Onions are an extremely common ingredient in curries. However they are not essential for a good curry. Urvashi Roe explores the common misconception that all curries start by frying onions and shares her delicious recipe for Potato Shak
National Curry Week is all about exploring new types of curry whilst raising money for the The Curry Tree Foundation. I’d like to draw your attention to the curries and food of the Western state of Gujerat (or Gujarat as some spell it). It’s primarily coastline but we don’t eat any seafood. It has some game but we don’t eat meat. There are large farming communities and so the vast majority of the population are vegetarian.
Not Every Curry Starts with Frying Onions
There are many common misconceptions in the world of cooking and I think the biggest one is that all curries start with frying onions. In my family, we never fry onions. Firstly because my father doesn’t like the taste and secondly because they are actually very heavy to digest. In fact our curries start with very little oil and the simplicity of just a handful of spices.
First cumin seeds and mustard seeds. These are thrown into hot oil and as they fizzle and pop wildly, to release their flavours, vegetables are added and tossed gently together.
Next red chilli powder for igniting the bloodstream..
This is followed by turmeric powder for antiseptic calm and an earthy tone..
And finally cumin and coriander powder for the balance of heat on the tongue.
Of course salt is added to taste and some families also add lemon and ginger too.
This really is the basic toolkit for a simple Gujerati ‘curry’ or ‘shak’ as we say.
Here is a simple recipe for Potato Shak if you’d like to have a go.
1 medium sized potato per person – this recipe is using 4
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
Half tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp coriander and cumin powder (dhana jeeru)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 cup of water
Handful of coriander to garnish
To make it
Peel the potatoes and then chop them into large cubes. Wash and then set them aside.
Mix the water with the tomato puree and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium flame and make sure the lid is set aside within easy reach. This is because the seeds may pop out from the hot oil when the potatoes are added so it’s handy to cover up quickly.
Test the oil by adding a couple of mustard and cumin seeds. If they fizzle around, it’s ready so add the rest and then quickly add the chopped potatoes and cover with the lid.
Turn the heat down and then add the turmeric, chilli powder, coriander and cumin powder and salt.
Pour over the water and purée mix, cover and leave to cook with the lid on until the potatoes are soft giving the mixture a little stir every now and then. If the potatoes are sticking, it’s too hot so turn the heat down and add a little more water.
Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with rice or Indian breads.
Do you always use onions when making curry? What are some of your favourite vegetable curries?