Sea Beet and Potato Curry

Recently I went on a lovely coastal walk on Mersea Island, which is off the Essex coast (it’s reached by a tidal causeway). I hadn’t planned to go foraging but when I came across sea beet growing in large clusters, it made sense to gather up two large handfuls to take home and cook into something interesting.

I do love to forage from time to time – not mushrooms mind you as they can be tricky to identify unless you are with an expert. Somethings are easier to recognise and sea beet is one of those. Disclaimer: If you are going to try to find some yourself please consult the internet for other sources to check on identification. John Wright’s book ‘Edible Seashore’ may also be a good book to take on your walks to help identify. It’s best to check with a few sources to be sure.

I thought the sea beet would lend itself well to a ‘sag aloo’ type dish (spinach and potato curry). It’s more robust than spinach and has a lovely earthy taste to it. It is in fact the wild ancestor to the beetroot, sugar beet and swiss chard and is called a host of names including sea beet, sea spinach, wild beet and wild spinach. In ancient times, the leaves and root of the sea beet were used to treat several diseases, particularly tumours. The juice is even good for treating ulcers apparently!

When you forage you need to wash and clean your ‘treasure’ properly in cold water. I rinsed the leaves three times to be on the safe side. I then roughly chopped the leaves and prepared the potatoes. This curry is a lovely way to include sea beet into your diet, but if you are not going near any coastal areas you can always use spinach instead.

I would love to hear from any of you who may have used this ingredient before? How did you cook it? Leave a comment in the comment box below.

Sea Beet and Potato Curry

1 tbsp oil

2 dried red chilli

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

pinch of asafoetida/hing (optional)

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut roughly into 2 inch cubes

1 tsp salt to taste

2 large handfuls of foraged sea beet or around 260g of fresh spinach

2 tbsp water

  1. Heat the oil and then add the dried red chillies. Move around the pan for 10 seconds before adding the cumin seeds. Let the seeds begin to fizzle and then add the turmeric powder and asafoetida (if using).
  2. Add the potatoes and cover them in seeds and spices and cook gently on a medium to low heat, stirring every now and then. Add the salt.
  3. After about 8-10 minutes, add the washed sea beet and fold in gently to the potatoes.
  4. Add 1 tbsp of water and allow the sea beet to wilt and the potato to soften completely. To check the potato has soften stick a sharp knife into it, if it goes in easily then they are ready. You may need to place a lid on the pan to help steam it, if the potato needs more time to soften,  which will speed up the softening. Add the remaining water if need.

Serve immediately with a dollop of yogurt and a wedge of lemon on the side. It also works really well if you cook my chana dal to eat along side it.

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Chana Masala at L’atelier des Chefs by St Paul’s Cathedral

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A stone’s throw away from the iconic St Paul’s Cathedral in the heart of the city of London you will find Foster Lane and nestled down it at number 10, the cookery school and cook shop, ‘L’atelier des Chefs‘. This is one of two – the other is in Wigmore Street – soon to be three locations of the cooking school, with a further 17 across the water in France.

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Originally set up by two French brothers, Nicolas and Francois Bergerault who wanted to bridge the gap between chefs and the day to day cook. The ethos of the company was to bring people back in the kitchen, around the table and share the love of cooking. The brothers have hired passionate and skilled chefs to teach cooking classes to budding food enthusiasts. Classes range from half an hour, whereby you cook one dish over a lunch time or after work, to a four hour ‘chefs masterclass’, therefore appealing to those of all standards and budget. Class sizes also range from small intimate groups to larger corporate events/team bonding; there is even a class for kids so everyone is included and encouraged.

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I headed down there earlier this week with my mother in tow. I enlisted the pair of us on the Indian cooking session. Whilst I am very comfortable around the spice rack and cooking Indian food, my mother, who is a fabulous cook, is slightly less comfortable cooking a curry. I was keen to see if the session would appeal to both of us.

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We were greeted by friendly staff who offered us teas and coffees before class began. There were seven of us in our class and we were introduced to chef Daniel Stevens who has just returned from an extended visit to Kochi in Kerala, India, where he has been working closely with Lily Vanilli and Atul Kochhar in their new joint venture, Bloomsburys Cafe, which focuses on celebrating Kerala flavour in Western style patisserie.

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Introductions over we rolled up our sleeves, washed our hands and began slicing, dicing and chopping away. Over the course of the morning we all helped to prepare a lamb rogan josh (lamb curry), chana masala (chickpea curry), vegetable pakoras (similar to an onion bhaji) with a tamarind chutney and saag aloo (potato and spinach curry). We all took turns with stirring and adding ingredients and all tasted for spiciness and saltiness along the way. I liked how Daniel allowed the class to decide if more salt, spice, sourness or sweetness was required in a particular dish. After all Indian cooking is not an exact science like baking where exact measurements are integral to the success of the cake or bread. Indian cooking allows you to be a little flexible with measurements and a more ‘go with the flow approach’ to creating a dish – something that definitely appeals to my style of cooking.

