Snowed-In Potato Curry

2016-01-25 12.18.11RECIPE #174, DAY #212

ORIGINAL RECIPE: None. This was sheer desperation

TIMING: 30 minutes but up to 1 hour for the rice

DIFFICULTY: Easy-Moderate

TOOLS: A rather large skillet or a wok with a lid

COOK TYPE: Stovetop

HEALTH: This is good for you. It’s vegetarian, it’s chock full of veggies, and it’s likewise chock full of antioxidants and phytonutrients from the spices. And that’s not quite all. Just eat it.

EXPERIENCE: We had been snowed in for four days, and, well, the pantry was already sparse when it started snowing. Now it was tragic. We had no butter, cream, vanilla, meat, soy product, (most) beans, cheese, broth, bread… So I sorta trudged to the kitchen. I had an hour to feed my husband before he headed out to go be a nurse for the night shift. And I was holding a bag of potatoes.

I thought of a curry. Then I thought of all the pitfalls: I had no butter or cream, no coconut milk, no curry leaves or lemongrass, no meat, no cilantro or ginger, no spinach or paneer, no yogurt, no bread to accompany… but there was still a glimmer of hope. So without consulting a cookbook (no time and I knew I wouldn’t have all the ingredients for any give recipe), I pushed up my sleeves and started some Basmati rice in the steamer.

This is a perfectly acceptable curry, assuming you are stuck at home with exactly the same food holes as me. Or, it’s just an acceptable curry for any time, really.

NOTES: Yes, there are a lot of ingredients in the curry, as there are in all curries. If you have the spices, it’s just a matter of hunting them down and setting them on the counter. I happen to stock over 100 spices and herbs in my pantry.

For the above reason and because parts of this recipe move really fast, you want to have your full mise en place in place before starting. That means, you want to have everything that you need out and accessible, your cans and jars opened, your tools at the ready, and your veggies chopped. The last thing you want to do is dice the potatoes–or set them aside in acidulated water.


  1. In a large, deep skillet or wok, heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed and give it a swirl.
  2. When the seeds start to pop, immediately add a small, diced onion and cook until translucent. Add 1 sliced red bell pepper and cook 1 more minute. Add 2 thin-sliced cloves garlic.
  3. Moving quickly, add 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 1/2 teaspoon each: garam masala, fenugreek, cinnamon, cardamom, ground ginger, turmeric, coriander, ground black pepper, and cayenne powder. Stir for 30 seconds, then juice 1/2 lemon over spices and stir for a few seconds.
  4. Quickly add 2 cups water, 15 oz diced tomatoes, 3 medium, diced potatoes (I prefer Yukon Gold), 1 can drained chickpeas, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons coconut oil, 1 bay leaf, and 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Stir, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
  5. Check potatoes for tenderness. They should be almost falling apart, but still holding their shape. Reduce heat to low, add 1 cup evaporated milk and stir just until warmed through and slightly thickened. Taste for seasonings, remove from heat, and serve.

Serve over buttered (or coconut-oiled) Basmati rice or with naan or chapatis.

*Recipe changed from the original.


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