Apparently the word ‘curry’ came into the English language from Tamil, at about the time when the East India Company began trading spices from the Coromandel Coast. Since then, the word has literally spread. Curries have a huge cultural and geographic remit now, from Japan all the way to Jamaica, via Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and India (not to mention Britain with its baltis!), and it seems less and less clear what exactly constitutes a ‘curry’ — but I guess anything saucy and spicy fits the bill. This is a recipe that came to life when I was living in Highgate a few decades ago, unable those days to travel much because my son was still very small and I was a full-time mum. That was when I began exploring the ways in which we can travel from the kitchen through food. I took an imaginary culinary voyage around Asia, down the Indian ocean, to where the Equator crosses, from South India to Indonesia… That led me to envisioning caramel sunsets over the sea, and from there on to the bittersweet taste of caramelised onions and the moreish scent of caramel-coloured roasted peanuts… So this was the recipe that came to mind.
For the sauce:
1 red onion
Crunchy peanut butter OR Half a small cup of roasted and ground peanuts
I small can of coconut milk
Soya sauce or Tamari
Brown sugar (demerara or molasses) OR jaggery
Either garam masala OR coriander powder (both work well)
Chilli flakes (even better)
Coriander leaves OR Thai sweet basil
1 medium-sized sweet potato (OR Half a medium-sized butternut squash peeled and sliced into cubes)
8 to 12 button mushrooms
1 Green pepper
One medium-sized head of broccoli
30 gms of Thai Basil or Coriander leaves
- Prep all the vegetables, chopping the onion into long, thin strips.
- Take a saucepan and put in two tablespoons of oil. Add in the onion chopped long and fine. On a medium flame, cook the onions until they turn a deep brown. Add in two good tablespoons of peanut butter or the ground peanuts, 3/4 of a small can of coconut milk, two good tablespoons of kikoman soya sauce, and one or two teaspoons of brown sugar (put in one and add more if needed to balance the soya sauce and coconut milk), three quarters of a teaspoon of either the garam masala or the coriander powder (I use whichever I have) and a quarter to half a teaspoon of chilli flakes. Keep mixing it all together over a low to medium flame till you get a thick sauce. Make sure the flame is not too high, as the peanut butter should not burn. Taste and see if you need a bit more sugar, coconut milk or soya sauce.
- Add half a glass of water to the sauce and put in the sweet potatoes. Cover with a lid and let it simmer, but make sure you stir once in a while, so nothing sticks to the bottom. When the sweet potatoes are nearly cooked (check by sticking a knife into a piece), add the peppers and the mushrooms and close the lid again. After three minutes, add in the broccoli. Let it all cook for another three minutes or so. If you have too much liquid, take off the lid and boil it off, ensuring you stir once in a while, but don’t put in the broccoli until the end, as otherwise it will get too soft.
- For the final garnish: throw in some very finely chopped garlic and the herbs and immediately switch off the heat.
N.B: There is a distinct difference between oven-roasted peanuts ground to a paste in a food processor and peanut butter. I am not sure why. To roast peanuts, simply buy the peeled variety and place it in an oven at around 150C for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the nuts turn golden (but not a deep brown).
Works well with: rice and a tangy cucumber relish – try our cucumber and mint raita.
© Taste Trail Limited 2015