Monday, October 3, 2011

Vegan MoFo, Day 3: Indian Food

   Indian food! Oh man. Veganism expanded my culinary horizons in a lot of ways, but the biggest of those was introducing me to food from other countries, and of those, Indian food might be my favorite. And why not? It's super-easy to find recipes for curries, samosas and other dishes that rely on lentils and beans for protein, rather than having to sub in familiar but expensive faux meats or scary (to a brand new vegan) tofu, tempeh or seitan. And there's nothing quite like a kitchen that smells like curry powder and garam masala, especially after a steady diet of Boca burgers and french fries.
   I do have one mildly embarrassing confession: I am the hugest wimp about spicy. I've gotten better about it with time, but I just don't understand the appeal of feeling like your tongue is on fire. This is an issue with Indian food, obviously; it's nothing if not spicy. Usually I reduce the amount of chili peppers, red pepper flakes or what have you in a recipe and up other spices like cumin and ginger, but with this recipe I decided to grow up a little and deal with it.
   Oh wow.

   First off, she's not kidding: Isa Moskowitz's Cashew Vegetable Korma makes an absolute fork-ton of food. I used an 8.5 quart stock pot to make mine and it was filled right up to the top. Luckily this is even more delicious the next day and my friends like curry, but I'll still halve the recipe next time.

   Pakoras! These are spinach and a little less free-form than they should be, but they were yummy. I got a frying thermometer for my birthday, and I don't know how I lived without one for twenty-one years. Having pakoras available at pretty much all times is worth getting a frying thermometer, if you don't have one already.
   And one more curry, for which I unfortunately don't have a photo. I made it tonight and I'm eating it right now, but my camera's dead and, well, curry isn't really all that pretty to look at. It sure is tasty though. This is my basic recipe using things I pretty much always have on hand. I love red lentils in curry because they dissolve and make a really nice creamy base for the curry. This is really versatile so go ahead and add peas or cauliflower or whatever you have around.

Red Lentil Curry

2 Tablespoons canola oil

1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger (I got this out of a little less than an inch long piece of ginger)
2 Tablespoons curry powder (if your curry is really strong you might need much less)
1/2 Tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus a little extra for the onions
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
pinch of red pepper flakes

4 cups vegetable broth, or half broth half water
3 medium yukon gold potatoes, chopped
10 oz baby carrots, halved lengthwise

1 1/2 cups red lentils

Heat the oil in a large-ish saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and saute for about ten minutes--they should give up some of their water and be soft and a bit translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for another minute, then the spices and saute for another thirty seconds or so. Add the vegetable broth and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to make sure any bits of ginger, garlic or spice that are stuck to the bottom are scraped up. Add the potatoes and carrots, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about ten minutes. Add the lentils and stir well to make sure they're evenly incorporated, and simmer for about half an hour, until they're soft and mushy. Serve with whatever kind of rice you have on hand.

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