For several reasons, a lot of people avoid making curry at home. The most common reasons I’ve heard are “The spices are too expensive”, “It’s too complicated”, “Curries are too hot” and “I don’t know if the recipes are any good – where do I find a good recipe?”
“The spices are too expensive” is a bit odd. You use a very small measure of each spice when you make a curry and there is no need to buy a huge amount of any spice. Really, you should not buy any quantity of a spice that is more than 3-6 month’s supply for you because spices lose their potency over time as they react with air – even if you keep your spices in airtight jars, you need to undo the lid to get the spices out so new air comes into the jar. And you don’t need to buy every type of spice when you make a curry – you only buy the spices that you need for a recipe. I’ve got a big range of spices sitting in my kitchen cupboard but this collection of spices has grown over time.
“It’s too complicated” is interesting. I often hear this from people who regularly create delicious meals out of their head. I was once given the “It’s too complicated” line whilst sitting having Christmas dinner with 11 other people. The dinner was turkey with all the trimmings (roast potatoes, roast veggies, greens and gravy) followed by a Christmas pudding, mince pies and custard. The meal had been made by my hostess without consulting a single recipe. And this person thinks it’s too complicated to make a curry?
Well let me tell you something. I usually make a curry at least once a week. And I’m not a chef by any means. I can follow a recipe and that’s really all that I can do. I can look at a curry recipe and have a fair idea if it will be good but if it isn’t good then I’m usually stuck for how to improve upon it. I just don’t have the right mindset.
But I love curries. Over the past 4 years I’ve made about 150 different curries (including side dishes, breads, sweets and chutneys) from the recipes on the Curry Focus website. Some of the results have been good and some have been bad but, over the years, I’ve collected a set of favourite recipes. And I write a blog about each recipe so I share what the resultant dish tasted like and how “hot” it was. The recipes that I’ve reviewed can be seen on the Curry Focus website by clicking on the “Recipe Reviews” link in the menu bar (you can sort the recipes by taste and “heat level”, if you want, by clicking on the orange triangles at the top of each column).
One misconception of inexperienced curry eaters is that “Curries are too hot”. Now this is a sentiment to which I can relate. There are not many worse eating experiences than rolling around clutching your burning mouth and throat after taking a mouthful of an unexpectedly spicy hot curry.
But there are ways to avoid this unpleasant, and off-putting, experience. The first way is to have an idea of how spicy hot a curry is going to be. This is relatively easy if you follow a Curry Focus recipe that has been reviewed because you can see the spice/heat rating. But it is trickier if you’re trying a recipe that has not been reviewed or rated (surprisingly, not all websites give any indication of the heat level of a curry).
A reasonably good way to judge the heat level of a curry is to look at how much chilli (fresh or powder) is in a curry. Other spices and spice mixtures, such as curry powder and garam masala, add heat to a curry but the most powerful heat comes from chilli (most curry powders have chilli powder in them, but not a lot). If you like a medium heat curry then you’ll probably be happy with a single fresh chilli, or half a teaspoon of chilli powder. If you like a mild curry then you may be happier with a single fresh chilli with the seeds and vein removed (that’s where the chilli has most of its heat), or a quarter of a teaspoon of chilli powder. If you like a hot curry then you’ll go for more fresh chilli and/or chilli powder.
You need to experiment with a recipe to make sure that you’re going to be happy with it. Whatever you do, don’t try out a new recipe for the first time when you’re entertaining friends or workmates (and make sure to ask them if they like mild, medium or hot curries). If you’re unsure about the heat level of a curry, make a raita and serve it as a side dish because raita cools down a curry pretty well. If the curry doesn’t need cooling down then a raita is pretty tasty anyway. And you can always make a couple of dishes – say, one mild and one medium – to mix the heat around a little.
Now the last main reason for not making a curry is not knowing where to look to find a good recipe. But this isn’t unique to making a curry. If you like making cakes then you’re not really going to know whether a recipe is any good until you make the cake. It’s just the same with a curry.
One way of finding a good recipe is to ask a friend and get their opinion. One recipe that I regularly recommend is for a Beef Madras recipe from the Curry Focus website. I’ve yet to find anybody who has not loved the results of following this recipe.
And another way to find good recipes is to look at recipes that are rated and reviewed so you can compare the results that you get with those of the person doing the review. The best website I know for this is the Curry Focus website (funny I should say that). The whole reason that the Curry Focus website was started was to share good curry recipes that are easy to make. If you’ve got a favourite curry recipe then you can simply email it to [email protected] and it will get published on the Curry Focus website.
If you haven’t made a curry in a while, it’s probably about time that you had another go.
Great curry recipes and recipe reviews