Split Mung Bean Curry

I do enjoy curries made with pulses, they’re so good for you, economical and wonderfully tasty. I had bought a packet of split mung beans in a local shop and wanted to try them out. I came across a recipe online which inspired my own version, but of course, didn’t keep track of the original source. Apologies to the owner of the original recipe, I’d be happy to credit you.

Mung Bean Dhal (4)

The quantity I made filled 4 plastic tubs, so I shared the curry love with my mum and my best pal. Feel free to scoff it all yourself or make less! This gives a gentle tasting curry, you may want to increase the quantities of the spices (I think I will next time) for a little more punch!

Ingredients to serve 4-6

  • 400g yellow split mung beans (yellow moong dal), well rinsed
  • Water, to cover the beans
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Approx 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 2 small red onions, finely chopped
  • 1 level teaspoon chilli powder or to taste
  • 1 level teaspoon of coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tomato, peeled and finely chopped
  • 200g frozen spinach (or 400g fresh, finely chopped)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Some finely chopped coriander

In a deep pot, combine about 4 cups of water, the turmeric, and 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil. Bring to the boil, then add the mung beans. Add more water if necessary, you want about 5cm of water above the beans.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until the lentils are very soft. If the water starts to dry up, add another ½ cup of water. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium-sized frying, heat the rest of the vegetable oil and add the red onions. Sauté for 7 to 8 minutes or until the onions are browned.

Mung Bean Dhal (9)

Add the ginger, garlic, cumin, chilli powder, frozen spinach and tomatoes. Continue cooking gently until the tomatoes are soft. If using fresh spinach, add once the tomatoes have softened. Mix in the cooked beans.

Add the salt (it needs a fair amount, keep tasting) and coriander and mix well. Delicious served hot, but makes a fantastic dip served cold as it thickens as it cools.

If you enjoy curries like this, take a look at my Split Pea and Squash Curry or my Green Lentil Curry.

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Seared Scallops with Spinach in Black Bean Sauce

Quick doesn’t have to be boring – especially when it comes to food. Top quality ingredients will give you amazing tasting food, and you don’t always have to spend hours preparing it with a long list of ingredients. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy making complex meals too, but here’s a fast food experience that will be ready in less time than it takes to wait for a food delivery.

Scallops with Spinach & Blackbean Sauce (2)

Ingredients per person

  • 4-6 fresh scallops
  • 2 cups of washed spinach (roughly chopped)
  • About 6 mushrooms, sliced not too thinly
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • A little oil for frying
  • 1 tablespoon of black bean sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Lemon or lime juice

Start by gently frying the mushrooms in a little oil and when they start to soften, add the garlic and spinach and cook until the spinach wilts.

On a hot griddle or under a hot grill, quickly cook the scallops on both sides (this can take less than a minute per side).

Stir the black bean sauce and about a teaspoon of soy sauce into the spinach and mushrooms. Serve the scallops on top of the vegetables with a little squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

Sopa de Bacalao – Cod and Spinach Soup

If you do an internet search for a typical Spanish soup called Sopa de Bacalao, you’ll find many versions of a firm favourite. I don’t lay claim to my version being authentic, especially as it uses a very non Spanish ingredient – Ras El Hanout – but as the spice mix comes from North Africa and there are such very strong connections between Africa and Andalucía, I feel no one will be up in arms.

The ingredient list is short and simple, the preparation too. But the taste, oh the taste, your friends and family will think you’ve spent hours reducing stock to achieve the intensity of flavour.

Sopa de Bacalao (3)

Ingredients (to serve 2-4 as a main or starter)

  • 1 large cod fillet, skinned and cut into bite sized chunks (use either fresh cod or desalted salt cod)
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
  • About 2 cups of chopped fresh spinach
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon of Ras El Hanout
  • About 1.25l of either fish stock or water (if you use a cube to make your stock, I won’t tell!)
  • A little olive oil

Start by sweating the onion and garlic until softened then add the potatoes. Toss them around in the oil until they are all coated in oil then add the Ras El Hanout and mix in. Pour over the stock and cook until the potatoes are almost done.

Add the cod and cook for a minute or two until the fish is cooked. Taste and season if necessary and then add the spinach. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and wait for the spinach to wilt before serving with plenty of fresh lemon to squeeze over.

Tamarind Spiced Aubergines and Spinach

The Veggie Garden, although planted sparsely and late this year, continues to reward us with a bounty of aubergines. Always on the lookout for new ways to prepare old favourites, and in the midst of spring autumn cleaning, I came across a packet of tamarind paste from one of my UK trips. Perfect!

