Five curry recipes

Thanks to a series of other things, I only just got round to having my birthday party, and you know what that means: curry buffet!

Wow, don’t sound too excited.

But anyway, a couple of people have asked me for the recipes, so here they are. They’re adapted because a) it turned out that the party-day was the hottest day in the history of the state, so I tried to make the recipes as light as possible (no thick sauces, small juicy vegetables) and b) the gamut of guests’ tastes ran from “Even a homeopathic chilli pill would set my mouth on fire” to “I want experience true pain”, so the spiciness of these varies quite a bit. Enjoy!

The Curry Secret cookbook which some of the curries are based on uses a quite elaborate curry base which you’re meant to prepare in advance, but since our freezer is smaller than a shoebox and currently filled with ice-lollies, I use this as an alternative:

Quick curry base (per curry)

  • Half a large white onion
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • A knuckle-sized bit of ginger
  • Chillies/chilli flakes/chilli powder to taste (I didn’t use any this time, to make it easier to cook very mild curries for people – instead, I added chilli separately)

Whiz that in a food-processor/blender/whatever until it forms a slightly chunky paste. Done. You can make a huge bowl of this, and just spoon it into the curry when needed.

In order from easiest to hardest (although there’s nothing too complicated here – a dhansak, which takes about an hour because you have to cook the lentils separately, was the most involved), they are:

Chicken tikka

Too easy, really. You need:

  • Some chopped chicken breasts (as a starter, half a breast per person works, as a main you’ll want a bit more)
  • Half a teacup of yoghurt per breast
  • About a teaspoon of tandoori masala (you can buy bags of this at any South Asian shop) per breast.

Mix the masala and the yoghurt. Pour the marinade over the chicken, making sure you stir it right through so it’s all completely covered. Leave in the fridge overnight. Grill until the chicken is cooked through. The marinade makes the chicken very juicy, so make sure you have something under it to catch the juices!

Keema with peas

I only cooked this because I miscalculated and bought way too much minced lamb, but oh well, it was nice.

  • 500 g of minced lamb
  • A mug-ful of frozen peas
  • Two teaspoons of garam masala
  • One teaspoon of cinnamon
  • One teaspoon of cumin
  • Two teaspoons of salt
  • Curry base!

Fry the lamb and the curry base together, until the mince cooks. Add the peas, salt and spices, and a cup of water, and simmer for about fifteen minutes. Done.

Shami kebabs

There are plenty of recipes for these online. Here’s mine. A burger press will make it a bit firmer and less likely to fall apart, but you can shape the burgers by hand as long as you’re careful when cooking them.

  • 500 g of minced lamb. (If you live in the UK, where minced lamb is meant to go in a shepherd’s pie and is roughly chopped, you might want to put this through a mincer again to make it a bit finer. If you live in Germany, where most minced lamb is sold for making Turkish-style kebabs, the stuff you get at the supermarket or butchers is fine.)
  • An onion
  • Five cloves of garlic
  • A decent-sized bit of ginger
  • 2 teaspoons tandoori masala
  • Two red chillies (adjust to taste!)
  • 2 eggs
  • A teaspoon of salt

Blend the vegetables, salt and the eggs together in a food processor until smooth. Mix into the lamb, and let it stand in the fridge for a couple of hours. Take it out, and press into burger shapes. Pressing excess water out is good at this point – you want them to be quite firm, and these also drip quite a lot when cooking. Grill or oven roast, and sprinkle with lemon juice when serving. Done.

Something a bit like a chicken korma

Just a generic mild curry that won’t offend any palette. The recipe below makes rather a lot, so you might want to cut it down!

  • 4 chicken breasts, chopped
  • 1 large red pepper, chopped
  • 1 tin of cherry tomatoes (I used these because they tend to be juicier than the normal tinned tomatoes – useful on a hot summers day! – and a bit more flavourful)
  • Curry base!
  • Two teaspoons turmeric
  • Any spices you like (some ground corriander, fenugreek and cinnamon would be good here) or any curry powder mix – like I said, this was really generic.
  • Chopped coriander.
  • A bit of cream

Fry the chicken in a large pan with the turmeric and the curry base until the chicken is cooked right through. In a separate pan, fry the peppers until they go soft. You can also fry some extra onion with the peppers if you want to adapt the recipe to something more like a dopiaza. Add the peppers to the chicken, and then pour in the tin of tomatoes. Add your spices, and let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Just before serving, add the cream and chopped corriander and stir through. Done.

Mango dal/dhansak

Dal = lentils. Dhansak = lentils + lamb. You can cook a really nice, tender dhansak by slow roasting the cooked lentils with the lamb in the oven, but this time I went for something simpler (which would also hopefully not make our already hot house sweltering!) You can stop halfway through and make a vegetarian dal instead – in that case, you don’t need the ingredients marked with asterisks*. This was the hottest thing I cooked, using habernero chillies. Nagas would probably have been a bit better (I maintain that nagas are the best tasting chillies of all), but they’re not easy to find, even somewhere like Frankfurt.

  • *500 g of chopped lamb
  • About 400 g of lentils – for a good texture, get a mixture of red lentils (which quickly fall apart when you cook them) and brown lentils (which still have husks and stay firm for longer). I just used German supermarket lentils, which taste very nice but have an offputting brownish-grey colour when boiled – the yellow lentils you get from South Asian shops (toor dal) look a bit nicer and more authentic (especially if you’re just going for a dal).
  • A can of mango (save a bit of the water)
  • Garam masala
  • *A teaspoon of tumeric
  • Ground pepper
  • Chopped chillies to taste
  • Curry base!
  • Tamarind paste or something else a bit sour (lime juice works well)

Thoroughly wash and boil the lentils, scooping off the froth as they cook. In a frying pan, fry half the chillies and curry base (or all of it, if you’re going vegetarian). Once the lentils have started soaking up the water, add the fried curry base and chillies, a teaspoon of garam masala and a pinch of pepper and let simmer until the lentils soften.

If you’re having just the dal, skip this stage: In a seperate pan, fry the lamb, chillies, tumeric and curry base until the lamb is cooked.

Add about half of the water from the mangos, and the mangos themselves. If the mangos aren’t sweetened, add a little brown sugar too. Stir in the tamarind paste or lime juice. Mix in the meat if appropriate (try not to get too much oil in the lentils) and you’re ready to serve!

And that’s that!

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