Quick vegetarian and vegan curries

Vibrant vegan sweet potato, tomato and tamarind curry.
Vibrant vegan sweet potato, tomato and tamarind curry. Photo: Katrina Meynink

There is nothing better than the fragrance of a curry. The way it cuts through the cold; the mix of spices and heat that make you blink and see you reaching for a tissue. I love plunging my fork into a bowl of sauce the colour of the earth or ageing ivory to find the treasures that lie beneath. It's like a Kinder Surprise, but for adults. Add roti, chapati or naan, pappadums and hot, fluffy rice and it's a culinary celebration. And one you can achieve midweek – these quicker options won't have you grinding spices until midnight.

Turmeric roasted sweet potato, tomato and tamarind curry

The vibrancy of this curry lies in the bright sourness of tamarind and the fragrant hit of fresh curry leaves, so both are worth seeking out.


1kg sweet potato, peeled and chopped into large bite-sized chunks

1½ tbsp coconut oil, warmed to liquid consistency

2 tsp ground turmeric

250g cherry tomatoes on the vine

2 tsp fenugreek seeds, coarsely crushed

2 tsp white peppercorns, coarsely crushed


1 tsp fennel seeds, coarsely crushed

1 tsp brown mustard seeds, coarsely crushed

1 cinnamon quill

12 fresh curry leaves (plus extra to serve)

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 long green chillies, thinly sliced (plus extra to serve)

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

1 tsp ground coriander

2 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1½ tbsp tamarind puree softened in 2 tbsp boiling water

700ml vegetable stock or water

500ml coconut milk

To serve

steamed basmati rice

coriander sprigs


curry leaves

sliced green chilli

spinach leaves


Preheat oven to 180C and line a roasting tray with baking paper.

Toss sweet potato pieces, ½ tbsp coconut oil and turmeric in a bowl until coated. Pour onto prepared tray and roast until golden (about 45 minutes). When 15 minutes remain, add the cherry tomatoes to the tray. Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat remaining tablespoon of coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the crushed spices, cinnamon stick and curry leaves, and stir until spices pop (1 minute).

Add onion, garlic and green chilli and cook until tender, stirring occasionally (4 to 5 minutes).

Stir in the dried chilli flakes and ground coriander, and once fragrant, add chopped tomatoes and cook until they begin to break down (2 to 3 minutes).

Add the softened tamarind and 700ml water or vegetable stock, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and simmer for a further 4 to 5 minutes, before adding the roasted sweet potato and tomatoes. Serve with rice and garnishes of your choice.

Note: the roasted sweet potato and tomatoes should warm through in the curry, but if you prefer, you can add them earlier while it's still on the stovetop.

Serves 4

Garam masala roasted cauliflower in coconut and saffron curry with pomegranate and kale recipe. Four vegetarian and vegan curries for Good Food July 2018. Please credit Katrina Meynink.

Cauliflower steaks swimming in coconut saffron curry. Photo: Katrina Meynink

Garam masala roasted cauliflower in coconut and saffron curry with pomegranate and kale

Try to find a bold garam masala – one with the smoky goodness of cumin and coriander seeds – or make your own. The spice mix is the perfect partner for cauliflower and holds its own before being pelted with hits of glorious saffron and creamy coconut.


½ large head of cauliflower, cut into 3cm-thick steaks

1 tbsp garam masala

1 tbsp rice bran oil

6-8 kale leaves

½ tsp saffron threads

¼ cup canola oil

1 tbsp cumin seeds

400g tin pureed tomatoes

1 tbsp brown mustard seeds, ground

½ tsp fenugreek seeds, ground

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp salt

2 cups vegetable stock

400g tin coconut milk

To serve

arils of ½ pomegranate

fresh mint leaves

1 green chilli, finely sliced


Preheat oven to 180C and line a roasting tray with baking paper.

Gently rub the cauliflower steaks with the oil and garam masala and arrange on lined baking tray. Roast for 30 minutes or until the cauliflower is golden and cooked through. For the last two minutes of cooking time, add the kale leaves and roast until crisp. Set aside.

