This Vegetarian Indian Dinner Party Recipe need be exclusively none of these things.
By that, I mean – this is not something “Vegetarian” to bung at your veggie friends in desperation as a second-rate meat alternative – me and the Man are certainly meat eaters and it is my curry night selection of choice. It’s also a really easy one to make vegan (though you’d have to forgo or vastly alter your naan, all the curries work as vegan). There is NO NEED to eat meat every day. So much Indian cuisine is traditionally meat free and you do not need it/will not miss it. Being veggie in no capacity makes this second-rate (a mentality I think we are slowly coming around to in the UK…it has taken a while)!
Equally, this need not be a “Dinner Party” recipe. The accompanying pictures are taken this evening as I made it for my mum’s birthday dinner. But it can equally function as a cheap midweek evening meal. It takes around an hour to make the two curries, and only 15 mins or so longer to make bhajis once you’ve nailed the method; it’s my go-to midweek curry recipe when you’re in need of something warming and filling (another reason it’s great to go vegetarian – because I’ll decide to cook curry when I get home, too late to retrieve frozen meats from the freezer!). Once you’ve nailed your timings and the basic spices (I have made this up, so feel free to do the same! Alter measurements, and spices, to suit your own tastebuds) these are truly the simplest of curries to make. But I’ll give you my recipes nonetheless.
I would call this a “thali” style Indian dinner party selection of vegetarian recipes, but I make no pretence to this being traditional – as I said, it is made up. So apologies for any bastardisation of traditions I may be committing!
I follow the cauliflower bhaji recipe almost to the word from Bundobust’s entry in the “A Little Taste of Yorkshire” cookbook (though I leave out spinach), which I got from the Man last Christmas, and it was a great buy – lots of inspirational ideas from the region’s top chefs, restaurants and cafes. See their facebook page here. And if you haven’t visited Bundobust, in Leeds, yet – GET THERE! It’s worth it every time!
Ingredients to feed 4-6, for:
Cauliflower Onion Bhaji Recipe – Bundobust style
1 very small cauliflower or half a normal
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp ajwain seeds (I use oregano as the closest substitute here)
(bunch of spinach – in Bundobust’s recipe but I prefer without)
1 finely chopped red chilli
(2 medium green chillis – in Bundobust’s recipe – if you want the extra heat)
1 tsp salt
1 cup gram (chickpea) flour
handful of chopped coriander
Ginger and Turmeric Chana Dhal Recipe
yellow split peas (75g or so)
3cm-3cm fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 pint water/vegetable stock
Masala Vegetable Curry
(to make enough to serve around 8 people – best to make lots and have a freezerful for midweek munching)
vegetables (1 aubergine diced 1.5×1.5cm cubes, 2 courgettes (same), 4 big tomatoes chopped/1 can tomatoes)
1 can chickpeas, rinsed
250ml vegetable stock/water
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2.5×2.5cm fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp brown sugar
1 can coconut milk
handful fresh coriander, chopped
salt & pepper
buy it, or find a recipe like this one: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/bread-recipes/incredible-naan-breads/ which I’ll be referencing here.
Basmati rice (approx. 50g per person)
3 cloves, 2 cardamom pods (optional)
2 big tomatoes
1/3 of a cucumber
1 small red onion
1/2 a red pepper
some chopped mint and coriander, optional
juice of 1/4 of a lime
4tbsp plain natural yoghurt
1/3 cucumber, chopped finely
handful mint, ripped
juice of 1/2 lime
Buy it, or follow Annie Rigg’s wonderful recipe in “Gifts from the Kitchen”, or something like this from the daring gourmet.
First things first, this is going to take you about 2 hours. Maybe give yourself 3 first time, if, like me, you have the attention span of a fly and will need to keep returning to your recipe/instructions.
Naan – it’ll take the naan about 1h30 to rise so get going. Get your yeast going. If you’re using bought naan, look smug.
Dress your table – best to get the basics out of the way.
Sundries – Prep your sides first. Homemade mango chutney is ace, and I have a great recipe from the Ultimate Christmas book, but store bought does the job. Whack some in a bowl. Add it to the table.
Naan – come back and take the next step (incorporate wet into dry). Knead. Put aside until doubled in side (around 1h30).
Cachumber – chop your cucumber, tomato, red onion and red pepper into same-sized small cubes. Add mint and coriander if you wish (a nice addition if they’re available) and squeeze over the juice of 1/4 lime (or lemon if you’ve only got one of those). Mix to integrate. Bowl and table.
