If you want to get on my good side, bring me some Indian food. When I first arrived in New York City from Trinidad and Tobago, there weren’t many Caribbean restaurants immediately surrounding my college, but there were Indian restaurants. Although the dishes served at these restaurants were a bit different from Indo-Trinidadian cuisine, the flavors reminded me of home. One of the key ingredients in many Indian dishes is garam masala, a blend of various ground spices including cumin, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon. “Garam” means “hot”; masala is a mixture of spices. I do want to point out that “hot” does not mean “spicy” or “peppery” but comes from the Ayurvedic system of medicine that believes certain spices can elevate the body temperature. Garam masala actually has a bit of a sweet earthy flavor profile. It also should not be confused with curry powder, which is a Western invention.
“It is a spice blend you will find in almost every Indian restaurant in the country but seldom in an actual Indian home. This hilariously non-Indian Indian spice mix is the very common ‘curry powder’…By the 18th century, many Indian Sailors had started coming into England on ships and would often be made to work in low-paid jobs. Often it was cooks that were paid more than sailors, so many of these Indians would work as chefs. Many of them would cook traditional English food as well as Indian food, using the vibrant and flavoursome spices brought back on ships by British generals from India – but it was a mix specially made for the British palate.”
Riddhi Deshpande, A Short History of Curry Powder
Similar to Cajun seasoning blends, there is not specific recipe for garam marsala; every chef may have a portion preference. I like to cumin to be a bit more prominent in my Indian-inspired dishes. So here’s my take on a South Indian vegetable curry.
Prep time: 10 minutes . Cook Time: 30 minutes . Yield: Serves 6
1/2 to 1 Cup Reduced Fat Coconut Milk*
2 1/2 Cups Water or vegetable stock
1/2 Cup Cilantro, chopped
8 Oz Spinach, raw
2 Medium Carrots, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 Medium Cauliflower, cut into florets
1 Medium Yellow Onion, chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
3 Cups Tomatoes, diced
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Ginger, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp Garam Masala
1/2 Tbsp Ground Cumin
1/2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
Salt, Cayenne Pepper and Black Pepper to taste
1. In a pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, ginger, garam masala and cumin. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until fragrant. Add tomatoes and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes until tomatoes are soft.
2. Add coconut milk, water/broth, salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil
3. Add cauliflower florets, bell peppers and carrots. Cook covered until vegetables are to the desire tenderness (5 to 10 minutes). Stir occasionally and add more water/broth if necessary.
4. Stir in cilantro and spinach; cook for until spinach is wilted (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat. Serve warm.
*More coconut milk results in a richer flavor but also more calories.
Nutrition per 8-oz serving (1/2 Cup of Coconut Milk and water instead of broth): 130 Cals; 19g Carb; 5g Fat; 6g Protein; 7g Dietary Fiber
Nutrition calculated using the MyFitnessPal Recipe Importer