Curious Curry

Share recipes and tips, or memorable restaurant experiences here.
Post Reply
User avatar
drmoss_ca
Admin
Posts: 10249
Joined: Thu Jul 08, 2004 4:39 pm

Curious Curry

Post by drmoss_ca »

From what I hear, the British are more obsessed with curry than ever, and the lucky blighters have no end of Indian restaurants in which to indulge themselves. I missed that so much on moving to Canada, where my provincial capital has managed to have one, two, or occasionally, three, Indian curry houses. A couple of them have actually been very good, but they did what restaurants do when they care more about their food than being trendy: they failed. So I've learned to make my own, and as with all cookery that has to be vegetarian, you really have to think about where the umami comes from when there's no meat. But there's nothing wrong with a chickpea korma, a fish curry (especially when fresh mackerel is to be found, so that you can make a Malaysian-style curry - and let's not forget the contribution of the sahibs in Malaya and Burma to the use of sambals on the curry!), and pakora, biryani, samosas, kofta, and saag paneer (better still, saag feta) are all kosher for vegetarians. You can even make a decent naan in a cast iron skillet.

But when I wrote 'curious' I meant it. Combine the insularity of cuisine in an island only just entering what was the Common Market (ie customs union but nothing of what the EEC/EC/EU has become since: let us not go there), one famous for overcooked roast beef, overcooked cabbage etc (that 'etc' includes bubble and squeak made from both the above for Monday lunch). At least we got bacon and eggs right. Let me get back to finishing my sentence that was set up for subsidiary clauses. Combine the etc, with the need for institutional cooking and cheapness.

Nope. Not school dinners, not today. They were a relatively rich and imaginative exercise of the imagination compared to where I am taking you. The famous, beloved, revered institution that is somehow preserving itself by adopting the mantle of being the very definition of what it is to be British. Yes, the NHS! The wonderful and exciting kitchens where large trays of raw eggs and water were placed in low ovens at 3am, so that 'boiled eggs' could be served all night and all day. I never knew that yolks coagulate at a lower temperature than whites. And with a low heat applied for hours on end one learns not to ask for a boiled egg between 6am and 9am, when the yolks will be hard and the whites still clear and uncooked. Absolute magic! How about the apogee of institutional cookery, sweet and sour sausages? Cheap and nasty pink slime sausages, with an even brighter pink S&S sauce straight from the industrial sized tin can? On a plate with a spoonful of extremely well-boiled rice and nothing else. And this was what was served to the staff. Never mind what dreck went to the wards for the poor devils dying there. If they were lucky they had a relatively pleasant demise from cancer, but if not, the food would surely get them. Anyway, there was a dish served up relentlessly on the fortnightly rotation in the medical school canteen of curried eggs. Again a scoop of rice that had been boiled to death rather than humanely killed, on top of which sat two hard - diamantine actually - boiled eggs and a dollop of tinned curry sauce, weak enough to be as inoffensive as the most muscular of Anglican curates. We were laughing at the memory recently, and it occurred to me that maybe it was a dish that could be done better.

