Recipe for Authentic Indian Potluck Curry Dish
First, let me present a background story.
Almost every country has a dish they make with bread and water. Tortillas and roti come topmost in my mind. When we were young, my mother would spread some butter on some roti, sprinkle some sugar on it, and roll it up. It was like cinnamon toast, without the cinnamon. We would then be able to eat it without any assistance from her as she took care of the customers in the store. It was cheap, quick, portable, and it filled us up.
One day when we were older, there weren't very many groceries in the house. My mother made a curry out of roti. Yes, she made a curry out of Indian bread.
I can no longer eat gluten, so I no longer eat roti, at least the way it is made traditionally, but I still retain the knowledge that you can curryfy anything.
Authentic Indian Potluck Curry Recipe
Cardisa has asked for an authentic curry. Some people may say that this Potluck Curry doesn't really qualify, since this is my American adaptation of an Indian curry, and doesn't have the painstaking love and care my mother puts into each of her recipes. I contend that it is more authentic than most of the written recipes you see. Most Indians will use ingredients that are in season and available in the area where they live, and likely will not use precise measurements. Plus I have confirmed with my sister that she uses this recipe, and since it is used by Indians, it is authentic.
Since it uses only one pot, and includes shortcuts that save time, it fits the lifestyle of modern Indians and Americans.
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Potluck Curry Basics
The concept behind potluck curry is that you should be able to make the curry out of things you have in the house. You should have the staples, of course, like Indian spices, but the main ingredients are things you can gather from your home. It is the luck of the pot what ingredients you have available in your house.
The must-have ingredients are onions, cumin, coriander and turmeric. Everything else is potluck, but generally includes a meat, a vegetable, and tomatoes. I do have to tell you in the interest of disclosure that I have been able to make the potluck curry even without one of these "must-have" ingredients, but I need them to provide structure to the recipe.
The order you put in the ingredients depends on the ingredients. The biggest thing you have to keep in mind when making Authentic Indian Potluck Curry is the cooking time. The key is to put in your ingredients at the right time so that they will all be completely cooked when you are done. Potatoes that need to be cooked, for example, need to be put into the pot fairly early in the process with the meat. It really isn't difficult to do that though, because most of the meats and vegetables are not in danger of being overcooked as long as there is enough moisture in the pot to avoid scorching.
Just be sure to add water or tomato products to make sure there is enough moisture in the pot and you should be just fine. Keep stirring from time to time for the same reason.
One of the good things about making the Authentic Indian Potluck Curry is that you are kept busy as you keep adding ingredients, so it doesn't become boring to watch the food cook. This saves you on prep time. There is also only one pot to wash unless you make a side dish.
Okay, are you ready to start? Make sure the meat is defrosted and cut into bite size pieces and set aside.
Ingredients for this Very Flexible Recipe
- 1-2 fresh, or one frozen bag onions, chopped, sliced or diced
- 1 pound meat, such as beef, chicken, pork, or fish, raw or cooked
- 1 can tomatoes, tomato paste, or tomato sauce
- 1-3 fresh, cans or bags fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons coriander
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
Potluck Curry Recipe
Start with a saucepan. The size of the pan will depend on the amount and size of ingredients you will be adding, but a medium size saucepan should probably be fine.
Dice one or two onions. You can slice them if you don't want to go through the effort of dicing them. You can even use the frozen onions. My store sells frozen onions with other things, like peppers or celery. That's completely okay. I use the whole package, so I don't have to worry about the bag opening and making a mess in the freezer.
Sauté the onions in some oil, ghee, butter, grease, margarine, Pam, or any other kind of shortening. If you are browning ground beef, you can even skip the oil and put the onions in with your ground beef.
You can wait until the onions are translucent or golden before adding the next ingredient, but you really don't have to wait that long if you are in a hurry.
