Thursday, August 6, 2009


Ok, peeps, let me just make a confession here: I could probably eat Indian food every day, but I typically suck at making it. I can make a half-decent but totally fake-o curry. I recently mastered aloo gobi (which is stupid good on the grill) and chicken tikka masala, the most popular dish in Britain -- so popular, in fact, that despite the fact that it's completely inauthentic, it's also become wildly popular in India. But your average Indian restaurant anywhere in America could plum cook me under the table -- and that's not even factoring in the thousands of Indian Aunties who could out-cook me with their mental powers alone!

BUT! BUT! Some of those Indian Aunties have YouTube channels!

So, Navrataan Korma. For the uninitiated, "navrataan" just means "nine vegetables" and "korma" refers to a mild, creamy sauce that often contains yogurt, sometimes thickened with nuts. It's my favorite thing at my favorite Indian place, but homegirl does not have the liquid assets to be eating out all the time, mmkay? So, thanks to Aunty Manjula, and (young) Aunties Hetal and Anuja, I have learned how to MAKE this AMAZING DISH. And now you can too. Here's what you'll need.

a large, deep pot or skillet
a blender
a wooden spoon or similar
a knife and cutting board OR food processor OR mini-chopper

2 T oil
1 bay leaf
1 inch piece cinnamon
3 green cardamom pods
7 whole cloves
10 peppercorns
½ c. cashews or walnuts
2 medium onions finely chopped (in food processor/chopper or by hand)
½ t. turmeric powder
1 t. salt

2 T chopped garlic
2 T chopped ginger
1-2 chopped green chiles (all these can be chopped together in the food processor)
1 can crushed tomatoes

½ T. cumin powder
1 T. coriander powder
1 12-oz can evaporated milk
6-8 cups mixed veggies, any kind
1 cup water

1/2 cup golden raisins
additional nuts for garnishing

1. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat and saute next 9 ingredients until onions are golden brown. Add garlic, ginger, and chiles and saute until fragrant
2. Put this mixture in the blender with tomatoes and blend until very, very smooth, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides once or twice. Do not remove the spices! The point is to grind them all up with the onions and nuts and everything to flavor the dish. Return to pan and cook over medium-high heat until you begin to see oil separating from the mixture. Add the cumin and coriander and stir briefly.
3. Add evaporated milk, vegetables (I used green beans, peas, carrots, lima beans, corn, spinach, and zucchini; you can use any combination of any veggies you like), and water. Cover and simmer until veggies are tender. Salt to taste.
4. Add more water if needed, then sprinkle raisins and nuts over the top of the dish, stir in, and serve with hot rice.

Now, some of you are going to be all, "WHAT? Where am I going to get coriander powder and what the heck is green cardamom and I thought this was a frugal-type blog but ALL THIS IS GOING TO BE EXPENSIVEasdfajfkajwef."

First of all, whoa, dude. Simmer down.

Secondly, don't even worry about it. There are two ways you can get your hands on these spices for crazy cheap. The first way is to head to your friendly neighborhood Indian (or other ethnic) grocery store. If there's an Indian restaurant in your city, there will be an Indian grocery store. They have all these spices and a million more for the most insane prices -- I have NEVER spent more than $4 on a single spice and that's for a 3 or 4 ounce bag. The second way, which would be best if you live somewhat more remote than I do from such a delightful establishment, is to check out Indian food and spice purveyors online.

Thirdly, this IS frugal! I mean, dig the ingredients list. Apart from the handful of spices, we're talking totally ordinary stuff: canned tomatoes. Garlic and onions. Evaporated milk. Veggies -- heck, I even used FROZEN veggies! You could add potatoes or cauliflower, both of which are CRAZY cheap! You could use this to happy-up boring leftovers and it would be even MORE frugal! It's also NUTRITIOUS! It's packed with veggies and so flavorful that you'll never miss the meat OR the fat.

AUGH! I mean, people. Really. You HAVE to make this ASAP. It is AMAZING, and if you don't love it, you are CRAZY. CRAZY I TELL YOU!

Ummm... apparently, it's time for me to calm down as well. Just make it, ok, before I have a coronary? You'll be glad you did.


Radagast said...

Whole spices keep almost forever, so are a great investment. For cardamoms, I usually buy a bag of seeds, rather than buying green pods (figuring about a dozen seeds to the pod, or to taste). Cardamom adds a certain zing to coffee too. I generally buy coriander powder, but you could probably grind your own.

And can you use yoghurt instead of evaporated milk?

Laura said...

Yeah, I buy coriander powder too. And you can use cardamom to make real chai! Not the disgusting pre-mixed kind but real chai.

I reckon you could use yogurt instead of evap. milk, but it would probably have to be full-fat yogurt, you'd have to beat it smooth, and you'd have to add it really slowly, otherwise the sauce will break. The advantage of evap. milk is that your sauce won't break.

Radagast said...

Mmmm. Chai.

Tracy said...

do you have the you tube links?

I found some indian spice packets that make a nice authentic curry, but after I first found them at Costplus market, they were never there again. I ordered them online.

'twould be great to be confident enough to buy my own spices and do it solo.

Oh, the company I got my packets from was "Kitchen Guru" from UK.

Laura said...

Tracy, the links are there (with the names and in the line that talks about youtube links)... I was having a million html issues with this post and couldn't get the links to show up a different color.

I used to buy the spice mixes but it still never tasted quite like the restaurant stuff I loved, so I decided to take the plunge. I'll never go back to the mixes!!

Manjula's recipes and vids are SO helpful and really encouraging. I was like, "Hey, I can do this!" At first I wondered why none of her recipes had garlic or onion, and then I found out she's Jain. Which means no food that grows underground or no bulbs or something. Anyway, onion and garlic are forbidden. So when Manjula uses asafoetida, you can sub onion and garlic or compare with one of Hetal and Anuja's recipes.

Good luck!

Al Bain said...

Now you're talking.

I reckon Indian food is as cheap as. Once you've got the spices, all you ever really need is the holy trinity of garlic, ginger and onion, A few tomatoes (which you will have grown) and some cheap-as-chips meat which you cook for half a day and everyone says is the most tender thing they've ever eaten.

Get half a cubic yard of rice every 6 months and it couldn't be easier. Could it?

Laura said...

Hey Al! Thanks for the comment!

Yeah, it's cheap as, especially if you don't eat much meat like yours truly here (ha! Can't afford it!). But Indian is so crazy flavorful that I don't miss meat at all. And there are so many dahl recipes with a million flavor combinations that are massively cheap, like couldn't be cheaper.

Do you have a pressure cooker? It's been a joy to cook Indian with the pc. Chickpeas in 30 minutes! Fall-apart meat in no time! Tender veg in mere minutes!