Vegetarian Penang curry with mushroom and tofu

Penang curry, named after an area on the northwest coast of Malaysia, is a rich, fragrant and creamy Thai curry. The main players in this recipe – nutty chestnut mushrooms and fried tofu – are the perfect ingredients to soak up all of the sensational spices in the penang sauce.


Penang curry is without a doubt my curry of the moment. I can’t express how much I love it. I can’t stop eating it. I don’t want to stop eating it. It’s so tasty.

The aromatic flavours of ginger, red chilli, coriander and lemongrass work well with creamy peanut butter and coconut milk. It’s milder than Thai green or red curries and more of a comforting choice with the creaminess from the nut butter.

There’s a street food stall on Lower Marsh Market in Waterloo, London, that serves the best tofu penang curry I’ve ever tried. I’m addicted to it. I try to limit myself to eating it once a week as the portions are huge (and I don’t like to waste food).

To feed my addiction and cut back on pricey lunchtime treats, I wanted to have a go at making it myself. A lot of the recipes I browsed online use ready made Thai red curry paste, but I prefer to make sauces from scratch where I can, to avoid extra unnecessary sugar and additives, so I decided to make my own paste.

I found About Food’s red curry paste recipe a great base for inspiration, making a few tweaks along the way. There are quite a lot of ingredients involved in making the paste, but it’s totally worth it. It only takes five minutes to put together. It’s so fresh and aromatic.

Serve this curry with your choice of rice (I always use brown rice), a sprinkle of fresh, chopped coriander and a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce on the side for a bit of extra kick.

Ingredients

  • 200g tofu (I used Cauldron)
  • 200g chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium red onion (½ thinly sliced to add to the curry and hold ½ back for the paste)
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 400g can light coconut milk

For the curry paste

  • 3 tbsp light coconut milk (from the same can mentioned above)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ remaining red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh or ground coriander
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp frozen red chilli (or use fresh chilli)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp lime juice (I used bottled lime juice, but from the fruit is fine)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Serves 2

Method

  1. Drain the tofu. I find the best way to do this is to place it on a plate and carefully balance a heavy object(s) on top – I usually opt for a chopping board and big saucepan. Leave it for 15 minutes or longer if you can be bothered to wait, to get as much water out of the tofu as possible.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the paste. Put all of the paste ingredients into a measuring jug or high-edged piece of tupperware and whizz everything up with a hand blender until smoothish.
  3. At this point, if you’ve opted to cook brown rice, put it on to boil now as it takes 25-30 minutes to cook. If you’re using an alternative, follow the pack instructions.
  4. Next, put a large frying pan on a medium heat and pour in the oil.
  5. While the oil is heating up, remove the tofu from its makeshift clamp and chop it into small cubes. Add it to the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes, turning regularly till it’s golden. Remove from the pan with a fish slice or similar utensil, so the oil remains in the pan.
  6. Pop the onion and mushroom into the pan and cook for a further 5-7 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the tofu back to the pan.
  7. Transfer the curry paste into the pan and stir in with the veggies and tofu. Cook for a minute or so and then pour in the coconut milk. Bring to the boil, stirring frequently so the coconut milk and curry paste blend in together. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the sauce has turned a rich light red colour.
  8. Season the curry well and serve with the rice, sweet chilli sauce and fresh coriander.

Adapted from the Picky Eater Blog’s recipe.

Advertisements

Beetroot, chickpea and butter bean curry

As we start to wave goodbye to the summer for another year, we can take some solace in the fact that we’ve got all the hearty and comforting foods that will keep us warm and happy this autumn to look forward to. And to kick things off is this beetroot, chickpea and butter bean curry.

Beetroot is a great source of iron and antioxidants, and has been said to help lower blood pressure by health professionals. Chickpeas and butter beans provide protein and several vitamins and minerals so this combination is really good for you.

Fresh beetroot is a vegetable I rarely buy (I’ve now bought it twice). I tend to opt for the vacuum packed pickled stuff as it’s so easy to add to salads. But I was keen to get my hands dirty (literally; they were bright purple afterwards) and make something a bit different.

