Sweet potato and courgette curry (and asking strangers to open jars..!)

Sweet potato and courgette curry. Made with onions, garlic, spices, veggies, stock, coconut milk, salt. Simmer and bubble and serve with brown rice. Yada yada yada.

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The recipe is not what’s important today.


See that pickled red onion in that picture down there? That non-essential ingredient that’s for photography purposes only and doesn’t affect the curry recipe in any way at all. Well there’s a story behind that spoonful and I’m about to tell it!

Food photography-23
The pickled red onion just makes it, right?

Turns out jars of pickled red onion are pretty tightly sealed. So very well sealed in fact that I couldn’t get into it.

I tried for a solid 5 minutes. I got nowhere.

I tried the ‘catch it off guard’ approach, hoping if it didn’t know I was looking it would suddenly be ready for the taking. Funnily enough, that didn’t work either.

I tried a tea towel.

I tried hot water.

Still no luck.

I needed to enlist the help of another human bean, but I wasn’t exactly spoilt for choice. My flat mate was away for the weekend, so I couldn’t ask her. I’d passed my upstairs neighbours on the way back from the shops so I knew they weren’t in. My boyfriend doesn’t live with me so it would have been a 50-minute tube journey across London if I wanted his help. (When I told him the story he was actually a little miffed I didn’t ask him. I think he felt his manliness was challenged. Men are funny).

The light was perfect. The bowls were set. I simply had to get into the jar.

Pickled red onion
Here’s the pesky little jar I’m talking about.

Option A – YouTube

In retrospect, this is the option I probably should have tried first. With a few tips and tricks I’m sure I would have managed. But it didn’t occur to me at the time. I needed this jar to be opened and I hadn’t been able to do it myself. I needed another human bean.

Which left Option B – take it to the street! 

No joke my friends, that is what I did.  I grabbed the jar, headed to my front door and stood on my doorstep until someone walked by.

Pickled red onion-6
Just a jar. Sitting on the street.

After a minute or so, I clocked a guy. He was on the other side of the road and quite a way away. So I waited.

(This is the most ridiculous story. I’m well aware of that. But it’s absolutely true and also hilarious, so on we go).

I waited on my doorstep until he was close enough to ask. I didn’t even pretend to sort my bins, or rearrange the post, or hold my phone in the air as if I was looking for signal. Nope. Instead, I just watched him walk up the street.

After 15 seconds or so he finally reached what I deemed to be an ‘appropriate distance’ away. Remember, he’s on the OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD. I hopped over the doorstep in my slippers (see below), tucked between two parked cars and ran right up to this poor unsuspecting guy.

The stranger-waiting slippers.

He had his headphones in and a cigarette in his mouth, which he dropped out of surprise when I jumped in front of him (hilarious). Suitably loudly I said:

“Excuse me!”

I waited for him to retrieve his cigarette (which he put back in his MOUTH after it had been on the PAVEMENT – problem for another day) and continued:

“Sorry to bother you, but I can’t get into this jar. Is there any chance you could help me please?” Smiley smiley, damsel in distress.

Firstly (and hilariously) he straightened his back and puffed out his chest as if to say ‘You have chosen wisely. I am man.’ Then he perched his cigarette between his teeth and took the jar.

First twist. Didn’t budge.

Second, slightly more aggressive twist. Still didn’t budge.

Third twist, in a state of desperation. No good.

I wouldn’t have minded if he had shaken his head and passed it back. This was the toughest jar I had ever come across and I would have appreciated his help whether he had removed the lid or not. But was this man going to let it go? Of course not!

I’d set him a challenge and asked for his help. I truly believe he would have cancelled his plans and stayed on the street all night long if he’d had to. This jar was suddenly so much more than a jar. It was his manliness. (Again, men are funny).

Finally, he said:

“This is what my Dad taught me”

and proceeded to tap the jar on the pavement a couple of times.


Pickled red onion-4

I literally rejoiced. I threw my hands up in the air, looked to the sky and almost shouted my thank yous at this cigarette-smoking, jar-opening man.

He was ridiculously chilled out. He shrugged, mumbled a “no worries” and went on his way. I reckon he was secretly rejoicing too. But he was a MAN. Man plays cool.

So that was that. I trotted back over the road in my slippers, jar in one hand, lid in the other. Day made.

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Hey friends, see that pickled red onion? That’s thanks to a stranger that is!

Was the teeny tiny dollop of pickled red onion worth the saga? Absolutely not.

But also, absolutely YES IT WAS. Look at it!

So, if you’re ever alone with a jar that you cannot open, take it to the street. Make a friend. It’s incredibly entertaining.

What about the curry you say? Sweet, spicy, delicious. That’s all you need to know.

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Trust me.

To the recipe!


  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into chunks
  • 2 courgettes, cut into similar sized chunks
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed or grated
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tin full fat coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom pods
  • 1-2 tsp chilli powder, or more depending on preference

Fresh coriander, pickled red onion and yoghurt of your choice to serve. 

Serves 4 – 6 

Perfect for freezing.


  1. Heat the rapeseed oil in a large lidded wok or deep frying pan and fry the onion for a few minutes until soft. Add the garlic and spices and cook for a few minutes more, coating the onion in the spices.
  2. Add the sweet potato and stock and cover with the lid. Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the courgette and the coconut milk, cover again and cook for a further 7 or 8 minutes, or until the sweet potato and courgette are soft.
  3. Remove the lid and increase the heat until the sauce starts to bubble slightly. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes to boil off some of the excess liquid if necessary.
  4. Serve with a heap of brown rice, some naan breads and top with the yoghurt, herbs and pickled red onion (if you can get the jar open)!


Samantha x



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