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.

Picnic recipes: the best pasta salad ever

A pasta salad popped out of a friend’s picnic bag at a wine tasting picnic I was at last weekend and it was delicious – just the right combo of saltiness (feta), crunchiness (cucumber) and soft creaminess (av0). Since then I’ve been so into pasta salads – they’re perfect for an easy dinner, cold lunch and of course, picnics. This is my ultimate pasta salad, but you can always add all manner of other goodies to this basic recipe.

 

Serves 6 generously

500 g small pasta shells
1 cucumber, chopped into smallish pieces
500 g rosa or cherry tomatoes, halves
2 mielies, cooked (I do this in the microwave) and kernels removed
Half a packed of black olives, pitted and chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped into small pieces
1 red pepper, chopped into small pieces
120 g feta, chopped into small squares

Dressing:
Wholegrain mustard
Canola or olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Pinch of sugar

Cook the pasta and let it cool in a colander. Once it’s cooled down, pour into a large bowl and mix in all the ingredients. To make the dressing, combine about three tablespoons of oil with one or two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of mustard, a pinch of sugar and lots of black pepper and shake up in a jam jar. These are not exact measurements though –  add more oil, vinegar or mustard to your taste. To transport the salad for a picnic, I keep the dressing in the jar and pour it on only when we get there.

Picnic recipes: sundried tomato, feta, courgette and olive mini frittatas

I’ve been going to about three picnics a week lately, so I’ve been cooking an enormous amount of picnic goodies. Picnic food is the best – I love the mini-ness of everything. These miniature frittatas with sundried tomato, feta, courgettes and olives sum up what picnic food is all about – bite-sized, packed with summer flavours and infinitely more-ish. They couldn’t be easier to make, and you can pretty much put anything you like in them, from different kinds of cheese, mushrooms, peppers, spinach…

Makes 12 mini frittatas

6 free-range eggs
250 courgettes, grated
Handful of sundried tomatoes, chopped finely
Handful of olives, pitted and chopped
8 peppadews, chopped finely
80g feta
1 T wholegrain  mustard
5 or 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped finely
1 T fresh chives, chopped finely

After grating the courgettes, place them in a colander over the sink and spinkle them with salt. Leave them to drain. Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Crumble in the feta and add all the other ingredients. Season well with black pepper. I like to add a dash of Tabasco and a generous sprinkling of cayenne pepper, but that’s up to you. Pour the mixture into a greased muffin pan (filling up each pan almost to the top) and bake in a 150 C oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the frittatas have started to turn golden.

Feta, peppadew and caramelised onion muffins

I got the idea for these savoury muffins from this blog . I tweaked the recipe a bit and added some more bits and bobs – caramelised onion, peppadews and some more fresh herbs. This is a great basic savoury muffin recipe that you could add a couple more things to – try chopped marinated peppers, mushrooms, wilted spinach, parmesan or dried chilli.

Makes 12 muffins

  • 200 g crème fraîche
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 4oo ml plain flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 50 g crumbled feta cheese
  • a couple of chopped sundried tomatoes
  • Six finely chopped peppadews
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • a tablespoon each of finely chopped fresh basil and chives
  • One sprig of fresh thyme, finely chopped

    Fry the onion over a low heat in some olive oil for about 10 minutes. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of brown sugar and cook further until caramelised (about 10 minutes). Remove from the heat and chop finely when cooled.

    Mix the crème fraîche and eggs, then gently fold in the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the feta, peppadews, caramelised onion, sundried tomatoes and herbs. . Mix just enough to bring the ingredients together. Spoon the mixture between into muffin cases and bake in a preheated 200?C oven for about 15 minutes, or until golden.

    Moroccan butternut and chickpea soup

    I dreamt up this soup on a miserable rainy day a couple of weeks ago, and now it’s the first thing I crave when the weather turns horrible. It’s a really filling, warming soup, spiked with Moroccan spices and chilli. It’s really good with salty feta crumbled on top and served with toasted, buttered rye bread.

    moroccan soup

    Serves 4

    • 1 kg of peeled, chopped butternut
    • 1 onion, chopped roughly
    • 1 heaped teaspoon of harissa pasta
    • 1 heaped teaspoon of crushed garlic
    • 1 teaspoon of crushed ginger
    • Half a cup of red split lentils, rinsed well
    • 1 tin of chickpeas
    • 1 tin of chopped, peeled tomotoes
    • 5 medium carrots, peeled and chopped roughly
    • Tumeric
    • Cumin seeds
    • Cinnamon
    • Chilli flakes
    • Fresh coriander leaves and some feta, to serve
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable stock powder

    Fry the onion in a bit of oil until it starts to soften. Add the harissa paste, garlic, ginger and a sprinkle of tumeric, cinnamon and cumin seeds. Fry until the spices become fragrant. Add the carrots, butternut and the tin of tomatoes. Fill up the empty tin with water and add that too, along with the stock powder. Turn the heat up to high. Let the soup boil for about 10 minutes, and then add the lentils. Keep it on a high heat, and stir occasionally. Once the butternut starts getting mushy, squish it and stir into the soup. The soup is ready when the butternut has melted into the liquid. Add the chickpeas and a pinch of chilli flakes if you like. Serve the soup with crumbled feta and coriander leaves.