Thursday, December 1, 2011

White Kurma (Aromatic Vegetable Stew)

Kurma (Korma or Qorma) is a fragrant stew enriched with aromatic spices, nuts and poppy seeds. It is a full flavored and rich tasting curry with all the roasted spices, nuts, coconut, etc and is typically on the mild side.

This classic kurma from Chettinad cuisine is known as White (Vellai in Tamil) Kuruma as the veggies and the gravy remain whitish as there are no tomatoes and barely a pinch of turmeric. It is delicious served with rotis or rice dishes, and also dosas, adai, etc.

White kurma uses Indian cinnamon bark which has a slightly different flavor compared to the commonly used cinnamon sticks. Use cinnamon bark for the authentic flavor but if it is not handy, regular cinnamon stick will do quite nicely. Typical Chettinad Kuruma does include garlic; so if you like garlic, saute a couple of cloves of it along with the spices and proceed as per the masala instructions.

I use a Serrano or Jalapeño chile and remove the core with the seeds and whitish parts so that you get the lovely taste of the chile without the heat. If you like a bit more heat and a bigger kick, the chile in its entirety or more chiles may be used.

Cinnamon bark, white poppy seeds, and all the other spices are available in Indian markets. The dry roasted chana dal (pottukadalai) is also available ready to purchase; sometimes it is labeled as "dalia". If it is unavailable, you can dry-roast a little chana dal to use in this curry. If white poppy seeds are not available readily, just leave them out - DO NOT substitute it with black poppy seeds.

Ingredients:

Spice Paste (Masala):
1 one inch piece Cinnamon Bark
1/2 tsp Whole Black Pepper
1 tsp Coriander Seeds
5 Whole Cloves
1 Tbsp White Poppy Seeds
1 tsp Fennel Seeds
1 green cardamom, crush, peel and use the seeds
1 Tbsp Pottukadalai (dry roasted Chana Dal)
5 Cashews
7 Almonds
2 slices fresh Ginger, coin sized
1 hot green chile, core removed
1/4 cup fresh Coconut (3 Tbsp dry unsweetened)

Kurma:
a handful of raw Cashews (optional)
1 small Chayote Squash (or 1 med. Potato)
1 Carrot
1 Handful Green Beans
1 Cup Cauliflower pieces
1 Corn on the cob
1 cup Dry Peas or Chickpeas, cooked
1 pinch Turmeric
1 pinch ground Red Chile (Cayenne)
1 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 Key Lime, Juiced (optional)
A small handful of fresh Cilantro, finely chopped

1 Tbsp Ghee
1 piece Cinnamon Bark
5 whole Cloves
2 Black Cardamoms, slightly crushed
1 Bay Leaf
1 Onion, finely chopped

Method:

Soak the handful of cashews in very hot or boiling water to cover.

Start toasting the spices for masala in a dry skillet; first add the cinnamon and stir for a few seconds; then start adding all the rest one by one while stirring often. After you add the cardamom seeds, stir for a couple of seconds and remove from heat and pour on a plate; let cool.

Toast the nuts lightly; let cool.

Grind the toasted spices and nuts into a smooth paste with the roasted dal, ginger, and coconut adding water as required.

Cut the chayote, potato, carrots, etc. into bite-sized cubes. Cut the corn into small 1" rounds of semicircles and leave the cob in. Remove ends from green beans, and cut them into 1" pieces.

Heat the ghee in a large heavy saucepan and add the cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom; cook until fragrant, about two minutes.

Stir in the onion with a pinch of salt, red pepper, and the turmeric; cook until almost golden.

Stir in the cauliflower and cook stirring for about 2-3 minutes; remove to a bowl and set aside.

Add the rest of the fresh veggies to the same pan and saute for two or three minutes with the salt.

Add the soaked cashews, salt and ground masala paste and mix well; stir in some boiling water to get the right consistency - the curry should have plenty of gravy.

Simmer the kurma gently; when the veggies become just tender, stir in the cauliflower, chickpeas and/or peas and bring back to a boil. Don't worry if the gravy looks a bit thin; as the kurma cools, it will thicken.

Remove from heat and let rest for about 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, add a little lime juice to taste if you like and sprinkle with the cilantro.

Serve with plain rice or pulav, dosa, appam, etc. Enjoy!!

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