I know the days are getting longer, but I go to work and it is dark. I come home from work and it is dark. As much as I love winter with its bright snow and clear icicles (not happening so much as I would like here in Toronto, btw), all I want is some sunshine. Some people head south for some sun and warmth. Me, I cook it up in my kitchen. For some reason, as soon as the weather turned cool, I turned to Caribbean dishes – bright with their flavourful ingredients, warmth from the spice and much cheaper than a trip down South.
This is a curry I spotted on Natalie’s lovely blog, Cook Eat Live Vegetarian, and again it passed my checklist for Rob: tamarind, coconut, curry, sweet potato (or squash) and pineapple. In fact, the ingredients look so similar to that delicious Butternut Squash, Coconut and Lentil Stew, but this is anything but similar yet equally as delicious.
Natalie explains that this curry originates from Martinique, an Eastern Caribbean island, that has elements from Africa, France, the Caribbean and South Asia in its cuisine. The distinctive flavours come from the Colombo spice mix that includes cumin, coriander, mustard, fenugreek, black peppercorns, cloves and turmeric. The curry gets its heft from starchy sweet potatoes, but butternut squash could equally be used. The eggplant melts into the coconut-curry broth, tangy from the tamarind and lime juice. As we are apt to do, we increased the tamarind.
Bring the warmth into your kitchen this winter, with a virtual trip down South. Although it will appear very real once you slurp up this delicious curry.
Martinique Sweet Potato Coconut Curry with Eggplant and Pineapple
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
3/4 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/4 tsp black peppercorns
1/4 tsp whole cloves
3/4 tsp ground turmeric
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 red chili, deseeded and chopped
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large eggplant, cut into 2 cm cubes (1 lb)
1 large sweet potato, scrubbed and cut into 2 cm cubes (1 lb)
400 mL coconut milk
400 mL vegetable broth
2.5 tbsp tamarind concentrate
2 bay leaves
1/2 small pineapple, core removed, cut into 2 cm cubes
1/2 lime, juiced
2 tbsp dark rum (optional, we didn’t use it)
a handful of fresh coriander, chopped plus leaves for garnish
1. In a large frying pan over a medium-high heat, toast all the whole spices (not the turmeric) until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 or 3 minutes. Do not let them burn. Remove from the heat to cool Grind to a fine powder with a spice grinder (or a mortar and pestle).
2. Separately, toast the turmeric in the same pan over a medium high heat until fragrant and lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Combine the turmeric with the rest of the spices.
3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat then add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until softened. Then add the garlic and chili and cook for a further 2 minutes.
4. Add in the eggplant and sweet potato cubes and cook for about 4 minutes until softens and starts to turn brown. Stir the spice mix to coat the vegetables, cook for a further 2 minutes. Season with 1 tsp salt.
5. Stir in the coconut milk, broth, tamarind concentrate and bay leaves. Stir well and bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid and continue to simmer for 30-40 minutes until the eggplant has melted into the sauce and the sweet potato is cooked and soft.
6. Add in the pineapple, lime juice and rum (if using), stir well, cover and simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning, add more salt if necessary and stir through the chopped coriander.
7. Serve with plain basmati rice or roti bread to scoop up the delicious sauce.