Vegetable curry in the desert.

One of the things we undertook while being in Israel was a Jeep trip in the Negev desert. This means driving around in the desert with a group of people/friends who share their love for their country and for 4×4 vehicles. Every now and then you stop and take a closer look to ruins of some kind, beautiful rocks, caves etc. At night you sleep in designated area’s where you are allowed to set up camp. This does not mean that there is sanitation, running water or electricity.

So, food wise this means you have to prepare your food at home (pretty much everyone of them have a fridge in their car, or at least a cool box). That means washing cucumbers, tomatoes and lemons to prepare salads. preparing shakshuka (without the eggs, the are to be added later) pita’s, humus,loads of fresh water, turkish coffee etc. Since my friend took care of the equipment (tent, mattresses, cooking gear, gas bottle and the car, I offered to cook. I had to prepare food for two days for three people.

So I prepared quinoa with fried cumin chickpeas, mushrooms and onions and a vegetable curry (with rice to go with it). The vegetable curry turned out to be one of my best curry’s so far. It was soft and spicy at the same time, full of vegetables. My friend was so enthusiastic that he made me promise to give him the recipe , which took me a bit by surprise because I did not bother to write down what I had done exactly. But thinking back I think I remember pretty much how I prepared my own thought up curry and which herbs and spices I used. So here it goes:

I started by roasting pieces of pumpkin in the oven (200℃) spiced with garam masala, some salt and pepper, a pinch of cumin powder and olive oil, until fork tender (but not too soft).

In the meantime I fried an eggplant. When that started to turn brown, I added a zucchini (both sliced into cubes of approx. 1 cm each). Accordingly I added one red chili pepper, two white onions, one red bell pepper and fried it until everything turned soft and somewhat brown. Then I poured 400 ml of coconut milk over it and spiced that with curry madras, black pepper, cumin and garam masala. Added the pumpkin into it and let it simmer for a while, adding more spices while tasting. At the end blended fresh coriander leaves into the mixture and it was ready to cool off and pack it up. The fact that the spices can continue to “work” for a day more makes it taste more intense. It really turned out be one of my finer cooking acts.

Warming this dish on a one pit gas bottle after a days drive over rocky hills, steep slopes and dusty roads with a blazing sun above your head is a real bonus and makes it taste even better!