12 November, 2007

Bollywood Curry

Whenever I go into my local Indian restaurant, which is just about the only place I can get vegetarian food here, they have music playing that reminds me of those Bollywood pictures with all the girls in bright silks and satins batting their eyes at the men with white smiles and slicked-back hair. Dancing, dancing, always dancing, expressing lots of passion for life. You just know that those people like good food. Food expresses life as much as any other physical pleasure, and hunger drives us to the table in search of taste and satisfaction that will give us the energy to do other things like work, play, dance.

Though a perfect apple or peach in season can be as satisfying as anything that takes hours to prepare, sometimes we long for more complex tastes. Food is also a kind of cheap travel; if we taste the tastes of other cultures we can be carried to those far-off lands, without the time and expense. I'm not saying cooking curry at my house in Japan is as good as if I were to eat it in India surrounded with all the colour and scents of that land, but even so, when the temperatures drop and my thoughts turn to warmer places and spicy cuisine, I can cook myself some dishes that help me satisfy that craving, and help me feel that I am sharing some of the rich gifts of that culture.

Recently Veggie Friendly has been featuring the foods of India, with pictures that have been making my mouth water. KPounder, the writer, you may remember from a previous mention of her website, is an Australian woman on a world tour in the happy company of her husband. I've been following her Indian food adventures for the past week, and Sunday, with a day available for cooking, I just had to pull out my Madhur Jaffrey cookbook and see what new tastes I could find. Though I have another Indian cookbook or two and there are plenty of recipes now on blogs online, still the shortest way to get guaranteed good food is to try something from Madhur Jaffrey's Home Cookery. I haven't tried everything in there yet, but I've tried enough to know that every recipe is going to be delicious, and she's put enough thought into them to make the preparation foolproof. Good enough for me.

I chose two dishes to eat with my cooked organic brown rice. Mughlai Saag, Spinach with Onions (and broccoli) and a version of the English Teacher's Vegetable Curry (adapted from a chicken curry) which was one of the first recipes I ever posted. I like it because it's delicious and it uses whole spices, which take much less time to make than if I have to grind them. Better for when it's already past supper time and you want to eat. I'm calling this version featuring eggplant, fresh tomatoes, cardamom and root vegetables, Bollywood Curry in honour of those lively dancers.

This curry is changed a lot by whatever vegetables you choose to use. You can vary it by choosing to put in whatever looks good in the market when you go shopping, seasonal vegetables which are always the most nutritious and tasty. Experiment. You can't ruin this recipe if you stick to the basic structure of garlic, onion, spices and seasoning.

The meal was absolutely delicious, the flavours of the spinach and broccoli dish deep, a bit tarry yet piqued with a note of garam masala, and the eggplant curry dancing on the tongue with as much vigour as any Bollywood heroine.

Try this pairing if you want the energy to dance all the way to wherever you're headed, and arrive with a flush on your cheek and a sparkle in your eye.

Spinach with Onions and Broccoli (About 4 servings)

2-4 bunches spinach. I used about 8 of the small individual plants of Japanese spinach, maybe about 6-8 cups chopped.) Don't worry if it looks like too much, it cooks down a lot.

1 medium onion, chopped small
2-4 Tb. vegetable oil
1 small hot red or green chili, de-seeded and chopped ( or put 1 or two dried ones in the oil to toast, if you have no fresh)
1-2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp salt ( or more, to taste)
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp garam masala

Chop the onion.

Chop the washed spinach crosswise into about 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) pieces

Wash and slice individual florettes of a small head of broccoli into about 1/2 inch ( 1.25 cm) slices

Put the oil into a large frying pan on to heat and put in the onions. Stir and fry for about 3 minutes until they are brown. Add the chopped spinach, chopped chilis, ginger, salt and sugar. Stir and cook the spinach for about 5 minutes until wilted. Add the water and simmer. Cover and turn the heat to low and cook about 8 minutes. Uncover and add the broccoli, re-cover and cook a further few minutes or until the broccoli becomes bright green and is tender. The liquid should be almost boiled away, but if it becomes too dry when you add the broccoli you can add a small drizzle of water (a few tablespoons). Sprinkle the garam masala on top and mix through. Taste and adjust the seasoning. (Add more salt and pepper as necessary.)

