The life-changing magic of spice cabinet curry

| 05 Jan 2018 | 02:58

Most years I take off the last week of December from work. I don’t escape to a tropical paradise, or to hike the red rocks of Arizona; I spend this time at home. One of my projects is organizing my house, the kitchen in particular. Tackling the spice cabinet, a hub for international cuisine, is the first priority. All year I’ve been squirreling away all types of seeds and spices, because you never know when you’ll need dry rubbed sage, chipotle chili powder or fennel seeds. Tucked in a corner are tins of fragrant cumin and mustard seeds, turmeric and coriander, the makings of Indian curry. Sweet potatoes harvested in October from the Warwick Community Garden and cremini mushrooms, a staple in my fridge, will be the ingredients for this vegan dish. Coconut milk, spices, dried and fresh chilies combine to create a complex sauce. The cumin and mustard seeds are left whole so each bite of the curry releases a burst of flavor.

You can substitute butternut or any firm fleshed squash for the sweet potatoes and add chickpeas, cauliflower or winter greens.

Tomorrow night we’ll sample the cuisine of the Yucatan peninsula. That should put a dent in my jar of Mexican oregano.

Sweet potato and mushroom curry

Vegan, serves 2

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced in 1 inch cubes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 fresh green chili split lengthwise but left whole

1 dried cayenne or other small red pepper

¾ teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds

2 garlic cloves, minced

¾ teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground coriander

10 ounces cremini or mixed mushrooms, sliced

1 cup coconut milk

Cilantro for garnish

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sweet potatoes in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 4 minutes, flip and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Add the onion to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and toast for 1 minute. Add garlic, turmeric, coriander, green and red chilies. Stir and cook for 30 seconds. Add mushrooms to the pan, season with salt and stir until coated with spice mixture. Cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Add sweet potatoes back to the pan, stir in coconut milk and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Garnish with cilantro.