Vegan Navratan Korma

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

You gotta admit that Indian food is like soul food, it's hearty, it's flavourful, it's aromatic, it's comforting, and the shed load of spices is so good for you, it's almost therapeutic. It satisfies on so many different levels.

Korma is a north Indian specialty, dating back to the 1600s, popularized in the Mughal courts where meat or vegetables are braised, then further cooked with yogurt or cream. This style of cooking spread to Turkey and Persia where it is known as kavurma or qorma. It is a slow cooking process where the ingredients are cooked with spices, then a cashew paste is used to thicken it, giving it more creaminess and richness. It was a dish fit for royals. For mere mortals, this was a dish reserved for special occasions, Diwali being one of them. I thought it was so appropriate that this Diwali I made this for our dinner.

Navratan korma literally means a braised dish of nine gems, the nine usually being vegetables, often including nuts and paneer. I was really OCD about the nine different vegetables, so yes, I had nine. Can't believe some recipes I saw online had just five. LOL! Seriously, I feel for them. Do you have any idea how tricky it is to find nine kinds of veggies for a dish?

Another challenge was to replace the cream or yogurt with something vegan. And this came much easier to me in the form of coconut cream. Not milk, ... cream. Cream is thicker, richer, and much more heavenly and lush. I am reduced to getting it from a can here, but thankfully still get it, nevertheless. You'll know it's coconut cream when you shake the can or tetrapack and nothing sloshes around. It's that dense. Yes, coconut cream was the answer to making this navratan korma so amazing, you'll never think it was veganized.

The recipe is tedious, I'll admit, and has a few components. Go for it anyway. You will be rewarded beyond your efforts. What I'm trying to say is ... make a lot. This recipe uses 6 cups of mixed vegetables. It will probably be a main dish for 2, with leftovers, or serve as a side for 4.

These are the nine vegetables I used, but feel free to make your own mix ...
1. Potatoes (yep, it's a veg alright!),
2. Carrots,
3. Broccoli,
4. Cauliflower,
5. Bell peppers (although technically I had three colours, does that count?)
6. Zucchini
7. Tomatoes
8. Peas
9. Raisins (I gave up and couldn't find another veg, surely didn't want corn or edamame in there LOL)
The vegetables need to be blanched first, and the potatoes boiled. And if everything else is mise en place, its smooth sailing from then on.

900 g (6 cups) of mixed vegetables, blanched or boiled to 90% cooked

Cashew paste:
80 g (1/2 cup) raw cashews
240 ml (1 cup) boiling water

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 inch cinnamon bark
2 cardamom pods, smashed to expose seeds
3 cloves
1 large onion, chopped finely
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 inch piece of ginger, minced
1 green chilli, sliced
1 tomato, chopped
120 ml (1/2 cup) coconut cream
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp chickpea flour (besan)
240 ml (1 cup) water
Salt, to taste
120 ml (1/2 cup) coconut cream

1 tbsp vegetable oil
40 g (1/4 cup) raw cashews
40 g (1/4 cup) raisins

Prepare the vegetables:
1. Wash and chop all the vegetables into bite sized pieces.
2. Boil the potatoes until slightly softened, drain and set aside.
3. Blanche all the other vegetables in boiling water, drain and set aside.

Prepare the cashew paste:
4. Soak the cashews in boiling water.
5. Set aside until softened, about 15 minutes.
6. In a blender or food processor, make a paste of it until fairly smooth.

Make the korma:
7. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan, then add the cumin seeds, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, stirring until fragrant.
8. Add the onions and cook until slightly browned.
9. Add the minced garlic and ginger, then the sliced chilis, cook 2 to 3 minutes.
10. Add the chopped tomatoes, coconut cream and the cashew paste, and cook until it becomes a paste, another 3 to 4 minutes.
11. Stir in the dry spices: coriander powder, turmeric powder, chili powder, garam masala and besan.
12. Add all the vegetables, then stir in up to 1 cup water to get your desired consistency.
13. Cook a further 4 to 5 minutes until vegetables are heated through.
14. Season with salt, taste, and adjust as required.

Make the tadka:
While the vegetables are cooking, make the topping, or tadka.
15. In a small fry pan on medium high, heat the oil.
16. Stir in the cashews and raisins, lower the heat to medium, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes until cashews are golden.

To serve:
17. Transfer the korma to a serving dish.
18. Stir in the coconut cream.
19. Sprinkle the tadka, or topping of fried cashews and raisins.

Enjoy with Jeera rice, Bhuga Chawal, or naan.

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