Thai Pumpkin Curry

The end of the year is always a crazy time for me in life and work, and I usually don’t have much time to blog my recipes or other endeavors, but it doesn’t mean I stop doing and cooking things I want to write about, just that I don’t have enough time to document them. More to come as I play catch up for the last few months, but luckily I did jot down one particularly successful recipe I tried last month.

I find that I like pumpkin a lot, just not in pies. As with sweet potatoes, I’m a bigger fan of savory dishes than sweet, so when pumpkin is readily available in the autumn months, I usually stock up on cans of it to keep me into the next year. While this curry recipe is not exactly “from scratch,” it could be if you used homemade curry paste, but I was feeling lazy and happened to have some store-bought paste in my cupboard. I used a combination of chicken and vegetables because I was short of meat, and it turned out quite tasty.

SARAH’S PUMPKIN CURRY

2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion
2 hot green chilis, diced (optional)
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 1/2-2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
1 (15oz) can pumpkin
1 (15oz) can coconut milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 lbs chicken, beef, other meat, and/or vegetables
3 tablespoons sour cream
fresh cilantro, for garnish

Saute the onions, chilis, and garlic until onions are softened. Add the ginger and curry paste (and a little water as needed) and saute another 5-10 minutes. Add the pumpkin, coconut milk and brown sugar. Stir until combined or use an immersion blender to puree, if desired.

Add the meat or vegetables, and stew until they reach desired tenderness. If using both, then make sure the meat is already well-cooked before adding the vegetables. Stir in the sour cream; heat through. Serve with bread or rice and garnish with cilantro leaves.

Mesir Wat, or Ethiopian Red Lentils

For all of my zeal over curry cookery, it is perhaps strange that I had never attempted a lentil dish. Indian cuisine has no shortage of dals (i.e. curry-like amalgams of pulses cooked with spices), but I have never found myself especially excited when I’ve tried them on the buffet. It is surprising, when I consider how much I love black beans and hummus and other such legume-centric foods. Sabrina mentioned recently that whenever she eats a dal on the India Buffet, she thinks that she ought to try making lentils, and I recently had some lentils at Abay that I enjoyed… though, to be fair, I enjoy pretty much everything I eat at Abay.

Two Sundays ago, I was making a rehash of the African Peanut Curry I posted recently, and with all this talk of lentils fresh in my mind, I couldn’t help thinking that a lentil dish would make a good compliment, being easy and cheap, and it would give me an opportunity to attempt making a more complex berbere (see previous link for more discussion of berbere and its complications).

I had to do a bit of grocery shopping to get started, and so a brief excursion to the Giant Eagle ensued. I seemed to recall a sector of one aisle in the Giant Eagle with bags upon bags of different dried beans and lentils; I had never really shopped there myself, as I prefer to get my garbanzos and other beans canned, yet surely, I thought, many varieties of lentil would await me there. Well, it turned out they had only two varieties of lentil, regular brown and split green. But all the recipes I’d found for Mesir Wat called for red lentils? Surely such a thing must be had at the Giant Eagle? Looking further in the imported foods aisle, I was also surprised not to find red lentils among the Goya products, but lo and behold, there was a bag of red lentils further down the aisle among the Middle Eastern imports. $3.75. That price might not seem terrible on its own, but considering that the same amount of brown lentils (a 1 pound bag) was only a dollar and change, paying upwards of four bucks for red lentils seemed like overkill. Surely, using brown lentils wouldn’t make that much difference, right?

I went home, looked up some berbere recipes and got to work. I will readily admit that my efforts toward a more complex berbere were not as conscientious as they could have been that day. Nearly every recipe I found for berbere that included more than four or five ingredients (I believe a simpler berbere also has its utility in my spice cabinet) listed fenugreek among the seasonings. I am not a huge fan of fenugreek seed; I do have it in my vast spice collection, but I find it a little too pungent and it does not seem to me to add much in terms of pleasant flavor to dishes where I’ve used it. Methi leaves (the product of a sprouted fenugreek seed) on the other hand, I am more than willing to use and keep a stock of it specifically for my oft-made saag recipe, but I fail to see redeeming qualities in fenugreek seed. Still, I was willing to use it in my berbere for the sake of authenticity, but I couldn’t find it easily (my spice collection is vast and usually in an advanced state of disorganization), and so in a “screw it” moment decided to move forward through the recipe without it. Further down the list of berbere spices, I ran into another roadblock when I also couldn’t find my nutmeg and realized that I don’t have allspice and never did. I substituted mace and a big of pumpkin pie spice. Shrug? There was always a chance it might turn out to be the best berbere ever, right?

Well, it wasn’t the best ever. It wasn’t the worst either. My first attempt at Mesir Wat, using the brown lentils and the cobbled-together berbere was okay. I didn’t mind eating it, but it wasn’t a flavor combination I found myself anxious to make again. And yet, I did not want to give up on lentils; I knew that I had done a half-assed job of the recipe to begin with, so I took to the internet in search of greater authenticity.

One of the better resources I’ve found, oddly enough, for obtaining harder-to-find culinary items at lower prices is Amazon. My first aim was to find red lentils. There were quite a number of good choices, including one that works out to $1.73 a pound (i.e. the size of a standard grocery package), but I opted for a deal that had eight 1 lb. packages for about $18 (i.e. $2.25 a pound), as I didn’t want to commit to an enormous supply of red lentils until I saw if I would actually use them.

Secondly, I did a search for berbere. If Sabrina couldn’t come up with a good berbere on her own, and I couldn’t come up with a good berbere on my own, maybe it was time to use a pre-packaged mix. I have come to favor making my own spice mixes for a variety of reasons. It ensures consistency within my kitchen. I know exactly what’s in my recipes and I know it will come out the same every time. I don’t have to worry that the spice mix I’m using becomes discontinued or is dropped by available vendors, then I’m forced to find a different mix, and inevitably my recipes come out differently. This is why I make my own garam masala; every time I try to use a different version of this spice mix, it seems like there’s always something in it I don’t like or expect. One I tried had way too much hing, another was much too heavy on cloves and anise.

