At 6:30 am I sprang (or stumbled more likely) from the zendo into the kitchen to prepare breakfast, assuming we were a group of twelve. Squinting at the attendance list in the dim light, it indicated twenty-four. Everything would have to be doubled! Scrambling my thoughts together we quickly decided what would be possible to prepare within the hour before breakfast, besides bananas and yogurt. It also meant my first musings for lunch would have to be changed but decided to postpone that thought till later.
Come coffee break and feeling slightly perplexed while standing in front of the fridge, I honestly didn’t know what to make. Then I remembered something we hadn’t cooked in ages. Curry! One with a tangy tomato and yogurt based sauce. Yes.
There are probably as many curries as there are countries, each one infinitely adaptable. Although I’ve prepared this style of curry sauce before, I’ve never really known what the official name might be, and it took a great deal of googling to figure it out. The sauce used for Murgh (chicken) Kari. Well, who’d have known? Certainly wouldn’t have guessed. Almost by chance the vegetables were orange in appearance; pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato and yellow bell pepper. With the tangy orange-coloured sauce, it certainly looked bright and cheerful. Just as well, because it was looking very dark and dreary beyond the kitchen windows.
Depending on how much time there is, you can choose to either bake the vegetables in the oven, cook them on the stove top in boiling water or – and I have yet to try it so will amend the post if it works – cook them directly in the sauce. I often find that pumpkin and sweet potatoes just taste better when they’re baked, but it’s not a dependent on it for the recipe to work. Chickpeas could also be a good substitute for the tofu.
In the spice cupboard, we have a jam jar full of tandoori masala, which is quite handy and rather hot. If you can’t get it, try combining garam masala* with coriander, paprika powder, turmeric, and cayenne pepper. If all else fails, regular curry powder will do.
1 kg (2 pounds) sugar pumpkin
1 medium onion
30 g (3½ tablespoons) fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic
250 g (1¼ cups) black-eyed peas, cooked
250 g (1¾ cups) green beans
1 tablespoon tandoori masala, or to taste
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds, or dash of fenugreek powder
Dash asafoetida powder
400 ml (1¾ cups) canned chopped tomatoes
400 ml (1¾ cups) plain yogurt
15 g (1½ tablespoons) palm sugar
Olive oil for frying
Bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro)
- Clean, deseed and large-dice the pumpkin.
- Peel and medium-dice the onion.
- Top and tail and cut the green beans into thirds.
- Peel and mince the ginger and garlic.
- Roughly chop the fresh coriander leaves.
- Preheat the oven to 200 °C (400 °F). Combine the pumpkin with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a little sea salt. Place in a single layer on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until a skewer slides in easily through the pumpkin.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a stew pot on medium flame. Put in the onion and stir-fry until they begin to caramelize, then add the garlic and ginger and continue to stir-fry until they release their fragrance. Sprinkle in the tandoori masala, turmeric, asafoetida and fenugreek, and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Pour in the tomatoes, palm sugar, and black eyed peas and half the fresh coriander. Turn the flame low, cover and simmer.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a rapid boil, drop in the green beans, return to a boil, turn down the flame and simmer until tender, about 3 minutes. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and put into the curry sauce.
When the baked pumpkin is ready, carefully slide a metal spatula under it and transfer into the sauce. Fold in the pumpkin, being careful not to break it as it is quite delicate when cooked.
- Garnish with the remaining coriander.
(*Garam Masala: a roasted and ground blend of peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, black and green cardamom pods, bay leaf and cumin)