Friday, 27 April 2012

Cookbook: Uncommon Curry Sauce

Ah, enough of Eurogues and the coming Great Depression, dear reader! Time to return to happier themes, and more in particular: to that grandest subject of all that you may find on Metis Meets Mittington: the Saga of Mayonnaise!

The Cookblog most certainly needs it! After all that complicated fumbling with fish eggs and egg-plants and devilled eggs over recent weeks, I am positive that you will welcome a simple straightforward recipe for a yummy little Mayo dip which goes with just about everything (well, okay: strawberry pie excluded perhaps…) and can be whipped up in about three minutes. Talk about last minute solutions to turn your fodder into a feast!

Therefore today we will do 

Curry Sauce! 

Hey, ho, stop, wait, I hear my regular readers protest. Maestro, they exclaim with a touch of exasperation in their voices, art thou not taking ‘Impress Through Simplicity & Please Through Ease’ a wee bit too far? Curry sauce isn’t Simple and Easy: it is Plain, Artless, and Dull! You toss a spoon of curry into a cup of Mayo and you stir. Ecco! Job done. Mission accomplished. End of story.

Ah no, my dear dear simpleton disciples, I answer! You are only partly right. Curry sauce is plain, artless and dull when YOU make it. Not if it is the Uncommon Mittington Curry Delight, based on a hand-made curry mix enriched with choice aromas!

MIX curry, Maestro? Do you mean to tell us that curry… doesn’t grow on trees?

No, my sweet dear ignorant dunces! Curry does not grow in the wild! It does not come from a root that you grind up or a berry which to pound to pieces or the stigma which you steal from a curry crocus. Curry is a combination of spices! Three in particular, which you cannot do without. Namely: Cumin, Coriander and Turmeric.

Cumin, Coriander and Turmeric make Curry

Needless to say (but to be on the safe side, why don’t I say it?) you have to get all of these in ground form. Particularly the turmeric, which – here in Europe at least - comes from a root that is as hard as ebony. While you can still pound cumin seeds and coriander grains to shreds if you apply yourself, you will never produce enough turmeric powder from such a root to make half a thimbleful of curry, unless you have four Indian Ayahs willing to slave away for the Greek minimum wage at the grinding stone throughout the moonlit night! So be smart: get your ingredients ground, from a good spice boutique, and make sure they are reasonably fresh. And remember: spices that are older than 6 month have usually lost three quarters of their taste! Especially if you store them in the light and / or within reach of humidity.

So here we go with

Step 1: mixing your curry. The correct proportions for your first ever mix would be: 1 unit of cumin, ½ unit of coriander and ¾ unit of turmeric (the best unit is a teaspoon). Cumin really is the body of the mix, coriander is essential but has a slightly soapy taste which you must be careful not to overdo, and turmeric is mainly there for the colour, although it does add a particular deep flavour to the mix as well. (Now as soon as you know what you are doing, you are free to adapt these proportions to your personal preference. In curry, as in art, there are no fixed canons or set standards. So experiment, over time.)

Step 2: enhancing your curry. This is the creative and most gratifying side of curry making. All sorts of spices present themselves to add just that little something special to your personal curry. Me myself, I always toss in a quarter spoonful of ground ginger. I also toss in salt and pepper: if I want it simply hot, a quarter spoonful of black pepper. If I desire the real blazing Indian touch, a sniff of cayenne pepper. Next to that, I always play around with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and even cardamom. Each of which have to be ground, naturally, and must be applied with restraint. Lastly, I like to add a little very fine sugar to the mix, to underscore the bouquet of perfumes.

Step 3: curry sauce. You surely will be astonished to hear this, reader, but I would not advise you to make Curry Sauce with home-made Mayo. There are two good reasons for this. First of all: hand-mixed curry has so strong a taste that it completely overwhelms any true Mayonnaise flavour. Secondly, the spices tend to bring out a certain oiliness of the sauce, which for chemical reasons is more noticeable with hand-made Mayo than with bottled sauces. So I suggest you use a good quality bottled Mayo for this particular recipe.

Now for mixing. Fill a cup about halfway full with Mayo. Toss in a spoonful or two of your curry. Mix. You will notice that the spices stiffen the sauce considerably. To compensate for this, first of all add a small splash of orange juice, and mix again. The fruity taste of the juice is an essential addition to our sauce. If it is still too thick to your taste, add either water or milk in small quantities, and mix well each time, until you like the fluidity of your sauce. Now taste, and if it is not strong enough, add a little extra curry. Mix and serve!

[Nota Bene: many people prefer to use yoghurt for their dips. That is fine in other sauces, but Curry Sauce does not stand acidity very well. Therefore I would advice against it, as I also warn you not to add lemon juice to this recipe. It is guaranteed to spoil the desired effect.]

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