Unattractive meals are the bane of my existence. They make me want to stamp my foot and tear my hair out. It feels so unjust when you spend hours slaving (can you call it slaving when you’re enjoying it?) in the kitchen to prepare a delicious meal, only to be rewarded with a dish that looks like something the cat brought it. Humph. I have to admit that styling is not my strong point – I don’t have an artistic bone in my body. But I do try. Well, sometimes. Needless to say, I am extremely jealous of one of my good friends at cooking school who has an innate knack for presenting dishes beautifully. If she doesn’t go on to become a food stylist I will eat my boots.
I do think that since becoming vegetarian I have found it somewhat harder to present food nicely – it feels as though I am creating more ‘one pot’ meals that seem designed to be sloshed into a bowl. Maybe I just choose the wrong dishes. The thing is, most of them taste amazing. What they lack in appearance is more than made up for in flavour. For example, I would choose this curry over a beautifully presented herb crusted rack of lamb any day! But that doesn’t absolve the fact that when at a restaurant I would be disinclined to select a dish that looked like this curry, for fear of it tasting as bad as it looked. It does make me wonder if perhaps we waste opportunities to eat delicious food simply because of its poor aesthetics? It’s a bit like that old adage “don’t choose a book by its cover”. I’m sure we’re all (well at least I am) guilty of putting at least one book back on the shelf because the cover looks painfully dreary. Many a time I have been pleasantly surprised when I have actually kept the book and it has proven to be a wonderful read. The same goes for food. In any case if your expectations are low to start with, it doesn’t take much to exceed them.
I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t let yourself be put off this curry due to it being, for want of another word, ugly. It just happens that most of the vegetables are the same colour. And the plate I served it on. And the table the plate was on. Okay, back on track. The pears pair beautifully with the parsnips (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself) and result in a more fragrant than spicy dish. Oh and don’t be apprehensive about the amount of garlic. My sister had a minor heart attack when she saw how much I was putting in. It disappears into the curry like you wouldn’t believe. Trust me on that one.
I will continue to pull my hair out over unattractive dishes (and poor styling on my part) however I am also determined to post them if I believe their flavour is something not to be missed. After all it is the content rather than the exterior that counts!
Pear and Lentil Curry
Serves 4 – 6.
1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 onions, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1cm dice
2 ½ tbsp. curry powder
¼ tsp paprika
80ml tomato puree
800ml vegetable stock
200g (2 medium) carrots, cut into batons approx. 4cm by 1cm by 1cm.
150g parsnip, cut into batons approx. 4cm by 1cm by 1cm
100g red lentils, rinsed
150g broccoli, cut into florets
300g cauliflower, cut into florets
Sea salt and black pepper
Handful of fresh coriander leaves
Heat oil in a large heavy based saucepan. Add the onions and sweat gently for five minutes. Add the garlic and sweat a further 2 minutes. Throw in the pear and cook for about eight minutes, stirring regularly, or until they begin to brown. Add a little water if the mixture becomes too dry.
Stir in the curry powder, paprika and tomato puree and cook for two minutes. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for fifteen minutes.
Add the carrots, parsnip and lentils, cover and simmer for five minutes. Toss in the broccoli and cauliflower, cover and simmer for ten minutes. Remove the heat and cook for a few more minutes or until veg are just tender. Season well with salt and pepper.
Serve over rice (I prefer brown) and sprinkle with coriander.
Source: A Taste Without Waste original.