Believe me this tastes better than it looks.
I’m rather enjoying being a temporary vegetarian and am not really missing meat and fish at all. I did waver slightly when my son was pushing the battered fish from his takeaway around his plate – my ‘just’ chips hadn’t really hit the spot and I was tempted to eat it all up for him. There was also a stab of jealousy over my husband’s sausages, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. I can just about put up with veggie sausages but vegetarian gravy just doesn’t compare with the meat version.
The hardest thing is eating out. Vegetarians get a rough deal here unless they dine at specifically vegetarian restaurants which is tricky to do when you are mainly friends with meat eaters.
All too often restaurants offer very limited options for vegetarians and the lack of originality is astounding. If you don’t like goats cheese (like me) then you’re pretty much stuffed – goat’s cheese tart being an almost permanent fixture on menus. You must like risotto or you’re in serious trouble. Soup is also popular as restaurants try to kill two birds with one stone by making the obligatory soup option also the vegetarian one. My sister (who lives in a family of vegetarians) jokes about the ubiquitous and bland ‘Mushroom Stroganoff’. She will not eat anywhere unless she can order a bowl of chips if the vegetarian option fails her.
I bought some mushrooms for dinner in the week without a plan. A google recipe search placed the before mentioned ‘Mushroom Stroganoff’ in pole position and I nearly made it for a laugh. But then my head was turned by this Nigel Slater korma from his fabulous ‘Real Food’ book.
It doesn’t sound very exciting (probably the fault of the word ‘korma’) and I wasn’t expecting much (except a disappointed, meat deprived husband). But it was actually very delicious. The addition of roasted hazelnuts and sultanas is genius (so do not be tempted to leave these out). Ben ate it very, very happily.
This is not a difficult dish to make once you have prepped and lined up all the ingredients (there are quite a few and they are all important, I’m learning this about vegetarian cookery – vegetables need a lot more help to make them taste ‘special’).
Unfortunately my permanently(?) vegetarian daughter does not like mushrooms. Eating out with her is going to be a nightmare!
Nigel Slater’s mushroom and spinach korma
Serves 2-4 (depending on appetite and how much rice you serve with it)
- 50g of butter (I used ghee)
- 2 medium onions, peeled, cut in half and finely sliced
- 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- A thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
- 15 cardamom pods, husks removed and seeds crushed
- ½ a teaspoon of turmeric
- ½ a teaspoon of chilli powder (I used flakes)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 bay leaves
- 650g of assorted mushrooms, roughly chopped (I only had 500g which were a mixture of chestnut and some dried Chinese mushrooms which I found in the back of the cupboard and rehydrated in water first)
- 50g of hazelnuts, toasted and shelled (I toasted mine in a 180oC oven for 10 minutes and then removed the shells by rolling between some kitchen roll)
- 350g of leaf spinach (I used 6 cubes of frozen spinach as this was all I had)
- 50g of sultanas (Nigel uses ‘golden’ ones but then he would)
- 150g of thick natural yoghurt
- 150g of crème fraiche
- 2 tablespoons of chopped, fresh coriander leaves
Melt the butter (or ghee) in a deep pan (over a medium heat) and add the onions, garlic and ginger. Fry for about 5 minutes until golden (turn the heat down if the butter starts to burn).
Then add the spices and bay leaves and cooked for another 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
Add the mushrooms to the pot and cook for a few minutes until they soften.
Then add 225ml of water and the hazelnuts (I also added my frozen spinach here which I hadn’t bothered to defrost first and used slightly less water – because of the excess in the frozen spinach). Bring the water to a boil turn the heat down low and cook for 15 minutes with a lid on.
If you are using fresh spinach, wash the leaves and cook them (still wet) in a saucepan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes with a lid on (they will cook in their own steam). Drain, squeeze out the water and add to the mushrooms after they have finished simmering for 15 minutes.
Then add the sultanas and simmer for a couple of minutes.
Take the pan off the heat and add in the yoghurt and crème fraiche. Heat gently but don’t boil or the mixture will curdle.
Finally stir in the chopped coriander and season well with salt (I needed two large pinches).