If I had to turn vegetarian, I'd happily live on Indian food forever. Even my man, a strict meatarian, doesn't notice the absence of his beloved ingredients when faced with a vegetarian Indian meal. This Navratan Korma recipe is a case in point. The nine key ingredients (Nine gems or Navratan) include Paneer, Cashewnuts and Almonds, with a moveable feast of other ingredients of your choice. This creamy, wholesome Navratan Korma is versatile enough to form the centrepiece of your dinner when you're trying to impress, or as a rescue operation for leftover vegetables in the fridge. Replace the milk and yoghurt with coconut milk for a delicious, vegan alternative from the South of India. This recipe first featured in my book. A lovely and very patient reader got in touch to say the milk kept splitting in her attempts. When Indian dishes use milk and yoghurt, it's very important to get them to room temperature first. Hot oil + cold milk = Split milk. Also, I woud always recommend Greek yoghurt or hung curd owing to its thicker texture and weight. Also, don't be put off by the splitting. The curry reconsitutes as it cooks and the the end result is irresistibly delicious.
Take the milk and yoghurt out of the fridge, stir together in a jug and set aside by the hob. You want this mixture at room temperature. In a large frying pan, warm a tablespoon of the oil on high. Chop the paneer into even bite sized cubes. When it’s hot, saute the paneer with the nuts and raisins for two minutes until golden. The paneer will hiss and spit, so be careful turning it over and take it off the flame to do this if you need to.
Now remove the ingredients with a slotted spoon into a bowl, and add the remaining oil to the pan. Chop the two onions into small pieces and add to the oil when hot, along with the ginger and garlic pastes. Saute this for at least 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until the onions caramelise to a beautiful golden.
While this is happening, chop up all your vegetables into bite-sized cubes. Cauliflower, Babycorn and sweetcorn would also work well! When the oniones are caramelised, stir in the tomatoe puree, cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilli powders. Saute this on high for five minutes, adding a little hot water if it starts getting stuck to the bottom of the pan. Then lower the heat to a simmer for two minutes. You will see oil separately from the spice mixture, i.e. masala, and oozing through little pores.
Now, pour in the milk and yoghurt mixture and when it’s warm, the carrots and beans. Don’t worry too much if the milk splits a bit. It will reconstitute beautifully by the time your Navratan Korma is done.
Then bring the heat up to medium, and add the vegetable into the curry in the order of the time they will take to get cooked. So potatoes, button mushrooms and then peas. Keep stirring gently from time to time. In 20 minutes, when your Korma is thicker and the veg is all cooked, stir in the paneer and dry fruit, the garam masala and salt to your taste.
Simmer gently for a couple of minutes until your see oil floating on the top of the curry, and serve hot, with rice or naan.