Category Archives: Curry The Mystery Unfolds

Here you will find the information and for some education and explanation, intended to take some of the mystery out of the world of curry, the one thing you wont find here is recipes, but you should find Stuff to read and enjoy hopefully.
So suck on a chilli and read to your hearts content!

The trouble with a curry blog is sometimes

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Sometimes I just like to sit, resting after a day at the coal face of life watching television enjoying the life that is mine. Curry for me is not a life style it is something I like to eat nothing more, and as such it is not my religion or my raison detre. I say this as I have not posted much recently owing really to the simple fact that I haven’t cooked much, well not anything that I would wish to write about.

The trouble with blogging especially on a recipe site where you are under a certain obligation to at least try the things you are posting as recipes, is what happens if you don’t like the result?

Do you still post it and enthuse that it was a fantastic little recipe and let the people decide or do you say it is not to your taste!

Answers at the foot of the page if your that way inclined!

The next problem if that is the right word is one of you only really eat your dishes once and you to some extent are relying on what has to be regarded as the taste buds of time, put simply if it is a traditional recipe then tradition cannot be wrong, now there’s an assumption! Further still because you have a busy life revisiting a previously published recipe means you may not, as is most often the case where I am concerned publish anything that week at all as you have had your curry fix for the week and gluttony well that’s a sin.

Where there is a case for Demonology(click to see more) or for the uninitiated  those recipes that I claim as my own or have taken ownership of; well they take time to conceive as I am not a natural chef, and although I have been much blessed with a copious and ever overflowing imagination find perceiving tastes a very unusual concept to say the least, and therefore  take a long time to reach the page that is this blog, hopefully that is time well spent and is evidenced by the tasty result, or not as may be the case!

I do like to write too and therefore a blog is a fantastic vehicle to help in the achievement of that want, but a recipe blog is sometimes not, as it is the recipes that dominate and not really the writing.

That then is the reason for this Saturday morning minor monologue which I hope you have enjoyed and will “Like” as only bloggers can…. there will hopefully be a recipe coming later today traditional this time  so watch this space for more on

Korioora Munakkai

A chicken delight flavoured with tamarind and more than enough spice to keep you as happy as a spice seller in a Bombay bazaar

later’s Curry lovers

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Top ten curry

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I have been blogging away for the best part of a year now and have posted around 60 articles most of which have featured a recipe or two. The interesting thing about blogging is that some dishes and articles are more popular than others and as such I have taken those recipes that have been the most popular over that twelve months, this being measured by the “likes” and page views that the back room stats show me…..So I have had a look at these stats and “likes” as voted for by those that have been kind enough to follow my blog!

Interestingly enough there’s something for everyone and that I suppose tells me that people like the veggie dishes as much as the meat ones there’s even a sweet dish making it into the top ten. Being honest about it there are only a couple of recipes of the sweet kind throughout the blog so that must make this dish very special indeed

So please take a look and if you do go to any of the pages please place a “like” if you haven’t been there before and if you feel like being really generous rate  them through the stars rating on the page… otherwise enjoy the list for what it is….

(click here)

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Your Top ten Curries as voted for by you! 

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Temper temper its only a Karahi

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My nice new unseasoned Karahi

Cooking an onion or some chicken or any other of the plethora of ingredients that make up an indian dish  in a western home is probably a lot easier than preparing that same meal in the back streets of Mumbai, and even easier than in the village of a fishing village of Tamil Nadu or the more remote parts of the Indian Kush!

The western kitchen offers many pots and pans that fit nicely onto our state of the art cooking appliances and those pots and pans are designed for ease of use and practicality for the Western dishes and foods that we eat. I am however a believer in tradition and with Indian cooking I would say that one of the vital ingredients required to achieve the level of success you should aspire to is the right cooking pot. In Chinese cookery the Wok, in Africa the Potjie  and in India the Karahi, which may  be quite familiar as nowadays, a smaller version is used to serve Balti dishes in UK restaurants. Typically a heavy based steel pot that has two large ringlets traditionally used for suspending it over an open fire, and surprise surprise it fits just as nicely into the wok burner slot as the wok does…..

