When Fraussie suggested I write a post for her blog (I’m the Aussie exchange student who appears in this blog under the name of Brainy Pianist), I really didn’t have too many ideas. “Talk about food”, she told me, “everyone loves to read about food”. Fair enough, I thought, but how can I make it a bit different? And then it hit me. When I was leaving Australia last August, never having lived away from home, and (almost) never cooking (although I am capable), most people would ask what was the one thing I was going to miss most. Beyond my family and friends, the answer would inevitably come back to a good, home-cooked meal. In my case, that’s synonymous with pretty much everything that comes out of our kitchen, but especially a good curry.
I guess in part that’s one of the greatest things coming from an Anglo-Indian/Australian background and being exposed to different cultures and cuisine. Dad grew up in India, and Mum spent hours and hours watching and learning from my grandmother (and the trusty copy of Charmaine Solomon’s The Complete Asian Cookbook). As a kid I couldn’t stand most curries, whereas my little brother was getting stuck in before he could even walk! But times have changed, and more often than not, I’ll be hankering after a good hot curry. And moving to Paris, it’s surprisingly easy to find fantastic Indian restaurants (particularly around the 10th arrondissement), and spice shops. I get a real kick ferretting around in the stores up near Gare du Nord on Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis.
So, here’s a recipe for one of our family’s favourites – and it’s easy as well!
The ingredients are:– 500g mince (I generally use beef – but you could probably use lamb as well) – 1-2 tablespoons oil – 1 large brown onion, finely sliced – 2 cloves garlic, crushed – 1 piece of fresh ginger, about 2.5cm long – peeled and chopped – 1 teaspoon ground turmeric – 1 teaspoon chilli powder – ½ cup natural yoghurt – 2 teaspoons garam masala – 1 teaspoon salt – Freshly chopped coriander leaves to serve
Now the method:
1) Heat oil in saucepan and fry onion until soft.
2) Add garlic and ginger and fry until onion is golden brown.
3) Add turmeric and chilli powder and fry for a few minutes. If you like, you could add some ground coriander at this point as well.
4) Add meat and fry, turning meat constantly until colour changes. Break up any large lumps of meat.
5) Stir in the yoghurt, lower the heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes. (This should be a gentle simmer)
6) Add garam masala and salt, leave the lid off, and continue cooking until meat is cooked.
7) Stir through fresh coriander and serve.
Just a couple of helpful tips: the amount of chilli powder depends a) on how hot you want the curry to be, and b) the individual chilli powder. Every powder is slightly different in its strength, and its potency also changes with age. If you’re opening a new packet, be cautious in the quantities!
The final cooking stage varies, but Mum told me just to leave it as long as it takes to cook the rice.
You can also control the final consistency of the curry: if you like a lot of gravy, you can add a little water at the final stage (but be careful you don’t add too much, especially if the meat gives off a lot of fat or liquid). If you prefer a drier curry, you can increase the heat in the final stage – but watch it closely and stir frequently– with the yoghurt, the curry will have a tendency to stick to the saucepan.
And don’t forget – if you’re increasing the quantity of meat, you mustn’t increase the amount of spices in the same proportion. For instance, cooking a kilo of mince, I would only put 1 ½ teaspoon of chilli powder – otherwise it can be very spicy!
Serve with cooked basmati rice (I like to add some dried curry leaves while I’m cooking the rice – I can’t get the fresh ones we have in the garden back home, but dried ones give quite a lot of flavour), natural yoghurt, pappadums, and for that extra kick, a spicy Indian pickle. Bon appétit!