My brother in law makes a damn good curry. Its a treat to be invited over to their place for a curry night and I always know I am in line for a truly delicious, perfectly spiced curry that melts in the mouth. Naturally I have quizzed him on the secrets of his curries and he told me that he started out following what he called The Curry Bible and the rest is history as they say! Fortunately he remembered this conversation and I was presented with The Curry Bible (actually 50 Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi) for my birthday and so my adventures in curry have begun.
I admit my budding curiosity with Indian cuisine is quite a new thing. When I lived in the UK, curry was something we would order on take away nights. I didn’t really go out to restaurants for good quality curries very often. But since we moved to SW France where you cant get a curry or a take away, or sushi or Thai for that matter, I have found that I crave these wonderfully spiced dishes and feel that I took them all for granted when I had them at my finger tips. So, I decided to see if I could cook some curries and I found that by following the recipes in this wonderful cookbook of mine, I have been able to create some absolutely amazing dishes, so fragrant and delicious with layers of flavour that just blow me away. These curries are a world away from the take outs I used to order in London and I see that the spicing is a delicate art in which I am sure I still have much to learn.
The first curry I decided I wanted to make was a fish curry. I was drawn to the recipe as it included coconut, lime and cashew nuts and I thought that it would be mild but interesting with lots of subtle spicing coming through. I was not disappointed. The Green Fish Curry (Ras Chawal) Parsee Style, was truly wonderful. Rich with fresh coriander and green chillis which gave the sauce its vibrant green colour with flavours of coconut, cardamom, fennel and lime coming through, it was as complex and delightful as any curry I have ever tasted, far more memorable than any take away I have had. Dont be afraid of the long list of ingredients, it was not hard to make and the results exceeded my expectations as they will yours.
Along side this terrific fish curry, I made a side dish of Spiced Cabbage with Tomatoes. I love vegetable curry but this was somewhat different as it does not have a thick sauce. The cabbage retains its bite, cooked sympathetically with fresh ginger, chilli, tomatoes and spices with a base of wonderfully browned, caramelised onions. It worked so well with the fish curry as it did not compete for dominance with the mild aromatics of the green curry, but instead allowed the fish to shine whilst offering another texture and flavour that was completely in harmony. All served with some beautiful yellow rice, it really was a wonderful and unusual curry feast that I cannot wait to make over and over again.
Fresh from the success of my fish curry night, I decided to dive straight into another menu from my wonderful cookbook and this time, I chose to make a Lamb Korma Pilaf (Korma Pulao)Lucknow. As a youngster, a remember a Korma being the staple curry that my parents would order for me on take out night as it was creamy and mild and therefore, child friendly. Over the years I fell out of love with the dish, slightly bored I think with its mildness and monotony. But this version has roused my affections once more and has shown me how alluring a Korma can be. This dish has a proper kick, with succulent lamb bursting with flavour, coated in a thick sauce rich with cardamom, cinnamon, garlic, chilli and cloves. It is baked layered with fragrant rice, drizzled with rose water and saffron. It truly is a marvel and up there with some of the most flavoursome dishes I have ever eaten. This has taken curry to new heights for me and I dont think I ever want to go back! It somehow still has aromatic notes from more traditional Korma’s but is a trillion miles away from my take outs from childhood.
I served this Pilaf with a Masoor Dal (Uttar Pradesh-Style) which provided a saucier curry to balance the feast. The lentils are cooked down with the unexpected addition of pumpkin which adds a faint sweetness. Sensitively spiced with cumin, coriander, red chilli, garlic, ginger and lime, it is mild but flavour packed and would stand alone as a completely fabulous vegetarian curry. Delicious heaped onto homemade Naan bread and scooped in!
So, after I have tried to impart the magic of these home made, knock out curries, I challenge you to forgo any compulsion to dial your local curry house and instead make it from scratch.
Tell me whats your favourite curry and do you make it yourself?