Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cauliflower curry

I once worked at Boehm's, a long-gone Madison restaurant, owned by an American woman who had been married to an English man, a Botany professor here at U, who originated a course called plants and man, in which one of the projects for the undergrads is to grow or locally procure foods for a meal and cook it, or bake bread, or angel food cake. While married they traveled a lot, and the food at the restaurant was spicey food from everywhere: Africa, India, Central America. I learned how to make fresh pasta, doro wat and injera, and curries, among other things, there. Curries at Boehm's started with a curry paste, made from onions, ginger and garlic, cooked until soft and brown in clarified butter, and pureed. We then added spices, some kind of liquid - cream, broth, fruit juice, combos of all three - to make the sauce, and then added the meat or vegetables to be curried.

The curry I made last night was based on an oldie of Mollie Katzen's, from the (revised edition) Moosewood Cookbook, and it started with a paste of nuts and spices:

Cauliflower Curry
2 small potatoes

1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 TBLS yellow mustard seeds
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
a one-inch slice of fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews
1 tsp. tumeric
2 TBLS cumin seeds, toasted (toast in a dry skillet, over medium heat)
2 TBLS sesame seeds
1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/2 cup water

2 TBLS vegetable oil
3/4 cup chopped shallots
1/2 a green cabbage, sliced into thin strips
3 small parsnips, peeled cored and sliced
1 small cauliflower, broken into flowets
juice of half a lemon

Boil the potatoes in salted water until just barely tender. Drain, cool, peel, and cut into bite-size chunks.

Place the coconut, mustard seeds, garlic, ginger, cashews, tumeric, cumin seeds, sesame seeds, and cayenne in the jar of a blender. Add the water, and whir until you have a fairly smooth paste, adding more water as necessary. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven and large, deep skillet, and add the shallots, and salt to taste. Stir and cook until softened, then add the cabbage, parsnips, and cauliflower. Stir to combine, and cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender. Add the spice paste, potatoes, and enough water to make a smooth sauce, stir well, cover, and cook for another 10 - 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking, and adding water as necessary. Serve over rice, with chutney and plain yogurt. (I added peas and raisons to the rice.)

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