IMG_3642There are things that are eminently useful to keep on hand. A tupperware of cooked quinoa- sure. A canister of rolled oats- absolutely. A freezer with crannies hosting limpid bananas, ripe for blitzing into breads and bakes – certainly.

And a ‘serves all’ vegan curry will always be a gift to yourself. (If that’s what you’re after, post haste skip straight to the bottom for an easy, no paste-required recipe). A vegan curry is useful to pimp up for babysitters, when you get the chance to gad about on the town to celebrate your eight year wedding anniversary (where in the heck did those years go?). It’s useful to primp with prawns or some salmon for nights when you want something a little more luxurious, but can’t be bothered to find your fish slice. It’s useful when you’re entertaining a crowd which includes a Paleo, a Vegetarian and a Gluten Intolerant and you don’t want to make a full buffet. (Last week I did an interview about the personal politics of #cleaneating / intolerances and hospitality (among other things) and the journalist was a mite shocked when I said that after checking availability,  the next question I ask is ‘what are you not eating these days?’)

Beyond all of that, a vegan curry is  useful when someone in your midst has the universe reveal its sharp edges and they need something soulful to eat out of a bowl.

Like so many of the recipes I lean on these days, this is not prescriptive, it’s more of a basic template. I enjoy this because there’s no fiddling about with curry pastes- a finely diced onion, some aromatics and spices sauteed in coconut oil (or ghee) in a pan will provide a good base of flavour. If you don’t have all of the spices to hand (mustard seeds, ground cardamom and fenugreek are my favoured three here, largely for the murky sweetness they offer), then swap them out for whole spices, or try with a good ready prepped mix.  And as for the main events, if you’d prefer to play with pumpkin over sweet potato, broccoli over cauliflower or fennel and leek over eggplant and courgette, go right ahead.

If you’re entertaining folk who can tolerate pulses I find a tin of chickpeas folded through helps provide some strapping substance to it all, though lentils would also be just as merry.

Beyond that, a final act of folding through some baby spinach or shredded kale just before serving will up your greens count even further, making you feel not only soothed, but potentially downright smug on consumption.

This makes plenty, so if you’re after a nifty way to store it, wait until it cools then transfer it into sandwich sized ziplock bags and lay them flat, head to tail on a small plate or chopping board to freeze. That way they’re easily stacked in the fluorescent depths of your kitchen, laying in wait for a day that calls for them (you can defrost them swiftly by submerging them in luke warm water, or slitting the bag like a shirt in an emergency room).

Either gussy them up with a sprinkle of seeds, some raita and the crackle of pappadums, or reduce the sauce even further and mash roughly and use as a slow-carb filling for dosas (I find the chickpea flour crepe recipe I use as a default works just as well).

Some days the cause for a soothing curry will arrive with a shout. Others, with a whimper. Whichever they are, you’ll be glad to have these close to hand.

 

Soothing Vegan Curry

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Serves 8

Shopping/foraging

IMG_36272 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
1 red onion, finely diced
pinch of salt
1 piece of ginger, size of a wine cork, grated
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp fenugreek
2 Japanese eggplants, cut into .5 cm coins
2 courgettes/zucchinis, cut into .5 cm coins
1 x 400 ml tin of chopped tomatoes
1 small head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
2 small sweet potatoes (or 1 large), peeled and cut into dice the size of playing dice
1 x 400 ml tin of coconut milk
1 x 400 g can of chickpeas, rinsed (optional)
salt and chilli to taste

Quinoa, brown rice or cauliflower rice to serve. Papadums, mango chutney and raita optional.

Here’s how we roll

1) Add the oil to the bottom of a large heavy bottom casserole dish or Dutch oven and place over a medium heat. Sautee the onion with a pinch of salt for 5 minutes until it has begun to soften. Then add the ginger, garlic and spices and continue to sautee over medium heat for 2 minutes until the spices smell toasty.

IMG_36342) Add the eggplant and courgette and stir through.

IMG_36353) Add the tin of tomatoes and use the liquid from the tomatoes to help scrape up any flavour that has begun to cling to the bottom of the pot.

4) Add the remaining vegetables and the coconut milk and stir to combine. Add the drained chickpeas if using. Bring the contents up to a boil then reduce to a gentle simmer and cook with the lid off until the vegetables are cooked all the way through and the sauce has begun to thicken – approx 40 minutes (you can cook for longer if you like).

IMG_36365) Season with salt to taste (it will help bring all the flavours together) and add chilli to taste.  Serve as is with papadums and raita, or over cauliflower rice, quinoa or brown rice. It’s also great as a base to add diced chicken thighs, prawns or pieces of fish to poach through while warming it up for future iterations.

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