Ben Miller & Alexander Armstrong

Friends for the Weekend

A clutch of some of our very dearest friends from our old London life have just come for the weekend and hedonism came a close second on the agenda, after the collective imperative to get out with the dogs and bask in the glory of the spring wildflower display that nature is currently laying on.

The woodland floors are carpeted with bluebells and primroses, studded liberally with the bright white star-like blooms of wood anemones and wild garlic and occasionally punctuated with a rare gem such as a cowslip or early purple orchid. We walked for miles and our friend, the natural medicine practitioner, was armed with rubber gloves and scissors to gather wild herbs for her hedgerow brew. Her foraging haul included fresh young nettle shoots, dandelions, primroses, ramsons (aka wild garlic) and gallium aparine, which most of you will know as sticky willy.

The day after, our marvellous Mel created a vibrant, green medicinal soup to soothe our aching joints (we hill walked many miles and our bones are all getting on a bit) and stimulate our lymphatic systems, serving to improve the excretion of waste and toxins through our kidneys. A few primrose flowers were added as a last minute garnish, which made the soup look beautiful and served to banish our headaches. And there were a fair few toxins and sore heads knocking around, thanks wholly to the rather large quantity of alcohol we consumed rather than the food that we ate.

As is now the norm for me, I wanted to create a feast on the Saturday evening that was both delicious and healthy. I decided upon a curry night, electing to serve one meat dish and three vegetarian options as medicine Mel is in cahoots with our veggie daughters. All the vegetable curries were loaded with pulses to increase the protein quotient for those not indulging in the curried chicken. They also served as a nice selection of side dishes for the carnivores, making sure that we all got a good dose of our 5 a day.

Of course, any one of these curries is fine as a meal in itself, containing plenty of protein, vegetables and fibre, whilst also being low in fat and calorie content.  I served the meal with some wholegrain basmati rice: Tilda do a fantastic range of microwaveable rice now, including a wholegrain pilau, which was extremely helpful to me on the night of the feast as all four of my hob rings were being used for curries. As my spice shy elder daughter was gracing us with her presence, I kept the spice level low in the veggie dishes and went for a fiery hit in the chicken curry, but you can raise or lower the heat according to taste.

As for the green concoction, there is no recipe as such, although the medicine lady started off the soup with some sweated onions, carrots and celery to sweeten the brew, before adding some vegetable stock and all the green stuff and boiling for 10 minutes or so before blending to a smooth consistency. It was really very tasty – even the girls ate it – and my knees took me on all the downhill sections of my daily walks with the dog with a sprightly spring in my step for at least two weeks after!

I am going out armed with a bag and scissors again this weekend to forage for some more wild herbs and leaves to set my knees in good stead for the next couple of weeks. It’s also a good excuse to have a hedonistic hit, as the toxins will be purged! Time to call on some friends to come on over to our place and have a Barbie I reckon!

