Sanjeev Kapoor’s Navratan Korma or Nine-gem korma

As the name indicates, this recipe is from my North Indian food guru – Sanjeev Kapoor. It features in his book “How to Cook Indian”. This book is different from most of my cookbooks in that there are no pictures. It is nearly 600 pages of recipes – joy!

Before I give you the recipe for this korma, a little bit of background and history. “Navratan” is an amalgam of the words “Nav” meaning nine and “ratan” meaning gems or precious stones. My first introduction to this term was when we studied Indian history in school and we learnt about Mughal (Muslim) rulers. The Muslim rulers brought amazing architecture to India such as the Taj Mahal , art and of course, some of the richest and decadent food that India is still known for. The most famous of the Mughal rulers was Akbar the Great (grandfather of Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal). Despite being illeterate,  Akbar liked to be surrounded by intelligent and talented people. He appointed 9 such people who were also his advisers and friends and he called them “Navratan” or his nine gems.

This dish is named Navratan korma as it contains 9 different, pretty components. The gravy itself is pale so as to allow  “9 gems” to stand out. I have given you the original recipe which serves 4. The pictures show you almost 3 times the quantity as I made this dish for a dinner party with nearly 40 people. This wasn’t the only dish at the party so the quantity was just right. In fact, I managed to keep a bowl of it at home which served us for lunch the next day.

Hope you like it as much as we did ! Also, check out my mum’s South Indian vegetable kurma. Can you tell the difference ?

Ingredients (Pictures 1-6, 14):

The nine gems

1/2 tablespoon raisins (or sultanas)

1/4 cup (40gms) of cahewnuts

1 medium carrot, cut into 1cm cubes

4 cauliflower florets

3 thin, long string beans, cut into 1cm pieces

1 medium potato, cut into 1cm cubes

1/4 cup (40gms) of shelled green peas

1/4 cup Indian cottage cheese (paneer), cut into 1cm cubes

5 white button mushrooms, halved

The spices

2 whole cloves

2 whole black peppercorns

2.5cm long cinnamon stick

2 green cardamom pods

1/2 tablespoon of fresh ginger, grated or ground into a paste

1/2 tablespoon of fresh garlic, grated or ground into a paste

2 green chillies, stemmed and chopped

salt to suit your taste

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

The Mughal richness

1/2 cup of boiled onion paste made with 2 medium white onions (recipe included)

2 tablespoons of plain, unsweetened, yoghurt

1/4 cup (50ml) of heavy cream

15 gms of unsalted butter

15 gms of makhana (puffed lotus seeds), friend golden in oil – optional ( I couldn’t find it in my little English town so I didn’t use it)

Method:

1. Onion paste : To make 1/2 a cup of onion paste, boil two medium white onions in water until soft. Drain the water and blend into a smooth liquid. I didn’t have enough white onions, so I used a red one and it worked out just fine (Picture 8).

2. Cashews : The original recipe recommends making a paste of 1/2 the cashews with water. My spice grinder does better with dry things so I ground the cashews into a fine, dry, powder (picture 7) and added it to the gravy as is. Works just fine as there is already enough moisture in the gravy.

3. Ginger, garlic and chillies : I don’t know if you have ever tasted half cooked garlic – it is absolutely appalling. The original recipe calls for ginger, garlic and chillies to be
added half way through the recipe. I’m a bit paranoid, so you will see from the pictures that I cooked the ginger, garlic and chillies in a small pan before adding them to the gravy (Picture 9).

4. Cook the potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, beans and peas in water with a pinch of salt. When the vegetables are tender, drain them into a colander and run cold water over them. This is a sort of blanching which will make sure the vegetables retain their colour and a little bit of their crispness (Pictures 11-13).

5. In a large saucepan (or wok), heat the oil and add cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon and cardamom to the oil and sauté for 30 seconds (Picture 15).

6. When the whole spices start to give out their lovely fragrances, add the boiled onion paste and cook until the raw smell of the onions no longer persists (Picture 16).

7. To the spiced onion paste in 6 above, add the cooked ginger/garlic/chilly mixture, cashew powder,  yoghurt and mix well. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring the mixture regularly (Picture 17-18).

8. Add the blanched vegetables and button mushrooms to the mixture in step 7 above. Mix well and cook for 3 minutes (Picture 19).

9. In this time, heat the butter in a small pan and sauté the remaining cashews and sultanas until the cashews are golden brown and the sultanas are puffy (Picture 10).

10. To the mixture in step 8 above, add salt, 150 ml of water, paneer cubes and stir well (main picture).

11. Cook the korma for 30 seconds and then bring it to the boil.

12. Turn the heat source off once the korma has boiled. To the korma, add cream and stir (Picture 20).

13. Before serving, sprinkle the roasted cashews and sultanas on top. They add a sweet and crunchy dimension to the dish.

14. Serve while hot with white rice or a simple pulao.

I’m afraid I didn’t take my camera along to the party so I didn’t get a picture of the dish being served. Next time – I promise !

Pronunciations:

Navratan = nuh+v+ruh+th as in think+n

Mughal = moo+gull

Akbar = Ak as in luck+bar as in bury

Pictures:

Navratan korma method

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