Friday, November 11, 2011

Rachael's Happy Curry

This recipe makes a ton of servings, or at least 8-10. My friend Rachael recently made it for me while she was in town. The original recipe comes from Simply in Season and Rachael made a few adjustments to the original recipe, which I tried my best to capture in the recipe below. It's a lovely meal for a cold autumn day. The day we ate it, we'd gone on a long hike in the mountains and for a while we hiked in snow--the first snow of the season, in this part of the country, which felt magical. As Rachael put it at one point when she tried taking a picture of me, "It's okay though, because it's like you're in a fairy tale."

And the entire weekend was like a fairy tale. We saw snow and a bit of a bus, or some other yellow piece of metal deep in the woods. We traipsed through clouds. We hiked through snow that was up to our hips. We scrambled up rocks and back down them. We went to Goodwill and the grocery store and drank local Viongier and local, organic chocolate vodka. We hiked daily, we baked and cooked, we had long conversations. We wandered through the First Friday art walk and looked at beautiful things we (for the most part) knew we couldn't afford. We went on a mini road trip. We talked about how we were both living lifestyles most people we know don't really understand and how small moments, like watching a video a friend of Rachael's made about Holden Village, make us feel like we're making the right decision for us, at this point in our lives.

While Rachael was here, we listened to Iron & Wine while making dinner, to a song, "The Perfect Space" by the Avett Brothers, that made us think of our friend Brenna while we drove on our mini road trip. We listened to Cat Stevens and The Beatles and a short story ("Paper Lantern") by Stuart Dybek, as read by ZZ Packer.

We talked about how we liked working outdoors--though Rachael works outside more than I do and I'm a bit jealous of it--and environmental education. We talked about how much we liked being able to go hiking or kayaking after work and how the best conversations either of us have occur while we're moving around. I felt more grounded, less like I was just existing, in a somewhat grounded way, in this liminal spot. But I also realized I was going to feel sad when Rachael left. I want her to live near me. I only feel that way, at this point, about a couple of people--though there are a lot of people I'd love to see more often. Rachael's a lovely, kind woman and I'm glad she's been such a constant force in my life over the past three and a half years, and especially during the last year as so many other things in my life have felt in transition.

It felt, to me, like having family around and helped me feel more like I belonged in the place I'm in, because Rachael and I were equally interested in having quiet adventures together--not the type that involve going out to the bar, necessarily, or constant entertainment in the traditional sense, but in ways that allowed us to interact with the places near here, with the place I live, with the food we were eating--which was almost entirely local and organic. Her visit made me feel less homesick--and simultaneously more because I knew I'd miss her when she leaved. It made me feel more like an adult. Rachael's someone I don't have to work to be around, which is sometimes the most comforting thing--which I needed more than I expected.

One of the best things about making this curry: that we worked on it together. I baked brown rice, sliced (the recipe calls for minced) garlic and ginger, and found things in my kitchen for Rachael. She worked on the rest and we talked about the things in our life that felt the most immediate, and also listened to a Day of the Dead mix full of wonderful songs. After we'd both had our fill of food, there was plenty of curry left over, so I could think of her as I ate some of the leftovers and send her back on the road with some of it, perfect for eating on the road, presumably while sitting in her distinctive car on her at a lovely vista.

Rachael's Happy Curry
1 large onion, chopped
1 tableespoon ghee, coconut butter, or olive oil

1 tablespoon garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons ginger, chopped
2 serrano chile peppers, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon each: turmeric, ground cumin, black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2-3 bay leaves

14 ounces coconut milk
1/4 cup tamari (we actually used some marmite and extra water)
3 large tomatoes, diced

1 1/2 cups dried red lentils
5 cups water

1 medium head cauliflower (cut into 1 1/2 inch florets)
1 large sweet potato
1/4 head cabbage (we didn't use this, but I will next time I make it)
1-2 cups peas (again, we didn't use this but next time I will)


In large saucepan or soup pot over medium-high heat, saute onion in coconut butter or oil, until transparent but not brown. Add garlic through bay leaves and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook and stir constantly for 3 minutes. Do not let spices, garlic, and onion brown. Add the coconut milk, tamari, and tomatoes. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring lentils to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Add, with liquid to soup pot.

Add the cauliflower, sweet potato, and cabbage to the soup pot and cook until just tender, about 5-10 minutes. If using peas, add at the end of the cooking time. Taste and add salt, if necessary.

Serve hot, over brown rice with toppings (optional) such as: Indian chutneys & pickles, fresh diced pears, roasted sunflower seeds, plain yogurt, or a squeeze of lemon.


  1. I miss you guys! I want to have a curry party on the west coast with you both. (I don't know whether a sad face or a happy face would be more fitting here...)

  2. That weekend meant a lot to me. Reading about it made me happy again. Hope your week is going really well!

  3. The famed curry! And what a weekend! Can't wait to see Rachael soon as well, and Liz Clift, maybe we can cross paths when I come out to visit Camp Seymour in the spring...

  4. John, yes. Rachael, miss you. Brenna, spring break. =)