This is the ultimate winter curry for me; so much, that I felt the need to try and describe it as much as possible in the post title! It has warmth and sweetness, combined with zesty lime and lemongrass, all smothered in a deliciously creaminess from the coconut milk and butter beans. It’s comforting cold-weather fuel, but doesn’t leave you clutching your stomach, falling into a food coma. It’s an ideal work-day lunch; the aroma always attract sniffs of approval from my (meat eating) colleagues.
Given the wealth of ingredients, this dish is versatile, so leave out the coconut milk if you’re not keen – or add double it if you want to intensify the taste. If you love tomato-based curries, then add another can. The same goes for the curry paste: the following amounts are literally just what I happened to use when I last made this. Usually I tip the spices in, willy-nilly, so feel free to experiment. If you don’t have all the spices, then don’t worry; the two that I think really make this dish are the cumin seeds and the cloves. Just be slightly wary of adding too many cloves as their sweetness is so pungent. A coffee grinder is a fabulous investment for grinding whole spices.
For UK readers, I find this lemongrass paste delivers the most intense flavour (Tesco and Sainsbury’s have their own variations which I have not tried yet) rather than messing around with the fresh stuff. And finally, do try to use fresh lime leaves (buy them from Ocado), they turn a curry from so-so to super authentic!
Ingredients (6 servings)
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
15 cardamom pods
½ a stick of cinnamon (optional)
½ teaspoon of coriander seeds
½ teaspoon of mustard seeds (either black or yellow)
½ teaspoon of black peppercorns (optional)
Red chillies (I use 3 large ones)
4 cloves of garlic
A chunk of ginger (at least an inch)
1 tablespoon of lemongrass paste
Zest of two limes (optional)
For the curry itself
Oil for frying (I use 1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil)
3 large onions
4 large carrots
2 leeks (optional – I had them in my fridge at the time)
1 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes
800g butter beans (two cans or use dried beans, soaked overnight)
400g tin of coconut milk
2 teaspoons of Vegetable Bouillon Powder (I use Marigold)
4-6 fresh lime leaves
Coriander to garnish (optional)
- Toast the spices first. Warm up a small pan – do not add any oil – over a medium to high heat before putting in the spices. Whilst everything goes in at the same time (well, by a matter of seconds), I tip in the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and cloves in first as they are slightly bigger.
- Shake the pan to keep everything moving whilst the spices lightly toast until darkened slightly – say for about a 30-60 seconds depending on the heat. Remove quickly from the pan, leave to cool and grind up to a powder either in a coffee grinder or pestle and mortar.
- For the curry itself, dice the onions and fry until translucent. Add the chopped chilli, garlic and grated ginger before throwing in the ground spices. Allow to cook for another few minutes.
- Chop the carrots up into bite-sized chunks and tip into the onions along with the butter beans. Add the tin of tomatoes, bashing the fruit with your wooden spoon to break up the skins, and the coconut milk. Give everything a good stir and turn the heat up to bring it to a simmer.
- Measure out 400 ml of hot water (I use the empty coconut milk or tomato can) and dissolve your vegetable stock, stirring vigorously, before it goes into the curry. I then throw in the lime leaves – it’s the same concept as bay leaves – leave them in the curry to infuse their wonderful flavour (discard before eating). Add the stick of cinnamon if using – again fish out once the curry is done/before eating.
- Simmer for 20-30 minutes or so, adding more water if the curry starts drying out.
- The curry will be done when the carrots are soft and yielding. Check your seasoning – you may need more salt – and pour in your lime juice and garnish with coriander before serving.