The creamy curry complements the crunchy cauliflower in creamy cauliflower curry (malai gobi). (Photo by Reshma Seetharam)

The creamy curry complements the crunchy cauliflower in creamy cauliflower curry (malai gobi). (Photo by Reshma Seetharam)

Five Indian curry recipes that go great with flatbread, rice

  • Wednesday, June 7, 2017 8:47am
  • Life

Story and photos by Reshma Seetharam

Special to The Herald

Curries are one of my favorite comfort foods. Not only are they finger-licking good and go great with bread or rice but, as most comfort foods are, they also remind me of special memories from my childhood in India.

As kids, my siblings and I had long, sweaty school days, heavy backpacks and a lot of homework. Our only saving grace was Mom’s curry and rice. She whipped up an array of curries, each unique in flavor and always made with fresh, local vegetables that were in season.

Curry is a general term given to Indian and Thai dishes that combine complex herbs and spices to form a sauce for lentils, vegetables, meat or seafood.

Any curry requires a base made of yogurt, cream, coconut milk, coconut cream, puree or broth, plus a variety of spices that complement it. Dry curries are cooked with very little sauce coating the vegetables or meat with the spice mixture. Wet curries contain a lot more sauce or gravy.

Below are some curries you can try, made with basic spices you can find in the local grocery store.

Creamy cauliflower curry (Malai gobi)

I love this mellow and creamy curry with crunchy cauliflower. It’s great for lunch or dinner. Serve with naan, chapattis or another kind of flatbread. It tastes great with rice, too. Makes 4-5 servings.

4 cups cauliflower, cut into 2- or 3-inch stems

1 cup fresh or frozen peas

½ cup of cream (or coconut milk)

½ teaspoon garam masala powder

½ teaspoon coriander powder

1 teaspoon mild curry powder

1 cup onion, chopped

1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste

2 cups tomatoes, diced

Sprig of curry leaves (optional)

½ teaspoon mustard seed

2 teaspoons olive oil

Salt to taste

In a thick-bottom skillet or shallow nonstick pan, on medium-high heat, add 3 teaspoons olive oil. When it begins to shimmer, add the curry leaves and mustard seeds. When the spluttering subsides, add chopped onions and tomatoes.

Fry until the onions are golden brown and tomatoes are soft. Ladle out half of this onion-tomato mixture into a blender jar; set aside to cool.

Add cauliflower and peas on top of the remaining onions and tomatoes in the pan. Sprinkle salt and turmeric. Saute for about 5 minutes until the cauliflower starts browning.

To the cooled mixture in the blender jar, add curry powder, garam masala powder and ginger garlic paste. Blend it to a paste. Pour it on the cooking cauliflower.

Stir to combine and cook on medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes without a lid. (Cooking with a lid will make the vegetables soft. We want them crunchy.)

Add in the cream or coconut milk and simmer the curry on low for 3 minutes.

Grilled spicy eggplant with peas (Baingan bartha)

Here is a classic North Indian delicacy, made the easy way. Serve with flatbread, bread or rice. Makes 4 servings.

1 large eggplant

2 cups onion, diced

2 cups tomatoes, diced

1 cup fresh or frozen peas (optional)

1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste

½ teaspoon red chili powder

½ teaspoon coriander powder

¼ teaspoon garam masala powder

¼ teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

Pinch of sugar

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon mustard seeds

2 green chilies, slit halfway

Sprig of curry leaves

Cut the eggplant in half and grill face down on a grill pan or an outdoor grill. You may also broil it in the oven for 15 minutes until charred.

If the eggplant is cooked right, you can scoop the pulp off the skin easily. If it’s not ready, tuck the eggplant in the oven for 5 more minutes. Many prefer to keep the charred outer crust for added flavor. I prefer not to use the skin, but you may choose either way.

Grind the eggplant to a puree. Set aside.

Place a pan on medium heat. Add oil; when it begins to smoke, add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and green chilies. Once the mustard seeds are done spluttering, add onions and ginger garlic paste. When it begins to brown, add the tomatoes.

Let the mixture cook until the tomatoes are soft and pulpy. Add in all the powders and salt. Cook for 2 minutes. Toss in the peas and cook for a few more minutes.

Add the eggplant puree. Stir and cover; cook on low for 5 to 7 minutes.

Garbanzo beans and spinach in coconut curry (Channa masala)

Garbanzo beans, spinach, potato, eggplant and tomato in coconut curry. Serve it over rice, flatbread or whole wheat pasta. Makes 4 servings.