Chickpea, Tomato and Spinach Curry
Chickpea, Tomato and Spinach Curry
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
40 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
40 minutes
Chickpea, Tomato and Spinach Curry
Chickpea, Tomato and Spinach Curry
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
40 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 20 minutes
Cook Time
40 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1/2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 onions roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 cm fresh ginger peeled and grated
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp Ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes more or less to taste
  • 1 tsp marmite
  • 75 grammes red lentils
  • 400 grammes tinned chickpeas drained
  • 200 mls Reduced fat coconut milk
  • 100 grammes fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 juiced lemon
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds toasted
  • 1 tbsp cashew nuts toasted and chopped
Instructions
  1. Put the onion, garlic, ginger and tomatoes in a blender and whiz to a puree.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the dry spices, stirring for a few seconds before adding the puree and marmite.
  3. Bubble the liquid for 2 minutes before adding the coconut milk and lentils, which should then be covered and left to simmer until the lentils are soft (about 25 minutes).
  4. While the lentils are cooking, heat a small frying pan and once hot add the cashews and toss around until lightly browned. Remove and chop while you toast the sesame seeds in the same pan.
  5. Once the lentils are tender, add the chickpeas and heat through before stirring in the spinach and lemon juice.
  6. Lastly, stir through the sesame seeds and cashews and serve.
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Pea and Potato Curry
Pea and Potato Curry
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 people 10 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 10 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Pea and Potato Curry
Pea and Potato Curry
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 people 10 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 10 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Ingredients
  • 500 grammes new potatoes cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 large onions finely chopped
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 3 cm piece of fresh ginger peeled and grated
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 - 2 tsp cayenne pepper according to taste
  • 4 tsp curry powder mild, medium or hot
  • 4 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 400 grammes tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 400 grammes tinned reduced fat coconut milk
  • 500 grammes frozen peas
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
Instructions
  1. Chop the onions and start softening in a large pan coated with Frylight.
  2. While the onions are softening, chop the potatoes and cook until tender (about 10 or 15 minutes depending on your idea of bitesized!)
  3. Meanwhile, peel your garlic and ginger (grating the latter) and measure out the dry spices.
  4. Drain the potatoes, then add the oil, garlic and ginger to the onions for a minute or two, before tipping in the dry spices and stirring for two minutes more.
  5. Add the tomatoes and coconut milk, bring to a boil and then tip in the potatoes and peas. Bring back to the boil, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
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Cauliflower and Lentil Curry
Cauliflower and Lentil Curry
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
45 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
45 minutes
Cauliflower and Lentil Curry
Cauliflower and Lentil Curry
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
45 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
45 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 Finely chopped onions
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 25 grammes fresh ginger peeled and grated
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground corainder
  • 1 tsp Ground turmeric
  • 75 grammes red lentils
  • 150 mls vegetable stock
  • 1 medium sized Cauliflower cut into small florets
  • 1 large carrots peeled and cut into 1/2cm dice
  • 400 mls Reduced fat coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 tbsp Lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Soften the onions in a pan sprayed with Frylight for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile add the sunflower oil to a large frying pan, heat then add the cauliflower, tossing for a few minutes until lightly browned. Set aside.
  3. Once the onions are soft, add the garlic, ginger and dry spices and stir for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the lentils, stock and coconut milk and bring to the boil before lowering the heat, covering and simmering for 10 minutes.
  5. Add the cauliflower and carrots and continue to simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender.
  6. Season to taste and stir through lemon juice and fresh coriander.
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Chicken Curried in Spicy Tomato Sauce
Chicken Curried in Spicy Tomato Sauce
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 people 30 minutes
Cook Time
100 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 30 minutes
Cook Time
100 minutes
Chicken Curried in Spicy Tomato Sauce
Chicken Curried in Spicy Tomato Sauce
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 people 30 minutes
Cook Time
100 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 30 minutes
Cook Time
100 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1.5 kg chicken jointed
  • 1/2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 onions peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp Ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 3 tsp chill powder
  • 2 garlic cloves roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 cardamom pods split and seeds removed - discard husks
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 200 ml Reduced fat coconut milk
  • 4 medium tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and brown the chicken in batches, setting aside on a plate once done.
  2. Meanwhile, soften the onion in a separate pan coated in frylight.
  3. While the onions cook, make the paste. Place the garlic. ginger and all the seeds (poppy, fennel and cardamom) in a blender with 2 tablespoons of coconut milk and whizz.
  4. Once the onions are silky, add the powdered spices, stir for a minute, then add the chicken.
  5. Add the paste, remaining coconut milk, star anise, cinnamon and tomatoes, stir and add a little water if necessary to ensure a decent amount of sauce: it should just about cover the chicken,
  6. Simmer, covered. for about 45 minutes until chicken is tender. Remove chicken with slotted spoon, place on a serving dish and keep warm. Turn the heat up on the sauce and bubble for 15 minutes or so until it is reduced by about half and is nice and thick. Test for seasoning and add salt as desired during this process.
  7. Stir in the lime juice and pour the sauce over the chicken. If you are serving this a day or two later, leave the sauce reduction until the day of serving.
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