Lucky Comestible 5 (5): “Ground” Tempeh in a Cilantro Curry Sauce

[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I’ll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I’ve recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days.  For this fifth edition, I’m focusing on cilantro. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. This is the fifth entry on cilantro.]


The HH and I just returned from an annual sojourn to what used to be our favorite summer retreat, a country resort up in ski country.  I say, “used to be” because, like so many other businesses these days, our erstwhile “favorite” has cut services to the bone and, as a result, is no longer the hotel we remember and loved.  Those of you on twitter may have seen my lament that the breakfast “buffet” included precisely one food I could eat:  roasted potatoes.  The rest of the menu (ham, bacon, eggs, french toast, plate of baked goods and bowl of yogurts) was all verboten to me.  As I chewed on my (suddenly very bitter) spuds, I wondered, what about celiacs?  What about diabetics?  There wasn’t exactly a cornucopia of choices for them, either.  In addition, the dinner “service” was so deplorable (over 40 minutes to get our appetizers!  In a dining room with six patrons!), we decided that next year, we’ll look for a new place to patronize during our annual summer weekend away.

Well, no matter.  The weather, at least, was glorious, and hey–the paucity of food actually resulted in two more pounds of weight loss  (for those of you who’ve been following such things, the grand total is 32 lost so far. That means I can now get into my “chubby” clothes, leaving behind my “fat” and “edifice-like” wardrobes, while I’m still not quite slim enough for my “I’m-saving-these-even-though-they’re-out-of-style-and-I’m-really-too-old-for-them-because-I-love-them-so-much” clothes).  I also realized that the best way to lose weight is when you’re not really trying.  (Hmm.  Maybe that resort wasn’t so bad after all.  All I have to do is suffer there for another week , and I’m pretty sure I’d be at goal.).

The weekend was an explicit reminder (I guess I’d sort of forgotten) that I am, indeed, following a rather restricted diet these days.  Funny, even though I altered my diet to eliminate wheat, eggs and dairy about ten years ago (meat was pretty much already gone by then), I hadn’t really thought of my food intake as “restricted” (after all, I’d still managed to gain 45 pounds eating that way!) until these past few months on the anti-candida diet.  In fact, changing my diet initially prompted me to try out many foods I’d shunned until that point.

One prime example is Indian cuisine.  I’d never tasted any of my current favorites–an authentic, long-simmering curry, a crispy papadum, a nubby, melting dal, or peppery masala okra–until I was forced to change my diet.  Once I tried the first few dishes, I quickly grew enamored of the fragrant spices like sweet cardamom and warming turmeric, and was easily besotted with basmati rice, vibrant vindaloos and creamy kormas. In fact, it was Indian cuisine that catalyzed my conversion from cilantro foe to cilantro lover.

Whenever we stop in at our favorite Indian restaurant nearby, the HH will often order lamb.  I have to tell you, if I’m sitting downwind, it can ruin my dinner.  Even before I stopped eating meat, I just wasn’t able to tolerate lamb.  Something about the smell–that elusive combination of unctuous yet slightly sweet–always managed to make my stomach flutter and my bile rise, even as a child and long before I understood the true source of those glistening cubes on my plate.

Well, lucky for me, most Indian dishes are naturally vegetarian.  On the other hand, it only occurred to me recently that I’ve been inadvertently ruling out a whole category of recipes in my collection simply because they feature lamb, glossing right over those when I scan my cookbooks for dinner ideas.

Well, silly me!  I mean, where is it written that those dishes must they be made with lamb? Why couldn’t a favorite soy product (or other legume) stand in for the meat, as they’ve often done before with chicken or beef? I must have been blinded by my visions of guileless black eyes, kinky white curls and baby hooves to even consider it. (I know, I’m a bit slow on the uptake sometimes).

One of my favorite sources of protein is tempeh, and it’s one I use far too infrequently.  I thought it would offer a great substitute for ground lamb in a curry.  After browsing through various cookbooks, I combined some of my favorite flavors to create a warm, mildly spiced, and slightly unconventional main dish.  The smooth, creamy sauce is punctuated by occasional bursts of sweet peas, bits of savory tempeh, and juicy tomato.  It’s perfect served over some steamed basmati rice.

And the aroma, redolent with Indian spices, is guaranteed to entice you–no matter which side of the table you’re on.

Mum, we know you don’t want to eat sheep, but if you ever need them rounded up or led into a pen,  we’d be happy to help out. (We’re both part Border Collie, you know.)”


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Other posts in this series:

Other Lucky Comestibles:

Last Year at this Time: Sweet Potato, Quinoa and Black Bean Bites

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  1. WTG on the weight loss! Your wardrobe description made me LOL. I made Indian food for dinner last night. I really love it and would eat it more if it just included broccoli! Your cilantro curry sounds wonderful. Looks like peas are included but I don’t see them in the recipe. I don’t like tempeh, so I would use just peas – yum.

  2. It is a really fantastic idea to substitute tempeh for ground meat. This sounds like a unique and tasty recipe. I also browsed through an old Indian cookbook of ours a couple of months ago and thought about veganizing all those meat dishes.