It however is not like your average saucepan in that a little work is required to get it fit for purpose, and is a close relative to the Chinese wok in that it is also made traditionally from steel or iron, and like the traditional wok requires some preparation before use.  The kitchen industry is now offering the non stick wok, God help us all can no one be bothered anymore…… the same does not apply to its Indian cousin at the moment, it comes in raw untreated steel, and only in raw untreated steel I hope!

So you get your Karahi home and now you must undertake a process known as seasoning, for it to work at its best. This is not rocket science but a little care and preparation is required to get the best results.

Firstly place the karahi on the heat, and heat to a fairly high temperature, until the entire surface is hot…..

On the first time you do this you will see some of the black surface peel away don’t be worried by this it is perfectly natural, as this is a protective layer added by the manufacturer and is meant to burn off during this tempering process……

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Seasoned well nearly

Now with a clean cloth wipe on a thin layer of oil turn up the heat and allow it to burn off, then allow the pan to cool.

Remember that sometimes less is more and it is important that you do not allow the oil to pool in the bottom of the Karahi, as a thick gel can form in the bottom of the pan, repeat this process about six times until you have built up half a dozen or so thin layers, just remember to burn off each layer before applying the next, so open the windows put the extractor fan on and burn it in!.

This takes time so don’t rush it and the end result will be a seasoned pan that is fit for purpose and ready to cook in with a rustic iron look and if that’s how yours looks you have tempered the pan correctly( See photo)

Now you have put all that effort into getting it like that you do need to take care of that finish especially when you are cleaning it and it should be remembered that soapy water is a big NO, NO here, this will remove your seasoning and mean that you will have a pan that can rust and will need seasoning again, if you do need to remove stuck on food you should scrub with a non metallic scrubber or Wok brush, always dry the karahi with paper towels, and finish off by “Burning” over a high flame which sterilise the pan until the next time you use it…

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Seasoned, rustic and ready to cook with.

A very well seasoned pan can of course build up a layer of carbon in the bottom and this is not something that you need worry about quite the opposite in fact as it shows a well used and cared for piece of cookware, and will also prevent it from going rusty….

finally if you don’t use it everyday a light rubbing over with  cooking oil before returning to the cupboard will keep the rust at bay and should you find some rust then simply scour the whole pan and re-season as above … easy really!

Hopefully all being well you will never have to do that… just follow the guidelines! above and all should be well, and you will have a cook-pot that will give you years of use getting better every time you use it…

Masala Spices Mixing it up…..

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Masala Spices Mixing it up…..
 

The following is a list of some of the spice mixes that have the title of Masala, and that’s what a masala is at its most simple a mixture of spices, of which there are many that fit the description of Masala. There is much to learn in getting them right and yes they are to some extent the theory behind the practice in getting to fully understand all that is the cooking of South East Asia. Masala is used in many recipes and the spice masala mixes I offer  here are some of the most common for you to dip in and out of as and when you need them, all of the combinations are to make about 50 grams  of the mix, which I suggest is more than you would need to fill the average dabba pot!

This is pretty dull on the cooking front but these Masala’s are really vital in a lot of dishes so I make no apology for publishing them, I am sure you will at some point find them useful, although these days it is often easier to go to the supermarket and buy a finished mix than to mix your own but take it from me , DIY is a lot more satisfying so get grinding 🙂

For the grinding I always prefer the traditional approach pestle & mortar but for some people automation works, electric spice grinders don’t do it for me like the pestle & mortar the aromas that assault the nose as you grind away is the bonus for the elbow grease you invest!

It is also wise to remember that these mixes are a matter of taste and are always to be regarded as approximate weights and measures experience will teach you what you like and what you don’t…..

The list will grow with the increase in the published recipes and if your in need of something you can’t find here,  all you need to do is drop me a message, in the meantime if you want to find out a bit more about the herbs and spices they include have a look in my Dabba(Click)

Dabba doo

Garam Masala

20 grams cumin seedsHomemade garam masala. Photo taken in Kent, Oh...

