Monday, January 20, 2014

Tofu and Vegetable Korma

Sometimes a restaurant can be an inspiration, especially when a visit to the grocery store further reinforces it!


I made a concoction based on Vegetable Korma last night. Inspiration came from two sources. The first was dinner at a new (for us) Indian restaurant in town on Saturday night. The second was a jar of Korma simmer sauce that I happened to see during my travels shopping at Target yesterday afternoon.
There was also a glimmer of something else - epiphany, adventure, daring, or just an excuse but Ghee was also involved. See, I have wanted to try Ghee for a long time but never had an excuse. Ghee is clarified butter and has an extremely hot smoke point so you can use it for frying or cooking without the usual issues where it burns before it can heat the food.

There are few things less tasty that burned butter tainting your food. Of course, in the past I have tried to combat that by putting half butter and half olive oil or vegetable oil in the pan to increase the allowable temperatrure. In any event, Ghee is used a lot for Ethiopian cooking. After finding this at Trader Joe's I found out that it also has an indefinite shelf life, had good bacteria that you find in things like Yogurt, and is perhaps healthy. I didn't need all those reasons but it does add to my "pat myself on the back moment".

But I digress. Let's talk about the Indian food Friday night when we adventured to a new restaurant in our city. I did not take pictures but I plan on going again so I will post a separate article at a later date. We have been eating Indian food for years, being selective of the dishes we really favor. Our favorite for years has been Paneer Makahani, cubes of homemade Indian cheese that are simmered in a delicate sauce with cream, tomatoes and subtle Indian spices. Often you can't find it on a menu but you can usually find Chicken Makahani or Butter Chicken and you can often just ask to substitute the meat with the cheese. That is how we originally discovered a treasure of this dish locally.

We had been eating the Chicken version for years at a local restaurant but after having Paneer Makahani in Toronto at a fabulous gem called 309 Dhaba Indian Excellence, I asked our original Indian local restaurant to make it for us. I can't continue with out plugging Dhaba - if you go to Toronto it's worth the dining experience while you are there. I dream about it.

So for years Paneer Makahani at our original local restaurant has been a go to dish. So much so, it became an annual tradition on Christmas Eve. But over time, the quality and the consistency has been less that stellar. Sometimes the food is awesome, and other times it's mediocre. Indian food is too pricey typically to roll the dice. So we haven't had it in a very long time. This past Saturday night we decided to adventure to Moti Mahal in Royal Oak to see if we could find a local substitute. Their menu was a little different than what we are familiar with but the waitstaff were patient and helped us to find some items to start with. We had the Butter Chicken with Paneer (they spell it Poneer) instead and we also tried the Pasanda that already featured cubes of Paneer but had your choice of meats. I picked shrimp. Orders came with Basmati rice included but Naan was extra but well worth it. The Paneer Makahani was a little different than our usual taste of it but very much enjoyed. It was less creamy but sweeter and both kids (who are super picky) enjoyed it. My Shrimp Pasanda had the cubes of cheese but was a little spicier. My plan next time is to try the Korma or the Kashmir.

Which bring me back to dinner last night and the Korma I made. I found that bottle of simmer sauce and decided since I had to wait to try Korma at Moti Mahal maybe I could try something at home. I started with firm tofu from Trader Joe's, using both halves of the pack of sprouted extra firm tofu. I let it drain for a bit with a Pyrex dish on top to get rid of some of the excess water and then diced it into cubes (similar to Paneer - no coicidence there) and sauteed in the Ghee. I was patient, stirred them to get them a little golden brown.

I then took those out of the pan and started sauteeing some vegetables. First I used some cauliflower, carrots and yellow peppers, adding some crushed garlic and shallots once they got going. To this I added some sliced white mushrooms. Once this was really cooking, left firm but definitely sauteed, I switched them from the non stick frying pan to a pot that has a fitted lid, and added the tofu back in.

I used the whole jar of the simmer sauce but found that my quantity of ingredients really made for a sparse sauce so I added a can of cream of coconut to the pan and then simmered for about 20 minutes so the flavors could really meld. I checked it frequently, stirring gently but  often with a wooden spoon.

The verdict? Delicious! I served it with some instant saffron rice (totally unncessary, regular basmati will do next time) and the consistency of the tofu made this is a wonderful dish along with the fresh vegetables. I will definitely make this again. In fact, it's leftover lunch today!

As it wasn't a real recipe, I will do my best with estimates here:

Tofu and Vegetable Korma


1 package of extra firm tofu, drained and diced
2 Tablespoons of Ghee, divided into two (1 Tbsp. each)
Assorted vegetables (carrots in disks, cauliflower florets and sliced yellow pepper), approxamitely 1 cup in total
1/2 cup sliced white mushrooms
1 teaspoon of shallots, packed in water
1 teaspoon  of crushed garlic, packed in water
1 jar of Patak's Taste of India Korma simmer sauce
1 can of cream of coconut or coconut milk



Drain and dice tofu, and place in heated non stick pan with a tablespoon of Ghee. Toss frequently on medium heat until golden brown. Remove tofu from pan and add another tablespoon of Ghee. Add firmer vegetables to saute, then add garlic, shallots and mushrooms.

Place vegetables and tofu in a new pot with a lid. Add simmer sauce and coconut cream (or milk) to pan. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Serve with Rice.

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