Many regard curry as one of the new things in cookery. This is a mistake. Curry is an old, old method of preparing meats and vegetables. Nor is it an East Indian method exclusively. In all Oriental and tropical countries foods are highly seasoned, and although the spices may differ, and although the methods of preparation may not be the same, nevertheless, generally speaking, the people of all Oriental countries freely indulge in curried food.
However, in India curry reaches its perfection. The people of India since Vedic times have eaten curry and always will. They eat it very, very hot, and Europeans who live in India soon find themselves falling into the habit of eating very hot and spicy foods. Whether it is good for one to eat as much hot stuff as one is expected to eat in India is a disputed point. In moderation, however, curry is not harmful, and is a very satisfactory and appetizing way of preparing scrappy and inexpensive meats. If carefully prepared, everybody is sure to like it. Do not introduce it, however, to your family as a mustard-colored stew of curry powder, onions, and cold meat served in the center of a platter with a wall of gummy rice enclosing it. Most of the family would hate it, and it would be difficult to get them to the point of even tasting it again. Curry, as usually made in India, is not made with curry powder at all. Every Indian cook-house is provided with a smooth black stone about a foot and a half long and a foot wide. There is also a small stone roller. On this large stone, by means of the small stone, daily are crushed or ground the spices used in making curry. The usual ingredients are coriander seeds and leaves, dried hot chilies or peppers, caraway seeds, turmeric, onions, garlic, green ginger, and black pepper grains. All these are first crushed a little and then ground to a paste, with the addition from time to time of a little water.
Now of course no American housewife would want to squat on the floor and grind up curry stuff on a stone, as do the women of India. So I hasten to say that very good curry may be made from curry powder. Curry powder may be obtained from almost any grocer. The best in the market is Cross & Blackwell's.
A good plan, however, would be to make your own curry powder. It is better, much cheaper, and is very little trouble to make.
The following formula is excellent:
1. Curry Powder.
10 ounces of coriander seed; 1 teaspoon of caraway seed; 1 teaspoon of black pepper; 1 teaspoon of red pepper; 6 teaspoons of turmeric; 4 tablespoons of flour; 1 teaspoon of cloves; 4 teaspoons of cinnamon; Seeds of six cardamons.
The coriander and turmeric may have to be purchased at a drug store. Buy as many of the spices ground as you can, and grind the others in a small hand-mill or coffee-mill. Sift together three or four times and dry thoroughly in an expiring oven. Put in air-tight bottles. A pound of meat will require about two teaspoons of this mixture. If not hot enough add more red pepper.
Coriander.--You will note that coriander is the chief ingredient of curry powder. Coriander is used extensively in flavoring throughout the East. It can be grown any place, however. The seed can be obtained from any large florist. It grows rank like a weed. The leaves are delicious as a flavoring for meats and vegetables. A patch of this in your vegetable garden will repay you, as many a bit of left-over can be made very tasty by using a little of the finely minced leaf. The seeds are useful in many ways.
Fresh Cocoanut is another ingredient frequently used in making curries. This gives a delicious flavor and also adds greatly to the nutritive value. A cocoanut paste is prepared by a very elaborate process in the Indian cook-house, but in this country we are not only confronted by the problem of living on our so many dollars a month, but also by the equally great one of living on twenty-four hours a day. So we will pass the method of preparing cocoanut by with the suggestion that you buy your prepared cocoanut. Baker puts up an excellent preparation of fresh cocoanut with the milk. This comes in small tins at ten cents a tin.
Making curry is a very elastic method. Much depends upon the taste of the individual. Some think a teaspoonful of prepared mustard or Worcestershire sauce a great improvement.
Always get cheap cuts of meat for curry. The hock or heel of beef makes perhaps as fine curry as any other cut.
There are many different kinds of curries. Some are so hot that the consumer thereof may feel that he is the possessor of an internal fiery furnace. Some are mustard-colored, some are almost black, some are thin and watery, some are thick, some are greasy, and some would be quite impossible for America.
Onions are always used in making curry, but do not let this discourage any one who does not like onions. One reason that onions are so unpopular is that so often they are improperly cooked. In making curry onions should be cooked until they are perfectly soft. Indeed they should be reduced to a pulp. This pulp helps thicken the curry gravy, and many people who claim that they cannot eat onions really enjoy them without realizing what they are eating.
The recipes which follow are all practical, inexpensive, delicious, and thoroughly reliable.
