Everyone around me knows that I’m a foodie, big time. Thoughts and questions related to food run as a parallel stream all the time in my mind. Wherever I may go, whatever I may do, my foodie antennae would always be up and active to pick up ideas, tips and knowledge about food/cooking.
My mother used to tell me that my conversations at the dinner table used to be almost always around what our neighbors ate that day. Even I can recall quite clearly about the time I spent at my neighbors’ kitchens poking my nose into their menu plans and meal ideas. I also liked to collect recipes that interested me and discuss them with my mom. It was a small, loving and a friendly neighborhood and no one ever complained about me happily making my way into their kitchens even without ringing their door bells.
The recipe for this Kurma gets its roots from one such conversation with an aunty next door. We called everyone in the neighborhood as aunties and uncles. In Indian culture, it is lack of respect to call people older to you by their names. Calling them as aunties and uncles and brothers and sisters created a nice bond between us and made them part of our family, an extended family.
The recipe for any Kurma involves a lot of spices. Garlic, ginger and other spices used give the curry a very strong flavor. In fact, it was this flavor that drew me into my neighbor’s kitchen one evening 🙂 . My family is used to very mild spices and flavors. The kind of cooking that involved spices like cinnamon, fennel seeds and ginger-garlic paste etc. was considered harsh. Even today, my father cannot enjoy food if it derives a dominant flavor from such spices.
My brothers and I were always enthusiastic about trying new food. The new aromas that made way through our windows from our neighbors’ always intrigued us. I cannot forget that night when I recreated one of those lovely flavors in our kitchen, I must have been 14 or 15 then. Yes, it was a Chapathi and Kurma night. The Kurma was a hit, really a hit! My mother was very happy that I tried something new and my brothers were excited to be my guinea pigs, and my father, to my surprise enjoyed it and asked for more. Sigh, good old days!
2 cups diced vegetables (carrots, green beans, potatoes, green peas, and cauliflower)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
2 cinnamon sticks (small)
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup tomatoes
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 cup coconut milk (optional)
cilantro sprigs for garnish
1/3 cup grated coconut (fresh)
1 tsp poppy seeds (khus khus)
Steam or microwave the vegetables until they are just cooked. Do not overcook the them, as they’ll lose their fresh and bright color.
While the vegetables cook, heat a tablespoon oil in a sauce pan and fry the dry spices (fennel seeds, cloves, cardamom and bay leaves) until they turn aromatic and slightly brown. Add onions and saute until they are cooked. Add ginger garlic paste and saute for a minute. Now add, tomatoes, salt, chili powder, turmeric powder and coriander powder and cook until the tomatoes turn mushy.
Now, add cooked vegetables and 2 cups of water and bring it to a boil. Now add the ground paste, coconut milk (if using), and stir well. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining oil, give a stir and turn off heat.
Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve warm with bread or rice of your choice. Makes for an excellent combination with pooris and porottas.
Adding some oil at the end is a trick to use less oil and still give the Kurma an oily look that some like. Skip it to save some calories