Thursday, 30 April 2015

Creamy Vegan Korma

All that sunshine last week tricked me into turning off the heating and had me seriously considering putting my slippers away for summer. These last couple of days though, I'm exceedingly glad I kept them out - my little tootsies are freezing! I'm rather worried about my poor tomato plants out there in the cold and rain too, but hopefully they've toughened up enough to cope (be strong, little guys!).

I've recently developed a very inconvenient intolerance to lactose that has to be ignored whenever there's halloumi around, but I'm being much more sensible with the rest of my diet and this korma is a prime example. Korma's traditionally made with yoghurt or cream, but this vegan version uses coconut milk instead. Not only is it far easier to make (no worrying about curdling) and healthier, but personally I think it creates a richer, deeper flavour too - hoorah!

                                                                                                                                                                   (c) Becca Thorne 2015

Many of these spices can be found in the 'world foods' sections of larger supermarkets, and you'll find the more common spices there too, at a cheaper price and larger quantity than in the regular herbs & spices aisles, but I've added substitutions for those things you might not be able to get hold of. Cassia, or Chinese cinnamon, is a larger, rougher, more obviously bark-like type of cinnamon than is commonly used in the UK. It smells like my late-grandad's old pipe cabinet - woody, a bit like an old spirit barrel and ever-so slightly tobacco-y. It's got a deeper, less sweet and less obvious flavour than true cinnamon, and if you've ever unwittingly bitten into a piece of bark in a South Indian meal, it was probably cassia. If you can't find it you can substitute regular cinnamon, but be aware that it's got a much stronger, sweeter flavour than cassia, so use less. You could replace the ground almonds with flaked, or with cashew nuts if you prefer, or omit them entirely, but I think they add a little extra depth and richness to the sauce.

Creamy Vegan Korma

serves 2-4

for tempering:
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds (use yellow if you can't find black)
3" stick cassia bark, broken (or a 1-2" stick regular cinnamon)
5 green cardamom pods

for the korma:
1 large onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced
1 cauliflower, chopped into florets
1 aubergine, diced into 1-2cm cubes
2 cloves garlic, crushed, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp Bouillon powder (or half a veggie stock cube, crumbled)
1 tin coconut milk
2-3 tsp ground almonds
good handful fresh coriander, finely chopped
boiling water

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, heat approx 1 tbs oil (eg. olive, groundnut, coconut) over a med-high heat. Add the tempering ingredients and shake gently to distribute. Temper until the seeds start popping, then add the onion and cook until beginning to soften. Add the aubergine and cook for a few more minutes, stirring frequently, until it's obviously absorbing oil and changing colour. Add the cauliflower, garlic, ginger, chilli, turmeric and garam masala and continue cooking, stirring every so often, for a few more minutes until everything is well coated in the spices. Add a little more oil if necessary, to help create a very slight paste. Next add the Bouillon/stock and enough boiling water to reach about half way up the veg; don't completely cover it with water. Allow to bubble away vigorously for approx 5 mins, or until the cauliflower is becoming soft and the water is mostly gone, then add the coconut milk and ground almonds, turn down the heat a little, and cook until the sauce is thickened, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Remove the bark and as many of the cardamom pods as you can find. Season with salt to taste, stir in the chopped coriander and serve with brown basmati, pilau or some flatbreads to soak up all the lovely sauce.