2. Beef Curry.
Cut a pound of fresh beef into bits. Any cheap cut does well for this. Slice an onion very thinly, and fry together in a dessert-spoonful of fat of any kind, the meat, onion, and two teaspoonfuls of curry powder. When they are nicely browned add several cups of water and simmer gently until the meat is very tender and the onion has become a pulp, thereby thickening the curry gravy. This requires long, slow cooking. More water may be added from time to time. If one has a fireless cooker, it should always be used in curry making. Serve with rice prepared according to taste. In India, curry and rice are always served in separate dishes. The rice is served first and the curry taken out and put over it. Usually chutney (Chapter VIII) is eaten with curry and rice.
3. Chicken Curry.
Cut a chicken up any way you like and fry it with one thinly-sliced onion and the curry powder. The amount of curry powder will of course depend on the size of the chicken. Fry together until the chicken is nicely browned, then add water and simmer until chicken is tender. Remember always to reduce the gravy by slow cooking until it is somewhat thickened by the onion pulp. A couple of sliced tomatoes fried with the chicken, onion, and curry powder is much liked by some--not only in chicken curry, but in all curries.
4. Curry With Curds.
This curry is prepared a little differently. Place in a deep dish one pound of beef or mutton or any kind of meat. Cover with thick curds of milk. These curds should not be too sour. Also add a green mango pepper thinly sliced, and if desired a clove of garlic, finely minced. Let stand in the curds for a couple of hours. In the meantime fry an onion and two teaspoonfuls of curry powder together. When nicely browned add the curd mixture. Cook over a slow fire until meat is tender. Cold sliced meat is very good prepared this way. In this case cook the onions thoroughly before adding the curd mixture. The meat should be cut in small pieces.
5. Meat Curry with Pastry.
Prepare the curry as in No. 1, adding the dumplings after the meat is tender. For the dumplings, mix half a cup of flour into a stiff dough with water. Add a little salt, and roll out very thin. Cut in two-inch squares. Some like a little fresh cocoanut and cocoanut milk added to this curry.
6. Meat Curry with Cabbage.
Half a pound of meat is plenty for this very hearty and inexpensive dish.
Fry the onion, curry powder, and meat together in the usual way. When nicely browned, add several cups of thinly-shredded or sliced cabbage. Cover with water and simmer slowly until all are tender. Just before serving acidulate. In India, tamarind juice is always used for this purpose, but lemon or lime does very nicely. Carrots or turnips may be used the same way and are excellent. Eat with or without rice. Usually this curry is eaten with chupatties (No. 69).
7. Meat and Split Pea Curry.
Cut a half pound of beef or mutton into small bits and fry as usual with onions and curry powder. When nicely browned add a cup of split peas which have been soaking for several hours. Simmer all together in plenty of water until the meat and peas are tender. Serve with rice.
8. Massala Fry.
This is not really a curry, but is an excellent way of preparing tough round steak.
Mix two teaspoonfuls of curry powder into a half cup of flour, and pound by means of a saucer into a pound of round steak. Fry the steak with a sliced onion until quite brown. Then add a little water and simmer until the meat is tender. The gravy should be little and rich. Do not cut the meat. This is a fine casserole dish.
9. Hamburg Steak Curry.
Fry together a pound of hamburg steak, a cup of minced onions, and two teaspoonfuls of curry powder. When these are quite brown simmer with a little water until onions are soft. This can either be served rather dry or with plenty of gravy. In the latter case, serve with rice or kidgeri (No. 49). A teaspoonful of Worcestershire sauce is a help to this curry. This curry is very nice and is quickly made. Made dry, a little jar of it taken to a picnic or on a trip will be found very useful, as it keeps for days. Indeed, all curried meats keep longer than meats prepared in other ways. Hamburg steak curry makes fine sandwiches.
10. Cold Meat Curry.
Any kind of cold meat may be made into curry. Fry onions and curry powder together until nicely browned. Then add enough flour to thicken, as in making gravy. Then add water or cocoanut milk. When gravy has thickened, add cold meat. Simmer slowly for a while. This curry is not so tasty as those made from fresh meat, and it is well to add a teaspoonful of Worcestershire sauce.
11. Buffath, or Curry with Vegetables.
Fry one-half pound of meat, finely diced, with onion and curry powder. Add a little water from time to time, so that the meat will be tender and the onions soft. Then add two teacupfuls of water. As soon as water boils add a cupful of sliced radishes, potatoes, carrots, or any vegetables that will not mash. Cook slowly together until vegetables are soft. In India this curry is always acidulated, but that is not necessary. It is a good plan, however, to always serve sliced lemon with all curries, as some prefer them sour.
12. Buffath of Cold Meat and Vegetables.
Prepare a sauce or gravy, as in No. 10. Add cold meat and any left-over cold vegetable. Simmer gently together for a little while. Do not have too much sauce.
13. Fish Curry.
Fish curry is usually made with cocoanut milk instead of water, but this is not necessary. It should always be acidulated.