Tamarind Spiced Abergine (9)

Internet searches came up with curry recipes, so thinking of a curry type base as inspiration, I made it up as a I went along, and oh my goodness…what beautiful flavours emerged from a few very simple ingredients.

Ingredients (to serve two as a main course with rice or four as a side dish)

  • 1 large aubergine cut into small dice
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • About 1 heaped tablespoon of fresh garlic and ginger paste (make this by finely chopping or mincing equal quantities of garlic and ginger, it can be stored in the freezer, and you can scrape off what you need)
  • About 2 cups of chopped fresh spinach
  • 2 teaspoons of tamarind paste soaked in a little hot water
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
  • Salt to season
  • Water or vegetable stock
  • Half a teaspoon of hot chili powder (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • Oil for shallow frying

Fry the aubergines until lightly browned and remove from pan. You can omit this step if you like but will need to cook the dish when all the ingredients have been added for about 10 minutes longer. Both methods are good.  Add a little more oil if necessary and fry the garlic and ginger paste and onions until the onions are soft but not browned.

Add the tomatoes and cook until softened then add the chili powder and garam masala. After a further minute, add the aubergines, sugar and tamarind, season and pour over enough water or stock to cover the vegetables.

Tamarind Spiced Abergine (4)

Simmer gently until the aubergines are completely tender (about 15 minutes) and just before serving add the spinach and cook until wilted.

Serve with a little chopped coriander and some plain boiled rice. Observant readers will note, however, that in the first photo I picked parsley by mistake!

Ravioli Making – Fun on a Hot Summer’s Evening

Some things are more fun when done with pals. Ravioli making is one of them. Just ask Chgo John.  Luckily my lovely neighbour Denise was willing to give up a few hours of her time and we had an evening of ravioli making and eating in the garden.

Ravioli (1)

We made four kinds of fillings.

Ravioli (5)

Potato with caramelised onion and parmesan, mixed mushrooms with spinach and nutmeg, ricotta with lemon zest and coriander and mascarpone with rocket and sun-dried tomatoes.

Ravioli (22)

No quantities except to say we made pasta with 500g of flour and 5 eggs. This made about 70 ravioli (with some leftover dough too), although we didn’t manage to eat them all. We did give it our best shot though!

Ravioli (23)

We were well lubricated with wine as I believe it is actually illegal to make ravioli without a glass or two to hand.

Ravioli (11)

We served some with tomato sauce and others more simply with olive oil and parmesan.

Ravioli (31)

Summer cooking, summer eating. Everything tastes better eaten outdoors on a hot summer’s night don’t you think?!

Ravioli (32)

(I know they’re not the best shots in the world but they were “working” snaps and it got darker and darker as the evening went on – naturally – I hope you enjoy the atmosphere of the evening as much as we did despite this!)

Venison Chops with Creamed Spinach and Mushrooms

Venison Chops with Creamed Mushrooms & Spinach (2)

I have spoken a few times about our lovely local butcher, London Road Butcher of Bexhill (just in case any locals are interested – but he does need a website!). Funnily enough, he was bought up in the same road as House Number One. Small world.

We recently saw a programme about cooking with traditional ingredients that are falling out of fashion, and venison was mentioned. I hadn’t eaten if for years and Big Man didn´t know if he had ever tasted it. In a timely fashion, the butcher had venison chops (which looked more like smaller versions of T-Bone steaks) for sale, so how could I say no?

The chops were cooked very simply – salted, rubbed with a little olive oil and cooked on a very hot griddle pan.  To go with them I made creamed spinach and mushrooms which I have since made again and served simply with rice. A great vegetarian dish (but obviously not when you have a slab of Bambi´s mother on the plate next to it). Quantities are flexible, the process is simple.

Venison Chops with Creamed Mushrooms & Spinach (1)

Ingredients (to serve 2 people)

  •  About 10 chestnut mushrooms, cut into medium slices
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • About 4-6 cups of washed spinach leaves
  • A splash of white wine
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of full fat crème fraîche (don´t use the low fat version for this, it will split and be very runny)
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper

Gently fry the mushrooms and garlic in a little oil with the lid on the pan until the mushrooms start to release some of their juices. Add a splash of white wine and the spinach and cover again. When the spinach has wilted, removed the lid, season and turn the heat up so that most of the liquid evaporates.  Turn the heat down low, stir in the crème fraîche, add a final grind of pepper and serve.

