Curry. Curry, curry, curry. It’s a vast subject so I won’t even attempt to go into the history or variety of curries around the globe. I will tell you I used to be vaguely intimidated by curry. Some people take it very seriously and take great care mixing and preparing their spice blends to get the best and most authentic taste. Others crave the commercial powdered stuff, if only to splodge a thick sauce over a plate of chips. I’m somewhere in between. I used to buy jars of prepared curry paste of various hues to pretend I was making a curry. The whole process of mixing and blending spices and herbs seemed like too much trouble to me.
Then, along came an Indian chap who stayed with me for a while. I would come home from work every evening to find him pottering in the kitchen preparing a curry for himself. The aroma of the spices filling the air was glorious. Whenever I see anyone cooking anything I am compelled to have a snoop and see what they are up to. What he was up to surprised me greatly. He was using a supermarket own-brand, pre-mixed, curry powder!
I was very close to shocked that such a modest… unsophisticated even, ingredient was making my house smell so good. Every evening he would prepare his curry with the same powder, he varied the other ingredients day to day but his base was always this cheap spice mix. Some days he would have rice, others he would eat his curry with paratha bread. Paratha was also new to me and I have to say it beats naan hands down. It is a kind of layered bread which puffs up when gently heated in a frying pan.
Anyway, the point is, I was no longer intimidated by curry, the mystery of it evaporated and I felt free to follow his lead and stop being a self-inflicted curry snob. Unless you are a real aficionado there is no need to go out and buy a dozen different spices and scare yourself with the alchemy of trying to produce the right blend. Most of the more exotic spices I ever bought would simply moulder in the back of a cupboard anyway. According to the label, the powder I am using for this recipe is a mix of Coriander Seed, Cumin Seed, Onion, Salt, Chilli Powder, Ginger, Paprika, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Pepper, Clove, Bay Leaf and Cardamom. Now would you be bothered mixing all that yourself? I know I wouldn’t. I’ll probably come back to curries and do some other, more specific ones, but for now I’ll just outline an easy, generic chicken curry. Feel free to leave out the chicken and add more plants for a vegetable version.
Curry in a hurry
Simple Chicken Curry For 1 or 2
- A tablespoon or two of oil. Ghee would be the authentic thing but I live in Dublin and nobody here can even say the word without sniggering in a juvenile manner.
- One chicken breast
- 2 cloves of chopped garlic
- 1 medium onion finely sliced
- 1 red chilli finely sliced
- A heaped teaspoon of minced fresh ginger (just because I had it there, no other reason)
- 2 heaped tablespoons of medium curry powder
- 1 heaped teaspoon of cumin
- 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
- 300 mls chicken stock made with a cube
- 100 mls of cream
- 150 grams of vegetables of your choice. I threw in some sliced carrots and mushrooms and half a red pepper as they were sitting there doing nothing else.
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Some finely chopped spring onion if you want a garnish
- Some chutney is always nice with a curry
- Rice or naan or paratha for carbs
Heat up the oil in a medium pan. Chop your chicken into cubes and fry them until sealed all over. Season the meat with a little salt and pepper.
Add the sliced onions, garlic, ginger, chilli, curry powder and cumin. I always have cumin powder in the house, it’s my favourite spice and I use it in a variety of dishes, it’s not just for curry. Gently fry for a minute or two. Part of the key to a decent curry is to fry the spices to release their flavour, if you add them to a wet sauce the taste won’t be as deep.
Now add your veg and tomato puree and stir to coat everything with the lovely spice and tomato mix. You could always add some fresh tomatoes here if you have them handy.
Next add the chicken stock, or veg stock if you are going meat free. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Keep an eye on it and stir occasionally until the sauce reduces down to a consistency of your liking. Personally I like a fairly thin sauce but it’s up to you.
After about 10 minutes I added half the cream and stirred it in. I left this on a low simmer while I got the rice ready. You could pop a naan in the oven to heat or gently fry a paratha bread. Whatever you like.
I then added the remaining cream to the saucepan and it was ready to serve. Over rice with some chopped spring onion sprinkled on top, for aesthetic reasons more than anything else.
Remarkably tasty for such a simple thing. You don’t need to worry if you don’t have cumin or ginger or even the chilli. That’s all in the curry powder anyway! Or you could add more spices if you have them. You don’t even really need the cream. The wonderful thing about curry is its infinite variety and versatility.