1 8-ounce can of garbanzo beans (2 cups raw beans)

1 large potato, peeled and diced (optional)

2 small eggplants, diced (optional)

1 cup tomatoes, diced (2 medium tomatoes)

1 cup fresh spinach

½ cup onion, diced (1 medium onion)

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon corainder powder

½ cup coconut milk

Salt to taste

Pinch of sugar

1 teaspoon ghee or oil

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

Sprig of curry leaves

2 dry red chilies

If you are using raw garbanzo beans, soak the beans overnight in 6 cups of water. Drain the water and place the beans in a large pot with about 8 to 10 cups of water and a teaspoon of salt. Cook on high heat until it comes to rolling boil. Cover and lower the heat. Let it simmer for 20 minutes. Once cooked, drain and set the beans aside.

If you are using garbanzo beans from a can, drain the beans, rinse with water and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, add the ghee or oil and bring it to a shimmer over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and red chilies; cover until the splattering subsides. Add the diced onions and spinach. Cook until the spinach wilts.

Add tomatoes, potatoes and garbanzo beans. Increase the heat to medium-high while stirring constantly. Cook for about 3 minutes.

Add the curry powder and coriander, mixing well. Cook for about 2 minutes. Pour the coconut milk, 2 cups of water, salt, pinch of sugar and stir well. Cook with a lid for about 15 minutes on medium heat. The beans should squish with light pressure.

Kale and cheese cubes in a creamy curry (Kale paneer)

Who knew kale could taste this delicious? Kale cheese curry is a twist on the classic spinach and cheese curry (palak paneer). Serve hot with chapattis or rice. Stir in a dollop of sour cream. Makes 4 servings.

4 cups fresh kale leaves

2 cups spinach leaves

4-6 whole garlic cloves

½ teaspoon finely chopped ginger

2 cups paneer (Indian cheese), cut into ½ inch cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

1 cup onion, diced

1 tomato, diced

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

¼ teaspoon garam masala powder

¼ teaspoon coriander powder

¼ teaspoon red chili powder or paprika

2 teaspoons tomato paste or ½ cup tomato puree

Salt to taste

Cook kale and spinach in a big bowl with a cup of water and garlic for about 5 minutes. Drain, reserving the water. Let it cool down a bit. Add the cooked kale, spinach and garlic in a blender and puree. Set aside.

In a skillet, add a few teaspoons of oil. When it smokes, add in the paneer cubes and shallow fry them until they are golden brown. Once that is done, place them in a bowl of warm water for about 5 minutes. This will keep them soft. Drain and set aside.

In the same skillet, add ginger, cumin and onion into the remaining oil. When the onions are translucent, add in the diced tomatoes and powders. Let them cook for just a few seconds. Add salt. Once the mixture becomes soggy, add in the kale puree.

Let is simmer on low for 5 minutes. Squeeze water out of the soaked paneer, toss it in and sprinkle garam masala. Let it continue to simmer for another 5 minutes.

Butter chicken in creamy tomato gravy (Murgh makhani)

Grilled chicken soaked in creamy curry infused with whole spices and tomatoes. A marinade recipe for the chicken is provided. Serve hot with naan, flatbread, coconut pilaf or rice. Makes 6 servings.

½ cup butter, at room temperature

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

4 cups fresh or canned tomatoes, finely chopped

2 cups onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon garlic paste

½ teaspoon ginger paste

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1 teaspoon red chili powder

2 green cardamom pods

1 inch cinnamon stick

4 cloves

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 cup cream

1 teaspoon dried and crushed fenugreek leaves

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

For the marinade:

2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, at room temperature

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons thick yogurt

1 teaspoon lime juice

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon ginger paste

1 teaspoon garlic paste

Salt to taste

In a large bowl, mix the marinating ingredients and whole chicken breasts. Chill the chicken for about an hour.

Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Preheat the oven. Set the oven on broil — high setting. Place the baking sheet and cook the chicken for 20 minutes, flipping the breasts over at 10 minutes.

While the chicken cooks, heat a pan or wok on medium high. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Throw in the whole spices and sautee for 10 to 15 seconds. Add the ginger and garlic paste; add onions, and cook them until they turn light brown. Sprinkle a few pinches of salt.

Add the tomatoes and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes until the onions and tomatoes are soft and pulpy. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool to lukewarm. Pour the mixture into the blender and puree. Run the puree through a strainer to filter out any unground spices and tomato skin. Set aside.

Once the chicken has cooked, remove from the oven and cut the breasts into 2-inch pieces. Rinse the wok you used to prep the gravy. Heat it on medium high. Add butter and let it melt. Add in the chili, coriander and turmeric powders. Cook for 1 minute.

Add the smooth tomato mixture and let it cook until the mixture bubbles. Add in the cooked chicken chunks and cook for a few minutes. Add the roasted and crushed fenugreek to the curry and stir until combined. Finally add in the cream and mix well.

Cook for a few minutes on low heat.

Reshma Seetharam’s blog, My Foodarama, can be found at www.reshmaseetharam.com.

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