If you’ve ever pursued an interest in vegetarian cooking, it’s likely you’ve been drawn to Indian food. India, it seems to me, is home to the world’s most sophisticated and highly developed vegetarian cuisine. And no wonder, given India’s ancient culture, and its hundreds of millions of vegetarians. Although I once took cooking classes from two Indian women, my knowledge of Indian cooking is pretty superficial, coming mostly from cookbooks and an occasional restaurant meal. Nevertheless, I can’t keep myself from dabbling. Currently, I’m taking inspiration from The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, an 800-page tome which seems to me to be the most comprehensive Indian vegetarian cookbook written for American readers. The author, Yamuna Devi, is an American who was known as Joan Campanella before she became a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and began her life-long study of India’s spirituality and cuisine. This is a serious, but very usable book, with more than 500 recipes, and no pretty pictures. It’s a book I’ll refer to time and again as I share with you my interest in Indian cooking. Today’s recipe is only loosely based on one of Devi’s, but I expect it will be the first of many to be inspired by this stimulating book. My recipe for curried red kidney beans with roasted butternut squash is after the jump.
CURRIED RED KIDNEY BEANS WITH ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH
Preheat oven to 400˚ F / 5-6 servings
For the Roasted Squash:
1 small butternut or similar squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon garum masala
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
sprinkles of salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 cup water
Place the squash in a small baking pan. Measure in the garum masala and soy sauce, sprinkle on the salt and pepper. Toss gently to get everything coated. Spread out squash pieces evenly in the pan, and pour in the water. Cover tightly with foil. Bake in the center of a preheated 400˚ F oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 20 minutes or until the squash is mostly tender and lightly caramelized.
For the curried kidney beans:
1 small white or yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and then minced
2 teaspoons oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes, fresh or 1 15-ounce can
2 tablespoons mirin, or to taste (optional)
1-2 teaspoons ume boshi vinegar, to taste
2-3 teaspoons soy sauce, to taste
1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans, along with some of their cooking liquid (or the contents of one 15-ounce can)
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
chopped cilantro, about 1/4 cup (half mixed in, half as garnish)
1. Grind the seeds to a powder in a coffee grinder. If you don’t have these spices in whole seed form, you can use powdered spices, but freshly ground spices are authentic, and provide a more vivid flavor.
2. Begin cooking by heating a roomy, thick-bottomed dutch oven-type pot. Add a little oil, then the onion and ginger. Sauté over medium heat 3-4 minutes. Add the spices. Sauté 2-3 minutes more, stirring almost constantly.
3. Add the tomatoes, along with their juices, and simmer 3-4 minutes more.
4. Gently stir in the beans, cover, turn down heat to low and simmer 5-6 minutes.
5. Add the roasted squash and 1/2 the cilantro. Very gently stir these in, simmer at very low heat a few minutes more. Turn off heat, leave covered and let sit 10 minutes for flavors to meld. Serve with basmati brown rice or your grain of choice.