Time raced by and after two hours we had prepared all the dishes. We all sat down on a long table, admired the curries we had created and dived in before anything got cold. We all agreed that the morning had been a real success. We had all picked up new tricks and skills and unanimously agreed that we would all be able to replicate the same dishes again in the comforts of our own home kitchens. Would we return? Most definitely. In fact a couple of my class mates were already on their third return visit and if that isn’t the seal of approval on a fun and informative cooking school, I don’t know what is.

After squeezing in second helpings we were given goodie bags to take home some more. We said our goodbyes and headed out into the rain with a glow in our bellies and a spring in our step.

Chana Masala

Adapted from the L’atelier des Chefs recipe.

Serves 4-6

250g tinned chickpeas

2 tbsp vegetable oil

3 whole cloves

1 whole cinnamon stick

3 green cardamom pods, split open

2 medium sized white onion, finely sliced

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp red chilli powder

2 tsp ground coriander

2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

2 whole garlic, finely grated

4 tomatoes, chopped into small bits

150ml vegetable stock

1 handful of fresh coriander

2 tsp rock salt

1 lemon, juice

1. Heat a saucepan and add the vegetable oil. When it is hot add the cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick and allow the aromas to be released. After a minute add the onion to the pan and cook on a medium heat for around five minutes until it begins to soften and brown.

2. Now add the turmeric, chilli powder and ground coriander and give a good stir. Add the garlic and ginger and stir to make sure they do not burn at the bottom of the pan. Adding a very little water helps to prevent burning!

3. Add the tomatoes and allow them to soften for a few minutes before adding the vegetable stock and chickpeas and allowing the curry to simmer and soften gently. Allow the juice to soak up and if it becomes too dry then just add a little more water.

4. After ten minutes add some salt to taste and then turn off the heat and scatter the fresh coriander on top. Before serving add some lemon juice

Chilli and Mint was a guest of L’atelier des Chefs. You can find more details about the course and other courses on offer here.


Aloo Chat – Potato Curry

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Back in my university days I often used to make myself aloo chat when I had the munchies. It was so quick, cheap and easy that it made a perfect snack to nourish my hunger. I would place it in a bowl with a dollop of natural set yogurt on the side and then dip the potato cubes into the natural yoghurt. Happy memories.

To this day I continue to cook it and often serve it up with a dal for a vegetarian supper, or as a complimentary dish if I am cooking a larger Indian banquet with a meat and/or fish curry. At this time of year when the cold sets in this bowl of carbs is highly appealing and is easy to feed to the whole family. As I only chop the chillies in two I find that it does not make the dish too chilli, unless of course you actually munch on the chilli – which I always leave for the adults to do.

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On the subject of munching chillies, if you are feeling a little under the weather I really recommend eating a cooked chilli either in a dish like this or one of my dal dishes (see under Recipe Library). Packed full of vitamin c, they give the immune system a good burst and can bring you back to the land of the living if you are feeling under the weather. Just remember if you ever find the chilli too hot, don’t drink a glass of water as that will spread the heat across the tongue, milk and yoghurt however are able to numb it as they contains a protein called ‘casein’, which breaks the bond between the the pain receptors in your tongue and capsaicin, which is an oil found in chilli – the seeds are always the hottest part so you can remove these if you prefer less of a kick.

Aloo Chat – Potato Curry

Serves 4

600g sweet potatoes, roughly 1 inch cubes

600g white potatoes, roughly 1 inch cubes

3 tbsp vegetable oil

2 green chillies, chopped in two

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 heaped tsp turmeric powder

2 tsp rock salt

Optional: fresh coriander to serve and/or a dollop of natural set yoghurt

1. Place the cubed potatoes in a pan of boiling water for 13 minutes. You want them to begin to be soft, but not completely soft that they just fall apart!

2. Strain the potatoes. In a large pan heat the oil and add the cumin seeds, chillies and turmeric powder. Let the sizzle for 30 seconds before adding the potatoes and coating them in the seeds and powder.

3. Cook the potatoes on a medium low heat for a further 7 minutes, turning carefully a couple of times. Add the salt, stir one last time and then serve. If you find the potatoes are still a little hard, add a little water and place the lid on the pan and they will soften after a couple of minutes.

an alternative way to cook this is to omit the first step and let them fry in the oil with the cumin seeds, turmeric powder and fresh chilli, immediately. Once they begin to bronze add a little water and let them soften. At university I  tended to opt for this version, but now I find that parboiling them first ensures that they soften to how I want them. 

If you like this potato recipe you may also like to try my ‘Curried Potatoes’ another time.


