Cremini Mushroom Curry in Spiced Cashew Cream

July 21, 2015

Mushrooms. Yum. Add spices, cream, and some heat to them, and you'll have a curry on your hands that will be a weekly staple. It's at once decadent and healthy, especially if you substitute cashew cream for the typical dairy version. If you want to use cashew cream, you want to ideally soak your cashews overnight. You can still make it successfully without soaking, but if you take that extra step you'll have a creamier product, so plan ahead.

While you can use any mushroom, I love using the cremini (or crimini), sometimes referred to as a 'baby portobello' or 'baby bella'. What are these exactly? I was really surprised to find out that they are the same variety of mushroom as the more-commonly eaten white button mushroom and the larger portobello. The only difference is maturation. First come white button, they mature to cremini, and then onto portobella. Read more here. That's really all it is. 

Cremini, because they are grown a little longer, taste a bit more robust and hold up better in an Indian curry. But, use what you have on hand. 

While we make various mushroom curries in Indian cuisine, this one is made a bit more decadent because of the combination of spices and nuts. The Muslim royals of India (Nawabs) introduced nuts to Indian cuisine. I'm not professing to do anything extraordinarily new here, except use those nuts as a base for the curry rather than a dairy cream and sub cremini for button mushrooms. It all makes a difference, though! 

Here's your mise en place. You'll need (from the left): green cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon sticks, cassia or bay leaves, black cardamom pods, cremini mushrooms, red chile powder, spiced cashew cream, onion, cilantro, and garlic. 

Cremini Mushroom Curry in Spiced Cashew Cream

6 green cardamom pods 
4 black cardamom pods
8 whole cloves
2 - 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use grapeseed)
2 cinnamon sticks
3 cassia leaves (or bay leaves)
1 medium yellow or red onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 1/2 pounds cremini mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed (about 70) *
1/2 cup spiced cashew cream (see recipe below) or dairy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red chile powder or cayenne
1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley

1. Lightly crush both green and black cardamom and cloves lightly in a mortar and pestle. Don't worry if you can't find black cardamom. Leave it out until you can. 

2. Heat oil in a 6-quart saute pan over medium-high heat. Add crushed spices, cinnamon sticks, and cassia or bay leaves. Cook over a minute until just toasted and fragrant. 

3. Add onion and garlic. Cook 2 to 3 minutes until lightly brown. Mix well. 

4. Add mushrooms carefully. Do it in batches if it's easier. Turn the heat to low and cook a total of about 12 minutes. About 3 minutes into cooking I will add a 1/2 cup of water to prevent the mushrooms from sticking. You want that curry or gravy later so adding moisture does not hurt the dish. 

5. Make a well in the middle and add cashew cream. Mix well. Cook another few minutes. Add salt, red chile, and cilantro or parsley. 

* I really love using the mushrooms whole, so I lean towards smaller mushrooms. I just couldn't find small ones, so used medium-sized ones and they worked just perfectly. Slice them in half if you prefer. 

Spiced Cashew Cream

1 cup raw, unsalted cashews, soaked overnight
1 1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons Indian spice blend like pav bhaji masala or garam masala
1 teaspoon salt

Drain cashews and blend them with other ingredients in a high-powered blender (I use a Vitamix). Blend until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate up to one week or freeze to use later. This makes about 1 1/2 cups. Us it like its dairy equivalent in Indian curries, over Italian pasta, or drizzled over steamed veggies like broccoli and cauliflower. For dedicated plant-based eaters like me, cashew cream is da bomb! Here's what you'll have once you blend it down. 

Just keep in mind that cashews, while plant-based, are high in fat (the good kind) and calories. One ounce of cashews is 5 grams of protein, 12 grams of fat, and 157 calories. You don't want to overdo it.  

Enjoy! xoxo Anupy

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