Archive for the 'curries' Category

Spicy lentil and vegetable soup – one last hurrah to winter

It is officially spring, and there is no longer an icy nip in the Sydney air. As much as I love summer, and I can’t wait for it to start, I’m going to miss having the excuse to stuff my gob with loads of comfort food. Now I’m going to have to exercise in preparation for summer! Ick!

One of the guys at work left to get married yesterdaday, and we had a very naughty pizza lunch to celebrate. So I thought: as one last farewell to winter, and to make sure I get my veggies in for the day, I’ll make my favourite winter soup – spicy lentil and vegetable. It smells wonderful, is very filling, and helps towards your five veggies  a day. It also warms you up after a chilly day.

Frank isn’t a big fan of soup, especially not lentil soup, but he eats this one with the minimal of complaints. You can add any veg you want, root vegetables are ideal for this recipe. Best served with some fresh crusty bread, it is the perfect casual dinner…

Spicy lentil and vegetable soup – another lollcakes original!
Serves 4 big appetites

1 litre vegetable/chicken stock
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 onion, finely diced
3 carrots, cubed
1 parsnip, cubed
1 swede, cubed
2 courgettes, cubed
3 potatoes/3 sweet potatoes, cubed
1.5 cups red lentils
3 tbsp mild curry powder
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
chilli to taste

Fry onion until transparent. Add in curry, cumin, paprika and chilli; and fry until fragrant. Add in root vegetables, tomatoes and stock and bring to the boil.

Add in lentils and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in courgettes and simmer for another 15 minutes. Serve with crusty bread.




As a kid I hated mixing savory and sweet flavours. I also hated mince, despite my mom telling me it was just tiny pieces of steak. She used to make us delicious meals (she is a fantastic cook even though she won’t admit it, Frank loves it when she makes us dinner!), and no doubt either my brother Dude or I would complain about what was put in front of us.

Frank said to me when we started dating that he doesn’t like tomatoes. Not understanding this, I asked when he had last had tomatoes. He claimed that he hadn’t eaten them since he was a kid, and he wasn’t going to change now. Having only realised over the last 5 years that your taste changes as an adul,t I tried to convince Frank that he might like tomatoes if he tried them again, and even though he wanted none of it I decided to take my own advice.

Bobotie is one of the most traditional South African dishes. It is basically curried mince with raisins, topped with savoury custard. It does mix sweet and savoury flavours, but it is so delicious because of that! (I never thought I would say that, and Mom is sad that only now do I admit I like it after many years of tears at the table…)
According to Wikipedia (oh yes, again), the recipe probably originates from the Dutch East India Company colonies in Batavia, with the name derived from the Indonesian Bobotok. It is also made with curry powder leaving it with a slight “tang”. The Bobotie recipe was transported by South African settlers to colonies all over Africa. Today, recipes for it can be found that originated in settler communities in Kenya, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. There is a variation that was popular among the 7,000 Boer settlers who settled in the Chubut River Valley in Argentina in the early 20th century, in which the bobotie mixture is packed inside a large pumpkin, which is then baked until tender.

Mom gave me the recipe she’s used from a South African chef by the name of Lynn Bedford-Hall. It is incredibly straight-forward, and a good dish to make in advance as the curry only gets better over time. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Bobotie – recipe from “Best of Cooking in South Africa” by Lynn Bedford Hall

1 fairly thick slice crustless bread (brown or white)
375 ml milk
25 ml oil
10 ml butter
2 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
25 ml curry powder (or more to taste)
10 ml salt
25 ml chutney
15 ml smooth apricot jam
15 ml Worcester sauce
5 ml turmeric
25 ml brown vinegar
1 kg raw mince
100 sultanas (or raisins)
3 eggs
pinch each salt & turmeric
bay leaves

Soak bread in milk.  Heat oil and butter in large pan and fry onions and garlic.  When onions are soft, add curry powder, salt, chutney, jam, Worcester sauce, turmeric and vinegar and mix well.  Drain and mash bread and reserve milk.  Add bread to pan together with mince and sultanas.  Cook over low heat, stirring and when meat loses its pinkness, remove from stove. (At this point you can pop it in the fridge if making in advance) Add 1 beaten egg, mix well, then spoon into greased, 28 x 16 cm baking dish and level the top.

