International weekend – Vanilla Black

Another international weekend so we went up to Filey to stay with some friends. I don’t see them as often as I’d like but its always nice when I do. When I first knew them they were really big meat eaters and didn’t have much time at all for vegetarian food. However over the years they’ve started to cook veggy meals at home and sometimes visit vegetarian restaurants. They’d made a really big effort on Friday night to make a vegan spread for us. They’d done a tagine from World Food Cafe, falafels, baba ghanoush, a courgette dish, carrot and rocket salad and a soya yoghurt sauce. It was all lovely.

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On Saturday we had a tourist trip round Scarborough and had a lunch at Nutmeg vegetarian cafe. It was a bit of a green place and had run out of 2 out of 3 main course specials! Didn’t really matter as we’d only wanted a snack. I had a baked potato with hummus and carrot.

In the evening we got the train to York to visit Vanilla Black. The menu was very similar to the one on the website with one or two ingredient tweaks. I had vegan versions of the dhal followed by the pie. They were both delicious but the dhal was probably the highlight of all of our meals. It was nicely spicy, the potatoes were so soft and creamy and the candied chilli was hot! The pie had brilliant pastry – if I could criticise it slightly the mushroom filling could have been more moist but it was a delicious dish. The mushy peas were proper mushy peas, not just normal peas which had been mushed up. I was too full to bother about pudding! I couldn’t taste the other dishes but they seemed to go down well with everyone andeven the meat eaters enjoyed it and said they’d go back.

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Dal (dhal, dahl?) and green beans

I love dal. I could eat it every day and I have lots of different versions of it. The only thing that I don’t like about it is all the different ways you can spell it. Usually it’s the dish I make when I haven’t been shopping and don’t have anything fresh in the house. If you serve it with brown rice you’ve got a complete protein and it’s very filling. Today I had some green beans to use up. I always like them when I eat them but can never think of what to do with them. I adapted a recipe from Das Sreedharan “Flavours of India” which I borrowed from the library. The dal I normally cook is made with coconut so I chose a different one here, adapted from World Food Cafe.

Green bean curry (amounts are all approximate)

Heat some oil in a frying pan. Add two green chillis, halved, a small chunk of chopped ginger, a few curry leaves, tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp turmeric and a touch of chilli powder. Fry for a minute then add half an onion, sliced.
Cook for a few minutes then add 1 chopped tomato, half a pack of halved green beans and a splash of water. Cover and cook until beans are tender. Add a few tbsps dessicated coconut and seasoning, and mix well before serving.

Dal

Rinse 125g moong dal until the water runs clear. Place in a pan and cover with 400 mls water. Bring to the boil and scoop off the foam from the top.

Add a chunk of chopped ginger and a touch of turmeric. Simmer until the dal is very soupy.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a small pan and add 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced. When they start to brown (let them go browner thanyou normally would – you want the smokiness) add 1 tsp black mustard seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds and a few red chillies. Heat until the seeds begin to pop then pour into the dal and mix well. Add plenty of salt and some chopped coriander.

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