Vegetable curry is one of my favorite vegetarian dishes. But only when it’s cooked right. Meaning? No overcooked soggy vegetables. I want the vegetables cooked through but each piece still able to retain its individual shape. I like my vegetable curry to be ultra creamy, not overwhelmingly spicy but with a lot of heat from the ginger.
To get just the right blend of flavors, I have, as of late, strayed away from pre-mixed curry powder and curry paste. I make my own spice mix now using turmeric, chili, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, nutmeg and mustard. While the best spice mix is made with fresh spices, you can create a pretty good base using ground (powdered) spices that are available in groceries. I also add a little tamarind paste to the stew.
And what vegetables do I like to include in the vegetable curry? Squash is always at the top of the list and carrot comes second. If I have them, I like cauliflower, string beans, okra and eggplants too.
The following recipe is for a very basic vegetable curry with squash, carrot, bell pepper and spinach. If the long list of ingredients seems intimidating, note that most of the ingredients are just the ground spices to make the “curry powder.” You can simplify the recipe by using pre-mixed curry powder or paste but I can’t help with the amount as each brand varies in heat and spiciness. I wish you’d try to mix your own though. The experience is just so liberating.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 red onion thinly sliced
- 2 tomatoes diced
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon bird’s eye chilies crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 kaffir lime leaf thinly sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
- salt to taste
- 1 cup cubed carrot
- 1 large bell pepper whatever color, diced
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup cubed squash
- 8 holy basil leaves
- 1 generous sprig mint torn
- 1 to 2 cups spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup coconut cream
- extra holy basil and mint to garnish (optional)
Heat the cooking oil in a wok. Add the onion and tomatoes, and all the ground spices. Saute for about a minute.
Add the ginger, garlic, kaffir lime leaf, bay leaf and tamarind paste. Sprinkle in some salt. Saute for another half a minute.
Add the cubed carrot and diced bell pepper to the pan. Pour in the coconut milk. Sprinkle in a bit more salt. Bring to a gentle boil, lower the heat and simmer for five minutes.
Add the squash. Stir. Taste the sauce. The carrot cubes would have absorbed the salt added earlier so add more salt, as needed.
Stir in the holy basil and mint. Simmer for ten minutes or until the squash cubes are tender.
Add the spinach leaves. Stir.
Pour in the coconut cream. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Simmer for a couple of minutes until the spinach leaves are wilted.
Serve the vegetable curry hot. Garnish with more holy basil and mint, if you like. Me? Oh, I like.