Saturday, 25 February 2012

Quick Vegetable Curry with Rainbow Raita

My old friend, Jerome, popped in for a flying visit and demanded dinner. Literally demanded. So, since he had brought a fabulous bottle of wine with him, and had a pathetic, needy look on his face, I had to think fast. With a couple of bags of Marks and Spencer prepared vegetables in the fridge, I thought: I know! Microwaved vegetables! Errmm, no. I needed a plan B. So, curry it was.

Curry is a favourite meal round at Potless Towers. All you need is a cupboard full of spices and a few staple ingredients, and a tasty meal can be made in super quick time. You can also make this dish with chicken, meat or fish - or do as I do here: simply use a variety of vegetables, whether fresh or tinned. Either way, the curry base is versatile and can be made in advance, and refrigerated or frozen, with the addition of the main ingredient coming at the last possible minute.

Although any curry will always put a smile on your friends' faces, it is the rainbow raita which pushes this dish up a few notches into Wow-land. You must add as many colourful salad vegetables and herbs to the yoghurt base as you can find, and then top the whole thing off with garish stripes of dried spices, to make a creative and delicious table centrepiece. Plus, the fresh, slightly acidic taste will set off the rich curry beautifully.

The Marks and Sparks 500g bags of prepared carrots, cauliflower and broccoli florets are currently on offer at 2 for £3, so this recipe happened to cost me only £1.75 per serving, including the raita and rice. You could also serve some pitta or flatbreads to make a more carb-laden, substantial feast - or use meatier ingredients, instead of the vegetables alone, and still be well under your Potless budget.

Serves 4

Quick Vegetable Curry


1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Thumb of ginger, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of olive or sunflower oil
1 teaspoon each of ground coriander seed, ground cumin, turmeric powder, chilli powder, paprika
2 cardamom pods
Pinches of salt and pepper
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g tin of green lentils or chickpeas in water
200ml water
2 x 500g bags of prepared vegetables
2 red chillies, cut into 5mm rings, for sprinkling
Handful of fresh coriander leaves, for sprinkling

500g steamed rice, to serve
Pitta or flatbreads, to serve

Fry the onion, garlic and ginger in the oil, on a moderate heat, until soft and translucent (10 minutes approx). Add the dry spices and salt and pepper and cook until their fragrances have released (5 minutes approx). Add the tomatoes, lentils and water and cook until the sauce is thick and unctuous (45minutes-1 hour approx). Add the vegetables and cook until soft (5 minutes approx). Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the chillis and coriander leaves immediately before serving. Serve with the rainbow raita and steamed rice, and maybe some pitta or flatbreads.


Rainbow Raita


400ml natural Greek yoghurt
1 sweet yellow pepper, cut into 1cm dice
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and cut into 2mm rings
Half a cucumber, deseeded and cut into 1cm dice
Handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
Pinches of salt and pepper
1 teaspoon each of paprika, ground coriander seed and turmeric powder, for sprinkling

In a bowl mix all ingredients, except for the dry spices. Season to taste. Once the ingredients have been mixed, sprinkle the dry spices on top, in attractive patterns (I favour two long intersecting parallel lines of each spice). Serve immediately.

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