Beat remaining eggs with reserved milk (you should have 300ml) and the salt & turmeric.  Pour over meat mixture and put a few bay leaves on top.  Stand dish in a larger pan of water (this is important to prevent drying out) and bake, uncovered, at 180°C for 1 hour or until set.  Serve with rice and sambals.
Serves 8

Suggested sambals – chopped tomato and red onion;  sliced banana or sliced banana mixed into thick Greek yogurt;  chutney

July Daring Cook’s challenge – nuts!

My mom always says “you are what you eat”, which is very apt for this month’s challenge: nuts! The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

When I logged in to find out what this month’s, and my first, challenge was; I almost jumped out my chair in glee to discover that it was nut butters. I’ve always wanted to make them, but never got around to it. The recipes were also straight-forward, and the kind hosts allowed for an optional extra challenge, so I immediately started searching for some recipes to use the nut butter in. As I’m not allowed dairy or wheat at the moment, the hosts had two recipes I could try. The optional extra recipe has dairy in it, so I could only have a tiny taste, but Frank was happy to polish off the rest.

Out of the 4 recipes provided, I decided to make the Almond (Butter) chicken and the walnut dip. I also found a recipe for peanut butter and caramel ice-cream, which I adapted to suit my fool-proof ice-cream recipe passed down from Beets. As we could choose any nut butter for the dessert recipe, I gave Frank the choice. He makes a fantastic food consultant, as he picked macadamia nuts and they were the perfect thing in the recipe!

One Saturday in June I decided to tackle the challenge. First up: Walnut dip. This recipe is lovely, as you just toss everything in the food processor with the nut butter and it’s done in 5 minutes. It also uses minimal dishes, which pleased the Chief dish-washer no end! The first time I made it I served it with chips, and Frank decided it would be even more delicious with toasted pitas. So I made it again for friends and served it with pitas, which is when Frank decided it actually tasted more delicious with chips. His nickname is now Goldilocks.

walnut dip with chips

walnut dip with pitas

Next up: the Butter chicken. This recipe was also straight-forward and quick to do. It is a yummy winter recipe, but I would recommend using less Garam Masala, it was a little bitter with the quantity that the recipe calls for. It is also best served with some naan bread, as there is a lot of sauce to mop up.

Last, but definitely not least, was the optional extra challenge dish of macadamia-nut-butter ice-cream with salted caramel. I used a wonderful recipe handed to me by Beets to make the basic vanilla ice-cream. You don’t need an ice-cream maker, and it freezes without crystals, so I make it as much as I can. Once the basic ice-cream was made I stirred in the roasted macadamia nut butter and shards of salted caramel I made (for the first time, yay for me! I am normally scared of melted sugar as it not only burns like nothing else when it touches your skin, but it sticks like a demon too…) This was by far the best dish of the day. I have already sent the recipe to a friend and cannot wait to make it again! Even my honest-oppinion-giver had only the best things to say about it.

All in all, the challenge was really fun, and I got to make things I never had before. I can’t wait for next month’s challenge!

Approximate Processing Times in Food Processor for Nut Butters: (from our hosts…)

Almonds: form a thick butter in about 2 to 3 minutes for slivered almonds, or 3 to 4 minutes for whole almonds; the skin of whole almonds will leave dark flecks in the butter
Cashews: form a smooth, spreadable butter after about 2 minutes of processing
Hazelnuts: form a firm, thick, and grainy butter in about 2 to 3 minutes; to remove the skin from whole hazelnuts, roast in a 400 degree F oven (200 degrees C/Gas Mark 6) for about 5 minutes or till skins loosen, then rub hazelnuts in a clean dishtowel to remove some of the skin; the remaining skin will leave dark flecks in the butter
Macadamias: form a soft and smooth butter in about 2 minutes
Peanuts: form a thick, grainy butter in about 2 or 3 minutes
Pecans: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give pecan butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor
Walnuts: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give walnut butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor

If you want to, roast the nuts for 10 mins on a baking tray and wait until cooled before processing.

