Let's say you have some omnivore family members at the table who say vegetarian food is bland. They roll their eyes, maybe they paw at the floor and whinny. Ok, maybe only my husband does that. But if this happens to you, then you need this Sweet Potato and Chickpea Coconut Curry to completely change their minds. Forever.
A week ago, I posted about ways to up the flavor in vegetarian and vegan dishes. And by flavor, I'm talking about the umami flavors in food that make our taste buds dance and ask for more.
This Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry delivers on the promise of full-bodied flavor thanks to several of the umami flavor enhancers I mentioned in the post.
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Better Than Bouillon Roasted Vegetable Bouillon
- Balsamic Roasted tomatoes
- Roasting the sweet potatoes instead of cooking them by simmering in liquid
If you don't have Better Then Bouillon on hand, you can substitute 1 bouillon cube, but be sure it's vegetarian if that's the diet you follow. I've also made this with red miso paste instead of bouillon with success, although I still prefer the bouillon approach. White miso paste isn't savory enough for this particular recipe.
If you don't have my Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes tucked away in your refrigerator (shame on you!), you can substitute 1 (14.5 ounce) can of fire-roasted or regular diced tomatoes, but be sure to add at least 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar for the umami kick. It doesn't take much.
Use the whole Serrano pepper if you like a little more heat.
You can swap out the Thai red curry paste out for ground curry powder, but know that the flavors won't be as full. There's a special robustness to the flavor of Thai red curry paste. And the flavors are very different even without that. If you decide to use curry powder, because that's what you have, I recommend starting with 1/2 tablespoon.
I used full-fat coconut milk, but the lite version works just as well.
As an optional ingredient, Halloumi is a Greek cheese typically made from a mixture of goat and sheep milk. It's a semi-hard, unripened brine cheese that has a high melting point. This means you can grill, fry, and pan sear it with excellent success. As a note, halloumi traditionally uses an animal-based rennet, but there vegetarian halloumi is available. Be sure to check the package that it uses a vegetable rennet. Paneer cheese can be used in place of halloumi cheese, which is vegetarian. Paneer cheese typically doesn't use a rennet for coagulation.
Great Make-Ahead Dish
If you make this curry ahead of time, the flavors will intensify even further. But while it rests, the chickpeas will absorb some of the liquid. When you reheat it, just add some water to the pot to restore the texture.
This curry will keep well in the refrigerator in a covered container or jar for a few days. It also freezes very well up to 6 months.
Cooking Class: Tips for Making Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry
When I was in culinary school, I spent my evenings blocking out the most efficient way to make the next day's recipes, so I could keep focused during the chaos of the day. Our dishes had to be up at a precise time for sharp scrutiny by chef, and it didn't go well if your dish was missing. Here's how this one can be ready in (roughly) 30 minutes.
- While the sweet potatoes roast, start the rice, if you plan to serve it, and make the rest of the curry.
- Add the sweet potatoes to the curry, and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes to meld the flavors.
- While the curry simmers, pan sear the halloumi, finish the rice, prep the mint and cut up a lime.
Have your chickpeas already cooked before starting this recipe, or use canned. I personally don't care for the flavor of canned, so I make batches regularly using one of my electric pressure cookers. (Yes, I have 2 – which my husband doesn't at all understand, lol.) I use (and love) this 6 qt. Instant Pot and this 8-qt Mulitpot by Mealthy.
Roast up the Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes ahead of time, if that's your path with this ingredient. Otherwise use canned tomatoes – and fire-roasted tomatoes if at all possible. By the way, if you're looking for truly fabulous fire-roasted tomatoes in a can, these by DeLallo have won well-earned taste challenges. They are definitely a step above the rest.
The beauty of this recipe is that there's little prepping required. But here are some tips to make even limited prepping easier.
Use a Y-shaped potato peeler to peel the sweet potatoes. They're easier to work with, faster, and create (IMHO) fewer fingernail injuries. I lean towards OXO products, because I like how they generally fit my hands, but anyone's will do the trick.
If you dice the sweet potatoes into smaller pieces, for example 1/2″ dice, the roasting time will shorten to about 10 minutes. The only difference is that large chunks make this curry, well, chunkier, so it's really according to your own preference for curry texture.
If you want to minimize the heat in this curry, be sure to not only seed the Serrano chili, but also slice out the white pithy parts. More heat actually comes from the pith that from the seeds.
Halloumi cheese, an optional ingredient not suitable for a vegan diet, has a high melt temperature, making it fabulous for grilling and pan-searing. I've tried this recipe with small diced pieces up to thick slabs. But I prefer them somewhere in-between. Diced pieces between 1 to 1 1/2 inches is optimal. If they're larger than this, they don't achieve a soft almost melty texture inside.
The sear on the halloumi goes very quickly, so keep your eye on it. You can add a slick of oil to the pan before adding the cheese if it's not a non-stick pan, but it's not critical.
Acid sharpens flavors, and a hearty squeeze of lime juice really brings all the flavors in this curry into focus.
I have a little mint plant in my kitchen, and add mint to a lot of things. I used some on top of this curry to add another layer of contrasting flavor, but it's not critical if you don't have any on hand. Basil is another nice finishing touch.
I serve this with rice and warmed na'an, but it's hearty enough that it does fine with just a salad as the sole side dish. If you choose to go with rice, check out my post for 6 Tips for Perfect Rice. It's a google favorite showing up near the top of results if you search for “tips for making perfect rice”.
Make it Vegan
Eliminate the halloumi cheese.
Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 3/4" cubes, about 2 cups
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/2 Serrano chile, seeded and minced
- 1 - 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- 1 1/2 cups Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes, chopped with juices, or 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (see notes)
- 1 (13.5-oz) can Coconut milk, (see notes)
- 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, or 1 (14.5-oz) can
- 1/4 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes
- 1/2 - 1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Bouillon Paste, or 1 bouillon cube, (see notes)
- 4 ounces Halloumi cheese, optional cut into 1 1/2" cubes (see notes)
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced mint leaves, optional
- 4 lime wedges, optional
- Preheat the oven to 425˚F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (I use my Breville toaster oven for this to save time and energy.) Toss the diced sweet potato in 1 teaspoon olive oil, and lightly season with kosher salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast until slightly caramelized, about 15 minutes. (The length of time will be determined by the size of your sweet potato chunks.)
- Warm the remaining olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. I use this one from Le Creuset. Sauté the Serrano chile and and red curry paste for 1 minute, until aromatic.
- Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, cooked chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, and bouillon paste. Bring to a simmer, and add the roasted sweet potatoes when roasting is complete. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- While the curry simmers, sear the halloumi cheese, if using. Heat up a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the Halloumi cheese cubes to lightly brown. I typically sear 2 sides of the cheese, about 2 minutes per side, but you can sear them as much as you'd like. Stir into the curry.
- Serve topped with thinly sliced fresh mint and a squeeze of lime to sharpen the flavors.
- Note: Thanks to the bouillon, I don't add any additional salt, but feel free to adjust this to your own tastes.
- Serve with rice and na'an flatbread, or with a big green salad. I particularly like a kale salad with this dish.
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