Quick Fixes: Curry, Lasagne & Biryani

Alternative title: Stop Spending Money, You Ignoramus

In the last couple of weeks we’ve bought a new car (a necessity – damn you, failed modern electronics) and been on holiday to a place known primarily for its cheese (not a necessity, but a damn good time). I am famously weak to dairy products, accompanying chutneys, and the trappings of a good cheese board. What I’m saying is… payday now seems very far away. It is but a distant, teasing light, shimmering greenly on the dock.

Some changes must be made to avoid ending up face-down in a swimming pool.*

Changes like actually using what we have in the fridge and cupboards. Changes like using those beans I’m so fond of; practise what you preach and all that jazz.

So here it is — my week of cupboard love, with a bit of fridge canoodling and freezer spooning thrown in for good measure. This chef gets around.

#1 – Aubergine & Butter Bean Tikka Masala (Vegan, Gluten-free)

Given the overabundance of curry pastes in my kitchen (four and counting – are they breeding?) it only made sense to start with curry. This very closely mirrors my Butternut Squash & Cauliflower Curry – but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

You’ll notice with most of these recipes that they feed way more than a couple of people; this is perfect for my 2-person, 1-cat household, because we have leftovers for lunch/dinner the following day, and also my cat doesn’t eat people food (except the odd crumb of cheese or, weirdly enough, Quorn).

Serves 4-6
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes


Large frying pan; wooden spoon or spatula; colander or sieve; chopping board and knife (or knives, if you are quickly bored and want a little variety in your life).


  • 1 aubergine
  • 400g tin butter beans
  • 200g frozen peas
  • 2 onions
  • 50g tikka masala paste
  • 1/2 can reduced fat coconut milk
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • Cooking spray/splash of oil
  • Salt & pepper


  1. Get your pan on a medium heat with a generous coating of cooking spray, or a splash of oil. Give the aubergine a quick wash and cut off the green bit (that’s right technical, that is) – you can cut it any which way you fancy, but I cut mine into rough chunks because that’s how I roll right now. Peel and finely dice your onions, and throw everything in the pan with a bit of salt & pepper. Cook for around ten to fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally, while you get on with some other bits.
  2. Drain your tin of beans in a sieve and give them a cursory rinse – leave them to drain and have a glass of wine or something, I don’t know.
  3. Once the onions are softened and the veg has a good bit of colour to it, add your remaining ingredients (except the peas) to the pan, stirring everything around so that the sauce is well mixed together. Leave to simmer for five minutes, then throw in your frozen peas, stir again, and cook for a final five minutes. Serve with rice and/or naan bread.


#2 – Odds & Sods Lasagne (Vegetarian, Gluten-free options)

One of the great loves of my life is Jack Monroe, for reasons that should be fairly obvious to anyone that knows me. Damn fine cook? Check. Tattooed? Check. Duly enraged by and working hard to dismantle unfair power structures that punish the poor for being poor? Check. I could go on.**

I pre-ordered Jack’s Tin Can Cook book a couple of months ago and was not disappointed when it arrived. It’s inspired me to better utilise my tinned goods, thinking about taste over my toffish tendencies (say that five times fast).

In this case, I’ve added a few new tinned ingredients to my repertoire, aside from my well-loved tinned lentils. Lentil-based recipes are my jam – or my chutney, I guess, since I don’t really eat jam. It’s too dangerous. I end up using a serving spoon to eat it straight from the container, and wake up hours later in a stranger’s lawn chair with jam in my hair, surrounded by empty glass jars.

Anyway, here’s a veggie lasagne.

Serves 4
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour


Lasagne pan/tin of choice (I find a ceramic loaf pan works well); a tin-opener, probably; large lidded frying pan or large cooking pot; small pan; measuring jug; cheese grater; whisk & wooden spoon; sieve; chopping board, knife, etc.


