In one of my favorite cookbooks, there’s a chapter entitled “Nice with Rice.” I’ve always loved the idea that we could sort dishes by their chosen starch. Instead of being nice with rice (or in addition to that quality), today’s roughly imagined vegetable curry is in the category “bon with naan.”
That naan comes from Stonefire, maker of traditional naan, roasted in ovens far hotter than ours get at home. While I’ve made paratha, roti, and even samosas, I’ve never tried my hand homemade naan, because I don’t have a tandoori oven. Whereas Stonefire does: their naan, made with an age-old recipe that uses both buttermilk and ghee, gets baked using new technology that mimics the 6,000-year-old method of making naan in a tandoor oven. I keep packages of Stonefire naan in the freezer (there are whole grain, garlic and sweet chili versions in addition to original), then bake them up, brush with butter, and eat them.
And what do I eat them with?
Well. Back in December, I asked what cuisine you might like to see explored more on the blog, and you said Indian. And then in January, I told you my food resolutions, and one was to make Indian (and Thai) curry pastes at home. For today’s bon with naan curry–not exactly a korma, but something like it–I got out my mini food processor, picked up ginger, garlic, cilantro, and serranos, and started making a curry paste.
The method for any curry paste is easy: combine herbs, chilies, nuts, garlic, ginger, aromatics, tomato, onion, oil, or toasted spices in various proportions and grind or pound them into a goop.
The interplay of flavors in the paste contributes a deep seasoning, and sometimes serious spice, to your stews. To make any curry, you simply heat some oil in a pan, toast the paste in it, and add whatever ingredients you’d like, from protein and vegetables to coconut milk, stock, or cream. Both making curry paste and making curry are a lot easier than you’d think, and a lot less risky than opening up a can of paste from an unknown brand and finding your dinner needs about 6 cups of salt to taste like anything at all.
Today I’m presenting one of the first pastes I experimented with, a simple combination that takes grocery store ingredients and turns chickpeas, broccoli, carrots, and cilantro into a complex vegetarian curry whose sauce you’ll be aching to soak up with toasty naan.
Vegetable Korma with Homemade Curry Paste & Warm Naan
Many* North Indian curries don’t use coconut milk, but rather a combo of water/stock and cream or yogurt. Since Alex avoids dairy, I used coconut instead, making this some kind of crazy Thai-Indian hybrid. The paste makes enough for two batches of curry. Definitely pick up whole cumin and coriander for this (the ground stuff won’t be the same).
*thanks to a reader for correcting me – South Indian curries do indeed use coconut milk, making this a relatively normal curry.
For the paste:
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh ginger
3 tablespoons neutral oil, like safflower
2 fresh serranos, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons raw cashews
most of 1 small bunch fresh cilantro, including stems (save some for garnishing the finished curry)
For the curry
2 tablespoons neutral oil, like safflower
1 onion, halved and sliced
1/2 head cauliflower, broken into florets
1/2 head broccoli, broken into florets
1 large carrot, cut into 2-inch pieces, then halved lengthwise
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons Thompson raisins
1 14-ounce can chickpeas
1 14-ounce can whole coconut milk
Toasted cashews, for serving
Naan, for serving
Make the paste: in a dry pan, toast the cumin and coriander. Add to a mini food processor with the coarse salt and grind to break up. It’s okay if a few are still whole. Add the garlic, ginger, oil, serranos, cashews, and cilantro and pulse to turn into a rough-textured paste.
Make the curry: heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 cup of curry paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant. Lower the heat to medium, then add the onion and cook until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the can of coconut milk, then fill up the can with water and add that too. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the paste in the water/coconut milk.
Add the cauliflower, broccoli, carrot, sweet potato, raisins, chickpeas, and ½ teaspoon salt. Return to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered until all vegetables are soft and stew has thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve, sprinkled with toasted cashews and a few leaves from the reserved cilantro. This can be made ahead and is arguably better the next day!