An entertaining, alternative lifestyle cousin who enjoys off-the-beaten-track holidays assures me that during her numerous meanderings around India - her favourite country - she has never once suffered from the dreaded "Delhi belly". Why? She eats nothing but curries - "the perfect antidote to any intestinal upset". Well, antidote or not, curries have become hot favourites around the world.
Curry is a word adopted into the English language from the Tamil kari, meaning a spiced sauce served with rice. In India, the home of curry, prepared powders are almost non-existent. Both chefs and home cooks use pure, freshly prepared ingredients. A typical mixture would include karry patta (curry leaf), coriander, cumin, mustard seeds, red and black pepper, fenugreek, turmeric and sometimes cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. All these ingredients are roasted and ground to a powder. During their colonial reign in India, the British developed a taste for curries and wishing to enjoy them back in Britain, created the first commercial curry powder.
Curries are synonymous with Asia, but variety is the spice of life as different regions favour different blends of ingredients. Sri Lankan curry mixes are usually darker then the Indian varieties and emphasise cardamom, which provides an entirely different flavour. In Indonesia, soy sauce is sometimes added to the curry mixture and a side dish of sambal is served to add extra flavour and heat. Aromatic Thai curry pastes are commonly prepared with either red or green chillies, garlic, galanga (ginger), lemon grass, coriander root and seeds, peppercorns, cumin seeds, grated lime rind and shrimp paste.
If, like many home cooks, you prefer to purchase commercially prepared curry powders, buy these in small amounts so the flavours do not diminish. And buy from a store where the turnover of curry powders is fastest.
Rice is the obvious partner for curries. However, if you like to experiment, you could follow the lead of some Asian cooks and use pastas such as risone, spaghetti or penne. They make interesting accompaniments for curries.
Curries are great winter warmers but they need not be mouth-burners. The zing factor depends entirely on your taste.
Tip: To tame the heat in a curry, add diced banana, stewed apple, cream, coconut cream or yoghurt.
THAI-STYLE SEAFOOD CURRY
400g can coconut milk
cup coriander leaves
4 spring onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic
2 tsp each: ground chilli, cumin, coriander, brown sugar
tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp diced red chilli or chilli paste
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 kaffir lime leaves, optional
Fish & veges
500g to 600g skinned and boned firm fish fillets
8 raw prawns, shelled
1 red capsicum pepper, seeded and diced
1 medium tomato, cut into eight wedges
1 handful each: basil leaves, coriander leaves
limes or lemon to garnish
Place all the sauce ingredients except the kaffir lime leaves in a blender or food processor. Mix until well blended and smooth. Pour into a wok and add the lime leaves, if using. Bring to the boil.
Cut the fish into five to six-centimetre chunks. Add to the pan together with the prawns and red pepper. Cover and simmer for five minutes. Add the tomato and simmer for another two or three minutes.
Taste. Add more fish sauce to increase the salt level, if preferred. Add lime juice to increase the acidity or brown sugar to sweeten, if required. Serve with lime wedges on the side. Serves four.
SLOW COOKER WHOLE CURRIED CHICKEN
1 onion, diced
1 Tbsp canola oil
2kg whole chicken, skin removed, if preferred
400g can coconut milk
1 tsp each: salt, chilli powder, ground cumin, ground ginger, fennel seeds
250g brown button mushrooms, halved
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Saute the onion in oil, until tender. Place in a slow cooker.
Tie or truss the chicken and place on the onion.
Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over the chicken. Cook on high for five to six hours or low for eight hours.
Great served with naan bread or rice. Serves six to eight.
CREAMY VEGETARIAN CURRY
1-2 Tbsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
2-3 Tbsp canola oil
2 medium potatoes, peeled
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp each: crushed garlic, grated root ginger
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups each: cauli florets, frozen peas
400g can each: diced tomatoes, chick peas
Place the curry powder and garam masala in a heavy frying pan. Heat until slightly darkened. Remove from the pan.
Heat two tablespoons of the oil in the pan. Cut the potatoes into 2cm cubes. Add to the pan with the onion.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and potatoes are golden. Push to one side.
Add the remaining oil, garlic, ginger and tomato paste. Stir well. Add the curry mixture, stir, then add the cauliflower and peas. Cook for two minutes then add the tomatoes and drained chick peas. Cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
Stir in the cream and heat through. Serves four or five as a main.
KIWI CURRIED SAUSAGES
8 beef or pork sausages
2 tsp canola oil
1 each: medium onion, apple, peeled and diced
1-2 Tbsp each: curry powder, brown sugar
400g can diced tomatoes
2 tamarillos, peeled and sliced, optional
1 cup each: diced carrot, frozen peas
Pan-fry or grill the sausages until lightly browned.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan. Pan-fry the onion, until softened. Stir in the apple and curry powder.
Add the tomatoes, tamarillos, sultanas and carrots. Cover and cook for five minutes. Add the peas and cook for a further five minutes. Can be thickened with one tablespoon of flour mixed to a paste with a little water.
Great served on rice, mashed potato or kumara or with naan bread. Serves four.
Copy right Jan Bilton
The Marlborough Express