A Curry To Call My Own (And The World’s Easiest Side Dish)

12 Dec

I’ve only ever met one curry I didn’t like. It was Malaysian, and to me, it tasted like dirt.

One of the best curries I’ve ever had was in London, it was a balti and tasted like heaven.

London’s curries might be better and more authentic than New York’s, but I’d bet we’d win a curry-off based on variety alone. Yes, London has wonderful curries from every part of India and the sub-continent, but we’ve got curries from everywhere else.

In my neighborhood alone we have Vietnamese curry stew, French curried mussels, Chinese curry congee, Thai curry tapas, Japanese curry comfort foods, Pan-Asian curry hot pots, Hipster chicken curry wraps and yes, finally, Indian chicken curry.

I’ve sampled most of these dishes and many others, all variations on the humble garam masala. So when I woke up a few Saturdays ago craving a homemade Indian-spiced cauliflower curry, I was a bit daunted. Do I use a curry paste? A curry powder? Do I adhere authentically to the curry of one region? Or, do I go it alone, combining all those strong, single-minded spices into one harmonious, aromatic stew of my own invention?

Of course I chose the last option, but I needed help. I began with a Google search that returned 682,000 choices, the majority of them rather run-of-the-mill. I wanted something with a bit more pizzaz, so I turned to Madhur.

I knew I wanted to use curry leaves, green cardamom, black mustard seeds, kalonji, ginger, hot peppers and paneer so I looked for a recipe that was close, I knew I wouldn’t get all of them. I settled on “Spiced Buttermilk with Coconut and Scallions” as my skeleton recipe. Why? I had no intention of using buttermilk (I’ve done that before), or coconut, or even scallions, but it had most of the right spices, and I liked the method.

Cauliflower Curry

So, how was it? Awesome! The spices were well integrated, the heat pleasantly piquant, the texture was a little mooshie, next time I’ll add the cauliflower a little later in the process so it doesn’t break down quite so much, but other than that I’d happily serve this to my friend Ruth from Kerala. (Hi Ruth if you’re reading!)

And what of this world’s easiest side dish?

Head below the jump for the dish and the recipe for Cauliflower Curry.

Three words: Whipped Fava Beans.

Run out to your finest specialty store, whether it be Italian, Indian, Greek or African and get a bag of dried split fava beans. Trot home. Put the beans in a pot, cover with water add a little salt and set over a medium flame to boil. Watch the beans, stir the beans, be one with the favas. If they begin to stick, or look dry, add some more water. The cooking time should be about 30 minutes.

When the beans begin to break down, let them, don’t try to comfort them, allow them to go to pieces, in fact, pull out a whisk and encourage them! Turn off the heat, whip them, then add an ungodly amount of extra virgin Olive Oil (use the good stuff you’ve been saving for something special, this is that something) and whip it good. Season with salt and pepper and dig in.

Making piggy oinking noises is not only okay, it’s encouraged!

Under the name Foul (Fool or Ful) Moudaummas, this is the national dish of Egypt.

Served with chicory and called Fave e Cicoria, this is a popular dish in Italy.

As an appetizer in Greece, served with even more olive oil, it’s called Fava me Koukia.

Okay, I think you get the point. People all over the world love mashed, whipped or puréed favas. You should too!

And now, about this curry…

Cauliflower Curry & Whipped Fava Beans
Cauliflower Curry

prep time: about 30 minutes ~ cooking time: about 1 hour

  • Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Black Mustard Seeds
  • 10 fresh Curry Leaves
  • 3 dried Indian Hot Peppers
  • 1 Onion, finely sliced
  • 1 head Garlic, minced
  • 1 knob Ginger, minced (to your taste)
  • 10 Fenugreek seeds
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp Tomato Powder (or an equivalent amount of Tomato Paste)
  • 1 tsp Kalonji seeds
  • 5 Green Caradmom pods
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Water, about 3 cups total
  • 1 large or 2 small heads Cauliflower cut into large chunks
  • a few small Potatoes, preferably leftover and already cooked, cut into quarters (say, leftover Salt Potatoes perhaps?)
  • Frozen Paneer, thawed and cut into cubes, to taste
  • Frozen Peas, about 1 cup
  • Greek strained Yogurt, to taste

Place a large pot over a medium flame. Add a glug of olive oil. Add the mustard seeds and when the begin to pop, add the curry leaves and hot peppers. When the peppers begin to change color, add the onions and allow to cook slowly until just becoming golden.

