South Indian Style Vegetable Curry
I love curries and I love vegetables, but when I cook them together, the vegetables just fall apart. Despite my best efforts, the cauliflower and sweet potatoes always break apart in the sauce. Vegetable curry is one of my favorite meals, but I was ready to give up on it. Fortunately, a few years ago I mentioned my frustration to one of my brother’s in law, and he suggested roasting the vegetables instead of boiling them in the sauce. His suggestion was so simple, but was the perfect solution to improve the curry’s texture.
The original recipe is from Fine Cooking, “South Indian Style Vegetable Curry” by Ellie Krieger, which I’ve made several times. Unfortunately, the vegetables went from perfect to overcooked in a matter of seconds. Roasting the cauliflower flowerettes and sweet potato chunks made a huge difference in appearance and taste. This technique developed vegetables with a firmer texture and a sweeter flavor. As a result, the curry sauce did not overwhelm the vegetables, but created more body to stand up against the complexity of the spices. My beloved vegetable curry recipe was reborn.
Not that the sauce needed more flavor, but I couldn’t stop myself and added an additional curry spice blend to the roasted vegetables. To compliment the existing spices in the vegetable curry recipe, I sprinkled Massale curry, over the cauliflower and sweet potatoes. It is a sweet curry spice blend, like spices used in the vegetable curry.
The downside to roasting the cauliflower and sweet potatoes is, that the curry is no longer a one pot meal. Now, it is a one pot and one sheet-pan meal. Despite the additional cleanup, this recipe is worth the extra step because the cauliflower and sweet potatoes taste so much better this way. Besides, cleaning the sheet pan is easy if you deglaze it with extra vegetable stock then add the stock to the curry. This extra step is up to you if you want it. The good news is, that the vegetables roast while the onions, carrots, tomatoes and Swiss chard cook in the curry sauce on the stove. If timed right, both sets of vegetables will finish cooking around the same time.
If you want more vegan meals check out these links: Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille and Quinoa Salad with Avocado, Apricots and Pistachios.
Fine Cooking and Ellie Krieger wrote a solid recipe, but I made several changes for extra depth of flavor. Roasting the cauliflower and sweet potatoes is key for creating a substantial body with the curry. Everything else I changed to enhance the flavor. First, I added wine to brighten the flavors. Then I swapped Swiss chard for the spinach to make it more substantial and added raisins because curries need some fruit to counter the heat. My last change is adding salted cashews for a garnish with some cilantro. The cashews add a crunchy bite against the tender vegetables while also adding more protein.
Don’t let the long list of ingredients and instruction scare you away. Making this curry is not as complicated as the lengthy lists implies. Like any vegetarian meal, the biggest hurdle is chopping all the vegetables. Once the chopping is done, the cooking is very straightforward.
Vegetable curry is a great meal for a vegetarian/vegan dinner. I love how the coconut milk compliments this signature blend of sweet and savory spices, especially the cinnamon. During these colder months, vegetable curry is a big soothing bowl full of comfort and joy.
Indian Style Vegetable Curry
- 1 small head cauliflower cut into flowerettes
- 1 lb sweet potatoes (1 large or 2 small), peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) size pieces
- 1/2 red onion sliced into 1/2 inch (1 cm) wide wedges
- 1 tsp curry spice blend optional
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 4 TB 60 ml extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 large yellow onion minced
- 1 2- inch 5 cm piece ginger, minced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 TB ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 3/4 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp ground cayenne
- 1 2-3 inch piece cinnamon stick
- 1 TB tomato paste
- 1/2 cup 125 ml dry white wine
- 1-13.6 fl oz 403 ml can coconut milk
- 1 1/2 cup 375 ml vegetable stock
- 3 medium size carrots peeled and sliced on a diagonal
- 4 oz 125 g Swiss chard, stems removed and chopped into bite size pieces, the leaves sliced across the width
- 3 plum tomatoes seeds removed and cut into bite size pieces
- 1/2 cup 80 g raisins
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1-15 oz 425 g can chick peas, drained and rinsed
- Juice and zest of one lime
- Handful of cilantro chopped
- Handful of salted cashews rough chopped
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C / Gas Mark 6) and place the rack in the middle position.
Arrange the cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and onion slices on a large sheet pan in an even layer. Drizzle 2 TB (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, the Kosher salt, and ground curry (if using) over the vegetables and toss until the vegetables are evenly coated. Place the vegetables in the oven and roast until just tender, about 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, check for doneness by piercing the cauliflower and sweet potatoes to see if they are tender. Continue to roast the vegetables, checking every 10 minutes as needed. You want the vegetables to be just cooked through and not too soft.
Meanwhile, heat a 5 qt (4.75 L) Dutch oven over medium high heat then add the remaining 2 TB (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the minced onions and cook until soft and slightly browned, about 10 minutes. While cooking, stir every now and then so the onions don't stick to the pan.
Add the minced garlic and minced ginger to the cooked onions and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the Swiss chard stem pieces and stir to coat and cook for a minute.
Add the ground coriander, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, and cinnamon stick to the pan and stir to mix. Gently toast the spices for one minute.
Add the tomato paste and cook for one minute. Then add the wine and deglaze the pan. Cook until the wine mostly evaporates.
Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock and stir until the coconut cream and water is mixed together.
Add the carrots, Swiss chard, and tomatoes and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir the pot every now and then to keep the coconut milk from separating. Control the heat and keep the sauce at a simmer and not a brisk boil. This will keep the coconut milk from curdling.
Once the roasted vegetables and the vegetables in the curry sauce are done, add the roasted vegetables, chickpeas, and raisins to the pot with the carrots, tomatoes, and Swiss Chard. Stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes to warm up the chickpeas.
Turn off heat, and add the lime zest, lime juice, and chopped cilantro.
Garnish with chopped cashews and chopped cilantro. Serve with white or brown rice.
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