My better half is a cook, I used to cook more, but tend to not cook all that often these days. Anyway, tonight I was off to make chicken madras curry using the Asian Home Gourmet curry paste pack. There’s cooking in it (honest), you add onions and potatoes and everything.
As an aside, the story I heard is that with those cake packets that you buy in the shop, the key is that people have to feel like they’ve cooked or else they won’t buy them, they just buy a pre-made cake. To feel like you’ve cooked you have to add something yourself. In Australia you tend to have to add an egg, add some water, stir it, then bake. That’s cooking, without the egg it’d be just adding water. In the USA, apparently they include egg powder in the mix, just adding water is enough to make you feel like you’ve cooked. 🙂
Anyway, the pack I wanted wasn’t in the cupboard. So we went to the local shop to see if it was there. It wasn’t. Which got me thinking of making it from scratch. We have about a zillion cookbooks. Surely one of them had this recipe?
After a quick shifty, it turns out they didn’t. Madhur Jaffrey’s fantastic “A taste of India” had a whole section on Madras, but turns out it was on the area, not on the curry. Madras curry isn’t a real thing apparently, it could describe any curry from that region. “Curry” by a grab bag of people (forward by David Thompson) had a madras curry, it didn’t look like the one from the spice pack and it looked hard.
I looked online to see if the spice pack was listed – to see if I could find a curry. Turns out the spice pack has changed. I had one in the cupboard, but in the new pack. So I got that out and went to work. As I was chopping I wondered to myself what was in the spice pack. So I read the ingredient list – nothing overly complex appeared to be there. Maybe I didn’t need to do the full deal from the curry book. Hmm. I started thinking that next time I made Madras curry I might make it from scratch.
As I finished the potato and onion, I started wondering why I’d wait till next time. I hadn’t actually opened the curry pack yet. I could do this today. Hmmm. Back to the book. Maybe not so hard after all.
Anyway, I decided to give it a go. Without further ado, here is my now world famous Madras Curry Recipe.
(Hint here. If you don’t live with someone that has every ingredient under the sun already in the spice drawer, in the cupboard, or otherwise accessible, you’re going to need to go and buy some stuff before starting).
Let’s start with the ingredients. You’re going to need the following.
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
3-4 dried red chillies, or 1/4 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (be careful here, different chilli has different hotness)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
You need a big morter and pestle too. Buy one whilst you’re out shopping for the spices – the best ones come from the Chinese grocery shop and are cheap.
1 large chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 large potatoes, peeled (or washed) and chopped into 1cm cubes
500g chicken, chopped into 1cm cubes
2cm root ginger, peeled and chopped fine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tin coconut milk
Brown rice, about 1 cup. Brown rice is healthier and better tasting than white rice. But be aware it takes 40 mins to cook.
Start by dry browning the spice mix in a frying pan. Add all the spices (except the turmeric, because that’s already ground) to a heavy pan, heat over a medium heat. Watch carefully to make sure you don’t burn it, when the mustard seeds start popping, or it starts smelling spicy, it’s done. Stir frequently. Don’t go too far, don’t let the pan get too hot.
Allow to cool somewhat, then tip the spice into the morter and pestle and grind it fine. Add the turmeric.
Peel and chop the potatoes into 1cm cubes, trim the chicken of all the fatty and sinewy bits that I don’t like, and chop into 1cm cubes, hold these together in a bowl or on a board. Chop the onion, and chop the garlic finely, these can mix together. Peel and chop the ginger, put that with the chicken.
Heat your frying pan, add frying oil (olive oil in our house). Lightly fry the onion and garlic to soften it (about 2 minutes, not too hot), turn up the heat and add the chicken, ginger and potato. Add the ground spice powder, fry till a little browned to give it a bit of flavour.
Add about 1 cup of water, then the tomato paste, the coconut milk and at least 1/2 teaspoon of salt (more if you like salt – it’s good for you, honest). Simmer at least 15 minutes, but up to 40 minutes if you’re waiting for your rice to cook.
Put the brown rice on about now (or a bit earlier if you remember), and cook. 1 cup rice in about 6 cups of water. Stir both the rice and the curry every 5 minutes or so to make sure they don’t stick. Top up the water on the rice if it starts looking dry (it’ll burn if it dries out, and it goes from wet to dry in a hurry when you’re not looking). The rice is done when it’s no longer crunchy.
Serve the rice and curry, serve with naan bread if you have it.