Several days ago I was standing in the international food isle at my local supermarket looking for inspiration for my lamb shanks recipe.
As I stood browsing through "Spanish" spices, standing just next to me was a woman studying and examining prepackaged "Indian" meals. I had once tried the very same vacuum sealed, ready to eat microwavable meals she was attempting to select from; cardboard boxes of items like palak paneer, dal, curried chickpeas etc. all stored at room temperature. They tasted absolutely terrible, worse then terrible. I felt compelled to warn her and I did. She mumbled something about her family really liking vegetable korma, quickly put the packet of korma back on the shelf and rushed away looking disappointed that I had just squashed her quick and easy dinner plans.
It occurred to me that vegetable korma is probably up there with butter chicken as most frequently ordered dishes at Indian restaurants. It's really not that hard to make at home.
I've posted today my version of vegetable korma. Now keep in mind, korma is supposed to be a slowly braised meat or vegetable curry made with yoghurt, cream or coconut milk. The south Indian in me prefers coconut milk. I'm using frozen vegetables and my recipe is not slowly braised so I'm not claiming that it's authentic. Tonight we had it with homemade naan (which I'll post next). This korma also goes really well with appam (Kerala pancake made with rice flour and coconut milk).
2 generous pinches of mustard seeds
2 generous pinches of cumin seeds
3 green cardamom pods bruised
One inch piece of cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
1/2 onion diced
1/2 teaspoon ginger minced
2 large garlic cloves minced
2 green chilies chopped
~6 curry leaves
1 1/2 teaspoon toasted and ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/8 teaspoon chili powder (if you want it hotter add more)
1 teaspoon tomato paste
Handful of raw cashews (about 22)
7 oz. coconut milk
12 0z. Frozen veggies (which contain cauliflower, and carrots)
1/2 cup of frozen cut green beans
1/2 cup frozen green peas
2 medium potatoes peeled cut to same size as other veggies
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Boil cut potatoes in salted water until fork tender and set aside.
Boil the cashews in water for about 5 minutes. Then blend the cashews with a few spoonfuls of the boiling water into a paste, set aside.
Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a pan. When the oil is hot, add mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to crackle and pop, add the cumin seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. Fry this mixture until it gives off a nutty aroma.
Add onions, garlic, ginger, green chilies, and curry leaves. Season with salt, and continue to fry until onions are translucent and begin to lightly brown at the edges. Add ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, chili powder and black pepper and season with salt. Continue frying, and control the flame as you cook - don't let it burn.
Add tomato paste and continue frying, when the oil and tomato paste begin to separate add the cashew paste and stir together and continue to heat together. Now add the coconut milk, season with salt and mix together and heat through, keep the heat low so the sauce doesn't boil too much and separate.
Add the cooked potatoes, and all frozen vegetables. Continue to cook, slowly simmer until veggies are heated through. If the sauce is too thick add some more water and simmer longer. You can even add more coconut milk. Try not to add too much water though to avoid the flavors from becoming too diluted. Check again for salt. I have not put how much salt I used because I salt and taste as I go. I encourage you to do the same. This way you'll add the amount of salt appropriate for your taste.
You can also add some chopped cilantro at the end. I haven't because I wanted the curry leaves to stand out.