Thursday, 10 November 2011

Curry Club

I really am very far behind on my blog posting. I've just been very busy...things are getting on top of me..I'm sure you've all been there. Anyway, you'll all remember a few weeks ago when Dublin turned into one giant pond for the day? The day where God was really upset and cried all day long? He just wouldn't quit. He must have been watching a particularly weepy movie that day. Anyway, for some reason, beyond me, I thought that was the perfect day to go for a little stroll around our fair city to do some book shopping. Book shopping? In the middle of the worst deluge our town has ever seen? I have strange ideas sometimes. Off I went, tootling about town thinking how clever I was, not letting the rain ruin my day. In to Eason's I went. I thought it had been raining before I went in. I laughed in the face of rain. 'I've an umbrella you know, you won't best me', I said. But when I came out I found out what real rain was. Real manly rain. 'Where's your umbrella now?' it roared. Clearly my umbrella had died in fright at just one look at this rain. I felt just a little sheepish and to honest quite stupid. Why had I left my lovely dry house? And why on earth had I gone book shopping? Books. Made of paper. Paper that melts when it even looks at that kind of rain. Anyway, with the books bought and paid for and then swiftly shoved up my jumper I walked/waded home. Luckily the books survived with only minor damage and I just about made it too.

The reason I was so desperate to make such an idiotic life choice on this particular day is I REALLY wanted curry.  Dal to be precise. Those of you avid readers out there will remember this from a particularly exciting earlier post. My previous attempt wasn't up to much scrutiny so I needed a recipe. A real one. I would have to buy a curry book. 

I bought this one!

With curry book in hand the next obvious step was to invite the fabulous Rory over for another bake date. We set a date and a menu and we two intrepid spice explorers cooked up a delicious dinner of tarka dal, lamb and spinach curry, pilau rice and chapati. It was a huge success. It tasted great and even looked vaguely like the real thing. 

This is a great beginners curry book. Very simple recipes and all the old favourites are in there. I always think it's better to start with dishes you're familiar with when experimenting with a new cuisine, so at least you've some idea what it should taste and look like and then when you know where you're at with the spices and flavours you can start getting a bit more adventurous. It seemed that most of the curries in the book were started by making a paste with spices and tomoatoes and then when this paste has been cooking down for about 30 mins you can start the curry proper. It went something like this:

Curry paste


20g fresh ginger
3 tomatoes quartered
6 cloves garlic
6 tbsp vegetable oil
2 black cardamon pods (I used green)
4 cloves
5cm cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1 onion chopped finely
2 tbsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp turmeric
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chilli

  1. blend the tomatoes, ginger and garlic until smooth
  2. heat the oil in a large pan and cook the whole spices for 15 seconds, then add the onion and cook until the onion is golden
  3. add the tomato paste, the ground spices and salt, cook over a moderate flame for 15-20 mins until it becomes a paste and droplets of oil start to release on the base of the pan
  4. reduce the heat and cook for another 5-7 minutes (This was where my patience was lacking. It's definitely worth holding your nerve here)
  5. it's now ready to use as the base of your curry 

Spinach and lamb curry


portion of curry paste as above
500g lamb
10g fresh ginger julienne
2 green chillies
1 tsp garam masala
oil for frying 


For the lamb and spinach curry you simply add the lamb (about 500g) to the paste and cook over a moderate flame for 5 mins, until the paste has been absorbes by the lamb. Then pour enough water to cover the meat, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for an hour. You may need to reduce the sauce at the end if there is too much liquid. The liquid should come about 1/4 way up the lamb by the end. Fry off the ginger and fresh chilli in a frying pan, wilt the spinach on top and add to the lamb. Add the garam masala and cook for another 5 minutes.  Check the seasoning and serve.

And now the Tarka Dal......

Not as complicated as one would think. There's two stages to this. First you cook the dal.


150g chana dal (you can also use 100g chana and 50g masur dal or as I was assured, red lentils)
1/2 tsp turmeric
3 cloves garlic grated
10g fresh ginger grated
fresh coriander to serve 

  1. wash the dal well
  2. place in 1 litre of water and bring to the boil, scim off any scum that forms
  3. add the turmeric, garlic, ginger and salt and simmer for 40 mins, stirring occassionaly 

Stage two - the tarka (which means a few ingredients fried up and added to the main, in this case dal, ingredient at the end) - start making after dal has been cooking for 30 mins


3tbsp oil
1 rounded tbsp butter
3 dried red chillies
1 round tsp cumin seeds
1 small onion chopped finely
2 small tomatoes chopped
1/2 tsp garam masala

  1. heat the oil and butter and fry the dried chillies and cumin seeds until they start to brown
  2. add the onion and fry until browned
  3. add the tomatoes, garam masala and salt and saute for around ten minutes, until the oil starts to release (again this is a patience moment. this releasing of oil seems to be key in good curry making!)
  4. pour some of the cooked lentils into the pan to incorporate all the spice, then add the contents of the pan into the pot of cooked lentils
  5. cook the dal for another ten minutes, squishing some of the lentils against the side of the pot to achieve the texture you want (I think I would blend some of the lentils seperately to make the texture slightly thicker the next time, but I think that's a personal thing)
  6. taste, adjust seasoning and sprinkle with fresh coriander to serve 

1 comment:

  1. Loving the blog. I'm going to try the dal this weekend.