  3. Mmmmm, this looks AMAZING!

  4. I am a huge Indian food fan, and your tempeh dish looks amazing. i had my first run in with tempeh about 4 months ago, and it was a disaster. Your recipe would be one that I would enjoy, thanks for sharing!

  5. I share your revulsion to the smell of lamb, dating back to childhood. Ugh. But using tempeh as a substitute for the baby sheep, something we’ve never tried, is a great idea. We love, and have, Indian food a lot, and will have to try this. (Ours usually has chick peas but I’m getting tired of that.)

  6. I always look out for celiacs when I look at menus – hope you are rediscovering lots of great clothes as compensation for eating just spuds when out (and yummy curry when in)

  7. This looks amazing- I am totally craving tempeh curry now!

  8. 32 pounds?! Ricki–that is fabulous! Congratulations! I am sorry that your trip wasn’t what you remembered (I don’t know if it is worth two pounds to have such bad service!), but hopefully next year you will find someplace amazing to go and create new memories 🙂

    I *LOVE* Indian food! It is seriously one of my favorites, so I am excited to try your recipe–thanks for posting it!


  9. yeah… lamb… ok, let’s stop thinking about that. this meal looks absolutely wonderufl! bummer about your old fav, but i love how you stopped trying and the lbs melted away 🙂 now, good thing i have plans for some indian this week!

  10. I do love lamb but don’t eat it because they’re so darn cute. But like you said, it’s not exclusive to any dish so we can get creative. Same with the tempeh. I used it in tacos and no one knew the difference!
    Here’s to new adventures in new places with new food choices!

  11. What a beautiful curry sauce! And hooray on the pound count! You’re such an inspiration!

  12. this looks so creamy! It’s going into my bookmarked file now.

  13. This looks amazing! Crazy that I have been craving and making all these hot dishes in what should be the heart of summer.

  14. I LOOOOVVVE curry, and yours looks nothing short of amazing.

  15. Another interesting way to use tempeh! Awesome!
    When do you add the tempeh back to the skillet? Sorry if I missed something, I couldn’t find that piece of info. My guess would be to add it after the almond butter is melted; is that what you did?

  16. Of course I love this one! Great idea to spice up tempeh. Another must try recipe of yours.

  17. Sorry to hear your weekend getaway wasn’t as good as you’d hoped! I often ignore recipes that use meat too though recently I’ve started to look at them and see how I could change them. What you’ve created here looks so delicious. I love curry and love Indian food. I’ve still never tried tempeh I think because I bought it frozen and most recipes use just refrigerated. But I must stop using that as an excuse and just try it. =)

  18. Nina of the North Coast says

    As usual I’m quite behind with my comments but this recipe looks diVINE, Ricki! Can’t wait to go and get some tempeh! Here’s to Veganization of old cookbooks! AND about the diet limitation thing, I can relate, even though I am NOT a vegan, just a plain vegetarian- well, actually a KOSHER vegetarian:-} who happens to have several still-carnivorous good friends: I don’t feel it as much as I used to but whenever I’d eat dinner with them, I’d sort of get to a point where I realized that, yeah, I have made some “exclusivatory”(interesting word, huh?) choices regarding what I can eat and it makes for LESS of a choice at restaurants…but I’m really okay with that, because I am passionate about my beliefs and also happen to love my diet. (Sorry to get so carried away and ego-centric there, Ricki!)

    Anyway, sorry to hear about your previous favorite place deteriorating in service and content- so hard to lose an old familiar “friend”, even when it’s inanimate. Also just wanted to ask a question about the recipe: Almond butter is quite prohibitively expensive around here,(and I’m not exactly a huge bread-winner, either…) is there anything else I could substitute for it, other than peanut butter, of which I’m just NOT a HUGE FAN, and come out a final product with not much detectable difference in flavor? Let me know please.

    Thanks, Nina

  19. Nina of the North Coast says

    Oh, I almost forgot: I LOVED the line from the Girls about
    rounding up sheep for you (“Mum, we know you don’t want to eat sheep, but if you ever need them rounded up or led into a pen, we’d be happy to help out. (We’re both part Border Collie, you know.”) That was REALLY adorable.


  20. holy crap, i made this tonight and it was phenomenal! (still is, i am eating a second dinner right now because it’s so good). i used cashew butter instead of almond butter and rice milk instead of almond milk. also i threw in whole cumin and mustard seeds, chili powder and yellow curry powder. spicy and delicious!!!

  21. Wow Ricki, this looks right up my alley…and it came up in a google search for tempeh I just did for “ACD tempeh”. Never cooked it myself and thought I’d do a quick search before heading to the market. And lo, up pops your site. 🙂 Will be making this for dinner tonight!

  22. Just made it! Voted two big thumbs up from me and my husband! Did add more broth than called for to soup it up just a tad, but other than that, made as is. Going into my make again, and again, and again file. 🙂 Do you mind if I post it on my blog?

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