Wednesday, 28 November 2012

My Indian Vegetable Curry

I've called this post "My Indian Vegetable Curry" because yes, it is a recipe for vegetable curry, but it's my take on curry. Though they're not hard and fast, there still exist some unwritten rules to curry making in each region of India, rules particular to each region and general rules that apply to all Indian curries. These have mainly come to my knowledge through trying different kinds of curries and (inevitably, considering I come from a proud Gujarati family who think Gujarati cuisine is the supreme of all those in India) a little hear say. The Punjabi's cook with cream and ghee (clarified butter) and tend to flavour their food more heavy handedly than say Gujarati's, who prefer milder, more delicately flavoured curry with thoroughly cooked vegetables (some might say over cooked). Rajasthani cuisine is rich and uses a lot of wheat compared to South Indian food which prefers rice as its carbohydrate and is big on coconut milk. The array of curries available across India is astounding. And of course within each region there are even more variations. For my curry invention, I have taken elements from a variety of curries which I enjoy and probably broke the rules in all regions as a result! 

I started out by ignoring my Gujarati roots, heading straight for the pungent flavours of onion, garlic and ginger. I then indulged myself further in a tablespoon of rich ghee. One thing all curries have in common is the tempering process. This is when the cooking fat is permeated with the flavour of spices; it also takes the harshness away from the spices, bringing them together into a singular, deep and rounded taste. It was at this tempering stage that I decided, this curry was going to be mellow. A slow cooker.
The next step in my curry revolution was the combination of spices I used. With no rule book to constrain me, the spice cupboard was my oyster. Immediately drawn to cinnamon (I think I am in a decidedly Christmas mood these days) my head said warm and rounded, mellow is after all my motto. Nutmeg, star anise and cardamom followed suit. So far, super unconventional... but stick with me! If this was going to be a proper curry it had to involve heat in some way, but fiery heat and mellow do not match. As an alternative to hot heat, black pepper and peppercorns offer a gentle nudge where a chilli would give a karate style kick. And then the usual mix of tumeric, cumin and coriander joined the party. 

This whole process was the basis for my curry sauce, as I like the idea of making a curry sauce separately to the vegetables that will eventually go in it. To finish the sauce all that was needed was some whizzed up tomatoes, and then I whacked the whole lot in a blender. This is a brilliant technique, as now the sauce is ready to douse anything you wish; vegetables, rice, meat, whatever takes your fancy! My goal being a vegetable curry, the sauce was used to coat and enrich a vegetable medley of potato, carrot and courgette which had been steamed gently until cooked.

Though at first glance it might not seem it, this curry recipe really works. The slow cooking technique is what makes this curry mellow, all the flavours mingle slowly and eventually mesh into one rounded taste. The spices I've used are warming and gentle, great for those who don't like heat of chilli but love the layers of flavour in curries. 

Here's the details of this recipe:  

1/2 tsp tumeric powder

1 tsp coriander and cumin powder
a pinch of cumin
a pinch of black pepper 
a pinch of cardamom
a pinch of nutmeg
2 cinnamon sticks
4 whole black peppercorns
1 star anise
2 medium white onion, sliced thinly
1 inch ginger piece, sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, peeled whole
2 tomatoes, skinned and whizzed into liquid
1 tbsp ghee

Cook the onion, garlic and ginger in the ghee on a low to medium heat, with the cinnamon sticks, star anise and black peppercorns. Let this cook slowly for 15 to 20 minutes with a tbsp of salt until everything is softened but not brown. Add the rest of the dry spices and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Finally add the liquid tomatoes and season with salt again, about 1 tbsp should be enough. Cook gently for a further 10 minutes. Finish with a squeeze of lemon, then remove the stare anise and blend in liquidizer. Return to the heat and this is the point to check the seasoning with a quick taste. Add a tbsp of yoghurt to finish off when serving. Delicious!

To make the vegetable curry (feeds about 4 to 6):

2 medium potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 courgette, cut into 1 inch pieces
a large handful of spinach

Simply, steam the veg until cooked. The carrots and potato will take about 10 minutes, the courgette 5 and the spinach will only take a minute to wilt down. Once cooked simply mix with the curry sauce.

My carbohydrate of choice comes form the South in the form of rice, but feel free to serve with whatever takes your fancy!

Until next time...

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