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Deep winter wake-up call

| 03 Dec 2021 | 02:05

Cold weather after months of heavy holiday fare (combined with the current state of the pandemic) invokes, in me, a deep sense of malaise or hibernation. This is a perfect time to break out some exotic herbs, spices and chilies to shake things up a bit! For years Indian cooking intimidated me. I thought creating a competent curry was somehow out of reach. Recently, I had an epiphany that a stew is a stew is a stew, with all due respect to stew of all kinds, of course. Armed with a shred of confidence, and the recognition that the beauty of East Asian ingredients is how creatively you can layer flavor upon flavor, these winter months have been quite colorful and inspiring. Note: A quick Google search can direct you to some amazing East Asian markets that carry a vast array of these ingredients.


4-6 fresh curry leaves
2-4 dried whole red chilis (depending on your threshold for heat)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 tablespoons ghee or olive oil
1 large onion chopped
1 inch piece fresh ginger grated
2 large garlic cloves finely minced
Protein of your choice: 1 pound ground beef, chicken, turkey or tofu
1 small eggplant, cubed
1 small red pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground fenugreek
½ teaspoon fenugreek leaves
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon asafoetida

½ teaspoon sugar
1 large bunch chopped Swiss chard
1 can crushed tomatoes
2-3 cups of your choice vegetable, chicken or beef broth
Splash of lime juice
3-4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper


In a large pot, heat oil or ghee over medium heat. Add curry leaves, red chilies, cumin seeds and mustard seeds, and a bit of salt and pepper. Once seeds begin to pop slightly, add onion, ginger, and garlic. Sauté until onions are translucent. Be careful not to let ginger and garlic brown too quickly; keep things moving in the pan. Add protein, a bit more salt and pepper, and sauté until slightly brown. Now add eggplant and pepper, sauté a minute or two. Add crushed tomatoes and broth just until all ingredients are covered for heartier curry, or fill up on stock if you prefer. Bring to a boil, and now the fun part! Add as many or as few as you like of the spices listed in italics, and a bit of sugar. Stir and taste, experiment, explore! Reduce heat to a simmer about 15- 20 minutes. Finally, add chopped Swiss chard and simmer about 10-15 minutes. Turn off heat and let flavors meld for a bit, top with lime juice and cilantro.