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Looking to add to your roster of flavourful, inventive curry recipes? We bring you three ideas from Michelin star chef Atul Kochhar’s latest cookbook that will end up becoming firm favourites.
As national treasured cuisines go, Indian food ranks high. Almost every year, it’s right there next to Chinese food and our beloved fish and chips – and it’s not hard to see why when there’s such a variety of chilli, tangy, creamy curries to tuck into. Though, as much as we enjoy a tikka masala and a korma or two, when you’re looking for something off-kilter, something unpredictable and wonderfully exciting, where do we look? Further afield to the rest of the world’s curry recipes, of course.
Indian-born, British-based Michelin star chef Atul Kochhar is the exact person to help us out on our quest for flavoursome, moreish recipes. Whether he’s rustling up dishes for his Mayfair restaurant Kanishka, where he serves up modern north-eastern Indian dishes, or bringing us a host of recipes in one of his six existing cookbooks, including Fish, Indian Style, Simple Indian and 30 Minute Curries, he knows what makes a great curry. Happily, his latest cookbook Curry Everyday: Over 100 Simple Vegetarian Recipes From Jaipur To Japan is here to solve our thirst for new, creative ideas.
The concept of the cookbook is simple: look at curry not as a dish, but as a style of cooking and you’ll be able to see the similarities and differences between a recipe from two different countries whether they’re neighbouring or not. The second priority of the cookbook takes note of the general shift towards eating less meat and so provides over 100 simple recipes that are a mix of vegetarian and vegan recipes. What we’re left with are dishes that are both flavourful, exciting and easy to recreate whenever your midweek meals need a shake-up.
We’ve handpicked three delicious recipes to get started with, taking you on a journey from Persia to east Africa. There’s no doubt you’ll be adding these recipes to your curry Rolodex in no time…
Firstly, if it’s a sweet, creamy dish you’re after, Cambodia’s aubergine and broccoli in coconut curry (Amok) will hit the spot. Packed with lime leaves and lemongrass, it’s a refreshing dish you’ll lean on before the cold, grey days take hold.
Fans of soft cheese textures will love the Swahili paneer curry. It’s like the one we know and love, except the secret to this dish lies in the east African curry powder mix, including red chilli powder, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric and ginger.
Lastly, recreate an Iranian classic with Kocchar’s Persian pumpkin and chickpea (khoresh fesenjān) curry. This vegan version is rich with the usual ingredients like walnuts, pomegranate and cinnamon. If you have a sweet tooth, this is the dish for you…
Aubergine and broccoli in coconut (Amok) curry
Atul says: Amok is Cambodia’s national dish, with the lemongrass, galangal and fresh turmeric providing the distinctive character of this curry. I’ve kept all those ingredients in the curry paste in this vegan version, for an authentic dining experience. Serve with jasmine rice.
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 red onions, thinly sliced
- 4 fresh or dried Makrut lime leaves, fine central ribs removed
- 2 large aubergines, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 800ml coconut milk
- 150g broccoli florets and stalks, chopped
- 200g frozen peas
- sea salt
- spring onions, sliced, to garnish
For the curry paste
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 6 fresh or dried Makrut lime leaves, central ribs removed
- 2–3 fresh red chillies, ideally Thai chillies, to taste, chopped
- 15g shallots, chopped
- ¼ lemongrass stalk, outer layers removed and the stalk bashed and finely chopped
- 3cm piece of galangal, peeled and finely chopped
- 1cm piece of fresh turmeric, peeled and grated, or 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 4 teaspoons grated jaggery or Demerara sugar
First make the curry paste. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and process until a smooth paste forms, scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary. Set aside.
Heat a wok over a high heat. Add the coconut oil and swirl it around until it melts. Add the red onions with a pinch of salt and stir-fry until softened. Add the Makrut lime leaves and aubergine and continue stirring to sear the aubergines.
Lower the heat to medium-high, add the curry paste and stir for 2–3 minutes to cook out the rawness. Stir in the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to the point where the mixture just simmers and leave for about 10 minutes until the aubergine is half tender.
