Friday, July 6, 2012

Some like it hot, I like it medium

When I get tired of the usual hearty, warming winter food, I turn to curry. For 25 years, ever since I came to Wellington to work as an editor at Reed's, I've made the curries I found in a modest but very inviting book they first published in 1968: Curries from the Sultan's Kitchen, by Doris M. Ady. It must have been a success, because it was reprinted four times and then picked up by a US publisher. (You can still find second-hand copies on line, but they're not cheap.)

At first glance, the author's name looks English. In fact, Doris and her husband and children came from Burma to settle in Australia in 1958. Her extremely useful book covers a wide range of South-East Asian curries, from Burma of course, but also from India, Pakistan and what was then Ceylon. I particularly like to make the Ceylonese ones, because my birth mother was born there, and loved curry.
          I don't often make meat curries these days, as I can buy such good ones over the road at Flavours. But vege curries are much easier to make. My all-time favourite is the Ceylonese Potato Curry, because it's so flexible. I've increased the amount of spices and garlic a bit - I think Doris was being careful for Antipodean palates. This amount gives four medium helpings, but you can easily size it up. 

Potato Curry (adapted from Doris Ady)
"At Ceylonese dinners, the main curry is usually accompanied by a vegetable curry. This is a basic recipe which can be varied by the use of different vegetables such as eggplant, all varieties of beans, peas, cauliflower, etc."

1 large firm fresh potato (any kind)
1 large brown onion
1 medium red, yellow or green pepper
1 mild red chili (or a hotter one, if you like it)
1 tsp turmeric
2 cloves garlic
1 cm length of fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp belacan or blachan (dried shrimp paste)
(You can buy this in Asian food shops. It smells very pungent, so once you've opened it, keep it firmly wrapped up in the fridge. It seems to stay perfectly okay to use for a very long time, and gives curry a totally distinctive flavour - but you don't need much!)

2 chicken or vege stock cubes (or you can use miso), made up with water to 2 cups liquid - or use liquid stock
1 small tin coconut cream
juice of 1 lemon
finely chopped parsley

Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1 cm cubes (approx).
Peel and thinly slice the onion.
Deseed and slice the pepper.
Deseed and finely chop the chili (then wash your hands).
Finely mince together the peeled garlic and ginger (or use a food processor).

Put all the veges and all the spices into a deep saucepan. Add the stock - the liquid should almost cover the veges.
Bring to the boil, cover and simmer until the potatoes are cooked but not disintegrating.
Add the coconut cream to dissolve in the curry and reheat gently.
Add salt and lemon juice to taste. (I like quite a lot of juice - maybe a large lemon's worth. Lime juice is even better.)
To serve, sprinkle with chopped parsley.

If you want to eat this without another curry, serve it with rice, chutney, yoghurt and poppadum or naan bread, and four hard-boiled eggs, shelled and quartered. I didn't get a great photo, but believe me, it's incredibly tasty, so easy to make, and with no fat and lots of veges, really healthy too. Like most curries, it's even better the next day.

Sometimes I make a fresh raita or some other relish to serve on the side. This one is pineapple, celery, red pepper and fresh coriander, mixed with a splash of fish sauce, sugar, salt, and lemon juice.

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