For some time now, I have been trying to deconstruct Akbari Subz, a wonderful, vegetable curry I often have delivered to my door by my local subcontinental specialist. The recipe that has come tantalisingly closest is by Rachel Allen - third generation of legendary daughters-in-law who have made Ballymaloe Country House Hotel in County Cork a foodie's destination of choice. Mrs Allen's spice paste is spot-on, and I hope she won't mind my wandering off-piste with different vegetables (aubergines and fennel, rather than parsnips and carrots), or involving fresh coriander as a main ingredient rather than a garnish, or, indeed, making the curry the night before and reheating it in the coconut milk.
For the originally televised recipe, go to uktv.co.uk/Market Kitchen.
The Spice Paste
- 1 tbs coriander seeds
- 2tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds (my addition)
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 200g onions, peeled and quartered
- 50g root ginger, grated
- 12 cloves garlic, peeled
- 4 red chillies, or a mixture of red and green, with most, but not all seeds removed)
- 3 tbs vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
- Pinch caster sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- a medium bunch of coriander, washed, leaves and stems separated
- 2 x 400ml cans coconut milk
- 600ml vegetable stock or water
- 400ml natural yoghurt
- 700g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
- 1 leek, peeled and cut into rings
- 2 large aubergines, cut into large chunks, salted, rinsed and dried
- 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and sliced into eighths
- 200g green beans, trimmed.
- A bag/large bunch of spinach leaves, washed, thick stalks removed
- 2-3 heaped tablespoons thick yoghurt or crème fraîche, to serve
- 100g toasted cashew nuts.
Toast the whole spices in a dry pan until the seeds begin to pop. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and pulverise. Add the garam masala.
Put the onions, garlic, ginger, chillies, coriander stems and vegetable oil into a blender or processor. Blend until a smooth paste is achieved. Transfer to a saucepan, add the ground spices and cook gently until any excess moisture has evaporated. Transfer half of the paste into a large bowl, leaving the other half in the pan.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Slide in the fennel. Boil for 2 minutes then add the green beans and boil for another 2m. Remove from the heat, rinse with cold water and drain well. Put the beans to one side, and put the fennel with the other vegetables.
Preheat the oven to 170?C/150? Fan/ Gas 3
Put half of the spice paste in a large bowl and add the yoghurt. Add all the vegetables except for the beans and spinach and coat well. Tip into one or two roasting tins, in one layer. Bake for an hour, or until tender and browned, but check from time to time to ensure they don't frazzle. Lift the vegetables out of their trays into a cast-iron cooking pot.
Combine the coconut milk and stock or water with the remaining spice paste in its pan and pour over the vegetables. Add the blanched green beans and the spinach, roughly torn, along with half the coriander leaves, chopped. Refrigerate overnight.
When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 180?C and bring the vegetables and their liquid to room temperature. Bake for 25-30m until bubbling nicely and piping hot.
Just before serving stir in the cream and garnish with the toasted nuts and reserved coriander leaves, some chopped and some left whole.
Serve with Indian bread and a Code 3-5 demi-sec or moelleux.
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Janet Wynne Evans