Add the ginger and garlic and cook for a few minutes.

Add the fenugreek, cayenne, turmeric, tomato powder (if using paste, add it when you add the water in the next step), kalonji seeds and cardamom pods. Season with salt and pepper and allow to cook a few minutes until all the spices are incorporated.

Add two cups of water, the cauliflower and the potatoes (add the tomato paste now too if you’re using it). Bring to a boil and allow to cook partially covered until the cauliflower begins to break down (about 30-40 minutes). Stir often and add more water if needed, this is a wet, not a dry curry.

When the sauce has reached a nice thick, spoon-coating consistency add the paneer and peas and continue to cook until it is heated through. Turn off the heat and add the yogurt to taste (it will cut the heat, so if you like it spicy, feel free to omit it completely).

Serve over whipped fava beans with a dusting of fresh coriander. Enjoy!

9 Responses to “A Curry To Call My Own (And The World’s Easiest Side Dish)”

  1. Luisa December 12, 2006 at 9:53 am #

    Where do you buy your fresh curry leaves, pray tell?

  2. ann December 12, 2006 at 9:56 am #

    Why Kalustyan’s, of course! (Got the favas there too). All the way in the back in one of the refrigerators waaaay down on the bottom. Do NOT buy them at Dowel near Curry Row in the East Village. They don’t refrigerate theirs and they go bad.

  3. sher December 12, 2006 at 2:30 pm #

    Oh Ann!!! I’m dying here. I so admire that you made that. I adore curry–and fava beasn are one of my favorite foods (I’m growing some as a matter of fact). There is no store in my town that sells curry leaves. I’ve been thinking of growing it myself.

  4. Anne December 13, 2006 at 10:16 am #

    Yum! I just figured out what I’m making for dinner tonight. Looks like I’m heading to Kalustyans.

  5. Tiny Banquet Committee December 13, 2006 at 11:39 am #

    Both recipes look and sound *delicious* –
    Do you think it would be ok to use an immersion blender to smoosh the favas or should they be so soft that it wouldn’t make any sense to do that?

  6. ann December 13, 2006 at 1:08 pm #

    awh Sher, thanks! I dont know if this would work with fresh favas, but I totally bet you could grow curry leaves out on the West Coast! You guys really do live in a sort of Eden.

    Anne, always here to be of service ;-)

    TBC, you definitely won’t need an immersion blender, in fact, you might not need more than your spoon for this. The beans just completely break down and get all gooey and smooth, it’s really amazing!

  7. Julie December 16, 2006 at 12:54 pm #

    Hey, I’ve had that fava bean puree before — topped with rapini cooked with red pepper and garlic! So obviously the fava puree is versatile.

  8. ann December 16, 2006 at 5:43 pm #

    oh man, Julie, that sounds GOOD!!

    we’re planning on an experimental use for them tomorrow night… stay tuned for that! I’ve been in flu-world, so I’m really excited to get back in the kitchen!

  9. Ruth December 25, 2006 at 9:45 am #

    Hey! Ann,

    This looks delicious, if i muster up the energy after Xmas entertaining, will try it! I thought of you the other day when i made fish (black pomfret from the Bombay sea…) with coconut milk and plenty of spice. If you’re in a coconuty mood, as south Indians often are, lemme know and I’ll write you the recipe…The one gud part abt Bbay is the fisherwomen set up base a few minutes away from my home every morning…

    Merry Xmas and hope the New Yr’s less crazy at work!

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