Curry

Kari Nenas (Malaysian Pineapple Curry)

From the heady spiced tagines of Morocco, to the British classic of roast pork with apples, almost nothing divides diners as much as the testy subject of fruit in cooked dishes. Though their inclusion is widespread throughout some of the world’s greatest cuisines, there are many among us that nevertheless rile against it. To those, the combination of fruit and savoury is tantamount to flavour blasphemy! Now I’m not here to convert you (what’s the point, you’ve probably searched “Pineapple Curry” on the internet, so you are likely already a fan!), but when paired correctly, fruit can be a masterstroke ingredient in many a dish. Whilst I have a couple of fruity dishes that qualify as firm family favourites, one dish in particular holds a very special place in my heart: Kari Nenas.

Kari Nenas (Malaysian Pineapple Curry)

The first time I had this wonderful dish was when I was a child at my youngest uncle’s first wedding. Set deep within the verdant Malaysian jungle, the wedding took place in an achingly idyllic kampong (village). And though I am a little vague on the nuptial itself, the one thing I certainly do remember was the feast that followed. Laid out along the worn wooden floors of the traditional stilted house, was a resplendent collection of Malay dishes, all lovingly prepared by the ladies of the house. All the great classics were there – beef rendang, kari kapitan and, of course, lots of roti jala to mop it all up! I recall taking my place on the floor, ready to tuck in, when I noticed the dish right in front of me was altogether unfamiliar. Yes, it was the Kari Nenas. A fussy eater at the time, I was more than a little hesitate to try it, but after some prompting from those around me, I acquiesced and tried it. I was immediately hooked! Enriched with creamy coconut milk, the dish was an irresistible mix of sweet and sour. Delicious in of itself, the dish also brought harmony to the multitude of flavours on offer. In fact, this was quite possibly the first time I became aware of balance as a concept in relation to flavour: quite a moment in a food blogger’s life!

Unlike many dishes with fruit in them, Kari Nenas is all about the pineapple. Typically fruit is added to compliment meat and/or sweeten a sauce, but in this case the fruit flies solo. The secret of its success lies in the combination of coconut milk and tamarind, both of which cut through the sweetness of the fruit. A slight hint of chili rounds off the dish perfectly.

Quick and easy to make, kari nenas isn’t really a curry to be eaten on its own, but rather as part of a larger spread. As I mentioned previously, it goes especially well with beef rendang, lots of sambal belacan and perhaps even with a simple green bean omelette and some rice.

To discover other delicious Malaysian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Ayam Masak Merah (Malaysian Red Cooked Chicken)

Ayam Masak MerahAs a child I wasn’t a great fan of spicy food, in fact I loathed it. Having grown up in Malaysia this presented a very real challenge, especially for my grandmother. The undisputed Queen of the Kitchen, my amah was always keen to entice me over to the spicy-side and did so through a protracted period of gentle assimilation, incrementally introducing my tender palette to the delights of one of my family’s greatest obsessions: chili.

One of my earliest memories of eating around the family dining table was watching as the Ghani men ate raw chili padi dipped in hecko sauce (it was always the men, the woman seemed to have more sense). Egged on by brotherly bravado, my father and uncles would pop these searing missiles into their mouths, chewing and grunting in apparent pleasure, all the while wiping their brows with handkerchiefs damp with sweat. This would go on until the large plate of chillies was laid bare and their stomachs churning in revolt. Apparently, this is what my amah was coaching me for, an adulthood of chili padi and agonising trips to the loo! It was a terrifying prospect to one so young, but thankfully she started me off easy and that is how Ayam Masak Merah become a childhood favourite of mine!

Despite it’s rather alarming name, Masak Merah (red cooked) is actually one of the milder dishes amongst the pantheon of Malaysian curries and was the perfect vehicle to get me started on, what to be, my love affair with all things spicy. Unlike most other Malaysian curries where the use of coconut milk is ubiquitous, Masak Merah is tomato-based, hence the name. Reliant on tomato rather than chili for its colour, the dish is fiery red but without the burn associated with its devilish hue. As it is still ostensibly a curry the use of chili is a prerequisite, but the quantities of such can be reduced without losing the appeal of the dish, making it an excellent option for those adverse to too much heat, especially children.

