For my first foray into food blogging, I decided to tackle a problem that many face when trying to eat locally: how to bringing big flavor to our tables without relying on the global supply chain.
I have a longstanding passion for the big and deep flavors of Indian cooking. However, the flavors of Indian cooking are not readily available in the Maritimes—last time I checked, they don’t grow turmeric in the Valley. My challenge was to bring this very international cuisine down to a local scale.
Eating sustainably involves a certain degree of compromise. I, for one, am not willing to cut all imported products out of my diet. In this particular instance, I decided that the spices—which is what really creates the flavor in Indian cooking—would have to come from elsewhere.
This compromise is also an economical one, because a pound of curry powder will take you quite far, whereas a pound of imported cauliflower will not. So I decided to use imported spices, but made sure that the substance of my curry—seasonal vegetables—were all purchased down the street, at the farmer’s market.
The second challenge came in the starch I would eat with my curry. Most curries are eaten with basmati rice, a fragrant rice variety grown in India and Pakistan. But curry is also eaten with naan bread, one of many different kinds of Indian flatbread (others include chapatti and paratha; each are eaten in different regions of India).
Naan is made from yeasted wheat dough and typically cooked on the sides of a tandoor, or clay oven. Finding locally grown basmati rice might be impossible, but the Maritimes do not lack for wheat. So I bought a five-pound bag of unbleached white flour from Speerville Flour Mill, lugged it home, and set about making my own version of Naan bread to eat with my vegetable curry.
The curry was exactly as I imagined it. The fiery punch of Indian spices was matched by the comforting robustness of late autumn produce: broccoli, potatoes, butternut squash, carrots and kale all went into the pot. The Naan bread was good, although it lacked the charcoal crispness of those breads baked in a tandoor
If you want to try your hand at naan and have access to a barbecue, I’d recommend grilling it. While it may have lacked the charcoaled je ne sais quoi of naan baked in the tandoor, my homemade version did provide the starchy base I needed for my curry, however, and was great for mopping up the sauce!
WINTER VEGETABLE CURRY
Note: this curry is extremely versatile. Basically, to create a decent curry dish, you need three components: flavor (curry powder or paste), liquid (milk, cream, tomatoes, coconut milk), and substance (vegetables, meat, or both). When you get used to making curry, you can play around with these elements. Curry powder is widely available in the grocery store, or you can mix your own using a blend of cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cardamom.
- 3-4 teaspoons curry powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 medium onions, peeled and diced
- 4 potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- ½ butternut squash, peeled and diced
- 3 stalks kale, washed, ribs removed, chopped
- 2 cups chopped broccoli
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
- 2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
- Quartered lemon
- Plan yoghurt
- Chopped cilantro, all for garnish
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add the garlic and onion; saute, stirring constantly, until onions are glassy, about 5 minutes. Add curry powder and other spices and mix will with onion and garlic mixture for 2 minutes.
- Add the evaporated milk and tomatoes and bring to the boil, taking care that the milk does not stick to the bottom of the put and burn. Add the carrots, squash and potatoes. Return to the boil, then simmer on medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
- Taste the curry, and add more curry powder, salt, and pepper if needed. Add the broccoli and continue cooking for approximately three minutes, until potatoes and squash are tender. Add kale and cook for an additional two minutes.
- Divide the curry into bowls. Pass around yoghurt, lemon and cilantro to garnish as needed. Serve with naan bread or rice.
(this recipe was adapted from this one)
- 1 tsp dry active yeast
- ½ tsp white sugar
- ½ cup hot water, about 110º F (45º C)
- 1 cup unbleached white or whole wheat flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 3 tbsp yogurt
- 4 tbsp melted butter, for drizzling
- 3 tbsp sesame seeds and/or 3 tbsp chopped garlic (optional)
- In a small glass bowl, combine the yeast and sugar. Add the water and let it sit for a few minutes until frothy.
- In a large bowl combine the flour and salt. Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture, oil and yogurt.
- Knead together for about 5 minutes, adding more flour as needed. The dough is finished kneading when it is still tacky but does not stick to your fingers. Do not over-knead!
- Oil a small bowl and place your dough inside. Turn it over once to coast. Cover and let it rest in a warm place for about 1 hour (if you have a very cold kitchen, as I do, preheat your oven to 100 degrees, turn it off, and place the dough inside with the door slightly ajar. The dough will not rise in a cold room).
- Preheat the oven to 475 degrees (F), and place a baking sheet inside to preheat.
- Punch down the dough and divide it into 4 balls. Roll each ball out on a floured surface until about ¼ inch (0.6 cm) thick (you can use a rolling pin or, if you don’t own one, a drinking glass will do just fine). Place rolled naan on preheated baking sheet and drizzle with melted butter. You can also add chopped garlic or sesame seeds, if you wish. You may only be able to fit two naan on your baking sheet, so either bake them in batches or use two sheets.
- Bake in the oven for 6-8 minutes. The naan should be golden and slightly crispy on the edges, but still soft.
Blog written by: Christina
Adventures in Local Food is your source for food news in Nova Scotia, from pickles to policy. It is a project organized by the Ecology Action Centre. Learn more about our program at https://www.ecologyaction.ca/ourfood