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Recipe: Sweet Potato Coconut Spinach Curry
This is hands down one of my "go-to" recipes.
It has the most amazing blend of flavors, fills you up nicely, and is packed with nutrition. It's also easy - the quantities of the different curry ingredients can be tweaked without catastrophe.
The nuttiness of the brown rice, the creaminess of the coconut curry, the sweetness of the sweet potato, the hardiness of the chick peas, and the morality associated with eating spinach all make this a plate you want to put your face in.
This curry also satisfies my sustainability cravings by being a vegan recipe. (Unless you decide to substitute the chick peas with chicken, which I have done from time to time because it is delicious. If you do, try to buy organic chicken as other eco-labels for poultry can be unreliable. See my related hub.)
Recipe nutritional benefits overview
This recipe rocks the nutritional world on several accounts:
a. it is vegan
b. it contains 2 super foods
c. it is gluten-free
d. it has a low glycemic index (it contains slow releasing sugars)
Nutritional content of spinach
Spinach is a "superfood." It packs a ton of vitamins, fiber, and protein into very few calories. It seems to be most known for being high in iron (my friend that struggles with anemia eats it like it's her job), but spinach also contains Vitamin A, C, E, K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, B6, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.
Nutritional content of sweet potato
One medium sweet potato packs over 400% of your daily Vitamin A, and 37% of your Vitamin C needs. By consuming the sweet potato in a bath of coconut milk, you also increase your absorption of Vitamin A; research shows that beta-carotene (the carotenoid that turns into Vitamin A in the body) is better absorbed when accompanied with fat. In addition, sweet potatoes contain high amounts of potassium, which is said to relieve stress and muscle cramps.
Sweet potato is labeled a superfood like spinach. Therefore one of the most frustrating situations I have found myself in is not being sure whether I'm buying yams or sweet potatoes, as yams are significantly lower in nutritional value. Luckily I found this hub that helped clear my confusion!
Doing the recipe this time around each sweet potato was a different variety (thus the different colors). To learn more about the different sweet potato varieties, read my hub!
Fun Fact: If they're called chickpeas and garbanzo beans are they beans or peas? According to Britannica Encyclopedia, they are part of the pea family. However beans and peas are both legumes. Their main differences are found in the plant anatomy.
Nutritional content of chickpeas
Chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) are a very filling protein source commonly found in Indian curry dishes. To me they are the chicken of beans - they have that mild, appetite-pleasing white flesh. Chickpeas are also relatively low in calorie and very high in fiber - a serving in this recipe will give you almost a third of your daily dietary fiber needs. It is also a good source of protein, copper, folate, and manganese.
Nutritional content of coconut milk
Did you know that a coconut is actually a nut?? The milk is also not the liquid you see when you crack open a coconut, but rather the grated white "meat" of the coconut.
The bald nutritional facts about coconut milk are not too encouraging, it being very high in saturated fat and very caloric. However, one of the fatty acids contained in coconut milk (lauric acid) has been found to have antimicrobial properties. Some natural healers say that coconut milk therefore has excellent medicinal powers, and use it to combat stomach bugs, cold sores, and flu symptoms.
I cook with low-fat coconut milk, which has half the calories and my family and I find it to be plenty creamy!
Nutritional content of brown rice
You probably have heard that brown carbs are better for you than white (whole wheat vs. white bread, brown rice vs. white). Brown rice only removes the outermost layer of the rice (whereas white rice is more extensively processed). The outer layer that brown rice keeps is where the bulk of the B vitamins, phosphorous, manganese, and iron lies.
Brown rice is also a high source of fiber, the oil in brown rice reduces cholesterol, and it does not cause the same spike in blood sugar level as white rice. Brown rice for the win!
Okay! Enough appetizing chit-chat, let's get to the Recipe.
- 2 cups Brown Rice
- 3 large Chopped Sweet Potato, (mine had been baked ahead of time but you can definitely start with raw)
- 1 lb Fresh Spinach, (baby spinach is best as it is most tender)
- Two 12 oz cans Coconut Milk, (I usually use low fat)
- 12 oz can Chickpeas, (also called garbanzo beans)
- (optional) 1 lb Chicken breast
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 Tbsp curry powder
- Get the brown rice started. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil, add rice and lower to a simmer. Cook 35 - 45 minutes. Optional tbsp of butter and tsp salt can be added. Tip: the pros try to avoid lifting the pot lid until they're sure it's about done. This avoids any moisture loss. I usually get impatient and don't reduce the heat to a simmer, then the water boils over and my ratio of water to rice is ruined. Consequently I have to add fresh water and it's not the same. Moral is: don't disturb the rice.
- While the rice cooks, bring coconut milk to a simmer. Unload chopped sweet potatoes, curry powder, and turmeric into coconut milk. Cover and let simmer until sweet potatoes are cooked through: about 20 minutes if starting with raw sweet potatoes. Note: unlike cow milk, it's okay for coconut milk to simmer. However, my instinct would be to avoid outright boiling as it might compromise the taste. Also by simmering you allow for the different flavors to meld.
- Add the chickpeas. I like to add these at the end so that they don't get too mushy while the sweet potato cooks.
- Meat version: chop the chicken breast into bite size pieces. Cook with a little olive oil in a frying pan until slightly browned. Don't overcook! Add at the same time as the chickpeas.
- Add the spinach handfuls at a time. A pound may seem like a lot of spinach but it cooks down remarkably and gives the curry structure and color.
- At the very end I like to smoosh a few sweet potatoes and stir it around to give the curry a more pasty substance. You may also want to add SALT at this point.
- Ladle the curry on top of the brown rice and serve. Enjoy while it's hot!