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: 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.

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.

Moroccan lentil and butternut pie

I’ve had a craving for Moroccan-spiced food recently. It probably has something to do with this wintry weather in Cape Town. Moroccan spices are deliciously warming and fragrant – perfect for autumnal suppers. I made up this pie recipe on the hop, and (if I do say so myself) it’s rather good. I served it with crispy sweet potato wedges sprinkled with chilli flakes.

moroccan lentil and butternut pie

Serves 8

500g peeled butternut, cut into small cubes
400g courgettes, grated
100g spinach
2 tins of brown lentils, rinsed and drained
2 free-range eggs
200g feta, crumbled
2 T toasted pine nuts
2 T slivered almonds
2 T each of chopped flat-leaf parsley and coriander
20 raisins
1 onion, finely chopped
2 dried apricots, finely chopped
2 heaped tsp harissa paste
1 tsp crushed garlic
Whole cumin seeds, paprika and whole coriander seeds
1 tsp honey
250g filo pastry
Melted butter

Heat the oven to 180 C. Put the butternut in a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cumin seeds and paprika. Roast until the butternut is cooked, about 40 minutes.

In the meantime, put the grated courgette into a colander and sprinkle with some salt. Leave over the sink for about 20 minutes and then squeeze to drain the excess water.

Fry the onion in some olive oil until it starts to soften and then add the harissa paste, garlic and a pinch each of cumin and coriander seeds. If you like heat, add a good pinch of dried chilli flakes. Fry for a minute or two and then add the courgette. Fry until the courgette is softened, and then add the lentils. Turn up the heat at this point to burn off all the water. Cook the lentils for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the spinach until it’s wilted.

Combine the eggs, honey, apricots, raisins, feta, almonds, pine nuts and herbs and mix together with the lentils.

Brush a bit of melted butter on the bottom of a large casserole dish and lay down a sheet of filo pastry. Brush a bit of melted butter on top of the sheet and put another one on top. Repeat until you have four sheets on top of each other. Pour in the butternut cubes and spread across the base of the pie. On top of this pour in the lentil mixture and spread evenly. Now comes the fun part – scrunch up sheets of filo and cover up the top of the pie to make the ‘crust’. Brush the sheets with melted butter. Place in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

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.