Roasted aubergine, sweet potato and spinach curry

This is a recipe for a simple, light, and healthy vegan curry, which comes from Chloe Coker and Jane Montgomery’s book The Vegetarian Pantry. I cooked it for a potluck supper and was noted as everyone’s favourite dish of the night.

Ingredients

  • 2 aubergines/eggplants, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • Large handful of fresh spinach, washed and dried
  • A pinch or 2 of sugar, to taste.
  • A squeeze of fresh lime juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A handful of fresh coriander/cilantro leaves, finely chopped

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) Gas mark 4.

2. Put the aubergine/eggplant and sweet potato on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.

3. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with cinnamon. Roast in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes, until cooked and golden.

4. Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and cover with a lid. Cook for 2 minutes or until they pop.

5. Turn down the heat, uncover, and add the shallot, ginger, garlic, and chilli. Fry for 3 minutes until they start to soften.

6. Add to the pan the garam masala and sugar and fry for 5 minutes.

7. Finally, to the pan add the tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes.

8. Stir the roasted vegetables through the sauce and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes, and stir in the spinach until wilted.

9. Taste and adjust the seasoning by adding more sugar, lime or salt and pepper, to taste.

Spoon onto serving plates and serve hot with rice and a spoonful of plain yoghurt, if liked.

Comfort and joy

Tills and bells ring to the tune of the festive season, mimicking the sound of Santa Claus’ sleigh on that night that make young and old rejoice. Yet every night in the sky the stars ring out but few stop to listen to them toll, as grown deaf to their gentle chimes. They bring comfort and joy wherever they ring, but many would rather the sound of a new iPhone 6 held in their hands.

Do not let the ransom notes of the advertisements tease and torment the soul, and fill it with nothing but greed and envy instead of glowing from inside out like the moon. A gift does not have to be bought to show the sounds of our heart when the recipient is near, for it echoes in our words and actions every day; feeling the most precious gifts of all – love, peace, hope and light.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Desert Island

To answer the old puzzle: “If you could only take three things to a desert island, what would you bring and why?” Excluding a boat, car, helicopter, plane etc. but can take a person fictional or real. I say…

The first thing I would bring would be a wind-up radio, so I would have the sounds of company and music to keep my heart and soul going through however many days I was going to be on the island.

Next I  would take a solar powered notebook, so I could write about my experiences as and when they happened, not relying on memory and also things inspired by what happened on the desert island.

Finally, I spend much of my days alone, so having company would be a bonus. So I would take a Swiss army knife, as would have more in it than a single gadget could alone provide me with.

However, I am far from materialistic, so uncertain whether or not the three items above would really make a difference to my experiences on the island. So on rethinking what my three would be instead…

Perhaps I’d ask for my health to be on it’s best form, so all my senses would take the most from the experience without worrying on getting ill from the wrong things. Sadly for me that is too much ego.

Maybe a book of 100 opening chapters (fiction and non), acts or selection of poetry by my favourite authors that had inspired me when I had read them? Yet, would that benefit my experience, no.

Three of my closest friends from different places, so could continue to inspire and support me as we do for each other now. I feel bad at wanting another there for my own needs, so again maybe not to be.

Finally, I decide I do not want to take anything or anyone with me because in life we have to rely on past knowledge and experience, following our instincts to get us through. Therefore, and so shall I.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Judge and jury

What we see in others is essentially a reflection of ourselves, our projections and prejudices. Any time we judge someone, we reveal more about our character than anything else. We sometimes judge according to another’s looks/race/gender/ethnicity/beliefs/sexuality/ability/class/age but their actions and behaviour around us and others says far more than they do. We are all on a journey, that can be very hard, tiring and tearful so why be so judge and jury to others as they live it differently to us? Enough judgement and criticism, nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes. The only person we can really judge is ourselves, without giving ourselves a hard time when we do make a mistake or two. Anyone who thinks it is okay to hurt, laugh at and/or judge another can go spin on my middle finger.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Disability

Today is a day the United Nations has marked as “International day of persons with disabilities.”

For some a disability is something they can see, for example someone that has a physical disability so use a wheelchair, those with a learning difficulty such as autism and people with a visual or hearing issue.

There are also hidden disabilities such as dyspraxia and dyslexia that impact on our ability to learn, mental health issues varying from depression and bipolar to PTSD and schizophrenia, and epilepsy to brain injury.

Despite any disability we are all human, with a heart to love with compassion and empathy. So is it not about time we stopped the stigmatism of disability, appreciate we all cannot do everything, and there is always someone who has it harder than us.

Fi S. J. Brown

My writing and me

Every time I see a leaf blowing in the wind, I imagine the sound it is making and the surrounding environment making its own accompaniment. Every time I hear music it paints vivid images in my mind, with the different instruments and texture providing the brush strokes. I am inspired by the natural and the anthropocentric worlds that ignite the fire within me to tell tales of these parallel worlds. Mindfulness enables me to maintain a moment-by-moment awareness of my thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. All this is reflected in how and what I write.

Fi S. J. Brown

IMG_5358.JPG

Black Friday

Today has been termed “Black Friday” where retailers try to entice us to buy yet more goods we do not need; it won’t improve our lives to own something and nor will we look cool to show off what we bought on social media. At a time when many people are struggling to pay their rent, bills and food, do we really need to buy more?

Instead I would like to use it as a day we think of the darkness or black in the world. Not everyone has a place to call home, a job or people to call family. Equally, many live with physical and mental conditions or coming to terms with terminal ones. Also, many these days have a sense of “as long as I’m ok!” Where is the empathy?

As well as thinking of black in the world, let us send hope and peace with light of multicolour to brighten up the world. We need love, empathy and compassion to all living creatures of this world. Finally, let us breakdown barriers and labels we use to judge others, respecting and appreciate all.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Tunnels

What is depression? If you have not ever experienced it, as it is not physical disease like heart disease or high blood pressure, or visual so others cannot see internally what damage it is doing, so therefore is hard to explain in a way for others to be empathetic and try to understand. For me at my worst it was like a series of tunnels, constantly under attack by forces unknown, whilst scrambling on my hands and knees trying to find an end with a light that was the end. When pulled from the tunnels by some incredible friends it felt like I was pulled from a well. At first as I was adjusting to what could be light, I often could feel my fingers slipping back down only for them to grab me and pull me back. I am now free from the tunnels and learning to enjoy the light, even if it burns my eyes at times. I know I do not want to fall back among the maze of tunnels, so found writing and photography give both a voice and image to how I feel and give hope to others still stuck among the tunnels.

© Fi S. J. Brown

tunnels

A new canine friend

Met a lovely West Highland Terrier outside Starbucks in Edinburgh today, full of hugs and sniffs, returned the hugs and gave tickles. Staff told me he and his owner are regulars, with the manager keeping dog biscuits for his visits. Perhaps this is something coffee or tea shops could consider, a dog for hugs on your visit!

© Fi S. J. Brown

IMG_5245.JPG

IMG_5246.JPG