I could eat a bowl of curry every night. I would never get sick of it, because it can be made a hundred different ways. It’s a great vehicle for using up leftovers and it’s more comforting than a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Give some love to your curry and it will love you back; ice cream just leaves a gnawing, icy hole in your stomach. I used to make this in college when I was stressed before an exam- it can be a quick weeknight meal eaten over your Economics homework or it can be an hour-long love affair between a flame and a pot.
Curry is simply a dish of meat, beans, tofu, vegetables, etc., cooked in a well-spiced sauce and typically served with rice or bread. Everything comes together in one pot, united over the heat of a flame. Like a group of strangers bonding around a campfire, a variety of veggies and spices can achieve great things when seeking warmth together. Shower them with coconut milk or ease them into a skillet of tomato sauce and they will unite into a formidable entrée. Served with rice or pillowy, buttered bread and you’ve got a mutable formula for dinner that’s always satisfying.
It’s the beginning of May and winter clings desperately to New England like gum on the bottom of your shoe. There are no fresh vegetables to inspire a “seasonal” recipe so I will just describe how to make curry with whatever you can get your hands on. Choose your favorite vegetables, preferably items that would have a similar cooking time in the oven. Grab a few onions, a head of garlic, and fresh ginger.
I like to roast my vegetables first instead of stewing them in a pot because roasting is the best way to concentrate flavor. Broccoli turns irresistible, brussels morph into umami-nuggets, and onions collapse into tender slices of sweetness. Roast simply with oil and salt at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes.
While the veggies are toasting away in the oven, get your navy blue Le Creuset dutch oven (just me?) or other heavy-bottomed pot. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil or butter and add a diced onion. Let it sizzle for about 5 minutes, then add a few cloves of crushed garlic, an inch or two of freshly grated ginger, and any spices you’d like. I’ll usually throw in a tablespoon of curry powder and a teaspoon of coriander or garam masala, something to give it a little mystery. You can also add red pepper flakes, paprika, even a pinch of cinnamon. Toast your spices for a minute or two, then add a can of coconut milk, a can of diced tomatoes, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.
Let this combo simmer blissfully in the heat like someone relaxing in a sauna after a tough workout. Do not disturb for 10, 20, 30 minutes, or however long you have until the vegetables are done roasting. I like to add a can of beans like garbanzo or cannellini (rinsed) to the liquid at this point, unless you are serving people that would rather starve than eat a chickpea. If you don’t have enough time to let the mixture thicken naturally, add 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water (cornstarch slurry) just before adding your vegetables, and simmer that for 3-5 minutes. When the vegetables are done, add them to the pot and give everyone some time to get to know one another, maybe 5 or 10 minutes more, covered. Serve with jasmine rice or warm naan, and garnish with fresh cilantro.
Out of many spices, vegetables, colors, and textures, you’ll get one irresistible curry. I call it “comfort curry” for all of the Art History flashcards it has gotten me through. Mom calls it “spicy slop”, for the satisfying noise it makes when hitting an empty bowl, and the hot tingle it leaves on your tongue. Call it what you’d like, because you’re definitely going to remember its name. This is a meal you can make over and over to use up what’s in the fridge, celebrate the first vegetables of the season, or satisfy exactly what you’re craving.