Saturday, April 30, 2011

I'll Miss You, Winter

Every year near the end of March, I ache for spring to arrive. During the first day that temperatures get above 5 degrees, I shed my puffy winter coat for a light spring jacket and declare it spring. A week later, when it's snowing and -13, I'm in denial; I add two more layers underneath my spring jacket and carry on. It's always a Spring-Winter battle this time of the year where I live. There's rain, there's snow, there's hail, there's chilly wind, there's sunshine and there's warmth. Spring wants to arrive, but Winter doesn't want to say good-bye.

This past week has been pretty soggy, but temperatures haven't been too bad. I'm seeing plants for sale at the market, and there's light out when I get ready to go to work. I think Winter has finally said good-bye. Now that's it's happened, I'm thinking back to cozy days spent curled up on the couch with coffee or tea, winter adventures and hikes, and of course, winter food: hearty soups and stews, casseroles, and my favourite, spicy curries made with winter vegetables. I made this cauliflower and chickpea curry last weekend to welcome home my love after a week spent in New Brunswick. It lasted us the entire week and helped to shake off the damp chill that early spring rain can leave in your bones.

This curry is comfort in every way. It's got chickpeas, lentils, cauliflower and a big dose of ginger to scare away the cold. The recipe is simple and straightforward, despite the long ingredient list, so you can make it even when you're coming down with a cold, like I was. I used Malaysian curry powder, which gives this stew a beautiful smoky flavour and a bright orange-red colour. A little dash of hot smoked paprika brought it to a new level. We ate bowls of this curry paired with rice one night, pita bread the next, and even all by itself. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to Winter and welcome home my love.

Chickpea and Cauliflower Curry

1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
an inch chunk of ginger, finely diced
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
2 teaspoons of Malaysian curry powder
a pinch of hot, smoked paprika
5-6 curry leaves (or lime leaves)
2 medium carrots, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
a handful of mini potatoes, quartered
1 can of sodium-free chickpeas
half a large head of cauliflower
1/4 cup of red lentils, rinsed well
4 cups of water, or vegetable stock
1 small can of crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pot, sweat the onions for about 2-3 minutes, or until translucent and fragrant. Add the garlic and ginger, carrots and celery and season with salt and pepper.

2. Turn up the heat and add the spices and curry leaves. Stir vigorously to toast the spices. Add the potatoes and lentils and toss around until everything is coated in spice. Add the stock or water and crushed tomatoes and stir well, making sure to scrape up any yummy spicy bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

3. Cook until the potatoes are tender and the lentils have almost melted away. Add the cauliflower and chickpeas and give it a good mix. Put the lid on and let the cauliflower cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until tender. Give it one big stir, and then leave the lid on and let it sit for about 10 minutes so everything can mingle.

4. Serve warm with rice, pita or all by itself!

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