A few weeks ago, a couple friend of ours joined us for a Saturday evening dinner. Usually in this case, the question of what to serve is no big deal…
Fajitas are always a go. Maybe pork schnitzel – that’s gone over well before. Or perhaps fried chicken with every other southern side dish that will slowly but surely bring you to a happy death? We’ve fed that to our healthiest of friends as a grand temptation before.
And yes, they caved.
But this time was a wee bit different. The couple joining us had just started adhering to a vegetarian diet. So the question plagued me for two weeks… What do I cook?
Fortunately, we have this thing called the internet and video streaming. And a glorious, terrifying creature called Gordon Ramsay. Combined, they create some of the best food-related TV I’ve ever seen.
A few months back, we started watching Gordon’s Great Escape on Amazon Prime (which you SHOULD get – we have accepted Amazon and Google as our overlords, and so should you). He traipsed across the four main regions of India, learning about the different dishes that originated from each area. One day he’d be in a trendy, traditional restaurant in Mumbai, the next day, he’d be riding a janky Jeep to a remote village to help slaughter a cow for a wedding, or grind forest ants into a curry paste for the protein intake.
It’s SO. GOOD. I encourage you to watch both seasons.
Both of us having become successfully intrigued by the character that is Gordon Ramsay, we began watching his Ramsay’s Best Restaurants as well. In this show, he attempts to find the best restaurant in the UK, covering all ranges of cuisine: British, Indian, Chinese, Thai, French, Italian, etc… One of the first episodes featured the Indian restaurant who (spoiler alert!!!) makes it to the final round adhering to only a vegetarian menu.
Gordon, having received training in traditional French restaurants, doubted a kitchen that wouldn’t serve up a quality cut of meat. Until he ate their food. And was overwhelmed at the incredible flavors that began erupting like fireworks in his mouth. From his very own foul-mouthed British lips, he proclaimed he’d never expected a vegetarian meal to be so delicious.
And there was our answer to “What do we serve our friends the vegetarians for dinner?”. Despite having zilch of a background in Indian cooking except what dearest Gordon and the internet have taught me, I embarked on a fragrant, day-long adventure of cooking a full Indian meal for our friends. We made homemade naan, curried tomato chickpeas, saag paneer, and vegetable korma.
I chose the korma because I eat the same dish at a local Indian restaurant right by the IKEA outside of Austin. It’s always there after a long shopping trip filled with anger towards other human beings’ inability to navigate a cart in a maze designed by the Swedish to make us linger and peruse every. single. impossible to put together product in their big blue monstrosity of a space center.
Just kidding, IKEA. I love you forever.
That Indian restaurant has always been there to cure the hangry feeling that the 99 cent IKEA cone of frozen yogurt can’t. And their korma is amazeballs.
Granted, I had never made korma before, so my rendition was drastically different from what the kindly Indian restaurant owners served me, but it was still delicious. You start with any and every vegetable that’s in your fridge. Chop them up, and get them ready to toss into a mixture of freshly ground cashews and creamy tomato sauce. Then, add the spices that inexplicably keep you coming back for seconds. Let it all simmer slowly, cooking down to a tender crisp. Whisk in a bit of heavy cream, and you’ve got the most comforting bowl of creamy, spicy, vegetable goodness that you’ve ever tasted. We served ours over rice AND with homemade naan, so you can imagine how long those leftovers kept us happy and full.
I can honestly say that Indian food is my favorite cultural cuisine with which to try new recipes. After having read this article about why Indian food scientifically tastes so freaking good, I’m even more intrigued… Are there no rules? What do you mean cilantro and coconut milk can go together and have a happy, long marriage? Why would you grind up a nut and add it to tomatoes? How in the world is this dish burning off my tongue yet sweet and creamy at the same time?
I don’t have the answers to these questions. But I do know that there’s a whole world of foreign, exotic, new recipes to me out there that are begging to welcome themselves into my suburban Austin kitchen. And given the fact that just the thought of the 3 bottles of curry powder in my pantry can make my mouth water, I’m welcoming this cuisine with open arms.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 white onion diced
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger root
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 large russet potato peeled and diced
- 4 carrots cubed
- 1 jalapeno diced
- 1 serrano diced
- 1/3 cup unsalted ground cashews ground to a fine meal
- 8 oz tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- 1/2 green bell pepper chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Cilantro for garnish
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until tender and fragrant. Add the potato, carrots, jalapeno, serrano, cashews, and tomato sauce.
- Let the mixture simmer over medium low heat, covered, until tender. This will take about 20 minutes, maybe more. Cook until all of the vegetables are tender, and stir occasionally.
- Add the bell peppers and heavy cream. Stir together and let simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes.
- Serve over basmati rice or with naan bread.
- If you're wary of heat, de-seed the peppers, or use only one instead of two.