Raita – Put your yoghurt in a bowl and add cucumber, to taste, chopping it similarly to your cachumber. I like lots of cucumber, as it’s really cooling and allows your guests to mediate the temperature of your curry if they find it a little hot. Add mint (and coriander if you like), and a little salt and pepper. Squeeze 1/2 lime (or lemon) over. Mix through. Bowl and table.
Put your poppadums on the table. You’re a bigger person than me if you can be bothered to make those.
Now, if you end up running really late for some reason, your guests can start munching on poppadums without you having to worry about them expiring of hunger at your table.
Dal & Masala – Now chop the onions, ginger, chilli and garlic you’ll need for your two curries. Get 1-2 tbsp of vegetable/sunflower/rapeseed oil into two two pans, and turn the heat on low, to get the oil heating. Turn it up to medium as you’re finishing up with your chopping. Add your onion and ginger into one (smaller) pan for the dal, and the onion alone into the other (bigger) pan for the masala curry. Slow cook both, being careful not to colour your onions. You want them tropically sweaty, not hotdog-topping-style crispy.
Dal – After 5-10 mins the onions will have gone translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli to the masala mix. Add the turmeric to the dal mix. Stir and continue to fry, keeping an eye on the dal pan to make sure the powderiness doesn’t start to catch the bottom. When well integrated, add your split peas, stir through for a couple of minutes and add vegetable stock/water – enough to cover the split peas. Stir and leave at a medium to hot, bubbling temperature. Keep an eye on it throughout as you don’t want it to boil dry and burn to the bottom of your pan. When it gets low simply add 1-2 tbsp more stock/water and stir through.
Masala – Add your spicesto your masala mix – garam masala, turmeric and sugar. (Add anything else you fancy really – my staples are coriander, cumin and panch phoran, but do whatever you fancy! – As a note, this curry is just fine and dandy with just the recommended spices. Just giving you your creative freedom 🙂 )
Rice – Measure out your rice (use about 50g dry weight per person if you’re also serving poppadums, bhajis, dal and naan like me!) and add double the amount of liquid – either just water, or mostly water with the last bit made up of a splash of coconut milk – maybe 1/8 of the can. Add your spices of choice (I add about 4 cloves and 2 cardamom pods for aromatic flavour). Put on the hob and bring to the boil.
Bhaji – Chop your onions and cauliflower for your bhajis. You want to slice them into the thinnest pieces you possibly can, but keep some size – don’t mince them – you’re basically aiming for a 2D cauliflower floret. Add 1 tbsp coriander seeds and a whole chilli (check the heat is right for you first, don’t want to blow your head off! Alternatively, add 2 if your chilli isn’t hot enough!) And a heaped tbsp of gram flour. Leave aside for 10mins.
Naan – roll out & shape. Lounge smugly if using bought.
Rice – Once the rice is boiling, whack on the lid and remove the pan from the heat. Don’t take the lid off.
Dal – if your stock/water boils low, add more again. Stir and let it bubble away. It depends on your taste how long to cook for – I like the peas to still retain their shape, but be soft. If you like them with a little more bite, turn off the heat, season and put on a lid whenever they reach the right consistency for you.
Masala – Add your chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and stock (or canned tomatoes) and salt and pepper. Stir through your other veg (aubergines and courgettes) and simmer for 10 mins.
Bhaji – Mould your bhaji mixture into little balls (somewhere between a squash ball and a tennis ball size) and put them on a plate. The gram flour will have mixed with the liquids the veg release when they’re chopped, and should be quite gluey. Firmly mould them into balls. Add your oil to a small, deep pan and bring to hot. It’s hot enough when you drop a teeny piece of mix in and it immediately bubbles gently on the surface of the oil – it’s too hot if it immediately colours and too cold if it sinks.
Naan – Whilst your bhajis fry, get them cooked in a frying pan.
Masala – Add your chickpeas and the rest of the can of coconut milk you put a drop into the rice, and simmer for another 10mins, or turn down low until you’re ready to serve.
You can keep your freshly fried bhajis warm in the oven for a few mins whilst you dish up. Your sundries etc should be on the table, so you could even opt for a bhaji/poppadum/pickles first course if your rice looks a little way off and you haven’t got your naans on yet.
Serve up (try to remember to take the spices out of the rice so someone doesn’t grumble at you when they chew) and enjoy! Phew!
The length of this recipe for a selection of Indian dishes may look epic, but it’s really manageable, and will put a smile on everybody’s face!
Do you have a go-to curry recipe? What do you do different? x