Besides the usual staples of olive oil, pasta, oats and, um, avocados there are a few things I always have in my kitchen: coconut milk powder, onions, limes and a restaurant’s worth of spices. I don’t use these every day of course, but it is comforting to know that they are there, ready to inspire me should I have no actual plan for feeding self or family (which is surprisingly frequent). With these ingredients to hand I know I am a few vegetables – or 10 – away from dinner. In this case a slurpy, comforting curry.
Today’s curry started out in Sri Lanka, but with a few extra ingredients it gradually moved west across the Indian Ocean to Thailand. All without needing a passport.
Truthfully it is more “inspired by” than authentic but I don’t think it is any the worse for this fact.
Spices as much as actual “proper” ingredients that make up the bulk of a meal are what fire my imagination. I find it easier to reach above me to my embarrassingly replete cupboards of whole and ground spices, dried leaves and herbs, and even some drops, and conjure an interesting meal than actually looking in my fridge for inspiration. If I don’t look above me before I start chopping I could end up making rough approximations of the same thing on rotation. Nothing wrong with that but I am not really a spag bol on a Tuesday, salmon on a Friday kind of person. Far too disorganised for that.
The great thing about this recipe is actually not the vegetables – as wonderful as they are. Vegetables are like one’s children: I can’t pick a favourite; I love them all equally. Or I should do if I had more than one. The star is really the spice mix and the resulting sauce. Make more than this recipe stipulates of the dried spice blend and keep it in a labelled jar for another outing later in the month. Or, make it up to the quasi-sauce stage and freeze in little packets for a solo saucy bowl with just whatever you can find in the freezer (peas, mixed veg mix, cooked lentils, fish – that kind of thing). The sauce is also fab dolloped onto an omelette, stirred through hot grains, baby potatoes or – Andrew actually did this, I kid you not – cold, as a sandwich spread (it was sliced chicken, salad and avocado, if you are wondering).
The eagle-eyed among you would I’m sure notice that this curry recipe contains not a jot of anything hot. No fresh or powdered chillies at all. The reason for this is that I make this for work (current batch is for 20 people; below), and chillies are not the best thing to give a group of folk that you don’t know who are going through chemo. But the rest of the spices, absolutely. Many people going through cancer treatment have a tremendously hard time tasting anything. They often appreciate a cacophony of aromatic spices to try and cut through the blandness that blankets many everyday foods at this time. And they certainly appreciate the nutritional punch from a coconut-creamy bowlful of veggies, whole-grains and anti-inflammatory spices. It you wish to make it hot, add hot paprika or ground Kashmiri chilli in place of the mild paprika, offering sliced hot chillies as an eye-widening garnish.
What is your go-to spice blend? How do you use it?
*If you are reading this on the site, Easy Low Cal Recipes or any other site, this is without permission and against my express wishes.*
Creamy Thai 10-Vegetable Curry
Toasting and grinding your own spice mixes is one of life’s simple pleasures, quite meditative and, the smell! Once made you can store it in a jar and keep until you need it, or use it right away in a curry that’s not in a hurry, like this one. I grind toasted spices with my trusty £7 pestle and mortar, but use an electric grinder if you like. Add any vegetables that you fancy, and experiment with how much of the spice mix you use in the curry. You don’t need ten vegetables to make it healthy or taste fab. xx
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 rounded tbsp minced galangal or gingerroot – more taste
2 tbsp Sri Lankan curry powder – see below
4 Kaffir lime leaves, crushed up but whole to release their scent (available fresh or frozen in good Asian grocers)
7 tbsp coconut powder (more if needed) OR one 400ml (14 oz) tin of coconut milk
270 ml water or light vegetable stock (more if needed) OR just enough to cook the curry – about 70ml
2 tbsp tomato paste
160-200g butternut squash or sweet potato, diced
1/2 small cauliflower, cut up into bite-sized pieces
handful of fine/green beans, topped, tailed and cut
1/2 small aubergine/eggplant, diced
1/2 orange or red pepper, diced
Kernels from one ear of sweetcorn (frozen is fine)
100g baby spinach or other soft green leaves
Handful of cherry tomatoes
1/2 tbsp coconut aminos or soy sauce
Lime, leaf coriander/cilantro and chopped, toasted cashews nuts – to serve
The Curry Spice Mix
1 tbsp each of cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds; 2 tsp mustard seeds; scant 1/4 tsp cardamom seeds; 1/4 tsp whole cloves; 15-20 dried curry leaves – toast in a dry skillet then grind to a powder. Add to the mix 1/4 tsp fenugreek powder, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp turmeric, 1 tbsp mild/sweet paprika. Store in a jar. Once you make this once do play around with your own ideas and proportions for the next time.
1. Heat the coconut oil in a large, lidded pan; add the onion and saute until starting to colour, then add the garlic and galangal/ginger. Stir in the spice mix and whole lime leaves, and turn to coat .
2. Mix together the coconut milk powder and the stock or hot water and add to the pan; or add the coconut milk and a little water/stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes before adding the tomato paste, squash, cauliflower, beans, aubergine, pepper and sweetcorn kernels. Bring back up to the boil then turn down to simmer until the squash or sweet potatoes are soft – about 20 minutes. The liquid might not cover the veggies but as long as the lid is on it will cook them all just fine.
3. Add the spinach, tomatoes and coconut aminos/soy sauce, letting the spinach wilt down. Taste and see if you wish to more curry powder. If you do, take a scoop of the curry liquid and add it to a small cup with the powder and mix thoroughly before stirring it back into the curry.
4. Serve warm rather than super hot, with rice, other grains, baby potatoes, bread or just as it is.
Note: If you fancy something more Sri Lankan, try my Sri Lankan Fish Curry. :-)
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