Potato Pea Curry

I love cooking Indian food. I love the colors, the flavors, and the way it makes my kitchen smell when I am cooking it.

This time of year, I am looking to use my collection of potatoes and onions I've been cellaring for a while. They're showing their age, if you will, and need to be used in something. My kitchen lacking much else when I made the decision to compile something out of these ingredients, I immediately went to my spice cabinet and started digging around. (If you need inspiration for food, start in your spice cabinet - it can bring some great ideas to life.) I found a bag of curry powder I bought in bulk last fall, and thought, "yes, curry!" And so the dish begins.

This dish is a mash up of several curry dishes I've made over the years, and actually doesn't contain curry powder, but instead is made up of some of the spices which make up curry powder. The nice thing about dishes like this is that you can modify them quite a bit based on what you have in your kitchen. As I mentioned before, I didn't have much to work with so what is below is a pretty basic, but extremely delicious. You could make additions or modifications to the recipe, for example:
  • Add three diced fresh tomatoes (or a 28-oz can of diced tomatoes) when you add the broth
  • Add 3 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice
  • Increase the amount of red pepper flakes for added heat
  • Add sweet potatoes, carrots, or cauliflower instead of just potatoes (but keep the amounts about the same or you'll need more liquid and spices)
  • Add a can of chickpeas when you add the broth for added protein
  • If you're feeling adventurous, add some paneer cheese for a delicious protein alternative
I serve this dish atop hot basmati or jasmine rice, then sprinkled with raisins (currants work great too) and either cashews, slivered almonds, or peanuts. If you're looking for a way to cool it down, try adding a chutney or a raita. Accompany with a glass of white wine, like a Sauvignon Blanc, and you have an awesome meal. Best of all, this is a dish that gets better as it sits, so feel free to make a lot to last through the week.


Potato Pea Curry
Makes about 4 servings

3 cups red-skinned potatoes (yukons or russets work fine too), cut into a 1/2-inch dice
1/4 c olive oil or clarified butter
2 large onions, diced
1 tbsp garlic, minced finely
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger*
2 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
3 cups veggie broth
1/2 tbsp salt
2 cups fresh or frozen peas (if frozen, thaw them out first)
1 tbsp brown sugar

Rinse the potatoes until the water runs clear to remove excess starch.

In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the oil or butter. Add the onions and saute until soft. Add the potatoes and saute for another 5 to 8 minutes, until they are slightly browned. Add the garlic & ginger, and cook just long enough to release their aromas. Remove from heat (but don't turn off the burner).

Add the cumin, turmeric, coriander, and red pepper flakes. Return to the stove and cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, for 12 minutes (stirring constantly will prevent the spices from burning on the bottom of the pan). Add broth and salt.

Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to simmer until peas are heated through.

*A few tips on ginger: buy a large piece of ginger and store it in your freezer. When you need it, simply pull it out of the freezer and grate it with a hand grater. A hand grater is also great for getting a "minced" garlic without all the chopping; just peel the cloves and grate them right over the pot!


Roasted Root Vegetable Pasties

Pasties are a Northwoods Wisconsin/Upper Peninsula of Michigan thing. The "a" is pronounced the same way as apple, so as to not be confused with a women's accessory by a similar name. A pasty is basically a pie crust pouch surrounding a combination of carrots, ground or chopped meat, potatoes, rutabaga, and onions. Growing up, they had very little flavor and usually required a lot of ketchup to mask the blandness of the filling.

I love them because they're a great winter comfort food, as they remind me of my childhood (and I love ketchup). Plus, they are really easy to make, freeze well, and can be made using local ingredients that are actually available this time of year. However, the filling needs some help, so that is what I am looking to do with this recipe.

I am making a vegetarian version, as I have recently made the decision to convert back to vegetarianism. I started by collecting the root vegetables in my house, which turned out to be local carrots, beautiful red-skinned potatoes with pink centers, a rutabaga, and one small sweet potato. (Note: you can use any root vegetables you might have available, such as turnips or parsnips, as well). I chopped them all, added spices, and roasted the veggies to enhance the flavor. While the veggies were roasting, I started on the crust.

Pie crust is an art form, so I hear. I have been making this pie crust since I was in elementary school, so it is almost second nature to me. If you've never made your own, I recommend trying this recipe before you go out and buy pre-made crust. It is easier than you might think! For this particular recipe, I added rosemary that I ground into a powdered form with a mortar and pestle to give it a more savory flavor.

After packing the rosemary crust with veggies, sealing it off, and baking in the oven to crisp the crust, you get a beautiful golden brown pasty that tastes delicious with a glass of chardonnay (and a little ketchup).


Roasted Root Vegetable Pasties
Makes 6 pasties

For the filling:

4 medium potatoes
1 medium rutabaga
1 medium sweet potato
3 carrots
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried rosemary
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

For the crust:

2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp rosemary, ground fine
2/3 c shortening*
4-5 tbsp ice water (put water in a bowl and add ice cubes)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Combine root vegetables in a large bowl toss with spices and olive oil. Spread vegetable mixture onto a roasting pan. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender. When the vegetables are done, reduce the head to 350 degrees F. Allow the vegetables to cool a bit before preparing the pasties.

While vegetables are roasting, prepare the crust. Combine flour, salt, and rosemary in a medium bowl. Add the shortening and combine with a pastry cutter or fork until the mixture is the consistency of cornmeal. Sprinkle with 4 tbsp ice water and combine. Sprinkle with additional water, if needed, combining with your hands until the dough comes together. Add this additional water carefully - no more than 1 tbsp at a time - to ensure the dough does not become too wet. Cut the crust into 6 equal pieces.

Flour an open surface. Take one piece of crust and roll into a circle, dusting with additional flour as needed to prevent sticking (flipping the dough over between rolls helps prevent sticking as well). Take a scoop of vegetables and place on one half of the circle. Fold the crust over the vegetables. Fold the underside edge of the dough over the top and press with your finger to seal. Pierce the top of the pasty with a knife in a few places to allow any air to escape. Set on a cookie sheet. Repeat the above steps with the other pieces of dough.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. If you are freezing some of these, freeze individually before consolidating into a bag or container.

*When choosing a shortening, look for non-hydrogenated all-vegetable shortening. If it is made of palm oil, look for an indication on the package that the palm is sustainable harvested.


Green Eggs

Today I went to my friend Katelin's house for a puppy play date with her dogs and mine and to chat about the goings-on with Buy Local Thrive Local. It was a beautiful sunny day, so we played with the dogs outside for a while, at one point taking a walk to the chicken coop to see the chickens. Bailey and Pinot, my two dogs, had never seen chickens before and found them very intriguing. So intriguing in fact that when Katelin and I went into the coop, Bailey darted in front of us and started chasing the chickens! Luckily there were no chicken injuries - just a few ruffled feathers - and I quickly escorted Bailey out of the coop. In the chicken roosts were five beautiful eggs - four a light chocolate brown and one that was a beautiful shade of light green. I never thought I would consider eggs to be beautiful, but these truly were. Katelin was nice enough to send them home with me and now they sit in my fridge. All I need to do now is to decide how to prepare them to fully appreciate them, something I find to be quite a daunting task.

I love being connected with food in this way; to see the beautiful golden-black hen that laid the seafoam green egg or watch a tomato go from seed to vine to table. To know that you witnessed or were a direct part of the process that created what you are eating. And to know that by doing so you are more connected with the Earth and with yourself.