Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking
This is not so much a recipe as a summary of the whole Bloke in the Kitchen philosophy. Nobody is telling you what to do – it’s just a few suggestions and some encouragement. It’s the football manager saying, “It’s not the World Cup Final. Just go out there and enjoy yourself”.
Preparation time: 10 minutes max.
Cooking time: from 30 minutes
What is a curry?
The word ‘curry’ is now applied to just about any dish that uses the kinds of spices found in Indian food (all over the sub-continent, in fact, plus other places). There is something called a ‘curry leaf’ which has a spicy flavor, but essentially a curry is what you want it to be.
There are countless actual recipes, most of them variations of variations on a theme, but what we’re looking at here is making the most of the roast chicken you had yesterday – just by throwing a few spices at it. If you cooked the chicken yourself, good for you. If someone more skilled cooked it for you, at least you’re doing your bit by using what’s left, instead of throwing it away.
It may even be the debris from a takeaway; it doesn’t matter. You’re avoiding waste, saving money, and it’s going to taste good.
THE VERY VERY BASIC VERSION
Use curry powder. This is a mixture of spices that tastes like… curry powder. It doesn’t make for a particular dish, just generic curry. There is nothing wrong with this, and you’ll find it served in restaurants all over the world, but it’s the lazy, non-creative way.
However, if that’s what you want to do, here’s how.
Fry some chopped onions and garlic (add this after the onions and be careful not to burn it). Add your chicken, vegetables or whatever and sprinkle curry powder into the mixture. What you’re really doing is making a kind of stew and currying it up. So you’ll need your main ingredients and then chuck in whatever you feel like.
If you rub the chicken with the curry powder first you’ll give the actual meat the flavor, rather than just the sauce. Then add some liquid: water and a stock cube would be the basic answer, but you can use some wine, a little beer or a can of tomatoes. Just remember: you get out what you put in, so make sure it’s good stuff. With wine, if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it. If it’s horrible it will stay horrible.
Some vegetables will contribute to the flavor and break down to add to the consistency.
Non-hot peppers (red, orange, yellow or green) go well in a curry. A few leftover Brussels sprouts would do – but not too many. Peas don’t really work, in my opinion – but that’s just my opinion.
Roast potatoes in a curry are fantastic.
Lentils are a very suitable ingredient. There are separate lentil dishes (called dal), but you can put them into the main dish. Red split lentils (they’re orange, actually) will do the job nicely. Just make sure there is plenty of liquid in there, because they’re going to absorb some, and put them in early enough – give them at least 20 minutes to soften. If you’re going to leave it cooking for an hour, so much the better. But keep checking it and add more liquid if it’s getting dry.
Cook your curry slowly in a pan on the stove top – just get it bubbling slightly and keep it that way.
- Fry some onions and garlic.
- Throw in some lentils and water and cook them until they fall apart.
- Put the cooked chicken in and sprinkle curry powder over it.
- Add some vegetables.Keep tasting it and adding water, wine, Worcestershire sauce, chilli powder etc. until it tastes as you want it to.
USING YOUR OWN SPICES RATHER THAN CURRY POWDER
Start with some powdered cumin and coriander, then tweak it with ginger, chilli or jalapeno (that’s a type of chilli pepper), some sort of spicy sauce, maybe a little mustard, a spoonful of Marmite, a squeeze of lemon… do it gradually and keep tasting.
Be creative and make it yours.
If you play it by ear, according to what’s in the fridge and the cupboards, it may never be exactly the same twice, but it will always be tasty and interesting.