Curry

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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!

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Karē Sōsu カレーソース (Japanese Curry Sauce)

Karē (Japanese Curry Sauce)Reminiscent of those dreadful British school-dinner curries of the 80s and akin to the sort of curry sauce that is poured over chips in the UK or currywurst in Germany, at first glance Japanese curry is mild, bland and, to some at least, inoffensive to the point of being offensive. That may all seem a tad harsh, but the comparison is far from unjustified, especially when you consider that curry was first introduced to Japan by the British (of all people) in the early 1900s! With that in mind however, it is all too easy to be unduly disparaging about Japanese curry and you shouldn’t, as it is actually quite delicious.

Generally speaking, in Japan karē is served as a sauce (sōsu) rather than a curry made with meat, so you are unlikely to find a chicken or beef curry per se. You are of course welcome to add some meat to the curry sauce as it cooks, but I prefer to pour it over a crisp crumbed cutlet (tonkatsu/chikenkatsu) or add it to a pile of gyūdon. Typically eaten with rice or udon noodles, karē is so popular it is considered one of Japan’s national dishes and is readily available throughout the country, both at specialist restaurants or as an option on menus at most gyūdon or noodle joints.

What sets karē apart from other curries is the fact that it is made with a roux, which enriches and thickens sauce. There are a wide range of Japanese curry/roux cubes available at most Asian supermarkets and these are well worth the expense as they are really the only specialist ingredient in the karē sōsu. Alternatively, you can use Japanese curry powder instead. If, however, neither of these are available you can just use a mild curry powder, but the flavour won’t be as authentic.

For more Japanese recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Japanese Pantry, please click HERE

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Rendang Daging (Beef Rendang)

Beef RendangSome mornings I wake up with one word in mind: “rendang!”. I think it’s probably just a Malaysian thing, but this is a dish I literally dream about.

Beef Rendang is perhaps the most beloved Malay meal and is often the go-to main dish for many a family feast or special occasion. With its origins rooted in Indonesia, rendang is popluar throughout South East Asia, especially amongst the Malays in Malaysia and Singapore. Although not widely known outside the region, a 2011 online poll by CNN International chose rendang as the number one dish of their ‘World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods’. Yes, rendang really is that good!

Rendang, however, seems to appeal the most to expat Malaysians. In spite of its long cooking time, rendang is relatively easy to make and can withstand a certain degree of adaptation – something that is vital given the inherent difficulties in stocking a Malay pantry abroad. On a deeper level, though, cooking up a batch of rendang can sometimes feel like an affirmation of our shared cultural identity; a reconnection to our collective culinary memories, through taste. This is the real reason for rendang’s enduring popularity; for many of us it, quite simply, tastes of home.

Ostensibly a curry, rendang is in fact what is known as a dry-curry. Cooked over an extended period, the aromatic coconut sauce is reduced to the point until it clings to the tender beef. This prolonged reduction creates an intensity of flavour that can only be described as explosive. As with all curries, a rendang benefits immensely from being made the day before serving; a night in the fridge gives the flavours time to develop and mellow. Your rendang will be all the better for your patience.

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

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