I found myself without a plan for dinner the other night, so I broke out some random ingredients and found myself sort of accidentally making a vegetarian dish that tasted just like some of my favorite curries. The spices in this are a bit exotic for some American kitchens, but get them and you'll thank me. Most large supermarkets these days will carry most of them.
4 whole, green cardamom pods (or 1/2 tsp powdered)
1 whole clove (or 1/8 tsp powdered)
4-6 whole peppercorns (really, you need to substitute?)
1/2 tsp ground tumeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp garlic chili paste (comes in a small plastic jar with green lid, can substitute fresh chilies that you chop and add early)
1 can diced tomato
1 can Progresso Lentil Soup (Vegetable Classics)
2 good sized handfulls of fresh, baby spinach
2 cups rice
Cook the rice while the rest of this continues on. Consider adding vegetable or a chicken stock to it and perhaps some saffron if you have it. I also love to put just a little bit of extra virgin olive oil into the rice steamer with it.
To the ingredients, you could also include a meat of choice that you cook ahead of the next step.
Combine all spices in a mortar or spice grinder and make a powder. Pass this through a sifter if you want to avoid chunks of cardamom pod in the dish. Place all ingredients except for the spinach into a large, wide pan and cook on high until it begins to bubble. Then lower heat and reduce until it's thickened.
Now add all of the spinach on top and cover for 3 minutes on medium-low heat.
Stir and serve on rice.
You can tweak the spice mix or use a pre-mixed dry curry spice mix if you wish. I don't recommend the wet curry mixes. They tend to have off-flavors in most cases, and really don't get you anything over the dry. Other spices that are nice: curry leaves if you can get them, mustard seed (use 5-10 seeds), whole cumin seed. If you use whole seeds, consider toasting them in oil before adding them to the dish. This will release their oils more readily and incorporate them with the dish.