Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Cook Like A Chef: Bob Adkins’ Vegetarian Curry

The Rail changes its menu every 6-8 weeks to stay as true to the seasonality of foods as possible. Featured on the latest menu is Chef Bob Adkins' Indian curry.

chef bob adkins in the kitchen

Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

Bob Adkins is the executive chef at The Rail in Bloomington, Indiana.

Curious To Try Curry

Chef Bob Adkins doesn’t shy away from including less popular ingredients in his dishes at The Rail. He encourages his guests to step outside their comfort zone, and maybe they’ll surprise themselves.

He stepped out of his comfort zone on this latest menu by offering his first attempt at a real Indian curry.

First order of business, he learned to make his own curry paste. He has handfuls of fresh herbs on hand — mint, cilantro, fennel — along with heaping portions of ginger and garlic.

The step to be sure not to miss, he says, is the toasting of the cumin and curry powders. This brings out more complex flavors that you will love in the finished dish.

Adkins and his crew work days ahead, freezing batches of curry to serve that week, but home cooks have better, he says. If you take the easy route and buy pre-made curry paste and herb mixtures, you can whip up this dish in the time it takes you to cook the rice.

His philosophy is, “The best foods, the healthiest foods are definitely cooked quick, everything in tact and then eaten as quickly as possible,” Adkins says.

Spring Menu?

Nothing stays on the menu too long at The Rail. They change things up every eight weeks to stay as true to the seasonality of foods as possible. This means his creativity is constantly switched on. To make it a bit easier, all the menus have 10-12 general categories that the dishes fit into — like braised, soul, pasta and sauté. That helps focus his imagination.

“Creative power can get out of control as easily as any kind of power,” he says. “So, you need to harness that a little bit when you change as often as we do.”

While he’s enjoying cooking the curry dish now, he’s already looking ahead to early spring and thinking about what food farmers will bring to those first few Saturdays of the market.

“Soon it’s going to start to warm up… and I’m going to want to bring in the fresh stuff — radishes, greens, the stuff that’s going to be coming up at the markets. That’s a huge point of inspiration,” he says.

Entertainment Business

He says he takes nutrition into account when constructing his menus, but press him and he admits that the overall dining experience is what matters most.

After all, restaurants are in the entertainment business.

“We want people to come here and enjoy spending their money on something that maybe they can’t do at home or something they may not indulge in at home or find the time to cook at home,” he says.

That’s partly why they offer the curry with beef short rib or tofu — let the guests make the decision about nutrition themselves!

curry with pork, served at the rail

Photo: Courtesy of Chef Bob Adkins

The curry is served with either beef short rib or tofu.

Vegetables For The Curry

Ingredients

  • 1 rib celery
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 bulb fennel
  • 1 leek, cleaned

Cooking Directions

  1. Slice all the vegetables to the same size and thickness. You can do this in a food processor.
  2. Set aside

Homemade Curry Paste

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces ginger
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder, toasted
  • 1.5 tablespoons cumin powder, toasted
  • 4 large sprigs mint
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • 1 stalk fennel, stripped of soft fronds
  • 1.5 tablespoon yellow curry paste
  • 1/4 cup oil

Cooking Directions

  1. In a hot and dry pan, toast curry and cumin powders until very fragrant.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend to a fine paste.

Assembling Vegetarian Curry

Ingredients

  • one 3 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 large red potatoes, diced
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable base
  • 4 cups water
  • salt to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Saute the curry past in a little oil until very fragrant.
  2. Add the sliced vegetables and sweat until translucent.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and simmer just until potatoes are tender.
  4. Remove from Heat, adjust seasoning to taste and eat immediately.

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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