Tomato and vegetable curry with spiced pilaf

Last week I talked about spices and how they can transform your food. The collection of spices I keep in my pantry is like a security blanket – I know that a delicious meal is never far away. Following on from that I’d like to share some recipes that make great use of these invaluable spices.

I’m going to move away from meat this week and share a vegetable recipe. Although I’m not a vegetarian myself I like to cook meat-free dishes at least once or twice a week. And this is not only because it’s nice to have a break from meat but because there are so many fantastic vegetable dishes that can also be tasty, exotic, comforting. The options are endless.

The main vegetable in this curry is the cauliflower – a fantastic and versatile vegetable. Cauliflower and cheese has to be one of my favourite things to eat (although I’m aware I say that about many things).

This is a great way to use cauliflower. And I roast it, which is a little unusual but it’s actually a great way to cook it. The base of the curry is a spicy tomato gravy, which is a cinch to make and has great depth and flavour. The chickpeas provide that all-important protein and taste lovely, the cashew nuts add crunch. A hit of green with the spinach, a dash of lemon juice and some cream to round it all off at the end – it’s just delicious.

I like to make the spicy pilaf to go with but if this seems one step too far or you simply don’t fancy it this dish can absolutely be served with plain basmati rice.

A dollop of yoghurt once served wouldn’t be a terrible idea either.

 

Tomato and vegetable curry

(served with spiced pilaf)

Serves 4

 

1 whole cauliflower

 

Spicy tomato gravy

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 onions, peeled and sliced thinly

2 cloves garlic, crushed

4cm piece of ginger, grated (or use 1 tablespoon of crushed ginger from a jar)

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon garam masala

¼ teaspoon chilli flakes

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

Salt

250ml water (approx.)

 

1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed

70g cashew nuts, toasted

Juice of a lemon

100g baby spinach leaves

60ml cream

 

Spiced pilaf

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon garam masala

½ teaspoon turmeric

250g basmati rice, rinsed

500ml chicken stock or water

Salt

75g raisins

 

Heat the oven to 200°C.

Wash the cauliflower and then cut into florets. The smaller florets can remain as is but the larger florets will need to be cut in half or quarters. You want decent bite-sized pieces. If they’re too small they will break apart and disintegrate when they’re added to the curry sauce.

Place the florets in a shallow oven dish (I like to line my dish with foil or baking paper) and roast in the oven for approximately 15-20 minutes. They should be starting to char around the edges.

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While the cauliflower is cooking you can get on with the tomato gravy.

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the sliced onions. Sauté until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for another couple of minutes before adding the spices. Stir the spices through the onion mixture and let them fry for a good minute or so to release their flavour. They will smell fantastic. Add the tin of tomatoes, stir well and then lower the heat so that the sauce has a steady simmer. Let it simmer for 10-15 minutes.

By now the cauliflower should be cooked. Add some of the water to loosen the curry sauce, add the chickpeas and then carefully add the cauliflower florets. You will need to add more water before you stir them in to loosen the sauce further. But go easy – you don’t want it to become too thin. The reason I say 250ml approx. is because it’s difficult to say exactly how much water you’ll need. You want the sauce just loose enough to stir through the vegetables.

Once the curry sauce has come back to a gentle simmer, add the lemon juice and baby spinach and carefully stir through until the spinach has just wilted. Have a taste and check the seasoning. You may need to add a little more salt.

Finally, add the cream and stir through. The curry will go the most beautiful colour once you add the cream. Now it’s ready to serve!

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As for the rice, I usually get this on while the curry sauce is simmering away.

Heat the vegetable oil in a pan and sauté the finely chopped onion until soft and just starting to colour. Add the turmeric and garam masala and let it fry with the onions for a minute or so. Add the basmati rice and stir through so that it is all slicked in the spicy onion mixture. Now add the chicken stock (or water) and some salt.

Lower the heat, cover the pan with its lid and let the rice gently simmer until all the water has been absorbed. This should take around twenty minutes.

Test the rice to make sure it is cooked. Break up the rice with a fork, stirring through the raisins as you go. It’s now ready to serve.

 

As well as putting a bowl of yoghurt on the table for people to dollop on their curry you could also serve this with some warm naan or roti breads. They make a great addition to this small feast.

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