  • Lasagne sheets (5-6 sheets – can easily get GF pasta in supermarkets now)
  • 90g reduced fat cheddar
  • 500g passata
  • 400g tin lentils
  • 300g tin carrots
  • 200g mushrooms (can use tinned)
  • 2 onions (I used 1 red and 1 white)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp caramelised/red onion chutney
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Salt & pepper
  • Cooking spray

For the béchamel

  • 2 tbsp plain flour (GF options available!)
  • 2 tbsp spread (I used Lurpak lighter, but use what you have)
  • 300-350ml milk (I use unsweetened soya, but it’s up to you)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Salt & pepper


  1. Get your small pan on a low heat and your larger pan on a medium heat. Spray the larger pan with cooking spray and add the 2 tbsp of spread to the small one and leave it to melt. While everything heats up, peel and finely dice the onions and garlic, then add these to the pot – let them cook for 5 minutes or so while you prep the other ingredients.
  2. Get any dirt off your mushrooms and slice them as finely as you can. Drain the tinned carrots and give them a rough chop – add the mushrooms and carrots to the pan, along with a little salt & pepper and give it another stir. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, while you get on with the béchamel.
  3. Once your spread has melted, add the flour and whisk together until you have a ‘roux’ or paste. Cook for 2-3 minutes, making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan – cooking it for a while is important at this stage to make sure the raw flour taste doesn’t hang around in your sauce. Measure your milk out into a jug and pour about a quarter of it into your pan with the roux. Whisk everything very gently until combined, then add about half of the remaining milk and whisk again. Make sure it’s smooth before adding any more milk! Grate in/add your ready-grated nutmeg at this stage, along with a little salt and a lot of pepper, then add the remaining milk and whisk until smooth. Leave to cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes longer while you continue with the ragù.
  4. We’ll now be adding the rest of the ingredients to our ragù – drain and rinse the lentils, then put these in your pan along with the balsamic vinegar, passata, chutney, salt & pepper (a scant amount of each). Stir and leave to bubble away with the lid on for a further 5-10 minutes. At this point, if you’re going to be assembling and cooking your lasagne now, you’ll want to get the oven on at 200°C.
  5. Pour the béchamel back into your measuring jug to make it easier to assemble the lasagne, and grate your cheese. When you’re ready to make the lasagne, add a couple of tablespoons of the béchamel to the bottom of the dish, then put 1/3 of your lasagne sheets on top, breaking them up where necessary to cover the base of your dish. Add 1/2 of the ragù and smooth it out, then drizzle over a 1/4 of the béchamel. Add another 1/3 of your lasagne sheets, then layer the ragù and béchamel as before. Finally top with the remaining lasagne sheets and pour over the remaining bechamel so the pasta is completely covered, then sprinkle the cheese over the top. Bake in the middle of your oven for 35-40 minutes or until nicely browned. Serve with salad (and garlic bread).


Slow Cooker Turkey Biryani (Gluten-free)

When I did my inventory of our cupboards for this weekend of pantry mayhem, I unearthed four kinds of rice, as well as locating a pack of turkey steaks in the freezer; this inclined me towards doing something with both of those things… and so here we find ourselves.

(Note: careful not to overcook the rice – I sort of did, but then I am a heathen who doesn’t mind such a travesty.)

Serves 3-4
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 1.5-2 hours


Standard slow cooker (mine’s 3.5 litres but you can use a smaller one); chopping board and knife; spatula; medium bowl or high-rimmed plate.


  • 4 turkey steaks (can also use chicken breast)
  • 100g basmati rice
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 1 red onion
  • 100g fat-free yoghurt
  • 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • Salt & pepper
  • 200ml boiling water
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil


  1. Put the oil in your slow cooker and smear it around as best you can with your hands or a piece of kitchen towel, then set it to high. Slice the onion finely and add it to the pot, and put the lid on while you prepare everything else.
  2. Mix the yoghurt, spices, and a pinch of salt & pepper together and pour into your bowl/plate. Add the turkey steaks and ensure they’re fully coated. Set aside to briefly marinate while you boil a kettle and maybe drink a glass of water – I don’t know. Hydration is important.
  3. Lay the Turkey steaks on top of the onions, then add the rice. Crumble over the stock cube, pour over boiling water, and put the lid on top. Cook on high for about 1.5 hours.
  4. Check the rice is cooked, then mix everything together, either shredding or slicing up the turkey as you go. Voila!


Phew. I feel like this post makes up for not posting any new recipes in a month. In my defence, I don’t have a working laptop anymore and our desktop is to computers what two tin cans connected by string are to the telephone. It tries its best.

I have a lot of things to try out this weekend (including a cake inspired by this tea loaf) so hopefully the selective focus feature on my phone camera will be getting a workout. Don’t call me out, okay.




*Got a bit carried away with that extended Gatsby metaphor there, folks. Sorry.

**Seriously. They followed me back on Twitter and I got a little light-headed. I had to call for the smelling salts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s