Drowning In Desolation & Curry: Some Curry Basics and a Recipe

The contents of the fridge are mouldering; the power has been on and off for days.

The heat of summer bears down upon us and I am reminded of the rolling power outages of several summers ago. I was in an elevator for the first one.

We’ve given up on ice cream and a piece of salmon near spelled my demise; we’ve given up on fish.

Veggies wilt and lose all turgidity. Fruit does well; I don’t eat enough of it.

The gas lines are still running, thank goodness. We cook eggs on the BBQ and do all our chopping on the patio table under an immense old parasol.

We – my housemates and I, the poodles too – are amidst the throes of a kitchen renovation. We don’t have a kitchen sink; we don’t have a kitchen at all. The laundry has fallen casualty too. I wash my clothes in the bathtub; I hang my undies to dry wherever I find room.

We subsist on a presentation of fumes: paint fumes for breakfast with a hint of acetone for flavour, noxious tile sealant for lunch, concrete and polly dust for supper.

And so, it’s fitting that our meals take the form of impromptu mashups. We use whatever looks like it has managed to stay frozen or whatever has only wilted and not yet produced too foul an emanation. Curries and chilis are the general outcome.
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I was brought up in a South African household with Dutch and British influences and surrounded by foodies. My mother, from whom I learned the joy of cooking, couldn’t handle anything fatty and wracked with cholesterol due to a hereditary illness and had to rely on creativity and culinary tourism so that we, as a family, could all dine on the same meal except, of course, in my surly teenage years when I insisted on eating KD Easy-Mac whilst my parents dined on ambrosial delights. I shudder, that I was once so cretinous.

So, my curry influences were born of Cape-Malay (such as Bobotie, a dish of Indonesian descent passed to Southern Africa from Batavia or, old Dutch Jakarta by way of the Dutch East India Trading Co. and thusly adopted by the Cape-Malays) and drier style yellow curries with an absence of cream and fatty meats cum the fresh and healthy curries originating in Thailand. Indeed, Thai food, and a plethora of Asian cuisine, sustained my mother for decades, and me in turn.

I learned to make my first curry from sauteed onions and garlic, oven roasted turkey meat, chicken stock, a robust curry powder, some garam masala, a touch of ground cumin, and some bay leaves; simple, hearty, but healthy, served with a side of basmati or jasmin rice, Mrs. Balls Hot Chutney (or Major Grey’s when I was young and sweet-toothed), and some sliced banana. It’s quite possibly the quickest form of curry made from scratch. It improves with simmering and storing over night, as most curries and stews do, yet is delicious and ready to eat once the meat is adequately cooked. From that base come all my curries. I always start with sauteed garlic and onions, pour over stock and bring to a simmer, add meat either seared if red or par-roasted on the grill or in the oven if poultry, spice with curry powder and work from there.

I love all types of curry from around the globe but I leave that to the experts. I’m quite happy to stick with my learned and perfected base and build delicious curries from there using all sorts of additions. Beer has become a staple part of the base: about one half of a 350ml bottle added to the stock once it begins to simmer and, another half bottle toward the end of the cooking process if the curry turns out a little strong for the patrons of the house.

I prefer to make curries with turkey or chicken and leave the red meat to chilis. Brown cuts of poultry mixed with a bit of white meat work best for curries but all white can work if you’re on a low-fat diet. So, usa ample chicken or turkey legs and thighs with an occasional breast, else just breasts… Just. Breasts.

I rarely enjoy cream in my food and I tend to shy away from coconut like hookers from the Vice. That leaves plain yoghurts of varying %MF’s or the addition of a bit of corn starch for thickening: curry is flavourful enough that corn starch won’t show through in the taste. Yoghurt is also a great side or garnish atop a fiery curry.

And, on that note, I give you a Tomato Curry Soup recipe:

Ingredients (ammounts vary based on appetites and mouths to feed. Always make too much curry: it tastes better the next day and keeps well frozen):

Chicken, your choice cut: brown or white meat. Turkey works too. It should be cooked whole with a touch of seasoned salt (or plain) either on the BBQ or in the oven, cut into chunks, and added to the curry sauce to continue cooking.
White or Spanish Onions, chopped coarsely.
Garlic, minced.
Small Red Potatoes, not bayby, quartered.
Fresh Water Chestnuts, peeled and chopped into bits about the size of your pinky fingernail.
Some Sort of Tomato Additive, not fresh. I used fire roasted tomato sauce in a jar by PC. You want something jarred or tinned for the strength of flavour but with nothing much added to it in the way of other flavouring. Use it sparingly such that you add only as much is required to begin to turn the curry reddish.
Red Pepper, chargrilled skin down, peeled, sliced in thin strips.
Fresh Ginger, diced.
Curry Powder. since this is a saucy tomato soupy curry choose a nice mild curry powder. In every other instance I prescribe the ample use of Boltz Hot Curry Powder from Bangalore: yup, it’s available on Amazon. I buy it in China Town or at select spice shops. They make a mild version. My mother’s original purveyor of spices called it the Rolls Royce of curry powders. Buy it, or never make curry again.
Ground Cumin: Just. A. Touch.
1 Can or Bottle Beer.

Cook/Prep/Serve:

I’m tired and off to the cottage for the weekend to avoid kitchen renovations; and, to get drunk on an island and float in a lake in my bright green undies. If from my ample description you cannot deduce how to prepare and cook the aforementioned ingredients to make into a curry kindly dip your fingers in chili powder and rub your eyes.

That said, quickly: grill meat and red peppers in overn or on BBQ. At the same time sautée garlic and onions in oil; add chicken stock and bring to a simmer; add half a beer; continue to simmer and add curry powder and cumin; perhaps some dried red chili seeds and paprika for colour if you so choose; bay leaves; add potatoes; shortly thereafter, add water chestnuts; dice and add meat; pour in tomato sauce bit by bit until the sauce starts to thicken and turn reddish, careful not to over do it; peel peppers, slice, and add; throw in fresh ginger nearing the end. Be sure to gently stir your sauce over a medium heat. Do NOT stir too vigorously toward the end for fear of turning your potatoes to a starchy mush.

Serve hot, with a dollop of plain yoghurt and something fresh and green for garnish. Heaven help you if you think that means cilantro.

Happy weekend you morts and muckworms,
Niki
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