My day revolves around food. Starting with a chat with my three year old about what we’ll have for breakfast (usually porridge in the winter, with sliced banana or mashed, a big difference when you’re three). I work part time at a surplus food cafe, Transition Cafe in Fishguard, and also run cookery workshops with my business Pembrokeshire Cook. So my day generally involves lots of talking, thinking and eating food.
As I walk through the door in the evening it’s time to think about dinner. I’m vegetarian, my husband a committed omnivore and our son will sometimes eat whatever he’s given, and other days is exceedingly choosy (pretty normal for a young child I think). Over the years we’ve got pretty good at cooking essentially the same recipe, just adding meat to one pan or dish, so the meal will satisfy all tastes.
We make pizzas with different toppings (dough balls with sauce and toppings on the side when our son prefers his food deconstructed), pasta with beef or lentil Bolognese sauce, roast leg of lamb or whole roasted cauliflower with all the trimmings… Always two dishes but most of the ingredients are prepared simultaneously.
However, my husband is coming round to the idea of a meal without meat and we’re going to have wholly vegetarian family meals more often. This does present a new challenge – cooking a convincingly tasty veggie meal for someone so used to having meat on every plate.
For dinner tonight I decided to cook curry. I looked to India for inspiration as much of the population is vegetarian, resulting in many excellent recipes and styles for cooking veggie food. The layers of flavour should mean the lack of meat is quickly forgotten.
This recipe is really adaptable, more of a guide really, use whatever veg (or leftovers from a roast dinner) you have and perk it up with some spices. I often use ready mixed spice blends as it’s quicker and cheaper (I find individual spices can lose their pungency before I’ve finished the packet). We ate it with boiled rice and chutneys, on toast or with baked potatoes would also be good.
Roast Vegetable Sambhar (serves 6)
1 kg mixed veg (eg cauliflower, courgette, peppers, carrots, squash, broccoli…), cut into chunks4 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons sambhar spice mix (or spice mix of your choice)
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
150g red lentils, rinse well and soak in water, ideally overnight, but 10mins is better than nothing
1 onion, finely sliced
1 – Heat oven to 200c. Toss vegetables with two tablespoons of oil then place on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until browning a little at the edges.
2 – Meanwhile heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pan on a medium heat, add the spice mix, stir for a minute or so until you can smell the spices and then add the garlic, stir for another minute and when you can smell it add the lentils with water to cover them by about 1cm. Put a lid on the pan and leave to simmer for 15-30 minutes until the lentils have softened, stir occasionally and top up with water as necessary.
3 —In a separate pan fry the onion in a tablespoon of oil until brown and crispy. These are to sprinkle on top of curry as you serve it.
4 — Add the roast vegetables to the lentil mix and stir to combine, heat through gently.
This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.