Oddly shaped flat green leaves bundled by a rubber band. What could they be? I queried the lady at the farmers’ market regarding their identity. Kaffir lime leaves. I'm thrilled! I’ve seen a number of recipes calling for these leaves and never knew where to get them. I didn’t dare put them on the grocery list since Larry gets really annoyed when I list exotic ingredients that I can’t even describe. I readily paid $1 for the leaves.
But of course, when I got home, I couldn’t find any of the recipes I had seen previously. But I had the leaves and was determined to use them. So I did a search on epicurious.com to see what I could find. I selected a vegetable curry and a Thai shrimp and noodle soup to use the leaves.
If you’ve thought that I haven’t been cooking much lately, you would be correct. For the last couple of months, I just haven’t had the energy. Sometimes I plan menus and make the shopping list, but Larry has done all the shopping and cooking. He’s actually done almost everything except the laundry. After he turned all my white clothes blue on our honeymoon, he has never again been allowed to touch the laundry.
This vegetable curry was the first thing I’ve been interested in cooking in ages. And I was not disappointed. I’ve never tried making a curry from scratch – I’ve always started with a ready-made sauce and added some custom touches. This sauce was rich and complex, with plenty of spiciness and enough heat to suit my love of spicy food. You can always adjust the heat based on the amount of the chiles and remove the seeds if desired to make it milder. I based this recipe on the epicurious.com version, but adapted it based on my experience and for ingredients I had on hand. Although this version is vegetarian, this same sauce would be perfect for shrimp or chicken and cashews would also make a nice addition. We served it over brown basmati rice and it was definitely a filling meal.
South Indian Vegetable Curry
Adapted from Bon Appetit
(It says 4 servings, but we thought it made at least 6)
1 large onion, cut into chunks
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 piece fresh ginger, 2” x 1”, peeled
3 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp garam masala
2 tsp ground cumin
1 Thai bird chile, chopped
2 Tbsp tomato paste
3 cups vegetable broth
2 tsp packed golden brown sugar
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 whole green cardamom pods
1 lb yams, peeled, cut into 1” cubes
12 oz. russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1” cubes
¼ - ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk
3 large carrots, peeled, cut into ½” rounds
2 tomatoes, cored, chopped
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Handful baby spinach leaves
Fresh cilantro leaves
Puree first 7 ingredients in processor until a paste forms. Cook in a large pot over medium heat until aromatic, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste. Cook until mixture begins to darken, stirring often, about 5 more minutes.
Add broth, brown sugar, lime leaves and cardamom. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring often and scraping up browned bits.
Add yams, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, salt and pepper to mixture in pot. Add coconut milk to taste. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Remove and discard lime leaves and cardamom pods. Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro leaves.