Friday, October 28, 2016

Vegetable Appreciation Curry

Yes, vegetarian curry is delicious. Meat curry is also delicious, but you can love both of them without incurring any cognitive dissonance. (Maybe don't go on about how awesome meat curry is to your vegetarian friends though, I've found they don't necessarily take it that well.) Curry generally is fabulous, but it does provide a certain opposite-of-air-freshener scent to your house when you cook it yourself. Don't let that deter you! This curry also costs approximately $8 to make and will help clean out the veggie drawers in your fridge. If you're really disturbed by the post-curry-cooking smell, throw some water, white vinegar, and a few drops of lavender or clary sage essential oils in a saucepan and boil it on the stove for 15 minutes or so.

This particular curry was developed as a cooking lesson for a vegetarian friend (and posted here so he doesn't forget how to do it!) and offered here more for ideas and technique than exact measurements and ingredients.

You will need:

1 onion (non-negotiable)
a bunch of mushrooms, finely chopped (about 1-2 cups worth) - shiitake are great but any mushroom with good heft and flavour will do. (So, portabello ok, oyster not so much, and this would be a huge waste of chanterelles so if you do that, don't tell me please)
coconut oil or other high-heat-compatible oil
2 large cloves garlic
curry spice blend + whatever other spices you like
1 can coconut milk
juice of a lime (maybe half)
lots of vegetables - I think we used parsnips, delicata squash, red bell pepper, zucchini, tomato, mango, collard greens... but really, any mix of vegetables will work, and try to get a variety of textures.

Chop the onion while you heat the oil in a large sauté pan. When the oil is melted or approaching hot, add the curry spices - how much depends on many things, but for a curry for two people, I used about 1-2 tbsp. You don't want to skimp on the spice. And unless you have a huge tolerance for heat, it's best to start mild and add hot stuff, because you can't un-spicy a curry. You can also customize your spice blends as you want - add extra turmeric, cardamom, etc. Whatever - go with what you like.

Anyway. When your curry/oil mixture starts smoking (and it does need to get to this point, but NOT past it to actually burnt), add the onion. This is a hands-on thing and stuff needs to be stirred frequently. (Assume "stir" between and during all subsequent instructions.)

Cook this until the onions are a bit softened and then add the mushrooms.

Once the mushrooms have cooked down a little, add the harder veg (squashes & root veg), cook until starting to soften, then add softer veg, cook a little more, then add some salt. Not too much, a couple of good-sized pinches - you can add more later, and the salt helps draw more liquid out of the veg, but you can't unsalt something and this will cook down a bit. Using smoked sea salt is a good idea here, but not required.

Add the leafy veg, then the coconut milk. Let the whole thing simmer, uncovered, for a while. If you like rice and forgot to put it on when you started, now's the time to do it, and/or make pappadums, or warm up some naan bread, or whatever.

Taste the curry just before serving. Add salt/hot stuff/lime juice as required - if you taste it and think "yeah, that's okaaayyyy..." then add some lime juice, it's probably just missing a bit of acid. Then add a bit more salt.

Consume and enjoy!