A Night of Vikarm Vij – Three Dishes
One chilly Sunday not too long ago I had a craving for a curry meal. Curry is not second nature to me and often I find following more traditional recipes fairly lengthy and time consuming, especially when I am making more than one dish. I have yet to find that ‘go to’ chicken curry recipe that is both easy to make and that never fails to satisfy with flavour and so I am still searching…
I managed to find two Vikram Vij cookbooks at the Library and immediately began to search for some of his family favourites. I decided that I would try the Chicken Curry recipe out of his Elegant and Inspired Vij’s Indian Cuisine because it didn’t look too complicated. If Vikram Vij’s family has been eating it for years it is definitely good enough for my family!
What do you serve with curry? Rice…check! Naan…maybe another day for us. I wanted a just a couple of dishes that were simple yet added a bit more to the meal. When I searched through the other cookbook, Vij’s At Home I found two recipes that appealed to me. The Red Bell Pepper, Onion, and Sumac Sauté looked like a fast dish and I had a few peppers that needed using up. I found that the sweet and sour nature of the vegetables went really nicely with the sumac and I would gladly make this dish again. The second dish was a bit odd and maybe didn’t go with the curry but I had to give it a try. The whole family loved the Spinach and Split Pea Mash so much that it is going on our regular rotation and may eventually replace our regular potato mash. The dish was a bit more involved because you have to soak the peas ahead of time but I swear it is well worth the extra effort. I found that there was an excess amount of split peas as we only ate half but kept the same amount of seasonings. Either doubling the seasonings or halving the peas would work. I recommend just making more seasoning because this dish is a stunner and also freezes well.
Unfortunately, this is the only dish I took a photo of. Oh, who am I kidding?! We ate it all before I could take photos.
Spinach and Split Pea Mash (From Vij’s At Home page 58)
- 1 1/2 cups green split peas
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 1/4 cup cooking oil or ghee
- 1 cup finely chopped onion (1 medium)
- 1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped garlic (4 to 5 medium cloves)
- 2 1/2 tbsp or less chopped jalapeno pepper (1 large)
- 1 tsp salt
- 7 to 8 oz fresh spinach (1 bunch) with stems
- 1 tbsp ground sumac
- 2 tsp dried mint
- Place split peas in a colander and wash and drain them several times to remove any dirt, rocks and other impurities. Transfer split peas to a medium pot, cover them with the water and soak for 2 hours.
- Bring split peas and water to a boil on high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Most of the water should have been absorbed, but the peas should be cooked and moist with a little water still in the post. Cook longer or drain if there is too much water in the pot. Remove from the heat and allow to cook for 30 minutes.
- In a medium frying pan, heat oil (or ghee) on medium-high for 45 seconds. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes, or until golden. Add garlic and continue to sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden. Add jalapeno pepper, salt and spinach. Stir well and cook for 1 minute, or until spinach wilts. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
- Once the split pea and spinach mixtures have cooled, purée each one separately in a food processor. Process split peas until smooth, spinach until roughly puréed and slightly chunky.
- In a medium bowl, combine peas and spinach. Stir in sumac and mint. Serve immediately. (Will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for 4 to 5 days.)
In case you are interested in the other dishes, I’ve included the recipes:
Vij’s Family’s Chicken Curry
(From Vij’s Elegant & Inspired Indian Cuisine by Vikram Vij & Meeru Dhalwala)
• ½ cup canola oil
• 2 cups finely chopped onions
• 3 inch stick of cinnamon
• 3 Tbsp finely chopped# garlic
• 2 Tbsp chopped ginger
• 2 cups chopped tomatoes
• 1 Tbsp salt
• ½ tsp ground black pepper
• 1 tsp turmeric
• 1 Tbsp ground cumin
• 1 Tbsp ground coriander
• 1 Tbsp garam masala
• ½ tsp ground cayenne pepper
• 3 lbs skinless and boneless chicken thighs
• 1 cup sour cream
• 2 cups water
• ½ cup chopped cilantro (including stems)
In a large pan,heat oil on medium heat for 1 minute. Add onions and cinnamon, and
sauté for another 4 minutes. Add ginger, tomatoes, salt, black pepper, turmeric, cumin,
coriander,garam masala and cayenne. Cook this masala for 5 minutes, or until the oil
separates from the masala.
Add# chicken thighs to the masala. Stir well. Cook chicken for 10 minutes, until the chicken looks cooked on the outside.
Add sour cream and water and stir well. Increase the heat to medium high. When curry starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 15 minutes stirring 2 or 3 times until chicken is completely cooked. Poke the thighs with a knife and if they aren’t done, cook for another 5 minutes. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Stir in cilantro.
To serve: Divide curry evenly among six bowls. Serve with naan or rice.
Red Bell Pepper, Onion, and Sumac Sauté (From Vij’s At Home page 65)
- 1/3 cup cooking oil
- 1 lb red, white, or yellow onions, sliced
- 3 red (or other colour) bell peppers sliced lengthwise into 1/4 inch pieces
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp ground sumac
Heat oil in a medium pan on medium-high for one minute. Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges. Add bell peppers, salt, and brown sugar and cook, stirring regularly for 1 minute. Stir in sumac, turn off the heat. Serve immediately.