Although I love curries (Indian, Japanese, Thai, you name it, I love it!), the only one I have ever made is butter chicken, my undisputed all-time favourite. So when I came across this recipe for an Indian vegetable curry while browsing through Raymond Blanc’s book Kitchen Secrets, I thought it was time to expand (double) my repertoire.
Raymond advises that the curry can be prepared a day in advance, and the spice mix can be prepared up to 2 days in advance, but is best (flavour wise) made on the same day as the curry.
5 cardamom pods
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 cm piece cinnamon stick
12 black peppercorns
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
Gently toast all the spices in a small frying pan over a low heat for 10 minutes until fragrant. Grind finely with a mortar and pestle.
Variations: include other spices, such as tumeric, saffron, or star anise.
For simplicity (and because I already had ground not whole spices in the pantry), I used 3/4 tsp of cardamom, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, with several grinds of black pepper, 1/2 tsp fennel seeds and 3 cloves. I heated these for a few minutes on a low heat, but didn’t grind afterwards – I just pulled out the cloves and bay leaves (but figured whole fennel seeds left in wouldn’t hurt) before serving.
40 ml extra virgin rapeseed oil (I used grapeseed)
10 g fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 large red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped (I used 1/2 tsp ground chilli)
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 1 cm dice
2 bay leaves
2 pinches sea salt
1 medium courgette (150 g), cut into 2 cm dice
1 small aubergine (200 g), cut into 2 cm dice
200 g cauliflower, cut into small 2-3 cm florets
150 g button mushrooms, halved (mine were quite large, so I sliced them instead)
440 ml tin coconut milk, warmed
100 ml hot water
3 large plum tomatoes (200 g), de-seeded and cut into 2 cm dice
Small handful of curry or lime leaves (optional)
30 g coriander leaves, chopped, plus extra whole leaves for garnish
Juice of 1/2 lime
Heat the oil in a large saucepan, over a medium-low heat. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli, and fry gently for 2 minutes. Add the onion, spice mix, bay leaves and salt, and cook for 5 minutes more.
Increase the heat to medium high, add all the vegetables except for the tomatoes and simmer gently, covered, for 5 minutes; stir occasionally.
Add the coconut milk and water, gently simmer for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes, curry or lime leves, and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the chopped coriander leaves and lime juice, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Scatter over the whole coriander leaves for garnish.
Variations: change the vegetables, such as capsicum, carrot, potato, sweet potato, okra.
I added 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, a large-ish carrot, half a large capsicum, 2 medium potatoes, a whole tin of tomatoes (which at 400 ml was probably too much, but I didn’t want to have left-over tomatoes), 200 g ham (I didn’t feel like being vegetarian), and no aubergine, curry/lime leaves, or coriander leaves.
The ingredients list may seem off-puttingly long, but I was surprised at how many spices I already had in my pantry (from making just the one curry!), and only had to purchase fennel seeds. So if you’re in the habit of making Indian curries (or even very occasionally, like me), you will probably already have most of these commonly used spices. Plus, the rest is (mostly) vegetables, and I just used what I already had on hand.
Because of all the deviations from the original recipe, it comes at no surprise that my dish looked a bit different from Raymond’s… red is definitely not the same as green! I suspect it’s the lack of coriander leaves, as well as the paprika and extra tomatoes I added. But it tasted fine to me, hearty, flavourful, but not overly rich. And all the vegetables felt very wholesome, thereby justifying my addition of the ham.
As I had added potatoes, I didn’t feel I needed rice or bread, so it truly was a one-pot meal, which I am rather fond of, not in the least as they make for very easy washing up. I didn’t actually bother heating up the coconut milk or water, and all in all it took just under an hour (Raymond specifies 20 minutes prep time and 25 minutes cooking time).
This was rather an easy dish to prepare, as once all the spices have been spooned out and the vegetables chopped, all that had to be done was a bit of stirring every so often, and dinner was made. I also like the fact that it’s a very forgiving recipe in terms of what spices and vegetables (and meat, in my case) can be substituted. I think this one is a keeper, and who knows what colour it might turn out to be next time.