Berbere seemed a promising exception, however, as we were suffering from the opposite problem. The berbere mixes we managed to come up with seemed to be lacking important flavors that we could not uncover. For all its mystery, a pre-packaged mix might be just what we needed. In looking for a berbere online, I wanted something relatively inexpensive, but also something in a smaller package; just in case the berbere had a large proportion of some spice I found particularly offensive, I didn’t want to have to commit to buying it in bulk. I was lucky enough to find a 2 oz shaker of Ajika Berbere for $2.72 (unfortunately, it has since jumped in price, only a week later, which is the great downside of Amazon, and one of the reasons I was hesitant to use a pre-packaged spice mix in the first place).

Armed with two remedies to my last attempt at Mesir Wat, I was ready to try again. Here is the recipe I used:

MESIR WAT

Mesir Wat1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 teaspoons garlic, minced
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or bacon fat
3 tablespoons bebere seasoning
2 cups red lentils
2 cups beef stock, or veggie stock
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
extra water, as needed

Saute the onions and garlic in the fat until onions are softened. If you don’t save bacon fat to keep on hand, simply cut up some bacon into small pieces and fry it up and leave the bacon in pan. The presence of bacon only makes things taste better, right? Add berbere and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes, adding about 1/4 cup water as needed to keep contents of skillet or pan from getting too dried out and burning. Add lentils, stock and tomato paste. Simmer covered on low until the lentils are cooked and liquid is absorbed. Additional water can be added if lentils need to cook longer to desired doneness. Serve with rice and/or flat bread.

Twenty minutes for simmering the spices did seem a little long to me; usually I abbreviate such instructions, but since my first attempt at this dish turned out underwhelming, I decided to follow the base recipe I was using more to the letter than I had before. Frying spices does change their flavor, usually by increasing intensity, so I was game to try it, and the recipe turned out very well, so I’m sticking with the 20 minute instruction.

The unfortunate thing is that I cannot stick with the berbere I found and bought on Amazon. I thought I had finally found a good, cheap, convenient spice mix for Ethiopian… but when I went online to find the link so I could include it in this blog, I found that the price of the 2 oz. bottle of berbere had jumped to $9.62. Really? Almost ten dollars for a spice they offered at three dollars only a week before? I understand that markets change and food prices increase or decrease depending on a number of factors, but the mystery of Amazon’s fast and dramatic price fluctuations eludes me. The spice mix might have been tasty, but it isn’t worth the absurdity of paying ten dollars for a tiny amount.

I am now back to my initial conundrum: Where to find a good berbere? Do I hazard to purchase another pre-packaged mix and risk either hating it… or liking it only to have the price or availability change? Do I go back to my own spice cabinet and try to assemble a worthy berbere on my own? Either way, it’s back to the drawing board with berbere!

Ethiopian Peanut Curry

After a recent visit to Abay, where I had the good luck to arrive on a day (for the second time) when chicken with peanut butter sauce was on their specials list, I found myself bit by the bug to attempt cooking some Ethiopian cuisine. My previous attempts to educate myself in Ethiopian cookery failed by virtue of the poor Ethiopian cookbook selection within the wider Carnegie Library borrowing system, and so I took to the internet in search of recipes. Chicken with peanut butter sauce was at the top of my list.

Ethiopian cuisine was fresh on my mind when Sabrina and I went to Tamarind’s Greentree buffet (keep your eyes peeled for a future blog on that experience) for lunch. Sabrina has already attempted delving into Ethiopian, but the persistent difficulty she reported was in creating a good berbere. For those who may not know, berbere is an Ethiopian spice mix, occupying a place in its cookery not unlike garam masala does in Indian cookery. That is to say, it is persistently mysterious, as seemingly everyone and every region does it differently, and yet it is ubiquitous as practically every recipe calls for it. Sabrina reported special difficulty making her own berbere because most of the recipes she found called for an inordinate proportion of paprika over other spices. Now, I’m a firm believer in the ethic that everything tastes better with paprika, but I believed Sabrina when she said that these recipes called for so much, that even such a mild, sweet spice overpowered most other flavors in the berbere. All in all, she found that her attempt to cook Ethiopian turned out edible, but no where near the flavors she had come to expect from Abay.

In the past, I have often made and enjoyed African peanut soup, which calls for no spices at all, let alone berbere, so I had confidence that I could find and make a peanut curry that would be tasty, whether or not it stood a chance against Abay’s chicken in peanut butter sauce. In my search, I found, as expected, many different variations on berbere, from spice mixes that were simple and straightforward, to mixes comprised of a laundry list of ingredients. After combing through a number of recipes for peanut chicken and berbere, I finally found one that looked intriguing and came with a relatively simple berbere recipe. Simple was definitely a selling point here, as I was looking more for a recipe that wouldn’t scare my parents (I mentioned in some recent recipe postings that I have been attempting to introduce my parents to recipes containing ginger, as it is purportedly of specific health benefit to my mother) than I was for a recipe that could stand up to Abay (two goals that might be mutually exclusive). Heeding Sabrina’s warning, I adjusted the proportions of the spice mix to be lighter on the paprika and heavier on the other spices than I originally found it.

SIMPLE BERBERE

2 tablespoons paprika (or hot red pepper)
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Toss all spices together in a plastic bag or sealed container. Store with your spices, enjoy in your recipes.

I mixed this simple berbere at home and took it over to my parents’ house to tackle the rest of the recipe.

