Sunday, March 27, 2011

International Curry Off: Caribbean Black-Eyed Pea Curry with Plantains

Okay. I might have to admit right now that this curry-off is a bit of a failure. I don't think there can be a winner. Both curries are so incredibly good that I don't think either can official beat the other. They are very different and so would respond well to completely different moods or cravings, but over all I loved them both so much that I will be making them both many many more times in the future. I'm pretty excited to have two new curries to add to my repertoire...maybe I'll have to do this again and go searching for more curries!

This curry, unlike the other one, does not use a pre-blended curry paste. The spices are very different and include cinnamon, star anise, bay leaves and a yellow curry powder. These spices were a bit unusual for me, but I easily found them in bulk at my natural food store. Also, this curry does not have nearly as many vegetables as the other, so I felt that serving it with a side of jerk flavored asparagus was appropriate. I'll have to blog about those another day. Let's just get started and make the curry. Gather the ingredients:

1/2 chopped shallot
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
2 bay leaves
1 star anise
2 tsp. mild yellow curry powder
pinch of cinnamon
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup light coconut milk
3/4 cup water
1 16 oz can of black eyed peas or 1 1/2 cup black eyed peas cooked from dry
1 tsp. agave nectar
juice from 1/2 lime
2 very ripe plantains, split lengthwise and cut into 1-inch chunks
brown rice or other grains, for serving

Heat a large skillet and spray with cooking spray. Saute the shallot, red pepper and jalapeno for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic, ginger, whole bay leaves and whole star anise. You will take these guys out later after they impart their deliciousness. Cook about 2 more minutes then add a splash of water and the curry, cinnamon and thyme. Stir for about 30 seconds to toast the curry.

Add the salt, coconut milk, water and peas. Cover and heat through for about 5-8 minutes. Add the agave and lime and taste for salt and seasoning. Turn off the heat and let the curry sit about 10 minutes for the flavors to meld, then remove the bay leaves and star anise.

Meanwhile, heat up a steamer basket over an inch or two of water. Heat the water, then steam the plantains for about 6-7 minutes. You will know they are done when they are bright yellow and a little bit puffy. Serve the curry over rice and garnish with a hearty scoop of plantains.

I had never prepared plantains in my life when I made this recipe. They were easy enough to find at my local Safeway, but I had never ventured to try them before. If you are like me and haven't experienced plantains, I have two pieces of advice: #1. Try them, you'll love them! #2 Do NOT expect them to taste like bananas. They don't. Expect something like a steamed cube of sweet potato. Very starchy but with a hint of sweetness. They are a delicious and luxurious addition to this dish. The final product tasted rich and filling while still being light and tropical. It brought me way out of my normal curry rut and I can't wait to make it again.

I hope that some of you will be inspired by these new curry recipes and the opportunity to try something a little out of the box. Oh, and buy Isa Chandra's book!!! I'm in love with it!

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