So let's get a wok nice and hot. In go equal parts of olive oil and butter (aka fake ghee) and heat till it sizzles. Remove from the heat as the butter must not brown. Add one or two teaspoons of curry powder (I really like the Cool Runnings brand of Jamaican style curry powder, but use what you like), and your preferred combination of whole cardamom, cumin and coriander seeds. Put it back on the heat and stir until the curry has browned. Do not burn it as this will spoil the taste throughout the rest of the dish. Add a finely chopped large onion and keep stirring. You want the mixture of spices and fat to coat each piece of onion. At this point you are at the jump-off of all decent curries (you could add cubed white fish, or meat at this stage when the cooking is still more frying than simmering. And yes, a can of chickpeas or whatever vegetarian option you fancy could also go in. But this time I just want a vegetable curry sauce to combine with less-than-adamantine eggs). We'll take this in a korma direction. Add whatever vegetables you plan to include, and some should already be partly cooked. Let's say I have cubed and steamed some potato, so that can go in, along with some diced carrots and some frozen or fresh peas. That will be enough. You could have used whatever else you fancied, but if it needs plenty of cooking, like diced turnip or parsnip, pre-cook it a little. Now let's add a handful of raisins or sultanas, followed by some whole milk. You could use cream, but I'm frugal. Enough that as you mix it in it becomes a bit thinner than the final desired result, as the simmering to follow will thicken it as water boils off. Everything needs seasoning, but what that means is up to you. It could be a pinch of salt and some black pepper. It might mean some ginger and some fresh cilantro - both of those suit me in this sauce. I didn't chop the ginger and fry it as I tend to keep a tube of squeezy ginger toothpaste in the fridge. Sue me. Whatever you do, cilantro will be needed, and since this is a korma, it must be sweet. That was one reason wht the handful of raisins or sultanas were added, but they might not be enough. Take a sip of the sauce as it stands in all its yellow bubbling glory. Does it bite? It needs some sweetness. We don't want the final result to be sweet, but we need to blunt that sharp and bitey edge. This might mean a teaspoon of sugar (yes, really! Don't knock it till you've tried it.) or it might mean for the well-equipped kitchen a couple of teaspoons of lemon marmalade. I used to use the latter, but having gained better control of my other spices I just use some sugar if needed. At this point you need to turn down the heat and leave it only just simmering for a few hours. If it gets too thick, add some milk, If the boss is late home from work, turn off the heat. There's nothing critical here, and an excuse to taste a spoonful every hour or so is welcome.
Next step is to ensure you have some rice ready to go at just the right time as everything else. Whether you do this in a pan, use a western style rice cooker or a clever Japanese sealed cooker that can keep the rice fresh and warm for hours is up to you. Sure, you can dress up the rice with saffron, raisins, nuts, chives or whatever you like. Just plain will do for me, as the NHS hasn't even discovered the concept of spices as yet. If you want naan, chapati or poppadoms get those ready too, along with the chutneys. A sweet mango chutney of the popular Major Grey style is always liked by neophytes, but a salty, asafoetida-rich achar goes better and will be appreciated by afficionados.
Many Indian dishes call for a chonk, or tadka. Originally ghee with extra spices poured over the top of a prepared dish, you can simulate this if you like with butter in which you quickly fry some cumin and coriander and a small pinch of asafoetida or 'hing'. This is optional, and I don't think it is usually something that goes with a korma, but if you want to be fancy, it can be poured on top with no harm here.
Now for the eggs, and these should be easy for those with basic western skills. I chose to go with soft-poached eggs, since when they are cut the eggy goodness will mix better with the curry sauce. Just like usual, boil a pan of water with a good splash of vinegar in it. Reduce to a low simmer. Crack an egg into a cup and have ready. Stir the simmering water into a whirlpool and pour the egg quickly into the centre of the maelstrom. Let it cook for two minutes, remove with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of iced water. Repeat until all the eggs needed are done - two per person is fine. Use the slotted spoon to transfer the eggs from the iced water, which has held them at a nearly cooked state while the other eggs were being poached, to a bowl of freshly boiled water. You now have one minute until they reach thee-minute poached egg perfection. So place rice on heated plates or bowls. Add two poached eggs to each, pour over curry and vegetables, followed by chonk (if desired) and then some more cilantro. Serve with warm naan, poppadoms or whatever and chutneys. Enjoy the food and pretend you cook like this every day.
"Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse."
Pierre-Simon de Laplace
User avatar
fallingwickets
Clive the Thumb
Posts: 8542
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2006 11:59 am

Re: Curious Curry

Post by fallingwickets »

you should publish a cook book!

Im going to give this one a whirl...thanks

clive
de gustibus non est disputandum
User avatar
drmoss_ca
Admin
Posts: 10249
Joined: Thu Jul 08, 2004 4:39 pm

Re: Curious Curry

Post by drmoss_ca »

Honestly, it's stupid easy, so go ahead and enjoy the result.
"Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse."
Pierre-Simon de Laplace
Gareth
Taylorman
Posts: 2909
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2007 3:20 pm
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Curious Curry

Post by Gareth »

drmoss_ca wrote: Wed Sep 04, 2019 11:57 am From what I hear, the British are more obsessed with curry than ever, and the lucky blighters have no end of Indian restaurants in which to indulge themselves.
Ahh.....The British Curry.....which bears absolutely no resemblance or relation to a real curry!
Post Reply