Monday, January 17, 2011

Meatless Monday: Curried Brassicae, Pt. I

The family's got everything. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, radishes; they're all in there. Curry is exotic, hot and attainable. Cue the moody lighting ... shorvedar subzi is the love-child of Brassica oleracea and all my favorite spices.

I made it this week and ate it for three meals a day 'til it was gone. It takes the chill right off of January.

Besides being one of my favorite Indian dishes, it's vegan and also the only one I've been able to replicate with any success. This recipe is long, but it's authentic-tasting, bright, and spicy; no flat flavors here. The version below borrows heavily from the inestimable Madhur Jaffrey, but with a few tweaks for home cooks.

Firstly, I've never been able to fry a pre-cooked potato without it sticking, and it doesn't seem to taste differently here so I don't. We're all on the tail end of those resolutions, but less oil is generally good if you can't taste it. Secondly, I use canned tomatoes as they're better this time of year, and getting fresh tomatoes and tomato paste is a bit of grocery shopping I could happily skip anyways. Thirdly, there's no call for kalonji or asafetida seeds, as they're quite hard to come by unless you're lucky enough to have a really good market nearby.

  • 2 potatoes, boiled, cooled, peeled and sliced thickly
  • 3 tbsp vegetable or peanut oil 
    • (2 tbsp used initially, the third to be added separately)
  • 1 medium cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • ½  tsp ground turmeric
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped roughly
  • 1 carrot chopped into small, thick rounds
  • 1 3-inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 9 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp garam masala*
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas 

Pre-game: Boil potatoes in their jackets and put in the refrigerator to chill. While the potatoes are cooking and cooling, prepare the following:
  • Cut the cauliflower, onion, garlic, ginger and carrots as specified above and set aside so that they may be retrieved individually.
  • Measure out and combine the following  as directed into whatever small containers are handy:
    • the whole spices (mustard, fennel, and cumin seeds) can be added to one, 
    • the ground spices (cayenne, turmeric, coriander, cumin) to another, and
    • the ingredients needing frying/most-likely-to-burn (grated ginger, minced garlic, garam masala, and one tablespoon of the oil,) to a third.
      • Set each aside.
  1. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, skin them and slice the cooked potato into 1-inch cubes or into slices about the size of regular potato wedges. 
  2. Add 2 tbsp oil to a large saucepan over medium high heat. 
  3. Add the cauliflower and fry 'til golden brown, adding 1 tsp salt during cooking. 
  4. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. 
  5. Add the whole spice mix to the pan (the mustard seeds will try to escape; this is okay). Cook for about a minute.
  6. When the whole spices start sputtering, add the ground spice mix, along with the onion and carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, ‘til onions are transparent, about 2 minutes. 
  7. Clear center of pan and add garlic/ginger/oil/garam masala mix. Mash this into the pan with back of a spatula. Cook very briefly, taking care not to burn, about 15 seconds.
  8. Immediately add the can of tomatoes, with juice. Stir, cover and cook till the tomatoes blend together and cook down to a thicker sauce (about 5-7 minutes.) 
  9. Add the potatoes and the cauliflower. Stir together and cook for another minute. 
  10. Add the frozen peas and cook until done (about another minute). 
  11. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Excellent with grilled meat or tofu and good raita.**

*If you don't have any in your grocery, you can probably make some with what is there. Grind 1 tbsp rice in your coffee grinder to clean. Dump out. Add 1 tbsp cardamom seeds, 1 2-inch piece cinnamon, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp cloves, 1 tsp black peppercorn, ¼ a nutmeg until smooth. Repeat rice step to clean for future coffee use and wipe with a damp cloth.

**I strongly recommend serving raita with this; it's lovely against all the tomatoes and heat. This recipe is good, though if you like it thicker and don't want to mess about with draining the yogurt you can a. buy greek, or b. salt and drain the cucumber before adding it.


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