August 25, 2021
Despite the high temperatures outside, a simple, fragrant curry filled with vegetables from the market has been my go-to meal this summer. The bounty of local farms has provided us with the most beautiful shades of peppers and eggplants and fingerling potatoes. If I don’t have potatoes, I substitute with beans, and my family and I will either eat it on its own as a soup or with rice or bread. A twist of lemon juice and a handful of herbs at the end makes for a delicious, deeply nutritious dinner.
On a recent trip to New York, I made a similar vegetable curry at a friend’s dinner party for guests that happened to include Gaggan Anand — whose namesake Indian-inspired restaurant Gaggan in Bangkok earned the No. 4 place on the world’s-best-restaurants list in 2019. After more than half a dozen helpings, he declared that he had eaten more than half the pot of curry! I served it with simple rice pilaf with lots of chopped herbs, local celery, currants and pumpkin seeds. So give this curry a try — it also makes great leftovers for breakfast with a poached egg dropped into it with toast on the side.
5 to 6 small fingerling potatoes
2 small eggplants
1 large or 2 small peppers (any color but green)
1 large ripe tomato or 1 cup cherry tomatoes
15 to 20 kari (curry) leaves
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 cup minced onions (red or white)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried ground turmeric
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 cup coconut milk (optional)
2 cups sliced tender young okra
1 cup torn or chopped herbs (such as cilantro, basil, or mint)
Cut the potatoes, eggplants, and peppers into 1-inch chunks and set them aside, separately. Mince the tomatoes into 1/2-inch chunks. (If using cherry tomatoes, just cut them in half.) Use the curry leaves whole if they appear tender, chop finely if not.
In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, over high heat, warm the coconut oil, pop the mustard seeds and fry the curry leaves for just a couple of seconds. Immediately add the minced onion, potato and garlic and fry on medium to high heat until the onions soften, 5 to 7 minutes; however, do watch over it carefully to ensure that the onion and garlic do not burn.
Add the eggplants, peppers, turmeric, black pepper, red chili powder, and salt. Continue stirring, cover the stockpot and lower the heat, letting the mixture simmer for 10 to 12 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and ginger and continue simmering the curry for another 10 to 12 minutes. Then add the coconut milk along with 1 to 2 cups of water (depending on whether you want it soupy or thick) and bring the entire curry to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for another 10 minutes or until all the vegetables have cooked through and the fat has risen to the top. The eggplant will turn mushy and partly dissolve into the curry; this will only add to the flavor.
Add the okra, simmering it for about 2 to 3 minutes, then turn the heat off and let the curry rest for an hour or longer.
Add chopped herbs and serve with rice or toasted bread.
Replace the potatoes with 1/2 cup of garbanzo or white beans. Soak the beans the night before and cook them on their own before adding to the curry.
Any seasonal vegetables will do. Feel free to replace the eggplant and peppers with squash and the okra with green beans or asparagus.
For a lighter finish, replace the coconut milk with water. To balance the flavors, add a tablespoon of minced jaggery (raw unprocessed palm sugar) or cane sugar.
December 02, 2022