The man and I are always trying to reproduce take-out favorites at home. A few weeks ago I became obsessed with creating a truly vegan, gluten-free version of veggies makhani which we periodically order from a beloved Indian restaurant. “Makhani” means butter in Hindustani and though a lot of restaurants make it with olive oil as a cheap alternative to ghee, I still worry my special request for olive oil won’t be met. This version isn’t stereotypical Indian food but rather an Americanized version of the Indian classics but that shouldn’t stop you from giving this a try. We made ours with traditional herbs and spices, peas and tofu instead of paneer. Paneer is a traditional home-made Indian cheese often used in this dish. Tofu is a great vegan substitute. Other veggies that would be appropriate include bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, and potatoes. I started with the following:
1 carton of firm Chinese style water packed tofu, cut into bite sized pieces
1 lb bag of frozen peas
Before you do anything, set these aside to drain and thaw respectively. I like to marinade my tofu in lemon juice for 30 minutes or so with a dash of ground coriander. I finish it by heating the tofu lightly in the pan I’ll eventually add my sauce to and pouring off any excess liquid.
1 tsp oil
1 generous pinch of cinnamon
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds (optional, but recommended)
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, sliced (more if you like spice)
1 small onion, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
6 oz. tomato paste
1/2 pinkie sized piece of turmeric, sliced OR 1/2 tsp dried turmeric
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp syrup (any kind will do)
2 cups vegetable stock (use water if you need more)
1/2 cup cashew nuts (soaked is good)
1 tbsp vegan “butter”
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and chili paste to taste
Fresh green coriander/cilantro for garnish
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the cumin and fenugreek seeds, and when they sputter add the cinnamon. Add the ginger and turmeric and stir for a minute or so over medium-high heat. Add the onions, “butter” and a little salt and saute until the onions start to brown, about five minutes. Add the tomatoes, cashew nuts and chilli powder. Saute the mixture until the tomatoes soften. If the mixture starts to get too dry before the tomatoes are done, add some water or vegetable stock and continue cooking. Once the tomatoes are really soft, turn off the heat and let the mixture cool. Pour into a blender along with the lemon, syrup, and tomato paste, using some broth to get all the paste out of the can. An extra tablespoon of cashew butter won’t hurt but we’re trying to keep this light. Blend to a smooth paste adding veggie stock, syrup, salt, and chili paste as necessary.
I don’t recommend blending the mixture while it’s still hot because it can be dangerous. If you have a hand blender, this is the time to use it. Pour the blended paste back into the saucepan with your tofu, turn on the heat, add the remaining vegetable stock if the mixture is particularly thick. Now add the peas and any other veggies you like and stir them in. Let the mixture heat until it’s steamy. Garnish with coriander leaves, and serve hot with some rice, or a suitable substitute.
I just wish I could take a picture of the flavor for you: this is comfort food, pure and simple. I hope you get to enjoy some!
This is Christie and Brent, signing off!