The Southwest meets African spices
I’m a big fan of curry. While traditional Indian and African dishes are top-notch and best when prepared with time, I don’t often have the time to give it.
Cue the 30-minute curry dish.
Ethiopian and Southwestern flavors come together in this hearty vegan dish, making the chipotle sweet potato curry a unique and hearty dish.
What makes it a curry?
That’s a tricky question, and the answer isn’t all that forthcoming. What curry is depends on where the dish originated and how it’s used in the meal.
In fact, the term “curry” was popularized by colonizers who needed a simpler, overarching word to describe the food of foreign, ethnic cuisines. It’s a reductionist term – it doesn’t describe the true essence and flavor of the dish as its ethnic name does.
For example: “Indian spinach curry” is an Americanized version of “palak paneer” or “saag paneer”.
I’m not trying to shame anyone who uses the word “curry” to describe their food. (See the title of this recipe). If it helps you identify a dish or flavor, that’s great. I would just challenge you to ask questions about where the food came from and its history. You might learn some pretty cool stories about that culture and its people, too.
Bon Appéetit does a great job of breaking down curry into four basic categories: paste, powder, cubes, and curry leaves. For this recipe, the “curry” is berbere powder – berbere being an Ethiopian spice mix of several seeds, leaves, and roots.
If you don’t have it, you can make your own. (If you don’t have a lot of ingredients to work with, use a combination of 4 parts paprika, 2 parts chili powder, 1part ground ginger, and 1 part onion powder).
So, if I were to properly name this recipe, it could look something like this: chipotle and berbere stew with vegetables. Sounds yummy, right? Alright… let’s get to it.
Tips for making the curry
Since this stew comes together quickly (within 30 minutes), I would suggest starting with the caraway rice then prepping your next ingredients as you’re making the curry. TIP: slice your veggies thin so that they cook all the way through in less time. This is especially important for the potatoes.
1 | Heat the oil for the caraway rice. Once it’s hot (30 seconds on medium-high), add the caraway seeds. Toast until brown, then add the rice and stir.
2 | Add the water to the pot with the rice and seeds and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down, cover, and let cook until all the water has been absorbed. (Remove the pot from the heat once the water is gone, or else you might burn the rice.)
3 | Repeat the same process with the oil and seeds for the stew/curry – this time in a wide-rimmed saucepan or Dutch oven and with cumin seeds. (Okay, I know most of you don’t have a pantry full of spices and seeds like I do, so you can use the curry and caraway seeds interchangeably ***for this recipe.)
4 | Cut your onion and carrots. Bonus points for those of you that compost.
5 | Add the veggies to the saucepan, stir, and let them sauté for 5ish minutes while you cut the sweet potatoes.
6 | Cut the sweet potatoes. You can do this however you’d like. For this recipe, I opt for thin circles (about ¼ inch thick) and leave the peel on. If you don’t like the peel, go ahead and peel them. If you like the peel, WASH ‘EM.
More sweet potato recipes: Easy vegan breakfast hash!
7 | Add the potatoes to the pan, stir, cover, and cook for 6-8 minutes. At this time, your oil might be gone (this means your heat was too high). What I like to do in this case is a) either add more oil, which makes for crisper veggies, or b) add ½ cup water, which gives the veggies a smoother texture. What I prefer depends on my mood, so go with your gut on this.
8 | While the veggies cook, prep the rest of your ingredients: Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Chop the chipotle peppers into small pieces. Mix your spices together. Open your tomato can.
9 | Once the sweet potatoes are cooked through (you can easily stick a fork through it), add all your remaining ingredients. Don’t recycle that tomato can yet – fill it with water and dump that back in the pan. Stir, cover, and cook for 15 minutes – don’t let the stew/curry go above a simmer.
NOTE: You can substitute the almond milk for coconut milk. Canned coconut milk will give you a thicker stew, but it may also dilute some of the flavor and spiciness. If you’re cautious of spice, try it with coconut milk. If you like the heat but prefer coconuts – add 1-2 more chipotle peppers.
GOT MORE TIME? Lucky you! Let that pot simmer for up to 1.5 hours. You will find that with more time requires more liquid – just add more water or vegetable stock, if on hand. Letting it go for longer will give the curry a deeper flavor, meaning you’ll be able to taste more of the subtle flavors rather than just the powerful flavors on this dish.
If you make this chipotle and berbere stew, let me know! I’d love to see how it turned out or how you adjusted it to fit your needs.
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With the spice of the chipotle in adobo playing with the sweetness of the potatoes, this hearty vegetarian curry is a unique and warming dish. Serve with caraway rice and naan.
For the curry
- 1 large (3 cups) yellow onion, loosely chopped
- 3 large (2 cups) carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tsp. cumin seeds
- 3–4 cups sweet potatoes, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 in. slices
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. berbere
- 2 tsp. ground black pepper
- 2 tsp. ground coriander
- 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 (14 oz.) can fire roasted tomatoes
- 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
- 1 (14 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk
- 3 cups fresh kale, shredded
For the caraway rice
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 4 tsp. caraway seeds
- 2 cups basmati rice, rinsed
- 4 cups of water
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro to serve
For the curry:
- In a dutch oven or large saucepan, heat the oil and cumin seeds on medium heat until the seeds begin to sizzle. Turn the heat up to medium-high, and add the onions and carrots. Saute for 5 minutes before adding the sweet potatoes. Cover and saute for 6-8 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through but still firm.
- Add the garlic, berbere, black pepper, coriander, red pepper flakes, and salt to the dutch oven, and coat the vegetables in the spices. Then add the tomatoes, chipotle peppers, kale, and chickpeas. Fill the tomato can to the brim with water, and add that to the curry. Turn the heat down to medium, and add the milk. Stir gently, cover, and let the curry cook for 15 minutes. If the curry begins to bubble above a simmer, turn the heat down.
For the caraway rice
- In a medium saucepan, heat the oil and the caraway seeds over medium, medium-high heat until the seeds begin to sizzle. Add the rice and stir so that the oil coats the rice, and let the rice toast for less than 2 mintes.
- Add the water and cook until it begins to simmer. Turn the heat down to medium, cover the saucepan, and let cook for 10-15 minutes until the water is absorbed and the rice doesn’t stick to the pan.
Berbere is a flavorful Ethiopian spice mix. If you don’t have it, you can make your own. (If you don’t have a lot of ingredients to work with, use a combination of 4 parts paprika, 2 parts chili powder, 1 part ground ginger, and 1 part onion powder).
- Serving Size: 3/4 cup curry + 1/2 cup rice
- Calories: 418
- Sugar: 3.3
- Sodium: 880
- Fat: 9.2
- Saturated Fat: 1.2
- Unsaturated Fat: 0
- Trans Fat: 0
- Carbohydrates: 76.7
- Fiber: 8.8
- Protein: 8.5
- Cholesterol: 12