Karen Martini's massaman vegetable curry

Sultanas add pops of sweetness to this massaman curry with cauliflower, potato and okra.
Sultanas add pops of sweetness to this massaman curry with cauliflower, potato and okra. Photo: William Meppem
Dietary
Dairy-free

Massaman curries are a fusion of spices from the Middle East merged with the flavours of Thailand. It's a base that can be used with a variety of proteins, from chicken to beef, but it's also a marvellous canvas for vegetables, and it's easy enough to turn into a vegan version, too. The texture of cauliflower, cashews and the sultanas plumped in the sauce are divine with the spicy flavours and core of chilli heat. Serve with basmati rice.

Ingredients

2 Dutch cream potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm-thick discs

1 cauliflower, cut into 10 florets, stem sliced thickly

100ml coconut oil

3 stems of curry leaves

2 large brown onions, sliced into rings

400ml coconut cream

250g small-medium okra, trimmed

100g large, salted, roasted cashews

100g sultanas

2 tbsp fish sauce (or mushroom soy for a vegetarian/vegan version), plus extra

juice of 1 lime

lime cheeks, to serve

For the curry paste

2 tsp white peppercorns

2 tsp cumin seeds

1½ tsp coriander seeds

1 cinnamon stick

1½ tsp cloves

3 tsp curry powder

2 tsp turmeric powder

2 tsp shrimp paste (or 5 tsp mushroom soy for a vegetarian/vegan version)

6 red bird's eye chillies, chopped

1 white onion, roughly chopped

6 large garlic cloves, chopped

10cm piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

1 lemongrass stalk, white part finely chopped

1 tsp salt flakes

Method

1. To make the curry paste, toast the peppercorns, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon and cloves in a dry frying pan over medium heat until aromatic and lightly coloured. Tip out of the pan and, once cool, grind in a spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle.

2. Add the ground spices, two tablespoons of water and the remaining curry paste ingredients to a blender and process to a smooth paste.

3. Cook the potatoes for 8 minutes, then lift out and drain. Cook the cauliflower in boiling salted water for 5 minutes, then drain.

4. Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the curry leaf stems whole and flash fry for 15 seconds, then lift out and drain on a paper towel. They will crisp up as they cool. 

5. Add the onions to the pan and fry until golden (8-10 minutes). Lift the onion, leaving most of the oil behind, then drain on a paper towel.

6. Add the curry paste and fry for 5 minutes while stirring. Add the coconut cream and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the potato and cauliflower, okra, cashews, sultanas, fish sauce and 500ml of water and bring to a simmer; maintain for 35 minutes.

7. Once cooked, add the lime juice and adjust the seasoning with more fish sauce if necessary. Scatter the fried onions and curry leaves over the top. Serve with basmati rice and lime cheeks.