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Curry: A mix of spices

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Curry is all about the mingling of sugar, spice and everything nice. The spice-laden dishes commonly referred to as curry, are stew-like unions of veggies, meat, fish or poultry.

When the British set about colonizing the world centuries ago, they discovered more than new inhabitants and lands. They stumbled upon the exotic, aromatic indigenous foods of the West Indies, Caribbean and India. Arriving in India, the explorers were served a chicken dish all dressed up in a savory, ambrosial sauce full of yet unearthed flavors of turmeric, cumin, cardamom and black pepper. They were smitten; the love affair with curry was in full steam, set atop beds of fragrant rice.

Regional cooks, then and now, toast, grind and prepare their just-to-taste blends every day. (Check out this site for some make-your-own ideas: Veggie Belly) Necessity being the mother of invention, tied with a craving to effortlessly recreate the Spice Road infused dishes and there you have it, curry powder; a jarred, off-the-shelf version of the exotic mixtures.

Spice shops, specialty kitchen stores and local grocers stock oodles of curry mélanges with discretely different flavors. Sweet, mild profiles contain all of the intense seasoning sans the heat of red pepper or chilies. Sizzling Madras curry ramps up the excitement with zesty warmth in the intermingling of herbs, seeds and spices. For the special tête-à-tête, look for a Maharajah mixture which includes precious threads of saffron. The list goes on as curry fusions circle the world, taking on the nuances of Thailand, North Africa or the Caribbean.

Now that palates are yearning for adventure, how do you pop curry pizazz into your culinary routine? Ordinary chicken salad becomes a mysterious dish from a faraway land when you add a teaspoon of mild curry and a handful of golden raisins to the bowl. Everyone’s picnic favorite, deviled eggs take on a depth of intriguing essence with a pinch of curry and a sprig of fresh cilantro. A simple pot of meat, carrots and onions slips from dreary and predictable to beguiling food amazement. Back to reality, here’s a recipe for Sweet Curry with Beef, the enchanting form of stew.

Sweet Curry with Beef
(Serves 4 to 6)

You will need:

  • 1 lb stew meat, cubed
  • 1 large onion, chopped in ¾” pieces
  • 1 cup carrots in 1” chunks
  • 1 cup potatoes, diced in 1” pieces
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 1 tart apple diced in ½” pieces
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder (choose your favorite blend)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups cooked Basmati or Jasmine rice
  • Optional fruit and vegetables: Sweet peppers, kale, bananas, pineapple

What you do:

  • Warm oil in a 4 quart Dutch oven or deep skillet over medium heat; add meat and brown on all sides.
  • Mix in vegetables and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes until onions are soft and translucent. Toss in garlic and curry powder and toast for 2 minutes.
  • Add beef stock, raisins and apples. Lower the temperature and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours, making sure the beef is tender.
  • Stir in the coconut, taste for salt and pepper. (Note: Bananas and pineapple are at the end with coconut. Additional vegetables can be included in the simmer.) To serve: Place rice on a plate and top with Sweet Curry.
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