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I’m not a very authentic cook.  I cook by feel, working from the base of what I have in the garden and what is in season rather than from a recipe.  With the result that I often have to do the research afterwards to find out what to call it!  I think this is a Balti style of curry, because it has the sweet spices – cinnamon and cardamom and garam masala – and not much of the hot spices – in a yoghurt creamy tomato base.

Anyway, whatever you call it, this is a mild and a bit sweet curry. If you keep the chili level down kids are likely to enjoy it.  It doesn’t need rice to mellow it out like hot curries.  I like it best with garlic Naan bread to scoop it up.  It’s a great dish for using the last of the season pumpkin for a cold, wet winter night dinner.

There’s a little Tuesday Night Vego Challenge cheat in it: making it in half an hour requires cooked chickpeas (garbanzos).  You can use tinned ones, but that always seems like such a huge waste of energy to me – mining, smelting and manufacturing tins, cooking the peas, labelling, transporting, retailing – just so you can throw out the tin, which then becomes a problem to recycle or house in landfill.  So much easier and cheaper to buy (or grow your own) chickpeas and cook them.  If you soak them overnight, they cook in less than half an hour in a pressure cooker, or an hour and a half or so simmering. I often cook a batch of dried peas or beans of an evening, while I have the wood fired slow combustion stove going anyway to heat the house and the hot water, to use for dinner later in the week.

The Recipe:

Makes three adult serves.  Leftovers are even better the next day.

Soak ¹/3 cup chickpeas (garbanzos) overnight or for the day, then simmer or pressure cook them till they are quite soft.  This can take anything from 20 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on how old and dry your peas are, and whether you use a pressure cooker or not. It will yield about a cup of cooked peas.

In a big, heavy based pot, saute a chopped onion in a good swig of olive oil.

As it cooks, add (more or less in this order)

  • 500 grams of diced pumpkin
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • the seeds from 2 cardamom pods
  • ½ teaspoon (more or less to taste) chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • good grating of black pepper (or, if you have them, substitute nigella seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
  • 2.5 cm (1 inch) of cinnamon stick

Keep stirring till the onions are softened and the spices fragrant and coating everything.  Then add

  • ½ cup tomato passata
  • water – about 1 ½  cups but it will depend on how liquid your passata is, and what kind of pumpkin you use
  • pinch salt
  • the cup of cooked chickpeas
Simmer for about 10 minutes until the pumpkin is very soft.  Add a tablespoon of lemon juice and stir it vigorously, till the pumpkin semi-breaks-up. Then take the pot off the heat and stir in a couple of big spoonfuls of Greek yoghurt (low fat is fine).
Serve in bowls with a dollop of yoghurt and a sprinkle of chopped coriander if you like as garnish, and naan bread to scoop with.
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And why not?

Just because they look like party food doesn’t mean they can’t be really healthy, low fat, midweek dinner food. And I love the social aspect of all just sitting round the table sharing one platter, rather than individual plates. Everyone has their own favourites. Conversation flows. It’s nice.

Half an hour? OK, well, I cheated.   I made the sourdough pita on the weekend and just freshened it up by wrapping in a clean moist tea towel and steaming in the oven for a few minutes.  And though it came together in half an hour at the end, but there was a bit of pre-thinking in it, so it fits the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge rules only with a (fair) bit of creative license!

Charring the Eggplant and Capsicum

The main part of this meal is charring the eggplant and capsicum.  I do this sometimes directly over the flame on my gas oven:

But it is nicer, faster and easier over the wood fired Japanese Hibachi.

Whichever way, the aim is a large eggplant and a large capsicum (or equivalent smaller ones) and three or four cloves of garlic with blackened, charred skin.

Put them straight away into a container with a lid and allow to cool in their own steam until cool enough to handle.

Then gently peel off the blackened skin.  You needn’t stress about getting every little bit – a bit left on doesn’t hurt – it adds to the flavour.  But you want to remove most.

This is the only really laborious part of the whole dinner, and the charring does totally change the flavours, making them sweet and complex and  delicious.

Babaganoush

Blend together:

  • eggplant, roasted and skinned
  • a clove of roasted skinned garlic
  • 3 dsp tahini
  • 50 ml lemon juice
  • salt to taste

Roasted Capsicum and Macadamia Dip

Blend together:

  • 1 large capsicum, roasted and skinned
  • 1 skinned tomato (dunk in boiling water and the skin will come off easily)
  • a clove of roasted skinned garlic
  • ¹/3 cup macadamia kernels (or substitute whatever nut is in season in your part of the world)
  • a little swig of olive oil
  • salt to taste

Hummus

This is basically the same recipe I posted for pea hummus a few months ago, but using chick peas (garbanzos) instead of peas.  I put the peas on to soak overnight, pressure cooked them for 15 minutes in the morning, turned them off just before I left for work, and left them in the closed pressure cooker for the day.  Then it was just a matter of blending:

  • 1 cup of cooked chick peas (garbanzos)
  • good pinch of salt
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 50 ml lemon juice (juice of half a lemon)
  • 2 big dessertspoons tahini
  • enough water to make a smooth dip consistency

I served the three dips with a little tomato and basil salad and pita bread.

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This is an easy, but long slow recipe. Perfect for a wet day at home with the fire going.  Chickpeas and silver beet, livened up with lemons and olives – the nice part about it is that it is the kind of filling, low fat, very yummy soup you can snack on all day and feel good in all sorts of ways.

First, cook your Chickpeas

Soak two cups of chickpeas in water for a few hours or overnight.  Drain off the water, add clean water and a good pinch of salt, and simmer for about an hour or pressure cook for about half an hour until they are quite soft.  The time will vary depending on your chickpeas.

At the same time, make your stock

Every vegetable stock is different, depending on the vegies you have to hand.  For this one, I used the green tops of a large leek, several stems and leaves of celery, a diced carrot, silver beet stems, a broccoli stem, some amaranth, some nasturtium leaves (for their peppery-ness), a big handful of rocket leaves, a couple of chillies, a couple of bay leaves, a good pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper.

Mostly it is the parts of vegetables that would normally be discarded. Add 6 cups of water, cover with a lid,  and simmer for an hour or so.  Then strain out the vegetables and discard them.  Taste the stock and add salt (or soy sauce) to taste.

Assembling:

Saute 5 or 6 garlic cloves and a diced onion in olive oil.

Add 6 cups of vegetable stock, and 4 cups of cooked mashed chick peas.  You have a few choices with the mashing.  The aim is to break them up but not to blend them smooth.  You can add a little of the stock to the peas and use a potato masher or fork.  Or you can add half  the stock to the peas and use an egg beater. Or you can add all of the stock and (careful not to overdo it) use a stick blender.

Add 20 black olives, pitted and roughly chopped.

Bring up to the boil then add about 10 large silver beet leaves, stripped from the stem and chopped into spoon sized pieces.

Simmer for just a few minutes until silver beet is wilted.  Then add ¼ cup lemon juice.  Taste and add salt or soy sauce to taste.

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