Welcome to my curry making afternoon. Twenty years in the making, the tradition of curry making afternoons has developed through trial and error in our house and its now a fine art. I just wish I were more organised and paid more attention to detail. That way at least the final product might be more predictable. There have been some triumphs over the years but also some results that did not beg to be repeated.
Curry is an adventure, both in the making and the eating. I can't think of a better use for ingredients like these:
Although they can be a bit free flowing and unpredictable, these afternoons, for me, have elements which are non negotiable. For instance, beer drinking must accompany the preparation process, as must what I call 'curry making' music (which is whatever music takes my fancy at the time – but it should be moderately loud). Just like a good curry, the music and the beer should be done boots and all.
Needless to say, curry making afternoons are times of chaos in the kitchen, and my wife wisely keeps her distance, limiting her involvement to the eating phase.
So, where should we begin?
With the basic fresh ingedients. Most of them are pictured below (a couple of spices are missing, as is the potato(es). Not all of these are used in the curry. The cucumber and banana are used in simple side dishes. More about that later. You don't need the meat, although we love it, and you can experiment with the quantities of most of the things shown. If you don't want meat, just increase the amounts of potatoes and eggplant.
In the space of a few short hours, this collection of discrete ingredients will coalesce into a glorious aromatic pot of flavour. Although I'm not going to be too specific about amounts and other peripheral factors like cooking times, you can rest assured the final result will be somewhere between average and sublime. My grandmother used to change her recipies before sharing them, to protect her culinary secrets, but in my case, its more a case of having nothing written down to start with. Besides, its more fun, and goes with the beer and the music, to just follow a few basic rules and see where they take you.
A list of ingredients (more or less complete):
Diced Beef (200g per person)
Fresh ginger chopped into small pieces (1-2 tablespoons)
Three onions thinly sliced
Six garlic gloves chopped finely (plus or minus a few)
Two or three medium sized potatoes peeled and diced (1 cm)
Eggplant sliced 1 cm thick
Cucumber peeled and sliced thinly
Banana peeled and sliced
Yoghurt (maybe around 500g)
Chillies chopped (quantity depends on your taste)
Cumin powder (6-8 teaspoons – more or less)
Coriander powder (5-6 teaspoons – more or less)
Garam Masala (one teaspoon)
Turmeric (one teaspoon)
Black mustard seeds (one teaspoon)
Salt (1-2 teaspoons – more or less)
Fenugreek powder (half teaspoon)
Oil (cover the bottom of the cooking pot to 2 mm depth)
A (very) rough guide to method:
Heat oil on a max. heat setting and add mustard seeds. Wait until seeds begin to pop.
Add sliced onion, chopped garlic, fenugreek and chopped ginger.
Fry on high heat for a couple of minutes until onions begin to brown.
Add tumeric and stir. Cook for another minute.
Turn down heat.
Add remaining spices, salt and chillies. Add vinegar if mixture is too dry.
Add meat cubes (3-4 cm) and coat them with onions and spice mixture.
Cover pot and simmer on low heat for about 1.5 hours, checking liquid levels frequently. Stir occasionally.
After 1.5 hours add the diced potatoes and eggplant.
Add a small amount of water and cook for another 30 minutes or so.
Inspect the mixture. If meat is beginning the break up then it is time to squash the potato and eggplant together with the meat against the side of the pot using a large stirring spoon. Aim to have the curry mixture look like an amorphous sludge, with few potato pieces visible.
Turn off heat and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
In the final 30 minutes, cook the rice
Slice cucumber and sprinkle with salt
Add cucumber slices to a bowl of yoghurt
Add banana slices to another bowl of yoghurt.
Serve curry on a bed of rice.
Add cucumber and/or banana yoghurt, and mango chutney from side dishes as desired.
Total preparation time is about 2.5 hours. Three or four beers is usually enough to tide you through this phase.
We prefer to eat our curry accompanied by a dry white wine, but I guess beers would be just as suitable.
I give no guarantees with this recipe; just a chance that it may produce a memorable curry!