Time flies. Even in the midst of a pandemic quarantine. August is fast-approaching, and what have I done with my summer? Where has July gone? And what about June and May, April and March, that have all run together and disappeared like stardust, totally unnoticed. With all the banality of lockdown, we don’t make the memories that mark time; no vacations, no outings, no seasonal social events, not even haircuts! We are heading on 5 months of isolation and routine and I abhor routine. I ran out of ways to be spontaneous long ago. I try to think how much better we have it than many others. I try to think how hard it must have been for those living during the Spanish flu pandemic 100 years ago. But mostly, I dream of the travel I am forced to postpone. And one small way of of dreaming is by cooking flavors from other places. In the last 5 months I have taken my family to Italy (multiple times), Australia, France, China (another huge country with many cuisines), Thailand and Slovakia with my food.
This dish is one of those attempts. It is a complex-flavored, healthy stew of vegetables and Indian spices that may or may not really be from India, but it certainly gives this American the vision of Indian food. Even if Tikka Masala is really a British (or Scottish?) rendition, it still makes me think of India. And yes, I realize India is a huge country with many different regional cuisines, but we westerners can’t possibly take all that in and differentiate. At least not until we have experienced them for ourselves. So, for now, this is my ticket to India.
And yes, I am also aware that Tikka Masala is made with a tomato/yogurt base and I purposely left out tomatoes for this stew so I could retain the golden turmeric color to contrast with the black rice. Oh what we do for visual appeal! So it really should just be called a golden curry! But you get the idea. I hope.
Homemade Masala Paste (see THIS post for recipe)
I love to make my own pastes for different dishes – you just can’t beat the sweet and spicy aromas of a fresh spice paste hitting the surface of a hot pan. Just a few tablespoons can be added to any protein or vegetables and you have the makings of a great meal. I also love that I know everything in the paste so I can keep it healthy and unprocessed (other than my grinding/blending)! This paste is also dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free and vegan so no need to adapt for anyone’s needs (other than spiciness!).
Even though it is optional here, adding black rice to your meal plans is a great way to include extra nutrition and variety. Much like brown rice it has a mild, nutty flavor. It’s a good source of iron, fiber and antioxidants. The dark pigment of black rice is loaded with the same antioxidants that make blueberries and acai so healthy. Once you add the rice to the water, you’ll see the color of the water change almost immediately. All that color and nutrition will be cooked back into the rice. Black rice cooks up fairly fast in about 25 minutes.
So here I am, a walking cliché, mumbling about how time flies, while drinking my immunity elixir as I try to share this trip of mine to India in my own American way.
I hope you will try this out and make your own version. Maybe you will add tofu, or chicken or shrimp (be sure to marinate any of these in some of that amazing masala paste). Maybe you will switch up the vegetables and greens. Maybe you will make it fiery spicy or maybe no spice at all. Either way, I hope you make it. I hope you like it. And I hope you will comment here in any case so I can not be so alone on my trip! Namaste.
Golden Vegetable Tikka Masala with Black and Brown Rice
- ½ cup black rice optional
- 1 cup brown rice or any preferred grain
- 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil or any cooking oil or ghee
- 1/2 red onion sliced or chopped
- 2 cloves garlic sliced
- 1 fresh red chile minced, optional
- 4 tablespoons masala paste (see notes for recipe)
- 1 medium sweet potato peeled and diced
- 1 red bell pepper thinly sliced
- 1 cup green beans stemmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 medium carrots peeled and sliced or chopped
- 3 cups water or broth
- 1 can coconut milk full fat (2 cups)
- 2 cups chopped greens spinach, kale, chard, mustard, etc. - or a combination
- 1 lime, juiced
- lime wedges to serve
- cilantro to serve
- Get the rice started first. You have the option of cooking both black and brown rice or just one or the other.
- For the black rice: In a small pot, add ½ cup dried rice and about 1 cup water with some salt, if desired. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer (covered) for about 25 minutes. Let stand, covered, off heat.
- For the brown rice: In a medium pot, add 1 cup dried rice and about 2¼ cups water with some salt, if desired. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer (covered) for about 35 minutes. Let stand, covered, off heat.
- In a large Dutch oven or pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened (about 3 minutes). Add masala paste and cook about 2 minutes more. Be sure not to burn. Reduce heat, if needed.
- Add sweet potatoes, bell pepper, green beans and carrots (or vegetables of choice). Stir and cook for 1 minute. Then add broth and simmer until vegetables are almost tender (about 10 minutes).
- Add coconut milk and cook 10 minutes more (or until vegetables are done to your liking).
- Take off heat and stir in the chopped greens and the lime juice. Stir until the greens are softened.
- Place rice in bowls and ladle curry over the rice (leave some black rice, if using, to the side for presentation!). Top with cilantro and a squeeze of lime wedge if you like.