April 22, 2010

Indian-style curry with sweet potatoes, eggplant, green beans and chickpeas

Eating out in restaurants is often a good way to (re)discover ingredients which one might have never used or not used for a long time. When we think about what we want to cook we sometimes get inspired by recent restaurants visit. Not so much in terms of replicating any specific dish but by using certain ingredients we enjoyed. In addition, our ever growing cookbook collection tends to focus more and more either towards books about specific ingredients or specific ethnic/regional cuisines (e.g. different Italian regional cuisines, Catalan dishes, Japanese cuisine) which often use underappreciated ingredients.

One ingredient that has recently popped up on many restaurant menus are sweet potatoes, often in the form of sweet potato fries or mash. We have rarely cooked with sweet potatoes ourselves but have always enjoyed it slightly sweet, starchy taste. One of our preferred take-out spots, if we don’t cook or go out dining, is Punjabi Tandoor where we really like their Bengan Bhartha curry, an eggplant based curry with tomatoes and onions. So when we recently looked for a good vegetarian weeknight dinner idea in which we could combine eggplants with sweet potatoes we settled on this Indian-style curry with sweet potatoes, eggplant, green beans and chickpeas:

As much as we like Cook’s Illustrated for its “scientific” approach to “iterative” cooking (cook the recipe, test it with a few people, get their feedback and “improve” the recipe, cook the recipe etc.) it tends to “water down” ethnic cuisines since this approach works towards finding the greatest denominator which is normally counterproductive for authenticity. But similar to the regular discussion between foodies if non authentic restaurants can have good food we think that in the end the taste of a dish matters most, and authenticity is a plus.

This Indian-style curry turned out very well and we liked the sweet flavor of the sweet potatoes and the eggplants, with the green beans and chickpeas giving some texture to the dish. The curry gets a lot of body from the roasting of the spices and the addition of tomato paste. The onion relish added some crunchiness. We prefer our curries not too spicy and just used one chili but this can easily be increased to get some serious heat. We served the curry over Basmati rice and with some mango-papaya chutney and yogurt.

Toast curry powder and garam masala over medium heat until it darkens slightly. Cool down toasted spices.

Heat some oil over medium heat and cook onions and sweet potatoes for about 10 minutes.

Add remaining tablespoon vegetable oil, garlic, ginger, chile and tomato paste and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring continuously to avoid burning the tomato paste.

Add toasted spices and cook for an additional minute, stirring continuously.

Add green beans and eggplants and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Add tomatoes, water and chickpeas and some salt and bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes until green beans are tender.

Stir in cream and cook for about two minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt.

Recipe adapted from “Cook’s Illustrated”

Serves 4

2 tbsp curry powder
1.5 tbsp garam masala
4 tbsp vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 onions, diced
300 g (11 oz) sweet potatoes, diced
1 tbsp ginger, minced
1 serrano chile, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
400 g (14 oz) green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
400 g (14 oz) eggplant, diced
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, pureed in food processor
1 can (14.5 oz) chickpeas
600 ml (2.5 cups) water
70 ml (1/4 cup) heavy cream

Onion relish
Onion relish:

1 onion, diced
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp paprika
¼ tsp salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients.


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