7.5 grams coriander seeds

4.5 grams black cardamom

4.5 grams black peppercorns

4 grams green cardamoms

4grams ground ginger

Grind to a fine powder and then sieve out, or strain, store in an airtight container

Chat Masala

7.5  Gm Cumin Seeds

7.0  GmBlack peppercorns

2 tsp Black Salt

3.5 Gm Dry Mint Leaveschaat

0.5 Tsp Ajwain Seeds

0.25 tsp Asafoetida

0.1 tsp Tartaric Acid

15 gm Amchoor

1tsp salt

0.5 tsp Ground ginger

0.5 tsp Yelow Chilli powder

Put all the ingrediedients except the amchoor , salt ground ginger and yellow chilli powder in a mortar and pound with a pestle, orgrind in a spice grinder to a fine powder.

transfer to a clean dry bowl and add the remaining ingredients and mix well sieve and then store in sterilized dry airtight container

Sambhar Masala

12.5 gm Coriander seeds

1 tsp Cumin Seeds

0.5 tsp fenugreek

0.5 tsp black peppercornsparsi-sambhar-masala-250x250

0.5 tsp mustard seeds

0.5 tsp poppy seeds ground

0.5 cinam0n stick

8 curry leaves

0.5 tsp chana daal rinsed and drained

0.5tsp  arhar or toor (toover) daal rinsed and drained

0.5 tsp veg oil

3 large dried red chillies

0.5 tsp ground turmeric

You will firstly need to dry roast each ingredient except the red chillies and turmeric, use a dry frying pan or skeillet over a medium heat for a few moments

or until the spices and curry leaves are fragrant and the daals are golden

Add the oil to the pan and heat through then add the dried red chillies and stir fry for about one minute or until fragrant .mix all the ingredients together in a Mortar and pound with a pestle to a fine powder  then store in a dry airtight container….

The following is a spice mix that is a speciality of Bengali Cuisine and literally translates to the spice that crackles five times…..

 Paanch PhoremPaanch

30g cumin

30g fennel

1.5tsp fenugreek seeds

1.5 tsp yellow Mustard Seeds

2 Tablespoons Nigella seeds

India bit me again!

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In my last post  several weeks back I asked was Kerala ready for me, I think I should have asked was I ready for Kerala?

I don’t know what I expected but what I got was a place so full of surprises and unlike anything else India has to offer.

There is still the basic lack of basic hygiene and the usual piles of rubbish, dirt and nastiness piled up in any available spot that occasionally someone might put a match to and create those odours and smells that assault the nasal passages with a blend of pongs and perfumes  that continues to remain as a memory, never to be forgotten. That malodorous scent being a cross between smouldering plastics, waste foods and the everyday detritus that mankind has decided is rubbish, all simmering gently together in a not very pleasant heap, that when not alight is picked over by the cowsgarbage-dump-india that wander around as they wish, appearing to belong to no one and eating what they find. Add this assault upon the senses to the abject poverty and lack of basic utilities that we in the west enjoy, sewage and sanitation systems, running water and a constant supply of electricity, and not forgetting the plethora of other things the developed world take  very much for granted and expect as an everyday god given right, most of which are things that are a far off dream for the average Indian going about his daily life, and you might be forgiven for wondering why anyone would want to go to such a place, and more importantly go there for a holiday!SAM_2778

Well that is really very simple, in that for every gut wrenching negative that India offers up for inspection, as it surely does round every corner and up every alley, there are ten things that compensate for those negatives and things that no one can change without altering an infrastructure that has “worked” for its people for millennia, and continues to do so to this day; a country where community is more than just a word and life is something that is lived rather than presented to you on a plate, and all that bundled together into areas of outstanding, and spectacular interest and beauty, that will continue to draw me back to it as often as I can, filling a part of me with the bounty that is the joy of India, and something that I will never tire of, irrespective of the frustrations and contradictions that are undoubtedly India.

For those of you that follow me they will know that my focus in this Blog is the food, and more especially the curry that is my raison detre for writing, although I do hope that you will forgive me for presenting a few comments and ideas on the country that holds such a place in my heart of affection and love.

Yes I do love India what a place……

How can you not?

Moving swiftly on…….Anyone for lunch?

