Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Split Pea and Vegetable Curry

A giant cauliflower in my refrigerator pushed me toward making this recipe. Okay, not literally, of course. But, you know, I remembered this recipe seems to need cauliflower to make it right, so I found the journal with my notes about it and prepared to try it again. When I looked at the recipe and saw that it only needed a tiny fraction of that giant vegetable, I plunged ahead anyway. It’s good food. So what if it doesn’t require lots of cauliflower.

This is a thick, stew-y curry with a base of yellow split peas, plenty of potato and a variety of vegetables. In my old notes I wrote, “I feel like the cauliflower is essential.” The underlining is in the original note, so who am I to argue with myself. That being said, other vegetables would be welcome in addition to or as replacements for the cauliflower. The same goes for the other vegetables. While I like the zucchini, the original recipe called for eggplant. Green beans are good, but I only had a few from my garden, so I added sugar snap peas to them. Both are fine.

I like the way the split peas and potatoes thicken this stew, so I probably wouldn’t replace those. I also wouldn’t do much messing around with the spices: fresh ginger, garlic, chile, and toasted cumin seeds. It’s a good, deliciously flavorful balance. I used 2 small chile peppers and quite liked the spice level. You can adjust that to your own taste, of course.

In addition to being hearty and delicious, this is also quite a healthy dish, with a high flavor to calorie ratio. It also has a high whole food quotient with all the good stuff that’s in legumes and vegetables. It’s vegan, too, but even if you eat meat regularly, you won’t miss it in this wholesome curry. I served it with flatbread (I wish I’d had time to make this naan to accompany it!), but I think you could serve it over brown rice, instead.

With cooler weather coming on us, this is a great warming stand-by. Now, about the rest of that cauliflower…

Split Pea and Vegetable Curry
Adapted from Eating Well magazine

1 cup yellow split peas
5 ¼ cups water, divided, plus more if needed
2 cups potato (peeled if desired), cut into ½ inch cubes
1 cup cauliflower, cut into 1-inch (or smaller) pieces
1 cup chopped green beans and/or sugar snap peas
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon canola oil (or other neutral oil)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 finely chopped fresh chile peppers (or to taste)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1 lime

1. Place the split peas in a sieve and rinse well in cold water. Drain well.

2. Place the split peas in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the 5 cups water. Bring to a boil and skim any foam that forms on the surface. Add the potatoes. Return to a boil, reduce the heat and boil gently, uncovered for 5 minutes.

3. Stir in the cauliflower, green beans and/or snap peas, zucchini, carrot, salt and turmeric. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and cook at a gentle boil until the vegetables are tender and the split peas are soft, but not falling apart. Stir occasionally and add more water if you think the stew is getting to thick. This should take about 20 minutes, but rely more on the state of the split peas than on the time.  

4. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook about 15-20 seconds, or until sizzling and fragrant. Add the garlic and chiles and cook, stirring often, until the garlic is just beginning to brown, about 30 seconds or so. Remove from the heat.

5. Stir the cumin mixture into the stew. Pour ¼ cup water into the skillet. Swirl the water around the pan and pour into the stew.

6. Stir in the cilantro and lime juice. Taste for seasoning, specifically salt and lime juice, and adjust as needed.

Makes about 6 servings.

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