The 2013 Oscar nominees were released today – and among them I was happy to see The Life of Pi, one of my favourite books, transformed into film. The story of a 16 year-old Indian boy’s passage to America provides plenty of inspiration for Oscar-themed food, should you be planning an Oscar party, or just if you want to eat something Indian-inspired before going to the movies.
One of the simplest meals to pull together is a curry. This vegetarian version makes use of any number of vegetables – feel free to swap your favourites, whatever is in season or in need of cooking before it wilts in your crisper. Just make sure you start cooking the sturdier ones – like potatoes, squash and root vegetables – first, then add the more fragile ones later.
Adapted from Fine Cooking
canola or other mild vegetable oil or ghee, for cooking
1 large onion, chilled
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 red or yellow pepper, seeded and sliced or chopped
1 Tbsp. curry powder or paste
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
pinch dried red chile flakes
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 can coconut milk
1 small cauliflower, broken into florets (optional)
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed, or 2 medium thin-skinned white potatoes
2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 large carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 14 oz. (398 mL) can chickpeas, drained
2 cups baby spinach
juice of a lime
chopped peanuts and/or chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
In a large, heavy skillet, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the red or yellow pepper and cook for a couple minutes, until starting to brown, then add the curry powder, cumin, and chili powder; stir for 30 seconds to toast the spices. Add the tomato paste and stir until well blended.
Add the coconut milk along with some salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Add the cauliflower, potatoes, tomatoes, and carrots. Return to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
Stir in the chickpeas, spinach, lime juice, and zest; cook until the spinach has wilted, about 3 minutes more. Add a squeeze of lime and serve garnished with the cilantro. Serves 4-6.