Feast your eyes upon this veggie delight! Not a carcass in sight, for a change. I try to avoid eating meat during the week for various reasons. It saves money, it has major health benefits and it makes me feel a little better about the killing and eating of innocent creatures. As a major animal lover but also a massive carnivore I am often filled with very conflicting ideas, so having meat-free weekdays helps my head (and my heart) out a little. For me, Asian food can get away with being vegetarian because of all the beautiful spices and abundance of vegetables thrown in. And of all places India knows what’s up.. it has the lowest consumption of meat as a country and boasts some of the tastiest dishes in the world.
I could eat chillies all day, I’m addicted to painful food. But I have made these recipes really mild, so if you too are a spicy bitch you’ll want to whack some extra fire in the mix. I like to blitz half of the dal to a smooth consistency then add it back with the chunky half for an added layer of texture, but if you want to keep it rough or choose to obliterate it to baby food consistency (yeah, doesn’t sound good does it?) then go for it, the world is your oyster. The saag aloo is simple and effective (perfect weeknight easiness). Sweet but not too sweet, sharp but not too sharp and with overall earthy tones from all that spinach it’s a dish that Popeye would be proud of. Eat this meal with a roti or naan bread, if you do it like you’re supposed to you won’t even need cutlery. Major washing-up win! Apart from cooking the lentils for an hour, which you can kind of leave to it for the most part, this meal is fairly quick and effortless to prepare. So go grab a beer and relax, unless you have children. Grab a vodka and some noise cancelling headphones.
- 300g red lentils
- 1 tin light coconut milk
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1tsp turmeric
- 1tsp mustard seeds
- 1tsp cumin seeds
- 1tsp coriander seeds
- 1tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp chilli powder
- Thumb size chunk ginger, grated
- 3 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 2tbsp desiccated coconut
- Salt and pepper
- 500g potatoes, cut into chunks
- 250g spinach, washed
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 red chilli, chopped
- 1tsp black mustard seeds
- 1tsp ground cumin
- 2tsp garam masala
- ¼ asafoetida (can be substituted for onion powder)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1tsp coconut sugar
- 250g baby plum tomatoes
- Start by rinsing the lentils to remove any dusty starch. Place them in a large saucepan with 1.25l of water. Bring to the boil with a good pinch of salt. Turn down to a simmer and cook for approximately an hour. Make sure you skim the froth off the surface and stir from time to time. While the lentils cook get on with the saag aloo recipe.
- Fry the onion on a medium heat in a little coconut oil, until softened. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for a couple more minutes, be sure not to burn the garlic so turn down if starting to brown. Add the spices (turmeric, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, garam masala & chilli powder). Cook and stir for a few more minutes. Add the coconut milk and simmer.
- In a separate frying pan, on a low heat, dry fry the desiccated coconut for a couple of minutes. Add majority of it to the lentils, reserving a bit for a fancy sprinkle when serving.
- Add the coconut milk mixture to the lentils, combine and check for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to your taste.
- Remove half from the pan and blend to a smooth consistency in a food processor then add back to the chunky half. Feel free to add more water if to your liking.
- Get the potatoes boiling for about 7-8 minutes, be sure they are cooked through but only just as you don’t want them to break apart.
- Heat coconut oil in a large frying pan and add the onion. Cook for a few minutes until softened and add the spices (mustard seeds, cumin, garam masala & asafoetida), cook for a further 4-5 minutes on a medium heat. Add the garlic, coconut sugar and lemon juice, cook for another couple of minutes. Add a good splash of hot water and bring to the boil.
- Add the plum tomatoes, cook for a further 3 minutes until softened. Add the potatoes and spinach and if the pan has dried out add more water. There should be a slight sauce.
- Gently stir potatoes, making sure to cover evenly with the sauce. Leave to simmer for a few more minutes until the potatoes are soft from soaking up all the lovely juices.
Now get yourself a hearty portion of each dish and eat with a flatbread of some kind or a bowl of fluffy rice. Enjoy, my meat-free friends.