Aubergine and chickpea curry with herbed quinoa

It’s the start of the new year, and as always, my resolution is to cook more and eat more healthily. The key to both of these is easy cooking. None of my recipes take long to make, but some of them require a bit of planning and some a lot of chopping, so this year I’m really going to try and come up with recipes where you can throw a bunch of things in your fridge together in less than 30 minutes. This is one of those recipes. I didn’t plan it – I just had a whole lot of veggies in my fridge and some quinoa in my cupboard and I felt like a quick curry. This dish really couldn’t be simpler. If you’ve never made a curry before because you thought it was hard – try this.

Aubergine and chickpea curry with herbed quinoa
Aubergine and chickpea curry with herbed quinoa

Serves 4

  • 250 g courgettes, chopped
  • 2 medium aubergines, chopped into smallish pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • 1 tin of chopped, peeled tomatoes
  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 1 heaped tsp hot curry powder
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • A couple of dried curry leaves
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes (if you want the curry spicy)
  • Handful fresh coriander
  • Handful of flaked almonds (optional)
  • Fresh mint and basil (optional)
  • 1/2 a lemon
  • Feta, to crumble on top (optional)

Make the quinoa according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile, fry the onions (I use coconut oil for frying when making curries – it’s much better than olive oil) and when they’ve softened a bit, add the garlic. Fry for another minute or two and then add all the curry spices and leaves. Mix well and fry until fragrant. Add the aubergine and courgettes and cider vinegar and fry for another five minutes or so (you may want to add a bit more oil at this stage if it’s a bit dry). Pour in the tinned tomato and turn down the heat so it’s simmering. Stir occasionally and add the red pepper and chickpeas after about five minutes. After adding the tinned tomatoes, the curry needs to cook for around 10 – 12 minutes, or until thickened.

Once the quinoa has cooked, squeeze in half a lemon, season with black pepper and chop up some fresh basil and mint if you have it. It’s not essential to add the herbs, but I love herby quinoa and I think they make it a bit more interesting. You only really need a tablespoon or so of each herb. I also love adding almonds to the quinoa for some crunch – mix in a handful or two if you have them.

When the curry is ready, serve it on top of a helping of quinoa with fresh coriander on top. I like crumbling feta over the curry, even though it doesn’t traditionally go with curry. I don’t cook with salt, so I find feta adds a bit of a salty kick to the dish.

The ultimate veggie pizza

I love homemade pizza, and nothing beats a homemade pizza cooked in a proper pizza oven. I made this in Italy, with beautiful Italian tomatoes, seasonal summer veggies and fresh mozzarella. Bliss.

For the dough: (this is Jamie Oliver’s recipe)

  • 1 kg strong white bread flour
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 x 7g sachets dried yeast
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 650 ml lukewarm water

To make the dough, sieve the flour and salt on to a clean work surface and make a well in the middle. In a jug, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.

Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.

Now remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands – this is called knocking back the dough. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in clingfilm, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straight away, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas – this amount of dough is enough to make about six to eight medium pizzas.

For the tomato passata:

Fry a crushed clove of garlic in a slug of olive oil. Add a tin of good-quality Italian chopped and peeled tomatoes and simmer slowly until reduced. Add a tablespoon or two of chopped fresh basil and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

Toppings:

My favourite pizza toppings are thinly chopped mushrooms, courgettes and aubergines, balsamic-and-garlic-reduced red peppers, goat’s cheese, fresh basil and rocket and cherry tomatoes.

If you’re cooking in a pizza oven you need to start heating the oven up at least three hours before you cook. In a conventional oven, whack the heat up to 220 C. Cook the pizza for about 12 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.

Involtini di melanzane

Ok, here’s another aubergine recipe. I can’t get enough of these Italian aubergines! I had this starter the other night on the Amalfi Coast, and it was absolutely delicious. I know Italians are big on their involtini (rolls of beef with cheese inside) but I had never tried a vegetarian version. These aubergine rolls have provolone (the local Amalfian cheese) inside, which imparts a lovely smokey flavour. They really couldn’t be easier to make – there’s a bit of frying involved, and then not much else.

