Do you know what’s funny? That curries hail from some of the hottest places on the planet… yet a warming curry in the middle of winter has got to be one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Yeah yeah, I know the spice is meant to help regulate your body temperature in the searing heat or whatever, but come on – when would YOU rather tuck into a curry?
When I have the time, Madhur Jaffrey is one of my favourites for Indian curries. On the whole they’re pretty simple and don’t require TOO many exotic ingredients (unless you want to include them, of course). But during the week, I tend to go for something where you can really just whack everything together in a pot and leave it for a while.
Hence where this vegetable curry recipe was born – using whatever vegetables you have lurking around in the bottom of the fridge, from that suspect zucchini to the potato that’s sprouting a few new friends (maybe just remove the sprouts first, mmm-kay?). If you’ve got a can of chickpeas or lentils in the pantry, chuck them in too – they add a bit of bulk and will fill up anyone in your household who thinks vegetables aren’t a complete meal. Or you could be totally crazy and just add meat if you have it. Just cut it into small pieces and add after you’ve fried the garlic and ginger.
Given I’m making this in August (the middle of winter, here in Australia), the veggie pickings are pretty slim – I’ve gone with pumpkin, cauliflower, broccoli, Japanese eggplant and zucchini. Some other suggestions are carrot, potato, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts and sweet potato, but if you’re making this at a warmer time of year, then go crazy with whatever you can find – squash, green beans, capsicums, etc.
Want more spice? Add one or two whole dried chillis when you fry the garlic and ginger. After something milder? Halve the chilli powder or use cayenne pepper instead.
The main thing is to ensure you’re vegetables are all cut to a similar size – they don’t have to LOOK beautiful (hey, we’re going for rustic here), they just have to be of a similar size so they cook evenly. That said, your hard veggies are always going to cook a bit slower than the softer ones, so avoid Disintegrated Vegetable Syndrome by making sure you stagger the cooking times.
Like a fine wine and your relationship with your siblings, a curry really does improve with age… The longer you can let it sit – either on a low heat simmering away on the back of the stove, or just in the fridge waiting to be served – the more intense the flavours will be. So if you make a big curry at the beginning of the week, your leftovers will basically get more and more awesome each day! But if you’re busy and just need to get something on the table, the key is simply cutting your vegetables smaller. Cut the hard veggies into small cubes (1cm), cut your cauli or broccoli into petite florets – that way you can get the cooking time down to about 15 minutes. Also, try getting your veggies out of the fridge before you want to start cooking (particularly the hard vegetables, as they take a while to get down to room temperature) – room temperature vegetables cook a lot faster than cold ones. And if you’re REALLY in a rush? Use leftover steamed vegetables from last night’s dinner… Or blanch your fresh vegetables in boiling water first before putting them in the curry. You’ll have an extra pot to clean, but you’ll cut down the cooking time. You decide.
Whatever’s-in-the-fridge Vegetable Curry
- Vegetables galore! Use around 6 cups of mixed veggies. For this recipe I used 1/4 butternut pumpkin, 1 large zucchini, 2 small Japanese eggplants, 1/4 head of broccoli and 1/4 head of cauliflower
- 2 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp turmeric
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 tsp chilli powder (see note)
- Pinch of cinnamon
- 1 400g tin of crushed tomato
- Oil for frying (pick an oil with a high smoke point – I use Rice Bran oil)
- 1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, sliced thinly
- 2 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
- Salt, to taste
- Basmati rice and fresh coriander to serve
1. Heat a generous splash of oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan or casserole pan.
2. Add all your spices and fry gently until aromatic.
3. Add your garlic and ginger and stir for about a minute, before adding any hard vegetables (e.g. pumpkin, potato) and stir to coat with the spices. Put 2 tbsp of water in the pot and put the lid on for two or three minutes – this creates a big burst of steam, which kickstarts the cooking process of these harder veggies, which speeds things up.
4. Add the rest of your vegetables and the tomato. Fill the empty tomato tin with water, and add. Combine and bring to the boil, before reducing to medium and allowing to simmer. (Note: if you have any very soft vegetables, such as zucchini, wait 10 minutes before adding, so they don’t overcook.)
5. Curry is ready when vegetables are tender – around 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of your veggies.
6. Sprinkle with fresh coriander, a dollop of plain yogurt and steamed Basmati rice.