Harira Style Soup

You know when you buy a new cookbook and it´s full of lovely recipes, but the reality is you probably won´t cook that many of them and feel a bit let down? Mmm, yes, we´ve probably all been there. Well, not so with my new Ottolenghi book. In fact, I had intended to leave it in the UK to use when we return in a few weeks to start work on the house renovation. But it kept whispering to me, “take me with you, take me with you”, so back to Spain it came and I have been cooking from it already with plans for many more dishes.

First up was Harira, a Moroccan soup made with chickpeas and lamb. Yes, I´m trying to clear out my freezer a little before we leave, so out came a piece of lamb.  And you know how we love our chickpeas in Andalucía…it was meant to be. Of course, I made a few changes but I am sure Mr O won´t mind.

It´s not quite like other Harira soups I´ve made, but I was very pleased with the results. I think it would also be a very good vegetarian soup if you leave out the meat and use vegetable stock or water. I have also made this soup with rice and lentils also included.  This is a lovely recipe too from Robert Carrier.

Ingredients to serve 4-6

  • 200g dried chickpeas soaked overnight in water with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda (I don´t know the quantities for using ready cooked, canned but I would imagine it would be at least double the weight)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion roughly chopped
  • 200g lamb fillet cut into 1cm dice (I used a piece of neck fillet on the bone which I cooked whole then pulled the cooked meat off and stirred into the soup
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I used 1 tsp)
  • 1kg tinned chopped tomatoes (I used about half this amount of my own tomatoes)
  • 1.2 litres of chicken stock or water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • A pinch of Saffron strands (I used a teaspoon of turmeric)
  • I also added 1 tsp each of cinnamon and hot chili powder
  • 100g baby spinach (I used chopped chard from the veggie garden)
  • 4 tbsp chopped coriander (didn´t have any, so omitted)
  • 4-6 lemon wedges
  • Salt and Pepper

Method

Cook the chickpeas in plenty of water until completely tender (about an hour or an hour and a half), drain and reserve.

In a large saucepan over a medium heat, gently fry the onion until translucent. Increase the heat and add the lamb and fry until sealed.

At this point I added the spices (Mr O does this later in his version). Now add the tomato purée, and sugar, cook for a couple of minutes then add the chopped tomato, drained chickpeas, liquid and a little seasoning.

Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 35-45 minutes until the meat is tender. Squeeze in a little lemon juice (I didn´t add it all at this stage as per the recipe) and this is where Mr O adds his spices.

Taste and adjust the seasoning. Just before serving, bring the soup back to the boil and add the finely chopped spinach (chard in my case) then remove from the heat. Serve with lemon wedges.

Very delicious, I may even spice it up a little more next time. And yes, the book will be coming with me again to the UK….it likes to travel.

Salmon Spanakopita… Sort Of

The gorgeous dish of Spanakopita hails from beautiful Greece. A delicious spinach pie, filled with feta cheese and egg and then wrapped in filo pastry – it´s a wonderful combination of flavours.

The weather here has turned overnight into summer with temperatures in the early 30s. Although we have used our gas barbecue on and off throughout the winter, we haven´t eaten outside. The weather now is perfect and we are going to make the most of it to eat in the garden, before the tremendous heat of summer drives us back inside to eat in the cool of the house.

I had bought a large salmon fillet (half of a whole salmon) which weighed about 1.5kg to cook for friends. The best laid plans and all that…well, the lunch didn´t happen and I had a massive piece of salmon to cook for two people.

The first lunch we simply cooked the whole thing on the barbecue, sprinkled with salt and served it with lemon juice and home made mayonnaise. We ate about a third of it so I divided the remaining piece into two and froze one piece. In this dish I used about 250g of cooked salmon so still have plenty left over to make a rice dish with prawns and salmon tomorrow.

I fancied making something different from fish cakes and remembered this lovely dish from Greece and set about recreating it, albeit with a few Up the Mountain twists. Or Making Do with what I had available. I realise that the traditional dish doesn´t contain meat or fish, but this is an interpretation rather than a faithful reproduction!

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a main course or 6 as a starter)

Please note, the ingredients are approximate, so feel free to add a little more or take a little away it it suits

  • One pack of puff pastry (275g) rolled out thinly (or use filo if you have it)
  • 180g of feta (I used fresh goat´s cheese made by a neighbour). Do check out Chgo John´s amazing method to make feta here.
  • About 250g cooked salmon, flaked
  • 225g Greek yogurt
  • 3 spring onions finely chopped (I used 1 small onion finely chopped)
  • 125g fresh spinach finely chopped and wilted (I put mine in a large metal colander and pour boiling water over it) with all the water squeezed out
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup each of finely chopped dill (I used wild fennel tops which grow round here) and parsley
  • Seasoning

Heat the oven to 180ºC. Place the pastry on a flat baking tray which has been lined with greaseproof paper (or use a small one about half the size of your pastry which is a little deeper).

