Traditional versions of this aromatic Indian stew typically include meat, but this vegetarian interpretation is so flavorful and satisfying I guarantee you won’t be left wanting. It’s a bit time-consuming to make, even by my infamously impractical standards, but oh so worth it on a cold January night. Skip the yogurt condiment and it’s vegan and gluten-free, perfect for a mixed-crowd dinner party or potluck.
Another great recipe adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. I admit the spice mixture worried me a bit at first, as in its uncooked state it smelled and tasted oddly medicinal. But it ended up melding together into something quite closely resembling garam masala, so if you have the same observation, don’t panic.
As outlined below it serves 4-5.
• 8 cardamom pods*: 69 cents
• 1 T cumin seeds: 25 cents
• 1 T coriander seeds: 25 cents
• 1/2 tsp ground cloves: 3 cents
• 1/4 tsp ground turmeric: 5 cents
• 1 tsp sweet paprika: 5 cents
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon: 5 cents
• 2 T canola oil: 6 cents
• 10 oz. shallots, chopped (I had the foresight to buy a big bag of these when I saw them for less than $1/lb. at an Asian market in San Francisco): 69 cents
• 1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds: 15 cents
• 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds: 15 cents
• 25 curry leaves (I was unable to find any, so I had to leave them out)
• 2 T peeled and minced fresh ginger: 20 cents
• 1 large fresh chile, minced (I used a de-seeded and de-ribbed jalapeño, but the spice was undetectable, so next time I’d probably leave the seeds): 6 cents
• 3 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped: 64 cents
• 1/4 cup cider vinegar: 10 cents
• 1 3/4 cups water or vegetable broth (I used turkey broth from the freezer): $0
• 1 T sugar: 6 cents
• 2 1/2 cups peeled waxy potatoes (I used Yukon golds) cut into 1-inch dice: $1.40
• 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch dice (these were overbudget at $1.50 each, so I had to leave them out)
• 1 1/2 cups peeled sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch dice: $1.80
• Mint or cilantro leaves for serving (about 1/3 bunch): 16 cents
• OPTIONAL: Plain yogurt, for serving (about 1 cup): 68 cents
• Cooked rice, for serving (about 1 1/3 cups dry rice): 10 cents
TOTAL: $7.62/4 = $1.91/serving
*Ottolenghi does not specify whether he means green or brown cardamom. The green ones are what you’ll most likely find at your local co-op or health-food store, but brown is more authentic for Indian cuisine. Given the amount of pods called for I assumed brown, as it’s less pungent than green, but I don’t know for sure. If anyone makes this with green pods, let me know how it turns out.
To make the spice blend:
Toast the cardamom pods and cumin and coriander seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, taking care not to burn them.
Transfer cumin and coriander to a spice grinder—EXCEPT the cardamom pods if you’re using brown cardamom, as seen above—and blend to a fine powder. Remove powder to a small bowl and mix in the cloves, paprika, turmeric and cinnamon.
Open the cardamom pods. You can do this with a mortar and pestle, a mallet, or by whacking them with a heavy skillet. Pick out all the seeds from the inside. Grind the seeds to a fine powder in the spice grinder, stir into the bowl with the rest of the spices.
If you haven’t already peeled and chopped all the shallots, may as well do it now. Warning: It will take a while.
Heat a Dutch oven or soup pot with a lid on medium heat. Heat the oil, add the chopped shallots and mustard and fenugreek seeds, and cook until the shallots are translucent and just beginning to brown, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the spice mix, curry leaves (if using), ginger and chile, cook for a minute or so. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, water or broth, sugar, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the waxy potatoes and bell peppers, stir well to coat, cover and simmer for 20 more minutes. Add the sweet potatoes—if you need to add more water or broth to ensure everything is submerged, do so—and continue simmering for another 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
Serve over rice, garnished with cilantro and yogurt. (To eat, stir everything together.)