How To Make Healthy Curries At Home

How To Make Healthy Curries At Home

If you love Indian food, but it tends to be something you go out to eat rather than making yourself, keep reading. Here Saffron Soul author, Mira Manek, talks us through the essential ingredients to stock up on and what to do with them to make your favourite dishes – with a healthy twist – at home.

Can you talk to us about the health benefits that come from an Indian diet?

Each individual spice in Indian cuisine has multiple purposes and benefits from helping digestion, reducing inflammation, preventing bloating and even controlling blood sugar. This is all explained by the ayurveda, an ancient scripture which has gained much popularity in the world in recent years. The practice offers rituals for life and happiness as well as daily staple recipes. You can read my SL guide on nine ayurvedic rituals here.

What are the cupboard staples for a home cook who’s new to making curries?

Key spices include cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric and red chilli powder. On the second tier you’ll find cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom and saffron, which are used more for desserts and lesser made dishes. Fenugreek seeds and asafoetida are great for their medicinal properties and good for flavour. And lastly, a potent garam masala mix is always great to have for that ready-made blend of spices to add and sprinkle when roasting meat and vegetables.

What can you do with each ingredient?

The tadka forms the base of any curry or daal – this is the frying of the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and other seeds such as fenugreek seeds and sesame seeds; followed by onion, garlic, ginger and chilli – plus, curry leaves if you have them. The tadka (what is also called the vaghar) is of utmost importance in Indian cooking. It is the basis of everything, and it is the frying of the spices that really brings out the flavour, essence and aroma of the food. The ground powders such as coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric and red chilli are usually added after the key ingredients (vegetables, beans, meats, pulses) are added to the tadka base.

Where are the best places to stock up on these ingredients?

Most supermarkets now sell these, but it’s also worth ordering a masala dabba or the simple, but essential, spice tin from Spice Kitchen.

Are there any home appliances or tools that help?

You’ll need a good set of pans, and a grinder. A Nutribullet is also great for making for chutneys and sauces.

Finally, where are your favourite places to eat Indian food in the UK?

Anywhere that serves a delicious tadka dal – which is my absolute favourite. For a lively experience, I like Dishoom. But I do just enjoy simple home cooking when it comes to Indian food, so it’s quite rare for me to eat out at Indian restaurants.

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Inspired? Here are four recipes to try at home…

Beetroot & Coconut Curry

Serves
Serves 2
Difficulty
Easy
Total Time
30 Minutes
Ingredients
15-20 cashews
2 tsp of coconut oil
½ tsp of cumin seeds
½ tsp of mustard seeds
¼ tsp of fenugreek seeds (optional)
1 green chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp of sesame seeds
10–15 fresh curry leaves (optional)
400g of grated beetroot (about 4)
¼ tsp of ground turmeric
¼ tsp of ground cumin
1 tsp of ground coriander
1 tsp of Himalayan salt or sea salt
4–6 tbsp of desiccated coconut or 40g of freshly grated coconut
400ml of thick coconut milk
Method
Step 1

Soak the cashews in water for an hour (or longer), then drain.

Step 2

Melt the coconut oil in a saucepan on a low heat, then add the cumin and mustard seeds and the fenugreek seeds, if using. Once the mustard seeds have popped, add the green chilli, sesame seeds and curry leaves, if using.

Step 3

When the sesame seeds are lightly browned, stir in the grated beetroot and add the ground turmeric, cumin and coriander and salt.

Step 4

Leave to cook for 6–8 minutes with the lid on, stirring regularly, then add the cashews, desiccated coconut and coconut milk.

Step 5

Cook for another 10 minutes until all the coconut milk is soaked up.

Step 6

Pour into serving bowls and enjoy hot.

Rajma – Simple Kidney Bean Curry

Serves
Serves 2
Difficulty
Easy
Total Time
30 Minutes
Ingredients
2 tbsp of coconut oil or rapeseed oil
½ tsp of mustard seeds
½ tsp of cumin seeds
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tsp of Himalayan salt or sea salt, or to taste
5cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 red chilli (or more if you like heat), deseeded and finely chopped
½ tsp of ground turmeric
1 tsp of ground cumin
1½ of tsp ground coriander
6 tbsp of chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
2 400g cans of kidney beans, drained
4 tbsp of tomato puree
200ml of water
Handful of coriander, chopped
Method
Step 1

Gently heat the oil in a saucepan, then add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. When the mustard seeds pop, add the onion, red bell pepper and a pinch of salt and stir.