Bollywood Curry (About 6 servings)

4-5 Tb vegetable oil
3/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
a 1-inch ( 2.54 cm) stick of cinnamon
6 whole green cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small carrot sliced and quartered
2 small Japanese eggplants (skin on) or 1 North-American sized one, cubed, with skin removed if it's too tough
3-4 very small potatoes or 1 large, sliced and quartered
6-7 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 fresh tomatoes, chopped or food processed
2 fresh red or green chillies sliced thinly and chopped or 1/8-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1-inch (2.54 cm) cube of fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp garam masala

Into the hot oil put the cumin seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaves, and peppercorns and stir a few times. Add the onions, garlic and ginger and stir and fry them until the onions are a bit brown. Add the chopped eggplant, carrots, and fresh chili peppers. Fry for a moment or two to start the cooking. Add the tomatoes, salt and cayenne, if you're using it. Add the potatoes. Add enough water to barely cover the mixture and bring just to a boil. Immediately cover and turn the heat to low. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes or more as required. (Test the potatoes for tenderness.)http://www.spike.com/video/solla-solla-enna/2776538

Remove the cover and turn down the heat. Sprinkle on the garam masala and stir it in. If you want a thicker consistency you can cook it for a few more minutes to reduce the amount of liquid. Serve with the spinach dish and cooked rice.


Unfortunately the youtube video has expired but you can still see it here:


Sea said...

That Bollywood Curry looks so delicious I just want to reach into the screen and have some! Yum!

I thought my caterpillar video was funny, but it has nothing on your dancing Bollywood stars. You know, when I was in India previously and we were traveling around Mysore, some bigwig local movie director were actually filming at the hotel we were staying at. We didn't get to see any dancing, though. :(

I'm taking a break from Indian food after my pakora adventure last week- we'll be going there in late November and there will be no shortage of dosas and other South Indian delights. I can't wait!


vegetablej said...

You're going to India, Sea?!? Wah!!!!I want to go so much!!!!I'm really envious. Are you going to Mysore? How long are you staying?

Take a look at Veggie Friendly's pictures if you want to set up your appetite. Now that food looks like the big YUM.(She's in my links.)

Glad you liked the Saturday Night Fever in Bollywood video. I'm still laughing. :)

Melanie said...

Oh man, I wish I lived next door to you! That looks amazing!

A must for my curry is tofu. I looooove good momen (firm) tofu in curry!

Oh man, oh man, oh man! That looks soooooo amazing!

vegetablej said...

Hi Melanie:

You would be totally welcome to come over for curry. :)

I promise it is good and you can add tofu if you want. I would cut it in chunks put it in the oil to brown a bit (before the spices) and then take it out with a slotted spoon and add it back near the end, when the curry is simmering. I also like adding cooked beans to this one, whether soy or another kind. But if you have none in the house, as I did when I made this, it's fine with just vegetables.

Please try it and let me know what you think. :)

pohanginapete said...

"I'm not saying cooking curry at my house in Japan is as good as if I were to eat it in India surrounded with all the colour and scents of that land"

Actually, at times it can be a real advantage to eat while not surrounded by the scents of India.

That being said, I do miss real Indian food. We have several Indian restaurants here in town, but they're shockingly expensive. That, and this post and recipe, has inspired me to cook my own, more frequently. Thanks!

vegetablej said...

Welcome, Pete!

I hear that India's "ambiance" can be a bit overwhelming; I'd like to find out for myself. Your travel posts and wonderful pictures only increased my interest.

I know what you mean about the restaurants. My local is only so-so and has high prices. It's not hard to make Indian food at all, once you get a stock of spices in your cupboard. People overestimate the complicated-ness. This one can be made in inside an hour and that includes the simmering time.

If you make it, I'd love to hear back about how it went and feel free to share any good recipes, too. :)

Sea said...

