Friday, June 21, 2013

Freezer Meal: Vegetable Korma with Mixed Dal and Fragrant Basmati Rice

I used to LOVE Amy's Kitchen Indian Vegetable Korma frozen dinner. It inspired me to try making veggie korma at home, and then led to me making my own Indian frozen dinners.

Amy's frozen dinners really aren't the worst things in the world when it comes to pre-made food. It does contain tomatoes which I shouldn't be eating, but I would sometimes let that slide in the name of convenience. It contains oil, which I don't want in my diet. The sodium is also kind of high at 680mg per dinner. So this is definitely something that I didn't want in my eating plan, but I wanted to figure out a way to replicate it.

The biggest thing I love about making Indian food at home is that I can control the spice level. Steve and I love Indian food but we're also big wusses and don't like spicy food. I can make our food as mild and flavorful as we like it.

Even though we want to eat as fresh food as possible, we still like the convenience of pulling a meal out of the freezer already made. I don't always want to cook every night, and it's great for Steve when I'm away for the night and he has to feed himself.

I purchased 6 of these little trays off Amazon. They are the perfect size for a frozen dinner.

I didn't make up my own recipes for our frozen dinners. I use recipes I found online, but I'll tell you how I modify them to fit our preferences.

Vegetable Korma from myfancypantry.com
Her recipe is great and very easy to make. It does involve some planning ahead, as she uses her own pre-made curry base.

Her curry base was very easy to make as well. I used a food processor to slice up the onions ("thinly slice 10 onions"?! I don't think my eyes could handle that if I did it with a knife and cutting board!). I also omitted the tomatoes, oil, and ghee. I think it still turned out delicious. I then froze the curry base into 1-cup containers. So I just thaw enough curry base from the freezer when I want to make korma.

Back to her korma recipe - I omitted the ghee, oil, paneer, and tofu. I also didn't use the exact veggies she did. Instead, I used 1 large sweet potato, 1 head of cauliflower, a 16oz bag of frozen peas, and 4 carrots. Those are just the vegetables we prefer to have in our curries.

Mixed Lentil Indian Dal from foodandspice.blogspot.com
It was so difficult to find a good dal recipe that doesn't use a pressure cooker. I tried a few different recipes and we liked this one the best. I omitted the chilies, cayenne, and ghee/oil. I have never seen asafetida in a store, so I use garlic powder instead. I also didn't do the last step that says to fry the spices in oil. I just added the spices directly to the dal.

Fragrant East Indian Basmati Rice from food.com
This recipes doesn't make enough rice. I actually make 2.5 times the amount it calls for. This is enough for the frozen dinners plus dinner for that night. I omit the oil in this recipe as well. There are a lot of suggestions on how to flavor the rice. I haven't tried any of the "creative additions" but I'm sure they'd taste great too.

Making the Dinners

I start out by making the dal first, then the rice, then the korma. The dal and rice have a little bit of prep work then they just sit on the stove to cook without much maintenance. So that gives me time to make the korma. The dishes don't all finish cooking at the same time, so I just keep them warming on the stove if we're going to eat them for dinner as well.

Here are the finished dishes:

Top middle: fragrant basmati rice. Bottom left: mixed lentil dal. Bottom right: vegetable korma.
Then I sit out my trays and portion the food into them. I like to do just under half rice, a scoop of dal, then fill the rest of the tray with korma. I don't measure it out, I just eyeball it.

The best part is that there's enough left over for our dinner that night too! I topped it with some unsalted roasted cashews. (And there was even more leftover for lunch/dinner the next day. These recipes really do make a lot of food.)

Wrap the trays up tightly in aluminum foil.

Then find space in the freezer (this may be the most difficult part).

When I first put them in the freezer I like to stack them in a crisscross. The trays slide into each other when stacked the same direction and I don't want the food to get smushed. So I stack them this way to let them freeze overnight. The next day I will stack them facing the same way on top of each other so they're not taking up so much space.

It didn't require that much extra work for me to make these frozen dinners. I had to increase the rice recipe, but the other two recipes I just made them in the quantities given. Each recipe was made completely in its own pot on the stove, so I didn't have a ton of dirty dishes laying around when I finished cooking. These dishes make a lot more food than we can eat in one night, so I like to put the leftovers in the freezer rather than try to eat it all before it goes bad in the fridge.

Now when we want a homemade Indian dinner, we just pull a tray out of the freezer and stick it in the oven!

Cooking the Frozen Meal
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Bake tray with foil on for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove and discard foil. Pour about 1/4 cup water over the rice to prevent it from drying out. Place a few roasted cashews on top of the rice.
  4. Bake for an additional 25 minutes.