Easy Vegan ‘Korma’.

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Korma is in inverted commas because this was my invention, based on a lot of previous recipes, but simplified, and made animal free (I think originally out of panic when I realised I didn’t have certain ingredients in stock half way through cooking, but it’s much better that way)  I have no real idea what an authentic Korma consists of, but this dish seems to be a creamy, mildly spiced, nutty curry with plenty of sauce, which is what I thought a Korma was.  This has become a regular midweek meal of ours, it’s quick to prepare, everyone loves it and as a bonus it ends up making a couple of lunches too.  If you keep reading my blog, you’ll soon come to realise that I’m a big fan of simple one pot meals (or 2 pot if you count the rice) and I’ve got a few good ones down to a fine art.

This recipe is probably quite high in fat, with the coconut oil, the peanut butter, and the ground almonds, but they are all good fats and these ingredients are all great sources of other nutrition.  I’m not a believer in low fat, I think that natural, non-animal fats are rarely harmful and more recent research suggest that many are essential and beneficial to our health.  Coconut oil was long believed to be a ‘bad’ saturated fat, fed to cattle as a surplus by product… now research has proved that this could not be more wrong; it contains rare medium chain fatty acids, most similar to those found in human breast milk, therefore offering some similar antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties!  Also, research into coconut oil is leading the book to be re-written on all saturated fats, which have long been believed to be ‘bad’… turns out, it’s not really that simple, and many natural hard fats can contribute to a healthy heart, digestive system, metabolism, and even weight loss via various biological mechanisms I don’t fully understand.  Also, they are stable at high temperatures and do not oxidise, which makes them much safer for frying and roasting.  Lastly, on my ‘please stop depriving yourself of fat’ rant, many other essential vitamins and micro-nutrients are fat soluble, which means they need to be consumed alongside fat in order to be absorbed into our body.  Fat is good…

And coconut oil is the king of good fats.  I’m a bit of an advocate of coconut oil, but as I prefer to buy the virgin, cold-pressed, organic variety, which tastes of coconut, I need to be careful which recipes I use it in… Coconut oil in mashed potato is just not good.  However, I spread it on my toast in the morning instead of butter or spread, and it’s great with marmalade or honey.  I use it in cakes and biscuits and flapjacks, I use it to roast winter veg with Indian spices, and I use it in curries.  In this recipe I originally used creamed coconut, but now I just use the oil to fry the spices and veg, the flavour and smell is wonderful.  I also use coconut oil for a whole host of other non-food related uses, hair moisturiser, lip balm, nappy cream… and a few of these too.

This, like any warmly spiced food, is excellent in the cold winter months, and lends itself particularly well to winter vegetables, however, keep it seasonal and use corgettes, green beans, fresh peas, new potatoes and sweetcorn in warmer months.  The veg I have listed below is what I had in stock this week and also, by coincidence, some of the most successful veg I’ve used in this dish.

To serve 6

  • 2 tbsp of coconut oil (39p)
  • 1 large onion (15p)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (20p)
  • 2 tsp of yellow mustard seeds (20p)
  • 1 tbsp of turmeric (20p)
  • 1 tbsp of medium curry powder* (8p)
  • 1/2 a cauliflower (97p)
  • 1/2 a butternut squash (73p)
  • 2 carrots (20p)
  • 250g / 1 cup of cooked chick peas (35p)
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes (89p)
  • 300-400ml of unsweetened soya milk (or other milk alternative)  (40p)
  • 2 tbsp of smooth unsweetened peanut butter** (18p)
  • 2 tsp of sugar / honey / agave syrup… something sweet*** (2p)
  • 1/2 cup of ground almonds (85p)
  • salt and pepper to taste
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These are some of the brands I use,
and Sergeant Pepper.

Begin by heating the coconut oil in a large pan, fry the roughly chopped onion and the crushed garlic cloves, and add the spices, the whole mustard seeds, the curry powder and the turmeric.  Once the onion and garlic has softened add the other prepared veg, scrubbed and chopped into large chunks (I wouldn’t bother peeling the butternut squash, the skin is thin and softens in the sauce.) and stir into the spices.

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If your serving this with rice, I’d recommend putting it on to cook at this stage so it has plenty of time to steam and fluff up.  I served this with quinoa this week, which is a bit lighter than the usual brown rice.

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Now add the tin of tomatoes and some of the soya milk.  Once this has warmed through, add the peanut butter which will melt and form the rich sauce.  Stir in the chickpeas and adjust the amount and thickness of the sauce by adding more of the soya milk.  Leave it to simmer for 25 mins until the veg is tender.  Taste the sauce and add salt, pepper and your ‘something sweet’ until you have a good balance.   Lastly add the ground almonds to thicken the sauce, stir and warm through.

Serve with rice or quinoa, or over a jacket potato or with nann breads, this tastes great with chutneys too.

This recipe works out at 97p per portion  (not including the accompaniment), I think, for that price you have something really tasty and rather luxurious.

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* If you have a bit of time and want to use the whole spices, roasted and then ground it will make all the difference, I’d suggest 2 tsp each of whole cumin and whole coriander seeds and a pinch of dried chillis.  You may also want to add fresh ginger and crushed cardamom pods, but I’ll keep the original recipe simple.

** If you don’t want to use peanut butter, almond or cashew butter would give the same texture and nutty hit, but obviously a slightly different flavour, in fact almonds are more traditional.

*** I used a couple of teaspoons of blackcurrant jelly, I tried making blackcurrant cordial last year and it went wrong so I jarred it up as jelly… It was somewhere between a set jelly and a strongly flavoured jam and I wasn’t really sure what to use it for, but I was too proud of my blackcurrant crop to throw it away.  It turns out to be an excellent addition to almost any sauce or gravy as a sweetener with a deep rich flavour, ta-da!  I often use a bit of smooth jam to sweeten sauces, but honey or sugar of some sort will do the trick.

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