AFRICAN PEANUT CURRY

3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 onions, chopped
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon berbere
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb chicken pieces, tofu, vegetables, etc.
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 oz. tomato paste
1/3-1/2 cup peanut butter
3-4 hard boiled eggs
extra water

Hard-boil the eggs and set aside.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan or large skillet. Saute the onions, garlic and ginger for a few minutes until onions are softened. Add berbere and pepper and cook at least five minutes longer, adding a splash of water if the ingredients in the pan get too dry. If using chicken or other meat, then add the chicken pieces, the stock and enough water (or additional stock) so that the meat is submerged. Extra liquid may be necessary for stewing, and because this recipe contains ground nuts, it will thicken up easily later on. Still don’t go crazy; we just need enough to stew the meat. Tomato paste can also be added at this stage. Cover and simmer long enough for the meat to reach desired doneness. Follow the same procedure if using fresh vegetables, but go easy on the extra liquid.

Add the peanut butter, and stir in until combined. Heat through; sometimes it takes a little heat for the peanut butter to get thoroughly stirred in. Add extra water if the sauce gets too thick. Cut the eggs into halves or quarters. Pour the curry into your serving dish and arrange the eggs on top. Serve with rice or flatbread or all on its own.

This recipe does not taste like Abay’s chicken with peanut butter sauce, but it was quite tasty in its own right, and was enjoyed by all three of us. I especially liked the use of hard-boiled eggs as a curry ingredient, as I’m frequently looking for low-cost, low-carb items on which to enjoy curry sauce (and meat unfortunately doesn’t fall into low-cost). I enjoyed this recipe so much that I made it again for myself the next day, this time using chopped cabbage instead of chicken, a combination that also turned out swimmingly. I also attempted a recipe for Mesir Wat, Ethopian lentils in a more complex berbere sauce, but the consequences of that recipe will have to be a topic for another day.

Curry Sauce Victory, plus Spinach Kofta

A few weeks ago I took my first foray into Kofta (i.e. Meatball) Curry. The meatballs I made turned out quite pleasing, but the curry sauce recipe I made to accompany them was disappointing. Somehow a recipe that looked to contain all manner of interesting flavors ended up underwhelming and bland.

I resolved to have another go at Kofta Curry, in particular the curry sauce. I contemplated what might have gone wrong in the sauce recipe I used last time, and how it might be fixed. I considered what makes other, similar tomato-based curries (such Tikka Masala or Makhani) that I know and love so tasty. I resolved to pool several curry recipes, including my Tikka Masala and Makhani recipes and a number of Kofta Curry recipes I found online, comparing and contrasting them, taking the common ingredients, adopting uncommon ingredients with special promise, and getting rid of ingredients or methods that appeared troublesome… all with the hope that the resulting recipe would embody all of the glorious flavor one could ever hope for in a Kofta Curry!

Well, at least I wanted it to be tastier than the recipe I tried two weeks ago. And in that goal, at least, I succeeded. While I don’t claim it is the pinnacle of all curry on Earth, it turns out to be a pretty darned good tomato curry with its own character, similar in some ways, but also distinct from the other types of curry recipes I consulted.

SARAH’S DEFINITIVE KOFTA CURRY SAUCE

Kofta Curry Sauce1 oz butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic (1 teaspoon minced)
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground red pepper or paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
1 can diced tomatoes
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
water, as needed
1/2 to 1 cup cream or beaten yogurt
cashews
cilantro

Saute the onion and garlic in the butter. Add spices and other ingredients as they simmer. After adding the tomatoes, a little water may be needed if the sauce is too thick. Depending on how long you simmer the sauce (i.e. if you’re going to use it to stew meat, or just keep it warm on the stove while cooking other things), you may need to add a little water as it cooks to keep it at that desired gravy-like consistency.

I’m a fan of smooth sauces, so I used my immersion blender to process this sauce; however if you prefer a chunkier sauce there is really no need to process it, as there are no whole spices in this recipe. Add the cream shortly before serving, and heat through. Serve with kofta meatballs or vegetable balls. Garnish with cashews and fresh cilantro.

The only adjustment I made to this recipe after trying it was that I added an option for less lemon juice. I used the full 2 tablespoons when I made this recipe; when I ate the sauce a second time as leftovers, I noticed it was just a tad acidic after sitting a day in the fridge. Probably adding additional cream would help to tame this acidity, but I may use only one tablespoon of lemon juice in the future.

One day soon, I hope to try this sauce with my previous Kofta Meatball recipe, but in the interest of keeping my repertoire varied, but this past weekend I decided to try a recipe for Spinach Kofta.

I spoke in my afore-referenced blog about different varieties of kofta. Among the Malai (i.e. vegetable) koftas, there seems to be quite a lot of variation from one recipe to another in terms of what vegetables are used. Sometimes the variance is minor, sometimes two recipes will use different vegetables altogether.

I decided to start with a recipe for spinach kofta, as it looked easy enough to make with things I already had around the house. As the recipe called for mashed potatoes, rather than chopped potatoes, I knew I could use my favorite potato substitute, canned yams.

Kofta Close-UpSARAH’S SPINACH & YAM KOFTAS

1 (29oz) or 2 (16oz) can(s) of yams, thoroughly rinsed and drained
1/2 lb. frozen spinach (i.e. half a 1 lb. bag), thawed
2 green chilis, diced
2 tablespoons cottage cheese (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon paprika or cayenne
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 egg
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
corn flour or besan (chickpea) flour
oil

Mash the yams in a bowl with the spinach. Mix in the remaining ingredients up to and including the breadcrumbs. Form golf-sized balls (add more breadcrumbs if the mixture is too moist). Roll the balls in corn flour.

Heat oil in a small skillet or deep fryer. Fry the kofta balls, drain on a towel, serve with my Definitive Kofta Curry Sauce.

A few notes on this recipe. I indicate that the cottage cheese is optional, not because I think that one would want to omit it for any particular reason, but rather because I accidentally left it out when making my kofta balls this weekend (in fact, now I’m stuck with an enormous tub of cottage cheese and nothing to do with it). They were tasty enough without it, but cheese can only make them better, right?

