Vegetable Dopiaza

I used to love the dopiaza at my local curry house (before I went vegan and before it closed down) so I thought it was high time I made my own.

But, doing a little research online I found that ‘dopiaza’ doesn’t mean a certain type of flavour (ie: mix of spices) but rather ‘twice onions’, so was more a way of preparing the food as opposed to a list of ingredients. Well, that to me was license to do pretty much whatever I wanted; so away I went!

This is a surprisingly sweet yet mildly spicy recipe which I think you’ll enjoy. I’ve tried several spice mixes with different types of vegetable and I’ve found that the carrot and tomato with just a hint of after heat works best. See what you think.

vegetable dopiaza

(ingredients are listed in order of use, more or less)

1 onion, 1/2 chopped, 1/2 sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed/chopped
1″ of fresh ginger, skin off, chopped fine
10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground fenugreek
1/4 tsp dried chillies, chopped fine
1 heaped tsp of tomato puree
2 carrots, skin on, cut lengthways and chopped into 1/2 moons
100g button mushrooms, washed and cut in half
1/2 a bell pepper, sliced and chopped
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sultanas
1/2 tsp salt
5-6 spring of fresh coriander, washed and chopped (no stalks)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 a cup of water
oil for frying

Prepare the vegetables before beginning, putting each in a bowl ready to use. It’ll save some faffing about later.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large, deep frying pan, over a medium high heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook for a few minutes until the onions soften. Stir often to avoid burning the garlic and ginger.

While that’s cooking measure the ground cumin, coriander, fenugreek, chillies, and turmeric into a small bowl.

Once onions are cooked add the cherry tomatoes and fry for another minute or two until they too start to soften. You don’t have to cook them completely, just get them started.

Add the spice mix and tomato puree, and a splash of water (as required), and mix to make a paste. Add the carrots, turn the heat down a little to medium, and cover with a lid/plate to allow the carrots to cook – 5 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, bell pepper, and remaining water. Cover and cook on a simmer heat (medium low) for a further 10 minutes.

NB: You want enough water so that the veggies won’t burn, but not so much that they are drowning. Simmering them with a lid on will prevent most of the moisture escaping so take it easy with the water. You can always add more if need be. What’s left of the 1/2 a cup after you used some to make the paste should be about right. If you add too much just remove the lid and let it reduce a little.

Whilst that is cooking heat a little oil in a small pan on a high heat and fry off the sliced onions until they caramelise, turning a nice golden brown.

After the 10 minutes is up check to see how the veggies are doing. The carrots should be pretty much ready to eat. Add the garam masala, cinnamon, salt, sultanas, chopped coriander (you can get these ingredients ready in the same bowl you used for the spices if you want to save time) and lemon juice, and mix until well combined. Spread the caramelised onions out on top of the dopiaza, cover, and simmer one final time for a few minutes to let the flavours come together.

Serve hot with some rice or a vegan naan bread.

Eat and enjoy. πŸ™‚

I’m quite proud of this recipe. I think it works really nicely. The surprise for me was the sweetness. I originally made it with swede as the root vegetable (as pictured above), but that took too long to cook properly. So I tried carrots, and I found that they, along with the bell pepper and sultanas, gave it an unexpected tangy sweetness that was very tasty indeed.

dopiaza, in the pan

But it’s the spiciness that really finishes it off nicely. I tried it both ways, with lots of chilli and pepper, with none, and I think a quarter teaspoon of dried chillies is just enough to give it a kick without being overwhelming. Of course each to their own, so if you find it too much just reduce it to a pinch. But try to keep some in there, it really does add to the experience.

Ever Tried Black Garlic?

You know you’ve got a cooking problem when you see some new random ingredient in the supermarket and you just have to have it!

black garlic and mini chillies

I came across this the other day whilst looking for fennel seeds (keep an eye out for an excellent soup recipe coming soon) and I just couldn’t resist. It’s garlic that’s been aged, meaning the harsh flavours have mellowed leaving you with a sweet bulb of balsamicy, squishy goodness.

Seriously, this stuff is so nice I kept just biting bits off to chew. It’s just that morish. I decided to cook it with some chillies from the plant my friend gave me as a thank you for providing her with Spanish lessons (on CD that is. Me no hablo… or something like that), and I’m glad I did. The spiciness complimented the sweetness very well, though admittedly next time I’d use a few less chillies; Phew!

sweet and spicy pasta

I just fried some chopped onion, added the garlic and chillies (also chopped), chucked in a couple of sliced chestnut mushrooms, two diced tomatoes (some tomato puree) and a sprinkling of oregano – pausing between steps to let the previous ingredients cook – and that was it, job done. Simple huh?

Chuck that in with some al dente pasta et voila, there you have it, a bowl of nice simple flavours that compliment each other really well. If you get a chance to have a go with black garlic I highly recommend it. It has a unique taste that your palate will thank you for trying at least once.

Cooking, stretching and kicking ass!!

