My parents are not big fans of Indian food, which probably explains why, despite growing up in Singapore, a country where the Indian community forms one of the four major races of its population, and where good Indian food is widely available at hawker centres, food courts and restaurants alike, I seldom ate it as a child.
But I do love Indian food, as does my husband. Thankfully, our children do as well. The fiery curries, cooling chutneys and pickles, tender tandoori meats, flaky and chewy naans, crunchy papadum, bhajis and pakoras – what’s not to like?
When I ventured into cooking Indian food at home, I discovered that curries are possibly one of the easiest things to cook. You basically start off by frying sliced onions, garlic and ginger over low heat until everything has softened, throw in the spices and the liquid ingredients (which can be water, stock, or coconut milk, the amount depends on how watery you like your curries) into the pot, followed by your choice of protein and vegetables, and simmer until everything is cooked. Not truly authentic, but this method produces an easy and delicious one pot meal with all the flavours of Indian food.
Tonight’s curry is a mild one where the heat of a melange of spices – cardamom, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, garam masala and turmeric – is tampered by a generous amount of coconut milk. Made with chickpeas, fresh tomatoes and spinach, without the I-need-more-ice-water-right-now! kind of spiciness, this curry makes for a comforting and satisfying vegetarian meal. I think this homey dish will convert my parents.
To go with the curry, I made a simple, cinnamon-y bulgur pilaf that had strands of vermicelli running through it. The recipe for which is in Nigella Lawson’s book, Nigella Kitchen, a cookbook that I thumb through over and over again to get inspiration for my dinner table. Nigella inspires me. She does.