Finally, a note on frying. When a cooking method akin to deep frying is called for, as in this recipe, I use a modified shallow fry. Deep frying can be such a waste of oil that I try to avoid it. For these koftas, I used my smallest skillet filled with about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of oil (i.e. about half the diameter of the kofta balls). I let the koftas fry a half at a time, rolling them around until they got done on all sides.

Amazingly Delicious Korma with Mango

I forget how wonderful this korma recipe is when I don’t make it for awhile. I should probably preface any further remarks about this recipe by saying that I make no claims of authenticity with this recipe; in fact, I have never seen a curry like this one on any Indian restaurant menu. This recipe is designed to be easy and tasty and whether anyone outside of Western culture would touch it with a ten foot pole, I couldn’t tell you.

As with most of my curry recipes, I treat this one as a sauce that can be used to cook whatever items (animal, vegetable… maybe not mineral…) of sustenance one desires. I have make this recipe with chickpeas and with mixed vegetables, and I suspect it would be quite tasty with chicken or seafood. I made this recipe two weekends ago and I was so happy with it that I’m making it again this weekend.

Delicious Mango KormaSARAH’S AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS BUT NOT AUTHENTIC KORMA

1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup cream
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 to 2 teaspoons hot red pepper or paprika
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 cup blanched almonds or cashew pieces
2 tablespoons mango chutney
1 lb. chicken, seafood, tofu, chickpeas, mixed vegetables, etc.

Sauté the onion in the melted butter. Combine all remaining ingredients in the pan and simmer until nuts are softened. Process smooth with an immersion blender (or, in the alternative, process smooth in a food processor before adding to the pan). Add the meat or vegetables and reduce heat. If sauce gets too thick, add a bit of water to achieve a more curry-like consistency. Cook until meat and vegetables reach desired doneness.

Kofta Curry

I’ve been in something of a recipe rut over this past winter. I couldn’t exactly say why, only that I’ve been uninspired to try new recipes, or even to root through my tried-and-true recipes to resurrect old favorites in the interest of keeping variety in my repertoire. But after a not-so-long, not-so-cold winter of culinary ennui, I have been struck by the urge to cook adventurously again.

And so, I plan to sift through old favorites to post on this blog, as well as to post new recipes as I slake my desire for uncharted culinary horizons. Overblown enough for you? I have a rough goal of trying/posting a new recipes every weekend, or so… though, life happens, so I’m not writing it in stone… only, I suppose, in HTML.

Bumping around recently on Food.com, I found myself–following a confluence of otherwise unrelated link click-age–intrigued by the concept of a Kofta, or Meatball, curry. Now, “kofta” needn’t mean a meat dish by necessity. I once much enjoyed a Malai Kofta at a Taste of India buffet, and in looking up recipes for such confirmed my memory that it was in fact a non-meat “meatball.” Being unfamiliar with most languages outside Eastern Europe, I could not begin to speculate on the finer nuances of the word “kofta,” but I gather it has a somewhat broader meaning than “meatball” does in American English.

Still and all, it would appear that an otherwise un-linguistically-modified “Kofta Curry” would imply meatballs in curry sauce. I hope to explore non-meat koftas at a later time, but in the meantime meatballs seem like an awesome nucleus for curry.

Why do meatballs seem so awesome? Well, I’m always looking for new, cheap and low-carb item to be the crux of curries. I find it often expensive and a bother to keep larger pieces of meat, i.e. chicken breasts, beef steaks, pork loins, etc., stocked regularly at my abode, but vegetables are easy, as are legumes of the ilk of garbanzo beans, and canned fish like salmon or tuna. While I don’t regularly keep ground meat at my apartment, I can’t deny the appeal of a meatball, as the meat is cheap to purchase and interesting things are bound to come of it (since ground meat alone is pretty boring).

On the other hand, I’ve never been especially intrigued by the family of “keema” or loose ground meat curries. But there’s just something about a meatball. Meatballs are one of the few Italian foods I gravitate toward, and so a curry-deserving version of the meatball concept was undeniably appealing.

Without belaboring the point further, I give you my first attempt at kofta curry, starting, of course, with the kofta.

SARAH’S KOFTA

1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teapsoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons diced onion
1 green chili, diced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
1 egg
1/8 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 lb. ground meat, i.e. beef, turkey, etc.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, except meat, until well combined. Add meat and process to desired fineness. It appears that kofta recipes tend to favor the more finely ground meats, so don’t be shy about pulverizing it.

Form the meat into roughly golf-sized balls and place in a lightly oiled ceramic or glass pan to bake for about 45 to 1 hour at 300. I would recommend baking until the outside of the meatball is browned and a little crispy.

Having baked the kofta, we need a curry sauce to complement it. I perused a number of kofta curry sauces and formulated a rough consensus of common and appealing ingredients:

SARAH’S KOFTA CURRY SAUCE

vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon red pepper or paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoons ground almonds
1 (15oz) can diced tomatoes in liquid
2 curry leaves or bay leaves
2 tablespoons cream or yogurt
cilantro leaves

Combine everything up to and including the tomatoes in a saucepan or a food processor. If you have an immersion blender, you can saute the ingredients awhile in a saucepan, until the almonds soften, and then pureed them with the blender. Otherwise, combine the ingredients in a food processor first, and then heat in a saucepan. Once pureed, by either method, the curry or bay leaves can be added. Stew awhile longer and then add the cream shortly prior to serving. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

When all was said and done, I was pleased with my kofta, but unenthusiastic about the sauce. I found myself wishing for a sauce that tasted more like a tikka masala or “butter chicken” type sauce. As it was, it seemed to me like the tomatoes and the almonds sort of cancelled each other out, flavor-wise. I went back and reviewed further recipes for kofta curries, and the use both tomatoes and nuts seems pretty standard. Perhaps in the future, I will try using the nuts as a garnish, rather than mixing them in, korma-style, in effort to preserve the tangy-ness of the tomatoes. Then again, maybe I’ll just make tikka masala sauce, instead.

