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The Perfect Recipe for Caribbean Curried Vegetables

By: Nigel Spence - January 29, 2022

Living a plant-based lifestyle eventually gets your fridge overloaded from time to time with random fruits, vegetables, condiments and the occasional exotic ingredient. By the time I get back to them from when they were hastily shoved in the fridge from my too numerous retail therapy sessions, they may be well on their way to sprouting, rotting, or with dumb luck, aging and turning into a whole new product. That is actually how I figured out that forgetting regular vegan cheese in the fridge too long can actually turn into fake gorgonzola flavored cheese, but I digress.

Faced with this cleanout dilemma recently, my go to solution is usually one of three things-make a soup, a stew, or a pasta dish. This time around I had the taste for curry, so I got to task unloading all the stuff hiding in the back of the fridge and dumped them all on the countertop to separate what could pass the texture and smell test and discarded the rest.

I had some boiled green bananas that had accompanied an ackee dish a few days before. I found some still fairly bright green and tight lime green shishito peppers that I had grand plans for in a complex Japanese dish I have been threatening to make, but never materialized. I also found some “twister peppers” that were red, green and yellow and still striking in the different Rasta colored hues after hanging out in the fridge for more than a week.

They do not have any heat just like bell peppers, so I would treat them as such.  I had never heard of or seen them before noticing them next to regular bell peppers in a big box store, so I decided to give them a go, but just never got around to making an honest meal out of them.

That happens quite often in the life of a cook, and particularly so when the most exciting thing one can find to do in this new normal is peruse the aisles of local grocery stores. I also found some green beans, fresh baby spinach and asparagus, so I decided to add them too along with a couple tomatoes that had seen better days, but was still good enough to give up some flavor and color to the dish.

Whenever I make curry, or as some call it a curry stew, I approach the dish based on how quickly the main additions will take to cook. If the main ingredients are in for a long haul, such as chicken, goat or lamb, I will put everything together in the pot at the same time.

The flavors will develop and come together over time as the proteins release their collagen and all the other scientific named niceness into the low and slow cooking liquid, to create a complex and utterly delicious curry gravy, sauce, stew – whichever term you are most happy with. (There are many debates among cooks from different parts of the world who might cringe to hear the dish being called a goat curry rather than curried goat or maybe even a lamb stew).

When I am using quick cooking items such as seafood or vegetables, I will make the curry base first, and then add the main items after the curry has sufficiently developed some flavor.

To make the base, I use potatoes, vegetable broth, curry powder and other aromatics and allow it to simmer down for a while. The beauty of this method is that after you develop the curry base, you are only limited by your imagination as to what you can add to it so it’s a great go to method of cooking quick curries, especially if you make the base ahead of time and divide into small batches and keep it in your fridge or freezer.

In this instance, I cut the boiled green bananas on the bias. I sauteed them for a few minutes in coconut oil to get some color in order to add some additional character to the dish. I did the same with the shishito peppers and twister peppers. I then added them to the curry and served it with a steaming bowl of brown rice.

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons Coconut oil

1 large yellow Onion, sliced

1 large chef’s Potato, medium dice

10 cloves Garlic, finely chopped

3 Tablespoons Curry powder

1 teaspoon Turmeric, ground

1 tablespoon Ginger, minced

1 teaspoon Scotch bonnet pepper, minced

1 teaspoon Allspice, ground

½ teaspoon Asafetida powder

2 sprigs Thyme, fresh

2 cups Vegetable broth

2 teaspoons Salt

½ cup Coconut milk

½ cup boiled green Bananas, sauteed and sliced on the bias

1 cup Bell peppers, cut into bite sized pieces and sauteed

1 cup green Beans, cut in half

1 cup Asparagus, cut in thirds

1 cup baby Spinach leaves, tightly packed

½ cup Cherry tomatoes, cut in half

10 Shishito peppers, sauteed and left whole with stem

Method:

In a large sauce pan over medium-low heat add coconut oil and add onions.

Sweat the onions for 3 minutes, then add the potatoes.

Cook for another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic.

After 1 more minute add the curry, turmeric, ginger, scotch bonnet, allspice, asafetida and thyme. Turn the heat up to medium high, give the pot a stir and add the vegetable broth, coconut milk and salt.

Allow to simmer for approximately 10 minutes until potatoes are cooked through but not falling apart. Turn the heat down to low and crush a few of the diced potatoes with a fork and stir to thicken the mixture. Add all the vegetables and incorporate with the curry base until they are warmed through and serve.

Nigel Spence, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Nigel freelanced at the Television Food Network for 3 years where he worked with culinary luminaries such as Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse. Chef Spence has appeared twice on Throwdown with Bobby Flay where he emerged the victor in cook offs against the Food Network star and was featured on CBS when he appeared on Tony’s Table as well as ABC’s Neighborhood Eats, NBC’s The Today Show , Sirius’ Everyday Living with Martha Stewart and TVFN’s Chopped. The acclaimed and New York Times-reviewed Ripe Kitchen and Bar is Mr Spence’s first entrepreneurial endeavor.

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