In my 15-ish years as an amateur chef, Indian cuisine had always intimidated me a little. With it’s colorful dishes bursting with layers of flavor, I wasn’t confident I could recreate it in my own kitchen. After seeing a few peers bring their own Indian inspired dishes to potlucks and in lunches, I just had to try cooking one of these vegetable and lean protein-packed dishes.
One tip I received from an Indian friend is that Indian cuisine is all about being patient and slowly building the flavors. With this in mind, I decided it was best to set aside a Sunday afternoon to make a big pot of curry that I could eat for dinner and lunches throughout the coming week.
I decided to start with the basics: curry. Alright… I’ll be honest, I found curry powder in my pantry and decided I should probably take that route. Once you have the spices, curry can be a very affordable dish with fairly cheap components.
After doing a bit of blog stalking and getting inspired by Minimalist Baker’s many curry recipes, I set out to gather my ingredients.
*FYI, this curry does happen to be vegan, which is cool for all you non-animal eaters. It’s packed with plant proteins, but it would also be a great addition to a meal with a little bit of chicken and another starchy vegetable or grain. Find your own balance in meal prep and see what works for you.*
In my freezer I already had a mix of frozen legumes (legumes = beans, peas, lentils…and technically peanuts too!), from Trader Joe’s. I love this blend because it is so colorful and already lightly seasoned. The green chickpeas are super interesting, they taste kind of like giant peas.
From the store, I grabbed another can of chickpeas, extra firm tofu, a can of tomatoes, and an onion. I got out the curry powder and a few cloves of garlic from the pantry too. Whenever possible, try to choose lower sodium canned foods!
Tofu can be a little tricky sometimes, it took me a few tries to get it right! I prefer extra firm for most of the cooking I do because it tends to hold up a little better. To keep the tofu from being soggy while cooking, you have to get out as much of the water as possible. After opening the package, I drained the liquid and then placed the block of tofu between some paper towels in a bowl. I then filled a mason jar with water (you could use anything heavy enough to press down the tofu without breaking it) and placed it on top to squeeze out the rest of the water. I let it sit for about 20 minutes.
I then sliced the onion and minced the garlic.
With all of my prep out of the way, I heated about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a large pot, with the stove set to medium heat. I stirred in the onions and garlic, separating the slices out a bit, to get them cooking and covered the pot with a lid.
After the onions had cooked down a little and started to turn clear, I added 2 tablespoons of curry powder, stirred it in evenly, and let everything cook a little longer so the flavors could blend together. You could always add more curry powder later if you decided it needed some extra spice.
After letting my onions and garlic cook for a few minutes more in the curry powder, I added the full can of tomatoes. I also let that sit to cook for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, I opened the can of chickpeas and drained the liquid but didn’t rinse them. I wanted a bit of the salt since I knew my tomatoes were not adding any salt to the flavor. I also cut the tofu into squares, about 1 in x 1 in x 1/4 inch.
I added the tofu to the pot first so they could start to absorb the flavor of my curry. Since it doesn’t add much flavor of its own, I wanted the tofu to cook in the curry for a while.
Next, I tossed in both the can of chickpeas and my frozen bean and lentil blend. I mixed it well, and let it cook with the lid on at medium heat until I heard it start to bubble again.
Once it reached a low boil, I turned the heat down to low and let the curry really cook down and meld all the flavors together. I also tasted the curry to check my spice/salt level, and ended up adding just a pinch more salt. Salt is so vital to the flavor of a lot of dishes, but because it is already so easy to consume too much sodium in this age of processed foods (diets high in sodium are linked to high blood pressure), it’s important to taste your food first and add only as much salt as you think the dish needs.
I left the pot on the stove for about 15 minutes with the lid on. You could also do this step in a crock pot; it might even taste better with longer, slower cooking.
While waiting, I headed out to the yard to play with this cutie who had her nose in the kitchen all day!
After those 15 minutes, I came back inside to this glorious smelling pot of colorful curry!
I served myself a little for dinner while studying, and the rest went in a big Tupperware in the fridge. Served over brown rice, sweet potatoes, or even in a hodge-podge salad, it was absolutely delicious.
Colorful Vegan Curry
Robust flavors for the Indian cuisine beginner.
- 1 block extra firm tofu
- 1 white onion, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 tablespoons curry powder
- 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, low sodium or no salt added
- 1 15 oz can garbanzo beans, drained but not rinsed
- Trader Joe’s Melodious Blend (12 oz package of frozen green garbanzo beans, red and green lentils, tomatoes and olive oil)
- pinch of salt, or to taste
- Remove tofu from it’s package and wrap it in a few paper towels. Place on a plate or in a strainer under something heavy to strain out extra water. It will be ready in about 30 minutes, so begin prepping other ingredients.
- Heat olive oil in the bottom of a deep pot over medium heat. Stir in garlic and onions.
- When onions begin to turn clear, stir in curry powder. Start with 2 Tablespoons and add more later for an extra kick. Let cook for a few more minutes until onions begin to caramelize and garlic starts to brown but not burn.
- Add the can of tomatoes. Stir and cook for 3-5 more minutes. Meanwhile, cut tofu into small cubes.
- Add tofu to the curry and stir. Let cook for 3-5 minutes.
- Add garbanzo beans and frozen bean medley and stir. Let cook with the lid on until the liquid begins to boil again.
- Reduce heat to a simmer. Taste and add salt or spice if needed. Let cook for 15 minutes with the lid on.
- Serve over sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, or rice, or with chapati or naan.