Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Simple Sweet Potato Curry

First of all, I think we can all get pretty excited about wishing John Milton a very happy 401st birthday today - bless him, he barely looks a day over 397! After all, according to Paradise Lost, Adam and Eve were originally vegan (although apparently teetotallers, alas):

They sat them down, and after no more toil
Of thir sweet Gardning labour then suffic'd
To recommend coole Zephyr, and made ease
More easie, wholsom thirst and appetite
More grateful, to thir Supper Fruits they fell,
Nectarine Fruits which the compliant boughes
Yielded them, side-long as they sat recline
On the soft downie Bank damaskt with flours:
The savourie pulp they chew, and in the rinde
Still as they thirsted scoop the brimming stream.

It wasn't until that disaffected serpent got involved that they were sent East to find that...

The World was all before them, where to choose
Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
Through Eden took thir solitarie way.

Which in some ways sounds like a great opportunity, except that in this particular case it meant that "our original parents" would no longer be immortal, have to work for their food, and bring forth children in pain and misery. Oops! (Presumably that was some juicy apple!) But I digress, and must now to my text, which is not the Fall of Man, but a nice, simple curry that's not too spicy, adapted from a fairly bare-bones recipe on the BBC's "good food" website, and renamed in honor of the "Lady of Christ's College" - a soubriquet apparently bestowed by Milton's classmates at Cambridge because of his long ringlets and "general delicacy of manner."

In any case, this proved an excellent (and wholly pre-lapsarian) way to use up the sweet potatoes that didn't get cooked for Thanksgiving, on a night when we were feeling fed up with "traditional" holiday food. In addition to the sweet potatoes, almost any vegetables you have on hand would make a good addition to this - my refrigerator happened to have mushrooms, bell peppers and baby spinach, so that's what got thrown in. We had leftover dal to eat with our curry, but this could easily be a one-dish meal with the addition of some cooked lentils, baked tofu, or even just a can of chickpeas. The coconutty sauce is particularly good for soaking up with rice and naan.

I should also note that the image above is from a truly creepy vintage sign I picked up in New Orleans several years ago. It features King Yam - scion of the Tuber dynasty - resplendent in all the trappings of his sovereignty. Sorry in advance for any nightmares provoked by the weird, spindly little arm with which he wields his sceptre, but I like to think that before the Fall, there was room in Eden even for the most freakishly anthropomorphized root vegetable. Happy birthday, Uncle Milty!

Simple Sweet Potato Curry
~ 1-2 tbsp. canola oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, cumin, garam masala
~ 1 tbsp. curry powder
~ 1 small red bell pepper, cut into large dice (about 1/2")
~ 3 tbsp. yellow curry paste
~ 10 oz. mushrooms (I used baby portobellos), thickly sliced
~ 2 large sweet potatoes, cut into 1" cubes
~ 1 14 oz. can coconut milk (regular or lite), with 1/4 cup reserved
~ 2 tsp. cornstarch
~ 3 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
~ Shot of hot sauce to taste (optional)

~ In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil and saute the onion over medium heat about 10 minutes, until very soft.
~ Add the dry seasonings and the bell pepper and cook a few minutes more.
~ Stir in the curry paste, then add the mushrooms and sweet potatoes, making sure all the vegetables are coated. Cook about 5 minutes more, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
~ Raise the heat to high, pour in the coconut milk, and bring briefly to a boil. Cover the pan, lower the heat to simmer, and cook about 15 minutes.
~ Remove the cover and cook another 10 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender but not falling apart.
~ In a separate container, whisk together the cornstarch and the reserved 1/4 cup coconut milk. Add to the curry and stir to blend.
~ Add the chopped spinach and cook another few minutes, until the sauce thickens and the spinach is wilted.
~ Stir in hot sauce (if using), and serve with rice and/or naan bread.


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  2. King Yam's full style is "His Majesty Louisiana Porto Rican, King Of All Sweet Potatoes."

  3. Of course, Milton would have wanted to depose King Yam and replace him with Olive Oil Cromwell!