A vegetarian curry that’s full of flavour and perfect to cook for a group of friends or family!
Approaching a long-awaited winter break in the Lake District with a group of friends that I hadn’t seen for 2 years, I had offered to cook on the Saturday night, and knew that I needed something that was both vegetarian (my friend Feebs was trialling a vegetarian month), and didn’t involve a huge amount of concentration (as there was likely to be a lot of nattering!). I have made a sweet potato and lentil curry before, but this time I wanted to have a slightly more indulgent version with the added creaminess of coconut milk.
We met up in the Lake District, a long way for me from Devon, but home to Gemma, and not too far from Emma and Feebs. Michelle, a friend of Gemma’s owns Lakeland Retreats (a family-owned, Ambleside based business offering self-catering cottages for a whole range of budgets!) and as soon as we saw it we knew we had to book into the beautiful Broom Hill house. Our main requirements were having a bedroom each- as lovely as it is to see each other, we all have young children and a weekend away definitely justified getting a couple of lovely, solitary nights of sleep! A real bonus of Broom Hill as that there was no compromise with any of the bedrooms, each one was a fantastic size, beautifully decorated, with a super king bed (the most comfortable bed I have ever had the pleasure of sleeping in!) and an en-suite bathroom for each room.
A log burning stove was a must for me, and the one here is perfectly placed in the stunning sun-room, with beautiful countryside views. I also love having a nice kitchen to cook in when I’m away. The kitchen at Broom Hill is beautifully kitted out with no expense spared- Neff appliances, Cuisinart knives, all the extras I could need provided (kitchen scales, garlic crusher…!), a lot of thought has gone into making sure the kitchen is well-equipped. We also wanted to be well located for visiting Ambleside (I’ve always wanted to go there!) and Low Wood Bay Spa (one of the treats we had planned for the weekend). As it turned out, the location was perfect for lots of other things too.
We arrived on Friday and headed straight to Broom Hill to have a little catch up with the fire roaring. We then headed off to Low Wood Bay Spa for their sunset spa experience- this was absolutely dreamy- a heated outdoor pool with a glass of prosecco overlooking the Lake and the mountains as the sun set. There is also a dry salt sauna, a coconut steam room, a herbal lounge, an indoor thermal pool and a relaxation room with rhubarb and peach cordial on tap, and gorgeous little cakes to enjoy! It was the perfect way to start a weekend.
We had a beautiful, relaxed breakfast at Broom Hill on Saturday morning, and then headed off the the amazing flagship Lakeland store at Windermere- full of amazing cookware and bakeware so an absolute dream shop for me! We then headed over to Chester’s by the River in Ambleside and had the most delicious lunch. With a largely plant-based menu, absolutely everything on there sounded gorgeous, but I opted to share the salad selection with Feebs, and was blown away! We had roasted Bombay potato, chickpea, chilli & okra, roasted gem and leeks, artichokes, almonds, romesco & aioli, Roasted fennel, quinoa & tahini and miso roasted pumpkin and soba noodle. Whoever devises the menu at Chester’s definitely needs to release a recipe book- everything we ate there was incredible! It also has an amazing shop full of beautiful homeware, gifts and books- I could have bought everything in there!
Our next stop was Ambleside, an absolutely stunning town, and all the more picturesque for Christmas. we walked up to the Stock Ghyll waterfalls and then had a lovely poke around the shops in Ambleside. We worked our way home via the very Christmassy section at Hayes Garden World in Ambleside, and then the shoreside Waterhead Coffee Shop (where I was reliably informed I would find the best traditional blueberry scone!).
The benefit of having a Lake District expert (Gem!) with us is that we managed to fit so much into the day as we were expertly guided around all of these incredible places. We headed back to the house and lit the log burner, and enjoyed a glass of mulled wine!
I cooked this vegetarian sweet potato and coconut curry on the Saturday night, and Feebs made raita, and tomato chutney to go alongside it. I also served it with basmati rice, fresh coriander, and my homemade mango chutney! If you are wondering how this curry works alongside Slimming World, all of the ingredients are syn free apart from the light coconut milk. It can be hard to give an accurate syn calculation for this as it varies hugely from brand to brand, so you just need to check the brand that you have. The very best that I have found is the Essential Waitrose Reduced fat coconut milk (12 syns for a can)- it really varies a lot so check what you are buying! The syns in this recipe are based on the total amount of coconut milk used being 15 syns.
Our trip to the Lake District was rounded off with the trip to the Brown Horse Inn. This lovely, traditional inn is just a stone’s throw from Broom Hill in the Winster Valley. It’s dog friendly (I took note as I’m already planning my next trip with my family and dog!), and even has a doggie menu! I decided to go for a traditional Sunday lunch of roast beef, and it’s the nicest pub roast I’ve ever been served! Beautifully tender Topside of local beef was served with a huge Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, parsnips, green beans, watercress, carrot, and absolutely gorgeous gravy- and to top it all off, broccoli cheese! Emma was sitting next to me and had a beautiful looking beef cheek bourguignon. Pudding was a stunning chocolate sticky toffee pudding with caramel, honeycomb and fudge ice-cream and chocolate toffee sauce- indulgently delicious!
I was really blown away by the beauty of all the places I visited in The Lake District, everything is just picture perfect and I would have loved to have had more time to explore and do some more walking. If you are looking for somewhere to stay for a self-catering retreat then have a look at Lakeland Retreats. Their website is very user friendly and easy to navigate, you can search by the type of break you are looking for (dog-friendly, romantic, family, adventure, Christmas) or by location. You can’t beat local knowledge, and as Lakeside Retreats is run out of Ambleside by local people, there is a wealth of insider knowledge on the best places to eat, walk, paddleboard, bike, swim etc! You can find lots of useful Lake District information here on their website.
It’s amazing what a tonic it is spending a weekend laughing and chatting with good friends- it happens far too rarely!