Vegetatable balti is a very tasty and filling vegetarian comfort food. Perfect for cheering up the cold winter evenings; but no less delicious enjoyed in the summer.

Made from a very distinctive blend of spices (cumin adding the most distinctive flavour), balti sauces vary from chef to chef, and even the ready-made balti sauces available in supermarkets vary greatly in taste & blend of spices from manufacturer to manufacturer. Below is my favourite recipe for Balti sauce, which I find combines best with a very specific combination of vegetables (spinach, cauliflower, and onions).

While the balti sauce itself is not difficult to make, I find the Sharwoods brand jarred Balti sauce to be unrivalled in ready-made balti sauces and will often use a jar or two of the Sharwood's ready-made sauce when making a vegetable balti in the evenings, rather than making the sauce myself. If you do this, it makes a very tasty and quite nutritious store-cupboard recipe.

HOMEMADE BALTI SAUCE:

  • 3 - 4 tablespoons of vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1/4 inch ginger, peeled & finely chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • small handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 2 fresh chillis (chopped)/1 teaspoon of chilli powder
  • sea-salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pint of vegetable stock (fresh, or made the lazy way, with half a stock cube & 500ml boiling water)

    Turn up the heat under a large wok. When hot, add the ground cumin and heat for a couple of minutes to release its natural oils. It is important to heat the cumin to release it's flavour, but you need to keep swishing it round the pan to ensure it doesn't burn. Remove cumin from wok. Place the oil in the wok and heat, when hot, add the onions, garlic, ginger and chillis, and cook until the onions are softened and translucent. Slash the skin of the fresh tomatoes several times, and squeeze the contents of the tomatoes by hand into the sauce (messy, but effective once you're careful not to squirt tomato all over your favourite shirt!). Also add the tomato puree and cook through for a couple of minutes. Add the vegetable stock. Stir in the rest of the spices, bring to the boil, cover, and simmer for about thirty minutes to allow the full flavour of the spices to infuse and mellow in the sauce. Remove from the heat, allow to cool, then liquidise/blend the sauce.

    VEGETABLES:

  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable/olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 large can of chickpeas (approx 400g)
  • 100g frozen spinach, defrosted and chopped.
  • 100g freshly cooked, or defrosted, frozen cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 2 boiled potatoes, cubed
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, quartered.

    Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onions and stir-fry until translucent when the oil is hot. Add the spinach and chick peas, and stir-fry until heated through. Add the cauliflower and cook for a few minutes. Add the cubed potatoes if you have some leftover. Stir in the prepared balti sauce to the cooked spinach mixture and heat through. Add the quartered tomatoes, bring to bubbling point, cover, and simmer gently for five to ten minutes.

    Serve in large bowls with plenty of delicious, warm naan bread.

    The great thing about this balti is that is even better when refigerated overnight and re-heated the next day, as all sauce develops wonderfully overnight (even if you use the ready-made sauce).

    This makes it some kind of wonder-food if you are heading out on a major drinking session; as, not only does it provide a great and hearty pre-drinking meal...but when you come home, hungry and drunk, you need just nuke it for a minute or so, before you can enjoy its delicious spicy goodness & soak up some of the alcohol which is rushing through your veins.

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