Recipe: Bastardized Malaysian Curry

November 8, 2007 § 5 Comments

I think, ducklings, that it’s time for a Nigella moment.

This recipe is Frankensteined from a wonderful cookbook called Cradle of Flavor by James Oseland. It’s the first (and only) book I’ve ever read on Malaysian, Indonesian, and Singaporean cookery, and the recipes therein are as mouth-watering as you can imagine. Oseland’s recipe for potatoes rendang was fantastic, but I couldn’t find any fresh turmeric, and lemongrass kept shriveling, the smells of shrimp paste and fish sauce make me shudder, I don’t have 40 minutes every night to cook the paste by itself, et al., so I improvised. And adjusted, and tweaked. And eight months later we’ve got this. This apple rolled down a hill, into a river, was eaten by a goat, who was eaten by a fox… you get the idea. It’s fallen very far from the tree.

We eat this at least once a week, and it’s never the same twice. Mix and match with any vegetables you want, but don’t leave out the canned tomatoes, and I wouldn’t leave out the potatoes, either. Nothing in the sauce is optional, but you could leave the nutmeg and cinnamon out of the spice mix, I suppose. I wouldn’t be without them, but it’s your kitchen.

Ingredients
For the Spice Mix
2 tablespoons curry powder
3 tablespoons dried turmeric
½ teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1½ teaspoons garam masala, divided
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds (optional)

For the Sauce
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
fresh ginger, minced to equal amount of garlic (about 1½ tablespoons)
1 can coconut milk (about 400-ml/15-oz)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
⅓ – ½ cup peanut butter
3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
salt to taste

Vegetables & Legumes
2 medium eggplant, cut in half lengthwise once or twice, then sliced
3 carrots, sliced into half-moons
1½ cups waxy potatoes, thinly sliced or cubed
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 cup frozen peas

Alsos & Ors
1 package extra-firm tofu, cut into small triangles (for preference)
1 cup frozen green beans
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup mushrooms
1 sweet potato
1 turnip, sliced into ½” x ¼” pieces
1 small butternut squash, peeled and sliced into ½” x ¼” pieces

pretty much any vegetable other than broccoli

To Serve:
cooked rice
lime wedges

Method
Add all spices save ½ teaspoon garam masala to a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Toast over medium heat until they’re fragrant and smoking slightly. Add oil and onion, and sauté 5-6 minutes, until softened and caramelized, adding as much as ½ cup of water to prevent sticking. Add garlic and ginger, and sauté for another minute, then add remaining sauce ingredients, stirring well.

After about another 2 minutes, add chickpeas, canned tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and carrots (and tofu, turnip, mushrooms, sweet potato, squash and, if using). Add cauliflower when you estimate the harder vegetables are half-cooked. Cover* and cook 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally— the time here really depends on which veggies you’ve chosen. The denser they are, the more time on the heat.

When the vegetables are soft and close to done, add in remaining vegetables; fresh tomatoes and bell pepper (and green beans, if using). Cook another 3-4 minutes, uncovered. Stir in peas and remaining garam masala, cook for one minute more. Taste the sauce. Do you need more sweetness or salt? Add brown sugar, salt, or soy sauce. Is the sauce thick enough to coat the back of a spoon? If not, stir in more peanut butter. Remember, you’re about to add lime juice, which will also brighten the flavors, so you may not need as much salt as you think.

Serve over rice, being sure to squeeze a lime wedge over every plate. Provide more lime wedges for people to customize their curries.

*You don’t have to cover if you’re going to stir frequently; just add water as needed.

Serves six generously without the add-ons, or two people for three days.

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