Saturday, 9 November 2013

Vegetable Tikka Masala

It is so hard to make authentic Indian dishes at home if you use shop-bought spice pastes/rubs/cook-in-sauces/marinades, tinctures, unctions or spells. The best thing to do is make your own paste from easy-to-find- ingredients, and then make the sauce with coconut milk or tomato passata, or a combination of the two.

Today's dish is about as authentic-tasting an Indian dish as you will find outside of India. Of course, everyone knows that Indian cuisine in the UK is a poor, brightly coloured, overly sweet and bland pastiche of its native cousin, but compared with a Patak, Sharwoods or supermarket brand paste? No contest.

It's so easy to make the paste - just use garlic, onion, fresh ginger and fresh chilli blitzed in a processor, then add some easily-found dry spices. Once these have been fried in oil to release their essences into the world, you just add a couple of cans of wet ingredients - I used coconut milk and tomatoes, but you could use pulses (lentils or beans) in their cans with their own juices, or even water.

As far as the bulk ingredient is concerned; I fancied a veggie version, so went for a charred (and therefore 'tikka', in my view) aubergine and crunchy green bean version. The combination of flavours textures and colours was too good to pass up, but you could add any fish, poultry or meat you like. Lamb is the obvious prime contender, but I think shellfish, like mussels, would be a good dinner party dish. Just think of your guests faces when you serve them a mussel curry!

I serve my curries with bread and raita, but you could have rice, or forego the carbs entirely and have a crunchy raw vegetable side dish instead.

Cost-wise, this dish is not only nicer than shop-bought or take away curries, it's cheaper too. £1.50 per large serving is all.

Serves 2


1 thumb of ginger, peeled
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
3 flat red chillies, deseeded and halved
1 teaspoon each of cumin, coriander seed, and turmeric
4 tbsps olive oil
1 x 400g tin of tomato passata
1 x 400g tin of coconut milk
2 aubergines, cut into 3cm cubes
150g fine green beans, trimmed and cut into 6cm lengths
Salt and black pepper

Blitz the ginger, garlic, onion, chillies and dry spices in a food processor, and transfer to a saucepan with half of the oil. Fry the mixture on a low heat until the moisture has evaporated (you should be able to hear a gentle oily frying sound). In the meantime, roast the aubergines in a hot oven with the remaining oil until charred. Add the passata and the coconut milk to the onion mixture and reduce by half. Transfer the aubergines to the thickened sauce and add the beans. Cook on a medium heat until the beans are cooked through (5 minutes approx). Serve with rice or flatbreads and a chutney of your choice.

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