Quick to make and utterly delicious (even when eaten on the day it’s cooked), my fondness of Masak Merah followed me long after I have graduated to spicer dishes. When I moved to the UK it was one of my favourite tastes-of-home, and whenever I came back from a holiday in Malaysia my bag was always loaded with packets of Brahim’s Masak Merah sauce! Like most expat Malaysians I never bothered to learn how to make our favourite dishes, especially when the quality of readymade sauces were so widely available. Sadly, upon moving to Cape Town, my trips back to Malaysia diminished and with it my supply of those handy packs of Brahim’s. As is the case, there was only one thing for it: I would have to learn to cook Masak Merah myself!

Finding a decent recipe for this beloved childhood dish was surprisingly hard and almost all of my previous attempts fell woefully short of expectations. Cans of tomato soup seemed to dominate the recipes, but as far as I could recall I’d never seen a tin of Heinz in amah’s cupboard, much less in her Masak Merah! Disappointed, I did what every sensible Malaysian does and turned to the family WhatsApp group. Of course, they didn’t disappoint, and the recommendations came flooding in almost immediately. Initially most of these seemed similar to the recipes I’d already tried, but then came the motherload, a message for my aunt, Rohani Jelani. One of Malaysia’s preeminent food writers and cooks, hers was the Masak Merah I had been hoping for and it didn’t disappoint! Simple, both in method and ingredients, this was Malaysian home cooking at its best, and with just a few tweaks was the closest I’ve come to finding a recipe that matches my recollection and expectations. Amah would be proud.

Note: Though not traditional, you could also use jointed chicken wings. Simply dust the wings in seasoned flour, dip in egg and then coat in flour. Deepfry before adding to the sauce. Reduce to its nice and sticky. Delicious! 

To discover other delicious Malaysian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Bhartha (Spicy Indian Eggplant)

Generally speaking I’m an unashamed carnivore at heart, but when it comes to Indian food I’m more than willing to forsake my love of meat and go 100% vegetarian. Not only is this advisable whilst eating in India, the reality is that Indian food is truly a culinary-nirvana for the non-meat eaters amongst us.

Your rogan joshs and butter chickens aside, Indian food is perhaps the most karma-conscious cuisine in the world with a mind-boggling array of vegan and vegetarian dishes to choose from, one is never short of tasty delights from the sub-continent. At any rate, this diversity of dishes make an Indian feast a great option for a dinner party as it allows you to cater for a wide range of tastes and needs, all without compromising the overall success of the meal. Generally speaking, whether the dish be vegan or laden with meat, all Indian food goes well together.

I’ve always thought of eggplants and Indian cooking as being the perfect partners. It was almost as if the silky opaque flesh of the eggplant was specifically designed to absorb the rich flavours of Indian cooking and as such could withstand even the boldest of spices.

Personally bhartha has always been my favourite way of preparing eggplant and is often a stalwart of any Indian meal of mine, largely for three reasons: it is easy to make, tastes amazing and can be made days in advance. Traditionally the eggplant is deep-fried resulting in a dish that is often swimming in oil and that should come with a health warning. I prefer to steam my eggplant in a microwave instead of frying it which makes for a far healthier and more palatable dish.

As with most Indian dishes bhartha can, and should, be made in advance and gently reheated before serving – again highlighting why Indian food makes the perfect dinner party option.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here, or for more great Indian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Aloo Mutter (Peas & Potato Curry)

I’m not sure many people can say this, but I owe my sanity to aloo mutter…or at least my sanity in India anyway.

Travel has always been a huge part of our lives. From Tokyo to Kathmandu, down to Ushuaia and all the way back up to Kirkenes, we are blessed to have trampled the globe together. For me our travels have always been synonymous with seeking out new food experiences. For my flavourphobic partner, however, the mere notion of culinary-tourism is unpalatable. In spite of being the most well travelled person I’ve ever met, my partner holds scant regard for sampling foreign flavours in foreign climes. This is, after all, a man who ate nowt but Big Macs in Beijing, Whoopers in Bergen, doner kebabs in Florence…and then there was India.

Ah, dear Mother India!

Aloo Mutter (Potato & Pea Curry)A land defined by fierce fragrances, earthy hygiene and spicy flavours; India is a culinary destination that should strike fear in the hearts of even the bravest of world travelers, let alone those of limited culinary bravado i.e. ‘you know who’…or so you would think. Little did I know that, culinarily speaking, the sub-continent would prove to be one place in the world the Flavourphobe would have no problem finding something to eat – all thanks to aloo mutter! Who knew a man could almost exclusively live on peas and potatoes for a month, but that he did. With the exception of the occasional aloo gobi, he had it in the South, he had it in the North, he even had it somewhere in the middle and he loved it every single time…but not as much as I did! No one was happier than I when we saw aloo mutter on the evening’s menu; not because I wanted to eat it myself, but rather because it meant we could actually enjoy a meal together whilst on holiday! For the first time on our travels I had been spared our usual dinner-time routine of depositing him at the nearest KFC whilst I sampled the local delights on my lonesome. At last, we could eat at the same restaurant every day. What travel bliss! Indeed what a privilege!

