Curried parsnip and leek soup with spicy chickpea croutons

Curried parsnip soupEven without the addition of yoghurt at the end, this soup has something of a silky korma texture, thanks to the creaminess of the parsnips. Just the kind of winter warmer you need in these dark, short days of the year.

The town where I live, Frome in Somerset, is lucky enough to have a Food Assembly, which is like a farmers market but you order online in advance. They’re a fantastic event for both consumers like me and producers, so take a look at their website and see if there’s one near you. New ones are opening up all the time. For this soup, I used leeks and parsnips from Vallis Veg who sell at Frome’s Food Assembly. The yoghurt is a deliciously creamy ewe’s milk one from Wootton Organic Dairy, also at the Food Assembly.

My chickpea crouton recipe was inspired by the chat salad recipe in Meera Sodha‘s wonderful curry book, Made in India.

Try and use parsnips that are as fresh as possible; I’ve made parsnip soup before with older ones and the soup has turned out bitter.

Serves 6

Ingredients

Soup

2 tbsp sunflower oil

2 tbsp butter

1 medium onion, diced

2 medium leeks, sliced

1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

4 cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp garam masala

½ tsp tumeric

¼ tsp ground cardamom

500g parsnips, peeled and roughly diced

1300 ml vegetable stock (I used Marigold bouillon)

Natural yoghurt, fresh coriander and naan or chapatis to serve

Croutons

2 tbsp sunflower oil

400g tin of chickpeas

2 tsp garam masala

2 pinches of cayenne pepper or chilli flakes (optional)

½ tsp mustard seeds

salt

Method

Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan and then fry the onion on a medium heat for 5 minutes, before adding the leek and cooking for a further 5 minutes.

Add the chilli, if using, plus the garlic, ginger and spices and cook for a few minutes.

Stir in the parsnips and then add the stock. Bring to the boil and then turn down, simmering for 20 minutes or until the parsnips are soft.

While the soup is cooking, make the croutons. Rinse and pat dry the chickpeas with some kitchen roll.

Heat half the oil on a high heat in a frying pan and when hot but not smoking, add half the chickpeas. 

After 2-3 minutes, when they should be starting to crisp up (but not burning!), add half the garam masala and cayenne pepper/chilli flakes, if using.

Cook for another 1-2 minutes, then throw in half the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, remove from the heat and then repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Puree the soup in a food processor or with a stick blender.

Season to taste.

To assemble, add a swirl of yoghurt to each bowl of soup, topped with chickpea croutons and a scattering of coriander leaves. Serve with naan or chapatis.

Curried parsnip soup 2

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Easy chana masala (chickpea curry) with wild garlic

easy chickpea curry with wild garlic

The season for wild garlic is so unfairly short (from around mid-March to late April, depending on where you live) that I can’t help but shoehorn this pungent plant into as many dishes as possible this time of year. But wild garlic is optional in this recipe, being easily replaced with spinach or chard or left out altogether.

Chana masala is a brilliant budget dish,and even better value when you use a foraged ingredient. It’s also quick, vegan and easily thrown together with store cupboard ingredients, assuming you have a few basic spices to hand. Having said that, chole masala is a spice mix that may be hard to find (where I live anyway) but is worth the effort to track down.

Chana masala is delicious on its own, or served with rice or chapatis and yoghurt with chopped fresh coriander.

I’m entering this for Karen’s April Cooking with Herbs challenge over at Lavender and Lovage. Because this is an ultra-thrifty dish, I’m also adding it to this month’s Credit Crunch Munch, hosted by Michelle at Utterly Scrummy Food, along with Camilla at FabFood 4 All  and Helen at Fuss Free Flavours.

Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage

Ingredients

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled, grated and finely chopped

1 green or red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

2-3 fresh tomatoes, finely chopped

2 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp tumeric

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp chole masala

tin of chickpeas

2 handfuls of wild garlic, washed and shredded

Salt to taste

Rice or chapatis to serve

Serves 4

Method

Heat the oil and fry the onion for 10 minutes on a low heat until translucent.

Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a few minutes.

Add the spices and cook for a few more minutes before adding the tomatoes and a mug of water.

Simmer for 15 minutes, add the chickpeas and heat through for 5 minutes.

(If using spinach, throw it in during the last five minutes of cooking time; chard will need shredding and adding a bit earlier, or rinse it and wilt it first in a separate pan for 5 minutes before adding to the chana masala.)

Add the wild garlic and stir through until wilted and season.

chana masala with wild garlic

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Red lentil dahl

Red lentil dahl recipeBeing lucky enough to spend a few weeks in Goa in February, I embarked on a culinary odyssey, consuming nothing but Indian fare for two weeks, sampling as many new dishes as I could and watching people cook wherever possible. So be warned! Over the next few weeks I’ll be featuring Indian recipes galore, as I try my best to recreate the gorgeous Goa deliciousness.

I learnt the most watching Sooni, the talented cook at Little Cove yoga retreat where I stayed, who created the most delectable vegetarian thalis every day. I also had a brilliant cooking class with Ahmet in Arambol, who shows his students how to make 10 separate dishes in a morning.

This dahl recipe is an adaptation from these experiences.

Dahl in South India is served with the consistency of a thin soup. I’m normally a die-hard brown rice fan, but dahl cooked like this is begging for a pile of fluffy white basmati to soak up those lovely yellow juices.

The main ingredients are readily at any supermarket, but if you can get hold of the optional extras, they’re worth adding, to take your dahl to another level.

Ingredients

250g red split lentils

1tsp tumeric

1tsp salt

3 tbsp sunflower oil

1 tbsp black mustard seeds

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 heaped tbsp curry leaves, fresh or dried

1 bulb of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

½-1 red or green chilli, deseeded (depending on heat required) and finely chopped

2 fresh tomatoes, finely chopped

1 tbsp freshly ground coriander or coriander powder

1 tsp garam masala (see my recipe to make your own)

Small bunch of fresh coriander (about 25g), chopped

Optional:

1 tsp mango powder

1 tsp chat masala

1 heaped tsp fenugreek leaf

Serves 4

Method

Rinse the lentils and cover them with a litre of cold water, then add turmeric and salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until soft.

Meanwhile, heat the oil on a medium-high heat and when it’s hot, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds start to pop, turn the heat down to medium and add the chopped garlic and chilli, stirring for a few minutes before adding the chopped tomatoes.

Cook for 5 minutes. Add the coriander and garam masala, along with the mango powder, chat masala and fenugreek leaf, if using. Stir for a few minutes then add a bit of water to make a thick paste and stop the spices from sticking.

Add the cooked lentils and their water, adding an extra 100ml if you want a thinner soupy consistency. Cook on a low heat for 10 minutes, before adding the fresh coriander.

I serve this with some jeera rice (fry 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds for a few minutes, then add basmati rice for four people and fry, before adding enough water to cover, and simmering until done), but chapatis are equally good, especially if you’re serving it as a soup.

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