I’ve been cooking curries for a few years now but I’m still on the hunt for the best veggie curry recipe. I understand the basics – a base of fried onion, garlic and ginger and spices and then tomato, yoghurt, coconut cream or water to make the sauce. But without meat juices it can still be tough to achieve a really flavourful result with a nice thick sauce.
But this meal might be the closest I’ve come to my top curry feast! It starts with a rendition of the amazing fresh salad ‘dhai bel puri’ from Planet India in Brighton – almost like an Indian seven-layer dip and- inspired by a colleague who also tried making it at home – you must try this and soon. Instead of a dry curry I made roasted tandoori halloumi and vegetables with a simple but perfect red lentil dhal alongside. I’d like to think Madhur Jaffrey would be proud!
Dhai Bel Puri
Adapted from Planet India, Brighton, serves 4
- about 2 cups bombay mix (or, ideally, dried chickpeas, thin sev and puffed rice from an Indian grocer)
- 1/2 medium red onion or shallot, finely diced
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced
- a small bunch fresh coriander, chopped
- 250g (about 1 1/4 cup) natural yoghurt
- 2 tbsp tamarind paste
- 2 tsp soft brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- Chop the onion, tomato and coriander and set aside.
- Make the yoghurt sauce by mixing the remaining ingredients (except the bombay mix)
- When ready to serve, layer the yoghurt sauce, then bombay mix, then fresh ingredients in a bowl. Devour immediately before it gets soggy.
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 200g (about 1 cup) natural yoghurt
- one 250g packet halloumi, chopped into bite-size pieces
- 200-300g (about 3 cups) chopped mixed vegetables (eg onions, peppers, aubergine, courgette, mushrooms, etc)
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
- Mix all the spices together in a large bowl, then add the yoghurt and stir to blend.
- Add the halloumi and chopped vegetables and stir to coat. Leave to marinate for up to 2 hours if you have time.
- Pour into a large roasting pan and cook in the hot oven for 20-30 minutes, until vegetables are cooked and starting to crisp at the edges. If you really want to bring out that charred tandoori flavour, you could cook the halloumi and vegetables on a griddle pan instead.
- Serve over rice with a bit of yoghurt sauce. I like to serve mine with a wet curry as well, like the dhal recipe below.
Red lentil dhal with spinach and peas
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey, serves 4 as a side dish
- about 200 grams (1 1/4 cups) red split lentils (masoor dal)
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 2 to 4 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
- 1 inch piece of ginger, grated
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1-2 small green chilies, finely sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 2 cups spinach leaves, roughly chopped (this dish also works perfectly with cabbage as in the original version)
- Put the lentils in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil.
- When they boil some white froth will appear on the top of the water, which you should remove with a spoon.
- Add the turmeric and put the lentils back on the stove on a medium heat to boil for 30-60 minutes, depending on the desired texture, adding more water if necessary. They will almost completely dissolve if left for the full time, I like them somewhere in the middle with a bit of texture remaining. You can drain off some of the water if you prefer your dhal less runny, but I find the lentils usually absorb most of it.
- Meanwhile, soften the onion in some oil in a medium frying pan or saucepan.
- Then add the cumin seeds, salt, chillies, garlic and ginger. Cook over medium-high heat for a few minutes until fragrant.
- Add the lentils and the spinach and peas. Cook for another couple of minutes until the vegetables are cooked and the flavours have combined.
- Serve over rice, garnished with chopped spring onions or coriander if desired.