Duck Vindaloo

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Sometimes I think it’s good to eat a meal that really makes you feel alive, something that has some real zing to it. I understand though that loving chilli and things hot and spicy really divides opinion and that it is definitely something that you build up a tolerance to over time, similar to swimming in cold water in fact. It’s good to have a gradual build up rather than jumping in at the deep end whether it be cold water or chilli. On this basis I have shown you how to cook a hot vindaloo as well as a more mild version, but one that still has a pleasant kick to it.

I rather like using duck for a change, but should you wish you could also easily cook this with chicken. Pork vindaloo is probably the most well known Goan version – which you can follow the recipe to HERE, however, duck adds an interesting and tasty alternative, which I urge you to try.

I suggest you probably try the more subtle version first and then gradually build up the chilli content should you require more of a kick. I would love to hear how you get on so do leave a message in the comments box below….go on, don’t be shy.

Duck Vindaloo

Serves 4 (or 2 if you are very hungry)

4 duck legs (or 1 duck jointed)

2 sticks of cinnamon

5 cloves

2 green cardamom pods, slightly split open

3 white onions

10 garlic cloves

2 inches of fresh ginger

5 dried red chilli (2 if you prefer it milder) I use the small Thai variety

5 small green chilli (2 if you prefer it milder) I use either serrano or finger chillies. Use Jalapeno if you prefer it less hot

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tsp turmeric

3 tbsp white wine vinegar

5 small/medium potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 tbsp sugar

1-2 tbsp butter/ghee

300ml water

1. Place the duck in a deep pan filled with cold water so that it covers the duck legs. Prick the duck a few times with a fork so that the spices can penetrate into the meat. Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and cloves to the pan and bring to the boil and then simmer gently for 1 hour.

2. Using a blender, blend the onions, garlic, green chillies and fresh ginger. In a spice grinder grind the cumin seeds and dried chillies and then transfer them to the blender with the onions, garlic etc.

3. Add the turmeric, sugar and white wine vinegar and give it another final blast in the blender so that a smooth paste is formed.

4. Once the duck has been boiling for one hour, drain the water away and place to one side.

5. Heat a frying pan/karahi/wok and add the butter/ghee and when it has melted brown the duck legs on both sides and place to one side.

6. Using the same pan add the blended curry paste to the pan and gently fry until it becomes dry. You may need to stir it a few times to make sure that none of it burns on the bottom – cook on a relatively low heat!

7. Add the potatoes and duck to the paste along with the water and simmer gently until the water has disappeared and the potatoes have softened. You may need to add a little more water if the potatoes have not cooked through and the water has dried up.

8. Serve with rice or chapati along with a dal (see my recipe library for a list of my dals)


Fine Green Bean and Potato Curry

After every few days if I have not had Indian food (basically my chilli fix) of some capacity I start craving dal, vegetable curry or some succulent fish or meat curry. They are always fun to make and really do not take long to prepare once you know how and best of all they are always guaranteed to bring a smile to Mr B’s face after the stresses of commuting in London town. I am a total believer that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – although the same could be said for me come to think of it.

As delicious as steamed or boiled fine green beans are in their own right, this Bengali dish just takes them to a new level and gives them their own identity. It’s definitely one of those dishes that you can rustle up in a short space of time and enjoy with dal (or a meat/fish curry) and some Indian bread or rice, to create a really delicious, healthy (let’s just ignore the cooking oil this once!) and low cost meal.

The ingredient list is short and I always have them in my store cupboard. The only spice that maybe unknown to some of you is kalo jeera – which is also known more widely as nigella seeds. They are really easy to come by and are pretty mainstream even in the supermarkets. I have used mustard oil, but if you do not have this to hand a simple vegetable oil will be equally suitable.

 Fine Green Bean and Potato Curry

Serves 2-3 (accompanied by a dal)

350g fine green beans

1 large potato, peeled and cut into small cubes

2 tbsp mustard oil (or vegetable oil)

1 tsp nigella seeds

1 tsp turmeric

150ml boiling water

2 tbsp of chopped tinned tomatoes

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 chilli powder (optional)

1. Heat the mustard or vegetable oil in a pan and when it is piping hot add the nigella seeds. After 10 seconds add the potato and green beans and stir to coat the vegetables in the nigella seeds.

2. Add the turmeric, salt, chilli powder (optional) and chopped tomatoes and stir once again. After a few minutes add 50 ml of boiling water, stir and place a lid on the pan. Keep on a low heat and simmer gently.

3. Once the water has completely dried up add a further 50 ml of  boiling water, which will help soften the potato and green beans. You will probably need to add a further 50ml of boiling water during cooking as you want the beans and potato to be soft and not crunchy. The dish should be ready between 20-25 minutes. It can be stored easily in the fridge for a couple of days should you not finish it all in one sitting – although if you are like me, you will.

Happy eating.