So did aloo mutter prove to be that watershed moment when he would finally open his taste buds to the favours of the world? Hah, don’t make me laugh. With the exception of Japanese Curry, his culinary ‘awakening’ was as short-lived as our time in India. Soon enough we were back to traveling together, but eating apart. Alas, the dream couldn’t last forever and the aloo mutter bubble had to burst at some stage. We will, however, always have dear Mother India and the days she granted us the simple pleasure of  enjoying a meal, together.

Oh…did I forget to mention that aloo mutter is also incredibly delicious and cheap to make? Don’t just take my partner’s word for it, it really is possibly the best way to jazz up a couple of potatoes and those long-forgotten peas at the back of the freezer! Aloo mutter is definitely a worthy addition to any Indian meal.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here, or for more great Indian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Makhani Murgh (Butter Chicken)

The chances are, this recipe is nothing like the butter chicken you’ve ordered countless times from your local Indian takeaway. I too have ordered it more times than I care to admit, so I know what passes for butter chicken these days and most of it is pretty dismal. So much so, I have actually stopped ordering it altogether, for fear it would put me off Indian food completely.

Makhani Murgh (Butter Chicken)As you might have gathered, I’m somewhat disillusioned about the state of butter chicken these days – especially when I consider what a wonderful dish it truly is! Unfortunately, this venerable dish has largely been reduced to being the poster-child for unimaginative and pedestrian Indian fare. When made well, however, butter chicken undoubtedly deserves its place amongst the great Indian classics. Rich, decadent and wonderfully spiced, this dish is a real winner and should feature in any Indian feast.

As tasty as it is, the real appeal of butter chicken is how easy it is to make! Primarily cooked in the oven, the dish frees up valuable stove space – a godsend when you’re trying to juggle up to six dishes on a 4 plate hob! Like most curries, butter chicken can also be made in advance and gently reheated before serving. In the case of butter chicken though, it should be placed under a grill to be heated through and lightly browned, rather than on a hob.

Note: Please do not ever be tempted to make butter chicken with anything other than chicken thighs, especially not breast meat, which will come out completely dry and taste terrible.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here, or for more great Indian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Cape Malay Chicken Curry

I’ve always thought of Cape Malay food as being the ultimate manifestation of ‘cuisine by circumstance’.

Finding themselves at the tip of Africa, and a world away from their native produce, the Malaysians and Indonesians of the time must have felt they were faced with a bleak culinary future. Devoid of South East Asian staples like coconuts and pandan leaves, the bountiful (but unfamiliar) fruits of the Cape must have been an ironic bitter pill to shallow.

Thankfully, the Cape’s prominence along the spice route meant there was an abundance of spices and combined with a mingling of cultures and a reliance on local produce, resulted in the creation of something quintessentially South African – Cape Malay cuisine. With dishes like koe’sisters, pickled fish and denningvleis, Cape Malay food is as unique as the culture it feeds.

Bobotie aside, arguably one of its most famous dishes has to be Cape Malay Chicken Curry. A dish that never seems to fade in its popularity, this simple curry is a perfect example of great Asian food made without staple Asian ingredients. In the absence of coconut milk or candlenuts, this curry is enriched with tomatoes, but is still royally flavoured with exotic spices. As with almost all Cape Malay dishes, chicken curry is always served with an array of sambals or condiments.

Simply delicious, no matter where you are in the world.

For more great South African recipes from The Muddled Pantry please click here

Click here for the recipe

Roti Jala

Bored of curry and rice? Well don’t despair, roti jala makes for a fantastic alternative to your traditional curry fare. Lighter than other types of rotis, roti jala is perhaps the ultimate way to enjoy your favourite curry!

More of a pancake than a bread, roti jala’s name is inspired by traditional Malay fishing nets, known as jalas. Also widely referred to as lace bread, roti jala is a delicate web of coconut flavoured batter, lightly fried and then served either with curry or as a traditional sweet, eaten with a mixture of boiled coconut milk, palm sugar and pandan leaves called serawa. Personally I’ve never eaten it as a desert, so to my mind roti jala is very much a savoury treat. Perfectly designed to mop-up sauces, I suggest pairing roti jala with a good chicken curry with plenty of gravy, such as the classic kari kaptian or even a Cape Malay Chicken Curry.

