A 'Fairly' Good Curry

Friday 20/5/2005

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Diary and Notes

I thought I'd make something a little 'posh' today, what with me having just moved, got a new job and become financially viable for the first time in years (I believe I almost count as 'eligible' in a Jane Austen sense of the word, though I haven't yet recieved any correspondence from young ladies looking for suitable partners - my email address is below...)

I was originally planning to go out for dinner, but a few days ago had bought some quails which I hadn't yet eaten and were in need of using, so stayed in and had a glass of vino with my friend Fran instead. Fran is always ultra critical of my cooking and even the slightest deviation from perfection is pounced upon with vigour, so I knew I'd better get things right. Fran would have made a good critic, she'd be perfect on some pretentious late night gumph show, complaining about how the new Star Wars film wasn't dark enough (it's a kids film you pretentious gits, you don't harangue Disney with such acidity).

So I prepared a simple curry feast for the two of us. Once again my technique relied on making a good curry sauce first (see Curry Sauce), to use as a basic flavouring and I also went shopping for a few extra spices to boost the 'authenticity', one of which is worth mentioning, the infamous 'hing'.

I discovered hing many years ago after being accosted by some Hare Krisnas in Swindon. Being an impetuous young thing, I bought a cookery book from them (I wish I still had it, a Hare Krisna cookery book would be a marvelous addition to my collection) which detailed loads of traditional recipes and also gave instructions on rules for eating in order to be pure - how to make offerings, not eating meat etc.

One of the more memorable things about the Hare Krisna diet I discovered, is they can't eat onions or garlic. I think the reason was that Krisna didn't like them and as every meal had to be offered to him before eating so they were forbidden. To get around this problem, and still get some flavour into their curries and stews, they used a little known spice (little known to the British that is) called Hing. Unfortunately hing stinks, it tastes good but absolutely reeks. Add a little bit of hing to some hot ghee and just smell the aroma. It's not unpleasant, just overpowering. Hing is a resinous gum made from the Central Asian Narthex asafoetida plant, and notice the part of the name that looks very much like foetid, an old spelling for fetid or stinking.

So the kitchen smelt a bit whilst I was cooking, but the stench soon cleared to leave a delicious aormatic scent of a traditional curry. Personally I thought it was a glowing success. Fran however had three minor critisisms, 1) The fried aubergines tasted too much like aubergines (a very odd critisism I thought) 2) The mooli was too sharp (I agree here, too much vinegar but it was just one of many dishes and only a relish at that) and 3) She wouldn't eat the quails because they looked to much like dead birds.

They looked too much like dead birds, what were they supposed to look like? Geraniums?

I warned you she was critical.

Cake Blog

Rasgulla: Pressed sweetened curd cheese in syrup. Taste isn't bad, but the texture on the teeth has the same effect as scraping your fingernails down a blackboard. Luckily I only eat these once this year, I wont be missing them.


  • Braised Quails (Bhatari)
  • Spinach, Mushroom and Tomato
  • Potato Sambar
  • Fried Baby Aubergines
  • Mooli Relish (grated mooli with lime juice, white wine vinegar, sugar and mint)
  • Basmati Rice
  • Pitta Bread


    4 Quails
    2 Shallots
    2 Tbsp Ghee
    100ml Curry Sauce
    2 Tbsp Tomato Puree
    4 Green Cardamon Pods
    3cm Stick Cinnamon
    1/4 tsp Turmeric
    1/4 tsp Hing (Asafoetida)
    1/2 tsp Chilli Powder
    1/2 tsp Cumin Powder
    1 tsp Coriander Powder
    1/4 tsp Fenugreek Powder
    1/4 tsp Black Pepper
    2 Green Chillis
    Few Coriander Leaves
    Pinch Salt
    Spinach, Mushroom and Tomato
    2 Shallots
    1 Can Spinach
    12 Mushrooms
    2 Tomatoes
    50ml Curry Sauce
    1 tsp Mustard Oil
    1/4 tsp Cinnamon Powder
    1/4 tsp Black Onion Seeds
    1/4 tsp Mustard Seeds
    1 tsp Garam Masala
    Pinch Hing
    Pinch Cumin Seeds
    Salt and Pepper
    Potato Sambar
    100g Red Lentils
    2 Potatoes
    1 Onion
    1 Tbsp Ghee
    50g Creamed Coconut
    50ml Curry Sauce
    1 Lemon
    1/2 tsp Turmeric
    2 tsp Garam Masala
    Few Coriander Leaves
    Fried Baby Aubergines
    6 Baby Aubergines
    2 tsp Ghee
    1 tsp Garam Masala
    2 Green Chillis
    1cm Root Ginger
    1/4 tsp Black Pepper


  • Bhatari: Brown the quails all over in the ghee, then add the sliced shallots and hing. Brown the shallots, then add the dry spices and fry for a minute or two more. Pour over the curry sauce, the tomato puree and enough water to cover the quails. Simmer gently with the lid on the pan for 1 1/2 hours (turning the quails occasionally). Remove the lid and allow the sauce to reduce until thick enough to coat the quails then sprinkle on the coriander and serve.
  • Spinach: Dry fry the cumin, black onion and mustard seeds for a minute or two in a pan then add the mustard oil, the hing and the shallots and cook until the shallots begin to brown. Turn the heat down and add the halved mushrooms and cook gently until the mushrooms are soft. Add the spinach and curry sauce and simmer for a few minutes, stirring all the time. About five minutes before serving stir in some chopped tomatoes and the garam masala and then season with salt and pepper.
  • Sambar: Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks. Boil for a few minutes until just beginning to soften then drain. Simmer the lentils until soft and drain also. Fry the sliced onion in the ghee until brown then add the turmeric and potatoes. Mix gently. Add the lentils, curry sauce and creamed coconut and enough water to make a thick sauce. When the coconut has all dissolved, slice the lemon quite thinly and add the lemon to the pan along with the garam masala. Mix in loads of fresh coriander (chopped) just before serving.
  • Aubergines: Cut slices in the skin of the aubergines. Heat the ghee in a pan and add the chilli and ginger. Put the aubergines in and cook (turning gently every minute or so) for 15 minutes. Add the garam masala, pepper and salt and continue cooking until they are soft.


    *All quantities are very approximate and for two people