Tuesday 10 January 2012

January Challenge: Day 7

So a week into the Pantry Challenge and so far I haven't done too much damage to the pantry or the freezer, but I have found some new inspiration in ingredients and cooking techniques.

I was pointed towards The Witches Kitchen, and it turns out that Linda has run challenges of her own for some time - but hers run all year! Challenges such as the breakfast challenge (grow things that you can make breakfast with that aren't cereal), and the muesli bar challenge (home made muesli bars that kids judge to be better than commercial snacks).

For 2012 it's the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge. I'm in! I cook vegetarian at least once a week anyway. There are rules:

  • The have to be based on ingredients that are all locally in season together. I think it is fine for spices to travel half way round the world, and grains, legumes and seeds to travel interstate.  But  asparagus air freighted from California will just be a very expensive, very jet lagged, mummified version of the real thing.
  • They have to be healthy, as in, low fat, low sugar, whole grain. Cream based carbonara sauces are fine for a special occasion, but if you eat them as a regular mid-week dinner, you better be very active!
  • They have to use, or at least be able to substitute, equipment that you can probably find in an op shop.
  • They have to take less than half an hour to make, mostly from scratch.

Indian cuisine is a great place to start looking for vegetarian recipes that look and taste sensational. I made two delicious vegetarian curries and a salad for dinner, served with steamed brown rice. Easily made in about half an hour if you put your rice and lentils on at the same time.

This much colour has to be healthy!


"Dahl" simply refers to the split peas or lentils. There are numerous versions of this dish, depending on the legume used. Red lentils cook very fast and don't require any soaking. If you are using split peas or brown lentils, then you need to soak and rinse them beforehand, or use a pressure cooker. You can add other vegies too, like some greens or diced potato.

1 cup red lentils, rinsed
4 cups water
1 tbsp oil (I used virgin coconut oil)
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp tumeric
pinch of chilli
1 tomato, diced
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp grated ginger
salt and pepper

Place the lentils and water into a large saucepan and bring to the boil, then rapidly simmer for 15-20 minutes until the lentils are tender. In a separate saucepan or frying pan, heat the oil and add the tomato, onion, garlic and ginger and gently sweat over a medium heat until soft. Add the spices and cook for another 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Add the onion mixture to the lentils and season well. Cook until thickened and serve with rice.

Dry Vegetable Curry

Aloo Subzi is a dry (no sauce) potato curry where cubes of potato are cooked in spiced oil or ghee. It's absolutely delicious, very very quick and easy to make and it's much lighter than "regular" curries that can be heavy with cream or coconut milk. Best of all, you can add whatever seasonal vegetables you have - spinach (aloo palak), cauliflower (aloo gobi)... I used golden nugget pumpkin and zucchini (no potato). The pumpkin was creamy and delicious!

500g diced pumpkin, zucchini, steamed until tender-crisp (4-5 min microwave)
1 pinch cumin seeds
1 pinch fennel seeds
1 pinch yellow mustard seeds
1 pinch black mustard seeds
1 small pinch chilli flakes
1/4 tsp ground tumeric
1 small onion, sliced
2 tbsp oil (I used virgin coconut oil)
salt and pepper

Heat the oil and gently fry the spices and onion until fragrant.  Add the vegetables and a little cooking water and cook until tender. Season well and serve.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad

1 cup peeled and seeded cucumber, chopped
8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 green spring onion, finely sliced
1/2 tsp minced ginger
pinch of sea salt
1 tbsp mint sauce**

Mix everything together and serve as a cooling side dish to spicy food.

** Yes, you read that right - mint sauce! That terribly english concoction of malt vinegar, sugar and mint makes a fantastic dressing for cucumber! This is what the Pantry Challenge is all about!


Anonymous said...

I'm a newbie when it comes to Indian food - I love it but don't understand it. I'm very impressed by your menu, but I might take me a while to 'digest'.

What really takes my fancy is your description of mint sauce. I use it in a 'family tradition' type of pasta salad at Christmas time, and I've been toying with the idea of making the whole thing 'from scratch' rather than with bottled/jarred ingredients. I just ran out of of my Foundation brand stuff, and if I can make mint sauce from scratch, then I'm well on my way. Thanks for the inspiration.

Sarah said...

I've always associated mint sauce with roast or grilled lamb, and it's in the cupboard for that reason. It really is very similar to a salad dressing though, so I should be making better use of it.

Linda Woodrow said...

I love it that this first week of the challenge has seen someone making curries from scratch! I particularly like that dry vegetable curry. I have green beans, potato and zucchini I think that would work really well with.