Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Deeply Aromatic Curry for a Cold, Rainy Day

It's been raining a lot here. To be more precise, it's been raining almost every day since I got home to my parents' place last Tuesday evening.

Today was no exception - it poured the entire afternoon and the general weather was gloomy, grey, dreary, and cold.

Perfect weather for a mildly spicy warm curry.

In the spirit of Nigel Slater and his Luxurious and Deeply Aromatic Noodle Dish, I flipped through the Kitchen Diaries for a little inspiration, and rustled up this mild, creamy curry with a slight touch of heat (as per requested by my mother, who didn't want it too spicy this time) and a beautiful fragrance from the use of lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and curry leaves.

A Deeply Aromatic Curry for a Cold Rainy Day
Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Luxurious and Deeply Aromatic and Soup

Spice paste:
2 thick slices ginger, or a small knob of it
Half a small onion, sliced
1 stick lemon grass, sliced thinly
A small handful parsley or coriander (Coriander would be more correct for this sort of Southeast Asian-influenced curry, but I only had parsley on hand)

Curry ingredients:
Half a medium head of cabbage, cut into bite-size wedges
3 potatoes
2 carrots
2 tomatoes, one diced, one sliced (or you can dice them all if you want, I just wanted a bit more colour and texture hence the slices)
2 large mushroom stems (or half a pack of any other mushrooms you like)
1 pack fishballs (optional)
2 tsp (or more) curry paste
2 tsp Seville orange marmalade
1 tbs cooking oil
Handful curry leaves
2 kaffir lime leaves, julienned finely
1 kaffir lime, or 1 small ordinary lime
1 ½ cups milk (you can also use coconut milk, but my mother can’t take it, so milk it was)
Salt to taste

Serves: 2 with leftovers, and could probably be a meal for 4

Preparing the spice paste:

In a mortar, pound the ginger, onion, lemon grass and parsley together till pulverised and fragrant. Set aside.

Preparing the curry:

Over a medium flame, heat the cooking oil in a large pot. Throw in the spice paste and stir it around until fragrant and small bits of onion are slightly brown, but don’t let it burn. Add in 1 tsp of curry paste and fry, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Toss in the curry leaves, stir for about a minute with the spice paste, then add the julienned kaffir lime leaves and stir for another minute more.

Add in the diced tomato and stir-fry til the tomatoes are soft and somewhat mushy-looking. Add in the carrots and potatoes and stir well to combine. In about five minutes, when the potatoes and carrots are slightly cooked through, add the cabbage and cook, stirring constantly around, till the cabbage begins to wilt and become translucent. Add the sliced tomato and stir again for about a minute.

Pour in the milk, stir vegetables to combine, add the remaining 1 teaspoon spice paste and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer, cover, and let the entire thing simmer for about 15 minutes. Uncover, add the sliced mushrooms and fishballs, and squeeze the lime juice into the pot. Stir to combine, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes, this time with the lid half-off. The gravy will thicken up later, so don’t worry if it looks watery now.

Add in the marmalade (it sounds strange, I know, but trust me – it added just that little bit of tangy kick I was looking for.) Stir through to combine, and taste for seasoning. You’ll probably need a bit of salt to counteract the sweetness of the milk, but you won’t need too much. If you want to add more spice paste to bring up the heat, by all means – I wanted a mild curry with just a hint of chillies, so I used far less than usual.

Simmer for 10 minutes, turn off the heat and let sit for another 5-10 minutes so the flavours can blend and marry. By now the gravy should have thickened, so it will look more like a curry, and less like a soup.

Serve hot with rice.


  1. This sounds like a perfect curry for Devil & me in KL as well - it's rather rainy here too.

    (I did cook a rosemary-sea-salt-dried-herbs chicken pasta with sundried tomato pesto & sweetcorn carrot tomato soup. It worked too, to banish the rain. Hehe.)

  2. Ooooooh that sounds MARVELLOUS. There is something about sundried tomatoes. They are the very essence of summery taste. Yay for banishing the rain! Now I want the recipe!

  3. Haha, recipe? We are both the king of no recipes - we just grab whatever ingredients we have handy in the kitchen and whatever seems fresh at the supermart, and off we go with it!

    What I did was: I marinated cubes of chicken fillet with fresh rosemary, sea salt, a little dried herbs, then browned them nicely, put aside, fried some minced garlic + diced tomatoes, then added the chicken back, finally some sun-dried tomato pesto. Top with al dente spaghetti... and we were in heaven. :)

  4. Ooooooooh. Beautiful and simple, it sounds lovely! I must try that. I'll have to blitz up some sun-dried tomatoes to make the pesto but y'know, I always do things the hard way. :P

    Lovely! Birthday fare perhaps? :)