In high school, I had an eccentric friend who dragged us to a local Indian restaurant at the start of every weekend. For some reason, I thought, at the time, that I didn’t like Indian food, but as I partook in my friend’s habits–consistent dishes, cracking our papadum on the count of three, and unabashedly dancing along to the Bollywood music videos playing–I quickly fell in love. One of the dishes we always ordered, along with chicken tikka masala and saag paneer, was vegetable korma.
Oh, ohh, korma. The rich, subtly coconutty sauce, packed full of only the best vegetables (no bell peppers in sight!), the turmeric-tinged bright yellow, a shade so vibrant and seemingly only found in Indian cuisine. During my exploratory culinary years in college, I tried recreating the dish as I taught myself how to cook, using jarred sauce. The results were always just OK–tasty, to be sure–but paling in comparison to the real stuff of Indian joints. Of course, the realer stuff in India I’ve yet to eat, but I’ll save that comparison until after I get to cross that trip off O’s and my bucket list.
It wasn’t until last year that I whipped together this super easy cashew and coconut milk-based korma that I discovered how simple it was to recreate the restaurant dish taste at home! Soak some cashews, blend a bunch of stuff, sauté and onion, and simmer a bunch of veggies in the sauce – could it be easier? Well, yeah, you could pick up a jar of Palak’s Korma Curry Simmer Sauce, but the quality leap from “semi-homemade” to homemade (I hate you, Sandra Lee. I just had to get that out there) is drastic. In other words? So worth it.
The cashews provide a rich nuttiness that blends beautifully into the creamy coconut milk, balanced with some spicy curry powder to produce a dish you’d never know was vegan. O turned up his nose when I told him it was korma for dinner, but after literally three bowls, he changed his mind and proclaimed his love for the stuff. It’s an incredibly simple way to pack those you love full of nutritionally-dense veggies, without having to pin them down–your knees on their elbows–and force-feed them handfuls of curly kale.
Vegetable Korma (Vegan, Gluten Free)
- 1 cup cashews , roasted or raw, plus a few extra for serving
- 1 14 - 15 ounce can of coconut milk , well-shaken
- 2 cloves garlic , peeled
- 2 teaspoons ginger paste or grated fresh ginger
- 1 piece fresh jalapeno , stemmed, and seeded if desired to reduce heat (I seeded only half and the korma came out at the perfect temp for us)
- 2 tablespoons Indian curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil
- 1 piece white onion, peeled and sliced
- 2-3 cups Several cups of vegetables of your choice
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup agave nectar , honey, or sugar (or to taste)
- 1 - 2 cups water (start with 1)
- 1 tsp salt , to taste
- 1 tbsp cilantro leaves , for garnish
- 1 tbsp cashews , for garnish
- 6 cups basmati rice , cooked, to serve
In a small mixing bowl, stir the cup of cashews into the coconut milk and let them soak for an hour. This helps soften the cashews and will create a smoother sauce.
Pour the coconut milk and cashews into a blender. Add the garlic, ginger, jalapeno, curry powder, and turmeric. Blend until the mixture is smooth.
In a large pot with a lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion and cook until it is soft, but not browned. Add the remaining vegetables to the pot and pour the coconut milk mixture over the top. Add one cup of water and about a half teaspoon of salt. Stir in raisins.
Bring mixture to a low boil. Reduce heat to medium and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to be sure the sauce doesn’t burn. Add more water if the sauce is too thick. Add agave or other sweetener to taste (we used about 1/4 cup agave).
When the vegetables are tender, taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve hot, over fluffy basmati rice, and garnish with cilantro leaves and additional cashews.
I used about 1/2 cup shelled edamame, 1/2 cup frozen peas, 1 cup frozen chopped broccoli, 1 cup sliced mushrooms, and 1 sweet potato, pre-boiled and cubed, and 3 fingerling potatoes, pre-boiled and cubed.
Adapted from Season and Savory