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The Spice Route

Spice up your winter menu with these wholesome, hearty Indian meals

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The Spice Route
The Spice Route

Spice is perfect for colder days and these fragrant Indian recipes – both vegetarian – are a satisfying alternative to meat-heavy dishes.

1. Saag Aloo

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 head of cauliflower (or broccoli)
200g spinach, washed
2 red chillies
4 medium potatoes
10g coriander leaves
3t olive oil
1t each of mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds
big handful of fresh or frozen curry leaves
1/2t ground turmeric
pinch of asafoetida (optional)
2 handfuls of frozen peas
2 limes
yoghurt, to serve

Method

1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Remove the leaves and stalk from the cauliflower (or broccoli) and break the head into small florets. Drop them into the boiling water and, once it returns to the boil, cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the spinach and cook for another 30 seconds, then drain everything in a colander and keep warm.
2. Deseed the chillies and finely slice them. Peel the potatoes and cut into 2 to 3cm chunks. Pick the coriander leaves and discard the stalks. Get all the other ingredients ready.
3. Heat a large, wide pan over a medium-high heat and add the oil. When it is hot, add the mustard seeds. As soon as they begin to pop, add the cumin and fennel seeds, followed by the curry leaves, turmeric, asafoetida and the chilli.
4. Fry and when it begins to smell fragrant, stir in the potatoes. Add 1t salt and pour over enough boiling water to cover three-quarters of the potatoes. Bring to the boil, then cover with a lid, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes.
5. Stir in the peas, cauliflower and spinach, and cook over a gentle heat until soft and the liquid has slightly reduced. Check the seasoning and gently fold in the coriander leaves so they wilt. Squeeze over the juice of 1 lime, add a dollop of yoghurt and serve with the other lime cut into wedges.

2. Vegetable dhal

Serves 6

Ingredients

For the garam masala
150g yellow split or red lentils
2 medium potatoes
400g squash
4 carrots
2 handfuls of okra
2T vegetable oil
2T black mustard seeds
1t cumin seeds
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 handfuls of curry leaves
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2t asafoetida
2t tamarind paste handful of coriander leaves

For the lentils
150g yellow split or red lentils
2 medium potatoes
400g squash
4 carrots
2 handfuls of okra
2T vegetable oil
2T black mustard seeds
1t cumin seeds
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 handfuls of curry leaves
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2t asafoetida
2t tamarind paste handful of coriander leaves

Method

1. Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until they start to smell fragrant. Remove the seeds from the cardamom and discard the shells. Add the toasted coriander and cumin to the other ingredients for the garam masala and whizz in a coffee grinder or pound in a pestle and mortar until fine.
2. Wash the lentils and put in a pan of cold water. Bring to the boil and cook until soft (the time depends on the type of lentils but can be 10 to 40 minutes). When cooked, season with salt and leave for 20 minutes before draining.
3. Peel potatoes and squash, and cut into 3cm chunks. Put the potatoes in a pan of salted water and bring to the boil, then add the squash. Cook until tender (10 to 15 minutes), then drain. Peel and quarter the carrots lengthways and trim the okra ends. Bring another pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the carrots and okra for 5 minutes until tender, then drain.
4. Heat the oil in a large, flat pan over a medium heat. When it is hot, add the mustard seeds, then the cumin, chilli and onion. Cook until the onions turn slightly brown, then add the curry leaves and fry until they turn translucent.
5. Add the cooked vegetables, tomatoes, lentils, asafoetida, tamarind (diluted in 1t water) and garam masala mix to the pan. Season well and add a splash of water so you have a thick curry. Cook for five minutes, then sprinkle over the coriander leaves and serve.

Photography Issy Croker