The first time I tried to make my own curry was in college. It was my first apartment, winter break, my senior year and I had gotten a vegetarian cooking book that contained, among other future flops, a curry recipe. (It may not have been entirely the book's fault that everything in it I touched turned to "meh.") The over-priced bottle of curry powder I bought for the occasion lingered for many years, as every time I revisited it, the results were underwhelming. There was just no curry flavor, none of the boldness and warmth, just some sad limp vegetables swimming in bland coconut oil.
Fast forward a few years later, and a jar of Trader Joe's coconut cream has been kicking around my pantry driving me nuts. The basil plant on our deck is flourishing (unlike, sadly, our chive crop which was almost instantly devoured by Murphy - who knew cats like chives?), which gave me the inspiration to give curry a second try after I found this recipe on simplyrecipes.com.
Instead of relying on pre-made curry powder or paste, you combine your own spices for a flavorful kick. I subbed fish for the chicken the original calls for, added some more vegetables, and used the thicker, bolder coconut cream in lieu of coconut milk (here's a brief primer on the difference between the two). I couldn't find cardamom, which I'm sure would have added a lovely floral note, but we still gobbled up this curry all the same.
Start by setting aside your spice mixture: 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp cumin, small pinch ground cloves, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cardamom, 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp turmeric. As stated above, I didn't have the cardamom and it was delicious anyway. The recipe also calls for 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne, but I used an additional jalapeno instead.
Measure out your spices and mix in a small bowl and set aside.
Prep your aromatics: one onion, cut in half and then sliced vertically. Seed and dice two jalapenos. Heat some oil in a pan and saute the onion and pepper until softened and turning golden.
Add one tablespoon grated fresh ginger, five to six minced garlic cloves, and your spice mixture. Stir so that everything is evenly coated and cook for another minute or so.
Then add the rest of your vegetables: I used one box cremini mushrooms, sliced, and one pint grape tomatoes, halved. Saute for a few minutes until they've released some of their liquid. Your kitchen should be smelling pretty awesome at this point.
Now add one 14 ounce can coconut cream (can use coconut milk if that's what you have - it's what the original recipe calls for so I'm sure it works fine). Stir to combine everything and add two pounds flaky white fish - I used cod. Simmer everything together for fifteen minutes or until the fish is cooked through - the meat should be opaque and flake easily.
Turn off the heat, add twenty fresh basil leaves and squeeze half a lime over the curry. Stir to mix evenly and serve over rice (bonus points if you make that coconut rice).