Re-create that recipe: Curried Veggie Stew
February 12, 2015 10:55 AM   Subscribe

Please help me come up with a recipe - the spices in particular - for a curried veggie stew I used to order at a mall food court years ago. I remember cumin and cardamon but that's about it...

I'm craving this wonderful curried veggie stew I used to get for lunch years back. It was served over rice and heaping with all kinds of vegetables (cauliflower, zucchini, potatoes, etc) and the base was an unthickened clear broth. It was from a little food court restaurant run by a British fellow - this is relevant only in so far as it hints at maybe what kind of derivative spicing it had, if that makes sense, because it did not seem to be a really faithful, 'traditional' Indian recipe. Can you help me recreate it? I could experiment on my own but I honestly don't know much about winging it with Indian spicing. I'm a good and reasonably adventurous cook but I have curry spice anxiety - there's just too much information about all the different types and components...

It's the spicing I need help with - type of spice and estimated amounts to use. Let's assume I'm making a large stew (say, in what most households would consider their 'large' but not crazy-large pot). * Please note: I do not want to rely on a generic curry powder for this recipe.

Here is what I remember:

- the broth and white veggies had a mild yellow-ish color so I'm assuming that was tumeric?
- the cardamon taste was really nice and you would occasionally come across a whole pod
- it had cumin - pretty sure it used whole seeds, not powder
- I'm pretty sure it was not a tomato base, nor was there any cream or coconut milk or anything like that
- I honestly don't remember if there was ginger or not
- might it have had fenugreek? I don't even know what fenugreek tastes like...

posted by kitcat to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'd go with the Alton Brown curry powder recipe, and also watch the episode on curry if you can, it's pretty interesting. It's a recipe for the British thing, and he makes the point in the show that curry powder doesn't exist in India.

Then follow any curry soup recipe that looks good but use this instead of the generic curry powder. You can add some cumin and cardamom separately from the powder for those whole seeds you're talking about.

Like this, maybe?

Brown's Garam Masala recipe is really good, too, and could be adapted to veggies if you like.
posted by Huck500 at 11:11 AM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you do a Google image search looking for whatever words you'd use to describe this, and then link here to the photos that look the most like what you remember the dish looking like -- that would probably help a lot with fleshing this out.
posted by kmennie at 11:45 AM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Could have had fenugreek leaves, which even if it didn't, they are never amiss and you should just include anyways.
posted by kaspen at 11:48 AM on February 12, 2015

I also meant to say - it was not hot-spicy. I don't want something spicy because daughter and husband won't eat it.

Sorry to be so vague. I suppose I'm kind of guessing that this Brit dude really knew what he was doing - like he totally knew Indian food and he totally knew how to adapt it - without being culinarily patronizing and cynical - to a British/North American palate. A food court palate, at that. And he was so proud of his food, you could tell. Seriously, it's not like I've never made a (crappy) north american versioned curry in my life, but this was so much better. I feel like maybe it was the cardamon that did the most to make it awesome, but then what else would have been in it?

Too soupy, but it looked more or less like this. I swear I tried this approach but all the recipes I found used 'curry powder' or didn't seem right.
posted by kitcat at 12:07 PM on February 12, 2015

Curry leaf.
posted by typewriter at 12:18 PM on February 12, 2015

The whole cumin seeds might be key there. I've been working through the Indian Slow Cooker and a good number of the recipes including the amazing rajmah I'm eating right now call for whole cumin seeds, which simmer down nicely and the flavor is strong but...infused? Not as cuminy as when I use straight-up cumin powder if that makes sense (I have obviously been thinking about this way too much recently). She also calls for 'red chile powder', for which I have been using cayenne, but non-smoked paprika would give you that chile taste without too much heat.

Based on your description, I'd start with the following if I was trying to do this in my slow cooker (which is 4 qts):
- veggies
- lots of onion and garlic
- about a two inch chunk of ginger, diced up
- whole cardamom pods
- about 2 tsp tumeric
- about 1 tsp paprika (or less)
- about 2 TB cumin seeds
- bay leaves if they're fresh (agree with kaspen that fenugreek leaves are good here too)
- salt
- mild veggie broth or water

...and just stew that pretty much until your veggies are falling apart.
posted by theweasel at 12:30 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Whole cumin seeds (and black mustard seeds) are usually tossed into the hot oil first and toasted for 5-10 seconds. Mustard seeds will pop, so use a lid.

Curry leaves give dishes a wonderful flavor. Bay leaves are similar, but too pungent. I toss about a dozen fresh curry leaves into my stews. They freeze well, so don't be afraid to buy a bunch.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:40 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've made a lot of the curries from the book 660 Curries, and a lot of them have ginger paste or garlic paste or both. The pastes are really easy to make--it's just putting the ginger or garlic in a blender with some water and blending it all together.
posted by creepygirl at 1:03 PM on February 12, 2015

I meant to add that the ginger paste and garlic paste add a more subtle flavor to the curries than chopped ginger or garlic, and sort of melt into the curry as part of a subtle depth of flavor.
posted by creepygirl at 1:05 PM on February 12, 2015

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