Massaman Curry – Potato Curry for St. Patrick’s Day

I’ve been tinkering with this recipe for awhile. Sarah originally concocted a massaman curry one night with a little assistance from me and some taste testing by Ted and Roger. (You can read her blog, and find her recipe, here: http://arwz.com/ssblog/2012/01/15/the-great-no-paste-thai-curry-experiment) The idea was to develop no-paste curry recipes, curries one could just throw together the night-of without having to worry about making an elaborate paste beforehand. Following up on this project was crucial to me because, as I’ve mentioned before, I love curry, and am increasingly becoming too poor to go out to eat as often as I’d like to to eat it.

I liked Sarah’s massaman curry – if you look at her recipe, you’ll see that our versions aren’t too terribly dissimilar – but it just wasn’t … right to me. So I took her recipe and began to tinker. Luckily, massaman curry is Ted’s favorite Thai dish, so he didn’t mind me making it over and over again. Besides my overall urge to get the recipe just to my liking, I also wanted to get another recipe together to share on my friend Mark’s excellent cooking blog, http://cookinwluv.blogspot.com/ – he has a feature there, called Made with Love Mondays, that asks for recipes made from scratch. And this week seemed particularly appropriate: he had asked for Irish recipes, in honor of St. Patrick’s day, and I thought, “Hell, potato curry – what’s more Irish than that?” Ahem.

So without further ado, here is my final No-Paste Thai Massaman Curry recipe. I particularly like this recipe because it requires no fresh ingredients other than what I put into the curry sauce. By this I mean, if I stop at the store to pick up potatoes, a bell pepper, and some chicken thighs on the way home, everything else is something that’s almost guaranteed to be in my house already as a staple.

You’ll need:
Onion, garlic, ginger, dried red peppers, cooking oil, ground galangal, ground cloves, ground cinnamon, ground cardamom, ground nutmeg, whole coconut milk, fish sauce, brown sugar, tamarind paste, ground peanuts (NOT peanut butter), filtered water or broth (chicken or vegetable), potatoes, protein, vegetables, and basmati rice. (I would also advise fresh cilantro, for garnish.)

Step One: In a food processer, process together the following ingredients. (I don’t have an immersion blender, and the transferring of a hot liquid from pot to food processer and back again is too perilous for me, so therefore I do the food processing in advance. But if you don’t even have a food processer, that’s OK, too – just mince the onion and ginger and garlic really finely.)

1 onion
3-4 garlic cloves
2 tbl fresh ginger (If you don’t have fresh ginger around, use 1 tbl of ground ginger in Step Three)
Dried red chilies (I use sanaam chilies, which are small and hot – I use three of them, but this is a matter of taste and pepper quality, so adjust according to your preferences)

The pureed onion, ginger, garlic, and peppers.

Step Two: Sauté this puree in 1-2 tbl of neutral-tasting oil (like canola) until the liquid cooks off.

Step Three: Add to the pan the following spices.

1 tsp dried galangal (A must for at-home Thai cooks – they have it at Penzey’s)
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom
Pinch of nutmeg

I always use generous measurements, so more like, “heaping ½ tsp”, etc. Saute for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.

Spices!

Step Four: Add the following to your spicy paste.

1 can of whole coconut milk
6-10 dashes of fish sauce
2 tbl brown sugar
1 tbl tamarind paste
2 tbl ground peanuts (NOT peanut butter – I mean the ground nut paste you can get out of the machine at Whole Foods. If you can’t get this, just crush up some roasted, unsalted peanuts as finely as you can, about 3 tbl worth, and add those.)
1-2 cups filtered water or broth (I use veggie broth, personally)

… plus bite-sized potato chunks and protein. Two things about the potatoes: one, definitely cut them small – for whatever reason, cooking them in this mixture takes forever, MUCH longer than just simmering a potato. If you use large chunks, be prepared to wait upwards of an hour and a half before they’re tender. Two, though I usually leave the peel on my potatoes for the nutrients and fiber it provides, you really should peel your potatoes for this recipe, so that they can absorb as much of the delicious curry sauce as possible; potato flavor sponges, that’s what they are. Also, as to protein, I favor chicken thighs, but that’s your call.

NOT PEANUT BUTTER.

Step Five: Simmer 30-45 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

Step Six: Add veggies. I like to use chunks of red, yellow, and/or orange bell pepper, but I also think cauliflower would work well in this dish – you’d be better off with a vegetable on the neutral-to-sweet side, I think. Simmer 10-15 minutes.

Step Six: Serve over basmati rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if you’ve got it.

Sabrina's Massaman Curry

ETA: thanks to @javelinwarrior for posting this recipe on his blog!
JWsMadeWLuvMondays

The Road to Conquering Curry

I work as a university instructor, which means I’m a contract employee: my workload varies from term to term, and so, therefore, does my paycheck. Last term I was teaching four classes, which meant we had no money problems, but it also meant that I was constantly stressed out and we ate take-out every night we didn’t go to a restaurant for dinner – hardly ideal. This term I’m teaching three classes, which means a few money problems, but significantly better mental health, homecooked meals, and a clean house. I think the latter is preferable to the former overall.

The Initial Food Processing ... Process

At the start of the year, for the sake of thrift and with an eye towards improved health, I vowed that we would eat in at least five nights per week. Once a week I gin my will power up to go to the grocery store and buy really healthy stuff – that way, later in the week, when I definitely don’t have any will power and would totally eat Doritos for dinner, that’s just not an option, ‘cause the food budget’s already been spent on vegetables. So far, we’ve enjoyed a lot of enforced, not-necessarily-wholly-voluntary success in the Thrift and Health categories.

