Simple Chicken Vindaloo

Raw chicken thighs

Serves 4

The eagle-eyed amongst you will see this recipe is virtually identical to my simple pork vindaloo recipe. I’m giving it here because I know some people prefer chicken to pork.

I find that meat curries absorb spices more readily than chicken curries do, so chicken curries tend to be hotter. I add sweet peppers to this recipe to temper the heat.

I use Patak’s vindaloo spice paste, simply because that is the brand that my local supermarket stocks but I’m sure other brands will work just as well.

Be careful not to add too much salt at the start. Shop-bought spice pastes are quite salty to start with. You can always add more salt later but you can’t take it away!

My slow cooker has three settings – low, medium and high. I find I get the best results if I start it off on medium for one hour and then turn the heat down to low for the rest of the cooking time. If you don’t have a medium setting, just cook it on low from the start.

4 sweet peppers (mixed colours), deseeded and chopped into bite-sized pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 chicken thighs (bones in and skin on)
3 onions, sliced
2 tsp minced garlic (from a shop bought jar)
2 tsp minced ginger (from a shop bought jar)
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 x 283g jar of Patak’s Vindaloo Spice Paste
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes (I use Mutti pulped tomatoes)
1 chicken stock cube dissolved in a little boiling water
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons (at least) of red wine vinegar

Lightly oil the bowl of a 6.5 litre slow cooker and add the chopped peppers. (If your slow cooker is smaller, just scale down the ingredients.)

Heat the oil in a wide based pan then brown the chicken in batches, using a slotted spoon to remove each batch to a bowl once it is browned. Once all the chicken has been browned, add a little more oil to the pan if needs be then slowly soften and brown the onions, approx. 20 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and stir fry for 1 minute. Add the black pepper and vindaloo spice paste and stir fry for another minute, making sure the mixture doesn’t catch.

Add the coconut milk, tomatoes, stock, salt and vinegar and bring to a simmer. Return the pork to the pan and bring it all up to a gentle simmer.

Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker, give it a stir and cook on low for 8 hours. At the end of that time you may find a lot of oil has risen to the surface (the amount will depend on how fatty your chicken was). Skim off and discard the oil, then give everything a good stir. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning adding salt if needs be and adding cayenne pepper if you want to crank up the chilli heat.

Carrot and Cumin Soup

Carrot and Cumin Soup LR

Serves 6

This is a quick but delicious vegetarian soup that I like to have for lunch on its own or for dinner with lots of crusty bread and butter. There are some classic flavour combinations that have stood the test of time and carrot and cumin is one of them. If you haven’t tried it before, what are you waiting for?

3 tablespoons butter
2 onions, roughly chopped
3 to 4 celery sticks, trimmed and diced
6 to 8 carrots, trimmed, peeled and diced
Salt
Pepper
2 tsp cumin seeds, crushed in a pestle and mortar
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 litre vegetable stock

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the vegetables, salt and pepper and give everything a good stir. Cover and sweat the vegetables for 15 minutes.

Remove the lid and increase the heat. Stir in the cumin and chillies and allow the spices to cook off for one minute. Add the stock, bring it to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender.

Leave the soup to cool slightly, then puree with a stick blender. Bring it back to a simmer and you are ready to go.

This soup can be made ahead and kept in the fridge for a couple of days.

Vegetable Curry in a Slow Cooker

Curry powder

Serves 4

This dish is fab! It’s simple to make, full of goodness and tastes divine. It is vegetarian and vegan too if you make sure the coconut milk and stock are vegan. Why eat meat when vegetables taste this good?

For the spice blend…
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground fenugreek
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp ground cayenne
2 tsp garam masala
1 tablespoon green cardamom pods crushed in a pestle and mortar

Mix all of the ingredients together.

For the finished dish…
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 medium onions, peeled and sliced
2 tsp chopped ginger
1 tsp chopped garlic
Spice blend (as above)
2 vegetable stock cubes or stock pots dissolved in a little boiling water
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g tin of reduced fat coconut milk
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt
3 peppers – 1 each of red, yellow and green – deseeded and cut into bite sized chunks
2 large courgettes cut into bite sized chunks
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
5 large celery sticks trimmed cut into bite sized chunks
1 small purple turnip peeled and cut into dice

Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onion until softened and well browned. This will take 20 to 30 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the spice blend and stir-fry for a further minute, adding a splash of stock if it starts to catch. Add the stock, tomatoes, coconut milk, vinegar and salt and bring to a simmer.

