'Navratan' literally means 'nine jewels'. This korma is made with a combination of nine vegetables, fruits, nuts and paneer, giving it its distinctive sweet/ spicy taste and its unique name. I made this gorgeous dish as a nod to the festival of lights, 'Diwali', which is celebrated this year on the 5th of November. I am not Hindu, but its hard not to get caught up in all the excitement when Diwali happens, from lighting up homes with little clay 'diyas' to bursting firecrackers, and stuffing ourselves with sweets till we're sick. I particularly enjoyed Diwali when I was at university, and spent lots of time wandering the lit up streets of Delhi, soaking in the unique experience that makes up religious festivals in India.
I first tasted Navratan Korma in Delhi, at the birthday party of a close friend Shreeniwas. Shree is a pure vegetarian, and his birthday used to be one of the few times a birthday was celebrated in our group with no meat dishes. We always ended up in the same place to celebrate birthday treats, a tiny restaurant called 'Mezbaan', near IIT Delhi, and I have very nostalgic memories of that place. A taste of this korma takes me back to those wonderful, carefree and heady university days, where we relished our first independent steps outside our homes. Isn't is amazing how many memories can be associated with just food?
Most people will have their own recipe for this rich, creamy and delicious Mughlai classic. But this is a dish that lends itself well to several different vegetables and also fruits like pineapple, and nuts and raisins. I have even seen a recipe for it that includes black cherries. Yum!!
This recipe is mine and is adapted to suit our taste. For example, I only use a splash of cream for the garnish, and rely on cashew nut paste instead, to add a rich, creamy taste to the dish. I also vary the vegetables to suit whatever I have in my cupboard. The other great thing about Navratan Korma is its kid friendly assortment of vegetables, and it is very mild. Aditi wouldn't normally touch potatoes and mushrooms with a bargepole, but happily chowed down everything in this dish, probably enticed by the raisins, but I do not complain :-)
Here's my version, do feel free to play around with the combinations of vegetables, and don't forget to let me know how it all turns out!
A happy and prosperous Diwali to all my valued readers!!
1 and half cups vegetables, all diced (I used 100g beans, 1 carrot, handful of peas, 1 small potato, 6 white mushrooms and 1/4 of a cauliflower)
Around 150g paneer, cubed small
3 tinned pineapple rings, chopped into small chunks
2 large handfuls of cashewnuts
1 large handful raisins
1 medium onion, diced fine
4 flakes garlic, crushed to a fine pulp (or microplaned)
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp hot chilli powder (increase for added heat)
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 inch stick of cinnamon
4 whole cloves
3 lightly crushed cardamoms
Around 2 tbsp oil
Around 150 ml milk
Splash of cream
Handful chopped fresh coriander
Measure up to 100 ml of cashewnuts into a measuring cup. Add the milk and leave to soak, while you prepare the vegetables.
Steam the diced carrots, beans, peas and cauliflower until just tender. Boil the cubed potatoes until just cooked. Do not overcook. Keep the diced mushrooms aside.
Shallow fry the paneer cubes in a little oil, until just golden, drain on kitchen paper, and keep aside (you can skip this step if pressed for time)
Heat the oil in a deep pan. Add the cinnamon stick, cloves and cardamom and saute for 1 minute. Add the onions, and cook gently for about 5 minutes, until the edges start to brown. Add the ginger and garlic, and fry for another minute.
Add the tomato puree, and the spices (coriander, cumin, garam masala, chilli powder and turmeric) and mix well. Add a little hot water if the masala is too thick. Cook on a gentle heat for about 10 minutes, stirring to stop the mixture sticking to the bottom, and adding more water if it dries out too much. You want the spices cooked well, and not hit the back of your throat.
In a powerful blender, grind the cashew nuts with the milk to a very fine paste. You can add a little more milk if the paste is too thick, it should be of pouring consistency. Clean the grinder with a little hot water and keep this water aside.
Add the cashewnut paste to the onion/ tomato masala, and stir together well. Add the cleaning water to the mix, until you get the desired consistency of sauce. The sauce should be thickish, but not overly so.
Now season the sauce to your taste. I usually use 1 tsp salt and 1 tbsp sugar. Stir well, and heat gently for another 5 minutes. If the sauce gets too thick, thin it with a little hot water (don't add too much at once, you will lose the creaminess of the sauce, its better to add a little at a time)
Taste, and adjust the seasoning.
Stir in the mushrooms. Cook for a minute, then very gently fold in all the steamed vegetables, potatoes, paneer and pineapple chunks. Heat gently for a few more minutes, the stir in the raisins.
Garnish the korma with the remaining cashews, fresh chopped coriander and a splash of cream. Serve hot with rice or naan.