Monday, December 27, 2010

Chick pea and coconut curry with sweet potatoes

I love my pressure cooker.  It makes a great bean or lentil soup in a fraction of the time it would take to cook conventionally, and can cook a clod into submission in minutes rather than hours.  But, I find that for cooking beans and bean stews, rather than soups, it can be dicey.  They can easily get pressured into a pap, and you need to cook them with too much liquid for the result to be a thick stew, rather than a soup, if that is what you want.

There is an interesting looking recipe for chick peas cooked with sweet potatoes and coconut milk in Lorna Sass's Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure.  However,  I found the pressure cooker version of this too liquid, and the sweet potatoes tended to dissolve into a puree, which is something my wife doesn't like.   I substituted a vegan Thai curry paste for the curry power (many curry pastes are made with fermented shrimp) and added some lemongrass, for a more Thai flavor.  I also reengineered Sass's recipe for conventional cooking, and the consensus was that it is a keeper:

Chickpea and coconut curry with sweet potatoes

  • 1 pound dried chickpeas (or 2 large cans)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (coconut oil is actually very nice here)
  • 2 large shallots, sliced
  • 2-4 cloves sliced garlic (if my mother isn't coming to dinner)
  • 1 tablespoon Thai-style red vegan curry paste (if you don't care about the shrimp you can use any kind;  if you can't find it, you can use curry powder  -- the dish will be good, but just not quite as good)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, rinsed trimmed and dried outer leaves removed if necessary, and cut into two inch pieces
  • 14 ounce can diced tomatoes (I use Muir Glen fire-roasted)
  • 14 ounce can coconut milk (light is fine)
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg's amino's or soy sauce
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1-2  sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice

  1. If using dried chick peas, pick over for any stones, rinse, and soak 8 hours or over night. Alternatively, you can quick soak them by boiling them for 1 minute and then setting them aside, covered for an hour or two.
  2. Drain and rinse the soaked chick peas. Put them in a 3- to 4-quart pot, cover with water by about one inch and bring to the boil.  Skim off the foam if there is any, turn the heat down to medium, and simmer until just a bit firmer than you like.  It is hard to predict the time, but depending on the age of the chickpeas, how fast they are cooking, and how long they soaked, it should take between 25 and 45 minutes.   (You can do this beforehand -- they will keep several days in the fridge or frozen for months.)  
  3. If you are using the cans, just drain and rinse well.
  4. While the chick peas are cooking, heat the oil on high in a medium nonstick skillet, add shallots, salt lightly and cook until they begin to brown.  Add garlic if you are using and stir a few times.
  5. Turn heat to low, add curry paste, and cook another minute, stirring. Add lemongrass and cook for a few seconds.
  6. Add the tomatoes and half of the cilantro, turn heat to high, and cook for about 5-8 minutes until it turns into a sauce.
  7. Add coconut milk, and simmer on medium low until it thickens.  Add the Bragg's aminos or soy sauce.
  8. Add the sauce mixture to the chick peas, stir in the sweet potatoes, and cook until the peas and potatoes are done to your liking, about 20 minutes.
  9. Garnish with the remaining cilantro and serve with rice and lime wedges, and with a hot sauce like sambal oelek for those who want it.
  10. This is a vegetarian main dish for four or a side for eight to ten. 

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