3 biggish (roughly 1 kg / 2lb 2oz) red or gold kumara (sweet potato) 3½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil Salt and pepper to taste 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed A thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated 1 Tbsp garam masala 1 tsp cinnamon Salt 1kg (2lb 2oz) frozen spinach, thawed 100g (3½ oz) raw cashew nuts Plain, unsweetened yoghurt for swirling through at the end, and extra for serving Toasted desiccated coconut for garnish Sliced red chilli, optional
If you rent in Auckland like I do, I’m sure you’d agree that rental costs here are expensive. While we’re all hoping things will improve, it’s mostly beyond our control. What we feed ourselves, though, is within our control. That’s where the inspiration for my Cashew Kumara Saagwala stemmed from.
Over the last week we’ve endured some of the coldest days this winter, and the desire, and necessity, for warm nourishing food has become all the more urgent. I was hungry for something purse-friendly, but satisfying and substantial. I didn’t like the look of the price of chicken breasts, and even tofu seemed expensive. Kumara, or sweet potato, on the other hand had just come down in price and was reasonable. You’d be mad to use a mountain of pricey fresh spinach in a dish like this as it wilts down to near nothing; a kilo of frozen spinach however cost me $4.00!
While most of us are raking up huge electricity bills heating our homes, my Cashew Kumara Saag might help the budget in other ways. Teamed with a big bowl of steaming rice or spicy lentils it will feed a family of 4 or more, and is at the very least a deliciously cheap whack of goodness. What I hope it shows is that we can make smart decisions about what we eat over winter, keeping ourselves full and satisfied, while saving ourselves some coin. While we need protein, substituting it for a hearty vegetable dish with lentils every now and then never did any harm, especially to the bank account.
1 Heat oven to 190°C (400°F). Peel kumara (sweet potatoes), cut into large cubes, place in a shallow roasting tin lined with baking (parchment) paper and toss with 1½ tablespoons of oil. Sprinkle with salt and grind over black pepper, then bang in the oven until tender and semi crispy. This will take around half an hour or so, and you might like to turn the kumara with tongs after about 20 minutes just to make sure they are behaving.
2 While the kumara is roasting, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot and add onion. Cook on a medium heat for about ten minutes, until it is tender, stirring often. If the onion starts catching, add a little warm water to help it soften and stop it from charring. Once the onion is softened and lightly browned, add the garlic, ginger, garam masala and cinnamon (warming up the spices like this opens up their full aroma and flavour). Add 1¼ teaspoons of salt, and stir for a minute until fragrant. Don’t freak out at the amount of salt – you need it!
3 Next, add the thawed spinach and stab it with a wooden spoon, breaking it apart until it’s a big wilted mess. Give it a good stir then add the cashews. Bring it to a gentle bubble, then simmer this all down on a super low heat for about 15 minutes; stir when you remember (if it seems dry, add a little water).
4 Add roasted kumara chunks. Stir and simmer a little more until all is well in the land of Mordor! And by this I mean, until the excess water from the spinach has reduced and the mixture is thick and somewhat creamy. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.
5 Whip out a tiny mini pan and over a very low heat, toast the desiccated coconut. Agitate it with a spoon constantly as the fat in the coconut causes it to burn very quickly. You want to take it off the heat when it is lightly golden in colour as residual heat will keep it cooking for a tad.
6 Upon serving, add a generous dollop or three of yoghurt and loosely mix through the curry. Dish up and sprinkle the toasted coconut over the top. And add a few slices of hot red chilli if you want to spice it up.
To make a quick salad to go with the spinach, cut some tomatoes into wedges and mix in a bowl with thinly sliced peeled shallot. Squeeze over lemon or lime juice, add flaky sea salt to taste, a drizzle of oil, and chopped mint or coriander (cilantro). Serve immediately.