I’m a little bit spacey at the moment as I’ve just got back from my yoga class and I’m a little ‘stretched out’ if you know what I mean, so you’ll have to bear with me.

spinach, tomato and pepper pizza

Made this pizza the other day and it came out real nice. I used my basic pizza recipe but with a few tweaks which I think make it better. As follows…

1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/2 tsp sugar
a pinch of salt
a splash of olive oil
1/4 pint warm water
200g+ plain flour

Hand whisk yeast and sugar into water until dissolved. Add salt and olive oil. Whisk again. Add flour until it makes a sticky dough (figure out how much for yourself, but go easy, do it in increments; remember, it’s easier to add more flour than it is to take it away), cover with cling film, then put it somewhere warm – next to a radiator for example – for 30 mins ’til it rises.

Punch down, knead a bit, cover and let rise again for another 10-15 mins. Spread by hand onto an oiled baking tray, dock (prick) with fork, then top and put in hottest oven (pre-heated to about 230C) for approximately 10 mins.

I’m well pleased with the crust on this. It came out nice and golden. There was a bit of liquid in the middle from the cherry tomatoes on top, but it wasn’t a deal breaker so not to worry. I scoffed the whole thing in about 5 minutes, which says it all really. Yummers!

NB: “Yummers” is my new word of the month. I’m trying to get it in the collective psyche / lexicon. Any and all help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. πŸ˜‰

the warlock of firetop mountain

Well, I’ve almost completed The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. I did it once without cheating, got to the end, but didn’t have the correct keys to open the chest (which was always the problem before). Then I kind of did it again, using the map I’d made to go places I hadn’t gone before, but this pretty quickly degenerated into fingers in pages, notes of numbers, and instant victories in battle (ie: cheating on an epic scale!). I still plan on doing it again (properly) soon, but for now I’ve had enough. The Warlock has defeated my once more. Curses! ..lol.. πŸ™‚

Yoga Update: I’m getting very comfy with touching my toes whilst sitting with my legs straight out in front of me, which is a big thing for me. I couldn’t get near them when I first started. And tonight we did the half head-stand for the first time, which I could do but I couldn’t hold for long. Hopefully by next week’s lesson I’ll be much better. Going to incorporate leg raises into my daily routine which will help me with the head-stand for sure. Got five days off now, so plenty of time to practice. Still loving it too! Yoga is brilliant.

Finally, not gonna bang on about work as I intended. Quite simply, if I’m still doing the same job by the end of the year something has gone terribly wrong. I am pursuing alternative revenue streams with a dogged tenacity at the moment. Life’s too short to be spent in a dark room watching TV all day. Kiki needs his sunshine. C’mon the summer!!

Saag Aloo

A surprisingly quick and simple recipe that I think you’ll enjoy.

saag aloo - ingredients

4 potatoes, chopped
2-3 handfuls of spinach, washed
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated/chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chillies, chopped
2 cardamom pods, crushed
1/4 tsp salt
olive oil

saag aloo 1

Par-boil the potatoes in some salty water for 8-10 minutes or so. While you’re doing that fry the onions, garlic and ginger in a large saucepan on a medium heat until soft (approx 5 minutes).

saag aloo 2

Add all the remaining spices to the onion mixture and stir in. Drain the potatoes and add them too. Mix thoroughly, add a couple of tablespoons of water to prevent it from sticking, then cover and allow to simmer for 10-12 minutes (still stirring to keep it from burning to bottom of pan).

saag aloo 3

Once potatoes have gone edibly soft add the spinach and cook for another couple of minutes. Spinach will wilt and reduce in size a great deal.

saag aloo

Serve hot over a bed of rice.

A few notes on the recipe vs the pictures. I made mine with raw potatoes soaked in water rather than par-boiled ones, but this just meant I had to add more water to the pan and it took longer to cook, and I don’t think it added anything to the flavour, so I’d recommend doing it this way instead. Also, chop your spuds smaller than I did mine, again, to save time. As always I left the skin on, coz that’s where all the nutrients are, but cut the eyes out.

Also, I added more spinach than is pictured. After I threw in my 2 handfuls and it cooked down to size I saw the ratio was way off and more was needed. Really this is up to you. The recipe could probably handle more spinach even, if that’s what you’re into, I just didn’t have a whole lot more left so I stopped at 3 handfuls.

Cottage Pie

This is a tasty little winter warmer (I know, it’s the middle of summer!) that’s great served up with some greens. Also damn good for you, what with all the veggies and lentils. An all round treat.

cottage pie

1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 mushrooms, sliced
50g peas (approx 2 tbsp)
1/2 cup puy lentils (green speckled lentils)
1 tsp cumin seeds
a splash of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
300ml of vegetable stock
1/3 of a red chilli, finely chopped
5-7 potatoes, peeled and diced (enough for about an inch of mash)
a knob of margarine
salt to taste

Fry onion and cumin in a medium sized sauce pan on a medium heat until onions become translucent (a few minutes). Add the mushrooms, carrots, garlic and chilli, and cook on a low heat until vegetables start to sweat.

Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in lots of salty water until soft (approx 15-20 minutes).

Add lentils to vegetables and stir to coat with juices. Add vegetable stock and bring to boil. Simmer on a low heat for 25-30 minutes until lentils are cooked but still firm. Let it rest for a moment while you finish off the mash.

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees. Drain the potatoes and mash thoroughly with a knob of margarine until smooth(ish). You can also add olive oil, salt, or soy milk (to taste).

Put the lentils in a casserole dish and cover with mashed potato. Ruffle top of mash so that it’ll brown nicely. Put in oven for 20-25 minutes.

cottage pie whole

Serve hot, and enjoy. πŸ™‚

As I said, this is especially nice with some green veg, maybe spinach and garlic, green beans or brussel sprouts. Or you can just have it on it’s own, as the mash balances the lentils quite nicely.

You can also make it with a bottle of beer instead of the vegetable stock. If you do just add it at the appropriate time, then simmer for 5 minutes until it has reduced a bit. Add a stock cube and more water if needed, then cook as before.

Kiki’s 3 orange soup

Bit of a misnomer this one, as there’s not actually 3 oranges in it. The name actually refers to the 3 orange ingredients involved – carrots, sweet potato and oranges. I was going to try and squeeze the juice of 3 oranges in there (no pun intended) but I think that might have been overkill, so I settled for 2 instead.

kiki's 3 orange soup

1 medium onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 sweet potato, diced
splash of olive oil
500ml vegetable stock
250ml boiling water
zest of 1 orange
juice of 2 oranges (approx 200ml)
pinch of salt

In a large pan saute the onion in olive oil on a medium heat until soft. Add the orange zest and saute for 1 minute more.

Add the carrots, sweet potato, vegetable stock, water and pinch of salt, and bring to boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

Take off heat and blend until smooth. Add orange juice, stir over a low heat for 1 minute, then serve. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

This soup isΒ so nice it should have a restraining order. We had one like it when we were away on our retreat and everybody loved it. The orange just elevates it to a whole new level. Give it a go, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Week 18: In which our hero makes some significant advances towards a Brand New Life (or, Movies, mash and meditation)

My but what an ‘interesting’ week it’s been. Mostly I was working, five days out of seven getting up at 5am, but I still managed to squeeze in some newness; new thought, new action, and new intention. And a recipe, which was nice. First the food;

Mustard Mash

It’s probably a bit cheeky to describe this as a recipe, as really it’s just a way of making mashed potato a little less boring, but still it’s worth sharing so here goes.

mustard mash

2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
a splash of olive oil
1 tsp whole grain mustard

Cook and mash the potatoes in the usual way, in a pan of salted boiling water on a medium high heat, for 15-20 minutes or so (until potatoes are soft and mashable).

At the same time fry up the onion in a frying pan until they are soft and a little golden.

Mash the onion and whole grain mustard into the potato. Mix thoroughly and serve with a nice pie (I had mine with one of Clive’s pies, yum!) and enjoy.

Now, down to business!

beginning buddhism

I’ve actually been doing some meditating this week. Only a couple of times, but at least I’ve made the effort to go on that cushion and do it. It hasn’t been easy, as there’s a lot of noise around me at the moment which is very distracting (God bless your neighbours eh?), but ultimately it’s all good practice and can only help to strengthen my mindfulness. To that end I have been aided by a decision I made on Thursday.

I’ve decided to lay off the booze. Not just for a week, but for… I want to say forever, but I’m not going to jinx it. I’m just going to take it day by day. What happened was I was having a good day on Thursday. I felt good, I was energised, I went to Tai Chi in the evening, felt great after that… then I went and had some dirty dirty beer. I didn’t want to, it was just out of habit, and I regretted it later. That night in bed, a little bit pissed and unable to sleep, I decided to pack it in completely, and so far it’s going great. There’s an element of not knowing what to do with myself of an evening, and I was a bit ratty over the weekend dealing with a touch of withdrawal, but I feel good and very positive about the coming weeks. I even poured away the bit of wine I had left rather than finish it off in an effort “not to be wasteful” so things are looking good. πŸ™‚

Also I’m starting to make progress in getting my board game off the ground. I’ve arranged to meet a lad next weekend to see about doing some designs for it. If all goes well maybe I’ll finally make some progress with it; then who knows, maybe in a few months time we can go into production. It’ll take me that long to get the cash together anyway. For now all I’ve got to do is do some style sheets for Saturday, to show how I want it to look. It’s all good.

And finally, I thought I’d share some links and videos with you that have been amusing me over the past week. First there’s The Cleveland Show, the hilarious Family Guy spin off. If you haven’t tried it give it a go; you won’t be disappointed. New episodes available every Monday. Thank you 4oD!

Ever wondered how to professionally fold a t-shirt? Dave Gorman shows you how. Trust me, this is brilliant.

And my love of exploding things led me to this.

TTFN. πŸ˜‰