I got this recipe from the chef who made the beautiful involtini in the photo. He didn’t speak any English and my Italian’s not great, but I think I got the gist of it!

Melanzane di involtini

Serves 4

  • 2 aubergines, sliced thinly
  • 200 g provolone cheese
  • A few fresh basil leaves,shredded
  • A small handful of cherry tomatoes

Fry the aubergine in batches until golden. (If you want to be good, you can grill it instead).

Cut small pieces of cheese and fill each slice of aubergine with a roll of cheese and a few shreds of basil. Roll them up like cigars. Place a slice of cherry tomato on top of each roll and then bake in the oven for about 5 minutes until the cheese is oozing out.

Parmigiana di melanzane

This is one of my favourite Italian dishes, and the best way to eat aubergine. My sister and cousin made this on our first day in Italy, and it was a great introduction to beautiful Italian summer food – gloriously tomatoey and thick slices of aubergine.

I haven’t found a healthy way of adapting this classic recipe (there’s a lot of oil and cheese involved) but it’s definitely worth the indulgence.

Parmigiana di melanzane

Serves 6

  • 2 large aubergines
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 tins of peeled whole tomatoes
  • fresh basil
  • A generous handful of grated Parmesan
  • A cup of grated mozzarella, or two sliced mozzarella balls

Slice the aubergine into rounds, salt them and leave to drain in a colander for an hour. Wash the salt off the aubergine slices and pat dry with a towel.

Fry the slices of aubergine in olive oil until golden (about 4 minutes on each side). Aubergine loves oil and will soak it up quickly so keep adding olive oil when it gets dry. Using a non stick pan will help a lot. Drain the fried aubergine on paper towels.

To make the tomato sauce, fry the onion in olive oil until it starts to soften and then add the garlic. Add the chopped tomatoes, and add a handful of basil leaves and pepper, and leave to simmer for about twenty five minutes. Add a pinch of sugar, and salt and pepper to season.

Spread a spoonful of tomato sauce on the bottom of an ovenproof dish and follow with a layer of aubergine. Cover with more sauce, a few torn basil leaves and a sprinkling of Pamersan. Continue layering with aubergine, sauce, basil and parmesan and finish with a layer of sauce. Top with the  mozzarella.

Bake in a 180C oven for around 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and turning golden. Serve with crusty bread and a green salad. It also makes for great leftovers on a sandwich the next day with some basil pesto. Delicioso!

Quinoa and veggie mush

I didn’t know what to call this dish, because it’s not quite a stew and it’s too mushy to be a pilaf. Mush sounded most appropriate, although it’s not an overwhelmingly appetising name. Don’t let it put you off – I think this is the best way to eat quinoa. I am a huge fan of quinoa, and I ate it a lot when I lived in London. It’s really expensive here in South Africa, so I haven’t been cooking with it that much. I keep reading about it in local food magazines and websites though – it seems to be the new healthy food du jour – and I remembered how much I love this dish. This is one of Joe’s made-up recipes, and it’s super adaptable. Make it with whatever veggies you have around. It’s really nice with a bit of cheese – I like feta or mozzarella.

Quinoa and veggie mush

Serves 6

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tin chopped peeled tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons crushed garlic
  • 250 g chopped courgettes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 1 chopped aubergine
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped roughly
  • 1 cup of quinoa, rinsed
  • 80 g feta
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes

In a large saucepan or wok fry the onion and garlic in a slug of olive oil until softened. Add the aubergine and a bit more oil. Aubergine really soaks up oil so if it starts getting too dry, I add some balsamic vinegar. Fry for about five minutes, and then add the courgettes. Cook these for a further three minutes, and then add the quinoa, the tin of tomatoes, puree and half a cup of water. Boil away until it starts getting thicker and then add another half cup of water. Stir until all the water is absorbed and then add another half cup of water. Continue until the quinoa is cooked – you can tell when the grains become translucent. Season with black pepper and stir in the chilli (add more than a teaspoon if you like a bit of heat). Take the pan off the heat and stir in the baby spinach. Serve with a sprinkle of feta and basil leaves.