Friday, August 7, 2009

Winter Vegetable Nonya Curry Recipe

It is no secret, amongst those who know me, that my culinary style is predominantly influenced by the flavours of the Mediterranean. However, Asian flavours also play a big role in my culinary repertoire - Indian and Thai food being particular favourites.

In fact I like nothing better, on a leisurely Sunday, than having the time to prepare an Indian feast from scratch - having the time to roast and grind spices, grate fresh coconut to make coconut milk, a trip out to the Asian supermarket to pick up any ingredients I may not have, making my own curry pastes, pickles, chutnies and home-made flatbreads, and maybe even a batch of ice cream to finish off with.

I love the way that being involved in every step of preparing such a meal somehow makes me feel closer to generations of women who still spend much of their daily lives preparing food for their families in just this way. Spiritually speaking, I get that we are all connected, but something about cooking in this way really reinforces that connection for me. First sniff of cumin and I am immediately transported to a humble Indian village, where women squat around simple fires and cooking pots to cook for their loved ones. To me, there is a physicality to the grinding of spices, grating coconut, roasting of nuts, slicing & dicing vegetables, rubbing and marinating meats that completely absorbs me. I find that I am able to be very "present" throughout the process - this to me is really cooking from the heart. Furthermore, there is no doubt in my mind that even the simplest of food which is prepared with love, tastes of love.

I think our mothers and grandmothers understood this. We all know that no-one else's apple pie, for example, tastes quite like Mum's. Now, in reality, there is probably nothing particularly special about Mum's apple pie. But she makes that pie with love for her family and friends. I am convinced that on some level that is transmitted to us - it comes through in the taste, maybe we witness the way she chops the apples with a small smile on her face, or sings softly to herself as she prepares the pastry. And so, I believe, Mum's apple pie satisfies us on an emotional level in a way that no other apple pie can.

Today, however, most modern women are juggling careers as well as home lives, and simply don't have the time to spend several hours a day channeling the domestic goddess. I am no exception. Modern women often need to fall back on a bit of "convenience feeding" and, as a result, many children today are raised on a diet of pre-packaged microwave meals and take-outs. I actually have a theory that overeating in an effort to try and satisfy the emotional appetite has much to do with today's obesity problems - I don't think it is only about the high fat, sugar and sodium levels of many convenience foods.

It doesn't, however, have to be this way. With a well-stocked pantry, and a little bit of planning and forethought, great tasting food can come out of your own kitchen in a matter of minutes. Weekends are a great time to pre-prepare meals which can be frozen - soups, curries, and casseroles all freeze and reheat really well. A crockpot is also a really useful gadget to have in the kitchen - it takes barely moments to put a few ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning, and come home to a hot and satisfying meal at the end of the day.

I teach yoga classes most evenings, not usually finishing work until 8pm. Because I also need to get up pretty early in the morning to teach classes again and do my own practice, I need to get to bed fairly early as well. That means that I need to be able to turn out a meal fairly quickly after my work day is over. So I have to be fairly well organised - I can often find time to do a little bit of preparation in between classes (maybe chop vegetables, or other ingredients, get any pans or utensils out that I plan to use, etc). A real key to this for me is keeping my pantry well stocked with things like tins of tomatoes, jars of artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes & olives (things that can be thrown together in a flash with a bit of pasta and a grating of parmesan). Tinned beans and chickpeas are also a great stand-by - generally I like to cook my own and keep a few bags of them in the freezer, but a tin on the pantry shelf is great for an emergency. And jars or sachets of various curry pastes are fantastic for a meal in minutes - yes, it is great to spend the time making your own, and that is certainly my ideal - but it is just not always realistic.

This recipe then, is one I make a lot - I can make this curry in the time it takes to cook the rice - that is less time than it would take to order and pick up a takeaway. I always have a sachet of this Nonya curry paste (amongst others) in the cupboard, as well as a can of coconut milk, and adding plenty of fresh vegetables I don't feel I am compromising anything in the way of flavour or nutritional value. Give it a bit more zing with some fresh chilli, lemon juice and herbs. Serve with some rice or roti on the side, and this really makes a great meal. I frequently make this just with pumpkin and chickpeas, but a quick look in the vege bin the other day revealed that I also had half a kumara (sweet potato), half a parsnip, and a few yams that needed to be used up, so in they went too. I have to admit I wasn't quite sure how well the parsnip would work in this, but it was actually great. Feel free to experiment with any combination of vegetables, and leave me a comment if you come up with some additions that work well for you.

Winter Vegetable Nonya Curry Recipe

Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

Serves 3-4

400-500g chopped firm vegetables
(pumpkin, sweet potato, yams, parsnip)
1 red chilli
1-1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 sachet Asian Home Gourmet Nonya Curry paste
(refer Source Guide)

425ml can coconut cream
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach
1 lime, grated zest & juice
bunch fresh coriander

Chop assortment of vegetables into bite size pieces, about 1.5-scm. Remove seeds and membrane from the chilli, and finely slice.

Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, stir curry paste into the heated oil, reduce heat to low-medium, and cook paste, stirring constantly for 1 minute.

Add chopped vegetables and sliced chilli to the pan, stir thoroughly until all vegetables are coated with the paste, and cook for a further 3 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Add the can of coconut cream to the pan, reduce heat to low and simmer until vegetables are just tender - about 10 minutes.

Once vegetables are tender, add chickpeas to the pan and continue to cook just long enough to warm the chickpeas through.

Remove pan from the heat, add the spinach and stir until the spinach is just wilted. Stir in the grated zest and juice of the lime.

Serve immediately over steamed rice, and top with chopped fresh coriander.

Frozen Lemon Yoghurt

To finish? I happened to have some of this Frozen Lemon Yoghurt in the freezer that I made according to this recipe from David Lebovitz. This is gloriously tangy and refreshing, ridiculously easy to make, and was the perfect ending to a meal such as this.

All in all, this was a great meal in a hurry, with absolutely no guilt attached.

1 comment:

  1. Sue I wish I was there and could cook this kind of food with you. I don't know much about cooking Indian food, but I love it.


Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. I love hearing from you and your comments are like gold to me. Your comment will be visible as soon as it has been approved.