Currying favour


CROWD PLEASER Curry is the perfect dish to prepare ahead of dinner with friends.

The Cabots

Lovely friends of ours, Dubliners Richard and Louise, came on holidays to Mayo recently. There was a big gang of them – grandparents, teenage children, the teenage children’s friends. They rented a house near Newport and invited us to dinner. In their place, I would have found that daunting – another four mouths to feed, including our two fussy children. Yikes.
What could you cook to feed such a diverse, inter-generational throng? “We’re having curry!” said Richard. Genius! It’s the one thing everyone likes.
Richard and Louise had prepared a meat and a veggie curry earlier in the day. They were able to sit down and enjoy the evening with everyone else, then simply heat and serve – their very delicious dishes- when everyone was hungry.

The variety of spice
There is actually no such thing as curry! In South Asia, there are millions of spicy sauces, specific to regions and families, made using a blend of spices that may or may not include curry leaves.
Colonial Britons brought spicy Asian recipes home during the days of Empire. Rather than using individual spices as Asians would, English chefs invented a generic spice mix – usually including turmeric, cumin, curry leaf, ginger and black pepper – and called it curry powder. That’s the only form of curry that was around when I was a teenager back in the day. Now we have become so sophisticated.
If you’re making a curry you’re likely to load up on fresh turmeric, lemon grass, galangal or whatever, all now available in a shop near you, and crush it into a paste following a detailed recipe from a glossy cookbook penned by a Michelin-starred chef. And that is brilliant. Not that I would ever diss the curry powder of my youth – it has that lovely sweet, nutty curry-chip flavor of the olden days and is a handy staple in any store cupboard.
Below is the basis of a quick and nutritious curry that hails from my Home Economics days. You can adapt it to include any other veggies you have around – a handful of spinach or kale is a nice addition – or make a meat version if you please.

Old school curry
What you need

  • Two medium potatoes, peeled and diced into 2cm chunks
  • 1 large peeled carrot, sliced into diagonals
  • Half a cauliflower (around 300g), cut into small florets
  • 3 tbsps of veg oil
  • 1 medium onion and 3 regular shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 small courgette, diced into 1cm chunks
  • 1 tbsp of curry powder (mild, medium or hot, to taste)
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 300-400ml veg stock
  • Handful of frozen peas
  • Sour cream and mango chutney to serve

What you do
Put the prepared potatoes and carrots into a saucepan half filled with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook at a brisk simmer for eight minutes. Add the cauliflower florets for a further three minutes, then drain and set aside.
In a wok or heavy-bottomed pan, heat the veg oil and add the onion. Cook for about eight minutes, stirring regularly, till golden. Add the curry powder and cook over a low heat for about 30 seconds. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for three minutes, stirring all the while.
Throw in the stock and bring to simmering point. Add the cooked vegetables and the handful of frozen peas and simmer gently for five minutes.
Serve with rice, a blob of sour cream atop the curry and mango chutney on the side. A few nan breads would add to the comfort factor!

— Sandra

The Cabot family live and work in Lanmore, outside Westport. Fresh, seasonal foods are their passion, from country markets to growing, making and selling. They love cooking and eating at the kitchen table, while Redmond and Sandra are kept on their toes with children Penny and Louis. Here they share their favourite recipes.