How to make vegetarians waltz you

 Featured above is New Zealand artist Bonnie Fraser’s geisha fantail from her first exhibition of “Birds in Uniform”, and some brilliant recipe books.

I can’t live without Nigel Slater’s version of the 30-minute cookbook. Admittedly, I don’t eat Slater to get slim, but this cook has such confessional charm, his recipes are simple and honest, and ridiculously flavoursomely addictive (our favourite being Moroccan flash-fried free-range chicken whilst my sister’s being a tie between the Coconut and Coriander Chicken and the Sausage and Bean Hotpot). As you may be able to decipher the recipes shared in this edition descend from all over the delicious globe.

And a near second to the aforementioned, is the Books for Cooks series. These are inexpensive, no fuss compilations of all time winner recipes. There are no flashy pictures of plated dishes to either inspire or intimidate. The story goes something like this…
Off Portobello Road in London resides Books for Cooks, a shop lined with books all about food, ‘which is frequently refered to as the best smelling shop in the world’. In this fragrant paradise is their test-kitchen, which cooks the books. Their team (contributed to by kiwis aka New Zealanders) holds a forum filled with food (I made that bit up) to choose the top recipes to be published in their ‘Favourite Recipes’ for the year.

Talking of the Antipodes, brings me to Skye Gyngell, an Australian born London-living chef who is Vogue’s acclaimed food writer. The recipe that I am finally getting to, which this tale is supposedly all about, is Chickpeas with Tamarind which can be found in “A year in my Kitchen” by Skye Gyngell or “Books for Cooks 8”. This recipe can also be ‘beefed up’ by replacing the chickpeas, with lamb and prunes, or oxtail.

We invited vegetarian friends to dinner last week and cooked them this since talked about stew and from whence they started raving. Vegetarians can become very gushy (perhaps this accounts for why they’re vegetarians in the first place – they’re so loving of the living) if you give them more than 3 steamed (or worse – boiled) vege ‘n’ meat (without the meat).

So, here follows a recipe of how to make vegetarians waltz you round your living room and finish, by adding you to their Christmas card list…

Skye Gyngell’s Chickpea with Tamarind
Serves 4
15g  butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
2.5cm piece of fresh root ginger peeled and grated
1 tbsp Roasted Spice Mix (toolbox) recipe below
1 tbsp tamarind paste (see note)
4 carrots, cut into chunks
2 x 400g tins of chopped Italian plum tomatoes
2 cinnamon sticks
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
100ml maple syrup
100ml tamari or dark soy sauce

15g butter
juice 2-3 limes, to taste
handful fresh coriander (cilantro) roughly chopped

Melt the butter with the oil in a wide heavy-bottomed pot (with a lid) over gentle heat.
Add the onions and cook, stirring once or twice, until softened but not coloured, 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, chilli, spice mix & tamarind & cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
Stir in the carrots, tomatoes and cinnamon. Cover and simmer slowly, stirring every so often, until the carrots are tender and the tomatoes thickened, about 1 hour.
Stir in the chickpeas, maple syrup and tamari and cook for another 10 minutes.
Just before serving, fish out the cinnamon and stir in the butter, coriander and lime to taste; add a little more tamari or maple syrup if you think it needs extra salt or sweetness. Serve at once, with steamed basmati rice.

Skye’s Roasted Spice Mix
(This makes more than you need for this recipe but is a great addition to your spice and herb rack, although I have just read you should only keep it for 1 month in an air-tight container).

1 cinnamon stick
30g coriander seeds
30g cumin seeds
30g fennel seeds
30g mustard seeds
50g fenugreek seeds (good to boost lactation)
3 cardamom pods
1 star anise

Toast the spices in a dry frying pan over a low heat, stirring often, until they start to pop, 3 -5 minutes. Grind to a fine powder, either in a pestle and mortar or a mini-food processor.

Note on tamarind: Skye also talks in detail about making a tamarind ‘tea’ for the tamarind paste. I have used tamarind puree and have still found the Chickpea with Tamarind delicious. “Books for Cooks” recommend using extra lime juice if you can’t get your hands on any tamarind.

Did you know fenugreek (which can be bought from the health food shop) promotes lactation (for those who need something to boost milk supply in the late afternoon).

I love reading your comments, kia ora for taking the time to share your thoughts

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