Sunday, 27 June 2010

Currying Favour

Something else I like to cook is curries. When I'm planning meals, I have to hold myself back from making a curry or at least something spicy every day. I didn't make a curry at all until I was in my mid-twenties, but then I didn't really eat curry or "get" it until I was an adult. My parents didn't like it and so we never had it as children.

Curries are almost the polar opposite of baking, that I blogged about last week. You don't have to be anything like as precise with your measurements. However, it is also something that people think are difficult so they get something out of a jar to make one. But really? They are so not! You do often need a long list of ingredients but most are easily obtained from your supermarket and if not, a local Asian grocer will normally be happy to help you.

When I started making curries, I used to use curry paste or curry powder. Occasionally, I still do for various recipes I have in my collection (I am rather geeky and collect recipes to store away for use later!). They have their place and I really have nothing against them. However, if you want to make a really great curry, you need to have the individual spices in stock. I find, because I store my spices for a fairly long time, that I need to add more than the recipe states because the flavours do fade over time as the oils in the spices oxidise in the air.

I have this book in my kitchen called "50 Great Curries of India" by Camellia Panjabi, who set up the Bombay Brasserie in London. I use her homestyle curry recipe quite a bit as it allows me to curry whatever I have at home. However, I do use several other recipes out of the book quite regularly. This one is a particular favourite, because it is pretty simple and tasty, and it uses ingredients that are simple to get hold of; I've normally got them all in stock. It's a keema and therefore made from lamb mince. Don't pull a face - the first thing you do is boil the mince to render the fat so the resulting curry is not greasy at all. I've made it countless times and it seems to be that little bit different each time, but never in a bad way. It is also really good when made one day and eaten the next. This is what I did when I made it the other day - I had a busy day but wanted a good curry, and it doesn't take long to get going, so it's easy to make ahead. I have never done, but I would imagine it would freeze well too. Here's the recipe. It's worth taking time to get the onions really brown first as they add so much to the flavour if done like that.

Dhaniya Keema (Minced Lamb with Coriander)
(Serves 4)


700g/1.5lb finely minced lamb (don't worry if it's not finely minced!)
3 garlic cloves
2 cinnamon or bay leaves
80ml oil (veg or sunflower best)
300g/10oz onions, finely chopped
5cm/2in cinnamon stick
3 cloves
3 green cardamoms
1cmx0.5cm/0.5inx0.25in piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
1-2 tsp mild chilli powder, to taste
0.25 tsp ground turmeric
0.75 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
2 tomatoes, chopped or 200g chopped tomatoes from a tin.
1 bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped

1. Boil the mince in 500ml/2cups water with 1 whole peeled garlic clove and the cinnamon or bay leaves, for 10 mins. Strain away the water (not down the sink, you'll block it!). Finely chop the other garlic cloves.

2. Heat the oil in a cooking pot. Fry the onions until golden brown - about 20 mins. (I usually start this whilst the mince is boiling, and keep the pan on a mediumish heat. You'll need to watch it as burnt onions will just make the whole thing taste burnt). Add the cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamoms, ginger, garlic and chillies. Cook for 2 mins, then add the mince and saute for 5 mins. (I normally spend this time breaking up the mince as it seems to form a solid block when boiled!). Add the turmeric, cumin, coriander and half the garam masala; saute for a further 5 minutes, stirring every minute or two. Add the tomato and season to taste.

3. When the tomato is totally absorbed, stir-fry for a couple of mins. Add 500ml/2cups of water and cook until tender. (The recipe doesn't say how long, but I normally simmer for about an hour and let the sauce reduce right down). Add the corander leaves and remaining garam masala. Stir well and cook for 3 mins or so, uncovered. The dish has very little gravy so can be eaten with indian breads or rice. The book also suggests pasta but I'm not ready for that. Don't forget to remove the cinnamon stick!

Now, I make a few changes to this:

a) I don't always use cardamoms. If you bite on one, it's like chewing on aftershave and not always a nice experience. Feel free to regard the cardamoms as optional.
b) If I'm making for the next day, I leave out the coriander leaves and extra garam masala until I reheat. Occasionally, I forget to do this anyway but hey, it's not killed me.

Here's the curry.

We ate it with poppadoms and I had some mango chutney with it, mainly because I love mango chutney! I took this on my phone and I've just realised how sunny it was, even at 7pm - just look at that shadow. It looks like a small portion but believe me, it's filling.
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