I love curry. I love its versatility, and the fluctuating meanings hidden behind the word. It can mean something spicy and hot, it can mean something creamy with warmer flavours behind it. The word encompasses dishes from a wide range of different cultures' cuisines. It includes any number of spices and spice combinations, and is an area which holds so much potential for experimentation and play.
This curry was born in part of inspiration from a curry of Ottolenghi's from Flavour that I had planned on trying a week ago and then discovered I didn't have all the ingredients for, and in part from what was in the fridge and how I felt like matching things at the time. Ottolenghi's recipe was a lentil coconut curry with paneer stuffed aubergines. I made the paneer for it, and then discovered I didn't have coconut milk. Then I was on night shifts for a few days and we had used a number of the other ingredients by the time I came back around to the idea this week.
What we did have though was a wealth of sweet potatoes, some other veg that needed using, and paneer. I roasted the sweet potatoes, added the other veg, brought it all up to temperature then popped the pot in my Wonderbag oven and went on a bike ride. When I came home (10 km on a soft tyre later) it was all ready to go, we just had to make rice for it. The first night I remembered the spring onions I had wanted to put over the top but forgot the paneer, then next night I remembered the paneer but was out of spring onions. Ideally, it would have had both. I also would have liked more red lentils in this curry, but I am terrible at knowing what I am going to put in a dish until I make it, and didn't take a look in the cupboard before starting. When I did come to adding it, I discovered I had only a cup of lentils, so that is all that went in.
Approx 10 sweet potatoes
1/2 tbsp peanut oil
1 onion, chopped
1 head garlic, chopped
3 inches of ginger, chopped
1 c cream
1/2 - 1 tbsp garam masala (this one was heavy on the cinnamon)
1 tsp cardammom
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp tandoori powder
2 zucchinis, chopped
1 eggplant, chopped
1 small head of broccoli, floretted
1 c red lentils
2-3 c water
Salt and pepper to taste
2 c paneer, cubed
2 tsp oil
2 small spring onions chopped
Rice to serve (we had ours with mixed wild rice)
1) Roast the sweet potatoes whole at 200°c for about 30 minutes until soft.
2) Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot. Sauté the onions, garlic and ginger until fragrant. Roughly chop the sweet potato and add along with the spices. (I kept the sweet potato skins, but feel free to chuck them at this stage). Stir to combine and add a little water.
3) Stir in veg and cream. Add lentils. Add enough water for the consistency to be moist but not wet and not too thick. Bring to a boil then either reduce to a simmer, making sure to stir regularly to prevent sticking, or place in a slow cooker for a couple of hours.
4) If serving with paneer, fry the cubed paneer at medium heat about 5-10 minutes until browned on 2 sides. Serve over rice with a sprinkling of spring onions and/or fried paneer.
This curry came out beautifully. I liked the play of textures and colours and flavours. You may have noticed that there isn't much heat to it. Recently, contrary to my wont, I haven't been cooking with much heat in order to be more inclusive of Little Bit who likes a little heat, especially certain types (he happily chews raw ginger) but is quickly overwhelmed by it. Instead most of our food tends to be quite mild these days, then we add hot sauce to it to our own tastes. Our current hot sauce of choice for this is my dad's home made scotch bonnet hot sauce which is quite hot. A teaspoon of that goes quite nicely in a plate of curry.
The cream could be replaced with coconut milk and the paneer omitted if you wanted to make this vegan. Currently vegetarian, it could quite happily accommodate some meat if you wanted. Don't feel beholden to the veg I used, that's just what I had on hand. Play with it!
This was my second time making paneer. Last time I used yogurt as the curdling agent. This time I used lemon juice. 1.5 l required about 1 and a half lemons' worth of juice. I wasn't sure how this was going to turn out though as Hubby accidentally turned on the heat under the pot as the milk and lemon juice were resting and cheese-ifying. It came back up to a rolling boil before we realised. It did however come out quite well. It was not as solid as last time, and more liquid was released when frying it in the pan, but it pressed nicely under a baking dish full of sweet potatoes and was certainly very tasty on top of the curry.