The food of Kerala was I must say some of the very best regional foods that I have ever experienced in India…. wow, I have included a photo of one of the banquets that it was my pleasure to enjoy, and some of the dishes being extrodinary in textures and flavours, some that I still do not know what they were called, and occasionally so regional as to have no English translationAnyone for lunch

The following banquet a lunchtime feast was presented on the last day of a backwaters cruise out of Allepey a place that can best be described as an area of outstanding natural beauty where there are many “houseboats available for anyone for  hire. coming with crew and a cook whose sole purpose in life as to tickle your taste buds and in my case, and that was achieved with gusto at every meal!

This particular one served on Banana leaves for good effect and eaten with the hands as only a good meal should, a meal of celebration called “sadhya” and one with a few rules like there is no onion or garlic used and generally a vegetarian meal always served at lunchtime, however this particular banana leaf of joy had a  main dish of a parcel of local fish caught that very morning and marinated in a paste, of chilli turmeric and local spices that give the food that unique and very regional taste, gently cooked and presented alongside rice and  veg side dishes that you would never find in the local restaurant. This was perhaps the highlight meal of the trip but there were many others featuring seafood, vegetables, chicken and meats all presented in the simple way that says judge me on the taste.

Food is an international language and “Curry” what ever that is seems to be one dialect that is spoken pretty much everywhere throughout Asia, diversity of flavours and textures for sure but curry by any other name. The masters of the flavours and the spices for me are without doubt the Indian subcontinent  nations, although some might argue that Malay and the south-eastern Asian nations certainly kerala5have a thing or two to say on the subject of great curry.

Whatever curry you choose it is an irrevocable fact however that any curry eaten in its land of origin cooked with the local taste and ingredients is far superior to that of the high street where traditional taste are subdued for the sake of the vagaries’ of local taste often for the realisation of profit, rather than a genuine reflection of the true tastes and flavours, and I for one wish they wouldn’t do it, but no one listens to little old me, and all  can do is keep on showing the world the traditional recipes that have made the dish that is Indian Curry great throughout the world….

The Western Coast

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The West coast of India is a massive swathe of land that stretches from the state of Gujarat, through Maharashtra, and onwards towards the  wonders of Mumbai, and then down to one of my most favourite places on Earth Goa; it doesn’t end there going on through to the seaport of Mangalore in Karnataka and the historic Malabar region. There is even now a fantastic Railway that runs the entire length, so intrepid travellers can get a view of what some might call the Monsoon coast!India west coast_Map

Within such a vast piece of land the food is of course diverse to say the least, offering a variety of flavours and textures and being coastal the treasures of the sea feature heavily, with fish and coconut predominant in the diet of all the people’s that populate these lands.

That being a given ,one must not forget the wildcard that is the Portuguese whose rule and domination of this coast lasted many centuries, bringing to bear an influences on the dishes, culture and lives of all that it touched. Traditional Goan food which I must confess is the food that I know most about, having spent the majority of my time in India on the particularly beautiful stretch of coastal sand that  reaches a golden finger from Baga to Palolem and is in my opinion unmatched anywhere else in the world. Traditional Goan food is cooked in earthenware pots on wooden fires, this giving the food of the region a unique flavour that is very hard to copy, especially in a western kitchen. Goan food  is however the cuisine that is perhaps the most identifiable to the western palette and as such easiest to get your  head around. Goa is also a large enclave of the Christian faith, another Portuguese influence, and significant in that Christianity does not prevent the eating of Pork and beef as do many of the religions found throughout the great majority of Asia. Goa is also home to the Vindaloo curry that stalwart of the restaurant menu,and is often seen as a pork dish in Goa, but conversely mostly as chicken, or lamb within Europe and the rest of the world.

Another of the great dishes of the region that again features that stalwart of the meat eaters world Chicken is Caril de Galinha (click for recipe), however this is a dish that it is sadly very rare to find on a restaurant menu.