Prepare a sauce, as in No. 10, using, if preferred, cocoanut milk instead of water. Also add a little finely-minced garlic and green peppers. Put the raw fish in this and simmer together until the fish is cooked. Serve with rice. Spanish rice is excellent with fish curry. (No. 56.)
14. Curry from Tinned Salmon, Sardines, or Tuna.
Prepare a sauce as in No. 10, using cocoanut milk and a little grated cocoanut. Also add a tiny bit of thinly-sliced green ginger, garlic, and chili pepper. Pour over the fish, and serve with rice and sliced lemon.
15. Salt Fish Curry.
Cut the salt fish into rather small pieces, and soak until no longer very salty.
While it is soaking, fry in plenty of oil or crisco one bunch of green onions, cut up tops and all, a teaspoonful of curry powder, and three half-ripe tomatoes. The tomatoes may be dipped in batter or crumbs. When these are fried add the salt fish. Simmer together for a while. Serve with rice. Eggplant is excellent in this curry instead of tomatoes.
16. Massala Fry of Fish.
Make a paste of flour and water and two teaspoons of curry powder and a little salt. Dip the fish in this curried paste, and then dip again in bread or cracker crumbs. Fry in the usual way. This is a delicious way of preparing any kind of cutlets or chops. In fact, any kind of meat may be fried in the same way.
17. Egg Curry.
Fry a sliced onion with a teaspoonful of curry powder; then add a little flour for the gravy. When this is mixed quite smooth, add a teacup of water or milk or cocoanut milk. Cook until it thickens, then add six hard-boiled eggs. Cut in halves lengthwise. Serve with rice.
18. Poached Egg Curry.
Prepare the curry as for No. 17. When gravy begins to simmer, poach the eggs in it.
19. Eggplant Curry.
Cut round slices of eggplant. Remove the outer rind, dip each slice in batter and fry.
Make the curry sauce in the usual way. When it thickens, carefully put in the eggplant; simmer gently together until the vegetables are well cooked. This is excellent made with half-ripe tomatoes. In each case it is a fine meat substitute. Always serve with rice.
20. Curried Stuffed Eggplant.
Make a curry mince as for No. 9. See that when the meat is cooked there is plenty of liquid. Thicken this mince and gravy with bread crumbs and let stand. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, and steam or bake in a very slow oven. When about half cooked, scoop out the center of about each half. Be careful to save the vegetable that you scoop out and mix it with the curry and breadcrumb mixture. Stuff the eggplant shell with this mixture, cover the top with crumbs, and bake. Excellent either hot or cold. A half pound of meat is enough to nicely stuff one eggplant.
21. Stuffed Curried Mango Peppers.
To prepare the mango peppers for stuffing, cut off the tops and remove the seeds. Let stand in salt water until required. Then prepare plenty of rice according to No. 52. Keep in a warm place until required.
Fry Hamburg steak with onion and curry powder according to No. 9. A pound of steak will be plenty for a nice big dish of peppers. Use no water in this mince, but when the meat and onions are partially fried add a cupful of the boiled rice, and mix all together. Stuff the peppers with this mixture of rice and meat.
Put in a roaster and cover with tomato sauce. This sauce may be made from any tinned tomato soup, diluted and more highly seasoned, or it may be made from stewed tomatoes from which the seeds and skins have been removed. Make sauce a little thick. Bake very slowly or steam. Serve with the remainder of the rice.
This is such a hearty dish that one needs prepare nothing else to be served with it.
22. Mixed Vegetable Curry.
All vegetables such as peas, beans, potatoes, carrots, etc., make excellent curry. They may be either freshly prepared or left-overs.
Fry them all together with plenty of onions in a little crisco; add as much curry powder as is desired. If tomatoes are not used, acidulate a combination of tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. Makes a fine curry. These vegetable curries are usually eaten with chupatties (No. 69).
23. Split Pea Curry.
Soak the peas for two or three hours. Fry in the usual way the onion and curry powder. A teaspoonful of curry powder is enough for a cupful of soaked peas. Mix the peas with the fried mixture. Add plenty of water and cook until the peas are soft enough to mash up into a pulp. Serve with rice. An acid is desired with this curry.
24. Edible Leaves Curry.
This may not sound especially inviting, but in a pinch one might want to try it. The Hindus make curries from many things that we would throw away. Turnip tops, beet tops, radish tops, the young and tender leaves of many jungle plants, also the leaves of many trees; all these are used in making excellent curries. Dandelion greens, spinach, Swiss chard, may all be used in the same way. Prepare the onion and curry powder in the usual way; then add the greens. It is a good plan to add a few potatoes to give body to the curry. Use very little water in cooking. Serve with puris or chupatties. (Nos. 69, 71).