Monday, November 21, 2011

Insipid curry

Today's pouring rain and chilly Southerly was wintery enough to make me choose something warm and filling for dinner - like a chicken curry (p137).

This recipe probably dates from a time before homemade or pre-packaged curry pastes were widespread in New Zealand: no carefully balanced spices here, just good old-fashioned curry powder. For this reason, I wasn't expecting anything spectacular, just a basic homely meal - and there's nothing wrong with that.

I started by cooking onion, garlic, and crushed ginger in a little oil. Since I wanted to add more veges if possible, I also chopped up some celery and added this to the onion. I let this mixture soften over a low heat until the onion was cooked, then I stirred through curry powder, then added chicken stock and chopped chicken breast.

I needed to bring the curry to the boil, but there didn't seem to be much liquid for the amount of chicken. I sloshed a bit more stock in and turned the heat up. Once I had it boiling, I turned it down again and let the curry simmer for half an hour while I sorted out some rice and veges.

At the end of this cooking time, the curry wasn't looking too appealing. The sauce was thin, watery (more so than could be explained by that small amount of extra stock) and sort of split and curdled-looking. I figured I'd missed something in the recipe, since I'd been participating in a pointless telephone survey while I was adding the final ingredients - perhaps I was supposed to stir flour through with the curry powder to thicken the sauce? But no, there's nothing in this curry for thickening. For once, I hadn't missed anything in the recipe.

I gamely spooned some of my curry over rice and had a taste. Unfortunately, this wasn't one of those times when something looks bad but tastes good. It looked bad and didn't taste very good either. The chicken was dry and overcooked, and the only flavour in the sauce was very obviously of curry powder and not much else. Actually, I couldn't even finish it.

It's probably possible to make a decent meal with this recipe as a base. Not an authentic curry, but a basic old-school version. You'd want to add something to thicken the sauce, and either cook it less or use a cut of chicken less prone to drying out. Careful seasoning might improve the flavour, and additional veges would make it both healthier and more appealing. So really, if you're going to use this recipe, I'm actually recommending you practically rewrite it. Will I be bothering to try this one again? In a word: nope.

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