I just recently posted a recipe for beetroot brownies and I also popped it into the writing forum I’m part of which provoked a few comments that I wasn’t expecting. I was just trying to get something out there.
The questions were generous in nature, but made me realise I’d taken something for granted in that I thought everyone knew what a beet root was. For me they were part of my childhood and I hated them. They came out of a jar and sat on the buffet table at Christmas, all vinegary and sour. They were sliced and prized out with a fork. Extra special when they came out the jar crinkle cut, providing variety on the plate and a change in conversation along with the colour of the napkin.
They never seemed to feature in my Grandads vegetable garden so I never knew until late in life that we could buy these in bunches, typically 5 or 6 at a time, usually the same size for equal cooking time. They sometimes appear in the veg box, caked in mud, but different varieties my favourite being the golden. Once cooked and sliced in a particular way you get an amazing effect visually.
It’s only now through learning to cook that I realise this an awesome sweet root vegetable that provides many nutritional benefits. The tops providing the leaves for many of our pre packed salad bags and the strips of purple that you often find added. Then the root, a ball of purple, similar to a turnip, grown like carrots. Hardy in nature which is good for the Scottish weather.
Veg box came with an aubergine and pepper this week so along with my cook with a friend evening I thought I’d combine it with the recipe we’d picked. This is really loosely based on the Rajma recipe in the Dishoom cookery book. Let’s say it’s more inspired by the recipe as the book has you jumping off here, there and everywhere for other base recipes and this does nothing of the sort!
2 tbsp vegetable oil 2 large white onions, finely diced 3 large garlic cloves crushed Large thumb of ginger, finely diced
1 Red Pepper, stalk removed and dice
Optional or could use a chilli instead, watch the heat
1 Aubergine, diced bite sized pieces
Swap for a courgette, sweet potatoe or squash
1 tsp chilli powder of your choice 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1 tsp ground cumin 1/2 tsp chilli powder
Could use a half small jar of curry paste
2 tbsp tomato purée 1 (400g) tin chopped tomatoes 2 x 400g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed
This way of cooking is essentially a way of building up flavours, a base for those robust healthy beans.
Heat the oil in a large deep oven ready pan over a medium heat and add the onions cooking for 10 minutes, stirring regularly whilst you chop the other veg
Add the garlic and ginger, stirring through at regular intervals to avoid any catching on the bottom of the pan. Add the pepper if using and cook through, 10 minutes or so.
Add a splash of water if you need to stop it burning, caramelising and soft is what we are looking for.
Add the aubergine, turn over into the onions and cook through for a minute.
Add the spices and the tomato purée cooking through for 2 minutes.
Add the tinned chopped tomatoes, kidney beans and bring to a simmer, then place into the oven on a low heat (150°) for an hour or so, check in on it at the half way point, turn it over and add a little water if needed.
I’m a big fan of a hearty soup and this one I come back to time and time again. It’s very versatile and great for tweaking in relation to any vegetables that might be left over in the fridge. Initially it started off as bacon and lentil and then I found a chilli languishing with the carrots. Mainly because the supermarkets don’t sell single chillies and so with a little ginger and some mixed spice it became a spiced lentil soup. Then with a little leftover chicken from the BBQ I added another tweak to make bbq’d chicken soup. Mainly keep to the core and then add your own touches and enjoy playing with it.
2 tablespoons of oil
1 large onion finely chopped
2 sticks celery diced
3 medium carrots, diced
1 chili red or green, seeds removed and diced
1 thumb of ginger, peeled, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp bouillon powder
1 tbsp mixed spice (ras el hanout or garam masala)
100g red lentils
100g puy lentils
50g dried pearl barley
1.5 litres of water from the kettle
Cooked chicken (add a couple of extra thighs to the BBQ!) to add in at the end of this recipe
180g bacon diced, ditch the chicken and fry before adding the onions
Sweet potato, swap out a carrot or two
1 tbsp mixed of mixed herbs, ditch the chili, ginger and spice
Just use red lentils, or brown, ditch the puy and barley. Just keep to the rough dried weight of 250g
Heat the oil in a large saucepan, soften the onion, celery and carrots with the chili and ginger if using – roughly 10-15 minutes
Add the garlic, mixed spice or herbs, the bouillon and cook for a minute or so turning over so everything is coated.
Add the lentils, pearl barley and 1.5 litres of water from the kettle
Simmer for 30-40 minutes until the lentils and barley are soft.
Remove a 2 or 3 ladlefuls of the soup and blend on the side, before returning to the pan which add that lovely soup texture.