Vegetable curry anyone?

I hoped you enjoyed my latest Food Trails on RTE. I vistied the spectacular Powerscourt Estate in Co. Wicklow where I met Pamela Walsh and Brett Stephenson of Wicklow Way Wines, Ireland’s first fruit wine producers. I journeyed on to Kilkenny and joined mushroom expert Bill O’Dea on a woodland foraging trip in the Castlecomer Discovery Park.
My final stop was in County Longford and the Viewmount Hotel. Head Chef Gary O’Hanlon showed me a gorgeous dish using Finnebrogue venison.

Back on board the Shannon Princess, I made Vegetable Curry with Fragrant Rice. The recipe is below. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Aubergine and potato dhansak

We serve this delicious lentil-based curry as a staff meal with steamed fragrant rice topped with sizzling oil or occasionally I put it on our vegetarian menu. If you can’t find liquid coconut cream (sold in Tetra Pak cartons), use creamed coconut (sold in a solid block form) instead. Simply follow the instructions on the packet to make up to the required quantity – it works just as well.

Serves 4–6

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

4 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick

2 tsp black mustard seeds

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

5cm (2in) root ginger, peeled and finely grated

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of chopped tomatoes

225g (8oz) waxy potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces

75g (3oz) red lentils

1 small aubergine, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp ground coriander

1 tbsp ground turmeric

1 tbsp sweet paprika

1 tsp chilli powder

200g (7oz) coconut cream

900ml (1½ pints) vegetable stock

275g (10oz) small cauliflower florets

75g (3oz) baby spinach leaves

3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander, plus extra leaves to garnish

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

steamed fragrant rice topped with sizzling oil, to serve

plain natural yogurt, to garnish

Heat the oil in a large pan set over a medium heat, then add the cloves, cinnamon stick, mustard seeds and cumin seeds and allow to sizzle for 20 seconds. Reduce the heat to low and add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned.

Add the tomatoes, potatoes, lentils, aubergine, ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, paprika and chilli powder to the onion mixture. Pour in the coconut cream and 600ml (1 pint) of the stock, season to taste and bring slowly to the boil. Reduce to a simmer for 20–25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are quite soft and have almost disintegrated into the sauce and the vegetables are just beginning to soften.

Add the cauliflower and the remaining stock, cover and simmer for another 15–20 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender. Stir the spinach into the curry and cook for 1–2 minutes, until just wilted, then stir in the chopped coriander.

To serve, arrange the aubergine and potato dhansak on warmed plates with the steamed fragrant rice topped with the sizzling oil. Garnish each plate with a dollop of natural yogurt and the coriander leaves.

Steamed fragrant rice

This recipe uses basmati rice, the undisputed queen of rice. It actually triples in length as it cooks and fills the house with the most heavenly scent. You can omit frying the spices and bay leaf in the oil if you are serving it with more Oriental-inspired or plain dishes.


Serves 4–6

350g (12oz) basmati rice

1 tbsp sunflower oil

4 whole cloves

4 green cardamom pods, cracked

5cm (2in) piece of cinnamon stick

1 bay leaf

600ml (1 pint) boiling water

½ tsp salt

Wash the rice in numerous changes of cold water until the water runs relatively clear. Cover with more cold water and leave to soak for 7 minutes, then drain well.

Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan that is approximately 20cm (8in) in diameter. Add the cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and bay leaf and cook gently over a low heat for 1–2 minutes, until they start to smell aromatic.

Stir in the rice and add the boiling water and salt, then quickly bring to the boil. Stir once, cover with a tight-fitting lid, reduce the heat to low and cook over a low heat for 12 minutes. Uncover, fluff up the grains with a fork and serve at once.


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