Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Indu Bhawnani Singh's Spinach Curry

My friend Minnie kindly pushed a bowl of this on me when I arrived sick at her door to pick up my daughter recently. I didn't think I wanted food, but was so glad I gave in. By the time we got home the curry's shameless perfume had me ravenous. I quickly whipped up some of this gorgeous little basmati and adorned my steaming curry mound with a spoonful of yogurt and a (store bought, alas) mango chutney. An entirely exquisite thing. 
Naturally, I had to know what gave.  Turns out it's Minnie's mother's recipe, and, lucky us, she's writing a cookbook - The Sindhi Kitchen (due 2010 from Lustre Press) - and was gracious enough to share.  

This curry is soooo up my alley with two pounds (!) of greens, fat knobs of ginger and chilies galore.  It goes deep, with the slightest bittery edge (turmeric?) which I love anywhere, anytime.  The finished brew is hot, toothsome, spice-bucked; its emerald green bleeds vividly into anything it cozies up against. It was a virtual potion, friends, and it healed me. 

I've never made anything like it.  Profuse ginger - added raw - cooks only a short while, which explains its clean, revenant jolt.  The dal is left nubby as I only partially pureed the final stew. Toasty garlic - added at the end - gives another layer of wild fragrance and texture, while tamarind perfectly conveys its deep, sweet acid; green chilies their hot earth.  A teaspoon of cayenne could be a bomb depending on how hot yours is. But it is an elixir.  Add gradually, taste, push, taste... 
Spring spinach is all around so I'm planing to serve this curry at Woodward's with braised fish (sable, blue nose, salmon), fresh mango-kumquat-date chutney (cilantro, ginger, mustard seed), all drizzled perhaps with a little tart yogurt.  I can't wait for the book.
Indu Bhawnani Singh's Spinach Curry

1 cup channa dal
2 lb. spinach, rinsed and drained
2 large onions, diced
4 carrots, diced
A few green beans, diced
1 tsp. turmeric
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cayenne
A 2-inch piece of ginger root, minced
2 hot green peppers, minced
2 tbsp. tamarind paste
1 tbsp. flour
4 tbsp. vegetable oil
8 cloves garlic, sliced

Soak channa dal for at least 15 minutes and drain.  Simmer spinach, vegetables and dal with turmeric in 2 cups water or broth until tender.  Mash or puree; add salt, cayenne, ginger, hot pepper.  Stir tamarind paste and flour into 1/2 cup water and add to curry.  Cook, stirring, for 10-15 minutes.  Heat oil in a small pot, add garlic, as soon as garlic starts to brown remove from heat and add to curry.  Stir and serve.

Note: Minnie reminds me that Sindh (now the southernmost part of Pakistan) is a desert- and the dal is probably included not just to add nutrition but also to stretch the costly greens a little farther. Also, Sindh was colonized by the Arabs waaaay back, in the first wave of Arab expansion eastward, early 8th century AD, and Sindhi food bears some resemblance to Arab cooking.  This curry in particular is like the tart garlicky stewed greens they have in Lebanon.  

The Sindhi Kitchen by Indu Bhawnani, forthcoming 2010 from Lustre Press (New Delhi and Singapore).


Lisa Neimeth said...

This is a true elixir--
cannot wait to put this to the test--or maybe just stop by the garden for a whiff and a forkfull-
magic yum again...

Beatrice said...

This is so amazing! will definitely be making this the next rainy day we have...