My favorite Indian restaurant dish has always been the navratan korma. Creamy and subtly flavored, it is traditionally made with nine separate ‘floaters’ that make up the nine jewels (nav=nine, ratan=jewel). The problems with replicating this dish at home are many and various:
- I can never bring myself to put in the sheer amount of butter and cream needed in this recipe
- my grinds are never as smooth and as fine as in restaurants
- the nut kormas that I have made are, shall we say, lacking in flavor
- I never have nine things, all together, in the fridge at the same time, to use in the korma
- It goes well with naan but I don’t have a tandoor, so I need a recipe that will go well with rice or roti
Did you think this was going to be just a litany of my troubles? No, Dear Reader, I have found a good substitute! Here it is. A poor man’s korma with two jewels instead of nine, and a creamy tomato base instead of whatever they use. Feel free to up the jewel count when you make this at home. Feel free to take any other ‘Julia Child’ steps, such as peeling and seeding the tomato for a smoother sauce. I certainly didn’t but I’m rustic that way.
Creamy tomato korma with 2 jewels
- 2 tablespoons ginger-garlic-chili paste
- 2 cups tomato puree, made by simply halving about 5 tomatoes and giving them a spin in the blender
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 black cardamoms
- 4 green cardamoms
- 1 small stick cinnamon
- 4 cloves
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- 1 tablespoon dry fenugreek (methi) leaves or half a bunch fresh
- A pinch of nutmeg, grated
- Salt to taste
- quarter cup heavy cream or milk
- Jewel #1: half a pound of paneer, cubed into small cubes
- Jewel #2: Big handful frozen peas
- (other possibilities: chopped pineapple; cashews; green beans, in inch-long pieces; carrots, cubed; cauliflower florets; slivered almonds; bell peppers)
Heat the ghee in a thick-bottomed pot on medium heat. When fully melted, throw in the whole spices — the cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon, bay leaf. They need to cook for a minute, then in goes the ginger garlic paste. Let it sizzle and look ‘cooked’ which is one step before looking ‘browned’. At this point put in the tomato puree and an additional cup of water.
Bring this mixture to a boil and let it roil away gently for about 10 minutes. It will reduce some and its lusciousness will be greatly enhanced. At this point add the salt, fenugreek leaves, and grate some nutmeg in. Let it cook to meld another five to seven minutes. All this cooking can be done at medium heat.
Now the jewels go in. There is no need to thaw the peas before adding them in. The peas can go in first, then the cubed paneer. If you have other ‘jewels’ that need to be cooked to fully enjoy them, I suggest you precook them by blanching or microwaving, with some salt, before popping them into the sauce to finish off.
In any case my jewels did not need much cooking. Once the peas thaw they are quite done, and the paneer just needs heating through. This happened in another few minutes.
What is a korma without cream? So just before serving, lower the heat, add the quarter cup of cream and gently stir in, adjust for salt, and serve with some nice long-grained rice.
(This recipe is one of the 1000 found in this book.)