I agree- it's really not that hard to make Indian food at home, with the right spices and recipes. *sigh* So yummy. This is making me want curries very badly but I'm trying to hold out until next week. :D We'll be mostly based in Bangalore, but are hoping to make it up North to see the Taj Mahal. Touristy, I know, but I just have this feeling this is a once in a lifetime chance- I have the time off school and DH has to go to India anyway, so.... we're just going to go for it! :D I may try to blog "on the road" in India since I'll have internet access at DH's company. It could get very dull for everyone as I plan on having dosa's DAILY. haha. When we went on our crazy drive across India (Bangalore to Mysore and back) previously (two years ago, on Thanksgiving) we listened to these Bollywood tapes the whole way in the car- unfortunately there were only about 2 of them and they were made in the 80's... It definitely gave the trip a unique soundtrack. :)

Hope things are going great for you and you still have some pasta left! :D I'm still hoarding my tea, so I have some left.


vegetablej said...

Hi SS:

Your trip sounds great; you two seem to have so much fun! I am more than a tad envious.

I'm fine but in a bit of a mood to escape Japan, as they brought in fingerprinting and photographing foreign "visitors" and even people like me, who have a total of almost 9 years living here and have already had all the processing a work visa and a "foreigner's card" requires. I'm walking around in a bit of a black cloud today( yesterday they started it).

Have a good trip; I'm looking forward to lots of pictures fit for drooling. :)

CelebNews said...

If you ever go to North India try it, cos the taste would be completely different to the taste of South.

Ask for Sindhi Curry, if your in the north specially in Bombay.

vegetablej said...

Thanks, celebnews, I'll certainly try the Sindhai curry if I get to India. :) I sure hope I can make it this year.

Big Momma Pimpalishisness said...

Yum... I'm getting hungry just being on your blog :)-

sushizume said...

You inspire me greatly! I am happily testing all of your recipes for a big veg Christmas party!

Thank you,
your latest and greatest fan
Sushi Zume
AKA Deanne

Sukanya M said...

Hi there, the song clip that u hv put is actually not "bollywood" at all. It is a southindian film while bollywood is hindi. However, the spirit (song / dance) is very much the same!

Sans said...

This is a Vegetarian Dish called Puttu

Sudhakar said...

Wow !!!I am coming to this blog for the first time.I think you know more about bollywood curries than i do .Of course ur passion for music is good.That is Kamal hasan dancing to one of the kolly wood songs.Surprised to see kurumas etc.Nice .keep rocking.

Shaun said...

Where was your site this weekend when I had my dinner date! LOL -- I'll certainly use it next time!

** Shaun **
My awesome blog: ohpunk.blogspot.com


CelebNews said...

Its "SINDHI CURRY", actually the best curry anyone could ever have.

Sure you could make it to India, just check the time of the year you travel in, summer could be too hot to move around, winter is the best.

Precious said...

wow! the foods looks delicious! thank you for the recipes. I sure will try to cook those.

vegetablej said...

Thanks big momma p. Cute avatar! And thanks for stopping by.


The party sounds fantastic; wish I could come. Happy Cooking!

sukanya m:

Thank you for correcting me about the "bollywood" distinction. I'm always happy to learn. The spirit is indeed the same, full of life. Love it!


Thanks for the link. The puttu looks great. I'll give it a try.:)


Thanks for idetifying the dancer. I wonder if it is him singing, too? It seems like it might be a voiceover. I don't think anyone could sing and do all that dancing at the same time and not pass out. :)


Glad I found your comment. :)Please, please try something and tell me if you like it. Don't worry I can take suggestions. I'm always looking for feedback and ways to improve recipes.

Hope your date went well!


Thanks for coming back. :) I want to eat the Sindhi curry in India.( I do, I do!) How is the weather in March and April? Is it still not too hot?

In the meantime, maybe you have a recipe?


Thank you! Sure hope you try them and let me know. :)

ThreeGreenApples said...

MUST try the "Bollywood Curry" looks great!!!

tintin said...

mmmmm yummmy it looks delicious!! I am used to cooking the Japanese-style curry, but I will definitely try the bollywood curry!!

vegetablej said...


Thanks. :) It's quite a bit different from Japanese curry; it's spicy but not too hot. I sure hope you try it and give me some feedback.

vegetablej said...


Thanks. Sure hope you try it and let me know. :)