Friday night is curry night. Saturday or Sunday is good too. It takes time to cook, and is best enjoyed at leisure, in front of an Alan Partridge DVD or Match of the Day.

Curry Friday

Curry is great for using up old veg – an entire cuisine designed to hide the flavour of gently rotting produce.

This is my all-purpose curry recipe for when I can’t be bothered to wade through Madhur Jaffrey to find an authentic korma or jalfrezi recipe:

Chop a couple of big onions, a few cloves of garlic and a big lump of ginger into small bits. Fry slowly in a big saucepan with several gulps of sunflower oil and/or ghee. When the onion is transparent, blitz with a hand-blender. Now, make a paste of water with a teaspoon or two of ground turmeric, paprika, cumin and coriander. Cook in the onion paste for a good 10-15 minutes. It should be starting to resemble a curry now. Maybe add a couple of chopped tomates at this point. Or not. Season well.

Now add whatever veg you have left-over. Par-cook if using root veg. Just bung in other stuff – cabbage, spinach, peppers, courgettes. Whatever you fancy. Pretty much anything goes in a curry. Towards the end, after maybe 1 or 2 hours of slow cooking, add a flat tablespoon or so of garam masala. This adds a strong fragrant spiciness to the final taste.

Serve with your favourite curry accompaniments. For me it’s got to be minty yoghurt, mango chutney, naan or chapattis (a speciality of her-indoors), dhal. Maybe rice cooked with a couple of cardamon pods and some lemon zest. And a couple of cans of luke-warm bitter.

Then my favourite bit – cold curry for breakfast. Slobby, spicy, oily bliss.



Originally uploaded by tostadora.

The new box is arriving soon, or is already gracing your fridge with fresh, sprightly produce. But you still have a couple of carrots, some wilting celery, a couple of onions and a couple of kilos of cabbage from last week's box.

It's frustrating, but I just can't stand to compost these left-overs so I find it useful to have a couple of stand-by dishes for using up all-and-sundry. Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink recipes.

One of these ultra-useful dishes, during the summer at least, is Minestrone. I got the original recipe from Claudia Roden's 'The Food of Italy', a practical, unfussy collection of Italian recipes, organised by region.

Here's watcha do. More or less…

Sweat chopped onions and garlic in olive oil. Chop into smallish cubes the following [delete according to availability]: courgette, peppers, fennel, potatoes, tomatoes, celery, carrots. Add them to the onions to sweat and mingle. Season.

At this point it cen be good to add some extra flavourings – try cubes of pancetta, fresh herbs (bay, thyme, perhaps oregano or marjoram), any hard parmesan rind lying around. Allow the flavours to mingle over a low heat.

After a while, add some water or light stock – enough to cover and a bit more. Season and simmer until all the veg is cooked. It's quite a delicate flavour at this point.

Towards the end I like to add some green veg – finely chopped spring greens or cabbage, peas, broad beans or spinach. Don't cook to long or it'll lose that fresh verdant green colour.

It's a subtle flavour so its good to add some potency – a big bowl of fresh pesto, torn basil leaves, parmesan or pungent extra-virgin olive oil. Put all these things on the table and let people grate, pour or spoon-on to their heart's content.

Now you can start on the new stuff with a clear vegbox conscience.

Making piperade
Tuesday dinner

Originally uploaded by tostadora.

London bakes in a sweaty smogy heat. The tube is hell. I need cooking therapy. I get home and look in the fridge – a big plump shiny pepper is sitting up and begging to be eaten.

This beauty deserves special treatment so I turn to the inspirational 'Roast Chicken and other stories'. This book is as good as everyone says it is, if not better. It falls open at a recipe for piperade – a kind of posh scrambled eggs from the Basque region.

I have distant memories of whipping up endless dodgy piperades in a microwave during my days as a KP (kitchen porter for the uninitiated) back in Derbyshire. Its time to revisit an old friend and make amends.

Here's what I did…

Skin peppers and tomatoes and chop, also chop a small amount of garlic and put together in a bowl. Fry some thin bacon bits or rashers until crisp, put to one side. Fry up some croutons using some dense bread and olive oil, also put aside. Whip up 2 eggs per person.

When you're ready to eat, heat olive oil in a nice heavy pan, add the pepper-tomato mixture and the eggs. Stir over a low heat – you're making posh scrambled eggs – of course you know what you're doing. Season well and add chopped herbs if you've got them – I added chives and coriander which worked most fine and dandy. Stir in the croutons. Serve up and sprinkle the bacon on top.

We both agreed it made a fine light and refreshing summer supper.

Optional extra for world cup gastro-hooligans – smother the whole thing with half a litre of Great Britain's finest Daddy Sauce.

Roasting a pepper

Originally uploaded by tostadora.

I hate skinning peppers. Love skinning tomatoes. Both are often well worth doing – improving the taste and texture of the final creation.

I tried this new method for charring the pepper skin – heating up a heat diffuser over a high gas flame and simply plonking the pepper on top, turning it once the skin is speckled black. Sealed it in a tupperware container for 20 odd minutes to steam. Peeled quite nicely.

Doing tomatoes is far more fun – like peeling dried glue off your fingers. Immerse the tomato in boiling water for a couple of minutes, incise the skin with a sharp knife and it virtually peels itself. Love that warm sticky-finger feeling hmmmm…..


Originally uploaded by tostadora.

The new veg box came today – bursting with bright, red, fresh plump summer veg. I had the day working from home – sitting in the kitchen with the early summer sun streaming in. Everything was pointing to one thing – gazpacho.

I rooted around in various recipe books for a good recipe – some were very simple – just tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar. I wanted to use more of the veg box goodies so half-followed a Jane Grigson recipe. Here’s the basics…

Peel and roughly chop tomatoes and cucumbers. Just chop a red pepper or two. More or less the same amount of each veg. Add strong olive oil and red or white wine vinegar – a few tablespoons of each. Season well. Chop a clove or two of garlic – to taste. Add some white bread (stale preferably) – I just added a pitta bread as that’s all we had in the cupboard.

Blitz everything with enough water to make a slightly grainy textured soup – leaving it thin enough to drink out of a glass. Re-test the amount of salt and vinegar – I like a generous amount of both. Serve in a wine glass, perhaps with ice if it’s a really hot day.

Enjoy in the garden, while glancing through photos of old holidays in Andalucia.