Cook the Book: Coconut Cabbage with Chiles and Green Peas

The bulk of my food shopping gets done in two places: farmers' markets for produce, and fancy gourmet markets for the rest. I am content with the knowledge that the vast majority of the food that comes into my kitchen is "good food"—organic, sustainable, and locally sourced whenever possible. But while the food that I buy doesn't weigh heavily on my conscience, it does put a bit of a strain on my wallet.

While I was out gathering my curry supplies and pantry staples at a few Indian groceries, one thing really struck me: I can't remember the last time that I've come across such an amazing selection of dry good and such a beautiful array of herbs and spices. And the prices? Well, let's just say that I am never buying a $15 dollar vanilla bean or an $8 jar of peppercorns from Whole Foods ever again.

While I was looking through the frozen foods section I came across lovely packages of shredded coconut for around $2 that I knew I'd find a use for in 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. I came home and made this wonderful coconut cabbage with chiles and green peas. The coconut serves two purposes: it lends a sweetness that balances the heat of the chiles and adds a great crunchy and chewy textural element to this dish.

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Cook the Book: Coconut Cabbage with Chiles and Green Peas

About This Recipe

Yield:6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup shredded fresh coconut; or 1/2 cup shredded dried unsweetened coconut, reconstituted (see note below)
  • 4 fresh Thai, cayenne, or serrano chiles, stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon skinned split black lentils (cream-colored in this form, urad dal), picked over for stones
  • 4 cups shredded cabbage 2 cups frozen green peas (no need to thaw)
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
  • 12 medium-size curry leaves

Procedures

  1. 1

    Pour 1 cup water into a blender jar, and add the coconut and chiles. Purée, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, to make a creamy-white, thin sauce with flecks of green.

  2. 2

    Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds, cover the pan, and cook until the seeds have stopped popping (not unlike popcorn), about 30 seconds. Add the lentils and stir-fry them until golden brown, 15 to 20 seconds.

  3. 3

    Immediately add the cabbage, peas, salt, curry leaves, and the sauce. Stir once or twice, and bring the curry to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Then serve.

  4. 4

    Note: To reconstitute coconut, cover with 1/2 cup boiling water, set aside for about 15 minutes, and then drain.

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