This recipe came about for two different reasons. First, I stayed home and took a snow day today because sometimes, in Minnesota, we wake up in April and it looks like this outside.
Second, there was a bunch stuff in the refrigerator that needed to be eaten: a head of napa cabbage, a bag of whole turmeric roots, and a huge batch of cooked whole wheat berries that Dr. Sam made, threw in the fridge, and never looked at again. I’d never cooked with whole turmeric root before and was initially turned off by their uncanny resemblance to creepy finger Halloween decoration.
But I didn’t want the whole bag to go bad from neglect and turmeric powder makes great curry, so I decided to make a curry. Curry is definitely the best dish I know for dealing with old vegetable remnants and is so versatile. I spice it with curry powder, curry paste, or any number of other spice combinations. I make the sauce from coconut milk, stock, or water (I even used a combination of cow milk and sour cream one time which I though was going to be weird but turned out just fine). I add whatever vegetables and proteins are on hand. And I serve over some carbohydrates (usually rice but also, pasta, toast, naan, mashed potatoes). Yum.
Skipping school seems to be about the only way I have time to cook or blog right now. Between trying to get the basement remodel to a point where we can move down there AND getting Pretty Boy ready for the impending racing season AND making the decision about where to go to school for my PhD AND still working at school to get my Master’s finished, life is just so crazy and not well-balanced right now. At least I’m still eating.
Anyway, back to the curry: once the turmeric root is peeled and sliced, it’s much less intimidating and looks like a mix between carrots (the color and shape) and ginger (the texture):
A warning: after the flesh is exposed, this stuff will stain everything it comes into contact with including cutting boards, dish towels, and fingers. At least its a pretty color (actually, cooking with turmeric made me want to do some experimenting with natural dyes. The colors are so pretty… right, like I have time for that crafty business). If you can’t find or don’t want to seek out turmeric root, it can be omitted or substituted with another root or powdered spice of your preference. I filled out the rest of the flavor base with onions, carrots and ginger. While I wish I would have had garlic too, this curry definitely turned out well balanced and had enough spice.
The wheat berries are not normally anything I’d make special to put in curry, but they worked quite well in this. The starchiness helped thicken the sauce, and they added a slight chewy texture and some protein. I think chopped, roasted cashews would be a great tasting protein in this as well. The wheat berries can easily be omitted, similar to the turmeric root, if you don’t have them, don’t want to cook them, or don’t want to bother. If you do omit the berries, you might need something else, like a little flour or cornstarch or potatoes or beans or something to help thicken the sauce. Or just have runnier sauce (I love curry! Just can’t go wrong!).
So really, the moral is: use whatever you have, fry it up, and use salt to help wilt leafy veggies.
Cabbage and Turmeric Root Curry:
4+ tbsp cooking oil
2-3 finger sized turmeric root pieces, peeled and sliced
1 tsp – 1 tbsp crushed red pepper, depending on prefered level of heat
2 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh ginger
1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, sliced into thin disks
1/2 head of napa cabbage, roughly chopped
2 tsp salt
1/2 can of coconut milk or cream (I usually have cans between 12-14 oz)
2 tsp sugar
1 cup cooked whole wheat berries
pepper to taste
1. Heat cooking oil in a wok or deep frying pan. Add turmeric root, red pepper, curry powder, and ginger. Fry until fragrant.
2. Add onion and carrots. Fry until onions and carrots have slightly softened.
3. Add cabbage and sprinkle with salt. Fry until cabbage wilts.
4. Add coconut milk, sugar, wheat berries, and pepper. Stir until combined. Once mixture is bubbling, reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes then serve over rice.
The rice pictured at the top of this post is a Korean “mixed grain” rice blend. I usually make my own blend of sticky and regular rices, brown and blacked colored varieties, sometimes with beans. We got the Korean blend from United Noodles, and it contains brown rice, brown sweet rice, barley, black sweet rice, green peas, and peeled and split, yellow mung beans. Its pretty good except for the peas. I’m not a fan of the texture of the peas.
Happy Snow Day!