Whilst the recipe for this lacy delight is very straightforward, unfortunately roti jala can be a little tricky to make. Made with a special 5-holed ladle or pourer, roti jala requires a steady hand, some assured wrist-action and plenty of trial and error. As with all “pancakes” you can expect a few mishaps in every batch you cook, but you should yield about 12 roti jalas out of this recipe, give or take the ones you’ll inevitably throw away.

I won’t lie, making roti jala can be a frustrating affair, at least initially. Between getting the batter to the right pouring consistency, that damned wrist-action and maintaining the perfect heat, it is easy to become disheartened, but don’t – you’ll get it right eventually! I’m still getting the hang of making it, but I like to think that I’m slowly getting there. To be honest, I doubt that I will ever truly master the art of the perfect roti jala, but when trial and error tastes this damn good, I’m happy to keep on muddling through!

To discover other delicious Malaysian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Thai Green Chicken Curry (Kaeng Khiao Wan Gai)

Arguably the most famous curry in the world, Green Curry is, for many of us, the poster-child of Thai cuisine. Disarmingly unintimidating, delicious and rewarding to make, it is hardly surprising that Green Curry has the equivocal honour of being as synonymous with Thailand as Spaghetti Bolognese is to Italy.

Thai Green Chicken Curry (Kaeng Khiao Wan Gai)In spite of the fact that it is a true Thai classic, Green Curry is actually remarkably easy to make at home. The first thing to consider is your curry paste and the eternal debate between homemade or store-bought. Whilst there are a wide range of fantastic ready-made pastes available, many recipes and chefs wax-lyrical about the absolute necessity of making your own, insisting, “that’s how its done in Asia”. Poppycock!

Now I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t make your own, I’m just saying you mustn’t get too hung up on doing so. The truth is that the only Asians making their own curry pastes are those who’s job it is to do so.

Okay, so whilst I do concede that a homemade curry paste is almost always nicer than store-bought, they invariably require a long list of ingredients that are difficult to source and often impossible to substitute. As part of this recipe I have included a homemade curry paste and the final dish is all the more rewarding for it, but if you can’t be bothered making it or you don’t have the ingredients, don’t despair – there is no shame in using a store-bought paste instead (as I often do). Thankfully, as with most curries, the success of the dish actually relies more on technique than ingredients; so rather focus on how you make the curry and less on the provenance of your paste. The chances are your curry will still turn out great!

For more delicious Thai recipes please click here, or if you need tips on stocking your Thai Pantry please click here.

Click here for the recipe

Gosht Shahajani (Rich Lamb Curry with “Roast” Potatoes)

Gosht Shahajani (Rich Lamb Curry with "Roast" Potatoes)I’m always looking for new curries to make and this one fits the bill perfectly! Rich and tasty, this unusual lamb curry makes a nice change from my tried and tested favourites of rogan josh and chicken kadhai.

Whilst gosht shahajani is in many ways similar to gosht aloo, I love the idea of adding the precooked “roast” potatoes to the dish, instead of boiling them in the curry’s sauce. Of course, the potatoes inevitably lose their crunch when added to the sauce, but they do add a texture and flavour to the dish that sets gosht shahajani apart from similar curries.

My version of this dish has evolved quite significantly from the original recipe, as I found the quantities a tad excessive – 150ml of tomato purée and 10 tablespoons of chopped fresh coriander for 800g of lamb? I adore flavour, but even my palette has its limits! I also prefer to fry my potatoes and onions in ghee rather than oil, as this gives them a fuller flavour and consequently, a greater presence in the dish. If you don’t have any ghee or prefer not to use it, you can just substitute it with vegetable oil.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here, or for more great Indian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Cape Malay Mince Curry

Cape Malay Mince CurryA quick and easy to make, Cape Malay Mince Curry is one of the most commonly eaten curries in South Africa.

Typically eaten with rice, mince curry is also often used as a filling in rotis and vetkoeks or eaten on toast with eggs for breakfast; making this curry as versatile as it is tasty! Mince curry is also a popular choice when feeding large groups of people as it is relatively cheap to make and a little goes a long way. The addition of peas and boiled eggs is common, although far from essential. Personally, I prefer to make mine with peas as it makes for a more nutritionally-rounded meal.

As humble as it may be, mince curry deserves to be called a Cape classic!

Click here for the recipe