Indian spiced vegetable and nut pilau rice

Pilau lr

Serves 4 as a side dish or 2 to 3 as a main course

This vegetarian rice dish is delicious and full of flavour. It makes a great meal on its own but it also works well as part of a varied Indian meal. The method of cooking the rice ensures the grains are separate and “dry” and you’ll get lots of “oohs” and “aahs” from your guests when they try it!

The recipe looks far more complicated than it actually is. In fact it’s simple and quick to make and can be prepared ahead of time, stored in the fridge until needed, and reheated in a microwave.

For the spice mix…
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 ½ tsp ground coriander
A pinch of cayenne
1 tsp ground black pepper
15 to 20 green cardamom pods, crushed
1 tsp garam masala

Mix all of the ingredients together. (I told you this recipe is simple.)

For the rice…
75g butter
1 portion of spice mix (as above)
Long grain white rice measured to the 375ml level in a measuring jug
500ml water
1 tsp salt

Heat the butter until foaming in a large thick-based oven-proof saucepan. Add the spice mix and stir-fry for 20 seconds. Add the rice and gently toast, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the water and salt, stir to mix evenly and bring to a simmer. Cover and bake in a warm oven (150°c) for 20 minutes. After this time give the rice a stir and add a splash of water if it looks too dry. But don’t add too much liquid; the finished dish is meant to be fairly dry. Cover the pan and return the rice to the oven for another 10 minutes or so to finish cooking.

For the vegetables…
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery sticks, trimmed and finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

While the rice is in the oven, heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onions for a few minutes until starting to soften and colour. Add the carrot and celery, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until the vegetables are cooked, approx. 15 minutes. Give the mixture a stir from time to time while it is cooking.

For the finished dish…
100g cashew nuts, lightly toasted in a dry frying pan

Mix together the cooked rice and vegetables, taste and adjust the seasoning if needs be. At this stage the mixture can be cooled and stored in a fridge until needed. To reheat, loosely cover with cling film and heat in a microwave for 5 minutes.

Just before serving, stir in the cashew nuts.

Boodles Orange Fool


Serves 4

This is my version of a classic orange cream dessert. It’s a delicious and rich dish that’s easy to make. It must be made well ahead – I make it in the morning – so there is nothing to do at the last minute except serve it!

4 to 6 trifle sponge fingers broken into cubes
400ml double cream
3 tablespoons caster sugar
Grated rind and juice of 2 oranges
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
Grated dark chocolate, to serve

Loosely line the base and halfway up the sides of a medium glass serving bowl with the cubed sponge fingers.

In a large glass jug whisk the cream until it starts to thicken then whisk in the sugar. Gradually whisk in the fruit juices and finally the grated rinds. The mixture should be of a thick but pourable consistency.

Pour the mixture into the serving bowl, taking care not to dislodge the sponge fingers. Cover the dish with cling film and chill in the fridge for several hours.

To serve, spoon portions into bowls or onto small plates and sprinkle with a little grated chocolate.

Cauliflower Cheese


Serves 3 as a main course or 4 as a side dish (or 6 if everyone is on a diet)

This dish is cheesy and creamy and rich and, of course, vegetarian. I like to serve it with roasted new potatoes for a perfect dinner. But it works as an accompaniment to just about anything!

1 large cauliflower
80g butter
55g flour
1ltr whole milk
200g strong cheddar cheese, roughly grated
Roughly grated parmesan

Break the cauliflower into florets and cut away any hard stems. Cut larger florets in half so that they are all a similar size – they will cook more evenly that way. Rinse under running water. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil, add the cauliflower, cover and simmer until just soft, approx. 20 minutes. Don’t overcook the cauliflower or the final dish will be sloppy. Once the cauliflower is cooked, drain it and tip it into an oven-proof dish large enough to hold the florets in a single layer.

Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce. Place the butter, flour and milk in a large thick-based saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, whisking continuously with a balloon whisk. Allow the sauce to simmer uncovered very gently for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. Season with salt and pepper and whisk in the cheddar cheese a handful at a time. Once the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth, pour it evenly over the cauliflower. Sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan over the surface and then dust it liberally with paprika.

At this stage the dish can be cooled and stored in the fridge until needed. To reheat, pop it into the oven for 20 to 30 minutes until it is brown and bubbling.

