Chilly days equal warming curries. There are some good curry pastes readily available from supermarkets and Asian food stores — ideal for quick family meals. However, there is nothing quite like the tingling taste of a genuine aromatic curry created from scratch. But they do include more than a sprinkling of spices. 

Because there can be up to 20 ingredients in any one recipe, it’s important to have everything measured out before you start cooking.  

Indian curries can be served with rice, and/or naan to mop up the juices, as well as refreshing raitas — a cooling mix of vegetables, herbs or fruits sometimes combined with yoghurt. A tomato and mint salad or diced fresh pineapple or a crisp red onion salad are also simple but delicious accompaniments. 

India’s cuisine is diverse. Recipes tend to be regionally oriented and are influenced by climate, culture and ethnicity. As trade between Europe and India developed, new products such as potatoes and tomatoes have been introduced and become staples in many regions. However, the basic spice mixes remain the same.


You can replace the spice mix with 2-3 tablespoons of curry powder but the result will simply not have the same flavour nuances.

Spice Mix: 3-4 dried red chillies
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon each: fenugreek, mustard seeds, cumin seeds
3cm piece cinnamon stick
4 peppercorns
2 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon each: ground turmeric, paprika
Curry: 5-6 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, diced
11/4 cups water
1 tablespoon grated root ginger
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
350g potatoes, peeled and cut into 4cm pieces
salt to taste
400g large cauliflorets
400g can coconut milk

Combine all the spice mix ingredients — except the turmeric and paprika.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Sauté the onion on low until very soft. Place in a blender.

Heat another tablespoon of the oil. Add all the spice mix ingredients except the ground turmeric and paprika. Cook over low heat for 30 seconds. 

Add to the blender with the turmeric, paprika and a 1 cup of the water. Blend until very smooth.

Heat the remaining oil and stir-fry the ginger and garlic for a few seconds. Add the spice purée and simmer for 30 seconds. Add the potatoes, salt and the remaining water. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the cauliflorets and coconut milk. Cook until the cauli is just tender. Serves 4 as a main or 6 as a part of a small-plate meal.


Pan-frying the spices enhances the flavour. Prepare all the ingredients before you start cooking.

2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
8 curry leaves
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon grated root ginger
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon each: chilli powder, ground turmeric, coriander, cumin
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
400g can coconut milk
400g raw shelled prawns

Heat the oil in a non-stick pan. Add the mustard seeds and cook until beginning to pop. Add the curry leaves and cook on medium for 1 minute. Stir in the onion and sauté until softened. Add the ginger, garlic, dried spices and tomatoes. Stir-fry for 1 minute. 

Gradually stir in the tamarind paste then the coconut milk. Add the shelled prawns and cook on low until pink, about 2-3 minutes.

Great served topped with coriander leaves. Serves 3-4.


Ensure the spice mix paste is ground until it is very smooth.

Spice Mix: 10 plump garlic cloves, peeled 
3cm piece root ginger, peeled and grated 
2 tablespoons coriander seeds 
2 teaspoons cumin seeds 
4 dried red chillies 
6 cloves 
5cm piece cinnamon stick 
Curry: 225g cashew nuts 
1 large onion, diced
1 cup water 
3-4 tablespoons canola oil 
8 skinned and boned chicken thighs
1 cup coconut milk
In a large dry frying pan, roast the spice mix over a low heat for 5 minutes. Add 50g of the cashew nuts plus the onion and stir-fry for 10 minutes. Cool. 

Purée in a blender with the water, until very smooth.

Grind 25g of the remaining cashew nuts in a mini blender to make a powder. 

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the spice mix purée and cook for 1 minute on low heat. Stir in the cashew nut powder and salt and cook for 30 seconds. 

Add the chicken and fry for 5 minutes, turning once. Add the coconut milk. Cover and cook for 10 minutes on low.

Add the remaining cashew nuts and continue to cook until the chicken is tender. Serves 4.


1 cup plain Greek yoghurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons grated root ginger
1/2 cup each: coriander leaves, mint leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
3/4 cup grated cucumber, gently squeezed
Mix the ingredients in a bowl. Serve with curries or as a dip for naan bread. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


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