The No-Recipe Curry

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Like most families, we have a few favourite dinner recipes that run on repeat like old records in our home. Our spinach crepes are rotating at least a couple of times each month. So are variations of this beetroot salad, these quinoa patties and this carrot and red lentil soup. They are simple comforting recipes that everyone in our family loves and most importantly; recipes that we almost always have the ingredients for at home. I guess we could call them our family’s recipe staples. Another dish that has made it into our recipe staple list during the last year is this no-recipe curry. Not only have we been cooking it in our own kitchen, but also in kitchens in Melbourne, Sydney and on the tiny stow top kitchen in our campervan on New Zealand. A rather well-travelled dish and for a good reason. It is very simple to adapt to whatever you have at hand and therefore easily prepared, always tasty and comforting like a big, warm hug.

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We start out with a base of onion, garlic, ginger (heaps!) and turmeric, then add whatever vegetables we have within reach, fill up with coconut milk and add some tofu. And right when it’s done cooking, we always add fresh spinach that we quickly let wilt down without loosing its sturdiness. The result is a sweet and creamy dish with lots of vegetables and a punch of ginger and garlic. It’s a very likeable dish and easy to adapt to whatever flavors you prefer. Chili would be a good addition if you like it spicy and are not cooking for kids. We always make huge batches of this so we have lunch or dinner sorted for another day. It keeps well in the fridge and the flavours will develop even further.

We call it no-recipe curry because we improvise it slightly every time we make it. We are however giving you a specific recipe for it today. Our hope is that you will try it, tweak it and make it into your own recipe staple. We would also love to hear about which recipes you always return to? Any favourites that you want us to try?

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Sweet Potato, Ginger, Spinach & Tofu Curry
Serves 6

As I have mentioned above, there are plenty of ways to tweak this recipe. Feel free to add mustard seeds, ground coriander, curry leaves or chili with the other spices if you have it on hand. Replace any of the vegetables with whatever is in season – pumpkin, zucchini, tomatoes or aubergine will all fit right in. A splash of yogurt is also nice on top if you are not vegan.

2 tbsp coconut oil or butter
1 yellow onion

3 cloves garlic
1 large chunk (at least 2 inches / 5 cm) fresh ginger root
2 tsp ground turmeric or fresh, grated
1/2 tsp ground cumin (optional)
1 tsp salt

1 large sweet potato (approx 500 g / 1 pound)
1 broccoli
1 cauliflower
2 cans (800 ml) coconut milk (or half water if you want it lighter)
7 oz / 200 g tofu, drained and cut into 1 inch / 2,5 cm cubes
2 large handfuls fresh spinach
1/2 lime, juice

Serve with
a large handful cashew nuts, pan roasted
2 cups cooked quinoa or rice
a sprinkle of nigella seeds (optional)
fresh coriander/cilantro (optional)

Add coconut oil to a large sauce pan on medium heat. Peel and finely chop onion, garlic and ginger and add to the pan together with turmeric and cumin. Stir and cook for a few minutes until the onion is soft. Meanwhile, peel and cut the sweet potato in 1 inch / 2,5 cm cubes. Add the sweet potato to the pan and let sauté for a few minutes. Stir around every now and then to make sure nothing is burnt. You can add a splash of water or more oil if the spices stick to the bottom of the pan. Cut broccoli and cauliflower into florets and add to the pan together with the coconut milk and tofu. Cook until the sweet potato cubes are soft and tender (about 15 minutes). Remove from the heat, add spinach and a squeeze of lime and stir around. Taste and add more salt and spices if needed.

Serve in bowls with cooked quinoa, cashew nuts, nigella seeds and some fresh coriander.

82 Comments

  • Hannah
    So funny! The description of what makes certain meals/dishes recurrences in your house is very similar to my own -- the most important being "always have the ingredients on hand!" I make a red lentil-tomato-coconut milk soup at least twice a month and NEVER hear any complaints. Hooray for warming, flavorful meals :-)
  • Lovely curry bowl! I have a weeknight curry formula similar to this but I love the combination of spices and vegetables in this recipe. Oh, and your mung bean stew is one of my staple recipes. ;-) And one I recommend often to clients.
  • Oh that's incredibily good and versatile idea! Love so much your photos, looks so tasty everytime! Have a nice week!
  • Donna Hardin
    Do I see a scoop of quinoa in there? Yummm. I am not a fan of tofu...would chicken be a good source of protein or do you have any other ideas? Lastly...coconut milk...I opened my first can one day...surprised to see liquid and then cream...is thus normal? Do you use liquid, cream and all?? Tx
    • Marta torres
      Yes, it is normal, the liquid and the fat separate in the can, nothing to worry about.
  • juliz
    hi. green kitchens guys, you really inspired me so much, i live in Puerto Rico y the tropical island, i for so many year my mom tell me that i need to do a blog, an cookbook, because i really love to cook, and i vegetarian too. and now i decided to do it. would you please want to tell me some advice that how you do and sharge you success story with me. tks. this that in what time you do your recipes, because your haves children and i have one daughter too that have 2 year old.
  • Nina
    I love the chickpea and shiitake mushroom combination in my curry. Have you ever tried serving it with millet? Since I tried that, I never eat it with anything else. Have a lovely week, n
  • suzanne
    This highlights what I think I love most about your approach to cooking. Through your cookbook & blog - in addition to all the lovely recipes you offer - I've gained confidence in adapting them to suit what I have on hand, the personal tastes of my family or what I just picked up from the farmer's market! Your recipes seem to have an artful balance of structure and freedom. - Thanks!
  • sam
    I was getting sooo tired of thinking of my next vegan recipe that I gave up completely last night and just ate meat (which I'm suffering for) with everyone else in the family... Then your post popped into my inbox and gave me inspiration again. Thank you four (oh yes, I keep up to date with what's going on with your family - not in a creepy way obviously!). Hope everything is going well with you and yours. Sam
  • Ivet
    Love it!!!Gonna try tonight!;) I was wondering about when the post about the tips for travelling with kids? In a few days I'm travelling to NYC with my toddler..gonna be very useful!Love, love, love your blog!!!
  • A good curry should definitely be versatile! I love this!
  • So often I find that improvised recipes tend to turn out the best. This one is a stunner!
  • Alicia
    Nice curry! I will have to give it a go. Have you tried 'Spicy carrot and chickpea pitta pocket'? It always surprises me how something so easy can be so delicious http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/aug/26/vegetable-recipes-fearnley-whittingstall (at the end of the link) And this 'lentil chilli' is one of our favorites. http://www.goodhousekeeping.co.uk/food/recipes/lentil-chilli-recipe
  • Aw, such a lovely dish - I love curry and always wonder why it doesn't make an appearance on my table more often. I guess it's my own family who doesn't seem to care for coconut milk much - I adore it, though! Seems like they are going to have to eat this asap anyways - it looks too delicious not to make it!!
  • The main spices found in most South Asian curry powders are turmeric, coriander, and cumin... I like them all!
  • Anna
    Will try it tonight. Still curious to know if you liked Australia or NZ more than Stockholm.
    • Haha, well it's hard to compare. We loved both Australia and New Zealand very much. We could definitely consider moving to Australia for the weather, the lifestyle and the incredible food scene. Stockholm does however has its advantages when it comes to child care and a bunch of other things. Plus, we also have our families here in Stockholm and Copenhagen. /David
  • It's almost like mine!!! Only with coriander and no cumin (I always forget to buy it) and I can say it is delicious and easy. :-)
  • I love improvised curry! They're such a great i've-no-idea-what-to-prepare when I cook for someone else :D

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