When I moved to Chicago, I knew it had a reputation for great restaurants and innovative food, and so I wasn’t expecting to miss NYC dining as much as I do. While the Chicago restaurant scene does many things really well, it’s almost impossible to find authentic (and good) ethnic foods outside of a few far-flung neighborhoods. In Queens, I could literally walk from the best tacos in the entire city to incredible Indian and Thai places. Here, there is nothing within walking distance from my apartment, or even a short train ride, that compares to those restaurants.
One afternoon last week, after months of eating mostly meat-heavy dishes and pasta and other cold-weather foods, I desperately wanted Thai curry. I thought about the coconut curries from my old neighborhood: creamy, spicy, and tangy with fresh limes. Is there a better way to stave off the winter blues?
I opened up “Simply Nigella: Feel Good Food,” which my mother gave me a few months back. Nigella Lawson is a British chef with a unique ability to take classic dishes and make them significantly healthier and more interesting. I’ve made several of her recipes before, and this time turned my attention to her cauliflower and cashew nut curry.
Nigella herself acknowledges that this curry is a “multi-culti curry” fusing Thai and Indian flavors. It may not be as “authentic” as others that I’ve had, but it’s everything that I was craving and more.
I serve this with brown rice, some fresh cilantro sprinkled on top, and several lime wedges on the side
- 1 medium size cauliflower
- 2-3 teaspoons sea salt flakes
- 2-3 bay leaves
- ⅔ cup cashew nuts
- 1 tbs coconut oil or other vegetable oil
- 2 shallots, finely sliced
- 2 tsp ginger, finely chopped or grated
- Seeds from 3 cardamom pods
- 1 tsp cumin seeds or cumin
- 1 tbs cilantro stalks, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup (60 mls) Thai red curry paste (*her recipe calls for ¼ cup, ½ adds more heat, which I prefer)
- 1 14 oz can of coconut milk
- 1 lime, juiced
- Extra limes for serving
Cooked brown rice for serving (start cooking prior to making the curry as the cooking time is usually much longer than it is for the curry)
Boil water in a large sauce pan. While the water boils, cut the cauliflower into florets. After cutting the cauliflower, slice scallions, chop cilantro, and grate ginger.
When water is ready, add salt, cauliflower, and bay leaves, and cook until the cauliflower is al dente.
While the cauliflower cooks, heat oil in a large pan or wok over medium heat, and add the scallions, cilantro, ginger, cumin, and cardamon pods. Cook for 1 minute.
Add the curry paste and combine well with the other ingredients. Then add coconut milk, and stir well until color is consistent. Bring to a bubble.
When the cauliflower is ready, drain from the water, discard bay leaves, and add to the sauce. Also add additional salt to taste. Turn the heat down to low and simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes covered.
While the sauce cooks, heat a small frying pan over medium heat and toast the cashews until they color. Add half of them to the sauce and reserve the others.
After 10 minutes, add lime juice and stir well. Adjust other seasonings as necessary.
Serve the curry over rice and sprinkle extra cashews, cilantro, and scallions on top. Make sure each plate has a lime wedge or two for extra tang