I’m tired of being tired.
I always get like this at this point in the semester. Bored, exhausted, totally, completely, irrevocably done. With classes, with schoolwork, you name it. Typical things I do for self-care or at least to distract (read: procrastinate) myself from a pile of to-dos that seem to be reproducing and multiplying by the second involve going for a walk and watching a movie with friends. But what about when we can’t do those things? How do I relax from mandatory screen time with… what, more screen time? By 6 p.m. each day, I have a splitting headache and am exhausted from doing nothing.
Well, how about some curry?
Because the walls of this apartment seem to be getting smaller, because in writing that small paragraph above I just thought of twelve other things I need to be doing, because the time I spend cooking and eating and feeding my loved ones is the only sense of reprieve I actually look forward to each day. Cooking is a task that gets done. When writing an essay seems to be a requirement with no end in sight, I know that onions will sauté and soften within 10 minutes. As much as I am a culprit of eating too fast and diving back for seconds, even finishing a plate of food seems a manageable and well-deserved task three times per day.
My cauliflower curry recipe is simple, comprised essentially of pantry ingredients, wholesome, nourishing, and all the things we need right now, when the prospect of turning on your laptop and logging into Zoom makes you want to curl up in a ball and cry (although, total side note: it does help a bit). You get heartiness and protein from the lentils, you get heat and spiciness from the…well, spices, and it is so healthy and soul-warming. Adding lime juice at the end gives it a bouncy zing by the way.
When your family is driving you totally insane, and the wifi keeps dipping in and out, and you’ve run out of television to watch, make this curry. If nothing else, at least everyone will shut up for a while when you eat it.
Roasted Cauliflower Curry with Coconut Milk, Lentils…and anything you have, really
Totally adapted from pickuplimes.com. Adapted, adored, passed on. This recipe is so endlessly riff-able and is so great for dumping whatever is left in your fridge or pantry. I’ve offered some swaps for your own customization and wizardry. Add what you like! I’m also a bit mad about spices, so just taste and add accordingly—you may want more turmeric (which has unbelievable anti-inflammatory properties), a touch more cinnamon for warmth, or the floral quality of ground coriander. Knock yourselves out. Also, it's vegan-friendly.
Cauliflower, in florets
1 onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced
A little chopped chili could be great
2 teaspoons of turmeric
1 teaspoon of ground cumin, ground coriander, chili powder (if you want spice and smokiness!)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 tin diced tomatoes (if you want it to be more tomato-ey, I’d also recommend adding a bit of tomato paste). Whole peeled tomatoes are completely fine too, just need to be mashed a bit.
1 tin coconut milk (full or half-fat, totally your choice!)
3/4 cup to 1 cup of washed red split lentils (chickpeas work well but won’t soak up the liquid so much)
1 lime - totally optional
Spinach, kale, broccoli, mushrooms, sweet potato … anything!
To serve, you could pair this with brown rice, white rice, naan bread, whatever you fancy. I personally think it's hearty enough to serve alone.
In an oven set to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, roast your cauliflower florets (and any other vegetables you want to throw in—broccoli, sweet potato, butternut squash, and so on) in some olive oil, salt and pepper for about 25 minutes. You want them a little charred but definitely not burnt. You may need to move them about around 15 minutes in, just to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom. When finished, take out and set aside.
While the cauliflower roasts… In a large saucepan or casserole dish, start by sautéing your onions for about 5 minutes until soft in some olive oil over medium-low heat. Add ginger and garlic, and keep going until soft and fragrant. I put my sliced mushrooms in with the onion.
Add your ground spices and salt and pepper. If the mixture becomes too dry, add a little water. If using tomato paste, add here.
Add in your tin of diced tomatoes. Bring everything to a simmer, and let it cook for about 10 minutes— introducing and mixing all the flavors together. If it looks a bit too thick, add some water, it will simmer off.
Add in your coconut milk, mixing everything to combine. I think now is a great place to taste for spices, and see if anything needs adjustment. It will be rich—we will get to that! Important note: you should never add your lentils before the coconut milk in a curry. The lentils will absorb and use the liquid to cook, and you want the coconut in there when that happens.
After about 3 minutes, add in your lentils, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, whatever you want. Cover and let simmer for about 25 minutes, until the lentils are soft and cooked through.
Almost done! Optionally, squeeze in some lime juice—I think this adds a great acidity to counteract the fattiness of the coconut milk. Your call!
Spoon into bowls over rice, with naan bread, however you like. Bliss.