Growing up, one of mom’s weeknight dinner staples was her curried chicken: a rich, deep yellow sauce spiced with just the right amount of curry powder and onions, stewing with meat so tender it was falling off the bone. Being raised in Fayetteville, this was my only exposure to curry, until I ventured to other parts of the country – and eventually other parts of the world – in my late teens and early twenties.
My first real curry experience was at a restaurant called Eastern Eye in Plymouth, England, where Indian food is considered the unofficial national dish. Hubs and I were there with an old college friend and his wife, and we sampled a little of this and a little of that; all of these delicious dishes came out of the kitchen in dainty silver bowls, with heaping bowls of basmati and several orders of naan littering the table. After my first bite, I was hooked.
As many of you know – and duly kvetch alongside me – Fayetteville is seriously lacking in Indian food. For whatever reason, Fayetteville cannot sustain an Indian restaurant – or maybe rather, the restaurant management cannot sustain Fayetteville. People have been known to drive as far as Tulsa or even Little Rock for the delicious fare, before Rogers and Bentonville got India Corner and Chutney’s. For me, though, 25 minutes is still entirely too far to drive for some mediocre tikka masala.
And unfortunately for me, I consider Indian food one of those special breeds that just cannot be replicated at home – like Ethiopian or Neapolitan pizza. There’s something about their spices, something about their technique, and something about their tandoor oven that just does not allow me to recreate it at home. Fair enough! I wasn’t really planning on attempting to master paneer, anyway.
That being said, I still had a hankering to create something that mixed mom’s old-school curry recipe with relatively healthy ingredients, all the while flailing about in my futile attempt to replicate restaurant-grade Indian at home. The result? Behold, my vegetable curry.
I was inspired by a recent recipe in Cooking Light for a dish called “Country Captain”, which is a mild curry stew with origins in the 19th century southern US, where a British sea captain working in the spice trade introduced his recipe to locals, who put their own spin on the stew. Interesting? Yes. Believable? Kinda. Delicious? Definitely.
I combined a slew of vegetables – onions, peppers, cauliflower, carrots, potatoes – with a virtual powerhouse mixture of aromatics and spices, like garlic, ginger, Madras curry, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and cayenne. The whole dish is brought together with creamy coconut milk and a little vegetable broth, and simmered until the flavors have had plenty of time to mix and mingle.
The outcome is a spicy, creamy vegetable stew that won’t exactly transport you to Punjab, but will definitely provide you enough flavor and spice to transport you back into the kitchen for seconds. Serve this stew over hot basmati or brown rice to soak up all the delicious sauce, and feel free to add a protein – like chicken, or even lamb – or mix up the vegetables to suit your taste. Enjoy!
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2 Tbs. olive oil
2 small onions, sliced
1 large bell pepper, chopped
2 carrots, peeled & diced
2 medium potatoes, peeled & diced
1 ½ c. cauliflower florets
1 c. shelled edamame
3 garlic cloves, minced
1″ fresh ginger, minced
1 Tbs. flour
3 Tbs. curry powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
1 cinnamon stick
Cayenne pepper to taste
2 c. vegetable broth
1 can coconut milk
Fresh cilantro & sliced almonds for serving
Basmati or brown rice to serve alongside
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, bell pepper and carrots, and cook over medium heat until beginning to soften, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for a minute more. Add the flour and spices (curry powder through cayenne), and cook for a minute more, stirring constantly. Add the vegetable broth, coconut milk, potatoes and cauliflower, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender. Add the edamame and heat through. Serve over rice, and top with cilantro and sliced almonds.
* If the above slideshow doesn’t load, you can view all the photos from this recipe on Flickr.
Laura is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. She was born and raised in Fayetteville. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more of Laura’s contributions, see her Flyer Foodie author page. For more cooking, recipes, and other food-related inspiration, visit Flyer Foodie on Facebook.