Due to the huge numbers of Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani restaurants in Britain (over 9000), the UK has adopted curry as a national dish. According to the National Curry Week website, about 23 million people eat curry regularly.
In Britain the word curry was first used to signify any leftover meat served in a western-style sauce flavoured with curry powder. The word is derived from the Tamil ‘kari’ or spiced sauce which was originally a thin, soup-like dressing for meat and vegetables served in southern India.
However, curry has ‘changed its meaning and become ubiquitous as a menu word,’ says food historian Alan Davidson in the Oxford Companion to Food.
Once it just meant Indian food, but it now denotes various kinds of dishes in different parts of the world. All are savoury and all are spiced but have their own variations.
The Brits are recognised as changing the character of curry as they traded in spices around the world and introducing chillies from South America and Mexico to India. So today’s Indian curries are spiced with chilli and even more popular.
Countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines also produce their own unique versions. Curries are a universal favourite.
VIETNAMESE BEEF CURRY
A mild, fragrant curry.
Marinade: 1-2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons each: lemon grass paste, water
3cm piece root ginger, peeled and choppe
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Beef: 1kg blade steak
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup water
2 each: star anise, cinnamon sticks
400g can coconut milk
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons palm sugar or brown sugar
2 large carrots
Combine the marinade ingredients in a small blender. Mix until a paste forms.
Trim the beef and cut into 3cm cubes. Place in a plastic bag and add the marinade. Move the meat around to ensure the beef is well coated. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the beef and marinade and stir-fry for 5 minutes, until browned. Mix in the water, star anise and cinnamon stick. Bring to the boil then cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Add the coconut milk, fish sauce and sugar. Peel and cut the carrot into 2cm rounds. Add to the meat. Cover and simmer for 1 hour, until the beef is tender.
Great served garnished with fresh herbs such as Vietnamese mint, coriander and basil. Serves 6-8.
400g skinned and boned chicken thighs, cubed
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon each: mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cardamom seeds
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon finely grated root ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or water
2 large tomatoes, diced
Dust the chicken with the turmeric.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and stir until they begin to pop. Add the cumin, fennel and cardamom seeds, then the onion. Cook, until slightly browned. Add the combined garlic, ginger and the curry powder and stir for 1 minute.
Add the stock or water and the tomatoes and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, until thick.
Add the chicken and simmer for at least 15 minutes. Serves 4.
FRAGRANT LAMB CURRY
This curry can also be cooked in the oven at 180°C.
600g lean lamb leg steaks, cubed
1 1/2 tablespoons medium curry powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 cup hot beef stock
400g can diced tomatoes
2 each: cinnamon sticks, bay leaves
4 cloves garlic, crushed
300g yams, halved if large
1 cup frozen peas
Toss the lamb in the curry powder, pressing it in well.
Heat half the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Brown the lamb in batches. Set aside.
Heat the remaining oil. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Return the lamb to the pan and add the stock, tomatoes, cinnamon, bay leaves and garlic. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes,
Add the yams, cover and simmer for another 15 minutes or until the yams are tender. Add the peas and simmer, until hot. Excellent served with naan bread and yoghurt. Serves 4.