Make new friends but keep the old

To keep up with things as a food writer, I’m always looking for the new and trying out different recipes. I just plain like to explore, too. But that makes it very easy to forget those old-friend recipes.

I pulled out one of those recently. It’s from a Jamie Oliver cookbook that my roommate from college, who married a Brit and lives near Sheffield, sent me back when few people in the U.S. knew who he was. In fact she had to include a handy glossary of terms found in the book. Thank goodness, because otherwise I would have never known what the heck “Gordon Bennett” meant. (According to her, “an expression of emphasis, surprise, etc.)

This is a versatile curry sauce from the book that includes curry leaves, which are easier to find now than when I received the book in 2001. But they’re always at Indian markets, and the flavor they add is worth the trip. I pick up some frozen naan bread and a couple of jars of chutney or pickles to go with the curry, and it’s dinner. You can add fish or chicken, but I like a vegetarian version. Here’s my slightly modified version of Oliver’s My Favourite (note the spelling) curry sauce.

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds

1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

3 fresh green chilies, deseeded and thinly sliced

1 handful of curry leaves

2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

3 medium onions, chopped

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 (15-ounce) can chopped tomatoes

About 2 pounds chopped vegetables of your choice. I like to use peeled sweet potatoes and sliced green bell peppers, but you could use zucchini, beans, lentils, spinach or cauliflower. Although I discovered this time that cauliflower did not mix well with my aging tummy. So just beware.

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk

Salt to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, deep frying pan. Add the mustard seeds and stir and fry them until they begin to pop. Add the fenugreek seeds, chilies, curry leaves and ginger. Stir anf fry for a few minutes. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add the turmeric and tomatoes, plus 1 can of water. Add all the vegetables and stir to combine. Add the coconut milk and stir. Bring the whole thing to a simmer, cover and let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft but not mushy. Taste and add salt as needed. Serve with cooked rice.