Sharp Little ‘Nut’ Curry

So, I had a small dinner party last night and wanted to do something a little different…and VEGAN for the group.  I,  myself, was jonesin for some SPICE but I needed it to be at an acceptable, crowd-pleasing level.  So I tried my hand at curry.  My efforts with indian cooking are really pretty sparse and usually not successful–which made me a bit nervous.  Over the Christmas holiday we tried a Butternut Squash curry at my mother-in-law’s following (pretty closely anyway) a recipe we found through Baker Creek Seeds.  It was good, but it needed a lot more flavor to satisfy our very persnickity palates.  The only other curry that I make (and LOVE) is a Burmese Chicken Curry, but that didn’t pass the VEGAN test and seemed a bit boring.  So, I decided to scrap all of my previous recipes/efforts in lieu of trying something completely on my own.  GREAT PLAN!  Sharp little nut curry is what I am calling it, for now anyway.  It turned out fantastic!  The omnivores in the crowd were LOVING this healthful curry–and so were we!  I served it over a saffron and toasted cumin basmati rice with both a heavy red wine and a nice light Chardonnay.  I hope you enjoy it as much as the birthday crowd did!

Sharp Nut Curry

6 servings

1 large Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed (3-4 cups)

2 large yellow onions, chopped

6 shallots, sliced into very thin coins

2 large bell peppers (we used red and orange), chopped

2 large roma tomatoes

2 large chipotle peppers plus sauce (I like Embasa Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce–found at my local grocery store).  VERY HOT, so be careful!

1 1/2-2 c coconut milk (I use SILK’s Plain-much lighter than traditional canned)

2 T toasted sesame oil

8 garlic cloves

1 big (1×1) chunk of ginger

1 T chopped lemongrass–I get mine at my local asian store.  It comes frozen and chopped for easy use and storage!  YUMMMMM!

3 c veggie or chicken stock (you may need more to achieve your desired consistency)

1-2 T grated Jaggery (indian cane sugar)

1-2 t tumeric

1-2 t coriander

2 t mustard seed

2 T cumin seed

1/4 c red lentils

1 T butter (optional)

1 t salt

Bunch of Cilantro

Heat oil in a large dutch oven or saute pan.  Add the mustard seeds and cook over medium-low until they start to pop. Add 1/2 of the cumin seeds and let toast for a minute or two.

While the mustard seeds are warming and beginning to toast, add the following to your food processor and puree until you achieve a nice and thick consistency:  garlic, 1/2 of the chopped onion, ginger, lemon grass, 1 T cumin seed, chipotle pepper (and sauce), tomato, salt.  Add this to the pan with toasted cumin and mustard seeds.  Saute over low for 10-15 minutes.  Add the rest of the onions, bell peppers, jaggery, lentils, tumeric, butter (optional) and coriander and cook for another 10-15 minutes–until the onions and peppers are nice and soft.  Add the squash cubes and stock and cook over very low heat with a lid for 15-20 minutes.  Add 1 1/2 c coconut milk and place the lid so it is mostly covering the pot, but venting to allow some moisture to be released and the curry to thicken.  Cook for another 15 minutes or so.  Test the curry and make flavor adjustments as needed.  When you are satisfied with the flavor and consistency, serve over toasted cumin and saffron basmati rice.  Garnish with chopped cilantro and caramelized shallots (see instructions in next paragraph).

While the curry is cooking add a small amount of veg oil to a small saute pan and place over med-low heat.  Add the shallots and cook until they are soft and have browned (very important for the best flavor) really nicely.  When brown set aside.  Use the shallots as garnish for the curry.

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