Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Freestyle Cooking: Vegetable Kurma

As much as I love to read cookbooks the way other people read novels, and to read 200+ food blogs on a regular basis looking for new dishes to try, my daily cooking is quite free-wheeling. It is unfettered by black and white recipe instructions, dictated instead by the current residents of my fridge and pantry. Last night's impromptu creation was tasty enough to make it to the blog.

I soaked urad dal and rice to make Kanchipuram dosa from Aayi's Recipes. A crisp dosa needs a good dunking in some tasty stew, and instead of the usual sambar, I decided to make coconut-based kurma/sagu that I have been on so many blogs. With not many vegetables on hand, I used pantry staples like potatoes, onion, carrot and a half-bag of Surti lilva beans (these are similar to lima beans) lurking in the freezer.

Whenever I find small 5.7 oz cans of Chaokoh brand coconut milk in the international store (half the size of normal cans), I stock up on them. It is so convenient to use an entire small can of coconut milk for a recipe instead of opening the big one, saving half of it in a glass jar, then having to scramble and use it within a couple of days before it goes rancid.

This recipe is an example of how much I love off-label applications of spice mixes. In this case, I spiked the kurma with rasam powder. This particular powder was a gift from Manasi of A Cook @ Heart and I swear it makes everything taste fantastic. I use it often for tomato dal. If I remember correctly, her recipe for the rasam powder is in this post.

Vegetable Kurma
(serves about 4)

1. Heat 2 tsp. oil and temper it with
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 pinch asafetida
1 sprig fresh curry leaves

2. Add 1 chopped onion and saute until the onion is translucent.

3. Add the following and stir for a few seconds
12 tsp. ginger-garlic paste
12 tsp. turmeric
12 tsp. red chilli powder
1 tsp. rasam powder
1 tsp. cumin-coriander powder

4. Add the vegetables
2 medium potatoes, cut into medium dice
1 carrot, cut into medium dice
1 cup frozen Surti lilva beans or baby lima beans
Salt to taste

5. Add a cup of water and simmer until the vegetables are almost cooked.

6. Stir in 5.7 oz coconut milk (1 small can) or half a regular can or 1 cup fresh coconut milk. Simmer gently for 5-10 minutes. Let the kurma sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

This stew would be wonderful with plenty of cilantro if you have some on hand (I did not). Another variation would be to add tomatoes along with the other vegetables.

I don't know how to explain it, but the cooking aroma of this stew was so "authentic" somehow even though the recipe clearly is not. With no grinding and only about 5 minutes of chopping involved, it is the perfect choice for busy weeknights. This stew was fantastic with dosas, but would be equally at home with some bread, rotis or rice.

What about you- do you like freestyle cooking or do you like to follow recipes word for word?


  1. That dosai looks too perfect and I haven't tried it with a vegetable sagu combination - looks real good!
    I like the smAll cans of coconut milk too but when I have leftovers from the big ones I transfer to a container and freeze it. That way there is no rush to use it immdtly - it keeps well this way.

  2. wow nupur, u have come up w/ such a delightful recipe, can almost smell the aroma reading ur post! love the idea of this combo, dosa is certainly healthier than the parotta traditionally eaten w/kurma. will definitely try to look for Chaokoh brand of coconut milk next time. As for ur ques, I am a free wheeler too, can never follow any recipe to a tee :))

  3. i love cooking with coconut milk and we get 200 ml cans here... it sure enhances the flavour and i love the mild sweetness it dosa with current favourite to add to everything including curries is home made sambhar powder.. it has the right blend of why fret

  4. Hey Nupur.. the kurma and dosa combo sounds great and looks delicious :)

  5. Yummy combo..kurma looks too gud

  6. kurma and sago is good for dunking be it dosa, idli or chapatis. I am happy to see the freestyle cooking results with no ill effects :)

    I can count in my fingers the number of times I have followed recipes word for word. I add sambhar powder to most vegetable dishes kind of like this rasam powder addition. they are not meant for just sambhar or rasam is my firm belief.

  7. Hey Nupur,
    My hubby and kids love their meat and I swear my son is going to grow a chicken in his belly someday! So I've been trying to do one day/week when we just eat vegetarian. It's been challenging to come up with quick veggie dinner ideas (except khichdi). We're not a big Indian food family (except when my Mom visits). This stew seems so perfect that I'm going to try it tonight. If you have any other ideas for veggie meals please let me know!

