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Inaugural curry

Mild ginger and coconut curry with squash, spinach and autumnal vegetables

And we’re back.

Yep, it’s been a while.

After plenty of gallivanting à trois over the Summer, September has flown by in a haze of temporary single parenting. DS has been away in Siberia (voluntary exile), leaving me to man the fort, supervise building works, oversee AS’ introduction to a part-time crèche, somehow find time for work, paint the occasional mural in the new nursery (with the expert aid of OP) and, of course, COOK.

AS is now almost nine months old, and, I’ve been assured by our paediatrician, is ready to eat pretty much anything we do. WOOPEE. No raw meat, fish or egg, no unpasteurised cheese, no sugar and no salt. But the rest is A-OK. She advised that now is indeed the moment to try out as many flavours as possible, in an effort to stave off the dreaded toddler white-foods-only phase. I got home and immediately gave him a spoonful of gorgonzola, which sent him WILD. With delight.

So, we’re entering a new kitchen phase. Meals that we can all enjoy. No cooking up of separate baby portions, merely helping AS with an occasional blitz of the hand mixer. Adapting my favourite recipes by adding salt on the plate, not in the pan. Preparing desserts with natural fruit sugars. Limiting white, refined grains. Making sure our meals are well balanced and varied from day to day. This all sounds feasible, and probably good for us all.

But what about the DINNER PARTIES?

Well, last weekend I invited a few visiting lads from London for a casual supper. Just to test the waters. Ok, AS isn’t quite ready to join us at the table for dinner, but I still wanted to make something that he’d be able to enjoy for lunch the next day. And that would keep the lads happy. And that wouldn’t take hours to prepare (a given these days, especially with DS away). With the darkening and fresh autumnal evenings moving in, a warming curry seemed just the thing. AS’ first curry! Hot times indeed.

Restorative, zingy and satisfying, with plenty of vitamin packed vegetables, whole grain rice, anti-oxidant spices, mineral rich coconut milk…curry is good for one and all. I decided to hold back on the chilli for the moment, not because AS can’t have it, he apparently can, but because for his first curry I wanted him to really taste all of the other spices that go in. Here you have lots of fiery fresh ginger, fresh and ground coriander, ground cumin, ground cinnamon and ground turmeric. For dinner with the lads, I served everything up with chilli flakes on the side, for self-spicing. We also added salt at the table, extra lime and fresh coriander garnish.

Dessert was the simplest of plum crumbles: fruit roasted with whole sticks of cinnamon and star anise, covered with an oat and almond crumble. I set aside a small portion of roasted fruit without the topping for AS, which he had with plain yogurt the next day. He gobbled down the curry without batting an eye. As did the lads.


Mild ginger and coconut curry with squash, spinach and autumnal vegetables

Serves 4.5, takes 45 minutes

main course / autumn / winter / nothing fancy / easy peasy / vegetarian / vegan / gluten free / dairy free / detox / on a budget / baby

As with all curries, you really can use any veggies you like - just add the ones that take the longest to cook first. Here I used aubergine, squash, pattypan (an autumnal cross between a courgette and a squash) and spinach. I chose to roast the squash while the rest of the curry was cooking, as I find this less of a faff than chopping a raw one. I also like that when you stir in the soft roasted squash at the end it dissolves throughout the curry, making a kind of squashy, spicy sauce.

If you aren’t making this with a baby in mind, feel free to add salt when you add the coconut milk. Half a teaspoon is probably about right. Ditto with chilli, although the bonus of chilli flakes is that then everyone can spice to their own tastes.

* Squash - 1/2, seeds removed (butternut/kuri...)

* Onion - 1 large, peeled and diced

* Sesame oil - a little glug

* Ginger - 2 thumb sized pieces, peeled and finely chopped

* Garlic - 2 cloves, peeled and finely sliced

* Ground coriander - 1 tsp

* Ground cumin - 1 tsp

* Ground cinnamon - 1/2 tsp

* Ground turmeric - 1/2 tsp

* Fresh coriander - a bunch, chopped, roughly separating steaks and leaves

* Coconut milk - 500ml

* Aubergine - 1 medium, chopped into 3cm cubes

* Pattypan/courgette - 1, roughly chopped

* Spinach - 300g, thoroughly washed

* Whole grain rice - 2 cups

* Lime - 2

* Chilli flakes - to serve

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (190 fan assisted).

Place the squash on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 30 minutes, until tender. If you’re using kuri squash, you can roast the whole half. For a butternut, chop into large chunks first.

In a large, heavy based saucepan, fry the onion, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, ground spices and coriander stalks on a medium heat. Once things are sizzling nicely, turn down the heat, add a splash of water and cover. Leave to cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once the onions have softened, add the coconut milk and stir well.

Add the aubergine and bring to a simmer for about ten minutes.

Meanwhile cook the rice. Do so according to the packet instructions.

Add the pattypan to the curry. Simmer for another five minutes.

When the vegetables are tender, stir in the spinach and most of the coriander leaves (conserve some for the table). Add the juice of one lime.

Once the squash is tender, remove from the oven. Spoon the flesh out from the skin (careful, hot!) and stir into the curry.

Serve the curry over the rice with extra coriander, a quarter of a lime and chilli flakes on the side. You’ll need to stir in salt at the table. Alternatively, separate off a babe-sized portion first and then salt the rest of the curry before serving.


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