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Vegan potato and cabbage curry recipe

18 Sep

Today’s recipe is an ancient dish that my ancestors cooked over wooden fires in their village on the Kathiawar peninsula in Gujarat, western India. It’s also something I ate regularly when I got home from school in Lincolnshire, while sitting in front of the telly and watching Neighbours, as well as something I wanted to eat almost every day when I was pregnant. It might be simple and cheap, but it’s also delicious and wholesome, and deserves to continue for many more generations.
Gujarati potato and cabbage curry

My mother uses waxy potatoes such as charlotte or anya in this, because they hold their shape when cooked; I prefer crumbly, fudgy spuds such as maris pipers, which merge into the sauce. Boost the table offering with a dal or spinach curry.

Prep 10 min
Cook 30 min
Serves 4

800g maris piper potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
Salt and black pepper
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 pinch fenugreek seeds
½ tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
200g tinned plum tomatoes with their juice (ie, half a tin)
500g white cabbage (ie, half a large one), cored and shredded
1 tsp ground coriander
⅓ tsp turmeric
1 ½ tsp ground red chilli powder
250ml lukewarm water

To serve
Non-dairy yoghurt
Fresh coriander

Put the potatoes in a pan, cover with cold water, add a teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Cook until tender, then drain and leave to steam.

While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil over a medium flame in a large frying pan for which you have a lid. Once it’s very hot, add the fenugreek, mustard and cumin seeds and, when they start to crackle, stir in the onion and fry for six minutes, until soft. Add the garlic, cook for two minutes, then add the tomatoes, tipping them in with one hand and crushing them with the other as they hit the pan. Cook until the tomatoes become concentrated and paste-like and the oil floats to the top – about eight to 10 minutes.

Turn up the heat, add the cabbage and stir until well coated in the tomato mixture, then cover the pan and leave to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring infrequently (every couple of minutes, say), so the cabbage caramelises a little while it softens.

When the cabbage is soft, fold in the potatoes, the ground spices and a teaspoon and a half of salt, and stir gently, so the potatoes don’t break up too much. Add the lukewarm water bit by bit, stirring after each addition, and leave to cook down for five minutes, until the liquid thickens into a sauce. Check and adjust the seasoning, then take off the heat.

Serve generous helpings of the curry with warm chapatis (heat according to the packet instructions) , a large spoonful of non-dairy yoghurt and a couple of sprigs of fresh coriander.


Can I cook like … Henry VIII

20 Dec

Act like a king, get treated like a king: that’s one of the eyebrow-raising claims made in Robert Greene’s 1998 self-help book, The 48 Laws of Power. I’ve got my eyes on a pay rise, so I thought that eating like a king might help. And who could be more kingly than Henry VIII?

In the Tudor era, high society ate a great deal of meat – game, for the most part – and fruit. I hit two immediate snags: the first, as anyone reading this with even a basic knowledge of where their food comes from could tell me, is that there is a game season and February doesn’t fall in it. (Apparently, you have to give the pheasants a break from being shot at, so they can go away, get counseling and have babies for you to shoot at next year.)
Can I cook like … Andy Warhol?
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Henry VIII got around this by having vast storerooms in which they hung meat in the winter months. I have a freezer but – while I have a surprisingly large number of strange things in there that I have either forgotten to label or that I have given labels so broad as to be useless (“leftovers” is the helpful message on one container) – there is no game. Fortunately, my local butcher procures me a pheasant.

But then I hit another roadblock: the bottom drawer of my oven commits suicide, leaving me with only the small top drawer. This, again, wasn’t a problem that Henry had to grapple with, because he had a number of roaring fireplaces to choose from and the actual cooking was someone else’s problem.

I invent a new dish: squashed roast pheasant. What you do is you take a pheasant that is slightly too large for your only working oven and, after drenching it in fizzy wine and butter to prevent it drying out, press it flat until it fits. Take it out every half- hour or so to apply more wine and keep it moist. I serve mine with fruit and grapes, Tudor-style, avoiding vegetables, because Tudor nobles regarded them as incredibly lower-class and also because my oven is broken.

The resulting meal is not at all bad, but I cannot imagine being willing to go to that much effort when a simple joint of roast beef is just as good and a hell of a lot easier. The problem with eating like a king, I realise, is that you have to be willing to cook like a serf.

Rowley Leigh’s final meal: ‘I never cook just for myself’

12 Sep

ratatouille-chicken-french-meal1I love cooking: it keeps me from doing the washing up. For that reason, I’d cook this meal myself, with my family, and my son-in-law in particular – he’s a very good cook. I love how much pleasure cooking brings people. That’s why I do it. I never cook for myself – I’m not interested. When I’m by myself I just stick to cheese on bread.

We’d be at a farmhouse that we rent quite often in Umbria, and this would be a late summer lunch. We first went to Umbria about 15 years ago, it’s a completely unspoilt, untouristy part of Italy. Unbelievably quiet, green and lush, even in August, with lovely flowers in the meadows. The house suits us, because it’s not overly done up, it has a barn opposite the kitchen across the lawn; which is open on one side, you can seat 16 and there’s a fireplace where I usually cook. There’s also a wood oven.

It’s so different from our life in London, and that’s what we love about going there. No internet, no noise … The first few days, the younger members of the party rebel, but then they open things like books. We don’t take much with us apart from books and a few DVDs. Once I get up to speed, I’m reading a book a day.

My children would be with us, and one or two friends – we usually have friends staying. It’s part of what makes the holidays special.

For starters, we’d have braised octopus with borlotti beans – gently stewed with a little chilli. Then hot roast grouse with bread sauce and not much else: I love game birds and grouse is my favourite. I’d wrap it in lardo and roast it over the spit, with a sprig of rosemary under the thigh.

To drink we’d have a really lovely Brunello di Montalcino – a generous, rich, ripe red, open and fresh.

I love cheese: British, French, Northern Italian … Montgomery’s cheddar, cheshire and particularly brie, which I think is terribly underrated… I might have to smuggle some into Italy. If that didn’t work, we’d just have to nibble on a bit of parmesan.

In August, there are some lovely little plums, although for dessert I’d probably just have a very large cigar.

After the meal I would hide away and have a snooze. One of the nice things about this house is that there are lots of places to hide.

I’m a terrible dancer; nevertheless, there’d be dancing. My wife, Katy, won’t dance with me – but I love it. We quarrel all the time over the music; I’d put on some country or soul, and then the kids would try to get a hold of the player to put on something modern.