Here’s the trouble, though: besides just getting sick and tired of staying in (which so far there’s no solution for), I’m getting sick and tired of eating the stuff I know how to make. Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m actually a pretty good cook, and with the exception of my precious canned tomatoes, it’s all basically from scratch, mostly because 1) processed food is gross, and 2) it’s also more expensive per ounce usually – seriously, figure out the cost-per of a big pot of homemade soup vs. a can of soup. (Of course, homecooking is a luxury for people who have time, and I realize that; but thanks to my reduced workload this term, I’m blessed with the time to cook.) But what I’m used to cooking is basically American/European stuff, like stews and shepherd’s pie and so forth, and Italian food, like lasagna and pasta sauces and cacciatore. Which is all tasty, but … it’s not curry. I LOVE curry. Indian curry and Thai curry. Love. LOVE! But I don’t really know how to make it, and now, I can’t afford to go out for it all that often.

Sarah faced a similar problem, and solved it by learning to make curries on her own. This seemed a wise course, and unlike baking, cooking doesn’t intimidate me – as I said, it’s something I generally regard myself as being pretty good at. So I figured hell, I’ll just follow Sarah’s lead.

The Sauce Begins to Simmer

About a month ago, Sarah invited me over (along with Ted and Roger to taste test) for a night of Thai curries. She got a big book o’ Thai cooking out of the library and proceeded to, with my interpretive assistance, produce three no-paste Thai curries. (The pastelessness was a matter of working-woman efficiency: Sarah doesn’t have time to waste after a full day of professional dancing!) All three of the curries turned out really good! Not quite Pusadee’s Garden-grade, but very tasty. You can see Sarah’s results in this blog: http://arwz.com/ssblog/2012/01/15/the-great-no-paste-thai-curry-experiment

So, having actually been there for the preparation of these curries, I thought, surely, working off of Sarah’s recipes, I could recreate one of them on my own. So two weeks ago, I set about to make my own …

“SARAH’S NO-PASTE GREEN CURRY

1 or 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped or diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon ground ginger (or more to taste)
2 green chilies, diced
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground galangal
zest of 1/2 lemon peel, shredded finely
zest of one lime peel, shredded finely
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon brown sugar
several dashes of fish sauce
1 (13-15 oz) can coconut milk
your choice of meat cubed, mixed vegetables or other protein

Sauté onion, garlic, ginger and chilies in vegetable oil for a few minutes. Add coriander, cumin, galangal, lemon zest, lime zest, cilantro and basil. Stir in brown sugar, fish sauce and coconut milk. At this point, depending on how finely you chopped the fresh herbs and chilies, you may want to process this sauce to a smoother consistency. I am a whole-hearted devotee of the immersion blender, as it will accomplish most such tasks in the kitchen without the necessity of dirtying the food processor bowl in addition to the cooking pot. If, however, you are one of the unfortunate class of Americans who do not own an immersion blender, you can always just transfer your sauce to a food processor. If you prefer to be proactive about it, you can take all the ingredients up to and including the coconut milk, combine them in your food processor, and then heat in the saucepan.

Once sauce is desired smoothness, add the meat, if using. If using a combination of meat and vegetables, like we did, the meat should be added first, cooked until tender, and then vegetables should be added and they can simmer together until the vegetables are done. I prefer curry meat to be so tender it easily falls apart under my fork, so there is no such thing for me as meat that is too well stewed.”

You Go to War with the Vegetables You Have

I followed the recipe more or less exactly, except that I used a teaspoon of dried lemongrass instead of the lemon rind. And because I don’t have an immersion blender, I had to sauté, then transfer to my food processor, then transfer back for further simmering, which was perilous and kind of a pain in the ass.

The final result was lackluster at best. I mean, it wasn’t BAD, it just wasn’t … good.

But I was determined to keep at it, and vowed to try again. Mark’s Made With Love Mondays gave me the impetus to attack the problem this week.

To begin with, I adjusted my technique to compensate for my lack of an immersion blender; rather than once again undertake the perilous hot-liquid double-transfer maneuver, I started by pureeing in my food processor:

1 chopped onion
4 large crushed garlic cloves
2 chopped jalapeno peppers, seeded and deveined
a large handful of fresh cilantro (probably about 1 cup)
about 1/3 of a cup of fresh basil leaves
the zested rind of 1½ limes, ½ a lemon, and the juice of 1 lime

As you can see, I was already making measurement adjustments. I pureed all of that into a wet paste, and put it into a heavy pot with about two tablespoonfuls of canola oil and four chicken thighs. I added:

1 heaping tablespoon of ground ginger
½ teaspoon of cumin
½ teaspoon of coriander
1 heaping teaspoon of ground galangal
1 teaspoon of dried lemongrass
1 tablespoonful of brown sugar
about 6 dashes of fish sauce
1 can of whole coconut milk

(If Mark thinks canned coconut milk doesn’t count as “from scratch” he can bite me, cause where the hell am I gonna get a coconut in Pittsburgh? Ahem.)

I simmered all of this for an hour, added about two cups of chopped up cabbage, and simmered for another 15 minutes. Then I put a cup of jasmine rice on to cook, added about half a cup of chopped carrots and a diced red pepper, and simmered for another 20 minutes until the rice was done. (Like Sarah, I regard the question of “what to put in the curry sauce” to be purely a matter of desire and/or necessity: I happened to have cabbage because I like cabbage, and so the cabbage was curried.)

It's not pretty, but it was pretty good.

This new batch of green curry was, flavor-wise, a marked improvement. Increasing the dose of the spices and adding the extra citrus zests seemed to help immensely. It could have been a little hotter, but that’s a matter of preference anyway, and I think next time just using serrano instead of jalapeno peppers will do the trick. The one thing that still needs improving is the creaminess – it just wasn’t creamy the way restaurant Thai curries are. I may need to use more canned coconut milk; but I think a better solution might be a can of coconut milk plus some coconut cream if I can find it. Or I could follow the lead of the cheap Thai place I used to eat at when I worked downtown, and just throw some heavy cream in at the end – not exactly authentic, but it got the job done.

Anyway, the point is, it wasn’t necessarily a victory, but it wasn’t a fail, either. And it was healthy and from scratch and tasty enough that Ted and I both had seconds.