And what better way to incorporate beetroot into your food cupboard than by making it the basis for a curry?

I love curry. It’s so versatile and it opens up a world of opportunity for vegans and vegetarians. You can pretty much add any vegetable to a curry. Let’s just take a moment to be thankful for curry.

The earthy softness of the beetroot in contrast to the firm chickpeas and butter beans bring great texture to this curry. The spices, ground almonds and tomatoes work together well to make a rich and flavoursome sauce. And let’s not forget to mention its beautifully bold magenta colouring.

IMG_5981

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 300g beetroot (peeled weight), thickly sliced
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • ¾ tsp crushed chillies
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 200g chopped tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp rogan josh curry paste
  • 85g chickpeas
  • 85g butter beans
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds
  • 300ml water
  • 4 tbsp natural yogurt (and extra to serve)

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: Serves 2

Method

1.    Put a large pan (that you have a lid for) on a medium heat and pour in the oil.
2.    Stir in the onions and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until soft.
3.    Tip in the mustard seeds and cook for a minute to toast them up. Stir through the curry paste and cook for a further 3 minutes.
4.    Add the beetroot to the pan and stir in with the spicy onion mix, then add the chilli flakes, tomatoes and water.
5.    Bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6.    Half way through cooking, give the curry another stir and then add the chickpeas and butter beans. Cook for a further 15 minutes, or until the beetroot has softened.
8.    Remove the lid and give the curry another good stir, then turn up the heat and cook for a final 5 minutes, until the sauce is thick.
9.    Take off the heat, then stir through the almonds, yogurt and some seasoning. Top with yogurt and serve with brown rice, naan bread and mango chutney if you fancy.

This recipe is based on BBC Good Food’s creamy beetroot curry.

Aubergine and asparagus curry

This delicious vegan curry of juicy pan-fried aubergine and crisp and crunchy asparagus is bursting with fantastic flavours from India and Southeast Asia.

At the base of the sauce is a fiery homemade curry paste packed with a wealth of spices, and strong hints of garlic and chilli, which is offset by the sweet and creamy taste of coconut milk and thickening chopped tomatoes.

Aubergine and asparagus curry

The fusion of traditional Indian spices like turmeric and cumin and Southeast Asian ingredients like coconut milk and ginger, as well as seasonal asparagus make this dish really interesting and unlike anything I’ve tasted before.

Serve it with poppadoms to start and sides of brown rice and chapattis and you’ve got the perfect filling feast.

It’s sweet, spicy and scrumptious – give it a go and let me know how you get on by leaving a comment below.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 small to medium aubergines
  • 200g chopped tomatoes
  • 8 asparagus spears
  • 165ml can of coconut milk (or use just less than half of a regular 400g can)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the paste

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp chopped ginger
  • 1 tsp crushed chillies
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric

Optional sides

  • 1 mug of brown rice
  • 2 chapattis
  • 4-6 poppadoms
  • Mango chutney

Preparation time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves 2

Method

1. Tip all of the curry paste ingredients into a measuring jug and use a hand blender to whiz them together until they form a thick paste.
2. Take one of your aubergines and slice it lengthways, then cut each half in half again. Then slice each quarter into three. You should have 12 pieces altogether. Repeat this process for the second aubergine.
3. If you’re planning on serving your curry with brown rice, then put the water on to boil for your rice at this point. If you’re not, ignore this point and move on to number 4! Brown rice takes about 25 minutes to cook, twice the amount of time it takes white rice. I use half a mug’s worth of rice per person, with double the amount of water (my mum’s failsafe instructions).
4. Pour one tablespoon of sunflower oil into a large, non-stick frying pan on a medium to high heat. When the oil’s hot, lift the pan up and tilt round so the oil is evenly dispersed around the pan. Add half of the aubergine slices and fry for 5-7 minutes, until they start to soften and brown up. When the first batch is done, lay the slices on some kitchen roll on a plate or chopping board. Pour in the second tablespoon of oil and repeat the process for the second batch.
5. Put a wok or a large saucepan on a medium heat and add in a tablespoon of oil. Pour in the curry paste and cook for a few minutes, stirring often. Add the aubergines and mix in with the paste for a couple of minutes, until they’re well coated.
6. Pour in the coconut milk and chopped tomatoes and bring to the boil, stirring frequently. Cover and simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes.
7. Chop the woody ends off the asparagus. Add them to the pan and mix them in, then cook for a further five minutes.
8. While the curry is finishing cooking, heat the chapattis in the oven as per the pack instructions.
9. Season the curry well and serve on a large plate with the brown rice along with the chapattis, poppadoms and chutney.

