Curry Ingredients

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Ray Street

Just what are the ingredients that go into a curry?

This is one of these questions that have so many answers that it is difficult to know where to begin.  It’s like asking what the most popular words in song titles are. But seeing that I’ve asked the question, I‘ll do my best to give some answers.

What I usually think about when I look forward to a curry is a spicy dish that is served on rice. My favourite dishes are madras, vindaloo, jalfrezi , balti and bhuna. All of these dishes are, to me, typical curries. Of course there are lots of other different curry dishes including dals, biryanis and fish curries.

Assuming that my favourite curries are representative of a “generic” curry, what do they contain?

They can contain meat, vegetables or both. The main meats for a curry are chicken, beef, lamb and fish (often a white meat fish but there’s no hard and fast rule and there are lots of different fish and seafood curries). Goat curries are popular in some parts of the world (particularly Jamaica) and goat meat is becoming more available here in New Zealand (I regularly see goat meat in Pak N Save). And the main vegetables are onions, capsicums, potatoes, green beans, peas and carrots.

You only have to look at the recipes for a lot of curries to see the main ingredients. Most recipes start off by heating cooking oil (or ghee – but I use oil) and sautéing/frying an onion. At some stage grated fresh ginger and crushed garlic join the onion. Then in go some spices (often ground coriander, cumin and turmeric) and maybe a chilli or two. The main ingredient (meat and/or vegetables) often arrive at this stage followed by tomatoes (usually chopped) and/or some water.

Of course, there are lots of other spices and ingredients that go into curries but, as you can imagine, the possible combinations of spices, meats and vegetables are huge. You’ll get a good feel for the most popular ingredients if you browse through the recipes on the Curry Focus website.

I would guess that the most used ingredients in curries are cooking oil, onions, ginger and garlic. If you open up my kitchen cupboard and look at the vegetable tray you’ll always find onions, garlic and ginger. I buy onions automatically when I’m out shopping if I see some good ones. For the past few weeks the onions have been small in size but I notice that some larger ones are arriving at the fruit and vegetable stores.

The most often used spices would be ground coriander, cumin, turmeric and chilli (my March blog talked about spices and my February blog was about chillies). A lot of recipes call for fresh chillies but a fair number use chilli powder instead. Curry powder sometimes features in recipes but often recipes just use the raw spices to flavour the food (curry powder is a mixture of spices and featured in last month’s blog, titled “Curry Powder and Garam Masala”).

And where would a curry be without tomatoes? I go through a lot of cans of chopped tomatoes as well as tomato puree/paste.

And don’t forget the rice. I always use basmati rice and it is always great. I put a cup of basmati into a sieve and rinse it thoroughly before putting it into a microwave-proof bowl along with 2.5 cups of water. I leave the rice to soak for at least 30 minutes before microwaving it for 14 minutes. I do have a rice cooker but find that microwaving the basmati gives me a better result (I find the rice from a rice cooker is a bit stodgy).

So now you know a little about the main curry ingredients.

Of course, it’s more fun to make curries and taste the results for yourself rather than read about them. So why not treat yourself? A lot of the recipes on the Curry Focus website have been reviewed by myself – just click on the “Recipe Reviews” link to see the taste and heat/spice ratings and then either click on the “Read Review” link to get a description of how I cooked, and rated, the curry or click on the name of the curry recipe to go straight to the curry ingredients and methods page.

Curry Focus

Great curry recipes and recipe reviews

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