Monday, 5 August 2013

Recipe Junkie in tinned potato shocker!!!

If someone had told me beforehand all the things that I'd do as I moved from my 20s into my 30s and on into my 40s (where I now find myself - but only just) you know, well some of them, I'd have had no problem anticipating. Some I'd have raised an eyebrow and got on with it, and some, well, the mind boggles.

A husband, two kids, a dog and some chickens? No problem. Being part of a team of adults taking 32 scouts (plus assorted small children) to Derbyshire for a week of abseiling, climbing, watersports, eggy bread, corned beef hash - hmm. Probably would have merited an eye brow raise. 

Using tinned potatoes? TINNED POTATOES??? Reader, the mind would have boggled hard. However, combine scout camp, and the challenge of producing a curry feast, and tinned potatoes it was. You'll be pleased to know, though, that we did make the sauce from scratch, and we had fresh coriander...

I always like to be of service, so in case you too ever find yourself in a field, tasked with producing a curry feast for 44, may I suggest the following menu which accomodates vegetarians, nut allergy suffers, a non-pork eater and, it turns out, most of the fussy eaters we took with us...

How is anyone expected to cook on these conditions???

Chicken Curry, Cauliflower and Pea Curry, Bombay Potatoes and Dahl

Serves 44 pretty much bang on. Amounts in brackets are for 4 if you're not mass catering - just don't even think about using tinned potatoes...


vegetable oil
18 (3) onions
16 (2) cloves of garlic (or as many as you can be bothered to peel & crush)
2 jars (2 grated tbsp) lazy ginger
1.5kg (250g) red lentils
3.6kg (drained weight) tinned potatoes (500g potatoes, peeled and cubed - you're not going to get away with tinned if you're only feeding 4)
4.2 kg (400g) chopped tomatoes
3 (1 small) cauliflowers
2 refill sachets (2 tsp) turmeric
1 refill sachet (1 tsp) each of paprika, cumin, garam masala and mild chilli powder
fine sea salt
42 (8) chicken thigh fillets

1 kg (200g) frozen peas
7 (1) tsp cumin seeds
fresh coriander 

To serve: Rice if you have enough pans left - about 1.5 kg, 50 poppadums, 3 jars of mango chutney,1 jar of lime pickle (for leaders only), Tabasco (it is scout camp, and the chilli powder is only mild)

You will also have to manage this on a 3 burner petrol camping stove and a large gas fired paella pan, unless your Husband and scout leader manages to get the 2 burner petrol stove you also have available working again. I'll leave you to weigh up the benefits of the extra stove as a against the silent cursing that will accompany the attempts to fix the stove...


Chop 16 of the onions as finely as you can, bearing in mind you have no liquidizer handy. Crush the garlic - ditto

Heat the paella pan up and add enough oil to generously coat the pan, then tip in the onions and garlic and the lazy ginger, and start to cook as gently as the heat settings will allow.

Put the red lentils into as large a pan as you can find, and add 2 litres of water. Bring to the boil. This may take ages. Try not to panic.

Open the tins of potatoes and tomatoes. Try not to cut yourself on the visciously sharp edge the rubbish tin opener will have left. If you don't cut yourself, make sure you don't strain your thumbs on said rubbish tin opener. Get someone to halve or may be quarter the potatoes, then put them into a pan big enough to take them.

Stir the onions every now and again, and trim the cauliflowers and break into florets. Cover the florets with water in a smaller pan, bring to the boil and cook till tender. This could also take ages. 

Don't panic.

At this point, the onions may have softened enough to stir in 1 sachet of the turmeric, plus the sachets of paprika, cumin, garam masala and mild chilli powder, plus 6-7 tsps of salt. Stir and cook for a minute - OK a couple of minutes while you relocate the opened tins of tomatoes, and frantically try and repressurise the petrol stove that should be cooking your lentils and the cauliflower.

Add the tomatoes to the onions, then fill the empty tins with water and add to the pan aswell, then simmer gently for as long as you can get away with, stirring occasionally.

Check the lentils - if they are now boiling, skim off any scum that has accumulated, add the other sachet of turmeric and about 5 tsp salt, and continue to cook for 20 minutes or so, giving it a vigorous stir every now and again. This breaks down the lentils and allows you to vent any mounting irritation you might feel if any scouts appear asking when dinner is going to be.Once it's looking thick, put a lid on and remove from the heat.

Panic that the cauliflower still isn't cooking, then realise it is nearly on the way to being mush. Drain and return to the pan. Pour in the frozen peas and set aside.

Get someone to slice up the chicken into halves or quarters depending on what you think is a reasonable size. Do a quick (ha!) wash up because you have now run out of knives, chopping boards and pans (did I tell you not to panic ???)

Stir enough of the sauce through the potatoes to coat them and set aside with a lid on.

Stir about 1/3 of what's left into the cauliflower & peas before you add the chicken to the pan - remember you are catering for vegetarians... Put the lid on and set aside.

Bring what's left of the sauce up to a simmer and add the chicken. Yes, I know it would be nice to brown it off first, but you will have run out of pans, if not burners.

Remember the finish for the dahl - find a pan - any pan - and heat some oil in it. Beg the senior scout wife to finely slice the remaining 2 onions. Add the cumin seed to the hot oil first, and then chuck in the onions once they are sliced, and cook till they look tasty - just don't worry about it - the scouts are starting to queue... Stir the onion and cumin seed through the dahl.

Now, as the chicken is cooking, rotate your pans of Bombay potatoes, cauliflower and pea curry and dahl over the remaining burners so they are good and hot. The frozen peas should have cooked when the hot sauce was added, but do make sure.


Double check that the chicken is cooked, then you're ready to go. Chuck the coriander about as you see fit.

Acquire a ladle and serve.

No scouts were harmed in the production of this curry


  1. I have rather a soft spot for tinned new's a guilty secret!

  2. Having used them, I can definitely see the attraction - just my own prejudice getting in the way...

  3. tinned potatoes in a curry or stew is perfectly acceptable... The Viking used to live off tinned pots and until I met him way back in the 80's I never even knew you could get tinned potatoes!... bless!

    1. :-) - they worked fine, and so much easier, if I'm honest.

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks Jen. I was pretty pleased with it, all thing considered!

  5. That sounds like a major mission, but very delicious! I had never thought of tinned potatoes in a curry or stew type dish before, but can see their texture would work well...

  6. I can't believe you were catering for so many people! Very impressive. Like BavarianSojourn, I am seeing tinned potatoes in a new light (and not just because I am 5:2ing...!)

    1. They might be a good thing to use on the 5:2 - easy to use and calculate calories!

  7. I'm going to join the scouts - that curry sounds delish!

    1. Ha! We could do with a top craft person too - still waiting to see the David Bowie dib dib dib outfit...

  8. You clever girl and top mum for helping with the catering at scout camp! Tinned pots in stews hold their own. Also who doesn't remember a family camping trip without tinned pots?!

    Elinor x

    1. I have to say I hadn't used them before, but they may well find a space in the camper van cupboard of doom!


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