I have been interested in food and cooking since my early teens and Indian cuisine has always been a favourite. Early recipes involved a simple cook-in-sauce with the addition of meat and veggies. This evolved into an exploration of ready prepared pastes and powders. Since then I have perfected my own personal formula to make ‘curry-in-a-hurry’, whether made with meat, fish or an alternative protein such as beans, pulses, tofu, Quorn or paneer.
Health benefits of curry
Whilst some people may view curry as somewhat of an unhealthy food synonymous with boozy nights out or take-away nights in, I actually think they can be hugely healthy if prepared in the right way. Dried spices have been shown to be beneficial to heath in many ways including their ability to help reduce inflammation. Spices are also a rich source of minerals such as iron. Using spices in foods such as curries also helps with the bioavailability of certain compounds found in spices – fat helps the body to absorb the active compound in turmeric called curcumin.
(You can find out more on the health benefits of curry here)
My curry preference
This is my take on what makes a good curry and once you get to grips with the formula you can whip up a curry in no time at all. Everyone’s tastes differ but for me this basic formula works every time and delivers on what I want to get out of a curry.
My preference is a recipe that delivers on freshness and has a rich umami taste that satisfies the savoury flavour I desire from a curry. You can enhance this richness of flavour by cooking the curry down for longer time before adding the yoghurt.
The basic elements
The basics are onion, garlic, chilli and ginger. My favoured blend of spices is a good curry powder, ground cardamom and turmeric. I like to add blitzed cherry tomatoes (these add to the umami flavour). After that it’s up to you. Chuck in a protein which may be meat, fish, beans, pulses, Quorn, tofu or paneer. Add plenty of vegetables – those that work best for me are peppers, okra, cauliflower, potato and squash. I like to thicken the curry with spinach and add a subtle creamy texture with Greek yoghurt. Coriander is my herb of choice for any curry.
My fancy ingredient!
My fancy ingredient is always fresh curry leaves, which are available in larger supermarkets or health food stores. To get the best out of curry leaves I like to fry them in oil at the very beginning of the recipe before adding the onions, garlic, chilli and ginger. You only need to add a handful of curry leaves to a recipe and any left over can be placed in a container and frozen.
My basic curry formula
2 onions (peeled)
2 large garlic cloves (peeled)
250g cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp oil (light olive, coconut or groundnut)
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 fresh chilli (chopped)
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp turmeric
400g protein (meat, fish or veggie alternative)
500g chopped vegetables such as peppers, cauliflower, squash, sweet potato or green beans
500ml stock (meat or veggie)
100g spinach leaves
1 heaped tbsp Greek yoghurt
1 handful fresh coriander, chopped
- Blitz the onions and garlic in a food processor. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.
- Blitz the cherry tomatoes in the same food processor.
- Heat the oil in a large, deep-sided frying pan set over a medium heat.
- Add the onion and garlic then fry gently for 5 minutes until soft and translucent.
- Add the ginger and chilli then fry for a further 2 minutes.
- Add the processed cherry tomatoes and fry for another 3 minutes.
- Add the spices and cook for 2 minutes as they become fragrant.
- Now add your protein of choice and cook for 3 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Add the chopped vegetables and then pour in the stock. Cover and cook over a medium heat for 15 minutes.
- Remove the lid from the pan, add the spinach leaves and turn up the heat then cook for another 5 minutes to reduce down (you can decide how ‘wet’ or ‘dry’ you prefer your curry).
- Take the pan off the heat and stir through the yoghurt and coriander.
- Check for seasoning and add salt if needed.
- Serve with wholegrain rice, quinoa or wholemeal pitta bread.