Fridge-Clearing Curry Refinements?
October 17, 2015 11:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm making a fridge clearing chicken curry tomorrow (generic type, spices, coconut milk, peanut oil and ghee, carrots and onion and peas and whatever ends of greens or stay tomato we have) and I was wondering what I could do to dress it up? Stuff like grinding and roasting whole spices or adding toasted nuts. Things you could do if you wanted an easy fridge-clearing curry recipe but also had some time to refine and fuss over the little touches.

Plating and presentation ideas are also good.
posted by The Whelk to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Toast your spices whole, then grind them.

Also, it would be worth deciding whether you're going for an Indian curry or a Thai/Malaysian/Southeast Asian one. Coconut probably doesn't belong in the former, instead you'd want yogurt. If the latter, pick up some curry paste of the proper style beforehand unless you really, really love your mortar and pestle and 15 different minced aromatics.

Toasted almonds are good for a rich Indian curry. Peanuts for Thai.
posted by Sara C. at 12:03 AM on October 18, 2015

+1 to toasting whole spices and grinding them up. The other option is to fry up the spices in the coconut cream/oil/ghee. If you toast them and fry them, be careful not to let anything burn...

Garnishes will raise your game. Definitely toast some nuts to be sprinkled on top (cashews or almonds are my first choices). Cilantro leaves/basil/scallion greens and maybe some fruit (fresh mango or dried currants/raisins) If the tomato is in decent shape, you could also dice that up for garnish rather than putting it into the curry.

The idea is that each category of garnish will each bring something new to the curry: nuts for crunch, fruit for sweetness, herbs for freshness. It allows each bite to be a little different.

btw: If I am serving folks with differing tolerances of chile heat, I'll also reserve some coconut milk that can be drizzled on portions to tame the heat a bit.

If I had a lot of options for garnishes, I might make an assortment of them for the table and encourage folks to customize their own plates.
posted by jenquat at 12:05 AM on October 18, 2015

Chop or grate (with a box grater, beware watery eyes) the onion very fine and cook it till it's quite golden brown; it takes a while, but is very worth it. This was the first thing I learned that really improved my curries. It adds so much flavorful depth and texture to the sauce.

A lot of great curry-makers keep a paste of garlic, ginger, and green chilies in the freezer; add few spoonfuls toward the end of the onion sautee.

Another vote for "toast and freshly grind your spices". A few years ago, I got a cheapo coffee grinder that I keep plugged in by my kitchen prep space. I buy all my spices whole and toast/grind to order. Once you're in the habit, it takes hardly any time and makes such a difference. Also, try tempering mustard seeds in the hot oil or adding a few crushed cardamom pods and a cinnamon stick for wonderful fragrance.

Finally, I love quick pickled onions with curries. The bright acid is a perfect foil to the richness and spice.
posted by mostlymartha at 12:58 AM on October 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Lentils. Lentils are cool.
posted by sexyrobot at 1:19 AM on October 18, 2015

Squeeze of lime at the end, coriander if you're on that team.
posted by slightlybewildered at 2:05 AM on October 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is my recipe, given to me by a Bangladeshi chef. The separate preparation of the 'wet' and 'dry' flavourings was a revelation to me.


Chop 2 or 3 onions and fry in a little oil or ghee until golden (this can't be rushed, it'll take a good 15-20 minutes)

While the onions are cooking, blend 2 or 3 tomatoes in a food processor, put them in a bowl and set to one side.

Prepare the spice mix:

Mix together the dry spices:
- 2 tsps garam masala
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 0.5 tps asafoetida (hing)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 0.5 tsps ground coriander
- salt and pepper to taste

Separately prepare the 'wet' spices:
I use ginger, chilli and garlic pastes bought in jars in the Indian stores. But you can use as much garlic as you like, a small piece of ginger and a small green chilli. Chop them all finely (if you don't like it hot, take out the chilli seeds).

When the onions are cooked and cool, blend them into a paste in the food processor.

Return them to the pot and fry, along with the tomatoes and the dry and wet spice blends, on a low heat for a few minutes, until the oil begins to separate.

Add a kilo of chicken, skinless, boneless thigh or breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces. Stir and coat in the spices.

Add a mug of water or stock, bring to a simmer and cook for about 30-40 minutes. After 15 minutes you can, if you want, add potatoes and/or cauliflower.

When everything's tender, serve with rice and naan.

As with all curries, it always tastes better next day.
posted by essexjan at 2:23 AM on October 18, 2015 [12 favorites]

If you haven't tried an Anglo-Indian onions-caramelized-with-vinegar Vindaloo-type sauce before that's good stuff. I haven't combined that with tomato as of yet but I bet it would work well.
posted by XMLicious at 3:55 AM on October 18, 2015

You could make this excellent Tamil Nadu curry powder and have lots on hand for future fridge-clearing.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:42 AM on October 18, 2015

Shallot or onion garnish is nice. Slice and then fry on a low heat until soft and maybe a bit golden, cool and dry on kitchen paper, then fry quickly at the last minute on a high heat until they go crispy and brown.
posted by howfar at 6:37 AM on October 18, 2015

If you want a book for inspiration on this sort of thing, you could do a lot worse than Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries series.
posted by howfar at 6:38 AM on October 18, 2015

In a couple recipes in 660 Curries, Iyer recommends serving the curry with a crusty french bread and a glass of red wine. I haven't tried it, but it does sound good!

I have also had good success with some simple chopped raw onion and a wedge of lime for garnish.
posted by thirdletter at 7:01 AM on October 18, 2015

I like to serve curry with bowls of grated coconut, chopped tomato, cilantro, even chopped banana to sprinkle on top for extra contrast and customization. Sort of like fresh unprocessed chutney.
posted by Jode at 2:22 PM on October 18, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks all!

So this was a success, I roasted and grinded my spices as mentioned, but since I had onions and shallots and tomatoes and carrots - I decided to treat it like a pasta sauce and roast it all in the oven with a little oil and lots of garlic and a large shallow pan to catch the juices. While that happened I minced some celery in the food processor,, took the roasting stuff out when it got black at the tips and put all that in the processor, pulsed til purée, heated up the Dutch oven with butter and oil, added the dry spices and leafy greens and chicken for a hot few minutes, poured in the purée roast vegetables and chicken stock, stir virgiously, added peas and crushed toasted almonds, cook at low simmer for an hour, coconut milk (and a bit of lime) to taste at the end, minced chive and cilantro for topping. Very sweet, slightly smoky, with a strong roast vegetable flavor.

Thanks again!
posted by The Whelk at 11:27 PM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

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