This healthy vegetable curry is full of flavour and spice, showing that no diet needs to be a punishment – delicious food is just cooking smart! You’d be shocked to find out it comes in at just 134kcal a portion!
So the big health kick week has begun, and I’m booting it off with a healthy vegetable curry. Because curries are synonymous with healthy eating… Right? Ha!
Having been Whying for getting close to a year now (exciting!), I figured creating hardcore healthy dinners day in day out was just a matter of spending some time thinking things through properly rather than just painful leaf and raw veg.
Onions for instance. Tons and tons of dishes use onions as a base. But they’re frequently fried in fat to soften them, then perhaps have spices cooked into them to infuse. Can we boil, grill, steam, or bake them instead? With little to no fat? Sure we can.
I usually make a fat-based roux to thicken my curry. Can we make a fat free roux? Flour is the real thickener in a roux, not the fat. The fat just helps to cook off the raw flour flavour and help bind it to the sauce evenly. Can a dry toasted flour work just as well? How about removing the roux and instead thicken with cornflour or another starch? This could wind up a bit gloopy and pasty. Xanthan gum will make it more gravy-like, which might not be the worst thing.
What about thickeners natural to the dish? Floury potatoes like maris piper will give off potato starch once after being cooked for too long, but again will start to make the curry very stodgy quite quickly. How about tomatoes? You will need robust spices to overcome the tomato flavour, but that’s a challenge rather than a barrier. Similarly, many Indian takeaways use a ‘curry sauce’ as a base for most of their curries that is made from light spices mixed into a ton of onion, garlic, and water, which is then blitzed. The fibres of the onion then create the impression of a sauce. The takeaways then add this base to other fried spices to create the dishes you are familiar with.
So let’s get saucy! As this is a healthy vegetable curry it stands to reason that I should use vegetables as my thickener of choice. Tomatoes will add more flavour and gusto than boiled onions and garlic alone, so this is my weapon of choice.
Spices need fat to infuse properly, so I’m using just a teaspoon of oil in with my sous vide onions and garlic. This should be plenty of fat as we’re cooking under vacuum – the oil is dispersed evenly across the onions and spices, and nothing gets cooked away.
So have these quirks and adjustments made the difference? Calorie wise, it’s just a mathematical equation. 2 Tablespoons of ghee contains around 270kcal (eek!), so using 1/4 of that is a great saving. But flavour wise? Our flavours are coming from the spices, vegetables, and maillard reactions – all of which we’re keeping. So nothing is lost! This healthy vegetable curry is both delicious and considerate to the waistline!
Healthy Vegetable Curry
- 1 Medium onion finely diced
- 3 cloves Garlic crushed
- 1 Tbsp Curry powder
- 1 Cinnamon stick
- 3 cloves Whole
- 3 Green cardamom pods
- 1/2 Tbsp Vegetable oil or Ghee
- 1 Tbsp Tomato puree
- 1 Can chopped tomatoes (400g)
- 1 Large potatoe diced large, par-boiled (~7 minutes)
- 1 Carrot diced large, par-boiled (~7 minutes)
- 4 Broccoli florets (optional par-boiled ~3 minutes)
- 4 Cauliflower florets (optional par-boiled ~3 minutes)
- 200 ml Chicken/vegetable stock if needed
- 100 g Peas
- 1 Tbsp Coriander chopped
- 1-2 tsp Garam masala optional
- Pre heat a sous vide cooker to 85C
- Mix the vegetable oil with the onion, garlic, and curry powder, flatten as much as possible, then vacuum seal in a sous vide bag. Cook for 45 minutes – 1 hour
- Remove the onion mixture from the sous vide bag into a large saucepan over a medium heat. Fry for 1-2 minutes until fragrant, being careful not to burn or dry out too much
- Stir in the tomato puree and cook for a further 1-2 minutes
- Gradually incorporate the chopped tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, then add the potato, carrot, and the broccoli and/or cauliflower if using
- Cook for 15-20 minutes, until all the veg is tender. Add a little stock if the sauce appears to be drying out or becoming stodgy
- Stir in the peas and cook for a further 5 minutes
- Finish with chopped coriander and a sprinkling of garam masala to taste
- Remove cinnamon stick, cloves and cardamoms. Serve with rice and chapatis
Why do the spices need to be heated at all? Heating spices in fat
Why do you fry the onions once they’ve already been cooked in the sous vide cooker? The importance of browning food (which includes spices and tomato puree!)
Why can’t we just use less oil and cook this normally? I find that too little oil causes the onions, garlic and ginger to dry out and burn very quickly when we’re frying them. Then, when we add the spices, there is little moisture left to get good maillard reactions happening. Instead, when we sous vide, nothing can evaporate as it is sealed in a vacuum bag. The oil readily infuses the spices while we cook. When we are finished sous vide cooking and transfer to a pan, we still have moisture available so nothing burns.
Why sous vide cook the onions and garlic? Can’t we boil them or roast them in water? Unlike meat, vegetables are less sensitive to temperature and therefore benefit from sous vide cooking less than meat in terms of texture and flavour. However, the bonus we’re exploiting here isn’t actually from the sous vide method – it is from vacuum sealing. This stops all our flavours and spices escaping into the water. So once you’ve vac-sealed the onions, garlic and spices, you can happily boil in the bag if you so choose. But sous vide cooking is more manageable and accurate, so is my preferred choice.
Why do we need to par-boil the vegetables? This speeds up the cooking a lot, and gives us even cooking times. If we placed all the veg into the tomato sauce raw, it will take 45 minutes + for everything to tenderise. Additionally, some of the veg will be massively overcooked while waiting for the carrots to cook. It also starts to dry everything out massively, so lots of stock is needed.
Time for some linky love!