The majority of Brits love curries. We adore our favourite takeaways, Indian or Thai restaurants, our convenience ready-meals and the whole paraphernalia of curry eating now fresh from the supermarket shelves, be it ready-packed Indian snacks, cook-in sauces, spice mixes, ready-cooked pilau rice, mango chutney, veg side dishes, naan from the bakery section, ready-crisped poppadoms (choose your own preferred spelling), you name it, it’s there.
The way the curry industry has developed in the UK, we have specialties of certain Indian or Pakistani regions (or indeed, or Bangladesh, since many of our restaurants and exotic food shops are run by industrious Bangladeshis rather than the ubiquitous catch-all use of “Indian” or “Paki”), and a mix-and-match approach to ordering them, not knowing any different. But the world moves on, so a whole new breed of innovative alchemy has occurred in the world of curry – new dishes, never previously having seen the light of day, are invented, circulated and hackneyed in the twinkle of an eye, and before you know it we’re trying to cook them at home with the aid of catering industry supplies.
I love making curries, but for me there is far more satisfaction in the metaphysics of spice combinations and the whole process of cooking rather than off-the-shelf spiced dinners. It’s very rare for me to follow a recipe, except in the loosest terms, but I love the continuously evolving experimental process by which dishes are developed, refined and perfected, served and changed further – nothing stands still!
In fact, curries are created in my kitchen but without any direct reference to their cultural predecessors. Some traditionalists may baulk at my approach, but it is great fun and the results are always fascinating, not least by trying unusual ingredients. For example, once when trying to create a sweet-sour curry flavour I hit upon the idea of trying some balsamic vinegar, a product which adds depth and sweetness with just a hint of sourness. Perfect!
Consequently, the recipe you see below is one I have been known to cook on occasions, but not necessarily typical of the outputs from the Millward Aga. I hope you enjoy!!
One note: this is a recipe I have cooked typically with beef, though it works just as well with diced casserole lamb and other meats. However, if curry spicing was traditionally a way of disguising the fact that the meat stank to high heaven, this no longer applies: badly chosen and cooked meat always tastes bad, whatever you do to it!
Beef & Coconut Curry
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp tumeric
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp paprika
- Hot chilli sauce/cayenne pepper to taste
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Few cardamom pods, crushed (better to remove the pods before serving)
- Pinch of fenugreek seeds
- Also: garam masala spice mix to add at the end of of cooking – make your own!
- 500g lean casserole beef
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- Half a red pepper, chopped
- Mushrooms, chopped
- Few red lentils
- 2-3 cloves of garlic and/or a squeeze of garlic puree
- 1 tin creamed coconut
- Ground almonds
- Lemon juice
- 1 tsp sugar
- Vegetable oil (eg. ground nut)
- 1 tsp creme fraiche or Greek yogurt
Heat oil in a big, heavy casserole and brown cubed beef rapidly. Turn heat down. Add veg and sauté for mins. Add garlic and sauté for a further minute. Stir in spice mix (except for garam masala), taking care not to burn. Stir in lentils, puree, almonds and sugar, then add creamed coconut and lemon juice. Bring to the boil, then put on very slow heat (eg. Aga slow oven) for at least 2-3 hours.
As with many dishes, this one is better cooked the day before then reheated. Before serving, add a teaspoon of garam masala and creme fraiche. Stir in well and allow to bubble for a minute.