When last we met, the menu was well-appropriated with low-carb, but often meat-ridden selections. The other major dietary contingent in my dinner party was vegetarian, and it was for these guests that I originally planned the meal around Indian curries.
I cooked two of my very favorite curries; both are also relatively easy to make. The first is a recipe I have developed over the course of a few years with much trial and error. It is a recipe for saag (Indian creamed spinach), and it makes no claims to authenticity, but it’s the closest I’ve come to capturing the flavor and texture of saags I’ve had in restaurants. The second is a quick korma recipe I found online many years ago. It was originally formulated to use as a sauce over baked chicken. I use it for any good curry medium, be it chicken, chickpeas, vegetables, paneer, etc. On this occasion, I wanted to make a double dose for the larger group (having leftovers never hurts!), and since I had one can of chickpeas and one brick of paneer already in my kitchen stores, I decided to use both.
1 lb. spinach
8 oz. other green vegetable (e.g. broccoli, mustard greens, collards, cabbage, peas, etc.)
1-2 tablespoons oil or butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
6 cloves of garlic (3 teaspoons minced)
2 inches fresh ginger root, minced; or 1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper or paprika
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon dried methi leaves (optional)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup cream, coconut milk or plain beaten yogurt
1/2 cup (or more to taste) fresh cilantro leaves, or a couple tablespoons of cilantro chutney
8 oz package of cream cheese
Combine all but the last ingredient in a food processor until well pureed; or, in the alternative, simmer all ingredients and then puree with an immersion blender. Cook until spinach is darker in color. Add cream cheese and cook until melted, whisking often. Consistency should be thick and not runny.
When I made it this last weekend, it turned out to be a little runnier than I usually like; I credit that to the fact that I used coconut milk instead of cream (no particular reason, just because I had a lot of coconut milk around). If going that route, you might want to leave extra cooking time to let the liquid steam off. I also used dried cilantro instead of fresh, since I didn’t have any on hand at Saundra’s house. I missed the fresh cilantro flavor, and so when I reheated some of the leftovers this week, I tried mixing in some store-bought cilantro (coriander) chutney, and it effectively brought in some of that flavor I know and love.
CHANA PANEER KORMA
1 (8oz) brick of paneer, cubed
1 can chickpeas
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup cream or plain beaten yogurt
2 cloves garlic (1 teaspoon minced)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper or paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons blanched almonds or other shelled nuts
1 tablespoon mango chutney
Sauté the onion in the melted butter. Meanwhile, combine all remaining ingredients (except chickpeas and paneer) in a food processor until smooth; or in the alternative add these ingredients to the pan, simmer a minute, and then puree with an immersion blender. Add the chickpeas and paneer and reduce heat. Heat until cooked through and thickened. If sauce gets too thick, add more cream (or milk) or yogurt, or even water if you feel like you’ve added enough cream already.
This dish turned out well enough last weekend, as the recipe is fairly predictable. The only difference was that I used a new Garam Masala, and as I’ve discovered, not all garam masalas are created equal. As a traditional spice mix, garam masala has some inherent traditional properties to distinguish it from other spice mixes, such as Chaat Masala, Madras Curry Powder or Bafat Masala, but otherwise, recipes differ. This blend had a bit too much… something. Clove, perhaps? Anise? Nothing terrible, but just not exactly what I expected. For the sake of regularity, here is my own garam masala recipe, based on garam masalas I have enjoyed in the past:
3 tablespoons powdered coriander seed
2 tablespoons powdered cumin
1 tablespoon powdered cardamom
1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon powdered cloves
Combine all ingredients. Store in a spice jar and use in recipes where garam masala is called for.