Friday, January 2, 2009

Tofu makhani curry

Happy new year! Hope everyone had a great Eve (how very fortunate that liquor is vegan). I’m looking forward to my first full year of food blogging, and all the delicious meals it will bring. My last cooking adventure of 2008 was an awesome one, and something I had been meaning to make for a long time.

Chicken makhani is an Indian dish that I would liken to chicken tikka masala, with the difference being that it’s even richer. “Makhani” means “butter,” after all (though it’s not the same dish as “butter chicken”...go figure). I based this recipe loosely off of one on Allrecipes that, in its original form, was nowhere near vegan – besides the obvious (chicken), it contained butter, half-and-half, and yogurt. But with a couple easy substitutions (and one particularly creative one), this dish adopted its new vegan identity effortlessly. The resulting meal is not just healthier, but is actually quicker and easier to make than the original.

1T canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
2T Earth Balance
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1T ginger paste (or minced ginger)
1T garlic paste (or minced garlic)
1/4 cup ground almonds or cashews
1 cup plain soymilk or nut milk
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 pinch salt
1 pinch black pepper
1 pkg. extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

A few tips...
- Ginger and garlic pastes are available at Indian grocers, and are well worth the trip. I was only recently turned on to them, and already find them indispensable. If you make a lot of Indian or Asian food, or if you just use garlic as copiously as I do, it can shave valuable minutes off your prep time.
- Ground almonds can be made by putting blanched whole almonds in a food processor and blending until they’re in the tiniest crumbs possible, but stopping before it turns into almond butter. (This is what will thicken the curry.)
- Get your basmati rice going before you start. (I use brown basmati.) Bring 1 cup rice and 1 3/4 cup water to a boil, then put the lid on, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 25 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onion until soft and translucent. Stir in the Earth Balance, lemon juice, garam masala, chili powder, cumin, and bay leaf. Cook and stir for 1 minute while breathing in that spicy, mouth-watering aroma.

Add the tomato sauce and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the soymilk, ground almonds, and ginger and garlic pastes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, throw in the tofu cubes and cayenne, and reduce the heat to low.

At this point, the sauce will be fairly thin.

Simmer it for about 10 minutes. The tofu will absorb a good amount of the liquid, and the ground almonds will thicken the sauce. Add water, about 2T at a time, if it condenses too much/too quickly. By the time your rice is done, your curry should look more like this:

Remove the bay leaf, and garnish it with cilantro if you’ve got it, or stir in some frozen peas, or enjoy it as-is. It’s thick, rich, and luxurious, filled with chunks of firm tofu and permeated by warm, indulgent spices. Now this is my kind of comfort food.

Yield: 3 servings. Per serving (without rice): 353 calories, 24.6g fat (3.6 sat), 10.6g carbs, 3.3g fiber, 20g protein.

If you like this, you might also like...
Indian & Moroccan at home
A vegan taste of India
Indian curried lentils

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