Sweet Yellow Rice


Serves 4

This is a wonderful, rich rice dish that is subtly flavoured. Its sweetness makes it a perfect accompaniment to spicy Indian dishes, such as my Indian Baked Chicken. It is started off on the hob and then baked in the oven at a low heat to give perfect results every time.

The recipe assumes you are using salted butter. If you are using unsalted butter or ghee, increase the salt to ½ teaspoon. If you replace the butter with oil the dish is vegan and still very good.

Basmati rice measured to the 375ml (12 fl oz) level in a measuring jug
75g (3 oz) butter
12 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
9cm (3 ½ inch) cinnamon stick
450ml (15 fl oz) water
1 heaped teaspoon turmeric
¼ tsp salt
80g (3 oz) sugar
30g (1 oz) flaked almonds
2 tablespoons sultanas

It is important to prepare the rice properly before you start cooking. Wash the rice in several changes of water to remove some of its starch content. Leave it to soak in a large bowl of water for 30 minutes, then drain it for 20 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2.

Melt the butter in a wide, heavy flameproof pan and, when hot, add the cardamom and cinnamon. Stir them for a few seconds and add the rice. Stir and sauté the rice gently for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the heat down slightly if it begins to catch. Add the water, turmeric and salt. Stir gently until all of the water has been absorbed – the rice should be just simmering, not boiling. Add the sugar, almonds and sultanas and stir to mix. Cover the pan tightly and put it in the oven for 30 minutes.

When the time is up, tip the rice into a serving dish. Fluff it up with a fork, remove the cinnamon and it is ready to serve.

This rice dish reheats very well. It can be cooked well ahead of time and stored in a refrigerator for several hours or overnight. When you are ready to serve, simply reheat it in a microwave for 5 to 7 minutes.

Puy Lentils with Indian Spices


Serves 4

Continuing my Indian theme, these spiced lentils are fantastic as part of any Indian meal. And any leftover lentils are excellent eaten cold for lunch the next day.

For the Fragrant Stock…

500ml water
12 green cardamoms, crushed
8 cloves
6 bay leaves
1 onion, finely chopped
1 pinch sugar

Simmer, uncovered, all of the ingredients together for 40 minutes. Strain to remove the solids and add enough water to make up to 500ml.

For the finished dish…

250g Puy lentils
4 tbs vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 level tsp ground coriander
1 level tsp ground cumin
1 level tsp ground ginger
1 generous pinch cayenne
1 ½ tbs tomato ketchup
1 to 2 tsp garam masala (depending on its strength)
30 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on size
Water (or any remaining liquid from the cooked lentils)
2 tbs fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 tbs mint leaves, finely chopped
1 level tsp salt
Juice of ½ a small lemon

Wash the lentils thoroughly and add them to the boiling stock. Simmer until cooked, approx 30 – 40 minutes. When ready, drain if needs be to remove any excess moisture but reserve the liquid.

Heat the oil in a wok until hot. Stir fry the onion until softened and browning then add the garlic and stir fry for a further 30 seconds. Add the coriander, cumin, ginger and cayenne and stir fry for another 30 seconds.

Stir in the tomato ketchup then add the garam masala and tomatoes and stir in enough water (or lentils cooking liquid) to make things mobile. Add the coriander, mint and salt and stir to heat through. Add the lentils and stir to mix thoroughly. Simmer for 2 – 3 minutes, then season to taste with salt, lemon juice, cayenne and sugar.

Courgette Curry


Serves 4 as part of an Indian meal

This dish has a mild heat. It is vegetarian and vegan.

Vegetable oil
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 large or 4 medium courgettes cut into bite sized pieces
Large bunch of finely chopped fresh coriander
1 green or red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tsp of turmeric
1 ½ tsp of ground cumin
¼ tsp of cayenne
1 small can of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp of finely grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
Salt to taste

Heat the oil and fry the garlic until medium-brown. Add all of the other ingredients, season with salt, cover and simmer until the courgettes are tender (about 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the heat and size of the courgette pieces). There shouldn’t be much liquid in this dish, so uncover and simmer away the liquid at the end, if necessary.

As with most Indian recipes, this dish likes to be made ahead and reheated when needed.

Pineapple Curry


Serves 6 as part of an Indian menu

I’ve cooked this dish for a lot of people over the years and they all rave about it. Most ask for the recipe!

