Hats off to the Indian grannies. And the Mexican grannies. And their daughters. And basically every home cook who lives anywhere that freshly made flat bread is traditionally served with most meals. Because I’ll be danged if this wouldn’t have been much better with some puffed and delicately crispy pooris (my personal favorite) or some soft and warm rotis, instead of rice, but holy moly I have no idea how they have the time. I mean those breads need to be served fresh and hot, you know? The sheer timing of it all boggles the mind. The nights when I have included them in the meal have been lunacy in the kitchen. Not that I’ve regretted it, but I sure cannot manage it most nights.
So with that caveat, that these curries would be better with flatbread than rice in my opinion, on to the dishes.
The spinach dish I played around with a lot. The sad truth is that no one, myself included, in my family really likes cooked greens much, but we do like saag, and so I thought I would give this a whirl. With my changes (the garlic and onions in place of asafetida and some yogurt at the end plus a sweet hot tart chutney like the tomato relish) we really enjoyed it, but it definitely needed those changes for us. But on the other hand, if you really enjoy cooked spinach, you will really like this sans yogurt and chutney.
I loved the kidney bean curry. It was creamy, sour in a good, savory way, perfumed delicately with garam masala and just flat out great. I just wish I had had that poori or roti because I think the flavor was a little lost in the rice. The kidney beans– which I ordered from Purcell Mountain Farms–I cooked with some ghee, onion and garlic and they were just wow. Creamy and perfect. Because I had had an eye toward this dish when making them, and included the ghee in place of oil (about 1 tablespoon for maybe 2-3 cups dried–I froze the extras), I used about 1/2 cup of the bean broth in place of water in the recipe to amp that great kidney bean flavor. Speaking of beans, I am submitting this dish in particular to The Well Seasoned Cook’s My Legume Love Affair–9th Helping, hosted this month by Laurie over at Meditarranean Cooking In Alaska. Head on over to Laurie’s blog for the round-up.
20 oz fresh spinach leaves
2 T vegetable oil
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t cumin seeds
1 t ground cumin
1 t granulated sugar
1 t kosher salt
2 t ground coriander
1/2 t cayenne or half-sharp paprika
1/4 t turmeric
3/4 cup roasted and unsalted peanuts (use less salt if you use salted)
1 T minced ginger
1/3 cup plain yogurt (full fat), optional
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepared a very large bowl or sink by filling it with ice and water. Drop the spinach into the pot, by the handful if necessary, until it is all submerged and wilted. After about 3 minutes, while it is still bright green, drain the spinach, reserving 1 cup of water, into a colander. Place the colander with the spinach into the ice water and swirl the spinach to thoroughly chill it (and stop the cooking). Transfer the spinach to a cutting board–don’t worry about the squeezing it–and finely chop it.
Heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan over medium high heat. Add the cumin seeds and roast until aromatic and darkened, 5-10 seconds. Add the onions, garlic, peanuts, coriander, turmeric, sugar, salt and cayenne pepper and stir. Cook for about 1 minute. Add the spinach and reserved cooking liquid along with the ginger. Stir and bring to a boil. Cook, at a brisk simmer, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, or until liquid has reduced. This is a watery curry so it will remain thin. Taste for salt. When it is ready, if you want turn off the heat and mix in the yogurt. Serve with rice or flatbread and a chutney. We especially like this tomato chutney on it.
2 T ghee
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 green cardamom pods
1 heaping cup plain yogurt–preferably Greek style
1/2 t turmeric
2 cups cooked kidney beans with 1/2 cup cooking liquid if you have it otherwise sub water
2 t kosher salt
2 t garam masala
1/2 t cayenne pepper or half-sharp paprika for less heat
2 T chopped cilantro leaves
Heat the ghee in a medium sized sauce pan or chef’s pan over medium high heat. Add the onions and cardamom pods and fry until browning at the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute, stirring.
Stir in the yogurt, stirring constantly at first, until it comes to an enev simmer. Simmer briskly, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is evaporated and what remains is reddish brown and curd-like. About 12-15 minutes.
Add the turmeric and mix it into the sauce. Add 1 1/2 cups of water plus the 1/2 cup of bean cooking liquid (or all water if you are using canned), the kidney beans, salt, garam masala and cayenne. Stir and bring the curry to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer briskly, uncovered, to thicken the curry, about 10-15 minutes.
Sprinkle the cilantro over the curry and serve. We served with rice but we all agreed it would be better eaten with a spoon with flatbread on the side–the subtle yet intense flavor was muted with rice. Because of this I also served with an apple raisin chutney, but I don’t believe I would have used one with flatbread.