This recipe is based on a legendary dish from one of my favourite places in Vancouver.
Vikram Vij and his wife, Chef Meeru Dhalwala, have a sidekick restaurant to their hugely popular Indian meets the Pacific Northwest restaurant ‘Vij’s’ (a giant lineup away from an exotic and comforting good time). It’s called ‘Rangoli’.
Every Sunday night, Vikram and Meeru used to come into a French restaurant where I used to work, and request a vegetarian menu. It just happened to be that Sundays were the nights that only the women in the kitchen were working (we used to joke that it was Lileth Fair night). We loved the challenge of putting together something special for them with the ingredients that we had each week, and it became something we looked forward to.
Knowing their apparent appreciation for vegetarian food, it comes as no surprise that there are some delicious vegetable-forward options on their restaurant menus. I go to Rangoli with my sisters for lunch once in a while and we used to order different dishes to share, but the Portobello Mushroom curry would always disappear first. Now we literally each order our own, no sharing required. And then go home for a nap.
It’s that good. I have the Vij’s cookbook (it’s awesome) and I have wanted to recreate this recipe for a while, but I had some concerns. One of them was the pile of paneer (fresh Indian cheese that is basically pressed ricotta), a naughty little surprise hiding underneath the curry. Is this what made it good? We have a recipe on here for vegan ricotta, but I didn’t want it to turn this recipe into a lot of work, so we made it without.
The second thing was the fact that it is made with straight up heavy cream, not coconut milk. We could make it with a cashew cream, but again, I wanted to make this a little easier than that, so we made it with coconut milk (from a can, although you could also make your own coconut milk, or sub it with richer, homemade coconut and cashew cream too).
Indian spices are full of anti-cancer properties, so naturally when cooking Indian food, you have the perfect excuse to use them. Turmeric (anti-inflammatory –crush that cancer!), mustard seeds (from the cruciferous family, same as kale and broccoli), fenugreek leaves (great flavour, totally worth seeking out; if you’re in Vancouver, find them at South China Seas), garam masala, a blend of warming spices that you can buy as a blend or easily make your own if you’re a spice hoarder like me.
The secret ingredient that makes this rich in mushroom-y flavour is the dried porcini powder. Dried porcini mushrooms are not cheap but you don’t use a lot at a time. You can usually find them close to the spice section of the grocery store (just ask, sometimes they camouflage against the background). I grind them up in a coffee grinder that I save especially for grinding whole spices, but if you have a high-powered blender, that works too.
We are serving this curry with raw beets and daikon tossed in lemon juice (they do too, it’s more of a pickle, I think). We diced it into tiny squares that give me immense satisfaction, but grating them works too. This adds a needed balance of freshness and acidity to the dish, but homemade sauerkraut or other fermented veggies (maybe even this fermented hot sauce?) would do an even better job of this, if you have some on hand.
Despite the changes, and any concerns I had, this recipe turned out really well. Dairy-free = way lower inflammation, rogue hormones, phosphorus and chance of waking up in the morning with your eyes stuck together. Try throwing in some chopped kale in the last few minutes for an even greater anti-cancer punch.
This curry is rich and comforting for whether spring came too quickly for your warm food needs, or for when it feels like it has fully arrived and then it snows enough for your husband to build a 10 foot snowman that your neighbors feel compelled to come over and take pictures with (this actually happened to my sister this week; weird on more than one level).
- 4 Portobello Mushrooms, stem left ON, sliced into 5-6 pieces
- 2 Red/Yellow or Orange Peppers, sliced lengthwise into 1 inch strips
- 1 Red Onion, core removed, sliced lengthwise into 1 inch strips
- 3-5 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 bunch Cilantro, roughly chopped
- 3 Tbsp dried Porcini Mushrooms, ground to a powder (in blender or spice grinder)
- 1 tsp Garam Masala
- 1 tsp dried Turmeric (2 tsp if using fresh)
- 1 tsp Mustard seeds
- 1 Tbsp Fenugreek Leaves
- 2 c Coconut Milk (homemade or canned, full fat)
- 1 c Water
- 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- Sea(weed) Salt, to taste
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper, (to enhance turmeric absorption)
- 1 c fresh Daikon, diced small (or grated)
- 1 c fresh Beet, diced small (or grated)
- 2 tsp fresh Lemon Juice
- Preheat the oven to 350*F
- Lay the portobello slices out on a parchment-lined baking sheet, drizzle some of the oil on top and sprinkle all of the garam masala on top.
- On another parchment-lined baking sheet, toss the pepper slices in some of the oil and spread out on the sheet.
- Bake both the portobellos and the peppers for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a wide-bottomed pot or saucepan, in the rest of the coconut oil with a splash of water, sauté the onions until soft.
- Add the garlic, mustard seeds and turmeric and continue to sauté for another minute.
- Add the coconut milk, water, roasted portobellos and the ground porcini powder.
- The mushrooms should be mostly submerged at this point (add a bit more water if they're not).
- Simmer the curry on low heat until the water level drops (reduce it) to a nice, rich consistency (it should resemble how it was before you added the water).
- add the roast peppers and fenugreek leaves and stir in.
- Finish with the fresh cilantro and adjust seasoning (salt and pepper).
- Serve on rice, buckwheat, millet, or just eat on its own with the beet & daikon salad.
- Toss together and serve with the curry.