JWsMadeWLuvMondays

The Great No-Paste Thai Curry Experiment

As a fan of most varieties of curry, those belonging to the oeuvre of Thai cuisine certainly have not escaped my culinary notice. The light and tangy flavors of citrus, coconut and cilantro make Thai curries uniquely delicious. Unfortunately, traditional Thai cooking methods make the cooking of Thai curries uniquely inconvenient.

The endeavor of getting into any kind of curry cookery for the Western hobby chef involves a “collection period” of stocking up on the specific, previously-exotic ingredients commonly involved in curry recipes (I say “previously” because things like turmeric, methi and tamarind are now staples of my spice cabinet). For Indian curries, I have such a vast collection of spices and seasonings on hand, now, that I can simply go down a list of recipe ingredients and toss in what I need as easily as I toss basil, oregano and parsley into a marinara sauce.

The problem with Thai curries is that most recipes rely on a tradition of curry paste making. The result is that, in nearly all Thai recipe books I have found, it becomes necessary first to make a quantity of a particular Thai curry paste, only a portion of which will be used in the recipe. This strategy certainly seems like a good idea for those chefs who make Thai curries with any sort of frequency, but for a hobby chef who wants to experiment with different curries (thus requiring different pastes), the workload of making all the pastes ahead of time leads to my easily talking myself out of making Thai curries.

Massaman CurryAuthentic cooking methods are all well and good for people who prize them and relish in the process, but if a particular cooking method becomes a roadblock for a busy professional, I’m all in favor of eschewing authenticity for convenience. In other words, if the trouble of sticking to authenticity is going to prevent you from making it at all, what’s the point? However, when approaching Thai curry, I didn’t want to eschew authenticity so far as to use store-bought pastes. I have no problem collecting the ingredients, I just wanted to use recipes for Thai curry with the same ease as I use recipes for Indian curry: go down a list of ingredients and toss them in.

And so, I resolved that I would take my favorite Thai cookbook and resolve the paste and curry recipes into one. After all, many of the ingredients were in both the paste and the curry, why couldn’t I just add them in one by one?

I enlisted Sabrina to come over and help as both my chronicler and my sounding board as I went down the list of ingredients for each curry and its corresponding paste in effort to make each curry without the extra step of formulating the paste ahead of time. Sabrina, being more of a traditionalist in terms of cookery, was dubious about my efforts, but game to come along for the ride.

It should also be noted that I also make a few specific ingredient substitutions in the interest of convenience and freshness. Keeping kaffir lime leaves and fresh lemongrass on hand is not the easiest (or cheapest) thing for a Western city girl to do, so I prefer to substitute lime and lemon zest to create a fresh flavor, rather than resorting to dried versions of the original ingredients.

The first recipe we tackled was for Massaman curry, which we decided would contain chicken only. Sabrina found the end result to be a bit too lemon-y, but I didn’t think one way or other about the lemon flavor, so I’m including a range for the lemon zest; I zested 1/2 a lemon, but feel free to use any smaller amount. In general, the particular ingredient amounts were decided upon off-the-cuff, so using a little more or a little less to taste is certainly within the reasonable realm of creative freedom.

SARAH’S NO-PASTE MASSAMAN CURRY

1 or 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped or diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon ground ginger (or more to taste)
2 dried red chilis, pulverized with a mortar and pestle
zest of 1/4 to 1/2 of a lemon peel, shredded finely (invest in an OXO Zester, and you won’t regret it)
1/2 teaspoon ground galangal (can’t find it at the store? Try Penzey’s)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 cardamom seeds, pulverized with a mortar and pestle
pinch of nutmeg or mace
several dashes of fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons tamarind paste (I use Tamicon)
1 (13-15 oz) can of coconut milk
beef, chicken, other meat cubed, mixed vegetables or other protein
peanuts

Saute onion, garlic and ginger in vegetable oil for a few minutes. Powder the red chilis and the cardamom seeds in a mortar and pestle (or substitute already powdered versions of each). Add the chilis, lemon zest, galangal, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg to the saucepan. Sprinkle in the fish sauce. Add the brown sugar and tamarind paste. Pour in the coconut milk. At this point, you have your curry sauce and meat can be added. If using meat, simmer covered for a few hours until meat reaches desired tenderness. If adding vegetables, cook them to desired tenderness in the sauce. Add peanuts right before serving.

A few of my guests did note the fact that traditional Massaman curry usually includes potatoes. I generally avoid potatoes in recipes because of the unabashed carbohydrate content they add. Cubed potatoes could, however, easily be added to this Massaman curry. One would simply need to contribute additional liquid (water or broth) to the curry as the potatoes inevitably absorbed the curry sauce during cooking.

Green CurryNext up we decided to try a green curry, which would contain both chicken and vegetables. I treat all of my curry recipes as sauces, which could be used over any meat, protein or vegetable, and so these Thai curries are no exception. As a result, I don’t specify exact amounts of meat or vegetables, and further I don’t specify exact vegetables. Chefs should simply put as much in as seems a logical ratio for the amount of sauce. This choice contains a certain amount of creative freedom, as some people may prefer their curries drier and some may prefer them more saucy. I leave it up to you. Again, this approach might not be the most authentic, but it is an easy and convenient way to cook. I put Sabrina in charge of procuring the meat and the vegetables for this one. She came up with boneless chicken thighs (as she and Ted do not eat beef) and fresh broccoli, bell peppers and carrots. I saved the broccoli for our third, all vegetable curry, but did contribute carrots and bell peppers to the green curry along with about a third of the package of chicken (two thirds went in the massaman curry).