Step 2

Once the onions are lightly browned (a couple of minutes), add the ginger, garlic and chilli and stir for another 30 seconds. Then add the ground turmeric, cumin and coriander, chopped tomatoes and the rest of the salt.

Step 3

Next add the kidney beans, tomato puree and water, and mix everything together. Leave to cook on a low heat for at least 10 minutes, stirring regularly. To finish, mix a handful of coriander leaves into the curry, if desired.

Step 4

This curry is delicious served with hot roti, chapatti or rice. Stored in the refrigerator, it will keep for 3 days.

Chickpea And Tofu Coconut Curry
Chickpea And Tofu Coconut Curry
Beetroot And Coconut Curry
Beetroot And Coconut Curry

Fansi Nu Shaak – Green Bean Curry

Serves
Serves 3
Difficulty
Easy
Total Time
25 Minutes
Ingredients
300g of green beans, trimmed and sliced into small pieces
½ tbsp of coconut oil (or other oil)
½ tsp of mustard seeds
½ tsp of cumin seeds
¼ tsp of fenugreek seeds, optional
2 garlic cloves, minced (or use some frozen ready-chopped garlic)
5 tbsp of chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
½ tsp of Himalayan salt or sea salt
¼ tsp of ground turmeric
½ tsp of ground cumin
1½ tsp of ground coriander
1½ tsp of ground coriander
Method
Step 1

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Blanch the beans for 2 minutes, then drain in a colander and set aside.

Step 2

Gently heat the oil in the pan. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds (if using). Once the mustard seeds have popped, add the garlic and immediately stir in the green beans. If it starts to stick, add a splash of water and stir through. Place the lid on the saucepan and cook on low heat for around 10-15 minutes until the beans have softened, stirring every couple of minutes. Add more water if needed, to preventing sticking.

Step 3

Once the green beans are cooked, add the chopped tomatoes, salt, ground turmeric, cumin, coriander and the red chilli powder. Stir well and cook for a couple more minutes.

Step 4

Stored in the refrigerator, the curry will keep for 3 days.

Chickpea & Tofu Coconut Curry

Serves
Serves 4
Difficulty
Easy
Total Time
1 Hour 45 Minutes
Ingredients
1 can of chickpeas
200g of tofu, drained on tissue and cut in small cubes
50g of quinoa, boiled
Handful of chopped spinach, optional
Handful of chopped coriander
For the gravy:
1½-2 tbsp of oil
1 tsp of cumin seeds
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, whole or roughly chopped
1 red pepper or orange pepper, roughly chopped
3 tbsp of cashews
3 tbsp of passata (if you don’t have passata, simply add one more tomato)
1 tomato, chopped
½ tsp of salt
For the curry:
1 tbsp of oil
1 tsp of cumin seeds
Pinch of asafetida, if you have it
¼ tsp of turmeric
200ml of coconut milk
1 tsp of cumin and coriander powder (dhana jeeru), if you have it
1 tsp of paprika
1 tsp of salt
For the pickled onion:
1 red or any onion, sliced in very thin rounds
1 tbsp of apple cider or any vinegar
½ tsp of sugar
¼ tsp of salt
A few tbsp of hot water
Method
Step 1

Leave the tofu on kitchen towel to drain water for 1 hour or longer.

Step 2

Soak together the ingredients for the pickled onions – this can be done earlier or the day before.

Step 3

Boil the quinoa for around 15-20 minutes.

Step 4

Start by making the gravy mix: heat the oil in a pan, fry the cumin seeds in the oil until a little brown, then add the onions, let the onions become brown, then add the garlic, sliced peppers and cashews. Stir for a few minutes, then add the passata, tomatoes and salt. Blend together in a high-speed blender to make the sauce.

Step 5

To make the curry, heat the oil in a large pan, add the cumin seeds in the oil, let them become a little brown (30 seconds or so), then add the asafetida and turmeric. Now add all the main curry ingredients – the chickpeas, tofu, boiled quinoa and spinach – and stir well. Stir in the coconut milk, cumin and coriander powders, paprika and salt. Let this cook for 5-10 minutes or a little longer, garnish with coriander leaves and serve.

Step 6

Serve with brown toast, sourdough or naan.

Saffron Soul by Mira Manek is published by Jacqui Small and is available to buy here.
 

Shop your healthy curry essentials below…

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