Curry - A Master Recipe
Good curries are as individual as their cooks an reminiscent of great jazz where masterful creations emanate from a basic theme. So, here's a basic theme - a master curry recipe - which you can build upon, deviate from, take flight and make it your own. Experiment. Have fun.
Whole Spice Blend (Optional)
1 1/2 cinnamon sticks (3-inches)
4 whole cloves
4 green cardamom pods
8 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup vegetable oil ( or canola oil)
1 medium onion , sliced thin
4 large cloves garlic , pureed in a minichopper with 1 tablespoon water (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger , pureed in a minichopper with 1-2 teaspoons water
1 1/2 pounds top sirloin or boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes, or 6 chicken thighs, skinned, or 1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 plum tomatoes (canned), chopped, plus 1 tablespoon juice, or 2/3 cup crushed tomato, or 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 bunches spinach (1 1/2 pounds), stemmed, thoroughly washed, and chopped coarse (optional)
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
2 cups water
1 jalapeño chile , stemmed and cut in half through the stem end
1/2 cup Indian split peas (channa dal), or 4 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes, or 4 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, or 1 cup green peas
2 - 4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves (use the lesser amount if you've already added the optional cilantro)
1. Heat oil in large deep skillet or soup kettle, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking. If using whole spice blend, add to oil and cook, stirring with wooden spoon until cinnamon stick unfurls and cloves pop, about 5 seconds. If omitting whole spice blend, simply add onion to skillet; sauté until softened, 3 to 4 minutes, or browned, 5 to 7 minutes.
2. Stir in garlic, ginger, selected meat (except shrimp), ground spices, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and tomatoes or yogurt; cook, stirring almost constantly, until liquid evaporates, oil separates and turns orange, and spices begin to fry, 5 to 7 minutes, depending on skillet or kettle size. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until spices smell cooked, about 30 seconds longer.
3. Stir in optional spinach and/or cilantro. Add the water and jalapeño and season with salt; bring to simmer. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until meat is tender, 20 to 30 minutes for chicken, 30 to 40 minutes for beef or lamb.
4. Add selected vegetable (except green peas); cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in cilantro. Add shrimp and/or peas if using. Simmer 3 minutes longer and serve.