Curry is an English word denoting a huge variety of dishes.
From India all around the globe, Africa, Britain, all the way to Indonesia and Trinidad there are versions of curry.
Dry curries where the sauce is reduced till it is a thick paste coating the meat, seafood or vegetables, wet curries like thin flavorful soups, delicate and spicy sweet or heavy and rich that burn your stomach with a glow for hours, curry has everything.
Being such a huge category, what should I choose for a first tutorial?
I thought about it a lot.
Finally I decided to use a Masala style, and one that can be made with Lamb, Beef or Porkor even veal.
I chose it for it's flexibility but also because it teaches the fundamentals yet is one step easier than the next tutorial choice.
The fact that it is like BBQ too in that it uses secondary cuts that a re cheaper and familiar to you all here at the Brethren.
You can use Boston butts, brisket or lamb shoulder...even veal and it will be a winner!
Curry is such a diverse category, to get your head around it I think it is best to generalize, so any experienced curry maker will read the following and be able to offer exceptions.
That's because we are going to generalize because we need to have a starting point, so more experienced folk please don't bog us down.
Generally, a curry is a dish that takes three steps.
First, you make a paste.
Then you use the paste to flavor a sauce. Then, the ingredients are cooked in that sauce causing a marriage of flavors from the ingredients to the sauce and from the sauce to the ingredients!
Masala style is where we make the sauce without making a paste first, so it will be a little more familiar to most cooks of western food.
More like a stew really.
Later, I'll do some other styles of curries where you will need to make some complex pastes and more steps in the cooking...but that doesn't make them more delicious!
This curry will impress....so lets begin!
This will serve 6 people (with rice and accompaniments)
Malayali Curry Masala
2 tsp whole cumin seeds
4 tsp whole coriander seeds (cilantro)
2 tsp mustard seeds
7 dried chilies (I use 2 long Thai and 5 birds eye)
2 tsp whole fennel seeds
2 tsp fenugreek seeds
5 Tbs oil-Peanut, corn,or Ghee
3 large or 5 smaller shallots chopped roughly
1-1/2 inch fresh ginger, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled
12 curry leaves (essential)
2 medium tomatoes peeled and chopped.
1 lb meat 1-2 inch cubes roughly(I used lamb shoulder-lamb forequarter as they are called here, chopped but on the bone)
1 and a half teaspoons of salt
and 1 and a half more ready for final seasoning.
First, take your tomatoes and cut a cross in the tops of them, just shallowly. Boil water and pour into a container small enough to hold the tomatoes and just cover with water.
In 5 minutes time, pinch the cut skin and tug gently and it will all come away and you will have skinless tomatoes.
Chop them up and into a dish with the curry leaves.
Make sure the lamb (meat)is out of the fridge coming to room temperature.
Next, put all the seeds into containers so your spices are ready and turn the heat low on the cooker and put a small pan on the heat.
Best is a pan or skillet with a clear see through lid so you can watch what is happening to the spices as you toast them.
They get toasty at different temperatures so do them separately for finest results but I admit I sometimes do them all together.
As soon as they darken they are ready, and you need a dish ready to place them into so they stop cooking and cool down.
If you burn them, throw them out and start over.
It will ruin your dish completely so don't take a chance.
Just do them until they darken and get aromatic, some smoke will come and then get them off.
Once they are cool, you pound them in a mortar and pestle or in a coffee grinder till they are a fine powder.
Next, put all the shallots, garlic and ginger into a small blender and whiz up.
Scrape the sides down and whiz again.
Put the oil into a medium hot heavy based pan with a close fitting lid and then pour the blender container full of shallots etcetera into the pot.
Stir with a wooden spoon.
Stir every minute for three minutes, then stir constantly until the mixture starts to brown, color up golden. This will take about 5 or 6 minutes only.
Then add the tomato and the curry leaves and stir well and keep stirring until the mixture is a thick paste.
Add the roasted spices now and stir well for a minute
Add the meat and stir till the meat is coated well.
Pour in 8 fl oz of water, stir, cover and get heat to it's lowest setting possible using the smallest burner.
You can't hurry curry so don't try to cheat it using higher temperatures.
You WILL ruin it, and it is a mistake you will only make once.
I use a steel bowl full of water and balance it on the flat handle of the cooking pot to add pressure to the seal.
If using pork or lamb, don't check it again until it has cooked for 80 minutes.
If cooking beef, check after 90 minutes.
If the meat is tender, and it should be, keep the lid off and increase the heat to medium high and boil the sauce down until it is thickened to how you want it.
This can be so you have a rich gravy to spoon over rice, or it can go all the way to being a coating on the meat.
You can eat this with flatbreads or with simple rice.
Try to serve it beside the rice and not over it, and have a taste of some curry and white rice on the spoon.
The rich curry gets softened so well by plain rice.
Took me a while to get it but when I did I realize why Asians and Indians eat it that way.
When you reduce the liquids you increase potency of flavor and you also increase saltiness.
I strongly recommend using salt very carefully until you get to the end.
I used 1 tsp at the stage I added the meat, and then salt it carefully when it was fully reduced.
Salt may not be necessary at all with many recipes as the spices do the flavoring and seasoning so well.
If I have left anything out or not made something clear, please ask.
I'm no pro at writing recipes so feel free.
I use a slice of bread and dab the oil from the top of the curry at the end.
Either The Shiv or I eat that...The Shiv if I have any discipline...sigh...
In the '80's I used my rugby teammates in a blind tasting. I cooked two identical curries one meat only and one on the bone.
The results were totally conclusive so wherever possible I cook meat on the bone.
Here endeth tutorial #1.
I really hope you folks give it a try and get back to me.