Curries - Wk 3 - Healthy Eating Fast Food/Takeaway Alternatives


For the third week of our six-week Healthy Eating Fast Food/Takeaway Alternatives course we made a vegetarian curry and a mango chutney. Each week we always have a vegetarian option but this week we opted to go all vegetarian. A combination of an overly large pan, an electric stove and baby tomatoes left this recipe rather dry and we were glad for our mango chutney that we had made but I have tweaked the recipe a bit or if you prefer a dryer curry you can omit the vegetable stock. I recommend getting the mango chutney made first and put to the side or do all the prep of the ingredients for both the vegetable curry and mango chutney and make then side by side. The vegetable curry can easily have meat, seafood or tofu added to it

ingredients for vegetarian curry

ingredients for vegetarian curry

Indian remains one of the most popular takeaway meals in the UK and in London we are spoilt with amazing Indian takeaway and restaurant options at all price points. Whilst working on Brick Lane I could not muster up the self control to not walk the twenty paces from where I worked to Ambala where I would eat three samosas a day as a late afternoon snack. I never even considered how many calories or grams of fat were in each samosa and when I researched this I was really surprised to see that I had been adding almost 500 extra calories and 25 grams of fat each day. I'm still unable to be near an Ambala and not get samosas but now I have it as a treat and limit myself to one meat and one veg samosa instead of my minimum three. Here are some more average amount of calories and grams of fat (respectively) in Indian takeaways:

Chicken Biryani - 1000 cal, 43 grams of fat
Chicken Korma - 860 cal, 50 grams of fat
Lamb Rogan Josh - 650 cal, 37 grams of fat
Vegetable Jalfrezi - 460 cal, 30 grams of fat
Garlic naan the whole naan - 760 cal, 25 grams of fat
Onion bhaji - 2 bahjis - 450 cal, 25 grams of fat
Poppadoms - 2 poppadom - 70 cal, 5 grams of fat
Meat or veg samosa - 1 samosa - 145 cal, 8 grams of fat

Indian Takeaway tips:
Many dishes are loaded with oil, ghee and fat and with pilau rice, starters and side dishes, Indian takeouts can quickly end up meeting and going beyond your daily recommended allowances and not is a healthy way at all.

Avoid the creamier based reamy curries like masala and korma which are higher in calories and fat. Tomato based curries like jalfrezi, rogan or madras are a better choice, or opt for dry dishes like biryanis. Some ways to make substitutions and save on calories include choosing plain boiled rather than pilau, chappati rather than naan, choosing veggie curries and opting out or reducing the number of fried starters such as samosas and bhajis.

  1. Vegetable Curry Recipe

500 g vegetables i.e.-cauliflower, green beans, carrots, aubergine
200 g potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 cm squares
6 tomatoes, chopped finely or a tin of tomatoes
2 onions - thinly sliced into crescents
300 ml vegetable stock
4 tbsp coconut oil, canola oil or alternative oil
2 cloves garlic - finely chopped or minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger root, peeled - finely chopped or minced
1 tsp cumin seeds - if you do not have cumin seeds you can use ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp paprika
2 pinches of sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper - or more if desired personal taste
Fresh coriander - washed handful, roughly chopped
Fresh lemon juice from half a lemon - strained to remove seeds


  1. Prepare the vegetable stock by either warming homemade vegetable stock or use a high quality powdered stock that is free from additives or MSG.
  2. Toast the cumin seeds in a pan under medium heat while constantly stirring with a wooden spoon for 3 minutes making sure that the seeds do not burn. Grind the toasted cumin seeds and add all the readily ground spices into a small bowl ready to add later on in the recipe.
  3. Warm the oil in a large pan at medium heat and add the onions and cook slowly until transparent. Do not let them brown or dry out, add a spoonful of the vegetable stock should the onions start to dry out or brown.
  4. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for one minute, stirring all the while. Reduce the heat or add a spoonful of the stock should the garlic and ginger and start to brown, do let them burn.
  5. With the pan at medium heat, stir the ground spices into the onions, garlic and ginger and keep stirring until they are thoroughly mixed in, about three minutes.
  6. Now add the tomatoes and stock and keep stirring until everything is mixed together well, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the vegetables and stir to mix throughout, cover and cook on low to mediumheat for 30 minutes or until vegetables potatoes are thoroughly cooked to desired texture. Stir in fresh lemon juice and fresh coriander, stir and serve with brown rice.

