Khumbi matar is essentially a mushroom and pea curry. When we started searching for Indian recipes, this was one of the first that we wanted to master. It’s nice because you can make a good Indian-style dinner without having to buy too many spices, and it doesn’t need any special cooking techniques. It is from Madhur Jaffrey’s book At Home with Madhur Jaffrey: Simple, Delectable Dishes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Her books and recipes are great for beginners wanting to try out more exotic fare, and we have found several really tasty recipes and great cooking tips.
To be honest, when we wanted to first make Indian food, not all of these spices were in our cupboard. So we had to go out and buy them, and spices are expensive. The secret is to head to an Asian or Indian market. They’ll have all these spices, available in large packets at reasonable prices. Really! Check it out some time. The rest of the ingredients you can find at any supermarket, and, if you are like us and refuse to buy those red tennis balls they label as tomatoes, feel free to use canned. We were lucky enough to have fresh, real tomatoes from our farmer, courtesy of the CSA.
Procedure in detail:
Mise en place (putting in place). Clean and prep everything before hand. Like many recipes, this one requires several ingredients to go in the pan in quick succession, so there’s little time for prep work in the middle of cooking. Besides, all chefs do the prep work before hand. You should too, it does help — a lot.
Make a spice paste. Combine the coriander, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne in a small bowl, add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of water, and mix to make a paste.
Saute the onion. Pour the oil in a medium skillet and place over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and stir and sauté for about 3 to 4 minutes. The edges of the onion should just begin to brown.
Add the ginger and spice paste. Stir the ginger around three or four times, then add the spice paste and cook, stirring for about a minute. This cooking prevents the spices from tasting like raw spices. It gives them a slightly deeper, toasted flavor. We didn’t have the ginger this time, so we had to leave it out. No worries. It’ll still be good.
Add the tomatoes. Stir and scrape up from the bottom of the pan for about 4 minutes. Add about 3/4 cup of water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Normally we use some canned tomatoes for this, but this time we had fresh tomatoes from our farmer, so we used them. As an aside, we never buy fresh tomatoes at the supermarket; it’s a waste of money to buy something so tasteless.
Add mushrooms. Bring back to a boil, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the peas. Bring back to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Adjust salt to taste and serve with basmati rice.
While we like this curry a lot, it seems to lack that creamy texture that you’ll find in many Indian restaurants. We assume the creamy texture is from adding yogurt, but we haven’t really experimented to find out. Even without yogurt, having this for dinner is a nice change of pace. Four stars, until we can figure out how get the creamy texture.