Hot and spicy vegetable balti

IMG_0779 (600 x 450).jpgIt’s Tuesday so it must be a 5:2 day. Oh joy. And it’s residency permit renewal week for us, so we’re spending the day gathering the several thousand pieces of paper required to show that, since this time last year, we haven’t been in prison, haven’t become bankrupt, haven’t radically changed our appearance, have health insurance, still live at the same address and haven’t been out of Turkey for more than 120 days. Every piece of paper has to have an official stamp, so we are trawling around from office to office, dragging our feet like a couple of slothful teenagers.

Still, at least tomorrow, when we actually lodge our application, we are planning to meet friends later for dinner at a new restaurant in town, so we will get to have a much-needed glass of wine at the end of it all.

Back to tonight’s dinner then. I couldn’t face another night of soup, so vegetable balti with a little rice on the side sounds just the ticket. It also goes extremely well with Hughie’s flatbreads.

I made this at the weekend as one of my food contributions for the big 5-0 party, so I photographed it in its enormous pan. I tripled the recipe given below and it fed loads of people as part of a buffet. The recipe here is for four people, but you will probably have leftovers, which are even better the next day. If you are not dieting, by all means add sliced chicken breast or thighs, or some prawns. If adding chicken, do so after you’ve browned the onions and make sure it is browned before you add the rest of the ingredients. If you are going with prawns, just stir them in when everything else is cooked and let them cook through for a few minutes before you add the spinach and coriander leaves.

This really is delicious – it is worth making up a quadruple bach of the spice mix (which will just fill an ordinary sized jam jar), then you’ve got the basis for a speedy version another day. It does look like quite a long list of ingredients, but most of them are just spices that go into a jar and get shaken up. If you don’t like things too spicy, just take the seeds out of the chillies and miss out the chilli powder.

Hot and spicy vegetable balti (5:2 day recipe)

Serves 4 – 6 people (leftovers will freeze)

For the spice mix:

½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon curry powder or garam masala (I used Madras curry powder)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Put all the ingredients into a clean jar and shake well to combine (if you don’t have a jar, just stir them all together in a bowl).

For the curry:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium onions, peeled, halved and sliced
3cm knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated or finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 romano red peppers or 1 red bell pepper, deseeded and sliced
4 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
2 red or green chillies, chopped (include the seeds if you like it spicy)
250ml tomato passata (or use a normal sized can of chopped tomatoes)
1 teaspoon sugar
A good splash of red wine vinegar (or whatever vinegar you have)
Half a head of a small cauliflower, cut into florets
A few new potatoes, diced – however many you would like, no need to peel
A handful of French beans or other green beans, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large fresh tomato (or a couple of smaller ones if that’s what you have)
1 small bunch coriander – stalks and leaves
A couple of handfuls of fresh spinach
A handful of frozen peas, thawed

Heat the vegetable oil in a large saute pan and add the onions. Give them a good stir and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Stir in the fresh ginger, the cumin and mustard seeds and cook for a minute or two until the mustard seeds start popping. Add the red peppers, fresh chillies and garlic, and give everything a good stir.

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Add the spice mix, stir in well and continue to cook for a minute or two before adding the tomato passata (or tinned tomatoes with their juice) and about 150ml water.

Chop the stalks of the coriander and add to the pan with the cauliflower, beans and potatoes, give everything a good stir. Season with salt. Bring to a simmer, then turn down the heat, cover with a lid and cook for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are just cooked through.

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Chop the fresh tomato – no need to peel or seed – and add to the pan and cook for another five minutes or so. Shred the spinach and chop the coriander leaves. Add to the pan with the peas, stir and cook for a minute until the spinach has just wilted and the peas are warmed through.

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Sprinkle the remaining coriander over the top and serve with rice or flatbreads.


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