Mung bean curry

Mung bean dalA change in the weather and the beginnings of an autumnal cold has made me crave warming, nourishing curries this week. I also like to cook a big pot of soup or curry to have for lunch during the week.

This easy mung bean curry recipe is also cheap and very satisfying, either served simply with plain boiled basmati or as part of a thali spread, with lime pickle and yoghurt.

I would like to serve this with chapati too, but since going gluten-free have yet to find a decent recipe. I tried a 100% gram flour one to go with this curry, but the dough was too hard to work with. So please let me know if you’ve got any easy gluten-free chapati recipes!

I made this curry quite dry, but if you’re in a soupy mood, then feel free to add more of the reserved stock to make it more liquid.

Serves 4

Ingredients

200g whole green mung (or moong) beans, soaked overnight

2 tbsp sunflower oil

6 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 green chillis, finely chopped and deseeded depending on heat required

2 tbsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed

1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp tumeric

4 tomatoes, finely chopped

1 tsp salt

small handful fresh coriander, stalk finely chopped, leaves roughly chopped

small handful (10-15 leaves) curry leaves

Method

Put the mung beans in boiling water in a saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes, or until just soft. Drain, and reserve the cooking liquid.

Heat the sunflower oil in a saucepan.

Fry the garlic, chillis and spices on a medium-low heat, without letting the garlic colour, for five minutes.

Turn the heat up to medium and add the tomatoes and salt, cooking for 10 minutes until the tomatoes are soft.

Add the coriander stalks, curry leaves and mung beans, putting in about a wine glass of the drained mung bean cooking water, or as much as required.

Simmer the curry for 5-10 minutes. Stir in the chopped fresh coriander leaves.

Serve with basmati rice or chapati.

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Spice up your life

Indian curry spices

When I was seven, a friend came round for tea and saw my Mum putting bay leaves and cinnamon stick into whatever stew she was making for our dinner. This being the seventies rural Cambridgeshire, my friend had never seen these ingredients before and thought my Mum was a witch!

Cooking for me is something like bubbling up a magic potion. The chemistry of cooking is such that you can become an amateur alchemist and one of the easiest ways to wave a magic wand at your cooking to make it more special and more individual is to experiment with spices.

Be creative and ta-dah! You too can create your own wizardry effects.

Although stocking up on large money-saving bags in Asian supermarkets – such as the fantabulous Sweet Mart in Easton, Bristol, which I cannot recommend highly enough; it is packed full of reasonably priced culinary treasures from all over the world – can seem like a good idea at the time, most spices have to be absolutely fresh to taste at their best.

We need to warm ourselves up on these chilly, dark November nights and spices hit the spot for me. What are your favourite spices?

My top five essential spices:

1 Cumin – earthy and evocative of many different cuisines, including Middle Eastern, Indian and Mexican

2 Garam masala – a mother of an Indian friend made this for me once and it was so brilliant I used it for over a year without it going stale. With a spice grinder it’s easy to make your own though. Simply place 3 tbsp of cardamom seeds, 2 tbsp of cumin seeds, 1 tbsp of peppercorns, half a cinnamon stick, 6 cloves and ½tsp of ground nutmeg into a spice mill for a few minutes.

3 Tumeric – good for colour in the obvious curries but also a cheap and easy alternative to saffron for paella

4 Chinese five spice – use this for a dish to be shared with friends and an utterly irresistible fragrance will greet them as they enter your house

5 Smoked paprika – want to add an instant Spanish kick to a dish? Use this, now widely available in supermarkets and an integral ingredient of chorizo