Friday, February 03, 2006

Good Rice, Good Curry

After a week's worth of good Chinese food -- easily a new record for me! -- I came home from work today craving something completely different:


Although technically the term "curry" simply refers to sauce in Indian cuisine, like many other people I tend to think of curry as a saucy dish chock full of good vegetables, protein (legumes or tofu for me, perhaps meat for you), and spices.

Usually when I cook Indian food, I pull out one of my trusted recipes and follow it fairly closely. I've been trying my hand sporadically at Indian dishes for under a decade, and I haven't quite had the confidence to date to stray too far from set recipes and spice quantities.

Until tonight.

Too impatient and hungry to hunt for a recipe, I cast caution to the winds and pulled out a handful of vegetables to peel and chop along with half a dozen spices to sprinkle into the dish. Starting with the basics of frying onion and garlic with spices, I just added and stirred and cooked whatever struck my fancy: homegrown tomatoes and cilantro, a handful of coconut and red lentils, local potatoes, and some frozen peas.

I covered the skillet, turned down the heat, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes while I curled up with a book and started to unwind.

When the timer went off, I reheated some cooked brown basmati rice and toasted a handful of cashews while I inhaled a perfectly fragrant vegetable curry on the next burner.

And when at last everything was ready, I pulled out a small plate and dished up

possibly the best curry ever to come from my kitchen, with a savory mix of spices, just the right amount of heat, and plenty of good vegetables.

Oh. So. Good.

After a meal like that, I wanted nothing more than a big mug of spicy, steaming chai for dessert, so I set the pot on to boil while I cleaned up.

I know my cooking skills have improved in the past couple of years, but this leap of culinary faith impressed even me. And I'm ready to try it again, any time.

Let's hurry!

Friday Night Vegetable Curry

Sometimes the best dishes happen by chance. After years of trying recipes from The Indian Vegetarian, I finally tried my own mix of spices and vegetables. Feel free to vary what you use; I would consider cumin, coriander, cayenne, ginger, and turmeric to be the only absolute spices in this dish, but I love how the others all work together to create a slightly sweet but mostly spicy and deep flavor. Live it up!

2 T canola oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1" fresh ginger, minced
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I like about 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 to 1 tsp fenugreek leaves
1/4 c flaked coconut
1 jar or can tomatoes, chopped or crushed (about 16 oz)
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro (I added 2 frozen cubes, about the same amount)
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 c frozen peas
(other possible vegetables: carrots, cauliflower, beans, mushrooms)
1/4 c dry red lentils (or use canned chickpeas)
water as needed

Heat oil in a large, deep skillet or saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and cover, swirling the pan occasionally to keep the seeds from burning while you wait for them to pop.

Add onions, garlic, and ginger, and saute until lightly browned. Add all dried spices and saute for 1 to 2 minutes longer, until highly fragrant. Add tomatoes and cilantro, and cook for another 5 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld.

Add vegetables, lentils, and just enough water to cover the lot. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to simmer, cover the pan, and let it cook for about 20 minutes. (Check on it periodically to see if you need to add more water.) When vegetables are tender and the sauce is at the desired consistency, you're done.

Serve over basmati rice and top with toasted cashews, almonds, or pistachios.

Serves 2, maybe more depending on how many veggies you throw in


At 1/25/2007 11:17 AM, Blogger Steve said...

I'm so going to make this tomorrow night!

Wish me luck,

At 1/25/2007 11:33 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Luck! :-) Not that you'll need it. Let me know how it turns out!


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