Each person has his or her own preferences for what foods go together. Some combinations we typically use are:
ground beef / spinach / corn and a pinch of cinnamon
ground beef / kidney beans
beef / potatoes / peas, carrots and green beans
chicken / cauliflower / broccoli
Beef stew meat, cauliflower / broccoli
chicken thighs with 16 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
Only One Main Ingredient
Note that you do not have to use a variety of meats and vegetables. It is completely fine to use just one main ingredient. Beans, eggplant, meat, and potatoes are all good one main ingredient meals.
Add about one pound of a meat of your choice, if you want. You can use meat that has already been cooked, as well. Just about any meat will work: ground beef, beef cut up for beef stew, chicken, turkey, fresh or frozen fish, shrimp, or pork. I like to cut up the meat into little pieces so that you can get lots of pieces on each plate, and because it cooks faster that way.
Let it start cooking. If the meat has not been cooked, you will want to give it a little bit of time to cook before you start adding the vegetables. You can add water or the tomatoes first to keep the meat moist to avoid overcooking.
Add some vegetables of your choice. They can be fresh or frozen or canned. The tricky part is to add them into the curry at the right time so that they will finish cooking when the meat is done. Good choices are beans, cauliflower, corn, eggplant, peas, potatoes, and spinach. You can even add fruit, like pineapple, papaya or mango.
Depending on your preference, you can add one can or bag of frozen vegetables, but I generally add two or three since I prefer to have more vegetables than meat.
A Note about Hot Pepper
Did you notice that the pepper is optional? There are many different regions in India, and each region has a different idea about how much hot pepper should go in a dish. It is completely acceptable to make a curry without any pepper at all, especially if you are cooking for small children or people whose digestive systems can't handle hot pepper. It is also acceptable to put enough pepper in the dish to make your mouth burn.
I keep the pepper amount low in my curries, enough to taste the flavor but not enough to burn the mouth, and provide a spicy hot condiment for those who prefer more hotness.
A curry is not a curry until it has Indian spices in it. - I start with one teaspoon cumin, two teaspoons coriander, and 1 teaspoon turmeric and adjust to taste.
Additional spices add complexity and flavor. If I am feeling festive, I will also add one or more, but not all, of the following: 1/2 tablespoon fresh garlic, 1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala, a fresh hot pepper, a few cloves, a few peppercorns, a few cumin seeds, a cinnamon stick, some coconut milk, coriander leaves (cilantro), and a star anise. I don't find the need to add salt, but it is certainly an option.
Each person has a different preference for spices, and some foods can handle more spices more than others. You want to make sure that the spices are complementing the meat and vegetables, not completely masking it. Beef, for example, will require stronger spices than chicken, so add more as you feel necessary. I found that when I put in a little bit of each spice, it doesn't become too spicy. But if I make a small mistake, I can add a little bit more water or tomato sauce to calm it down a bit.
Then add some form of tomatoes (sauce, paste, puree, crushed, diced, fresh). I use one eight ounce can of tomato sauce. For chicken thighs, I like a big 16 ounce can of crushed tomatoes, because the hearty flavor is so delicious. You can even use spaghetti sauce, tomato soup, or ketchup if you are desperate. Basically you want to have enough moisture to cover the ingredients.
The amount of moisture in a curry varies depending on personal preference. Some people prefer a dry curry with just a big of moisture, so a bite of the meat or vegetable is included with each bite of rice. Others prefer more moisture, like a chunky soup, so it is possible to have just the rice with the flavor of the sauce. If you have a large group of people and are worried about having enough food to feed them all, you can add a can of water or tomato sauce to help extend the meal a bit.
Once you have added all your ingredients, make sure that the curry stays moist, and mix it from time to time until all your ingredients are cooked through, thoroughly warmed, and the flavors have had a chance to meld together.
Somehow, even with all the different ingredients, I wind up making six servings of Authentic Indian Potluck Curry. We eat what we can and freeze the rest for a very tasty frozen dinner.
When I first titled this recipe, I was thinking only about the ingredients you have in your house, but I can envision inviting people over for a potluck curry. Have each person bring one of the five main ingredients - onions and oil, tomatoes, meat, vegetable and spices. Cook them together and enjoy a great potluck curry!
© 2012 Shasta Matova
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