Food, Recipes

Curry nirvana


nirvana – any place of complete delight and bliss and peace

Curry makes the world go around.

Well, it’s an entirely reasonable assumption. Visit any big city and breathe deeply. That’s not teen spirit you’re smelling, it’s curry.

Indian used to be the staple, with its aromatic mix of ancient and familiar spices – nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, fenugreek, turmeric, dried coriander seeds, roasted and crushed, and pepper, to name but a few.

But breathe deeper. There’s more. Garlic and chillies, coconut cream and kaffir lime leaves, cashew nuts, lemongrass and tamarind. There’s a whiff of miso, the paste made from fermented soya beans which tastes like Asian vegemite, sweet, salty and yeasty all at once. There are the zingy top notes of fresh herbs there too, coriander, holy basil and mint. And all the while the mix of curry houses on every corner is expanding. What do you fancy tonight? Japanese, Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian, Korean, Vietnamese? Cambodian maybe?

It’s a heady brew. Let yourself be led by your nose, and your taste buds will follow. Bliss in a bowl. Now that’s nirvana.

Soupy curries, dry curries, rice steamed or fried and slippery, slurpy noodles. Fragrant and filling, it’s the world’s favourite food.

England is no exception, and curry is cheaper here than anything else bar chips. I practised in New Zealand before I left, my last few meals a blur of pad Thai, mee goreng, rendangs, kormas and schwarmas, red, green and yellow curries and all manner of broths and dumplings.

I kept it up as I crossed the dateline, choosing curry for every meal on the plane. Given the usual state of airline food, it proved a wise choice. I’ve yet to meet a curry that didn’t take well to reheating.

My first meal out in London was curry too – roasted duck served up in an intensely sweet-savoury spicy stew of tomatoes, peppers, basil, lime and lychee. And whaddayaknow? The Chinese bloke cooking in the Thai restaurant in Acton was from Brisbane.

A favourite curry, one I keep coming back to again and again, is this one from Jill Dupleix, from a brilliant little book called I Hate to Cook. She says it’s a one-pot wonder, and it is.

lamb curry with fresh mint

750g boned lamb, from shoulder
4 onions
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 tablespoons peanut oil
half a cup of fresh mint, chopped
half a cup of fresh coriander, chopped
4 fresh green chillies, chopped
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Cut meat into 2.5cm cubes. Combine meat, onions, salt, cayenne, ginger, garlic, turmeric, oil and 2 cups of water in a heavy pot. Bring to a simmer, cover, lower the heat and continue to cook gently for two or three hours.

Blend mint, coriander, chillies and lemon juice in a food processor until smooth. Stir herb mixture through meat, simmer for a few minutes and serve, with rice.

Serves four.


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