SARAH’S NO-PASTE GREEN CURRY

1 or 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped or diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon ground ginger (or more to taste)
2 green chilis, diced
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground galangal
zest of 1/2 lemon peel, shredded finely
zest of one lime peel, shredded finely
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon brown sugar
several dashes of fish sauce
1 (13-15 oz) can coconut milk
your choice of meat cubed, mixed vegetables or other protein

Saute onion, garlic, ginger and chilis in vegetable oil for a few minutes. Add coriander, cumin, galangal, lemon zest, lime zest, cilantro and basil. Stir in brown sugar, fish sauce and coconut milk. At this point, depending on how finely you chopped the fresh herbs and chilis, you may want to process this sauce to a smoother consistency. I am a whole-hearted devotee of the immersion blender, as it will accomplish most such tasks in the kitchen without the necessity of dirtying the food processor bowl in addition to the cooking pot. If, however, you are one of the unfortunate class of Americans who do not own an immersion blender, you can always just transfer your sauce to a food processor. If you prefer to be proactive about it, you can take all the ingredients up to and including the coconut milk, combine them in your food processor, and then heat in the saucepan.

Once sauce is desired smoothness, add the meat, if using. If using a combination of meat and vegetables, like we did, the meat should be added first, cooked until tender, and then vegetables should be added and they can simmer together until the vegetables are done. I prefer curry meat to be so tender it easily falls apart under my fork, so there is no such thing for me as meat that is too well stewed.

The green curry turned out to be the standout favorite of the group; not only did it receive numerous accolades, but it was the only curry pan cleaned out by the end of dinner. A note on the green-ness of green curry. I’m ordinarily all in favor or using the dried versions of herbs and spices for the sake of convenience, but green curry is one of those dishes that absolutely requires fresh green herbs. If you don’t use fresh cilantro and basil, the curry will not turn out green and, I venture to say, will not turn out very tasty at all. The fresh herbs really make this dish; increasing proportions of these herbs to taste is never a bad idea.

Sabrina and I had the first two curries well on their way by the time Ted and Roger arrived for dinner, so we let the boys have a say in our final curry of the night. We had already planned for this one to be an all-vegetable curry (after all, the meat supply was exhausted at this point), but had not decided upon the sauce. In the interest of sticking with basic curry recipes, the success of which we could measure from the experience of having tasted versions of these curries before, I put all the more unusual and specialty Thai curry recipes in the book off limits. Our choices, then, were yellow curry, red curry or panang curry. The scales tipped to panang and we were off and running.

Panang CurryPanang curry is the one type of Thai curry I have made a few times before with good success. Because of this fact, I took the liberty of using my own approach to the recipe. In the past, I have basically treated panang as a red curry with peanut, and so instead of drawing from the peanut-based paste, I based this recipe off of the red curry paste, as well as the recipes for panang and for red curry.

SARAH’S NO-PASTE PANANG CURRY

1 or 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped or diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon ground ginger (or more to taste)
10 dried red chilis, pulverized in a mortar and pestle
zest of 1/4 lemon peel, shredded finely
zest of one lime peel, shredded finely
1/2 teaspoon galangal
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
several dashes of fish sauce
a few squirts of sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1 (13-15 oz) can of coconut milk
1/4 to 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
your choice of meat cubed, mixed vegetables or other protein
chopped cilantro, to garnish
peanuts, to garnish

Saute onion, garlic and ginger in vegetable oil for a few minutes. Powder the red chili with a mortar and pestle, or substitute already powdered chilis. Add lemon zest, lime zest, galangal, ground coriander, fish sauce, tamarind paste, coconut milk and peanut butter. Stir over medium fire until well combined.

Add the meat first, if using, and cook to desired tenderness. Add vegetables, if using, and simmer until tender. Garnish with cilantro and peanuts.

The panang curry went over well with all dinner guests. Sabrina mentioned that it was a little peanut-ty for her taste, but acknowledged that such level of peanut flavor was likely not contrary to the nature of the dish, but rather just not to her personal taste. As a result, I built some flexibility into the above recipe; feel free to include less peanut butter for a lighter peanut taste, or more for a thorough peanut taste.

All in all, the No-Paste Thai Curry Experiment was a success; Sabrina expressed congenial surprise that it all turned out so well when the endeavor seemed so free-form at the start. All three curries were much enjoyed with the jasmine rice and Bota Box Chardonnay brought by Sabrina.

One footnote to this curry meal—when everyone arrived and started drinking, we quickly realized that the not-so-imminent readiness of the curries might spell disaster with drinks on an empty stomach. To keep the booze from flooding so quickly to our heads we’d be drunk by dinner, I set out some mango cheese spread and crackers, left over from the holidays. The improvised appetizer was an unintentional hit! This spread doesn’t properly belong to any type of Asian cuisine, but it is curry-inspired, so for the sake of completeness, here it is:

SARAH’S MANGO CHEESE SPREAD

1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese
1/4 cup mango chutney
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted, blanched nuts (almonds, cashews, etc)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. Chill at least two hours before serving.

Tikka Masala

As popular Indian restaurant curries go, Tikka Masala may very well be king. It is rare to find an Indian buffet that does not feature some permutation of this dish, most often with chicken, though sometimes also with paneer or tofu or some vegetable.

The proper way to make Chicken Tikka Masala is to grill the chicken first on skewers after marinating and then mix into the sauce. This method is much too bothersome for me. I find it easier and much more flexible to use a modified recipe for Tikka Masala sauce, and simply add whatever meat or vegetable I wish.

Tikka MasalaSARAH’S TIKKA MASALA

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 lb. chicken or fried tofu, cauliflower, potato cubes, chick peas, mixed vegetables, etc.
2 inches minced ginger, or 1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, minced (optional)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground red pepper, or paprika for less heat
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 cups cream or yogurt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or more to taste)

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Saute the protein or vegetable in the butter with the ginger, garlic and jalapeno for a few minutes. Add lemon juice and remaining spices. Add tomato sauce. If cooking with chicken, stew for a few hours until chicken is tender, adding small amounts of water or milk if the stew gets too dry or sticky. Once cooked to desired tenderness, add cream or yogurt and cook until heated through. Garnish with cilantro and serve.