Challenge Walnut White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage
Recipe notes: Canned beans tend to be salty, so you may not need additional salt. Taste the dip after blending and add salt as needed.

½ cup (120 ml) walnuts*
1 (15.8 oz/448g) can Great Northern, Cannellini, or other white beans, drained and rinsed 1 garlic clove, chopped 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons (10 ml) fresh rosemary, chopped
2 teaspoons (10 ml) fresh sage, chopped
¼ teaspoon (1 ml) lemon zest (optional) ¼ teaspoon (1 ml) black pepper salt to taste

Make walnut butter by grinding ½ cup (120 ml) walnuts in food processor for about a minute until it forms a nut butter or paste. (*Alternately, start with ¼ cup (60 ml) prepared walnut butter.) Add beans, garlic, lemon juice, rosemary, sage, lemon zest (if using), and black pepper to the walnut butter in the food processor. Process the mixture to a smooth consistency. Taste and add salt as desired. Garnish dip with chopped walnuts and/or chopped fresh rosemary or sage, if desired. Serve dip with pita wedges, crostini, or assorted vegetables.

Challenge Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce
Yield: 4 servings
Recipe notes: Substitute the protein of your choice for the chicken. This is a smooth sauce, so the onion is removed before serving. If you prefer, dice the onion and leave it in the sauce or substitute a bit of onion powder.

1 Tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
4 (6 oz / 170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Salt to taste

Spice Blend:
1.5 tablespoons (20 ml) garam masala seasoning
1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) black pepper

4 tablespoons (60 ml) butter
1 large onion, cut in half pole to pole
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce/425 g) can tomato sauce
⅓ cup (80 ml) almond butter
⅓ cup (80 ml) milk
½ to ¾ cup (120 to 180 ml) chicken broth or water, more as needed
1 cup (240 ml) frozen peas (optional)

Hot basmati rice for serving
Chopped parsley (optional garnish)
Sliced almonds (optional garnish)

Cook the chicken. If desired, pound chicken to ¼ inch (6 mm) thickness to promote even cooking. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken; sauté 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Cook the chicken in 2 batches, adding more oil if needed for second batch. Dice chicken into bite-sized pieces; set aside on clean plate and keep warm.
Prepare spice blend. Stir garam masala, ginger, cinnamon, and pepper together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Melt the butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook gently for several minutes to infuse the butter with onion flavor. Keep the heat low to avoid burning the butter; a little color is fine. Add the spice blend and garlic and cook for 1 minute or till fragrant, stirring constantly. Add the tomato sauce, stir well, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Whisk in almond butter and milk until thoroughly combined with tomato sauce. The almond butter is thick so it takes a while to make a smooth sauce. Return to simmer. Add broth (or water) to sauce to reach desired consistency; return to simmer. Add more broth (or water) as needed to thin sauce as desired.
Remove onion from sauce and discard. Stir frozen peas (if using) into sauce. Transfer sliced chicken to sauce. Simmer gently for a few minutes until peas and chicken are heated through.
Serve chicken and sauce over rice. Garnish with chopped parsley and/or sliced almonds if desired.

Optional extra challenge: Macadamia-nut-butter ice-cream with salted caramel adapted from Beets’ recipe

4 egg whites
500 ml cream
1 x 397 g can condensed milk
10 ml vanilla essence
250g macadamia nuts
100g castor sugar
large pinch salt flakes

For the ice-cream:
Spread macadamia nuts on lined baking sheet and roast in oven (160C) for 10 mins until lightly brown. Once cool, put nuts in food processor and blend for 5 mins, until nuts become a paste.
Whisk egg whites stiffly with a good pinch of salt.  Add cream and whip again until stiff.  Add condensed milk, macadamia butter and vanilla and whip well.  Turn into a 2 litre fridge container.

For the salted caramel: Pour caster sugar into a single  layer in a pot, and melt without stirring. Once a dark caramel color, pour onto a greased baking sheet in thin layer and sprinkle over salt flakes. Wait for it to harden, and break into shards. Mix shards in with ice-cream, place container in freezer and freeze quickly.

Makes about 12 large scoops.

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All recipes are on Petitchef