By Amy Hopkins; Photograph by Freepik
Turn up the heat!
I love curries — they’re hearty, filling, can feed a crowd and they’re so good for you! All those spices help fight inflammation and boost your immune system… But most of my friends find making it intimidating.
So, to take the intimidation out of the equation, I asked Indian food guru Seelan Sundoo, owner of Sundoo Indian Tapas restaurant in Cape Town, if he’d share his top tips for making a successful curry and if he’d share his vegetarian curry recipe with me. (It’s delicious!)
For a healthy well-balanced diet, we should be eating vegetarian — even vegan — at least three days of the week. And a curry is an easy, flavour-packed way to get all those vegetables in without leaving you feeling like you’re missing out on meat.
It’s worth adding a curry into your weekly meal plan, especially because it’s easy to pack for a work lunch and it’s relatively inexpensive to make. Here, Seelan breaks down the essential cooking tips for mastering a curry:
It’s All In The Oil
“Curry experts will tell you that oil is an essential ingredient of all curries as it is the medium that carries the flavour and distributes it richly throughout the dish. Use sunflower, blended olive oil, coconut oil or ghee. As the dish becomes properly cooked, the oil will start to separate out from the other ingredients – I always skim off excess oil before serving the curry,” says Sundoo.
Go For Whole Spices
“Frying whole spices in oil allows for an even amount of flavour to the overall dish. Make sure to fry the spices for one to two minutes before adding the rest of your ingredients. The whole spices often used in Indian curries include cardamom pods, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon and cumin seeds.” So make sure you visit your local spice market and stock up!
Take Your Time
“Slow-cooking your curry can make all the difference. Taking your time when making a curry also allows the flavours to fully develop for a rich, more authentic result. The secret to making a great curry is cooking out the onions until they are caramelised, not golden brown nor see-through: they must be really brown. This is the secret to getting many sauces just right.
Sundoo’s Vegetable Curry Recipe
— 2 tsps coriander seeds
— 1 tsp cumin seeds
— 1/2 star anise
— 1/2 stick cinnamon
— 6 cloves
— 2 pods cardamom
— 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
— 1 tsp fennel seeds
— 1/2 tsp fenugreek
— 5 red chillies
— 1 tbsp basmati rice
— 3 tbsp oil
— 2 onions (med/small), chopped roughly
— 2 clove, sliced
— 2 green chilies
— 2 tbsp curry powder
— 1 tsp turmeric
— 10 curry leaves
— 1 tsp black mustard seeds
— 400g coconut milk
— 200ml of water or veg stock
— 200g butternut
— 1 small cauliflower broken into small florets
— 1 carrot peeled and diced
— 100g runner beans
Steamed rice (to serve)
READ MORE: 40 Foods That’ll Help You Upgrade Your Diet
1/ To make the curry powder, dry-fry the spices and chilli in a non-stick frying pan until fragrant and darkened a little. Tip out of the pan and cool. Add the rice to the pan and dry-fry until pale golden. Cool. Put the fried spices into a spice or coffee grinder and whizz to a powder.
2/ Heat three tablespoons oil in a large pan. Add the onions and cook until soft and golden (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic and chilli and cook for three minutes, then stir in curry powder and turmeric and keep stirring until you start to smell the spices. Add the curry leaves and the mustard seeds and braise for another two minutes. Add the carrots and braise for one minute.
3/ Add the coconut milk and stock and bring to a simmer. Drop in the butternut, cook for five minutes, then add the cauliflower and cook for three minutes. Add the beans and cook until just tender.
4/ Transfer to a bowl and serve with steamed rice.