Aubergine and asparagus curry

This recipe was inspired by and adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s aubergine and green bean curry in his book River Cottage Veg.

Matar paneer (curry with cheese and peas)

It’s a new year so let’s celebrate by eating paneer. Paneer is a firm, milky Indian cheese. It’s a really satisfying ingredient to use in vegetarian curries because of its robust texture and the way it squeaks when you chew it – similarly to the Cypriot halloumi. It’s an absolute treat.

I first tried saag paneer (curry with spinach and cheese) at a curry house, Akash, in Leicester at university back in 2006. They put on an incredibly bargainous student meal deal for £6 which included poppadums, onion bhajis, a curry, rice and naan, and a bowl of ice cream. It was ludicrous! But the food was surprisingly good, and I was amazed by this new discovery of cheese… in a curry. It added a new dimension to going for a curry as a vegetarian.

Traditional curry houses usually list paneer curries as side dishes to accompany meat, but they very much stand in their own right as the main event and staff don’t usually bat an eyelid if you ask for it as a main. More contemporary restaurants, like Tayabbs in Whitechapel, and Dishoom, who have a few restaurants across London, offer innovative and exciting paneer main dishes that are well worth a try.

I could talk more about my love of paneer, but instead, let’s focus on the matar paneer I made on New Year’s Day 2015. This recipe is taken from Rick Stein’s cookbook, Coast to Coast, inspired by his travels across the world. The curries in this book are a taster of his more recent, exclusively curry-based cookbook, India. I watched the TV series that accompanies this book as Stein travelled around India in search of the perfect curry. I could sit and listen to him all day: his passion for food and flavours is so inspiring. I’d recommend this book for meat eaters and veggies alike as it’s got such a diverse and unusual selection of curries.

As it was New Year’s Day and I’ve been ill, I’ve adapted Rick’s recipe slightly by substituting a couple of the fresh ingredients for supplies I had in the store cupboard.

This dish is really easy to make and only takes 30-40 minutes. The combination of pungent spices work wonderfully together and will be sure to get the tummies of your diners rumbling. And the vibrancy of the green peas, the red tomatoes and the golden paneer pieces make it very visually tempting.

Matar paneer

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 250g pack of paneer
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 0.5 tsp crushed chillies
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 0.5 tsp turmeric
  • 0.5 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 125g chopped tomatoes
  • 200g frozen peas
  • 0.75 tsp salt
  • A sprinkle of ground black pepper

Serves 3
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Method

1. Chop the paneer into equally sized cubes, around 2-4cm, so they cook evenly.

2. Heat half of the sunflower oil in a large, shallow frying pan on a medium heat. Add the paneer and fry gently for 5-10 minutes, turning frequently, until lightly golden on all sides. Take them off the heat and place on kitchen roll on a plate.

3. On a low to medium heat, pour the remaining oil into the pan and add the onion and spices. Stir in well and fry gently for 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened.

4. Add the tomatoes, peas, salt and two tablespoons of water and simmer for five minutes.

5. Stir in the paneer and the black pepper, and cook gently for a further five minutes.

6. Season to taste and serve with basmati rice and mini poppadums (the ones from Marks and Spencer are tasty and only cost £1).

May your 2015 be as colourful and satisfying as this dish was to prepare and eat.