I’ve been noticing a huge trend toward meat-free cooking. More and more people are adding “Meat-Free Mondays” to their meal-planning habits, or even including the occasional meatless week for their families.
I’m all for it!
You may choose to eat less meat for environmental, ethical, economic, or health reasons – but no matter your motivation, it’s great way to increase the amount of seasonal vegetables and grains you eat.
That said, designing vegetarian meals might be new to you, and you may be struggling to figure out what to cook, what combinations to pair together, and how to balance the meal from a nutritional standpoint.
Vegetarian cooking does require a little planning to get started. I know that was my first thought, when I recently took a trip to Southern India to demystify vegetarian cooking.
I took a cooking class at the Red Earth Eco lodge in Karnataka, about 60km south of the city of Mysore.
That trip was a wonderful and highly educational experience for me, and it was even the source of inspiration for our latest vegetarian curry spice range.
Our vegetarian curry spice range is currently evolving. We’re starting with the sambar spices mix, and introducing a few simple curry vegetarian recipes on our website that only use a few common spices, to get you started with cooking your own curry dishes. Keep your eye out on this site for future spice mixes, as we roll out the rest of our range!
A curry is any dish cooked with spices in a sauce, and the reason they taste great is the spices you include in your curries. Your spices are the stars of the show, and you won’t need sugar, salt, or stock cubes to make your curries taste wonderful.
Every nationality in the world has a version of a curry dish, and they’re a great way to use fresh, cheap, local ingredients. They’re exciting, flavorful, interesting dishes, but they’re not typically hot (at least not from spices!).
Want to try to make your own veggie curries? Here are some tips to help you plan well-balanced, great-tasting, nutritional vegetarian combinations.
Step 1: Choose your vegetarian protein.
Pulses are the lifeblood of Indian vegetarian cooking.
Pulses are edible seeds that grow in pods, and they are a low fat, affordable source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Peas, beans, and lentils are all pulses. We’re going to talk a little more about choosing your proteins in a future post, but for now, you can simply choose one that appeals to you – all three options work very well with all the vegetarian curries we’ll be talking about in this post.
Vegetarian options will never be boring, because there are so many varieties to choose from!
One thing to be aware of when you’re cooking pulses: The older the dried pulse, the longer the cooking time will need to be. Soaking the pulses can reduce the cooking time, and the best flavor comes from simmering. If you’re short on time, using a pressure cooker can help you get great flavor without needing to simmer for a long time.
Step 2: Choose Your Vegetables.
If you are venturing away from the “meat and three veg” diet for the first time, select vegetables for your curry that have umami (meaty) flavours, like mushrooms, eggplant, and root vegetables.
Use lots of herbs and spices when you’re cooking your curries. It’s critically important to season and flavor your dishes with great-tasting spices.
Step 3: Plan Your Meal
Vegetarian curries work best when you mix and match 2 or 3 different types at one time.
If creating this many dishes may seem daunting, remember that each curry only takes a short time to prepare, and the combination will provide a more balanced meal.
Need a few ideas? Here are a couple of our newest vegetarian favorites:
- Punjabi Paneer Curry – an amazingly simple and tasty dish from northern India.
- Spiced Curd – Spiced curd is like a yogurt that uses whole and ground spices tempered in oil. You pour the spices and oil into the curd mixture and let it seep through, then the curd is served with curry. It’s great for digestive health and includes healthy probiotics.
Step 4: Pick Your Condiments
One of my favorite things about curries is the wonderful array of condiments that can lift a curry to new heights. These can be as simple as sliced banana with coconut and lemon, to a spicy pickled sambal (relish).
Add your favorite condiments to your curries, and come up with complimentary flavour combinations. There are no right or wrong choices when you’re choosing condiments, and it is a great way to personalize your meal.
Some people like chilli, but other prefer milder flavours, so it’s easier to add chilli as a condiment than put it into the entire recipe. Other people have a sweeter palate, so a sweet fruit chutney may be the perfect choice as a condiment.
Sambar dishes are a south Indian specialty. There’s a sambar masala spice blend in every south Indian household, and each family has its own unique recipe.
We were lucky enough to learn how to make this versatile spice blend, and now we’ve showcased this new blend in the Spice People store.
You don’t need a recipe to try this blend – just add a dash to soups, stews, and lentil dishes. However, we have created a Sambar Split Pea Curry Stew to get you started.