I was intrigued by this cucumber curry recipe the minute I spotted it. The cookbook that the recipe comes from (Madhur Jaffrey's excellent book 'World Vegetarian') is sitting right here on my bookshelf but I completely missed this recipe until I saw it on this blog. I make cucumber dosa often, but otherwise don't cook cucumber, preferring it as a raw salad vegetable. Cooking it into a curry is very new to me.
The curry, with mellow cucumber and coconut looked just right for summer. There is a mild spicy undertone from the chilli(es), but otherwise the fragrance is entirely that of mustard seeds and curry leaves spluttered briefly in ghee to release their aroma.
The curry leaves are the star of this dish, and the ones I used came from my own curry leaf plant. Before I left for my long vacation to India, I gave away all my plants and herbs, keeping only this most precious one. This plant sits in the kitchen window and I spend many anxious moments every week counting the newly sprouting sprigs. It started as the tiniest sapling given to me by an acquaintance but has grown inch by inch. While we were packing for the trip, my green-thumbed friend Julianne came by and kindly took the curry leaf plant away to her home to baby-sit it for the month. As she was getting into the elevator, V called to her, "You know, if you kill this plant, Nupur is never going to speak to you again". The poor thing! She sent me regular messages about the plant's health all month and needless to say, returned it to me in perfect condition.
My problem now is that the plant is growing tall but not laterally- I would love to have it branching out more and now just growing upright. Does anyone know how to accomplish this? Any advice from plant experts would be much appreciated. I "harvest" 3-4 sprigs of curry leaves from my plant every week and that is enough for my cooking needs. Even with just this one little plant, I have avoided buying many packets of limp curry leaves from the store, saving a bit of money and keeping the packaging out of the trash. Oh, the joys of growing your own herbs. I'm obsessed about getting a lemongrass plant next, and want to plant some mint and basil before July is over.
Just to contrast with my baby curry leaf plant, here is the one in my parents' yard in India. It is a curry leaf tree that is 3 stories tall! My parents are drowning in curry leaves. Meanwhile, I am sitting here and rationing sprigs of curry leaves, thinking, "If I use two sprigs today, I won't have any for the sambar tomorrow".
That big tree keeps giving off saplings here and there in the surrounding soil. I have friends here in the US who would give anything for these curry leaf babies that grow like weeds in my parents' garden.
OK, I got a little carried away there. Coming back to the recipe, the only real change I made was in using whole lentils instead of the split ones (masoor dal), because it is what I had on hand, and in reducing the amount of coconut milk a little. It is the very incredible-tasting recipe I have tried in several months. Now, it does not win any prizes in terms of looks; the lentils give the curry a dull muddy color, but this is completely worth overlooking. I highly recommend it. The delicate flavor is perfect for summer.
Cucumber Squash Curry
Inspired by the olan recipe on A Life (Time) of Cooking
¾ cup lentils (masoor), rinsed
1 cup thick coconut milk
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
1 medium yellow squash, diced
1 green chilli, finely minced (or more to taste)
Salt to taste
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon ghee/clarified butter
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
1. In a pot, add ½ cup coconut milk, lentils and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 110-15 minutes or until lentils are barely tender.
2. Add the cucumber, squash, chillies and salt. Cook for 5-10 minutes.
3. In a separate small pan, make the tempering by heating the ghee and popping the mustard seeds and curry leaves in the ghee.
4. Pour the fragrant tempering and remaining coconut milk to the curry. Stir for a minute or two, then turn off the heat.
5. Add the lemon juice and stir. Serve with freshly steamed rice, with mango pickle on the side.
Since the curry is proudly made by curry leaves growing in my kitchen, I'm sending this post to Grow Your Own #31, an event that celebrates foods we grow ourselves.