Quick Mango Chutney Recipe

1 mango chopped into small irregular pieces
1/4 onion finely chopped or minced
1/2 - 1 chili - depending on personal taste - de-seeded and finely chopped
150 ml cider vinegar
100g sugar
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
pinch of salt


  1. Combine the sugar and cider vinegar in a pan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add the mango pieces to the mixture and stir.
  3. Add the spices and salt and increase heat stirring all the while.
  4. Once the mixture has been boiling for 3-5 minutes, reduce the heat to low, stir occasionally to avoid burning and allow the chutney to thicken which should take 15 -30 minutes.
  5. Once the chutney is at the desired thickness remove it from the stove and place in a glass container.
  6. This is a quick chutney recipe that is meant to be served while fresh alongside a curry and eaten right away or kept for a few days wrapped up and kept in a fridge.

Blackened Chicken (Just Say No to the Chicken Shops) - Week 2 - Healthy Eating Alternatives to Fast Food/Takeaways


I am working with families to discuss the fat, sugar and salt content in fast food and takeaway meals and we are preparing much tastier and healthier options. I am working with a diverse group of families and they share a lot of tips and techniques around the pressures of providing healthy meals with busy lifestyles, fussy eaters, adding new meals to their family cookbooks and stretching food budgets. This is our second week of a six-week course.

This week we focus on what i believe is the the worst culprit of the fast food takeaway options, the chicken shops. In London, and elsewhere, you cannot walk too far without sensing some evidence of the chicken shops; the horrible smell due to cheap chicken and overused cheap oil, the discarded boxes and bones or the shops strategically placed so close to schools. It's not just teenagers eating at these shops and it is big business, the fried chicken market is worth £15-£20 billion pounds a year and they are interested in profit, not quality or nutrition. I struggled to even find statistics on what is in these takeaway items but an average chicken shop meal contains 60% of your RDA of calories, 45% of your RDA saturated fats and 85% of your RDA of salt. I gathered a lot of information from Nominet Trust and Shift (formerly We Are What We Do and it was in an article by Shift that sums up the ethos of this six-week course:

As Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of the British Medical Journal states, “Rather than restricting takeaway food we should seek to transform it, by making healthy food as visible, tasty, and cheap as unhealthy food.” We’re looking forward to contributing to that ambition.

This weeks recipe is one I picked up in New Orleans for blackened chicken, a cajun style way of seasoning and preparing that can also be applied to fish, shellfish, pork, beef and vegetables. We also prepared blackened vegetables as in each course we offer vegetarian options and we also made a large salad to be served with our blackened chicken and blackened vegetables.

Our ingredients for our salad and blackened vegetables

Our ingredients for our salad and blackened vegetables

We preheated our oven to 200 C° and then we prepared our chicken and vegetables separately and took extra special care with utensils, surface and cleaning as we do in every class. We made two batches in separate bowls of the blackened seasoning one for the chicken and to that we added 1 TBSP of flour and one for the vegetables which we did not add 1 TBSP of flour.

Blackened Seasoning recipe:

  • 1 TSP paprika (smoked paprika if you have it)
  • 1 TSP thyme
  • 1 TSP oregano
  • 1/2 TSP chilli flakes
  • 1/2 TSP onion salt
  • 1 TSP cayenne pepper
  • 1 TSP freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 TBSP Flour* add this only to the mix for the chicken, not for the vegetables

We tossed 700g of chicken sliced into 2-3 cm wide strips in the bowl with the blackened seasoning mix with the flour, covered with cling film and put in the fridge. In the second bowl of the seasoning without the flour we tossed our vegetables which included brocolli, peppers and carrots and stirred them until the mix was evenly on the veg. Them we sprayed a non stick baking tray with a few sprays of our coconut oil cooking spray and added a few more sprays on top of the veg and put them in the oven on the uppermost tray. We cooked them for 30 minutes but set a timer for 15 minutes so that we could check them and turn the veg so that they were cooked nice and evenly without burning.

With our veg in the oven we made our salad and decided as a group to leave it undressed as we had so much flavour in our chicken and veg we wanted the salad to act as a palate cleanser and to enjoy the taste of the salad ingredients, in this case we had gem lettuce, carrots, cucumber, peppers and tomato.

Then we heated our pans until they were at medium hot to high heat and put 3 sprays of our coconut oil spray and then placed our chicken in the pan which should be so hot that the chicken immediately starts to sizzle. Make sure you let the chicken have enough space to cook and depending on the thickness of your strips cook them for 4-6 minutes on each side so that each piece is thoroughly cooked and a nice dark brown colour all over. Leave the strips to rest for a few minutes and remove the blackened veg and serve together with your pre-prepared salad.

Pan searing our blackened chicken strips

Pan searing our blackened chicken strips

This was our lovely feast which was thoroughly enjoyed by all and everyone commented that the seasoning wasn't spicy but very flavourful and enhanced the chicken and vegetables. This recipe works wonderfully with salmon and can be adapted to a salmon pasta or blackened prawns in a stir fry with some vegetables. You can even make the seasoning and rub it into a whole chicken and have left overs for salads or curries and turn your stock into a soup. Next week we will be preparing a Vegetable Daag curry with homemade mango chutney.