Add all of the vegetables and bring to a good simmer.

Pour the mixture into the bowl of a slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 5 hours.

The vegetables may throw off a lot of liquid. After the 5 hours are up, if there is too much liquid, ladle it off into a small saucepan and boil it uncovered to reduce its volume, then return the thickened liquid to the slow cooker. Cover and bring the curry back to a gentle simmer before serving with plain white boiled rice.

Vegetable Curry

Spice mix

Serves 3 to 4

This is a tasty, quick-to-cook vegetarian curry. It’s great if you are on a diet as it is very low on the naughty stuff!

For best results, make this curry the day before you intend to eat it. Storing it overnight in the fridge gives the flavours time to develop.

For the spice mix…
12 cardamom pods, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground fenugreek
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground turmeric
A pinch of cayenne
Salt to taste

Simply mix all of the ingredients together.

For the finished dish…
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, peeled and sliced
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp chopped ginger
1 portion of spice mix, as above
250g low fat natural yogurt
500ml vegetable stock
1 large red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
4 large celery sticks, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
1 turnip, peeled and diced
2 large courgettes, cut into bite sized pieces
1 large green pepper. Deseeded and cut into bite sized pieces.

Heat the oil in a large oven-proof pan and cook the onions until softened and coloured. This will take 15 to 20 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the spice mix and continue to stir-fry for 30 seconds, adding a splash of stock if the mixture starts to catch.

Add the yogurt a tablespoon at a time, bringing the mixture to a gentle simmer after each addition. Pour in the stock and return to a simmer. Finally, add the chilli, celery, carrots, turnip, courgettes and pepper. When everything is bubbling, cover the pan and cook the dish in the oven for 30 minutes. You want the vegetables to have a good bite to them at this stage, so don’t stretch the cooking time.

The curry should now be cooled and stored in the fridge overnight.

When you are ready to serve, gently reheat the curry on the hob.

Puy Lentil Curry

Puy lentil curry lr

Serves 4 as part of an Indian meal

If you are pushed for time and you want to cook a delicious curry, look no further. What’s more, this is a vegan and vegetarian recipe that even carnivores will love.

For the spice mix…
1 ½ tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander, ground ginger, garam masala, fenugreek and turmeric
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
12 cardamom pods, crushed in a pestle and mortar

Mix all of the ingredients together.

For the finished dish…
250g Puy lentils, rinsed under running water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 portion of spice mix, as above
250ml vegan stock
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Optional – a pinch of cayenne and/or a pinch of sugar

Place the lentils in a large pan of unsalted water. Cover and simmer until just cooked, approx. 35 to 40 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile heat the oil in a wide based pan and sauté the onions until softened and well coloured, approx. 15 to 20 minutes. Add the garlic and chillies and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the spice mix and stir-fry for a further minute, adding a splash of stock if it starts to catch. Add the stock, tomatoes and red wine vinegar and simmer, covered for 20 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding salt, cayenne and/or a pinch of sugar if needs be.

Stir the cooked lentils into the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning again; lentils gobble up salt!

Spiced Chickpeas

Spiced Chickpeas lr

Serves 4

This is a delicious and wholesome vegan dish. It’s quick to prepare too, which is always a bonus.

Serve the chickpeas with vegetables, leaves or roasted potatoes, whatever takes your fancy.

For the spice mix…
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground fenugreek
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne

Mix all of the ingredients together.

For the finished dish…
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 medium onions, peeled and sliced
1 portion of spice mix, as above
125 ml water
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
Pinch of sugar (optional)
Splash of vinegar (optional)
2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained and rinsed under cold running water
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh mint leaves

Sauté the onions in the oil until softened and slightly coloured, approx. 15 minutes. Add the spice mix and stir-fry for 1 minute, adding a splash of water if the mixture starts to catch. Add the water and tomatoes, bring to a simmer and simmer covered for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You may need to add a pinch of sugar or a splash of vinegar, depending on the sharpness of the tomatoes.

Add the chickpeas and mint and gently simmer, covered, for a further 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning again if needs be.

