Carrot Curry (and what some might call an obsession)
When I was in grad school, I would frequently go home to visit the fam over holidays, spring break (I needed the cheapest form of relaxation possible, so no fancy trips for me) and for a couple of weeks in the summer. One of my favorite things to do while I was home was to cook, and this was for a number of reasons:
1) My parents kitchen had all the gadgets and dishes and bowls and pots and pans one could ever need, most of which I didn’t have in my apartment. When you have access to what seems like a Williams-Sonoma store room, cooking is a lot more fun.
2) The kitchen was always stocked with just about everything, so I never needed to go on the obscure ingredient wild goose chase.
3) I had my mom, my dad and my little sister to cook for rather that just myself. Everyone knows cooking for others is way more fun than cooking for yourself.
Perhaps it is partially Reason #3 that I cook so much now: I cook for me and the boyf, and it’s a lot more gratifying. That and because he eats so damn much we have to do lots of cooking.
At any rate, one of my favorite things that I made when I was home visiting the fam was a carrot curry that I found in a cookbook so old my dad had cooking notes written in it that were dated like 4 years before I was even born. I don’t remember what the cookbook is called, but it was vegetarian and had tons of great recipes. This curry is great because it’s a little sweet, but it’s nice and spicy and it has good depth of flavor. However, it is completely lacking in the protein department. I added tofu the first time I made it, but I was still getting my sea-legs as far as tofu was concerned, so it was a bit funky. The tofu got all crumbly and practically dissolved into the curry, which wasn’t what I was going for. I made the recipe again when I was cooking for just me, and this time rather than using tofu I put in tempeh. It was one of the most utterly foul things I have ever tasted. It was disgusting…. revolting…. it made me want to cry. OK, now I’m being melodramatic, but it was horrid. Needless to say, I haven’t touched tempeh since and I dare say I back away from it when I see it at the grocery store. My friend Ian, who I consider to be the “knower of all things food related and everything else too” raved about the virtues of tempeh, but I guess I’ll have to (skeptically) take his word for it.
This time I decided to make carrot curry with tofu and to make it right. I did my usual tofu routine (slicing, pressing it dry, pan frying with soy sauce and siracha) and achieved the desired crispy flavorful result. Perhaps some of you, my dear (carnivorous) readers, think I over use tofu. You would be right. But I love it and I can’t help it; it’s so healthy, full of protein and it makes everything, within reason, taste better. I’ve even heard of cheesecakes made out of tofu. I’ll have to try that sometime…stay tuned.
On to less healthy things. Next step: sauteeing the spices in butter. Lots of spices = lots of butter.
I wanted to take some better pictures of it sauteeing, but then something started popping (the mustard seeds?) and I had to get that under control before I had buttery spice flecks all over everything in the kitchen. I dumped in the carrots, orange juice and water, which stopped the uncontrollable popping. After adding in the banana and raisins, I let it simmer until the sauce thickened, then put it on some brown rice (hey, I’m trying to be healthy) and it was, well, fantastic. I feel like I have finally conquered this recipe. Plus, I now have all the spices necessary to make practically any Indian food!
Carrot and Tofu Curry
(Adapted from a book that hopefully doesn’t care too much about copyright stuff)
3 c pealed sliced carrots
1 package firm tofu
1 c orange juice
1 tsp slat
4 tbsp butter
1 ripe banana, thinly sliced
1 handful raisins (or 2, if that’s what makes you happy)
4-5 cardamom pods (seeds only)
1 1/2 tsp tumeric
1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
4 whole cloves
1 tbsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 curry powder
Slice the tofu and then press it between paper towels to drain out the water. I put it on a plate on top of a thick kitchen towel, cover it with a couple paper towels and put my ginormous cast iron skillet that weighs about 15 pounds on top. After 15-30 minutes chop it into desired form (ie triangles, cubes, etc) and then sautee it in a hot skillet with some soy sauce and any other flavors you want the tofu to soak up. Brown it thoroughly, scraping up anything that sticks to the pan. Remove from heat and set aside.
Put the carrots in a pot with the OJ, salt and enough water to cover the carrots. Simmer for 5 minutes.
In a large skillet, heat the butter and add all the spices. Heat for a few minutes (or until it starts popping uncontrollably) and then add the carrots and the liquid, the banana and the raisins. Simmer for about half an hour.