Those lovely people at Vouchercodes.co.uk asked me to come up with a family-friendly money-saving recipe. Just for them I made roasted vegetable chilli with parmesan wedges. They filmed it to boot. Watch the whole recipe below on YouTube:
Fun fact: I wasn’t going to make wedges, it was supposed to be polenta fingers. Unfortunately the wrong ingredients were delivered! Disaster. A quick rummage around the store cupboard and I settled on (what else) potatoes instead.
Make sure you pop along to see others in the series, such as Meemalee’s Burmese Chicken Noodles and Helen’s Blue Cheese and Fig Gnocchi.
My full recipe is below:
roasted vegetable chilli with parmesan wedges
- For the chilli:
- 3 courgettes
- 1 heaped teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 red onion
- 1 tin tomatoes
- 2 red peppers
- 1 rounded teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
- 1 tin kidney beans
- For the rice:
- 300g long-grain rice
- 1 tin coconut milk
- For the wedges:
- 4 baking potatoes
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan
- To serve:
- 1 lime
- 300ml creme fraiche
- First the veg prep: peel and quarter the onion, thickly slice the courgette, half the peppers and deseed, and quarter the lime. Cut the potatoes into wedges.
- Get a large casserole dish over a low heat, the oven on to 180C, and a saucepan over a medium heat.
- Lay the wedges in a single layer on a baking tray. Scatter over half the parmesan with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Roast for 40 minutes, turning occasionally.
- Put the fennel seeds, cumin seeds, garlic and onion into the food processor with a pinch of salt and whizz to a paste, then add the tomatoes to blitz further. Add to the large casserole pan. Add the paprika and chilli powder.
- Add the courgettes and peppers to the baking tray, season with salt, pepper and oil and put in the oven for 20 minutes until softened.
- In the saucepan, dry fry the cumin seeds for a minute to get nice and aromatic, then add the kidney beans and their juices. Allow this to simmer away. After 5 minutes add it to the tomato pan.
- Wipe out the kidney bean pan and add the rice and coconut milk. Simmer until the rice is tender, then leave covered until needed.
- 5 minutes before they're done, scatter the remaining parmesan over the potatoes and allow to crisp.
- Roughly chop the griddled veg and also add to the tomato pan.
- Check the chilli for seasoning and then serve with rice, potatoes, lime wedges and a blob of creme fraiche.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with quite a few people of Nigerian descent; without fail every one of them at some point has brought in jollof rice from home for lunch. This is a slight play on it. Usually the rice is simmered in tomatoes but this can be time consuming so I kept the parts separate until the last minute. I blended it with a gift from a colleague, a coriander-heavy blend of garam masala that he likes. The result is a spicy-sweet rich dish, topped with some aniseedy pollock. Satisfying, homely stuff and it’s easy to see why jollof is a Nigerian family staple.
Pollock with jollof-style masala rice (serves 1 but would be great in bulk):
1 pollock fillet
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 handful chopped onion (I like to use frozen for convenience)
1 cinnamon stick (I like Cinnamon Hill)
1 star anise
1 handful basmati rice
2 tablespoons chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon garam masala
Lemon slices, to garnish
- Preheat the oven to 170°C. Get a saucepan and a frying pan over medium heats.
- Lay the fish on a piece of tin foil, drizzle over a little oil, salt pepper and the fennel seeds. Wrap up and bake for 15 – 18 mins until cooked through.
- Heat a little oil in the saucepan and add the onion, cinnamon, cloves and star anise. After they’ve had a minute add the onion and stir fry until softened.
- Meanwhile add the tomatoes and garam masala to the frying pan and bring to a simmer,
- Back at the onion, crank up the heat and add the rice with a pinch of salt. Toss well to coat in the aromatic oil, and then cover with boiling water to twice the level of the rice. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the rice is done, then turn off the heat and cover while you finish everything else.
- Check the tomatoes – they may need a little more salt or sugar to balance everything out. When ready, stir into the rice, top with the fish and drizzle with lemon.
I’m certain people who cook a lot, like me, ponder something along these lines: when you really enjoy a dinner, one that you made, what made it special? Was it the choice ingredients, or the exotic technique you used… or was it the company? Heston talks often about this theory – the atmosphere of a meal – and how you can recapture it. It’s often impossible.
I love having friends over for dinner. This occasion was a reunion of very old colleagues who had been through various trials together and come out as good friends on the other side. I took the rare opportunity to cook some fish and heaved a great pile of broadly-Asian-flavoured tuna and rice in front of us, and we all dug in. I know I cooked it, but I really enjoyed the meal. And I’d like to think it was the rare tuna, the fruity rice, or savoury greens, but I suspect that took a sideline to tales of disastrous bike rides, hasty pool tournaments and broken chopsticks. That’s what I enjoyed.
Tuna with greens and coconut rice (serves 3):
1 large mugful of rice
1 heaped tablespoon instant coconut milk powder
450g diced tuna (sustainably sourced, please)
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
A few mixed green crunchy veg, e.g. tenderstem broccoli, sugar snap peas
1 large bag of spinach
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
Soy sauce, to serve
Bunch of coriander, chopped
Chilli flakes, to serve
Lime wedges, to serve
- Get a saucepan over a medium heat and add the rice, coconut powder and twice the amount of boiling water to rice. Cover and simmer while you do everything else. When the water has subsided taste and check for seasoning.