Mix all the ingredients together and season (you may not need much salt if you use feta).  Put the filling into the middle of the pastry and bring the pastry up and over to cover it, neatening the corners to seal the filling in. Use some water on the edges if necessary to help seal them.

Tastes great even if you didn´t seal the top up properly….

Brush with milk or beaten egg and bake for about 45 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool slightly before eating. Perfect with a salad and a cool glass of wine.

Any ideas for that last piece of cooked salmon in my freezer? Go on, inspire me!

Curried Meatballs

A recent tidy up of my cookery books turned up two Indian books by Anjum Anand which I had hardly read.  Time to put that right I thought, and next thing I was in the butcher´s shop ordering pork mince.

Of course, pork would not typically be a meat used in most Indian curries for religious reasons, but this would be great with any other meat. For a fantastic recipe using minced beef, check out Frugal´s gorgeous Beef Kofta Curry recipe.

As ever, I had to make a few small changes, but not too many. I had no fresh coriander so substituted dried, ground coriander and the same went for fresh ginger. We can get it here, I just didn´t have any to hand and when the craving for curry strikes, you have to go with it!

This recipe is adapted from Indian Food Made Easy.

For the meatballs

  • 300g lamb mince (I used pork)
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander leaves and stalks (I used 1 teaspoon of dried coriander)
  • ¾ tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp finely chopped ginger (I used ¼ teaspoon of dried)
  • 3 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 large egg
  • Salt to taste

For the Curry Sauce

  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small shard of cinnamon
  • 2 ½ medium tomatoes (puréed) – I used 1 ½ cups of my conserva from last summer
  • 800ml water (I used about 300ml)
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ¼ – ¾ teaspoon of chili powder (to taste)
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped coriander

Mix all the ingredients for the meatballs together plus 3 tbs of the onion you have chopped for the sauce.

Heat the oil in a deep pan, add the bay leaves, cinnamon and remaining onion and fry until the onion is golden brown.

Add the tomatoes, ginger and garlic and cook gently for about 8 mins then add 200ml of water and cook until thickened.  Add the spices and salt and any remaining water (I didn´t add much as I continued cooking with a lid on my pan) and simmer. Meanwhile roll the meat into walnut sized balls and drop them into the sauce.

Cover and simmer, turning the meatballs gently half way through, for about 20 minutes. Add the coriander and serve with rice, naan bread, popadums…however you like.

We ate ours with my Sort of Saag Aloo made with the first of our spinach which is now ready to eat.

…and a cool and creamy raita (I´ll give you that easy recipe another time)…

This was a warm but not too hot curry with the lovely flavours of cinnamon and ginger, definitely one to make again.

In the Garden – February 2012

It´s been such a long time since I talked about the garden or the vegetable patch. Naturally, it´s still winter, the soil is resting.

But not quite. It´s been an exceptionally mild winter, and while things could still change, there are signs of life.

My cyclamen, bought before Christmas, continues to stun us with its beauty.  I am doubly shocked as I generally manage to kill pot plants within a few days.  What do I do next with it? It currently sits inside our sun room, with the door open all day and sun in the afternoon. It seems very happy.

Some of our geranium cuttings are already producing little flowers.

Daffodil and narcissus bulbs planted last year (bought back from the UK) are flowering.

My parsley survived the winter outside, this is the first year this has happened.

Broad beans and onions in their little winter shelter.  We open the door and let the sun in during the day and we´ll be eating beans again in a few weeks.

Plenty of garlic for the year ahead. I thought it was only a month away from being ready, but wise old Big Man tells me I need to be much more patient. In the background one of our lemons and our artichoke plants which are already producing baby artichokes.

Our other lemon took a battering in the recent high winds, but still has plenty of lemons and produces new flowers with each new moon.

We don´t tend to grow our produce from seeds as many of Big Man´s family do this on a large scale for a living. We are going to risk some early planting. Nothing to lose, we think. Basil, thyme, chard, spinach, frying peppers, bell peppers, some more lettuce and some salad tomatoes.

Winter has been kind to us this year. Fingers crossed it won´t take us by surprise in the next few weeks.