My love affair with curry
I started my love affair with Indian cuisine when I was very young. My family had very little money, and it was often a struggle to put food on the table. But, on occasion, often following a week of not seeing my father due to overtime. We would scrape just enough money together to be able to have a take-away treat! Curry was often the choice, as I remember my father having quite a love of spicy foods. But, being young, and wasteful, my brother and I would usually end up with a portion of chips, or maybe if we were really lucky – some rice!
Eventually, after I moved out and found a place of my own, I started to develop a keen interest in cookery in general. Part of this interest, was perfecting my own recipes, a lot of which I never remembered to write down, or remembered at all. So fair to say, there were a lot of failed experiments. but, most importantly, a lot of experiments, from which to learn! I now have an ever expanding recipe book, in my kitchen, and with it, about eight years of experience, on which to draw.
So given my (still fairly limited) knowledge, I thought I would share what I have learned.
Spices – To be fair, I still know little about them, compared to some of the Indian cookery masters. But, what is more important is knowing how to handle them. Good ones are not cheap, so it’s important that they last for as long as possible. Storing spices correctly, is the key to shelf life. There is no reason that you can’t keep spices for several months, if stored correctly. The main things that can shorten the useful life of any spice are, light, air, moisture, heat. A lot of people will have an open spice rack in the kitchen, and I think this is probably the worst way in which to store them. A cool, dark, cupboard, and airtight containers, is definitely the way to go.
Blending spices can be a real art, and I don’t know that I’ll ever master it. But, with the aid of a few good recipe books, I’m learning more each day (Yes, I eat curry a lot!). A few pointers, based on what I have learned – Try to keep focus. Remember that how a blend smells, is a good indication to how it will taste. If you are uncertain, then the best thing to do is to try a blend using one or two main spices, as focus. Fry this off, by itself, and see how it smells. if you are happy with it, try adding something else – remember to add very small amounts at a time.
Remembering focus, If you want a warm dish, then warm smelling spices should make up the majority of the blend. if you want aromatic, then aromatic spices..and so on. Cumin is often a staple of any blend, so it’s a good place to start. It has a warm flavour and an aromatic smell, and is probably the spice that most people, unknowingly, associate with the smells emanating from their local curry house. Coriander, is more of an aromatic spice, so is easily blendable with Cumin. In the same way, paprika is also a warm spice, and blends equally well. So, by way of example, if you want an aromatic dish, then equal quantities of both coriander, and paprika, are likely to make for a more confused flavour. That isn’t to say that coriander and paprika can’t be mixed in equal amounts, but if you are just starting out, then it’s best to leave this kind of experimentation until you are more confident.
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