The state of Maharashtra lies in the west of the country and thanks to Bollywood boasts wealth and prosperity that is unknown in most parts of india , the cuisine of the area ranges from the most robust rural dishes through to those most elaborate and regal dishes favoured by the food lovers ofMaharashtra  Pune a city that is considered as the  little sister to Mumbai but the second largest city of the region; with Shrikand (click for recipe) that sweetest and most subtle of dishes being a firm favourite and is considered by many a a good rival to the western soufle, whilst if you want something with a little more clout then get your taste buds round a spicy lamb curry known locally as Mutton Kolhapuri,(click for recipe) fiery and fragrant and definitely not a curry for the faint hearted, and again not commonly found anywhere other than the domestic kitchen…..

Perhaps arguably the greatest city in India rests in this region Mumbai, not the biggest city in India but certainly one of the most cosmopolitan with many International interests all competing for a piece of the action from overseas banks and utility call centres, through to the most humble of street side subsistence farmer selling some excess veg for a few rupees.  The city has growmumbai-slumsn massively over the years with the British influence here since the Raj playing a huge part, with now other multi National interests all clamouring for a piece of the action of a cheap and plentiful supply of workers.  The population of the city runs into millions, from the slums of Dharavi, featured in Slum Dog Millionaire, a massive  conglomeration of dwellings that operates almost as a city in its own right; through to the palatial mansions that can be seen in the better areas of the city.

Street food is Mumbai is the order of the day with so many hungry mouths to feed. In the west we have MacDonald’s on every street corner, in Mumbai they have Pao Bhaji (click for recipe), a deliciously simple vegetable curry served with Bread known locally as Pav, and cheap enough to fill an empty stomach and something that can be found everywhere you would expect to find hungry people better still priced at a level that most can afford, filling and tasty, but if your going to try it leave it til the end of your trip as the health and safety of the kitchen that provides it cannot be guaranteed. There is of course a wide variety of street food available and yes I would encourage you to try, the samosa the bhajis and the chapatis, blindingly delicious if a little risky…..but lets face it a life without risk is no life at all….

Does your Dosha Do it!

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It is very difficult to write about indian cookery without bumping into Ayurvedic ideas and practices, some may argue it is pure hocus pocus others that it is the word, but all would agree that it is the spirit and the spiritual in all that tastes and does so much good behind the cooking.
I do not suggest that you should adhere to Ayurvedic principles merely that you should bear them in mind as Ayurveda is an ancient \indian medical system dating back to 3000 BC
At its core is the ideal is that we all have a body type or “dosha” of which there are three, they govern our Physical and mental wellbeing
the tree types are are Vata, Pitta or kapha, and are formed from the five elements that make up our universe, and they all tend to be present in all of us to a greater or lesser extent, with some being a little more dominant than others.

Vata governs the three primary doshas and consist of air and space, fire and water govern pitta, while water and earth make up Kapha. The elements of each Dosha along with the specific combination of each within us determines our physical, mental and emotional state.

if you wish to explore this further and find out what your dosha is click here!dosha2

I myself have an even balance between Vata & pitta with a slightly weaker Kapha.

It is suggested that ill-health is a direct result of these forces being out of balance, with taste being a core way to stimulate the nervous system and balance the doshas the six tastes that are recognised by Ayurveda are sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent ;with pungent salty and sour producing a heating effect on the body while sweet bitter and astringent tastes have the opposite effect and cool the system . It is also wise to remember that how we eat is also very important with lunch being the main meal of the day,  you should always eat slowly and calmly in order to aid ones digestion. Although meat is not a no-no in Ayurveda  it should always be remembered that veg is better for you…. That said at this point things start to get really complicated and if you do feel that you have a need to find out more than there is a plethora of stuff on the internet to assist so go fill ya boots, buts this cook is finished with the technicalities at this point as the food is the important part for myself whilst giving a respectful nod in the direction of the faith and the ideals!
Finally though Ayurvedic is on the high street big style offering treatments, lotions and potions, under the complimentary medicine banner and like most complimentary medicine they are not without merit, although always be as certain as you can be that the person that you are dealing with at least carries a modicum of qualification before allowing them loose on you or your body, as you should also be aware that there are some very potent practices and substances that are in use and they are not for the uneducated and as such anyone can set up a practice if they so choose there is no legislation to protect you the consumer so check your practitioner out first!