to thicken the sauce a little. Taste for seasoning and tartness, adjusting if necessary, then sprinkle with the chopped coriander and serve.

Thakkali payaru curry – black-eyed beans with spinach and tomato (from the I Heart Curry book)

Serves 4

3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
10 curry leaves
100g chopped onion
2 green chillies, slit lengthways
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
200g tomatoes, cut into small pieces
50 g spinach, chopped
100g cooked or canned black-eyed beans
300g plain yogurt

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the garlic, curry leaves and onion. Cook over a moderate heat for 5 minutes or until the onion is soft. Add the green chillies, chilli powder, coriander and turmeric. Mix well, then add the tomato pieces. Give a nice stir, then add the spinach. Cook over a low heat for 5 minutes. Add the black-eyed beans with salt to taste. Cook for a further 1 minute or until everything is hot. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly add the yogurt, stirring well. Serve warm.

Aubergine & green bean curry (got this from the Guardian)

This is twice as much of the curry paste as you need for this curry – partly because it’s easier to blend that way, but also because it’s useful to have a second batch to hand for this or another veg curry. Keep it in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze it. Serves six to eight.

For the curry paste
5-6 shallots (or 1 onion), peeled and finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2 thumb-sized pieces ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer layers removed, finely sliced
5-6 green chillies (medium-hot), deseeded and roughly chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric

For the curry
5 large aubergines
About 6 tbsp sunflower oil
300ml passata, or sieved roasted tomatoes
400ml tin coconut milk
300g french beans
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 handful chopped coriander leaves
75g cashews or almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
Lime wedges, to serve

Put all the curry paste ingredients in a blender with a tablespoon of water; whizz to a coarse paste. If necessary, stop the motor a few times so you can scrape down the sides.

Cut each aubergine in half lengthways, cut each half into three lengthways, then halve each piece, so you end up with 12 wedges from each aubergine. Heat two or three tablespoons of oil over a medium-high heat in a large, nonstick frying pan. Sauté the aubergine wedges in batches, until lightly browned, adding more oil as needed. As you remove each cooked batch from the pan, lay the wedges on kitchen paper to drain.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large, deep saucepan and add half the curry paste (refrigerate the rest for another use). Fry over medium heat, stirring constantly, for three to four minutes, then add the aubergines and stir for a minute or two until coated with the spice mixture. Add the passata and coconut milk, and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes. Add the french beans and simmer until tender – about five minutes. Season generously, then stir in the chopped coriander. If using the nuts, scatter them over the top. Serve with lime wedges and rice.

Chard and new potato curry (Grauniad)
It’s also very good made with spinach instead of chard – just remove any tough stalks from 600-700g spinach, add the leaves once the potatoes are done, cook for a minute or two, then add the yoghurt mixture. Serves four.

About 500g swiss chard
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
3cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground turmeric
3 cardamom pods, bashed
350g new potatoes, quartered
250g plain, full-fat yoghurt
1½ tbsp tomato puree
1 small bunch coriander, tough stalks removed, roughly chopped
1 small handful almonds, cashews or pistachios, toasted and chopped

Separate the chard leaves from the stalks. Cut the stalks into 2.5cm pieces and roughly chop the leaves.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onion until golden. Meanwhile, pound the garlic, chilli, ginger and a pinch of salt to form a paste. Add to the onion and cook, stirring, for two minutes. Tip in the remaining spices and stir for a minute or two. Add the potatoes and chard stalks, and fry for five minutes, stirring frequently so they’re coated with the spice mixture. Pour in about 400ml water – enough to cover the veg – bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 10-12 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Add the chard leaves and cook until just wilted.

In a bowl, whisk the yoghurt, tomato puree and some of the hot liquid from the curry. Remove the curry from the heat, stir in the yoghurt mixture, return to the heat and warm through very gently. Stir in most of the coriander. Taste, season if needed, scatter over the remaining coriander and the toasted nuts, and serve with rice and naan or chapatis.