Recipe: Beetroot, chard and cashew nut curry
Our cook Janet shares one of her recipes
This is one of my favourite dishes to make at the moment that is sweet, richly-coloured and full of warming spices. It's exactly what my body is craving as we slowly transition from warm summery days to the wetter, cooler, darker autumnal phase.
In summer we reach for the light, watery, cleansing salads and vegetables and eat more spontaneously as we dash off for wild picnics and barbecues, eating outdoors and eating more raw and fresh foods. As we transition towards the darker end of the year our bodies want more nourishing cooked foods, rich deep colours of squash and beetroot, the darker greens of chard and kale.
September is a beautiful month, with sweetness in the air, the leaves beginning to change colour, the abundance of berries in our hedgerows, apples, pears and sweet plums that help us to prepare for the upcoming winter giving us bountiful healthy vitamins.
I love this time of letting go of summer and moving onto another season, full of rich colours and earthy woody scents. So I hope that you too enjoy this time of change and benefit from the abundance of our own delicious fruit and vegetables that - if you can get to your local market - will be calling you to make some delicious, warming, nourishing meals.
Tomato (fresh or tinned)
Curry spice mix
Creating the curry
Begin by putting on the oven to 180/375/gas 5.
Peel and cut the beetroot into wedges or chunks depending on their size. Put into a baking tray and massage them with olive or coconut oil so they are all well coated and add some of the curry spice and again coat them all in the spice. Cover with a lid or tin foil and bake till tender, about 45 mins.
Whilst they are cooking, peel and thinly slice the onion and fry on a medium heat till tender and sweet, stirring occasionally. Peel the garlic, crush and add to the onion, finely chop the chilli, then peel and grate the ginger, adding that to the pan, stirring all in well. After a couple of minutes add the spice mix and cook together for a couple of minutes, letting the spices infuse the onion mix. Add the tomato and stir in, making a very lovely paste. I love this process, as it thickens and I can stand and just stir this for ages as I watch the colours deepen and the gooeyness of the paste. So enjoy this moment of alchemy, stirring in some magic! Add seasoning and taste for spice and heat.
Stir in the cashew nuts and leave to cook for a few more minutes, then add the coconut cream or milk and stir in well, adding water if you need to thin it further. Bring to a boil then leave to simmer stirring occasionally.
Give the beetroot and shake in the oven then prepare the chard and coriander.
Cut or pull off the leaves from the stem and wash well. Have a pan of boiling salted water, a colander, and a bowl of ice-cold water ready. Plunge the leaves into the boiling water till they are just wilted, just a minute or so, spoon out and into a colander squeeze out water then straight into the cold to stop if cooking further, then leave in a colander and squeeze out all the water. You can use your hands for this.
Then take all the leaves together and slice through so that the leaves will be shredded. Leave on the side. Wash and cut off the thicker stems of the coriander and then roughly chop. Check the beetroot and once it is tender put into the curry and stir in. The colour of the sauce will deepen to this beautiful rich colour that for me is why I love making this so much. Leave to cook altogether for 10 mins or so. Then at the last minute add the chard, stirring it in. Lastly add the coriander, keeping some to sprinkle on top to serve.
Curry spice mix
This amount will fill a small jar that will keep for a few months, though it probably won’t last that long. It is so much nicer to make your own mix than a bought one.
3 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
8 cardamom pods
1 tsp black pepper corns
2 tbsp turmeric
2 tbsp ground ginger
½ tsp chilli
1 small stick cinnamon
Break up the cinnamon stick and, along with the coriander and cumin seeds, cloves and cardamom, dry roast in a pan on a medium heat, stirring till they begin to scent the air, but not burn.
Once they have got hot, keep the spices moving and once they have scented the air take them off the heat. Leave to cool before grinding then add to the already ground spice. Put in jar and use what you need for the curry you are making and then use in other dishes to bring warmth and spiciness.
Variety IS the spice of life
When I cook I never use specific amounts. It is to feel and make something in that moment, so even when I make this it will always slightly vary: a bit warmer in spice one day, more gingery and lighter another, adding different vegetables too (green beans are a lovely option to add). Instead of cashew nuts sometimes I use butter beans or chickpeas. Parsley can be used instead of coriander, or thai basil.
This is an outline for you to be inspired to create in your own way. Also if you don’t want to put on the oven, then the beetroot can cook in the curry sauce. I usually do it this way as it lessens the time of cooking by that already being in the oven whilst you do the rest, and when you roast the beetroot covered, it comes out a deep shiny colour and has a depth of sweetness that there wouldn’t be just cooking in the sauce.