By Barbara Beltrami
Just exactly what is curry? Good question. Originally it was a name given by western colonizers to the dishes they perceived as foreign. But what is it really? It’s a variety of dishes using complex herbs and spices, especially cumin, coriander, ginger, turmeric, and fresh or dried chiles.
What is its provenance? Basically it comes from the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Oceania. Although genuine curries use their spices separately, not in a combination called curry powder which westerners created, unless you are well versed in making curries, it is best to at least make your own curry powder which most recipes call for anyway. And more often than not, curry refers to the sauce in which a dish is prepared.
I’m not very experienced with curries, but the ones I’ve done are not for those on a bland diet. They’re savory, aromatic piquant combinations that give a pleasant wakeup call to your palate.
Basic Curry Powder
YIELD: Makes approximately 1/2 cup.
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
In small bowl thoroughly combine all ingredients; transfer to jar, cover tightly and store in a cool dark place.
Easy Shrimp Curry
YIELD: Makes 4 servings.
1 medium white onion, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
One 2” piece ginger, peeled and chopped
One 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup oil
1 to 2 serrano chile peppers, halved
2 teaspoons homemade curry powder (see recipe above)
Salt to taste
1 pound peeled, deveined shrimp
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
In an electric food processor, mince the onion, garlic and ginger; remove and set aside. In the same processor bowl puree tomatoes with one cup water. In a large deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat; add onion, garlic, ginger, chiles, salt and curry powder. Stirring frequently over medium-high heat, cook until onion start to brown slightly, about 5 minutes. Add pureed tomatoes and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add shrimp and cook over medium-low heat until pink and done, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, remove and discard chiles; stir in yogurt and cilantro. Serve hot with basmati rice
YIELD: Makes 4 servings.
1 pound cauliflower florets
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons homemade curry powder(see recipe above)
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried pepper flakes
One 14 1/2-ounce can chick peas, rinsed and drained
3 cups finely chopped, rinsed Swiss chard
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
Preheat oven to 375 F. Toss cauliflower with one teaspoon oil, then spread on half of a rimmed cookie sheet. Toss grape tomatoes with another teaspoon oil and spread on other half of cookie sheet. Season with salt and pepper; roast until florets start to brown a little and tomatoes turn soft, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile in a small-medium skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat; add onion and, stirring frequently, cook onion until is starts to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, curry powder and pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until they release their aroma, about one minute. Add tomatoes, cauliflower, chick peas and Swiss chard and cook over medium heat until chard is tender and other vegetables are heated through, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro and serve hot with a cucumber and yogurt salad.