I love the idea of a good Korma. Traditionally, these are amazing Indian curries made rich with the addition of cream and nuts. Some are also made with dried fruit like golden raisins to really add more richness and a feeling of utter luxury when you bite into the sweet notes on occasion.
Navratan means nine gems or jewels, and refers in this dish to the use of nine key vegetables. They can be any vegetables of your choosing, and they don’t really have to add up to exactly nine, but they give us vegetarians something to smile about as the carnivores at the table order their lamb kormas and such, while trying to get bites of our dish because it’s oh so much better. (Insert ‘my husband’ in that last sentence!)
My sense of this dish is that you want the vegetables to take center stage, and not overwhelm the curry with tons of heat. So, that aspect is toned down, while the amount of vegetables has been toned up a few notches. Admittedly, it did take me some time to get this recipe right. I first made the mistake of adding way too many vegetables – 10 cups. It was just too thick with veggies and no curry. The second time I added in the veggies raw. They do better cooked slightly before you add them. At this point, I was questioning my recipe-writing skills. I typically now have gotten so good with ingredients that I can eyeball a dish and replicate it in one shot. Obviously, not this one! But, I have to say, the end result was truly worth every frustrating trip to the grocery store – I’m still on cloud 9 knowing that I nailed this one! (These days, it takes very, very little to make me happy.)
I know you’re going to make this recipe once and decide to make it again and again and again. My husband devoured it twice in one day – not something he’ll typically do for any dish. And, better yet, ate it completely guilt free when I told him there was no dairy in it – I made my version with just the cashews.
Makes 10 cups
8 cups veggies chopped in bite-sized pieces (cauliflower, carrots, green beans, potato, corn, peas, zucchini, red bell pepper)
1/2 medium yellow or red onion, chopped (2/3 cup)
2-inch piece ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
20 whole black cloves
3 tablespoons ghee or oil (I use grapeseed)
3 medium tomatoes, chopped (4 cups)
1 cup cashews, soaked
2 cups water
1/2 cup golden raisins or any dried fruit
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon red chile powder
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
7 oz. paneer, baked or pan-fried (2 cups)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2. Boil your fresh vegetables (cauliflower, green beans, carrots, zucchini, and potato) – the ones that take the longest to cook – in a 6-quart pot for about 4 minutes. Remove from the hot water to a large bowl with ice water until you are ready to use. This ice bath lets you stop the cooking process so your veggies are al dente and not soggy when you cook them. You can skip this step and add the veggies directly to you your curry, but I find that it helps to take the time to cook them slightly. Otherwise, you have to cook them later, and the curry will thicken on you too much. Trust me, this added step will help you make such a difference in the end! Trust me!
3. In a food processor, grind onion, ginger, and garlic. You’ll end up with about ¾ cup of this watery paste.
4. Grind cardamom and cloves into a powder using either a coffee grinder reserved for spices or a mortar and pestle. Here’s what it looks like…it smells ten times better!
5. Heat ghee or oil over medium-high heat in a 6-quart sauté pan. Add cloves and cardamom powder. Cook about 40 seconds until the powder sizzles. Be careful not to burn the mixture.
6. Carefully add your onion, ginger, and garlic mixture. Be careful, as it can splatter going into the hot oil. Cook 2 minutes until slightly browned, mixing and scraping the bottom of the pan. I sometimes add another tablespoon of oil at this point to really pull all the ingredients together.
7. Add tomatoes and drained cashews. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes on medium to medium-high heat, mixing occasionally to avoid sticking. Add water and cook another 5 minutes. Once cooked, process in a blender or high-power blender like a Vita-Mix. Put this mixture back in your pan. This mixture will be very creamy. Turn the heat off for a few minutes so the sauce does not splash up.
8. Add turmeric, coriander, garam masala, red chile, and salt. Mix well.
9. Add your fresh vegetables (the ones we boiled) and raisins. Turn the heat back on, cover your pan, and simmer your dish on medium-low for 10 minutes. The mixture thickens, so be sure to mix several times in between.
10. Add frozen vegetables and bell pepper. Cook another 3 minutes. If the sauce thickens too much, I always like to add a tiny bit of water to loosen it up.
11. Fold in the paneer and cream (if using). Cook through another minute. Serve over basmati rice, roti, or naan.
Tools: Six-quart pot, food processor, spice grinder or mortar and pestle, and 6-quart sauté pan.
Vegan-ize it! Substitute baked or pan-fried tofu for the paneer and leave out the heavy cream. This dish is really creamy from just the cashews – so likely you won’t even miss the dairy! My husband…Mr. Carnivore…didn’t!
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