Soak the saffron in a quarter cup of warm water and set aside while you prepare the curry.

While the cauliflower is roasting, heat the canola oil in a medium pot on high heat for 1 minute. Stir in the cumin seeds and sizzle for about 30 seconds.

Reduce heat to medium, then add tomatoes, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, cayenne, turmeric and salt. Stir well and cook for 5 minutes, or until oil glistens on the tomatoes.

Add the stock, increase the heat to high, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Add coconut milk, reserving about 2 tablespoons for serving, and saffron (including its water). Stir well and cook for a further 15 minutes.

To serve, place the cauliflower steaks into bowls and top with piping-hot curry sauce. Pour over the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut milk and scatter with crisp kale leaves, pomegranate, mint and sliced chilli.

Serves 4

Roast potato and chickpea creamy Bengali-style curry recipe. Four vegetarian and vegan curries for Good Food July 2018. Please credit Katrina Meynink.

Creamy potato and chickpea curry. Photo: Katrina Meynink

Roast potato and chickpea creamy Bengali-style curry

This curry is slightly milder, so if you prefer a punch of heat, add ground chilli powder to the sauce or top with freshly sliced chilli when serving.


1 kg roasting potatoes, peeled and chopped into large bite-sized pieces

1½ tbsp olive oil

400g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Curry sauce

⅓ cup canola oil

3 tbsp panch phoran

2 x 400g tins finely chopped tomatoes

1 tsp salt

½ tsp turmeric powder

½ tbsp cayenne pepper

3 cups vegetable stock

1 tsp raw sugar

1 cup cream

To serve

coriander leaves

flaked almonds

raw red onion slices


Preheat the oven to 180C. Toss the potatoes in the olive oil in a roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes or until crisp, golden and cooked through.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the sauce. Heat the canola oil in a medium-sized pot on medium-high heat for about 30 seconds. Add the panch phoran and sizzle for 30 seconds – it will become fragrant and foam a little.

Immediately add the tomatoes and stir to prevent the spices from catching. Stir in the salt, turmeric and cayenne and cook for 10 minutes or until it glistens on top.

Stir in the stock and sugar. Cover the pot and bring to a boil before reducing to a simmer and cooking covered for 20 minutes.

Add the cream and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add the chickpeas and roasted potatoes and cook until warmed through. Ladle into bowls, top with fresh coriander, almonds and onion and serve.

Serves 6

Red lentil and coconut curry recipe. Four vegetarian and vegan curries for Good Food July 2018. Please credit Katrina Meynink.

Vegan red lentil curry with chutney and rice. Photo: Katrina Meynink

Red lentil and coconut curry

This is comfort in a bowl. Make a big batch – it is great back-of-the-freezer fodder for emergencies. This is a milder curry but the fresh ginger still gives it wonderful nose-clearing capabilities.


1 tbsp rice bran oil

1 red onion, finely sliced

½ tsp fenugreek seeds

5 cardamom pods, bruised, outer husks discarded

10 fresh curry leaves

3 tsp cumin seeds, coarsely ground

2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (or to taste)

2 tsp ground turmeric

120g red lentils, rinsed

400ml coconut milk

400ml vegetable stock

salt to season

To serve

8cm knob of ginger, grated (about 1 tbsp grated ginger per serve)

2 tsp nigella seeds (½ tsp per serve)

¼ cup coriander leaves

steamed rice



Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. When hot, add the onion and cook until soft and translucent (about 6 minutes).

Add fenugreek seeds, cardamom pods and curry leaves and fry until toasted and fragrant (about 1 minute).

Add the cumin, chilli powder and turmeric and stir until fragrant. Add the red lentils, coconut milk and stock and simmer until the mixture is creamy (about 20 minutes). Season with salt to taste.

Ladle the curry into bowls, top with grated ginger, nigella seeds and coriander leaves. Serve with steamed rice and chutney.

Serves 4