I remember the day I discovered one of the secrets of a successful French chef in Melbourne. Standing next to him as he cooked, I noticed a tiny pinch of curry powder being added to a sauce. (Very non Cordon Bleu!) The taste wasn’t obvious in the sauce at all — it just made it intriguing. I’m sure he wouldn’t admit to his fellow countrymen that he used curry powder.
Powder was the only type of curry in my mother’s pantry. Today we are spoilt for choice. There are Thai green and red curry pastes, Indian Tandoori and tikka pastes, Indonesian yellow curry pastes, plus many more.
Curry powder is not a common ingredient in traditional Indian cooking, but rather an invention of the British to evoke colonial memories of the flavours of Indian cuisine. The basic dried ingredients usually consist of cumin, coriander, pepper, cloves, chillies, cinnamon, fenugreek and turmeric.
Curry pastes are used in many Asian countries as a base for savoury dishes. Thai red curry paste is made predominantly from red chillies, garlic, shallots, ginger, lemon grass, shrimp paste and other spices.
Thai green curry paste is prepared from a pungent combination of green chillies, lemon grass, garlic, coriander and basil. Curry pastes are best first sautéed in a little oil to bring out the flavours.
STIR-FRIED VEG WITH RED CURRY SAUCE
Red Curry Sauce: 1 tablespoon canola oil
1-2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 1/2 cups lite coconut milk
1 teaspoon paprika
2 large kaffir lime leaves, julienned
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Stir-fry: 1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cups cauliflorets
1 red capsicum or carrot, julienned
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 teaspoon each: finely grated root ginger, lemon juice, sesame oil
To make the sauce, heat the oil in a small saucepan then stir in the curry paste. Heat for about 30 seconds then slowly stir in the coconut milk, paprika and kaffir lime leaves. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice.
Meanwhile, to prepare the stir-fry, heat the oil in a wok or similar. Stir-fry the cauliflorets until crisp-tender. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water rather than oil, if necessary, to help the florets cook.
Add the capsicum and broccoli florets and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook for a further minute. Stir in the ginger, lemon juice and sesame oil. Place the veg in a serving bowl or individual bowls and pour the red curry sauce on top. Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side.
Makes a great lunch or a side dish for a main.
1 small onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
200g portobello mushrooms, quartered
1/4-1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 cup cream
dash smoked paprika
parsley to garnish
Sauté the onion in the oil in a frying pan for 1 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Add the curry powder and continue cooking until the mushrooms are softened. Stir in the cream and simmer until slightly thickened.
Serve dusted with the paprika and garnished with the parsley. Serves 2 for lunch or 4 as a side.
GREEN CURRY BROCCOLI
250g orange kumara
1 cup cream or coconut milk
1-2 tablespoons green curry paste
2 cups broccoli florets
chopped coriander leaves and sesame seeds to garnish.
Peel and cube the kumara. Place in a saucepan with the cream or coconut milk and curry paste. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until the kumara is just tender.
Add the broccoli and simmer for 3 minutes until crisp-tender. Serve topped with coriander and sesame seeds. Serves 4 as a side.