I bought some tempeh but didn’t feel like making one of my tempeh standbys. I wanted to try a new tempeh recipe. I’d never tried including tempeh in an Indian recipe before, so I thought I’d give it a try. I found a recipe for tempeh curry on the 101cookbooks site. It’s a pretty basic recipe. You make a simple curry sauce out of a base of butter, onions, tomatoes and spices, then add in the tempeh and some steamed potatoes, simmer until tender, and garnish with cilantro.
My tempeh comes in blocks of 12-14 ounces, but the recipe only calls for 8 ounces, so I made one and a half recipes. Rather than using 1.5 Tbs. of butter and 3 of olive oil I used 2 Tbs. of ghee. I only had starchy potatoes, not waxy, and I couldn’t find my steamer, so I just threw the 2.25 pounds of cubed potatoes in a pot with a little water and salt, and let them steam over low heat. Along with the onions (146g) I added some minced ginger that I had in the fridge (about an ounce). When I added the recipe’s spices I also added some fenugreek seeds for good measure. I used a whole small can of diced tomatoes, with the juice. Then I added 3 Tbs. of light whipping cream and pureed the sauce using my stick blender. Finally I added the tempeh (387g) and simmered it for five minutes. At that point I tasted the dish. The tempeh tasted totally unseasoned, and a little raw, and the curry was quite bland tasting. I added another tsp. of curry powder (2.5 tsp. in total), a little more cayenne, a few pinches of cloves, about 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, black pepper, some (unground) cardamom seeds, and a spoonful of fenugreek herb. I simmered the curry for another 10 minutes or so, then added the potatoes and simmered it some more. Luckily I had made the dish in my new 5 quart dutch oven, as I ended up making a huge amount.
When I steamed my (starchy) potatoes some of the pieces start to fall apart, and they ended up as half potato cubes and half lumpy mashed potatoes. Before I added the potatoes to the sauce it was a bit thin, but the mashed potato bits acted as an excellent thickener. I wonder if it’s necessary to cook the potatoes separately. Couldn’t they just be cooked in the curry sauce?
I didn’t have any cilantro, but I thought the dish needed something green, so I added 3 cups of frozen green peas. My spice additions and the sweet peas helped, but the sauce tasted bland–it still didn’t have enough spice or depth. I scrounged in the fridge for something to add, and pulled out a jar of Frontera Grill guajillo salsa. I was a bit worried that it would make the sauce taste Mexican, but I really needed to use it up, so I threw it in as well (maybe 1/2 cup?). It gave the sauce more back-of-the-throat heat, and didn’t make it taste Mexican at all. The salsa added a bit of acidity, but it needed more, so the final addition was lemon juice (about one lemon’s worth).
Even after the extra simmering the tempeh did not absorb any of the curry flavors. It tasted exactly as it tastes in Berley’s charmoula tempeh recipe, which I love in that recipe. But that tempeh flavor just did not meld with the Indian flavors at all. I found it extremely offputing. I wanted to pick out all the tempeh, but I forced myself to eat it. After the curry sat in the fridge for two days, the tempeh had absorbed more of the curry flavors, and didn’t stand out so much. It still didn’t really add anything to the dish, and I would have much preferred chickpeas or tofu in the dish. I don’t think I will try any more Indian recipes that call for tempeh, at least not for a while.
If I make this again I think I’ll cut back on the potatoes a bit. I think they were the reason I had such a hard time getting the sauce to be spicy and well-flavored. They kept absorbing all the spice I added!
Even though neither Derek or I liked the tempeh in this recipe, the curry sauce (after all my doctoring) ended up pretty tasty. Derek loved it. He said “I could eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It tastes like (rich) home-cooked Indian food.”
Derek: B+ (not counting the tempeh)