  8. A very new combo of kurma and dosa. Looks very yummy!!

  9. We recently went to our south Indian friend home for a get together, she made delicious Kurma and served with Idlis accompanied by spicy chutneys.For a change we really loved it ,your delicious meal combo reminded me of that flavour:)..
    hugs and smiles

  10. Lavanya- Now why didn't I think of that?! Thanks for sharing this useful idea, for some reason I assumed coconut milk would not freeze well.

    R- Thanks :) yes, even when I do use recipes I end up adapting them quite a bit to suit my needs.

    Trendsetters- Thanks

    arundati- I agree, if you find a blend of spices that you love, no reason to hold back!

    SS- Thanks!

    Priti- Thank you

    indosungod- Oh, your sambar powder recipe is one that I really need to try. I agree, these are very versatile spice mixes.

    Prachi Junankar-Gokhale- I have at least a dozen ideas for easy meatless kid-friendly non-Indian meals off the top of my head: (1) Bean burgers with baked sweet potato fries, (2) Vegetable pizzas with smoothies, (3) Spinach mushroom quiche (4) Vegetable noodles with corn soup, (5) Spaghetti with mushroom sauce, (6) Mac and cheese, (7) Grilled cheese with tomato soup, (8) Bean burritos with salsa and chips, (9) Vegetable quesadillas with guacamole, (10) Omelette wraps with hash browns, (11) Fried rice with tofu, (12) Vegetable lasagna. Of course, there are tons of other possibilities. I would suggest looking through the hundreds of vegan and vegetarian blogs who share tasty dinner ideas, checking out vegetarian cookbooks at your local library and looking at this Meatless Monday site which is helping families eat meat-free one day a week:

    chakhlere- Thanks!

    Jaya- Your friend's meal sounds wonderful.

  11. Thank U SO much! I am happy and honored that u like the masala. HUGS!
    I have eaten (Rava)Idli and a medley of vegetables, which I thought was Kurma or Sagu in MTR B'lore. I thought the combo was odd ( I was not used to any other combo but, idli- chutney-sambar) but tasty and now Dosa - kurma is a MUST try!

  12. Kurma looks delicious, Nupur, i would love to get hold of these half-size coconut milk cans too. I always end up wasting half the can otherwise.

    Honestly, I only follow recipe step by step for complex baking dishes (which is rare to never for me) otherwise, i read a recipe, put it away and then make some version of it with whatever i find at hand. Everyone's pallet is so different, right, it just works better to take liberty with a recipe and modify the ingredients to what suits you best.

  13. I am very free-style. It's what has made me (until very recently) a very bad baker. All the improv that serves me well in savory food, is kryptonite in baking.

    But I do like to start with a recipe. And if it's something I've never done before, I will always follow the recipe carefully the first time out. After that though - I wing it. I recently made some turnovers for a small party, and when asked for the recipe basically ended up shrugging and writing a novel about it describing all the steps. I can do turnovers (or filo triangles) in my sleep so never use recipes anymore.

  14. Freestyle when it comes to daily cooking :) recipes while baking... and sometimes recipes while trying out new stuff... but it is rare that I follow the recipe to a T :)

    I have the veggies all chopped for a kurma... I made an egg curry with mixed veggies for lunch today. I forgot to take a snap. :) Else I'd have had something to blog about :)

    This is an easy kurma with no grinding :)

  15. colourful and yummy kurma...nice combo with dosa

  16. Nupur, yet another lovely post n tasty looking kurma! My side recipes(mangi) n hubby's side recipes (mallu) need no reference- I do the free-spirit cooking, SanjK/chefs-recipe is word to word, blog recipes-mostly by the T yet sometimes bcomes a amalgamate of all recipes read frm everywhere! :D Not really a good idea in my case.
    I also emptied a huge pack of everest masala few months ago by adding a tsp in any dish I thought wd meld :D It tasted different -yet tasty. :)
    This kurma shall b word to word except the bhaaji,shall use frozen veggies n remember to make this on a day that I m pressed for cooking-time..sorry went too long.
    (PS: Missing ur Dale-tale ;) )

  17. both the kurma and the dosa look fanstastic.

    as for the coconut milk, that's my favourite brand too. Have you tried freezing the leftovers? That seems to work, too.

