Sunday, August 29, 2010

Curry galore!

Tamarind-chickpea curry and vegetable curry

Despite the continued summer heat, we've been eating plenty of curries over the past few weeks. Curry is intensely satisfying to make, and provides leftovers for packed lunches (always high on my agenda). Only two things can go wrong: the curry can be too wet or too dry, and it can be too hot or too mild. For the first, remember that vegetables release plenty of water as they are cooked -- do not be tempted to add water to vegetable curries. Otherwise, only add water in small amounts as necessary to keep the curry from burning to the bottom of the pot. For the second, I try to make several curries at once -- I aim to have some hot and some mild. It usually all works out.

Chicken korma, vegetable curry and tamarind-chickpea curry

What follows are recipes for three curries: a mild tamarind-chickpea curry, a hot vegetable curry, and a medium chicken korma. This chicken korma is truly spectacular -- is a perfect reproduction of the korma served at Curry Original -- a heavenly blend of curry, yogurt and almonds. The first time we made it, this dish knocked my socks off -- this is always the type of meal I have assumed cannot be made in a home kitchen. But it can. Oh, it can. Naan, on the other hand, is still on my worth-ordering-in-restaurants list.

Tamarind-chickpea curry (mild)

What you need:
  • heaping cup chickpeas
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp finely grated or chopped ginger*
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp tamarind purée
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered (or 1 cup canned cherry tomatoes, drained)
  • fresh mint
* To prevent ginger from going off, keep it in your freezer. When you need it, use a microplane to grate it -- the outer peel will stay on the outside of the microplane and the ginger will fall through. This tip brought to you by our former bonne in Yaounde.

What you do:
  •  Rinse the chickpeas and put them in a large pot with 3 inches of cold water. Add a bay leaf to the pot, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 -- 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are soft. Drain.
  • In a heavy pot (I always use Le Creuset), heat the sunflower oil. Add the red onion and cook until soft. Then add the ginger, spices, sugar and the chickpeas. Stir together, and then add the tamarind purée, tomatoes, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil and cook over medium-low heat until the sauce has thoroughly thickened (~10 minutes). Only add more water if the sauce is burning to the bottom of the pot. Serve with fresh mint.

Vegetable curry (hot)

What you need:
  • 1 large onion, cut into largish chunks
  • 1/3 cup sunflower oil (be sure to not cut down on the oil, since this is the only liquid added to the curry)
  • 1 large garlic clove, diced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 5 baby potatoes, cut into large but bite-size pieces and boiled
  • 1 kg vegetables, cut or sliced into largish pieces* (red, yellow and/or green bell peppers, snap peas, patty pan squash, string beans, mushrooms, cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, ...)
* Make sure to cut the vegetables into large but bite-size pieces or slices. The vegetables should not be diced into small pieces. The only exception are carrots, which need to be thinly sliced.

What you do:
  • Heat the oil in a heavy pot and cook the onions until soft. Add garlic, ginger and all spices (and carrots, if you are using them) and cook until fragrant (~3 minutes). Add all the vegetables. Lower the heat, stir thoroughly, and cook until vegetables are just soft (15-20 minutes). Be sure not to overcook the vegetables -- they should still have a crunch to them when served.
  • Just before serving, add the boiled potatoes and stir thoroughly.

Chicken korma (medium)

What you need:
  • 2 lbs boneless chicken breasts, cut into large bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated or minced
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 small hot pepper
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • scant 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 75 g creamed coconut
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
What you do:
  • Combine the chicken with the yogurt, garlic and ginger. Allow to marinate for at least three hours and up to 24 hours.
  • Using a mini blender (oh, how I love the mini blender that comes with this house -- we will have to buy one once back in Ottawa), liquidize in the onion and hot pepper. Add a tiny bit of water if necessary. You should end up with a smooth, moist paste.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy pot (this is where making three curries falls apart for me -- I only have two Le Creuset pots). Add the spices and cook for 1 minute over medium-low heat, while stirring.
  • Add the onion/hot pepper paste, turn the heat to medium, and cook, while stirring, for 10 minutes. It will already look heavenly.
  • Add the chicken and all the marinade, and cook (don't stop stirring) for another 10 minutes.
  • Add the creamed coconut and enough water to just cover the chicken, and bring to a boil. Continue stirring until the coconut is completely dissolved. Reduce heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Before serving, stir in half of the slivered almonds. Scatter the other half over the dish as it is being served.

Serve curries with lettuce or jasmine rice. Finely diced cucumber stirred into plain yogurt also makes a welcome side dish, especially for hot curries.

Spice mixes prepared in espresso cups

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