Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Last of the Larder: Brit Style Root Veg Curry

If you're anything like me you do not go through your fridge in a rigidly scheduled Martha Stewart cleaning frenzy every Saturday at 9 a.m. sharp. For me it's more like: what is that at the bottom of my crisper? Celeriac? When did I buy that?

As exciting as the arrival of spring is there is only a limited amount of things you can do with scallions and ramps so in searching through my crisper looking for inspiration (and OK yes molding things that needed to be tossed) I found:

Onions, Parsnips, Potatoes and Carrots.

I wanted to make something easy. I'd picked up some fresh Turmeric at Dual grocery store to experiment with (I'd only ever used the powdered version) along with fresh ginger and hot peppers (cayenne I believe) so I was already thinking: curry. Besides, other than Ayurvedic arthritis cures what would you do with fresh Turmeric?

Traditionally Indian curries don't have onions or garlic in them, the base for a traditional Indian curry is a mixture of hot peppers, grated ginger and spices. The onions needed to be used so I decided to make, what I like to refer to as a British curry, on the milder side using onions and garlic and then, when finished, garnished with generous dollops of yogurt or sour cream and chutney (all the Indian grocery stores in town sell a vast array of chutneys and usually a large stock of their own classic mango chutney).

Ghee is something I never buy or make as I find for my taste buds a combination of organic canola oil and butter works just fine.

This isn't so much a recipe as it is a narrative, in part because curry, well any stew, is very personal and the same set of principles apply, this is what I made because it was what I had in the house. It doesn't require a strick set of rules and amounts, there is just one rule, always taste as you go along, if you're worried about an amount add less and taste, you can always add more!

Peel and roughly chop what ever root vegetables were at the bottom of your crisper, about 3-4 pounds, potatoes, carrots, parsnips are what I used but Winter squash, turnip, celeriac (if you remember in time, unlike me!) all work. Mix together in a big bowl and put aside.

Roasted some whole spices - 1 T of cumin seeds and 2 T of coriander (black mustard seeds are good too, maybe a few teaspoons? Roast in a heavy skillet until slightly browned and aromatic, cool for a minute of so and then grind in your mortar and pestle or a spice grinder (it's worth having an extra electric coffee grinder for this very purpose).

In a large food processor toss in 2-4 peeled and quartered onions, 6-10 garlic cloves, 1 peeled piece of turmeric (about a 4" piece) and a good hunk of fresh ginger roughly chopped (2-4T) and two whole hot peppers de-stem them and if you want take out the seeds, I threw them in whole, the seeds add heat. Judge accordingly.

Process lightly , you wanted the mixture to be chopped up, but not wet and sloppy.

In a large skillet place 3 or 4 T of butter and the same amount of organic canola (or any neutral flavored vegetable oil) over medium high heat melt the butter, swirl the pan around to get the oil and melted butter mixed together then toss in all at once the contents of the food processor.

Cook over medium heat for about 10-12 minutes and the aromatics have wilted and become somewhat translucent. Don't brown.

Add the ground spice and cook for a good 5 minutes or so and toss in a cinnamon stick.

Add the root veg and add enough water to cover, cook at a simmer for an hour or so, until the sauce has thickened and the root vegetables are cook through. Season with salt and freshly grated black pepper.

You can further adjust the seasoning if you want (totally optional) with dried ground cayenne pepper, cumin powder, coriander powder, a titch of clove, nutmeg, or some garam masala and always more salt and pepper as needed.

You can also at this point stir in a handful of chopped coriander or parsley or a mixture of both.

Serve with a generous dollop of whole milk yogurt, sour cream, quark and if you have some heavy cream feel free to add it to the last two in the list to thin if you want.

Oh and lots and lots of chutney. And like all stews this will only get better as it sits in your fridge over the next couple of days.

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