  18. I am totally free style and can never follow a recipe to the T even if I decide to.. I HAVE to add my own touch to it, even if I know it won't taste great :)

    The kurma and dosa look yum. I had never heard of this combo in Mumbai or Pune, only after coming to south India have I seen this, and I do think it rocks :)

  19. Wow, Nupur! Okay, now I want this for dinner! I need to get my hands on rasam powder--and need to pick up that amazing mixture you mentioned in class to make my own dosas!

  20. Nupur, I could go for that dosa and delicious-looking korma right now.
    Thank you for your upbeat support and good wishes for Lucy-- we really appreciate it. And we're keeping an eye out for the treats! Lucy will be one happy girl when she gets back home from the hospital. :)

  21. I usually use the coconut milk powder mixed with a bit of rice powder. Your stew looks good and though i don't like it with dosa, i love it with neer dosa. i am more of a freelance cook too.. u will alwys find me staring at the fridge trying to decide what to make and then mixing up recipes.

  22. that is exactly how I cook too - freewheeling!

  23. A friend sent me a link to your blog and I am so glad! I am really going to enjoy exploring it!
    The stew looks delish BTW.

  24. Manasi- No, thank you, for sharing the masala and so much of it, I am enjoying it so much. You must try this combo, not odd just really delicious!

    PJ- Well, I just learned from comments in this post that you can freeze the other half, so there, neither of us has to waste coconut milk any more :)
    I am also much more likely to stick to baking recipes than others!

    Diane- Ah yes, with baking I do try to follow recipes unless it is something really simple, like a loaf cake. Now you are making me crave turnovers!

    Raaga- Oh, I hate when that happens, when the lack of a pic keeps me from posting a good recipe. Yes, I loved that this kurma was nice and thick but I did not have to bring out the grinder.

    Rekha shoban- Thanks.

    Purnima- Oh yes, some of the chef recipes are very exacting indeed!
    Dale will be back next week, so stay tuned :)

    notyet100- Me too!

    maninas- I am definitely going to try freezing the leftovers, thanks for the tip.

    Preeti- This combo is new to me too, I only learnt it from other blogs, but so tasty. I'll be making it again and again.

    Vaishali- I am hoping everything goes well, and I know it will. After all, you are leaving no stone unturned in taking care of the sweet girl.

    Kelly- Stop by my place if you want to take some rasam powder home with you!

    Mallugirl- I have yet to try coconut milk powder, it does seem so convenient. What brand do you use and where do you buy it, if I may ask? Yes, my recipes also start with a rummage session thro the fridge :)

    Veggie Belly- We all seem to be free spirits here!

    The Gypsy Chef- Welcome to my blog and I hope you enjoy your time here!

  25. Wow, mouthwatering dish, perfect with dosas:)

  26. I make kancheepuram idlis all the time, but never tried a dosa before. I'd say the kurma would be perfect.
    I have so many different ways of making kurma depending on what I have on hand! :D

  27. That is one amazing combination - works for me everytime

    I cant stick to a recipe even with a gun to my head - except initally when I started baking, and even those I have managed to corrupt now;)

    I am wondering how the coriander in the rasam powder may have changed the stews taste since thats one thing which is not in most stews...

  28. Kanchipuram idlis are my fav and we dont get them here so easily only few restuarants have them..vegetable kurma looks fab, love the addition of rasam powder and coconut milk..too good!

  29. I am a free style cooker! No joy more joyous than the joy of cooking from the heart :) I like to refer to recipes (and stick to the instructions) only when trying out a new cuisine or a dish I have not tasted before !

  30. "Whenever I find small 5.7 oz cans of Chaokoh brand coconut milk in the international store (half the size of normal cans), I stock up on them. It is so convenient to use an entire small can of coconut milk for a recipe instead of opening the big one, saving half of it in a glass jar, then having to scramble and use it within a couple of days before it goes rancid.

    touche! i do the same thing!! lovely kurma dish :)

  31. Nupur,
    Thanks for the - gosh - dozen recipes. I should have added that cheese is a total no-no for my 5 year-old, which makes it even harder. But you totally gave me some new ideas. Thanks again.


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