Hello my darlings! Last night I made the most fabulous vegetarian stew that I HAD to blog about. It seriously rocked my casbah. I took the recipe from what has to be the ultimate vegetarian cookbook. If you are a vegetarian, or like eating vegetarian, and you don’t have this cookbook…that’s like being a mammal and not having nipples. Seriously.
The cookbook is by the charming and lovely Madhur Jaffrey, a British cooking celebrity and actress whom you may recognize from Eastenders, among other shows. I adore her. Here’s a pic of the book:
And here’s the recipe I used:
(Sorry, I cannot get that last pic to rotate to save my soul.)
The big changes I made to start with was that I automatically threw an onion on my list, as everything Must Have Onion. I also knew I wasn’t going to be able to find asafetida at my local shop, so I knew I’d need extra garlic (a decent enough exchange), and I knew I was going to use red chili flakes instead of an entire dried chili. That last one is because I “know” how much red chili flake to use, whereas every time I fuck with a whole chili I end up burning someone’s face off. Usually my own.
After shopping, I had a lovely spread:
This is the kind of recipe where you want everything chopped and ready to be thrown in. It’s not that it’s difficult, and despite the wide variety of ingredients it’s actually a very straightforward recipe. But there are things, like frying spices, that need to be done quickly so they don’t burn.
So the first thing I did was a LOT of chopping. But first, some garlic smooooshing. If you don’t know how to crush garlic, as this recipe calls for, here’s how ya do it.
Choose a very wide bladed knife (a butcher knife, or a sudoku, as I have here), and lay your garlic clove out in the middle of an empty space:
Then, keeping a firm grip on the hilt, balance the knife (blade away from you) on top of the garlic clove, almost as if you were making a table top out of it. Then, once you’re confident you’re not going to slice the heel of your palm off (again, have the blade facing AWAY from you), use that heel to punch down on the knife, crushing the garlic underneath. You might try going slow and squishing, the first few times you try it, working up to a nice, swift motion as you become more comfortable. Just do be careful; such big knives can do some damage.
What you end up should look like this:
Despite the term “crushed,” it’s not going to be a paste (unless you’re the Hulk). It’ll be slivered, so that once you’ve crushed all your garlic, you can run your knife through the pile a few times, and be left with nice, chunkily chopped garlic that will melt into your stew:
After you’ve crushed your garlic (and, again, because I wasn’t able to find asafetida, I used the entire clove), you can start chopping everything else. Or make your friend do it (thanks, Eric!). Try to keep all the veg uniform in size. That’s partially for cooking time, but also so it looks nice in the bowl. For this recipe, I did a nice thick dice, as the recipe called for. Here’s everything all chopped up. First was the potato and onion, which I put into the same bowl as they go into the pot together:
I left the eggplant and the mushrooms (which I quartered AND forgot to take a picture of) separate, as they would go in a few minutes apart from each other and from the onion/potatoes.
While the last few things were being chopped, I put a very large stew pot over medium heat, adding the peanut oil. Whenever you’re cooking something with strong spice, such as Indian food, you always want to gently fry your spices. The key word there is “gently”: it’s very, very easy to burn your spice. When your oil is the right temperature, add your cumin and–as I didn’t use a whole chili–your red pepper flakes. The oil should be hot enough that the spices sizzle, but not smoke:
After about 10 seconds of enjoying all those gorgeous aromas, start adding the vegetables as Ms. Jaffrey commands. First add the potatoes (and onions):
Give everything a good stir, coating your veg in all that gorgeously fragrant oil. Let this cook a few minutes, then add your eggplant, and do the same:
Cook for another few minutes, then add your mushrooms:
After another few minutes, add your turmeric and ground coriander. Again, you are going to be knocked out by these smells. Stir the spices in a bit, then add your tomato puree (we used roasted tomato w/ garlic because, really, who can have enough garlic?). Next go in all those lovely chickpea and fragrant cilantro (fresh coriander). Finally, add a LOT of salt–use what the recipe calls for, but don’t be afraid to add more after tasting–and then the water. The recipe calls for four cups, but what you want is enough water that it reaches just the middle or bottom of the topmost veg. Keep in mind that all of these vegetables will cook down dramatically, and you don’t want to waste time boiling off tons of extra water.
As for cooking times, I cooked this for about 20 minutes with the lid on, then realized it was never going to boil down enough. I took the lid off, and cooked it another 30 minutes w/out the lid. Then again, I’d nearly doubled the recipe. So, my point is to play this one by ear. It’s not going to turn into a thick gravy, but it shouldn’t be soup, either.Â You may have to adjust the time/method of cooking (lid on or off) to get your desired consistency. But definitely start with the lid on, till the veg boils down and you know what you’re working with.Â Here’s everything as it began simmering away:
And here’s the stew all cooked down and ready to go:
To serve, we warmed some different breads–naan and some lovely wheat loaves–for dipping, and added a dollop of Greek yogurt to our bowls:
It was absolutely, amazingly delicious, and I can’t recommend this recipe highly enough. Let me know if you try it, and how it goes! And feel free to ask any questions you might have. Happy cooking!