This dish is vegetarian and vegan.

For the marinade…
½ tsp mustard powder
½ tsp turmeric
2 tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 large pineapple, peeled, cored and cubed (approx 800g cut weight)

For the finished dish…
2/3 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
½ tsp mustard powder
2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
½ tsp salt
100 ml water
3 tbs vegetable oil
½ tsp mustard seeds
3 bay leaves
3 dried red chillies
150ml coconut milk
Fresh coriander, chopped

Mix all of the marinade ingredients except the pineapple into a paste with a little water. Stir in the pineapple and leave to stand for 30 minutes.

Blend the desiccated coconut, mustard, chillies, salt and water to a puree in a blender.

Heat the oil and add the mustard seeds until they start to pop. Add the bay leaves followed by the dried red chillies. Stir fry for 1 minute. Add the pineapple and gently stir fry for approx 10 minutes. Don’t let the pineapple over-soften.

Add the coconut puree and coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes. Check the seasoning.

At this stage the curry can be cooled and stored in a fridge until needed.

Reheat the dish gently and garnish with the chopped coriander just before serving.

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup with Ginger, Garlic and Chilli


Serves 4 to 6

This is a hearty soup that you can enjoy year round. The root vegetables are warming in winter and the spices cooling in summer. Have friends around for lunch and share the soup with lots of crusty bread.

This soup is vegetarian.

1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
2 tablespoons of tomato puree, slackened in a little water
3 tablespoons olive oil
Ground black pepper
2 further tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp minced ginger
1.2 litres of vegetable stock
3 dried chillies
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
400ml whole milk

Place the vegetables in a large roasting tin and stir in the tomato puree, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a hot oven, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened and coloured. This will take about 30 minutes or so.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan and add the minced garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for 30 seconds then tip the roasted vegetables into the pan and stir well. Add the stock, chillies and vinegar, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are completely soft.

Allow the soup to cool slightly then blitz with a stick blender until you have a fairly smooth puree. Pour in the milk and stir in some additional hot water if the mixture looks too thick. Bring to a good simmer, taste and adjust the seasoning.

Beef, Mushroom and Guinness Casserole


Serves 3 to 4

This recipe continues the theme that you don’t have to get complicated to get outstanding results.

Although this is a casserole, don’t be tempted to cook it in a slow cooker because you will be left with a boozy taste.

It is best made the day before to give the flavours time to develop.

I like to turn this dish into a pie by serving it with a puff pastry “lid” which I cook separately in the oven while the casserole is reheating on the hob.

2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
150g white button mushrooms quartered
1kg braising steak (knuckle or shin) cubed
2 heaped tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 x 440ml can of Guinness
300ml beef stock (made with an Oxo cube)
Ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large oven-proof pan and soften the onion for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes until they are well coloured. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Toss the meat in the flour.

Heat the oil in the pan and brown the beef in batches. Return the onions and mushrooms to the pan with the beef, stir in any excess flour, then add the Guinness and stock. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a gentle simmer.

Cover and braise in the oven for 2 hours. Stir the mixture a couple of times during cooking and add a splash or two of boiling water if the gravy looks too thick.

Tomatoes baked with Cream and Mint


Serves 2 for lunch or 4 for a starter or side dish

This delicious dish is packed full of flavour and is not as rich as you may expect. I like to have it for lunch with a bit of crusty bread. Alternatively, why not try it as a starter or as a side dish to accompany grilled chicken or fish?

This dish is vegetarian.

6 large ripe tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper
A couple of pinches of sugar
2 or 3 sprigs of fresh mint
250ml double cream
60 or 70g (use plenty!) of grated parmesan

30cm x 20cm lasagne dish or glass/ceramic baking dish

Cut the end cores out of the tomatoes and place them in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water and allow to stand for 45 seconds. Drain and slide off their skins.

Cut the tomatoes into thinnish slices. Layer the slices into the dish, overlapping them slightly. Season generously with salt and black pepper and sprinkle over the sugar.

Place the mint sprigs in a small saucepan and pour in the cream. Bring to a boil and simmer vigorously until the cream has almost halved in volume. Remove the mint and pour the cream evenly over the tomatoes.

Sprinkle the surface with a generous amount of grated parmesan. Bake in a hot oven for about 25 minutes until the dish is bubbling, thickened and browned.