- Get another frying pan very hot. While it heats up, crush the seeds along with salt and pepper together lightly. Scatter on to a chopping board and roll the tuna pieces all over to cover. When the pan is hot add a dash of oil and then stir fry the tuna for about 90 secs, until all sides are coloured. Remove to one side.
- Add the crunchy veg to the pan and toss for a couple of minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and add the oyster sauce, and then the spinach. Toss together briefly until the spinach wilts. Serve everything in a great pile, adding a drizzle of soy sauce and a sprinkle of coriander to everything, and plonk chilli and lime on the side for guests to pimp their own.
Whenever my son is offered a treat out to a restaurant, say for a birthday or good school report, before I’ve even finished the question he replies “Wagamama“. And he always orders the same thing: chicken katsu curry.
I’ve hard arguments with people on Twitter about Wagamama in the past; that it is lowest common denominator stuff, that it’s Westernised muck… they are aiming at global appeal to be sure. I can’t speak to its authenticity but I know I like what their kitchen serves up. My favourite dish by a long shot is yaki soba, and I must’ve had it a hundred times in and out of the restaurant.
But the katsu curry is really good too. Super-crunchy chicken and a spiky curry sauce, with fluffy rice to soak it up. I have got the Wagamama cookbook but this recipe isn’t in there, so here’s my interpretation which I think is pretty damn close. They have salad alongside theirs, I went with some more Autumnal veg in fitting with October diets. But it’s the curry sauce I’m absolutely overjoyed with, a dead simple and really tasty condiment that goes with so many things.
Chicken katsu curry (serves 4):
4 chicken breasts
100g panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons flour
Mugful basmati rice
1 star anise
3 cardamom pods
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 Knorr chicken stock pot
White wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Patak’s curry paste (whichever flavour you like)
400ml coconut milk (I like Maggi’s powder)
- You’ll need two frying pans and two saucepans on the go for this one. Sorry about that. You should also put the oven on a low setting, about 100°C and pop a baking tray in there.
- Get the large saucepan over a medium heat and add the rice, the star anise, cloves, cardamom and two mugfuls of water. Cover and stir occasionally while you get on with everything else.
- In another saucepan, gently fry the carrots for a minute in a little oil. Then barely cover the carrots with water and add half the stock pot. Simmer. After 5 minutes, add the peppers and when all the liquid is reduced add a punch of sugar and a dash of vinegar – check for seasoning.
- In a saucepan over a high heat, add the curry paste and cook out for a minute. Then add the coconut milk and the other half of the stock pot. Simmer until thick.
- Get a large frying pan, cover the base with oil and set it over a medium heat. Between two pieces of clingfilm bash the chicken breasts with a rolling pin until 1.5cm thick. Dust with seasoned flour, dip in egg then coat in breadcrumbs. Fry the chicken in batches as your pan allows, browning on both sides and transferring to the baking tray while you finish the rest.
- When all the chicken is cooked, the rice is fluffy (it will probably need some salt and pepper) and the veg is tender, serve with lashings of the curry sauce.
Jamie Oliver thunders on with another lightning-quick meal, this time turning his attention to chilli con carne. I’m no stranger to rapid chilli but this is a more hearty and balanced version than mine. This chilli dinner is from Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals.
The genius here is to disassemble chilli con carne’s parts (spiced meat, cumin, beans, tomatoey sauce) and cook each part separately. This way you get a “best of” chilli with all the things you love but in a fraction of the time.
I departed from Jamie’s recipe slightly – he used bulgar wheat where I went for regular basmati rice but the effect and timing is the same. I also didn’t have a lemon to hand so used a little more lime in the rice. He also grilled some chilli peppers as a garnish but they’re really not my thing so left them out. Other than that it’s exactly as is, and it’s extremely tasty. At 14 minutes to crank out it wasn’t too demanding on my time either! I’m especially a fan of blitzing a jar of peppers with passata to make a sauce base which I’m definitely going to repurpose in other recipes for a quick fix.
Chilli con carne meatballs (serves 4):
For the rice:
1 mug basmati rice
1 cinnamon stick
For the meatballs:
400g beef mince
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 small jar peppers
4 spring onions
Bunch of coriander
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tin kidney beans
1 pinch cumin seeds
- For the rice, put the basmati rice with twice the quantity of boiling water into a lidded saucepan over a medium heat, along with half the lime and the cinnamon. Stir often while you get on with everything else.
- Combine the mince and garam masala with some salt and pepper and divide into 16 meatballs. Get them into a frying pan over a hot heat with a little oil, tossing regularly.
- Get another frying pan super-hot. In a liquidizer blitz the peppers, half the spring onions, paprika, half the coriander and passata to a smooth sauce and add this to the pan.
- Add the kidney beans and cumin seeds to the meatball pan. Once the meatballs are browned on all sides remove while you continue to heat the beans. Once the rice is cooked plate with the meatballs, sauce and beans, and garnish with the remaining coriander and sliced spring onions. Serve with creme fraiche or natural yoghurt if you like, and the lime wedges on the side.