Stir in the broccoli and a splash of water, if necessary, so there is enough liquid to just cover the vegetables, and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Add the peas and continue simmering until all the vegetables are hot and tender. Taste and adjust the salt, if necessary, then garnish with spring onions and serve.
Swahili paneer curry
Atul says: Paneer isn’t an indigenous African ingredient, but there is a large Gujarati community in Kenya, which is why I’ve included this simple recipe here. Typically, Gujarati cooking is flavoured with ginger and chilli powder and you get both in the East African curry powder.
Serves 4 as a sharing dish
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2.5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- ½ each green, red and yellow peppers, cored, deseeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 tablespoons East African curry powder (below)
- 3 tomatoes, chopped
- 200g paneer, cut into bite-sized pieces (see notes below for vegan alternative)
- 4 tablespoons passata
- 125ml coconut milk
- 125ml water
- sea salt
For the East African curry powder (makes about 60g)
- 2 tablespoons red chilli powder
- 1 tablespoon cardamom seeds
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 5 tablespoons coconut milk, optional
- 1 long, thin green chilli, finely chopped or halved
- chopped coriander leaves
- ½ lemon
First make the East African curry powder. Mix all the ingredients together, then store in an airtight container in a dark place and use within 6 months.
Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion with a pinch of salt and fry, stirring often, until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and stir for 1 minute to cook out the rawness. Add the mixed peppers and continue stirring until they begin to soften.
Add 2 tablespoons of the curry powder and stir for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and give them a good stir, then stir in the paneer and passata. Stir in the coconut milk and water, turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes to concentrate the flavours and reduce. Taste and adjust the salt, if necessary.
When ready to serve, spoon the 5 tablespoons coconut milk over, if using. Garnish with the green chilli and coriander leaves and squeeze in lemon juice to taste to cut through the richness.
For a vegan option, replace the paneer with chopped firm tofu.
Persian pumpkin and chickpea (khoresh fesenjān) curry
Atul says: This is my vegan version of an Iranian classic, a rich dish with the walnuts and pomegranate flavourings and a hint of cinnamon. You can use vegetable stock if you’d like, but I wanted to keep the flavours of the other ingredients quite pure, which is why I’ve specified water.
- ½ large pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into bite-sized cubes, about 400g prepared weight
- sunflower oil
- ground cinnamon
- 75g walnut halves
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 7cm piece of cinnamon bark
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 x 400g cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 100ml pomegranate juice
- 75g pomegranate molasses
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- freshly grated nutmeg, to taste, or a pinch of ground nutmeg
- 1 unwaxed orange, zested
- about 500ml water, as needed
- maple syrup, optional
- 80g pomegranate seeds
- salt and ground black pepper
- chopped flat-leaf parsley or coriander, to garnish
Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas 7. Put the pumpkin cubes on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle with sunflower oil and lightly dust with ground cinnamon, then shake the tray so all the cubes are well coated. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender and the tip of a knife slides through easily.
Meanwhile, heat a frying pan, ideally non-stick, over a medium-high heat. Add the walnuts and toast, stirring often, until lightly browned. Leave to cool, then transfer to a food processor and process until finely ground. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons sunflower oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and fry, stirring often, until the onions start to soften. Add the cinnamon bark and continue frying, stirring, until the onions are light brown. Stir in the cumin, turmeric and ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, and stir together for 30 seconds. Add the chickpeas, pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses, salt, pepper and a good grating of nutmeg. Increase the heat and bring to the boil, stirring.
Add the pumpkin cubes and ground walnuts and return the mixture to the boil, stirring until the stew thickens. Add the orange zest and stir in just enough water to get the thickness you like. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, and if you think it’s too sour add maple syrup to taste. Stir in the pomegranate seeds and garnish with parsley before serving.
Curry Everyday: Over 100 Simple Vegetarian Recipes (£26, Bloomsbury Absolute) by Atul Kochhar is out now
Photography: Mike Cooper