Spiced Pumpkin and Lamb Curry

I once heard a saying along the lines of, ‘There must be some problems in life that can’t be eased with a good cup of tea. But I don’t know many of them…’. This sentiment rings true with me – I reach for a hot cup of tea several times a day. One of the first things I do each morning is trot around the kitchen with our old fashioned red kettle, bringing it to the boil on the stove top. Carrying out the tea making ritual provides a constant comfort that I find soothing. Late at night, despite my best intentions to sleep earlier, I can often be found perched up in bed with an engrossing book in one hand, reading in the lamp light with my final tea of the day clutched in the other.

Certain food has the power to evoke feelings of comfort much like a well made cup of tea, in the same way certain scents can transport you back in both time and place. For me, one of those comfort foods would have to be a nice hearty curry – vegetarian or meat-based – made with lots of beautiful vegetables and finishing with a nice spicy kick. Whipping up a curry is an underrated way to prepare a nutritionally dense meal, which ticks all the boxes: quick to make, full of flavour, and mighty good for you.

While I applaud you if you go to the effort of making your own curry paste (I would love to more often!), a good quality curry powder or pre-made curry paste will more than suffice. Consequently, making a quick curry is one of the easiest things you can do for dinner, especially if you tend to keep on hand other staples like tinned tomatoes, fresh garlic, chili (fresh or dried) and brown onions. Just use whatever vegetables you have on hand (sweet potato, pumpkin, spinach etc) and build up the flavour to your liking. Coconut milk and brown rice are also great pantry staples to have within arm’s reach for this ‘use what you have and throw it all together’ style of cooking.

On a bit of a side note, do you ever find yourself opening a tin of coconut milk/cream to use a little, and then don’t know what to do with the remainder? How about pouring it into a clean ice cube tray, and freezing it until you next make another curry/smoothie/baked good?

The recipe below features on regular rotation at our house. What tends to change is the veg we use, as what goes in is simply a question of ‘what needs to be used up?’. Don’t fancy lamb or perhaps you are trying to reduce your meat intake? Why not add extra veg, and some cooked chickpeas for an alternative source of protein. If you do go with lamb, or another meat, be sure to buy the best you can afford, taking into consideration humane treatment of the animal, addition of preservatives, use of hormones etc.

I hope this curry will go down a treat, feel free to mix up the ingredients and use up whatever you have lying around in your fridge and pantry that may otherwise go to waste. It’s always more satisfying when you have to get creative and reduce waste that way!

Spices

Spiced Pumpkin & Lamb Curry
Serves approx. 4

Ingredients
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 medium garlic cloves, crushed
2 brown onions, diced
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
1-2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 tablespoons mild curry powder (or more/less, to taste)
500g diced lamb (the best quality you can afford!)
200g pumpkin, skin removed and roughly chopped (approx 1.5 cups)
Sea salt
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
Water
2 handfuls spinach (optional)
Brown rice (optional, to serve)
Parsley (optional, to serve)

Directions
1. Heat 1.5 tablespoons of oil in a medium/large frying pan.
2. Add onions, sautee for a few minutes before adding garlic. Sautee for a further 1-2 minutes.
3. Add curry powder, cinnamon, and mustard seeds and cook for 2 minutes over a medium heat, stirring constantly.
4. Move the onions and spices to the edge of the pan, increase the heat and add 1/2 tablespoon of oil.
5. Heat the oil, add the lamb, and sautee for a couple of minutes until it begins to brown.
6. Mix the onions back in with the lamb, add both pumpkin and salt, and stir.
7. Add tomatoes, fill the can half way with water, and pour this into the curry.
8. Cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to very low, and let simmer for approx. 20 minutes (leave covered).
9. While curry is simmering, pop some brown rice on to cook (optional)
10. Both rice and curry should be ready to eat after about 20 minutes. Stir through a couple of handfuls of spinach to the curry before serving (optional).

To Serve
Spoon curry onto a bed of brown rice, quinoa or freekeh, and garnish with a little bit of greenery (parsley, mint or coriander will all look pretty and taste delish!).

Strawberry Punnet from Mt Claremont Farmers' Market

Easy access to plump juicy strawberries, almost all year round, may well be one of the highlights of living in Western Australia! It’s no secret that berries of all kind are one of my favourite foods, but strawberries would have to take top pick.

Strawberries are so versatile, and depending on the time of year, they can be snapped up for a very reasonable price. That being said, there is nothing more disappointing that a punnet of bland, flavourless berries. The trick is to smell them! The more fragrant and luscious the scent wafting out of them, the more likely they are to taste sweet and delicious. And don’t be fooled by size! Often it is the smaller strawberries that are the most concentrated in flavour.

Last week Kostas and I paid a visit to the Mt Claremont Farmers’ Market (which I highly recommend for the bacon, egg and homemade relish breakfast rolls alone!). While strolling around happily buying ingredients for the Jamie Oliver recipe we had planned to cook that night, I came across the gorgeous berries above, which were grown just outside the city. As it was nearing closing time, 3 punnets (500gm each) were going for a mere $12!

Suffice to say, it was the perfect opportunity to celebrate the beginning of spring with a tasty strawberry smoothie. On that note, how exciting that spring is here at last! It must be official as the jasmine has already begun to blossom…

As a way to say farewell to winter 2014, here are a few little bits and pieces from August that I wanted to share with you. Happy spring everybody!

* A pretty and colourful guide to taking awesome pics on your android phone
* Wake up to coffee…literally!
* Not so glamorous, but I think it’s mighty cool. The UN’s guide to vegie gardens
* Anything green tea sounds delish to me! Will definitely be whipping this up soon…
* Love, love, love the French approach to school lunches (c’est magnifique!)
* Springtime means bike riding time! Yep, it’s possible to wear a skirt if you so fancy
* In keeping with my new found obsession with Danish TV, I’m now watching Borgen! SO great.

Springtime Strawberry Smoothie
Makes approx. 500mL

Springtime Strawberry Smoothie

Ingredients
1/4 cup unsalted cashews (optional: soak for 15 mins before use, they will blend better!)
1/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup milk (or non dairy substitute e.g. nut milk)
1 small banana (fresh or frozen) approx 90gm
250gm strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (choose this over ‘essence’)
Natural sweetener to taste (honey, maple syrup, dates etc)
Coconut flakes (optional, to serve)
Extra strawberries (optional, to garnish)

Directions
1. Blend cashews along with the coconut milk and half the regular milk, until smooth.
2. Add banana, a dash more milk, and blend until smooth.
3. Add strawberries, remaining milk, and vanilla, and keep on blending!
4. Taste, add sweetener if required (I like to sneak in 1 teaspoon of maple syrup), plus more milk if you prefer your smoothie less thick.

To Serve
Pour into one or two glasses, sprinkle with a little coconut and garnish with the best looking strawberry in the punnet!