Although our meat consumption has been creeping up over the past few months, Sarah and I try to eat vegetarian (or mostly-vegetarian) meals as often as we can, and we’re trying to make more of an effort these days. This is a good template for a quick stew-like curry that you can spoon over rice or eat on its own. It relies on a can of coconut milk, which is one of the best pantry staples out there. You can find coconut milk at any supermarket (look in the Asian foods section) but you will find a better selection and better prices at any grocery store that carries a lot of Asian or Latin ingredients. I like Chaokoah brand, but get whatever you can find. Stay away from light coconut milk if at all possible.
Other than coconut milk, everything in this is very straightforward. I like to cook the potatoes and cauliflower separately so that I can make sure they’re each done to my liking (I hate it when starchy vegetables overcook and fall apart). However, you could absolutely do this all in one pot without losing much of anything – I’m including directions for either. This is also a great way to incorporate bits of leftover vegetables you might have floating around the fridge. Bell peppers, zucchini, green beans, or broccoli would all be great in addition to or instead of the cauliflower. A cup of frozen peas tossed in during the last 5 minutes of cooking, would bring some much-needed color and a nice grassiness to the dish. Nuts (cashews or peanuts, I think) would be a nice touch, either added at the end for crunch and/or thrown in near the beginning for tenderness. I don’t consider the cilantro to be optional, but of course you could omit it if you simply can’t abide.
As for the curry powder: you could make your own following one of the many recipes online, but don’t feel bad buying a pre-packaged variety either. You can buy inexpensive (and high-quality) curry powder at Indian or Middle Eastern markets, or check the bulk section at your local grocery store.
Vegetable Curry with Coconut Milk
- 1 pound red-skinned potatoes, washed and cut into 1″ chunks
- 1 small head cauliflower, cut into 1-2″ florets
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, butter, or a combination.
- 1 small onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and minced or grated
- 3 tablespoons curry powder or garam masala
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and/or 1 teaspoon minced fresh green jalapeno or serrano [or more to taste, as always]
- 2 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
- 1 14-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
- 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
- 8 ounces fresh spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 small bunch cilantro, finely chopped (stems OK)
- juice of 1/2 lime, plus more wedges for serving
- 1 teaspoon sugar
If you have the time, pre-cook the potatoes and cauliflower. Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt heavily (about 1 tablespoon, as if you were cooking pasta). Add the potatoes and cook until tender, about 5-10 minutes depending on the amount of water and the size of your potatoes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl. Add the cauliflower and cook until similarly tender, about 4-5 minutes (again, time will vary). If you’re not feeling up for this, just set the raw vegetables aside and proceed.
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil and/or butter over medium-high. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, curry powder, and cayenne pepper or chilies. Continue to cook another minute or so, or until the spices are very fragrant.
Add a large pinch of salt (1 teaspoon if using kosher salt), the chicken stock or water, coconut milk, chickpeas, spinach, and potatoes and cauliflower (if you did not pre-cook the potatoes and cauliflower, add an extra 1/2 cup of water). Cook 5-10 minutes, until liquid is reduced a bit and the flavors have melded (if using raw vegetables, this will take considerably longer, but that’s OK). Add the cilantro, juice of 1/2 lime, and taste for seasoning. It may need some more salt, lime, cayenne, or a bit of sugar. Check the consistency, too: if it’s really thick feel free to add more liquid; if everything is thin, crank the heat to high and let it reduce.
Serve over rice with lime wedges.