Last night I fancied a curry, a nice hot curry to warm the very cockles of my draughty flat, but like so many evenings of the dreaded ?cooking for one?, I just couldn?t decide what curry to have. I opened the fridge, glowered at a bunch of onions and a handful of mushrooms, and took to Twitter with a poll. It?s my new favourite way of, to coin a phrase, Making Your Mind Up. (I challenge you, Brits of a certain age, to not take that on as an earworm now. I make no apologies.)
The poll returned me a mushroom rogan josh over a korma or vindaloo, and I set about making it. Recipes online vary wildly, from the eyebrow-raising ?take a jar of madras paste? on the BBC Good Food website, to paprika, to Jamie Oliver?s cloves and allsorts. I picked all the bits I liked from about seven different recipes, made it vegan, adjusted it to taste as I went along, and when done, carried the pan to bed and devoured the lot.
Here?s my mushroom rogan josh, so delicious that I had it cold for breakfast this morning, smeared on toast with a fistful of spinach, too.
Serves 4 at 26p each (or would have done, if I wasn?t such a chomper). All prices Sainsburys, Basics range where available, as that?s where I shop. I do get spices from a brilliant ethnic grocer, but don?t expect you all to make the trip to Southend for them.
2 medium sized onions or one massive one, 9p (70p/1.5kg Basics)
4 fat cloves of garlic, 8p (30p/2 bulbs Basics)
4 cardamom pods, 10p (£1/28g)
2 tbsp oil, 3p (£3/3l sunflower oil)
1 tsp coriander/dhaniya powder (£1/ )
½ tsp turmeric, 2p (£1/48g Fairtrade)
a few pinches of cinnamon, 1p (£1/45g)
a few pinches of chilli flakes, to taste, 1p (£1/42g)
200g mushrooms, 45p ( 90p/400g Basics)
400g chopped tomatoes, 35p (35p/400g Basics)
a fistful of fresh coriander, or parsley if cori isn?t your thing, 10p (80p/28g)
50ml coconut cream/full fat coconut milk/coconut yoghurt/you get the drift, 18p (90p/250g coconut cream) (not essential but good to temper the spice if cooking for young mouths or people with less of a tolerance for the hot stuff. Non vegans can replace it with natural yoghurt)
First peel and finely slice your onions, and peel and smash up your garlic. This has a relatively long cooking time for one of my recipes, so you can just lay the garlic on the worktop, place the fattest knife you have flat across it, and firmly drive the heel of your palm down to crush it. Please be careful. Please don?t drive your palm into the sharp bit. Please chop it in a regular fashion if you have any concerns about this. Finding a soft, creamy, still-slightly-pungent broken clove of garlic in my dinner is one of my favourite foodie delights, but if you feel differently about this, chop it up finely.
Regardless, throw the onions and garlic into a pan. Break the cardamon pods (see garlic method above, or carefully halve them with a sharp knife) and release the seeds. If you don?t have cardamom, a just-as-good substitute would be star anise, fennel seed or caraway, but just a little.
Add the oil and bring to a medium heat to warm the pan through. Stir to disturb and stop the onions from burning, and inhale as the cardamom seeds toast, pop and release their delicate, heady fragrance. You deserve this. Love yourself. Treat yourself. Enjoy. I find cooking for one such an indulgent pleasure, such a selfish moment, a treat. Those of you who follow me on Instagram will have noticed I often cook very late at night, when the boy-child is sleeping, when the last emails have been answered, when peace has been restored to my chaotic home, I stand over my hob and delight in the selfish pleasure of satisfying my senses, one by one by one.
Give it all a few minutes, and when the onion starts to soften, add the remaining spices. In goes the dhaniya, the turmeric, the cinnamon, a pinch of salt, a crack of pepper, with a stir. Slice your mushrooms and toss them in, coat them in the spices, and let those, too, soften for a moment.
Pour over the tomatoes, add 150ml water, and stir. Bring to a bubbling boil, then reduce back down to a simmer. If you?re cooking rice with it, now would be a good time to pop that on. (For what it?s worth, I cook my rice with a few pinches of turmeric, cinnamon, and a fistful of sultanas. Sometimes I add a cardamom pod or star anise or two, sometimes stir through coconut milk or cream at the end to make a sticky kind-of-pilau-risotto. Sometimes it takes a bunch of spinach, parsley or coriander for colour and goodness, other times I leave it yellow and glorious.)
Cook until the sauce has thickened, around 20 minutes, and then taste it. Add salt if you like it, a dash of lemon to brighten it, and serve with a dollop of coconut cream on top.
Jack Monroe. I?m on Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr @MxJackMonroe