Lamb and Vegetable Soup in a Slow Cooker

Lamb shanks lr

Serves 4 as a main course

This is a hearty and filling main course soup, and thanks to the spicing, works well in summer or winter. Lamb shanks are quite bulky so this is where my large 6.5 litre slow cooker comes into its own. If you have a smaller slow cooker you will need to reduce the portions.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 lamb shanks
3 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp chopped garlic
Spice mix made with 2 tsp ground coriander, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground black pepper and a pinch of salt
1 litre beef stock (I make it with 2 Oxo cubes)
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
5 celery sticks, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
2 large sweet peppers, deseeded and cut into bite sized pieces
2 large red chillies, deseeded and finely diced
2 bulbs of fennel, trimmed and finely sliced

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and brown the lamb shanks all over, removing them to the bowl of your slow cooker once done. You will need to brown the shanks in two batches to avoid over-crowding the pan.

Add the onions to the pan and sauté until softened, approx. 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the spice mix and stir-fry for another minute, adding a splash of stock if it starts to catch.

Pour in the stock and tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add all of the vegetables and return to a simmer. Pour the mixture over the lamb shanks in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 9 hours.

When the time is up remove the lamb shanks and strip the meat from the bones, shredding it with two forks and removing any fat or gristle. Return the meat to the slow cooker. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Cook for another hour on low then, before serving, skim any excess oil that has risen to the surface.

Long Grain White Rice

Long grain white rice

Serves 4

A lot of people seem to have problems cooking rice. They even resort to buying over-priced pouches of pre-cooked rice. You don’t need to do that! It’s actually dead easy to get perfect results every time.

I allow 2 ½ tablespoons of uncooked rice per person, so this recipe serves 4.

Salt
10 tablespoons of long grain white rice

Bring a large pan of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the rice and return to a simmer. Briefly stir gently to make sure the grains aren’t sticking to the base of the pan.

Simmer for 19 minutes. During this time white foam will rise to the surface. This is starch and you should skim it off a couple of times. At the same time give the rice a quick, gentle stir.

After the 19 minutes is up, strain the rice into a strainer and wash it under cold running water until cold. This will stop the cooking process. Place the strainer over a bowl and leave it to drain at room temperature for 1 hour. After that, tip the rice into a bowl, cover in cling film and sore in the fridge until needed.

To reheat, peel back the cling film and fluff the rice with a fork to separate the grains. Leave the cling film loosely in place and heat in a microwave on full power for 4 to 5 minutes. The exact time will depend on the power of your microwave. And voila. As promised you will have perfectly cooked rice.

Four Chilli Sauce

Four Chilli Sauce lr

Serve this delicious sauce chilled as a table sauce or dip. Or serve it hot to accompany pork or chicken. Either way, it’s fab!

Everyone agrees these days, sugar is the enemy. So I don’t add any sweetness as I like the sauce as it is. But, if you have a sweet tooth, add some raisins at the same time as the passata.

For the spice blend…
½ tsp dried chipotle chilli powder
½ tsp dried mulato chilli powder
½ tsp dried pasilla chilli powder
1 tsp dried ancho chilli powder
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano

Just mix everything together. Be generous with the measurements!

For the finished dish…
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 beef stock cube (I use an Oxo cube), dissolved in a little boiling water
400g jar of passata (I use Mutti)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Pinch of salt

Heat the oil in a small pan, add the onion and cook gently until softened and starting to colour.

Add the spice blend and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add a splash of stock if it starts to catch.

Add the rest of the ingredients, stir to mix evenly and gently simmer, uncovered, until the mixture has cooked off and reduced. This will take about 20 to 30 minutes.

If you prefer a smooth sauce, blitz it in a blender or pass it through a sieve.

Corn Fritters

Corn fritters cropped

Makes about 12, so serves 4

These are great, tasty family favourites. They are vegetarian but I like to serve them with roast chicken!

100g plain flour
1 egg, beaten
150ml milk
Salt
1 to 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce
300g tinned sweetcorn, drained
Vegetable oil

Whisk the egg into the flour then whisk in the milk a few tablespoons at a time. Continue to whisk until all the milk is incorporated and the batter is smooth. Season with salt and whisk in the BBQ sauce.

Stir in the sweetcorn.

Heat a good glug of oil in a frying pan and shallow fry tablespoons full of the mixture, turning occasionally. The fritters should be dark brown on the outside and cooked through. As they cook transfer them to an oven-proof dish in a warm oven to keep hot.