To bring out the best of the flavours, plenty of oil is needed and the stew should stand, half-cooked, for several hours to allow the oil to draw out the flavours of the herbs and spices, which are mostly terpenes of some kind which dissolve in oil but not in water. With the exception of turmeric, do not use powders. Once ground, the flavours soon vanish.
To serve a dozen people you need a 10 litre saucepan. You also need a frying pan.
Depending on what is in season and good value, the ingredients list goes something like this.
- 3 large onions
- 3 - 5 cloves garlic
- 1 kilo mushrooms
- 5 large courgettes
- 1 large aubergine
- 3 peppers
- Sunflower or corn or soya oil.
For an Indian flavour use 500 g lentils plus the following herbs and spices
- Turmeric powder
- Cumin (Jeera) seeds
- Fennel seeds
- Fenugreek (Methi) Preferably leaves, otherwise seeds
- Coriander seeds
- Cardamom (Elachi) seeds
- Cinnamon stick
- Ginger root
Chop the onions and peppers and fry gently in a frying pan for a few minutes. Cumin and fennel seeds may be added at this stage. Their flavour is brought out if they are well heated but not overheated therefore continue to fry gently. When ready the onions will be translucent. Put the contents of the frying pan into the saucepan.
Wash and dice all the other ingredients and put in the saucepan over a low light, stirring continuously for about 10 minutes. Garlic should be crushed.
For an Indian flavour Wash the lentils and cover with plenty of water. Add turmeric powder and simmer gently until they have disintegrated. Do not use too much turmeric or the taste will be bitter.
Then add the cooked lentils to the saucepan, grind all the other spices to a powder and add to the saucepan. Then simmer for about 20 minutes. Finish with freshly grated ginger root.
For an Italian flavour Add the crushed tomatoes, paprika, and oregano and simmer for 20 minutes.
Leave for a couple of hours for the flavours to infuse and warm before serving.
For 10 portions serve with a kilo of pasta or rice or a large wholemeal loaf.