Digging up a real gem of an Indian curry

by Hema Parekh

Northern Indian cuisine — which features some of the country’s most elaborate dishes — was largely influenced by the Moghuls, who invaded India from the Middle East in the eighth century. In addition to red meat, the Moghuls enjoyed poultry, nuts, saffron and ghee. Over the centuries a distinctive cuisine, Mughlai, developed across India from a mixture of local, Persian and Asian cooking, differing by region in its use of spices and other ingredients. The Navratna — or nine diamonds — curry (assorted vegetables in a cashew gravy) is a classic example of one such dish from the state of Punjab.

Ingredients

to serve 4

300 grams cauliflower florets
200 grams carrots, diced
300 grams potatoes, diced
100 grams green beans, diced
100 grams green peas

Instructions

1) Boil the vegetables in water to which a little salt has been added and then drain.
2) For the curry, set aside first one tablespoon of oil, one onion, one teaspoon of ginger/garlic paste, four chopped tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric.
3) Salt to taste and then add one teaspoon of sugar and two teaspoons of lemon juice. Afterward grind to a smooth paste three tablespoons of cashew nuts, two tablespoons of coriander seeds and two teaspoons of cumin seeds.
4) Set aside a few cloves, peppercorns, one green chili, one cup of coriander leaves and 1/4 cup of spearmint leaves. Dry roast the paste with the cloves and peppercorns over low heat until fragrant. Then grind it with the green chili, coriander and mint leaves till smooth, sprinkling in a little water.
5) In a large saucepan, heat the oil and saute the onions over medium heat until soft and light brown. Mix in the ginger/garlic paste and saute until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, turmeric and salt to taste. Cook covered for 2-3 minutes, until the mix softens.
6) Add the cashew paste and one cup of water. Bring to a simmer. Add the sugar and lemon juice and toss in the boiled vegetables. Bring to a boil.
7) Simmer for 4-5 minutes and serve while hot with rice.

Hema Parekh is the Tokyo-based author of “The Asian Vegan Kitchen: Authentic and Appetizing Dishes from a Continent of Rich Flavors” (Kodansha International), available from April 1. A life-long vegetarian, Parekh has been teaching vegetarian cooking in Tokyo for almost 20 years and written two popular books on vegetarian cooking in Japanese.