I think, finally, we have admitted there is no going back to the hazy, mango-juicy days of Summer when supper involved reaching in to the back of the fridge for a slab of feta and some cool, dilled radishes. Not that there were many of those; I think I can recall a handfull. No – late summer is edging past us, soon to be obscured by fat root vegetables and a palm of pulses.
It was on Sunday night, 2 days into a cold and knowing that it would last, that I hauled myself over to the hob and brewed up a curry. The cold has lasted all week, and though I’m only just coming through the gluey stages of recovery, I still have one more bowl to finish of this mammoth stomach-warmer. The combination of Autumn’s warm turnip with the sweet, hot spices and coconut milk is just the thing to start a new season on. Its robust ingredients means it will last in the fridge for a few days as well, and develop in intensity as it does so.
Add to a large, steel-bottomed pan a table spoon or two of peanut or vegetable oil and sweat a large, finely chopped white onion, throwing in a scattering of coriander seeds, mustard seeds and shelled cardamon seeds. Keep the heat on low. Add a medium stick of cinnamon and stir to coat, allowing the spices to release their flavours. Peel and dice 2 medium turnips and one medium potato. Add to the pot with half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, a generous teaspoon of cumin, 2 gloves of crushed garlic and a finely sliced thumb of ginger. Stir well to coat for 5 minutes. Spoon a cup of tomato passata or puree into the mix along with a fresh cut red chilli, a tin of coconut milk and turn the heat up to soften the root veg. Remove the cinnamon stick and discard. Allow everything to simmer, partly covered, for up to an hour – stirring occasionally to unstick veg from the bottom – and turn in a can of drained chick peas for the last 10 minutes. I always add an extra knob of fresh, fine cut ginger right at the end, as it lifts the heat again. Taste for heat, and add more cayenne or ginger, or anything else for that matter, depending on what you want. Stir in a good pinch of salt flakes and serve straight from the hob on basmati rice with mango chutney and strained yoghurt, and a good palmful of fresh coriander.