Spice

Nigel Slater’s mushroom and spinach korma

mushroom and spinachh korma.jpg

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
  • Salt

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).

I served the curry with rice but it would be amazing with homemade naan.

 

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Thai fish cakes with cucumber dipping sauce

thai fish cakes

My children are back at school and so I’m back to recipe blogging with a vengeance. My youngest has just started this week so I’m holding back the tears whilst writing this and using it as an excuse to avoid cleaning the house or look for a proper job  (both of which are inevitable).

I’ve been carefully nurturing three French bean plants at the allotment just to make this dish. Most were annihilated by rodents and slugs and so I built little fortresses around the remaining three and they just about survived.  You may think I’m a mad woman but I refused to just buy some from Tesco. And the waiting did make the tasting all the sweeter which is what I love about growing your own vegetables and eating seasonally.

Thai fish cakes don’t exactly spring to mind when you think of French beans but they are an essential part of this dish (although to be truly authentic you would use Chinese long beans). This recipe is another from the little pink Chiang Mai Cookery School cookbook (with a few minor alterations).

Thai fish cakes with cucumber dipping sauce

For the fish cakes

  • 500g of white fish (I used Cornish Ling but you can use any cheap white fish. My fishmonger tells me that the lady from an un-named local Thai restaurant requests only the smelliest fish which is on the verge of going off, but I don’t go that far to achieve authenticity)
  • 2 tablespoons of red curry paste (I use the Mae Ploy one which they sell in most supermarkets these days)
  • 4 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of cornflour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon of palm sugar (or I use soft brown sugar)
  • 10 kaffir lime leaves (or I use 1 tablespoon of lime juice instead)
  • 8 French beans, finely chopped
  • ground nut oil for frying

For the cucumber dipping sauce

  • 6 tablespoons of water
  • 6 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
  • 1 chilli
  • 2 tablespoons of roasted peanuts chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of cucumber cut into small chunks
  • a handful of chopped coriander

For the fish cakes, first chop the fish into large chunks and pulse in a mini food processor until roughly minced. Add all the other ingredients (except the French beans) and then pulse again in the food processor until well combined. Tip into a bowl and add the French beans and mush in. Then using wet hands shape into small flat cakes about 4cm in diameter and no more than 1 cm thick. This amount makes about 18 – 20.

In a large frying pan heat about 1/2 cm of groundnut oil until very hot. Add the fish cakes to the pan and fry for about 3 minutes on each side until golden brown – you may need to turn the heat down after a while if they start to go too brown too quickly. Don’t overcrowd the pan – you will probably need to fry in 2 or 3 batches and you can keep the cakes warm in a low oven while waiting for the others to cook.

For the dipping sauce, put the water, sugar and vinegar into a pan and dissolve the sugar over a low heat. Once the sugar has dissolved bring the water to the boil and leave to bubble for 4 to 5 minutes until the mixture has thickened but not caramelised. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Before serving add the chilli, peanuts, cucumber and coriander and stir well. Don’t mix together too far in advance or the cucumber makes the sauce to watery and the peanuts go soft.

Other Thai dishes on this blog

Thai marinated steak
Pad Thai
Mmmm curry – Red curry with pork from the Chiang Mai Cookery School